Entering Week 4 with a 1-2 record after a 48-14 blowout defeat at Clemson, the Florida Atlantic football team now turn their eyes on the Fighting Illini. The Owls will head up to Illinois for their final game of non-conference play, taking place on Saturday at 3:30 PM at Memorial Stadium in the city of Champaign.
Head coach Tom Herman (pictured) met with media on Monday to go over the current condition of the team and their plans against Illinois.
Below are some of the highlights from the session.
Opening reflection on how the team performed against Clemson
"Obviously not the outcome we had anticipated nor hoped against Clemson. But I think in my frustration of losing a game, I think sometimes the positives do get overshadowed. We've got a lot of guys on this team that are making improvements. And if Ohio hopefully validated to the country we've known for a long time that that defense will be one of the best that we played against. The really cool thing about this part in our development as a program is the guys that are doing things the right way and are making improvements are really standing out and we're doing a really good job as coaches and staff of promoting and empowering guys that do things right. I was frustrated, not that we lost; we kind of knew what it was going to take to win that game and we knew very early when you throw a pick-six on the first drive of the game, that reality may be what it is, but I was frustrated because I didn't see as much growth and maybe it was my fault, to be honest with you. Maybe I expected too much too soon."
"Now having gone back and watched the video a number of times. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the improvement that a lot of guys are making and in doing things our way and like I said, the cool thing is is the guys that don't, they continue to expose themselves and allow us to then lessen their role, if any, and then the guys that do continue to expose themselves in a very positive way and allow us to increase their role. So let's not forget, we've all played three games together and so we're still kind of getting to know each other. We were down two captains. And if you count Burton, who's on our leadership committee, another starter that's a very key contributor, so we knew we were a bit short-staffed, if you will. But when you when you look at it from a 30,000-foot view, it's very frustrating and you get very impatient as a coach. But you do have to acknowledge when improvement is being made, and there were a lot of guys that improved in that game."
Updates on Casey Thompson and quarterback situation
"Casey tore his ACL and medial meniscus, so he will be done for the season. Still scheduling surgery at this time for him. Hate that for him. But I think we need to celebrate the fact that he was even out there in that position. We had a long talk and we were kind of laughing yesterday and we were lamenting that throw to Lajohntay early in the game that he overthrew and felt like that could change the momentum maybe a little bit of the game early and and he said "Well coach, on a positive note, that was the farthest I thrown a football since November of last year". So for him to overcome the shoulder injury and surgery that he had to even be in that arena at that time, I think is a testament to him and he'll attack this like he has everything in his life and I'm sure we'll see him on a football field again next fall."
"If we played a game today, it would be Daniel. As you guys know, he went in. But I and coach Frye…we don't practice till tomorrow so we haven't really talked about it."
Preparation against Illinois
"Obviously their defensive tackle, Newton, number four, he's a guy that we really have to pay attention to and know where he's at at all times. A very unique style of defense. You're gonna see him lineup basically in one front pretty much the whole game. Bear front if you will, and play a lot of man coverage and say that they're going to stop the run by having all those guys on the line of scrimmage and play man-to-man and sprinkle just enough zone coverage to keep you honest and so you can't just run all your man beater plays so it's interesting, it's different on offense, and defensively, we've got to prepare for the quarterback who's got some division one experience being a transfer from Ole Miss. So a good football team and I respect the heck out of Coach Bielema and what he's done in a short time they're up in Champaign but I'm also really excited to see the continued growth of our team this week."
Status updates on the running back trio, and WR Je'Quan Burton
"Zuberi dislocated his shoulder on an unbelievable hustle play. You want to show the world what our culture is down whatever we were down, 34 or 41, to throw a pick and had Zuberi Mobley sell out the way that he did. Pretty cool, actually really cool, and he should be commended for doing what he did. But in the process, dislocated his shoulder so I think he's probably a week-by-week thing. A running back can come back from those a little bit faster because the mechanism that causes that injury, it's something that we might be able to tape and brace up a little bit, but he was in quite a bit of pain. Kobe has got a high ankle sprain and is in a boot, so he's day-to-day. And then Larry, thank God we gave him the week off because he is improving. We're hoping to get a little bit out of him and practice on Tuesday, hopefully at least by Wednesday."
"We're going to try to practice Larry in a limited capacity tomorrow and then kind of see how it feels post-practice and then Je'Quan is, for different reason but in a similar scenario, he's gonna be practiced in a controlled limited setting tomorrow. If he does well, then we'll continue to progress him more and more and then obviously if he stays trending that way. Je'Quan's issue right now is the concussion protocol as long as he continues to be symptom-free. He had a root canal and some teeth replaced and so he's still in some pain as far as that's concerned, but the only issue that could keep him out of the game right now would be the concussion and right now, he's trending well, as far as I'm concerned. With Larry, we got to run around on that foot and ankle and see how that feels. And then after that, kind of make a judgement on where we go Wednesday and then Thursday, and it'll be kind of played by ear."
On QB Michael Johnson Jr's debut as an Owl
"I was so happy, proud. I mean, all of the above, all of it, All of the fields, as they say. It was really cool for me to see him and be a part of that and go out there and after what he's been through. I would imagine his role, with Casey being out, will increase. He's still coming off a maybe even more significant surgery to his shoulder than Casey Thompson. So he's still working on his mechanics and throwing motion right now. Not that he couldn't, I don't want Illinois to hear this and think that he can't throw he can, he's just not probably 100% when it comes to that. But he has a role and we're excited to see that continue to grow."
On making adjustments to maximize the team's potential
"We've got to do a better job. I mean adjustments schematically, I think you saw guys running open, the adjustments got to be performance. It's got to be taking the practice and the training to the field. By no means am I dumping the responsibility on the players; that's our job as coaches, it is to find out how. This kid, you could wake him up at three in the morning and shake him and say, "What do you got on this" and he would get it right. But you jog out under the lights on a Saturday and the ball is snapped, and he gets it wrong. So why, right? Why? Like we can all point out the what, that we got it wrong. So where's the disconnect? And so that's our challenge as teachers, to continually find and experiment with different ways to get our guys playing. It doesn't matter if they could pass the test in the classroom or on the practice field; what matters is can they pass the test on Saturday and right now we're not. So we've got to continue to find different ways for our players to take that training, and have it translate into quality championship execution on Saturdays."
How they want to end non-conference play
"I think the schedule was set up really well for us with training camp being four weeks, and we've got four weeks of this preseason. And then we get to take a deep breath in the off week and then eight weeks of conference play. So the off week really comes halfway, if you will, if you count training camp from a physical load on our bodies, so I think it's at a very good time. But I think our players also understand that we can and do expect to beat Illinois and to play at a level that we know that we can play and that we've seen be played in practices and in spurts on Saturdays as well. And so, but they also know that this is a growth stage of our development and last I checked, we're still 0-0 in conference, and we'll be regardless of the outcome against Illinois. We've got to make sure that we continue to make the improvements that I know that we made heading into the Clemson game and I think we will. There's nothing that says we won't and then hopefully, we take a deep breath and continue to improve with the bye week but also get a little healthier and hit the ground running in a couple of weeks when Tulsa shows up."
The Owls will be stepping onto the Schmidt Complex practice field on Tuesday morning with offensive coordinator Charlie Frye and requested offensive players being available for interviews.