Opening Remarks -
"It seems like it's been a long 7, 8, 9 months in preparation for this coming Saturday's game. Our players are excited about it. James Madison, contrary to popular belief, presents a huge challenge, I think, for this football team ...
"I think our training camp has gone very well. As a coach you're always concerned about when the pieces are going to start falling into place. Certainly throughout training camp a lot of revelations came to our coaching staff. Naming T.J. Yates as the starting quarterback was a big part of moving forward and developing an identify as an offense. The growth and development of our receivers to complement Hakeem Nicks. We didn't want to go into the season with just one receiver that you can depend on. Developing a running game - that's an issue that's still probably not going to unfold until we get into the season, because we'll play probably two or maybe three running backs on Saturday to figure out who will be the guy ...
"We stayed relatively healthy throughout training camp. As a coach you can't benchmark progress if you're missing guys to injury. You need to develop that cohesiveness and continuity and we've been very fortunate to stay pretty healthy.
"Coming out of the spring we felt extraordinaril well with Connor Barth as the kicker. He's kicking the ball so wel, but there were an awful lot of questions about the punting game. We were so fortunate to find Terrence Brown - that was a huge, huge addition to this football team because not only does it help field position-wise, and him playing in college and have the experience of being in games and kicking under pressure was a big key for him coming in. We've been very pleased with the operations of all of our kicking game -- Connor, our deep snappers, our holders, extra points, field goals have all been consistently under 1.2 seconds, that's been our benchmark for them. Our punting game has been even more impressive because Terrence is used to being in games and getting the ball out quick - that's been at 1.95 and under 2.1 [seconds].
"I'd be remiss if I didn't say there are some unknowns going into this first ball game. You're playing against a team that has a lot of confidence from winning and you've got a young team getting that first opportunity to play. These kids are excited, they've practiced very and hard and they're looking forward to the challenge on Saturday."
You mentioned using two or three tailbacks on Saturday - Rich is listed as the starter, has he elevated himself over the others?
"We have a great deal of confidence in all three of them. Anthony Elzy, unfortunately for him, sprained his ankle and missed four or five days that set him back a bit. Johnny White and Richie were there for all the blitz drills and all the scrimmage situations and we felt like at this particular time, Richie separated himself slightly. But I don't want to fall into playing a running back by possessions.... we need him to get into the flow of the game. At some point in time we will make a change and give someone else an opportunity."
On what Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams possess that vaulted them to the top of the depth chart -
"Two things - athleticism is the starting point, they both have speed. And, the ability to make plays on the ball. As a defensive coach you're looking for someone who has a nose for the football and has great fundamentals and technique and when the ball is in the air they've got the athleticism to go and get it. That put those two in the same company as Trimane (Goddard)."
On the tight end/H-back positions -
"Guys that maybe have emerged, so to speak, and were unknown commodities - Richard Quinn, who didn't play at all last year. It's a real passion of mine to have a tight end and it's a big part of what we'd like to accomplish. Richard Quinn, Zack Pianalto and Ryan Taylor, those three kids will get the lion's share of the opportunities to play on Saturday."
On the wide receivers -
"I'd heard so much about Hakeem Nicks, talented freshman, great stats last year, but we struggled so poorly in the passing game in the first couple of weeks of spring practice that we started wondering if we'd have someone emerge as a compliment [to Hakeem]. Now we don't consider them compliments. Now we're looking at guys that have great chances to make plays. Brooks Foster has had an excellent training camp, as has Brandon Tate and Kenton Thornton. I'd be surprised if we don't play five wide receivers in the ball game and maybe even six."
On the quarterback situation -
"T.J.'s handled it very well. It was well received by the team, but him personally it lit a bit more of a spark under him. ... He's handled it extremely well. And by the same token I can't tell you how proud I am of Cam Sexton. You always wonder how is the guy who wasn't named the starter? He couldn't have been better. He's had a great week of practice, he's gone out of prepared himself as if he was the starter, which is what we're asking of him. The reality is at any moment you're starter could be out."
On the offensive line -
"Losing Ben Lemming hurt, because Ben was a really significant guy that we were counting on. That was a big blow to this team. Yet I still would like to think that we've got two or maybe three other guys (beyond the first team) who will play in the first half. We need to get those guys into games. Whether we substitute in mass, or two or three at a time, we'd like to play nine offensive linemen in this ballgame because they've earned it and we think they'll play well. ...
"They've played pretty cohesively. We're very fortunate in Scott Lenahan to have an experienced veteran guy that's been tested. He studies as hard as the quarterback to make sure he identifies the fronts right and the blitzers and communicates up and down the line. There will be some mistakes, we'll do some things wrong, but the one thing I know is they'll play as a unit and they'll play as hard as they possibly can."
On Marvin Austin's potential impact this season -
"He's definitely going to play this Saturday. How much? It's hard to say prior to the game, but there's no question Marvin will play."