The Syracuse Orange (3-5) visit the Louisville Cardinals (4-4) in a matter of days. With that in mind we get to hear from both teams' coaches, Scott Shafer and Bobby Petrino, respectively, as they preview Saturday's matchup. Despite the lingering bit of coach-speak in all of these, it's always interesting to garner this type of feedback from the coaches -- especially as they start discussing their opponents.
First, we hear from Petrino on the weekly ACC Coaches Teleconference...
Regarding injuries: He expects the team's collection of injured players -- Reggie Bonnafon, Lamar Jackson, Dee Smith, etc. -- are all ready to go. Or at least hopes/indicates as much given how the week has gone.
Syracuse, just their offense, the biggest threats that you're seeing on film and kind of going into this game how you're assessing the offense?
"Well, I think they've been running the ball well. They've got a nice scheme that they've got going. I think they feel comfortable with it. They get help because the quarterback can also run and run option, and I'm impressed with the way he delivers the ball. I feel like that they've improved a lot on offense, and we've got to do a good job of really stopping the run, particularly on 1st and 2nd down."
And then as far as defensively just what you can say about their blitzing schemes and the way that they attack the quarterback, just what you've been seeing?
"Yeah, they've always given you a lot of pressure. You know, we go back and watch last year's game against us and then their games this year, and they do a great job of really bringing guys from both sides of the field and disguising. I think they've worked hard on their disguising, and they're doing a nice job of that. So it's going to be important for us to get to 3rd and medium and 3rd and short and stay out of 3rd and long."
When you're watching Syracuse on film, can you talk about Brisly Estime? He's leading the league in punt returns, seems to be a pretty elusive guy. How do you scheme for that or how big a threat is that?
"Yeah, what we need to do is make sure we get the hang time that we've been getting. That's certainly been one of our strengths of our punt cover team and make sure we get down the field and cage them in. They do a nice job of holding people up at the line of scrimmage and blocking for him, and then he's really quick when he catches the ball. They usually makes the first guy miss, and he's done a really nice job of returning punts for them."
He's also a kickoff return guy. Hasn't been quite as effective, but he's still done some damage in that area, too. He seems to be their big-play threat in that regard; is that fair?
"Yeah, no doubt about it. He's been a guy that has made big plays for them. They seem to be getting him the ball more and more on offense, also. I think it'll be a good match-up because we felt good about our kickoff coverage team and we felt good about our punt team, so it's certainly something that we're looking forward to."
Right after, Shafer brought his own thoughts to the table regarding both teams:
Louisville's offense, just what you can say about what you're seeing on film and some of the biggest threats they pose going into this game?
" Sure. Well, they have one of the best wide receivers that we've faced in Jamari Staples. He's a big, athletic kid that can run well and goes up and makes plays in space. But I think they're learning their way with their offensive line. They have some big, athletic kids. They've played quite a few of them, so they have the competition continuing week to week. You know, at the quarterback position, Jackson and Bonnafon are two guys that have gotten the ball to work as of late, both very athletic, obviously, because they use Reggie (Bonnafon) in all kinds of different spots, not just behind the center. And then they have a good crew of running backs that run the ball hard and are very elusive.
So when I look at them offensively, I see a very athletic offensive unit that -- you know, they can run."
And then as far as defensively, just what you've seen from them on film and how you would kind of describe what they've been so far this season on defense?
"Sure, well, you know, they do a great job defensively. The thing that you see there is they're very multiple. They'll give you multiple fronts, multiple coverages. They have some big kids inside that come off the ball hard in (Sheldon) Rankins, (DeAngelo) Brown. DeAngelo is a very potent football player inside for them, not necessarily always statistically, but just he's got a good presence, athletic at the linebacker and strong safety position. All those kids run well. They have good size, good length.
You know, when I look at them, I see a guy like Josh Harvey-Clemons, he's a guy that is very long, very athletic. He can play underneath like an outside linebacker where he matches you up and can run with you, and he can also play back on top in coverage, which says a lot about his ability level to be at linebacker and the safety position in the way they structure their defense.
On the outside they have some good young corners that are very athletic and aggressive in trying to go make plays. So I see, once again, a multiple scheme with a lot of athleticism, and that's why they've done a nice job defensively, and they've done a good job with the turnovers, especially against Wake Forest."
What's your assessment of your own defense heading into this battle with Louisville?
"Well, we need to continue to improve. We had a difficult loss against Florida State, and you know, we have quite a few young guys learning their way, and I think there's been some improvements in different areas, but not to the degree necessary to play at the level we want them to, so we're working extremely hard. Had a very good practice yesterday. I like the way the guys are going about the process and getting better. So really it's just continuing to stay true to the process and get better. Looking forward to getting to Louisville and playing some ball."
I was wondering if you could make a couple comments on how you think the development of the quarterback Dungey has come along and the things he's learning as a true freshman and the things he still needs to improve on.
"Sure. Well, he's a young man that got thrown in the fire a little bit earlier than we had originally planned with the injury of Terrel Hunt, but I've been pleased with his improvement early on. Very athletic. When he wasn't sure, he'd take off with the ball and he made some plays. But that was one of our focus points in teaching him how to make good decisions with throwing the ball away and getting down once you get the yardage that you can. But all in all, I've been pleased with his progress in understanding coverage, understanding front to coverage, and how to attack it. He's a very bright young man, nearly all A's coming out of high school, and he's shown a proficiency to learn.
Every week we continue to see that growth, so I'm excited about where he is and where he's headed."
I was just asking Coach Petrino about Estime, Brisly Estime, and the threat he poses as a kick returner, but he brought up that you also seem to be trying to get him the ball more in offensive situations. Can you discuss his development and the threat he presents?
"Sure. Well, we've been excited about Brisly since the first day he walked on campus, and you are pronouncing it correctly, it's Brisly Estime. Last year felt terrible for the young man. He had a chronic ankle sprain, high ankle sprain, and really didn't have the opportunities to play as much as we wanted to. We couldn't use him in the kicking return game. So we were really excited for him to get back on those units, and he's done a very good job offensively. We have tried to get him the ball when we can in situations where we have the right type of looks defensively to attack.
All in all, he's a very dynamic young athlete. He's competing to try to be the best returner in the country. That's one of his and our goals, and he's on track, so hopefully we can continue to utilize his talents, but I've been extremely, extremely pleased with Brisly's performance this year."
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