Scelfo Press Conference Transcript

"I appreciate you all being here today to kick off the 2004 season. It has been a good offseason for us; we've had some guys who have made some strides in the weight room and conditioning. The guys who were here this summer have really worked hard; the first four or five days of camp has gone well for us. We haven't had any major injuries [knocking on wood], so that's been the first time. Things are really heating up in certain positions and I know everybody wants to know about the quarterback s

CHRIS SCELFO OPENING STATEMENT

"I appreciate you all being here today to kick off the 2004 season. It has been a good offseason for us; we've had some guys who have made some strides in the weight room and conditioning. The guys who were here this summer have really worked hard; the first four or five days of camp has gone well for us. We haven't had any major injuries [knocking on wood], so that's been the first time. Things are really heating up in certain positions and I know everybody wants to know about the quarterback situation and I think today [scrimmage] and Saturday will give us a really good indication of where we are. It's time to start getting it cut down. We need to get our top two guys to break out of there, and none of them have. Between now and next Sunday, we'll have a good indication with the two big scrimmages we're going to have. We'll have a pretty good feel of which quarterbacks are going to be in the direct mix.

The one thing I told our football this year though, we learned a lot of lessons from last year; we learned how to overcome adversity, how to stick together, when no one really believed in us, we fought through and finished on a positive note. Hopefully we can continue that. Something we really need to take from last year, a negative that happened was the injuries. The thing that our players have to understand is whether you are a first-teamer, a second-teamer, third-teamer or fourth-teamer it showed last year, wherever you are when your number is dialed, you have to be ready to answer. We didn't do a good job of that last year as coaches, we didn't do a god job of that as players last year. We've got to develop everybody on our football team every day, our goal is to get better every day regardless of what classification you are or where you are on the depth chart, because you never know when that number is going to be dialed. Our kids lived a real-life experience with it; hopefully we don't have to live it again this year, but if it does happen, we've got to be ready to answer the telephone when it rings. That's something our players are aware of. The way they have been practicing, I think they have a sense of urgency about it.

Our offensive line is in a situation where we have some experience, some size; guys who have played a lot of football that are ready to take their game to the next level, which they're ready to do. Our receiving corps has some seniors that have been playmakers for us and we have some younger guys in Freddie Smith, Preston Brown and Kenneth Guidroz that have really had good camps that have to supplement the Carl Davises and Roydell Williamses. I feel really good about our receivers right now.

The tight end situation was hurt bad in the spring with the loss of Jerome Landry [injury]. It really took away a package that we had designed and have been desiring to use for a couple of years now [projected starter Bobby Hoover missed last season due to injury, but has returned]. Incoming freshman Gabe Ratcliffe has really provided a spark to that position and may give us an opportunity before the year is up to put him in situations we were looking forward to using.

Defensively, we can't be 116th in the country in rushing defense. Bottom line, end of discussion. For us to be successful at Tulane this year, we need to play better defense. At least for us to have a chance to be successful, we have to play better defense. It's been well-documented what happened last year, but there can't be any excuses. We've got to be able to give our offense shorter fields and an opportunity to win the game in the end. I think we have the capability and the talent on defense; the questions are, what is our maturation process? How fast will it take place? What are the capabilities of the younger guys stepping into positions with the older guys leading the way?

At safety, we have two outstanding safeties in Tra Boger and Joey Dawson. Both of those guys have been healthy this camp and you can see the spark they bring to the defense. Our on our corners, we have four corners that every day it will be a battle for who's going to get on the field with the first unit. Sean Lucas and Izzy Route, Bruce Youmans and Jeremy Foreman; those four guys have made each other better. Right now Sean is probably a little bit ahead of all of them, but they have to go out there and practice hard every day and they are going to have to perform well for them to have the opportunity to do it again the next week.

Our defensive line, we're still mixing and matching a lot of guys up front. There's going to be three of four freshman that are going to have to contribute there because of Michael Roberts' situation, he has not been cleared to play [injury]; Bamm Mateen has been limited in what he can do so we can get him to the season; Mike Purcell [injury] has not been cleared to participate through a whole day. Those are the three major injuries from last year of guys we thought we needed to depend on this fall as starters. In turn that is going to make the freshmen have to step in. Who those three or four are right now, again, after these next two scrimmages we should have a better idea and have a better feel for what guys are going to be there.

At linebacker, we've got Wesley Heath, Antonio Mason, Anthony Cannon, Blake Baker and Kelvin Johnson. Those guys are sort of mix-and-match, we'd like to settle on three of them. We going to put the best three out there. If one of them's a SAM [strong-side] and he's in the top three, we going to find a place for him at MIKE [middle] or WILL [weak-side]. That's a position that I really believe we've got to be more active this year; We've got to be able to control the line of scrimmage to give those guys a chance to be more active.

Special teams is very critical for us. We've worked as hard or harder that we ever have before here in special teams, getting our top athletes on them, getting guys that have a chance to make a play to change the momentum of a game. If you look at any games that are played, most of the time they are decided by big plays on special teams; if we can get those, that will give us the opportunity. We have got to average, in yardage, more first downs in our punt returns and kickoff returns than we did last year. We're working hard on that. Our punt coverage and kickoff coverage teams have to improve. Our kicker has to improve on kickoffs. We're looking at Barrett Pepper and Nick Beucher; we're charting every one of their kicks and the guy that produces the best there going into the Mississippi State game will be our kicker. Chris Beckman has really punted the ball well and Lane Macaluso has done a really good job of snapping the ball. Those two guys, I feel really confident and comfortable with every time they have to go out there, which hopefully isn't much.

Has this been the best off-season as far as guys getting in shape and working out?
For the guys that were here, yes. We have 31 juniors or seniors, obviously the majority of our roster is freshman and sophomores and most of those guys weren't here this summer. For the ones that were here, I would say we have added size and strength to our lines. It goes back to what I said last year and the year before, there is a maturation process that you as the media, us as coaches, and the fans don't realize. The jump is between that second and third year. That is where we are with some of our bigger players right now.

Can you explain that a little more, about the jump being between the second and third year?
If you look at our offensive line, for example, junior Chris McGee came here at 255 [pounds] and played at 255 as a freshman, as a sophomore he played at 265, as a junior, he's 295. That's where the jump takes place physically for the big guys. Normally the growth spurt is between their second and third year.

Is it safe to say that for a majority of your roster, the growth spurt is still to come?
You're going to continue to see them jump. That is a lot of time go to two-year colleges to mature physically. The numbers speak for themselves.

Can you run down the three quarterbacks and what you have seen from them?
I can describe all three quarterbacks in one word: inconsistent. That is something that we are always harping on. We need consistent play out of them. The last day or so, I have realized that we don't have Pat Ramsey and we don't have J.P. Losman and we have been spoiled. But, I think we have some talented guys and we are further along right there that I thought we would be at this point.

Nick Cannon has been able to practice every day; he's been bothered a little bit by a hamstring, he's had some shoulder soreness. But he has been out there, he has a good understanding of our offense, he has a good understanding of managing our offense, getting us in and out of the huddle, calling the right snap count, making the right checks. It is obvious he has been in the system for three years, but, he hasn't played much. He has had two major surgeries since he's been here and that is evident right now.

Richard Irvin is like a bull in a china cabinet he goes out there and reacts and wants to make something big happen every play; I hope it's not because he has seven on his back [the same number worn by Ramsey and Losman]. That took a little time for Pat to be able to do it and for J.P. to do it. Richard has to control his emotions when he gets out there and settle down. That is where he is in his growth. He has done a nice job in managing our offense. He is a little bit further along than I thought he would be as a freshman. He's got a tremendous amount of confidence in himself and that's getting him in a lot of trouble right now.

Lester Ricard is learning more and more of our offense every day; he's getting more comfortable in our offense; he's having a better grasp of what we are expecting from our offense. Lester can make the throw that we need to make on the edge. He needs to take care of the ball better than what he has done and realize that we are not at Amite High School where he's got to do everything. He's got some friends that can help him. Hopefully, we'll get a good feel for him operating with a little more pressure on him the next two scrimmages.

With the losses on offense, do you think this year's team could be defined by the defense?
That's been a goal of mine since I've been here. The best year we had in 2002 was defined by our defense and special teams. That's why I think we had a great year.

Can you talk about Matt Forte, the freshman running back from Slidell?
I'd love to. He has been the biggest surprise of anybody in our camp. I would not be shocked if on September 4th, he's the starting tailback. He's been durable, he hasn't missed a rep, he hasn't missed an assignment, he's made some big plays, he's a slasher, he's a guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield, he's been banged, he's been tackled and hit, but he hasn't missed a rep. The one thing we've come to understand here is that durability in a running back is very important and he's shown that up to this point that he is durable. We're going to need all of our backs, Jovon Jackson, Ray Boudreaux and Matt and probably another of the freshman to get through the year. He has really been the biggest surprise of camp.

What did you think you were getting in Forte?
I thought we were getting a guy that has good bloodlines, his father played here [Gene Forte, 1975-77, team captain in 1977]. He comes from a very strong family. He has a little bit more maturity than most incoming freshman. He had good size. His willingness to learn and his dedication, we didn't know what we were getting there. You never know until they show up. I thought we were getting character and if you have that, you have a chance he has just excelled in all areas.

I hate to compare Forte with Mewelde Moore, but is this similar to the situation when Mewelde arrived here?
Please don't compare them, but there is a lot of irony in the situation. When Mewelde showed up, we opened with an SEC opponent on the road; the starting tailback at the time had a little injury that got worse during that game, and we inserted this little freshman and he went on to set every record here. There is a good story there if you follow it closely. But, he hasn't done anything yet to warrant saying Matt Forte and Mewelde Moore in the same sentence either, but he has been the one guy in camp who has jumped out at me more than anyone else of the 24 freshmen we brought in. Our players are talking about him too.

Is Forte ahead of Jackson right now?
No, absolutely not. You can say there is a heckuva battle going on there between Jovon, Matt and Ray Boudreaux.

Is there any back or style that you could compare Forte to?
You are going to bust my chops on this, but I am going to tell you who he looks like right now. He looks like a young, immature Eddie George. The running style, he is a glider, he's stronger than he appears to be, the first guy has trouble bringing him down.

Is it accurate to say a lot will be happening between now and Sunday?
Our players understand this, the next two or three days are going to be depth chart changing days for our football team.

Is there one unit that has stood out over the others?
The secondary. I have been very impressed with the secondary. Those two safeties and all four of those corners have all competed well; they have gotten their hands on a lot of balls. The one thing that will decide those corners, we're going to go with the two that can tackle the best, then we will go to coverage skills. That unit has been the most consistent.


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