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Pitt running backs coach/special teams coordinator Andre Powell met the media to talk about the backs and more. Here's what he had to say.
IS THAT SHIRT (WHICH SAYS ‘FIND A DAMN WAY’) SENDING A MESSAGE TO ANYONE
POWELL: I’ve been wearing this shirt a long time. I’ve got some more; I haven’t broken them out yet. That’s what we do: find a way. No excuses. If someone gets hurt, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to line up 11 guys that know what to do and how to execute so, find a way.
AS FAR AS THE BACKFIELD, DO YOU PUSH THE RESET BUTTON ON ALL OF THOSE GUYS GIVEN THAT JAMES WAS HERE LAST YEAR?
POWELL: I’ve got three veterans that know how to function and can play winning football, so it’s just a matter of getting reps and getting better. We haven’t really said, ‘This guy’s one or two;’ everybody’s run with the one’s, everybody’s run with the two’s. So we’re just trying to get better.
IN A PERFECT WORLD, WOULD YOU PREFER TO HAVE THE TWO FRESHMEN REDSHIRT THIS YEAR AND JUST RELY ON THE VETERANS THIS YEAR?
POWELL: In a perfect world, I would like to have that and a six-pack. Yeah, in a perfect world, you’d like to save those guys. But we get guys ready to play. We get them all ready to play and then it will sort out. If we don’t need them, we’ll redshirt them and if we need them and they can play winning football, well, we’ll play them.
HAVE THEY SHOWN YOU ANYTHING?
POWELL: Yeah, they’re talented. They’re talented. It’s just the volume of things they are required to know that’s slowing them down. But that’s typical for most freshmen across the board.
IS RUNNING BACK A POSITION THAT LENDS ITSELF TO GETTING ON THE FIELD SOONER?
POWELL: Yeah, it does. That’s a position where you can learn this group of plays and play and the defense won’t know it’s a limited amount of plays. You can’t do that with the line, obviously. But if we’ve got enough guys ready to play, we’ll play with what we’ve got and we’ll make it work.
WITH FIVE GUYS THAT YOU THINK CAN PLAY, WILL THAT MAKE YOUR JOB MORE DIFFICULT THIS SUMMER?
POWELL: No. It will sort out. It will sort out.
HOW DOES IT SORT OUT? WHAT KINDS OF THINGS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
POWELL: Just someone who ends up making more plays and falling into a leadership role and it sorts out. Some guys see, ‘I’m a little bit behind; I probably can’t get it.’ Or some guys just don’t get it. It just sorts out.
WITH JAMES GONE, HAS OLLISON STEPPED UP IN THAT LEADERSHIP ROLE?
POWELL: He’s done a good job. He’s vocal, he’s trying hard, he’s giving great effort. I’m pleased with him, along with the other guys.
HOW FAR HAS HE COME SINCE YOU GOT HERE?
POWELL: Ollison’s always been a smart guy. He can be a great coach one day. It’s just a matter of him being aware of his body, aware of space, where he is in space and how to get all those extra yards and how to get a little extra on his blocks when we ask him to block. He’s come a long way. I don’t know how to say how far he’s come. He’s come a long way.
GEORGE WAS A BIG PART OF YOUR RUNNING GAME LAST YEAR. YOU GUYS WENT ON A FISHING TRIP TOGETHER; IS HE GOING TO BE BIGGER THIS YEAR WITH ANOTHER YEAR UNDER HIS BELT?
POWELL: Our offense is our offense, and everything we do, we do from multiple personnel groups. So if it’s a play where the ‘F’ gets the ball, if George is in the game, he’s the ‘F’. If we’re in a different personnel group, another ‘F’ gets the ball. So at the end of the day, when we start putting our game plan together, we’re going ot try to put the guys that can play winning football and give us the best chance to win in a position to make plays.
PAT SAID QADREE NEEDS TO PLAY BETTER THAN HE DID WHEN HE RAN FOR 1,100 YARDS TWO YEARS AGO.
CAN HE DO THAT?
POWELL: I don’t know. He was a redshirt freshman and that was two years ago. So I think he can. That’s the bar. We’re trying to raise the bar. He rushed for 1,100 yards, a little bit wiser, a little ability to anticipate and see things before they happen, receiving the tips that the defense gives you, he could have had more yards. Hopefully he knows those things now or is learning them now, and when it comes to the time to play, hopefully he’ll be a better player.
DO CHAWNTEZ AND DARRIN LOOK LIKE SEASONED VETS TOO?
POWELL: They’re more seasoned than what they were last year. It’s still a process. They’re still learning. They’re still getting better and I’m pleased with what they are.
HALL WAS HELD OUT IN THE SPRING; HOW IS HE BOUNCING BACK?
POWELL: Well, he’s not wearing a knee brace and he made some good cuts on it [Thursday] and he’s not favoring that leg, so that’s the biggest thing mentally: getting over putting that foot in the ground and bracing on it, and he’s done.
DO YOU HAVE AN IDEAL WAY CARRIES WOULD BE BALANCED OUT? IF YOU HAVE 40 CARRIES IN A GAME, WOULD YOU WANT ONE GUY WITH 20, ONE WITH 10 - IS THERE AN IDEAL SCENARIO?
POWELL: The guy who’s hot is going to keep getting it.
CHAWNTEZ SAID IN THE SPRING THAT HE MIGHT HAVE GOTTEN COMPLACENT LAST YEAR. HOW DOES HE OVERCOME THAT AND MOVE FORWARD?
POWELL: I think all of those guys in the season get amped up to play and excited to play, and then you’ve got a guy like James who just keeps getting the ball. With his talent, obviously we just keep feeding him and those guys see it - every game goes by and they’re getting four reps, six reps, 10 reps, and I think they do at some point go, ‘This is James’ year; I have to wait my time.’ That’s part of the process.
HAVE YOU EMPHASIZED TO THEM THAT THIS IS THEIR TIME NOW?
POWELL: A little bit. A little bit. We’re trying to raise the urgency and intensity and they’re doing a good job.
YOUR OTHER HAT IS SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR; DO YOU EXPECT THAT THIS YEAR THERE WILL BE LIMITED OPPORTUNITIES FOR QUADREE, THAT TEAMS WILL JUST NOT KICK TO HIM?
POWELL: We’ve got plans for - they’ve got to kick it somewhere. That’s the nature of the game. They kicked it to him last year and he made plays, and we’ve thought about this and we’ve made plans if they start not kicking it to him. So, if they don’t kick it to him, they’ve got to kick it to somebody, and we’ve got guys who can catch it and run with it. That will sort out, too.
ANY GUYS THAT EXCITE YOU AS POTENTIAL PLAYMAKERS OR OTHER OPTIONS?
POWELL: Yeah, Ffrench, Maddox, Ra-Ra, some of those freshmen can do a good job. We’ve got enough guys.
YOU SAID YOU PUT A LITTLE EMPHASIS TO THOSE GUYS.
POWELL: I was being facetious.
WHAT’S A LITTLE BIT OF EMPHASIS IN YOUR MIND?
POWELL: Every day. Every meeting. Every time we take a rep and it’s not their best.
YOU GET THEM ON AND RIDE THEM A LITTLE BIT?
POWELL: Yeah. I make them aware of it. Back when I was young and couldn’t communicate real well, I was always yelling at them. Yelling doesn’t do any good; they stop listening when you start yelling. So I’m just pointing it out. I ask them, ‘Is that your best?’ I make them say it. I make them hear themselves saying it. They know what the bar is, so that’s the deal.
HAVE YOU HAD BACKFIELDS IN YOUR CAREER WHERE IT’S THIS WIDE OPEN?
POWELL: I’ve always had good backs everywhere I’ve been - with one exception, one stop I made. But that’s the nature of the position. You recruit good athletes and guys that can make plays, and hopefully you’ve got a bunch of them. They’ll help you somewhere. Offense, special teams, you have some guys that are two-way players, so they’ll help you somewhere. That’s the nature of football: get a bunch of good ball players and let them play.
WHAT’S THE PROCESS LIKE FOR BREAKING IN A NEW KICKER? IS THERE A LOT MORE THAT GOES INTO IT THAN SOME WOULD THINK, OR IS IT JUST, GET OUT THERE AND KICK THE BALL?
POWELL: No. If it was just, get out there and kick the football, you could come play for us. You have to handle those guys different; they’re not offensive linemen. You have to make sure they’re rested. We count kicks. We’re not going to let them kick too much. We’re going to keep them fresh. You have to talk to them differently and you have to treat them differently; they’re different people, they’re different breed.
So, a lot of people - I’ve been around for a long time - ‘Just kick the ball.’ There’s a lot more to it than, ‘Just kick the ball.’ And then when things aren’t going good, you’ve got to find out what it is. It could be something little with their plant foot, it could be their drop, it could be their approach - it’s a ton of things that most people don’t even take into account, but it’s a very technical position.
DID YOU AND GEORGE TALK FOOTBALL ON YOUR FISHING TRIP OR JUST FISHING?
POWELL: A little bit of both. We had Pickett with us, too. We had a good time.
WHERE’D YOU GO?
POWELL: We went down the river to one of my secret holes. I can’t tell you. It’s somewhere between West Virginia and Lake Erie. Secret spot. We caught them good.
WHAT’D YOU CATCH?
POWELL: We caught a bunch of smallmouth. We had a lot on but we didn’t get a lot in the boat. The smallmouth are pretty sassy but we had a good time.