"The challenges continue to get more difficult as the season goes along. When we looked at the schedule, we knew that each week was going to be a bigger challenge against a more physically-gifted football team and certainly East Carolina presents that. It's one of the more mature, older and experienced teams in the entire country. They return 17 fifth-year seniors, which in and of itself is a significant challenge for a young football team.
"They've had a lot of success. They are the defending C-USA conference champions. They're very physically gifted, they've got an outstanding defense and their entire defensive line is [full of] all NFL-quality players. They've got a veteran offensive line and a sixth-year experienced veteran quarterback that's got an awful lot of leadership qualities and a lot of talent. So this will be a very interesting test and challenge for our team."
How have the offensive line woes affected the rest of the offense?
"Well, you try to tell your entire football team to try to just focus on themselves. Focus on your own individual position and position group, and continue to try to grow and play as well as you possibly can. Certainly, our offensive coaching staff – one of the things that you would like to have is some consistency and continuity in the offensive line.
"It was a setback certainly to lose a fifth-year senior starting center in Lowell Dyer. I think Cam Holland came in and did a very good job in his first opportunity to get a chance to start a ball game. We're very young in the offensive line, and as guys get more game experience and more playing experience, our expectations are that they will continue to improve."
Have you ever had this type of situation with a position group this early in the season?
"No. We've lost a significant amount of offensive linemen over the last seven or eight months. Several kids that got injured and unfortunately had to go on medical [hardships] and then it was really a surprise and jolt when we lost Aaron Stahl over the summertime. That was another experienced returning player that would have been a fifth-year player that would have certainly added something to the mix. So a young offensive line got even younger.
"Then losing Carl Gaskins during training camp, who we felt like if he wasn't going to challenge for a starting position, then he was going to significantly challenge for a lot of playing time and a great opportunity to have somebody that could come in and play throughout games in significant minutes. But our coaches have done a good job of trying to settle that group down and those kids are just trying to focus on practicing and trying to get better and working on their fundamentals. And hopefully it will start to pay dividends."
Where does the improvements have to come from to get the offense cranked up?
"I think that we have to have some functional consistency to where guys are communicating. One of the most difficult units to groom is an offensive line, because it takes five guys, along with the tight end a lot of times, to where they're talking the same language and they understand that the guy that they're playing next to – how does he execute certain blocks? Because not everybody is identical. Some guys are a little quicker off the ball, some guys are more powerful or their steps are a little bit different.
"And it's through those practice repetitions that allows them to gain confidence to be able to play. And certainly, as young as we were before the season even started in the offensive line, you know that there's going to be some growing pains. You hope as the season goes along, if we're fortunate enough to stay healthy, that each game will provide them with a little more experience."
How does not having Lowell Dyer and Zack Pianalto change your offense?
"We'd like to not change much at all. We went through a similar situation last year where we lost Zack for 5-7 weeks after he got injured, so we are kind of who we are. It's very difficult. We're not going to recreate the wheel in three days of practice. We're just going to try to plug some guys in and continue with our identity. I think it would be somewhat detrimental to our entire offensive football team to totally deviate and go in a different direction just because some guys got injured."