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Coach Herman UTSA Presser Notes - October 16th, 2023

Off to a fantastic 2-0 start in AAC play following a dominant win over USF at Tampa, the Florida Atlantic football team return home to Boca Raton as they will play host to UTSA on October 21st.

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 Roadrunners.

Below are some of the highlights from the session.

Opening statement on how the team performed against USF

"I thought as the numbers kind of dictate, we were stuck to the plan. We stayed ahead of the chains more consistently to keep us in third and manageable. We generated and created explosive plays and drives that maybe we didn't stay ahead of the change to where we got back in front of the chains. And then we executed on third down better than we have in the past and in the red zone, so it was a really good day. I thought especially considering the level of confusion that that type of defense tries to create that our guys up front handled it extremely well.”

“That is a bit of a feast or famine defense. They're gonna get you every now and again for TFL…For the most part, I thought our O-line did a really good job and the quarterback at the end of the day kept everybody very even keeled and kind of on to the next one when USF made a play, and they made plenty of them. I felt a calmness that I hadn't felt before and I think Daniel had a lot to do with that."

Herman's on the team's strengths and weaknesses post-USF

"I thought we hit a little bit of a lull there offensively from after we scored. I think we went three-and-out maybe two times in a row, something like that. It's okay to punt. Don't get me wrong. I think sometimes these guys on offense, it's like, “oh my gosh, we're it's fourth down like we failed”. Like, hang on, it's okay. Their field position matters, and so we always tell the offense, “Your job is to go out and make two first downs every drive and everything beyond that is gravy and if we don't make a third or we don't get it and field-goal range at that point, then we'll jog in one of the best punt teams in America out there and we're gonna pin him deep in their own territory and make them drive the length of the field and hopefully get the ball back and do it again.”

“When we play a team like UTSA that is extremely buttoned up, physical, and aggressive because they're confident and had been in the same system for years, our attention to detail and level of execution. Was it good against USF? It was, but were we able to maybe get away with some minor mistakes against USF that will haunt us or could hurt us a lot more against UTSA, that is also true. Some of our mistakes were masked; we just got really good players playing in a game against USF, but we've still got a lot of work to do there and then defensively, we just got to get healthy. When that game ended we were missing our starting safety from the beginning of the year in captain Armani Eli-Adams. The other starting safety in Darius McClendon. If you want to go by total number of snaps, he may not have played the first game but Will linebacker Jaylen Wester is our most productive Will linebacker, our starting nickel in Jayden Williams, and then our captain and starting defensive tackle Jacob Merrifield.”

“So did we screw a lot of things up defensively? Absolutely. But somehow, someway, that crew that we jogged out there for the better part of that second half found a way to keep them out of the endzone and our hats are off to them. Thankfully the offense helped too in terms of controlling the clock a little bit in the second half and our guys not having to play manage as many plays in the second half as they did in the first. That team was leading the country in plays per game and you're sitting there as a head coach going, “oh my gosh, if that guy breaks a shoelace, we literally don't have another one to put in his position”. That's how thin we started getting there defensively, so a lot to clean up there and hopefully getting some guys healthy and if not, at least getting their backups some more quality reps will."

On QB Daniel Richardson winning the American's Offensive Player of the Week

"That's him. To me, he's like every quarterback who's gonna do a few things every game, even the guys that they pay $50 million a year to that you go, “oh my god, what is he doing?” But he is cool as a cucumber and he is great under pressure, does not mind getting hit as he's throwing it, understands timing, throws guys open, throws the ball before they're open, and I think he's got a really good level of trust with his wideouts to know that.”

“I used to coach that position back in the day when we were wearing leather helmets but we used to always say one-on-one is not cover; that timing and ball placement wins every time and I think Daniel is the epitome of that and our wideouts. Obviously if you got the wideout that you throw the ball on time and in the right spot and still can't make the play, then you got to find a new wideout but we have those wideouts and he's doing a good job of trusting them and putting the ball in really good places for them to go make plays on it."

Injury Updates on DL Jacob Merrifield and other players

"Not great, high ankle sprain, but we're gonna do everything that we can to try to get him ready for Saturday. He's the guy that has earned the right around here that if they clear him Saturday at four o'clock, we're gonna jog him into the game. I mean, he's that important to us. So we're gonna take it day-by-day. He's in a boot right now, certainly would not practice today if we practiced. I would think the earliest would be Thursday but like I said, if he doesn't play a snap of practice and he can play on Saturday, we’ll play him."

"Darius McClendon was fine, he had the targeting but he'll be fine. Jaylen Wester is in concussion protocol, but is progressing to the point where if it all goes well, we should see him in the second half of the UTSA game. And Jayden Williams, it’s not great. It's gonna be a couple of weeks."

Preparations against UTSA

"We've got to match or exceed their level of attention to detail. Their defense is in the right gap at the right time. Regardless of what play, what motion, what formation, what tempo you're in, they just know where they're supposed to be and they get there and they get there in a hurry. They can run and they’re athletic and when you have that kind of confidence, you can play that much faster.”

“And then defensively, we've got to find a way to do something very few teams have had done, which is affect Frank Harris. Whether that's chase him around a little bit, move him off his spot in the throw game, we'd certainly got to contain him in the run game and when he scrambles. He's the gas that makes that engine go. This is a team you look at that's 3-3 but two of those losses were without him in the lineup, too. So he's that good."

Protecting Richardson from Defensive POTW Trey Moore and the UTSA defense

"Being on the same page. The O-line gets way too much blame for sacks and way too much credit for not having any sacks. It's the quarterback sliding the protection into the pressure, it’s the receivers getting the proper depth and being in the right place at the right time, it’s the quarterback having his eyes in the right place and knowing if and when he's hot. So there's a lot of factors that go into sacks, but I think the biggest thing is when we do get on the right people, we're gonna have to help. Not all game, we're pretty good upfront, we'll be able to block them from time to time on our own, but we've certainly got to know where Trey Moore is at all times on defense, right? We'll know where he's at at all times and try to provide help to the O-line when we can."

On how he wants the fans to show out against UTSA

"Keep setting the bar high. So we talked about going 1-0 every day around here and being better than our own best selves. So their best has been pretty damn good. And I would challenge them to make it even better. It's homecoming. We're coming back home after another big conference win and this is a big boy that we're playing. This is a nationally-known perennial top 25, perennial back-to-back conference champ, and the conference Player of the Year coming into our house. We're going to need all the help we can get and thus far this season, our students and our fans have been great, but we're going to need even more and even better."

The Owls will be heading to the Schmidt Complex practice field on Tuesday morning to start up their preparation against the Roadrunners.

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