Coach Dale Lennon
Sept. 9, 2013
By DeMario Phipps-Smith and Jordan Roberts
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. SIU will host the University of Charleston on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 2 p.m. at Saluki Stadium.
Q: Were you able to get film of Charleston, and what can you say about their offense and defense?
“Yes. They’re Division II, and they just opened their season up last week. They’ve only had one game, so we exchanged our game with EIU with them. Offensively, they like to do more of a power run game. They run some option. They have a very athletic quarterback. In fact they rotate the quarterbacks in and out. They’re both extremely talented. Maurice Leak returns from last year as their starting quarterback off last year’s squad, so they are very experienced at that position. His backup, John Knox, was also in the rotation last year with them. Defensively they returned eight starters from last year’s squad. They play a 3-5-type defense. Basically, it’s a 3-3 look with what they call the bandit and the spur playing the alleys. They’re pretty active. They like to bring pressure. They had a couple of players who have transferred into their program that are pretty talented that are at starting positions for them. They definite have some talent within the program.”
Q: Is getting your first win right now a big concern for you?
“Well, right now the best thing for us is to get back in the saddle and get ready for another ball game. That was one thing that I did mention to the team yesterday. We have 10 games left. That’s a lot of football. I think the hunger factor is going to be big for us as we continue to improve. We know we're a good football team. If you look at the first two teams that we have played these first couple of weeks, they’re showing that they’re good football teams, and we were right there and had a chance. I think the one thing you can bank on with this football team is there is no giving up whatsoever. I think that has been reflected in how we have played these last two games.”
Q: How happy are you not to be facing a spread offense again this week or the rest of the season?
“We’ve been challenged. That was one area of concern that we had going into the season. We know what we’ve struggled with in the past, and we know that we have to get better. We’ve faced that demon head on and haven’t backed down and still had a chance to win it. As we move on I think that’s only going to help us because we know we’ve been through the battles that have tested us to a high level. Now we just need to get better.”
Q: How do you think you can improve the run game in the red zone?
“Well that’s a process. It starts up front with the offensive line. Those are some things you need to be able to handle. The negative part is if you don’t score in the red zone and if you’re going for field goals in the red zone instead of touchdowns, that’s a concern. We’re in the red zone quite a bit, so therefore it’s an issue on a regular basis now. We could do some things with the play action game to help the run game to get some variety within the package. At the same time you do want to be able to load it up, and if they stop us, we would be able to get those tough yards in the red zone. “
Q: Do you expect to use Malcolm Agnew more in this next game and earlier in the game?
“Well the game plan will dictate that, so to make any predictions early this week wouldn’t be right. You have to make sure everybody is feeling good and that there are no surprise injuries that might pop up on Tuesday, but he’s definitely going to be a key for the game plan.”
Q: What did you like about the way he ran on Saturday?
“Did you see him run? I liked the same things you liked. He has that burst that gets you to the second level, and that’s with all of our running backs. That’s the challenge. We have to get them to the second level. With Agnew once he got around up the field you would see that burst, and in that point of time big plays are going to come.”
Q: Do you feel like there is a difference between the 0-2-football team this year and the 0-2-football team last year?
“Were a lot further ahead than we were last year. That’s probably the disappointment that we have because we’re a pretty good club, but we don’t have anything to show for it. We just have that inner confidence right now that we know we’re capable of doing this. We just have to find the right chemistry to get it done.”
Q: How do you determine when you’re going to use the wildcat formation?
“Again you don’t want to be predictable with it. You identify things in your game plan and look at game film at moments you want to use it. We used some of it a couple of times where Kory (Faulkner) got hit hard. One time Kory was slow getting up off the ground, so I put LaSteven at the quarterback and let Kory catch his senses and then came back to Kory after that. So there are several different options you can have.”
Q: What was your feeling on Jarien Moreland’s performance?
My concern with him is knowing all the nuances that go with the run game. There’s a learning curve that we will have to address. The positive is that we know going into the week of preparation that we will have him. Last week, we were uncertain, and we couldn’t practice him to the extent that we would like to prepare him for the game. This week, we know he’ll be able to play.”
Q: How do you feel about MyCole Pruitt?
“I’ve been very pleased with MyCole’s progression on the season. His maturity level is where he’s probably improved the most. He’s a team leader and a hard worker, and he’s putting his time in. He’s seeing that pay off for him and he has the trust of Kory now. He also trusts Kory now to get him the ball. He will continue to be a big part of our offense. We want teams having to defend him because that opens up other elements of our game. We have high expectations for him, and we feel that he is one of the premier players at the FCS level.”
Q: Can you talk about the receivers as a whole?
“When I watch the film, they’re on the same page. That catch that John (Lantz) made---the one-handed catch---Kory put that ball right where he had to put it. A couple of the catches LaSteven McKinney made, he’s just inches from the ground and Kory’s putting the ball right on the spot. Now there are some throws that you’d like to have back, but if you watch the NFL on Sundays, you’ll see quarterbacks miss throws every once in a while too. I just think that the receivers and the quarterback are on the same page now, and they have confidence in each other. Hopefully, that’s something that gets yards on the field.”
Q: Did you think Tyler Williamson would become as great of a football player as he is now?
”It’s becoming more and more difficult to find a player who just has a true feel for the game. You don’t have to teach guys like him every element or situation that they’ll be in. Tyler just reacts out there. He has a knack for the football. He’s great at forcing turnovers. There are still elements of his game that he needs to improve on, but the game is more instinctive for him.”
Q: What makes him so good at blocking kicks? Is it the scheme or is it just his burst?
“Everything about blocking a kick is in your get-off. We spent a lot of time working on that. We need that Olympic get-off where you only get one shot to do it. It has to be right now and if you can get a little edge on the guy who’s trying to block you, a lot of times you squeeze through and get a chance to block it. That’s what Tyler did. He just had a great get-off at the snap, and he was able to get into the gap before anyone was able to close it. He came through pretty clean for it to be a game-winning kick.”
Q: Are you doing anything with the athletes for the celebration of the All-Century team?
“Yes, I’d like to have a couple of the guys say something to the team. As a team, we’re going to be very aware of the fact that legends of the game will be here this weekend. It’ll be something that will be motivational for us as we try to put on a show.”
Q: How much confidence have you seen from Kory going to Lantz in tight situations?
“I think Kory is comfortable with all the receivers---especially with John and LaSteven. He’s been throwing to those guys for the last two years. They are all on the same page. Kory knows when they are going to break on their routes, and they are reading the same things on the coverage. That’s what you get with experience and one of the things you hope happens when you have a fifth-year quarterback playing for you. You hope that experience starts to pay off.”
Q: Can you tell us anything about Charleston’s offense? Does their quarterback like to run?
“He’s a dual threat. He’s one of those quarterbacks we need to be aware of---and there’s two of them that they rotate in and out. The backup might be a little more of a thrower, but they are both very athletic and can take off running on you. They have run plays designed specifically for the quarterback. They are also capable of hurting you with the pass if you are too careful with the run. They like coming at you and with run the triple action. I wouldn’t necessarily call it old-school type football, but they definitely want to get the north-south run game going.”
Q: Are you still more comfortable than you were last year with the kicking game?
“We definitely have the range. The first field goal that we attempted against Eastern Illinois---I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing---last year we would have gone for it on fourth down. Now I have a choice to make. Last year I didn’t have a choice to make. I know we had the distance. That’s something we hope to gain more confidence on each kick. I was looking through the league stats, and Thomas is five-for-eight on field goals. Within the league, the most anyone else has attempted is two, and that guy was one for two. We’d rather be kicking PATs than a field goal, that’s part of our focus.”