Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Southern Miss Game


Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Coach Mike Shula

Southern Miss Game Press Conference
Opening Comments & First Five Questions Transcript


"We're getting ready for Southern Miss. Homecoming. It's the first time I've been on campus in a long time for a Homecoming game. We've got to have a good week of practice. Anytime you play a Southern Miss football team, it's going to be one of the hardest hitting games we're going to have all year. I think our players realize that, especially our older guys. It was that way when I was here as a player, and just talking to some of the guys just around this building that are here that have played in games it continues to be the same way. You can kind of throw out the week before anytime you are playing Southern Miss because you know you are always going to get their best. And they are playing well.  They are 3-2, 3-0 in their conference, had a nice come-from-behind victory. They are well-coached. They do a lot of things in all three phases to try to create some confusion, so we've got a lot of work ahead of us to do this week starting today where we just do a good job focusing in on every little detail. I think that's one of the biggest things we talk to our players about, especially when you're at a time like this, when you are looking for a win. We've got to go back and do things right fundamentally, be real detailed, every guy, every coach, every player at every position; just take a good look at what we are doing and get better, each guy, at just doing their job."

Mike, what about Brodie's (Croyle) status for Saturday?

"It's going to be a day-to-day thing, very similar to last week. We'll just see how he is today. It's a pain thing a little bit, obviously, on how he feels today. We'll take a look at him with our trainers and our doctors today and tomorrow and try to get him, if he's feeling good, try to get him some reps. He probably won't get any reps today---and then see again what it looks like tomorrow."

You've had breakdowns in special teams in different phases fairly consistently through the season. How much of that is only having three weeks to fit that in and what can you do about it trying to make corrections during the season?

"Well, they're just like our other two phases. We've had some inconsistency there. Unfortunately when that happens on special teams, at times it can result in a play that costs a touchdown or what have you. We've also made some big plays on special teams. Consistency is one thing. At times we've had some other guys step into some roles on special teams due to an injury on offense or defense where all of a sudden a guy that maybe wasn't starting and playing a lot of plays is now playing more plays so a new guy has had to come in there and get used to those things. But last week was a great example. We had some big plays, did some good things coverage wise, had some nice returns kickoff return wise, put the ball in the end zone, had a couple of nice punts, and had a nice return and fumbled the ball. And then made one mistake on a punt protection and it cost us a touchdown. But we also had a block on where their punter fumbled the ball. We felt like we had a chance of blocking it anyways and it resulted in a touchdown for us. Those are the things. There's too much inconsistency. We like the good plays, the big plays. We've got to eliminate any mistakes. You only have one chance on specials teams whereas offense and defense you usually have three downs before something's happening."

This is the 7th game, sort of the mid-point of the year, and you've got a couple of guys who haven't played at all this season in Cornelius (Wortham) and AC (Antonio Carter). Have you made a definite decision on them?

"Obviously just like you said because of where we're at in the season of not playing them but we take it week to week--and we involve everything. The coaches are involved in decisions medically. If a guy's not ready, he's not ready, too. So those are things that we weigh into it. It's been tough on both of those guys obviously, especially AC because it's been two years now. But it's going to be a week-to-week thing, but we are kind of leaning that way (to red shirt them)'

As you try to find that consistency on offense that you've been looking for, how much does it slow that progress down when you don't even know who the quarterback is going to be for a couple of weeks?

"It slows it down a little bit. It's tough. It's a tough situation as well as playing some other guys, some younger guys. We've had some young fullbacks in there, we're playing a young receiver now, but that's our job as coaches, to understand who we've got in the game, put them on the field and when they are in the game give them the best chance to make some plays. And whether or not that's altering your game plan or doing things maybe you've done differently with some other personnel groupings. But I think the thing that we've got to get back to which is what I said earlier is just fundamentals, of blocking, of tackling, if you are a quarterback getting back and getting set up and just making sure every little thing is covered and not taking anything for granted. That way we eliminate making some mistakes that have hurt ourself, which is what we did early in the game last week. If we can do that, now we feel like we're just playing against one football team."

If Brandon (Avalos) is your guy, this week, Southern Miss does a variety of looks at you. How simple are you going to have to keep things for him because they can really make things complicated for a quarterback?

"If the word is simple, then we'll keep it simple. But I think we're going to tailor it. If he's the guy, we are going to tailor it to do the things that he does well. And also, obviously use some of the other guys around him. We feel like we've got enough flexibility in our offense with our scheme and also our personnel to help each week to kind of tailor our game plan toward that defense that we feel like is going to be successful and then do it with some guys who are maybe new coming in. Now we've got a lot of work to do if he's going to be the guy. Just five reps last week--I think that is five more than he had all year except for training camp. It's something, if he's going to be the guy, then he's got to make sure he prepares thoroughly and we've got to do our job as coaches."