An Interview With: COACH VANCE BEDFORD
THE MODERATOR: Coach Bedford, welcome. A few thoughts on how practice preparations are going for the game.
COACH BEDFORD: First of all, we’re very excited as a football team, University of Louisville, to be here. Sugar Bowl committee has done an outstanding job in preparing things, and we’ve been treated extremely well.
Players are excited to be here. We’re looking forward to a challenge. No one expected us to be here but us. We have an outstanding head coach in Coach Charlie Strong. But you have seen him, you’re seeing our football team. Very tenacious, hardworking team. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to put on a good show. We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing the University of Florida.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. What are your thoughts on Florida’s offense? And do they appear to be playing with a lot of confidence after the FSU game? Did you see them playing with more confidence in that game?
COACH BEDFORD: They play with a lot of confidence. You look at those guys, I know a lot of those guys, by the way. The offensive line is big and athletic. I think right now the quarterback position, they’re playing better. You could see the confidence building every single game.
The receivers are starting to step up. They’re making plays and did an outstanding job versus the Florida State University. And Gillislee is playing lights out.
We knew when we recruited him several years ago, Coach Carter, our running back coach recruited him, he’s playing extremely well. So we’re very concerned about that running game.
Q. Do you remember recruiting Jeff Driscoll or was that later?
COACH BEDFORD: I was already gone. We were in the process of recruiting him, and I left to go to the University of Louisville. But Scott Loeffler at the time was a quarterback coach. And he recruited Jeff. And Jeff was the number one rated quarterback in the country at that time.
You could see a version of Tim Tebow in him. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s athletic. How many quarterbacks across this country can run 4.5 flat? He’s a concern. When he gets back there in the pocket, it breaks down, he’s a guy that can break out of the pocket, find a receiver downfield or take off and run 50, 60 yards. It’s going to be hard to tackle him in open space. We have a concern about containing Jeff.
Q. Jordan Reed, could you talk about the challenge he presents?
COACH BEDFORD: Jordan was a quarterback from my school. I tell you what, I remember Jordan from this. We used to do one on one. And he took on one of our defensive ends as a true freshman and put him on his back. And that’s what I remember about him. He’s an outstanding player. He’s another guy that in my opinion he’s going to be a first or second round pick in a couple of years. Athletic. He can run. He has excellent ball skills. He has the size.
So he’s a matchup problem for us right now. We’re concerned about that.
We’ve got to give Jeff, the quarterback, some different looks, try to confuse him with a few different looks. And hopefully we can make some plays.
Q. I was wondering, the defensive front four was pretty banged up in the second half of the season but now having time between the end of the season and this game seems like a lot of guys healed up. How will that change just what you guys are able to do, having Rankins back in the rotation and DeAngelo Brown?
COACH BEDFORD: It does give us some depth where we can rotate guys in and out. But for defensive linemen, you’re hurt the first play when the first game starts you’re into the rest of the season. That’s part of playing interior.
We’re going to try to rush four, rush three. Give different looks. Zone pressure sometimes. And for us to have a chance with this ballgame we have to keep them off balance with different looks, different fronts, movements and stunts. So I’m happy to have all of those guys back. We plan to play every guy we have up front.
Q. Can you talk about your first impressions of Mike Gillislee when he arrived at Florida, and can you give us a sense how he’s running right now, what he’s specifically doing to have success?
COACH BEDFORD: I remember him in high school, Coach Carter going down to spend time with him recruiting. When he came on campus, he was a young man, built like an I back. At the time at Florida we were running spread offense which didn’t suit his talents.
This is a guy coming out of high school running 10 500 meters. When he puts his foot in the ground, he can get vertical. In the last three years you can see his body changed. They’re running an offense that suits him. That’s why he has over a thousand yards.
He can put his foot in the ground and get vertical on you right now. And he’s had a lot of big plays. You look at the big plays he’s had in the open field, he can do a lot of things. He can catch the football. He can cut back. When he does, we’re concerned about that.
One thing we cannot allow him to do is cut back on us. If he does, he’s probably going to take it to the distance.
Q. Can you talk about the first two years and the expectation you guys built with the defense and how that’s played this year with people sometimes questioning are they playing as well because you played so well the first two years and really wasn’t that much of a drop off?
COACH BEDFORD: The expectations for us, Coach Strong has every place he’s been has played great defense. And when we came here to Louisville, one thing we wanted to bring a certain attitude, attitude about being aggressive, attacking style, defense. Those are the things we’ve done.
I think our first year we finished somewhere around 18th in the nation. I think a year ago I think we were about 21st. This year we’re 25th. And the difference in the two seasons is this: Our offense this year played outstanding. Did some tremendous things. Our first two years we had our struggles.
This year we played more as a team. We played more as a team. We won ten ball games. First two years we won seven ball games. People said you played great defense. I would rather win ten ball games than people say you aren’t playing well. Now you sit back and say, wait a minute, you’re 25th in the nation in defense.
We’re doing just a little bit right to go from seven wins to ten wins. I get excited about that. That’s why we’re sitting here today in New Orleans and having a little gumbo and a little crawfish etouffee . So I’m excited. Hopefully, if we can do the same thing for the next 10 years at Louisville, I’ll be truly excited.
Q. What do you remember about what Charlie told you when he said he was going to Louisville, that he wanted you and Kennedy to come with him? Was that an easy decision?
COACH BEDFORD: You know, it really wasn’t, because Urban wanted me to stay with him. And I had to make a decision. Sitting down and talking to my wife, it was tough to make that decision.
I’ve known Charlie for a while as I’ve known Urban. I knew Urban when he was a wide receiver coach at Colorado State with Earl Bruce. We go way back. It was an opportunity and a change for me to go out and do different things. I told Charlie, you’ve been an outstanding defensive coordinator for a long time in this league.
For me to come and work for you as a defensive coordinator, I’m going to lean on you and trust you. He’s been there the entire time with us. That’s one of the reasons why we’re playing great defense. He’s a guy I can go to: What do you think about this, what do you think about that?
So we rode together, we’re on the same page together, because of that we’re sitting here today.
Q. Is it up to your satisfaction, up to your expectations, up to Charlie’s expectations, y’all’s?
COACH BEDFORD: You know what, as a coach, that never happens. You always are looking for something better all the time. We had opportunity to make this play, why didn’t we make this play. We should have been in this defense, why weren’t we in this defense. As a coach you’re always looking for more. So you’re never satisfied. If you’re satisfied, it’s time to be retired.
Need to be better in take aways, that’s the difference in statistics, really. When you look across the country, look at the University of Florida, one thing they’re great at right now is getting the ball back for the offense. That’s something we have not done well in three years here.
We’ve had a lot of missed opportunities, whether it be caused fumbles, whether it be interceptions. We need to improve in those areas. Once that happens we’ll improve defensively.
Q. Much has been made of Charlie’s staying in Louisville. We’ve heard his thoughts on that. We haven’t really heard from his assistants too much. What did it mean to you for him to say that it was about getting you guys taken care of and to turn down Tennessee before even finalizing that new contract yet?
COACH BEDFORD: Well, I’m going to go back to a previous question. One reason why I came with Charlie Strong is because this: His character. When I went to work at Florida, I left Michigan, every morning at 7:00 a.m., Coach Strong would call his two daughters to wake them up, make sure they were ready to go to school.
You’re talking about a guy that’s a family man. And when he talked about staying at the University of Louisville, it was about family. It was about the players. He thought about the coaching staff. He thought about their families. And that’s important to me.
I’m 54 years old. And moving around a lot does not excite me. Go ask my wife about moving around. When I first told her I was a coach, as a coach you could be in a place one to five years, oh, yeah, I’m excited. Ask her now. She’s really excited about staying in the city of Louisville. We love this city. And Charlie Strong, he made a commitment to the University of Louisville. What he’s saying to everybody in this country that this program is a top program in the country.
And when it comes to recruiting, if he can turn down the University of Tennessee State why can’t players come to the University of Louisville. That’s the commitment he has to the program and what the University of Louisville is all about.
As an assistant coach on his staff, I couldn’t be more happier right now. I couldn’t because it’s a bright future. I made a comment two years ago about getting on a train.
I said that for one reason because I saw the future. I saw what the future held for the University of Louisville, with the Teddy Bridgewaters, the guys you’ll speak later, Marcus Smith. Calvin Pryor. That’s what I saw.
I still see those things. I see a bright future for the University of Louisville for the next four, five years, and I want to be a part of that for as long as Coach Strong is here as long as the University of Louisville wants me to be here I plan to be here.
Q. I was going to ask you about the train comment. People kind of associate that with this coaching staff more than anything Charlie’s ever said. How is that train rolling right now?
COACH BEDFORD: Well, we’re sitting here right now in New Orleans. I think it’s rolling pretty good. Because we are ahead of what anyone ever expected us. Who in the country expected us to be sitting right here in the Sugar Bowl, to be in the Sugar Bowl game.
It’s heading in the right direction. We have the young talent. We’re a junior/sophomore team. On defense we only have one senior that’s starting. On offense we have three seniors that are starting. You’re talking about a young football team.
So the future’s ahead of us. The thing is if you stay healthy, and we do a tremendous job coaching, and we have a long way to go as far as coaches, to be honest with you, we need to continue to get better as a coaching staff. If we can do that and keep guys healthy, I think the future here is going to be outstanding. And what Coach Tom George has done he’s moved us into the next era, the era of the ACC the next couple of years.
Everything we’re looking for as a coaching staff, as a football team, Tom George has brought to the table for us. So we’re excited to be where we are right now.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Florida’s offensive line and the problems they present and the running game in addition to Gillislee?
COACH BEDFORD: They remind me a little bit of North Carolina. North Carolina was big. They were strong. They were athletic. And they can get their hands on you, they present a problem.
They do a variety of things on offense. They run power games. They run spread games. So you have to play great technique up front. That’s why we have to move up front. We have to bring linebacker, defensive backs which is what we do already. It’s going to be a major problem.
The next thing is, Mike, he looks for a hole. As soon as he sees the hole, he can put his foot in the ground. He can run 4.3 through that hole. If we’re not in the right gaps, all of a sudden he can pop one on you. Look at Florida State, he popped one on them. All of a sudden, the game is close. The game is close. All of a sudden, he cuts back, gets vertical. And all of a sudden you see 10 500 meters going.
That’s the concern. They’re big. Strong up front. Do a variety things as far as their scheme. When Mike gets the ball in his hand, there’s no telling what can happen.
And Trey Burton is a special talent from playing wide receiver, tight end, running back, quarterback. He does it all. He’s Mr. Utility. He’s a major concern of ours also because he’s going to play some quarterback.
You’re going to have Trey in the backfield, with Mike in the backfield. On the outside looking in, that’s a wow factor. For a defensive coach, you get excited because this is an outstanding challenge for us right now and we’re looking forward to that challenge.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
2013 ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL
University of Louisville – Defensive Press Conference
December 30, 2012
Adrian Bushell, Cornerback, University of Louisville
On the future of Louisville’s program…
“The sky’s the limit for this team. It’s a bunch of young guys, a bunch of hungry guys. And we have a bunch of coaches who are ready to take it to the top.”
On having the underdog mentality throughout the season…
“We’ve been counted out all year, even with the conference championship. We weren’t even a favorite in our conference, let alone a BCS bowl.”
On what it’s like to be in a BCS bowl…
“We’re very excited. It lets us know that our hard work has not been in vain, but the job is not done. We have to go out and finish strong.”
On how being in a BCS bowl compares to what he thought it would be like at the beginning of his career…
“It’s very similar. The only difference is that I’m not a young guy anymore. Now I have to get out there and play.”
Preston Brown, Linebacker, University of Louisville
On the future of the program…
“I just see bigger and brighter things from 2013 and on. Everyone is growing and always improving and as long as we’ve got Teddy [Bridgewater], I think we’ll be fine.”
On Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel…
“You got to really stay on your toes because you really have to stay on the quarterback. He may run and decide plays quickly, and if he makes you miss like he’s done in a couple of games, you’ll be down for a while.”
On the mindset of the defense as a whole…
“It’s frustrating when you know people on the team can make those plays and do those things. When you see things happen that shouldn’t, it’s frustrating but I know we’ll get it and we just need to focus on making tackles and staying on our feet and we’ll be good.”
On the expectation of the defense this year…
“You hear that [we’re not playing as well] but it feels different this year. Usually it feels like you’re in the top in the country, but we have a lot we can improve on so hopefully this will be the best game of the year.”
Marcus Smith, Defensive End, University of Louisville
On the locker room mentality of being an underdog…
“We are using this as motivation to show the world what we can do. People are giving Florida a 93 percent chance of winning and that makes us want to show the nation what we can do versus an SEC opponent.”
On what challenges Florida running back Mike Gillislee brings to the table…
“If we want to stop Florida’s offense we will have to stop him. I think he is the best player on Florida’s offense, if we do not play our assignments he can beat us. The challenge for our defensive line will be not letting him go over the top on us. If we let him get to the outside he will beat us with his speed.”
On his thoughts about Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel…
“People must stick to their assignments or we will get fooled. If we miss or exchange assignments then the quarterback can keep the ball and go long on us. He is a really good quarterback who can beat you with his feet as well his arm. I believe our defensive ends can keep up with his speed if he decides to roll out of the pocket.”
On being in New Orleans…
“Yeah, we are having a real good time seeing the city of New Orleans. Coach [Charlie] Strong stresses to us when it’s time to work, you work and when it’s time to have fun, you have fun.”
Hakeem Smith, Safety, University of Louisville
On what kind of challenge Florida presents as a run first team…
“Basically, just getting the ball on the ground. If the ball breaks through, it’s my job to get on the ground and set up for another play. [I] watched film from the Georgia game. [We had] lots of turnovers. Turnovers are a big momentum change. We take advantage of every opportunity of those fumbles or interceptions, capitalize on offense and score, which creates wins.”
On what players he is focusing on covering…
“Mostly tight ends, [such as] Jordan Reed. Clay Burton, who is very athletic and has the ability to get into the Wildcat and open up the defense so I pretty much specialize and focus on him.”
On how his stay in New Orleans has been so far…
“It’s been fun! There is a lot here to attract people. I had fun walking down Bourbon Street and there are a lot of attractions near our hotel, which are a lot fun.”
Calvin Pryor, Safety, University of Louisville
On what being at the Sugar Bowl means for the University of Louisville…
“This is a big step up. We’re on a big stage now. He [Coach Charlie Strong] has taken the program to a whole different level now, and we’re getting a lot of publicity because of that, and that is a big step for us.”
On the matchup with Florida…
“This is a big game for us and a lot of people aren’t giving us a chance to win. But it’s a big game and we have to go out there and prove ourselves and prove that we can play with anyone. This is definitely a big test for us going into next season and that will play a big role for us going into Wednesday.”
On the response to being considered an underdog…
“It’s been going on the whole season. It’s not necessarily better to be considered the underdog, but no matter what you just have to go out there and play your hardest and try to win the game. Coach [Strong] reminds us not to take it personally and instead to have pride in ourselves. We just have to go out there and play our Cardinal football and do our best.”
On being from Florida and being recruited by Coach Strong…
“With my recruiting class, I knew I had Teddy [Bridgewater] and I knew him from participating in camps, so I felt comfortable with the guys that I was around. Once we got to Louisville, we already had a relationship with some chemistry, so we really felt that we could make big changes for the program.”
On Coach Strong’s best assets as a recruiter…
“His name speaks for itself because he’s a winning coach. He’s won everywhere he’s been, so coming into this program you know you’re going to win. He’s also going to help teach you how to be successful in life, and that’s big for the players to have someone like that to look up to.”
On the potential impact that a victory could have…
“This could be a huge confidence booster for us going into next season, knowing that we’d be coming off a big victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. We would have a chance to go out and do the same thing next year, and it would definitely be a huge step in the right direction for us.”