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Worth repeating: Stump Mitchell
Comments from Stump Mitchell as he gears up for his first Southwestern Athletic Conference game as Southern’s head coach. He and the Jaguars play Alabama A&M in Normal, Ala., 6 p.m Saturday in Louis Crews Stadium.
“We’re back after, for us, definitely a heartfelt, tough loss. So we’re 1-1 now going into our first conference game, and we’re excited about getting the opportunity to go back on the road and see what this SWAC conference is all about.”
“We wanted to go undefeated. I wanted to go undefeated. I thought we could do that. But we were a little lackluster in terms of holding on to some passes, and in terms of some fundamental assignments.”
“This is the game that counts. We’ve played two, what I guess you could classify as tuneup games. Now the real deal is upon us, and we’re looking forward to going to Huntsville and taking on A&M.”
On how to fix the offense:
“We’re constantly trying to improve every phase of the game. When you’re talking about our passing percentage, it’s not very good at the present time. We’re less than 60 percent. I think we’re more in the neighborhood of about 54 percent pass completions. Some of that, of course, is due to drops. Some of that is due to the quarterback not checking the ball down to the backs. So we worked on that this open week.”
“We’re probably not going to have Jeremiah. We’re probably going to end up starting Gary Hollimon at quarterback because it gives us an opportunity to go into conference with a guy that has some experience, and I don’t want to put all that (pressure) on Dray Joseph, a true freshman, to have to lead us to victory at the present time.”
On making the decision to move Hollimon:
“He didn’t take any snaps at all (during preseason camp), but he can throw the ball. He knows the offense in terms of pass protection because he is a running back. He has to know everything. So as a quarterback, that’s not going to be a big deal to him. The thing I was impressed with him about is, he can throw the football.”
“Being a running back, he knows where everyone is supposed to be. I think he’s going to relish the opportunity to play quarterback, actually. So we’ll see.”
On the team’s ability to bounce back:
“I hope so. We were not able to handle success. We went to Orlando and played relatively well in all three phases, even though we did give up a return (for a touchdown) in the special-teams area, but we got one back. So everything was neutral when it came to special-teams play.
“This past week, when we lost the ballgame … hopefully we’ll respond to failure a whole lot better than we handled success the first time. And from this point on, hopefully we’ll be able to handle success like champions.”
What have you seen from Alabama A&M?
“Alabama A&M and the Southern offense — we’re both struggling. They have some young guys on the offensive line, and we do as well. They want to get the running game going, and they haven’t gotten it going to the extent that they would like. And neither would we. So that’s the scenario for the offenses. And I don’t think either defense is playing up to how we would want our defenses to play.
“On paper, it looks like a pretty good ballgame. I know they’re going to play extremely hard to better themselves in all phases, and obviously we’re going to try to do the same thing.”
On the inconsistency of the rushing offense:
“In two weeks, I’ve learned a lot about this football team. People said that the last couple of years, guys would not practice until Friday. They would come out on Saturday and not play extremely well. We had that case happen, too.
“We played a couple of guys who were not able to practice during the latter part of the week against Arkansas-Monticello. Truth be told, those guys didn’t play extremely well for us. Gary Hollimon’s first run, he loses 5 yards, but it probably should have gone for a touchdown had we made the block. So it wasn’t so much what Arkansas-Monticello did. It’s what we didn’t do. But I learned that the guys that practice, whether they’re your starters or not, they’re the guys that have to play.”
On the rushing game without Hollimon:
“Sylvester is the primary ball carrier now, also along with Brandon Rice. Those two.”
“He could be able to go, but Doc feels like he might need another week or so. If we put him out there right now, we may be subjecting him to a little injury. He’s got a shoulder sprain, so we’re trying to hold him out. It’s a long season, still, and we want to have him for the majority of the season.”
On the offensive line:
“To tell you the truth, I’m really pleased with Lee Almanza and Chris Browne. Our tackles have done a tremendous job for the most part. We haven’t performed so well inside, going from the center position. We haven’t performed as well as we’re capable of doing. And we’re young. We’re starting a freshman in Aaron Hall. We hope Roddrell Stewart can come back and play. We’re also starting a first-year guy, in terms of playing, in Taylon Jones. And also we have Josh Verrett. So we have a little inexperience with those guys.”
“We’ve got to play better in those areas, but I think those guys are working hard, and hopefully, during the bye week, we’ve been able to correct the mistakes we’ve made.”
On opening the SWAC schedule on the road:
“We opened the season on the road in Orlando, so hopefully that experience will help us with this game against A&M.”
On the pace and quality of practice:
“We have to go practice like we want to get something accomplished, (instead) of dreading the fact that you’re out there. I think on Monday, those guys did that, and I look for the same today.”
Would you hesitate to pull Hollimon if he doesn’t perform well?
“I don’t think it’ll be Hollimon as the reason why we don’t move the football. I don’t even want to forecast that. But I can tell you right now: If we don’t move the football, it’ll be because we’re not getting it done up front, or because we’re dropping (passes) on third down, which has really been the case the first two games. You look at McGinty’s completion percentage, and Dray’s as well—it’s not all that great, but that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with those guys. They put the ball there; we just haven’t made the completion.
“So we’re working hard. Guys aren’t wearing gloves in practice these past two weeks. We’re trying to … make them focus in because that’s what they need to get their attention on, to focus in on the ball.”
On whether SU is trying to redshirt freshman running backs Dallas Fort and Darius Deloach:
“If we can get away with it, yes. But I tell you what: Darius Deloach, he really teases me. He has excellent feet, great lateral movement (and) great vision. But I don’t want to be a thorn in guys’ sides, especially when it comes to these seniors. I don’t want to come in here and just overhaul. I want these guys to try to enjoy their senior year. But we do have some young guys that are capable of coming in and playing, and I can’t afford to lose another ballgame. If I have to play those guys, I will.”
On the state of the team’s leadership:
“I don’t know so much if I would look to a whole lot of seniors for leadership because, quite frankly, we’re not really getting that. We’re getting great leadership from Lee Almanza. I think we’re getting great leadership from Chris Browne. I expect little more from Ramon Chinyoung, because he works hard. But you’ve got to work smart. He’s got to play under control. And when he does that, he’s fabulous.
“Curry Allen works extremely hard, but he’s got to work smart. I expect a little more from him.
“Gary Hollimon, as a running back — unless your name is Barry Sanders, if you don’t get a chance to get started, usually you don’t get a whole lot of yardage. Now Barry Sanders, he didn’t need a whole lot of blocking to make things happen.”
On this week’s keys to victory:
“We cannot give up a special-teams touchdown for the third week in a row. We can’t do that. I think Josh has been punting extremely well. I think we’ve been kicking the ball off with pretty good distance and height, down to the 5 or a little deeper. We just have to cover.
“Offensively, we have to hold on to the ball in the passing game. And we have to get the ground game established. We’ve got to protect the quarterback.
“Defensively, we’ve got to make plays. For the second week in a row, and in a continuation from last year, we’ve been giving up the long ball. We have to find some way to keep a safety over the top. Whether that’s been our scheme in the past or not, that has to be our scheme in the future, to make sure don’t allow our corners — we think highly of them, but their actions show that we shouldn’t be too high on those guys.
On the cornerbacks:
“They need help, and we have to give them help, and I think that we’re going to do that by bringing in Virgil Williams. He’s a guy that I really wanted to redshirt because I don’t think physically, as a running back, he’s that thick. He’s not as strong. But as a corner, he can play. Asante Samuel … is a heck of a defensive back—not a big guy by any stretch of the imagination, but can play the pass. And I think Virgil Williams is going to spark us this weekend.”
On senior DB Anthony Wells:
“Anthony has been known to be a pretty good special-teams player, and he did that. He blocked a punt two weekends ago, in the Monticello game. He’s done a good job there.
“Anthony didn’t really put in the time that he needed to get totally healthy this offseason. He don’t run as fast as he used to. He’s had some problems. But he’s going to show up at times. And I think the best way for him to do that is on special teams. He will knock the crap out of somebody. But we can’t afford for him to allow anybody to get behind him.
“As a matter of fact, he had a de-cleater last week in practice, and I got on his butt because it was practice. He don’t have to do that. I know that with Anthony — if he’s around the ball, he’s going to make some noise.”
When did you decide to try Hollimon?
“I think we had to inform Gary so his mind can get right, and the offensive line so their mind can get right. We just need to give Gary some reps at it. So I’ve got all this time to think about it. Dray has done a decent job for us. But this is the SWAC. This is our first conference game on the road. I don’t know if he’s ready for that right now. When he came in (during) the first two games, he didn’t know and we didn’t know that Jeremiah wasn’t coming back. So his number was dialed. Now we have an opportunity to think about it. Hopefully Gary will accept the challenge and we’ll go out and do what we have to do to be victorious.”
Will the offense change with Hollimon at quarterback?
“The offense is not going to change. We’re going to try to hand the ball off deep to the tailback and let him gain some yards. We’re going to try to hit some passes and let the receivers run with the ball. We’re going to try to go vertical. And hopefully we’ll connect on some.”
By Perryn Keys, The Advocate