ECU Football Media Notes

2009 Media Day Press Luncheon Quotes

Holtz Addressed Members From 18 Different Media Agencies

GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina University Head Football Coach Skip Holtz addressed members of the media prior to the second day of practice at the Pirates annual Media Day, which was conducted in Harvey Hall of the Murphy Center. The following are selected comments:
Opening Comments:
Welcome to the 2009 football season which is finally here. It is much anticipated by the coaches, players, fans and everybody else. We’re really excited about kicking off this season.

On the Preseason:
We break our season down into five phases. We start with phase one, which goes back to winter workouts. Phase two is spring practice; phase three is summer. We’re stepping into phase four right now before stepping into phase five, which is the season itself.

We talk all the time about having to win every phase as a football program in order to win on the field in phase five. This press conference is a little bit about phase three and what has been going on for the last four months over the course of the summer as well as the anticipation about starting camp.
On the Coaching Staff:
I am very blessed and fortunate to have had the same coaching staff for the third year in a row. I think stability is the key to success for any organization, business or program. We’re very fortunate to have the phenomenal coaching staff that we have here. The support staff with Clifford Snow, Reed Case and Harold Robinson is also one of the best.

With that being said, Coach Thomas “Rock” Roggeman is going through some difficult times. Rock was diagnosed with a form of cancer in June and began his treatments in July to go through this battle and fight that he has taken on.

Rock has asked that we keep this as a family situation. He doesn’t want to detract from what this season is all about, these seniors and the players. He does not want to be the main story in this entire thing, which tells you a little about his unselfish nature. Everybody knows about his great excitement, enthusiasm and passion. We have a great respect for him and this battle he is going through at this time.

Having people on our staff like Coach Fitch, who has gone through a similar situation and been through a year where he had to battle the cancer and the treatments, has been very helpful to Rock as well. We have a great respect for Rock. At this point, it is not something that is going to affect his coaching ability. Right now we’re going to play it day by day and right now Rock is doing a great job of taking care of his body and doing the things he had to do in order to be out on the practice field at this time.

On Position Changes:
There are two main position changes on this team once you get into the personnel on this team.

Rob Kass, who has been much talked and speculated about in a lot of circles, is going to make the move to a tight end/fullback role. We are moving Rob there full time to give him a chance to earn a spot on the two-deep depth chart and earn a role on this football team.

As a senior, he is unselfish and wants to make this move. He was the one who approached me about it. He just wants to step on the field and help this senior class and this program by making a difference in wins and losses on the field.

The other main change is Cliff Perryman, who has come off shoulder surgery from last year, and is going to make the move to defensive end from linebacker. We’re a little thin there right now and he’s going to make the move and work with Scotty Robinson and C.J. Wilson on the corner.

On Suspensions:
There are four players who had been suspended since the end of last season to spring practice who have been reinstated. They have all met the academic, community service and other stipulations that were placed on them before they could be a member of this team again.

Emmanuel Davis is back on this team and will participate. Jon Williams is right now an active member of this team. Norman Whitley and Doug Palmer have also been reinstated back to this team as we have gone through the summer.

On Players Not Returning:
There are four deletions off this football team. Some have made the decision to transfer and to go somewhere else to finish their college careers.

One of them is wide receiver D.J. McFadden. On is Lorenzo Osborne, a linebacker from Atlanta, Ga. The other two are defensive backs Julian Carter and DeAndre Jones. They have made the decision to transfer and will no longer be with this football team as we approach this 2009 season.

We wish them luck and wish them well. They are good young men. I certainly hope they meet the goal of getting their degrees and having the opportunity to play this great game of college football.

On Players Rehabbing Injuries:
We have seven players who are here in camp on rehab. A rehabbing player in camp cannot participate, practice or attend any team meetings. They can only be here to fulfill their requirements to meet with head athletic trainer Mike Hanley and strength and conditioning director Mike Golden.

Those seven are mainly going through rehab due to injuries and surgeries during the season. Those young men are Doug Palmer, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury, and Norman Whitley, who has had some hip and groin complications during the course of the summer.

Five other young men are Matt Pick and Robert Jones, who missed a large part of last season, T.J. Terrell, Ben Herlocker and C.J. Brown. Those young men will be going through camp and rehabbing, hoping that we can do what we have to do in order to get them as close to full-playing members of this football team as possible when school beings on August 25th.

On Players Who Have Earned Scholarships:
On a positive note, there are four players who have been elevated to scholarship status. They had been walk-ons to this program who played a significant role.

The first is receiver Reyn Willis, who is a transfer from Alabama, and has done a great job. He is going to be a senior this year. Another is running back Brandon Jackson, who is a transfer from Kentucky. He had a great spring practice and has earned the right to compete for the starting job this fall.

There are also two on the defense in Josh Smith, a lineman, who has been part of this program for three years, and Levin Neal, who is a transfer from N.C. State and is competing with Derek Blacknall for a starting safety spot.

On Players Not In Camp Who Were Expected To Be:
We have three young men who are not in camp who were expected to be here. One is Allen Crowder, a redshirt freshman defensive end. At this point, he has been suspended from competition for the season. We do expect him to be back on the football team on August 25th when school beings.

Ben Hartman has a recurring hip injury. He missed the first three or four games of last year with some hip problems and injuries. They have reared their ugly head again on him this summer. It started about three weeks ago. He was kicking really well and had a good spring before the problems flared up on him again. He is seeing some specialists and doing everything he can to find out what his status is going to be and whether that is going to require a surgical procedure. Right now we just don’t know.

The other one is Giavanni Ruffin, who is a junior college transfer and running back. At this point he is trying to finish up his coursework and get cleared through the NCAA Clearing House.

On This Year’s Schedule:
We have a very difficult schedule ahead of us and have an awful long way to go before we get to where we want to be.

Everybody wants to talk about the experience, starters and players you have returning, but every team has a life expectancy of just one year. Just because we have some talent returning and some players coming back does not mean we’re automatically going to roll the ball out and have a good football team.

On The Preparation For This Season:
We are crossing every “T” and dotting every “I”. I think this coaching staff has done a phenomenal job in doing what we’ve had to do every step along the way to make sure that this football team is prepared and not taking anything for granted. We’re going to need every day between now and September 5th in order to get this team ready to play in the opening game against Appalachian State.

I feel really good about the experience and the maturity returning. When you look at the juniors and seniors who we have the ability to play with it is exciting. But I also believe we have an awful long way to go when you look at the depth concerns. There are going to be many guys who are going to play significant and contributing roles on this team who need to be developed. Many questions still have to be answered.

On This Season’s Goals:
We have three primary goals as we’re getting into camp. The first is to continue to build this team with positive attitude and develop the leadership of the upper classmen. A lot of these guys have played, but have not been in the leadership role they find themselves in now. I think that’s something we have to develop as we go through camp.

The second goal is to develop our depth chart as we go through camp. Much of that will be done after the first two scrimmages that we’re going to have.

The third goal is to develop the “Dirty Dozen” to see who is going to be on the special teams. We have to find out who is going to be on the punt and kickoff teams. Right now we have an all-hands-on-deck approach. Whether you’re a starter, freshman or back-up, we are going to put the people on the field that we need to. I think Coach Hargreaves has done a great job with the special teams and I think we will continue to build upon that.

Our punt team was in the top three in the league last year and the return team was in the middle but our kickoff team needs to continue to improve.

After yesterday it’s great to be back on the grass. We’ve been waiting for this day. To get on the field and see the freshmen, the progress some of the others have done. It is nice to be able to get out on the field as coaches, where the players are not just lifting or running. We actually have footballs flying through the air.

I am really impressed with what our players have done over the summer as you look at the progress they’ve made. Every team member of this 105-man roster has passed Mike Golden’s physical test. They’re faster, stronger and quicker. I think they’ve done a great job as individuals to prepare themselves for this camp. A lot of the players have done an awful lot to change their bodies for the better, where it be losing or gaining weight. You go out there for day one and you look like a football team that has been practicing a little bit. I think a lot of that credit goes to Mike Golden and his staff as they have prepared the guys for this fall camp. We as coaches can see that a lot of running and throwing has been done.

We’ve talked a lot about the growth of this team. We had a very positive summer academically. Many of these seniors have already graduated and the rest are on track to finish their coursework in December. We want to graduate 100 percent of our seniors and we are much closer to that goal now. A lot of credit goes to Melissa Lewis who heads up our academic department. It shows a little about the commitment of the upperclassmen and you realize the hard work and dedication it takes. It speaks volumes about Coach Golden and his staff because even though the coaches have not been with the players all summer, a lot of positive work has been done.

Defensive Team Overview:
Starting on the defensive side of the ball, we do have a great nucleus of returning guys who have played an awful lot of football for us. We have nine seniors returning to our defense. When you look at the defensive tackle position, Jay Ross is there with two juniors in Linval Joseph and Josh Smith, who have both played a lot. There are also two seniors in Luke Danso and Antonio Allison, who are looking to play a lot this season. They’re both 300-pound defensive tackles. We’ll learn a lot more about our freshmen Michael Brooks and Jimmy Booth as camp progresses though I am very pleased with their progress.

At the defensive end position, you have two seniors in C.J. Wilson and Scotty Robinson. You also have guys who are vying for playing time in that position like Cliff Perryman, Maurice Mercer and Anthony Johnson.

At linebacker, which has probably been one of the concerns we talked about in the spring, not because of the three seniors starters in Nick Johnson, Jeremy Chambliss and Chris Mattocks. There is a lot of talent behind them and the line between playing and not playing is really thin when you look at guys like Dustin Lineback, Steve Spence, Austin Haynes, and Matt Thompson. I’m very impressed physically with the four freshmen right now with Kyle Tudor, Marke Powell, Ty Holmes and Lamar McClendon. I think some of them will possibly have the chance to help out this football team right now. We’re kind of waiting to see how that whole thing is going to play out in the scrimmage situations.

You have three guys who are juniors who have played an awful lot for us in Dekota Marshall, Travis Simmons and Darryl Reynolds along with Emanuel Davis, who is working his way back into the mix after his suspensions. There are also two talented freshmen who redshirted last season in Rakeem Morgan and Leonard Paulk who we are really excited about.

At the safety position, we came out of the spring with three starters. The senior is Van Eskridge, who has just been a warrior out on the field for us and then you have Levin Neal and a redshirt sophomore Derek Blacknall. Beyond them are three other safeties Devon Wallace and Justin Venable who are really progressing well. Jack Schultz is a young guy, a walk-on, who is also doing an excellent job and putting himself in the mix.

These are the people that we really see right now on the defensive side of the ball. I think the starters, when you look at who is returning from last year, are pretty much set. We now just have to determine the players that will serve as our backups. At this point, it is totally up in the air.

Offensive Team Overview:
I think the most experience we have on the offensive side of the ball is on the offensive line. We have four seniors who have started for us like Sean Allen, Stephen Heis, Terence Campbell and Doug Palmer. We also have juniors like Corey Dowless, D.J. Scott, Travis Melvin, Willie Smith and Doug Polochak who are all guys who have played a significant amount of time for us as ones. Steven Baker is a redshirt sophomore who is also vying for time. Coach Shankweiler has done a great job developing the depth we need to have.

At the running back position, we have four guys who are competing out there right now. We just don’t know what we’re going to get out of that position right now. There is a stable of running backs there but it is also very unstable. Dominique Lindsay is coming off a knee injury and doing a really nice job. We also have J.R. Rogers, who has been able to show how far he has come as a running back as well as Brandon Jackson and Jon Williams, who is working his way back into the mix after his suspension. All four of them are in top form right now. We also anticipate Norman Whitley’s return once school starts.

At the tight end position, I talked a little about the movement of Kass. You also have Kevin Gidrey, who might be one of the most improved players on this team right now. You look at Korey Reynolds, who is a junior college transfer, and young guys Michael Dobson and Zico Pasut. You also have two very talented freshmen in Justin Jones and Michael Byrd. Everyone is fighting and competing for a position.

I view the wide receiver position and see it much like the linebacker position. We feel pretty good about their experience and roles on this football team, speaking of guys like Jamar Bryant, Dwayne Harris, Alex Taylor and Reyn Willis. Behind them you have about 10-12 guys who are looking to see time there. We still do not know who will play and who will not. The difference will be in the little things they do on the practice field. In some of the younger guys you have Joe Womack, Michael Bowman, Jacobi Jenkins, Andrew Bodenheimer, Dayon Arrington, Giavanni Ruffin, Jeremy Davis and three freshmen in Torrance Hunt, Mike Price and Reese Wiggins. We will just have to see how that situation shakes out in camp.

Special Teams Overview:
The kicking situation we felt really good about coming into camp with a senior kicker and punter. But when you learn your senior kicker might be out for the year, that is when you really learn how important depth is to a football program. Right now in camp, the kicking duties will be handled by Ben Ryan, who handled most of the kicking duties at the beginning of last year. He has worked extremely hard for this opportunity. There is also a freshman named Matt Millisor who will also compete for the position. Matt Dodge will not only handle his punting duties, but also get into the kicking mix. At this point, we are letting them all kick in practice. Dodge and Nathan Przestrzelski will compete for the punting job. William Smith has a handle on the deep snapper duties at this point.

Fortunately, “The Finger” is back and Joe Sloan will be our holder. As long as we can keep him healthy, our holding situation will be just fine.

We’ve got a five-day period we have to go through with NCAA regulations. Sunday and Monday and our first day of pads will be on Tuesday. Our first scrimmage will be Saturday the 15th and that will kind of sort out the depth chart right now. We will find out who is ready to play this season. I am excited about the 2009 season and the challenges that lie ahead.

On 2009 Expectations:
I understand the expectations are extremely high right now. They’re extremely high with the people on the outside with the fan base and they are also high from the coaching staff and players alike. We are aware of what is at stake. I hope last year’s experiences will help us this season. If we have a chance to improve and get better we need to learn from them. It has created a hunger with this football team right now because we reached the top of the mountain and caught a glimpse of the view.

A lot of the challenges ahead are some things that have never been done in school or Conference USA history. For example, there has never been a back-to-back league champion since the conference shifted in 2005 to divisions and we have the chance to not only do that, but go to four bowl games in four years. This senior class has the opportunity to really do some special things. They would like to leave a legacy behind that can be built upon for years and years to come.

I would like to thank the administration from Chancellor Ballard to Terry Holland and the support they give our football program. A lot of positive additions and improvements have been made. I also need to thank ISP Sports and the Old Dominion Trucking Company for providing our wonderful new equipment truck. Our equipment will now move in a first-class manner and compare to some of the elite programs across the country.

It’s great to see so many people who care about this program be involved in many different ways. I said to Coach Holland when I came here that I was excited about the opportunities, as long as we had the same goals, like being one of the best programs on the East Coast. I think the job that ISP Sports, the Pirate Club and the administration does have put us on that level.

On Further Suspensions:
At this point, Jamar Bryant is not eligible for the first game. I’ll keep you updated as we go with that. At this point, he has done everything he was supposed to do, but he still has some things he has to do before that suspension is lifted. Also, Allen Crowder has been suspended for the season.

On the Players That are Rehabbing In Camp:
When we put each one of them on rehab, Mike Hanley felt they were at least two weeks away from being ready to go out there and compete. Right now we’re looking at those players being able to be added to the roster once school starts. Even if something happened right now to one of our players in camp, none of those seven are ready to step in right now. They are definitely doing what they need to do with Coach Golden and Hanley right now.

On Jonathan Williams and Emanuel Davis:
They’re not going to be given anything. Through their suspensions, when you come back it’s your opportunity to compete. You’re going to have to earn their way back. They are two high-profile players who have played and had success on the field. It’s going to happen because day after day they earn the respect of the coaches back. They will earn their opportunities to play.

On the Running Back Competition:
We’re going to let them all compete for that job. Those decisions will all be made after the scrimmages. Right now Brandon Jackson has put himself in a great position. I think he took the most of his opportunities and has done a great job with it. I think all those guys are very talented players who want to play.

Competition is a great thing to have not only for a position but also for the football team. Coach Fitch and the rest of the offensive coaches will have to put the best 11 players on the field. If we feel we need to make that position a little more high-profile and have two out there at once. You might see more of a two-back system than you saw a year ago. But as you all know, injuries happen, so you don’t want to say that you’re going to do a certain thing, then not be able to work on it in practice to get ready for a game.

On Julian Carter Leaving:
You hate to lose any player, especially one who has been in your program for two years. But it’s kind of like an injury. When Jerek Hewett went down in the Virginia game, we had put in all that work and time. A lot of people don’t know a lot about Levin Neal, Derek Blacknall, Justin Venable, Devon Wallace or Jack Schultz. They haven’t played a lot on the field. All we can do is coach players who want to be here. From what we’ve seen through spring practice, I have been impressed with the development of the younger guys in the secondary – not to just be a starter, but to compete at that level and be successful. Those two guys are close to that right now.

On Patrick Pinkney’s Quarterback Experience:
I think it’s huge. When you look at a guy like Patrick, he is a guy who has been in that arena and atmosphere. You know how he’s going to react. I think it’s a huge vote of confidence for the players. A lot of these guys have been there with him and been in that huddle. It’s not only comforting for Coach Fitch and the offensive coaches, but also for the players. They know what he can do and what his work ethic entails.

On the Development of Josh Jordan and Rio Johnson:
I think we’re going to have to evaluate Josh Jordan and Rio Johnson, who are getting great looks because of how the depth chart is. As we go through these scrimmages, we’ve taken the approach that we’re going to go through this first scrimmage as we are. This is the contribution that Rob can make as a tight end. I think right now a lot of work is going into seeing what Josh and Rio can do for us as back-up quarterbacks. Those are the decisions we’re going to have to make as camp goes on. We know they will not be able to run the offense like Patrick, but if they can run a limited package and be successful, we will be fine.

On Chris Mattocks:
Chris Mattocks has done a great job. He was a role player as a safety and then he moved down to linebacker. He made the move with great anticipation and excitement. Chris just wants to play and get on the field. After his first year at safety, he kind of saw the writing on the wall. A lot of the credit goes to Chris and his on-ball skills. He has gotten bigger and is running well. You have those three amigos in Nick, Chris and Jeremy. They’re all seniors and they all want it. It speaks volumes about Chris and the work Coach Hudson has done.

It also gives you one more senior. Instead of looking at those nine defensive guys and trying to find one more starter, you’re looking at those nine guys and then trying to find the back-ups. I know the price he has paid and how hard he’s willing to work. That’s when you start to have pride as a defensive football team. Chris brings a lot more to the table than just talent. He brings a lot of trust and commitment.

On Rob Kass Splitting Quarterback and Tight End Duties:
At this point Rob is not going to split time between quarterback and tight end. We are moving him full-time to be a tight end. We’re not going to make him be a part-time quarterback and part-time tight end. He’s throwing the ball a little bit with Coach Fitch on the side just to keep his arm loose. We’re going to wait until we get through the first scrimmage before we decide to move anybody. Right now he is taking no reps at quarterback. We’re going to find out. He’s willing. This is the same transition Davon Drew made. It’s not for a lack of size. I think he’s willing, has a desire and his heart is into it.

On the Rigors of the 2009 Schedule:
Part of me loves the schedule and part of me hates the schedule. We have talked about wanting to become one of the best programs on the East Coast. One from the outside standpoint that is strong. I don’t think you can understand what that level is until you step on that level and play it. I think it has been a great opportunity for our players. It has been a great measuring stick for our program. We don’t just want to be the best in Conference USA, but we want to be able to compete against everybody on our schedule, which happen to include some of the best programs on the East Coast. It has certainly helped the commitment and work habits of our players. I love the fact that we’re playing Appalachian State. We can’t be hypocritical and ask North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest to play us and we not in turn play Appalachian State.

It will be very difficult, that first game with Appalachian State. I think it’s a great game for the state and for both fan bases. This is a series that has a lot of history to it. I’m excited about the schedule we play. It’s a hard, tough schedule and one that gets you excited. You want to line up and play against the best.

On Patrick Pinkney as a Leader:
I don’t think leaders, doctors, lawyers or football coaches are born, they’re developed. I think Patrick has really grown, not only as a football player, but also as a leader. When difficult things happen in life, it’s 10 percent what happened and 90 percent how you react. It would have been real easy for Patrick to hang his head four years ago when he went through two surgeries on his throwing shoulder, which many people never have an opportunity to come back from. But yet Patrick didn’t sit, wallow and say `Wow, I just lost my college career.’ He came back and rehabbed harder than ever. He took a negative and made it a positive.

He has worked extremely hard and I think Todd Fitch has done a great job of continuing to develop him from a mental standpoint. He had a good year, but there is more on the horizon. I think he deserves a lot of credit for the role he has played and the commitment he has. You cannot lead if you don’t first lead by example. I think he may not be a huge vocal leader, but he’s a leader in the summer because he’s at every workout and has tried to win every sprint. He is competing at the highest level every time he does something. That’s why this team has such a great respect for him.

If anything, I want him to show more emotion. I want him to really get into it and go. He is very poised and calm. I think his highs aren’t real high and his lows aren’t real low. That’s one of the best things you can have as a quarterback. It keeps him with a very even keel and level head, regardless of what he did on the previous play.

On This Season’s Big Goals:
We want to build one of the best programs on the East Coast and I think it’s great that they aspire to that and dream of that. We talk about setting lofty goals for where we want to go. We have set those goals every year that I’ve been here. We’re going to set those goals as lofty as we can. Those are things we aspire to as a program. That doesn’t mean we’ll reach them, but that’s what we aspire to.

We’re not going to go through camp and talk about the BCS. That’s one thing we learned from last year. We lost our focus and tried to play for something that wasn’t ours. We have to have a focus of being 1-0 today and winning in each day of fall camp. If we don’t win today, it’s going to be hard to win tomorrow. We have to focus day-by-day and game-by-game. Twelve weeks in the season when the dust clears, we’ll see where we are. Talking about it isn’t going t get us a darn thing. It’s the focus that’s going to be important.

On The Types Of Recruits The Recent Success Has Allowed ECU To Get:
A better and more well-rounded caliber recruit. When you look at this class that we just brought in, it’s one of the highest academically that we’ve ever had. The class is also extremely talented and filled with great people. It has given us a great opportunity to recruit a much more well-rounded played from top to bottom.

On Dwayne Harris’ Health:
At this point he is extremely healthy. He passed the conditioning test and is running well. He’s full go and jersey on. His shoulder and foot is completely healthy. He’s doing a nice job.

On The Preseason Polls:
We’re right where we need to be right now. We’ll find our way from the bottom up. We do have great coaches in this league. David Baliff of Rice was the C-USA Coach-of-the-Year last year and when you look at it, he had one of the best turnarounds in the NCAA. He has done a superb job. I think where we are in the polls is irrelevant. We play a good enough schedule that if want to get there, we can control our own destiny a little bit. It does not bother me at all where we are right now.

On Conference USA:
It’s going to be a better league. When you talk about the East Division, Marshall has a very good team. We played them last year for first place in the division. They signed two junior college quarterbacks and will be much improved. Memphis will be better, as will UCF, which returns a good nucleus of its team. Southern Miss has a lot of people talking about its team and the job Coach Fedora has done. The team finished the season very strong and won its bowl game. It will be a heck of a shoot-out in the last game of the year when we play them. With UAB, Coach Callaway brought in a bunch of junior college players this year so they’ll be better. I think the entire league will be better than it was a year ago.

Hopefully as a league, we’ll be able to get over the hump where we have a lot of close games against out of conference teams, but do not win. Maybe that’ll bring some attention to how good of a football conference this is. Even though we only had two wins over a BCS Conference school, there were a lot of games that were very close against BCS schools that were played by us and other C-USA schools. Those are the things we’re going to have to do to continue to climb that ladder of success.

Categorized as College