Today, during the weekly Conference USA coaches' teleconference, I caught up with Coach O'Leary to hear what he had to say about new starting quarterback Brett Hodges, and how to make the first half of the game as successful for the Knights as the second.
East Carolina head coach Skip Holtz also spoke to the media about his team and the upcoming conference battle versus UCF this Saturday. O'Leary also had more comments on the offense and his opinion of the ECU Pirates on tape.
Jessica Reuter (Examiner.com): Hi Coach, how are you? You must have been pretty pleased with (Brett) Hodges' performance vs. the Bulls on Saturday. He played a great game, but are there any trouble spots you're concerned about regarding your starting quarterback?
Coach George O'Leary: I think all quarterbacks have to improve in any aspect, but I think he's getting a feel for what the offense is about. He works hard. He's a fifth-year guy, he's very poised, and he's going to find the second or third guy out there.
There are always things to improve on. Coming out of the huddle he needs to improve. We're taking too long.
JR: Your second half was markedly stronger, as you have been outscored 44-24 in the first half this year and outscoring opponents 46-23 after intermission. What will your team need to do to adjust this week in order to play strong in the first half against ECU?
GO: I think we should play the second half first (pauses and laughs). No, but we really need to come out ready to play and make quicker adjustments. We have to play from when the whistle blows.
That's the problem early in the game. We're not playing to the tempo of the offense or defense. and we're not making sure we are controlling the tempo.
It has been a problem. We have to start the game that way and make them understand that when the whistle blows and they cross that line that they're ready to play.
Coach O'Leary on last Saturday's win vs. Buffalo
"The key is that we went out in the second half and did what we had to get done. Offensively we were very consistent, running and passing, so I was pleased in the second half. I thought we played really well. We are doing the things we need to be doing to win games."
Coach O'Leary on the East Carolina Pirates
"They're a very good football team. They have a lot of experience back this year and it shows on the field. Offensively, they have a lot of weapons as far as running backs. The receivers all play with potential."
ECU Coach Skip Holtz on their loss against North Carolina last Saturday
"I thought the players competed and played together well. There are a few spots we can improve on. North Carolina's front seven were very strong.
"They have top-10 statistical numbers, and they earned it. Their defense is strong. There are some things we can do much better as we're going to have conference play this Saturday against UCF."
Coach Holtz on this Saturday's matchup at home vs. UCF
"I'm really impressed with them. I know they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. They are 2-1, and they are big, physical, and well-coached. They're very sound in their schemes. I looked at them on the offensive side of the ball, and Hodges is a very talented quarterback.
"I'm really impressed with both of their running backs, Harvey and Weaver. Their five wide receivers are also strong. They don't have just one go-to guy.
"They are spreading the wealth around. When I look at them defensively, they have strength. Their front four is the strength of their football team. Bruce Miller is one of their best players. They move him all over the place.
"Then they have Jarvis Gathers, who they are playing in third-down situations who last week alone had a bunch of sacks and forced fumbles.
"Their linebackers are big and physical, and their safety, Hallman, is a big linebacker-type body. Our numbers are very similar to theirs, statistically. I think this will be one of the best special teams we've played. They're averaging 32 yards in returns and only giving up 16."
Coach Holtz on the team's morale
"We broke our season down into the first three games of the season, which are all non-conference games. We said let's go through three weeks and see where we are, let's reassess the situation and then let's talk about conference play. There's lots of excitement and enthusiasm."
For weekly C-USA coaches' teleconference recaps, visit Jessica Reuter's articles at Examiner.com Orlando.
Next week, Sept.28, 2009, there will not be a coaches' conference call. It will resume Oct. 5.