Q&A: Offensive coordinator Dawson preview Vandy

SHANNON DAWSON
On QB reps this week: “Really, it’s almost 50/50 every week. We’ve done that for a long time, so it just hasn’t changed. He’s still getting a lot of reps. (Catches himself) By he, I mean both of them. (Laughs)”

On when he’ll know who’s starting at Vandy: “I know. Yeah, I know. You want to know? We’re evaluating it through the week. We got a plan, put it that way, and we’ll stick to the plan. I think it’s the right one, I think it’s a good one. We’ve got one more practice this week and obviously we’ll evaluate that one, but we got a plan.”

On if there’s at least some hesitation to throw a freshman QB at a defense like this on the road for a first start: “We’re making decisions based on us. We really are. Every defense we play is pretty good, so …”

On why Vandy’s D is good: “I think the effort they play with really sticks out to you. They strain. They really strain. Schematically, they do a lot of stuff inside the box with movement, different fronts, blitzes, and it makes protection tough, makes running the ball tough. But really if you look at it, what sticks out is they strain every play, through blocks. They just strain.”

On studying UGA film and lessons: “It didn’t take long to watch it. That was a good thing. We didn’t run that many plays, so didn’t take a whole lot of time. But it’s very simple: We didn’t enter the game with the right mentality, so that won’t happen again.”

On dropped passes mental vs. physical: “I think it’s a combination of both. Some of those balls – I mean, we expect people to make plays, obviously, but some of them are like 50/50 balls, too. I mean, those guys are playing good defense and Georgia did a good job of playing man-to-man coverage. They were on us. We weren’t getting a lot of space. So those throw-behinds, the four or five that we threw, we could’ve made probably half of them and really, honestly, the other two or three would’ve been really hard, because their hands were in there or whatever. So those balls are 50/50 balls anyway. But the ones that stick out are the ones that you drop that nobody’s on you, and that’s probably, in my opinion, it’s an accumulation of just the whole offense being a little too tight. Just need to relax.”

On not going into the UGA game with the right mentality: “I just don’t think, if you look overall at the film, if you look at everything, we didn’t play with the same physical approach, we didn’t play with the same speed that we played all year with. Throughout the course of the week, in my opinion, we have to have attention to detail. We have to stress it, we have to push it, and we have to get the same effort and physical play out of our kids week to week. I felt, even though the couple weeks beforehand obviously we didn’t win the games, but we didn’t play poorly. And I thought that game we played poorly and I thought really we coached tentatively. We gotta let it go and we gotta play a little more free.”

On what went wrong for the offensive line at Georgia: “Well, it’s like I was answering that question: our overall physical approach wasn’t great. I will say this, those guys have been playing well, and they really have. I think that to sit here and not give some credit to the Georgia front would be remiss. I think that they’re a good defense. I think that they simplified it going into that week, which ultimately helped them. I thought they had a good play, they played physical, and ultimately you’ve got to give them a little bit of credit. You know? But, on our part we have to do better. I mean, ultimately when you watch film there’s an overall accountability overall, from players to coaches to everybody. So, there’s no different Coach Stoops looking to me. You’ve got to do better. You can’t use that as an excuse. You can give people credit, but we’ve played good fronts before and played well. So, it’s not an excuse. We’ve got to do better, and we will do better.”

On what he thinks of the confidence of his group right now: “It’s fine. What do you think about it? (Not good.) It wasn’t good Saturday, to be honest with you, but I didn’t think that anything was very good Saturday. I think that whatever – you can’t really put your finger on confidence. Confidence is something that exudes through the whole group, and I think that when you struggle a little bit everybody searches for answers and everybody tends to point fingers. I think the best way to go about it when you struggle is to regroup and have some self accountability, including myself, and then understand that – put it this way: there’s people that are frustrated, but the people that are frustrated aren’t playing perfect either. Does that make sense? So, be careful. Be careful with your frustration, because if you want to sit down and watch film with me and you want to point then we can do that.”

On if Towles puts too much pressure on his shoulders: “I think he does, but I think that just comes with the position too. That’s the nature of the position. I told him that on Sunday. I said, ‘When you do good you’ll get a little too much credit.’ Girls like you, and this and that, you know? But ultimately when you do good you’ve got people blocking for you, you’ve got people running for you and you’ve got people making plays. Right? So, ultimately when you do bad you get a little too much blame. Because it all fits together. But, in that position you’ve got to take the good with the bad. That’s just the nature of it.”

On how Boom Williams looked today and how much the pad he will wear on his elbow affects him: “I think it’s been fine. I really do. I just tend not to talk about it.”

On if he will ditch the “wildcat” formation after it did not work so well in his first attempt at Georgia: “No, we’ll probably use it a little more. I mean, to say I’ve never been a ‘wildcat’ guy – I’ve just never used it. But it did. It worked a couple times. Didn’t work one play, but on third-and-three it worked one time.”

On Stoops saying Barker makes quicker decisions: “The ball gets out quicker. It probably does at times, but I mean, until he plays in games I think it’s hard to evaluate it. Ultimately, the decisions we made at the beginning of the year, there was a competition and Patrick won it. It is what it is. So, as the weeks go you reevaluate everything, but until you get in that fire we’ll see.”

On how much youth factors in players getting tight after slow starts: “I think that’s just the nature of kids. I do. Obviously I went back and looked at the whole season because I want to kind of see the flow of game to game. I thought for the most part, we’ve attacked. I really have. I mean, we haven’t executed great at times. At times we executed really good and at times we’ve executed about as bad as you could, but we were always attacking. I think that’s probably my one disappointment from Saturday.”

On if he’s talking about players or play-calling: “I think both. I think it’s both. I took as much blame as anybody did. I mean, heck, I’m not one to go without blame. You guys know that. So, I evaluate myself as easy as I evaluate those guys. Everybody’s mindset is a puzzle: it’s got to fit together. I did think that evaluating this season we’ve been attacking, and that is who we are and we play better like that. Played better – to answer you’re question, you’re right: whenever we have some success we typically roll. And whenever we don’t…But that is kind of an element of our offense. It’s always been like that. I don’t know if it’s good, bad or indifferent, but it is what it is. You’re dealing with kids and that’s the psyche of offensive football. When you’re in a rhythm, you’re in a rhythm, and when you’re not, you’re not. Now, it’s ultimately my job to get us in a rhythm earlier. That’s my job. I can’t go out there and throw and catch, but I can get us in a rhythm.”

On what grade he gave himself: “I wouldn’t give myself a very high grade. No. What percentage do you want to put on it? Do you want to grade me? I’d probably grade myself lower than I graded them – I promise that – which I typically do every week.”

On how often people ask him about the quarterback in public: “A, I’m not out in public a lot, especially when we lose. When we lose I never go out in public. I’m not out in public enough to know, to be honest with you. Not during the season. I mean, I’m lucky if I see the little girl at all, so I ain’t going out in public too much. Not (because) we lose. I’m just saying that’s just the nature of the job.”

On if he’s considered moving to the coaching box: “Nah. We’ve mixed around with who’s up and who’s down, but not really.”

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at jsmith3@herald-leader.com.
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