RAIDERS OPEN SEASON VERSUS SAVANNAH STATE
Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill
Savannah State you know is coming off a not so hot of a record last year. They return six starters on offense, and eight on defense. It’s Coach Wilson’s second year so we’re expecting a much improved Savannah State team over last year. You guys know, first games, you never know what you’re going to see, what changes schematically teams do in the offseason. Savannah State is a spread offense. Their skill players are very talented. They look fast on film, so they’ve got some good skill players. They lost three of their guys up front on the offensive line. They got their quarterback back, whose a bigger guy that can run and throw. So we’re expecting a much improved Savannah State team. Defensively, they’re a multiple team, they were some 3-4 last year and some 4-3. Again, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to see in the first game so we’re preparing for the 3-4 and also preparing for the 4-3. They’ve got eight starters returning on defense, their secondary, their skill guys are very athletic, and they run very well. They’ve got two outside linebackers/defensive ends from the research we’ve done who are going to be two of the better players in the MEAC. They’ve got good players on that side of the ball. I know they’re hungry to try to redeem themselves from last year. But they’re going to get a hungry team from us. I like our attitude. I think we have got a good edge and a chip on our shoulder. We have something to prove. I told our team yesterday, you know it’s not about Savannah State. It’s about us and playing up to the standard of our performance that we want to play at and the level of excellence that we want to play at. We’ll prepare this week to play our best game. This is the most important game on our schedule. You don’t get very many opportunities and this is the first one. So were hungry and we’re excited to get out there and play this game.
On the season opener:
We’re different than high schools. We’re different than the NFL. High schools get a couple scrimmages in their camp and the NFL gets four preseason games. We’ve been beating on the same body, the same guy for three weeks now. We’re ready to see somebody else. The grind of camp, this is the exciting part of it when you hear the band playing and students coming back on campus. So this is an exciting time for our players and coaches.
On the making an impact in the first game:
We want to play to our standard of excellence. I understand there is going to be mistakes in the first game, but you want them to be minimal. I hope we tackle well. I hope we play smart and protect the ball. The little things like that, sound in the kicking game, you can lose more games especially in the first game of the year by mistakes in the kicking game. I know we’ll play hard, I know our effort will be great. I have no doubt about that. Tackling well and protecting the football is a great start to the first game.
On playing Savannah State:
I think probably the biggest thing is we have to make sure we don’t look at Savannah State’s record last year and that we can just show up. Savannah State is a much improved team, so to me, we’ve got to make sure we put our hats on and come out with a W. We’ll grind this week, we’ll coach them hard. That’s what I keep saying, it’s about us. Next week we’ll play Minnesota. We can’t control how good or how well Minnesota is going to play. All we can control is us and that is the bottom line. Our main focus this week is to get better and continue to improve and then go out there Saturday against Savannah State and play how we’ve been coached.
On the first game:
All of our new guys, our young guys or first year guys that’ll be playing is to play how you practice. The whole team, but especially those new guys ought to be confident. They have done it on the practice field through spring practice, most of those guys went through spring practice as well as this camp here in August. I don’t think they’ll be a deer in the head light, I’m sure they’ll be a little jittery, a little excited. I hope they are because I know I will. But just to go out and play like you’ve been coached, play fast and play with confidence.
On the opening of the season:
I know were excited to play. We’re excited to hit somebody we don’t know that doesn’t sit next to us in our locker room. We’re excited about that. But the big thing is this team hasn’t done anything yet. This team hasn’t won one game and this team hasn’t lost any games. So we talk about all the time what’s our identity going to be, what’s this team going to be about. So hopefully we forged that over the summer in August camp. I have a pretty good idea what our identity we’ll be. We’ll get out there Saturday night and got to prove and show it. If you worry about yourself and play the best you can individually and collectively and do your assignment with phenomenal, relentless effort then you don’t have to worry about the opponent. You play your game and do your thing and usually if you play at a high level and dominate your opponent individually, then you’ll have team success collectively.
On if he will use multiple quarterbacks:
I want to win. I’m not interested in making sure so and so gets so many snaps. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win this game, that’s the bottom line. If were fortunate enough to play some other guys at other positions we’ll do that. Bottom line is were going out there focused to win this game.
On the emphasis for the starting quarterback:
Protect the ball and manage the offense. Be a great communicator and getting plays communicated to the offensive line and receivers. But the bottom line is just to protect the ball, you don’t have to do anything out of character. We have a lot of good players around you, just run and manage the offense.
On if it’s hard to scout Savannah State:
I have been in the MEAC. I started coaching at Bethune-Cookman, that was my first job. The bigger schools, they have 10-15 SIDs and they have got different websites and all kinds of people covering and writing articles after every practice. At Savannah State, they don’t have the luxury of having 10 or 12 SIDs, websites to promote so it’s been a little bit different from that standpoint but you read the papers and try to gather as much information as you can. If we were opening up with Clemson you could get all the information you needed.
On what he told the quarterbacks:
I haven’t told those guys anything different than I told Logan. I told Logan when he first got here and I told Logan last year before the last game as a constant reminder to protect the ball. We didn’t give Logan anymore freedom then we’ll give our quarterbacks this year. The number one job for a quarterback is to protect the ball, move the offense and to get first downs and first downs ultimately turn into touchdowns. That’s the most important thing that the quarterback can do. I don’t care if it’s in the NFL, high school or college. If you can’t protect the ball you’re going to have a hard time winning games.
On evaluating the quarterbacks:
I went in with some objectives that I really evaluated them on was performance. One was turnovers, one was negative plays, and one was their leadership and the other in the scrimmages. When you were in there did you score? Those were the main things. I kept statistics after every practice on completion percentage, drops that they had, carrying out their fakes, the little things. They were under a microscope for three weeks.
Redshirt Senior OL Isaiah Anderson
On the season opener:
The first game is always exciting. It’s been a long camp. We’ve been banging up on each other. I am tired of going up against Leighton Gasque. I am tired of going up against these guys. I am ready to see a new opponent.
On what he expects from the offense:
Offensively, we want to be crisp, want to be clean. In the past, we’ve come out kind of sloppy. I know Coach (Geep) Wade is pushing the offensive line to be clean and crisp as we can. I know from the defensive side of the ball, we are more experienced. I expect them to play a clean game and tackle well.
On the quarterbacks:
All three quarterbacks bring something different to the table. We do have three new guys inside that we are trying to fill in. They all have good leadership. I am not really too concerned about who’s going to be back there because I feel really confident in our skill players and our running backs. I think that will get us through the first couple of games until our quarterbacks get adjusted.
On playing Savannah State:
Just like Coach Stock says, every year is a different year. Couple of years ago, we went 2-10. The next year, I am sure everyone looked at us the same. We came out and won eight games. There is a lot that can happen to a team in the offseason that can make them a lot better. We look at this team like any other opponent. The way I want to look at every game is that it’s a championship game. No matter if we are playing Savannah State or the Florida Gators. Whoever it is, I want to compete every week in practice like it’s the championship game.
Redshirt Senior LB Leighton Gasque
On Savannah State:
From what we have seen on film, they do have some athletic players. Their quarterback is returning. We are going to approach this game like we always do with our same strategy. We will always try to stop the run first. That is our main objective. They are a spread team. They are most likely going to throw the ball throughout the game.
On his expectations this season:
I still have the same approach as Coach Stock and Isaiah. Football season is one of the shortest in all of sports. You only play 12 games, while basketball plays over 20 games. You have to take every game seriously no matter what. It doesn’t matter how good your opponent was last year, especially in the first game. Any team can make a turnaround at any time, so you never know how good your opponent is going to be.