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September 13, 2017

Bronco Mendenhall

Greensboro, North Carolina

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Looking forward to playing another football game and continuing to improve our team despite the outcome in week two, I think our team improved and played at a higher level. Anxious to have a chance to demonstrate and get another chance at the progress we're making and look forward to the game. I'll be glad to take questions.

Q. Coach, I'm guessing that based on the change and the one game, do you feel like you have a better grasp on their personnel as opposed to their schemes and tendencies, and what do you see in that personnel?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, the personnel is fairly familiar. This will be my fourth straight year playing against UConn. Two years at Brigham Young, one last year at Virginia, and now a year coming up. So other than brand-new players, we have a pretty good idea of what their personnel looks like and an initial idea of what schematically they might do.

Q. What is sort of your initial impression of them offensively? What do they look like?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: They look probably closer to Auburn than what they look like anything else, and defensively they look more like what Villanova looked like a year ago. That's where their coordinators are from, so we know their personnel and they're just using them differently and I'm sure what they believe is more effectively.

Q. Good morning, Bronco. I know your future vision of what the quarterback will look like, you haven't been shy about somebody that can run and also throw. That being said, with your current kind of running game situation and the struggling that they're having, are there opportunities there for Kurt to maybe be, I don't know if forceful is the right word, but to pull the ball down and run a little more? Or do you hesitate from that because of your delicate situation at the quarterback position depth-wise?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, I'm airing more on the side of the second just because of the impact that the experience or lack there of at that position would have on our team. There are more opportunities and there was one play in the game last week where there was a scramble slide, and that was a great decision. It was low risk and really productive. So those are -- that's the combination, I would say, that is my criteria, low risk and productive. At any time, if Kurt runs it, if it is that, I think that would be okay.

Q. As a follow-up, defensively if there's been a flaw with that side of the ball the first two weeks, sometimes that quarterback situation, a running quarterback has caused issues. I think Bryant Shirreffs last year for UConn showed his tendency to run every now and then. What have you seen from your side in defending that quarterback run the first two weeks and what have you seen potentially you could say Saturday in that same situation?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, two similar outcome but two different styles. Week one was more just simply assignments and pocket awareness of our defensive front. Week two was more quarterback runs, designed quarterback runs, which we haven't spent much time on in week two because we were expecting a starter who was a starter. We thought he would last longer. So continued emphasis.

We have and have had really nice plans for it in the past, so we're just having to spend more time now catching that part of our game up on that side of the ball.

Q. De'Vante Cross, you're putting him at corner working him there. Does he still do any work at quarterback? Does he take any practice reps there?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: He's not taking nearly as many. He has and we have a series of plays that I think complement and are effective. Until we exhaust those or show those in game settings, we feel pretty good about carrying those week in and week out without much extra practice time. So he is prepared to play at quarterback. He's certainly already playing receiver. Now he's going to play corner. And he's, I think, capable at all three, so hopefully that answers your question.

Q. And along those same lines, I think we probably view him as what's often called a wildcat style. Are there any other players that you can work in that role that have not just the skills, but the aptitude to run a package like that?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: There's two young defensive backs, and we haven't approached this yet, but were dual-threat quarterbacks in high school in Germane Crowell and Joey Blount. If injuries were just -- would hit us and really alter our thinking going forward, we have those kind of guys in our pocket and just ready to kind of activate a wildcat kind of scheme just to help us get through a game or through a season. But we haven't approached that with them yet. But that's something that's on my mind if we got really, really thin.

Q. How would you describe any changes that you've made on special teams, wholesale changes or pretty much sticking with what you've had?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, there's been quite a few personnel changes and also workload distribution a little bit differently. Some of our veteran players have been moved from a special team where maybe a back-up there is more capable than a back-up at another special team. So we basically re-personnelled all of our special teams now that we've seen what the workloads might look like for our team, which were different from what we thought two weeks ago. Increased structure, increased time for meetings and practice, and certainly just a heightened sense of awareness and urgency is going through our program right now after the kick return last Saturday.

Q. Along the lines of the UConn quarterback, obviously you saw Shirreffs last year. They played two, and he came off the bench in that first game against Holy Cross. Obviously Pindell started, expecting both to play, and what big differences do you see in both those quarterbacks?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I would expect both. Even though they've named Shirreffs as the starter, I still think they're trying to find their identity and new staff and a reboot for the program. The main difference is one is more run conscious and prefers the use of athleticism in space. And Shirreffs started with a heavy scramble mindset a number of years ago, and overtime he's kind of become a little more mature and a better decision maker in throwing and running, and I think experience does that.

So they're not the same contract that we've faced a week ago, but you could say Shirreffs would be more like Indiana starter and UConn starter last week would be more like the second quarterback we saw against Indiana.

Q. You were very complimentary of Andrew Brown's play on Saturday. Did he initially struggle with the scheme adjustment? If so, how has he improved and matured?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, Andrew really struggled with all parts of the transition to a more significant role and playing on an every down basis requires a completely different level of preparation, focus, discipline, execution, conditioning, mental resiliency, all those demands go way up. He had not been in that role for a long time. So he was adjusting to it last year. He's still adjusting, but that was his most complete game, run defense-wise, pass defense-wise, and effort-wise that he played. So with increased expectations, he's working to build his capacity to reach it. And that's something we're pushing hard to try to do. It's starting to show in terms of his yield and productivity.

Q. When you see or go back and review that Indiana tape, can you see why he was so regarded coming out of high school?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Sure, that wasn't hard to see even on day one when I arrived here 20 months ago or however long it's been. He's big, and he's quick, and he's physical, and he's fast. He has excellent physical tools. Usually all that brings is a word that coaches view differently and that's called potential. Potential without yield is not very valuable. So what Andrew is becoming, he has that potential. And now he's starting to develop into and have the capacity with consistency to have the yield now down in and down out that comes with it.

Again, it was one game in the right direction with complete play. Consistency is something that we're looking for, so hopefully that continues.

Q. I know this isn't foremost in your mind, but you did play Lamar Jackson in Louisville last year. You've got him on the schedule. He's off to a good start. I wonder if you might recall what the challenges are and how difficult he is to defend?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Sure. Yeah. He's a phenomenal athlete, so changes direction really well. Throws the ball extremely well. Is fast, besides being quick, and those are two different things. So he has the burst and the suddenness to allude pressure. But he also has the speed to run away from you if you don't have great leverage. He's not a player that you can assign a single defender to. It takes a player down the middle and usually one on both sides of him to make a play. And their supporting cast is strong enough where you run out of numbers if you have to put that many on the quarterback.

It's very difficult to defend everyone else. So it's an amazing challenge. You only have 11 players to defend an offense with. With a player like that that usually takes multiple players in terms of assignment, it's a moving target.

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