JAGUAR FOOTBALL RECAPS APP STATE; PREVIEWS TENNESSEE

MOBILE, Ala. – University of South Alabama football head coach Kane Wommack, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, defensive coordinator Corey Batoon, along with quarterback Desmond Trotter and inside linebacker A.J. DeShazor met with the media Monday to recap the Appalachian State game and preview Saturday’s game at Tennessee.

Head coach Kane Wommack
– On Anterrious Gray:
“Obviously, I’m very disappointed in the actions that took place during the [App State] game.  Anterrious is a young man who does things right on and off the field.  Certainly, we never condone a punch, but we’ve spoken to Anterrious about that situation and in that moment, you’re obviously taking matters out of your hands and putting them into the officials’ [hands].  At the same time, we completely back our player and his response to the situation he was put into; being spat in the face with some racially-charged comments on top of it was completely unacceptable.  He was viscerally upset, as he should be.  The game of football is challenging enough on its own, the physical and mental intensity that we ask our players to operate at such a high level on game day is such that anything relating to race or being disrespected to the level of being spat at in the face is completely unacceptable.  I know Shawn Clark and some members of their administration, I think very highly of their administration and the way they do things, I think they are looking into it and will handle things accordingly.  We are all on the same page about how we should operate in the Sun Belt [Conference], and that certainly is an inexcusable action.  I have been on the phone with Shawn Clark — who I have a tremendous amount of respect for — and their administration is aware of the situation and are looking into it further.  The most important thing for us is I want Anterrious to know that he has the backing of his teammates and coaches, and also that we want to make sure that actions like that do not go unnoticed and that people are held accountable for things that have no place in the game of football and are incredibly disrespectful.”

– On the team’s offensive line:
“We got James Jackson a number of reps in the game — it was very limited — just to see how he did and we got very positive feedback from him in terms of how he was moving around so I expect him to play more this week, which is great.  Kent Foster is a guy who is truly hurting, he hurts every day in practice, he’s banged up and he refuses to give in and plays his tail off.  He’s just healthy enough that we feel like he’s able to go out there and play so we give him the ‘go’ sign, but a lot of it is just him being able to overcome pain; that’s exactly what he does every single day.  We have a number of guys like that on the offensive line, Trey Simpson has been banged up, we’re still not going to have Hadon Merchant — we are thin.  Reggie Smith, who was on our scout team two weeks ago, came in and played against App State this weekend and did a really nice job.  It is a challenge, but it’s something that our guys have done a really good job of working through.”

– On Tennessee:
“Tennessee does a tremendous job, they use the tempo of their offense and the amount of plays that they can produce as their combination for winning.  They play the war of attrition, not necessarily in the ground-and-pound attack but in the amount of plays that they force your defense to play overall and also the amount of plays and how fast they ask you to be able to defend them.  I’ve gone against tempo offenses in a lot of different leagues, but I would say probably Tennessee is the fastest I’ve ever seen in terms of their tempo.  They do a tremendous job of making sure they keep their players on the field; typically when the ball goes into their sideline you automatically get an ”Iron Cross’ situation where they back everybody off the field and then they take that player and basically push him back out on the field to make sure that all 11 have stayed on so that they can go as fast as they possibly can.  It’s really pretty impressive, they’ve really thought of everything, so we have to do a great job of maximizing our opportunities and the possessions that we get offensively and limiting the amount of reps that our players have to play defensively so that we are still fresh in the fourth quarter when it matters most.”

– On the challenge of slowing Tennessee down:
“You have to operate well on first and second down first and foremost, you’ve got to limit the amount of plays you play defensively by getting off the field and finding ways to execute on third down.  They are going to create some explosive plays, but none of those can be for touchdowns.  You look at the Kentucky game, in the first three plays of the game they had a 70-yard touchdown and a 75-yard touchdown.  Those are the situations you’ve got to limit, those explosive plays — none for touchdowns — and yet at the same time they have gotten behind the chains be it a sack, a penalty, a tackle for loss and you have to capitalize on those third-and-long scenarios to make sure that you’re getting off the field quickly as well.  It’s a fine line between creating negatives yourself and getting off the field quickly, and at the same time limiting their explosive plays.”

– On preparing to play in an SEC venue:
“I think when you’ve played so many games — this is not the very first game of the season where you naturally have a few more nerves and jitters going into it — our players have played a lot of football, they’ve seen a lot of things.  We’re banged up, we’re tired, we have guys who are pushing who have seen a lot of football so at the end of the day I think they are going to be ready to just go out and execute.  You do have to have a plan for non-verbal cadence across the board whether it be your punt unit, your field-goal unit, your offense, and that does present a different challenge when you’re going against a stadium of 100,000 people on top of the 11 players that you have to face on the field.  Those are things we have to be ready for and have a good plan for, but at the same time this will be making sure that we limit the amount of possessions and reps that our defensive players have to play.  Certainly, they have a tremendous fan base and a lot of pride and tradition, that will be a neat experience for our guy to be able to go work under.”

Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite
– On the challenge of facing Tennessee:
“It’s a great challenge and great opportunity. This is why you play college football – for an opportunity to play at a stadium and in an atmosphere like that. And they have gotten better defensively. You see where they were defensively in their first game and where they progressed throughout the season, the intensity and the way they are flying to the ball. They’re gaining confidence on that side of the ball as well.”

– On play calling:
“There are certain things you stay away from in play calling, and then there are certain things that the game just dictates and you have to bite the bullet, and you rely on your players. Everybody has what we call limibilities – you have limitations but you have abilities as well, and we have to know those as players regardless.”

– On positives and negatives at App State:
“Turning the ball over – opportunities in the red zone. When you look at App and the way teams have beat them there, it’s usually not a blowout or high-scoring affair; it’s a defensive, run game that is a three- or four-point deal. When you get opportunities in the red zone you have to cash in on them. We turn it over (on downs) and don’t convert on a 4th-and-1, we get hit and throw an interception that gets returned 100 yards for a touchdown, another opportunity just before the half for a field goal and an opportunity in the red area where we went four downs and out. You have to put pressure on the other team at some point, and we weren’t scoring and finishing drives. And that’s the most frustrating thing – you create many opportunities, but you have to cash in on them against a good team like that.”

Defensive coordinator Corey Batoon
– On how good Tennessee’s offense is using tempo: 
“They do a really good job cranking out plays; over the last couple games they’re hitting around 90, which is a lot obviously with the amount of points being scored on both sides of the ball. Tempo is a big thing that we will have to get ready for. It’s about getting aligned, getting your eyes right playing at that speed which is uncomfortable for most defenses. We’ll have our work cut out for us in terms of practice and being able to simulate that. We did it a little bit today with our scout team. A lot of it is just getting them [the scout team] used to it, getting them lined up and them being able to communicate at that quick of a pace.”

– On how you call defense plays against a tempo offense: 
“You still operate the same way that you normally do. It’s the same mechanics in regards to getting yourself lined up, getting yourself back to the hash, getting the call and communicating it, but it gets sped up a lot. The beauty of that is that you don’t see as many formations on the other end of it also. The adjustment isn’t as much. There isn’t as much motion, not as many formations that you’re trying to see, because they’re trying to go fast also. It’s a challenge on both sides, but this is what Tennessee does for a living and how they operate. They’re very comfortable doing those things.”

– On how he’s seen Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker improve: 
“He’s a very good player. I had an opportunity to see him live last year when he was at Virginia Tech and I was at Liberty. He’s a big, strong-armed kid, who is very dynamic in the run game. He’s a very physical runner. He’s playing very well for them right now. He’s seeing the field the way they need him to see it and he’s making some really good throws.”

– On what he feels has led to fourth-down struggles as of late: 
“Fourth-and-one, and-two is hard to stop. Creating better situations in regards to the distance is important. Anytime its [fourth-and] one and two, t’s a huge advantage for the offensive side. Keeping ourselves out of third-and-short and obviously fourth-and-short [situations is key]. Two of those types of situations this past week [against App State] were in the tight red, so when you get an opportunity and force them to use four plays inside the 10, and you’re able to get a stop, those are seven points coming off the board. Those are huge gambles on the offensive end and [App State] was good and got two scores out of those. Those are opportunities for us to get points off the board and steal points, and we didn’t win those critical downs last week.”

Sophomore QB Desmond Trotter
– On Tennessee: 
“Of course, it is going to be a challenge. They’re [Tennessee] an SEC team, but we’re going to embrace the challenge. It’s an opportunity for us and some of our guys to get exposure against one of the top programs. We just want to go out there and be able to challenge them, execute and do what we do.”

– On the missed red zone opportunities in the App State game: 
“Just being able to execute [on] those third and fourth downs we had, we got to get points. Being in the red zone and coming out of there without any points hurt our defense and it showed on the scoreboard.” 

– On South’s offense: 
“We’ve got a bunch of explosive guys on the offensive side of the ball. Being able to get them the ball to be able to produce for our team is going to be huge this weekend.”

– On the two-minute drill at the end of the first half:
“It gave me a lot of confidence. I went out there and knew I had to get that one first down, every quarter back knows that in the two-minute drill, just get that one first down and get it rolling. Once I got it, I knew it was time to get points. We were trying to get points before the half knowing that we were going to get the ball coming out of halftime.”

– On South’s offensive tactics: 
 “Our coaches believe in us. They’re always going to trust in us to go out there and be able to produce. Us going for it on fourth down, it builds confidence in myself and the offense, and I’m glad Coach Wommack is able to believe in us to get the first down for the team.”

Junior ILB A.J. DeShazor
– On Tennessee: 
“We know going into it [the game], the environment is going to be loud and chaotic. [Tennessee is a] tempo team, we know going into it we have to play fast and stick to our keys that we’ve been working, but making sure we crisp them up this week of practice – playing fast, getting to the ball and playing physical.
“Coach [Kane Wommack has] been harping on that. This is probably the quickest offense in the country right now. Going into it we’re going to prepare as best we can on defense and make sure we limit those big plays, their explosive offense and getting them in three-and-out situations which will help our offense control the game.” 

– On the trouble with fourth-down situations the last two weeks: 
“We have what we’re going into game week drawn up and we practice goal-line red-zone situations and it’s making sure we’re aligned right and guys are doing their keys, reading their [assignments] and sometimes the offense just gets you on those fourth downs scheme-wise. We just have to execute better defensively on those fourth downs and know that teams like App State and probably Tennessee are going to go four down and try to score instead of kicking a field goal. We have to help our offense by stopping them.”

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