SOUTH ALABAMA FOOTBALL PREVIEWS LOUISIANA GAME

MOBILE, Ala. – University of South Alabama football head coach Kane Wommack, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, defensive coordinator Corey Batoon, along with Charles Coleman III and Bryan Hillmet with the media Monday to preview Saturday’s Sun Belt Conference opener versus Louisiana.

Head coach Kane Wommack
– On what concerns him the most about Louisiana: 
“You look at Louisiana and what Billy Napier has built there and they have established a culture.  They are in year four of their program, everything they have done in comparison to us is three-and-a-half years in advance.  They have recruited in a certain way, they’ve set a team culture and an expectation day in and day out, and they are very locked in to what they do schematically.  They have an identity, that identity is set and reinforced by the wins that they’ve carried; they are the standard bearer on our side of the league.  I’m excited.  I’ve watched the film and see a great opportunity for us.  I see some things that we’ve done well to this point, and some things that we need to get better at, but it’s a tremendous opportunity for our program to just see where we are.  You’re talking about the standard bearer on our side of the league and we get to go face off against them in our very first conference match up.  Certainly it’s a concern, but it’s also a great opportunity to see where we are.”

– On ball security: 
“Ball security might have been mentioned this week.  I’ve said this before, but ball security is a program responsibility.  That means if you are the head coach, the offensive coordinator, an offensive coach, it doesn’t just lie on your shoulders but on everybody in the building.  If you carry water out to practice every day, you are part of our ball security in our program.  That means harping on it, talking about it, having a reverence for the football everywhere it goes, and that means every single drill we that we carry in practice is a ball security drill.  If we’re going skelly, that’s a ball security drill.  If we’re going team, that’s a ball security drill.  These people who go around and say ‘We do a ball security drill at the beginning of practice,’ and ‘We put it on our keys to victory every week,’ that’s not enough.  It has to be coached day in and day out, and we have not done a good enough job of that but we have to stay on the details.  Everything is not going to get fixed in year one of a program, but for us it has to be a program identity so that we can get to the next place where we want to go.”

– On Louisiana’s defense: 
“I think it is kind of a unique match up because we’ve seen similarities in Southern Miss’ defense — their defensive coordinator just came from Louisiana — and our offenses are similar in what Billy and Major do.  We were fortunate with Steve Sarkisian, Major, Rob [Ezell] and Gordon [Steele] all being at Alabama the last couple of years together, we’ve seen how they matched up against Texas.  Obviously the personnel changes, but we have a nice little blueprint of some of the things that they might do to deal with our formations, shifts and motions.  It’s always interesting to me from a defensive perspective, I always look at what does their offense do and what do they do well, part of why they do those things is because they’ve had success in practice doing those things; you also look at how their defense has adjusted to their own offense, which has some similarities to ours especially formationally and with shifts.  At the end of the day, we need to continue to build the momentum of our run game — establish a run and be committed to it — and then we will have to capitalize in the passing game; when we get those opportunities, we have to come down with the ball.  In that regard, we are very similar teams in our style and philosophy.”

– On how to slow down the Ragin’ Cajun offense: 
“For us, we have been ahead of the game in terms of stopping the run.  We’ve done a good job of really dominating the run up front wit hour linebackers and defensive line.  Our safeties, Keith Gallmon and Tré Young, aren’t the biggest guys out there on the field, but boy are they violent when they come down in the run fit.  We need to continue to harp on that.  When you watch their offense they are committed to running the football, yet at the same time the reason why they have scored points is explosive plays in the passing game with those one-on-one shots outside.  I think Billy and his staff do a tremendous job of being committed to the run and setting their big plays up by formations and runs and run actions that look the same, then they are able to go create an explosive pass play.  At the end of the day it comes down to not giving them anything in the run game, and at the same time if you limit their explosive plays — and give up none for touchdowns — they’ll have a challenge moving the ball consistently against us.”

– On keeping the guys on the team level-headed around the “White Out” on Saturday: 
“You look at where we are, and what we have shown to this point as a program is that we don’t know how to win consistently.  When I was here before, we go beat Mississippi State and then we are battling Nicholls State in overtime two weeks later.  We go knock off San Diego State — we absolutely kicked their tail — and then a week later we are battling with Louisiana-Monroe.  We have to learn how to win consistently and have that just become part of our program identity.  When we win, we just go do the same thing over and over again.  Ultimately, the best teams realize that it always comes down to you — regardless of whether you are playing Louisiana, Mississippi State or whoever it is the rest of the season — so executing what we do at a high level, whether we have success or adversity early you need to operate with a neutral mindset and do your job over and over and over again knowing full well that ultimately it comes down to capturing momentum in a football game.  To me, that’s what we have done to this point but we are going to have a great challenge as we open up conference play this week.

– On the health of the Jaguar offensive line
“I think we are trending in the right direction, I’m very optimistic.  I think [Antawn] ‘Tank’ Lewis will be in a good position coming back, we feel very optimistic about Trey Simpson.  Some of the other guys whose bodies have been banged up, we practiced pretty hard in the bye week yet at the same time we did a good job of giving them a 72-hour window; from Sunday. Monday and all day Tuesday, we didn’t get out on a field and practice.  We practiced on Wednesday and Thursday and got after it, I thought it was important on the back end of the week to keep that same momentum of doing something on Saturday so we had a good, hard practice as well but our players seem to be pretty fresh right now.”

Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite
– On what he wanted to accomplish in practice last week:
“We spent a lot of time working on ourselves, in terms of playing against our own schemes — a lot of fundamental work at all positions. And take a chance to go back and look at yourself through three games and see where you have deficiencies and focus on those. There were a lot of areas we hit on during the off week.”

– On improvements to make from last game to this week:
“Overall execution – I think the biggest thing was the turnovers that put us behind early in the game. We had the ball six times in the first half, and in two of them [possessions] we turned the ball over. That, without a doubt, is the most obvious main priority — securing the football. We have to do a better job of that.”

– On the Louisiana defense:
“They have a great program. Billy Napier has done an outstanding job of building the program and culture. They have, over time, just progressively added more and more quality players. But you see a unit, specifically defensively, that shows up in the right place at the right time. Very seldom are there any busts. They have quality players at all positions, and very disciplined technique.”

– On quarterback Jake Bentley through three games:
“It’s just constant improvement. It’s on to the next play and game. There are several things, not one thing, that we can all work on, coaches and players alike.”

Defensive coordinator Corey Batoon
– On Louisiana: 
“We have to match their physicality, they have a veteran group up front. Their five 0 linemen have been somewhere in the 27 to 30-game starting range. They’ve played together for a long time and work as a unit. They had some great [running] backs in years past and this group has replaced them, they haven’t missed a beat. Physicality is going to be huge for us.”

– On Louisiana’s quarterback: 
“He’s very efficient, when they ask him to extend plays he’s athletic enough to do that, he can hurt you with his legs and he does a great job of keeping his eyes down the field. He really hurt Georgia Southern the other night with some explosive passes. The guy has played a ton of snaps for them and won a lot of games, he’s a very good player.”

– On stopping the Ragin’ Cajuns’ rushing attack: 
“I think the guys have a pretty good understanding of where their fits are. I think the physicality at the point of attack has been something we’ve talked about since spring. The defensive line and linebackers have played the game they needed to play and have been physical up front, beating blocks and getting after some running backs, but we’re going to have our hands full this week with this group coming in.”

Sophomore DL Charles Coleman III
– On the off week: 
“I feel like we did extremely good. They gave us a few off days to kind of get our bodies back and our feet back under us. But overall, we had a good off week.”

– On Louisiana’s offense: 
“Their biggest challenge? The quarterback, containing the quarterback, we have to get him uncomfortable. And we need to worry about the run game. We just have to take care of our responsibilities.”

– On the team’s confidence: 
“We have more of a team bond. We don’t just interact with each other in the fieldhouse or on the field, we do activities outside of football to bring in more team chemistry than we have had previously.”

– On the attention on this game: 
“We are just here to play football. Just like Coach Wommack says every day, ‘just work.'”

Sophomore RB Bryan Hill
– On his effort against Alcorn State:
“Terrion [Avery] went down with a shoulder injury, and he was feeling it all week. I had my mind prepared just in case anything happened and he went down, I would just have to be ready. When it happened I was ready, and did what I’ve been training for. I just did what I prepared for and it worked out. I’m ready to build on that.”

– On the team’s mindset going into this week:
“It’s a pretty tough defense. They don’t do a lot of things to hurt themselves; they are really sound and are going to be in the right positions all the time. But it’s not about them, it’s about what we do. As long as we do what we’re coached to do and do what we’re supposed to do, we should be fine.”

– On playing for his father as his position coach:
“In high school he was the defensive coordinator my sophomore and junior years, so we didn’t really interact that much. He became head coach my senior year and we started interacting a little more, but he was still a defensive coach. He really didn’t have to coach me that much because he let the offensive coaches handle it. I was pretty mature as a high schooler, so he didn’t have to stay on me that much. But now as my position coach, I’m with him every day in the meetings and we both leave the house in the mornings at the same time. It’s been different now that he is my position coach, but I’m used to him coaching me so much so it’s not that hard.”

– On the running game:
“I feel like we’re getting better as the season goes on and we’re seeing stuff better. Things are just opening up more and we’re trusting our blocks more. We just know when we run to the spot that the hole is going to be there, and we just hit it.”

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