Sun Belt Media Days: Day one

19 07 2010

Day one of the Sun Belt’s online Media Day event is in the books after representatives from Florida Atlantic, Florida International, North Texas, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe each had an opportunity to take the virtual podium.

The main topic of conversation, however, seemed to center more on two teams that didn’t have a say in Monday’s interview sessions: Middle Tennessee and Troy. Both the Blue Raiders and Trojans appear to be the odds on favorite entering this season, here’s what a few folks had to say about that:

Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic head coach:
“They’re both rightfully the favorites this year. The rest of us are just trying to catch up.”

Craig Robertson, linebacker, North Texas:
”I think any team in the Sun Belt is capable of breaking out at any time. You just need the right breaks, any time, any place. That’s all it takes.”

Grant Fleming, linebacker, ULL
“Nobody is going to settle for being third fourth or fifth, everyone wants to be first. It’s a preseason poll, and I don’t put too much stock into it. The best way to win the title is to win every game. No one game is more important than the other.”

Rickey Bustle, ULL head coach:
“I just don’t see those teams losing twice. It probably does get into a head-to-head type situation. In order to close that gap you’ve got to beat those people. Those are teams right now that have programs that are in very good shape. They’ve got returning players back, so common sense tells you that’s where the votes go. But we’ve still got to play the games.
“They’ll get everybody’s best effort, I promise you.”

Todd Dodge, UNT head coach:

“Troy has had years where they’ve had a lot coming back, they’ve had years when they’re inexperienced but still good, so you can’t ever count them out. And of course Middle has (quarterback Dwight Dasher) coming back so you can see why they’re up there. However, I think there are a cubby of teams that can get right in the hunt. I think the conference race will head down toward the end of November.”

Other topics hit on during Monday’s session:
– Florida International coach Mario Cristobal very briefly touched on how his team is coping following the fatal stabbing of running back Kendall Berry this past spring on FIU’s campus:

“He will always be a brother of our family,” Cristobal said. “We’re a strong football team. We’ll always keep him in our mind and we’re looking forward to a great football season.”

– FAU senior quarterback Jeff Van Camp talked about the task of replacing the Sun Belt’s all-time passing leader in Rusty Smith. Something he got a bit of a head start on last season during injury mop up duty.

“There’s nothing that can replace game time experience,” Van Camp said. “I knew that when it was my time I had to take advantage of the opportunity and it’s only helped me going into this season – my teammates trust me more, and it helps you be a leader.
“If you’re battle tested – guys will respond to you better.”

– First-year ULM head coach Todd Berry talked about how different things are at Louisiana-Monroe now, as opposed to the way things were when he served as the program’s offensive coordinator from 2004-05.

“There are an awful lot of similarities (between then and now) which have been easy for me. But I also recognize some of the things that were problems before. We have some very, very high expectations on and off the field and we’re going to hold our guys accountable.
“And so far, our guys have done a good job of adjusting.”

– ULL coach Rickey Bustle on the Ragin’ Cajuns ESPN 2 home game with Oklahoma State this season:
“We’re all excited about that,” Bustle said. “We haven’t been fortunate enough to play enough of those games at home. But in this league, when we’ve had some of those games, we’ve had success.

“It’ll be a great Friday night, a great crowd and we’re very excited about it. … Our fans are awesome, they have a great time and I know they’ve had this one circled on their calendars for a long time.”

– UNT coach Todd Dodge about the difficult decision to move former quarterback – and son – Riley Dodge out of the quarterback spot and over to the slot receiver position for the remainder of his career.

“It’s a difficult decision, he’s a competitor and he wants to have that ball in his hands all the time. But he came out of high school with a third degree separated shoulder, then he separated the same shoulder last year and broke his right forearm against Arkansas State. So that’s three major arm injuries that are effecting things. We evaluated it, looked at it in mid-Spring and decided the best thing would be to move him to wide receiver. It was a tough decision, but one that we took some time to think about. One thing about my son is that he loves the University of North Texas – through all this adversity, he really believes he can be a contributor and help turn this thing around.”

I’ll have a full report on day one of media day in Tuesday’s Daily News.

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3 responses

20 07 2010
Glenn Blackburn, M.D.

Do you know when the University of South Alabama will begin playing football as a full member of the SunBelt Conference?

20 07 2010
Nick Baumgardner

Glenn –
South Alabama should be a full-fledged member of the Sun Belt in football starting in 2013 – bringing the league to an even 10 teams (should no one bolt or anyone else be added before that time).

8 08 2010
What we’ve missed and why «

[…] July 19: Sun Belt media day one […]

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