Head Coach Bob Toledo conducted his regular season Monday press conference today. Here are some exerpts:
"First of all, let me say that we're really looking forward to the start of the football season. We've worked really hard. We've prepared for many different things. We're really not sure what Alabama is going to do. We have a general idea, dating back to his previous teams, and Carl Torbush's defense at North Carolina. So we just have to prepare for a lot of different things. We don't have a depth chart. So I'm not sure who's going to start. But in a first game like this I think you have to be more concerned about yourself than the opponent at times. So, we're worried what we're going to do and then we'll have to adjust to the opponent during the course of the game.
"Right now there are no serious injuries. All of our players are going to practice. So, we feel good about that. There are some guys with nicks, bumps and bruises, but that's football. They will get going and start preparing for Alabama.
"We picked some captains. The team voted on captains. We're going to have four captains for every game. But we have tri-captains that were selected by the team. DeShaun Foster, Marques Anderson and Robert Thomas. They'll be the captains each week. And the coaches will pick a game captain every week. This week we're going with Troy Danoff, our senior center."
Did you accomplish what you wanted out of camp?
"I think we got quite a bit accomplished in fall camp. We had a chance to put in our offense, defense and special teams. And to work on those things. We got a chance to look at young players, in scrimmage situations and evaluate them, if they're ready to play or not. We had a chance to go over a lot of game-type situations. We've done everything we needed to do. We're in pretty good physical shape. Now it's a matter of going out and playing the games."
What are your concerns on defense?
"Defensive concerns, I think the same things are a concern of mine. Our front people are healthy and experienced and pretty good. I think there's only about three guys that missed one practice during the whole camp. So, it's been a real good camp for our defensive line and linebackers. My concern is still the secondary. Marques Anderson had a concussion. He hasn't practiced very much, but he'll start again today. Ricky Manning was the only guy who's been there day in and day out. The strong safety is starting to work its way out. Jason Stephens will start, but we think that Ben Emanuel mades strides now. The right corner position, Ware will start but he missed some time because of a concussion. Bu when he was there, he proved that he has the physical ability, and he's got toughness. He just doesn't have the experience. It's a good group. I'm really pleased with the group right now. We have to play the game. But I think we have depth in that front seven, particularly."
Are you preparing primarily to defend the option?
Coach Franchione ran the option but he ran a lot of other things, too. He gives you the impression that he runs the option a lot. We're expecting and preparing for them to run options, yes."
What's the biggest difference about this year's team than others you've had?
"More experienced. We're a senior-oriented football team. They've been in big stadiums. One of the things you have to do in a first game when you don't really know what the opponents going to do, you have to have the ability to adjust, and adjust quickly. I would hope that's an advantage for us, because our kids have been exposed to it. A couple of years ago we went into Ohio State with 11 freshmen and sophomores and they had a funny look on their face when you wanted to make some adjustments. There's nothing like experience."
Did you follow Alabama's season last year?
"A little bit. We knew they were struggling, and knew they had some internal problems. Attitude, chemistry – everyone talks about it all the time – it's really important. They have some good football players. They didn't have good chemistry and good morale last year. But they have some good football players. I think Dennis will do a heck of a job for them, I just hope it's not in the first game."
Are you going to change your substitution pattern because of the humidity?
"We're planning on it being hot, humid, raining, and miserable and all those good things. We've already talked about substitution planning, so yes, we're going to try to play a bunch of players. You can't keep them fresh, they're going to get tired. But the more people we can throw at them the better off we'll be. At least our guys will be more rested than exhausted. That's the nice thing about having some depth. We've developed it over the last couple of years. We have some guys that we feel very good about putting in the game."
Do you think the emotional aspect will be a plus for Alabama?
"I don't think there's any question it will be a plus for them. They have a new coach, staff, and there'll be some new enthusiasm, the crowd, the anticipation of what's going to happen. So, there'll be some excitement there that they normally wouldn't have if they didn't have a new coach. You have to get them out of it real quick. You have to get the crowd out of the game, make some plays and not give them a lot of momentum. The best way to get a crowd out of the game is to score some points."
What units will see a lot of substituting?
Linemen, defensive backs, receivers, tight ends. Some guys will play more than others. We'd like to substitute a few guys to stay fresher. We talked about the offensive line. We set up a plan without the media knowing, who we're going to play and what series. We kind of force ourselves to put a guy in the game. Because if you don't, you say, ‘Well, we're going to play him, but it's too tight, we can't do it here.' And then the game's over and ‘Oh, we didn't get so-and-so in the game.' We have a plan and we don't share that plan right now."
What true freshmen will play?
"Matt Ware is going to play. I think Jibril Raymo will definitely play on some special teams, we're not sure about strong safety yet. Matt Clark may play on some special teams, depending on how strong his hamstring is this week. Offensive linemen and running backs -- there won't be any, tight ends -- there probably won't be any. Receivers -- there won't be any. No defensive linemen and linebackers. So you're talking just a few guys, primarily in the secondary."
What do you tell the true freshman offensive linemen about being prepared to play?
"We tell them that they have to keep improving, keep learning and keep working hard. We never redshirt them until the last game of the season is over and then we talk about redshirting. Mike McCloskey is a good football player and really close to playing at this point, but we'd like to not play him if we can help it. It would depend on who got hurt and what happened. We have some guys who can play different positions. That's how we've tried to create some depth. With Ream playing center and guard, Vieira playing tackle and guard, and Mociler playing tackle and guard, and Efseaff playing guard and center, we have a good mix. A few guys would have to go down for us to play a freshman."
How excited are you about your football team?
"I'm really excited about this football team. They have great chemistry, great attitude. The practiced hard, they didn't complain. They worked hard in the off-season. They're really excited about the start of the season as well. The seniors have really done a nice job. In our off-season we got them black shirts and they were the leaders. For practice, we put seniors on the back of their helmets now. We try to create leadership, but we didn't have to do much. They've taken the bull by the horns. They've been here 4 or 5 years and they're looking forward to the season.
Do you think the defense is under-rated?
"I think it's going to be a good defense. Again we have to stay healthy. But if we remain healthy, and our secondary has a chance to improve, it has a chance to a very good defense."
What about Mat Ball's progress at linebacker?
"Right now he's making some mistakes because of the experience factor. But from a physical standpoint, he's a big, strong, athletic guy who makes a great effort. I don't think you want him out there when you have four or five receivers running around, but that's not what he's there for. We needed to make that move. Brandon Chillar is recovering pretty well, they feel, from the hamstring. He'll go a little bit this week. I think Warfield has made some real nice strides. So that let us move Marcus Reese back to the inside backer position. But I think Ball will remain there for the remainder of the season. We have some defensive linemen, We don't have many linebackers."
How does having a stronger defensive line help the linebackers?
"With a strong defensive line, it helps the linebackers because it keeps people off them. And hopefully you get a better pass rush and the quarterback doesn't have a lot of time to throw. I think we'll be more aggressive. And we're not doing as much laterally as we were a year ago. We're doing more vertically. We're getting up the field more this year than last year at this time."