JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Coach Mike Turner chats about being able to play at home for a three-game stretch, opening that up with Limestone College, and what it will take for the Eagles to match up against the Saints' strong defense.
Opening Statement: Well, Limestone is a very dangerous football team. When you look and see the points that they've scored, the closeness of the games and the quality of the people, we want our kids to know that's a very dangerous opponent we've got coming in here Saturday.
Q1: You get to face off against a former Eagle assistant and a good friend, Tony Ierulli, I think the first time ever a former assistant has come back to coach against Carson-Newman. What's that like?
It's different, you know we're all excited about him getting the job and he wanted to go back and be a head coach again. He gets the job and you think, "well there's going to be one day where we've got to play each other." That's the part that's not good. When you've got people that have coached with you before and then you coach against them. He's coached on the offensive and defensive sides here at Carson-Newman, so he knows what we do and what we're about very well. But we can't worry about that, we've got to take care of Carson-Newman. We tell them every week, it's not a cliché, it is Carson-Newman vs. Carson-Newman. If we play well, we get after people, we take care of the football, we're a pretty good football team. When we don't do that, we're in trouble.
Q2: What has this five week stretch done for your team with four of five on the road and pretty much every game with a high caliber opponent?
I think it's done several things for us, and we talked about that yesterday in the team meeting. It's strengthened them inside, I think. It's strengthened them outside. I think they understand now what it means to be together as a football team. What it means to be put in adversity, and Saturday they faced adversity. They faced it squared up and showed up, nobody flinched. And that was something I was very proud of them for. I also know that we put them in harm's way for five weeks, that's a heck of a football schedule. But now you should be a better football team, you should know more about yourself, there shouldn't be any questions marks, there shouldn't be any problem about trusting each other. We should know what we have to do to get the job done.
Q3: The next five you don't leave the state of Tennessee, what's that like finally being at home?
Well I don't know, I'm getting ready to experience that. I was just talking to one of the coaches the other day, sitting outside the bus and I was thinking, "how many years have I breathed in diesel fuel off of a bus?" So, this is going to be a good time for us, getting it started right with Limestone Saturday. But to be able to play here for a while and have a few weeks to get settled in will be I think something great for our football team.
Q4: Limestone has a lot of good, young talent. You've got a Marshall transferred quarterback in DJ Phillips. The reigning SAC freshman of the year at running back in Jerko'ya Patton. What about the pieces they have to the puzzle on offense?
Well we were just talking about that this morning in the staff meeting. They're very dangerous, they're dangerous at the perimeter with those receivers. They've got great moves in there and have found many ways to get them open. They do a good job scheming against the defense, they're one of the football teams like a Catawba and they're gonna run that thing downhill on you. You've got to make sure you fill the gap, that you don't get washed out and you've got to have gap integrity.
Q5: How do you ensure that your team doesn't relax now that they have a stretch of three games at home and there is still that sense of urgency from those first few weeks?
I think last week there were two football teams that knew they had their back to the wall. And when you get your back to the wall I don't know how you can relax, it stays to the wall until it's over with. We've talked to them about a them that's "don't settle." And we can't settle. We've still got ways to go to be a better football team, and we're going to start with that today in practice. We're going to make sure we practice with the right intensity, with the right focus. One of the greatest lies in America is, "well that guy's a gamer." There's no such thing as a gamer. You practice hard and you've got a chance to play well. We expect our kids to respond that way, and they have. They understood that it was a five-week period there that was tough. But right now, I think we're a better football team for being in some of those situations.
Q6: With running backs you're extremely deep at this point in the year, Antonio Wimbush goes down but Marcus Williams and Sherron Jackson step up. Is this as deep as you've been at running back in the last several teams?
Yeah, maybe so, but gosh we've got some growing to do in that position. We still make some mistakes that put us in harm's way sometimes, but there hasn't been a lack of going hard. Those kids are really exciting, because they're gonna go hard and they make things happen. They're the slasher type kids that can get on the corner and go with it also. I look forward to these guys growing up and getting another year under them.
Q7: You look at the offense as a whole bouncing back after the three-point effort against Newberry with 33 and it seemed like everything was clicking. Do you feel like some of the issues from the Newberry game were corrected this last weekend?
I think so, I think the biggest thing that was corrected was the excitement about playing. I think the excitement about playing, about thinking you got it made, we've got to learn how to handle success. You know you fight hard to where you get to the part where you have success, and then you've got to learn how to handle success. And if you're going to make it in this world, you've got to have success but have that hunger to have more. The guy that sits in the middle is called mediocre, there's no place for that. We want these kids to have a great football season and have a great life. And you can't settle for anything. That's in your walk with the Lord, your relationship with your wife, your work. So hopefully we've got them to understand what it takes to get that part done. You ask, "well did you do a whole lot of things differently?" No, no we just executed the offense and played with a whole lot more excitement.
Q8: Special teams wise you've got some kinks there. Five weeks into the season, is there the ability to correct that or is it now just kind of masking some of those areas and trying to figure out how to get the job done with what you have?
You know we've got some good kids there that maybe get a little nervous. And there's a thing called age, and I don't have any pills that make them older, those kinds of things. You know, they lack experience and you've got to build their confidence. Everybody can grade that position, but who wants to walk out there in front of all those people, and there's one thing that you do, and everybody knows. So, we're going to keep encouraging those kids, they're gonna keep getting better, and we're gonna keep counting on them. The football team's gonna count on them because down the road somewhere that's something that's going to be very critical to us.
Q9: You look at Limestone defensively, finally graduates Joshua Simmons the All-American, their leader in tackles at safety. What can you say about the job that he does on the back-end of the Saints defense?
Well they're a very good defense. I think in the secondary they're very talented, they've got kids that can run, they're good press corners, they keep leverage on your receivers and we've got to get off of that. I think up front they're gonna move them around quite a bit, that's gonna happen. But they play to their defense. That's a compliment to their coaches and their players as well. I don't think they're going to put them in something that's going to keep them from being able to play. As coaches sometimes, you wanna do a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And kids have to be able to have a base thing in life, a base defense and a base offense. Coach Slade and I always talk that if something's going bad get in a base defense. If it's not going right run the base offense. And I think they fit very well what Tony and those guys are doing down there.
Q10: One thing that hasn't changed is a knack for defensively scoring touchdowns. Limestone has scored 18 defensive touchdowns in the last four years and are second in the country. How much extra emphasis does that place on ball security?
Well I don't think you put that on the kids at all. They can watch video and tell that those people are ball hawkers and those kinds of things and they're going to make plays. This year they've had an interception returned for a touchdown, they've blocked a field goal, they're going to play hard. It doesn't matter what the score is, they're going to play hard and keep coming after you. We've got to be prepared. We told them it's going to be a 60-minute game at Catawba, but we lied to them it was 65 or 66 minutes. So, this is going to be a full ballgame. Those kids play hard. And what I like about the way they play is that they don't know what the record is, they're playing that way regardless. And I'll say it again, you wake up on Saturday morning and you get to play college football, man your excitement level ought to be out the roof.
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