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2 posts from October 5, 2013

October 05, 2013

The Ron Turner Overflow

As I did with the preseason Q&A sitdown with Ron Turner, here's some of what didn't make the paper.

A couple of things I found interesting: his "there were a few things I didn't know" points to his surprise at the way things are done at FIU. Sometimes, the school works like a regular Division I athletic department. Other times, it's like Daffy Duck playing Duck Dodgers or The Scarlet Pumpernickel -- knowing how to don the trappings of what they want to be, but not knowing how to actually be it.

 

 

And to the question of how recruiting South Florida was going, he talked about getting to know the South Florida coaches after the season. Maybe I'm ignorant to all a head coach has on his plate from January through June, but that would've been something I would've been doing five seconds into the job.

Anyway, here's some of what made the paper mixed in with some of what did.

Q: When you looked at the roster in the spring and summer did you foresee the first four games going the way they have?

A: “No. I knew we were going to be very young, I knew we were going to be very raw, I knew it was going to take a while to get everything to jell. But I didn’t foresee that some of the guys who aren’t with us wouldn’t be with us. How much of a difference that would make, I don’t know. If they’re not going to win off the field and do what they’re supposed to do, you can’t count on them on the field.
If guys aren’t going to class, not doing what they’re supposed to do, get suspended for disciplinary reasons, they’re not going to help us win on the field because come the fourth quarter, end of the game, they’re going to let you down. I’m a very firm believer in that. In the first meeting, I told them
that, “Guys there’s no such thing as being on a winner on the field only. You’re a winner in everything you do. You treat people the right way, you do the right things, you go to class, you’re accountable to everybody. When you do that off the ifeld, you have a chance to win on the field.""

"If you have two or three guys who aren’t doing it off the field, maybe they get absorbed in with the rest of the guys. Those guys can carry them and you can win. You’ve got 20 or 30 guys doing that. You have zero chance of winning. We’re probably better off they’re not out there with us, to be honest with you because all they would do is let us down, even though they’re talented. But it takes more than talent to be a great player and to be a winner. Everyone has some of that on the team. We had way too much. And that’s what we’re getting corrected. By changing the culture and recruiting different type of kids…who are still good football players.

"I’ve got to force myself to not spend so much time on the ones not doing what we want them to do, get them out of here and focus on the guys who are…look at 8, 99, 22, 55, 39 and, yes, I do know their names – and 32 and 21, defensively and 46. 98 has stepped in and backing up at both positions, guys playing their hearts out. Playing well, playing good football in a lot of cases. Then, you look on
offense, 50 and 59, who haven’t played much football, but are trying to step in and be the leaders. They’re doing a great job. 66, formerly known as 65, is playing left guard as a true freshman. Should not be playing, but he’s playing, giving us all he’s got. 87…80 – 80 was right on the edge of being one of those guys who wasn’t going to be here. And he has bought in 100 percent and he’s been playing well the last couplf of games. You look at 17 playing his heart out. We’ve got a lot of guys doing that – 36, 12 and 13…a lot of guys I really love on this team who are great kids, doing everything we ask them to do. Are they perfect? No. I’m not perfect, nobody is. But they’re doing what we ask
them to do. They’re 100 percent buying in. That’s why I’m excited to be here. That’s why I’m excited about the future.

"Everyone wants to write about the negatives – 72-0 and all that. I guess I can’t blame them. I get calls on it, too. But I know what we’re building and I know where we’re going. I know we’ve got a lot of kids on here that can get us there and a lot of kids coming in who can get us there. Is it frustrating at times? Absolutely. Nobody likes to get their heads bashed in 72-0. I was at Illinois, we played Ohio State, at home, at our place (in 1998). I don’t know exactly what the score was, it was (41-0), two minutes to go. They’ve got the ball on the 40-yard line, throwing into the end zone – incomplete -- trying to get more because they’re No. 1 in the country, I believe, and they wanted to keep it.
The next year, we went in there and beat their ass (46-20), the biggest defeat they’ve had in (Ohio Stadium) I believe, it still stands…We went in with the same kids and some new ones. We get the ball with two and a half minutes to go with a (46-20) lead at the 40-ayrd-line, same exact scenario they had. We ran the ball, then we took a knee. Guys on the sideline were like “Throw it! Throw it! like last year!” I said, “no. We run this program with class and character. We came I here to win the game. We’ll win the game, take a knee and get off their field.”

"The point I’m making is it can turn around. There’s a process. We’re going through a process now that nobody likes. It’s not fun. A lot of fans will give up on us. I understand that and that’s fine. As long as the guys in the locker room don’t, as long as the coaches don’t, we’ll survive. You saw part of practice today, they’re screaming, yelling, they’re into it, enthusiastic. Every practice we had during the bye week was like that. We have a lot of good kids. Because of that, it’s going to turn. It’s going to turn. I’m excited about that. I love these kids, most of them. I’m going to try to be here to help all of them, even if they’re not doing what we want them to do. I’ll help them get somewhere else.”

How do you see recruiting in South Florida going? (247Sports.com ranks FIU’s list of 19 verbal commitments for 2014 as fourth in Conference USA, 84th overall with eight commitments coming from Miami-Dade or Broward players.)

RT: “We’ve got four guys who recruit nothing but South Florida. And we’ve got guys who spot recruit, they help and see different guys by position. We’re obviously committed to this area. We’re going to recruit this area extremely hard. It’s critical for us. After the season and in the months after that, really getting a good relationship and getting to know the coaches (in South Florida). The coaches recruiting this area are doing a great job. They’re establishing very good relationships. I think the coaches can see when we come in there and talk about our vision and what our goals are, we’re doing it the right way.

“I’ve gotten a lot of calls and texts from local coaches saying, ‘Hang in there, we believe in you. We know you’re doing it the right way.’”

Are you worried about losing what fan/booster/alumni support FIU has?

“You worry about it. It is a concern. But I also know that they’ll come back when we make them very proud of this program on the field. Obviously, that’s where it jumps out at them first. But, off the field, with our graduation rate and what we’re doing in the community, they’ll come back. Obviously, you’d like them to stay with us, but I understand they’re not. That’s the nature of the business. I was
in Chicago – one quarter, you’re the greatest thing ever, the next quarter, you stink and they want to run you out of town. Not by games, quarters. And they’re great fans, Chicago fans. Because it’s so important to them, that’s why they feel that way.

"When you go through what we’re going through, there’s a lot of people who are going to bail out on us. But I think they’ll keep an eye on us and they’ll come back when they realize what we’re building. When they do, it’ll be even more special.”

 

Gameday V, 2013: A philosophical question...

If two objects fail to move toward each other, can they actually clash? It's a worthy question given the offenses involved in today's contest, which isn't Loser Leaves Town, but would be Loser Leaves FBS if we were playing by English soccer league rules.

To what can we compare FIU, which hasn't scored a point on an FBS foe in over a month, vs. Southern Mississippi, whose last win came 16 games ago or sometime around the time Brett Favre's eligibility expired?

1981 Patriots-Colts? No Tom Brady-Peyton Manning era-defining showdowns in those days. The Patriots won only two games that season. So did their AFC East rivals, the Baltimore Colts -- the two games against New England.

1983 Houston Oilers vs. Tampa Bay? Dubbed "The Repus Bowl" by Sports Illustrated, fodder for the brilliant sports comic strip Tank McNamara, at least both teams came in with 1-11 records. Tampa Bay won 33-24.

Is this like some mythical match of William Jennings Bryan vs. Bob Dole? Hamilton Burger vs. George Costanza? The Coyote (Eatibus Anythingus) vs. Tom?

This game does match the No. 123 (out of 123) FIU offense against the No. 118th ranked offense of Southern Mississippi. At least with Tropical Storm Karen idling in the Gulf of Mexico like your grandmother insisting on parking finding a spot no farther than six spots from the mall door, the weather looks like it won't add to each team's scoring troubles. The forecast is for a high of 89 degrees, isolated thunderstorms, 30 percent chance of rain. Otherwise, we'd be looking at a game decided when one quarterback sees his pass blown back into his hands and he's tackled for a safety: 2-0.

I asked a couple of players what the team leaders have done to keep the team from crashing over the last two weeks. That's a long time to have the zero size of 72-0 at the top of your team resume.

"Energy in practice. Having fun," quarterback Jake Medlock said. "We were thinking way too much. You can see the first four weeks, we were thinking too much. Last week, we came out and had fun. Today, you could tell we're having fun again and we're executing. Instead of stressing, worrying about making a mistake -- if you make a mistake, you make a mistake, it's part of the game. You come back and learn from it. This was one of our better practices we've had all year."

As for Southern Miss, "We've both had long losing streaks, but we look at it as we're 0-0. It doesn't matter what the record is, right now we're 0-0 going into conference."

(Medlock and Southern Mississippi middle linebacker Alan Howze are practically related -- Howze dates Medlock's fiancee's best friend.)

Defensive lineman Greg Hickman said, "Most of the team leaders live together in the dorms and we had our own leader meetings lately. We've just been relaying the message of how important it is to finish these last eight games as strong as possible. We've been trying to make practice more fun so everybody can be into it."

Elaborating on it, Hickman said, "You get in a stretch of the season, your body's getting tired. We're just coming out, talking trash to each other, trying to bring enthusiasm back so everybody can get their mind off their soreness and on preparation."

I asked him how much they looked at the Louisville game film. Hickman said he'd just watched it again to remind himself how it felt and that he never wanted to feel that way again.

Southern Miss is no Louisville. The Golden Eagles turn the ball over -- a lot. They committed three turnovers at Boise State and improved their turnovers per game average to 3.75. They fumble the ball -- a lot. The Golden Butterfingers have 10 fumbles this season and lost five, although four were in one game against Texas State. They throw interceptions -- with alarming frequency. And the Golden Eagles' 10 interceptions are spread evenly, with no game featuring less than two. When they hear "something's got to give," they apparently believe it's implied that "something" is "Southern Miss."

I don't like either team's ability to run the ball, although FIU likely will insist on trying right into the fourth quarter because this game will be close. I follow the old W.C. Fields line "If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Then, quit -- there's no point in being a damned fool about it."

Southern Miss has players banged up while FIU's getting healthier coming off its first of two bye weeks this season. And those turnovers...feels like there's a pick six or a scoop-and-score in there for FIU somewhere.

I'll stay with my preseason pick of FIU. But I'm saying 17-10.

But that's just one black man's opinion. I could be wrong.

SWIMMING & DIVING

The first swim meet of the season -- and the last home swim meet until Dec. 19 -- is today, noon, at the Biscayne Bay campus against FAU. They show up for everybody else's meets and games. They deserve a few folks schelpping over to show up for theirs.


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