MEET THE PRESS: Fritz previews Army at weekly news conference

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NEW ORLEANS – Listed below is the complete transcript from Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz’s weekly press conference leading up to Tulane’s matchup vs. Army on Saturday.

On his impressions of Army…
“Well they have done a great job. I am real close with their staff. Jeff Monken, is their head coach, Jeff was the head coach at Georgia Southern before I took his place. He left me a great program. I have known him a long time. One of my recruiting guys, Don Lanhoe, was a graduate assistant with Jeff back in the early 80’s, so I have known Jeff through Don and a couple of my former players are on their staff who also coached for me. They have a great staff and they are doing a super job recruiting. They work around the year recruiting, they are allowed to go out whenever they want. They have no cap. I think I counted yesterday and they had 177 guys on the team. They have their own prep school right on campus too with another hundred guys. They have just done a good job recruiting. They have a great system, they are very disciplined and tough, hard-nosed and they do not make many mistakes. So we have a lot of respect for them.”

On the comparison of Army to Navy…
“There are a lots of similarities. Jeff (Monken) and Coach Ken Niumatalolo over at Navy were together under Paul Johnson at Navy many, many years ago. They are all from the same family tree. Paul Johnson is another former Georgia Southern head coach. So there are a lot of similarities. They both at times run a little bit of shotgun, a little bit of pistol, a little bit of just gun stuff which is hard to do offensively. It is hard to defend it because it is two totally different timing type plays. One is a down scheme, hitting it hard and the other one is more of a lateral type scheme. You have to work on both. They will run some counter sweep, which is different. They will run some trap. The tough thing is they will throw the football and they have all these guys in there and if you have your eyes in the wrong place you have some problems. You have to have great eye discipline when you play these guys. I am big into analytics and I think after our first year or so, Jeff (Monken) called me up and was asking about it. I told him that I think it is a great deal to do and so he is into it big time. Last year he was 31 on 36 going for it on fourth down. Instead of saying three and out takeaway defensively, you have to say four and out takeaway because they will go for it on fourth down all over the field.”

On keeping the team humble after last win…
“I haven’t really talked to them all that much. It is just about consistent behavior by me, the coaching staff and the senior leaders. You have to drown out the noise. I told them at the beginning of the year, one of my buddies went over there and watched Coach Bill Belichick at his place and there was a sign in the locker room that the team comes first and to drown out the noise. You just have to worry about what is good for the team – it is very simplistic. With all those things, just try to get better every day and worry about your performance, that is the main thing, try to improve every day. If you do that over a long period of time you are going to be a lot better and have a lot of wins.”

On the team focusing in on analytics…
“Everyone is doing it now. We were one of the first ones who did it. I guess my first year doing it was 2015 or 2014, maybe. Now I think a lot of people are doing it. A lot of people do not follow it, but there are sometimes I get out there and wait a second. I think it makes a lot of sense, but sometimes you have to go with your gut every once in a while. Last year against Navy, we went for two, that was playing at home and ideally you would think that would be to your advantage, thought we might have had a little better field goal kicker, but I thought it was a good time for our guys being a little bit tired to do it at that point in time. Defensively, in particular. I think a lot of people are doing it though. There are a lot of colleges who have someone on staff where that is all they do. I am going to try to get one of these brainaics over here at Tulane to come over and help us out. I know we have plenty of people here on this campus who teach analytics people how to do it.”

On whether analytics have changed his coaching style…
“Not so much, but what are you working on is that there are some things that can help you in the offseason. What are you working on and how many times do those situations actually occur? What percentage are you working at in practice? So those are the things, you do all season and then they give you a ton of examples from high school, well not really high school, but college ed programs, stuff that happens each weekend. You look at it and see how you would have done it. A lot of it is clock too. How you manage a clock and how do you use your timeouts? Going for two, not going for two. End of half. End of game. Then there are a lot of fourth down situations, how good is your kicker, how good is their kicker? Are you favored, are you not favored?”

On getting Christian Montano to Tulane…
“Well the first thing was we knew he could handle it academically. I think he is taking 15 hours a semester. He is going to graduate with his MBA in just over a year, which is difficult to do, most people it takes quite a bit longer than that. So that was not an issue with him. Number two, he is a good football player. We are just taking him to come to school here and we wanted a guy to help us win, he has all the intangibles. It is going to be neat this weekend. The guy that he gave the bone marrow transfusion to is going to be at the game. Christian is going to be a captain. I hope they are going to let the guy come out on the field with us before the game. He is going to be there and eat the team meals with us. It is a really, really neat story.”

On possibility of single digit plays against Army…
“You just have to make every series count. I am sure the analytics will show a little bit of that as well. With limited possessions, it is going to be a quick game. They are going to run it a bunch. The clock is going to be running and you just have to take advantage of every single play. We have to play very disciplined. We had a problem with that last week, with penalties, particularly pre-snap penalties. We have to get rid of that stuff. We have to make sure we are playing clean football. It is also going to be a real physical game; they are going to run it right at us. We have to make big, tough hard-nosed tackles. This is not going to be a game for the faint of heart. We have to understand that right now, we have been talking about it the past couple of weeks.”

On Army tending to go for it on fourth downs…
“You have to be four and out. You have to tackle. When you tackle them, you have to knock them back. You have to make it second and eight instead of second and seven. Second and seven is a good distance. They like three yards, three yards, three yards and then get a one. Three yards, three yards, three yards, then get a one. You have to put them in some tough downs and distances. The thing they will do occasionally, I think last week they threw maybe ten times, I think they have some crazy stat where he has never thrown a ball and never lost a game. With zero completions and he has won every game. I think when he was at Georgia Southern, they beat Florida the year before I got there and they did not complete a pass in that game. They beat Florida. When they do throw it, they make you pay. You have to do a good job with your eyes. One time against Rice, they went for it on the fourth and one from the minus fifteen. They did not get it, Rice missed the field goal. And they got 14 on that series.”

On whether the strength of Tulane’s defensive line can bring an advantage…
“We sure hope so. We want to be able to control the line of scrimmage without question. Keep it without knocking back on the linebackers and second level defenders. That cleans a lot of stuff up. I do not know how many plays the defensive line is going to make, but the other guys are going to be making tackles and they are going to be the ones who are going to have a big effect on the game.”

On Tulane’s offensive potential…
“What hurts us in third down is getting ourselves in long yarded situations. We have to get out of these long yarded situations. They are self-inflicted, it is not something the defense has been doing to us. I like our changes when it is first and 10, we do not have anything going backwards. We just have to be more disciplined in those situations.

On the American Athletic Conference…
“It is tough. It is a great league. My wife said that the other day, we have gotten better, but everyone else has gotten better. It is a good league. We have a really tough side and that is why it is good to play a team like Army so you are on point and playing tough competition every single week and they certainly are a tough team.”

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