Aug. 12, 2006
"As far as where we're at injury wise, we've had two guys have surgery during the summer which is always a little tough to take. Gary Schusler had shoulder surgery and Eric Kenkel had hand surgery. We did include them in on the 105 so they can be in meetings because we think both those guys, as we get into the season, will be able to come off of those injuries, practice and maybe contribute at some point in time later in the season. Other than that, we've had a guy or two get banged up that's going to miss a little bit of practice, but so far we've not had an injury in fall camp that has taken a guy out for the year and, of course, you're always concerned about that as you go through fall practice."
On this year's team and schedule:
"We're excited about the season. We think that we're going to have a better football team. It's obvious to me that that will be the case. We'll just have more speed, have more strength and we'll be more athletic. How that plays out in wins and losses remains to be seen. We have, I think again, a tough schedule playing seven games on the road. Opening up with a home game in Tennessee-Martin, we know very little about them. They have a new staff, and I'm convinced we'll have to play well to get it done. Then we get to three away games in a row, and it will be really crucial for us to play well in those three games. Northern Illinois, who is probably the odds on favorite to win the conference, Rutgers, who of course is coming off a bowl game, had an excellent season last year and basically everybody is returning except their quarterback. Then, we go to Missouri who has a lot of people returning so it is no small task that we have to try to get it going. It's important to play well early, hopefully we can come out of it somewhat healthy as we get into the conference race because not only do we have a strong non-conference schedule, but it's also a very good conference in terms of the number of quality teams within the conference that you're going to have to line up and be ready for every week. A lot of challenges are ahead, we're excited to meet those challenges."
On the coaches and the athletes at their positions:
"Derek Mason is in charge of our receivers. Our feeling is that we have upgraded our receivers. We have brought in some young guys that we think will be contributing right away in the program. There's one that will not only be contributing as a receiver, Taylor Price, but he'll also be contributing on special teams, on several special teams. We know we need to get some young guys ready to go, some true freshman ready to go. I might just say that we feel really good about the overall freshman group. I think it's an outstanding freshman group with a lot of talent that will help this program for many years to come."
"Keven Lightner is our offensive line coach. We felt pretty comfortable coming into fall camp with the depth at offensive line. We've had two offensive linemen, right now three offensive linemen, that are listed on the 105 that aren't practicing with us. That all the sudden gets you down in numbers a little bit, but if we can get most of those guys healthy at the start of the season we will have some depth in the offensive line. A lot of guys are returning. I think our coach, as all our coaches do, does a great job with them. If you want to start an offense, start it up front. It gives you the ability to maybe have somewhat of a complex offense in terms of both running and throwing and that's what we're going to try to do. We're going to try to run the ball well and we're going to try to throw the ball well."
"Pete Germano is our tight ends coach. We've got a couple, three really, senior tight ends who we think are going to be very good. We've got two incoming freshman that are with us right now that have got excellent height, excellent hands, good speed. They are going to develop into outstanding tight ends down the road. We've had two tight ends transfer into the system so we're strong at tight end. Of course, those transfers can't play this year, but we're as strong as tight end as maybe we are at any position when you start to look at the numbers and the quality of athlete that is at that position."
"Tim is of course our offense coordinator. Coach Albin also works with our running backs. We've got Kalvin McRae coming back, who is of course an all-conference player for us. Voncarie (Owens) got good game experience last year, has good speed, and Josh Abrams had a good spring and is potentially a very, very good running back who will possibly build himself into getting some reps this season. Josh, by the way, is on every special team that we have, so we're trying to utilize his speed there. Not a lot of depth there but we really feel good about the athletes that line up at that position."
"Jimmy Burrow is our defensive coordinator. Jimmy coaches the safeties and I think probably the safety position is the deepest and as talented of position as we have. We feel comfortable about how we're going to be at the safety spot and I think in general in the secondary we have a chance to be pretty good. We've got some very young corners."
"David Brown is our corners coach. David is in his first year replacing Fred Reed for us who went to the Detroit Lions. Dave was a coordinator at Cal-Poly, and I think he will do an excellent job with our corners. We have good, sound corners. I don't know that we have anybody that's got great, great speed but they've got good speed. They're tough kids, they play well and they're very competitive. I feel good about the overall group at corner. We got some freshman corners that have some size and some ability. One or so of them may even contribute this year at that spot."
"Our linebacker coach is Ross Ells. Matt Muncy, who is returning as an all-conference performer, had a great year last year, leading the conference in tackles. Now you don't want that guy that's your leading tackler to lead the conference by a ton. That means he had to make a ton of tackles. We want the other team's offense off the field. But Matt legitimately was an all-conference player as a mike backer for us. In a lot of ways, I've said this before, he reminds me a little bit of Barot Rude who played at Nebraska. Of course, Barot is playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers right now. We have moved two safeties last spring to the linebacker spot and that has played out pretty well. We're going to get some help from those guys immediately. It gives us a great deal more speed at the linebacker spot too. Overall, I think we'll be a much faster defensive unit then what we were overall."
"Carl Pelini coaches our defensive front. Shane Yates probably played most of the season with a bad foot. Landon Cohen played basically all season with a bad hip and had hip surgery at the end of the season. We have gotten Landon's injury taken care of and so I think we're healthy up front for the first time in about a year. We're hoping that's going to mean a great deal to us. Those guys were not healthy last year, got beat up a little bit, and that was very tough on us defensively coming down the stretch to be able to slow people down. We'd have a guy limp off and a guy to replace him would limp on. That's usually not a good deal. So we're healthy now and hopefully we'll stay healthy. We've got some guys that are backing up that I think are developing, and developing pretty quickly, and will give us some pretty good backup depth. At rush (defensive end), we had a true freshman last year in Jameson Hartke who started for us and did a great job. I think Jameson is a little faster and a little more athletic than what he was last year, which is good for us and we expect that he'll have an excellent year. We have a couple guys from prep school that are on our team for the first time. Ernie Hodge will be a defensive end that will contribute. We had a couple rush ends who were banged up. Brett Sykes and Andrew Tyson were banged up last year. They're both healthy so at this point in time we feel better about where we're at."
"Gerry Gdowski coaches our quarterbacks. We're in a battle for the quarterback position. It's an open position. There's no one that has got anything sealed up on our football team. Those guys that are returning starters need to perform like starters in order to keep their starting job and if that doesn't happen, then all bets are off. That's true at the quarterback position. We need to be a much better throwing football team then what we were last year to run the style of offense that we're running. That comes back to the quarterback some, it comes back to the offensive line some, and it comes back to our receivers some. I think we'll be better in all those areas so I expect that we will be a better throwing team, and it's going to be interesting to see how that quarterback battle does turn out."
On what the team needs to do to be better this year:
"We need to stay healthy. Offensively, we need to be a better throwing football team. Defensively, we need to not allow as many big plays as we did last year. If we do those things we'll improve a great deal. Another thing that is a must is that we become an outstanding special teams group. That's in all special teams areas. We will be better. We will be playing with groups of athletes that are better in special teams. I expect that that will show. We have to replace our punter, our kicker, in terms of field goals. (Matt) Lasher, will be our starting punter at this point in time and was our starting kickoff guy. We'll have to use some true freshmen to make that work, but having more speed and being a faster football team should add up to us being better in special teams. We need to be better there, and heavy emphasis is put on that."
On lessons learned in the conference after first season:
"One, don't get as strong of a non-conference schedule (laughing). We want a competitive schedule no doubt about it, but we don't want to lineup against Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Missouri and Rutgers, that are potentially bowl teams, every year and have two or three of those on your schedule. We don't want to be on the other side of it either. We don't just want to line up someone that we're expected to beat by 20 points either. There are a number of things I learned. One is that it's a well-coached league. I think there are a lot of very good football coaches in the league, and there is good talent in the league, especially at some positions. If you start going across maybe the very top guys in the MAC, they can line up as top guys anywhere. The athlete that's in the MAC is very, very good. It's a very competitive conference."
On the personal attention he received last year as opposed to this year:
"Well, that was not the fun part of coming to take over Ohio University football, the attention that was focused on me. When you really look at this sport, I think coaching is important certainly - getting the right players in your system, getting them positioned right, not confusing them, and letting them play football. Really, you'd like to see them get a great deal of the attention. I got much more attention than maybe was needed, or certainly wanted. But I think that what they were trying to do was flare up interest in our program. Right now we just want to have the focus on the program in general, on our players, and try to move this program forward. There's no reason why it should not be moved forward."
On the expectation level of last year compared to this year:
"If your fortunate to have the athletes to line up and compete with anybody and maybe have it be a flip of the coin as to how that game's going to go, or maybe even be a favorite, your first year doesn't automatically mean that you're going to have success your first year. You're bringing in a whole new system, a whole new staff. This year out there is a much, much more pleasant year as coaches. We're not coaching the snap count nearly as much as we had to coach it through all of fall camp and half of the season. We're not teaching techniques where we feel like we're beating our heads against the wall. Players are picking it up. They're understanding it. There are things when you just start a program out that you find yourself coaching hard every day that at some point in time need to be taken for granted. They're lined up right. They're doing the right things, and then you move on in coaching. You can become as frustrated in the coaching as you can in the playing, especially in a new system. I think that's behind us now. It's easier to coach right now. They're responding right now. They're believing right now, and their approach is to line up, win football games, and to understand that we feel like we can win every time we step on the field."
On the walk-ons this year:
"Right now we have 105 players on the team and there are some walk-ons, of course, mixed in with that 105. You only give out 85 scholarships. We'll have a team that's made up of approximately 125 players. We've worked hard to identify walk-ons and get players in the system that we think have a chance. One thing I've learned in this business, as long as I've been in it, is that kids develop at different rates. Some of those walk-on players are going to be great athletes. Some of them are going to be starters for you. Some are going to be backups. Some of them are going to be able to contribute on special teams for you. In our program, we treat every player the same, walk-on or scholarship player. There are not identification tags that this kid's a walk-on or this kid's a scholarship player. Everything's the same, and not every program is that way. What that does, is allows you to develop your walk-ons and down the road, have some of theme come through to the point where they're going to play well for you."
On fan support:
"It's obvious to paint your face up and get ready to go when you're a fan when a Pittsburgh comes to town. Those that are able do it week after week in support of the program, whether we're 20-point underdogs or 20-point favorites, are schools that have successful programs. Year after year after year, that's what happens. Their fans are there. They fill up the stadium and it becomes a tough place to play. We want Ohio University to be a tough place to play in. That was not an easy game for Pitt to come here and play in front of a sellout crowd in a night game on ESPN2. The atmosphere was electric. It was as great an atmosphere as you're going to find in college football. We hope the people here enjoyed it and had fun. We hope we can get them here every home game. That's important. If we do, we're going to get better. We want to get better with them in the stands. We'll all enjoy this sport if we can get the support and they can see us play winning football week after week. Then I think it's going to all come together. We want them to stay with us while its we're getting it to that point."
On the quarterbacks:
"Austen Everson is coming off his first full season as the starter, and he really has the most experience. We're hoping with that experience that Austen keeps improving and we have a complete quarterback. If he can develop his throwing game, he is a complete quarterback. He will stay on the field. He will take the hits. He is a great leader. There is nobody tougher than Austen Everson. The hits that he took last year displayed that. Our players love him. Our coaches love him. If we can get our receivers making catches, if we can get our line protecting him and we can get him throwing on time and with accuracy, then he'll have a great year for us at quarterback. Brad Bower had a very good spring. He's a guy that has running and throwing ability. He's been steadily improving. We're anxious to see where he ends up. I think he's got the ability to be the number one guy. Brandon Jones is probably throwing better right now than he's ever thrown in our program. He maybe throws the deep ball as well as any of our guys right now. He needs to get more consistent. Every now and then a ball will slip out of his hands. Every now and then the center-quarterback exchange will be on the ground. Every now and then an option will be on the ground. If he gets that corrected, he's got great potential. Josh Febus redshirted last year as a true freshman. I've seen improvement. He needs to continually improve. He hasn't had as many reps running our offense because he was a scout team player last year, but he has a great arm. If he ever puts the knowledge part of the game, and makes good decisions, with his throwing arm the sky is the limit for him. You can see why it's such an interesting battle."