It is great for us to get started, we are anxious to get out there on the field. I think that camp went well. It was good for us to shift gears on Sunday and start working on an opponent and get our sights set in a different direction. I think things went well.
On a facilities front, we broke in a new training table over at Hillcrest Dormitory. Not only is the room excellent, the service was fantastic. Our guys ate real well during the pre-season and we are sure that will continue through the season. We are very excited about the new Gerdin Center which is going to open up here very shortly. That will benefit all of the student athletes on campus from all sports.
The Kenyon Practice facility has been fantastic. We are using the grass right now. It is a top rate facility and I think one little bonus that we didn't know about; for some strange reason, you walk out on the sidewalk and it has been extremely hot, but as soon as we get on the field, there has been a great breeze. I don't know if that was built in or not, but it has worked out good and helped our guys cope with the heat a bit.
On the roster front, two things of note right now: Richard Kittrell went to class yesterday morning and he is with us, at least in school. We are working through the Clearinghouse issues that he is going through and we are confident that things are going to work out otherwise he would not be in school right now. It's great to have him on campus and that caps off what we feel was a great recruiting class.
Matt Bohnet has also decided to transfer to Eastern Michigan. He made the decision over the course of the weekend, as we hate to lose anyone. We tried to get him to stay with our program, as he is a tremendous young man and a winner, but he is also a quarterback and he didn't feel like the playing time that he wanted to see was going to be there. I am sure he will do a great job up there.
On the injury front, I think there are only two players that are out for this game in addition to Albert Young fractured his fibula a week and a half ago and Zach Gableman had an ankle injury last week that is going to keep him out of play at least this week. Those are the only two guys that are definitely not going to be able to go.
There are some other guys that are nicked up but I expect them to be fine by game time.
As far as red shirting goes, there are four freshman that will be playing this year for sure: Albert Young as soon as he returns and AJ Johnson as I think those two have been noted already.
Drew Tate;our plans are to play him also. Those four guys are straight ahead. There are a couple of other guys that we are looking at during the course of this week and next week and we will make a decision after that.
Captains for this week, we will be going with Nate Kaeding. It is rare for a kicker to be a captain. Nate is a great kicker, we all know that, but he is a real strong team leader.
We put a depth chart out and some of the positions are starting to clear themselves up but you can also see that some guys are starting to flash right now. I think there is still some good competition out there. There are the younger players coming up that are doing a good job, and we are going or wait to see how they react during the games and go from there.
The biggest question mark for us overall would be at kickoff returns on special teams. I was going through my notes from last year, and at this time we had about six guys that we felt good with putting back there. Right now, we are in a precarious position due to some of the injuries. We felt real good about Albert, and we were sure that he was going to be one of those guys. Having he and Fred (Russell) healthy at least gave us one of two guys that we felt comfortable with. But right now, it would be silly to have Fred back there.
So right now, I think we are going to go with Ed Hinkel and Ramon Ochoa. That is how we will start out and go from there. Those are the biggest things at this point.
Just a couple of words about Miami. They are an excellent football team. They are coming into this season with nine winning seasons behind them. A lot of people are picking them to win the MAC so they have an excellent football team. One stat that I saw on their press release is that they happen to be six and one over the last seven years in openers and that includes a couple of wins over Vanderbilt, North Carolina, etc. The team that did beat them in an opener over the last seven years was two years ago at Michigan and they gave Michigan quite a battle in Ann Arbor. That final score was misleading, because I remember watching that tape.
Another score that caught my eye, not going back too far, was 1997 when they went down to Virginia Tech who was #12 in the nation, and beat them.
I think that gives you a sense of the history of that program, we all know about ‘the cradle of coaches', they do have an excellent staff now but also some excellent players.
The quarterback that we are going to see, Ben Roethlisberger, is as good as anyone in the country. When you look at that conference, two of the best quarterbacks in college football the past five years are (Chad) Pennington and (Brian) Leftwich and those two are from the MAC. I think Roethlisberger is right there in that class. Coaches in that conference feel that way and we certainly feel that way. He was a young player when he was here two years ago and struggled. Last year, he played like a veteran with confidence. We will have our work cut out for us.
He threw for 340-plus yards last year but it seemed like 700; it was a long day for us. He is very confident about playing against us and getting in there and throwing the ball around a little bit. They have more than Roethlisberger. Like us last year, they have an excellent offensive line and a great tight end, so their front six is outstanding. Their backs return, they graduated some good receivers, but we think Larkin is a dangerous player and Kirkpatrick is a good player as well. One thing they do is throw and catch the ball real well. That is what they have done the last couple of years, so we expect to see the same even from their newcomers.
It's going to be quite a challenge for us and we are going to have to be at our best. I think we have practiced pretty well, but we need a great week this week and be ready to go.
I was reading a quote last night from an article after the ball game last year and one of our graduating seniors from last year made the comment that he thought we were going to go in there and blow them out. I am sure you can figure out who that was, as it was one of our more quotable guys and all that I remember was our guys dragging their worn out bodies off of the field. It was a long day, defensively for us. I hope that our mindset is a little better than it was a year ago, because we were real fortunate to come out of there with a win and it's going to be tough this week so we need to be at our best.