Louisiana Tech Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript: Aug. 29
Aug. 29, 2016
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz spoke with the media Monday in advance of the team's season-opening game at Arkansas.
"It is an exciting time now. It's game week. We've got the press conference, the coaches show at Dawg House and there is a lot of buzz and excitement with the players. I think everyone in the country is excited to break camp and have the opportunity to start playing somebody else. As we wrapped up fall camp, there were four things we wanted to accomplish. The first thing we wanted to do is get to where we could execute our offense and our defense. I think our staff has done a good job of putting those things in place. I was pleased with the carryover from with the guys that are back. Other guys have also really picked it up."
"We also wanted to develop a depth chart. We have spent the last three weeks trying to put that together. While developing the depth chart, we wanted to identify the freshmen that we thought had a chance to help this football team. I was really impressed with this freshman class and guys like Zach Cousar and Devin Hamilton. There are some really talented players in this group that may not get the opportunity to play this year, but are going to be quality players in the future."
"There are five freshman that we feel like are going to have an opportunity to play at some point during the season. On offense, it's Adrian Hardy, a wide receiver. I think he has a chance to be a really special player. I think he has grabbed a lot of people's attention, with his ability to go get the ball. There are three on the defensive line with Ka'Derrion Mason, Willie Baker and Eric Kendzior. The fifth is L'Jarius Sneed, a safety, and he will have an opportunity to make an impact. He has great size and speed, while also being physical and tough. I think he just needs to continue coming along and developing into the system. The third thing we were trying to do is identify our dirty dozen. Who are the guys that are going to have an opportunity to play special teams."
"I think we are going to be much more talented and much more experienced than we were a year ago. This football team does not have a lot of experience returning, which has been written and talked about, but we do have a lot of depth. That is something that will bode well for us as we go down the road, especially as we have to play 11 straight games before we have an open date. I think that depth is going to be really important for us. We were able to stay relatively healthy during camp, which is a huge part of it. I think that is a real testament to the coaches and players and the way they worked together. I think it is a testament to coach Hester and the job he did this summer, getting everyone ready. We have three guys that are out right now and none of them are soft tissue. We have had three surgeries during this camp and the three guys that will definitely miss this opening game will be Courtney Wallace, who had surgery early on and should be back in a couple of weeks. The other two are Israel Tucker and Jack Abraham. Those three will miss this game because of surgeries. We have a lot of soreness, but we do not have soft tissue issues, which is a real testament to Coach Hester."
"The fourth thing we wanted to identify in this camp was leadership. I feel like we have some guys on this football team, especially upperclassmen, have shown quality leadership skill on both sides of the ball. I think we have come a long way from last year in regards to leadership to where we are this year. With that being said, we put the captains to vote on Friday night and gave them the very difficult task of picking two guys on offense and two guys on defense. On defense, they voted Xavier Woods and Llyod Grogan. On offense they voted Trent Taylor and Ryan Higgins. With everything Ryan has been through, I think it is an incredible testament to the way he has handled a very difficult situation and the way he has taken ownership. He has handled his business since then and has shown remorse and regret for letting his teammates down. When you give the team the power to vote and that opportunity, that is the way they spoke out and they will be our four captains for 2016."
"We are getting into stage five and this is the exciting part. This is where people get excited as magazines hit the newspaper racks. Everyone starts talking, saying they can't wait for football. Well, it's finally here. I know we had a game last Saturday and we have a bunch on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and we are excited to open the season. I think there is an awful lot of excitement in our team room. I think there is also a lot of excitement with our fan base, alumni and the people that support this program. I know a lot has been written and said about me growing up in Fayetteville, from seventh grade through high school. I grew up calling the hogs. I was a part of the program, being the little rug rat who ran around on the sidelines. This weekend they are honoring my father at halftime. I think it is an unbelievable tribute and I am excited for him, that he will have the opportunity to experience that and the appreciation of the Arkansas fans. I have some lifelong friends there. There are going to be a lot of emotions going back there, but I know also that we have a lot of players on our team with connections. Trent Taylor played with two guys from Evangel that are both up there. James Jackson has a cousin up there. There are a lot of people who will have individual emotions about this game, but at the end of the day what matters is Louisiana Tech versus Arkansas. It is about putting the ball on the tee and playing the game. People ask if I am going to the dinner on Friday night or staying on the field during halftime to see the presentation. Unfortunately, I won't be there as a son to experience that. My first obligation is to make sure that as a football team, we can put a quality product on the field and that is where 100 percent of my attention is going to be."
"I have an unbelievable amount of respect for coach [Bret] Bielema and the job he has done with that program. He is going into his fourth season and they are on a very solid foundation, when you look at their success and the way they have finished the past few years. I had an opportunity, when my son was at Texas, to go down and watch them play Texas in the bowl game a couple years ago. Texas had about 27 yards going into the fourth quarter. I have really been impressed with what he has done with the program. When you look at their football team this year, there is a lot to talk about. Obviously, there is a lot of excitement in Fayetteville, as there should be. They have six returning starters on offense, guys that have played an awful lot of football. Four of those six are preseason all-SEC picks. They have three wide receivers on the senior bowl watch list. They have an offensive football team that runs the ball extremely well. They are big upfront and dominating. They impose their will on you, but then hit you with a big play. Out of all 14 teams in the SEC they were number two in total offense."
"In opening games the past two years, Keon Hatcher has touched the ball nine times and scored on two of them. They have some explosive players and big play potential. They have a big strong offensive line and you can definitely see Bret's thumbprint all over that program with what they are doing and it is not hard to see why they have the success that they have."
"So, then you look at them and see if you can find a kink in the armor on defense. Last year, they were second in the conference in rushing defense. They return 10 starters on that side of the ball. They were 12th in the country in rushing defense. They have two impact players in Brooks Ellis and Deatrich Wise Jr. In the last four games, Wise had seven sacks. They strong and fundamentally sound with what they do. I have great respect for their staff, having coaches with a number of them and against some. I know Robb [Smith] from his days at Rutgers. Vernon Hargreaves and I coached together for a long time. I know the quality coaches they have and the talent they have."
"Well, then you look at it and say, maybe they aren't as strong on special teams. Their punter is on the Ray Guy Watch List, their kicker is returning. This is a football team with people talking about a lot of positive things. I've seen projections as high as 10-2. I think they are a very fundamentally sound football team. They are big, strong and physical, but their skill positions are extremely athletic."
"I think this is going to be a very tall order for us as a team, to go into Fayetteville and try and find a way to get a win. I think we are really excited about having an opportunity to kick off the football season. I don't know that Fayetteville with 80,000 fans is exactly where you want some of these players to be cutting their teeth and getting their very first start. J'mar Smith is a redshirt freshman who is going to have the opportunity to step on to a football field for the very first time against a high quality opponent in a place where crowd noise is a factor. We definitely have some challenges in this game, but to say that we are excited would be an understatement. We are really excited to get this thing kicked off. We are going to learn a lot about our football team. We are really excited about having the opportunity to go play a first-class program as strong as Arkansas."
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