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October 22, 2014

David Cutcliffe

COACH CUTCLIFFE:  We had an open date, played two games, now back to an open date, how to use it.
I think the obvious is offense this we'll have five straight games in November, a huge month for us.  We're going to practice again tomorrow.  It will be our last day until we come back together on Sunday.  We are getting some work done on Pittsburgh, our next opponent.  But we're working on Duke.
It allows us as a staff to get a lot of work done that we need to get done over what we're going to be faced with in the next five ballgames, and also a lot of work in recruiting as we grow closer there to being in the mode of going out and contacting players.  Very diverse week for us.
Also hoping to get Jamal Wallace and a few other people that have been out back, then a few guys that got banged up in the last ballgame, it gives them a few extra days to get full speed.  We're going to try to use every day we can in the best possible way.
With that I'll take your questions.

Q.  You said you have an interesting situation with the bye weeks.  How have you handled that going into it?  You talked about recruiting, getting guys better.  How have you scheduled it out to handle something interesting like this where you have a bunch of games, a short span, then five to end?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, we worked Sunday as a staff to clean up the last ballgame, met with our squad, had somewhat of a normal Sunday, a little lighter Monday, let the players completely off.  We didn't practice Sunday night with the players.  They just kind of got their soreness out in the weight room.  We were able to give them two full days at the front of the week physically.  We're going to work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.  I like where we are from a football standpoint.
We had a lot of tasks we had to accomplish.  We put a schedule together for our coaches where we're able to split our time up in some Pittsburgh preparation film time, a look ahead at a previous opponent or two coming down the road, and also some good time for recruiting meetings.
It's a misnomer that you're not busy during a bye week.¬† I think it may be that you're multi‑tasking more.¬† So we just put a good schedule together.¬† We've been able to adhere to that.¬† We've been able to be very productive.
Of course, we give the coaches off all day Saturday.  As I said, they had a light day Monday.  Hopefully they're refreshed, as well.

Q.  When you look ahead to the upcoming game against Pittsburgh, what have you seen from them as you begin to work and assess that during the bye week?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, they're extremely physical.  It's the first thing you see, both sides of the ball.  Both lines of scrimmage are playing at a high level.  They play physical football.  The quarterback has really come into his own.  He's the perfect guy for what they're doing because he can run it, he can throw it.  They've got the right people in the right places.  It's a challenge to try to tackle him.  Their backs obviously are all big, strong.
They do a great job.  They do a great job on defense.  Nothing comes easy.  I think we realize it's going to be that way the rest of the way.  I think our players have that reality.  They've looked at Pitt this week.  Every one of them the rest of the way are going to be extremely challenging football games.  Maybe that's good because all we can do is focus on one at a time.  I think that's important.

Q.  After the game on Saturday, you talked about it being a program win.  Can you elaborate on that and talk about your confidence that your program will sustain the level that it's achieved in the last year and a half.
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I think we relied on a lot of our good habits.  I didn't think we were overall emotional coming off a win in Atlanta, travel, the delay, a tough week of practice, knowing Virginia was a really good football team, which they are, they are playing well.
I told our squad (indiscernible) some zeros.  One was not give up a point in the fourth quarter.  That alone will win some games for you.  Our offense is playing a team that has been very good at taking the ball away, at creating havoc down and distance with sacks, tackles for losses.  Those were all zeros.  We had no turnovers, gave up no sacks, or a tackle for loss.  I was very pleased with that.
As far as sustaining it, my personal opinion is that we know the type people we want to recruit.  We're going to adhere to that and continue to try to grow our program.  I don't know about sustaining, but what I want to do by recruiting the right kind of people is hopefully we get a little better as a program every year and continue to do that.  That doesn't mean your record is always going to indicate that, but the big results will.  So we're pretty good stewards of that.  I think we will be able to continue.

Q.  Every program, every team loses players every year.  That's the nature of college football.  You have holes to fill, people to replace.  Are you confident that when you lose a player like Lincoln Tomlinson, Conner Vernon, that you have the talent continuing through the program to replace that kind of talent?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  I believe we do right now.  I keep rosters that are looking ahead two to three years at all times.  It helps me make decisions on who and what we want to recruit.  I'm constantly looking at that.  It's one of the fun parts of the computer.  You used to have to slide names around on a depth chart, do all of this.  Now I can punch a button and go boom, boom, boom.  It's very visual.  It has helped me a lot as a head coach.
I used to take down names on the depth chart, put them back up, all of those kinds of things.  I've always tried to look ahead.  In your recruiting class, you better be recruiting minimally two years out.  You should always be focused on replacing.  We've always tried to do that.  It's never a perfect world, but I think you have to try to do it.

Q.  David Helton's performance this year at the Mike position, I spoke to him yesterday, he was saying in addition to the weight he's put on this year, he's also become a better communicator on defense.  What have you seen from him now that you have a bye week to look at past film?  What have you seen from him that has impressed you?  What do you think he'll need to work on the next five for you to be successful?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  David has been one of the best stories of our season.  Leading tackler in the conference, where he played a year ago at Will, an unfortunate injury to one of his best friends, fellow senior linebacker.  He moved in there.  I think it was role changing for David.  I think David immediately accepted the fact it wasn't just learning to play Mike.  It wasn't learning coverage differences, gap differences.  He took on a new role.
He did become a communicator.  He's kind of the man in the middle.  So his communication to the defensive front, the secondary, all of that changed.  His leadership role changed.
I think he has thrived in it.  I think it's been incredible to watch and I'm extremely proud of him.  He's a great scholar athlete, as well.  Had a conversation with our academic people the other day just about how incredibly well he's doing.  I think he's grown into quite a man.  That's the most impressive thing.
I think what David needs to do is continue to stay healthy, good Lord willing, get more and more comfortable down the stretch here because we're going to need him to be at his best.  I think he will be.

Q.  He talked about his future aspirations.  Is he someone you see that has a potential to play at the next level?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:¬† A guy that big that plays as well as he does is going to get an opportunity.¬† Like most of our guys, it's got to be something that becomes extremely important to you.¬† He's got to make that decision.¬† But he's well‑equipped to go any direction he wants to go.¬† He's not dependent upon that.¬† I think that's pretty awesome in itself.
He's very comfortable in his own skin, I will say that.  But he can play.  I think everybody realizes that.

Q.  Thomas Sirk, that jump pass he threw, how much do you practice to particular play?  Not every quarterback is capable of doing that.
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  He's a great athlete, first of all.  But twice a week we go and do goal line work.  We go through a script, obviously.  That's obviously always going to be a part of our script.  It's hard to practice that live very often.  We do it have pads on.  We do it full speed, but not quite tackling.
I think the hard part is take what you do in practice and put it into play in a ballgame.  He's got a good knack at that.  One of the better guys we've ever had at quarterback.

Q.¬† Looks like it almost could be an option‑type play.¬† He takes a couple steps forward toward the line.¬† Does he have the possibility to run the ball off that?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Depends what they're doing presnap.  He can certainly do that.  Thomas is one of those guys that can launch himself over the line of scrimmage also.  We've done that in scrimmages.  It's pretty impressive.  Not everybody wants to do that.  I don't know that I always want a quarterback to do that.  Now that he's coming back completely healthy, there's a lot of things you can do with Thomas Sirk.

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