Mike Turner Opening Statement: It's great to be back at Mossy Creek for homecoming. It is great to be at home again after being on the road for two weeks. I've been proud of how our football team handled the travel, especially since they were both day trips. Homecoming is one of those special times, it is great to see people come back on campus. Carson-Newman is always a special place for homecoming. More football players come back on homecoming than any other weekend. You got to make sure the football team is focused with all the homecoming events occurring during the day. We started that yesterday by having a good day practicing and making sure that our eyes are on the prize come Saturday.
Question 1: What's it mean to you when your former players and teammates to come back on Saturday?
Turner: All of them are special. That is why we started the Eagle Forever program and it's been a great success with our alumni. There will be guys on Saturday that I have played with and that I have coached. Players that I have coached and there dad, that is scary because I started when I was five. It is a special time and there is no question about it. All the former football players have great stories and you just wish you had more time with them. They are here for the game and they want to see what this team can do. It's a day where current players learn about tradition and what other players have done to pave the way for them. It is a good time.
Question 2: What does that mean to you that the alumni is forming a pre-game cross for your current team to run through?
Turner: I think that's great. I want those guys to look our guys in the eyeball and I want our kids to see them. I think that it is going to be a great event, if we can get it pulled off and nobody get run-over. We are really excited about that and coach Turner and coach White are in charge of that. I think that it is going to be great for our football team and I think that is going to be great for the people on campus to see. That is what this program is about and it is about being a part of something for life.
Question 3: What does Will Hunter do to make North Greenville's offense run so effectively?
Turner: He is a great quarterback and he does some special things for them. He's got a couple of running backs that certainly aid him. They are a good football team. They have always been a solid football team. They are well coached in what they do, they have their defensive scheme and offensive schemes in place. I'm hoping that is what we are getting to as a program. You do what you do well and then you never have to look back and say what happened. Jeff (Farrington) over there has done a great job in building the program.
Question 4: How hungry do you anticipate North Greenville to be coming into the game?
Turner: It has not been that long but it is a natural rivalry between Carson-Newman and North Greenville. We've got to stop what they do best. They are going to run the football until you stop it. When he does throw he has some very talented receivers to get the ball to on the outside. They are going to be a very challenging team for our defense.
Question 5: What is it like to have depth at the offensive line position?
Turner: There is no question it is much better. Last year we played 11 games and we never started the same group twice in a row. They are growing and that is a position on the offensive line that it is not natural to make the adjustment from high school to college. A lot of those kids played in the up position most of their career. In this offense we expect them to come off the ball and get movement. We are still in the growing area of getting better. They are getting there and they have great heart. You look at Saturday's game and you rush for that much, it says a lot about your offensive line. We still got a way's to go though.
Question 6: How do you progress from not going three-and-out the entire game last Saturday?
Turner: That goes back to great expectations. You try to teach kids that you have great expectations and that is not going to happen unless you expect it to happen. We really bragged on them a lot about no three-and-outs. We got the ball for the first time in the third quarter and scored and then we didn't score. Nothing changed we had the same people on the same field. We had just one turnover and should have been a lot more points scored. We just have to keep working and getting better. This is week eight and we have people saying that they aren't freshman and sophomores anymore, yes, they are. It is fun watching them go and they are exciting and fun to be around.
Turner: You got playmakers and that's what you want in that position. Those guys have been able to make plays for our team. With us being an option team there is going to be eight or nine men in the box. That's giving the receivers a one-on-one opportunity with the defense. We told our kids that you are going to have your one-on-ones and that it's your job to beat that. We have to continue working our way and to do things the right way. Just because it is one-on-one coverage doesn't mean you are going to get open but they have worked on getting open. That first down catch by Dorren at the end of the game was outstanding. I told him Sunday that I am grateful that you came off and attacked the defensive back and got open. If that hadn't been a completion I was probably going to fire myself for stopping the clock. Now a normal guy would have just come off the ball and gotten covered and it would have been incomplete.
Question 8: How would you grade the special teams group?
Turner: There is no question in the last two weeks they have graded as an overall group much higher. We are getting people to understand that special teams are about speed and how fast you cover. Our kickoff teams responded well too. Football hasn't changed since the way back days and it is about field position. What special teams do is they give you that field position. We still have not broken one for a touchdown yet and that is what we are aiming for. Yesterday, we showed them that we were one man away from breaking one. We still have a lot of things to look forward to and get better at.
Question 9: What is the biggest area that you need to improve on the defensive side of the ball?
Turner: I think it is getting back to reality. The week before it was a total domination and you have to be careful not to be complacent. I told my wife and daughter this, you are never as good as people say you are, nor are you as bad as someone says you are. You are right in the middle and that is where you want to be. You have to be alert to some of those things and to keep you on your toes. I think our defense after watching those videos and talking to our defensive staff that yesterday was a good learning day for us. We put that behind us and now let's go on and play the way that we are capable of playing. We have played lights out and on Saturday we played in a way that was not typical.
Question 10: What does that do for the coaching staff, knowing that the defense has playmakers that you can rotate in-and-out during a game?
Turner: It starts up front. A year ago we were having defensive linemen playing 70 snaps and that is not realistic. A kid cannot sustain that kind of drive, that kind of quickness that it takes to rush somebody throwing the ball 40 times a game. The biggest difference in our defense has been depth. We can put some people in there to stay fresh. When you push the offensive line on defense that makes it better coverage for our defensive backs and linebackers. Depth has made a big difference in our defense.
Question 11: How important has your coaching staff been with your transition to the top role?
Turner: There is no question that it has been seamless. That has been from day one, we know what we have to do and we know what is expect of us as a coaching staff. We are different than most coaching staffs. We are going to be great football coaches and we are going to be great men. We want to be able to tell our kids the truth and to lead them to a relationship with the Lord. We have a calling as a coach but more importantly we have calling as a mission of this program.
Question 12: What makes North Greenville's running backs so exceptional?
Turner: I think they have a great offensive line in front of them. That is always going to be the key for somebody that is a good running back. They have experience and a knack of being able to move and find that little gap in the zone. When they do find the gap they explode. They are a tandem that has been very productive all year. It is a good matchup with the experience of their offensive line. They are also experienced for the quarterback. Any quarterback is a whole lot better when he can take one look and a second look before he has to get rid of the football.
Question 13: How is your freshman kicker/punter coming along?
Turner: He has done great. We've got him doing some different things from punting normal and doing the shield to bring him out. We have a couple of punts that we try to go rugby style and get him moving away from the rush. He has a knack of turning the ball over and getting the big bounce. He is sharp young man and has a great family in Knoxville and he has been a great asset to us.
Question 14: What sticks out to you about North Greenville's defense?
Turner: Just the way that they play together. It is a team deal and you can tell that they work like a well-oiled machine. They are sound fundamentally and they are going to keep things in front of them.