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Today's Football Press Conference Recap

September 8, 2003 · MT Media Relations
McCollum on Georgia: Number one, congratulations to Georgia. What a great environment it was to play in. Their fans and everybody that took care of our program were first class. They have a great football team. David Greene, hats off to him. He might be as good a quarterback as I have ever been on the sidelines to watch play. They are a well-coached football team and they are going to win a lot of games this year.

On our side of it, I'm very proud of our football team for going into that environment and going toe-to-toe with what we consider to be one of the best teams in America. We're disappointed in losing. We're not proud of losing and we never are proud of that. But, we were looking to improve from week one to week two and we showed great improvement in a lot of areas, especially up front on both sides of the football. We've still got a long way to go. We've still got things to execute. We've only turned the ball over one time, and that was one of the big keys going into the football game. We didn't want to turn the ball over. We were able to pressure David Greene at times, but they have a big offensive line and do a lot of great things. They have big receivers; 6-4 and 6-5 receivers. [Fred] Gibson, Reggie Brown, and Michael Johnson are great players, along with Damien Gary. We went into the game not wanting to give up the home run, not give up the big play, and we did that. We gave up some plays and we had some opportunities starting the second half that we felt like were critical to us. We had the ball and needed to execute right there. We came out and got a first down and then got a penalty right after that that set us back on the 10 yard line and Georgia got good field position in their first two possessions. So, we didn't execute the way we wanted to coming out of the half. It was a great experience for us, and now we have to carry what we learned in that game to another tough environment at Death Valley against another good football team coming off a good win. So, we have a hard week of work ahead of us to get back on the road again to play against one of the better programs in the country.

McCollum on Clemson QB Charlie Whitehurst: We watched him out of high school. We recruited him. He's athletic, he throws, he makes good decisions, and he's got a strong arm. He has been running their offense now since halfway through the season a year ago. He has improved in every game that we have watched him. He's still a young quarterback who's going to be a great quarterback and he's doing some great things right now. We know we're going through another week with another great quarterback to face. Hopefully, we can get some pressure on him and we've got to work at that hard.

McCollum on the comparison between Whitehurst and Green (Georgia): They are similar. Both of them have great arms, both make good decisions, and both are very smart. There are a lot of similarities. There's nothing flashy [about Greene]. He is a coach on the field. For every throw he makes, we had coverage at times, and he just made the throws. We've seen that out of Whitehurst, too. He makes great plays and they have a lot of speed at receiver, too, so it's another tough challenge for us.

McCollum on the defensive front: I think they're growing up. We have more depth up there. We're playing with more of a sense of urgency and we're playing with more motor. Seven is not enough right now. We should have had three or four more against Georgia. There's not a defensive lineman that's satisfied and the defensive front isn't satisfied. If you go back and watch [the Georgia film], and we played a great offense, but if we're better fundamentally in some areas, then we get off the field a few more times than we were able to get off the field. We had more opportunities to get David [Greene] down. He made some great throws and got away from us. So, yes, we're better up there. Are we where we need to be? No. That's where we've got to continue growing because we do have some numbers there. This was a game that we needed to be more fundamentally sound. We've got to keep working on it. We have opportunities to get off the field. It's no different when we had them third and forty. They picked up 27 or something. Well, it was fourth down, but they just turned the field back on us and there's no excuse for that. It's just a matter of everybody being where they're supposed to be doing their job. If we hold them back there and get the punt, then we give our offense good field position to go to work. But, we give up a 27 or 28-yard screen play where three people should have made the tackle, then we just turned the field back to where they back us up again on offense. That's where we need to continue to get better as a defensive unit. We missed a lot of tackles. I know they're great athletes and more than just Middle Tennessee are going to miss Reggie Brown and Michael Cooper, who I think is going to be a great player for them. But, we've got to tackle better and get them down. At times we did, and at times we were better than we have been in the past, but still we need to continue to work on tackling better.

McCollum on WR Kerry Wright's hot start: Kerry's always been a good player for us. He's always had names in front of him like [Tyrone] Calico and Kendall Newson and the guys that we've had. But, if you go back to New Mexico State two years ago, he made key plays in that game. He's always done that. He worked very hard this summer to become a better player. What we need now is someone to step up besides Kerry. We need some of the other receivers to be better for us so we can continue to get the ball on the perimeter and keep people spread out. We need Sam Williams to take a step, which he hasn't done yet. We need those guys out there to start doing that so we can get more production from our guys on the outside besides just Kerry.

McCollum on his impressions of Clemson speed: We recruit against Clemson on a lot of guys, so we know what type of players they have. They have great size on the offensive line. Anytime you play and SEC or and ACC team, they're going to have a lot of speed on defense. They're a well-coached football team. Watching from week one to week two, you saw their offense starting to come together with the improvement they had from week one to week two. We know we're going against another explosive offensive unit and a defense that is very sound and runs well to the football.

McCollum on Clemson WR Kevin Youngblood: They have about three or four other ones out there, too. You've got to do what you can do defensively, and number one, you have to get pressure on the quarterback. We've got to stop the run. They did a [better] job running the football this week than last week. But, Georgia had a lot to do with that, like they did with us this week. We need to get pressure on the quarterback with the front people and if that doesn't do it we need to bring more.

McCollum on the defensive challenges against Clemson: They're similar [to Georgia]. They have got great speed in all their receivers and Whitehurst finds them. It was the same type of thing that we went through last week. Don't give up the home run. Don't give up the big play. Keep everything in front of you. We need to continue doing that, but do a better job tackling when they make the plays. And, we have to find a way to get turnovers. We didn't get any turnovers last week. Georgia did a good job of taking care of the football. Defensively, we've got to get turnovers to help us.

McCollum on whether or not there are any advantages to playing common opponents like Georgia and Clemson: Last week, when we were getting ready for Georgia we were watching Clemson and you're doing things and your focus is on Georgia. Now it turns to Clemson. Every Saturday is different. People say, well, Georgia beat them this bad, but you played Georgia like this. It's still three hours of going out there and executing. That's what we have to do, and we have to take it to another tough environment in Death Valley, which is a loud place. We know that. We know we're heavy underdogs again and we've got to go and improve on what we didn't get done this week. I think our kids will sit there and watch film on Georgia knowing we played a great football team, but they also know that, if we make a play or two here and there, we have a chance. We're driving the ball to tie it at 10-10. We came out in the first five minutes of the second half and didn't do what we had hoped we would get done. Yes, we watched them last week and we've seen them in another game, and they've improved a bunch since their first game.

McCollum on evaluating the running game: It's hard. I guess I want to make sure that all of the hats are in the right places giving our running backs a chance to be successful. I thought Don Calloway ran hard again Saturday against a very good Georgia defense. I thought Eugene Gross had his times and we've got to get Kevin Davis more involved now in the backfield. At times, we tried to stretch the field, but we need to stretch the field more to open up some things for us to run the ball, and that's what we have to work on this week. We've got to get the ball downfield some, but Georgia [took some of that away]. It's easy for people to say, 'When are you going to throw the ball downfield?', but [sometimes defenses take it away from you]. We've got to get guys that catch a five or six-yard route to do something with it. Georgia's receivers did that. What we've got to get from our receivers is to make those plays. And, we did a better job [of reducing the holding calls from the previous week]. We must have done a great job of coaching last week to get that down. We've got to continue doing that so we don't put ourselves behind the chains. This week we did that, but in the first series of the second half, we put ourselves at first and 20 against Georgia's defense that's tough to do.

McCollum on WS Brandon Lynch: He's been effective since he's been here. For three years, Brandon Lynch has made play after play after play. He plays with high energy, he has a high motor, he's very competitive, and he can't stand losing. There are not enough good things you can say about Brandon Lynch. He does it on special teams, he does it on defense, he does it in the classroom, and he does it everywhere he goes. It comes from good upbringing and he's just one of those guys, that when you talk about football players, he just has that knack. He wants to be successful and he'll be successful in whatever he does 10 or 20 years down the road. He just loves playing football and you wish you had a bunch of them like that.

PLAYER COMMENTS

WR Kerry Wright
On his improvement this season
"I worked hard all summer to get better, working with the other wide receivers and [QB Andrico] Hines each day. The offense has gotten since day one. We just have to keep working hard everyday."

On the Clemson defense
"They have a lot of team speed and their [defensive backs] fly to the ball. [The Georgia and Clemson] secondaries are similar; they play the same coverages. We just have to accept the challenge and get better at practice this week."

On Georgia's defense
"They had a good defense, a good scheme. We just tried to take advantage of the holes and make plays."

On playing at Clemson
"They have a large crowd and a good tradition and we're excited to play them. It's a big challenge for our team."

DE Demetrios Walker
On Clemson's offense
"They have a good team with an offensive line who will block and protect. They also have a smart quarterback who will produce. We just have to play assignment and alignment football and be as good as we can be this week."

On the defensive line's play
"I can say we're getting better each week and there has been improvement in certain areas, but you can never be satisfied because we still haven't won a game yet. Each week we have to improve and do something better. It all comes down to winning.

"We are closer together as a defense this year. We've missed opportunities for sacks and tackles in the past, but we're making more of those plays this year. But we have to keep improving each week and getting better."

On studying Clemson and Georgia
"It always helps to study a good team because it lets you know you have to be better each week. We have to keep the intensity at practice everyday."

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