Tracking Mack: Aug. 29
Opening statement: Practice was good. It's a hard day of practice because it's the first day of class. You've got all the young (players) that are out there on their feet all day trying to figure out where there classes are and then practicing, but they did a good job. It's kind of the calm before the storm. We've got the older guys trying to talk to the young guys about practice tomorrow, about what happens on Friday and about what happens on Saturday. Then we're still talking to some guys about whether they want to red-shirt or whether they should play. So it's a real unique team and it's a real unique time. These guys have tried their best to this point. We've told them we know they're a little tired, but from now until game time, they only need to focus when they're working on film or when they're out on the practice field because if they're not careful, they may burn themselves out. So we've told them to make sure they're ready to play on Saturday and not before.
On playing time for the younger players this Saturday: Arkansas State has seven seniors coming back on defense, and one of the problems we have is that everybody talks about (playing time for the freshmen). I've done that before, and then I didn't get anybody in (the game). So what we want to do is play our best as football team and win. And there are so many unanswered questions. I'm excited about watching (the freshmen) because we've got new secondary guys, new offensive linemen. All the questions we had coming out of last season and the bowl game with Iowa we still have, and we need to start answering those questions on Saturday night.
On the defense: It's a progression of what we've had, and we're excited to see what (Co-defensive coordinator) Larry (Mac Duff) brought to our staff and what he and (Co-defensive coordinator Duane Akina) can bring together. We've had four defensive coordinators in five years, and I didn't even realize that, but this time, we've brought in a familiar face (Larry Mac Duff) to Duane (Akina) and we kept the same numbering and naming system, so we've probably got more carryover from last year than at any other time we've had with change. In talking to both and building a plan along with the offensive staff, we're just going to have to go into the game, figure out what's going on and try and build a plan as we go. Because we're really not sure how much man can we play, how will we blitz, they're talking about possible rain on Saturday - what will that change - and so there are a lot of things we've got to look at.
On WR Limas Sweed: He looked really good today. He has not been tackled since he sprained his wrist, so that will be the only question mark because Saturday will be the first time he has full-speed competition since he got hurt. But he's looked really good, he's running really good routes, and he's fresh-legged because he did have a week off where he could prepare to do some other things. So we're excited about him playing.
On the punting game: We're still in a punt-to-punt competition and we've told (Trevor Gerland and Justin Moore) that. It's been like that every day. It seems like one will get an edge and then the other will get an edge. We've talked about alternating them because then we'd have a left-footer and a right-footer, which we talked about a couple of years ago. But it may come down to a pre-practice pre-game decision on what we do.
On DT Derek Lokey: Derek is one of the most passionate football players I've ever been around with his leadership, his character, his toughness and the way he rubs off on other people. He stood up at the end of practice and said, "Please you guys that haven't been to the Children's Hospital, come with me and visit the kids who are sick and not as fortunate as we are on Friday, and you'll get a lot out of it." He's just a great young man. He is playing fullback; we worked for about 15 minutes today on goal line and short-yardage, and we just need him back on the field. It's going to be really fun to watch him, Frank (Okam), and Roy (Miller) play.
On coach Ken Rucker: He's doing well. He got out of the hospital today around 11:00 a.m. He will not be at the game on Saturday obviously. We're really not sure when he'll return. We actually asked our doctors to monitor him and talk to him about not coming back to soon. We feel like he'll be able to come back and watch film and be in involved in the meetings long before he'll be able to come back to the field.
On a balanced offense: What we've really come to learn is that a balanced offense is one that scores a lot of points, and that's what we want. We want to run really well when we run it and when we want to run it, but we want to protect well and we want to throw it. And when you've got a guy that's as good as Colt McCoy, you've got to take advantage of it. So we are not going to be concerned on Saturday about stats except for points.
On WR Jordan Shipley: Jordan is going to hold on Saturday, and there is still some chance he might play, but he's still doubtful.On fullbacks Luke Tiemann and Antwan Cobb: They've had really good camps. And Luke (Tiemann) is the tough guy that's played linebacker and defensive end and now he's playing fullback, and he's on a lot of special teams. (Luke Tiemann) would play fullback out on the field. And Antwan (Cobb) gives you a tailback at fullback, as well. He can run, he can catch, and he's a 230-pound guy who is really performing well at fullback. So we're excited about both those guys for the future.