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Courtesy: GoBearkats.com
Football coaches look ahead to 2011 season
Courtesy: GoBearkats.com
Release: 07/28/2011
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The Southland Conference's eight head football coaches gathered in Lake Charles, La., to talk to media about the upcoming 2011 football season.

In alphabetical order, following are quotes about the outlook for each team from their respective head football coach:

CENTRAL ARKANSAS
Head Coach Clint Conque

 "We always have a lot of expectations here at UCA, and this year is nothing new. We have good experience returning at a lot of positions. And the biggest thing is, we have a proven, experienced quarterback in senior Nathan Dick. We all know that this is a quarterback-driven league and the best teams usually have a returning guy at that position.

"But we have good experience, good depth and good athletes at a lot of positions. We expect to challenge for a conference championship, which we expect to do every year."

 "We open at home on a Thursday night, which is always a big game for our students and fans. Then we go on the road to Louisiana Tech, on the road to Sam Houston State to begin conference, then to another FBS school in Arkansas State. That in-state game has drawn a huge amount of attention around the state among our fans and boosters.

LAMAR
Head Coach Ray Woodard

"This is a great football league. We are more familiar with the conference teams this year after facing four of them last year, but they will be much more familiar with us and we're going to have to be even better this year to compete against them.

"We were 4-2 at home (last season) playing in front of the large crowds.

Our fans really travelled well and came out to support us, and I'm hoping that excitement grows and the stadium can get even more hostile.

"Of course, we're tremendously excited about our first season back competing for a Southland title, but, hopefully, it won't be like that (in reference to the eighth-place predictions) when the season is over.

"Having played four of our first five games against schools from the conference last season (SFA and Sam Houston State were the others) gave us a good idea of what we're getting into this year."

McNEESE STATE
Head Coach Matt Viator

 "SFA is the obvious choice for me since they are the defending champions. Our players and coaches have to understand that it (pre season poll) doesn't mean anything. High expectations are good but it's a preseason poll. You do want to set the bar high.

"Cody Stroud comes in as our No. 1 quarterback. Riley Dodge has played in a lot of games and in competitive situations. We also expect to have Will Briscoe in the mix. He was able to take part in spring practice but without contact."

 "I like our defense. Desmund Lighten will be a difference maker for us on the defensive line."

 "I think that our conference as a whole is going to be pretty good. I think that the teams in the conference will run the ball better and will also have better defenses."

NORTHWESTERN STATE
Head Coach Bradley Dale Peveto

"I feel like we've come a long way. My first year was a great building block for us. I was proud of our first year. We don't hide behind it. We did a lot of good things and lost a lot of close football games.

"This past season, I thought we took a big step and played for the conference championship the last week. We went into the spring and felt like there were three things we have to improve on. One is our turnover ratio. Our turnover ratio was minus 19 our first year, minus 15 our second year. When your turnover ratio is that bad, you're not going to win many football games, period. And the fact that we won five games with a turnover ratio of minus 15 is pretty incredible to be honest with you.

"Secondly, we felt like had to take our run game to the next level. We've got to be able to run the football game-in and game-out. And then thirdly, eliminate foolish penalties. We have shot ourselves in the foot with foolish penalties, and we have worked hard on that.Those were the three areas that we felt like we had to lock in and focus on and make improvements going into the 2011 season."

SAM HOUSTON STATE
Head Coach Willie Fritz

 "Last year, we had more newcomers in preseason camp than veterans. With our youth, we were a ball control team, trying to use up as much clock as we could offensively. We were conservative and did a good job of not hurting ourselves with turnovers. But I've told the players this season that one-play touchdown drives are fine. We need to make more plays down the field, catching the ball and getting more yards after the catch.

"Defensively we are a blitzing, risk-taking team. We need to come up with more sacks and takeaways. If we can make more big plays on both sides of the both, the sky is the limit for this team.

"We have some excellent leadership with fine senior players like our center Travis Watson and defensive lineman Eddie Decambre who were here with us at media day today. But, we're still a young team with a lot of work to do.

"This is such a competitive league top to bottom so we will have to be ready to play every game."

SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA
Head Coach Mike Lucas

 "We are very excited for the open of camp next Tuesday. We have a lot of new faces and we're looking for them to make an immediate impact for us.

We play three of our first four games on the road, including two games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents in Tulane and Southern Miss.

So it's vital for us to come together quickly and be ready to go on Sept. 3."

 "In Simmie Yarborough, Brandon Collins and Kory Theodore we have a very talented, experienced group of receivers. Simmie has matured a great deal during his time here and we expect him to be able to be an 80 to 100 catch guy this season. Brandon and Kory are both extremely difficult to match up with one on one. We have some young, talented guys behind them, so we're excited about the production that group can have."

 "The game is won in the trenches and we really expect our defensive line to be a strength for us. Devin Boutwell and Tramaine Lucas were both banged up last year and we should be much better inside with them back at full health, along with several key additions. Devan Walker comes back after a very productive sophomore season and we expect him to team with junior college transfers Frank Bryant and Mairo Stovall to give us a group that can really get after the quarterback. We have brought in some talented athletes on defense, but our challenge as a coaching staff is molding them into a cohesive unit."

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
Head Coach J.C. Harper

On starting the season with a new quarterback for the first time since 2007 "It's obvious that we are going to have a new quarterback, but we are running the same system and we return a lot of starters offensively. We return All-America receivers like Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson, and a veteran offensive line led by preseason All-America George Bias. It is the same story on defensive as we have standouts like Josh Aubrey and Ben Wells in the secondary, Devin Ducote and Derrick Choice at linebacker. We are not worried about the quarterback position."

On the quick turnaround from an 0-11 season to back-to-back conference titles "I would be lying if I said that I knew we would have this kind of success so soon after my first season (0-11 in 2007), but the success of our program doesn't start with me, but our administration. Led by our President Dr. Baker Pattillo, our Director of Athletics Robert Hill and our Board of Regents, they have given me the opportunity to turn things around and do what I love the most and that is coach players. I am very grateful for that opportunity. I have been blessed with great coaches, great players, and I'm surrounded by an athletics department that does everything it can behind the scenes so that we can be successful on the field."

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