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RUTGERS UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 1, 2014
COACH FLOOD:Â Good morning.Â I appreciate everybody being here today.Â This is an exciting week for our program, an opportunity to open up our 2014 season right here at home at High Points Solution Stadium and welcome a Howard team, a very well‑coached Howard team.Â Tremendous amount of respect for Coach Harrell and what I see on film.Â He's the only coach that's led them to a winning record since 2004.Â He has got pro playing experience.
And I think what you see in his team is a true identity.Â I think they know what they want to be on offense.Â I think they know what they want to be on defense and I think they know what they want to be on special teams.Â That's the sign of a well‑coached team.
I do have one announcement before I take questions.Â John ache en, like to congratulate John Aiken.Â He was named Big Ten Defensive Player for the Week.Â That's exciting for our program and an opportunity to have that award bestowed on one of our players, and congratulations to John and everybody else on defense who helped him win that award.
Q.Â What does it say, you said they were always both going to play, but Delon gets the job and Aiken didn't, and here is a guy who just lost his opportunity for a starting job and comes out and has the game that he had.
COACH FLOOD:Â I think it's a tremendous testament to the selflessness of a football player, and I think that's critical as you go through the season.Â Everybody in the building has to put the team first:Â Coaches, players, staff, everybody has to work toward the greater good.
It's the only way it works over the course of a season, and John had a great opportunity to do that in week one and took advantage of it and when he had the opportunity, he made plays on offense, on defense, on special teams.Â And whether he was rewarded for it publically like he was or not really is not the important thing.Â I think the important thing is the performance and the selflessness of the performance.
Q.Â Coaches talk about the improvement from week one to week two, what is going to be your biggest emphasis this week?
COACH FLOOD:Â I think now that we've played, I'd like to see everybody get a little bit better at the details of what they do.
The most encouraging thing to me when I watch the film was how much better I think we can be.Â I think we can be better up front on the offensive line.Â I think we can run block better.Â I think we can protect better.Â I think we can run our routes better.Â I think we can play with more precision on defense and in special teams.
The kickoff return team jumps out to me as an area where I think we can make tremendous improvements.Â We're one or two blocks away from giving Janarion a legitimate chance to score, and that's important to me because I feel like given the right opportunity, he will score.
But being one or two blocks away is like being miles away.Â Those blocks are critical.
Q.Â Paul James had a really good start to last season, as well, and then he had the injury.Â Is durability something you're concerned about with him, being the workhorse?
COACH FLOOD:Â It's not something I'm concerned about, because last year's injury I didn't think was‑‑ had anything to do with any of his previous injuries.Â Was just something I thought he got tackled a certain way and he got injured and that's what happened.Â I don't have any concerns about that this year.Â I think Paul James is in excellent condition.Â He looks great.Â I know he said he could carry 25 times.Â I think he could carry 35 times, and that's my goal when you have a guy who can dominate the game.
Q.Â What do you see as his chief strength as a running back?
COACH FLOOD:Â I think it would be hard for me to give you one.Â There's really two things that have allowed him to be as productive as he is.Â I think the first one is he's excellent with his off‑hand.Â He does a very good job of protecting himself from people who are trying to tackle him as he's running through the line of scrimmage.
So you very clearly see the first guy get him at the line of scrimmage, and I think he's faster than people think.Â I think people see him as a big back and people don't think of a big back having break away speed.Â But when you see him in the open field you don't see him get caught very often.
Q.Â Is he faster than last year?
COACH FLOOD:Â I would hope so, especially with the fact that he didn't go in the spring so his legs should be a little fresher because of that.Â I think he had a good summer program.Â We didn't time him, so I couldn't give you that.Â But I would hope he would be a little faster just because he's a year older and a year stronger.
Q.Â That said, how about the holes he was running through, the ones created by Burton and the offensive line.Â I know you said you want them to improve but still a pretty impressive performance by those guys.
COACH FLOOD:Â I thought it was a good start.Â I really thought it was a good start.Â And now, the important thing is that you are able to take success and handle success and build on it, because if you‑‑ if you focus all your energy on what you did well, it's going to keep you from improving the things you didn't do well.
So, I'm pleased.Â I'm pleased with the production and I'm pleased with the performance but I'm also pleased with the opportunity to get better.
Q.Â Did you think that was a product of the chemistry?Â We talked a lot about how you had five returning guys back, and I guess in the game, did you see the fact that they were veterans who had played together pay off?
COACH FLOOD:Â I think any time you bring back five guys who started as many games as they had as a group, it gives you an opportunity to play at a high level.Â But just the experience alone is not enough.Â It really has been our entire off‑season; those guys spending a lot of time together.Â I think they have an excellent chemistry.Â I don't think you can understate that.
I've mentioned that a couple times about this team.Â This is a special team to me because I've watched them through the entire off‑season and how much time they have spend their building relationships with each other and they did it as a team, but they certainly did it as an offensive line.
Q.Â Howard is coming off a pretty tough week one, 41‑0 to Akron.Â Do you see this as a an opportunity to give the young, inexperienced players more playing time?
COACH FLOOD:Â I don't.Â I don't have look at it that way.Â I see it as a game that will be 0‑0 and we have to be ready to compete.
I think when you look at the game film, Howard did some really good things, but here is what they didn't do.Â Here is what Akron did.Â Akron created big plays.Â Akron had six plays of 25 yards or more, and on defense, Akron did an excellent job of limiting big plays, because Howard didn't have any of 25 yards or more, and I think that is ultimately what created the result that you saw.
Now, when we play the game, we have got to try to do the same things.Â We need to create some big plays on offense.Â They are very aggressive with what they do on defense.Â They play a 4‑3.Â They have a 4‑4 look built into their system.Â They will pressure you and play some cover zero meaning blitz with no safety over the top.Â They are going to challenge you to make some plays one‑on‑one.
Akron made those plays, but that doesn't guarantee us we'll make those plays.Â We have to practice this week to make sure given the opportunity we'll make those plays.
Q.Â September 1 is a big day, when it comes to recruiting‑‑
COACH FLOOD:Â It was great.Â I was here in the office until I think a little bit past 1:30 and then when I got home, because you send out your initial messages and finally you're allowed to communicate with some of these players and then it's always a little surprising to me that they are up and they are waiting for them.
So I got quite a few responses and now you're responding to the responses because I didn't want them to think it was just a computer generated message going out.Â I ended up being up, probably awake till about 2:30 in the morning responding to messages, and then I just tapped out.Â I said, okay, I'm going to bed; you should, too.Â Most of the young people are on Twitter these days.Â There's still a couple that are still hanging on to Facebook but those are the two main ones.
Q.Â What can you say about Justin and his transition from a good offensive player last year to productive defensive back against Washington State?
COACH FLOOD:Â I'm pleased with his progress.Â I think Justin knows he's got more progress to make.Â He was challenged against a very well‑coached passing attack.Â We're going to play a lot of good offenses this year.Â I don't know that we'll be able to say we'll play against more well‑coached passing attacks than what we saw on week one.Â Coach Leach is as good as there in the business at throwing and catching the football.
So it was a tremendous challenge for Justin.Â The fact that he was able to be productive and get an interception in his first game, I think that's great.Â I think he looks at the film and sees a lot of places where he could be better, also and I believe he will be.
Q.Â You spend so much time talking about starters during training camp and Burton said he didn't mind not starting because it was the package that you employed.Â What does it say that he's selfless enough and doesn't care about not starting?Â And also can you comment on the Bryan Leoni leap?
COACH FLOOD:Â If you were building a football player, would you build Michael Burton.Â You'd love to build a hundred of him, because everything he does, he does it to the best of his ability.Â Tremendous work ethic.Â Really smart football player.Â Has always been a great leader by example and now he's grown into being a little bit more of a vocal leader as he's gotten older in the program.Â He's got a tremendous skill set for a fullback.
I don't know if he's got Bryan's vertical just yet, so he might be worried; that would be my only comment on the leap itself.Â But at the end of the day, it was he effective.Â It got him over.Â So that was good.
But Michael, again, much like I said with John before, a selfless football player.Â He's a pleasure to coach, and one of the best football players we have on our team.
Q.Â Is his contribution to the run game somewhat overlooked in the sense, I remember a couple years ago when he went down and you saw Jamison's numbers kind of start to go down.Â Is what he does kind of just like every fullback, it gets overlooked?
COACH FLOOD:Â Only by people who don't understand football, because it's not overlooked by the coaching staff.Â It's not overlooked by his teammates.Â I think maybe to a casual observer it might get overlooked but what he does is not like other fullbacks.Â I don't know that there are any other fullbacks in the country that can do what Michael Burton does.
Q.Â What do you mean by that?
COACH FLOOD:Â I think he blocks at an elite level.Â I think he's got great hands.Â When he has the ball in his hands, he's an excellent runner whether you hand it to him or throw it to him.Â I think he's as complete a fullback as you can have.
Q.Â Obviously you have a few more future games on your schedule with FCS teams but obviously the Big Ten's goal is to eventually siphon those games out.Â What's your stand on it as a long‑time FCS coach?
COACH FLOOD:Â It's a conference decision.Â So we'll be supportive in scheduling based on what the conference's decision is.Â When I was at that level, I always enjoyed those games.Â I see the positives that they can bring to those campuses.
My only concern about it is if you have some BCS conferences that are doing it and some BCS conferences that are not doing it, I don't know how you have an equality of scheduling when you're trying to make your decisions at the end of the year.Â That would be my concern.Â But it's a conference decision and we'll support the conference decision.
Q.Â Obviously you have a pretty popular saying in your program for something like this, but coming off a big win and with a pretty big game in two weeks, will you do anything special to talk to the guys to make sure Howard has their attention, make sure this game doesn't get overlooked?
COACH FLOOD:Â Every week, every week, you only get a chance to play one.Â One of the things I talk to the team about Sunday night was, you work an entire season and you're only guaranteed 12.Â If you do well enough in those 12, you get a 13th, a possible 14th and a possible 15th now the way it's set up.Â But you're only guaranteed 12.
So you'd really better cherish and enjoy each one of those game weeks and put all your focus on being 1‑0.Â Whatever comes after that, will be here soon enough.Â But right now we can only control what happens in this game.
Q.Â Tough follow‑up to that answer, but the idea that a fast start would mean a lot to this program, would it help the perception?Â Would it help recruiting?Â Would it help all the things that happen outside that this team does get off to a quick start?
COACH FLOOD:Â I think winning helps everything.Â I think winning absolutely helps everything.Â So if we can get the job done this week and be 1‑0 this week, we'll be off to a good start, as good a start as we can based on the number of games we played.
I think any time you do that, it helps everything in the program.Â Your fan base gets more excited.Â The recruits get more excited.Â I don't have want a recruit to make a decision just based on one game because their career here is going to be a lot more than just one game.Â It's going to be an academic experience.Â It's going to be a special experience.Â It's going to be a football experience.Â It's going to be a maturity experience in terms of how you grow up as a young person.
So I don't ever want to be based on one game.Â I do think success and winning always helps those things.
Q.Â What kind of role do you see for Myles Nash?
COACH FLOOD:Â It will be as big a role as he earns this week in practice.Â There's no doghouse in this program.Â He'll comeback to practice this week as the backup Sam linebacker and every opportunity he gets on Saturday, he'll earn on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Q.Â Can he help on special teams, too?
COACH FLOOD:Â I think so.Â I think he can help us on special teams.
Q.Â When you review film, does your staff keep track of like yards after contact?
COACH FLOOD:Â Sure.
Q.Â How impressive has Paul been in that regard?
COACH FLOOD:Â He's very good.Â He's very good.Â I think the best example I could give you is that last run much the game.Â He goes into the end zone, really breaks a tackle at the second level and breaks a tackle right at the goal line and really runs through two guys into the end zone.
I don't know that either guy got a clean hit on them.Â Both run block to the ball.Â I know on defense when you got a guy on block to the ball, you expect them to make the play; well, they had two, and they didn't.Â So that's a sign of a good running back.Â Most of the good running attacks I've been a part of, when you get down to that tight red area, they run it in.
Q.Â Do you see a noticeable improvement even after that week one game with Gary Nova?
COACH FLOOD:Â I've seen improvement every step of the way.Â I don't want to make any elaborate decisions based on one game.Â But I'm pleased with his progress.Â I think Gary made good decisions and played a good game for us last week.Â He gave us opportunities to win.Â He managed the game in a way that put us in a position to win the game at the end and we made the plays at the end to win the game.Â I was pleased.
But I don't believe in week‑to‑week momentum in football.Â This will be a new week, new schemes, new coverages, new personnel and we need him to start the process and do it over again, and I have confidence that he will.
Q.Â Did you watch any of the games?
COACH FLOOD:Â I saw the scores.Â I saw some highlights at night.Â We were getting ready for Howard and getting ready for some of the recruiting things that come up so I didn't have a chance to sit and watch any of the games.
Last night when I was waiting for midnight to roll around, I saw a couple of them but they weren't Big Ten games, so I didn't see those but I did see the scores.
Q.Â How much easier is it for you guys to prepare now that you have a home game and you're not traveling across the country?
COACH FLOOD:Â For us, we get into a routine, on the road, at home.Â There are challenges that come up with being on the road and going across the country, but there are challenges and distractions that come up when you're home, as well.Â There's more family attending the game and there's more things going on around the game here locally.
Now school starts this week and that's a challenge and that's something else now that the players have to handle, the academic responsibilities.Â Up till now, they have been like pro football players and now they have academic responsibilities that start today.Â There's a routine we try to get into, and the more routine‑driven we are, the better we handle those situations.
Q.Â You've always been an advocate of the northeast brand of football.Â How pleasing was it to you to see the success you had on offense playing mostly with your base personnel out there?
COACH FLOOD:Â I was pleased.Â It looked like what I think a pro style offense should look like.Â You saw the multiplicity of formations in personnel.Â We did play a majority of the game in 21 personnel, but it wasn't the only personnel group that we had used.Â I think we used four or five different personnel groups in the game.
I was really pleased with the mix of run and playaction and empty sets and bunched sets.Â I think there was a lot of things that defenses are going to have to defend.
Q.Â What did you see out of Peoples as far as what he can do as being that change of pace back?
COACH FLOOD:Â I think he can be more than a change of pace back.Â That's what he was in that game.Â That was his role in that game.Â But I think going forward, he can be more than that.Â And I was really pleased because what I saw was everything that I had seen in spring and preseason.
And I've always felt that the ultimate test is game day.Â You have to be able to perform on game day.Â So first you have to see a guy do it in a drill; and then you see him do it in a team drill; and then he does it in a scrimmage and that's great.Â And all those things give you the opportunity to get a chance in the game and then he did; and then he was able to continue to do that and all of the things that he saw in practice, we saw on game day, that was exciting to me.
I think he has the ability to be the No.1 back and he has the ability to be a premiere back.Â I don't think he's a change of pace guy for the rest of his career.Â I don't see that.
Q.Â With Peele and Patton still down on the injury report, I guess quickly your thoughts on the two guys who did step up, Tsimis and Grant, and then do you need more out of Agudosi, Turzilli, other guys if they are going to be out, if they are still out?
COACH FLOOD:Â I'm pleased with John and with Janarion.Â I thought they did a good job.Â I think they will get more opportunities as Leonte continues to perform, people are going to have to do more and more to try to keep them perfect performing; and that's going to open up the opportunities for those guys.
And I think what you said is accurate.Â Carlton Agudosi and Andrew Turzilli, they are healthier now.Â They were not really 100 percent going into the game but they played.
But now because we have had the extended week, I think they will be a lot closer to 100 percent this week and we'll hope to get more out of those guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports