"It seems like we've been practicing for a long time. We're excited about having an opener, a neutral site game in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl against a very, very good, historically good coach in Bobby Petrino and team in Louisville. I think the big question for the players is, how do you respond in getting ready for a game? It's one thing to go out and practice everyday and the consequences of what happens are not all that great. You make a mistake, try to correct it. But now how you prepare, the energy that you sustain, the mental intensity that you prepare with helps you develop the confidence you need to win the game and know exactly what you have to do, how you have to do it, why it's important to do it that way, which requires a lot of commitment but also disciple that you practice with and that you play with that helps you prepare that way. And you never know how people are going to be able to sustain their effort, energy and intensity when it comes to a game because different things happen in a game. Good plays happen, bad plays happen. How are you going to respond and be able to sustain your level of energy and focus regardless of what happens in the game. These are all questions that are sort of almost personality, identity questions that every team has to sort of answer for themselves in terms of their commitment, how important it is to them, how they go out and prepare and then how they're able to sustain when the game comes, in terns of playing disciplined, together, team football, everybody doing their job and everybody understanding the importance of doing that.
"Louisville, to me, has an outstanding team. I already mentioned Bobby Petrino. We all have a lot of respect for him as a coach, playing against him when he was at Arkansas. He's done a great job at Louisville with the program they have, the wins they have. Very, very good offensive coach. They averaged over 38 points per game in the ACC last year, which is a pretty good conference. They have a lot of returning players back from a year ago. I think seven or eight starters on offense, depending on how you couch the running back situation they have. They do have a new quarterback, but when he played last year he was very poised and played very well for them named Jawan Pass, who we know well, who we recruited here. Their top skill guys at receiver are all back. Their offensive line is back pretty much intact. So this is going to be a really challenging game for our defense. This is an offense that hung 60 points on Florida State at one time and went into Clemson and scored 40 points or whatever. So, you know, this is a very, very challenging team when it comes to offense and our preparation that we need to have on defense."
"Defensively, they have a new defensive coordinator, who I'm sure is going to help improve what they've been able to do on defense. They've always played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and toughness. We're going to have to do a great job of executing on offense and score points. That's the No. 1 thing that we need to be able to do in any game, but especially in this game -- take care of the football, don't turn it over, execute, everybody do their job, take advantage of the opportunities that the defense gives and be able to finish drives and finish plays in the game.
"This team also has all its specialists returning -- punter, kicker, who is very good, long-snapper. They're very, very well coached on special teams.
"This is going to be a challenging game for us against a really, really good opponent, and I think our players need to have the proper respect and prepare well this week for what's going to be a very challenging game.
Big picture-wise from what you've seen from the quarterbacks, how have they handled themselves?
Those guys have done a great job. They've both done a good job in fall camp. And, you know, we're excited about the progress that both guys have made and what they're capable of doing.
Can you elaborate on the kicking situation?
We haven't made that decision yet. So we'll keep letting both guys kick this week, and we'll sort of see what happens.
What do you want to see for your quarterbacks this week?
I think the coaches want to do a good job with both players, getting both well prepared for the game, so that they both can go out and play well when and if they get the opportunity to do that. We don't expect anything different from them as any other game, any other preparation or any other player on our team in terms of how they prepare for the game and what they go out there and do every day in terms of their execution and continuing trying to win the confidence of the players around them, that they do a good job at their position of distributing the ball and that to me is what the quarterback needs to do.
Is it safe to assume we won't find out who's starting until Saturday?
I don't think you should assume anything. If I'm ready to tell you, I'll tell you. If I'm not, I won't. So you can assume that. Is that fair?
Have you seen the competition result in both players improving?
I think both guys have focused very well. I don't see guys looking over their shoulder worrying about what the other guy's going to do. They just try to do a good job when they're in there, which I think is the best way for them to develop the kind of confidence that they need and focusing on what they can control, which is their performance, not what somebody else does.
Just to be clear, is the plan to play both quarterbacks?
Nobody said that. I mean, I don't know where did that come from, just to be clear?
Look, none of that's been decided yet. I wish we could talk about something else because I don't really have anything else to say about it.
On preparing to face Louisville quarterback Juwon Pass:
This is the first good question that we've had and should be what everybody's concerned about. You've got an offense here that scores 38 points a game. We've got almost all new guys playing on defense. That is definitely a challenge for us, not only the quarterback, the skill players that they have, the balance they have on offense and the way they were able to run the ball a year ago, as well as throw it effectively, score points against just about everybody they played against. I wouldn't say it's a concern, but I'd say, how are we going to establish an identity on defense with the players that we have? Are they going to be able to play together? Are they going to be able to sustain performance? If something bad happens, are they going to be able to respond the right way? These are all things to me that take a lot of discipline and mental toughness to be able to play for any player. But when you have a lot of new players, that becomes something that they have to prove that they can do, and that's going to be something that we'll be watching very closely in this game, and I don't think we're ever going to know it until we play a game.
Could you comment on Alex Leatherwood listed at both tackle and guard on the depth chart?
I think that because we felt really good about the tackle position and then Matt [Womack] hurt his foot again. I think flexibility in the offensive line allows you to put the best five players out on the field so that means somebody has to play guard, somebody has to play tackle, somebody that plays guard might have to play center or vice versa. So we feel good about that part of it. He spent a lot of time at right tackle. He spent time at left tackle. And he's made a nice transition to being able to play guard. Deonte [Brown] probably is the next guy that we would want to get in the game to play inside if something happened to someone. And we also like the progress that Chris Owens has made as a center and as a tackle. So he has diversity in what he can play, and hopefully when we get some of these guys back we won't have as many guys have to play multiple positions. But I think it's critical right now.
You mentioned Coach Petrino and coaching against him at Arkansas. When you prepare for a first game, do you look that far back at things?
"I don't have to look back on... Everybody was a little, astonished, I guess would be the right word, that I could call up every play we busted on when we were playing against them and they made big plays without looking at the tape, formation, motion, play, the whole thing. So I don't think there's any question about the fact that you always want to keep the history of when you've played a certain style, a certain coach... You look at what he did and how he tried to attack you. It's no different in this case."
What have you seen from cornerback Patrick Surtain II and how is he ready to contribute?
"Patrick has done a nice job and really made a lot of progress. We were playing him at star and corner a little bit earlier on. We tried to zero him in a little bit more, just playing corner and he's done a nice job. I have confidence that if he has to go in the game and play, that he'll be able to do a good job for us."
Defensive lineman Johnny Dwight is a veteran guy. Where have you seen improvement from him?
Johnny has spent a lot of time here and really had a good camp. He had a good spring. We need Johnny Dwight to be able to play and get minutes in the game. He has done well and responded to that challenge. We're hopeful that when he goes in there he'll play well and develop more and more confidence but we have a lot of confidence in him right now.
Speaking generally, what benefit do you see from allowing players to compete for a job during games?
"I don't know that any player, whether you have a starter... I think every player is competing in the game. Last year, Trevon Diggs started against Florida State and we put Levi in in the second quarter. So we had a starter, and based on competition, that the guy we put in we thought could play well. So I don't really understand? Just because you guys look at this depth chart, like 'OK, these guys are starters until something bad happens to them and they can't start anymore. Then the next guy gets a chance to play.' The next guy still has a chance to beat him out. The next guy is still competing. The next guy still wants to play. That kind of competition, I think, helps the other players play better. And helps you play better because you're more challenged. The worst thing you can have on your team is not have competition where guys think 'I've got this, I don't have to practice hard, I don't have to work hard, I don't have to prepare very well because I'm going to play no matter what happens.' So everybody is competing every day. We're competing every day to get better and to get everybody better. That's what we're doing. Regardless of what anybody says or thinks, that's why you play the games so that you have the opportunity to compete and see how you respond to competition. Whether you're a starter or not, the next guy up has an opportunity if he's proven that he can go in there and play winning football and get an opportunity if you're not doing your job, not taking ownership and being accountable, and you're prepared to go out there and play well. You owe that to the rest of your teammates. I owe that to every player on the team to play the best players and if a guy hasn't done that, then somebody else should play. So I think there's competition whether there's a depth chart or not, or whether we have a slash or not. So I know that's hard when you guys... You believe the written word. You believe the written word, even though sometimes, I don't know if you can believe the written word that I read. From you."