Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Enos Interview: What didn't make it

My two-part interview with CMU football coach Dan Enos is running over the next few days, but there were still some questions that didn't make the cut. Here are some other questions and answers from Enos.

Ellis: Is it possible that once the team lost a few games during the season that some of the guys were pressing because they didn’t want to become “that” team that put an end to the bowl streak or didn’t win a conference title?

Enos: Absolutely. I felt that, especially from the older players. I do think guys pressed. I think there was a time when Ryan Radcliff was really pressing. I think his was more visible but I think there were a lot of other guys that did too. I thought some of our offensive linemen were pressing and making some mistakes that they would usually never make because they were trying to do something more than just their job and I think as the year went on, we got better with that. I think guys got more comfortable and I think they gained more confidence in Ryan and believed in him more.
Even he said that toward the end of the season he noticed that the guys interacted with him more and seemed to respond more to him than perhaps they did at the start of the year. That is part of the maturing process for him too and I think he played better toward the end of the season and a lot of that is the team having confidence in him.
Ellis: How much were you unable to use certain positions, like the tight end, based on the roster you had? Were you not able to use a guy like David Blackburn as much because you didn’t have someone to back him up that was capable of playing the position full-time?
Enos: I prayed almost every night that David didn’t get hurt honestly. I used to tell our coaches that all the time that I hope he doesn’t get hurt. No offense to A.J. Westerndorp, but he had never put his hand down in the dirt in his life prior to last season and we were asking him to do that.
Where I think David got hurt was that he got tired in games. He got worn down. You think about, not just all the games, but he took every snap in every practice at the position. In games he would take 60 snaps where he should probably be around 38 snaps. We couldn’t just rest him because then we can’t practice the plays we need to run as an offense. We have guys that we redshirted last year like Joe Sawicki, Caleb Southworth, and Jarrett Fleming. They will be able to practice this spring. A guy like Connor Odykirk will hopefully be healthy and practice. We are going to bring two more (tight ends) in probably. So, that position will be good and we will keep addressing it and it will make our team better.
There are certain areas that we simply have to get better in. Coming in last year, we had Ryan Radcliff and Derek Rifenbury, but A.J. Westendorp had a back injury and he wasn’t able to do anything for winter conditioning, so you were looking at two quarterbacks. We were able to bring Brandon Fricke in, which was a real positive, but Derek got hurt during the season, so it was a good thing we brought Brandon in or we would have really been down on numbers.
Ellis: You talk about Ryan’s footwork being key, when you got here he was used to taking a lot of snaps out of shotgun formation. How bad was his footwork to where you needed it to be?
Enos: This is not to throw stones or anything like that but he floated around and wasn’t on balance. Being a quarterback and working with Jay (Johnson) we know that your accuracy at this level comes from your feet. We always say you throw with your feet at this level. It is very important to have timing and rhythm in your drops because it affects the timing of your passing game so much.
We broke the film down at the end of the year and found that Ryan was much more efficient under center at the end of the season than he was in the shotgun. I think the reason was his drop had a beginning and it had an end. I think sometimes when he was in the gun he would float and there was no rhythm and no timing and he would never really get his feet set. Sometimes he would try to leave the pocket early, things like that. Ryan loves the shotgun and he doesn’t want to go without it and we will always do both because there are good things about both things, but if you looked at us the last few games we played, we purposely put him under center more and he played better because of it in my opinion. Early on I put him in the gun more because I thought he was more comfortable there and I wanted him to feel comfortable and confident but as we went through the season, we felt he was making better decisions and throwing more accurately under center.
Ellis: You talk about special teams, how are you addressing the punting situation now that Brett Hartmann is gone and also how are you addressing the return game?
Enos: The punting situation is a concern. Last year, I got here with two weeks left in recruiting and I couldn’t find a punter. I didn’t even know how badly we needed a punter at that time. So that is the thing about changing coaches and what gets lost. We should have a punter ready to go that should be in his second year already, but we don’t. So, we are going to have to sign one and we are on a couple of very good ones, but that guy is going to have to come in and punt and that is a huge situation.
That is what I am talking about when I say the program is going to be proactive rather than reactive. When this punter is entering his junior year, we are going to sign another punter, so that guy is ready and has been here for a few years before he has to step in and play. We want to do that with each position too. We want to have that stability throughout the roster.
In terms of the return game, I think that Zurlon did a good job of returning kickoffs as the year went on. There were some where he tip-toed a little bit, but when he hits the hole and gets going, he is really good. Cody Wilson is a great punt returner and I think Billy Myler will be a very good punt returner as well. He catches the ball very well. We will have some guys to work with and we will get better in those areas.
Ellis: What about a guy like Tim Phillips (running back) that is coming off a season-long injury from prior to training camp? Where will he fit in?
Enos: He will be an interesting guy. I haven’t seen a lot of Tim. I will be interested to see him. Plas (Presnell) really speaks highly of him, so getting him back will be a real plus.
Ellis: How has recruiting changed for you as a head coach? Is it easier or harder?
Enos: It is both in many ways. In some ways it is easier because I usually just get to see film of the good players. The way our system works is that the area coach watches film and if he likes it the position coach watches it and then to the coordinator and then to me. So, by the time I see it, three guys have already stamped their approval on it. When you are an assistant coach, you are watching a lot of film and weeding out the good and the bad and there is a lot to go through.
It is harder because you are like a general manager and you are trying to fit everyone’s needs and I am trying to take all the good and bad about each person and trying to make the best decision for the team and make all the pieces fit. I recruited Macomb County, Oakland County, Wayne County, St. Clair County, Washtenaw County for the last six years and I would go down there and know all the coaches and my family is down there. Now, I am all over the place. I am in Wisconsin, Illinois, and all over the place. It is challenging, but I enjoy it. It is fun, in my opinion, to work for a coach that likes to recruit. I have worked for guys that weren’t real enthusiastic about recruiting, but I love it. I know this, if you don’t do it, you don’t have a chance. I love getting to know all the people and I love going out with our other coaches and meeting the young men and their families. Mark (Dantonio) was like that too. He was a bulldog in recruiting and I think you have to be.
Ellis: The team heads to Michigan State next season, what will that game mean to you?
Enos: It is funny because I haven’t thought that much about it really. I talk to Mark Dantonio a lot and we always joke that we have our own problems to worry about that we can’t think about how the other is doing. We are so wrapped up in what we are doing and getting ready for spring ball. Once spring ball is over and we start game planning for our first four games and we start breaking down Michigan State’s film, I am sure it will become more of a reality to me.
Ellis: Now that you will be playing against Dantonio in back-to-back seasons, has it changed how you two interact with each other?
Enos: You know, he started that this year (laughs). When I got the job here and I told him I was sending my defensive staff down to East Lansing, he told me that I couldn’t do that because we were future opponents. That is just how coach is. I thought he was joking at first, but he was serious and that is just the way it is in this business. We will always talk as friends and in generalities, but that is the bad part about playing them, because they are a great resource.
It is funny because we both played Northwestern this year and Mark asked me some questions about them and I got to say ‘I’m not telling you’ to him. So that was kind of my way at getting back at him. It will be a little different when we meet on the field. I know this, they will have that game circled because of what happened in 2009. It will be very interesting.

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