Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fundamentals and recruiting are priorities during the bye week

By Paul Haynes 
Head Coach

We practiced on Tuesday and we will practice today. Then we will come back and practice on Sunday. The players lifted on Monday and will lift again on Thursday and Friday. During this bye week we are focusing on fundamentals. We are going back to running base plays and doing a lot of individual periods spent on the fundamentals of the game.

On Thursday and Friday, our assistant coaches will be on the road recruiting. We have a plan to go out of state to Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana. Our next bye week we be focused on recruiting our Ohio areas. We have one coach in Ohio this week, and I’ll go around in-state on Friday.

That’s our plan during the bye week. We’ll get back on Sunday and really start working on Virginia, hitting the normal week. 

We are a young team, but that doesn’t change what we are doing in recruiting. We still have to fill our needs. A lot of recruits will look at the roster to see who is playing and what year they are, but I always tell them it doesn’t matter. We have an obligation to put the best team on the field, so you will have an opportunity to come in and compete. 

When you look at our numbers, defensive end is a big need in this upcoming class. We lose two with Richard Gray and Nate Vance.

We are also looking for offensive linemen. We need to get our numbers up there. Right now there are 14 on the roster and we need to get back up to 16.

Offensive line and defensive end are our top priorities, and then after that cornerback is a need because we will lose some guys there.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A look ahead at week three and where Kent State's defense needs to continue to improve

By Brian George
Defensive Coordinator

Preparing to play Ohio State is like preparing for any game. You want to put your players in a position where they can win the game. 

Obviously, when we get that opportunity, we have to make the plays on the field that we need to make. We have to get off of blocks, make tackles, and cover their guys. But in terms of preparation, it is no different than how we prepare any week. If we did treat this game differently, players will figure it out very quickly.

In watching film on Ohio State’s offense this week, you can see they are very talented. They are also more youthful than they were last season, and so up to this point they have been a lot simpler in terms of what they do. I think they have some very talented guys, though, which is what you would expect. They are a top-10 recruiting class every year. They have some young players on their offensive line, and that’s one reason they are doing things simpler. But with Braxton Miller being out I think they are doing some things to make things easier on their young quarterback.

They had a tough loss last week, so they will probably make some adjustments. It will be interesting to see where they go and what direction they take with what they are doing.

It’s going to be good to see our guys go against very good competition. I think our guys have continued to improve from week one to week two. We have to keep improving in two ways. No. 1, we need to keep getting better fundamentally.

The second one is understanding situational football. Where are we on the field? How does offense and defense change the closer you get to the end zone. Recognition of the whole formation and not just what is directly in front of me.

Coming up as high school players, you aren’t asked to see the big picture. But at this level it can really help you if you learn to see the big picture. You have to study really hard, though, to know what is going on around you. We are getting to that point even though we are still a relatively young crew. The guys are very attentive and they are taking in what we are teaching. I’m hopeful we will continue to take steps forward in that area. 

Different philosophies going into a game like Saturday's at Ohio State

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach 

Do you do something totally different to catch them off guard, or do you try to get better at what you are doing?

Those are the two philosophies that you have to go with going into a game like Saturday at Ohio State.

I think you can be on the fence with that, though, and do a little bit of both. 

If you are not a fast-paced team, you can go fast paced. If you are an I-Pro team, you can line up empty the whole game. It’s becoming totally different than what you are. But, does that hurt you down the road because you are never going to do those things again? Now you have wasted a whole week of practice on things you are never going to do again.

I think there is a fine line with it.

If you are not a pressure team and now you are pressuring like crazy, or if you use a full back and all of a sudden you don’t have one, that changes the game a little bit for an opponent. 

When I was at Ohio State as an assistant, we didn’t see a lot of teams go totally different against us. There was nothing dramatically different from what you saw teams already doing.  A lot of people knew who we were, though, so they knew what would hurt us. They would put four receivers in the boundary and other things that gave us issues. But you never saw a team that never played wishbone all of a sudden come out in wishbone. 

Virginia Tech did some things last week that gave Ohio State trouble, but Ohio State has had a week to work on those issues. They know teams will continue to do some of those things Virginia Tech did until they have solved them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The running game and "The Discipline of Football"

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

You always get a gauge of how your team is handling things after a loss.

I like to have guys try to grade themselves, and what you are looking for in that is to see if guys think they played better than how you think they did. 

When we look at our offensive line, their expectations are high. They’ll be the first to tell you, though, that they could have played better against Ohio University.

We are seeing them challenge themselves, which is a good thing. It is a very good thing.

The hard part for those guys is that you open up with a league game. There is so much on the line with needing to get a win, but there is still a lot of football to play this season. People who are unsure of themselves may want to change the whole gamut, but that’s not who we are. We know where we need to get better and it is a process.

There is also a misconception about what it takes to run the football. It’s a lot like the misconception that exists with stopping the run. When we visited the Pittsburgh Steelers, their defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau talked about how you have to include the secondary to stop the run. It’s the same thing if you want to run the football. You have to include everyone else. It isn’t just the five guys on the offensive line. It’s blocking on the perimeter and a whole lot more. As a whole, those are things you have to realize. 

You look at personnel, and then you look at schematic. We have our best personnel. Now we just have to do everything a little bit better. I was just reading an article by Dick Vermeil, and he talked about this. There is some good in what we are doing. So it’s not that we can’t do it. It’s just that the consistency wasn’t there. 

                                                                         Photo by David Dermer
There were a couple of runs in there that we had for 8-or-9-yards. When it is blocked right, you get the 4-yard average you want. It’s the same defensively. When we execute, things work.

It’s called “The Discipline of Football” 

The Discipline of Football is to be able to do your fundamentals and technique under pressure. The game doesn’t change. Your mind changes. 

Can I do it for 70 plays in a row … in a row … in a row? 

The only thing that changes is what you are thinking.

Whenever there is a tight game or you feel like you have to do something extra, usually thinking about that something extra is what screws you up.

You have to slow the game down. That’s what practice and film study is about. It’s putting yourself in the situation, like flight simulation. You put yourself in the situation so many times that the game slows down. That’s easier said than done when the bullets are flying, but that’s what you train yourself to do.

Friday, August 29, 2014

We need our fans to "Act a Fool" when we face Ohio University on Saturday

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

I love the attitude of our football team. Our guys are excited every day to go to practice and get into the preparation to play someone else. We are at that point where we are very excited to play another opponent.

We have been working very hard to get ready for Ohio University. The Bobcats are breaking in some young players, including guys at quarterback and running back, but when you have the same guy at the helm for as long a time as coach Solich has been there, you know he is going to put his footprint on the program. That means facing tough kids who are going to play hard. We are going to get a tough, physical game and we know it. They may have some different players, but they are who they are, and that won’t change.

While we’ve been getting ready for Ohio, this is also the first game of the year. And in the first game of the year you tend to focus a little bit more on yourself and your own mindset. That’s even more important this year considering the opener is a league game, and in a league game you can’t afford those first-game blunders. You can’t make mental mistakes. You can’t turn the ball over. Those are the things that tend to happen a little bit more in the first game. So, you have to try to slow the game down and play within yourself.

There’s still a lot to do before Saturday’s game. There is the Friday night preparation. I start to gauge where our team’s mindset is by seeing how much they are talking, how much they are communicating. The more the the players are talking and the less the coaches are talking, to me that’s a good way to know they are prepared and ready.

With it being a night game, we’ll do more on Saturday morning with some walkthroughs and get a feel for how they are acting, their communication, what they are talking about and what they know.

When we get to the game, we are really looking forward to seeing what we know is going to be a big and excited crowd at Dix Stadium. It’s going to be nice weather. We have all day to get riled up and get going. We need an electric crowd. With the situation that happened last week, hopefully we can have people come and show respect for this football team as we move forward, showing how proud they are of them for moving forward. If we can pack that place and have an exciting atmosphere for our guys to play in front of the fans, I know they are going to play hard.

It’s a league game, so it should be exciting for the fans. It should be a great atmosphere. We need the fans to be loud and rowdy. I said this in the freshman pep rally, that we need them to “act a fool.”

That’s what we need. We need our fans to “act a fool.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Expectations and depth on defense, and a look ahead to Ohio University

By Brian George
Defensive Coordinator

I think we have a group of kids on defense who understand what we are looking for in terms of doing the things we ask, pushing each other and showing leadership. That is something we really focused on as a defense and as a team. But as a group, our guys on defense have taken some positive strides in that direction. How closely their performance will follow that is yet to be seen, but it will be interesting to see. 

We definitely have a good feel for this group of kids, what they are about, the things that are their priorities, and their dedication to what they are doing. It will be exciting, and I think at this point we are all ready to see them play in a game.

As coaches, we have talked about depth and how many guys are ready to play. We have some good players up front who are ready to step up and fill some roles for us. Guys like Terence Waugh, Jon Cunningham, Jontey Byrd, and some of those guys have really stepped up their game. We could play seven or eight guys on the defensive line.

At linebacker we are a little bit short right now in terms of experience. Obviously, Matt Dellinger and Darius Redmond both have playing experience and those two will start for us. With freshmen Marques Moore and Matt Sommers, we are hopeful we can keep their role early on to special teams. Both could potentially see some limited action at linebacker. That’s obviously dependent on everyone else staying healthy. But right now we would like to introduce them to the game with special teams and a more limited role on defense, at least early in the season. We feel confident both of them have the ability to play. It’s just a matter of gaining some experience, and it’s different at this level with the preparation and some of the things we are asking them to do.

In the secondary, starting with the safeties, we feel really good about the three guys who played last year and are still pretty young when you think about it. Jordan Italiano played every game last year at star. Right now he is starting at strong safety. Elcee Refuge, who was Jordan’s backup last year and played in dime situations, is the star this year, and he has done a really good job. He is a real fit for that position. When you ask what you are looking for with that spot, Elcee fits that mold. He is like a linebacker who can cover. He is still young and he played a lot of football for us, gaining a lot of experience for us last year. And Nate Holley at free safety continues to grow and learn. He has an unbelievable work ethic. Our No. 1 guy competing for playing time at safety is Calvin Tiggle, who has fought through some injuries during spring and fall camp. He will start the year in a limited role, but as he continues to get healthy, he’ll contribute more and more. 

At cornerback, we have a good mix of guys with some experience and some good young guys. Obviously Malcom Pannell has played a good amount of football. He is doing a good job. Najee Murray sat out last year as a transfer, but he is also a guy who has played college football. He is a good player and a good tackler, who is not afraid to be physical at that position. Some of the younger guys have also come along and shown us some good things as we’ve gone through camp. Demetrius Monday had a very good camp, and we expect him to see some time at corner. Kerrick Rhone, who has spotted a little bit in the past, has continued to improve. Jerrell Foster as a true freshman will probably play on special teams, initially, but he is also in the hunt at corner.

We are looking forward to seeing all of these guys in action on Saturday against Ohio University. 

Ohio is a bit of an unknown with regard to personnel. Each team is shaped to its personnel to a certain degree. The coaching staff at Ohio has a philosophy of things they like to do and the things that fit within their system, but the personnel determines what you do within that system.

There are some new faces, but some of those guys who are filling roles for them have played a lot of football for them. The quarterback who is starting for them played 144 snaps last year at quarterback, so it is not as if he is completely green coming in to Saturday. It’s the same thing with their starting tailback. He has seen action in the last two seasons, so it’s not like he is a guy coming in off of the street. Both have had a role. It’s the same with their offensive line. They are replacing some guys, but all of those guys have seen some playing time. Saturday won’t be their first snaps of college football.

We have to stop the run. We can’t give up big plays. And we have to be great in the red zone. If we do those things, and we get some turnovers, we will have a great chance to win.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sorting out the depth chart

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

We get together every day and we evaluate our guys. We have told our guys that it’s not over. Even after this past Saturday’s scrimmage, we are going to continue to make sure we evaluate and find 30-to-35 guys we can go to war with.

We put a lot of time into the depth chart. We meet in between practices and then we meet again at night to go over that day’s and the personnel again. It’s a matter of making sure everyone is on the same page. Everyone has an opinion. It isn’t just the position coach. It’s the coordinator. It’s myself and it is the other coaches too, because those coaches are in charge of special units. And we are not talking about any guy unless they are on special units.

There are always healthy discussions. There are arguments, too, but those are healthy also. When you listen to Steve Jobs and people who have run major companies, all of them say that is healthy. If you are in an organization where you don’t have arguments, then you have a dictatorship where everyone is afraid to have an opinion.

As a position coach, it is like you are the dad of the players at your position. With every kid you have a super personal relationship. You want the best for that kid, and if other people don’t see things the way you do, you want to fight for that kid. That’s where some of the battles come from. And they are important. But at the end of the day, we all have to recognize what is best for the team. It comes down to how can that player help us. It’s the same at every level, from high school, to college to the pros. Who can help us win? Who can do the most for us? It all boils down to that.

The final depth chart should be set by Monday.