This is Part II of my interview with new Pittsburgh coach Mike Haywood. (You can read Part I here).
Let's talk about your offensive system. Would you describe it as a pro-style attack like the one you oversaw at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis?
Mike Haywood: It's the New England Patriots' offense. But at the same time when you have the opportunity to create matchups, you can go from two receivers on the field to three receivers, four receivers, five receivers. Whatever the opportunity is to create matchups, we're always looking for that opportunity.
MH: We have to play great defense to win football games. If a team is run-oriented, we have to make sure we stop the run to make them a one-dimensional football team. We have to make sure we take away the strengths of the opponents. And if they get into these spread sets, we have to make sure we have enough defensive backs within the system to match up, to stop the run out of the spread and also be able to cover.
What was the biggest factor in the turnaround from Year 1 to Year 2 at Miami of Ohio?
MH: I would say leadership. We developed a leadership council of 13 student-athletes. Each class got to vote for two guys which they thought were leaders in their class. If your position was not represented, every position had an opportunity to vote a leader in, and also the captains were members. Each gentleman on that council became better leaders, and as they became better leaders, I became a better leader and the assistant coaches became better leaders as well.
How much did you learn in your first two seasons as a head coach?
MH: You can't even measure how much I've learned from Season 1 to Season 2. And I'm sure there's going to be even more development between Season 2 and Season 3 as we continue along this journey.
You've been described a lot as a disciplinarian and a fiery motivator. Would you agree with those descriptions?
MH: I would agree with that.
And the 6 a.m. practices and wearing coats and ties ...
MH: It's part of the same message.
What was the reaction like from the players when you met with them for the first time?
MH: I would say in the beginning it was a little reserved. But as they came out of the room and I was standing by the stairway, you could feel how they were becoming more comfortable, more vocal and communicating more. So that was a good feeling.
What are your impressions of the Big East, having played Pitt and other teams at Notre Dame and obviously playing Cincinnati at Miami?
MH: I think it's a good football league. All BCS leagues are good leagues, but sometimes you have ups and downs. But overall, I believe it's a really good football league with outstanding talent, and anyone can win any given week.
Will all positions be open when you start the spring, or will you make some determinations through practice this month and the bowl game?
MH: Every position will be open when we start in spring practice.
And lastly, Pitt has had some high-profile decommitments since the coaching change. Will you try to get some of those recruits back?
MH: We're definitely going to get back in and try to bring those guys back into the fold.