I’ll be in Nashville today attempting to interview 9 head coaches in less than two hours, while still finding time for lunch (not an easy goal, trust me) and as I get a chance…I’ll update you on what’s buzzing around the media day, plus what the coaches are saying about the 2012 college football season, which gets underway in just over a month.
1:47 p.m. Goal Complete, all 9 coaches interviewed.
If there’s a theme at this year’s media day, it has to be the parity. Most every coach feels they have a team that is capable of winning the conference, and honestly, most of them do. 8 of 9 schools have a returning quarterback. (SEMO being the only team without) If there’s a position you want experienced leadership at, it at quarterback.
As for the individual interviews…
In 10 minutes with Jack Crowe at Jacksonville State, I immediately understand why his teams are so successful. Everything he said really has resonance. When asked about Marques Ivory, who is returning from injury, Crowe said, simply, “I’m going to hire him.” So what do they do with last year’s quarterback, Coty Blanchard? “Put him in the 3rd series…and then win the game.” Crowe also wins the award for quote of the day, talking about his running back, Washaun Ealey: “Great running backs put a cape on their back and a target on their chest”
He also has some interesting thoughts on the OVC as a football conference….but onto the other coaches.
SEMO’s head coach Tony Samuel knows he’s got a challenge this season, but also knows they’re just a season removed from a OVC crown. With a player like Blake Peiffer on defense, you’ve got to put them in the mix, although offensively it’s hard not to get the feeling they just might not have the firepower.
My first question to UT Martin’s head coach was started by mentioning their close losses. Before I finished the first sentence, Simpson answered “lost 4 games by 16 points.” Didn’t have to be reminded of that statistic…
Eastern feels like the antithesis to the league: yes, they have a senior quarterback, but last year’s team was about running, not passing. Part of the reason they feel it worked so well is that they were known as a spread offense the two years before. They acknowledge running the ball is going to be more of a challenge, and that they’re going to need a solid passing game to help.
As for players, Tre Lamb from Tennessee Tech is not lacking for confidence. I’m not trying to say he’s cocky, because I don’t feel that he is. But he knows what he and his team did last year, and they want to get back there. As for being picked fourth, Lamb said they like being the underdog. Got the feeling his coach agreed.
Much more on the teams will be posted in the coming days.
12:29 p.m.: 2 interviews down, talked to Murray’s head coach Chris Hatcher and EIU’s coach and players.
Hatcher has made one thing very clear; the QB position is the most important position on the team. Not surprising from the coach with the best one. He’s concerned with team’s ability to run after Mike Harris’ graduation. And his answer to the questions about the team’s defense: they have to learn to tackle better. Murray also has a brutal schedule. At EKU and JSU. (the two teams picked above him) At Florida State to start the year, and then will face Central Arkansas, who knocked out TTU in last year’s tournament. Not easy.
EIU’s Dino Babers is a great interview. Very humble, but very knowledgeable. No doubt he wants to bring high flying offense to Charleston, no easy task given this was an area the team struggled in last year. When asked about their expectations, both players Jimmy Garopollo and Roosevelt Holiday gave the same answer: win.
11:25 a.m. : Made it to Nashville. Preseason coaches picks and all-conference announced while in I was in the car. The picks:
1. Eastern Kentucky (12 first-place votes) – 124
2. Jacksonville State (6) – 117
3. Murray State – 85
4. Tennessee Tech – 83
5. Tennessee State – 69
6. UT Martin – 67
7. Southeast Missouri – 44
8. Eastern Illinois – 42
9. Austin Peay – 17
Hard to have too much issue with these. EKU is a very solid pick, and barring another serious injury in Week 1, Jacksonville State should be strong as well.
Why is Murray 3rd (nearly 4th) despite having the best QB in the league? Simply, way too many questions about their defense.
Oh, and that’s not just me saying Casey Brockman is the best QB in the OVC…that’s the league:
2012 Preseason All-OVC Football Team
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Casey Brockman (QB), Murray State
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Blake Peiffer (LB), Southeast Missouri
QB – Casey Brockman, Murray State
RB – Matt Denham, Eastern Kentucky
RB – Washaun Ealey, Jacksonville State
WR – Tyrone Goard, Eastern Kentucky
WR – Quentin Sims, UT Martin
TE – Von Wise, Eastern Illinois
C – O.J. Enabosi, Eastern Kentucky
OG – Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee State
OG – Tori Mobley, Jacksonville State
OT – Aaron Adams, Eastern Kentucky
OT – Patrick Ford, Eastern Kentucky
DL – Marcus Edwards, Tennessee Tech
DL – Artavious Dowdell, Eastern Illinois
DL – Antonio Harper, Tennessee State
LB – Anthony Brown, Eastern Kentucky
LB – Ichiro Vance, Eastern Kentucky
LB – Blake Peiffer, Southeast Missouri
LB – Qua Huzzie, Murray State
LB – Sam Small, Murray State
DB – Will Johnson, Tennessee Tech
DB – Austin Tallant, Tennessee Tech
DB – Justin Bell, Eastern Kentucky
DB – Brooklyn Fox, Eastern Kentucky
Interviews start around noon.