Huskies Insider Blog

Quoting DL/ST coach Jeff Choate on Oregon, Arizona State and tackling

Here's everything Huskies defensive line and special teams coach Jeff Choate said today during his weekly meeting with reporters.

(What did the Oregon film show?) “I think we played really well at times, which I think is indicative of our experience up front. The mistakes that were made were really just getting our eyes out of position for a second. You’ve got a good decision maker at quarterback like you do in a guy like Marcus Mariota, and really, really a team that is veteran in terms of operating their scheme. There was a couple of situations where our eyes are here instead of here, and that’s all it takes. So we’ve got to be much more disciplined, especially in this week because the challenge is that much greater because these guys have more variety in their run game. So while the tempo is similar to what Oregon did, and they do run zone - they also run gap schemes, so there’s more moving parts. You have to be more disciplined with our eyes, and that’s a great lesson to learn coming into this week.”

(How well have they improved on the idea of just taking care of their assignment and not do too much?) “I think they very much understand that. There’s been a couple of situations this year when we’ve tried to do more than our responsibility and it’s showed up in a negative way on film on Sunday. What we’ve got to do is understand that we’re not looking at third down as a money down. Every down is a money down. We’ve got to be disciplined and detailed on our assignment and responsibility on every single snap. When we don’t do that, when we think - hey! I’m guessing this is a pass, so I’m going to juice it on the edge a little bit…that’s where we can get exposed. We’ve got to be very detailed and very disciplined this week as well.”

(Are the backups continuing to show up on film?) “There’s a lot of improvement in that younger group, and they’ve done a nice job…I think about it like this: As coaches, we facilitate a lot of times. Those veteran guys…when Danny (Shelton) grabs Elijah (Qualls) and says, ‘Listen, this is what’s going on and this is how you need to respond to it’…that carries a lot of weight. That’s been one of the more impressive things to be about our senior group. They think about their legacy here, not just in the stats they put up and the performance they put on between the white lines but what they leave behind and mentoring these young guys and bringing them along with them and teaching them how to work, sitting down with them and watching a little extra film, taking them out back on the east field after practice - and that’s really been one of the more impressive things to me about guys like Danny and Andrew (Hudson) and Evan (Hudson) and Hau’oli (Kikaha). That’s going to pay dividends for us down the road as a program, and that’s been fun to watch.”

(Starting to see players stay fresh with so many rotating in and out?) “We’re playing 13 games and we’re playing in a conference where everybody plays 80-plus snaps a game. You’ve only got so many miles on a car before you’ve got to change the oil. We’ve got to make sure we do a good job of maintenance, so to speak, and keeping those guys as fresh as we can, handling our reps in practice with those veteran guys, being smart with them. We’ve got to continue to roll those guys, and you may see those guys play more snaps in these last six games just because we start to develop that fatigue factor and a long season, guys start to get nicked up a little bit. I think we’ve had a good plan as the season’s progressed, and some of those guys are now more ready to play more downs. Early in the season they weren’t ready to play more downs. Now that they’ve had some game experience and played under the bright lights at Autzen Stadium and had some opportunities to go out there and do their thing, they are more confident in their ability. That’s just going to make us better in the fourth quarter when we can play with our fresh guys.”

(On Arizona State’s offense) “They’re a really big group up front. I think all of them are in that 6-4, 300-pound range. And they do a really good job on their double teams. A lot of their run game comes off of tracks, veer-schemes where these guys are just down-blocking what’s in their path. When they get on doubles, they really can move guys off the ball. You saw it against Stanford, one of the better defensive fronts in our league, and they did a nice job of moving those guys up front and creating creases for their backs. And so it really comes down to that quarterback’s decision-making, us being in the right position and not giving up a lot of knock-off at the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to anchor down and do a good job on their double-teams. When they get into one-on-one situations, that’s where you’ve got a chance to maybe move a little bit and anchor down and do a good job. But when they’re on double-teams, they’re as good as anybody in this league.”

(On Taylor Kelly vs. Mike Bercovici) “I think the one thing that you’re going to see with Taylor is Taylor’s just operated in the system more. And so that probably gives them a little bit more. I think Bercovici is a very good passer. They have great guys on the perimeter and their skill positions. So I think what you’re going to see is, they’re going to run an offense. The element Taylor adds is maybe a little bit more of a decision-maker. Perhaps they’re saying, ‘hey, this is a give-read, this is a pull-read,’ whereas Taylor can go ahead and take that and really take what the defense is giving him as the play progresses. That’s where his strength is.”

(On Seahawks-Rams special-teams plays) “Let it hang out, man.”

(Would you try something like that?) “I don’t got the keys to the car, man. That’s the boss on that one (laughs). But hey, you’ve got to look at the Rams – they’re in a situation where they’re going OK, we’ve got the Super Bowl champion coming to our house, we’re in a tight game, we’ve got to play to win the game. So it (the fake punt in the fourth quarter) was the right call. It was a well-executed play. They had a situation where it was dialed up for them. The one that was probably more impressive to me was what we call a ghost return, where you’re bluffing the return knowing they’re going to directional kick one direction, and just the ability to field that ball over his shoulder and then pull the coverage there. I think Chicago did that a couple years ago and had a touchdown with Devin Hester there. That’s some great coaching on the Rams special-teams department and really courageous call in that situation. Give credit not just to the special-teams coach, but to coach (Jeff) Fisher, too, playing to win the game.”

(Ever hit something like that?) “We had a couple pretty good ones. The 2010 Fiesta Bowl was a pretty good one, where we hit the fake punt down the middle. We weren’t really moving the ball against TCU, we were able to hit one, backed up on our own 30-yard line, really changed the game, led to our only offensive score. Coach Pete’s always had a wide-open mentality in that phase. I think right now, one of the things that we’re looking at is what can our guys handle? It’s just like offense and defense. We’ve got to build a foundation. We can’t go out and run trick plays all the time if we can’t execute our base stuff. And so when we get more proficient in executing our base stuff, I think we’ll see the package expand really in all three phases.”

(Missed tackles a disappointment?) “There’s no question. I think we’ve been a fairly good tackling team most of the year. I think it boils down to three things – body position, eyes and effort. Your eyes are going to get you out of position faster than anything else on your body. And so you get fatigued, you’re getting rolled a little bit, technique goes out the window and you start to miss tackles. So it’s kind of one of those things that steamrolls a little bit. So yes, very disappointing. Because that’s a huge emphasis for us. We work on it a lot in practice. That’s not going to change. One of the things I always felt like Coach Pete did a great job of was really honing in on fundamentals throughout the course of the season. We don’t get through fall camp and stop doing individual or stop working on tackling or body position. We continually rep those things. So it’s disappointing when you have a game like Oregon where a lot of missed tackles show up. But that doesn’t change our approach. We go right back to doing what we’re doing, continue to emphasize the fundamentals, and we’ll improve.”