Head Football Coach Mike Shula Preseason Press Conference
Monday, August 04, 2003
"I want to begin by talking about Brooks Daniels (Sr., WLB, Jasper, Fla.). His name has come up in the past couple of weeks, and we need to address it. We met with Brooks earlier today, and he has had to withdraw (from school) for medical reasons, which obviously means he won't play for us this fall. As far as his future with us, there is a chance still, the door has been left open, for him to enroll and apply back to school in the spring (Jan. 2004) or summer (June, 2004). Obviously this is difficult for our football team when you lose a guy that has played as well as Brooks has. We have to move on, under some tough circumstances. Mainly, above everything else, is our wishes, are for him to get healthy. That is kind of a difficult way to start your first press conference as far as the reporting date, but this is something I wanted to address early before we get started.
"As far as getting started, I can't tell you how happy I am to get this (season) underway and get out on the field and work with these guys. I have been going through withdrawals, I think this is the longest I have been (in my career) without coaching a guy, whether it was on the field or in a meeting room.
"Our practice schedules, basically with the new rules and everyone coming in the same day, the first five practices are all one-a-days. Our first two practices are helmets only, from there we go two practices with shorts and shoulder pads and then our fifth practice, which will be Saturday (Aug. 9), we will be in full gear. The way our practices are structured, I would say maybe differently than most other years, we are going to spend more time under the circumstances with individual periods. The first hour of each practice, and maybe even longer, will be individual and teaching and doing a lot of those things that are new position-wise, not just on offense, but special teams and defense, too. That will also help the younger guys that come in, the freshmen that are coming in. We are looking forward to seeing those signees, you all probably know them better than I do, but we will have a report on those guys as the week goes on, who is in, who is doing what and who is doing well."
Question #1: Coach, you talked about teaching and instruction for the first hour and that took me back to the question I asked Coach (offensive coordinator Dave) Radar that he said you planned to have a physical fall and he told me that football is a physical sport and that you have told him and the other coaches that you want them to get after it each day, so is it going to be one of those where you learn, but you also want to have them butting heads?
"It will be a crash course in everything. Like I said, we will have a lot of individual time. I know this is a lot moreso than what I am used too and with these coaches, that has been our point of emphasis. There will be a lot of contact when it comes time to put the full gear on. The ways we will do that, is obviously, during individual (drills), you will spend time with your own position coach and then we will get into what we call cross-work, which will be one-on-ones with receivers and DBs and linebackers and running backs, whether or not its running routes, or pass rush with linebackers and running backs protecting. We will also have one-on-ones with the offensive and defensive lines, butting heads, run blocks and pass protection. Then as we get into the later part of practice we come together with a seven-on-seven (drill), which is our pass skel, everyone except the the offensive and defensive line, and then we come together at the end for team periods. We've got to get a lot taught in a short period of time. The bottom line is, to answer your question, we've got to do a little bit of everything and the urgency will have to be great as far as whatever drill we are doing, we have to get the most out of it. Just like in the meeting rooms, whenever we are in a meeting, we have to make sure we are on top of it, the players and the coaches. We can't waste a single minute."
Question #2: Coach, no one ever wants to lose an All-SEC player, but at least one paper, is linebacker one of the positions where that could happen and you would still be O.K.?"
"Fortunately, you are exactly right. We have some depth there. What we are going to do is move Demeco Ryans (So., 6-1, 226, Bessemer) over to the Will linebacker position and he and Juwan Garth (Fr., 6-3, 204, Decatur) will compete at that position. That way we will still have Cornelius Wortham (SLB, Sr., 6-1, 241, Calhoun City, Miss.) and then Freddie (Roach, MLB, So., 6-2, 251, Killen) in the middle. Again, under a tough situation, that is the one thing that makes us feel good about our depth at that position."
Question #3: How do you balance the sense of urgency with patience if these guys aren't learning - especially the freshman - being patient with these guys and at the same time making sure they are learning at the pace they need to be?
"It's a difficult balance. We've got to find out, not just with the younger guys and the freshmen, we've got to find out who are the guys that are going to go make plays for us. So we have to teach as fast as we can and hopefully the players will pick it up quickly and find out who those guys are. We've got to keep and open mind about it, too, as far as other guys that might not pick it up quite as fast as maybe some of the older guys or just by nature guys that can do that. If these guys continue to come along, we have to find a way to get them more reps. I think the biggest thing is going to be when we start practicing after four or five days when we put the pads on is trying to get all those guys, the guys we know that are going to be on the field on Saturday, get them as many reps as we can. They have to learn it too. It is all new to them, too. The best way they can learn it is getting as many reps as they can, but we don't have all that time each day on the practice field so it's a lot of things we are trying to get done."
Question #4: Are there any changes from the depth chart in the spring, are you kind of locked into that because of the current situation?"
"Well, we are using the spring depth chart as a starting point. One thing we talked to the players about when I first got here was some of the backups would have the chance to prove yourself a little bit more to a new coach in the fall than you would somebody that has already been through a spring practice with you. That should get your guys excited and the starters for the same reason. Those guys listed as starters at the end of spring practice ought to feel a little nervous because now this is a new coach and yes, you are a starter, but you now have to prove yourself all over again. What I think that will be beneficial for us, more so, than a normal year."
Question #5: With the new rule changes for reporting dates, how will you integrate the freshmen in the program as they now have to hit the ground running?
"We've got to love them up a little bit more than probably years past even though I haven't been coaching in the past. Three days with the freshmen in the past has been great. It allows you to focus on them and get them oriented on football and everything and what it's going to be like. I can remember back when I played and we did this some with the rookies in the NFL, that's how I equate it now, you put in a ton of stuff early with the freshman and then you go over those same exact things when the varsity comes in and that is what we did. Unfortunately, we don't have that now, so we have to keep that in mind and maybe spend more meeting time with the freshman when we have that chance, especially the first week, and just understand that this is there first time and now all of a sudden they are not by themselves, but in a big mix with everybody. So, patience, I guess is the best way to describe that."