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ULM Football Press Conference: Wake Forest Game Week
Release: August 26, 2014
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MONROE, La. -- ULM head coach Todd Berry, defensive lineman Gerrand Johnson and wide receiver Rashon Ceaser met with members of the media in advance of Thursday’s season opener against Wake Forest.

Below are selected quotes from Tuesday’s press conference, to view the press conference videos, please scroll to the bottom of the article.

ULM Head Coach Todd Berry:
Opening statement…
"I’m excited about getting started here (on Thursday). For coaches, it’s all about getting back on the field. I’m really anxious to watch us play Thursday night. To recap, we’ve been going through a very busy offseason beginning with the instillation of the turf. From the announcement of the facility and the fundraising that was part of this (project) to putting together our promotion for the opening game of the season, which is a nice opportunity to be able to do at home. We are excited about that (project) and excited about our team. This team has been extremely focused and very hungry because of what happened last year. As I mentioned to another media member, the fact that we were 6-6 and frustrated gives me a good sign of where we are as a program. I am excited how our young kids have carried themselves on and off the field during the course of this time period. This is the most mature team we’ve had and I think maturity brings physical maturation and confidence. We are a little bit older, a little bit more experienced and this group has shown that this summer with every one of our young guys being academically eligible. So, I am very proud of our kids along those lines. We had a very interesting preseason in regards to every type of weather possibly. I think our players handled that well and our mantra goes back to a mindset that it doesn’t make a difference who we’re playing, what the weather conditions are or where we’re playing. I think this team has responded well to that (philosophy). We are relatively healthy at this point. There are two young men that will be missing the season after getting hurt in preseason camp. DeVontae McNeal had a lower body injury, which is unfortunate since he set himself up to really have a good season. We’ll miss some of the things he brings to the table from the running back position and from a special teams standpoint. It’s unfortunate but that’s part of the game and DeVontae will work hard to get back. Marcus Hubbard was a freshman defensive back that had showed some (positive) signs early in camp. He will also be out for the season with a lower body injury. Other than that, I think our team is very healthy and we have some new faces that will be anxious to play in their first ballgame. I like the discipline of our football team right now and that we are a bigger, faster, stronger football team than we’ve been which is something that you want to see every year as a team. Obviously, the big question comes at quarterback but I have a strong confidence that Pete Thomas, the transfer from NC State, has handled this offseason extremely well. He is a cerebral young man and has picked up the offense really well. We are playing a team in Wake Forest that is transitioning from the head coach on down. I know Dave Clawson as a person and have the utmost respect for him as a person and coach. His staff understands the transition of taking over a new program and forging those relationships that are instrumental to winning. They will be running different schemes from what they’ve done in the past (with Clawson taking over) so the first half will be very critical for us to access and make adjustments accordingly.”  

On how to go about preparing for Wake Forest…
“Obviously, we’ve looked at John Wolford, the freshman QB. He’s a very talented young man coming out of high school and we went back and watched his high school video. Like most of their freshman listed in the two-deep, we went back to study tape and get a feel of what to expect. Being at Wake Forest, we expect there group of players to be very bright since the academic qualifications to enroll in school are very difficult. Certainly, it is difficult to make assumptions but that’s part of our job to figure out some of these things. So, we’ve looked at where Wake Forest is at and what they might do against us. That’s always difficult with season debuts since we’re not sure how people are going to lineup so we have to rely on sideline adjustments from our team.”

On the excitement leading up to the game…
“I am really excited about what I am hearing right now in terms of the turnout (by our fans). This game is significant for a lot of different reasons: First of all, we’re playing at home. I think it’s been difficult to embrace our fan base early on in the season since we usually start the season on the road. I am hopeful this game can bring our team and fan base together since we play on national television. As far as our program and the twin cities stand, this is a huge game with the CamoOut and Will Robertson doing the coin toss with A&E here to film a segment for Duck Dynasty. I am hopeful that this place will be rowdy because I do think it impacts our players.”

On the role the crowd could play in the game…
“Most offenses are built around protection calls, either by the center of quarterback. (The crowd noise) does create some issues and quite honestly this is not one of the defenses I would want to go up against being a freshman quarterback or center since our defense has so many moving parts. Our defense is organized chaos and we get into a lot of different looks and pressures because of our unique defensive structure.”

ULM Defensive Lineman Gerrand Johnson:
On #CamoOut experience…
“I’m loving it. All my friends have their riding lawn mowers and tractors ready. I’m enjoying it. This whole week we’ve had some big surprises coming with Coach Berry.”

On surprises…
“I know nothing. Coach Berry keeps us in the dark. He doesn’t tell us anything.”

On preparing against Wake Forest’s John Wolford…
“You’ve seen the guy. He’s broke all of Tim Tebow’s records, and that says enough. From his high school films, you can tell he’s an athlete and a winner. Guys like that come around a couple times in a generation. To be honest, it’s an honor to play against him. What he has done coming from high school and starting collegiately as a true freshman, the guy is good. I can’t wait to compete against him.”

On problems that may arise from Wake Forest starting true freshman center and quarterback…
“You really can’t depend on problems arising. Sure, they want their center-quarterback exchange to be perfect. It probably won’t be every time. Both guys are D-1 athletes. I believe he was the number four center in the nation, so he has the ability. He’s a heck of an athlete. He can snap the ball and pull. You don’t really see that in many college centers. I’ve gone up against first-round and second-round centers; I don’t think they had the ability to pull like this guy can. It’s going to be a unique challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”

On opportunity this game brings…
“It’s a huge opportunity. Especially looking at where ULM has been, I thought we were going to come along. It presents an ultimately opportunity to show the area and the nation what I believe in being recruited from high school and what we all bought into coming out of high school.”

On how previous big games have prepared for Wake Forest…
“It really doesn’t prepare you for anything. Every team is different. The Baylor atmosphere was just huge that year. Then we traveled coming in as an underdog against OU. Every team presents a different atmosphere. You can’t base what a previous game was like and think this game will be the same. It’s new. You’ve got to be ready for anything.”

On implementing new game plans each week…
“It’s never a dull day in the office. You just got to know your playbook and know your concepts. You’ll get a play called that hasn’t been called in five years.  Like in the Troy game last year, we knew the play because it was in the playbook, but that play had never been called before in a game ever. We were able to execute the plat and run it because we know our concepts and our philosophies. We trusted to be a mature defense so we can make adjustments on the fly. Playing Wake Forest last year, we were prepared for one offense, and they came out with something totally different. The first quarter we had to make adjustments. We couldn’t wait till halftime, because they did not run anything we practiced against. We were able to execute and get it done.”

ULM Wide Receiver Rashon Ceaser:
On the advantage of playing at home to open the season…
“It’s a big advantage for us. We’re used to playing on the road in a hostile environment where everybody is yelling at us, trying to get us distracted. For the offense, we can focus on going out there and executing what we do. For the defense, they get to go out there and do what they want to do, yelling and distracting the opponent’s offense. Playing at home should be great and I am really looking forward to it.”

On the offense and how it differs from last year…
“It’s basically the same offense (scheme) with new additions to throw opponents off. Another exciting addition is that for the first time we have a solid backup group that could come in, make plays and get the job done when spelling the starters.  I truly believe the guys backing us (starters) up could be starters at any other program and I am glad to have them. The work we put in during the offseason is showing up. Everybody is on the same page and this should be an exciting season.”

On being the focus point of opposing defenses…
“Towards the end of last season, I could see how the defense shifted towards my way but I am expecting the same thing (this year). Being in the slot, it’s easier for me to get open because I have more field to use than being on the outside with limits from the sideline and safety over the top. If the ball isn’t coming to me, I can occupy two guys and allow someone else to get open. The philosophy we live by is if you’re one on one, around here you’re open.”

On the wide receivers being able to stretch the field consistently…
“Ajalen (Holley) and Kenzee (Jackson) could fly and they have good feet, are very smart and use technique. Nine times out of ten if there is a deep ball down the field, I am going to go with them all the way because I know there putting maximum effort to come up with it. They are going to make plays and I’m just happy to be accompanied by those guys.” 

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