"I think we've had a great camp. We came out of camp obviously starting this week relatively healthy. We feel like we've got everybody that we felt like we would going into this first game week. So we're excited about that. I think our kids are anxious. Obviously last week we started school. We kind of got our legs up under us with practice and going to school, so we've been able to get going this week.
"We're excited about the season. We know we're opening up against a tough opponent. Obviously last year what they did against Virginia Tech has been on our kids' minds since the spring. I feel like we're excited and ready."
Coach, one of the things that has jumped out about your personnel is your defensive line. Can you talk about how strong that group is and what you see for your defensive front.
"Well, I feel like when you build a defense, the foundation of this defense is our defensive line. When you got guys like Quinton Coples and Tydreke Powell, we've added this past spring Sylvester Williams whose work ethic is phenomenal. Then you have Donte Paige-Moss, Kareem Martin, Tim Jackson. Behind those guys, Jordan Nix as a tackle. So we've got some depth in our defensive line.
"A lot of these guys will play a lot of snaps. Last year with what we went through, a lot of these guys got a bunch of playing time. So we feel good about the defensive front. We feel like it's probably our strength. We're going to rely on it a good bit because these guys, obviously they played a bunch of snaps, have been in some wars for us."
You're playing a team that likes to get in the shotgun.
"Obviously you have to work on a rotation in practice. We've got to be prepared for that. We've played a lot of teams that have done that to us in the past. The first ballgame obviously you get that work done in camp, we've got a good bit of work on that during camp.
"We feel like we'll be fine. I feel like this team may be in as good of shape as any team we've had since I've been here. So we're excited about that challenge and know it's going to be a challenge. I think we'll be fine."
Can you give me a quick scouting report on what you're expecting from JMU?
"What I know is Coach Matthews is a very, very good coach, a very good defensive coach. I hear he's going to take a little bit more of the offensive play-calling responsibility on. So I expect him to call it like a defensive coach. Protect the ball, don't turn it over, don't make big plays for the other team. Defensively, we expect them to fly around. They're a base 4-3 team. But they're going to zone blitz, pressure us, try to make plays on defense.
"I think what he does on offense is unique. You almost feel like the things that hurt you on defense, that's what they've got and they're playing. We just have to play our game. It's about us. We believe it's about us, not turning the ball over, good kicking game, making sure we can make plays on defense. Tackle, fit the run, leverage the ball, don't give up big plays."
Do you talk to your players at all about JMU's win over Virginia Tech last year?
"When you have a team that has as many veterans on it as ours, you don't have to pull that kind of stuff out, I don't believe. I think you mention it to the young kids. But our kids have seen it. What that does, that helps you in spring ball and in the summer. I think that helps you when you know that they've beaten one of your conference foes. So we used it back in the summer, back in the spring. As of now, this thing is about us, getting prepared, taking care of what we can take care of, take care of the little things, executing on Saturday."
Saturday will be your head coaching debut. A little excitement there?
"You know what, I haven't really gotten that way yet. Obviously I'm doing a lot more of this stuff, on teleconferences, doing that type of deal. But football is football. We've got a great assistant coaching staff there. I said in offensive, defensive meetings, all camp, all week, special teams meetings, the biggest excitement I have is watching our kids execute in practice and I can't wait to see them play. I can't wait to see them turn it loose on Saturday.
"For the last 13 months, these kids have gone through an awful lot. When they get on the field, it's almost like a relief to them. They play hard. I can't wait till Saturday to see them play."
What was the decision-making process as far as selecting your quarterback for this season and this opener?
"Well, we made that decision back in basically the spring. We felt like it was the right decision on quarterback for experience reasons. Really, to be honest with you, we felt like Bryn had a great grasp of the offense in the spring. Came out of spring as the starter. Went through the summer as a starter. It was natural for him to be the starter for this game after going through training camp. He's the guy that the kids feel most confident in. They feel good with Braden Hanson as backup.
"We feel like we'll have to use them both at some point in the year. So at that position we feel confident."
Coach, what are the things that Renner does that really stand out?
"Well, Bryn has this personality that every day, I mean, he's excited to be out there on that practice field, almost to the point where you have to calm him down. He's so excited, he's so anxious. His personality is infectious to the rest of our football team. He goes over and slaps and high fives the defense in practice.
"I think what he brings is just an attitude at that position. He also has physical talents. He can run, has a strong arm. I remember this past spring him throwing some ball deep out cuts, balls down the field. I turned, looked at Coach Shoop, and said, ‘Goodness gracious, I haven't seen that since I left the NFL.' He's got a strong arm.
"What we hope to do is all our guys on offense play good around him. If they do, he'll play good. They want to play good around him. He breeds that in our football team."
Can you talk about Casey Barth and your expectations for him.
"We just named Casey one of our captains. I really believe that Casey is one of those guys that every day is steady in practice and you can count on him in the games. We've been to Virginia Tech where he's gone and kicked game-winning field goals. Music City Bowl, he kicked them. He is one of those steady guys. He holds the record for most consecutive points here, 71.
"He's got it. Everybody on our football team looks up to him. He's got a strong leg. I mean, he's just one of those guys, most kickers on some teams, the team looks at them in a different light. They don't look at Casey in a different light, they look at Casey as one of their teammates, one of their players. He's commanded that respect with what he's done here."
Is the standard for kicking different? The league as a whole made 80 percent last year. Is it getting so that inside 50 you almost expect to make it?
"I don't know about inside 50. I think what happens is now you're trying to figure out where you need to get the ball on the field as an offense to where you feel like you've got three points. I think it's become evident that people are more conscious of what the kicker's range is. That's become important. That's why guys are not trying kicks from 50 yards out anymore. They'll punt the ball. That's why people are making more of them, because they're in that kicker's range probably more so than in the past."