Here are some Big East news and notes from the coaches' conference call earlier this morning:
The Bearcats have a short week to prepare for NC State, a team that beat them last season. What is the biggest challenge?
“The health of your team, the overall preparation that goes into a game,” coach Butch Jones said. “The physicality suffers a little bit. … NC State presents so many challenges for us not only on offense and defense but on special teams. Last year they physically dominated us. There are a lot of challenges in preparing but also when you’re playing a great opponent like NC State, that magnifies everything.”
The Huskies might be 1-2, but coach Paul Pasqualoni says his team is improving while it continues to adjust to a new offensive and defensive scheme.
“My outlook is positive,” he said. “I think we had a chance Friday night to have a big night offensively and we just couldn't get the ball to the open receiver. We have to grow up and totally understand the concepts. Part of this thing, not many people view Vanderbilt as a good football team. Vanderbilt is a good football team, Iowa State is a good football team.” Indeed, both teams are 3-0.
Neither the offensive nor the defensive lines played particularly well in the first two games of the season for the Cardinals. So coach Charlie Strong challenged them to step up their game against Kentucky. They did, and both had their best game of the season. For more on the defense, stay tuned for my one good thing video shortly.
“I put this game on our front,” Strong said. “I told the defensive line and the offensive line the only way we can beat Kentucky is to win the battle up front. If we don't win the battle up front ,we don't have a chance. Both accepted the challenge and both performed well.”
Strong added that Will Stein (shoulder) should be fine and could have gone into the game had the Cardinals needed him. There are no plans to alter the quarterback rotation at this time.
Coach Todd Graham said his team has gotten over its disappointing loss to Iowa, and said the recent news that the school was moving to the ACC wasn’t a distraction.
“Our guys don't need any motivation to play Notre Dame," he said. “They know how good a football team is coming in here. We're focused on Notre Dame and correcting the mistakes we've made and getting better as a football team.”
Coach Greg Schiano said some progress was made in the bye week to help get the offensive line and running game going. Betim Bujari and Kaleb Johnson will play, though Schiano didn’t say whether they would start. Savon Huggins, Jawan Jamison and Jeremy Deering will be rotated at the tailback spot, depending on game plan and how they do in the game.
I asked specifically what he saw in the first two games that led him to the decision to go with those three and shuffle De’Antwan Williams down the depth chart. Williams has since left the team.
“You look at what we've been doing, and the upside if repetitions are allocated differently,” Schiano said. “You have to make some calculated decisions on upside, who will get better as the year goes on. Nothing is ever final. In our program, competition is every day. Just because you move down one day doesn't mean you aren’t going to move up the next. You just have to battle away. It's day to day. You earn your spot every day.”
Coach Doug Marrone said he was excited about the prospects of joining the ACC, but wants to remain focused on the season.
"Joining the ACC puts us in a strong position for the future, and again I'm excited about the quality of schools, academically and athletically and the competition," he said. "I look forward to them in the future. What I've told the staff and what I've told the players is that our focus right now is on this season, so I've told them not to comment on it. I'm probably not going to comment on it at all. We have a much larger task with our program to concentrate on the teams that we have coming in and the upcoming season. I know that everyone here has a job to do, and I respect that. All I ask is that you respect that we have a job to do, because I would like to make sure that I'm the coach when we bring this team forward for the future of the ACC, and that means winning football games."
True freshman defensive tackle Elkino Watson has made an immediate impact for the Bulls. He is fourth on the team with 15 tackles and leads the team with four tackles for loss. Injuries to reserves at that spot opened up playing time for him, and he’s flourished.
“He's made the most of his opportunity,” coach Skip Holtz said.” He’s big, physical, can run … the more he plays the more he's thriving. The more reps we can give him right now as we start getting ready for the conference, the better he can become.”
Coach Dana Holgorsen gave his first impressions of No. 2 LSU.
“They're as fast as any football team out there on all three sides of the ball,” he said. “Then they’re extremely well coached on all three sides of the ball. Looks to me they’re highly motivated, they're playing with a lot of energy. They've already been in big games this year and have some guys who can rise to the occasion. They're a physical football team, too. We're going to have to play fast and play hard.”