With the bye week behind them, a fully-rested Florida Atlantic football team will start their first season of conference play as a member of the American Athletic Conference with a home matchup against Tulsa on October 7th.
Head coach Tom Herman (pictured via Bob Markey II) met with media on Monday to go over the current condition of the team and their preparations against the Golden Hurricane.
Below are some of the highlights from the session.
Opening statement on how the team is coming out of the bye week
"I thought they handled it really well. It's probably the most worrisome weekend of the year for a head coach. I haven't done this as long as I have, you're giving a bunch of 18 to 22 year olds two and a half days off right in the middle of your season and you've got to put a lot of trust in not only them but the leaders on this team that understand the value and necessity to take to take a deep breath and to recuperate and be fresh when we come back but also understand that we've got a long-term goal ahead of us that we need to be not just ready for this week but ready for what hopefully will be a nine straight week stretch of football that all of the games will be very similar top to bottom from a talent standpoint."
"There's not going to be any more Clemsons and Illinois on the schedule. We're going to play nine straight Ohios and we need to be ready for that more. We're a lot different, a lot better team than when we played Ohio three weeks ago. But other teams are improved as well and this is when it counts. I know that they all count when you kick them off. They counted when we started playing Monmouth. I think we all understand that, but nothing that we've done or failed to do, up until this point has affected any of our standings in conference play. And so I think all of our guys understand that although we had hoped the outcome that we were in a different, more accelerated spot in our growth development. By the time we played Ohio, we were not but I also think that we've learned a lot of very valuable lessons in the last three weeks that can do nothing but prepare us for this stretch that we're about to go on. And like I said, now it's not about talent. Are we going to have certain areas of the ball that week in and week out may be a difficult matchup for us or maybe we have an advantage? Yeah, but from top to bottom, we're going to play very similar teams week in and week out and now it's about our attention to detail, our physicality, and our preparation."
Lessons learned from non-conference play
"I think probably the biggest thing is the the ability to prepare. I know it sounds cliched, but you prepare and play the game so many times throughout the week of preparation that it's it's not practice to get it right. It's practice until you can't get it wrong. And I think we were operating at a level that we were to the point where good enough was just good enough. Because we're doing things at a much higher, more intense, more detail. The necessity for detail is so much higher than what these young men have been around. So I think really the biggest lesson is the real necessity for all of these things in order to accomplish what we all say that we want to accomplish and that's a difficult task when you're trying to teach a roomful of guys that have had three straight years of losing seasons that "hey, all of this stuff we're asking you to do that is uncomfortable, that is painful, that requires self sacrifice that requires really a submission to a greater cause. Oh, by the way, all of that stuff is going to be worth it. I promise you. I know you haven't tasted it. I know you haven't smelled it. I know you haven't seen it, but I promise you, it'll be worth it"."
"That is the hardest sell and I think even when you talk to Dusty May, there was a tremendous amount of belief on that Final Four team that we very recently were a part of, that's a team with no draft picks and the second-shortest roster in out of 300-something Division One teams and they go to the Final Four. That's not talent; that's a belief, that's a culture, that's a mindset. And I challenged our guys on Thursday before we left, I said "you've got champions all around you in your coaching staff, down the dorm room Hall, the basketball team. Like just every champion you come across, ask them two questions. One, was it easy? And two, was it worth it? And they'll all give you the same answer. Hell no, and absolutely. And so I think that message has resonated more and more because of some of those close games where I think we see what we're capable of if we just do a little bit more or a little bit better or a little bit more focused or a little less of this that is distracting me from performing at my best on Saturdays and I know that it's really set in with a lot of guys and I think it has for even more."
The team's health coming out of the bye week
"We've dealt with some flu. Had about eight or 10 guys miss yesterday's practice. Thankfully, it wasn't even scheduled to be a real difficult one. But we expect to have those guys back for tomorrow's practice. We were trying to work Elijah Brown back in so we'll see where he's at on the depth chart towards the end of the week. But I think we're going to be fresh. Losing Zuberi Mobley for the whole season, that's going to continue to have an effect on us but having this time to get Larry and Kobe as rested as possible in that room I think will help quite a bit. Josh Moore is still coming off of mono so he will be unavailable for the game. Other than that, we made it through that four-game stretch. We lost Zuberi obviously for the season, Casey for the season, and Justice Cross for the season. But it's a big but because those are three really good players but other than that, I feel like we should be as fresh and healthy as we've been since coming into Monmouth."
"Justice Cross, he had a knee injury, meniscus, I believe in training camp and had to repair. I guess I shouldn't say the whole season. I think it's like eight weeks or something like that. So we may see him towards the end of the season."
Preparations against Tulsa
"Well they're a confident team. They're coming off two straight wins, one non-conference road win against the good MAC team. They come back to do it at Northern Illinois and then to start conference play with a big win at home against Temple. Although we had a bye week, they've got an extra day or two as well to prepare for us having a Thursday night game. So Coach Wilson, I respect the hell out of him. I think he's one of the OGs of spread no huddle. I remember all the way back to when he was an offensive coordinator at Northwestern, we would go clinic with him. They run the football really well. Obviously, they do that as a mindset. But also I think it's really smart when the redshirt freshman quarterback that they have to kind of protect him a little bit with a really solid run game and they're committed to it and they do a good job of getting Cardell on the move on first down, first and second down throw it was like 20% of them are either boots and naked sprint outs."
"And then they're gonna hammer you with the run and I think somewhere around 65% of first and second down plays are run plays for them and so. But you gotta be careful because you started committing extra numbers. They're gonna play action pass and try to throw it over your head. So they've got a good scheme, they've got a good young quarterback that they're using really smartly and then they're leaning really heavily on the run game."
Herman on using his past experiences against AAC opponents
"Unfortunately, not a whole lot. This year, Fritz will be the only coach that I've coached against that will be the multiple time I'm coaching against. The one thing I do know about the conference is and let's be honest, I don't know that Mike Aresco will be happy with me phrasing it this way, but with the three big boys leaving in Houston, Cincinnati and Central Florida, this became a conference of parity again. SMU and Memphis may argue that they've got a little bit more talent, but they're not on our schedule. We wouldn't play those guys until the championship game. So other than that, I think probably the biggest takeaway I have from my experience in the conference is just how much parity there is in this league. And from a talent standpoint that there is nobody on our schedule that we're going to be able to just lace our cleats up and just go beat because we're better than."
"The good thing is there's no Clemsons on our schedule where we've got to play a perfect game to be in it. So like I said, I think the best analogy I can use is we're going to have nine straight weeks of playing Ohio-type opponents, and we played them, certainly defensively, really well. And I think we're at least eight points better offensively than we were at that time. And so I think there's a lot of optimism and confidence in our outlook heading forward. The coaches have changed so so much that it's difficult but one thing that this conference will probably always be known for is it's certainly not top-heavy by any stretch. There's 14 teams and all of them, I think, are going to have a say in who ultimately wins the conference championship."
What he wants fans to do for Saturday
"One, help us win. And by that, it's going to require a turnout in mass. I think it's extremely important. I've said this time and time again that the players are the ones in the arena that are doing what we all want them to do. And the coaches as well, but I think everybody surrounding the program, that we're all in a better place when we take some accountability for wins and losses, and we take some responsibility. Fans, administrators, whatever it is, we all can impact the game. And I think when "Well, we want coach Herman and the Owls to win a conference championship. I'm a big Owls fan, and I want that to happen". Well, how many home games have you been to? What is your part in that championship run then? I think that's probably the biggest challenge as it is everywhere in the country. It is the investment of our fan base and our student body to understand that they can directly impact wins and losses by their presence, their rowdiness, their effect on the game, or their intuitiveness in the game. Our students have done a really good job the first two home games, but it's been a month since we played at home and we're going to need to remind everybody that we press reset as a program and we're getting ready for this stretch and we're going to need all the help we can get."
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.