Countdown to Kickoff
Football Coach Mike Shula's MTSU Game Week Press Conference


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions Asked


"Before we get started, I want to say that our thoughts are with all the people who have been affected by the hurricane, especially those who have been hit hard. There were some lives lost and a lot of injuries and of course a lot of property damage, and, for the second year in a row, such a devastating disaster. We want to keep those people in our thoughts and prayers and hopefully for a speedy recovery and everybody get back on track as fast as we can.

That being said, our football team is ready to go. We've had a real good training camp. We've had a lot of good things happen. We're getting back healthy. We're probably as healthy as we've ever been. We've got a few nicks and bumps but our team is excited to go play against somebody else.

We've had some scrimmages against each other, so a lot of hard work, a lot of conditioning. And yet we've still got a couple of good days left to prepare. So we want to take full advantage of it. We know with Middle Tennessee State coming in here we're going to be challenged. They've probably got one of their best teams---is what they're saying out of their camp--in a few years. They've got some seniors. They've got a really good quarterback in Clint Marks. (Marks) has really, completions percentage wise and passing efficiency is one of the top in the nation. They've got a big offensive line. They've got a good mix of backs with a wide variety to be able to spread the ball around.

Defensively they're defensive linemen, (Jeff) Littlejohn, who's not so little. They've got experience at the linebacker position. And with the new defensive coordinator, so we've got to be ready for anything.

Special teams wise, they do a lot of different things, give you a lot of different looks to keep you off balance and to confuse you, so our football team's got some work to do. We've got our hands full as far as preparation, but we're looking forward to the season."

Coach, you guys threw the ball more than you ran the ball in each of the scrimmages. Is there anything we can take out of that? Is that just wanting to work on the passing game with Brodie (Croyle) back in there and the timing with the wide receivers? What can we gage from that?

"Probably number one, yeah, we needed to get Brodie back in the swing of things in the timing with the wide receivers. We want to be balanced. We want to try to keep defenses off balance. We want to utilize our personnel. It's hard to say how we are going to go into football games. We've got a real good running back in Ken Darby. We feel very confident in our running game. And yet as I say that, we've got three offensive linemen that are going to be starting for their first time. So it's something that we'll balance and mix and try to do all those things. I can't say if we're going to throw it more than we're going to run it or not. It's our job to get those guys on the field and get them the ball, the guys that we feel are going to be playmakers. And we feel like Darby is a playmaker, Brodie is a playmaker, and these young wide receivers are now playmakers."

We're y'all affected at all in preparation, any meeting time, any down time at all due to the hurricane?

"Not really. Fortunately this week we had a little extra time to prepare. Actually, we started last week. Had it been a normal week we probably would have been affected a little bit by last night and today. However we got a lot of things done coaching wise. As far as the preparation for the coaches many of the stuff was done before we lost the power. We didn't lose that much power here in this building really until this morning for just a couple of hours. I know the players' dorm was out and the cafeteria was out, but I think they all still found a way to get something to eat some it hasn't been too bad."

Mike, are the players going to spend most of the day around here? (NOTE: University of Alabama was closed Tuesday due to storm damage & power outages). Is it a situation where they'll be able to be here all day?

"Sure. Between here and the dorm. School is out. The players were over here earlier, then they'll go back for lunch and then they'll come back over for our meetings this afternoon and practice. Depending on how wet the fields are, we may go on the field turf or possibly in the indoor facility just to save the fields but it's kind of given them the day to sleep in a little bit and yet given us a little extra time to get some preparation."

In terms of health and the freshmen coming in and tailbacks--do you feel better about your backfield all around than you expected to maybe?

"Pretty much. I think Ken Darby has been just a wonderful surprise in my mind just because I went in with low expectations (regarding his injury recovery). I hadn't been around anybody who's had that type of surgery. I think our doctors and our trainers and our strength coaches did a great job as well as KD as far as his re-hab and his preparation, staying on schedule. We gave him I think every bit of work he needed and yet not a snap more where it wouldn't overwork him. I think he's going to be feeling real fresh. That, with the combination of the backs, the young backs coming in, I think will help us. You know we've used two and three backs. Glen Coffee is a guy that we'll use. Jimmy Johns is a guy that we'll use. Roy Upchurch is someone that we're looking at using. He's been beat up here lately so he hasn't had quite as many reps. It will be a decision that we've got to make. And of course we've got Tim Castille who's played some half back. So he and Le'Ron (McClain), who's probably had one of the best camps out of anybody---it really makes you feel good about our backs in general."

Mike, could you address the Middle Tennessee offense from several standpoints: a), the no huddle and the problems that presents you, and b), the fact that they are so efficient with that completion percentage?

"Sure. I think the no huddle--it's hard to prepare for.  We go out and we do it in practice for our defense. We get the scout team doing it. We actually work in a fast-tempo pace when we go our ones against ones which we'll do for a short period of time during practice. But we'll do some two minute work. But for sure, the biggest thing on the no huddle is you've got to get lined up quickly and you've got to communicate. It's hard to simulate that during the course of practice when you're holding up cards and still showing them plays but our defense has talked about it since day one of training camp. We've worked on it hard for the last 10 days. I think you're right though: that mixed in with the fact that they are so efficient with their passing  game with a quarterback that makes good decisions and is comfortable in what he's doing and what he's being asked to do, and some receivers that have some experience--at least one for sure--that has got some real good quickness and a good understanding offense will definitely present problems for our defense. It's a new year for our defense. We've got to come ready to play. Our defense has earned a little bit of a reputation, and now it's time to back it up. All eleven guys we've got to get to the football as fast as we can."