Greg Auman's interviews with defensive backs coach Rick Smith always walk a fine line with me. It's refreshing and helpful to hear him talk so honestly about his players, but it comes really close to tossing them under the bus if they make mistakes, or if he doesn't feel like he can trust them. We got a little bit of both in the most recent conversation, which Greg published on his blog yesterday.
As pretty much everyone knows, USF is the only team in FBS that has yet to pick off a pass this season. Their last interception was back on December 1, 2011, against West Virginia. JaQuez Jenkins pick-sixed Geno Smith on a pass that also happened to be Smith's last interception to date. Since then, not only have the Bulls not intercepted a pass, they haven't been particularly close to getting one. Finally, Rick Smith noticed one reason why:
"The reason we don't have interceptions is our safeties do a terrible job of seeing the quarterback throw the football."
Oh. Well that was pretty obvious. (And coach, you seriously sugar-coated that one. Tell us what you really think.) At least he knows it's not all on the players:
"I took about six plays from pass-skel (drills) Sunday night and I said 'Habits are what we become.' Six plays where I had two or three people not breaking on the ball. That is a habit I've allowed to develop. That's on me. That's coaching. Not looking at the quarterback is coaching. I have to take responsibility for that. I'm trying to get that corrected."
That may help, but there's also the matter of being left on an island because the front seven can't get to the quarterback on passing downs... something Smith has nothing to do with. He also may not have enough quality defensive backs to properly cover an offense like Cincinnati or Louisville or Miami, which sort of is his responsibility, but also the head coach's problem, too. You can't put this failure completely on Rick Smith or his players - it's all interconnected.
Eventually, someone's going to throw an interception against USF. College football offenses get more sophisticated and harder to stop every year, but either the Bulls will improve their reaction in the secondary, or Chandler Whitmer or someone will just throw one right to them. And when they do, Smith has a rather dubious reward waiting for them.
(Smith) has already told his players what's coming to whoever reels in that elusive pick: A kiss, on the mouth.