ATHENS, Ohio – Fourteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the press on Monday to discuss the Bobcats' first regular season game against Howard on Saturday, Sept. 1. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Peden Stadium. Here is the complete transcript.
Head Coach Frank Solich
Weekly Press Conference Quotes
August 27- Week 1 vs. Howard
"We're excited about getting the year going. It's been a good fall camp. We got a few more guys banged up than we would have liked to have had. I don't think too many injuries that are going to keep guys out of playing this season, except for (redshirt junior wide receiver) Elijah (Ball). He has knee surgery. The open week should give us a chance to heal some of those guys up. You look at our first opponent, Howard, what I see is a team that won five out of their last six ball games, and the game they lost was by three points. They played Kent State the second game, and that was a one-touchdown win for Kent State. They beat UNLV at UNLV. So, I see a team that is coming off of a season that had a lot of enthusiasm going into their conditioning program. That will carry on into the fall camp and then the start of the season. We will be playing an energized Howard football team and one that's got a fair number of starters coming back. Offensively, of course, (sophomore quarterback Caylin) Newton, who is a very good running quarterback and is developing his throwing skills. You could see it as the year went on, and he has had a year to work on that. So, I'm sure he'll be a very good, complete quarterback. They have an offense that is a little unique. They'll put two running backs to the same side as the quarterback that's off the ball. That really allows them to do a lot of things: release two guys to the same side on pass routes if they want, give them max protection in terms of pass and blocking and give them a running game inside as well as a quick pitch outside game. They can pitch it or the quarterback will keep it, and him being a good running quarterback, they have both of those options. It can give you a bit of a wishbone effect if you want it to. It's an offense that we have had to zero in on and won't see it duplicated unless someone has just gone to it that I don't know about, but we won't see that style duplicated the rest of the year. It was a lot of work by our defensive staff to prepare for that, and we hope that we are well prepared and do a great job of stopping them from the defensive end. Defensively, they're a 3-4 kind of unit. They will blitz. They will move their people an awful lot. They got about half their defense coming back in terms of starters, so it'll be a fairly experienced defensive team. They run well. They're aggressive, so it could be a game we're in for a tough battle, and I believe that will be the case and will see how it all plays out."
On expectations about the team after camp:
"Well, things have unfolded kind of how I expected. From the defensive side of it, we have to replace two inside backers who were two great players for us. Two defensive linemen, big physical guys, with one of them having tremendous quickness. With us replacing those guys, it's not going to be easy, so we're going to have to prove ourselves in terms of stopping the run. Most teams last year got to where they get to throw the ball on us, probably for several reasons. One, because we weren't defending it very well, and, two, they weren't able to run the ball against us. So, that's an issue that's got to be straightened out. I like our personnel there, and I think our backup personnel is going to be good, but they have to develop as the season goes on to allow themselves to play at a level that you need to play at to win MAC football games. You know, the receiving core, I like what I've seen out of them. There's a lot of really good young receivers that will take a little time to fit in the system. We would like them to, and we'll be playing a couple of those guys that are true freshmen in that group. We will not be redshirting them or thinking they're going into the year only playing four games. So, it's unfolding pretty much as I expected it to. The defense was way ahead of the offense early on and the offense has caught up and is forming very well, and I thought (junior quarterback) Nathan (Rourke) and (redshirt junior quarterback) Quinton (Maxwell) both had excellent camps. Nathan showed some rust early because of not having the ability to go through spring ball because of his shoulder injury in the off shoulder. But he's been very sharp as he's gotten to the end of fall camp and this past week. I expect our kicking game to be very good. (Redshirt junior punter/kicker) Michael (Farkas) and (redshirt junior kicker) Louie (Zervos) are coming back, (senior) long snapper Jake (Hale) coming back, and return guys coming back. We have a lot of really good players that can cover on special teams, and so some of those may come up to be freshmen where you try to pick four games to utilize them in. The kicking game ought to be a very strong point for us. I'm counting on that. The one issue we addressed at camp was turnovers. We want the defense to get more. We want the offense not to give away as much. If you look at the success of the MAC conference, half of them got to the MAC Championship Game with a plus-ten turnover ratio. That's really good. So. one of our goals will be to win the turnover ratio in the MAC. We're going to have to work on it to get that done, but, if we can, then we'll be a really good football team."
On Howard contending for the conference title:
"I think it looks that way to us. When you turn it on film, it wasn't a fluke that they were as close to Kent State as they were. It's not a fluke that they won five out of six of their last ball games. It's a coaching staff that knows what they're doing. They've recruited well, and it should be an excellent football game. We're going to have to really play on top of our game to make sure we get this done."
On Newton being similar to Rourke:
"You know, that's probably right. I've never looked at it that way, but, now that you brought that up, there are some similarities there. Nathan is a tough guy, and I know Newton is a tough guy. He's not afraid to go into contact. He's not afraid to go for extra yards. He's intelligent in how he runs and doesn't go into contact unnecessarily. He's very smart in terms of how he utilizes his talent."
On Solich being friendly with former players:
"What I've tried to do since I've been here is to always invite former players to come back in regardless of what era they played. I tell them we're going to be here, probably going to be on the fifth floor. Just come up, and when they do come up, I introduce them to the whole staff to make them feel as comfortable as possible. We have the golf tournament, so some of those guys will show up at the golf tournament, and you get the chance to talk to some of them there. It's a very open program to former players. I think that's how it should be. It's how we operate. We love to see them come back for any occasion, and, obviously, these guys were special, and I'm proud to be part of that celebration."
On preparation for this season changing from previous ones:
"Yeah, we talked about it during this summer, and we wanted to go through summer conditioning and have everyone healthy coming out of summer conditioning, but that didn't necessarily happen. We wanted to have fall camp go so we came out all healthy, knowing we have eleven straight games following the open week. That didn't necessarily happen. But, maybe it can play out well for us, and that some of the injuries we do have now. Those guys that aren't able to play can become healthy or be on their way to being healthy when we get to our second ball game."
On deciding factors for playing time of new players against Howard:
"There's a little bit of that. Obviously, the quality of the players and where they're at right now, being mature players on the field is how we're going to look at it with the young guys. We've decided that we're going to take that week and utilize it as we would a normal week prior to a game. We're not going to be in equipment on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or so leading through that week we'll probably be in pads one day, half pads another day. It'll be a typical week leading up to the game. I think that's the best way to stay healthy and get some of those guys healthy rather than trying to make it an extra week of fall camp. Evaluation is pretty much over. We know where we're at. Now, what we're going to do is give scout team guys that are running the opponent plays at the end of every practice, we're going to have them have a ten minute creative run with plays. So, we're going to continue to develop those guys."
On developing scout team players:
"At the end of every practice, or nearly every practice, we're going to have those guys have a 10-minute creative run of our plays. So, we're going to develop those guys. We're going to watch the scout teams as they perform against our first defense and first offense, and we're going to grade them and show them some film and give them grades on their effort and their technique so that they know that we're constantly looking at them and constantly wanting them to improve and not just slide through the year knowing that their chance of getting on the field is not good. That will enable us to develop those guys as quickly as possible for the following year. It will also enable us to have guys ready so that if injuries occur, well, now you've got to dig into that a little bit. We're working on knowing who, as a two freshman or first-year player, is going to be playing the entire season for us. We've pretty much got that nailed down. We've separated the guys out that we think right now should be looked at in the terms of possibly getting them in for four games so they can keep coming. And then we'll have a group that will just be redshirts, knowing that they've got development to be gotten, whether that's physical or mental, whatever it might be in terms of knowing the offense and being able to execute the offense and defense at the level you want."
On freshmen who might see playing time right away:
"You know, I'll share those a little later in the week. It's pretty well set, but we still have some practices that we want to continue to evaluate, although the majority of the evaluation is done. We are still looking at a couple of guys."
On Rourke as starting quarterback
"He's decisive, and I thought he was good at that last year, but he really knows the offense. Now, if he's not throwing a perfect pass, it's bothersome to him. The competitiveness of him has always been there. But, he can run, and we're going to have certain situations where he does run. Where we need to get better is in our passing game. Several things can help us there: I think we can get a better percentage out of both him and Quinton than what we did this past year. I think they're showing signs of that. They've hit the check down guys a lot more rather than throwing it up there when there's a chance of the ball getting batted or making contact on the receiver right away to cause a turnover.
On team's offensive identity:
"It will unfold. I think it happens to every team every year. We have an idea. We know what we want to be about, and we know what we're capable of being. We really want to run the football, but we want to throw the football. We kind of want it all. We want to make sure we're really good at both. Some teams are more vulnerable to be run against and some teams are more vulnerable to being thrown against. I want to have the kind of football team that can take advantage of the defense.
On the construction of the Sook Center:
"The noise doesn't bother me. Coach (Tim) Albin loves it. You know, he loves all the noise we can get so the offense can get the ball snapped and not blame it on noise. That part of it has been good. It'll be great for the athletes here at this university for all sports. They've got a first-class facility. They're going to be proud to step into it. It's not going to be anywhere near like it was just in terms of it being crowded and not being able to get a lot done and in terms of noise itself. So, I think it's going to be special for all the sports in our program.
On having more office space:
"Yeah, it'll be a big help to us. We have the tenth coach, which made an office for him up there that's working well. That'll be his main office. We want all of the coaches on the same floor. But even guys like Doug and Sunny can have an office off of the fourth floor instead of that little cubicle down there that they got and operated out of that was kind of our nutrition center and their office and storage room. Now, we can do something with that area. We can remodel it a bit. We hope to open up the fourth floor; there will be offices used up there, but there will be areas where we'd like to get something done in there for our players. We have plans, and I look forward to getting those plans carried out."
On being picked to win in the MAC preseason polls:
"I think mostly the media knows what they're doing. They follow football, they follow it a ton, so it meant a lot to us that the media picked us. It means a lot to us that the coaches picked us to win the championship. Now, you've got to follow up on that and you've got to find ways to make that work. But I'm glad to see that there's talent in the program, that they think the talent is well coached, and so we'll just take it a step at a time and see where this leads us. I know that there are very few teams in the MAC that don't have a chance to win it, and that's usually the case every year. Those teams could pull up and have an unbelievable year and just step out. But almost everybody has the opportunity to win the MAC this year, and every year. It's the turnover ratio -- I keep coming back to that. I remember when Buffalo won the MAC, they recovered I don't know how many fumbles; picked three up, I believe, and ran back for touchdowns, and I may be wrong. It could have been four, could have been three, could have been two, but it's something that you don't see very often. If we control the turnover, we'll be in that group that has a chance to win the MAC.
On his 20thseason as a head coach:
"Leading up to game day, you've got to have them prepared really well. It's something that, with the experienced staff we've got, is no problem. Leading up to that, you better recruit well. And then it's a matter of making sure you've got all the bases covered as you start the season. There are those guys that are funny guys and joking all the time, and there are those coaches who are dead serious all the time. I'd like to be the same guy that approaches our team so they know what to expect. I don't want to be a "rah-rah" guy one week and then a guy the next week that kind of steps back and doesn't say a word. So, I try to be what I'm all about."
On game day rituals/routines:
"You mean like wear the same pair of socks?"
On game day worries/expectations:
"Well, I'm worrying about most things. I don't know. I know that the team is usually prepared really, really well to play. I just hope they maximize their abilities on the field. I want good, strong communication from the press box to the coaches on the field. I want the whole staff and the people on the sideline to keep encouraging the guys and be positive rather than coming from the negative. There will be negative times. I'm the kind of guy who will try to jump on a mistake right away, but there's a way of doing that. I can do better at that. I'm not going to do better with officials. I am what I am there. That's me on game day.
On his message to his players:
"Well, that's very easy. I think we've got a smart football team. We've been talking to these guys since the season ended about setting goals, understanding those goals and what it's going to take to accomplish those goals. Obviously, you can't think you're pretty good and step onto the field and get waxed pretty good and then think things are going to unfold right for you. Things don't happen that way. So, we take that. When I first got here, I bored you guys to death with the "same approach" and "one game at a time", and we will stick to that. But, we've got a goal at the end we want to reach. I like the talent on this team. We've got to have some young guys come, and I think in regards to this team, the leadership and enthusiasm is really, really good. We've just got to take this step-by-step. Step-by-step approach to preparing to win football games and then play well and see what happens."