Transcript & Video: Dwayne Ledford, Ean Pfeifer Recap Florida State, Preview Virginia Tech
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville Cardinals (2-4, 1-4 ACC) finally secured their first conference victory of the season and broke a four-game losing streak, blowing out the Florida State Seminoles, 48-16, last Saturday. Next up, Louisville is back at Cardinal Stadium to face the Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2, 3-2 ACC). Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 31 at 4:00 p.m.
Prior to their upcoming matchup, offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford & tight end Ean Pfeifer took time to meet with the media. They discussed the previous game against the Seminoles, previewed the upcoming game against the Hokies, and more.
Below is the transcript from their press conference as well as the video:
Offensive Coordinator Dwayne Ledford
(On if Javian Hawkins inspires the rest of the offense)
With Hawkins, and I've said it so many times, the way he runs with the ball in his hand - he runs was such emotion. He runs with a chip on his shoulder, like he has something to prove everything every time he touches the ball. He's not somebody that's going to ever go down easy. He can make something happen out of nothing. You guys saw that one play, the long touchdown he had this past weekend. Very special talent, but just works hard. The guys up front, they rally around him a lot. They love seeing those runs. Not only that, but the things that he does without the ball in his hands - it's pretty remarkable as well. He's in there in some third down situations having to decipher some of these blitz packages and pick up some of these blitzers as well. Not only that, but in our play action game as well - having to pick up some of these linebackers. He does a great job with that. Very, very talented. I love the kid.
(On his thoughts of the O-line play vs. FSU and four TE sets)
We've been using a lot - we've been in a lot of 12 personnel this year - playing two tight ends. We have been in some 13 personnel, we actually got into 14 personnel with using four tight ends in the game this past week. For the guys up front, I think that they played very well with each other. We challenged those guys throughout the whole week of just coming out and let's really try to play fast from the get go. Being a noon kickoff, it's going to start early. But I thought the guys, they prepared extremely, extremely well throughout the week. We had a great Sunday practice that week after Notre Dame, and I felt that carried over all the way throughout the week of practice. I thought the guys came out and they were excited to play. This is one of those things that we talked about is like 'hey, let's go out and enough's enough'. Let's not have the penalties that are going to hurt a drive. Let's not have to where guys are playing very well, and we got one guy that's not doing his assignment. Let's put it together this game, and let's focus on that. Let's not have any negatives throughout the week of practice. But not only on the practice field, but also in everything that we're doing. I felt the guys answered that really well. We turned on and watched the film and - we saw from the sideline as well - the guys played with good speed. Played with good pad level. I thought the guys played really well. I thought they went up against a great defensive line in Florida State. Their defensive ends (are) 6-7, 6-6, long, good size obviously, really good on the inside as well. But I thought Cole (Bentley), Cam (DeGeorge): those guys played extremely well.
(On the versatility Ean Pfeifer give the offense)
I think during the quarantine time that we had, that time leading up to it when we're going through spring ball, Ean was working out and getting ready possibly for pro day. Then he decided to come back. I thought that he really worked on his pass catching skills. He's got good hands. You look at his career being an offensive lineman at Vanderbilt, coming here, us using him a lot. I think this year, he's been playing extremely well. He was somebody I talked about a lot after fall camp just the way he practiced throughout fall camp and was making plays. For us in the run game, love playing with him on line of scrimmage. It's another gap the defense has to defend. Having a longer edge out there where you're running the football, he does a great job blocking. With what we want to try to do not only running the football, but our play action game. He's asked to block those defensive ends with our play action game. What he does getting out in some of our play action game is really good as well. You look at some of those tight ends in the league today. When you look at (Travis) Kelce, you look at (George) Kittle and a lot of those guys in those offenses making plays and being those big targets for the quarterback.
(On Pfeifer's biggest difference between last season and this season)
I remember when he was making the transition and when he was looking to transfer, he had a tape together with him just run a lot around catching a football. So you saw that he had the natural ability of catching a football. Obviously being a previous offensive lineman in the SEC, you felt like he's going to be a good blocker out there on the edge. He gets here and he surpasses anything that we had going into it as far as like preconceived self thought on what it was gonna look like. The thing about it is, he works so hard. He's very diligent in his craft. He works at it. Very smart player, he knows what's going on. I think his work ethic and just working so hard at something that just wasn't first, what you started playing as. Sometimes you take defensive linemen and you move them over to offensive line. There's a lot of work that you got to put into that. It's the same thing for Ean. He starts off as an offensive lineman, now you're having to learn how to - you're bucking but now run routes and catch the football and do different things out there on the edge now. That requires a lot of attention to detail and the fundamental work that requires him to be really good at it. He's done a great job with that.
(On facing a tough and physical Virginia Tech squad)
I talked to the guys before, it's the first time where I've had an opportunity to coach against these guys. But just knowing Virginia Tech and what they've stood for as a program, what they've stood for on defense, the players have come through that program. You see it when you turn on the film. These guys, they run to the football, they play with great effort. A guy may look like he's behind a play, but you're going to see him chase and run trying to make a play. That's that program. The challenges of that, just from the effort the physicality that they want to play with on their side of the ball. I told the guys today, that's that's the challenge. They have always been a physical brand of football and they continue to be that way. That is what we are wanting to be as well. This Saturday we get that matchup. I think it's gonna be a great game.
(On drawing comparisons to when he was at App. State in 2014 and they started 1-5)
There's so much to take away from that. Going through that whole experience and kind of looking that right in the face of being 1-5. But the thing is, we never wavered from what we thought was important with that football team. The standards that we had, the way we practiced, what we were doing, the everyday process - we talk about that a lot. You hear coaches talk about 'being about the process', but truly being about that process, that everyday process in order to be the best football player & best program that we could be. Once it started clicking in the guys, because we had success here and there but we never got put together. But then once it started rolling, that thing really started to take off. From there, with the schedule that we finished off with, and winning I think it was six games straight to finish the season - that was special. Just seeing the kids, they were so about the process. So focus on just 'what can they do now What is it now that we can be doing?' Not worrying about the outcome of a game or what happened last week, being close but not getting over the hump, but it was more about: we got to come back to work on Sunday. We got to prepare on Monday, watch film on Tuesday, we got to come out - have a great practice, have great energy. These guys now, the way we practiced - they've come out on Sunday, they've been focused. They've worked hard and there's never been a struggle to get the guys going after a game. Monday, you see guys in here watching film asking questions. Tuesday, very spirited practices. Physical, going after it. Intense practices. You're seeing the same thing with it, and that's what we tried to share with the guys about. It's all about the process. You can't just jump to those Saturdays and expect for a different outcome. It's got to be about the work that you put throughout the week, not only on the football field, but what you're doing outside as well with studying your opponent, taking care of yourself, eating right sleeping all those little things.
(On what he's seen from Malik Cunningham about staying focused)
I've seen exactly what you kind of mentioned: he's been about the work. You never seen him get too high, too low, you never see him let a mistake or let something that happened get him down. It's more of like: it's time to go to work. He's always been about the work. That's the impressive thing about Malik and just the amount of work that he puts into his craft. He's doing it with a smile on his face and getting those other guys to come along with him. Getting those guys up front going. He's been he's been great. He's been great for the whole offense as far as getting guys going - being that voice for the guys up front and just that positive attitude that he has. He always has it on display with a smile on his face. I think the guys feed off him because they know that he's about to make a play. That's great to have out there, and just to see him always like that with the smile on his face, being about the work, not letting anything to waiver that.
(On if the offense is back on track)
If you look at this game, we didn't have the penalties that hurt us. We didn't have those negative plays on first down that kind of got us behind the chains. I think that offensively what we did this past weekend, we played with a lot more rhythm. Anytime when you're playing with more rhythm - guys are getting those touches, you're making plays, you're staying out there and you're sustaining drives. You're able to see what we can actually do, and it's a lot of the same things that you saw last year as well. That's the big part about it is just playing with rhythm. Staying on top of the chains, eliminating those negative plays and being in front of a play, a breakdown in assignment or just not executing well enough, or the self inflicted penalty. I think that guys did a really good job with that this past weekend. I thought you saw us play with a lot better rhythm.
We got a great group of guys, and they work hard. We're talking about Malik just a little while ago, but this whole team, the way they come to work, it can't be said enough how impressed I am with the way they come in and they go to work. When you're putting the work in and everybody's pulling together, which these guys are, I kind of like to think good things tend to happen to those guys They're working hard for it, and we're definitely looking forward to keeping that trend going for sure.
(On if player accountability has improved)
Absolutely. Coach Satterfield talks about it from day one: we're going to be a player led team. The players are going to take action. They're going to be accountable for what they're doing on the field and off the field. Having the leaders of the team to hold each other accountable, and it could be each position group doing it - the leaders of the offense or defense of the team. You're starting to see that better. We talked about that 'get right board' - fewer names. I don't know if there's a name on there right now, but you walk by every day and so you get to see the person. But now what you're doing is you're hearing guys talk about it. Guys are talking about it like if their name is on the board. They don't want to be on that board. That's the thing that you that Coach Sirignano and everybody here - just holding these guys accountable as well. And you can't let anything slip. You got to be consistent in everything that you're doing. But the great thing about it is when the players themselves are holding themselves accountable. You're seeing that a lot right now, and they're working hard. But the best thing about it is, I mean you could talk about it, but just seeing their actions. You can see that it means something to them not to have their name up there. You can see them, like if they're making a mistake, being accountable for. I mean you saw Hawkins drop down doing push ups during the course of the game for the fumble that he had. Renato (Brown) was trying to help him up, but he's just trying to be accountable for his actions. That approach by everybody is what you're looking for.
Tight End Ean Pfeifer
(On what went into his decision to return for a sixth year)
That decision was made during March, right quarantine was starting. I sat down with my dad, and we talked about what was guaranteed. I was ready to go work, but at that point work wasn't even guaranteed with new hires. So, I took that opportunity - reached out to Coach Satt and I was saying 'hey, do you still want me?' Actually Coach Ledford was like 'hell yeah, come on'. I was fortunate to do that, because it's paying for my second year of my MBA. So it was really just a win-win. Obviously we haven't had the success that we were all hoping early on. But in-house we definitely think we've turned this thing around, and we can run the table and finish 7-4.
(On if he sees the accountability improve)
Oh yeah. Coach Mike (Sirignano) & Coach Satt always talk about the little things - showing up to breakfast on time, showing up to the lift five minutes early to stretch out. Those things translate to the game. If we're lined up correctly, if we have too many too many guys in the backfield - we get a procedure penalty. Those are direct correlations, and we definitely minimized those issues last week. I feel like we had a good week.
So we have this board in the facility- the 'can't get right' board. If you do something wrong, you put on the board and you get punished. We've brought those names down tremendously. I think that showed on Saturday when the offense came out - offense, defense, special teams we performed pretty well.
(On his journey over the last couple years)
It's just been a blessing. I've just been having fun with it. I still get texts from my buddies at Vanderbilt, and they're like 'I can't believe you're still doing this, I can't believe you made the switchover catching touchdowns'. I've caught more touchdowns here than some of my buddies at Vandy. I would have never even thought about that. I'm just having a blast in this offense and just taking in every moment. Its been great.
(On how hard the transition was from offensive line to tight end)
I actually thought I was done playing after my senior year at Vandy. My roommate, Kyle Shurmur, he needed someone to throw to because he was training for that season and then afterwards at the combine. We threw three or four days a week, and one of those days he was just like 'hey, do you ever think about coming back and playing tight end?' I was like 'not really'. I mean, at that point, I thought I was done. I lost 40-50 pounds, whatever it was. He was like 'well, give it a shot'. The rest is history. Pete Nochta slid into my DM's and he was like 'hey, we're looking for O-linemen' and it's like, well I'm 240 pounds right now so it's probably an issue and he's like 'well, we need tight ends too'. It was just a perfect match. That's how it happened.
(On if he still has an offer from Goldman Sachs)
I chose not to start in January, so I've since you know lost that position. But I have contacts and I've been networking to find something I'm more interested in. I've been fortunate, that first one I kind of settled for. So, coming back was kind of an easier decision.
(On the amount of his touchdown receptions to overall receptions)
It's crazy. My plan every time is 'alright if I catch this first down, I'm giving the little first down (celebration)' or I'll plan my touchdown celebration and then it happens and I just freeze. I'm still a guard, I'm still a tackle at heart. I hang out with the O-linemen like 24/7. It's just fun. I don't know what I'm doing, but I mean I seem to be doing all right at it.
(On when UofL made the switch to make Ean a point of emphasis)
It was sort of just kind of like, we were taking what the teams were giving us. People kind of knew when 89 was in the game, it was run play. I think I ran a total of maybe five to seven rounds last year, and they're basically just backside corners. Just run the safety off. So they were just taking what the defense was giving us. You're right. Both times Miami & NC State, I ran routes to where the safety should have me in man (coverage) and he just completely went with a run fake because who's going to cover me? Now it's a little different now. I had to train in the offseason because I knew that I wanted to get in better shape, I wanted to run more routes. Now it's definitely tough for people covering me and putting hands on me. But, you know, I'm still learning.
(On if he will come back for another year)
Speaking of it, coach Ledford just walked in. He brings it up every day. He's like 'we'll get you 'two, four, six, we'll get you eight touchdowns next year'. You know, they mentioned it all the time for sure.
(On if they want to run more four tight end sets)
It's definitely fun to get four tight ends in the game. You just pretty much tell the team like 'hey, we're running the ball. Come and stop us'. It's so fun getting Sherm in there, he's a guy that works his ass off every day. He's a great dude. That's something that stayed in the playbook, and we're continuing to run stuff out of that. It's a good set for us.
(On the toughest part of the O-Line to TE transition)
I would the route running. The furthest you run on the O-line is six yards and mainly just working in the box. Now they've got me - I remember I had to run like a corner stop and I was like 'I don't run these, Tutu runs these'. That's when I knew that I've definitely taken my game to the next level. I just continue to try and get better at those things.
(Photo of Dez Fitzpatrick: Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports)
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