It’s game week. It’s finally here. I think our guys are ready. They’re tired of going against one another in practice.
A tremendous challenge here in week one going to Raleigh, N.C., playing North Carolina State, a group that I thought was probably the hottest team in the country at the end of last year. They played extremely well on both sides of the ball. Probably had their best game in a complete victory, where I thought they really dominated the game, against Central Florida in their bowl game.
I think, when you talk about North Carolina State, it starts with their quarterback, Jacoby Brissett. I think he’s a Heisman Trophy candidate. He’s a guy that is a dual-threat- big, physical runner, and can also throw it. He is extremely accurate and threw the ball really well at the conclusion of last season.
Running back, they did a really good job rushing the football. They’ve got one guy that’s going to be out, but the kid (Matthew) Dayes is really impressive. He does a great job on kickoff return, but also very talented. They were one of the most balanced offenses in the country last year. They’re going to start two freshmen.
The true freshman (wide receiver Nyheim) Hines can really fly. He was a national recruit, big time player.
They are also going to start a tackle that we recruited, (Will) Richardson, who we recruited at Kentucky. I think he’s a really fine player, I know he’ll jump in there and do a good job.
Defensively, statistically, I think they did some really good things last year. Again, they played their best at the end of last year; really from the Louisville game on I thought they were really impressive.
Schematically I think it probably starts with their head coach, Dave Doeren. He’s a defensive-minded guy. Their defensive coordinator (Dave) Huxtable has had a lot of success a lot of different places.
Doeren, if you look at his win-loss record, and you take out his first season at NC State, it’s really impressive – as good as anyone else in the country. I think you can always judge really good coaches by their win-loss record in close games, but his is extremely high there too.
Defensive line guys have a lot of depth. They’re going to run a lot of guys in there.
It will be a challenge for us up front and then they also have one of the most, if not the most, experienced secondary’s in the country.
So, we have our hands full, but our kids are looking forward to it. It will be a great environment to go out there and play Saturday night.
On how much he’s looking forward to his first game as a head coach:
It will be fine. We’re looking forward to it. We’ve got our hands full, but it will be fun. It will be a different experience. I think any time, it’s obviously the first time I’m going to run out there as a head coach, there will be some things that I will have to get used to, but I’m looking forward to it.
It’s a great venue to play at. I played there when I was a player at UMass; several of our coaches have competed there. I think they will do a good job. Their crowd is right on top of you, so our guys are excited about playing for sure.
On the confidence he has in his team:
I think it is hard to speak on confidence until you’ve played. If you want to talk about trust, I trust them. The guys we’re going to roll out and play I trust them. They’ve done what we’ve asked them to since we got here.
To a man, from an academic standpoint, from an off the field behavior standpoint, to the way we’ve worked in the weight room and then on the field during preseason camp, they’re a group that I trust and I’m going to be confident in them to go out there an execute our game plan.
Our game plan will be simple, as most teams are early in the season. I want our guys to play. I don’t want to be worried about making a mistake. I want them to go out there and play and grow as we continue. You know, if you look at our schedule, the way it’s set up, playing 12 games, we’ve got three games and a bye week.
For those first three games, we have to play a lot of people. We have to play a lot of people and find out who is going to step up and make plays and compete when the lights come on and who are some guys that maybe aren’t ready yet.
We’ve got to use these first three games to find that out before our true test, which is the Sun Belt Conference.