Raiders hold Kickoff Press Luncheon

Team reports Thursday; First practice Friday

August 1, 2012 · @MTAthletics


RICK STOCKSTILL ON START OF CAMP: "I am as excited to start Friday as I have ever been in my 30 years in this profession. I like this team. I think they are anxious to create their own identity. Everybody has to buy into the expectations and standards of our program, to be responsible, to be accountable, and this team has done that. We have to pay attention this August to details, the little things. You don't play well or win games by accident. You have to prepare yourself, mentally and physically, every day."

RICK STOCKSTILL ON LAST SEASON: "I think we lost our edge at times last year, when we lost three of our first five games by three points, or on the last play of the game. We are getting that edge back. We have done well academically, and have busted our tails and worked hard in the weight room. It's not all the way back, but that is what we will work on from Friday up until the first game."

"We got our nose bloodied last year, and I challenged our team to have the guts and pride to pick themselves up off the floor, and do something about it. We haven't played a game yet, we haven't had our first practice yet, but I think they have accepted our challenge, and there is an excitement about getting started tomorrow."

RICK STOCKSTILL ON ALEX STUART: "Alex Stuart will not be back. He graduated in the summer, got married, and felt that he needed to spend his time with his family. I am just proud that he graduated and appreciative of what he contributed to this team the past four years. It hurts us from a depth standpoint, but Alex wasn't able to go thru spring practice and wasn't here this summer due to rehabbing an injury, but I think we have a great continuity in that offensive line. They are a bunch of young guys, but some, like Josh Walker, have played and started a lot of games. "

RICK STOCKSTILL ON HIS NEW COACHES: "I am really, really excited about the three new coaches that we brought in. I think Matt Moore and Glen Elarbee are two of the best offensive line coaches that I have ever been around. Tyrone Nix is respected as one of the best defensive coaches in the country. He is a phenominal person, a great coach, a great communicator, a great teacher. Along with Steve (Ellis) and David (Bibee) and Joe (Cauthern), those guys have meshed really well. We have also made changes on both offense and defense that let us make the best use of our personnel.


OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BUSTER FAULKNER: "The advantage of this being my second year is that I have already been around the kids. You kind of know what each kid can do; it's not like starting from scratch. You have an idea of what you have personnel-wise, that's the biggest thing. We have a better idea of how we want to use each kid with their skill set."

"It will be a new start in terms of being the OC from the outset, but I absolutely judge myself on everything that I do and as a competitor, and as a coach, to me you take full responsibility for what goes on at your position (quarterbacks) and with the offense. Yes, it's a new start, things will be a little different, but you look at yourself in the mirror if you have any pride, and take full responsibility."

"I think the biggest things the fans will see on opening night are some personnel changes. They will see more of a vertical run game."

"We have two new offensive line coaches (Glen Elarbee and Matt Moore) that have a lot of experience and have brought a new run game philosophy. We are going to try to get vertical, and it's our job to make sure that they do."

"We want to make sure we find out who our players are, and create ways to get them the ball. We want to make sure that Drayton Calhoun, Benny Cunningham and Reggie Whatley get "x" amount of touches, and let their god-given ability take over from there."

"The one thing we have to do is be physical and stop the run. It goes back to being tough and having the right attitude, from start to finish."

DEFENSIVE CO-COORDINATOR TYRONE NIX: "I think I bring experience to the table. I've been fortunate to be around a lot of good coaches, both head coaches and defensive coaches, and nothing can replace that."

"You want to take your players and put them in the best possible position to win. We find out what our kids can do, and do well, and then allow them the opportunity to go make plays. In certain situations, you require certain athletes to be on the field a little bit more. All in all, since I have been here, we have formed this program on effort and attitude, and that's been great. I am pretty sure that we are going to have a tough football team when we hit the field. The biggest thing is we are going to try to create turnovers, take care of the ball offensively, and let the game take care of itself."

"The one thing we have to do is be physical and stop the run. It goes back to being tough and having the right attitude, from start to finish. We have to be fundamentally sound so we can get off the field on third down, and when the opportunity comes to make some plays and create takeaways, we have to do that as well. And every week our goal is to get better. "

"Talent-wise, when I came in here, I thought we had some good-looking kids, especially at defensive end. Omar McLendon is a kid we recruited at Ole Miss, we felt like he had SEC talent. Shubert (Bastien) is another kid that was small but has really developed in the time he has been here. Overall, I think we may have as many quality guys at the defensive end position as we did at a couple of my other stops. The big difference to me is the difference in size of our secondary, and in some of our linebackers. I like the way our kids have worked this summer. Craig Allen is looking like a linebacker now, and he's made a new commitment. Roderic Blunt has really worked hard. I single those guys out because of the way their body has actually changed. I think, overall, it is very similar to the SEC, who is probably bigger in numbers. Inside, Jimmy Staten looks great, so does Kendall Dangerfield, but these guys have to stay healthy and play a full 12-game season."

DEFENSIVE CO-COORDINATOR STEVE ELLIS: "My coaching style is intense, and I think Coach Nix's is toughness. That's one that I have picked up over the years, being tough, being fundamentally sound, being where you are supposed to be, being held accountable. "

"We are going to take the training wheels off of last year's youngsters. When you see those guys on Friday, their body types will have changed because of the weight room and off-season conditioning. You are going to see grown men. When you see Jimmy Staten, Omar McLendon, Shubert Bastien, they are grown men. They are clean-cut, mature and they'll be ready to go."


Quarterback Logan Kilgore
On mindset of the team heading into the season: "I think the mindset is really just focusing on burying last season and proving this core group is ready to be a new team. We're looking to bring all the hard work and things we have done since last season and showcase that to our fans and everybody."

On comfort level of working with Buster Faulkner: "Coach Faulkner and the entire offensive staff are oozing with knowledge. It is easy to go to their offices and talk with them. I think that will carry over to the season. I felt good with Coach Faulkner last season. Now, it's just a matter of him having the whole spring and offseason to implement his ideas and his way of calling plays. It's just figuring out how he likes to get things done. I think that will give us an advantage heading into the season, rather than having it one week one way and the next week, he was kind of handcuffed on getting his ideas in during the middle of the season. It's been good and I'm excited to get started."

On transitioning to different offensive coordinators: "This will be my fourth new coordinator, since I signed with Tony Franklin. Looking at defenses and understanding how teams are going to play us, not much is going to change. Some of the verbiage has changed and things like that, but the current system that Coach Faulkner has implemented has very simple verbiage and I feel like it has given our guys an easy way to learn things. It's been a quick turnaround, quicker than most probably."

On the mentality this year: "I think the difference between this year's group and last year's group is the seniors have really bought in. They are talking about winning the Sun Belt this year and they want to win. It's really carried down to the underclassmen. We really needed a game like North Texas. If we had gone on that trip and ended up with a win, we might not be as hungry as we are right now. It was embarrassing and one of the most painful moments for me. I think having that experience has set us up to go forward in camp."

Running Back Benny Cunningham
On motivation of being picked to finish seventh in Sun Belt: "I really feel like last season is enough motivation going into this season. None of my teammates want to be where we were last season. I feel like the day after our last game, people had the mindset that we never want to have that feeling again. The 2-10 season was enough heading into this season."

On thoughts of being a part of a vertical running game: "I'm excited about it. We (Coach Faulkner and I) talked about it and he believes in me running downhill. I'm willing to do whatever it takes for the offense to be productive. If that's the scheme, downhill, then I'm all for it."

On knowing there's depth at the position: "It's a big relief and I have a lot of faith in those guys. I've been working with these guys for a while now, so I know what everyone can bring to the table. I'm blessed to have guys like William Pratcher, Drayton Calhoun and others to be on the ball with me. Practices are good. I learn things from them and I teach them some things when I can. It's just a good experience."

Defensive End Omar McLendon
How to get back to the upper echelon of the Sun Belt: "Our focus. Our coaches always preach about being mentally tough. I feel like as long as we're staying focused and set goals, and strive for those goals, we can get back on top."

Playing for co-defensive coordinators Steve Ellis and Tyrone Nix: "We're going to have a great season, first of all. Both of those coaches are working well together. I love the way Coach Nix coaches and the way he gets after it."

On if it matters how players view last season: "Of course it does. It was kind of like suffering last season and none of us want to go back through that. We do have to take it into consideration because there was a lot we had to learn and a lot of us were young. It was a good learning experience for us. We took a lot, and still do, from the season."

On being able to stop the run: "Coach Nix has brought in a really aggressive mentality for the whole defense. I feel as though if you can't stop the run, you're not going to win games and we showed that last season. We're fast guys and we like to run around. If we can't stop the vertical run, then we're not going to be able to get after the quarterback and get sacks. Stopping the run is key for us being a successful defense."

Defensive Tackle Jimmy Staten
How to turn the turnover margin back into a positive: "I think it's more what we continue to work on and getting better. We don't want to have another 2-10 season."

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