Louisiana Tech Preseason Press Conference Transcript


 

 

Aug. 1, 2012

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head football coach Sonny Dykes spoke with the media Wednesday just one day before players reported, two days before the first fall practice and 29 days before the season opening game against Texas A&M.

Head Coach Sonny Dykes

Opening Remarks:

“It’s good to be back and get going. Summer is a difficult time for coaches just because the NCAA prohibits us from being around our players a whole lot. So, you hear about things, talk to players about how so-and-so looks and what you think about so-and-so and you get a little feedback. You get feedback from your strength and conditioning coaches obviously on how the workouts are going, but it’s nice to be back and get our hand on them on Friday and just kind of see where we are.”

“We’re excited about our freshman class. We think we have several guys in that class that can make an impact for us and get on the field and play this year. We’ll see how that plays out. So much a playing as a freshman really is the ability to adjust and get comfortable with everything that’s going on. Some of those guys look good early and fade and then also too once school starts, a lot of those guys get a little overwhelmed. So, we’ll see how they handle all those things. We’re excited about it and obviously we’re excited about this class.”

“We have a huge senior class this year and we’ve got a lot of guys that have been in the program and been successful and contributed for us. We feel good about our leadership. I think we went into this summer and were a little uncertain about who was going to step up and become leaders for us and I think we accomplished that with our offseason conditioning program. Damon Harrington tested them this summer and I think some guys stepped up and responded. The leaders always kind of emerge during the summer and we had some seniors do a great job of taking over that leadership role and also some young players that really have become comfortable and responsible and have assumed leadership roles as well.”


 

 

“So, it’s been a good summer. We feel good about where we are and we’re healthy. I think our eligibility issues are very minimal. We have a couple of guys that are waiting to finish some classes here and there, some newcomers. We’re in really good shape right now and just excited to get going.”

On Newcomers:

“It is a good group. They’ve been here most of the summer and I think they’ve made an impression on Damon, I really do. I think their work ethic has been good. Some of the guys we thought would be pretty far along have been. Kenneth Dixon, really all five of the defensive backs are guys we have high hopes for.”

“There are just a variety of different guys, but some of our offensive linemen we signed have really come on. Darrell Brown is a guy that’s got tremendous potential. He was about 225 when we signed him and he’s close to 260 now with a great frame and he’s a really good athlete. Vernon Butler I think has grown since we signed him. He’s a great looking kid and had a really good summer in the weight room. The biggest thing about him is, he’s probably the most mature freshman we have and I think he’s got an opportunity to make an impact. We’ll see how it plays out, but his size, strength and maturity are a great combination. And, Ryan Higgins, our quarterback, I think he’s been a real pleasant surprise. We thought he was a good player, but he’s gotten bigger over the summer. He’s got a little something to him, some toughness, some confidence and we’re really excited to see what he can do as well.”

On Improvement:

“You’ve got to have depth. I mean, that’s the deal. There’s a lot of stuff that’s going to happen between Friday and Aug. 30; a lot of practices, a lot of banging. There are a lot of things that can occur out there in practice, and we have to develop good second team depth and good third team depth. That’s always an issue on the offensive and defensive lines. We’ve got a pretty good group we think, but we’re going to need some guys to come on and give us depth.”

“I’m really excited about some of the linemen we redshirted last year. Larry Banks I think is a completely different kid than he was a year ago. He was a junior college player that redshirted. I think he’ll push for a starting job. Jens Danielson was a kid we signed in the spring who has an opportunity to really get in there and compete for a job. I’m excited to see those guys and see where they are. You’ve got to have depth on your offensive and defensive lines and then we’ve obviously got to address some needs on the back end. We’re a little young on the back end, but I think we’ve got a lot of talent and need some of those guys to come on and mature and start playing with the confidence they have to have.”

On his timetable for the program when he took the job:

“I didn’t have much of a time table honestly. I was thinking about this earlier. A lot of times you hear coaches talking about their players. My players were the players that were here. From day one when I came into this program, those were my players. There hadn’t ever been any of that when we get our players here and all that. These are the players we have and we’re going to coach them and treat them the same and they’re all a part of our program, our team and really part of our family. Our job is to get as good as we can possibly get with the players we have on our campus, and obviously continue to bring better players in and develop them.”

“So much attention is paid to recruiting, which obviously is very important, but player development is more important than recruiting in my opinion. You’re going to find guys that sometimes have talent that need to be developed and then other times you are going to find guys that are good players that need to get better athletically. Our job is to get them as good as they are capable of being and possibly being. I think we’re getting closer to that. We’ve got to continue to build depth and you do that through developing players and recruiting both.”

On this year’s walk-ons:

“We think we’ve got some guys. That’s one thing we’re going to work very diligently on every year is finding walk-ons that fit our profile and our profile is number one, people that want to be here. Number two is people that have the right work ethic on and off the field and have the right character, and third are guys that are either talented and need to be developed again or guys that may have gotten overlooked because they’re a little small or don’t fit someone else’s profile and there are a lot of those kids out there and they fit in this program.”

“When you are a spread team, it allows you to get some different kind of guys in your offense maybe than other people that are looking for big tight ends and big fullback-types. We usually thrive on finding inside receivers. Travis Reyes is a junior college player who, I think, might fit that mold for us. We’re hoping that he can. He was a successful player that came and walked on from California, kind of in the David Gru mold. We’ll see. You never really know until camp and then honestly until about 10-12 days before your first game.”

On the wide receivers:

“Really, offensive football is all about execution and we haven’t been a very good team at executing in the past. We’ve done some decent things at times. We’ve played musical quarterbacks around here more than I’m accustomed to and I think that in some ways has set us back a little bit. I think we’re settled at that position. We finally have depth and a comfort level with those players and I think they’re comfortable with us. Those guys are good players. It’s kind of what I was saying earlier, we have become a team that can execute. I feel like in the spring we became that type of team. But, what makes you really good offensively is being able to execute and having explosive players. I think that’s when you become a really good offensive football team. You’re not just relying on big plays and you’re not just relying on the 13-play drives, but you can do both. And, when you can do both of those, I think that’s when you become a good team and obviously part of that is going to be taking care of the football. Those guys are explosive and we have depth.”

“Quinton [Patton] is obviously a proven commodity. Myles [White] really came on at the end of the year and had a great spring. I am excited about D.J. Banks. I think he’ll bring a lot to the table. I’m excited about the Y position. I really feel good about those guys. We have three or four players that all have different characteristics. Some of them are big, some are strong, some of them are fast and some are quick. So, we have a lot of different looks at that inside receiver spots and I like the makeup of all those receiver spots right now. We’ve got to have some guys step up. Jacarri Jackson’s got to be a guy that we can count on and he’s shown flashes in the past. I feel good about the group overall.”

On the offense and having a starting quarterback going into camp:

“That’s a big deal. Being settled at that position settles everyone. I’m in a better mood because I sleep better at night. Tony’s in a better mood because he sleeps better. Our players sleep better. When we know who’s back there getting it done, it makes our job a lot more fun because there’s a lot of anxiety that goes along with being unsettled.”

“The good thing is we feel good about several quarterbacks. Obviously Colby [Cameron]’s our starter and had a great spring. He’s had a really good summer. I think he’s starting to come into his own from a confidence standpoint. He’s a good grasping of the offense and the guys are on the same page more than they have been in the past. We’ve got to keep him healthy and he’s got to keep improving. We’re excited about that. We’re really fired up about Zach Griffith and what he’s done in the second half of spring football and then continued in the summer. He was coming off a shoulder injury and it’s good to see him back at full strength and being able to throw the football like we thought he could.”

On Colby Brown:

“We’re still working on it. We’re hoping we can get it done. That’ll be resolved. We’ll kind of see how that plays out. We need some experience and he’s obviously got a little bit of that, but we’ll see.”

On entering the season as the conference favorite:

“There’s a little more made out of that than there really is. At the end of the day, it’s about those guys going out and playing on the field. I don’t think it’s that much of a difference than if we were picked fifth in the league like last year. Obviously it didn’t matter, we finished first. The preseason deal didn’t really matter much. This team is certainly capable of finishing fifth after we were picked first this year.”

“We’re a blue-collar football team. We’ve got to show up every day, go to work and roll our sleeves up. We’ve got to do all the things rights that allow us to become good. We’ve got to be good teammates. We’ve got to care about each other. We’ve got to have very few off the field distractions. We’ve got to be mature and approach this everyday as an opportunity to get better, and if we do that then I think we have the chance to be a good team.”

“It is going to take 103 guys reporting and being on the same page and working hard and everybody contributing because our scout team guys are going to be equally as important as guys that are starting for us. That’s the way football is and that’s kind of what makes this a team sport. So many people have to come together for a common cause. If you get that then you’re going to reach your potential and if you don’t, you’re going to be a team that looks back and say coulda, shoulda, woulda.”

On facing Texas A&M:

“I haven’t slept that great all summer. The thing you’ve got to do is, you have to focus on your team. We can’t control how good Texas A&M is going to be.  They’re going to be good. They’ve got probably as good of an offensive line in the country. They’re going to be loaded at running back. They’ve got two quality receivers. We know what kind of players they have. They’re going to throw some really good football players at us and we respect that, but our focus has to be on ourselves and on getting better and improving and utilizing every opportunity we get to improve.”

On Louisiana Tech’s Watch List Players:

“I’m a little disappoint Colby [Cameron] isn’t on one of those lists as well. I think he will be. I think he has the chance to have that kind of year where he gets on the list. The thing about those lists is after two weeks, we might have one guy on there or zero. That stuff’s very fluid and changes. It’s nice to talk about it now but it doesn’t have any impact on anything.”

 

 

On Louisiana Tech’s Quality Wins (2011):

“To make the next step as a program, you’ve got to win some of those games. I’m not sure that last year, that team was ready for that and I hope this team is. If we win a couple of those games early, I’m not sure we grind the way we need to grind to go on a seven game win streak with five of those games being road games. I think that focused us. I think that made us keep working. It showed us we had some potential. This team will be different. That’s the weird thing about coaching. You think there’s a lot of carry-over from one year to the next and there’s very seldom much carry-over. It’s a new adventure. It’s a new team. It’s a new chemistry. We’re going to be presented with new challenges. I don’t know that there’s going to be that much carry-over from last year, but we’ve got to find a way to win some of those games. We’ve got to find a way to beat good football teams if we want to take the next step as a program.”

On depth at running back:

“The funny this is, we considered it one of our strengths last year. We went into the year and said boy we’re going to be good with [Lennon] Creer and Ray Holley and Lyle Fitte and all those guys, and we look up and at one point we’ve got a true freshman quarterback telling a true freshman inside receiver what plays to run and what to run at running back [at Idaho]. It was kind of a weird year that way.”

“That’s what happens, especially at that position. I really feel like you’ve got to be four or five deep at running back. They just get banged up. It happens in the NFL, it happens in college, it happens in high school and probably in junior high ball as well. Those guys take a lot of hits, a lot of beating. They get hit almost every play, whether they’re carrying the ball or blocking someone and they’re not always the biggest guys. A lot of times they’re getting hit in the legs and people are tackling low. They’re going to get beat up so we’ve got to develop depth.”

“Tevin King has to come on and be a player for us. We think he can be. He’s got to be more consistent than he was in the spring. But, we feel good about it. I think Ray Holley is one of the most solid players on our team. I think Hunter Lee is a solid player. When you throw Tevin in there, he’s a changeup from those guys. He is a smaller back. He’s quicker, more dynamic type guy. Then again, Kenneth Dixon is going to be a bigger, more physical type of guy. We hope he can get into the mix. He certainly can from a talent standpoint. We’ll see if he can from a maturity standpoint.”

On the defense:

“Those guys are hard to replace (Matt Broha and Adrien Cole) just because they’ve got so much experience. They were guys that put a lot into this program and invested a lot into it, so the program meant a lot to them. They are both really good football players. Jay Dudley was kind of in the same mold as well.”

“The good thing is, we have talent at that position. We’ve just got to get those guys to step up and continue to work. We feel good about Chip Hester. From an eligibility standpoint, we think he’s going to get some issues he’s had cleared up and expect him to be with us. We’ll see how it plays out, but we feel pretty good about it right now. Antonio Mitchum has been solid. Rufus Porter has been one of the best improved players in our program. Solomon Randle has been a steady guy. We feel pretty good about that group overall and we’ve got some guys to choose from and they’ve got to become more consistent and become people we can count on.”

On conference realignment affecting recruiting:

“I think stability helps you in recruiting as much as anything else. That’s one thing we had to find in the past just from a conference standpoint. The questions were always what conference were you going to be in and I don’t know if you guys are aware of this, but coaches sometimes don’t tell the truth in recruiting and we try to, but we became like everyone else in terms of saying we think we’re going to be in Conference USA. Did they believe us? I’m not completely sure they did and I don’t blame them.”

“The good thing is, now we don’t have to address those issues. We know where we’re going to be. We’re going to be in a great league. We’re going to be in a league that has stability. We’re going to be in a great league that’s got regional affiliations, which we need. We’re going to be in a league that’s got seven or eight bowl tie-ins and also a great television contract. Those are all things we can sell. Again, stability is a big deal. Our coaches have had the chance to go to the same schools for three years now in recruiting and that makes a huge difference. Coaches trust us. If we offer a player a scholarship, we’re going to be willing to take their commitment. They know how we do business. Now, that’s going to help us in recruiting for the long haul and I’m a big believer in stability allows you to recruit.”

On the team’s coaching staff consistency:

“That’s an attribute to a lot of different things around here. I think our players first of all and to our administration for allowing us to keep those guys and the commitment they made. It’s really a tribute to north Louisiana and Ruston because our coaches enjoy being here and being a part of our staff and we work well together. It’s not all rainbows and puppy dogs, but we work well together. We have a good time. We enjoy being around each other and I think that carries over to our players. Those guys sense if you’ve got hostility in the coaching staff and in the office.”

“Our players come up here and hang around. We’ve got to kick them out of the field house all the time and they’re in here watching tape and they just want to be around. That’s the kind of atmosphere we want to create for everybody. Our families are around here a lot and I think as a result we feel like we’re one big extended family and I think it carries over to our players. That’s been a big deal for us. When you have the same coach coaching you for three or four years, you’re going to develop. When you’re changing coaches all the time, there’s going to be a change in philosophy, a change in technique, a change in communication, and all those are things we haven’t had to deal with. I attribute that to Bruce and Dr. Reneau for allowing us to hold on to those coaches.

On the Quinton Patton/Patton poster and promotional campaign:

“Yeah I did like that actually. I just hope no one’s going to ask him about General Patton. I’m not sure he’ll know who it is. I hope he does, he better. It’s a good looking deal. It’s a nice look and we might have to show him the movie sometime so he knows what the heck we’re talking about.”

On the expectations for the team:

“I think people are excited. The thing we have to do is give them something to be excited about and I think the unique opportunity about this A&M game. Here’s a chance to put ourselves on the map a little bit and we’ll see if we’re ready for it. If we are, I think it’ll be a great opportunity for our program to grow and continue to take off and if not, then we’ll roll our sleeves back up and go to work and try to get them excited about playing the following week.”

“That’s what you do as a coach. You can feel it. You can feel the optimism. You can feel the excitement around town and around our office. At the end of the day, it’s going to be a grind. It’s a long season. It’s a strange season. We don’t play a conference game until the eighth week of the season. Somebody was asking about conference play. Who knows what our team will look like after eight weeks. It’s hard to know how it’ll play out. We play a challenging non-conference schedule, but we think we have a team that can handle it.”

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