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Bobcats Continue GMAC Bowl Prep

Bobcats Continue GMAC Bowl Prep

Dec. 18, 2006

ATHENS, Ohio - After taking Sunday off, the Bobcat football team continued its preparation for the GMAC Bowl on Monday. Head Coach Frank Solich met with members of the local media to discuss his team's preparations thus far.

Below is a transcript of Solich's remarks.

On the most important thing about having the extra practice time:
"You get a chance to continue to practice, and in doing so a lot of your younger players are going to get a chance to continue to improve and develop their skill level. When we get into spring ball, we hope to be a little bit further ahead with some of those younger players so they can keep maturing in the program and keep getting better. With the quarter system, we've had a long wait to line up and play the bowl game, but that can work as a positive for us. Our players had a chance to get home for a couple weeks with their family and friends, in other words, get away from the program for a little bit. We gave them a conditioning program, which I'm sure that they followed during that time, so we don't have to get them back into shape, but just start working on what we need to get better at. The extra practices are certainly a big benefit, and just the fact that you're able to start establishing some things for your program in terms of what you're all about and reaching some goals."

On whether he missed this opportunity to work with the players last year:
"When the first quarter ended after the last game, they went home and we didn't see them for six weeks. That's not really how it should work if you're going to keep moving your program forward and your kids are going to be committed to a year-round conditioning program. That's an awful long break in there for any person that's involved in sports to take. You need to do something to not have that kind of a break. If you're not practicing, you better at least be conditioning and so forth. Six weeks off is a little bit much. It was not good for the coaches. This is much better. This is what we want to be able to get into the routine of doing every year."

On whether or not it has sunk in with the team that it's playing in a bowl game:
"I think at this point it probably feels somewhat like spring ball, maybe early fall camp, except for the weather of course. As we get closer to it, and after they take a break for Christmas and come back, I think the feeling will be there of what they've accomplished, what they need to prepare to do, and I think it will sink in then. Once you board that plane, get to the bowl site, participate in those activities involved and start getting close to the game, I think it will hit them pretty hard. We want to make sure it doesn't hit them so hard that when it comes time for the kickoff they're not still standing around and enjoying the festivities of the bowl."

On the practice plans for after Christmas:
"When we get back on the 27th (of January), we'll have about three practices here. They'll be pretty hard, demanding practices. When we travel on the 2nd (of January), we won't practice that day. We'll have some team meetings, but with the travel involved and you get welcomed at the bowl site, sometimes that becomes pretty hectic to try and build a practice in, so we've learned not to push that. They'll have a day off there. Then we'll get back to practicing leading up to the bowl game. We'll probably take the last two, maybe three days, prior to the bowl game to be in sweats and make sure that we're not practicing real hard leading right up to the game."

On whether or not the MAC Championship Game is still in their minds:
"We've put that behind us. We did address it when they came back. We talked about the game, talked about what we needed to do better in order to put ourselves in position to win it. Once we finalized it on that day, we're moving on. Now, in our thought process, the idea is to continue to get back to the MAC Championship games. The result of the game we want to set behind us, but the idea of having played in the game and wanting to play in the game next year, that's got to still stay with us."

On Austen Everson's health:
"He's moving better as of right now. The improvement on his type of injury comes slowly, but if he continues to improve, he'll be in much better shape in this game than what he was for the MAC Championship Game. We'll see what that means. Hopefully, he'll be able to play and hold up."

On what the extra practice does for the younger players:
"Most of our guys that have been playing have certainly gained a great deal of experience from playing this year, the young guys in the program. There are those guys redshirted, didn't get a chance to play and have been running a lot of scout team plays throughout the course of the year. What we've done these first few practices is to really extend our individual work so we can really work hard with those young players who we have not had a great deal of time to work with so we can start on their training towards next season. In our team work these first few days, we've been practicing with the idea of just running our offense against our defense, again building in some time for the young players to be coached up on our offense and our defense versus running the scout team. Now it won't be too long until we have to get back to scout team plays in preparation to play Southern Miss, but that's been very beneficial for these young guys."

On Southern Mississippi's offense:
"They're an athletic team that likes to run the ball, and they do a very good job of it. It'll be a challenge to get that ground game controlled. They have a quarterback (Jeremy Young) that is very mobile. He has a very good arm, and they can throw the ball very, very well. With that, at times he'll scramble and they'll run some option with him. They're a very diversified attack, but it's obvious you like to start off by shutting down there running game and trying to make them as one-dimensional as possible. They're very athletic. They've got a tight end that can run deep routes on you, so that opens up some things can get tough for you to defend."

On Southern Mississippi's defense:
"Defensively, they run a 4-3 front for the most part. Again, they're big and physical up front. Their linebackers are also big and physical, but move very, very well. They're coverages are such that they'll try and mix coverages up try to take advantage of the fact that they can control the ground game a little bit and cause you to put the ball in the air. They do a great job of breaking on the ball, and along with that coming up and supporting on the run."

On defending another mobile quarterback:
"It's not the first game this year where we're facing a very mobile quarterback. It's hard to place him yet. You see some of these guys on film and then you see them live and your opinion changes a little bit. I think he's very mobile, and has a chance to rank among the top that we've faced this year in terms of making plays with his legs, regardless of whether you're talking the option game or scrambling. We'll have to control that somewhat. They'll use him on inside running plays also from the shotgun position. He's that kind of a runner where he's like another running back for them."

On other teams that Southern Miss reminds him of:
"In some ways up front, Central Michigan. They've got that kind of size and they're very good athletes. They're a very mobile offensive line. They like to pull guys and do a lot of things with them. In our conference you see some of that, but a lot of times you'll see 6-7 kind of guys that are pass protecting an awful lot. They try to do an awful lot with their attack. I don't know if there's any one team that they remind me of. They're a little bit like us in terms of wanting to run the ball, wanting to make sure that you're one dimensional and that you have a good throwing game. They work hard at both of those."

On the advantages of playing on January 7:
"I think it gives us a chance for a little more exposure. We'll be the only game on TV that night. It'll be on ESPN so it will be nationally televised, It's Sunday night. I think it's a good night for a lot of people to watch it on TV that aren't able to get to the game. Our classes will have already started. That's never a great situation, but what kind of following will get there, we'll see. We haven't been to a bowl game to know. I think we'll have a good following. We've had a good following on the road. Hopefully, we can get some students there. It'll be tougher with classes already having started, but I think we'll have a good turnout."

On the biggest challenge of preparing a team for a bowl game:
"Understanding why you're there. You're there to win the game and play extremely well. Sometimes there are so many activities that surround it, you lose your focus. You have to keep coming back to why you're there. It is a reward for them, but yet it's got to be a mixture of being pleasure on the trip and having it be a business trip. You need to continue to refocus on what you're all about, be able to concentrate in meetings, really have good practices while you're down there, and watch your eating habits because you can really put on a great deal of weight from the end of the season to when you kick the ball off. There are a lot of things that you have to be careful about. I think our team, even though they're inexperienced going to a bowl, has addressed a lot of things, and they've been great in conducting themselves the way they need to in order to prepare to play good football."

On the performance of Kalvin McRae:
"He's been special in a lot of ways. In the beginning of the year, we were averaging 30 throws a game. He came off a great sophomore season to where he was an All-MAC performer, and yet, even though we were really trying to develop the throwing game, he was very team oriented. He never complained. He always lined up and was ready to pass block or do whatever it took for us to be successful. He has a great attitude. That's carried over into his practice habits. He really practices hard. Play after play, he'll run out. He's been great in terms of his leadership, both on and off the field. To me, he's the complete package. He shows up on game day ready to go, plays great football and prepares to play football by how he practices during the week. He's great in how he conducts himself, on the field and off the field. He works hard in the classroom and is very pleasant to be around. He's just a great guy. I'm glad he's having the kind of success that he's having."

On whether he thought McRae would turn out to be so successful:
"I wasn't real sure what Kalvin was about early on because he's so laid back. He's not a guy that's going to be doing a lot of verbalizing. He goes about his own business. It took me a little bit of time to get Kalvin figured out. I like what he's all about. His practice habits have gotten really good. The little things he needed to improve on, I think he went to work to improve on those when asked to do that. He's been a very easy player to coach."

On the travel party for the bowl:
"We'll take about 100 players or so. You report to fall camp with 105, so we'll take enough to really practice well at the bowl site."

On Paul Johnson being reinstated:
"He's certainly fulfilled everything he's needed to fulfill. He's had a great attitude through it all. It's been tough on him, it's been tough on his team that he's been out as long as he has. The team really welcomed him back. They're really pleased to see him back and displayed that when we had a team meeting. I think it's good for everybody. It's good for Paul, it's good for this football team to have him back."

On whether or not there's a concern that an inexperienced bowl team will not be able to keep its focus:
"Regardless of if you're from a program that has taken teams to a bowl on a regular basis, they still need to be reminded. They still need to be all about getting prepared to play their best football. It's obvious that there can be distractions, but that's what we've been all about from day one - to not let distractions bother us, but to get focused on what we're all about. It's really a similar approach to what we've been doing all season. We've never been a group of coaches that have built too much into a particular game. This is another football game. There's a lot of things that surround it that are a little bit different, but the bottom line is, when it comes time to kickoff you've got to be ready to play football and be in great condition to play four quarters of football. You need to have practiced well enough to play your best football game. We'll continue to drive that home to them. They've been a team that has really understood everything we've been trying to tell them from day one so I think they've picked up on it. It comes down to individual teams. Some times, even though you're in a program that has been going to games for a long time, they struggle to play their best. Other teams maybe that haven't been to bowl games for quite some time show up and play well. It can depend on individual teams."

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