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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / January 21.
  • Schiano Talks about North Carolina

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    Here are Greg Schiano’s press conference quotes about Thursday’s nationally televised ESPN game with North Carolina. Visit the blog and in the next few days for more stories on the game. The full press conference is also available at SNY, the home of Rutgers and the Big East.

    On team’s practices:

    “So far we have had some good preparation after what was a tough loss. I think our guys are preparing the right way to get ready for North Carolina. UNC is a good football team. They are talented, and offensively, they have two great receivers and a quarterback who can get the ball to them. They have a very big, physical offensive line, and they have some running backs that are very athletic. They haven’t played the position very long but are very athletic, so it’s very worrisome as we prepare to face them. Defensively, they are big up front. Maybe the biggest line we have ever played against here at Rutgers. They have an NFL size defensive line. Three-hundred pounders across, the linebackers run very well, the inside guys run very well, and the cornerbacks have some experience. It’s going to be a challenge, no doubt, but it’s exciting to do it on a national stage here at Rutgers Stadium against great competition, and it should be a great challenge for us.”


    On UNC’s wide receiver Brandon Tate:

    “Brandon Tate is not only a fast guy, but a strong guy. He can break tackles, if you watched the game last week and you watched last year. He runs through arm tackles, so we’re going to have to make sure we put enough people around him to tackle him and that’s not easy because they are well-coached in the kicking game and their people find players to block, so it’s a big challenge. The question is do you kick it to him or don’t you, and we’ll find that out Thursday night.”


    On UNC’s defensive line:

    “When I was [at Miami] we were not real big. Damione Lewis was a big guy, but the rest of the line was pretty small. Then William Joseph came on and he was a big guy, but with UNC, this is across the board, so it doesn’t remind me of the Miami team.”


    On facing Butch Davis, who he coached under at Miami:

    “The matchup between me and Butch is the least of it. It’s the players and the coaches. I am glad for Butch because he seems to be in a place that he enjoys and a place that he likes coaching, and he means a lot to me, so if he’s happy that’s a good thing.”


    On communicating with Coach Davis:

    “I really don’t talk to many people during the season, but during the offseason he and I speak, socially as well as football-wise. He’s a good friend and a guy that I admire, so it’s a special relationship to me.”


    On getting the offensive line ready to face UNC’s defensive line:

    “We don’t have that kind of guy in our program to put up on the scout team so that’s not really an alternative. We try to educate them and put them in situations that help them against bigger guys. Sometimes it is what it is. We will try to help them and then they have to go out there and help themselves.”


    On RU’s defensive backs:

    “I think they understood before Fresno, I think we just made some mistakes. I think they are doing fine, they’ve been the strength of our defense for a while and I expect them to respond the right way.”


    On talking to the team about playing on Sept. 11:

    “I have not talked to them about that and I will in the next day or two, because there will be some ceremonial things before the game that we will be a part of. When you grow up around here and when you live here, which a lot of players do, everybody has their own personal memories and their own personal tragedies that occurred during 9-11.”


    His memories of 9-11:

    “It was a Tuesday, we were game planning for Cal, my first season. I remember it vividly. The secretary came in and said that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center, and then she came in shortly thereafter and said that it wasn’t a small plane. Then we rallied the troops, and one of our players, his mother worked in the World Trade Center, but fortunately she didn’t go into work that day. For everybody in the New York Metropolitan area, for everyone in the country, there was a lot of scurrying around that day, trying to find out information. One of our coaches at the time, his wife was in New York City that day, so he was trying to get in touch with her. It was plenty of craziness that day.”


    On NFL coaches moving to the college ranks:

    “I haven’t really studied it to say if it’s a trend or not. I know for me personally it was what I wanted to do, it was the career and the way of life I wanted. I think Butch is happy to be where he is right now. The thing that I love about it is being able to help young people grow into men, and that’s not the case in the NFL. That’s what is really appealing to me.”


    On RU kicker San San Te:

    “San San had one bad kick, the other one was a bad snap. Jeremy Ito, who is one of the more storied kickers in our history, had a few bad kicks his first game.  I have seen enough of San San in practice, and I’ve seen the way he works and prepares, and I just believe in him. The worst thing you can do is beat somebody down. I know that San San didn’t go out there and say ‘let me overkick this one and shank it to the left. He will be fine.”


    On the idea that the game against UNC is a must-win game:

    “It’s not a must win for Rutgers, I don’t know if it is for North Carolina or not. To me, there is no such thing as a ‘must-win.’ We just go out and play the best we can, and if it’s good enough to beat the team we’re playing, then it is, and if it isn’t, then we have to go back to work. The world does not come to an end if we lose it and it doesn’t get better if we win. I think in general we overreact when things go well, and I think we overreact when things don’t go well. I think we need to give people a chance to display their body of work. Some years it’s better than others, but as you can see, it’s a cyclical thing, and we’ll have to see how the cycle plays out this year.”


    On RU quarterback Mike Teel:

    “Mike has worked very hard. He has incredible resolve and he’s trying to get everyone on the same page. Obviously there are new challenges with a new defense to prepare for, new cover schemes and blitz packages, but Mike has been very good at doing what he does best, which is working hard and rallying the troops.”


    On RU’s punt returners:

    “I don’t know for sure who’s going to be the first guy to go out and handle the first punt. I think we have a couple good punt returners, so a lot of it will be who is gassed, who has played a lot already. You want a fresh guy to go out there and handle that first punt. Dennis Campbell did a good job handling his punts against Fresno.”


    On RU running back Kordell Young:

    “I think Kordell had confidence against Fresno. I think maybe the question mark would be during the last practice, the last scrimmage, him thinking ‘I haven’t played a game yet,’ but now he’s played a game. We’ve gotten better in the running back position even in the last couple days, so maybe the other guys deserve to touch the football more than they have, so we’ll see how that plays out.”


    On RU running back Mason Robinson:

    “I don’t think Mason really lost his confidence, I think he just had a tough little stretch there on the punts, but I think Mason will be fine. These are young guys. Mason played a little bit of spot duty last year at running back and also some special teams, but he wasn’t a guy who played a ton of football. I think the more they practice and the more they play, the better they will be on the big stage.”


    On Rutgers’ other running backs getting on the field:

    “[Former Rutgers running back] Ray Rice had leapfrogged five backs to become the starter his freshman season, so he had done a lot of things to show us he was ready, but you never really know until they play a game. I thought Kordell played very well for his first real time as the back. But I think the other guys, Mason, Joe Martinek and Jourdan Brooks, all have practiced well during this stretch, so who gets it has not been totally decided, but I have an idea who is going to get more touches and we will let it play out from there.”


    On Rutgers’ first game with new assistant coaches:

    “I don’t think the newness of each other affected how we coach. I’ve gone on record that I don’t think we did our best job coaching but I don’t think it was in any way attributable to having a new mix. It starts with me. I didn’t do as good a job as I’m capable of and hopefully we will improve on that.”


    On Dennis Campbell’s punt return for a TD that was called back for holding:

    “I think it is important that Dennis did that, unfortunately it was called back. I think it gave him a shot in the arm, kind of a ‘hey look, I still got it,’ although he has every reason to believe he still has it because of what he’s doing in practice and in preseason, but again this was in a game. The same thing goes with the receivers. We need to play more receivers and spread the ball around. When you look at it, we have six legitimate guys who have played well in games, so it just can’t be Kenny Britt and Ty Underwood. We have guys we need to spread the ball to.”


    On using all available time to prepare for UNC game:

    “I talked to the team about the fact that we need to prepare. Thursday will come when Thursday will come. We don’t want to wish away time to get to Thursday, because there are plenty of things we are not squared away on for North Carolina. When you get into game week, there’s not enough time. There’s extra time this week, but there’s never enough time to get everything prepared. As a coach, you have to pick and choose, if you worry your team about every single front, they’re going to see all of these blitzes, every route, every running play, you’re going to have a bunch of guys who are paralyzed out there through analysis. So as coaches, you pick the things you think the players are going to see, and you try to get them ready for that, and you count on their abilities and their intuition to do the rest. There’s never enough time to even get that done. So we look at this as an opportunity with more time to prepare than a normal week.”


    On looking forward to the game as a coach:

    “Once you get into the season, you can’t wait until that next game. But it’s critical that you don’t wish away time. You have to use every second of preparation time that you have to get ready because there’s a fine line at this level between winning and losing, and the fine line is in preparation.”


    On UNC’s linebackers:

    “UNC’s linebackers are a good-sized group that run well, so that’s hard. Usually, it’s a big group that doesn’t run well, or a smaller group that fly. This group has good size and runs well, and they seem to have that body type which make them very effective on special teams. Big guys that can run are good on special teams because they’re not the fly weights. Fly weights you can shove out of the way with a hand, but these guys are 220 or 230 so you’re not going to get away with that.”


    On taking what you do in practice into gameday:

    “I thought up until the first game that we practiced very well, but you have to do it in a game.  All the practice, all the preparation is critical, but then you have to be able to take it and do it on the field on game day. So that’s really where we’ll be able to assess that. That’s what you do as a coach. You evaluate your performance in a game and then you adjust accordingly, so I’m hoping there are some groups that get more comfortable and are able to execute better.”


    On learning from Butch Davis while at Miami:

    “I’ve been blessed to work for some great head coaches in a short amount of time. At the stage of my career when I went to Miami, I really began to think about being a head coach, not just as a dream but as something that could happen in the foreseeable future, and Butch really helped me a lot. I asked a lot of questions, but he was really good in helping me understand a lot of things that assistant coaches don’t have to deal with, whether it’s fundraising or drug testing, things that are different from the X’s and O’s scheme teaching. There were two guys there, Butch Davis and Pete Garcia, who’s now the athletic director at FIU, I learned a lot about recruiting from those guys as well, Butch is a phenomenal recruiter.”


    On watching Butch Davis and North Carolina:

    “When I watch North Carolina games, I see similar philosophies more than specific plays, because he has coordinators calling the plays, and I’m sure he has input and makes changes or overrules, but he’s not calling every play. What I do see is what he believes in, and I’m sure when he looks at our plays he sees the same thing, because we have similar beliefs.”


    On UNC trailing McNeese State in the third quarter:

    “I think there was a unique set of circumstances going on there. Number one they came out and ripped out a 14-0 lead and then there was a rain delay. I’ve heard Butch talk about it, that maybe they weren’t as jacked up when they came back out, and it is a game of emotion. How you allow a lesser opponent to get back in a game is by not playing at a high level of intensity. McNeese State is very talented, they can run. They are a good football team. So it doesn’t take that much of a drop off for the game to even out.  But rest assured, there will be no drop off in that team come Thursday night on ESPN. We will get their A game, that’s for sure.”


    On his plans to play freshmen against UNC:

    “There may be freshmen that play more, just because we’ve had nine days of preparation. I think they’re closer to understanding. Every time you put a freshman in, you have to understand that there may be situations that come up where they have no idea. No matter how much you practice, how much they prepare them, that’s why experience is so important. I thought with David Rowe going in there, I thought he did a good job in the nickel and dime package, that’s a big responsibility for a freshman. I think there were other guys that were prepared to play but didn’t play very much. I think that list could continue to grow.”


    On RU’s defensive philosophy for UNC:

    “I think what we need to do is we need to go out and eliminate those big plays, that’s the philosophy of our defense. We need to continue to keep the intensity level at the rate that it was in the first half, because I thought both teams played with a great controlled intensity.”


    On Rutgers’ last game against UNC, Sept. 2, 2006, as the first game of RU’s 11-2 season:

    “At the time we didn’t know it was the start of something big, but history would say that it did. I thought that it was an important win for us, the way it happened was important. The year before we had a lead in our opener in another BCS out of conference game, and let it slip away, and against UNC they were driving for the go-ahead score, and we made a play and won the game, so I thought it was an important game.”


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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.