NEW ORLEANS — The Sun Belt Conference held its annual Media Day on Monday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The head coach for all 10 teams in the Sun Belt took to the podium and spoke about their respective, upcoming season and expectations. Here are the quotes that stand out from each one of those coaches on Monday.
Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern, on whether his team coming off a 10-win season can sneak up on LSU in the season opener.
“Well, I think it’s important for our guys to understand that we’re not going to sneak up on anybody, and they’ve got to understand that each and every game is important. And so when we talk about what’s important now, we’re not looking so far in the future that we can’t get ourselves in position to perform that week.
So we’re not going to go into any game thinking we’re sneaking up on anybody. We’re going to assume that they’re bringing their “A” game and we’ve got to bring our best game.”
Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina, on how to avoid suffering through last season’s late-season troubles.
“Great question. We were sitting at 5-3 with the opportunity to get to that sixth win and have a chance to be bowl eligible. Unfortunately we played probably the three best teams in the league towards the end. That was part of it. But we had some adversity and didn’t handle it the right way.
As soon as we played App State there and they beat us in a hard-fought game there and after that game we had some in-fighting, I believe, among our players in our locker room, and it sort of splintered us. We did not for whatever reason were able to overcome that, and we struggled really as a team playing those last four games and didn’t really play together.
So our big focus, as I mentioned earlier, off-season is no matter what happens, adversity that we find, we are going to play together and we’re going to stick together. So we’ve done a lot this off-season as far as trying to build a team bond, as far as the guys trying to be together and being one.”
Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State, on taking over an established program that won a conference championship a year ago.
“There’s a lot of things that they’ve accomplished in the past that are tremendous, but we’ve found those things that we can do better, that we can try to focus on, that we can try to achieve and set our mark. And the thing that we’ve talked to our team is about we have to form our new identity. We’re not the 2018 Mountaineers, we’re not the 2005 Mountaineers, we’re the 2019 Appalachian State Mountaineers, and we have to form or new identity with our coaching staff and the players that we have, and that’s what we’re working hard every day to do.”
Jake Spavital, Texas State, on what he thinks about what he sees in his quarterback room right now.
“Yeah, there’s going to be some coach speak with this now, but it is wide open right now. No one is ever going to come in here and declare their starting quarterback right now. We’ve a lot of moving parts in that room, and there’s something I take a lot of pride in the quarterback position. I’ve got seven active NFL quarterbacks right now and I don’t think there’s anybody in the country that has that many guys, and what we’ve done with those quarterbacks is we’ve played to their strengths.”
Shawn Elliott, Georgia State, on describing the state of the Sun Belt Conference right now.
“Yeah, well, I think the Sun Belt Conference if you look at us, our three-year bowl history, three-year bowl winning percentage, we’re 11-6. We lead the entire country in winning percentage. And by a good margin, too. So when you look at our conference, you look at our coaches, you look at our players in this league, we’ve got a solid league. And it’s only continually just growing and getting better. I mean, this Media Day, and this is just my third year in it, but I can imagine seven, eight, ten years ago what this was, and now look what it’s become.”
Blake Anderson, Arkansas State, on how being one of the most tenured coaches in the league has helped him in recruiting.
“Well, we’ve got success to sell, number one. We’ve had a great eight-year run. There’s only three teams in the country that have done similar in terms of eight bowl games in a row and five titles, and that’s Clemson, OU and Alabama. So obviously we’ve got a lot to sell.
Our facilities are unbelievable at this point. We’re finishing up the last finishing touches of our development in what we’ve done to the football facility itself. But just knowing the league and seeing it grow from where it was six years ago to now and be able to explain to guys just how good the football is, seeing guys go to the next level, play at the next level, seeing coaches come through, good quality coaches, I think just that experience allows me to have a good perspective on what this league is really capable of.”
Chip Lindsey, Troy, on what lessons he learned from serving as offensive coordinator at Auburn last season.
“You know, I think probably just — I think the biggest thing I took from that is that, hey, really at the end of the day, no matter what stage you’re on and no matter what game you’re in, really you worry about preparing your team and making sure that your team can execute the things on offense and defense and in the kicking game that you’re good at doing, the things that you hang your hat on, because at the end of the day, it’s all about making plays.”
Steve Campbell, South Alabama, on how to turn the Jaguars into a championship-caliber program like he has done elsewhere.
“It’s an exciting time. If you go back over any of those championship teams, I’m not sure that we knew that we were a championship — we won the National Championship at Delta State, that year we were picked sixth in our own league. You had Valdosta, North Alabama and probably West Georgia and who knows who, but I do remember we were picked sixth out of 12 preseason when we went on to win the National Championship there.
At Mississippi Gulf Coast, I remember we were coming off Hurricane Katrina, we were a 5-4 football team the year before and we weren’t picked in the top 20. That year we went on and won the National Championship. And then for the next nine years in a row didn’t fall out of the top 10. But we didn’t know that going into that year, we just hoped that we would be better than we were the year before.
So I’m very anxious and excited about this upcoming season just to see how much progress we’ve made.”
Matt Viator, ULM, on what he told his team after the Warhawks didn’t earn a berth in a bowl game despite winning six games.
“Really before the Christmas break we were still kind of waiting to see if we were going to get a bowl game or not get a bowl game. But when they came back for the spring semester, we talked about it, but I talked about it from the sense of really I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t — it was not any of the, hey, look, poor us. We qualified for a bowl game and didn’t get in a bowl game. I never even mentioned that.
But we did start talking about, however, how we were in position to get some things done and we just didn’t finish doing it, and just didn’t feel like — look, there’s no question, it’s hard to win in Jonesboro. I’m not saying that would have been any kind of an easy task or even the Lafayette game the last game. They had a good football game. But we were in position really in both games when you look at it. We just didn’t make enough plays. We just didn’t put our kids as coaches in position enough to make them, and we didn’t make them enough as a team.”
Billy Napier, University of Louisiana, on what he is most looking forward to in his second year at the helm of the Cajuns.
“I think it’s just another opportunity to compete. It’s a new team. It’s a new set of challenges. And that’s what I love about ball is you start over, everybody is undefeated, everyone has got hope. Everybody is positive, and I think we’re excited because we’ve got some pieces to work with. We’ve got a good group of players that I think understand what it’s about. They had tremendous experience both positive and negative last year, and just having that group back I think we’ll be further along, and it’s time to put the ball down and go play a little bit. I’m looking forward to that.”