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Al Golden transcript on Tuesday Presser

AG talks Arkansas State, the status of Kevin Olsen, Thurston Armbrister, Malik Rosier, and more.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Courtesy UM

Al Golden Press Conference

Arkansas State: Sept. 9, 2014

Opening remarks…


"Thanks so much for your coverage and for coming out today. I don’t want to delay this. I’ll open it up to any questions that you have."

On the challenge in facing Arkansas State…

"This is a three-time conference champion. Really good, very active team, very aggressive team. Special teams are excellent right now; they got a couple of blocks, their net punting has been excellent, field goal kicker [Luke] Ferguson does a great job. They’ll throw some exotics in there, so they’ll make you work on special teams, which is going to be important. We’re working very hard on that.

"On offense, everything starts with [Fredi] Knighten for them. [He is] the best quarterback runner that we’ve faced so far. We’ll have to be disciplined in the pull game and the read-option game. But he can throw it. He does a good job throwing it. They’ll get the ball on the perimeter. They’ll move the pocket with him. That’s what makes it difficult with him. They have a good running back in [Michael] Gordon and [J.D.] McKissic is just catching a ton of balls. They want to score, they want to go high tempo. They want to makes you cover sideline-to-sideline with the perimeter game and move-the-pocket game and make you run. They’ve been really good when they’re scoring more than 30 points. It’s going to be a great challenge on that side of the ball, we’re going to have to be disciplined both in our ability to tackle the quarterback inside and also set good edges and tackle in space. When they get in space, they’re very difficult.

"On the defensive side, top 20 in a lot of different categories. I think they’re third in turnovers and sixth in sacks. Everything starts up the middle. Safeties are all veterans, all starters, very active, very good tacklers. [Qushan] Lee - all the accolades precede him as we enter the game, and now you can see why. Body like Denzel [Perryman], strong physical inside yet fast enough to run on perimeter. I really like what they’re doing in front. Dexter Blackmon is really strong, doing a good job for them. Just a good, active defense. I think eight returning starters. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. They went into Knoxville and gave [Tennessee] everything they could handle. It’s going to be a challenge for us at 3:30."

On if he expects Arkansas State to play a lot of nickel…


"We do. It’s not like it’s a team that’s playing nickel versus 11, that’s their base. They’re very similar to North Carolina in that respect. If that’s your base - like it was for Florida State or North Carolina a year ago - you protect your nickel with your fronts. You allow that player the ability to run freely as much as you can and use his attributes – his speed, his knowledge, his ability to play man - or have a faster guy on the field for breaking on the ball, perimeter throws, things of that nature. I do expect that. Whether that will be or not, we don’t know, but we’ll see. Every game is a different checkerboard."

On Arkansas State being successful despite five head coaches in five years…


"They have been. They’ve been scoring, they’ve been playing good defense, they’re excellent on special teams. It’s a culture. Make no mistake, the coach they have right now is a great coach. I’ve watched him the last couple of years up close at North Carolina, and I think they do a great job between tempo and being disciplined. I think their penalties are down as a team right now. We can’t be sloppy from that standpoint. Going up tempo if not every play, just about. We have to be ready for it."

On whether he plans to stick with Brad Kaaya when quarterback Ryan Williams recovers from injury…


"I’m not really going there. Right now, Ryan is really doing well. He’s really getting into shape, his movements are progressing. That’s a separate deal right now. When that time comes, then we’ll deal with that competition and the reps and all that. But right now, it’s Brad [Kaaya] and Jake [Heaps] until that time. We’re just talking about something that’s really not part of the equation right now."

On quarterback Kevin Olsen’s return…


"He got some reps today. As I said, Kevin had a really good summer, had a good preseason. It’s just paying for his sins of awhile back. The suspension - just because it happened now - does not reflect all the growth that he had. I want to make sure we’re clear on that, he’s had a lot of growth here in the last half-year and certainly in the last four months. He has made a lot of progress and hopefully Kevin can continue to do that for us.

"We’re getting him some reps in practice for sure. This is his first day back, really. We’re not ready to say he’s ready to go in a game yet. He’s third right now for this game, so he has to be ready."

On his plans for freshman quarterback Malik Rosier


"I’d like to redshirt Rosier if we can. There’s no question about it. Malik is a heck of an athlete with a big arm. He did a lot of great things, and really benefited from and took advantage of the reps he got in training camp. I have no doubt that he’s going to be a really good player."

On his plans to redshirt other players…


"For a lot of the other guys, it’s too early. It’s such a long season. There are some that haven’t participated, and I think the inference there is that [we’re] leaning towards redshirting. All of those guys, to come out and wholesale say that they’re all redshirting… it’s too early. We haven’t even started ACC Coastal yet. We have a long way to go from that standpoint."

On the injury to wide receiver Stacy Coley


"We’re dealing with a shoulder. We’ll have a better idea by tomorrow. We held him out today, just getting him treatment and taking care of him."

On how sacks and interceptions counterbalance…


"We have to catch the ones they throw us. If we had a bunch of drops, I would be worried. We haven’t had that many opportunities. I’m not pleased, I’d like to have some interceptions, but I just don’t want to blow that out of proportion because we haven’t had a lot opportunities, we haven’t dropped any, things of that nature. Certainly there were a couple in there that we need to have a better break on the ball, for sure."

On the battles on the right side of the offensive line…


"Right now, they’re splitting. Taylor [Gadbois] and [Kc] McDermott are splitting and [Alex] Gall and [Danny] Isidora are splitting. I’m seeing a good competition. It will resolve itself. They’ll all get better in the process and we’ll see who the starters are come Thursday. We’ll have a good idea.

"I felt like Shane [McDermott], Jon [Feliciano] and Ereck [Flowers] had a good practice today, and we have to keep developing Hunter Wells and Trevor [Darling] and Nick [Linder]. We have a good group, they’re getting a lot of reps. We have to keep them moving forward."

On where he sees defensive tackle Michael Wyche’s role


"He’s getting in better shape. For all that he was behind, he’s starting to catch up. The good news there is that position looks a lot different. There’s a lot more depth and we’re getting a lot more factors, a lot more plays from that position than we have been. That’s positive. There’s no question, the three of them are fighting like crazy for playing time right now."

On what specific areas he would like to see quarterback Brad Kaaya improve


"There are a lot of different areas. For me to go into detail would be like giving a gameplan away. There are certain things we need to see him do a better job of. His poise is really good and his line of scrimmage demeanor is very good. We snapped the ball three times on them last week, maybe four times to get someone offside, and only one time we got somebody offside. I think that was the one we completed to Herb [Waters]. The other ones weren’t very good - one resulted in a holding pattern we didn’t get the call, one resulted in an incomplete, one resulted in an interception that got him off track. We all have to do a better job. We have to protect better, we have to catch the ball better…but there are certain things in terms of his mechanics, trusting his feet, and his progression. That’s probably our biggest focus."

"To me it’s trusting his feet. His feet say time, it’s time get rid of it, that means we have to go from either second to third or third to fourth progression. A couple of times the other night, it was the first time we saw it, he started to scramble laterally rather than trust his feet and get it to his outlet, whether it was his tight end or his back."

On the play of freshman defensive end Chad Thomas against FAMU…


"The thing about Chad is he’s smart. Everyone knows about his athletic ability and his ability to run, and he’s long. He uses his leverage really well, but he has lateral quickness. He’s really smart and knows how to play the defense. He’s in really good position. When we move him, he’s in the right gap. When we have to play base technique, he didn’t jump around and block like some young guys did or will do. He didn’t do that. He played the defense. That’s a great trait to have as a young player. To play the defense, execute the defense and he made some plays doing it. It was good to see that."

On Thurston Armbrister, who went largely unrecruited out of high school…


"One was necessity, for sure. He’s a 6-3 kid that was playing safety and we thought he could grow and be 235 [pounds] one day. He’s in the 240’s now – he’s 242 or 243 which is great. I think he’s really learning to play the game now. He’s playing with leverage. He’s strong, so he’s able to play the point of attack. He’s in better condition, so he’s playing harder longer. He’s playing with really good burst and energy, and he’s making plays because of it. Strip-sack, sack, both of them were chase plays for him. I don’t know if he would have made that play a year ago. I think with this strength and this size, with the conditioning that he has and the sacrifices he made all summer, he’s doing that. There’s no question we like speed, we like length. At that point, just the necessity in terms of getting those kind of bodies in the program."

On which players earned more playing time by way of performance against FAMU…


"Standish Dobard for sure. Stan was really doing a good job, especially at the point of attack. Braxton [Berrios]. Joe Yearby. I think Kc [McDermott] and Alex Gall both did a nice job. Herb [Waters] continues to do a good job – we have to get him to push Phillip [Dorsett] and Malcolm [Lewis]. On the defensive side, [Jermaine] Grace played really well and deserves more playing time. Jamal Carter played better. I think he’ll be fighting even more now with Dallas [Crawford], Tambu [Fentress] and Deon [Bush]. Darrion Owens did some really good things, that was good to see. Somebody mentioned Chad [Thomas] earlier. I just went around the world there, I hope that gives you an idea. Grace really prepared hard for that game and it showed on game day."

On President Shalala announcing that she will step down at the end of the academic year…

"It’s a sad day. Donna has been nothing but embracing for me and my family since we’ve been here. You grow close with somebody when you go through the adversity that we went through together. That was not an easy time for her or for me, and as I said during that time, I don’t know how you could have a better leader in your corner during that adversity.


"What she has done here speaks for itself. It’s amazing. It’s an amazing university. The campus is incredible, and that’s her legacy. Her legacy is all around us. We should all be so lucky to leave that kind of legacy. Watch out, whoever she’s going up against next - whether it’s in politics or whatever. She’s a competitor, she’s brilliant, she can cut through it and makes things simple, and obviously somebody that will be missed here."