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.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday's scrimmage and the last week of camp ahead

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

I liked the energy this morning during our scrimmage at Dix Stadium. We had quite a few playmakers on offense who did well, and we need that.

Whenever you hear people talk about us, they often bring up the loss of Dri Archer. But we still have guys out there who are capable of making plays, which is a good thing.

I thought James Brooks did a lot of good things out there this morning. He made some plays that were very good to see. I also liked what I saw from our freshman running back Miles Hibbler.

We held out Anthony Meray and Nick Holley at running back this morning just as a precaution. They are fine. But that gave guys like Hibbler and Tristin Boykin more chances, and I thought they did a very good job with it.

Now we go into our last week before we start our preparation for the opener. This week is still camp, so we'll continue to grind and keep things going. We'll continue to work on fundamentals and technique, but we'll also start to scale things down a little bit to get their legs ready for the opener.

That opener with Ohio University at Dix Stadium is Aug. 30 and we want to set an attendance record, so we are looking forward to seeing you all there.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Saturday's scrimmage and position battles

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

Saturday’s scrimmage at Dix Stadium will be more like a regular situational practice instead of the Jersey Scrimmage we had on the original schedule.

We will go live in some of the situations, but not all of them. We’ll do basic situations – third down, red zone, short yardage.

There is still a lot of competition at pretty much every position. You look at linebacker, you look at wideout, and running back is still not solidified, which is injury based. We are still trying to determine who will be the first four on the defensive line. We haven’t been in many live situations, so when the lights come on, we may see something different.

We have talked a lot from the first day of camp about being efficient with our time. That’s part of why we decided to switch from the Jersey Scrimmage to more of a situational practice. We are not out here very long, but we are moving pretty fast and the guys have worked hard. So, I don’t want to have them banging for two hours.

We are going to be smart about it and start winding camp down and getting healthy for Aug. 30 vs. Ohio University.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Practicing with intensity and getting rid of the "I'm not sure"

By Brian Rock
Offensive Coordinator

Tomorrow is the first day in full pads and I want to see guys compete and go hard. Football is an intense game and you need to make sure you are practicing that the intensity as much as you are the individual techniques of the game.

Today we went through a drill where I didn’t get a very good evaluation of where we are up front simply because our guys were fooled. We saw a lot of blitzes and our guys weren’t sure. We have to get that “I’m not sure” out of us in the protection game for us to be effective. 

It’s hard to evaluate is this guy or that guy going to be able to pass protect if they are not able to come out and actually try to do it knowing what they are supposed to do it. 

Every team is different, so every year we have to evaluate what our guys can do. We’ve been trying to determine what we can be very good at since day one on Monday. Every day we have learned something new. There is always a guy who catches your eye or makes you think you can do something interesting with him. 

And while you get intrigued every day, Coach Haynes talked about it today with the team, though. It all comes down to production. You need to have guys show up after you identify who your playmakers are and find ways to get the ball to them. We are in the identifying stage right now.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The challenge of being the best

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

I read a section from our Winners Manual to our team today after practice. It talks about what it takes to be the best and the things the best do better than anyone else. 

There are 11 traits to being the best. Reading through it again, I wanted our guys to understand what the standard is. What do you want to be? How do you practice? How do you want to play the game?

A lot of this game is about attitude and effort, and I want our guys to play and practice to a certain standard.

I could see a little bit of a letdown today in terms of the intensity. There wasn’t the same excitement today that we had on Monday. That’s part of camp. But that’s also part of the challenge of camp. You can’t come out here like that. That’s the mental part of camp.

There are guys out here that you can count on for the same effort every day. Right off the rip, I think of Najee Murray. He is a guy who comes out here and plays with excitement every practice. Nate Vance is also that way. Casey Pierce is also that way. That’s three guys. There are more, but we are not going to get where we want until all 105 guys come out here with that same intensity. 

There are guys out there practicing hard, and there are also guys out there who are passing on their knowledge to their teammates. You see that with guys like Najee Murray. That’s the kind of culture we want here, but that’s also the kind of culture he came from, too. 

We’ll be coming back out this afternoon for our walkthroughs, and we have to be better. We need better focus and better energy today and then for the rest of camp. That’s the challenge. You either get better or you get worse. You don’t stay the same. We need to make sure we get better.


Read David Carducci's "The Press Box" Blog for notes, photos and highlights from the first two day's of Preseason Camp: