If you missed last night's episode of "The Two Man Game" on ESPN680, Mark Ennis and I had a lengthy conversation with new U of L offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, who talked about pretty much anything and everything related to the current state of the program.
You can listen to the interview here, or read the full transcript below:
Garrick McGee: I appreciate you guys having me on. You know, when you've got Coach Petrino and Coach Schnellenberger in the same room and you guys want to talk to me, that's a pretty cool deal.
Mark Ennis: For fans wondering a little bit about your background, you were a head coach who then decided to leave and come to Louisville as an assistant. What went into that decision to pass up being a head coach to be an assistant with Bobby Petrino again?
GM: You know, what I learned was that I'm really more passionate about competing at a really high level. I really enjoy and appreciate the opportunity they (UAB) gave me. I think we got a lot of things done and I made a lot of good relationships with a lot of kids and a lot of people in Birmingham, but I started to realize that it's more important, for me, to compete at the highest level than it is to be a head coach.
With this opportunity to come back here with coach in this situation, I thought it was a really good opportunity to get a program in a position every year to win a national championship. That's been the plan and we're sticking to it.
Mike Rutherford: Heading into this season, the biggest story on offense has been the quarterback position and replacing Teddy Bridgewater. How are Will Gardner and the other guys at the position progressing?
GM: We're really excited about the crew that we have.
We think we're really excited on the offensive line with John Miller, Jamon Brown, Jake Smith; those guys are veteran players, they're big and physical. We have some new recruits that are coming to town that are going to be able to help us also. The tight end position, with Gerald Christian being bale to be big enough to block the perimeter of the defensive line and be a matchup problem for linebackers really is a big factor in our offense.
And then to have the weapons at receiver that we have, multiple weapons. Not only do we have DeVante, who is probably one of the best players in the country, but with Eli, Michaelee Harris, Kai DeLaCruz, James Quick; all of those guys. Then you've got Dominique Brown, Michael Dyer -- Michael Dyer has been fantastic since we've got here. We had a previously relationship with Michael when he was coming out of high school, and we're really happy to see the way that he's bought into what we're doing, to the way we like to do things -- he's been a fantastic kid. And Mike's one of the guys that has been on a team that has been undefeated and won a national championship, so he does have a perspective that no one else in our locker room has, and so we're counting on him for leadership.
When you surround all of that around the quarterback and get them all playing well, the quarterback's responsibility becomes to just distribute the ball -- to keep us in the right play, the right protections, the right runs so that we're running the ball into good looks, and then to take care of the ball and distribute the ball to our guys. We do ask a lot, this is a quarterback driven offense, but we feel like we have the weapons around him to help him out and make things easier for him.
ME: You talked about Michael Dyer and him buying into the program, but how would you assess the overall buy-in?
GM: We've got a lot of very good kids. They're disciplined, they've been trained the right way -- we're fortunate because Coach Strong did a fantastic job with this crew. They're interested in winning and they understand that's what our plan is and they trust Coach Petrino's ability to win football games. So we haven't had any issue with guys not buying into the way that we go about our business.
We're pretty demanding though, we don't give them much room to not buy in.
MR: When Louisville fans think about Bobby Petrino they think about all the points his teams put up the first time he was here. Coming in as his offensive coordinator, do you feel pressure to sort of live up to that reputation?
GM: No. We have a ways of going about our business and a way of installing our offense. You guys know I played for coach 22 years ago and was able to coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars with him and at Arkansas with him. So we have a way of going about our business that if we can install our offense, if we never overlook any details -- because coach's offense is an 11-man operation, all 11 guys have to do the right thing at the exact same time -- so that's why we're so demanding and so disciplined when it comes to coaching the offense, to set the example to the kids that there's only one way to do this. So I don't think there's any pressure.
Coach does apply pressure to everybody in the program to always be getting better and do your job at a high level, but I don't feel any pressure to put up numbers. We're interested in winning. We want to score one more point than everybody we play, and if we score 40 more points, that works also.
ME: At ACC Media Days, Coach Petrino said the ACC Atlantic Division reminded him of the SEC West. As you look at this year's schedule, what's your assessment of the ACC and the Atlantic in particular?
GM: I've spent a lot of time -- we've done a gameplan on Miami, we've done a gameplan for Virginia -- Virginia's our third game -- and then I've spent some time with Clemson's defense because it's going to be a huge game for us on the road, and I've watched Florida State's defense. Coach is right. They've all got very talented defensive linemen that are fast and explosive like we saw in the SEC West with all of those programs. And then when you're going to go to Notre Dame, that's another program that is recruiting at the highest level and bringing in the absolute best players in the country. So it is the same.
It seems like we're chasing the national champions around, because when we were at Arkansas, the national champions was always on our side of the SEC. Well here we are again, and the national champion's on our side of the ACC.
It's a challenge that we look forward to. You always want to compete against the best. You want to test yourself, and you want to see if you have the ability to get your team and your players prepared to compete at the highest level and go out and execute when the game's on the line. It's a huge challenge, but we love that level of excitement.
MR: A lot of people have seen the "Beat Miami" countdown board in the weight room. How much do you all emphasize that one game or how much will you emphasize it once fall camp starts?
GM: You always want to win your games at home. That's the way you put yourself in a position to do well. You win at home. For us, that being our opening game, not only is it a home game, but it's a conference game. More than that, it's the next game, and that's what the countdown clock represents -- that every second of the day the clock's always ticking. You're either getting better or you're getting worse. What are you doing on a daily basis and a second-by-second basis to get us in a better position to win that game? That's what the countdown clock's all about. It's not just emphasizing Miami -- that's the next game we're going to play.
ME: You talked about Michael Dyer, but it sounds like you guys really believe in three guys at that running back position. Can you talk a little bit about L.J. Scott and how you can use all three differently?
GM: We also have Corvin Lamb, who is the fastest player on our team. he was coming off of an injury when we first got here in January, and he went out and ran a very low 4.3 40 at about 80 percent. And then we have Brandon Radcliff, who is another running back. So we feel like we've got five guys who are capable of going in and making plays.
The reason we keep talking about L.J. is that we're so blown away by his maturity. He graduated early from high school, so when we got here he was really a high school senior, but we couldn't tell by the way he carried himself. That's why we're so blown away and we keep talking about him, because he's so young but so mature.
MR: Coach Petrino talked about Javonte Bagley during the ACC Kickoff as a guy who might surprise some people. Who are some other guys who Louisville fans aren't talking about who could turn some heads this year?
GM: Everybody in the country should know DeVante Parker, and most of our fans know guys like Eli Rogers and Michaelee Harris and Kai DeLaCruz -- James Quick his freshman year didn't have the season that he would like. I think he's all set to have a huge season for us this year. He's more confident, he's bigger, faster. We really worked on getting his lower body strength together. We felt like when he caught balls and would make moves, he'd fall down a lot, and that means your lower body strength is not where it needs to be. Joe Miday our strength coach has done a really good job with him all summer. We can see the development.
Gerald Christian had a nice year last season, but in this offense the tight end is very important. If you remember, we had D.J. Williams who won the Mackey Award. Chris Gragg came right behind that and now he's playing for the Buffalo Bills. This guy is a mix of those two. He's big like D.J., but he can run like Chris, so I can see him having a huge season for us.
Most of our fans know about Dominique Brown. Everybody knows about Michael Dyer. It's hard to go anywhere without talking about Will Gardner.
Reggie Bonnafon, the freshman quarterback from Trinity, we're really impressed with him to a point where there could be some packages for Reggie. He's very smart, he's very mature, and he's one of the most explosive athletes we have.
Most of our stars, though, are upperclassmen that everybody knows.
ME: How well would you assess this group's ability to pick up Coach Petrino's offense so far?
GM: You never know. It's all a process until the Hurricanes show up and we kick the ball off. That's when we're gonna find out.
We've been working a lot. The rules have changed and now coaches have more time to spend with the team in the summer time, and that's really been good for us being a new staff. They're very mature, they understand how to study football, because most of our guys are upperclassmen.
Our offensive staff have all coached in the system before, and that's always a benefit because we all know the language and understand what the expectations of the coaches are on a daily basis.
It's going well, but the test will be when we run out there on opening day.
MR: Player leadership is even more important than usual when you have a new coaching staff. In addition to Lorenzo Mauldin, what guys have stepped up and led the rest of the guys this summer?
GM: I think Will is doing a good job. Our players trust Will. Our players know that Will is a capable quarterback.
I got a chance to talk to Teddy, and he was saying: "This guy is talented, man, I've watched him. This guy is big, he can run, he's 6'4 or 6'5, 225-pounds, runs a 4.5 40 and can throw the ball deep down the field." And Will's done a good with being a leader.
When you have so many upperclassmen, you have a lot of guys stepping up and being leaders. Jamon Brown, Jake Smith, John Miller; those guys are leaders. Dominique Brown's a leader. Michaelee Harris is one of the leaders of the offense, no doubt. Eli Rogers, there's no doubt that he is. Michael Dyer will step into one of the leadership roles because of his experience of winning every single game throughout a season. Like I said, he has a perspective that none of us have, so I expect him to bring some leadership to the team.
ME: When you're on the recruiting trail, can you talk a little bit about how the name Louisville is being received?
GM: I think it's very well for a few reasons. No. 1, they've done so well the last few years. Louisville is on fire. I think the stat says third in the country the last two years in win/loss record. So everyone at this point knows the University of Louisville is a powerhouse program.
Moving into the ACC of course helps, because now if you win your conference you're playing for the national championship. You're going to be playing huge games, week in, week out.
And then with Coach Petrino, you've got a proven coach who's not only going to win football games but produce professional players.
The city also really helps. You can bring kids in and drive them by Churchill Downs, and etc., etc. It's a pretty good place to recruit to. We've just got to get more kids on campus. There's a process here. Once we get into the season and start winning, I think a lot of our top recruits will stop jumping on our board.
MR: We are at the Governor's Cup Reception, so I'd be remiss if I didn't ask at least one question about the Louisville/Kentucky rivalry. The game isn't until Nov. 29, but what's been your experience with the rivalry so far?
GM: Yeah, it's serious business, I know that. There's definitely a line that's drawn.
My neighbors have a Kentucky flag flying in their backyard, so from my backyard to their backyard, we have a lot of trash talking going on. But it's serious business. Everyone knows what side of the fence they're on, and we take a lot of pride in the side that's wearing red.
ME: Some players have admitted that last year they knew there were some games where they felt like they just had to show up to win. How do you prepare this team for a schedule where they can't have that mindset anymore?
GM: That's the grind that you're talking about on a daily basis. That's why coaches preach "finish," and focusing on the small things, doing what you need to do when you're tired. You have to be focused and concentrated when the game's on the line. Everybody's fresh in the first quarter and everybody's playing at their highest level, but then in the fourth quarter when these games are decided, the teams that are consistently focused and concentrated are the ones that win.
Our experience at Arkansas really helps because we know that every one of these games will come down to the fourth quarter. Some team will turn the ball over or some team will make a mental error and the other team will win. That's the way these games go when you're playing at this level. I think that's where our players respect our opinion on what's going on here and how hard you have to work and how hard you got to push yourself. We call it "ringing the bell." You have to go beyond your previous best, you have to have your best performance to date to give us the best chance to win. That doesn't just mean when the lights are on and we're playing games; every day, you've gotta have a better workout than you did yesterday. When you're tired, you've gotta push yourself beyond because that's how it's gonna be when the game's on the line.
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