Aug. 27, 2001
First of all, let me say that we're really looking forward to the start of the football season. We've worked really hard, and we have prepared for a lot of different things. We're not really sure what Alabama is going to do, but we have a general idea dating back from their previous teams and Carl Torbush's defense at North Carolina. We just have to prepare for a lot of different things.
We don't have a depth chart yet (for Alabama) to my knowledge. I don't know who is starting or what's going to happen, but in the first game like this, I think you have to be concerned about yourself than the opponent. We are going to worry about our game own plans, and we will have to adjust to what the opponents do during the course of the game.
Right now there are no serious injuries. All of our players are practicing, so we feel good about that. There are some guys with some nicks and bumps and bruises, but that's football. Today we'll get going and start preparing for Alabama.
The team has voted on captains, and there will be four for every game. We've got tri-captains that were selected by the team, DeShaun Foster, Marques Anderson, and Robert Thomas, so they'll be the captains each week. The coaches will then pick a game captain for the week, and this week we have chosen Troy Danoff, our senior center.
Questions:Did you accomplish everything in camp that you had anticipated?
I think we got quite a bit accomplished in fall camp. We got a chance to put in our offense, defense, and special teams and to work on those things. We got a chance to look at our young players in some scrimmage situations and evaluate them to see if they were ready to play or not. We had a chance to go over many game-type situations, offensively, defensively, and in our kicking-game. We've done everything we've needed to do, so we're in pretty good physical shape. Now it's a matter of going out and playing the games.
Can you assess your defense? Where is it now, and what do you expect from it?
Well I think the same things are a concern of mine. Our front players right now are healthy, experienced, and pretty good. I think that there were only three guys that missed one practice in all of camp. It's been a really good camp for our defensive line and our linebackers. My concern, though, is still our secondary. Marques Anderson had a concussion, he hasn't practiced very much, but he will start again today. Ricky Manning has been the only one who has been there day in and day out. The strong safety position has started to work its way out. Jason Stephens will start, but we think that Ben Emanual has made some strides. In the right corner position, Ware will start, but he missed some work because of his concussion. However, when he was there, he proved he has some physical ability and toughness. He just doesn't have experience. It's a good group, and I'm really please with them right now. We need to play a game to see how good or bad we really are, but I really do think we have some depth, particularly in the front seven.
How do you compare Southeastern football opposed to West Coast football? Are the lines still there?
I don't know if they (the lines) were ever there. Football is football, you have to block, tackle, and throw the ball. I think way back then when the west coast was really throwing the ball and the mid west and south were running it and using a lot of options, then, I thought there was a difference. Now, everyone's throwing the football, and everyone has strong physical guys. I really don't think it's a difference. It's all a perception.
Are you guessing that Alabama will be running a lot of options, based on Dennis' performance at TCU?
Well, ironically, he ran a lot of options, but he also ran a lot of other things too. He (Dennis Franchione) gives the impression that they will use the option, so we've prepared for it.
Would you describe your program as more experienced and senior-oriented?
Our team is experienced and yes, is more senior oriented. They've been in some big stadiums, Michigan and Ohio State in particular, and they do bring with them that experience. Something that you have to be able to do during a game, particularly if you do not know what your opponent will do, is to adjust quickly to the situation, and I would hope that this is an advantage to us because they've already been exposed to it. A couple years ago at Ohio State, we had 11 freshman and sophomore starters, and they had a funny look on their face when we wanted to make some adjustments. There's nothing like experience.
Is your general game plan to run first, and pass second?
I would like to say that we're a balanced football team. We don't particularly run to set up the pass, or vice versa. We're going to do both. We have to run the football, but I am not opposed to throwing it either.
How are you utilizing last year's game against Alabama to prepare you for this year's?
If one thing, it proved that our kids can play against anyone. We then beat Michigan, and it goes back to the different perceptions about West Coast football and Southern football. It's all the same, but people tend to look at the West as not being tough, but I say we're as tough as anyone out there. It's done a lot for the psyche of our team.
How well did you follow their spiral after that game?
We knew they were having some problems and struggling. Attitude and chemistry, everyone talks about it all the time, but it is really important. They have a lot of good football players, but they seemed to be lacking in chemistry last year.
If the heat and humidity are a factor, do you plans on making many substitutions?
We're already planning the most unfavorable weather conditions, and we've already talked about a substitution plan. Yes, we are going to try to play a lot of players, not to keep them fresh but because they will be tired. The more people we can throw at them, the better off we'll be, and that's the nice thing about having some depth, because there are a lot of guys we are really comfortable to play in the game.
How many true freshmen will play?
Matt Ware will play, and I think Jibril Raymo will definitely play on some special teams. Matthew Clark may see some playing time, but no one is expected from the offensive line, tight ends, receivers, defensive line, or linebackers.
Are you comfortable with the "Great Expectations" of this team?
I think other people are worried about it more than us. We're excited about the season, and because you have some experience it doesn't mean that your're going to win games. I like this football team, and I think we have a really good chance of having a great season, especially if we stay healthy. I think we have great chemistry and a positive attitude.
Is there anyone in particular that you turn to for this chemistry?
It's the seniors. They've really done a nice job. We got them black shirts, and we put "seniors" on the back of their practice and game helmets. We try to create a lot of leadership, but we didn't have to do much. They really took the bull by its horns.
Do you think that the defense is underrated because of its past?
Our defense is not highly looked upon, but I really do think that they will do a good job. The main concern is to remain healthy and to continually improve our secondary.