COACH FLOOD: Good morning. Certainly an exciting day as we finally get into the true game week, as we get ready for this game. Tulane's got an excellent football team led by a football coach who not only has a SuperBowl win on his resume, but a National Championship win on his resume. And certainly Coach Johnson will have his team ready to play, and he knows what it takes to get a team ready to play.
We're excited to go down there. We feel that the Super Dome is certainly oneof the finer venues in the country to play a football game in. It's hosted National Championships and Super Bowls and many events over the years, and it'll be an excellent experience for our football team and our players to go down there and play a football game and start our 2012 season.
On a personnel note, two players on defense that will not be available for us for this game, Quanzell Lambert has a high ankle sprain, and Kenny Kirksey has a foot issue that has resurfaced that we're trying to get resolved. They're guys that were not in our two deep necessarily prior to that, but were pushing for those spots and competing for those spots. And they'll be week to week as we go forward.
With that I would open up for questions.
Q. With the weather forecast, are there any contingency plans? Are you concerned about getting down to New Orleans and even playing a game?
COACH FLOOD: Well, first of all, what I would say is that our thoughts and prayers are with the people down there. It comes at a time that is ominously close to the time of Katrina a couple of years ago. So we're hoping for the safety of everybody down there in New Orleans, first and foremost. Will Gilkison and our staff are working on those type of plans if we need -- as of right now, as of this minute we don't have any plans to change our itinerary. We have heard nothing of postponing or changing the game or anything like that. But as of today, as of this minute everything is going to go forward on schedule. But it's going to be an hour-to-hour process.
Q. Coach, you've already said with Tulane's coaching change you're limited on the amount of tape that you have on them. How much stock can you take from the last time these two teams met and that game?
COACH FLOOD: Very little. Most of the players have changed. The schemes certainly have changed, ours and theirs. So I don't know that that really plays into it very much.
I do know this: I know we played them two years ago and lost the game by three points, and another team in our conference played them last year and won the game by three points. So if you just look at the recent history of how tough they've played Big East teams, it's significant. They're going to do a good job; their players will be ready to play. We know it'll be a challenge to go down there and win.
Q. How difficult is to game plan against a team; you know they're running a pro-style offense. You have a new coach; he was a wide receivers coach. How difficult is to game plan for their offense?
COACH FLOOD: It's difficult. It's a unique challenge, the first week playing against a team with a new coaching staff, and certainly not all thecoaches came from the same place as well. We probably have a more unique challenge than they do. I've publicly stated that our systems are in place, and anybody who saw us play last year has an idea of what we'll looklike.
For us, we certainly have thought on what we think they'll do, but there's no guarantees. We don't have any film of them doing it. So until we get out there and play, we're going to have to be ready for just about anything. And that's a unique challenge in the first game playing against a new staff.
Q. Coach, a couple of thoughts on this being your first game as the head coach for Rutgers and for yourself. When you look at going into this game, forget all the logistics of what might happen with the hurricane and all that kind of stuff, is it good for you that you can have this game on the road and be kind of away from the distractions of family and home and friends and everything and just get to a football game on the road?
COACH FLOOD: I don't think of it that way. I try not to worry too much about the things that I don't control. Schedule is one of them. Had this game been at home, we would have been really excited to be home. We certainly love to play in High Point Solution Stadium. We'd like to play every game there, if we could, but they don't allow us to do that. Being on the road all that means is we have to have an itinerary that accounts for being on the road. And we have all those set up and they're in place.
There will never be another first game for me, so that's certainly exciting on a personal level. But the most important thing is that we go down there and we do our job and hopefully play to our abilities and if we do, then we'll have an opportunity to have a successful trip.
Q. And the second thing, seems like a lot of head coaches when they are a head coach for the first time, it's maybe at alower level than this, it's maybe a little bit younger. Your thoughts on maybe making the debut at a later age -- not calling you old, but to make it at a later age where you've got maybe more experience under your belt than a typical first-time head coach might have and also at a higher level?
COACH FLOOD: I think the experience that I've had that allows me to have a little bit more ease in this position for the first time at 41. So hopefully not that old. But I had the opportunity to sit next to Greg Schiano for seven years, four of those years as the assistant head coach and certainly be involved in a lot of the conversations that went on to put these types of things together. So those things have served me well to this point, and I will certainly lean on those experiences heavily as I go forward.
Q. Coach, I see you have three freshmen on the depth chart. Could you just talk about their development over the summer?
COACH FLOOD: Sure. Kyle Federico has been here since January, has done an excellent job and has a calmness about him that you would want in somebody that's going to beyour starting place kicker. So we're excited about what he can do for our team the next four years.
Darius has made a nice transition into college football. He certainly came here with a lot of fanfare, but you would never know that by the way he practices. He goes to work every day, puts his equipment on and he's as hard a working guy as we have out there on the practice field and his ears are wide open to everything Coach Panagos has to say, and he's done a great job of fitting into his role in our defense.
And Steven Longa is in kind of a backup or reserve role and trying to find his place on special teams and isgetting a little bit better each day. So hopefully as we go through the season, if need be, he'll be somebody that can have a bigger role on special teams and ultimately fill in or plug into a spot in that linebacker rotation if we need him to.
Q. How big a void is it for them defensively to try (indiscernible)?
COACH FLOOD: He has, and he was the preseason conference Player of the Year for them, and I would say that that's a significant loss on their part.
And the circumstances under which they lost him are not something that we need to talk about here, but I think any time you lose a player of that magnitude -- you can only imagine what that would do to our defense if we lost a player of the magnitude of Khaseem Greene. It's certainly not something you ever want to go through as a coach.
Q. Kyle, you have I guess Paul listed as a starter at tight end and Andre listed as a starter at right guard. What do you see in each of them and kind of separating them?
COACH FLOOD: Really it's consistency, and with Paul at tight end DC is going to play a significant amount of time for us, but we felt that Paul's body of work earned him that job, so for this week Paul Carrezola is our tight end.
And the same thing with Andre. I would expect that Taj Alexander is going toplay a significant amount of time in the game. Now, offensive line is not a rotation position per se and not one that I would like to make a rotation position if I didn't have to. But I do think with Taj being the sixth man on that offensive line, a sprained ankle in a number of different spots could get him in the game, and I think we wanted to get him some experience as we go forward early in the year so that he's ready to do that.
Q. The fact that they allowed 37 rushing touchdowns last year, is that something you almost have to test until they prove that they've improved in that area?
COACH FLOOD: I think it's more about our desire to run the football. That would be more important to me than that. And certainly as we examine an opponent we always want to look for the strengths and weaknesses we're going to have to deal with in any particular game.
But we have a desire to run the football, and I really felt the last quarter of the season we made some improvements in doing that. I felt like in the spring we were able to make some improvements, although not as many as I had hoped. And now in preseason I am very comfortable with where we're at in the running game. I'm pleased with the improvements we've made, and even going into the last scrimmage, more the cleanness of the play, which is more important to me than anything, that was encouraging. So I think as we get started in the season, running the football for us is a priority, and we're going to try to do that in every game we play.
Q. What concerns you most about Tulane's offense? Experienced quarterback maybe?
COACH FLOOD: Certainly an experienced quarterback and two receivers, number 80 and No. 9 that come back with significant statistics, and then a tailback who comes back with over 900 yards rushing. So I think they've got weapons in the air. They've got a weapon at tailback, and they've got a head football coach who was part of one of the more prolific offenses in NFL history, so he'll know how to use those weapons.
Q. What do you remember of their quarterback from the last game here? 2010. He was a lot younger obviously.
COACH FLOOD: Sure. And again, being the offensive line coach, it wasn't a position that I was necessarily examining, but I remember as a team, a team that came here and played with a lot of energy, a team that came and played with a lot of spirit, and a team that ultimately outplayed us that day. So those are things that I remember.
Q. Kyle, Paul James, is there any update on how his ankle is doing and if he'll be able to go?
COACH FLOOD: He will not be able to go. I probably should have mentioned in the beginning, but Paul is a high ankle sprain and it's going to be what they say, I guess two to five weeks.
Q. So I guess the follow-up is will Ben Martin take over the third role or are you looking at Desmon Peoples as well? How will you handle that?
COACH FLOOD: I think Ben will be in the third spot right now, but I would leave myself the flexibility to amend that as we go through the week.
Q. Coach, it's not every day a team gets to play in an environment and location like the Super Dome. What effect, if any, do you think that's going to have on the team?
COACH FLOOD: We've played in a lot of venues over the years. I think our players have experience doing that. Certainly for the younger players, you know, we'll get them out there early in pregame so they can see it and they can take it all in a little bit, but I think the guys that have played in our program, we've played out at Heinz Field. We've played down in Tampa where the Bucks play. So we've been in NFL venues before. Played in Yankee Stadium. I don't think there will be any effect on the older players, but I do think for the true freshmen who haven't been in that environment, you want to get them out there early in pregame, let them lookaround a little bit so they get it out of their system.
Q. Do you anticipate Jeremy doing all three phases?
COACH FLOOD: I do.
Q. How much defensively because that's one thing that obviously no one's really seen.
COACH FLOOD: He'll be a part of our sub packages, so that'll be dictated a little bit by the down and distance situations that come up in the game.
Q. What's with Merrell and Snyder? Both healthy? Both going to play?
COACH FLOOD: They're both healthy. We expect both of them to play.
Q. If the weather wasn't what it is now, would you like to go indoors, because you're going to be playing indoors or does that not matter at all?
COACH FLOOD: I think had we not done it in preseason, I probably would. I think we've been in there enough because of the rain in preseason that I feel comfortable where we are. Now, I did notice it was raining today, so we may be in there today for weather purposes, but other than that, I think we've done it enough.
Q. Kyle, regarding Michael Larrow, it's been reported there was an incident that took place July 28th. Was that why he was running with the third team throughout the summer?
COACH FLOOD: You know, like I said Friday night, I'm not really going to comment further on that situation, but what I would say is any time there's an injury issue or something that would keep a player from being in a game, you always have to take that into account as you do your depth chart to make sure the guys that are going to play are going to get the right reps.
Q. Coach, how close to full is Waters? Is he 100 percent?
COACH FLOOD: He'll be 100 percent on Saturday.
Q. Coach, working all year (indiscernible), what are your thoughts in the defense line's overall depth?
COACH FLOOD: I think -- to answer the broader question, I think that's college football. Every coach deals with that at different positions every year. Your team is different every year in college football. You know, so I'm excited about the depth or the younger players, the depth that they're going to provide for us, guys like Darius Hamilton, guys like Al Page. I'm excited about what they'll be able to bring to us.
Q. From your experience as a quarterback, year 2, Gary's had a lot of starts under his belt, has played a lot. What kind of leap do you expect him to make this season?
COACH FLOOD: I don't put any specific numbers or expectation level on Gary. I want Gary to go out there, and I know he'll prepare. I know he'll be ready to go. I want him to do the things we always talk about. I want him to protect the football. I want him to complete the football, and I want him to make sure he's in charge at all times out there on the field.
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