Dec. 4, 2007
Junior tight end Ryan Purvis has recorded 52 receptions for 535 yards and four touchdowns this season in helping lead the Eagles to a 10-3 record and the program's first-ever appearance in the ACC Championship game. The Reinholds, Pa., native established himself as a reliable receiver and one of Matt Ryan's favorite targets. Purvis and the Eagles travel to Orlando, Fla., to play Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl on December 28 at 5 p.m.
Take a quick look back at the 2007 regular season. The team experienced many highs as well as a few disappointments. Sum up your thoughts to this point.
We fell short of our ultimate goal, which was to win the ACC Championship, and that is extremely frustrating considering the amount of time and effort we put in to making it happen. We were so close. But (we had) a 10-win season; the first time it's been done here in back-to-back years in forever. We have a lot of things to be proud of, but then again falling short of that championship is just going to make us have to work harder in the off-season. We have to push it a little bit more to get over that last hump. We finally got there and now we have to win it.
You enjoyed a career year this year, making 52 receptions for 535 yards and four touchdowns. How do you account for the big jump?
I think a lot of it has to do with Matt (Ryan) having a phenomenal year as well. I'm not going to catch the ball unless he throws it in a spot for me to catch it. I also think a lot of it has to do with the system. We throw the ball a lot more than we did in the past.
Tell us how the new offensive scheme impacted you at the tight end position.
I think my strength is obviously catching the ball and it just so happens that we threw the ball a lot more, so you put two and two together and obviously it helped me be more successful this year.
While the scheme may have been different, you couldn't have made the statistical leap you did without some self-improvement. What did you do to better prepare yourself for the 2007 season - physically and mentally?
I think the biggest advantage was just having another year to play college football. Every year it seems like the game slows down for me and then I pick up certain things along the way. I thought I was better at predetermining the defense before the play (this year). If you know what the defense is going to do, you can have better reaction time to make a play. As I get older, the game slows down more and more and I think that is a real advantage.
Talk about the guys who have helped you along the way to slow the game down.
With the old staff, I spent a lot of time with the old tight ends coach, Coach Bridge. He kind of got me along and then Coach Yanowsky came in and did a great job pushing me and helping me. He gave me another spectrum of coaching to look at. So I have two different points of view as far as a coaching standpoint. Then, in the off-season, just getting pushed by the trainers. Coach Loscalzo really helps you to work hard. He doesn't let you slack off in the off-season.
Tell us about Matt Ryan - in the huddle, at the line of scrimmage and in the pocket.
Matt is like a coach out on the field. He knows the offense like the back of his hand. You have to give him a lot of credit because it's a brand new offense. It took him just a couple of months to pick it up and really master it. He has all the answers out on the field. He manages the game so well. It just makes you feel so much more comfortable out there, knowing that he's going to put you in the right position to succeed. He makes a lot of great decisions with the football. It's just that comfort level you have in playing with him the past couple of seasons and knowing that he's got your back. He spends an unbelievable amount of time in the film room getting to know the opponent. He studies our game plan and Coach Logan gives him a great game plan. He spends so much time off the field that it prepares him for on the field. They always say practice is going to be harder than the game because coaches put you in the most difficult situation in practice to succeed. I think it's a credit to him that he is in the film room before games and he spends so much time preparing mentally for the games. He knows what calls to make at what time. He's an animated guy and he's one of the most motivating and competitive guys we have on the sideline. He has a lot of his time and effort invested in this program and he wants guys to put that same amount of effort and time back into the program that he's going to put in.
What do you see as the key to being an effective tight end? What do you see as your strengths and where do you believe you need to make the most improvement?
I think my strength is receiving. There is definitely a lot of stuff I need to work on - making moves at the top of the routes, better determining whether it's man coverage or zone, and running my route off of that. But number one, I have to get stronger and become a bigger contributor in the run game. I thought I made some steps this year, but I can definitely make more steps in becoming a better blocker. With the old system, they wanted me to be heavier, so I could block defensive ends. In the old system, I was a 260-pound tight end. With Coach Logan coming in, I knew I had to lose weight to be faster, to be quicker, to be more productive in the pass game. I lost a bunch of weight this off-season. I'm a 250-pound tight end right now. I think just shaping my body physically was how I countered a run offense as opposed to a pass offense.
Coming off the ACC Championship game loss to Virginia Tech, what's the mood of the players on the team?
I think everyone is definitely frustrated. We came so close to accomplishing our goal and we fell short. Personally, I felt like we had that game and we let it slip away. We were moving the ball all over the field offensively and we couldn't put points on the board. To go 70 yards and get zero points out of it is frustrating. But I think time heals all wounds and we have some time off here to get refocused. We have a big game coming up against a Michigan State team that is very physical. We have to bring that same kind of physicality to the field if we want to be competitive with them in the Champs Sports Bowl.
How do you stay prepared and eventually get refocused for the bowl game after what will be almost a full month layoff without a game?
You have to spend some time in the weight room getting your body back in shape a little bit. We're only going to have a couple of days off from practices. We'll have practices toward the end of this week. Then we'll have a couple of days off here for finals. It's not like you're getting completely disengaged from football because you have to focus on finals a lot. In the past, we've had very productive bowl practices. I think that's a major reason for our bowl success. We have a lot of veteran players on the team who know how to manage their time well and get prepared for the bowl game, so I don't anticipate the layoff being a problem.
With almost a full year under your belt, talk a little about the new coaching staff and specifically your tight ends coach, Don Yanowsky?
I think the new coaching staff did a great job coming in here, putting in this new system, putting in all the little pieces, and getting everything down. It's not a simple system. It's a complicated offensive system. I think they did a great job making a smooth transition. Coach Yanowsky, he's a different perspective for me. He's an up in-your-face guy. He's going to tell you when you did things correctly, when you did things incorrectly. He's kind of meticulous. After every play we run in practice he has something that could be done better, which is great because I'm nowhere near a perfect tight end on the field. There's always something I can improve on and he's always there telling me how to improve it or giving his perspective.
It's seems as though whenever there is an important third down play, Matt seems to find you open. What's your mentality going into those big plays when you need to pick up a first down?
I just go out there and run the route that Coach Logan calls. I just trust that he puts us in a great position to succeed. Traditionally, the tight end in an offense is the guy that's going to catch those short, underneath passes and can bar his way through defenders for those few extra yards. I don't feel any kind of pressure when third down comes. I just go out there and run the route as best I can and catch the ball when it's thrown.
Interview conducted by sophomore Geoffrey Kehlmann