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TROY UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 8, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming today. My name is Ricky Hazel. I'm the director of media relations here at Troy. The schedule for today is we're going to have Steve Dennis, our athletic director; Neal Brown, our offensive coordinator; Jeremy Rowell, our defensive coordinator; Shayne Wasden, our special teams coordinator, and then our coach, Coach Larry Blakeney, will talk. Without further ado, I would like to introduce Steve Dennis.
STEVE DENNIS: Thank you, Ricky. Just want to take this opportunity to kinda kick off a new year and welcome everyone here. Deeply appreciate the media and what you do for Troy University and all our athletic programs as well as the University itself.
So welcome to the media and welcome being here -- I want you guys to know John, who is our director of communications. I hope you all get a chance to visit with him, and discuss what great things we have going on in our league. I will not be long. I want to take this chance, though, to thank the players that are in this room.
As you media get an opportunity to visit with them, then you'll understand how our coaching and our coaching staff and what kind of impact they make on these guys, because they're first-class individuals and they handle themselves with a lot of dignity.
They're young men that -- it just goes to show how they've been brought up. They've got great families, and I want to thank them for their hard work and all they did.
My football staff, as I mentioned, is like all our coaching staffs at this University. I'm blessed to be able to work with great coaches, and Coach Larry Blakeney will get everything going here with the football part of it for sure.
One last thing I would like to talk about, as we get into a new year, not only is our football program kicking off, but from volleyball to our soccer program to all the cross-country sports to the building and the construction of a new convocation center, a new dining facility, a new fraternity village, renovation to our international business college and new college of education.
The point of all of this is Troy University is continuing to grow and it's because of the people in southeast Alabama and the entire state of Alabama, and this area, that back and support our programs, not only athletically but academically as well. So as you get back to your areas as a media broadcasting group, I want to open the door for you. If there is anything we can do to help you in the press to spread what is going on at Troy University that's in 13 -- all 13 time zones, we impact 14 countries and 60 cities in the United States.
It's an amazing University, and I want you to dig deep not only into our football players and the hard work that they put into it, but dig into what they do academically, spiritually, and it's a proud day to have our media here and to have this football staff and kick this year off.
I will be around if you have any questions for me. The biggest thing is I get a chance to take the podium and say a few words, but it's a welcome, and Ricky I appreciate what you and your staff have done, and Joan puts on a bunch of hats like we all do here, and she heads all our tickets, and she is here with her husband keeping everybody fed. So welcome to Troy. Anything we can do to help, let us know. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start off with the football coaching staff today with our offensive coordinator, Neal Brown, to talk about today's scrimmage and the overview of the offense.
NEAL BROWN: Thank you for coming out, appreciate it. I'll kinda start -- most of it you can ask questions. We're on schedule at this point. We challenged our kids during the off-season; we came back and started that program about two weeks after the New Orleans Bowl.
The last memory people have is us losing in that last game against Southern Mississippi. We didn't perform or play up to our talent level. I didn't think we played as hard as we needed to, and our kids had a sour taste in their mouths with how we he finished. They came back, and Rick Shaughnessy our strength coach, and Chuck Ash were getting guys ready, and our kids have responded, probably had -- we had a really good winter.
In talking to Coach Shaughnessy, we can't be involved in our off-season stuff, talking to the quarterbacks and the defensive guys, and Rick Shaughnessy, I know we had a good summer here, and we've won three in a row. I'm excited about this group of players we have.
I'm also excited about the coaching staff we have on offense. We got everybody back and most of 'em had a lot of offers, could have gone other places but they felt good about what we were doing here, and they decided to stay. So we're cohesive in that angle.
Like I said, we've probably got as much or more talent than we've ever had on offense, and now it's a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together, how they're going to come together and how we will produce. If you have questions about the specific positions or anything about today's scrimmage, I'll answer those. That's easy right there.
Q. (No microphone.)
NEAL BROWN: Today, we wanted to compete, but we were trying to get things done. We worked on coming off, worked on stuff going in. We don't tackle that much during the spring or during the preseason camp, just because we don't have as many numbers as we would like to have and we want to keep people healthy.
We're going to be at our best against Bowling Green if we've got everybody ready to go. We got some things done, didn't finish some drives as well as I would like to.
I wanted to get some people touches and I thought they did a good job. I was glad to see Chip Reeves, we got him the ball a few times, he made good plays. Jason Bruce made some good plays, Tebiarus Gill has been the best player in camp. I hope he's not in here because I don't want him to hear that, but he's been the best player in camp.
The quarterbacks up and down, one person I thought did well is Dan Parker. He is far and away the most improved player on offense so far. He stepped up and right now if we played tomorrow he would be the No. 2 guy for sure.
Q. (No microphone.)
NEAL BROWN: It's all fluid. We helped some guys out of the scrimmage -- at the scrimmage today, Jerrel Jernigan and DuJuan Harris. We usually hold those guys out of scrimmages, we know what they can do, so we don't need to get them work in a tackling situation, but the depth chart is fluid.
Everybody got a chance to play today and everybody either moved up or moved down depending on how they performed in live action.
THE MODERATOR: Now our defensive coordinator, Jeremy Rowell, who will talk about the defense overall.
JEREMY ROWELL: I'm in agreement with what Neal said about the off-season stuff. We had a good off-season, we got a lot of guys healthy. Coach Shaughnessy and Chuck Ash got 'em ready to play. Some of them were limited during the spring, got healed up, worked hard this summer. Coach had a great workout system with them, got them working out on their own and it's turned over to the fall.
Feel good about our group, love the group of kids that we got. Probably had a chance to be deeper than we have been in the past few years. That's a very good thing for us. Obviously the weak link is the secondary losing so many guys, but we feel solid about our group. We've had some good senior leadership.
We have guys who have been around here for a long time, Chris Bowens and Courtland Fuller, our fourth and fifth year guys; they have stepped up and took over leadership. And Jorrick Calvin, a senior, also, feel good about those three guys. Bryan Willis being the young guy in the group, he has turned it on. Feel like he's probably had the best fall camp out of everybody, really impressed us and done some good things. Obviously got to keep gettin' better and that will take place.
Other guys in the secondary, Bryant McKissic, who missed spring, had surgery, came back, had a good summer, got cleared for contact and has done a good job for us during the fall. Just getting back into the swing of things, been a year off, finally healthy and say helping us out there.
Willard Ross, back-up free safety, junior college signee, done an excellent job, a little bit of learning curve, he will catch up and that will come in time. Five or six practices in now and things get cloudy now and then, and we'll clear those things up, moves around well.
KeJuan Phillips, young guy, corner, has stepped up to the challenge, is comin' on, doing some good things to give us depth along with Barry Valcin, another junior college signee, and he has to chance to step up and come in for us.
Obviously the biggest replacement on defense, linebackers, with Ross and Barry coming back, both being seniors, having started in a lot of ballgames with us, our nickel slot with David McDowell and Daniel Sheffield competing it will be deep for us. Both different type players; Daniel is long and lanky, runs well, former safety-type guy, and David is a linebacker-type guy, moves around very well and does good things.
Having both of them in that position is going to be good for us. Backing up Donnell Golden and Xavier Lamb, both got some time last year, red-shirt freshmen, both got a lot of game experience which will help us out, Lang and Sheffield, both returning guys for us, have done very well, done exactly what we've asked them to do, worked hard in the off-season, look for big things out of them.
R.J. Roberts, who was not eligible last year, we were able to red-shirt him, put size on him, put him on the end and he has done a heck of a job on transition, working hard to learn how to play the position and it will take time but it will all get there for him, and he's doing a great job with it.
Mario Addison, a guy we red-shirted last year, great speed, can do a lot of things, needs to learn how to play the position to be good at it but coming on very well. Jonathan Massaquoi, another junior college signee, been impressed with him. Brandon Boudreaux, another guy who has changed his body a little bit to help himself out to be able to have a chance to play and do some stuff for us at the end.
Feel good about that position, got depth, guys who can help us. Inside guys, Eugene Kinlaw did not practice today, he wasn't out there, a little dinged up, had to hold him out. Kevin Dixon starting, doing well, coming on, learning how to play the position like we want it played. Finally came off today a couple of times and did what he was supposed to do. Made some plays for us. Going to help us out tremendously in there with pass rush and effectiveness of getting off the football and making things happen.
Besides those two guys, Emanuel Dudley and Riley Flowers at the nose guard, both solid guys, coming in learning, junior college transfers, and doing a lot of things, going to help us out there greatly with depth. James Searcy, and Tony Davis, both red-shirt freshmen, have been impressed with them, a lot of things to learn, a lot of things to do to get better but they've come on very well, they've done what they're supposed to do, and kinda learn how to play the position and play it like we want it. Going to help us out a ton.
Feel good about the group, the way they play together, for each other, the things that they do for each other and makes it easy to coach them and fun to coach 'em. Hopefully things can work out and we'll have a good year.
Q. (No microphone.)
JEREMY ROWELL: Well, we'll see. You know, see how the year unfolds, how the injuries go, you never know from week to week or from day to day. Something could happen to one person could change the whole outlook of all of it, but, we would like to do some of that but we'll see how that plays out.
Q. (No microphone.)
JEREMY ROWELL: Young guys, the freshmen? Not yet. They've done some things. They show you why you signed 'em. Show stuff for the future, which will be very, very good. But they have not got a lot of looks with all the big guys. Just a little bit different speed but they're catching on having only been here for a week.
It's good for them. I tell ya, I've been impressed with what they've done and look forward to a big future out of those guys.
Q. (No microphone.)
JEREMY ROWELL: A lot! A lot! I ain't gonna lie to you, a lot! That's kinda what makes it a little bit easier. You don't put as much pressure on those guys, hopefully our front seven will have a chance to be good, a lot of guys comin' back and a lot of experience. Moved a few guys around in the secondary with Chris and Courtland, moved Chris to free safety and Courtland played free, strong, nickel, played corner early on in his career, so he's done a lot of things to move around.
Those two guys really solidify us back there, you know, with experience, with playin' time, guys who can athletically move around and can do things we ask them to do, they understand the defense. Makes it simpler and easier for me to coach because they can help me coach the other guys.
I feel very, very solid about those guys and the front seven we got.
THE MODERATOR: Our special teams coordinator and assistant head coach, Shayne Wasden.
SHAYNE WASDEN: All three of our kickers returning, a luxury we didn't have last year coming into the season. Will Goggans is back. He will be handling our punting duties. He averaged over 39 yards April punt last season. We will continue to utilize the rugby kick along with our regular punt formation, and Will has done a really good job with that for us.
Sam Glusman will be back handling our PAT and field goals, he finished last year seventh in the country in field goals made so he did a really good job for us. He started out on fire last year, hit a little slump in the middle and came back around and finished with a really strong year.
He's been more consistent in the preseason this year. He's 7 for 9 so far in camp in our live field goal attempts so we're looking for Sam to have a really good senior year for us.
Michael Taylor, he will be backing Sam up and handling our kick-off duties. All three of these guys their legs are stronger, everybody has complemented Coach Shaughnessy up to this point, and I will continue with that, getting the guys strong and all three of these young men have come in stronger and better than they were last year.
Also have our leading returner back, Jorrick Calvin. He averaged around 10 yards per punt return last year for us, kick-off return around 25 yards a return. We have Maurice Greer back deep for us and Jerrel back there some as we can to keep people from kicking the ball away from Jorrick. He gets the ball in his hands and he has a chance to score every time he has the ball in his hands.
Up front snapper, we're having to replace our snapper this year, Derrick Thomas handled our snapping for us the past two seasons and did a good job. Drew Robinson and Wes Henry are battling for that slot. Right now Drew is probably our better short snapper and PAT field goal guy than Wes is. Wes is a better punt snapper, so we will utilize a two-snapper system if neither one of those guys gets better, which is not unusual, both of those guys are capable of handling those jobs.
That's it in a nutshell.
Q. (No microphone.)
SHAYNE WASDEN: Cornelius will be back deep. He's going to catch the ball and get up field with it. He's a great guy to have on your team on the field and as a leader as well. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Now we'll turn it over to our head coach, Larry Blakeney, newest member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
COACH BLAKENEY: Thank you, thank you to all you folks who are visiting here today or who came down. Thanks to Steve Dennis our athletic director. The attitude of this department is tied to him and I feel like for a lot of reasons but mainly because of our leadership that we maybe have the best attitude in this department and on this football team as we've had in a long time.
I want to recognize Buzz Phillips, tied back to Billy Atkins, a great tradition here in the great days of the national championship, Mike Turk was here on two championship teams. They both came to practice today and I asked them to come by, and there is something to be said about this great tradition if in our 100th year of playing football here and certainly appreciate all members of the press.
We are trying to start a soup mixture right now. We've got all the ingredients in, and we're stirring it and we're going to let it simmer for a little while and maybe put some season in there, but y'all know that it's never an exact science.
My wife can make soup and it will be good every time but I never can figure out exactly, you know, the measurements of what she is putting in there. It's sorta that way with a football team. You never know exactly what's going to be the final part of the mixture that makes it all come together chemically, that's the chemistry of a football team.
We've got great people, Rick Shaughnessy, Chuck Ash, Ricky, Joan, Mr. Mayott, our academic support person and lots of others that don't get mentioned very much. This staff, this football staff that we've been able to assemble here and hang on to for the first time in a long time -- we've been able to hang on to the whole group for the second year in a row, and I'm very impressed with 'em. I hope I'm not overstating it, but they are all the right kinda folks.
They all understand the game, they all understand, and I believe, believe in the philosophy of the program and that is that the student athlete is number one. I'm proud of Neal Brown, Shayne, and Jeremy, John Schlarman, our line coach, Chad Scott, our receiver coach, Kenny Edenfield, and Randy Butler is our recruiting coordinator and coaches the ends, Benjy Parker, Maurea Crain, the defensive line, he spent about 10 to 12, 14 days with the Dallas cowboys in their camp, just got back and Shayne was up here a while ago. This may be the best acting -- in total group of guys we ever had.
I don't want y'all to think we got a bunch of stitches running around here, because we do not, and we do have our share of little problems, and one thing I credit -- this is sort of coach Edenfield's baby, it's called the accountability competition.
We started it two years ago when he came on board and we chose 10 leaders we thought needed to be leaders and they chose 10 guys out of the hundred, basically the 100 guys we had in off-season, and it was mentioned we started when we got back from the Bowl game two years ago, we started when we got back in January.
And there is always points to get, and tomorrow we will award the number one team, the number two team and the number three team, and there are academics involved, strength and continuing involved, competition involved, and, you know, I think it's something that's not necessarily cutting edge but it's been good for us to be able to get a gauge on who would do for the team -- from the team concept that maybe wouldn't do the same thing as an individual. That's a good sign.
I think this group of young men and leaders in this group are very positive for what we're trying to do. We will certainly find out beginning September 3rd and, you know, we got plenty of opportunities down the road after that to find out.
Basically we've got a road schedule, nothing new at Troy. We have been on the road many times, in an 11-game schedule we've been on the road seven of those, and this is a 12-game schedule and I think we're home, what, five times, is that right, Coach?
But it's part of the deal, and we understand that. I think our kids enjoy some of that as an opportunity. We will open against a MAC school, last time we played a MAC school we got spanked in the Silicon Valley Classic, SIU, Southern, Illinois -- Northern Illinois, I can't remember. No wonder we got beat! (Chuckles.) But the MAC is a good conference, and in Bowling Green they've got a new coordinator, new coach, and we've got to study personnel and somebody else's schemes from Tennessee and two or three other places to be prepared for a gross amount of things that they might use against us.
The Gators on the 12th, we will have a long prep for them and they have everybody back, Tim Tebow who is superman in my opinion in college football. And I've been asked a million times how we approach those games. We approach 'em the same way we approach Bowling Green, same way we going to approach UAB and Arkansas State in our conference, and that is to win and that is to try to do everything we can do to help our players have a chance to win.
I believe that these coaches believe and I believe that these players believe that on a given day they can beat anybody in America. That's the way we'll approach it and take it. We will play some pretty tough people, out of conference certainly with Bowling Green and the Gators and UAB here, and that's an important game, an in-state rivalry, over the years we've been pretty good against in-state teams in total.
We want to try to make sure -- I don't know what the record is right now exactly with UAB over a period of time since Marion Phipps in the early 90s, but we have not had the best of it lately, so we want to be sure to prepare well for that game.
Our conference opener is against Arkansas State, that will be a televised game at 2:30 in the afternoon and we play FAU at home which is a strong rivalry game. We play North Texas at home for home comin'. We play Monroe at home and seems like we play one more home, is that right? Middle Tennessee home on Tuesday night, which is a national broadcast, the return of Tony Franklin and all of that, that will be interesting. We'll be trying to kill each other, I promise you that.
Then of course we got the go-to FIU who I picked to win the league in my wisdom as a picker. And they're a tough football team. We got to go there and Lafayette, which is always a wild and wooly raucous place to go, and we got to go to Western -- excuse me, Arkansas, SEC.
We play 'em November 14th, I think, same date we played NSU last year but Western Kentucky has never been easy, and I'm sure they're much better. Everybody in the Sunbelt is better, anybody in the Sunbelt can beat anybody on a given weekend, and there are about five or six in the league that can win. We were picked, they put the bull's eye on us, and I would rather be there than anywhere else. Conference play is what it's about. You got to take care of business on the road and at home and you'll probably have to overcome a loss. And every year we have won it, last three, we have had to overcome a loss.
I would rather do it without overcoming a loss, and see how that feels, but the main thing is winning our conference, that will be the main goal and whatever else happens we'll count that up. We want to win the league.
We have had good work so far, we've got some guys banged up right now and we need to get them back and get rolling and get 'em involved in learning as much as anything and then taking that information and transmitting it to the field, to their feet, and let the fundamentals of football fly. That's where we are. Any questions?
Dang, Drew, I can't believe you came all the way up here and ain't going to ask me a question.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH BLAKENEY: We try to pay homage on working on all three facets of the game, and we got a chance to be good in all three. We will hope for the best and keep working hard and look forward to seeing y'all on a weekly basis at our press conferences and our games. Appreciate all you do for us. Appreciate our share, thanks.
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