Steve Addazio spoke to the press yesterday for his weekly press conference. In either the video or transcript below, you can see his thoughts on the Holy War, great special teams play this year, and the talent Kelly Bryant brings to the table for this weekend’s clash at Clemson.
COACH ADDAZIO: As we all know, extremely explosive. They've got play makers all over the field. I think the quarterback Kelly Bryant is a very athletic guy. He runs the ball -- he reminds me of how Tyler Murphy used to run the ball. Throws the ball well. I think their running backs are very, very productive, good players. Wide receivers catch everything in the air. And I just think they're explosive. They got a really good solid offensive line that I think is outstanding.
On defense they've always been outstanding, and they continue to be. Their front is big and athletic. Their linebackers run well. Their secondary I think is one of the better secondaries I've seen. They rally to the ball as good as any defense I have ever seen. They have makeup speed, and what's amazing is people -- every once in a while pop a play and the next thing you know, vroom, it closes on it really fast. So we're playing an outstanding football team, in a tough environment, on the road, arguably maybe one of the -- if not the best team in the country, certainly one of the top three teams in the country. Tough challenge, tough environment. And we're looking forward to having a great week of preparation. And going down there and playing our best football game.
Q. How are you preparing the team to face Clemson this weekend?
COACH ADDAZIO: Practice tomorrow and keep improving, keep getting better. And we got a great attitude. We've played three hard football games. We haven't played one low team. Every team we've played is a quality team. And I think we played our best -- we made great improvement on offense on Saturday, corrected some of the issues we had and caught our personnel up to speed. And I thought everybody on the offense played better.
On defense we had some issues in terms of back end tackling and fits. And we're going to get back to work this week and adjust some of those things we had to adjust to, based off as I said earlier, we lost two of our four top players on our team, and we're adjusting to that while we're playing really good football teams. So hey, football is like that. You keep going. You keep grinding. We're going into the fourth game of the season. Our schedule is a little front-end loaded right now and that's fine. And what's important is get better every day, get better every week and improve.
Q. How does the attention externally affect your preparation?
COACH ADDAZIO: It's the same for everybody in the country, you know. I mean you've got to keep your eye on what you're doing, your energy on what you're doing. And this world right now of hyper focus that everybody's got an opinion, and they're entitled to it. Everyone's got something to say. I've been doing this a long time, and I would say it's more like that today than it's ever been in its history. So as an athlete, as a coach you've got to go about your business, and you've got to worry about what you control and you can't worry about what other people have to say. That's life. Move on.
Q. Where did the game turn around on Saturday?
COACH ADDAZIO: I think what happens is, you know, you saw the game on Saturday. You were there. That was a very close football game. At the end of the game we're trying to do some things to try to get back in at the end. And so you're doing some things uncharacteristic what you do back up on your own 20, and they can lead to turnovers and rapid scores. Or you can not try to go get the ball down the field like that and don't create that. We were just trying to do what we had to do to get the ball down the field. I'm more interested in the body of the game. And that was a very competitive football game. Okay. And I thought we played really hard. I don't think anybody can take that away. How hard we played, how competitive we played and where that game was, all the way into the fourth quarter. Okay. Tack on scores at the end, I mean that comes with understanding football and seeing what's going on. If you can't see that and just want to look at the score box, then have at it. There's not much else you can do there.
Q. After watching the film on Saturday, what did you notice that went wrong with the defense in the second half? And what needs to be improved upon when facing Clemson?
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah. I don't think the floodgate opened. What happened in the fourth quarter happened in the first quarter. We lit up seven plays, seven run plays that accounted for over 300 yards. There were seven -- they ran about -- I think they ran 78 plays in the game, 78. Seven of them were big strikes. That's what's -- no one got beat up or blocked up front. No one got tossed, thrown over their head. Okay. That didn't occur in the game. When you watch the tape, you're like, wow, but on seven plays we had a breakdown of someone not being in the right gap or when a play hit the second level, we didn't tackle well in the back end. And so that 12-yard game became a 60-yard game. That happened seven times in that game. Okay. There's a difference between that and just getting chewed up because you can't stop anybody or they're blocking you, you know, you're getting blocked. That's a big difference. When you're just getting blocked, that means guys are just getting, you know, overtaken. That did not happen in that game. But when defense is a gap control game and when someone's out of a gap and that ball hits that gap, the back end at that point is either going to be there to stop that from being a 60-yard play and make it a 10-, 12-, 15-yard play and then re-hat it up again or it's going to go and it's going to pop. It popped on us. And that's what happened during the game. There's a big difference between playing in a football game where the score is big and your team got beat up. That hasn't happened.
Now, why are we out of the gap? What do we need to do to take care of that? That's what we're working on this week to try to sure those things up. There's a couple things I told you why. We've got some personnel things that we've got to address. But that's what's happened there. That has not been traditionally what's happened here. We've played some pretty darn good defense over the years. Okay. And we'll continue to do so. But our consistency factor with stopping those plays has got to be addressed.
Q. Last year when you played Clemson, you had three trips inside the 20-yard line in the first half. When you are playing such a high powered team, how important is it to take advantage of those opportunities?
COACH ADDAZIO: There always are. I mean it's very important. That's one of the things that we're working on right now is, like, listen, we're fifth in the country with the amount of plays we run right now. Okay. We're averaging -- we're up in that 90 category right now, plays, but what we're not doing is getting enough touchdowns out of that right now. That's something we need to work on. Say, well, why. Well, we've got some pre-snap penalties that have seemed to pop up on us in the red zone right now. We're trying to take care of those. Okay.
But scoring, when you have the opportunity, when you're in the red zone -- now, we're kicking field goals in there. We're doing that. We're scoring in the red zone, but we're not scoring touchdowns. Okay. And that's where I think -- if we're scoring more touchdowns right now, that's the next step on offense. I mean we had over 400 yards of offense. We had great balance in our run-pass. Everyone on the offense improved. Okay. But for example, we had a trip around the 30, we went for it 4th and 1, we did not convert that. We had another trip down there where we had a pre-snap penalty. And we want to alleviate those things so we can get more touchdowns instead of field goals.
Q. Can you talk about the success of the special teams on Saturday?
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah. I mean I know that everyone views special teams as field goals and things like that, but I think our special teams as a whole are as good as anywhere in the country right now. What does that mean? That means part of its field goal kicking; part of its kicking off. It's got to do with kickers, but there's ten other guys on the field. And it has to do with coverage. Our kickoff return right now is outstanding. Our kickoff coverage is outstanding. Our punt coverage, I think, is outstanding. I think when you watch the tape, I would grade us right now today -- now, that can change Saturday. Everything's a week-to-week deal. But right now I'd grade that at A. I think we're playing at a high level on special teams. I think our offense has really improved this year. Okay. And we were able to ratchet back from what we went through two weeks ago with the center position, which is I think really important. That got accomplished. I think on defense we've played great defense, and we are still playing outstanding defense, but not consistently. And we've got to get rid of those plays, those one, two, three, four, six, seven, those plays. It's not 20. It's not 30, but there's too many of them. And it's giving illusion that what's going on in the defense. Well, that's what's going on in the defense, but it's got to get corrected. But it's not the flip side of that, which is just get overwhelmed. That's not happening. So special teams I would grade very highly right now. Now, the key is how do we sustain that, and like anything else, if you think you're all set, then a week later you'll find out you're not all set. So it's a what have you done for me lately, and it's got to continue and it's got to go week to week.
Q. Is Kelly Bryant in that same role as Shawn Watson?
COACH ADDAZIO: Yes. He's been here three years. You can tell that he totally understands the offense. He has great command of the offense. He's an outstanding runner and he throws the ball extremely well. I think it's a very talented player.
Q. Is it one of those cases where he learned as an understudy and brought it into this year?
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah. I mean he's very talented. I don't have track on all his exact snaps from last year, but he's -- you know, he's just a talented guy. I mean you know, simple as that. He's been there. Groomed him there. And sometimes that works out great, sometimes it doesn't. In his case I think he's very, very talented. It's kind of like when we got Murphy here. He had been a guy that hadn't really played a whole lot in his career, and he came here and had an opportunity to get on the field, and he kind of at the right time popped.
Q. With Connor's situation, can you update him and what your plans are on Saturday?
COACH ADDAZIO: He's out indefinitely right now. I don't have the details on that all yet. Maybe as the week goes on I will. In terms of the Sam position, you know, we're still Kevin Bletzer did some really good things in the game, and we're working there. And we're also working on creating our depth. We have a young exciting freshman that we're working there. We have also taken Davon Jones and moved him over there right now. So we're going to take a look at a few bodies and few guys and try to create some more depth because there's a depth issue there. So we're working on that right now.
Q. Thoughts on Davon and the personnel right now.
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah. I mean I can't go into too much detail on that because then I'd be telling you -- you know, I mean I -- utilizing -- in the mindset of getting your best 11 on the field, okay, we're trying to look at a lot of different things that we can do to put our best 11 on the field, okay, and not necessarily have to get hung up on, you know, traditional alignments. And that's what we're looking at right now. And also, how do we create more depth right now. You know, I think it's something that you do all the time. The thing with the Connor thing was we didn't really know what we had until very late in the week, you know. And so that becomes problematic. But we're dealing with that right now and taking a look at the whole picture. Whether that means nothing changes, something changes, you know, as the week goes on, we'll format that and take a look at different opportunities and options.
Q. What does Davon Jones bring to the team?
COACH ADDAZIO: Depth. Trying to take players that are really good players and try to increase their roles and see where they can help you more. Davon started here on defense, moved him to offense. Does that mean -- we could have him back at tailback on Tuesday. Okay. But right now we're going to take a look at him and take a look at what that can bring for us, and always in an effort on your football team to try to move your checkers wherever you can. Not everything is flexible -- to try to put some of your best players in positions where they can do the most to help your football team.
Q. Like you said, the offense did a really good job moving the ball on Saturday. But sometimes on third down, you would end up having to punt. I think this year, you guys have averaged 19.3 third down per years which is fifth in the country. Do you intend to attack more down field in first and second down in this coming week?
COACH ADDAZIO: I mean we have attacked down field a lot, actually. And what happens sometimes is that can put you in second-and-long. And that's where you can run amuck a little bit. But I think that one of the things that we wanted to accomplish this year was to have more balance, run-pass. We have done that. And how we do that is always something that you're taking a look at. Are you -- are they down field shots, are they more, you know, short-field play actions. I think you saw some different things on Saturday to try to accomplish that. You know, you're dealing with a freshman quarterback, and you're saying it's a rookie quarterback. Okay. You're trying to give him things to help get him started. You know, and we're looking at all of those things, you know. And we've played, you know, three really good opponents. We really have. And we're going to play a fourth one. And what happens is, you know, all the stats stuff is all so skewed by, you know, who you're playing, what you're doing. But the goal in the year was to come out and establish more balance. The goal in the year was to improve our throw game. Those were goals of the season. And I said that. And we have done that. We have worked on that and done that. We're going to continue to go down that path. While we're in it we're also trying to be cognizant of playing a first-year quarterback and all the things that go along with that. Okay. And there's a lot that goes along with that. So everybody's got an opinion about everything. And that's what makes America great. Okay. But we have got to deal with, okay, continuing to develop the confidence of a young quarterback, okay, and continue to develop the chemistry and the confidence of an offense. And I think given the blow that we took early in the season, I think that happened against a very good opponent. Okay. And we're going to continue to do that. And now we may be arguably playing maybe the best opponent in America, okay, on the road at their place. And so that'll present a set of new challenges for a freshman center and for a rookie quarterback. Okay. And we got to adjust for that. So we're aware of all those things, and you know, honestly, we're excited about it. We're excited about developing this football team right now. It's exciting. Say like, well, why. Well, because I think we have a future full of good talent right now that you can grow. But along the way to think that it's not going to be a roller coaster ride with that, we all know better than that. Everybody does. You know, so my mindset is let's just go, man, and let's develop; let's grow. Let's get better at that and be excited about the fact that we have some guys that have some top end and are going to get nothing but better as they get older. And I'm excited about that. I really am. And then work on fixing the issues that you have or the things that pop up, some controllable, some not controllable and working on them. That's the nature of the game. But get better every week, okay, and try to improve. So on defense, we need to improve something that wasn't right for us. That's what we're going to do this week. On offense we need to continue to improve, and that's what we're going to work on.
Q. How will injuries affect this weekend?
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah. I mean I don't have the details, you know, where that is yet. Obviously, we don't practice today. But you know, we'll see where that is. All right, guys.
Transcript by ASAP Sports, courtesy Jason Baum and BC Athletic Communications