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Stockstill embraces team's high expectations

Media Day draws large crowd

August 6, 2010 · Athletic Communications

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  • Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill

    Opening Comments
    It is the start of an exciting season for us and I think our guys are mentally ready. As much as a coach can tell, I think we had a great summer. The guys have worked hard. We had a mock funeral to bury the New Orleans Bowl Trophy and the 10 win season last night because that is behind us now and our focus is on the upcoming season. There is nothing we did last year that will help us this year. We are not going to practice differently because we won 10 games last year. We have to go out and prove something every day.

    On two new coordinators
    This is Middle Tennessee's offense and defense. When I first got here, I said I wanted to be an up tempo attacking defense that utilized our speed. We grew more and more into that mold as we recruited for those needs. Offensively, we have progressed into more of a spread team from a two-back system when I first got here. There will be some differences in our offense and defense this year from a year ago. This is typical because you play to the strengths on your roster. The transition has been very smooth so far.

    On the coordinator's input on the current system
    When you go through the interview process, you discuss similarities and differences in coaching styles. We were different defensively last year from 2008, because in 2009 we had bigger players up front. Players like Chris McCoy and Brandon Perry were not a big factor going into last year. Now that some of those bigger players have moved on we will have to adjust again.

    On Dwight Dasher's continued development
    The biggest area of improvement Dwight can make is from a ball security stand point. Going back and looking at last year's film, he made three or four bad decisions for interceptions. As a quarterback you have to be aware and make smart decisions with the ball to limit turnovers. I want him to improve in his ball security and running the offense a little quicker.

    On opening with a BCS opponent
    It is a great opportunity for our fans to see a Big Ten team. It is a great challenge for us to see how we stack up against the BCS schools. It is a challenge, but we will look at it like it is another game. It is a credit to our program, University and Director of Athletics Chris Massaro that we are bringing these teams to our stadium.

    On team expectations
    I embrace expectations. As a coach your expectations are to win games. We had those expectations every year. I just want to start 1-0 and then move on to the next game. It gives your program credibility. Only two teams went undefeated and only 21 teams won 10 games. It is hard, but I embrace the challenge.

    On weakest component of team
    I'm worried about our front seven on defense. We lost three All-Conference Players and an NFL Player. A handful of the guys that were supposed to come in and replace those guys missed our spring practices because of surgeries. One of those guys is going to have to step up like Cam Robinson last year. A game is won up front. This is where a game is taken over.

    On publicity improving 2010 signings
    The success we had in the bowl game allowed us to get in some homes recruiting-wise. Winning is the best thing you can do for recruiting. We got some good junior college guys who will help us.

    Defensive Coordinator Randall McCray

    On defensive leadership
    We are cultivating leadership now. Over the next 29 practices we need guys to be in the right place. A great leader is not always vocal. Sometimes it is a person who leads by example. Life is tough. We are trying to find out who the team will trust when things get difficult.

    On developing trust with players on the practice field
    I think a lot of trust comes from treating people the way they want to be treated. True is the key. When young men go out there, they realize the experience we have on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. When you treat people the way they want to be treated, you develop a trust with those people. Trust goes from that point.

    On improving team defense from last season
    We have watched a lot of film to determine what we need to improve upon. Last season we gave up almost 1,900 yards of big plays. This can be eliminated by doing away with mental errors and having people in the right place at the right time.

    On defensive front seven
    Our goals are to win and stop the run. We don't go out and say we are going to limit a certain player to certain yards. We do not want to allow teams to consistently run up the middle of the field. Our players must be able to be perfect at doing the things that don't require one to be a great athlete. They must be perfect at reading coverages and calls.

    Offensive Coordinator Mike Schultz

    On Dwight Dasher and the offense
    Getting Dwight going is a big deal. We don't want to go into this season and depend completely on Dwight. We have built an offense that is a Middle Tennessee offense. We are going to do what our quarterbacks as a whole can do.

    On adjusting to a new offense
    It is two different languages that mean the same thing. Concepts carry over, so it was not a difficult transition.

    On having three strong running backs
    Coach Stockstill preaches players being unselfish. It is a team concept here. There is no one player we cannot live without. Our kids believe this. They think what can I do for the team. I like having a rotation. When I have had stronger players, it usually does not change the total rushing numbers too much. The difference is one person may hang 200 yards on a team, but the other situation would be three players rushing for 70 yards. You cannot have enough good running backs. With the injuries of this game, you cannot have enough good running backs.

    STUDENT-ATHLETES

    Dwight Smith (DT, Senior)
    (on last night's team funeral)
    "We just put an end to the 2009 season. It was celebrated a lot like they do in New Orleans. It was pretty cool. We just put the New Orleans Bowl behind us, and set new goals for this year."

    (on his knee)
    "It's good. I'm still recovering a little bit, but I can go out there and play now. I'm still not 100 percent, but it's manageable right now. My goal all summer from the day after surgery until today was to get better. I had to do extra work because of the surgery, and I think it made me a harder worker."

    Mark Fisher (OT, Senior)
    (on mid-state players starting to come to MT)
    "It comes down to Vanderbilt, UT and us. Right now we're doing a lot better with our record and our recruiting. Players can come here, have a good season, still play big teams and get on ESPN. I think that helps us out in recruiting."

    (on last night's funeral)
    "We were burying last season because this is a new year, a new season and different opponents. We have to focus on what we'll do this year and work hard. The 2009 season is over."

    Kevin Brown (S, Senior)
    (on Coach Randall McCray)
    "He came during the spring, and was still getting acclimated. Now he has it down, and now he's going to put his foot down because it's time to go full throttle. With the season that we had last year, we can't afford to slack."

    (on the defensive backfield)
    "I think Coach McCray knows we can handle it with all of us coming back, minus (Alex) Suber. We have a great guy coming in with Arness Ikner. Whatever it is, we have to do our job. When we do our job, he can do whatever he wants to do up front."

    (on the opposite corner position)
    "(Arness) Ikner is a good player as is (Kenneth) Gilstrap. I think the younger players can come in and play also. Once they come in, get better, and get acclimated to the college game, I think they'll be able to contribute."

    Dwight Dasher (QB, Senior)
    (on personal accolades from magazines/tv/etc.)
    "I don't really pay attention to it because I don't want to try and think about it. I just want to get back on the field and get started up and try to go back to another bowl game."

    (on Coach Mike Schultz)
    "In the spring, he was just trying to catch on to everything we do. Now, he's got everything down pat, and he's got everything under control."

    (on the newer receiving corps)
    "They just have to go out there and work hard. They can't go out there and just think they have the job. You know, I had to work hard to get where I am. I just want them to work hard so I have the confidence in them to go after the ball when I throw it to them."

    Jeremy Kellem (S, Senior)
    (on the young corners)
    "Arness Ikner came in, and he works extremely hard. He really does work. He's a great player with great ball skills and everything. Coach (Steve) Ellis can tell you about all his skills, and that he is a very good competitor, has a strong mindset, and could be a great corner for us. Same for Gilstrap. He's very fast; he's mentally strong to be able to come back from his injury. We're all out there competing, not one spot is guaranteed at all. We're trying to make the team better and get better individually each day. If we do that, the team will get better each day."

    (on building trust with Coach McCray)
    "We have to show him that he can trust us. I guess there's a counter to that in we have to trust him that he'll make the right call in a game. If he calls a blitz, we have to blitz. If he says cover-two, we have to play cover-two. We have to do it correctly because he's only going to call it in a game if we show it on the practice field. We have to take it one day at a time, every rep, every play, every period. I think that's what all the coaches do. If we don't show it in practice, they're not going to play us in the game. That's where our confidence comes from also. If we do it in practice everyday, it's second nature when the game comes."

    Phillip Tanner (RB, Senior)
    (on running back depth)
    "It helps us to go out and compete. None of us are really selfish guys. We all know that all three of us are great players. It just gives us that motivation and drive to compete. At the end of the day, that will make us a better team and a better group. I'm not nervous one bit about if I have to come out or if I have to play behind D.D. Kyles or Benny Cunningham because the team won't miss a beat. We're all good players who can step in and make a play. I'm excited about going through camp and competing for the starting spot."

    (on a three-back rotation)
    "I think we can make it work. We're not a selfish group whether it's five snaps a game or 25 snaps a game. We'll do whatever we can do to help our team and have the best running backs on the field at the same time."

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