April 3, 2013
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Saluki football team held its sixth practice of the spring season on Wednesday. The team will have its first full-contact scrimmage on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Head coach Dale Lennon met with the media after today's practice.
Q: "Would you talk a little about the theme of this year's spring and offseason and fall camp?"
A: "Our theme going in is compete, that's been through the off-season just to really challenge us, every day challenge individuals and just get better. I think that's what makes us better as coaches and them better as football players is competition, and we have a lot of it, so we want the guys aware of this on an everyday basis."
Q: "What's the focus going into the second week of practice?"
A: "Well, this is a key time in spring ball, you're kind of laying the foundation. We really will be evaluating this team from Saturday when we go have a full scrimmage with officials, really evaluating performances, offensive and defensive schemes and where we need to move from here, but right now we are just trying to be efficient with everything we are doing and be able to run a scrimmage where the guys will be able to compete."
Q: "You mention consistency at the end of practice, but what are the areas you feel like offensively and defensively so far you made the most progress?"
A: "Well, you know I like what I'm seeing offensively. I really like what I see upfront from the offensive line. I think they have an attitude of they got something to prove and they're showing that every day. Our running backs are running hard. I just think overall offensively we are making some progress. Kind of got the same attitude on defense. We graduated some seniors and we have some guys that want to prove that they are capable of filling those shoes, so we had some very heated competitive practices where guys aren't backing down from each other and that's exactly what you want to see."
Q: "Do you feel like this group has a certain swagger to them or a chip on their shoulder knowing in the back of their mind you were so close last year?"
A: "We are not good enough yet to have a swagger, that's something that comes when you have established yourself, but I think we've got the hunger that we are putting ourself in position to have that swagger if that is meant to be."
Q: "What situations do you want to try on Saturday?"
A: "Main thing Saturday will be kind of the overall sideline management. We will be moving the ball up and down the field, we will be working short yardage, we'll be doing redzone, we will be doing goal line. So it won't quite be as game-specific as what the final scrimmage will be, but we will put them in quite a few situations and see how they will respond."
Q: "You've been able to complete a couple passes deep downfield in practice, do you feel good about that at this point in time?"
A: "The big play is an area we need to get better. Last year we did have that big-play threat where we could score from anywhere on the field and we are aware of that fact and that's something that we want, to stretch the defense the best way we can, and throwing the ball deep sometimes is a good way to go about it."
Q: "How have you liked the progress of the newer guys that have stepped up after the departure of some of the seniors?"
A: "The players that have stepped in to fill some of the graduating seniors have done pretty well. There is reason for optimism. We are still early in spring, this is just practice number six. I've liked what I've seen. I think we have some playmakers both offensively and defensively. The new guys that have come in during the semester, all of them have really contributed pretty well, so we got a good feel right now."
Q: "You guys visited Louisville and North Carolina to go to the coaches convention. What are the biggest things you guys took away from those visits?"
A: "When we go make those professional visits, we are not trying to make major changes, we're just trying to tweak a few things here and there or even confirm that we are doing the things that we are doing correctly, so those visits have been helpful. I think they reconfirmed a few things we need to do and we found some wrinkles that just kind of add to the overall package, so our visits have been good to us."
Q: "Defensively, you had a great year forcing turnovers especially in the second half. Do you feel like you have similar athleticism right now?"
A: "Yeah, defensively we bring pressure and when you bring pressure you got to have turnovers. That will always be an emphasis defensively, and our players I think are capable of doing that, so we are going to have the same expectations this year as we did last."
Q: "Kory had 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, protection was an issue with that I think, but also do you feel like he has to improve on placing the football and not putting any risk of some of these?
A: "Well, the quarterback position has to be better and be a little more efficient with what we are asking. We have to connect on those big-play opportunities, and I do think it's an area where we can get better, and I think Kory's game is at a point where he's going to be a fifth-year senior, and he should be better, so those are high expectations. We have a couple quarterbacks, that if he doesn't do it, they will be ready to step up and do it for us."
Q: "How do you feel about the running game in general going into the first games?"
A: "I'm confident in our run game now. I think we have that north-south presence. I really like how the offensive line is being able to move the line of scrimmage, and I definitely like how our running backs carry the ball, so I'll be excited to see what we can do here Saturday when we test them."
Q: "Do you anticipate using a running back by committee approach or would you like to have one designated guy?"
A: "No, we will have contribution by a group of running backs. I think that's always the key to get through a season healthy, but if a running back steps forward and becomes the key guy, naturally he'll be the main focus, but our talent at the running back position is good enough where we have to make sure that we are incorporating them in as many facets of the game as possible."