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November 8, 2017

Bronco Mendenhall

Greensboro, North Carolina

BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yes, we're anxious to continue, again, growing and developing our program. We're thankful for the successes of this past week and look forward to applying whatever learnings we had versus our next opponent, a significant test versus Louisville. I'll take questions.

Q. When we spoke to you on Monday, you said you were undecided on who would be running that scout team quarterback, who would be your Lamar Jackson. Do you have anything you can share there and who you've been using and how that's gone?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, we've been using Zachariah Burton. He's the defensive back on our team who played quarterback in high school. He's done a nice job to this point. Much like against Georgia Tech, you kind of scan the roster and see who might be able to help or fill those shoes, and Zachariah has done a really nice job to this point in our preparation.

Q. How would you evaluate offensive line kind of week to week? Have you seen week to week improvement, or has it still been a little bit up and down and maybe a little bit all over the week?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Week to week improvement prior to Boston College and Pitt, and then a continuation of improvement last week. So with the exception of those two games, I think it's been pretty steady in terms of improvement.

Q. Micah Kiser said last week that you had a vault full of option film, and I was curious how much as you prepared for Georgia Tech the last two years, how much did it help to have played Air Force all those years?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: It helped significantly, and really the impetus or the motive for me collecting option film over the years as a first-year defensive coordinator at the University of New Mexico, the first time I'd ever defended option, we took a beating, and I'll never forget the feeling on the sideline of that game. That sparked my introduction and learning into defending option football.

Then I think for 13 or 14 or 15 years, I don't know how long versus Air Force, but every one of those games has helped. And then Georgia Tech has also helped. But it's been one of my passions to learn and grow and develop and being able to help our team have a good chance any time we play an option team.

Q. And that beating that you referred to was against Air Force?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Air Force, yep. It was my first year at the University of New Mexico, and again, I didn't understand the option well, certainly could not make in-game adjustments, didn't even know what to adjust to, and I felt bad for my players that I was in charge of them at that point because I wasn't prepared.

Q. I was just curious if Jack English has returned to practice yet and what his status is at this point.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Jack has not returned to a full practice yet, but we haven't given up for this week or for practice or for this week for the game. Tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully and maybe that could happen then.

Q. To take a look at some of the adversity that the team has faced recently, just how you've seen the guys respond in the locker room, on the field and in practice and just what you can say about moving forward learning from that adversity.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, I think we're just becoming seasoned and more mature, and that usually takes a few scars along the way for those things to happen. Difficult to be seasoned and grow and mature without some setbacks. A friend of mine who used to coach lacrosse here, Dom Starsia, one of his leading principles is men and women of value have scars. And so I think all we're trying to do is create young men of value, and I'd love to say it's possible without setbacks and challenges, and I continue to look for ways to do that, but what I've also learned is scars aren't all bad, and they help remind you of lessons that can help you grow and develop. I think that's what's happening with my team.

Q. What have the scars taught you about this year's team moving forward?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Well, that they're capable, not always consistent but capable. On any given day on any given field, I think they have a great chance to perform well. And so that's the main takeaway is they are capable, and they're starting to believe that.

Q. I was asking about Juan Thornhill the other day, but I wanted to ask you about another defensive back Brenton Nelson who I guess has enabled you to do some things in the secondary because he's been playing that saber position. Just talk about he had a big interception the other day; it doesn't look as if he's taken one step backwards since you've had him.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, Brenton has done a really nice job. Really all of this story or this question goes back to Tim Harris. Because Juan Thornhill was playing the saber position when Tim got hurt, Juan was the next best corner, but the next best player that wasn't getting significant time was Brenton. So Brenton's skill set, he's a very, very good tackler and he has good man coverage skills. And I think Juan Thornhill does, as well. So they're not the same body types, but it gives us a very similar player, and when you can put those two out there together, it just increases what we can do defensively.

Q. What do you guys have to do this week against Louisville because I know Lamar Jackson played against them this year. What does he look like this year compared to last year?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I think it's just the next version. It's Lamar Jackson 2.0 after more seasoning and more experience, and so he's still capable of running the football for a touchdown on almost any play. He's more intentional of staying in the pocket and delivering the ball downfield. That's the biggest difference. So he's still just an excellent player and a really, really good athlete.

Q. What are the three keys you guys have to do to pull out a win on Saturday?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I'm not sure what the keys are for Louisville specifically. Again, we stay pretty consistent with our approach weekly. I like that for our players, to always know what to expect. Certainly the focus on points, scoring and preventing and field position and turnovers are always helpful.

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