It's good to be in game week. For us, game week Friday, playing our game tomorrow against a William & Mary team that returns 16 starters and 10 all-conference players and the longest standing head coach in college football. Great opportunity for our football team.
Looking forward to watching them play, and like any year, you think you know what you have, but you really don't until you get out there, and so just the excitement of our staff and of our team to get out there and see what we have I think is real, and I know our fans will be there to support us.
I know you had said before with the new offensive system coming in that you didn't want to make too hasty a judgment with the quarterback. How has that evaluation gone throughout the fall? Do you expect them both to play a good bit this week, and where do you see -- in an ideal world, when would you see getting down to one for certain?
Both of them will play, and there's one guy that played a little bit better than the other from a statistical standpoint during training camp, so he'll get the first drive, maybe the first two, and from that point on, we'll rotate and kind of evaluate where we're at at halftime. If both of them are playing really well, then they'll continue to both play, and if not, then probably go with the guy that's playing better. But where it goes from here is really up to how they play.
I think both guys have prepared well. They're both talented. They're both inexperienced, so the game is going to be important for them. But I really can't give you a clear answer on how long it's going to take to solidify. It's more how they play in these games.
One of the things that I'm sure you've said before is when you're evaluating a quarterback is how they respond to adversity. How do you know that when you're rotating in one guy after another? If one guy is struggling do you want to see how he responds to it or do you go with the other guy?
Well, I think you'll still see, particularly in this first game, they'll have a chance for redemption I guess you would say, if they struggle or maybe if someone else struggles and they were the one leading the drive. Like I've told both of them, this is just the start, it's not the finish, and they need to both prepare as it's their game because it might be, and we play 12 games, and there's a lot of football in front of us, and both these guys need to be ready to help us win.
To kind of go off of that, just what you saw through the fall from your two quarterbacks and how them going up against each other has challenged you and also challenged this offense to fit around the opportunity that both will offer.
Yeah, well, you see two competitive guys that have good skill sets, that both want to play, that prepare hard, that it's important to them. They're good with their teammates. They're good with our coaches. They made it hard on us, which is their job.
You know, there was around 22 drives during our training camp where we just set the ball down and said, okay, this is the game, we're moving it. Whatever happens happens. It wasn't scripted. We're looking at really the statistics from those drives that's kind of determining who gets the ball first, who led the most scoring drives, who had the best completion rate or quarterback rating I guess you'd say, touchdown, interceptions, and where that finished after those 22 drives. That's really the starting point, and we'll go from there.
And then as far as your fan base, the school record in-season tickets and what it says about what you're building, the environment that you've been trying to create and just what you can say about the response from the community.
Yeah. Well, I'm very thankful to them, and our marketing staff has done a nice job of promoting our games. Just for our fans to understand how important this is to our players, to our program, to our recruiting, it means a lot to our coaching staff, and a big thank you to them. Having the strength of schedule that we do probably helps with that, as well.
I was just wondering if your new offensive coordinator has found any new positions for Jaylen Samuels to play.
He's not playing O-line, I can tell you that. No, I mean, our H-back or fullback, whatever you call him, position is very versatile, and one of the things I liked about Eli's offense is he does find ways to get people the ball and move them around, and there are different places to get matchups and find ways creatively where you're not always depending on a route to be open. You can hand it to him or have a screen set up for him where no matter what you're going to have the ball going to that guy, and it's a challenge because everyone talks about him, but Matt Dayes and Nyheim Hines are two guys that need the ball in their hands, too, so just finding ways to feature those players, that's the fun part of it.
You mentioned Matt obviously is a proven guy, but you have a young guy named Johnny Frasier, very highly touted coming in but redshirted last year. Can you talk about his development and the role you see for him this year?
Johnny has grown up a lot since he's gotten here. He's a small-town kid that everything was easy for him for a long time, and he got to college and it wasn't. Had to deal with some injuries and some health issues back home. I think he's in a good place now, spiritually, mentally, physically, and I'm hopeful that we can get him some carries and build his confidence on the field. He's tremendously talented, as everybody knows. But not everybody who walks in the dorm is that guy.
Like I told him, he's playing behind in my opinion one of the best backs in the country. Some of the reasons he's not going to be out there as much as other people would want him to be is because Matt Dayes is really good. He is developing. He is getting better, and he shows flashes of what we think he's going to be. It's just getting that out of him every day now.
Can you talk about the depth at running back in terms of a year ago? You ran into some trouble at that position.
We did, yeah. We had four of them injured last year, so we can't have enough. You just don't know. They take a lot of hits that are unseen in protection. That's actually how Matt got hurt last year. He was blocking.
But they take a lot of hits, and just having enough of them that are talented, we're fortunate right now, knock on wood, that we're back to where we were a year ago where we feel like Matt Dayes, Reggie Gallaspy, Dakwa Nichols, Johnny Frasier and Nyheim and J-Sam, all those guys can carry the ball, and we've got some options and they're healthy. Now it's just keeping them that way and using them the right way.