Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina third-year head coach Mark Speir spent time with members of the media on Tuesday morning's Southern Conference Head Coaches' Teleconference, the first of the 2014 season. Speir talked about his squad's off-season leading up to Saturday's season-opener at USF.
"We're excited to have the opportunity to go compete against a quality opponent like South Florida," said Speir to open his time on the teleconference. "We've had what I feel has been a very productive summer where most of our football team was here most of the summer. We were able to get bigger, stronger and faster. Coach Evan Barr did an outstanding job getting our guys prepared for preseason camp. I thought we had a productive preseason, just the maturing of a football team."
He added, "Our goal is to go down (to Tampa) and play well. That's what you want any time you tee it up, to have an opportunity going into the fourth quarter to win a ball game. Obviously, we are going down there with the mindset to go win a football game. And to do so, you've got to play disciplined - can't have a lot of penalties, turn the ball over, and defensively, you can't give up a lot of big plays. That comes from being a sound, well-conditioned football team. If we do that, you go into any ball game with a chance to win it and that's our plan."
Western Carolina and South Florida meet for the first time on the football gridiron in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN3. The Catamounts have faced two current members of the American Athletic Conference, facing both Cincinnati (0-1) and directional rival, East Carolina (13-17).
The Catamounts returned to the practice field on Tuesday afternoon with a 14-period session on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. The squad will again practice on Wednesday and Thursday before boarding a bus following the latter workout to start the trek to Tampa. WCU will travel to Macon, Ga., on Thursday before completing the trip to the Sunshine State on Friday ahead of Saturday's game.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Here is an excerpt from Tuesday's teleconference:
About junior starting quarterback Troy Mitchell:
"Troy's had a great preseason and a lot of that is the fact that he's been in the system for two years. His receivers aren't freshmen - they're running routes where they're supposed to be running. In this college game, secondaries are so good at disguising coverage, and as a young receiver, you've got to learn to adjust your route on the fly. We had a lot of trouble with that last year and Troy and the receivers weren't always on the same page - some of it was Troy and some of it was the receivers."
"For Troy, the game's slowed down - he's thrown the ball great this preseason and has really managed our offense."
Suspensions effect on depth entering the season:
"The suspensions came out of last spring. Randy Eaton, our athletic director sets high standards which we support because for us to be a good football team, we've got to hold ourselves accountable. Our guys are all academically eligible, on pace to graduate. With these suspensions coming out of last semester, we knew in May what this was going to hold. So, it wasn't like this just popped up; this is something we've been prepared for and we've practiced all preseason knowing this was going to happen."
"We can control what we can control and that's game one preparation. We are prepared to play without them and next week, they'll be back except for Karnorris Benson - he's got a two-game (suspension). We're prepared to go down and have a great football game."