Q. What are your impressions of your first Southeast team heading into the season opener?
A. They're still learning how to adjust to our style of everything, and we're adjusting to what they're doing. It's still a work in progress. A lot more questions will get answered once we start playing games.
Q. Things can change, but where do you think the team's strengths and weaknesses will lie this season?
A. We have a fair amount of running backs who can all do different things. Hopefully we'll be solid there. We have a nice mix of receivers, a couple of pretty good defensive ends [Kyle Hunt and Edgar Jones], a good middle linebacker [Seth Harrell]. Hopefully, our punter [All-American David Simonhoff] will maintain field position for us. That can be a big weapon.
The concerns, those are things we'll find out. Sometimes a strength becomes a concern and the other way around. But there is not much experience overall in the secondary. We'll have to play a couple of young linebackers. And special teams are always a concern.
Q. Does it matter to you that Southeast was picked to finish last in the OVC, based on voting by the league's head coaching and sports information directors?
A. Not at all. I just want to see how we finish. It doesn't hurt my feelings or anything. But I don't know that everybody who voted has all the information to make those picks. There are four new coaches, so you don't really know what to expect from those teams.
Q. Do you believe that snub can be used as motivation for your team, or do you not believe in those kinds of tactics?
A. No. We just go play.
Q. Do you expect to contend for an upper-division finish in the OVC in your first year, and perhaps even battle for the championship?
A. Oh yeah, no question about it. That's realistic. We have enough seniors, if they buy into what we're trying to do, we can win the championship. We have enough people to do it. Now we'll see if they want it, or it's just lip service.
Q. How has your reception been from the public since you've been in Cape Girardeau?
A. It seems good. People are real friendly. There's a lot of excitement. They genuinely seem interested in what we're going to do.
Q. How much have you shaped your coaching philosophy from what you learned under legendary Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, both as a player and an assistant coach for 10 years?
A. I learned a lot. That's my true foundation, between playing and coaching there. Watching the organization of it, the treatment of the players, what's important. But it wasn't just him. Some of the coaches on the staff. I was on a great staff.
Q. How much of an advantage do you feel you have in this job having already been a college head coach, for eight years at Division I-A New Mexico State?
A. It helps. I can have some things to relate to. You'd be surprised. You think differently as a head coach than you do as an assistant. You can anticipate things happening. I've done it before. Experience is experience. It helps to have it.
Q. How much of a difference is there between coaching in Division I-A and Division I-AA, in talent and other things.
A. There are some different issues. Budgetary issues factor in. For instance, the Friday before home games, we want to house the whole team together. That's pretty well done everywhere in Division I-A, maybe not so much in Division I-AA. There are just too many temptations for the players the night before a game, and also for bonding issues it's important. That's not in the budget. We're going to try and pull it off, even if we're all in sleeping bags.
Talent wise, there are kids here who could play anywhere in the country. There's just not the volume of those players.
Q. Without getting into wins and losses, how will you gauge whether this season was successful or not?
A. A lot of people don't realize this about Tom Osborne, but his whole premise for us was never simply to win. He wanted us to play at a certain level and coach at a certain level, then the wins take care of themselves.
If I see this team week in and week out come to practice, put in a good day's work, prepare like they're supposed to prepare, show up on game day and lay it all on the line in everything they do, it will be a successful year. That being said, we want to win the conference. We have the people to do it.