University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football head coach Russ Huesman, defensive lineman Zack Rayl and offensive lineman Brandon Morgan met the media on Tuesday afternoon and discussed the Mocs' upcoming game against Central Michigan.
Select quotes from Tuesday’s lunch can be found below. For full audio, check out the MocsVision video link.
Kickoff for Thursday’s matchup in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., is set for 7 p.m. Live audio is available on The Beat 96.1 FM and online through MocsVision. The game will also broadcast live on ESPN3.
Head Coach Russ Huesman
Thoughts going into the first week.
“It’s great to be out of camp and into game week. I know our guys are excited about that. As coaches, you never think you’re totally prepared but I think our players feel good about where they are. They’re excited to play and hit somebody who isn’t on the same team. It has been a good camp and we have stayed relatively healthy. We’re excited to go.”
On nerves going into the first game.
“Surprises happen all the time, but you have to be prepared. That’s probably why I am always nervous all the way up until game time because there’s just so much unknown - especially during the first game of the year. I think the first game of the year is the toughest game to play because you don’t know what kind of new wrinkles they may have. You don’t know about some of the young kids that didn’t play the year before, but it’s the same way on their part, too, with changes and tweaks that we do. I am sure there are nerves throughout the country on both sides of the ball because of the unknown.”
How scheduling Central Michigan came about.
“I think the first thing was that we had four home games we lost this year because of conference games and Georgia State. Getting VMI and Mercer secured two games. We got the Jacksonville State series back, and we had to fill one more. We either had the choice to pay a Division II team to come play us or go to Central Michigan when they called us asking us to play. They give us a really nice guarantee, and we gave it some thought and decided to go to Mt. Pleasant. It makes the schedule a lot tougher, but I am hoping that makes us more confident going into the second week.”
How the difference in temps may aid cramping issues for the team.
“I don’t think cramping in this opener will be an issue for our guys. A lot of cramps are brought on by hot weather in the early weeks of the season, but I looked at the weather and that shouldn’t be much of a problem. The high up there on Thursday is going to be 75 degrees. It may be in the high 60’s by game time.”
Thoughts on Central Michigan’s talent level.
“Central Michigan and Tennessee are the two toughest teams on our schedule. We know that going in and I don’t think anyone doubts that. I think we are playing an excellent FBS program. They’re going to have more talent on the schedule more than anyone else we’ll play except maybe Tennessee. I think Tennessee is a very talented team, and I think our guys are excited to play a good team like this. They know the challenge that is ahead of them. We are going to have to take advantage of our speed to compete with their size. We are going to have to find ways to get open gaps for our linebackers to make plays, and I think we have enough speed in the secondary to compete with their receivers.”
Zack Rayl, senior, defensive lineman
Thoughts on Central Michigan’s size.
“Central Michigan has some big guys. They are a great FBS program. They are big across the board, but we have depth on the defensive line so that helps us out a lot. We have to counter their size with our speed. We have to get around them.”
On what the line needs to do during the game.
“We know they are going to run the ball. They are going to pound the line and we have to find a way to stop it. We know they are big, but once you get into the game you forget about their size. Your adrenaline is going, and after that first pop, you forget about it and it’s just another game. We just have to run and react. They also have a very talented receiver and we know it’ll be a challenge. It’s going to be the defensive line’s job to put pressure on the quarterback.”
On returning to the game after missing 2013 with an injury.
“I have chill bumps just thinking about it. Just to get back out there, playing with your brothers, is going to be huge. It’s like playing your first game at the high school level or college level. I am really anxious and nervous, but once I have that first play out of the way I’ll be good to go.”
Brandon Morgan, junior, offensive lineman
On what he knows about Central Michigan.
“Their defensive line is big and they’re quick. We have to know our assignments and get our techniques right. If we do that, we should be alright.”
Thoughts on playing Central Michigan.
“Football is football. You can’t think about them being an FBS team. Once the game begins, it’s all the same. We just have to go out there and play football. I know what my assignments are and the other guys know their assignments are.”
On playing in the Central Michigan atmosphere and helping the younger linemen.
“It’s neat going to play in Mt. Pleasant. I think it’s a unique experience. We have a couple of young guys on the line in Hunter Townson and Jacob Revis, and I don’t think this is going to faze them. I know I have to be a leader for them and help them out. It’s still sort of a new position for me, but we all have to keep a level head and just complete our assignments.”