Hello everyone and welcome to week nine of our season. Obviously four games left and we feel real good with where we are at in terms of being in the upper tier of the conference. Obviously these games ahead are going to be a tough stretch for us. Three of the four games are on the road and we are going to obviously have to start playing at our best. I think that the signs for last week are positive signs that our team is starting to play a little bit better in all phases. Our defense has been playing well all season long. I knew that, but offensively we were able to do some things that were very positive steps forward and hopefully we can build on that going into this last stretch here. Like in all cases though in the game of football, you always have your injuries and like any other team that you play and that is part of the game. But I think that losing Manuel White is going to be a significant blow for us, but we got some other guys that had been playing and playing well when Manuel was absent in the second half of the game and did some good things. Rodney Leisle also left early in the game with a high-ankle sprain. Whether he will be available this week we don't know for certain right now. With a high-ankle sprain it is usually a weeks type of injury so we will have to evaluate as we move on through this given week. But other than that, we are still hanging in there. Our kids are getting better and we're starting to play with some focus and things are starting to come together so hopefully we can continue that trend, in particularly this last stretch of the season. With that being said, I'd like to open things up for questioning please.
Will Maurice Drew be the starting tailback this week?
No. Even though Maurice had a very good game and he had both of his carries in the second half, Tyler is our starting tailback. What we have done with that position is very good anyway. We've done a good thing of packaging people and utilizing them at certain times, periods of not only the game but certain things we do from a personnel standpoint and I think that we are going to continue with that trend and then evaluate as the game goes on. Maurice had a very good game, but the previous two games Tyler's played very well. So we're going to continue the role, but we have one less guy because Manuel is out of that picture now. Akil Harris is in that third position now, but we're probably going to be doing the same philosophy that we have been doing the past four or five weeks.
Do things have to change a little bit with Manuel being out because he was so versatile and could play fullback. Can the other guys do the same things he did?
No, that is why he was very versatile. He was our fullback and tailback. We don't really have anybody else in our backfield that can play both positions so that was his versatility - being able to play both the fullback and tailback position. We will have two fullbacks in Pat Norton and J.D. Groves carrying the load at that position now.
Can Norton catch the ball like Manuel? Could or do you have a fullback who can do that?
I think so. Pat made a key catch for us in the week previous in the CAL game on a third and short situation. So, you know I think those guys will get better now that they're in their positions to getting some playing time and splitting some duty at that position. I feel real confident with those two guys. They've had some playing experience this year and I think that they will do a nice job for us.
Do you expect that Akil will play?
Well, he has now moved up into our third slot. We'll probably still feature the two, but he'll be ready and he'll take some reps in practice. If need be, he'll be ready for action if it comes to that.
Is losing Manuel almost like losing two players?
In a way it is, you know because like Brian said he is a dual role type of player. His versatility gave us you know obviously some versatility in our offense. The thing about our offense is, you know that we will function just fine, we just won't have guys that play both roles.
How do you think Kevin Brown played?
He actually played well for his first time playing in the heat of a battle. I think that at the beginning he struggled with the speed of the game, but as he settled down he ended up playing fairly well. I think that for him to watch the game yesterday with the rest of the lineman and see the issues that he had and the concerns he had going into that game, I think that he will be a lot better this given week. But he played like a young player. As the game got going and he started to settle in, he ended up playing well for us.
Is Jason Harrison any closer to being back?
He's pretty close. From a doctor's determination he is ready to go but he's still wearing a knee brace and he's still not favoring it. But he's not 100 percent like he was before the injury so he's still working his way through that. But he's been practicing and doing everything like helping on our scout teams and trying to get himself back into playing shape. He's getting close.
Any more on (Matt) Ware as far as an estimated return?
High-ankle sprains you have to evaluate day-to-day and for him, he won't be able to do anything or we can't judge or make an assessment on him until he starts running and doing some stuff and he hasn't been able to do that yet. So hopefully he might be able to do some jogging tomorrow but he's been in a boot so its harder to make that determination right now.
For the complete press conference, please click on the audio link located at the top of this page.