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Aug. 25, 2003

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Head coach Lou Holtz met with the media on Monday afternoon in the first weekly press conference of the 2003 season. The coach previewed Saturday’s opener against Louisiana-Lafayette and offered the following comments:

(on opening the season)
“It’s the beginning of the season and it seems like only yesterday we ended last season, so the off-season has gone by about as quickly as I can recall. You are always leery of an opening ballgame for a variety of reasons. We have a young football team, in fact I think there is only one other school in the nation that has less starters returning than our team, and you never know how they are going to react. Another concern is what will Louisiana-Lafayette run on offense? They ran a two-back system like Virginia Tech, then they went to a one-back and spread it out and did a variety of things. They are starting a redshirt freshman quarterback than ran for over 500 yards in high school, so they will run more option. There a lot of unknowns.”

(on Louisiana-Lafayette)
“Louisiana-Lafayette is coached by Rickey Bustle, he was here and helped lead the Gamecocks to a bowl game in 1994 and then went to Virginia Tech as offensive coordinator where he had Michael Vick and prolific offenses there. Then he took over the head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette. Like Virginia Tech, they blocked seven punts last year. They have a great wide receiver in Fred Stamps, who is fast, exciting and could play for anybody in the nation. On the offensive line, they bring back four starters. Last year, the week after Arkansas beat us 23-0, they played in Fayetteville and lost 24-17. They bring back many players off that team. They are set in their kicking game. On defense, they run an eight-man front most of the time and do a lot of things like Virginia Tech with blitzes from different areas. Their program is modeled a lot after Virginia Tech. Ross Brupbacher is an outstanding linebacker, was all-conference and then got hurt early last season.”

(on opening games)
“It is always scary in an opening ballgame. There are more upsets that occur on the opening week of the season than perhaps any other time. Teams that you would not expect to lose an opening ballgame go down and go on to win nine or ten games during the season. You do not know what kind of team you have in the opening game. We have not beaten anybody and I am not sure that we can. They played Arkansas a lot better than we did and that is the only common opponent that I can compare. The opening game always scares you to death. I am always scared. At the same time, I am anxious to see our team. Being a young football team, they will make some great plays, for both sides.”

(on his team after preseason practices)
“Our football team may be tired, but not worn out. We will be well-rested and fresh for the first game. We have gone one vs. one all practice. Travelle Wharton has gone against Moe Thompson and George Gause against Na’Shan Goddard. We are not going to be shocked by speed, etc. It does not help your confidence an awful lot when you go against each other. I have never walked off the practice field pleased. You are always upset about the defense, worried about the offense, kickoff returns or coverage. I have no idea what to expect when we go out there”

(on the offense)
“I think Dondrial Pinkins is going to have a good year. It appears that way. He is confident and knows what to expect when you call a play. He knows what he is going to do with the ball and where the receivers are going to go. I am not sure what to expect from our receivers. We have caught the ball better than we have over the last couple years, but we have also been careless with the football. We have some young backs who are going to play-Kenny Irons and Daccus Turman are sophomores and Demetris Summers and Cory Boyd are freshman-and you do not know how they are going to react in a football game. Hart Turner and Travelle Wharton are going to provide great leadership. Turner is playing as well as any tight end we have had here.”

(on the defense)
“On defense, I worry about our defensive line, our nose tackle, our defensive tackle. Preston Thorne is going into his third year here but has not played a lot and Darrell Shropshire is a junior college transfer who will play in his first game on a major college level. I am not sure if we will be strong enough inside. With the injuries at linebacker you are always concerned with that. We have two new safeties who have never played safety before and basically played outside linebacker. I’ve got a lot of reasons to be concern. However, I like the attitude of the team and how they work. It will be important for us to have a good week of practice leading up to the game. I think our players are looking forward to the game and I know that I am.”

(on the preparation of young players)
“We have some people that are going to be good football players. As good as they are going to be right now, their best football is ahead of them. We do some awful good things. I like some of the things they do. I just do not know how they are going to react in a game. After they get a couple games under their belt, then you know what to expect. We are anxious to play.”

(on the cornerback positions)
“I am not concerned about the position opposite Dunta Robinson because it is not like they are playing poorly. Deandre’ Eland is trying as hard as he ever has and Teddy Crawford is as well. Tremaine Tyler and Fred Bennett are players who make good plays, but do not do the little things on a consistent basis. All of them are doing some good things. Fred Bennett has gotten his hands on more balls than anyone in our secondary other than Dunta Robinson, sometimes it is after the receiver has it. But he makes plays. I feel comfortable at that position. It is not that someone is playing poorly because they are all doing some good things.”

(on the offensive strategy)
“We have not been a great defensive team in the past, one that creates turnovers and get three-and-outs consistently. In the past when the offense got the ball back, you did not want to do anything “crazy” and instead be conservative and get first downs. I do not think we can win that way. We have to step up on defense and become a defensively dominating team and I am not sure that we can be. If we cannot be a dominating defensive team, we had better be a wide-open offensive football team. If we can be both then we have a chance to compete for a championship. We are not going to be able to win here by trying to play ball control. I am going to be more involved with the defense. I think our defensive staff has done an outstanding job, but I will be involved with that. I told Skip that he will run the offense and that I understand the plan. Play it wide-open and do not feel like someone is going to be looking over your shoulder. In the past, I wanted it the other way-play offense that protects the defense-I do not believe we can do that right now.”