Senior Center Leroy Harris
You already have two very good running backs. How tough is it going to be finding carries and playing time as good as this?
It’s always tough. There’s only one football on the field. Everybody can’t get it as much. The best thing about it is none of those guys is selfish – they’re out there with the same goal, which is obviously to win a football game. Coach Trestman explains to everyone, these are the guys who are going to get the ball. He’s done everything to try to do that – one example is moving Darrell Blackman out to receiver. That’s going to help the team a whole lot because now we won’t have four guys in the backfield trying to split time on maybe 70-80 touches. We’ll have three out there and they’re all different types of backs. We’re going to use them in the situation that’s best for the team and we’re not worried about how many carries this guy gets – we’re going to worry about what’s best for the team at that point in time and that play.
Talk about the offensive line – the last couple of years you’ve had so many injuries and so many changes and different things that have happened. Can you talk about going into the season what you think about the depth – of something similar happened how prepared you are for that?
We’re not as deep as a team as we have been the last years. Overall, as a team we’re not as deep as in past years. Our offensive linemen, we have a strong core of guys, we have about seven guys that play but the five that are in there have actually had a lot of time playing as a unit – me being the most, I’ve had 30 games starting. James Newby had his first year starting, he started all 12 games, Jon Holt has played in 17 games, he’s only started a few but he’s had a lot of experience. We’re a pretty experienced group … but we’re not as deep as we used to be. When you get into the second team you’re going to get into a lot of freshmen on our team. This is one of the years we don’t have a lot of depth. Two years ago, we had 19 guys on the roster so we had two, three teams. Now we have two teams – we don’t even have two teams. We have guys that are going to be playing three, four positions.
"We want to put up 700 yards a game and stuff like that."
Does the heavy loss on defense put more pressure on the offense to put up more points?
I don’t think so. We don’t feel like we have to score 50 points, but we want to score 50 points every game, if not more than that. We want to put up 700 yards a game and stuff like that.
Did playing against guys like Mario and Manny in practice make your offensive line better?
It did. When you have those guys, of course you’re not going to stand there and take a beating from them. You want to give them that same thing. The one thing is it prepared us for the conference – the conference had a lot of great talent. It prepared us for the games and prepared us for the rest of the season … I was glad to practice against those guys and it was an honor to play and practice with those guys. They got us prepared.
Along those lines, the conference stats last year showed that overwhelmingly the defenses were ranked higher than the offenses. Do you expect now with so many of those guys you just mentioned gone to the draft that this could be more of a year for the offenses?
I think it’s going to balance out a lot. I think there’s still going to be some good defenses out there. Every year guys lose guys and you just have to find a way to replace them. That’s what you have recruiting for. I think the coaches have done a good job bringing in guys and I think we’re going to be able to replace the guys. I can’t say we’re going to be just as good but they’re hoping to be just as good if not better than last year – we’re just going to have new faces, a younger team.
How tough is this conference?
Top to bottom it’s probably one of the toughest in the country. Every game, you can’t mark anybody off in the conference. You can’t say, ‘I’ve got a guaranteed win,’ this year because if you do you’re going to come up with a loss. An example is Florida State – conference champions but they had three losses inside the conference. It’s just amazing, top to bottom you can’t underestimate anybody, you can’t do it because you’re going to end up with a loss week in and week out.
What about Coach Amato and how he handles being on the hotseat?
It is a hotseat. He’s handled it really well. When times were bad, when we were 2-4, our heads were down but his head was still as high as if we were 6-0. He told us, ‘walk around like you’re 6-0, don’t worry about it because the season’s not over.’ He had some faith in us. It was hard him saying to walk around with your head high and actually DO that when you’re 2-4 but he was the biggest demonstrator of it.