MARK RICHT: We had our typical Wednesday practice. It was a beautiful day for it. The guys I thought practiced well. I thought our scout teamers gave us great effort. Got a lot done today.
Now that the hard work is in, we’ll probably be in just shorts and helmets tomorrow, and probably go at a pretty light pace. I think they have worked hard and done the things they need to do to this point.
Q. As you look at Greg Stroman, their punt returner and the entire unit, what has made them so dangerous?
MARK RICHT: Well, first of all, he’s a good return man. Usually you’ve got to make — most of the time, you’ve got to make the first guy miss. People talk about that a lot. But even before that, you have to field the ball well and you have to make decisions on when to return it and when not to.
If the ball is punted long and not enough hang time, there’s enough space for him to get started, that’s the problem. The rest of the guys just have to get in position. His blockers have to get in position to mostly shield guys off. You’re not really knocking people down on that play. You’re getting in a position where you’re shielding them from the return man.
And then when there’s enough space, you know, good guys with speed and agility can make people miss at the end, as well, and usually you make somebody miss on the front end, you get some good blocking and then at the very end, there’s usually another guy you’ve got to make miss and he’s got the agility and the speed to do that.
Q. At this point in the season, I know obviously guys get a little more comfortable in their roles but you also have guys get dinged up. How would you evaluate your coverage units?
MARK RICHT: Well, not bad. I think the more we go dig deeper into our two-deep lineup on offense and defense, we get a little bit deeper into our special teams depth.
For example, Travis Homer, our starting running back now, he was the starter on the big four units, punt return, punt, kick return and kick and he’s the best special teams player we got.
Well, now that Walton got hurt and he has to play the majority of the snaps at tailback, we had to pull him off of at least two teams and probably shouldn’t even have him starting on two specials.
But he won’t take himself off, No. 1. And No. 2, we just can’t afford to lose him. And that’s just one example of what happens when you have a little attrition here and there; all of a sudden it trickles down on to your special teams, as well.
Q. You and Coach Fuente took over programs at about the same time. When you took the Miami job, did you see it as a program with good bones and just needed some adjustments, or did you feel like there were significant things to do that needed to be done?
MARK RICHT: Well, I wasn’t sure what we had to be honest with you. I didn’t watch film and try to make a determination of: Do I want to take over this team or not. I just knew I wanted to be back at my alma mater at a place that had the rich tradition of winning and winning in a big way, and being in a fertile recruiting area, which South Florida is.
So all those things are the reasons why I decided to come back, and I really wasn’t gauging where I thought we were. Once I got to meet the guys and start working with them, I knew the cupboard was not bare by any means, and the last staff under Al Golden did a good job of recruiting.
After living through it a little bit, I realized there was some pretty good ones and we also brought a few guys in that have helped us, as well.
Q. And what have you seen Coach Fuente do in his season and a half up there in Blacksburg?
MARK RICHT: I think the guy is a very detailed coach. I think he demands things to be done a certain way and his staff does, as well. You see a tough, hard-nosed football team, offensively, defensively, special teams. I think football starts with a certain amount of physical play. They are very sound in what they do, and they execute well and that’s why they win.
Q. He seems to be able to develop quarterbacks, as well.
MARK RICHT: Oh, yeah, very good. First-year starter, he’s playing extremely well. A lot of touchdowns, not many interceptions. He’s got some outstanding running plays that he’s had. He’s made good decisions, not putting the ball into harm’s way. I think he’s done a wonderful job.
Q. And I noticed in your regular press conference, I guess it was Tuesday, you were very effusive in your praise of Doug foster. You have a lot of respect for the job he’s done.
MARK RICHT: Well, I’ve known Coach Foster a long time and competed against him once or twice, you know, way back when. You can’t help but admire what he’s done and what he is in the middle of doing right now.
I mean, the No. 2 scoring defense in the United States of America this deep into the season is very significant. It’s the No. 1 stat in defensive football; you know, points against your team. Only have given up on average 11 points a game. That’s pretty spectacular.
Q. You guys introduced this turnover chain through your defensive players this year, and it’s turned into this huge deal, people wearing shirts, making homemade chains, people around the country want it. I’m curious when Manny introduced the team and when he introduced it to you, did you have any idea it would blow up and become this huge thing it has become?
MARK RICHT: Well, first of all, it only blows up if you get turnovers. If you don’t get turnovers, it stays in the box. It stays in the trunk.
So it helps when we get some turnovers and we break it out. The players get so excited about getting it but they get excited for their teammates when they get it. In the very beginning, as soon as they got the turnover, they were popping their helmet off because you have to take your helmet off to put the chain on.
So they are popping their helmet off midfield and we’re telling them, look, you have got to get to the sideline before you take off your helmet because that’s a penalty.
After we trained them to do that, I felt a lot better about it. But it’s just pure joy, pure joy for the player and his teammates and our coaches and the fans. I think that’s one thing about this place, the University of Miami and Coral Gables and Paradise, like I call it.
We want to have fun. We want to enjoy life because life’s worth enjoying, and when you’re down here in this beautiful weather and this beautiful place; that’s so Miami, a Cuban-link chain like that, it’s a little gaudy, but hey, that’s how we roll.
Q. The way you approach things in recruiting —
MARK RICHT: Well, we’d like everybody that’s committed to us to go ahead and sign in the early signing period. We’re hoping that they will do that.
You know, there are a lot of kids that come in in January, and there’s never a signing day for them. And this provides a nice ceremony, you know, for them and their family. I think it’s great and I’m hoping that even the guys that are not midyear enrollees will be kids that want to sign, knock it out and be ready to help recruit the rest of their class.
Q. Will you be okay if some are late —
MARK RICHT: Well, we’ll cross that bridge when it happens. But I’m sure that will be on a person-by-person basis on what we’ll decide to do about that.
Q. Are you in favor of the early signing period?
MARK RICHT: Well, I don’t know yet. I think we’ve got to live through it a year or two and figure out if it’s a great thing or not so great.
Q. Greg Nosal, one of your offensive quality control guys. He’s a Virginia Tech alumn, also. When guys kind of get to this stage of their career, they kind of have to set aside allegiances and those kinds of things to make this a full-time employment situation. Has that ever crossed your mind —
MARK RICHT: No —
Q. Any scattered — (interrupting / crosstalk) — loyalty —
MARK RICHT: — no, it’s not about his loyalty, no, I don’t have any question. I played in Miami, and then I coached at Florida State for 15 years, you know, so I was the enemy of my former teammates for 15 years.
I would say that the first time I was coaching in a game with the other colors on besides my alma mater, it was weird. I was still a pretty young guy, and some of the coaches and even the players that were still there when I was at Miami, so it was very awkward. But once you kick it off, it’s time to try to win.
Q. Do you have much interaction with Greg during the course — I know he talks with Stacy — what does he do for you, what are his duties?
MARK RICHT: So much. The background work as far as film breakdowns and just helping to prepare things for scouting reports and just learning ball and interjecting things that he knows and has experienced. He’s a very sharp guy.
Q. The way you’ve played this year, you put yourself in a position to control your own destiny. Is it nice to know that you don’t have to look for help from anybody else but just concentrate on winning the game in front of you?
MARK RICHT: Well, this deep into the season, yes. When the season starts, everybody controls their own destiny, so to speak. At this point, that’s where we’re at. We’ve been blessed to win every game.
We know there’s been a lot of tight ones and quite frankly last year we had three very close games and we lost all three of them. And then we had a game against Virginia Tech last year and it wasn’t very close. So that was our four losses last year.
This year, really, we’ve had three or four tight ballgames in a row and found a way to win every one of them. That’s the formula: Win your close games and hopefully have a few where there’s not quite so much drama and keep winning and move on to the next stage.
We’ve happy to be undefeated, but we know there’s a lot more meat on the bone, so to speak, when it comes to our schedule. Virginia Tech is not a good team but a great team in our mind.
Q. Do the ACC schedule makers have to start looking at providing a bye week for both teams that have to play on a Thursday or Friday night just to make it an even playing field?
MARK RICHT: There’s no question. I don’t think anybody should play on a short week when someone else has 12 days to prepare. That’s just — there’s no way that should ever happen.
And I don’t think anybody should really have to go Saturday to Thursday if at all positive. That’s a tough, tough turnaround, and it’s not only tough for coaches to prepare but it’s just not good for the players. They need time to recover. They don’t get that time. It’s a midweek game. They have got school; they have got exams; they have got all these things, and it’s just not a very comfortable way of going about business.
I think if you have a Thursday night game, have an open date prior to that if at all possible.