Coach Dale Lennon addressed the media Monday afternoon in preparation for Saturday's game at Missouri State.
Sept. 17, 2012
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. Southern Illinois will play at Missouri State at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener.
Q: After watching the film, have you determined the cause for Mika'il McCall's recent fumble troubles?
"He's just trying to make plays. Sometimes as a running back, you're your own worst enemy because you're trying so hard to extend to make a play to fight for that extra yard that, in doing so, you leave yourself vulnerable and leave the football vulnerable, and that's the thing with Mika'il. On a couple of his fumbles, he was in a pile. He was fighting for extra yards, and he lost the ball. That is something that will come with experience. The other point, too, that I made on Saturday night is that Mika'il has really only had one game other than the game he played at Iowa coming into this year. We were into game three, and that's his experience of college football. He's a pretty talented runner, but he's going to make some mistakes along the way. Hopefully he's learning the lessons here as we progress. We're going to address the issue, but we're not going to over-address it because as soon as you do that you put a negative image into an individual's head. I think this is something that will take care of itself as he gets more experienced. At the same time, we don't want to put the whole weight of the team on him by relying on him solely in the run game."
Q: How does Missouri State's spread offense differ from the one you saw at Eastern Illinois?
"Eastern was an up-tempo. Their goal is to run 100 plays per game. Right now, I'm sure Missouri State has some up-tempo type offense available -- they're averaging 72 plays per game, which is significant after they played Murray State, who does have an up-tempo offense. Murray ended up with 99 plays last Saturday. That's something I'm sure we could see them going to, but it hasn't been what they have done up to this point."
"If you want to have success, you have to get off to a good start. The conference is just too good to stutter. You'll get passed up very fast if you're not ready to go, so definitely getting off to a good start makes this whole conference play -- I don't want to say easier -- but much more approachable."
Q: You said (MIssouri State quarterback Ashton) Glaser is talented, but opponents have been effective at getting to him. How do you take advantage of his inexperience given that he's only been in three college games?
"He hasn't been sacked that often. He's pretty athletic. He's mobile. Just watching the film, he's made some guys who had clear shots miss and then got positive yards out of it. What we're going to try to do is bring pressure and force him into some decisions where hopefully he makes some poor decisions and allows us to be able to take advantage of it, but that's what we do every game. He's getting better with each game he plays. I think his confidence level is very high. He has very good receivers around him. I think that in itself helps him with his confidence."
Q: How much do your turnover woes concern you, and are they correctable at this point?
"Turnovers are never easily correctable because you don't know how they're going to show. It's one of those expected events in a game, but nobody expects to have a turnover, and you just don't know in what shape it's going to present itself. You just have to be careful with the football. There were a couple times there on Saturday night where you had a player try to extend the ball an extra yard -- don't do that. Just make sure that the ball is secure, and make sure that we're not trying to do something that will put the ball at risk. Some turnovers you just can't avoid -- they're going to happen. That's the nature of the game, so you just try to control the ones that you can control."
Q: Defense did a good job of limiting the amount of big plays last week. How do you continue to do that when they have some big play receivers?
"It will be a lot like the Miami of Ohio game. We have to keep them in front of us. We have to be able to make that open field tackle. They have some talent. They're going to have some success throwing the football. We just have to make sure that when they do catch the ball that we're in position to make the tackle and follow through with it."
Q: How well do you think your non-conference schedule has prepared you for the Valley season?
"We've experienced a lot. I addressed the team yesterday, we've gone through some adversity, and the chemistry of the team has taken shape. We've gone through some hard times and survived it. I think we've developed some toughness now that I hope is real, and that'll show down here now in conference play. I think our non-conference schedule has prepared us well for our conference schedule."
Q: What do you think the identity of the team is?
"I think from what you saw Saturday and even what you saw the previous week, I think we have a chance to be a very solid football team. You don't want to have a dominant strength where we're only known for one component. You want to be multi-dimensional. Offensively, we're getting close to that confidence. Our run game has improved over the last two weeks. Definitely our pass game confidence is there. Our receivers are stepping up and doing a good job with their assignments. Defensively, our front seven is very confident in their play, and I think our secondary is getting a feel for the defense now. In each game we play I expect the secondary to get better. I like where we're sitting right now."
Q: Is this the most talented Valley you've seen since you've been here?
"Just looking at how well the conference has done against the FBS, this is a pretty impressive group of people. Some people compare it to the SEC of I-AA, and I do think a lot of that is true. It doesn't matter where you're ranked each week. You could be No. 9 each week and have a good chance of beating No. 1. When you have a conference like that, it's pretty impressive."
Q: You go into practice this week off of a big win. Does that affect the way you go about practice this week to avoid a big let down?
"Well I hope there's no let down. We're not good enough to have a let down. We needed to win to get confidence. I think we've worked hard up to this point. Our guys knew that we had ability, and it's just good to be able to reach that competitive level, and now we have to build upon that. I think we learned some good lessons from the first two weeks. Our theme going into last week was to take action. This talk stuff is done, let's go out and show what we're capable of doing. That was effective for us, and that's the same type of mentality we have to have this week. Talking about how good we are isn't going to take us very far."
Q: What does Missouri State do well defensively?
"I can't pinpoint one superstar. They're all good and they're all more well-rounded than they have been in years past. I'd say this defensive squad is just a very solid squad, all the way from the defensive front to the secondary. They really run to the football well. They're very aggressive, and they play hungry. They get to the football in a hurry, and they have good athleticism."
Q: Do you expect them to blitz a lot?
"They'll play their game. I don't think they'll blitz as much as we do, but they'll definitely bring pressure. That is one of the advantages of this 3-4. You can bring pressure in a lot of different ways, which is what makes it difficult to prepare for the 3-4. You're never quite sure how that pressure is going to present itself."
Q: Murray State had some quick drives against them. Do you feel your tempo could be effective this week as well?
"That's part of who we are. We're not strictly a tempo-oriented team, but were capable of going into tempo at any point in time, and that will be part of the gameplan. It's something that's part of our arsenal."
Q: What determines when you go into tempo?
"It's more of a gut feeling, watching a lot of tape of the upcoming team and just trying to get a feel. A lot of times it's when you feel you have them on their heels. You just want to take it to them right now. You don't want to give them a chance to recoup. It's kind of like boxing. You have your guy on the ropes, and you get after him. That's the time when you go to tempo."
Q: How impressed have you been with Brian Presume?
"Brian's had a good offseason. If you look at his game last year as a sophomore coming in as a junior college transfer, he was just learning the system. He was just learning this level of football. He was out there. He was performing. He was getting better, but you really didn't notice him to that extent. His offseason was very impressive. Presume was one of the guys Coach (Clete) McCleod, our strength coach, was most impressed with during the offseason as far as really getting after it in the weight room. His numbers were very impressive. That carried over into a very good summer program for him. We were expecting him to be more of an impact player this season, and so far we've seen that."
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