Opening Statement:

“We’re very excited to get this week started and get game one under our belt. We’ve got a very accomplished football team in Villanova coming into Heinz Field this weekend. They not only have an accomplished football team, but a well decorated head coach in Andy Talley as well. I think he’s going on his 32nd season. He’s been in the playoffs 11 times. He’s won a national championship and has been named the national coach of the year twice. He’s an excellent football coach; it’s an excellent program. I’ve had the opportunity to go against Coach [Andy] Talley as a player and a coach. I actually played against him last I think in 1989. I also had the opportunity to play against some great Villanova teams when they had [Brian] Westbrook and [Brian] Finneran there as well. So Coach Talley and I go back a long way. He’s a great football coach. The last three FBS teams they have played they have taken to the wire—last year with UConn, the year before that with Syracuse and the year before that Boston College. I told our kids last night this is not going to be easy. The FCS is good football. They will come in here ready to go. We must be ready to go.”

On what challenges facing Villanova poses:

“Offensively they’ve got three seniors. Their offensive line is very experienced; they lost one guy I believe in their starting guard. Very experienced up front, they know what they’re doing. They have a real good tailback in Jarrett McClenton. He’s a utility guy—does a little bit of everything. Not the biggest guy, but he can fly. Zach Bednarczyk is their quarterback. He’s a lefty that is a really good football player. He’s got a quick release; the ball comes out of his hand fast. Defensively, they have five seniors including defensive end No. 92, Tanoh Kpassagnon. He’s a good-looking player. He is one of those guys that probably has a chance to play in the league. He can rush the passer. Also, outside linebacker Austin Calitro is very physical. He probably will lead their team in tackles. Those are two guys to keep an eye on; they fly around. They play with an attitude and they’re well coached. They have continuity with that coaching staff. The Panthers better come ready to play.”

On whether it is a positive to face an early test against a mobile quarterback:

“No doubt about it, it’s good. We’re going to prepare for whatever we get—whether it’s a drop-back or he runs the football. He’s [Zach Bednarczyk] athletic. He can run. He ran for 500 yards plus last year. Any test, we will take.”

On making sure the players aren’t looking ahead to the Penn State game:

“We try and make sure they ignore you guys [the media]. That’s the first step. That’s our job as coaches. That game doesn’t mean anything if you don’t take care of Villanova first. Our focus will be on them. Anything we’ve asked of our kids, they’ve done. I don’t see it as a problem. I see a good football team coming in here and I think they need to see a good football team coming in here. They listen to what we say. I think they’ve bought in to what we do and how we do it, so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. But it’s always a concern. Put the tape on; they’re [Villanova] a good football team. Anybody can beat you on any given day.”

On walk-on Oluwaseun Idowu being tabbed as the starter at Star linebacker:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a walk-on or scholarship, FBS or FCS. Oluwaseun is a great football player. He really had a great camp. He and Elijah [Zeise] battled back and forth. Oluwaseun [Idowu] has done a nice job. That outside linebacker spot will be a position we continue to evaluate throughout the season. It’s a ‘what have you done for me lately’ position—like they all are. If Oluwaseun can do what he did in practice, I think we will be happy with his production on game day.”

On freshman Aaron Mathews making the two-deep at wide receiver:

“He’s right in there with Zach [Challingsworth] to be honest with you. It’s really an Aaron Mathews or Zach Challingsworth. Aaron has done a nice job. He is a mature and smart guy who is physical and tough. He doesn’t act like a freshman when he is on the field. He goes up and gets the ball. He’s a guy that has impressed the coaches during camp and he’s earned an opportunity. He’ll decide where he takes that.”

On if Alex Officer is set to start at center for the whole season:

“We’d like the position to be set, but we’re going to move some guys around during the game probably for the first few weeks. Alex has done a nice job coming off an injury. He worked and he fought. He played well enough to be one of those top five guys.”

On the health of receiver Zach Challingsworth:

“He has maybe a little tweak. I won’t tell you where it is or what it is. He had something minor that I think he is through now.”

On the depth chart at running back behind James Conner:

“It’s going to be fluid. I asked Coach [Andre] Powell last night if he ever had this many good tailbacks, so it’s a good thing we have a bunch of horses. They could all be on one line [on the depth chart]. Qadree Ollison had a great camp. He is better than he was a year ago. All of those guys have had a good camp. Our backfield is big, fast and physical. They can pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield. Like we said on day one of fall camp, it’s a good group of guys back there.”

On if Chawntez Moss and Darrin Hall are ahead of Qadree Ollison on the depth chart:

“Again I don’t know if they leapfrogged him. It’s going to come down to game day and what each guy does with the ball when they have their opportunity. You have to go with the hot guy. All four of them have been exceptional in my opinion. They all have a little bit of a different strength in their game. Moss has maybe been more exciting because you don’t expect a freshman to come in and do what he’s done. He has eluded people; he’s making people miss. Darrin Hall will run you over. It depends on how you want to get beat. We could run you over or run around you. Qadree has a little bit of both.”

On the role of Chawntez Moss in the Villanova game:

“It’s Monday at noon, so we still have game-week preparation. This will be a big part of the game plan. We’ve had periods on Villanova, but how do these guys react and pick up their defense? They run a 3-4 front, so the guys aren’t playing a defense that they’ve practiced against for 19 days. We’ve worked on it, so we’ll see how he reacts. We’re playing against a stacked three-man front. We’ve worked on it, but it will be a little bit different. We’ll see how he picks up protections. There are a lot of things to see. Today is his first day of class. Does he act like a freshman?  Is he going to go to class today? Maybe he misses a class and he doesn’t play at all. We’ll see.”

On his excitement to see Dewayne Hendrix play after sitting out last season as a transfer:

“I think he’s looking forward to it because he had to sit out a year. I can’t tell you I’m looking forward to seeing Dewayne play more than anybody else on the team. I’m excited to watch our whole football team play. I’m excited for them to go out there at 1:30 and show what they’ve done over the past year. I’m excited to see everyone play. I’m excited to see Dontez Ford and Matt Galambos. I’m excited to see them all. It’s game time. It’s a new year. I saw some of those guys last year, but it’s a new year. We’ve got new things for them.”

On the plan to potentially redshirt the freshmen not listed on the depth chart:

“We tell the freshmen, ‘You’re never redshirted until the end of the year.’ You really aren’t. You could go into the 11th game of the season and all of the sudden you need a guy and he’s playing. You can’t go out there and ask the team to play with 10 guys because we don’t want to burn a player’s redshirt. We’ll find out after two or three weeks. You hate to do that late in the season, but guys develop at different levels and you never know where someone is going to be in a couple of weeks.”

On the impact running back James Conner has had since returning:

“I think it’s the same James I saw a year ago. Maybe he’s a little bit happier; I think he’s thankful to be here. You will probably see more of a smile on his face. He’s really enjoying the moment. I don’t know if he was more stressed out a year ago, but he seems more relaxed. He’s calmer. Maybe it’s because we’re a year later, or maybe it’s because he’s grateful to be here and have the opportunity. You always talk about playing the game like it is your last game or your last practice, so maybe that’s the attitude that he is taking right now.

“I know when this thing started less than a year ago, James came up to the coaches and said ‘I’m going to beat this thing and I’m going to tell a story.’ To me, that’s like the last chapter when he walks back out on that football field. I think it’s going to be an emotional moment for our team and certainly for me. I haven’t really been thinking about it; maybe I’ll think about it the night before. That’s the finishing part of his story. Maybe there’s an extra chapter at the end there.”

On if James Conner will be limited at all:

“No. He’s not limited in any way.”  MORE


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