Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: South Florida Game


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Coach Mike Shula
Coach Mike Shula

South Florida Game Week Press Conference
Opening Comments & First Five Questions Transcript


"It's finally here, game week, something we've all been looking forward to. Our players, (in) just the last couple of days, (you can sense) there's a little bit of excitement, more so than the last two or three weeks when they were grinding through two-a-days. I think it started Sunday, and I think they feel that excitement on campus. You kind of sense it around, just at being game week. Like we said all along, our guys have done everything we've asked them to do. They've responded. Right now we are doing less things physically as far as the conditioning and the hitting. (We're) Getting ourselves ready mentally (in) all of our preparation. We're not through with our preparation yet. We need to have three really good work days this week starting today. We've gotten two or three days, over the course of the last part of last week, and we just need to continue that and get going and get out other and play."

Mike, are you glad that the day is finally almost here? And, the second part of that question, will you be glad when the day is over?

"Yes, we are excited that it's here. We've been through a summer and a fall practice that none of us will forget. We've tried to be real detailed with our preparation. Our staff meetings have been a lot longer than what we probably would have thought and I know they'll be (not as long) this time next year just from every time you make a decision (now) it's the first time you make it and you want to be thorough with the things you're factoring in to decide upon. As far as looking forward to having it over---only if we win. We talked to our players about it, that feeling that we get. This is what we play for and coach for, that feeling after the game--if you've won the game--that sense of accomplishment from all the hard work and all those things that go through it, (doing) what we've asked them to do. That's what we're in it for. We've talked to our guys just this week (about this). We've got thirteen opportunities.  `The seniors have thirteen opportunities, and this is the first one right here. Let's make the most of it'."

Coach, can you talk about the anticipation of the butterflies? Are there any as you get ready to coach your first game?

"I think its more excitement. I've been asked that probably ten times now. It's more excitement and it will grow as the week goes just as it did when we played and I think it would for these players. You get closer to the weekend and your preparation. You get more and more involved in your preparation and then you get to the point where you are prepared and your practices are done. Now it's that last 24 hours of just mental thinking about the things that you've got to get done. And then just go out there and play. We've said from the first, too, that we want to make sure our players are out there just playing. Not thinking, just go out there and react, go play and go have fun. And that's what we're trying to do now and we're about at that point. We've still got three days where we've got to definitely get some work done, some preparation, and go from there."

Mike, a lot of the questions are obviously about you and your first game and so forth. Is there any way that you can sort of shift the spotlight off of you and on to your team?

"We just talk about during practice, in our meeting rooms, coming together as a team. Doing our job. Doing your job, not worrying about anything else. And this being the first opportunity for all of us. When I first got here we talked about the players, what they'd been through, specifically the seniors, and how we were going to prepare as hard as we could to make this season as successful as we could for those guys. And that's how we've talked as a team.  We've been in this building and on this practice field, and especially for the coaches, not anywhere else. So we've kind of been in this bubble here since we got the job but especially the last three or four weeks with practice, and I think the players have, too. But now it's a chance to get out and get around campus. The players are in school. They get that feeling `the school is behind us but this is a special group that we've got'."

Mike, do you feel comfortable, in terms of your offensive package that you put enough in to be able to attack every defensive weakness that you might see? And, just a follow-up on that, can you afford to be vanilla against South Florida so as to not show anything to Oklahoma?

"We feel comfortable with our package, with what we've got in. As far as being vanilla, I think you are meaning not having that much stuff. No. We've got to go--we've got to prepare for this game and do whatever we have to do to win the game, with our preparation, not just scheme wise but everything. With our working in individual drills, fine tuning routes and things like that. This is a very good team, South Florida, 9-2 last year. Their only two losses on the road to Oklahoma and Arkansas. What they've done in six years--I was down there when they started the program, it's unbelievable in my opinion. They are built on speed. They do a great job on defense. I think they were 16th in the country last year in defense. We've got to be totally focused, totally prepared and not worry about any other game than this game."

Mike, what are you surprisingly pleased with so far facet wise with your football team and what would you like to have another couple of weeks to work on?

"I think overall our team speed and I think our leadership has been very pleasing. Defensively, we've had a very nice training camp. Offensively we've grown. We've come together quicker than I thought just because the players have picked up. They're real anxious to get going and prove to themselves, prove to us and prove to everyone that whatever is thrown at them, they can handle. When you talk about the offense, two segments: our offensive line, they come first in mind in my opinion, and then Brodie (Croyle) has done a great job picking things up. And Shaud Williams. Those are the guys that make me feel good about my job. And I think they've responded to our challenge. And hopefully we just take what we've done so far in the practice field and the scrimmages and do the same things out on the field on Saturday."