JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman football head coach Mike Turner breaks down expectations against Virginia Union as the Eagles prepare for week two.
Opening Statement: Virginia Union is a very formidable opponent, they've got a great running back that's 250 pounds, very explosive. A big offensive line up front with a quarterback that's 6'5", a receiver that had 163 yards last week or something like that. So defensively they're very athletic and a strong football team, they've got a preseason All-American who's a great athlete but there's plenty around him. It's a very athletic and physical group, they want to run the football just like we want to run the football so it'll be one of those kind of games.
Q1: What about the preparation for this coming off a weekend of some rest for the kids getting ready for another long road trip?
The good part is it's only six hours, it'll seem like a walk in the park for our kids. We're excited about going to Richmond, we've got a great plan on travel. We're going to work out and those kind of things and be in the hotel Friday afternoon and evening. But we're just anxious to play. When you come off of a game like we had last Thursday night, you want to get all of that out of you as quickly as you can and get ready to play. And in football the hardest part is they're going to make you hold it for a week, you can't play two days later like some sports. You've just got to get ready to line up and play. We've got corrections that we started on yesterday, the kids came in with a great attitude. We had a little workout last night with them and they responded well.
Q2: What is the mentality like with your team after a loss like that?
I think when they look back at the mistakes we made, and the key mistakes were penalties, at that part of the game we gave them a touchdown, it cost us a touchdown, it kept some drives alive for them, gave them field goal opportunities, took us out of field goal opportunities, and when you start adding them up anybody can play this or that. But in football it's just like it was in the games last season, it gets started right in the fall with us. Those two, three, four snaps in there make a difference in the ballgame. You know, the kids can look at it like "well this is what we should have done," well we didn't get that part done. We played hard, I was so proud of how hard they played and how they played united. You didn't hear any moaning about defense or offense not doing what they're supposed to, it was a great united front. They continue to pull and call on each other, I was very proud of how they played. You've just got to take some of those mental mistakes in penalties out of the factor. It's the part of the game that's called discipline, and I thought they showed great discipline in the way they played. But there were times when that broke down and had some penalties that cost us the football game.
Q3: When it comes down to it, is that stuff that you can put on it being the fact that it's just week 1?
I don't think so. If you ask me whether we're better than we were at this point last year, yes we are, we've cut down considerable on those things, we're conscious of it, we've addressed it more in fall camp as to the prices to pay if certain things happen. But you hate to get to where people play their fannies off and you see a few mistakes here and there that cost you a chance to be successful. They should gain confidence from that (game), that they made that trip and went toe to toe with West Florida and had the opportunity to win. We didn't get it done, but that just means they need to tighten up the ship a little bit tighter and understand what discipline means. We read them a verse out of the book of James yesterday about how God doesn't cause those things to happen, He allows them to happen and He does that to test us. It goes on in that verse about "blessed are those that endure," it's the same way we are. Blessed are those that endure, blessed are those who get ready to pay the next week, blessed are those that are going to be a great example for other people regardless of the outcome. I talked to them about how their performance and them as individuals has nothing to do with the scoreboard. If that were the case we're all done for, period, in life. I don't know if I answered your question there but I sure went around the curve on it.
Q4: You alluded to Virginia Union's tailback, Tabyus Taylor, earlier. How do you slow down a six foot, 250lb bowling ball?
Wow. We tighten up (laughs). They're going to get him the football in a lot of ways. When you've got a QB that's 6'5", there's the threat that's right behind him. They like to do a lot of different things different kind of ways to get him the football whether it be the zone, the spread, the power. What really gets you is when they get two backs back there and run right into you and power.
Q5: Typically there's a big jump from week one to week two, how do you go about improving and taking that next step forward?
Well that's the cliché, that's what everybody says. You're supposed to have more improvement then and I hope there is, and I know there will be. I think the kids eyes are a little bit clearer right now about what's got to get done. When you look at that video it doesn't make you feel real good, but you do that because that's a learning process. You see that and say "hey that's not going to happen again. We're going to get better at that right there." Because we've got to, the competition keeps getting better and better every week. We're going to be in this journey, and we've talked about enjoying the journey and where the journey takes us. And for the first four out of five weeks that journey puts us on buses and traveling places. But it ought to grow us together and more united as a football team.
Q6: Defensively a lot of guys played a lot of snaps, how do you try to build depth while maintaining the level of play?
Well we've done that during training camp, fall camp and last spring. And you've got to do that every day in practice. You've got to be focused to make sure kids are getting reps. Any kid out there is one snap away from being a starter and so that kid has to be prepared, he's got to have game reps. We didn't give some as many game reps as we would've liked on Thursday night, we didn't give offense many reps to even get that many extras. So that's the part that does concern you, we've got capable people behind those young men but we've still got to get them on the field to see what happens.
Q7: From an offensive standpoint, you played a couple different running backs. Marcus Williams stepped up, how do you envision working in that RB rotation in week two?
We're excited about seeing Marcus step up. Marcus is one of the two running backs we had coming off of a season ending injury, he's been totally cleared to play. Being totally cleared is fine, but I've got to get totally cleared in my heart and my mind, as the student athlete. Marcus has worked hard in fall camp and I think finally he's said, "hey I'm going to turn it loose and go. I feel good and everything's alright." And he showed up quite a few times Thursday night. He's a guy that we want to depend on to be in there as a running back.
Q8: Is there anything you learned from the first road trip that you might have to tinker with or adjust here for the second one?
That's the part that's most pleasing, that trip was pretty close to perfect. How the kids handled it, the stops we made in between to have walk through, have dinner, and moving on. Usually the first trip is when you have to worry about this or that. I think our kids helped be role models for some of the younger guys we took about how it's supposed to be. The people at the hotel told me that's the nicest group of young men that have ever been here before. So they handled that part of it right. I just hope we keep getting better, knowing that you want the trips to be as educational as they can be. But those kids are on a mission, they're going some place to play football, to show what their work has done. And then you want to get them back on that bus and back to home base.
Q9: The defense has kind of set the tone last year and before, do you sense any pressure for the offense to kind of set the tone in their own right?
I think obviously you do that. I told the kids after the game that's my fault, when we don't score any more than what we scored that's the head coaches' fault. I think it's a matter of that coming together and gelling a little bit more. We've got kids there that have played and know how to play, and I think that was a great eye opener for them. I just hate that it cost us what it cost us. I think we'll be a lot more on that road to getting it gelled and start being more productive. And in the same breath, we've worked so hard to recruit and bring in people that would fit what we wanted to get on defense last year and now you see this year. You see that you've got what you need, these were people we brought in specifically because they're the kind of kids we want at Carson-Newman but they met the needs of being the defensive kids we want. And we're seeing the fruit of that.
Q10: How would you grade the passing game after week one?
Oh it was awful, and that goes back to one guy, it goes back to me. We were going to do some things out of play action and I was concerned about protection and I wanted to make sure that he didn't take any more hits than what he needed to take. We've got plenty of guys that are capable of getting some things done. But we were in a mode that we're trying to keep drives alive, and trying to keep the defense off the field as much as we could. It goes back to offense, it's what you do on the first down. Because what kind of call you make on second and five or second and six is a whole lot better than second and eight. We've got some issues that we needed to work out, and very simple things to get done. Started on them last night with the kids, I think we'll be in good shape and ready to go for this week.
Q11: About the first downs, twenty-six plays were run where you had first and ten, about a third of them you had no gain or a loss. What percent of plays is it acceptable to go for?
On first down you're not making four or five yards it's going to be a tough day. It's like third down percentage, we think on offense we win if it's 50% or better. That's just a good standard right there. I think the same thing on first down. We've got to throw the ball better on first down, we did some Thursday night. But if you're going to be a dominant offensive team you've got to be a dominant first down team.
Q12: What makes Sterling Hammond, the pre-season All-American, tick back there for the Panthers?
He has great anticipation, he's a football player. He sees things and does them naturally, he sees plays because he's got a jump on things maybe other people don't have. Evidently he studies video well because he breaks on the ball at the right time and the right place. And they put him in a position where he's able to turn loose and make plays a little. He's a great athlete and has been very consistent in his pay.
Q13: Carson-Newman has never played Virginia Union before, but what sticks out to you about their head coaching role?
I've known coach for a while in other positions, and the people he's been around. I know he's going home, it's his alma mater where he's going to be at to coach. When you look at him on video right now there's a lot of similarities. Which that's how it should be, that's how he's coached on offense. He's brought his defensive coordinator with him to Virginia Union. He's going to do a good job there, he always had kids that were ready to play when he was at St. Aug and now that he's at home and can recruit the ones he wants to get I think you'll see that program on the rise.
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