As Maryland prepares to host Connecticut at Byrd Stadium on Saturday, The Post caught up with Huskies offensive coordinator George DeLeone to talk Terps, their new 3-4 scheme and what it means to have “complexity in simplicity.”
Thank you for your time, Coach. Reviewing the film from your team’s 10-7 loss to North Carolina State last weekend, what stood out offensively, and how do you move past it?
We shot ourselves in the foot a number of times through a lack of execution. We hung on in the game, fought in a very frustrating game, and in the fourth quarter we score to make it 10-7. We get the ball back at the end of the game with a chance to win. Our goal in the game was make it a four-quarter game, get it in the fourth quarter, we had a chance to win it, and we didn’t get it done. I think we’re better than we played, but that doesn’t mean anything until we play better.
We have a lot of football left in this season. We don’t want to get to the point where you are not confident or not positive that we can get things done this year. The way we approach it every week, this is a one-game season. After practice, after the film review on N.C. State, that’s a done, that’s over with. We learned what we could from it, and now we move on to Maryland. The way you approach it, there’s 12 one-week seasons, and this is our third week in that approach.
Those mistakes you mentioned against the Wolfpack, could you pinpoint the origin, and what did you learn from it?
I think we learned that the problems in the N.C. State game were caused by a lack of exactness and a lack of attention to detail, very basic things: splits, depth of routes, progression reads, quarterback forcing the ball [Editor’s note: U-Conn. QB Chandler Whitmer went 15 for 27 for 204 yards and three interceptions]. When your players see that on film, and it’s emphasized again and again, we try to show the reasons why we win and unfortunately reasons why we lost. We looked at the film, we saw what caused us to lose, and obviously we’re focusing on those issues, improving as we prepare to move forward.
What have you seen from scouting a Maryland defense that currently ranks ninth nationally in total defense, allowing 229.5 yards per game?
Tremendous scheme. I think [defensive coordinator] Brian Stewart has added a tremendous scheme to the Maryland staff. That is an NFL-tested, prime, solid NFL scheme. We worked together at Syracuse, he’s a tremendous coach and he’ll do a fabulous job there at Maryland. They have played tremendous defense. Look at the Temple game:: Temple last year did a heck of the job on Maryland, and this year they were totally ineffective in the run. William & Mary is a I-AA team, but they have a history of having a tremendous offense. My point is, the scheme that Brian has put in, the way the players have bought into it and executed it I think is very impressive.
It’s unique. I think, to be honest with you, I didn’t think they could have gotten in as much detail with the scheme as they have. I credit that to Brian and his staff. What they’re doing, believe me, is advanced calculus. I would say a very sophisticated scheme. To the average person on the street, may not look as sophisticated as it is, but believe me when I say it that it is.
What makes it so sophisticated?
What I like to call the complexity in its simplicity. They’re tremendously sound against the run, they have a tremendous zone pressure package, and they have a very sophisticated third-down package. The little details of coverage is big-league stuff. I think, if I had to say one word, it’s the complexity within the simplicity.
While the Terps have been very strong against the run – opponents are averaging just 1.95 yard per rush, which ranks 10th nationally – the pass defense has struggled at times. What have you seen from Maryland in that area?
I think the reality of it is, you’re playing against Temple, who’s a run-oriented team, and they committed a lot of people to the run, and because of that they got beat on a really hard play-action pass. I don’t see it as an inadequacy of the defense so much as an over-commitment to stop the run. It was the cost of doing business, they had to stop the run and they did, the only thing Temple had left was some play-action passes. In the first game, I thought they were taking advantage of the corner’s aggressiveness with some double moves. Good corners get beat by what they got beat by. I’m not saying they’re giving up passes to stop the run, but I understand why it happened. I thought it wasn’t the fault of the scheme so much individual breakdowns.
Maryland didn’t even go to a nickel defense to the fourth quarter. They didn’t have to. They only went to it when Temple was in a two-minute drill. I think Maryland, they’re going to defend the pass well, and this scheme will defend the pass well. I don’t see that as an issue at all. What did William & Mary score? Two field goals? Come on. I don’t see that as an issue in any way, shape or form.
(Bonus!) How has your team responded so far this week to that loss, and what’s the mood like as you try to rebound against Maryland?
I’m hoping it’s going to be positive. We need to. We have a lot of football left to go. Our team has made a really, I would say, excellent commitment to this season. We have to during the course of the season, and we have to overcome adversity as you go. We need to be at our peak to compete against this team. I would hope that we would compete our tail off. We have to have a great week of practice, a heck of a lot to get ready for. We have faith in our team, and in our players.