Coach Preston started his conversation by saying practice "has been upbeat and good, you know. We're working hard. The guys are hanging in there and looking forward to this week's game."We've noticed, from day one, that Preston is a very energetic and upbeat person so we asked if his attitude carries over to the players, "Well, I hope so," said Preston. "I've always felt that no matter what, you've got to stay upbeat and positive because that's life. Sometimes it doesn't go the way you like, but you have to stay positive. You've got to stay mentally strong and keep pushing through it. Good times are right around the corner."
When talking with coaches, a standard comment appears to be that the running game has to be established first for a team to be successful. We asked Coach Preston if he ever felt the passing game should come first.
"They both work hand-in-hand. You have to be able to do both. If you become one-dimensional, that's usually when you have trouble. And it's hard to win a lot of games if you are one-dimensional, especially today the way defenses can run and people manipulate the box and so forth. If you can do both, you have a pretty good chance of being successful."
We asked Preston to rate the running backs blocking performance to this point. "It's been good, it's been a lot better than I would have anticipated at this point. The guys really bought into it and have done a really good job. And at times they have saved our bacon which a good passing game has to have because sometimes with all the twists and slants that happen out there, guys get lost and you expect a running back to save your bacon and that's what we've been able to do this year."
Now that the Irish are beyond the halfway mark of the season, many fans are writing off this year and looking to the 2004 season. We asked coach if he lets himself think about next season, not because the way things are going, but due to the fact he sees the freshman talent on a daily basis.
"No, you just take it as it is right there. This is now. You don't worry about the future because with the future you don't know if you're going to be guaranteed it.So the main thing is coach now, and if I do anything about the future, it's just kind of making sure that if we have an injury problem that you have a guy prepped in case an emergency comes about."
Continuing our thought about the freshmen, we asked what is the biggest adjustment these players have coming in, "A lot of things. Just as it was when I was a freshman, it's just being away from home, a new environment, all of a sudden you're at the back of the line, the coach ripping your butt when you're used to being a franchise player and they kind of made it easy for you. It's just a lot of different things. But it's my job. I'm on them hard. Off the field I make sure I give them time to help them do the transition."
We questioned coach about two highly recruited freshman running backs, Travis Thomas, the 6'1, 201 lb runner from Washington, Pennsylvania, and Ashley McConnell, the 6'0, 240 lb fullback out of Adairsville, Georgia.
On Thomas, Preston said, "I think if he keeps working like he's working and keeps his desire and does the right things, I think his future is very bright. The young man has a great opportunity to be a real good player here in the program. Only time will tell if he does all the right things."
About McConnell he responded, "I think the same way for him. I think all of our young players have a chance to do some great things here if they keep the work ethic, keep themselves focused, and remember what they're here for on and off the field. If they do those things, I'm sure that Travis and Ashley and Nate and all those young players, including Jeff Jenkins, will have the success they are looking for."
Coach Preston is a very sincere and dedicated coach. He handles compliments and criticism without missing a beat, and it is easy to understand why he is respected by his players and many of them have commented, "No matter what the situation, Coach always takes the time to answer our questions and share his thoughts." His positive attitude is contagious.