He's not flashy. He's done very little in his football career that could be classified as…
Monday Press Conference
Coach O's opening statement: "We are excited about it being game week. The guys have the day off today. We will start preparation for our first game tomorrow. We feel we have had a very good camp and have solidified our starting groups on offense and defense. The placekicking job is still up for grabs, but we will decide that toward the end of the week.
"We have a new starting front on defense that I am excited about. We have six new starters on defense. Peria Jerry will start at DE and will be backed up by Greg Hardy. At DT, Hayward Howard will handle that. At NT, Jeremy Garrett and Brandon Jenkins. Jeremy will also be the backup DT. Our LEO will be Chris Bowers backed up by Marcus Tillman, a freshman we are really excited about. At SLB, Garry Pack and Jonathan Cornell will be the top two. At Mike, Patrick Willis will be backed up by Robert Russell. At WLB, Quentin Taylor will start and his backup will be Rory Johnson, who will see a lot of playing time. We are really excited about him. Nate Banks and Turmaine McBride will be the corners with Jamarca Sanford at SS and Charles Clark at FS. We should be fine there. We ought to be very solid on defense, but our DL has to come along.
"Rob Park will be our starting punter and, as I said, we will see between Justin Sparks and Joshua Shene this week in practice.
"On offense, we have seven new starters. On the OL, we don't have anyone who played the same position they played last year so it should be interesting, but I do think we have a better group than we had last year. Michael Oher will be the LT, Andrew Wicker the LG, Thomas Eckers at center, RG John Jerry and RT Darryl Harris. Robert Lane and Lawrence Lilly are both starters at TE. We are really excited about true freshman John Jerry. Our X receiver will be Mike Wallace and our Z will be a freshman, Dexter McCluster. FB will be Jason Cook, QB Brent Schaeffer and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Mico McSwain. We feel we are very strong at running back.
"On Memphis, we are looking for Martin Hankins to start at QB. We have watched film on him from SW Louisiana. Joseph Doss will be their starter at TB and is a good running back with experience from last year. Their WRs will be a srength and we will have to do a good job of covering them. They have an excellent freshman in Duke Calhoun - we are very aware of him because we recruited him. Their OL returns three starters. We expect a spread offense like they ran last year with different personnel.
"On defense, we know that Joe Lee Dunn is an excellent coordinator who has done a great job in his career. We expect a lot of blitz because we have a new QB and we feel they will come after him. We will be prepared for that. They have an excellent secondary with Wesley Smith, their leading tackler, returning. They have a solid corp of LBs and some new DL, some of whom we are familiar with. We are prepared for Memphis, but as I say every week, it's not about them, it's about us. We still have some things to work on and will continue doing those things this week."
Q: When you go to three wideouts, who will be the third guy?
Coach O: We are still working on that, but I think Shay Hodge will figure in to that formation.
Q: Do you expect Chris Bowers and Peria Jerry to start and how is their conditioning?
Coach O: We can't worry about their conditioning now. They still have an extra day to rest and we are going to prepare them to play as well as we can.
Q: How confident are you with Center Thomas Eckers making his first start?
Coach O: We'll see. He's done a good job to this point, but he needs a good week of practice and get down some things he still has to work on. He has not faced a dominant NT yet like he is going to in the SEC or maybe this week. We play against tremendous DLs. Can he hold up? That remains to be seen.
Q: How important is it to get Peria and Chris back in terms of what they add to the DL?
Coach O: Peria will be an excellent lineman for us and Chris knows what he's doing at LEO. We need them to play well.
Q: Discuss Nate Banks.
Coach O: He's improved his technique. He's always been fast, now he knows his pass technique. We can move him around a little because he understands the defense well.
Q: What did you see on film of Hankins?
Coach O: He can throw the ball very well and is accurate. We understand he knows the game well and finds his second and third receivers well. He operates the offense well. That's about all we can tell right now.
Q: What is the difference in Mike Wallace this year?
Coach O: Maturity and he's gained 20 pounds is still a sub 4.3 40 guy. He's a TD maker, but he still has to work on his ball-catching skills. He's very mature now and ready to take on the college lifestyle.
Q: What are the critical things for an opening game for your team?
Coach O: The basics. We have a new QB and seven new starters on offense, but we have to eliminate the penalties and foolish mistakes. We have to take care of the football and the center/QB exchange is critical. We just have to operate within the scheme as error-free as possible. On defense, same stuff - stop the run, cause turnovers and prevent deep ball. In athe kicking game, we have to have improvement and points from our FG unit. We have some return men who can electrify the team and change field position. In punting, we have to have consistency out of Rob.
Q: How has John Jerry progressed and what will he have to be aware of against a Joe Lee Dunn defense?
Coach O: He'll have to look out for everything. Joe Lee blitzed a lot. We will ahve to keep our protections simple so John can understand them, but he's a physical presence in the middle we didn' thave last year. He can win his one-on-one blocks and create some good double teams.
Q: How important is Patrick Willis with the inexperience you have on the DL?
Coach O: He's a guy who can make up for a lot of mistakes. He can go sideline to sideline. He is critical to us.
Q: Has Brent earned respect from the team, etc.?
Coach O: That has happened and I think it helped we named him the starter a long time ago. There was no mystery as to who it would be. He's had a great attitude and the team has had a great attitude in accepting him.
Q: What can the NCAA do to make these last-second rulings quicker?
Coach O: I think the communication could be better and the committees could start earlier so the young men would know something quicker. If the process could start earlier, it would help everyone out.
Q: Has there been any separation in the wide receivers lately?
Coach O: Dexter has been more consistent so he has earned a start ahead of Marshay Green, but they will all play. A guy who has moved up is Markeith Summers. I expect him to play this year after being moved up from the service team recently.
Q: How is this year different from last year for you for a first game?
Coach O: I know what to expect this year. Last year I didn't. We played well against them last year with very few mistakes and in good condition. We are hoping for the same this year. I'm more confident in what we are doing on offense this year. We have a very good TB and QB. I'm anxious to see what they will do this year.
Q: How did you sleep last year before the first game?
Coach O: I didn't. But I will this year.
Q: Is the team speed better?
Coach O: We are getting there. We are not where we need to be, but we're getting better. We need a little more at receiver. I think Rory brings speed to LB, Peria to the DL. Our young DEs have speed. We just a little more at WR and corner.
Q: How will you determine the PK winner?
Coach O: A culmination of all our practices. They are about even. I will talk to Coach Chris Rippon and we will decide. Right now, they are tic-and-tac and it may boil down to a gut decision.
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