Nov. 21, 2006
Weekly Press Conference
James W. Wilson, Jr. Center
New Orleans, La.
On Saturday's 10-9 win over UCF
"I thought it was a tremendous effort by our players in all three phases. Offensively, we weren't in sync the whole game, but at times, we showed great spurts. There were a couple of big plays we made that helped us not only in scoring the touchdown and the field goal, but also in terms of field positions. Defensively, I can't say enough about how well they played. They seemed to have gotten better as the year has gone on. A lot of that early on was having to replace our the heart of our defense in the linebackers and the safeties, and those guys have really grown into those positions. They really came up big with a couple of fourth down stops through the course of the game, and we held them out of the endzone. In today's day and time, that's a big accomplishment. I was really proud for our seniors to go out with a win at home."
On Friday's season finale at Tulsa
"We've got a game this week against a football team that is as capable as any team in our league to go out and play well. We've got a short week and a travel day in it, and we've got to condense a lot of things we want to do on offense and defense and get it all in before we leave on Thursday."
On the death of former linebacker/defensive back Brandon Spincer
"Brandon was a tremendous asset to our program. He was going to be a part of it, but he's no longer with us. He was very, very close to me personally and close to my family personally. He was a guy who really meant a lot to me, this football program and this city. He is a young man that could have gone anywhere in the country, but decided to stay home. He graduated from here (in May 2006) and was on his way down a successful path."
On the performance of the defense over the last few games
"I thought they played well at Marshall after the first quarter. We let them get a couple of touchdowns there, but three quarters after that I thought they played well, and I thought they played three a half quarters against Southern Miss extremely well. Up until the fourth quarter, it's 10-3 and our offense is driving and we turn it over. We all know how that can change the complexion of a ballgame, whether you in high school, college or professional. They've improved. Statistically on paper, you can `well, look where they are. But from where they started to where they are now, I'd say they've done a tremendous job."
On if he will meet with Director of Athletics Rick Dickson at the end of the season
"Yes, no different then any other year. We haven't set (a meeting date) yet. We usually wait after the last game to set a date."
On the outlook of the team that returns for the 2007 season
"I think we'll have an outstanding team coming back. We don't lose much. We built it the way I wanted to see it built - young kids coming in, maturing and growing up. If you look at our depth chart, I think we lose three or four of the two-deep on the defense and seven of the two-deep on offense. We're a talented bunch. We've had along the course of the year some areas that were decimated at certain times, but I think we've filled that out...especially at the two line positions."
On his feelings on the accomplishments of the 2006 team so far
"I would say to be proud of what this team has accomplished throughout the season, realize what they've been through from January to June and see the improvement they've made from start to finish."
On if he feels the team left some wins on the field
"Looking back, if we had made a couple of more plays or didn't give a couple of them away, I think we'd be going to a bowl game. On the flip side of that, there are some other games where if we didn't play as well as we did, we wouldn't have won either. So there's good and bad in both. The thing about these seniors is that they're going to be very successful in whatever endeavors they chose."
On if the 2007 defense has a chance to be one of the best he's had
"I think it has a chance to be one of the deepest and best we've had since I've been here, including the'02 year. When you think about coming into the year this season, we lost a starter before the season started due to transfer (Ace Foyil), then you lose Sean Carney and Matt Harding within two weeks of each other and Cody Sparks in the second week, you're talking about some guys there who have played a little football for us. You don't have to worry about them not every stepping foot on the field when their time comes."
Of the injured players, who does he expect to return to play next year
"I think every one of them will be back, including Carney. Sean had (back) surgery the other day. It went well. Matt Forté is having surgery this morning, and we expect him to have a full recovery. It wasn't as bad as first indicated, and they'll get in there and fix him up. He'll be back."
On how far the team has come since returning to campus last December
"I think we've turned the corner and went down the street from where we were last year at this point. Our talent level is good. We have an offseason program now, and I think that will be a big asset to (our program)."
On his expectations for the upcoming signing class
"We're looking at 21. And the beauty about this year - and this has only happened one time, really - there isn't going to be a lot of guys who are going to have to come in and play (right away). I think we've covered that gap. I think we've covered all the generation gaps that we've had in our program. I think we'll have some people who can contribute in some way, but there is nowhere we look and say `we've got to sign a guy here that has to come in and be a player for us immediately.'"
On how tough this season has been for the team
"This was a difficult task - starting three games on the road the way we did. It isn't anybody's fault. It's just the way it fell. Playing just five home games and playing 12 straight weeks, all that has added up. For our guys to be where they are right now, I'm really proud of them."
On the quarterback outlook for next year
"I think you've seen Scott Elliott. He's very capable and has moved our football team every time he's been in the game. There are some things that he can do that we havn't asked Lester to do and vice versa. I don't think you see many guys in the county who have an arm like Lester. But everybody has strengths and everybody has weaknesses. As a coach, you've got to play to your quarterback's strengths, and Scott has plenty of them."
On if he sees a light at the end of the tunnel for his program
"Oh, I see a beam at the end of the tunnel. I've stood up here before, and it's been an oncoming train. This one is not a train though. You all can see that. You can see what we've put out there."
On the offense's struggles of late while the defense improves
"It's sort of reversed. Early in the year, we were completely healthy on offense and you can look at what we did. As the season has progressed, we've lost some key players and have guys playing who aren't playing at 100 percent - Preston Brown, Damarcus Davis. You can see them out there on Saturday fighting though it and limping. And all of our backs have been banged up. On the other side of it defensively, early in the year, you lose Harding, Carney, Cody Sparks, Terrence Peterson and Jordan Ellis. Now, Terrence comes back, Jordan comes back healthy, and that's helped us. We've got guys in there like Billy Harrison, Taurean Browna and Michael Purcell to replace Carney."
On if he is happy with his coaching staff
"I"ve very happy with them. They've been through the worse, but they've also kept their focus on what's important. They've brought in the type of student-athletes that we're proud of, and also the kind of players we need to compete at this level."
On what a season-ending win over Tulsa would mean to the program
"I think everyone wrote us off several weeks ago, after the Marshall game. Then you turn around and see what Marshall did to UTEP up there. From then on, we were written off, and then to bounce back and beat a team which won their division last year is impressive. To finish at Tulsa, which is the second-highest scoring team in the league, will be huge. And they play well at home."
On how it feels to be `written off'
"I've been written off my whole life. I wasn't big enough to play Division I football. It's just another day. You just press on and keep your focus. You can write us off, but this program has been represented in a first-class manner - on the field, off the field and in the classroom. Do we wish we had a few more wins along the way, sure. But we've double our win total from last year already."
On if this team has a chip on its shoulder about being `written off'
"It's not a chip. We approach it as being an opportunity, just like it is to come to school here. It's an opportunity not a lot of people get. It's a privelidge to be a part of this team, not a right. And that's the approach we take as a team. I think today more then ever, our players understand how fortunate to be here."
What was your goal for this team coming into the season
"To get better from start to finish. If you remember, I said that back in my first press conference. I never said wins and losses, because that will take care of itself. I just wanted the team to get better from start to finish, and I think we've done that. I know we've done that."