Weekly Press Luncheon Quotes

UABSPORTS.COM Head Coach Skip Holtz
Head Coach Skip Holtz

Nov. 17, 2008

GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina University Head Football Coach Skip Holtz addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against UAB. The following are selected comments:

On The Positives And Disappointments From The Southern Miss Game:
"Looking back at Southern Miss, I was excited about a lot of individual performances. When you sit down and watch the film, obviously you're disgruntled, unhappy, down and everything else with the loss. But watching the film you also saw so many great individual efforts, especially from the younger players who have been giving the opportunity to step up.

"We made some moves on the offensive line and to see Steven Baker get an opportunity to go in and play some tackle was great. We also moved Willie Smith from tight end to tackle. To see the way he and Baker are emerging and coming on is exciting. To look at the performance of Joe Womack and watch him grow up a little bit during the course of the game and make a couple catches was awfully nice to see. Darryl Freeney got to play quite a bit for us on Saturday as well.

"Defensively, Scotty Robinson, who had been in for just eight plays the week before because of his injured foot, had the opportunity to get in for about 60 plays. I thought he did a very nice job. Then some of the freshmen in Maurice Mercer and Robert Jones were in for 61 plays. Antonio Allison also stepped up. To see Dustin Lineback and Chris Mattocks step into the linebacker positions with both Jeremy Chambliss and Cliff Perryman going out of the game was also nice. Emanuel Davis continues to step up and to see a young Travis Simmons step in there and do some things was also great.



"There were a lot of positive things when you look at the depth. There were so many uncertainties and unknowns coming into the game about how some of these guys were going to accept their bigger roles in the offense and defense. It was very encouraging to see some of the younger players step up.

"I was disappointed in a lot of aspects of the game, especially from a productivity standpoint. I was a little disappointed on both side of the ball, but definitely more on the offensive side than the defensive side."

On The Defense Against Southern Miss:
"Defensively I thought we played an excellent football game outside of about two plays. We had a bust on the fourth-down play when they slipped the fullback up the middle. We had a missed assignment on that. And then there was the one big play that went for 97 yards. Outside of that, I thought our defense did a really nice job of keeping the ball in front of us and making Southern Miss snap it again.

"We're not doing a whole lot of high-risk things right now. We're trying to sit back with some of our youth and just line up, keep the ball in front of us, rally to the ball and tackle. We did not tackle extremely well as a defense on Saturday and there are definitely some areas of improvement that can be made. Overall, I thought for about 68 plays our defense played an outstanding football game.

"Unfortunately, you have to play perfect on the back end. If you give up one big play, as we've talked about before, it's seven points. In a low scoring game, that's critical."

On The Offense Against Southern Miss:
"From an offensive standpoint, the discouraging thing is the point productivity. I thought we moved the ball a little bit in the first half. A couple areas that we struggled in were going 1-for-3 in 3rd-and-1 situations and our red zone productivity, which was probably the difference in this football game.

"We couldn't put a lot of drives together as we lack a lot of the big plays right now, especially in the running game. That's one of the things we're missing from what Chris Johnson brought to us a year ago. With a couple of the wide receivers being out, we've just got to continue to harp on creating some big plays on the offensive side of the ball.

"We've also got to get a little more consistent on third down. We had two 3rd-and-1 situations where we had critical penalties which ended up stopping drives. We've got to turn and eliminate the penalties and try to build up the big plays. We need to get to the point where we can control the ball a little bit more as an offensive football team.

"I know a lot of people wonder why we don't open it up more, but we tried to late in the second half and we had a whole bunch of three-and-outs. We have to take the team that we have right now and find a way to move the ball and put points on the board. That's the challenge that we have."

On The Kicking Game:
"I thought Matt Dodge did an excellent job again. He's becoming more consistent for us. But then Ben Hartman uncharacteristically missed three field goals. He's really been kicking excellently for us since he came back. Was it the wind? Was it him mentally? He seemed like he was in pretty good spirits. He just pushed two of them and pulled the other one a little bit. Ben has to have a poor memory and he's got to go out and kick the next one after a miss just like it's the first one of the game. He has to go out there with confidence whether he has missed three or hit his first kick. That's what we have to continue to build on with him."

On The Injuries:
"The injuries continue to mount up a little bit. At the end of Saturday's game, I looked out there and there was Maurice Mercer, Antonio Allison, Robert Jones, Steve Spence and Dustin Lineback. There was an awful lot of youth and young football players out on that field.

"For this Saturday's game, Jeremy Chambliss does not look like he'll be back. Cliff Perryman right now with his shoulder does not look like he will be back. J.J. Milbrook and Darryl Reynolds both look out with ankle injuries. T.J. Terrell will probably have surgery on his knee, as will Dwayne Harris, who looks like he broke his foot and will require surgery.

"We've tried to look at all of our injuries, the number of people who are out right now and what it's attributed to. There are just so many variances and differences. Some people talk about if it's overtraining or not being in shape. I just don't think there's a lot you can do about broken bones and surgeries. Those are, unfortunately, the injuries in football and this just happens to be a year where we have fallen on an awful lot of injuries. I've said this before, but I'm not making an excuse. I'm stating the facts and what we have to do in order to get this football team ready.

"Some of the challenges we have are not only the depth charts for the offense and defense, but also for the special teams. Our special teams seem to have changes every week. So much has changed so drastically not only due to injuries to the starters, but to the back-ups as well.

"On a positive note, we should get Jay Ross back. He played eight plays on Saturday and then he went out. He should be back for this game. We hope both Zack Slate and Reyn Willis, the wide receiver who went out with an injury on Saturday, will both be cleared and be able to be back this weekend. From a positive standpoint, hopefully we can bolster our defensive line a little bit more with Slate and Ross coming back into the fold."

"This is a good football team. They've had some very big wins and been extremely competitive. Three weeks ago they beat Marshall. They have also played South Carolina very close and had a big win over Tulane on Saturday. UAB put up 41 points in the win over Tulane, which is one of the better defensive football teams in this league. UAB will put a lot of pressure on our defense and offense because even in some of the games they have lost, they have still scored 20-30 points. It's going to take a big effort from our offense in that we're going to have to turn and put some points up on the board.

On UAB's Offense:
"UAB is a very explosive offensive football team. Joe Webb, their quarterback, is the fourth-leading rusher in the league. They spread the field with a lot of wide receivers. They have a lot of called runs for the quarterback, who is a tall, athletic and talented player. They have some skill around him as well. Rash Slaughter, the tailback, was an all-freshman team player a year ago. Frantrell Forrest, and the wide receiver group, is similar to Memphis in that they're tall and athletic. They do put some points on the board."

On UAB's Defense:
"On defense they return seven starters from last year's team. They have two all-conference players in Will Dunbar, the free safety, and Joe Henderson, the linebacker who is a two-time all-conference selection. They've got an awful lot of experience and some guys who have played a lot of football. They've kind of evolved as the season has gone on and they've become much more disruptive. They're doing more things, playing more fronts, giving you more looks, coming after you more and they're playing their corners back. Kevin Sanders is very athletic and they're playing a freshman, who has evolved and started to progress as well, on the other side of Sanders. When you look at it, they're a very talented defense and they're going to give our offense some problems."

On Preparing For UAB This Week:
"We've got to sit down and look at what we can do from a formation and set standpoint. At the end of the game on Saturday we were trying to get into some sets and couldn't because of some of the injuries that we have.

"When you look at the wide receivers, which is probably the position hit the hardest right now, you have Alex Taylor, Darryl Freeney, Joe Womack, Reyn Willis coming back and Michael Bowman. I think those five are the ones you have to look at see what sets you can get into in order to utilize some of the spread sets.

"It'll be a challenging week. I think the players are extremely determined. The attitude has been outstanding. They understand where we are right now at 6-4 and still sitting in first-place in the East Division. We've got to go down there with the mindset that we have to find a way to win in Alabama. I keep hearing how we've never won there so hopefully this is a week of firsts. Hopefully we can go down there and put together a strong performance on offense and defense and put a football team on the field that is extremely competitive.

"This is a different team than we had early in the year but I love the attitude right now. I love the way they're working and coming together. We as coaches just have to give them the best opportunity to go out on the field and execute."

On This Week's Quarterback Situation:
"I haven't really looked at it at this point. We've got to take a look at what we can do. I'll stick to what we have said all along in that we're going to put the quarterback on the field who can best utilize his talents with what we have and what we need to do. At this point we really haven't put the game plan together. We spent yesterday and today watching at a lot of film and making the determination on what we're going to do.

"Obviously if it's a game plan where we're going to sit in the pocket and throw the ball a lot than Rob will become a more serious consideration. If we're going to move the quarterback around and try to utilize his feet a little bit more then it would be Patrick. At this point it's too early for me to say how each of them fits into the game plan, but we're not looking to just make a change."

On The Eagerness Of The Younger Players:
"They're very eager. We challenged Emanuel Davis when he stepped in three weeks ago for Jerek Hewett; he went in and we saw the boyhood excitement and enthusiasm for finally getting his chance. Now, three games later, it kind of becomes old hat. We're kind of challenging some of the younger players who have been out on the field to keep playing at that level. You look at Davis and he keeps getting better and better. Robert Jones and Antonio Allison are gaining experience, too.

"Sometimes bringing in some of these younger guys creates energy, excitement and enthusiasm for the offense and the defense. These guys are all very talented players, they're just young. They need the some experience and opportunity to get on the field and that's what they're getting right now.

"We started this season with a very experienced football team. All of a sudden when you look at our depth chart, there are some young guys out there who haven't played a whole lot of football for us. But they're talented and running around. We just have to try to eliminate the mistakes. We as coaches have to limit what we're asking them to do because we realize that they're young and lack experience."

On Ben Hartman's Practices This Week:
"We try and challenge him each week. We let him kick for sprints and try to put some peer pressure on him that way. We have a big kicking day on Wednesday for him and we do an awful lot with him on those days. We'll continue to put him in those pressure situations.

"I think Ben will respond. Matt Dodge has had an up-and-down year when you look at him from week-to-week. He's had some weeks were he's punted the cover off the ball and others where he has been an average punter. I think right now Matt has bounced back. He is very competitive and he wants to be good. I think Ben is in the same boat. Ben is not hanging his head right now. He's disappointed in himself and just as unhappy about it as anyone else. I think he'll work extremely hard to come back this week.

On The Mood Of The Team After Saturday's Loss:
"They were down, quiet, hurt and somber. But I think more than anything, the attitude that I saw in the weight room, in the team meetings and when visiting with them was very determined, committed and together. I think they're disappointed with their performance Saturday. But nobody is going to hang his head, wave the white towel or make excuses. We have injuries but we're not making any excuses. This is what we have and we have to step up and keep competing. I believe this football team will do that.

"I think it's not only due to the senior leadership we have right now from guys like Pierre Bell, Devon Drew or Zack Slate and the way some of our upperclassmen are playing right now, but also because of some of the juniors on this team. When you look at Jay Ross, Nick Johnson, Van Eskridge, Sean Allen, Doug Palmer and the other juniors, they are some very determined players. As we keep talking about, as we close this season out, we're not only trying to finish strong for what we're doing right now but also for these juniors we're laying the foundation for the future. We're seeing what this off-season is going to be like and what the program expectations are going to be like heading into next season. Right now I think we've got an awful lot of guys who are committed and determined to drive this thing forward."

On The Importance Of The UAB Game:
"We're approaching it like a one-game season. We've got to find a way to win this one. I'm trying to stay away from the big picture right now because I think we've got way too much to look at in-house to start looking outside. I think we have to control what we can control. We have to look at what we're going to do as an offensive and defensive staff in order to put our players in a position to win and what we've got to do to get lined up and ready to play.

"I don't think anybody is hanging his head over the loss. I think everybody is very determined. We continue to talk about the growth of this program and how we're trying to build it year in and year out. We're still in a position to achieve a lot of the goals that we had said we wanted to achieve at the beginning of the season. There are a lot of people playing who don't have a chance at a bowl game and don't have anything to say about their conference. They're just trying to play the role of spoiler. There are a few teams that are still trying to fight and play for something. There are 12 conference champions in the country out of 119 Division I teams. There are not a whole of teams with two games left that still have something to play for. Right now the attitude of this team is extremely high."

On The Focus For This Week:
"We've got some young players who are going to be in and obviously they're nervous. I think we've got to put them in a game plan on both sides of the ball that gives them a chance to have success. Then we've got to be able to execute the plan. I think we are so focused right now on ourselves and what we have to do that we're not looking a lot at the big picture. I think we've got to find a way to win a game and that's what we're trying to do right now. We went into last week with that mindset and we couldn't get it done with our offensive productivity.

"We've got to find a way to be more productive on third down and in the red zone and make some big plays and put some points on the board. It's very difficult for the defense to win this many low-scoring games. We followed the plan the last three weeks of control the ball, don't turn it over, punt it away, play field position and keep the ball in front of us defensively. That had been very successful for us.

"We did a nice job in the first half on Saturday; we just didn't put the ball into the end zone. I felt really good with where we were at the half. It was a 7-3 ballgame and we were moving the ball well. The second half got away from us a little bit as we gave up the big play on defense and then went to the spread on offense and started to throw the ball all around. That's not really our game right now because our biggest deficits with injuries and suspensions are at the wide receiver position."

On Darryl Freeney:
"We talked for a long time as a staff about not only Darryl, but right now so many of these skill position players are young. You throw a pass to them and they're content with catching it and then falling down. We've got to get to the point where it's not just about catching the pass, but it's about catching it and then making something happen. I'm not necessarily saying that's fair or realistic with everybody we have out there right now, but that has to be the expectation that we have for our players and that they have for themselves. We'll never get to that point if those aren't the standards and what we're trying to reach.

"Darryl is a very talented player. I just need Darryl to come every single day to practice and continue to work and get better. He is very talented and he needs to step up. We need him to become a player for us right now. This football team needs him to step up. I've just been talking to him to make sure that he's doing everything right on the field, off the field and in the classroom. I was just making sure he's making that commitment. He's a redshirt freshman and he's very talented. He's one who needs to continue to grow with all the intangibles in his life."

On So Many Injuries This Season:
"I've never really seen anything like this before. In the last two years we lost one or two starters once the season began. This year we lost Dominique Lindsay and Brandon Setzer before the season started and we've lost starters in the off-season before. But when you look at the injuries that we've suffered during this season, I don't know if I've ever been through anything quite like this one. But I'm not complaining about it and I'm not trying to wave a white flag. This is what we have and the hand we're dealt."