Coach Dale Lennon
Aug 26, 2013
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. SIU will open the season on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. A complete video of the press conference is available on Salukis All-Access.
Q: How do you use the experience of playing at Illinois three years ago to your benefit?
“It will be a benefit. I think every game you coach, you take something away from it. Some of our players that were there can draw from the experience, but I think the majority of them weren’t. I believe the thing that I learned was that I tried to push things probably more than I should have. We were in the red zone four times that game and only came away with three points, went for it twice on fourth down and also tried an early field goal attempt from 56 yards. So really we were looking for the big play. We have to have the same mentality as when we’re going to play South Dakota State or Northern Iowa. It’s a road game, and we’re playing a very good football team. That’s where we have to play our game and not get caught up in any other sideshow.”
Q: So do you have a more conservative approach as an early game plan?
“Well, again to look back at our games I don’t always go conservative. There are some times where we go for it on fourth down, and it’s times where you feel the flow of the game, but I’m not going to try and force something that’s not there. I really did feel after the game last time that I tried to force the issue much harder than I really needed to. My job is to make sure our guys have a chance, and that’s why you have to make sure you do calculated gambles from time to time.”
Q: Are you preparing for Illinois to use two quarterbacks?
“Well yes, we’ll prepare. You always get ready for both concepts, and with their offensive scheme, I think you make special accommodations to prepare for Scheelhaase just because he’s more of the run threat. He’s very athletic. The zone read concepts and quarterback shotgun runs will be a part of his game. Then when the other quarterback gets in--I don’t know exactly who their 1 and 2 is--I know there pretty high on (freshman quarterback Aaaron) Bailey also, but of course you’re just aware of who's in for the time, but for the most part, you just have to prepare for the whole gambit.”
Q: Lamonte Edwards, is he more of a left or right outside linebacker? Would he be more fit for one or another?
“We don’t play left-right. There’s a strong and a weak concept because there’s a different skill with each of those. He’s more of a weak edge type rusher, very similar to what we did with Jayson DiManche, so those are the talents that we want to try and bring in. Early on, his knowledge of the defense is limited, so again its one of those situations where we’re not going to ask him to do more work than what he is ready to do.
Q: Do you have anything planned out on how you’re going to use your running backs or are you just going to go with the flow?
“Well were going to use them all, and that’s what were working on right now, which is the game plan. One thing with game plans is that they usually change within the first 30 seconds of the game. It’s one of those situations where as soon as you’re in battle, you’re trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not working. You have to have other options that you can go to, and for us, establishing the run will be an important one, but there are several ways you can establish the run. Therefore we have to be aware of what those options are. You just try to have options available when you go into a game, and then you just react from there. It’s going to be a hot day, so naturally you might go back and forth for a couple of series plus rotate in and out where some guys do things better than other guys. That can be a situation where a certain play is called so you might have a certain back in.”
Q: What’s the challenge of not only preparing for a first game but also preparing for a first-year offensive coordinator. How much have you relied on film from Western Michigan when (first-year Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit) was there?
“Well all you have to go on is what he did at Western Michigan, so that’s what you try to evaluate and analyze. There’s obviously some guessing that goes on, but he was hired to run his offense. So that’s the one thing that you take to consideration. It’s a whole new set of players that he is coaching, so that’s where we will have to adapt as the game progresses.”
Q: You talked about how they like to run a lot of plays. So how do you use your team to control the tempo more in your favor?
“Well we want to be very deliberate in what we do, and we don’t want to get caught up in their game. If we want a high tempo, we will go high tempo, but if we want to take our time in running the ball, then we’re going to take our time and maybe work the passing game if we want to take our shots down field. That’s where we want to be able to make sure we don’t lose control of the game to the fact where we would have to play their game, and that’s just any game that you’re in. Who's controlling the tempo is usually a common phrase used by coaches, and if you’re controlling the tempo, that means you’re running the type of game that you want to run.”
Q: How do you take advantage of their inexperience on defense?
“We will do what we need to do. We know they’re very talented, but there are times where we’ll take some shots here and there and make sure that they’re not overaggressive on the run. If they’re overplaying the run, then we need to add some play action to counter, and we have to make sure they’re not jumping routes more than they should be. If they’re doing that, then naturally you have plays to counter that, and if we’re seeing that they’re giving us something, then we have to be able to take advantage of that.”
Q: Do you get a sense from your players that this game means more because it’s an FBS team and a team from Illinois?
“Well, where it means a lot is that every player on the team had aspirations of playing Division I-A football, and that was their dream. Some of them did, and some weren’t allowed to pursue it, so there’s that element. But it’s also something we can’t dwell upon. I don’t think you even use it as motivation at a high level. You might use it a little bit, but you have to have that common cause that since we’re going there together, we have to find a way to win this ballgame. Hopefully we have enough tools in the box to allow us to do that, and that’s what the team has to realize, is that we have to work on this together to have a chance at success.”
Q: Do the new cornerbacks know the defense as well as you would hope?
“At the corner spot, not to belittle the corners, there’s not a whole lot of learning that you need to do. The thing you have to be smart at is not getting baited in. We had that problem against Eastern (Illinois), where we gave up the double pass twice, which doesn’t sit very well, so you do have to be disciplined. The safeties are the ones that you use to get the defense to bite or to get the team overly aggressive on the run where your corner doesn’t have to be overly aggressive on the run.”
Q: Besides having sets where you run two tight ends, what will you do to keep the double team off of MyCole Pruitt?
“Well, he’ll be all over the field. He not only will be at the tight end spot, he’ll be at the fullback spot and also at the wide out spot. I don’t know if he will be double-teamed or not, but if he is, something else would obviously be open. MyCole is very good. We like to get him the ball, but at the same time, if teams are going to design defenses specifically to stop him, then there better be somebody else stepping up.”
Q: Do you like opening up with this type of big game?
“It forces you to try to be at a high level right out of the gate. In 2010, we opened up with Quincy, and that didn’t force us to be at a high level right out of the gate. We know the challenge is high. The odds are against us. We have to play a pretty darn good game to have a chance to win, but again, it’s no different than us going up to Northern Iowa or South Dakota State or North Dakota State. We have to play a good game to win there. So that’s what we’re being forced to do."
Q: What does it mean to you to be a part of the 100th year of Saluki football?
“Number one, it’s an honor. Number two, the last five years, I’ve been hearing about all of these legends that played and the stories that go with them, and now to have an opportunity to meet most of them is going to be pretty special. It’s also special that I’ve had the opportunity to coach a lot of the guys who are on that All-Century squad. I just think it’s a celebration of Saluki football. I think it’s also something that shows our team that they’re part of something bigger than now. They’re part of something that was put in place a long time ago and has been growing and growing, and it’s our responsibility as the now generation to take that next step into the future, so there are a lot of positives with this being the 100-year celebration.
Q: Did you see Boo Rodgers mature while redshirting last year?
“I think the year was a learning experience for him. Any time you go through a disciplinary process, it’s not fun, but he took it like a man and did what he needed to do to be given a chance to come back. Now, he still knows that he has something to prove, and the comeback isn’t complete. It’s just starting, so that’s where I’m hoping the lessons learned with translate into a better player on the field.
Q: Do you think he’s earned back his teammates’ respect?
“I think it’s a process where he’s earning back the respect of the team. The games are where everything happens. We talk about teambuilding and trying to get your team ready for that first game, but it’s in that game where the true teambuilding occurs and your true identity comes out. So that’s why that first game of the year is always a little iffy. You’re not quite sure what to think, and you’re hoping that you prepared your guys well enough to handle it. That’s why you need to play that first game just to see where you’re at.”
Q: How much of a factor was (older brother) Marty Rodgers being here in Boo’s maturation?
“Marty was a big factor. That was my advise to Marty. You have to be the big brother now. You have to steer him in the right direction. He’s going to trust you. Go be a big brother. That’s pretty much what Marty did. Marty was very influential in Boo’s life. He always has been.
Q: How has Boo developed?
"That is yet to be determined. We have to see how he plays. Is he a more refined safety out there? I think sitting a year has been good. He’s seen a different side of the game. He is more mature than he was two years ago, but is he going to be a better football player? We’ll see."
Q: Is there any chance Lamonte Edwards plays this week?
“He’ll be on the field. It will be in a limited role, but I do expect him to play."
Q: Will Jarien Moreland play this week?
“Jarien is a no for this week. He might travel with the squad just to give him the experience.”
Q: Is Malcolm Agnew back to 100 percent?
“I wouldn’t say 100, but maybe 95. I would expect him to be able to practice today.”
Q: Do you expect Ethan Wirth and Blake Miller to practice today?
“That’s up to our athletic trainer, but I would probably say no with Ethan and no with Blake because today’s more of an intro type practice."
Q: Do you feel comfortable with Thomas Kinney at any distance?
“If there was a situation where it’s 52 yards to win a ballgame, I know the ball’s going to get there. His leg strength is pretty good.”