JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Coach Mike Turner discusses staying focused for the upcoming Homecoming contest against Mars Hill.
Opening Statement:What a great natural rivalry, an hour and a half away from each other. Two Baptist institutions. They've got a great coaching staff; coach Tim Clifton has done a great job with that program. He does a great job with their offense, very innovative, and they're scoring a lot of points. Coach Barnett is the defensive coordinator, always has great athletes, always has aggressive kids that run to the ball well so that's a solid program year in and year out.
Q1: It's unusual, Carson-Newman and Mars Hill are two schools in the league with coaching staffs that have really been around one another for a long time. How unique is that in this days coaching age?
Gosh if you watch ESPN or read a newspaper you find out that that doesn't really happen often. I think it's a great thing for a program where the coach has been there for a while. People know that he's not trying to use that as a stepping stone to further his career. But I also think it shows what people think about the institution where they're working at and what they're getting done with those kids.
Q2: Homecoming, what does that mean to you?
Well it means there's a lot going on. I talked with the coaches yesterday morning, it's an important football game, obviously. They all are from now on, which is great. But it's also Homecoming and there's going to be a lot of people that are here for the right reasons but not the same reasons that our kids are. So, they've got to have a great, locked in focus because it can get distracting. And I told them, "when that ballgame's over you can be distracted." But we've got to get our job done.
Q3: It comes out today that Antonio Wimbush has been named as a finalist for the Mayo Clinic comeback player of the year, what's that mean to a kid that's probably rehabbed as hard as anybody?
Oh, it's a great honor to be nominated, and he's very very deserving of that. There's a thing about rehab, and people who have never been injured don't quite understand what rehab is. You can go at rehab two or three different ways. You can go the cautious way and go nice and easy or you can go at it the aggressive way. And I know he's gone at it the aggressive way. He's one of those guys they've got to run out of the training room because he's done all he needs to do in one day. He's proven that hard work will get you back. He's very blessed to have the talent and ability that God's given him there's no question about that. But when you come back from that kind of injury and you can comeback with a smile on your face and a great heart that says something about Antonio Wimbush.
Q4: You mentioned Mars Hills offense being high-scoring, and a lot of that comes from one of the best wide receivers in the country, Craig Rucker. How do you slow a guy like that down?
Well the number one thing you've got to do is make sure you find him. Because they put him in a lot of different places, which is what you want to do with a talent like that, so people can't load up on him. So, he's going to be in a lot of different places. They have other receivers that are talented but of course he's the go-to guy that makes big plays for them.
Q5: Outside of the return touchdown last week, was this the best special teams' performance of the season for your group?
Oh no question about it, it was a game that so far, we've got six games done, that was the best game where all three parts were working together to complement each other all season. You're midway in it's nice to have those kinds of things happen. And we talked to them yesterday, now you know exactly what it takes to get it done. There's a thing about knowing, and there's a thing about doing. Knowing what to do and be excited about doing it, I hope we've got that plan now and understand it. I'm very proud of coach Goss and all the coaches that work with our special teams, the way they've rallied. It was quite enjoyable watching the special teams work Saturday. I like it when we only punt one time, I like that a lot. And I know Craig does too, it doesn't bother him a bit.
Oh no question, and that didn't just happen on gameday. We had met on Friday together and told them that we were going to put him in the third or fourth series no matter what was happening. And it worked out to do that. Then Derrick tweaked his ankle a little bit and to put Tyler back in there our offensive kids responded to both of them. They know they both are going to make plays, and both can carry them so it's great to have two guys that you feel real real solid about.
Q7: A couple weeks ago against Newberry the offense really struggled, you guys have obviously made some adjustments. Is it more quality execution from your kids or have there been some coaching changes throughout the week that have aided the swing back to what this offense can be?
I think the majority of that is execution. We haven't had to tweak too many things, it's just a matter of us getting it done and carrying through with what we're supposed to do. And that's the beauty of watching what happened Saturday. Those kids came out and executed. They did that against Catawba and they've done it this past Saturday against Limestone. And hopefully when you get the feel of playing that way you get to where you like to play that way. And we talked to them about having a clear mind and a clear conscience, you know having a peace of mind about you. And the only way you can do that is to totally expend yourself. You never want to say, "man I wish I had done that, or I had gone a little harder." Go blow it out. And we had some kids do that and had to get two or three of them in there, so they could have some snaps off and get them breathing a little bit better. It was great because we didn't miss a beat.
Q8: You mentioned Mars Hills offense, is this the most talented offense you've seen up to this point this season and what do you guys try to do to combat that?
Well I think up to this point in the season they're the ones that are making things happen. They are scoring the most points of anybody we've played so far and they're doing it on a regular basis. So, you know that they're a good offensive football team and they're a solid defensive team also. But they've worked hard. They've come back from being a couple down there early in the season and have come back strong. So, I know they're feeling good about themselves.
Q9: You look at their linebackers, Tray Smith and Chris Ferdinand leading the way there. What sticks out to you about that duo?
Well they do a good job like our defense does. You keep people off of them so they can make tackles, that's the idea of that type of front. Those guys better be the leading tacklers, if you've got secondary guys leading in tackles you're probably in trouble. But those guys run to the football very well, they're well coached and that's the predominant thing. They're not going to get themselves in a bind.
Q10: You look at your own linebacking core, Temoris Coats is putting together and All-America caliber season. Already 12 tackles for loss that's trending towards one of the highest single season totals in Carson-Newman history. What about the job of that senior to allow you to not lose a beat with the loss of Sha'heem Stupart due to graduation last year?
Well he's come into his own, it's his time and he's made the most of it which is great to watch a guy. He didn't struggle when he got in that position. But I'll tell you what else he does, he makes other people around him better also. That's the sign of a player, that's the sign of a team player, and a guy that's got some leadership qualities.
Q11: You talked about maintaining focus through the distractions of homecoming, how do you go about doing that as a coach?
Well I think sometimes coaches panic and they make too much of that. I think our kids know what's on the line in that game and the next game and the next game. We're in a situation where thank goodness we're playing at home. And I welcome homecoming because it's going to be a great crowd and there will be a lot of people that care about these kids there at that football game that are past players, alums, family, it's always great the families will be back for that. So that type of game gets kids excited when you're in that kind of atmosphere. I think we've just got to stay focused from Friday night until Saturday afternoon and play Eagle football.
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