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Mark Snyder's Weekly Press Conference

Sept. 1, 2009

September 1, 2009

Coach Snyder Press Conference


Opening Statement: Well we are excited to go play a football game and go hit someone other than ourselves. We have been hitting green for what seems like an eternity now since the spring ball and I think our guys are excited to go out and hit someone other than ourselves. We are playing a very formidable opponent coming in here. They are a very well coached Southern Illinois team. I think they will come in here ready to play, and I think our guys will be ready to play. We are excited to get this new season started.


Question: Was today's Quarterback Club meeting an indication of how excited everyone is for the season?




Answer: It was as crowded as I've seen it since I have been here. They ran out of food, tables...the whole deal. I think the buzz around town is there, as well as it should be. The guys have worked hard and we feel good about our football team.


Question: Just from talking to him, it seems like Darius (Marshall) has learned a lot from his off the field issue. Do you think it has made him more mature?


Answer: We hope so, we sure hope so.


Question: Along the same question, how comfortable do you feel with Terrell (Edwards) in the backfield along with Martin (Ward)?


Answer: Well, we know they are talented guys. Terrell has had his feet wet. This will be Martin's first game, like a lot of our wide receivers. It will be interesting to see how they react when the lights go on. Some guys will perform better than you thought, while some guys will not perform as well as you had hoped. That's what makes it exciting.


Question: What are the biggest concerns on both sides of the ball that SIU brings to the table?


Answer: They are very aggressive on defense, upfront. Base coverage is very aggressive upfront. They move people quite a bit, and they are bringing a lot of people back. They have probably added to that package. They don't do a lot of silly things on offense and it gives you a chance. They are very balanced with the run and pass. Their special teams are very aggressive. The first thing I look at is special teams and you see the emphasis they put on special teams. Their coach has won everywhere he has been. You can tell they are very well coached.


Question: He came in last year for Jerry Kill, and it looks like they didn't miss a beat, elaborate on that.


Answer: Jerry left him a very good football team, a very talented football team. Credit him, he didn't change a whole bunch from what Jerry did, and they get to reap the rewards.


Question: Mark is one of your biggest question marks your return game? Because that is something you can't simulate in practice.


Answer: That goes back to what we talked about with the wide receivers. When the lights go on, we will see what Troy (Evans) can do. He is going to be back there for us, so we shall see what he can do when the lights go on.


Question: Who will be back there with him on kickoff returns?


Answer: Troy will be back, if we go two returners on punts I will put Ashton Hall back there with Troy.


Question: How about Ashton Hall, every time he gets the opportunity it seems like...


Answer: Well he reminds me everyday that he is a running back, so there is his opportunity to catch one and be a running back.


Question: How will the depth of this year's team help?


Answer: Well we hope it plays into our advantage a little bit. We do have some depth and we do have some numbers. We are going to be able to play a lot of people. We are going in with six wide receivers, and if something would happen to one of them, Aaron Dobson would step in, so we will be six deep there. We will be three deep at tailback, and three of four deep at tight end. We feel like we are very deep defensively. We are going to roll from the first series on. We have nine or ten guys we are going to play on the defensive line, so we are going to roll. Obviously Albert (McClellan) will play a little more, and if somebody gets the hot hand, they will play a little more, but we are going to roll.


Question: This is obviously a good 1-AA (FCS) team, better than most, does your team understand that this is not a team to take lightly?


Answer: Yeah I think they do, we have preached it. I say all the time, the film doesn't lie. They have some good players, so I don't think our guys are going to overlook these guys.


Question: Talk about their quarterback, and how important a quarterback is to a 1-AA team when they come into this environment...


Answer: Well, he has a year under his belt. We will see what we can do to confuse him.


Question: Last year you did a good job confusing their quarterback.


Answer: You are talking about last year's opening game, yeah a little bit. I think we wore him down a little bit as the game went on.


Question: Coach talk about the attitude change from last year to this year, you and your players...


Answer: Well, it's pretty deep. I don't know how much time we have, but, if we start on the defensive side of the ball, Rick was new last year, and I don't think he knew what he had in Albert, Ashton, and Mario Harvey. He is featuring them this year. Those of you who have been at practice know that. That's what good coaches do, they feature their good players. You flip to the offensive side of the ball, we all know we can run the ball. Last year we were one of the least sacked teams in the league. Right now we feel that we can throw the ball vertically and horizontally to go along with that running game, and protect our quarterback. It is going to be about holding onto the ball. Craig Ratanamorn is going to have to step up. I feel very confident in Kase Whitehead. He did a terrific job as a freshman. This should be an easier year for him. And obviously we have Sean McClellan back at long snapper. We feel like we are a better football team than we were last year for those reasons.


Question: Coach last year you opened up with a good team for you guys, a home game, a game you could win, instead of going to West Virginia or Miami, do you feel the same about it this year?


Answer: Yes I do. It's nice opening at home.


Question: What are you expecting for the crowd?


Answer: We will have a good crowd on Saturday. We will do our best to give them something to get excited about and get on their feet about. If we continue to do that they crowds will come. That is our goal, one game at a time.


Question: Are there a lot of questions of players you are ready to have answers for?


Answer: Yes as coaches too we want answers. When the lights go on we want to see who is going to perform. We have a lot of talent back, but there is also an influx of new talent. It is going to be interesting a fun to see how they perform.


Question: When you go out on the street, what are the most common questions the fans want to know?


Answer: Well, is what I am reading true? Can you guys throw the ball down the field? (laughs) Is Brian really having a good camp? Are we really deep on the defensive line? It is those types of questions. We don't have as many question marks as we did on last year's team. I think everyone is pretty much excited. We have opened a couple practices to the public, so there have not been as many questions this year.



Question: How happy were you that Brian came right in and grabbed the quarterback position?


Answer: It was great. It was great. I feel good about Press behind that first team offensive line and with those weapons too, but it's a blessing. I had to sit out there at practice and evaluate, do we look better at the quarterback position because of the influx of talent? And my answer is no. He has just performed well, along with an influx of talent. But he is just performing well. And the good thing that settles me down a little bit is he had a chance to do it in a game, as a matter of fact, our last game. I think he has just carried that momentum over. I don't think he will have that deer-in-the-headlights look come Saturday. I am almost positive of it.


Question: It seems like yesterday that you were looking at the defensive lines and names like James Burke. It seems like a huge contrast from last year.


Answer: It is. We worked extremely hard. We knew it was a deficiency for us, and we went out and recruited that position, extremely hard. Now it is going to pay off for us. There are not ones and twos, there are ones and ones, and they all bring a different strength to the table. That is what you have to have on defense.


Question: How many true freshmen do you expect to play?


Answer: After we sat down, if somebody were to go down at wide receiver, Dobson would go into the mix. Lovett is going to have to play. Donald Brown is going to play; nobody on the defensive line, nobody at linebacker, so a corner, a safety, and wide receiver are in the mix. Number 77 offensive line, Jefferies is going to have to play this year. I will have to find something to do with Booker, I love that kid he is special. I know Shannon doesn't want to hear that because he needs to get in the weight room, but we will see how that plays out.


Question: Schooler?


Answer: Schooler will travel. We are going to try to not play him. We get Provancha back today, so we are eight or nine on the offensive line. In a perfect world, Dobson, Booker, and Schooler are your question marks, hoping to keep a shirt on them, but Brown, Lovett, Jefferies will play.


Question: Who are your corners in game one?


Answer: DJ Wingate and Ahmed Shakoor. Ahmed has come along way, but let me take that back, it will be DJ and TJ (Drakeford), with Ahmed being the roll guy.


Question: How far has Ahmed come from the first scrimmage when he took his lumps?


Answer: Well that is what practice is for. He has gotten better everyday, and he is going to be a complete player for us. We keep moving him back from safety to corner to safety to corner, but that will help him in the long run. But for now, we feel like with the emergence of Donald Brown, being our fourth guy behind Sanders, Omar, and Ashton, that will help Ahmed stay right there.


Question: Has this been Albert's best camp since 2006?


Answer: Yes. He looks faster. The two guys who stood out to me were he and Cody Slate. Sunday night he had an unbelievable night. I have been blessed to be around some wonderful players in my life. I had to sit up there Sunday night and say wow three times about Cody Slate. He's faster, he's catching the ball, he's blocking better. I am looking for him to have a very special year. A little bit like Albert for SIU, they are going to have to find him. They are going to have to find Cody Slate too.


Question: Touch on the wide receivers.


Answer: A little bit like our D line, they all bring something different to the table. We have space guys, we have deep threats, and we have tall guys. It goes back to what I said earlier, is our quarterback position looking better because of the influx of talent? That's what I asked myself two weeks into camp. That's helping, but Brian is playing pretty well right now.


Question: What about Mario Harvey? He gets a lot of hype. He could be a star.


Answer: Well we think he has star potential. The good thing about our captains is that they are all players. They are all big time players. As you look at our special teams, all our captains on special teams are big time players.


Question: Can you talk about Courtney Edmonson?


Answer: Well he rose to the occasion. We said last year that we needed to throw the ball down the field a little more and that we were going to bring an influx of talent in. We told him he could either buy in or he wasn't going to play, and Courtney bought in, and he has had a great camp. He's led the guys, and has just had a really good camp. I am looking for a really stellar year from him. If camp is any indication of what the fall will bring, you guys will be calling Courtney's name a lot.


Question: If you win the coin toss, what are you going to do?


Answer: Oh Woody, I knew you were going to put me on the spot (laughs). If we win the flip, we are going on offensive to start the game.