On recruiting Louisiana playoff games this week:
The way the rules state is that you can see a team once a year. And so consequently, everybody that is playing this weekend, we've already seen all the way across the state. And a good portion of those teams in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma we've already seen. As you guys know, I'm by the book. Nobody ever has to worry about that with me. We wish all the playoff teams, especially our local teams, all the luck in the world. We'd love to be out there watching. But we're not able to do that.
On the biggest need in the next recruiting class:
I think we still need to hit on our offensive line. I like our young offensive linemen, don't get me wrong. But we talked early on at the numbers at that position that we inherited. That's someplace where you really want to be able to grow your guys up and we haven't been able to do that. I want to make sure as we look down the road, and it may be more difficult as time goes on to displace some of those guys who have significant playing experience, you still don't want to be sitting around when those guys graduate over the next couple of years and you're back to square one playing with freshmen and sophomores. You need to be playing with junior and senior offensive linemen. That is fundamental if you're wanting to physically control the line of scrimmage.
As I've mentioned before, this is a very, very difficult school to get a junior college player into. We don't take a lot of transfer hours. The junior college route, once you're stuck in that, you're kind of stuck. The offensive line is something we need to continue to work on.
On recruiting other positions:
Our quarterback is in pretty good shape. Our running back position is in pretty good shape. I think that down the road, tight end is a position of need. We need more long, athletic bodies. Our defensive line, we hit that thing early and I like where we're at in the defensive line. We've got some good young players in our defensive line, even though we're losing three seniors. I like the look of that group and the way that they move around.
I really like our young linebackers in our program, although we need to maintain depth there because of the nature of what we do defensively. That's kind of a key component. We're going to take some corners in this class, but you'd like to think with Otis Peterson coming back, Vincent Eddie and Rob'Donovan Lewis, and we think there's a great young player in a player named Courtney Davis that's currently in our program that we're excited about who can really run, we've got good competition going there.
I like our young defensive backs, and I'm talking about our safeties. But we need to find some more players there.
I really like our kicker and our punter. I really like Justin Manton a lot . It's unfortunate that he got thrown in this year but I'm tremendously encouraged by his leg strength. He's got a moxie about him that I really like about him a lot, especially at that position where it requires a short memory and a tough mentality. I'm very, very pleased with our punter, Caleb Gammel.
As we mentioned before when we got him, he was like most other high school punters in that he took a little bit of time back there. You could roast marshmallows by the time the punt got off. Now he's adapted to college football, which is what you want all those freshmen to do by this point in time. Believe it or not, he's probably one of the better athletes on our football team. That allows you to have an opportunity to do a lot of things with him. He's one of the faster players on our team, believe it or not and he's got a great work ethic.
On special teams woes:
We've put up some good defensive stats and some good offensive stats. It just goes to show you how much the kicking game as a whole can impact you. You can certainly look back through just a few of the conference games where a blocked punt, a kickoff return and successful recovery of an onside attempt and we're looking at a whole different scenario. But the game comes down to those things. That's something that we've obviously got to work at and get better at. We've got to build more depth where our coverage teams can be more effective. We've got to be more effective on our punt return and punt block team. We blocked one punt and came way too close to blocking several others . It's just that one step that you need.
Obviously, we've got to kick the ball better. I think that's coming. I really believe in our specialists, but they're young right now.
On hiring a special teams coordinator:
No, because I don't think that's the issue. It hasn't been the issue in the past. What we're doing is right. It's been proven. We've had people actually come in here to talk to us about some special teams play, college coaches. I believe in what we're doing and our players believe in what we're doing. It's the execution of those things. Some of it was due to injuries, where all of a sudden you're throwing some guys out there on the field that haven't repped at those positions before.
Obviously when you're punting and kicking, you need to have that ability to have great ball placement in terms of where you're putting it. That way, you're coverage teams are good. I think we'll have a larger special teams pool to draw from, once this special teams class comes out of their redshirt year. Ray Stovall, Roland Veal, some of the guys who impacted us the year before. I think we'll be a deeper team down the road in terms of having skilled athletes who can run down the field.
The scheme wasn't the issue. It comes down to execution. Sometimes that comes down to personnel.
On the offense:
I'd really want to congratulate our offensive staff. I know that nobody else buys into it except for me in terms of understanding all the things that went on in terms of dynamics. I'm talking about the injuries and how it changes game plans, how people had to work through some things. You weren't always able to do all the things you'd like to do. It's always a lot more fun as a play caller whenever you're able to do the things you'd like to do, but it doesn't always happen.
On ULM's returning players:
Most of this team's back. We're not like Arkansas State having to replace 10 on defense. Or Lafayette having to replace nine on defense. This is still a young football team.