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Sal Sunseri: Preparing to coach against your son is harder than you can imagine

Tennessee and defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri face the Alabama this weekend in Knoxville. Sal's son Vinnie starts in the secondary for the Crimson Tide and he also has another son, Tino, who starts at quarterback at Pitt. I think it's safe to say those are some solid genes.

Many of the questions that Coach Sunseri fielded after practice today had to do with how he is approaching this week, and his message was emotionally charged, and clear.

"I didn't imagine it would be this hard." he said.

As one reporter points out, it could be worse. They could be playing Pitt and Coach Sunseri would have to scheme against his son, Tino. After the reporter described what would likely be Sal's worst nightmare as a coach, Sal says, "That's probably the greatest thing is that I don't have to scheme against Vinnie, but that would be extremely, extremely tough, and...I'd have to make a decision on that one."

Good stuff from Sunseri here on the uniqueness of the situation and the bond within their family.

Paul Johnson wants players to think less and react more Saturday

As Paul Johnson pointed earlier this month after letting defensive coordinator Al Groh go, part of the reason for the move was due to players having a hard time implementing Groh's schemes, which seemed complex at times.

And as coaches, we all know how hesitation can be a recipe for disaster on the defensive side of the ball.

Coming off of their bye week, Johnson wants to see less emphasis on the play call and more focus put on the effort with secondary coach Charles Kelly in charge of the defense on Saturday.

“We don’t need 80 calls. You don’t need a buzzword on everything. We need guys to learn how to play and play hard.” Johnson explained during his press conference yesterday.

Another area that Johnson said that they need to improve in is their scheme when the offense shifts or goes in motion, stating that their communication needs to get better, and that they need to think less and just react more.

“There’s got to be some communication, but when one guy goes in motion, it doesn’t have to change seven people. I’m not saying that the other way was that complicated, but the way it was, it wasn’t working. I got tired of hearing, ‘Well, I didn’t get a call.’ ‘Well, yeah, you did.’ ‘Well, no, I didn’t.’”

“I think you’ve got to learn how to play defense and you put your eyes on a guy and they’ll tell you where the ball’s going, as opposed to trying to recognize 82 different plays. That’s just me.” Johnson explained.

This weekend Georgia Tech (2-4, 1-3) will take on Boston College (1-5, 0-3) at 3pm ET.

Video: All Access look at Michigan State during Iowa week

Really good look here at Michigan State's week of preparation leading up to their 19-16 double overtime loss against Iowa this past Saturday.

As always, a very well produced, movie quality type piece here.

This weekend the Spartans are looking for their fifth straight win over the Wolverines, which is something that has never been done before in the history of the rivalry.

 

Borges: Our offensive philosophy isn't very popular these days

During last years loss to Michigan State, Al Borges admits that the Wolverines were outmatched physically across the board.

The Spartan defense held the Wolverines to just 82 yards rushing and 250 yards of total offense on the day, something that Borges knows that they have to improve on coming into this weekend's match up with the Spartans in The Big House.

In their past 19 games, the Wolverines have failed to rush for 100 yards just three times, and are 1-2 in those games. Their game against Michigan State last year (a 28-14 loss) marked the first time in the Brady Hoke era that Michigan failed to reach the century mark on the ground. Their other two games were against Virginia Tech (a 23-20 win) in their January Bowl game, and their 2012 opener against Alabama (a 41-14 loss).

Over the past five games, the Michigan run game has been impressive., running for over 200 yards in four of the five contests. Four out of the past five games (against Illinois, Purdue, UMass and Air Force) Michigan has ran for over 200 yards, During that span, the only game that they came up short of the 200 yard mark was against Notre Dame, where they ran for 161 yards against a top 25 run defense.

This weekend, Hoke and the offensive staff have put together a game plan that hopes to take advantage of a Spartans defensive scheme that will likely look similar to the one that they put together last season that successfully stifled the Wolverine offense.

"You just study their schemes and work on how to attack their schemes," Borges explained. "You've got to practice what you think they're going to do, have hopefully some good, calculated play calls that put you in some advantageous situations, hope the lesser play calls aren't disastrous so you can line up and play again."

"I've been coaching that way forever and I'll always coach that way, whether it's Michigan State or whoever. You've got to study, study, study and hope your players understand what you're teaching them. Go get them. Don't over evaluate, don't under evaluate. Let the kids play fast. That's really the key."

In today's landscape of college football of up tempo offenses, focused on getting eighty plus snaps, and putting up 50 or 60 points per game, Borges admits it's not likely that they'll put up 500 yards a game. That's just not the way that they're built. Their approach of grinding it out while trying to get the most out of every possession, taking the occasional shot at the big play, is a little different than today's norm. 

"We're not an up-tempo team. We're not likely we're to have 500 yards a game. We don't play that game. We want to make sure there's a balance in the game, keep our defense off the field. We want to run the football, convert third downs...play what Brady calls Michigan football...it's not very popular these days."

"Our plan is we want to possess the ball as much as we can, score as many points as we can but not to the point we're so obsessed with running 80 football plays that we could have three and outs that could keep our defense on the field."

Twenty points will be the magical number for the Wolverines on Saturday, and they shouldn't need eighty snaps to get to it (the Wolverines are averaging just under 64 plays per game and 34 points per game). Under Brady Hoke, the Wolverines are undefeated (15-0) when scoring 20 or more points, and winless (0-4) when scoring less than 20 points.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm ET and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

 

"A lot of people say they're an attacking defense because it sounds good"

In their first season at Arizona State (5-1, 3-0), Todd Graham and his staff have stuck with the plan of playing an aggressive, attacking style of defense.

The Sun Devils are clearly getting after it each week, ranking second in both tackles for loss (nearly 10 per game) and sacks (just over 4 per game). Tomorrow's game against Oregon (6-0, 3-0) will be a huge test for them, on both sides of the ball.

Graham noted that he took a look at Oregon's film during their off week before the Colorado game, saying that while the coordinators focused on the Buffaloes, he's still a fan of the game, and that it's in his nature to be looking forward to a big game like this.

After practice yesterday, Graham explained that when they first got together as a staff, they asked themselves "who do we need to be to beat the best in the Pac 12?" and then designed their systems accordingly.

"So we designed our systems around how we think the best way to do that is. There is no doubt in my mind that there is no way that your going to beat a team as good as they are by sitting there. No doubt in my mind, they're too hard to defend."

Graham says that their defense will still be aggressive tomorrow night, but naturally won't be able to do as much because of Oregon's tempo and making sure that they can get everything communicated properly.

"I told you from the beginning that we're going to be an attacking defense. A lot of people say that just because it sounds good, but that is actually who we are."

 

 

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