Go Eagles!
Todd Monken Weekly Press Conference

Nov. 11, 2013

Opening statement...
"We got Louisiana Tech out of the way yesterday and now we're onto Florida Atlantic, who a couple of weeks ago went through some unfortunate circumstances. I thought, as a team and a group of coaches, they did a good job of moving forward. You look at the film (of a 34-17 win over Tulane), tough first half for them but they really dominated the game after that with four straight turnovers. Offensively, they did a good job against Tulane, who is really good on defense. Their coaches and players have done a great job of moving on. They've got a really good football team, well coached. They do a really nice job on offense. Coach (Brian) Wright has now taken over as head coach. They do some good things and we'll have our work cut out for us this week."

Asked to assess Florida Atlantic defense...
"They've got really good players and I think they're really well coached. Their guys up front play well and they play hard. They make it hard to run the ball. They're not a blitzing team per se, they don't really challenge you that way as often, but they challenge you in terms of their run support and challenge you outside with their match concepts. I think they do it really well. They aren't really complicated, they just do it really well. They're well coached and their players play hard. They've had some tough games early and the toughest part of their schedule is out of the way. Again, we'll have our work cut out for us."

Asked if earlier kickoff versus Florida Atlantic (11:30 a.m.) poses additional challenges...
"I don't know. I wish I could figure out which one would create a challenge that would be more difficult for us. Ultimately, we've got to get ourselves up in the morning, get ourselves going and find a way to have a quick start, which we have not had. That's basically what we're looking for. Can we get a faster start? Maybe starting at 11:30 means a faster start, I don't know."

Asked what went wrong on a botched trick play versus Louisiana Tech that resulted in an interception...
"Obviously, we made a mistake. We didn't coach it well enough. We had the ball 10-out-of-15 possessions past the 50, whether we started there or moved it past there. It was very reminiscent of the Arkansas game, many opportunities but we didn't finish very well. It was disappointing to get the turnover and other times to be inside the 50 and not be able to take advantage of that. We've got to coach it better. We didn't do a good enough job of knowing where to go with the ball. That's on us."

Asked if there was anything to be done about the team's rushing woes...
"We've got to find a way to continue to run the ball. We've got to be better at running the ball schematically. We've got to do a better job of blocking it. But then we've also got to be in the game. We've got to give ourselves the chance to run the ball more often. I promise you with Louisiana Tech, a number of the rushing yards were midway through the third and the fourth quarter, just like our other opponents. We've got to continue to try to run the ball. We've got to find a way to not put so much pressure on (freshman quarterback Nick Mullens) to make every play ... And then, if we're going to have to play pitch and catch, we're going to have to catch the son of a gun. We haven't done a very good job the last few weeks of catching the football and that's what it's all about. That's what we're going to be about here. We've got to find guys that will do that. No matter what their skill set is, we've got to find a way to create space and catch the football."

Asked if he's noticed that there hasn't been a slip in production when players have been plugged into replace injured starters...
"I think it's a fair question. I think that those guys have worked hard to get their opportunity to play and I think when given the opportunity they've done some nice things in the short term. I think that is an indicator of where we're at. Our sample size, being here the last eight months, is small but we're trying to figure out who are those guys that can play consistent football. Sometimes guys who have flashed have not played as well as we would have hoped and have made their fair share of mistakes. That's something that we've tried to work our way around. You only have what you have. As guys get injured, the most important thing is you try to put yourself in a position for what those guys can do and how they can help your team move the football."

Asked if returning home for the next two games will be a spark...
"I would hope so. This will be our 10th game and we've only played here three times so far. We played well the first two times in terms of the score, not so much in terms of efficiency. The last game here we didn't play as well as we would have liked. There are signs. There were signs this week, defensively, that we tightened down some things. The thing is when you move so many pieces around in a new system, sometimes it takes a little time for those guys to get comfortable. We've got to find a way to move the ball around and score more points and continue what we feel like we built on last week, which was not giving up big plays on defense and making the opponent move the ball consistently. In the weeks previous to that we gave up way to many explosive plays. We turned it over and we gave up explosive plays. That's a recipe to get blown out."

Asked to assess the Florida Atlantic offense...
"It all goes through (quarterback Jaquez Johnson). He's a guy from right up the road who played at East Mississippi (Community College) last year and is a powerful runner, thrower and he's a tough guy to bring down. They do a nice job of putting you in a run-pass conflict and they've got some explosive guys around the perimeter. We're going to have to do a great job of containing their run game and forcing him into passing situations and putting him in a drop-back passing game. Some teams have been able to do it. That's easier said than done ... We're just going to have to find a way to limit the explosive plays and find a way to create some turnovers."

On the development of freshman Nick Mullens as a passer and a decision maker...
"It's been better. He didn't start out the game real well and made some early mistakes. He continues to make mistakes. There was one time we had a call in and we didn't buzz the back over so we ran it the wrong way ... Every game is going to go into his memory bank to build on as a player. He is still a very young player. The problem is we are all making breakdowns on both sides of the ball. That doesn't lend itself to us having the success we'd like. That's the problem. Nick's making his mistakes, our other positions are making their fair share of mistakes and that's the struggle. That's always been the struggle in my 25 years of coaching. How do we do it better at every position? Then you will see more consistency on both sides of the ball."

Asked if he's seen Mullens expressing support to teammates who've dropped passes...
"Sure, that's his nature. His nature is to lead and be positive and think about the series that just was and what we can do better and did he see it the right way. That's just who he is. But those guys have to catch it. You can slap them on the rear end all you want and talk them through it but we have to play guys who can catch it. That's what you're supposed to do."

Asked if Mullens was less mobile versus Louisiana Tech than in other weeks and, if so, was this by design...
"I think we protected better. That was probably what it was. I thought we did a better job of protecting. Our assessment of what we were getting was better. Our attention to detail was better. Part of that was having a new center, Garrett Clark. We had Rashod (Hill) back at left tackle. He was under direst less. Does that mean there wasn't any of that? No, but I think that's why you saw less of him moving around. He wasn't beat up or not running by design, we just protected better."

Asked if current struggles have negatively impacted recruiting...
"Even with this year, 18 of the last 20 years, Southern Miss has had a winning season. We've been to 14 bowl games. We'll put that up against anybody. Are people going to pick at you? Of course, that's the here and now. They better pick at us now. They better get us now because this is a great place. Kids want to come here. Sure it's difficult. You have to fight off people who are talking about the last couple of years. That's the only thing they have. They can't speak about the tradition. They can't speak about the history of this program. There's no way they can. That's something we have to speak to, why I wanted to be the head coach here. Of course it's going to be difficult because kids are into the here and now. What do I see now? I don't remember five years ago. I get that. At the end of the day, they're either going to buy our program, buy me, or they're not. Would it be helpful if instead of 0-9 we were 9-0? No question, it would be silly of me not to say that. It's our job to sell our program, sell us and where we are headed, and show them where we've struggled with youth and where we've struggled with injuries. Our coaching staff is only going to get better. We have a great staff, so we are going to continue to get better. Do (recruits) want to be a part of that? Do they want to be a part of bringing the program back to where it has been and is going to be?"

Asked if he has placed more emphasis on either junior college or high school players in the recruiting process...
"Not particularly. Do we have holes to fill? Yes, like a lot of teams do. Ultimately, you take the best player available. If you just take a player just because he's a junior college or high school player, you're making a mistake. We have to have a big enough pool to draw from because we're going to take the full allotment. It's hard to find 25 guys that you automatically look on tape and say that's who I want. I don't care where you're at. I don't care if you're at the highest level of Division I football. It's hard to find 25 guys. Everybody's looking at the same guys. We're all looking for the same player. We've got to find what niche we're looking for, look at the positives of what a player can do, not what they can't do, and then assess what they're about. What's their core makeup? Do they like football? Are they competitive? Are they smart? My intention has always been, wherever I've coached, that I'm going to finish my career there. That's the same here. I'm not building for a year for now or two years from now. I'm building for 10-15 years and getting this program back on track."

Asked to what degree he focuses on stats and which, if any, statistical categories he looks at most...
"It's difficult to focus on statistics. It always has been. The things that matter are turnovers, explosive plays, third down conversions, touchdowns in the red zone and lost yardage plays on both sides of the ball. That's it. The rest doesn't matter. It only makes you feel better when you put up offensive yards and it doesn't matter. I've been down that road before. When you're a coordinator, it makes you feel better but the result is still the same. What matters is if you win or lose. Those five areas, those critical areas determine that ... Our motto here is you've got to recruit, develop and coach better ... Once we get them here, it's toughness, effort, discipline, no excuses, finish. That's it. Then we talk about those five areas ... and that's what we work on every day ... Some of those statistics fall in those areas, but I'm not worried about yards or some of the other things that don't matter."

Coach Arroyo

Coach Duggan

Follow SouthernMissFootball:    

10/21/2014 - Football

Golden Eagles in the NFL, Week 7

10/20/2014 - Football

Todd Monken Weekly Media Conference

10/20/2014 - Football

Acosta Named C-USA Special Teams POW

10/18/2014 - Football

Southern Miss tops North Texas 30-20