Louisiana Tech Press Conference Transcript: Aug. 24


 

 

Aug. 24, 2012

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes and select student-athletes met with the media today previewing Louisiana Tech’s Aug. 30 game against Texas A&M at Independence Stadium in Shreveport.

Head Coach Sonny Dykes

Opening Comments:

“It is good to see everybody back. It is kind of an exciting time of the year. We are getting back into game week. It is a little unusual today being a Friday when we are doing this, but playing a Thursday night game is a little unusual just because of all the changes you have to make with your routine.”

“College football coaches, just like college football players, love their routine. It is a little bit of a change, but it is a change we are excited about.”

“We are looking forward to getting out there a week from yesterday and teaming up against a good Texas A&M team. We will know more about where we are as a team and where we are as a program then.”

“What we have to be careful with is, this is not a program-defining game for us, regardless of what happens. If we play well and win the game, we are going to have to play Houston the next week. And, if we do not, we still have to play Houston the next week.”

“Our goal is always to win the WAC, win a conference championship and get to a bowl game. This is obviously an important game for a lot of reasons, but at the same time we have to make sure we understand this is going to be a long season and we have to stay focused and continue to keep improving as a team.”

 

On injuries:

“We are in good shape. We have been really fortunate. That is one of the things we intended to do, is try to get through injury-free as much as possible. We talked a lot about different ways to do that during the summer and ways to adjust our practice schedule, and ways to try and keep our players fresh.”


 

 

“What happens a lot of times is these guys report in tremendous shape. They are working out all summer long, and then, if you practice too long, their bodies start to break down. If you practice seven, eight or nine a lot of years, you start losing six, seven, eight starters, and then you are practicing and repping a lot of guys that really are not going to play that much for you.”

“So, our intent was to do a good job protecting our guys out there. I think the weather was cooperative. I think that was certainly one of the things we were fortunate with was to have cool weather. I think that made our players fresher. I think when your players are fresher their bodies do not break down as quickly maybe as they do otherwise. That allowed us to get good quality practices and work with our young guys as well, but at the same time to practice and get time with the players we are going into the game with.”

“We have been remarkably injury free. I think we will be close to full speed when we play Texas A&M and we need to be.”

 

On scouting Texas A&M:

“The weird thing about this game is you have to watch four different films to know what is going on. You have to watch South Florida’s defense. That is where Mark Snyder, the defensive coordinator, comes from. Then, you have to watch Stanford, because that is where their special teams coordinator came from. You have to watch Houston’s offense. That is obviously where Kevin was last year and Kliff Kingsbury. And then, you have to watch Texas A&M just to get a feel for their personnel.”

“It is a tedious process. Right now I am going through and watching Texas A&M’s personnel from last year. I spent a lot of time over the summer looking at the schemes they ran at South Florida. Also, I looked at what they did on special teams, once again, at Stanford. So, it is tough figure it out and get it all straightened out.”

“I think that is one advantage a team like this has, because you are not really sure where the players are going to get placed. You think you have an idea of what they are going to do from a schemes standpoint, but you are not sure if this guy is going to be an outside linebacker or a defensive end or whether this receiver is going to be an inside receiver or an outside receiver. Is this guy going to be a tight end or a fullback? Which tight end are they going to play with? Are they going to utilize a fullback? Do they have the personnel to play man coverage? How much are they going to blitz as a result of that? There are all those questions that you would like to have answers to, but you really cannot going into the first game.”

“Their coaching staff does a very good job and that is one of the things Kevin does a fantastic job of is figuring out who their players are on offense, defense and special teams. That is why his teams have been successful and this team will not be any different.”

On concerns:

“I think the unknown. The second thing is they are going to have good athletes. They are going to have a lot of players that are big and can run fast and are just good players. Obviously, you worry about their athleticism.”

“The return game, I think, will be really good. They will be explosive in the punt and kick return game. That is something we are going to have to do a good job of containing and will have to prepare for.”

“They have really good running backs and those guys are capable of making big plays. The strength of their team is the offensive line. You worry a little bit about just how good that group is. It is a really good group of players.”

“You worry about all that, but at the end of the day, it is about us playing well, taking care of the football, creating turnovers, and doing the things that help you win football games. At the end of the day, you worry about that stuff, but really it is about us playing well and like we are capable of playing.”

 

On Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel:

“It is unusual. We tried to recruit Johnny out of high school. He may have been the first quarterback we offered. We are familiar with him in terms of what he can do. He is a very good athlete. He can run. He can make plays with his feet. He has a good, strong arm. How is he going to be used in the offense? That is the big question. Is he going to be used in the run game? He is certainly able to run a lot.”

“All those are answers we are not really going to know now. He is going to be a good player. He is one of those kids where you watch his high school film and you think, this kid has a little something special to him. I am sure that is why they picked him.”

 

On Tech’s defense:

“The thing that was different about Houston is we had a pretty good idea going in of what we were going to get. We could scheme them a little bit.

“This year, we are not really sure just because they are not really going to change anything. Case Keenum had a tremendous amount of success. They had a really strong supporting cast, and we had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do. So, this is different.”

“What he have to do is tackle well. That is the key to the first game always. We have to do a good job of tackling. When they get the ball in open spaces, we have to make sure to get the guy down. We have to play good fundamental football and make sure we are in the right place at the right time. We have to make sure we do not bust any coverages or anything up front to create running lanes for them. All those things are going to be important. It is going to be about our execution as much as it is theirs.”

 

On being pre-season favorites:

“There is added responsibly that goes along with that. You have a little bit more recognition. People will probably take you a little bit more seriously than a year ago.”

“As a result of that, you have to elevate your level of play. The thing that concerns coaches is when you have some type of success and you have to guard against the, ‘Hey, we have got it all figured out,’ mentality. We have to make sure these guys are on edge every day and they go out and practice well.”

“That is the thing with us. If we do not practice well, we are not a very good football team. If we do, then we have a chance to get better and become a good team. We are not going to roll out 22 NFL football players and have a ton of guys get drafted. That is just not what we have and that is not who we are.”

“Our guys have to go fight and scratch and do those things to have a chance to win. I think we know that. I am hoping we do. But, it is all about us every single day going out, fighting and earning the respect that we have gotten.”

 

On Texas A&M defense matchups:

“The more you watch the tape and looking at their personnel, they are really good. The guys that are returning are really good football players.”

“I think their linebackers are active, they make a lot of plays and they are good pass rushers, which is a little worrisome. Those linebackers do a good job of running around and making plays. They react and cover a lot of ground fast.”

“They have an outstanding defensive end, who I think is as good as anyone we will play this year. I think he has a chance to be really good and a pain because he is a good pass rusher and long and he plays hard. That is the thing about him. You watch the tape and play after play after play, he is still fighting and able to make plays within the play.”

“They have a good defense. The thing is both of the safeties have played a lot. They are not listed as returning starters, but they probably are because they have both played and have a tremendous amount of experience.”

“They are going to be a little bit young at corner, but they are going to be athletic. Deshazor Everett is a guy we tried to recruit. They are going to be very athletic at the corner spot.”

“It is going to be about us finding ways to move the football and executing our offense. Hopefully, if we do that, we will put a little pressure on them.”

 

On Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron:

“I think everybody feels comfortable with him. When we elected captains, he got more votes than anybody on our team. I think our players are confident in his ability and his leadership. We certainly are as a coaching staff.”

“That was the area in the past we were a little bit concerned about with Colby, just his confidence and leadership. That is the thing that has improved the most. He is getting more reps. He is throwing the ball better. He is more comfortable and is making decisions faster. He is taking care of the ball better. All of those things are what you want quarterbacks to do, and his leadership and stability has given us a lot of confidence.”

 

On if Cameron is one of the top 30 quarterbacks in the nation:

“I would think he has a chance to be. I think we always feel that way. If you ask any coach, and they are going to think their players are better than everybody else’s. I believe the proof is always in the pudding. We will see what kind of year he has. I think he will have a good one, but there are 120 press conferences today or Monday, where every one of those coaches think their quarterbacks are going to have good years too. We will see how that plays out. Personally, I have a lot of confidence in him.”

“I think he is going to have a great year. I think he has looked really, really sharp. I think his timing with the receivers is where we want it to be. They are on the same page. His decision-making this fall camp has really been good. He just has to go out and play like he has been practicing. That is going to be the key for him. If he does that he will have a heck of a year.”

 

On Louisiana Tech’s receivers:

“It is an interesting group. It is a group of guys that have played a lot of football. Quinton (Patton) has been a factor for us for a long time. Myles White came on last season and had a great year for us. D.J. Banks is a newcomer, but he has played a lot of football. He was a two-year starter at Tulane and we are excited about what he can do.”

“Then, you have a lot of guys that have played a lot and been productive. David Gru is a good solid player and we are excited about him. Jon Greenwalt is another player that is a junior college transfer that has not been healthy as much as we needed or wanted him to be, but we think he is a guy that can make an impact. Andrew Guillot has been through three ACL surgeries and just keeps coming back, and he is playing with a lot of toughness and competitiveness right now. Scott Cathcart will give us some depth.”

“We have a good group because we have some bigger, more physical guys in there, then some faster guys. So, that is what you want. You want a lot of different kind of guys because you will have a lot of different matchup issues against people. They have different skillsets.”

“It is tough when you are a corner and you are going against Quinton Patton, who can run, and then, you go up against Scott Cathcart, who is not as fast but has a bigger body. Those are two totally different kind of route runners who can do totally different things, and I think that always helps when you have diversity in your receiving corp.”

 

On entering game week:

“I like fall camp, honestly. I am kind of a process-oriented guy, so I like going out and doing the same stuff day in and day out. I like working the drills. I am one of those guys who wishes they would let us practice year round. I could practice all the time.”

“The fact that we get to play some games is probably more satisfying for some of our players than it is for me. I like the grind of practice. I like to watch players develop and to see the light bulb go on for some guys. I like watching kids become good players.”

“Having said that, this is why you play football – for the games. You do not really know a lot about your team until the first game. You do but you do not. We will know more about our team a week from today than we do right now. I think we will have some questions answered, and hopefully they are answered in a positive manner.”

 

On Tech’s under the radar players:

“We have the young running backs. Tevin is a guy that is going to be fun to watch. Kenneth is kind of the opposite of him. Both of those guys are guys that probably people do not know that much about. I think they could end up having good years. D.J. Banks, a newcomer, is somebody who has not played a lot, but he could have a good year.”

“Vontarrius Dora is a defensive end that has some mobility. I am anxious to see how he continues to improve. He goes out and gets better every day. He has a good work ethic and a good athletic body and frame. He is a mature kid. I love his work ethic.”

“Defensively, I am excited to see how the linebackers do - Antonio Mitchum, Chip Hester and Rufus Porter. All those guys have played a little bit for us in the past, but I am anxious to see how they step up.”

“I am real excited about Brice Abraham. I think he is a young corner we are all going to really like. He is a consistent guy and is a mature, good athlete. The thing I like about Brice is he competes every down. He is one of those guys that just bounces back. He is the kind of guy you can win with.”

“Dave Clark has made a lot of plays through fall camp. I am anxious to see how he responds to this challenge that A&M will throw his way.”

“The good thing is we are not relying on too many new players. I think that speaks highly of our depth and our football program, because this is a really good freshman class. The fact that our returning guys were able to hold a lot of them off speaks to how much they have improved and the depth in our program.”

 

On opportunities playing Texas A&M:

“It is definitely a good opportunity. You get to play an SEC school. The big thing is we do not have to play them at their home stadium. I do not know how many times in history Louisiana Tech has played an SEC team and it has not been on the road. I think of maybe Mississippi State.”

“Obviously we are playing them in Shreveport. We are not playing them at Kyle Field, which is a positive. I think anytime you are not going to their place to play, it certainly makes you feel better.”

“It is a big opportunity. They have a good football team. That is going to be a good program. I really believe Kevin Sumlin and their coaches will do a great job there. I think they will transition better in the SEC than everybody thinks. I think they will have a very good team and a very good program. I think they will be playing for championships in that league before long. I just think they are going to do something that is a little different in the league. I think it gives them an advantage.”

“The thing we have to do is go out and play well and do what we can to win the football game. We have to make sure we are better in week two when we play Houston than we are in week one.”

 

On playing in Shreveport’s Independence Stadium

“I think that is a stadium we have played in and practiced in. There is a level of comfort with that stadium for a lot of our players. To have a home crowd is a big deal for us. It is going to be important that we continue to sell tickets and that people support the team. I think that is a big deal for us.”

“It is a big deal for us being able to schedule games in Shreveport. That is important for all those factors. The biggest thing is being comfortable in an environment. Having the mindset that it is our home stadium gives us a little bit of confidence.”

 

On Lou Holtz’s comments:

“I hope he is right. I think first games are strange. You just do not ever know what is going to happen, good or bad, just because there are a lot of unknowns. How is this guy going to react to that? How is it all going to come together? You just do not know.”

“The biggest thing is how are the players, coaching staff and team going to deal with adversity? You are going to have some. That is always the biggest questions you have to answer with any football team is how are we going to handle if things do not go our way. You never really know.”

“Every team is different. We handled that well last year. This is a different team. That team was different with different leaders, different dynamics, different everything. How are we going to handle those situations this year? That remains to be seen.”

 

On walk-ons:

“I think that is obviously a huge part of our program, and it needs to be as good of high school football there is in the state. With all the built in advantages we have with being able to get kids here, a lot of times they have some scholarship money if they are good students and that helps.”

“We actively seek those guys out just because we know we are always going to need depth. Anytime you can get a good player to go to your program and pay their own way, they are hungry and that is the biggest thing for those guys if they come in every day wanting to earn a scholarship and work hard to improve themselves. When you find athletes that want to work and compete and want to earn something, you have a chance to find good players.”

“And then, you have to do a good job developing them. I think Damon does a good job in the weight room and hopefully our coaching staff does a pretty good job of figuring out what they can do and everything else.”

 

 

Redshirt senior Colby Cameron

On if Texas A&M is similar to last year’s Houston team:

“Yeah, kind of, but not really. We have been watching a lot of South Florida film for the defense. I think from the offensive side, it is definitely the same as Houston, but from the defensive side, it is definitely more similar to South Florida.”

 

On his comfort level:

“I think the guys are more confident in where they stand on the team. I think we have leaders in certain spots. Where last year guys were developing as leaders in certain spots, this year we have leaders where other kids look up to them from the wide receiver position to the running backs to our offensive line, who are all veteran guys, so I think we are confident with where we stand, but at the same time we are still developing as a team and are still working on it.”

 

On being the starting QB entering the season:

“It is just a good feeling going into your senior year, because you are not stressed out about all the other hoopla about whether you are going to play or not going to play. I am more confident with filling my role. As the quarterback, you do not ever want to be second guessing yourself going into the season, and I think we have had that in the past. I think now our team knows, and I know, that going in as a leader and how people perceive you as a quarterback in a leadership role.”

 

On looking at the game as a possible redemption game (from his performance against A&M in 2010):

“You can kind of look at is that way. Obviously I want to do better, but I am not looking at it as a redemption game about Texas A&M this and that. I think I am looking at it more as looking back to tell my kids I played a better game against Texas A&M because that one was a little rough. I am just excited for the opportunity to play a great team. I think playing such a well-known team, it is fun to be put in the limelight and I am looking forward to the opportunity.”

“I think we are on a new page in our system and I think we all have new roles. When we first started, it was kind of crazy. I do not think anyone knew where we were placed in the offense. Now, everyone has their role. I think we are just much more confident.”

 

On playing in Shreveport:

“I think it is just close to home from the fans standpoint. We can have a larger crowd. It is still a different venue, so it might be a little tough going to a different spot. At the same time, it is closer to home so it makes it a little easier.”

“We feel comfortable just because we are familiar with the place. We know it is not just a random venue somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. I think people know of Shreveport and where we are headed, so there are no surprises of the fact that we are going to this spot. It is kind of like a home game for us, but it is still not really home.”

 

On entering game week:

“We are really excited. We were ready for camp to be over. Camp is a grind. It is hard to go 18-19 practices in a row. I think the team is actually ready to show what they have put in and we are just ready to finally get that first game going.”

 

On getting hit:

“It feels good. You do not get hit except for maybe a couple months out of the year, so I might be a little bit more sore, but I am looking forward to it.”

 

On concerns with defense:

“The program they have been in, they have a lot of athletes. It is a top-notch program. You hear about them a lot and they recruit real well. I think they are going to have great people at each position, especially since going to the SEC and they got a lot of recruits, so I think that is what you think about.”

“It is hard to talk about scheme just because you cannot fit their personnel into the new scheme they are in because we have not seen much of it. I think they just have a lot of great athletes.”

 

On if he has a large ticket request:

“Being from California, I do not have that many. It makes it difficult for people to come out, but my parents will be there and a couple friends will be in the crowd.”

 

On staying grounded despite lots of preseason national press:

“Since we won last year, a lot of people have been saying we can win this or that. I think we just have to take it week by week. I do not like looking at the news and all that stuff.”

“It is hard to be a part of all that, because there is so much stuff going on, but I think we are just going to take it week by week and take it from there.”

 

On preparing for Texas A&M:

“It is always great. With our team, we have athletes that are capable of playing at a high level like these teams do all the time. I think we are just confident in our abilities and we look forward to playing them.”

 

On having shorter hair:

“My mom wanted me to cut it off and it is pretty hot in the summer so I had to get rid of it.”

 

 

Senior S Jamel Johnson

On facing the same scheme as Houston:

“It definitely helps us a lot. We have a good grasp of the scheme. It is kind of hard knowing how their personnel moves and just the whole scheme really helped us a lot.”

 

On the Texas A&M quarterback:

“I know the position is one of the toughest on the field and to be a freshman on this stage is going to be pretty tough, so I think we have to take advantage of that and expose him a little.”

 

On concerns with Texas A&M’s offense:

“The biggest concern going in is pretty much not being able to see how they move on certain plays with the offense Houston ran.”

“I think it is most important for the guys to focus on making the game more about us than it is them. If we go out and execute and play with great effort, it will give us a chance. Results are results but it will definitely give us a chance.”

 

On the Tech defense’s confidence level:

“There is definitely a higher level of confidence, but it has been a positive confidence. It has made our players work harder. I think we have had one of the best offseasons since I have been around here. I think the players, for the most part, fed off the fact that we did so well last year and just seeing that it can be done, so I think it has helped us.”

“It is very important. I can look over at Chad, and sometimes we do not necessarily have to call a play. It is just what makes sense at the time. I definitely think with five seniors back there, it is definitely a positive for us.”

 

On Brice Abraham:

“There are certain plays you can make in high school that are just not relevant at this level. For the most part, it is about finishing plays. I just try to remind him after every play to just finish the play and just about being in position to make the tackle versus just running by and assuming you will make the tackle. It is just about finishing and playing full speed at all times.”

On seniors helping coach up the freshmen in the secondary:

“It definitely has to be that way, especially when you are trying to build confidence with these young guys. I always catch Dave Clark in one of their ears, he is always in one of the younger guys ears. That is definitely important for us.”

“Like I said, we have had one of the best offseasons since I have been here, so seeing that day by day from winter until now, I am not nervous at all. I know the work we put in and that is pretty much it.”

 

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