Bud Foster Q&A, Part I: Working with Missouri, getting over the Sugar Bowl and aiming for a dominant defense
I’m off to Minneapolis for a few days to see my family (yes, I’m voluntarily going to a place colder than Blacksburg in February), but I had a chance to sit down with defensive coordinator Bud Foster and offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring before departing. We chatted about a variety of subjects, which I’ll post in a couple Q&A’s during the next week.
First up is Foster, who talked about bouncing ideas off the Missouri staff, the disappointment of the Sugar Bowl loss and the potential of next year’s defense. We got into more specific defensive personnel stuff in the second part, which will run later this week. Here’s Part I:
Is post-signing day the only time you coaches can get out of here for a few days?
“Once spring recruiting is over and all that. We’re fortunate that we work for a guy who as long as we get our work done, we don’t have to stay in here until … you can stay in here as long as you want to stay in here. But once Aug. 1 rolls around until the signing day, it’s a grind. But that’s part of it. That’s part of the job. We work hard at it. So does everybody else. But that just comes with the territory.”
Is it any different now than what it was 10, 20 years ago?
“Not really. The film helps it. Having the technology maybe helps you work through some things. We watch all of our practice film. Back in earlier days when it was all 16 millimeter and things like that we wouldn’t watch practice film. But now we watch all of our practice. We probably spend more time doing that than we did in the past, making sure your scheme is right and the calls you want to make are right and the techniques are right and those type of things. We spend more time watching our practice time than maybe people think you do. I think we do.
What’s on tap before spring ball?
“We always try to go to a place to visit. We’re going to go down to Jacksonville and really not so much to visit with the Jaguars, but Missouri is going to be down there. And those guys, we’ve known them for years. And they were at Toledo when [Gary] Pinkel was there and they’ve been down there, I’ve been out there [giving clinics] at Missouri. We went to Indianapolis a couple years ago and met them. It’s a chance to visit with an NFL club and they’re similar, but also get a chance to visit with a group that we’ll share ideas with.”
What goes into that?
“They know our terminology. This is a group that knows us and we’ve shared ideas over the years. Obviously Missouri has been in the Big 12 and they see the spread offenses and those type of things. We’ll pick their brain a little bit. How do they defend? What do they think is good? What do they like on certain situations or certain looks? We’ll talk about those type of things. But we’ll have an agenda down there a little bit with what we want to look at. And we’re always into pressures and I think what we do from a coverage standpoint is a little bit a notch above what everybody else does in the college level, but you’re also looking for wrinkles.
“You know, we’re not going to change what we do a whole lot. We’re always going to tweak something here or do something here that we hope will make us a little better or find a technique that will make us a little better. Maybe there’s a drill that can make that technique better. But we’re not set in our ways that we’re not going to improve and grow and that type of thing. That’s kind of what we do with that stuff.”
Missouri runs a spread offense. Is that something specifically you want to look at in terms of defending?
“Obviously we’re going to be playing Clemson again. I think at times we played the spread pretty well. We did in the bowl game, with the exception of a couple plays, but it’s getting different people’s thoughts. It looks like the ACC is kind of going that way with Larry Fedora coming in and instead of North Carolina being a two-back offense, it looks like they’ll be an up-tempo offense. That’s what Missouri is. So I’m curious to talk to them, how they defend their people too. Because their offense is all no-huddle, empty a guy out, motion a guy back in and different things that make you change your calls, even in mid-stream, or the kids have a lot of check-with-me calls. So I’m just curious to see how they game manage and things of that nature.
“And Dave Steckel, who is a good friend of mine, he’s the defensive coordinator at Missouri, he wants to pick my brain about game-planning and all those type of things too, because he’s only been a coordinator the last few years. So it’s just a guy that I trust and he trusts me and we can share ideas and know that that’s not going to, not that we have anything to hide, but he’s not going to get on the horn to his buddy at Clemson or something and say, ‘Hey, look, this is what they’re thinking about doing against y’all.’”
With Missouri now being in the SEC, do you ever wonder if you’ll play them down the line in a bowl game?
“Yeah, that’d be cool, though. Especially for me. I grew up in St. Louis. I was a Missouri Tiger fan growing up. That’s when it was the old Big 8. I’m aging myself right there.”
Going back to the Sugar Bowl, did you execute the game plan as well as you wanted to?
“You know, we just looked at long pass plays here this morning against us from last year. The one play the kid caught in the end zone, that’s going to happen. But the long pass play that they scored their first touchdown on, that shouldn’t have been a play. We had him potentially sacked, he slips off. It was a great play by the quarterback, bottom line. But you take that one play out of it and we dominated that group. And we played extremely well. They couldn’t run the ball. He had two completions really of any significance and we stopped them on third down.
“It just happened to be that he had that one play, the first touchdown was after we were a three-and-out and we were going to get great field position when we roughed the kicker, and the other score came, I can’t remember if it was off a turnover, but the big play on that particular drive was the pass interference call against [Jayron] Hosley, which I thought was very questionable. Both guys were there and the guy rolls his ankle. What I saw on the monitor, the guy rolled his ankle and fell down. That’s when they threw the flag. But they were both in there jockeying for position. So I just thought it was a bad call. But they had a chance then. Both their touchdowns were on poor plays that were drives extended by penalties, which is our fault too.”
Considering how you played defensively, is the outcome that much more disappointing? And does it take a while to get over a loss like that?
“Yeah, obviously there’s been so much media attention on the ACC and their BCS bowl record. And I know how we’ve been the one group that’s won most recently in the BCS game. We’re the first invited at-large in the BCS game. And we feel like we’re the ones that want to get that monkey off our back so to speak. But yeah, this one was disappointing because I don’t think the best team won that particular night when it was all said and done. I mean, we physically beat them on both sides of the ball, but we didn’t put the ball in the end zone. And that’s the game of football. It’s like basketball. You play a great basketball, but if you’re not putting the ball in the hole, you get beat 43-42, that’s a great defensive game. You can go out-rebound a team, you can create turnovers, but if you’re not putting the ball in the hoop, it’s kind of the same thing with us defensively on that night. We’re kicking the [stuff] out of them when it’s all said and done. That’s the disappointing part of it, but it’s a team game and we played well enough on offense. It just didn’t work out that night.”
Looking ahead to next year, you have nine defensive starters back. Can this be a special group?
“You know, I’m going to challenge them to be. And every year is a little bit different. And I think about the time you think things are set up the way you want them to be, that’s when you get bit in the tail, so to speak. I mean that from a standpoint: we have high expectations here. But I want our kids to understand that we’re going to coach them hard that way. We’re not just going to assume that they’re going to take it to themselves and do it. Now you’d like that self-motivation, and I think we have that. But you can’t take that for granted. And I think we have a chance. I think we have the makings of a special group.
“Now what makes a special group? I think we’ve got to go out there and be a dominant defense that when we walk out of that tunnel or we walk into their stadium or they put the film on they shake their head. I know this: when I’m watching LSU or I watched Alabama, those were two teams to me that were different than any in the country. When I looked at them, where they were different was their defensive lines. And I like the DNA of our defensive line right now. We’re sophomores, well, they’re going to be juniors now, but we’re going to have everybody on our front four is going to be two years or less to play, with a really good recruiting class, I think, of young kids up front, talented kids up front that will just kind of build us some depth or things of that nature right there.
“We’ve got to have our leaders, our seniors, we’re not going to have a big senior group again on our side. But those guys need to step up. And they’ve been here when we’ve had good leaders, and they need to be good leaders themselves. So you kind of go with how your senior group goes. If you don’t have a big senior group, we kind of have to push that a little bit ourselves and demand … you like that where it comes from within, but at the same time, it’s our program and we’re responsible for it and the end result. But I like the potential with this group.
“But I want us to be a defense like Alabama. That’s my expectations. And we’ve been there before. We’ve been, whatever it was, 2005, we walked on the field and I knew we were going to go out and play our tail off and it was going to be a long day for that group on the other side. And that’s what I want to get back to. I want whoever we play, it’s going to be a struggle for them to play well against us. And that’s what I want. Now does that happen every week? No, but that’s what you want. That’s what I want the attitude to be with our guys. I want for them to practice that way and for them to have a chip on their shoulder that way. And we’re meeting with our kids right now and we’re playing that psychologist role right now wearing that hat trying to push those guys and get their mind right and get to what our expectations are. We took bid strides last year from the year before. Now let’s keep taking those type of steps toward the defense we expect to be.”