Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Arkansas


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Coach Mike Shula

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Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions

Opening Comments:

"It's obviously a big week for us, back in the SEC, playing our first game on the road in, from what I hear, one of the toughest places in the SEC if not maybe in the country to play. We've got, as usual three good days of preparation. We'll probably have some crowd noise out there starting tomorrow and Thursday. We'll change our travel plans up a little bit. We'll leave a little earlier, go to the stadium and practice there.

"As far as our situation with Brodie's (Croyle) surgery, he had surgery yesterday and it seemed to go fine and all that. Marc (Guillon) is our starter, and our guys, we all do, feel great about him coming in and taking advantage of this opportunity and playing well. He's had a lot of experience in our system now with spring ball and during the course of training camp. It's time for him to, like I said, take advantage of this opportunity.

"As a team, Arkansas is a team with a lot of size and a lot of speed. I remember saying the same thing last year about them. They're big up front again with the offensive line. Matt Jones is an incredible athlete. He makes a lot of plays. His statistics speak for themselves.   He's a playmaker. He's going to be a guy our defense has got to somehow find a way to contain or slow down.

"Defensively, they've got very, very good team speed. They're quick up front and they're big up front. Yes, they've lost some starters but they've also had a lot of guys that are starting this year for the first time that have had experience because they've played a lot of guys last year, too. So it's by far our biggest challenge of the year.

"We've got some other guys nicked up a little bit, not too bad, but I think most of them will practice today and (we'll) just get ourselves ready. I think things are going to happen fast. We'll talk to our players this week about things that are going to happen real fast, getting on a plane, getting over there, having the earlier start. So we've got to make sure we're as prepared as we can."

Coach, as a former quarterback, what is the one thing that Marc (Guillon) will have to adjust to the quickest? Is it the speed of the game, changing plays at the line of scrimmage, what is it?

"I think it's the communication part, even from getting a play from the sidelines, getting in and out of the huddle, making sure he's real, real loud in the huddle and clear. Getting up to the line of scrimmage and having enough time up there just to see what's going on in front of him. We did it last week with him in there, but it's going to be a lot tougher on the road. And just kind of getting comfortable with each play."

Mike, last year you had a game where Brandon (Avalos) had to come in and quarterback in a similar situation, and in that game you scaled your game plan way back.  Do you have to do that sort of thing with Marc or can it be a little more expanded?

"No, and we wouldn't have to do that with Marc or really with Spencer (Pennington) for that matter just because these guys to me are further along in our offense than Brandon was, who was our number three (and) hardly had any reps. That goes back to Marc having a chance to have all the reps that he got in the spring. We won't cut back. We'll do things that we feel that Marc does best. There are some things that he does well that Brodie didn't do well. There are some things that Brodie did well that Marc maybe isn't as comfortable with because of the experience. But I don't see us all the sudden, or you guys seeing an all new offense out there."

Coach, what are some of those things that you are saying Marc does best, that you can highlight and focus on?

"He's got a quick release. He gets set up quick. He makes quick decisions. His accuracy, as he's shown in the scrimmages and in the game, has been good. He's got some mobility. He's a similar athlete to Brodie. He's bigger. He's taller. He's thicker. And the things that he's had reps on. Obviously, he hasn't had a lot of reps this year because Brodie's taken a lot of them, but the ones that he's had, we'll try to play to his strengths that way. Some of his strengths may be experience in more plays than some of the other ones."

Coach, now that you have a day-time game, a 2:30 game under the sun, how much does that affect the conditioning or the rotation of the guys? Does that continue to stay the same?

"We'll pretty much continue to keep that the same. I think the biggest thing for us, having the early game--yeah, it's going to be hotter---is just getting ourselves ready to go earlier in the day. We've had a long time our first three games, to kind of wait around the hotel. The players have slept in a little bit. Now we're going to get up earlier. Once we get up we're going to be real busy. We're not going to have a break during the middle of the day. We're going to have a longer bus ride to get to the stadium. Those types of things we're going to talk to the guys all week about, just getting themselves ready to go as soon as they get up. And even before Saturday, even Friday once they get going. Our day is going to start earlier on Friday, too."

Mike, you've had some wild things happen to you so I don't think this question is out of the ordinary, with the quarterback situation last year you had two go down in one game. What would happen, what would you do, do you make a contingency plan if something were to happen to Marc and Spencer? Would you go with Adam Thrash? Would you move an athlete to that position? What would you do?

"Right now, if we had to decide today, we'd go with Adam Thrash. He's going to be more involved in our meetings where he hasn't been because he's been doing a lot of the scout team work. Right now I'm not sure we have any more than that get themselves ready. A.J. would probably be the next guy. But you're right. We've had two guys go down, so those guys have got to be ready. And then you'd have to really find a way to win a game like Brandon last year at the Georgia game. He didn't have any reps and came in. A couple of things that we knew he could do he did and he did pretty well. We moved the ball. That's a tough deal though. Hopefully that won't happen."