JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 3, 2018)– Following Saturday’s season-opening win, ETSU football met the media on Monday afternoon to recap the Mars Hill game and preview this weekend’s road game at Tennessee.
Head coach Randy Sanders, redshirt senior linebacker Dylane Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio), redshirt junior defensive lineman Nasir Player (Columbia, S.C.) and senior wide receiver Kobe Kelley (Knoxville, Tenn.)met the media on Monday inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium.
Below are comments from Coach Sanders, Weigel, Player and Kelley.
HEAD COACH RANDY SANDERS
ON THE TAKEAWAYS FROM MARS HILL AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED HEADING INTO KNOXVILLE
I thought we did a good job of communicating up front on offense. We didn’t have may instances where we got confused on a blocking scheme and turned somebody loose. We didn't always execute it perfectly and that's where we can make improvements, but we didn't turn people loose. We didn't have glaring errors as far as assignments. We didn't always throw it to the right guy. We didn't always catch it as well as we needed to. We had a back fall down a couple of times when he had chances to make some plays and we missed some blocks up front. But those things you can correct. I was excited to see that the communication was there. I didn't think we had guys panicking and forgetting to do what they know. One of the things I told them before the game I said, "You know what to do. Just go do what you know." Nobody has to be superhuman or anything else and that's what I want the guys to understand this week. Nobody has to be superhuman. We just have to go play and go do what we can do.
ON WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE GOING BACK TO KNOXVILLE
The first time I went back in 2006 with Kentucky, it was really, really strange. When I went back in 2008 it was still strange, but not as strange. I mean it's always a unique experience going back, there's no question about it, but it's been a few years now. Most of the clothes I still have left from Tennessee are starting to look kind of ragged, it's been that long.
ON GOING INTO KNOXVILLE AS A HEAD COACH
Obviously, it'll be a little different, because you're the one standing up in front of the team talking to them. You're the one determining what time you leave. You determine what time you go out for pregame and all those other things, but once the game starts, honestly, it's not that different. I can kind of run the offense, Coach Taylor does a great job with the defense. Coach Daye is in charge of special teams. Obviously, I have my input on defense and special teams, but they're good football coaches and have been doing it for a long time, so I have a lot of confidence in them. My role is a little different, but at the same time it's not that much different than what it has been.
ON THE ATMOSPHERE HEADING INTO KNOXVILLE
I think any of our guys that have ever watched games on TV kind of understands, but until you're actually in the middle of it, it's hard to really understand. I've been in Neyland Stadium, Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa, Gainesville, and Athens when it was so loud, you're standing on the sideline and your game plan sheet is almost vibrating from the noise. You can truly feel the noise in there. You can feel it against your body. I don't know that any of our guys have every truly experienced that, other than at a fireworks show or a rock concert. That part is going to be different. When you deal with it for a three-hour period, it's much different.
We have a huge task. We're going to go out there and play. I don't know what the total attendance here was last year, but we may surpass the total attendance we had here at Greene Stadium last year, in one week, so, that's going be different for the players. I've told some of the quarterbacks stories about the loud atmospheres and things like that, but for the most part, we don't have many guys that have ever experienced anything like that. It'll be a new experience that way, but hopefully we can keep our focus where it needs to be, control what we can control, and as long as we do our best at what we do, you can accept the outcome.
ARE THE PLAYERS TREATING THIS AS JUST ANOTHER GAME?
We came out here, ran around and practiced a little bit yesterday. I think I'll have a much better feel for that by Thursday probably after I've seen them on the practice field for a couple days, but I certainly hope that's what they're doing.
That's what I'm trying to get instilled in us as we approach each game the same. I remember Johnny Majors used to talk about his team X. You play team X. It's not a matter of what color jersey they're wearing or what the emblem on their helmet is or anything else. You just go out and play. You play the game and you try to be the best team you can play.
Obviously, you have to make adjustments for what that team does or game plan adjustments and everything else. Maybe one team's quarterback is a little better than the other or the other team's tailback is a little better, but you don't worry about what the name of the team is. You just go play, so I'm trying to get that instilled into our players.
ON THE FANS PULLING FOR BOTH TEAMS, SO IT’S NOT JUST ANOTHER GAME FOR THEM
It's no question, it's special for the fans. There are a whole lot of fans around here that are like me. They love ETSU, but at some point they have spent time in Knoxville. That's my alma mater. It's where I went to school. It will always have a special place that way. But I'm excited to be at ETSU, and I'm worried about what ETSU does a whole lot more than Tennessee does this week.
ON WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO BEAT TENNESSEE
We can't make mistakes. We can't leave the ball laying on the ground. We can't have silly penalties. We can't have busted assignments. We can't have missed alignments, which looking at the tape, I think probably a big part of our issues on defense in that first possession (on Saturday) were guys just didn't get lined up right. Once we kind of settled down and they lined up correctly, we didn't give them as many easy plays. We have to line up right, we can't make silly penalties, we can't leave the ball laying on the ground, and we have to throw it and catch it.
It's going to be hard to get open against them because they're pretty good in the secondary and they are good on defense. When we have a chance to hit a receiver that's open, we have to hit him, and when the ball comes to him, he has to catch it. Obviously, we have to do a great job blocking up front. All those things are going to have to play together, the offense, defense, special teams. It's all going to have to play together to give us our opportunity, and that's all we want, is an opportunity.
ON HOW IT WOULD FEEL TO BEAT TENNESSEE
I'd have that goalpost going over my shoulder coming back up the interstate. I can tell you I wouldn't be riding the bus.
Obviously, it would be an unbelievable experience. I've been back (to Neyland Stadium), I think, four times at Kentucky. We never were able to pull it off. We came close a couple of times but were never able to do it. It's a special place and it's always fun to go back because there's so many people I know there. The last time I was there some of the ushers around the stadium and the people working security were the same people working when I was there, so, it's always good to see them.
I told the players earlier, as much fun as it is to win at home, there's nothing like winning on the road. I love going into some place where they don't you like and beating them. The feeling of going on the road and winning, there's nothing like that in the world.
WILL YOU PUMP IN NOISE AT PRACTICE THIS WEEK?
We're going to have some noise. We have to get used to crowd noise, and spend a lot of time thinking about that. I was talking about it this morning with our staff – how we're going to manage it – because it will be different. I had a chance to watch a little bit of Purdue/Northwestern on Thursday night, and I think the first two or three plays of the game, Northwestern had a hard time getting the ball snapped. Somebody was jumping, flinching and they kept going backwards, because that is different. We can pipe it in, do whatever, but it's still different. You can hear that noise, but you can't feel it like you'll be able to down there.
DYLAN WEIGEL – REDSHIRT SENIOR LINEBACKER
ON HOW IT FEELS TO BE PLAYING TENNESSEE
It feels good. It's exciting. It's another opportunity to go out there, get better and compete. We need to go out there, compete at a high level and play good football.
We have a lot of guys from Tennessee on our roster so it will be exciting. I've never been personally (to Neyland Stadium), but it's exciting to go down there. Being down here the last four years, you hear about Tennessee, so it'll definitely be fun to go down there and finally be able to put on the jersey and go out and play.
ON WHAT IT WOULD FEEL LIKE TO PULL OFF THE UPSET THIS WEEKEND
It would mean a lot for everyone. The coaching staff, the fans, and this university have put so much into this program, so to be able to go down there and win would be a great feeling.
ON USING THE UNDERDOG CARD THIS WEEK VS. TENNESSEE
We want to go out there, compete and execute at a high level. We want to play our assignment right. That’s an important thing we need to this week that we didn't do in the first half against Mars Hill. We didn't come out and play our assignment, so hopefully this week we can fix that up in practice. We had a chance to get out there and correct that yesterday in practice. It’s going to be crazy and a different gameday atmosphere than what we're used to. We have a lot of guys that have played a lot of college football here for the past four years, so I think just being able to get out there and go compete at a high level is what we need to do.
NASIR PLAYER – REDSHIRT JUNIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
ON THE DEFENSIVE EFFORT LAST SATURDAY VS. MARS HILL
We knew the first drive where they scored the touchdown that it was our fault. We weren't doing things right. We knew if we did everything right that we would be okay, so nobody really panicked. That was a good thing. Nobody panicked. Nobody thought, ‘awe man, this is the end.’ We knew what we did wrong. We knew how to fix it. We needed to go out there and do it.
ON BEING ABLE TO GET PRESSURE ON THE TENNESSEE QUARTERBACK
We watched some film and were able to see what they're doing. We really have a lot of confidence in ourselves. We feel like if we do everything right then nobody can really mess with us. We feel like if everyone is up for our game and doing everything they’re supposed to do, then we don't have anything to worry about. We're excited to get out there and just make it happen.
KOBE KELLEY – SENIOR WIDE RECEIVER
ON HOW IMPORTANT THE TOUCHDOWN RIGHT BEFORE HALFTIME WAS VS. MARS HILL
It felt a lot better than it did the first 30 minutes of the game. Like coach said, going into halftime, you get that momentum and then you’re forced to sit down for 20 minutes… it's not good, but we came back in the second half and built off it. The defense got a good stop, and we took it down and did it again. That was definitely good for our momentum.
ON FINALLY PLAYING IN A GAME ENVIRONMENT WITH LOGAN MARCHI
Not only is he a good football player, but he's a really smart quarterback. He’s not afraid to throw it anywhere, which is good. He makes a lot of good plays for us and a lot of good throws. He made a lot of good throws throughout the game. The one right before halftime, specifically to me, it was incredible how quickly he saw the coverage as soon as the ball was snapped and found me in the back of the end zone.
ON BEING ABLE TO TALK TO LOGAN MARCHI ABOUT PLAYING IN A LARGER VENUE
It will be really good to pick his brain and ask him what the feeling is going to be like. I've been to several Tennessee games growing up (being from Knoxville), but it'll definitely be good to pick his brain this week and see what he has to say about playing in an environment of that magnitude.
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