It's good to be back at game week and I'm excited for an opportunity to compete against a team that we have a lot of respect for.
Georgia Southern obviously last season they had a very good football staff that left to go to Army and they have a new staff brought in from Sam Houston State. I know Willie (Fritz) extremely well from when he was at Central Missouri and I was at Kansas. He's a very good football coach, and obviously a team that had an upset victory on the road at Florida, so we know that going on the road for them is not going to be something that startles their football team.
Our team I know is excited just to get back out there and play a game and we need to play a game. We practice and practice and practice, and there is no substitute for game day. So were really excited to get out there and watch our guys. They've put in a lot of work and we want to see where they're at. Game one is the best way to judge where you're at with your football team.
We've got a lot of young players; everybody knows that. Jacoby (Brissett) has been taking a lot of reps and doing all the things he can do to get better and now its time to see him on game day with his teammates, and we're excited about it.
It's Wolfpack Club Day and were honoring the Wolfpack Club and all that they do for us and all the members. What Bobby and his staff do for our facilities and for our scholarships we appreciate that. Mario Williams is coming back and we're excited about honoring his number as well and have him be a part of the event.
Talking about Georgia Southern, they have a spread option offense that last year was a triple option under center offense. They would break and get back and then get in some but this year our reports are they're going to be in the pistol.
Their guy running their spread option, the quarterback (Kevin) Ellison, number four, is a really good runner. He tough, he's not a guy that goes down easy. He averages 80 yards a game and has had several big runs and games. A strong-armed guy who didn't ask to throw a lot but you can see he does have arm strength in his throws. They also have a young man that they're talking about rotating, (Favian) Upshaw. They said he's the fastest member of their football team. So we know there's good skill at the quarterback position, and we'll probably see anywhere from 20 to 40 quarterback runs based on what happens in the option game.
The offensive line they have five seniors upfront. Anytime you're playing a veteran offensive line even though they're playing a little bit different than they did a year ago schematically, those are guys that have played together and have good chemistry. Their left tackle and their center are probably the best two on film; we watched those guys and they're tough, they play hard.
Their wide receivers that's going to be probably the biggest position well have to gauge on game day just because they really didn't ask him to much but block last year and they're good at that. You can see the speed that they have with the slot backs and how they're moving out the receiver, how much they're going to throw and what kind of routes.
Obviously we've been looking at a lot of Sam Houston film and see the concepts they like to run, but how much of that are they going to do? We'll probably see a lot of movement type passes and move legs and sprint outs and the play actions that come off their run game and the option.
Defensively their middle linebacker, number 40 (Edwin Jackson), is a really good player and makes a lot of plays for them. Number 36 (Matt Breida), a guy that didn't play last year because of an injury but was a really good player his sophomore year at linebacker, so there's two good linebackers in their lineup. Their cornerbacks are back; they're guys that can run on film.
Anytime you're in a first game regardless of whether it's a new staff or a returning staff, you know as a coach there's a lot of things they studied like us in the offseason about their talents and their recruiting coming in. You know there's going to be some things you just can't show them.
The first game a lot depends on what your kids know about your system and how they can adapt on the fly to things that you can't show them. It's a big focus just on us; the ball security that even though you scrimmage a couple of times it's not the same with all those guys flying in there, the mental focus of having the fans in the stadium, the pre snap focus on both sides of the football, not jumping off sides and lining up correctly, getting your feet in the grass, ready to play and the finish of plays.
On both sides breaking tackles when we're on offense, running through contact and not getting tripped up, finishing blocks defensively, not tagging guys off like you do in practice you're wrapping them up and finishing and getting the second and third and fourth guy to the pile to rip the ball out.
I think you'll see two teams that both are going to have a chip on their shoulder. I think our team does for sure, and I know just having coached at schools like Georgia Southern. I know what their players are going to be like and both of us in my opinion are going to play that way. For us, it's been a while since we've finished a game and felt good about the end result. That's what all the work you do is about is the end result. We're excited for that opportunity to get back and play at home in front of a great crowd against a good football team. The best way to get a taste out of your mouth is to go out there and play. To see the fans to prepare to be in game week again it's a great week.
On how depth chart shaped out, any surprises:
Not necessarily, there's ones and twos, there's a lot of guys that rotate. I think the depth chart is pretty fluid with a young team and there's going to be guys that are going to be playing in their first game.
Jerod Fernandez, Josh Jones, Tony Adams, Bo Hines and all these guys that have practiced a lot for us are playing in their first game. So we expect to rotate some guys and see where we're at. There wasn't any huge surprise.
I think probably the most improved player was Stephen Louis, a receiver. He was trying to figure his way out in the spring, and he really had a good fall camp. Walk-on receiver NaQuan Brown has had a really good fall camp for us as well. Those are two guys that just joined our team last spring.
On comparison of preparing for season opener last year versus this year's opener:
La. Tech lost a lot of seniors the year before so it was really hard to see their personnel on tape. You can turn on Georgia Southern's film and see a lot of their players and see what they do even though their schemes are a little different on offense.
I think that in all opening games there's a lot of ghost chasing saying, "What if they do this? Well maybe they'll do that," but at the end of the day your systems have to have rules built in place to handle whatever they do. So that's what we really run, and the week before the week we run ours just make sure you show the guys enough things so that they're ready.
At Sam Houston they never run their center or run him at the wishbone offense, but because they do at Georgia Southern maybe they will. They ran more off front at Sam Houston than they did at Georgia Southern but they retained their defensive coordinator. Things like that you just don't know how much the head coach is going to come in and say well this is how we did it at their school so I want you do it.
You have to cover all of your bases in week one regardless of who you're playing. Even when you have a team that returns a lot of the same people. Like I said in the offseason they all went to clinics, they all did their self-scout, they all studied film, they recruited new players that are different that can do certain things than maybe the year before players could, so you're going to have to adjust.
On comfort of going in to year two compared to last year:
A lot more comfortable, just because I know what our players are like for the most part except for the true freshman.
I've seen a lot of these guys on game day and I have a better feel for what they can and can't do and what all of our coaches do, and it's just the little things that you do in the offseason to better yourself. I talked about our offseason program, but in year one you're throwing your guys into a lifting program that you've done at other places but you don't necessarily know their weaknesses they need to work on and whereas in year two the entire thing was built on things we've got to do better.
We made tremendous strides and made a great healthy training camp because of that. Our strength staff did a great job evaluating the weaknesses of our room, our coaches talked a lot with them about things guys have to do in order to be better and you just can't do that in year one. So when you get back out there and run your systems you can see improvements because of those things.
On quarterbacks in games, willingness to play McLendon:
A little bit depends on what the game is like, and I think he'll (Brissett) be great. For the redshirt Jalan I don't know if that's real or not, he gets better every time he plays. Garrett is a guy who can go in and run our offense, has a good arm and knows the system.
It's just a matter of what happens; are you talking about finishing a game with a guy or having to play the rest of the season with a guy. And I think that's where you have to decide what's best for Jalan. If its finishing a game, there's no question Garrett can do those things for us. If I want him in for a series, he can do that. If I'm talking about were going to play eight games with those two guys, then were going to have to pull the redshirt and see who is the best guy.
On coming out of preseason camp, feeling better about defense versus offense:
I wouldn't pick a side, I just feel better about our depth. I think that's the biggest thing I feel better about is our competition in positions. When you have people behind people that can take their jobs you get better effort in practice from guys.
Guys can't have a bad day; they're going to be on the next part of the depth chart if they do. If you come in and do your job you earn playing time, and both sides of the ball were like that. There are maybe a couple of positions when we didn't have that, and they were really our specialists.
Other than our kicker, snapper and punter I felt like every position on the team had someone fighting to get on the field.
On other quarterbacks in league:
I don't really care what the rest of the league has right now. I'm worried about our team and that's it. We all have our own things that we have to worry about and I'm really not concerned about who is going to play quarterback at Louisville or Boston College right now. That's for later in the year to worry about. Our focus is on us and will be.
Like I've told our team, in week one in particular a lot more teams beat themselves and that's what we cant do. We've got to be really good at quarterback and making decisions and putting the ball in the right place. And not just at quarterback across the board you see a lot of first week mistakes and that's one thing we want to try not to do.
We want to go out there and beat Georgia Southern not beat ourselves in the game, and that's where our focus is.
On Brissett and length of time out from playing:
I'm worried about all kids that way, but I'm not going to dampen his excitement. I want him to be excited and I want him to have fun. There's nothing wrong with butterflies; everyone has them when you go out there.
You just have to make sure they go away quick and that he makes the same decisions he's been coached to make in practice when he goes out there to play. He's ultra competitive; his only nervousness would only be because of how excited he is to play. I'm happy for him to be that way.