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Charlie Strong Discusses The Battle For The Governor's Cup

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Charlie Strong addressed the local media Monday afternoon and touched on a number of subjects including Sunday's game with Kentucky, the battle for the starting running back job, and the exodus of wide receiver Bryce McNeal.


Highlights:

--Our goal from the start of camp has been to get better each and every day. We haven't always accomplished that goal because our team is young and still learning how to work. What they have to realize is that every second is meaningful. We're not a team that can turn the switch on and off. It always has to be on.

--The teams I've been around that have been successful have been the ones that have been hungry, smart and humble. He doesn't know what type of team this is going to be.

--Always tells the coaching staff that the team is going to follow their lead and go the way they go.

--Kentucky is a team that's similar to us in a lot of ways. We're both very young. Their quarterback, Max Smith, was forced into action as a sophomore just like Teddy was. They have some terrific players on both sides of the ball and are very strong up front on defense.

--Everyone gets excited about a rivalry game regardless, but these are two really good football teams.

--Recently had a conversation with Will Stein where he encouraged him to keep pushing Teddy Bridgewater, and that's exactly what has happened.

--We have three really good players at running back, but whoever wins that starting job is going to be an every down back.

--The wide receiver position has been the surprise of camp. Damian Copeland and Andrell Smith have been surprise standouts. Andrell had easily his best fall camp yet. Even without Michaelee, we have a bunch of potential playmakers at wide receiver.

--Retells the story about Nate Nod trying to quit before the season because he was tired of dealing with all his injuries. He wouldn't let him and Nate has had an outstanding fall camp.

--For this team to do anything on offense we have to be outstanding up front, and we feel great about our offensive line right now. When the offensive line gels, the whole team gels, and that's what's happening right now.

--This coaching staff has done a great job of recruiting and the result of that is that we finally have some depth. If a guy gets hurt or a guy isn't performing, that's no longer a problem because there's someone else we can plug in.

--We haven't talked at all about being ranked in the preseason because it doesn't matter where you start if you don't work hard. We have to finish everything we do.

--He's very concerned about the kicking game. Neither Wallace or Nakatani have been consistent during practice. One of those guys has to step up and earn that position.

--Appleby and Ryan Johnson are really pushing each other to win the starting punting job.

--Really wants to see the team play hard. If they play hard and they play with energy then the rest will take care of itself.

--Preseason talk doesn't matter at all because you're always going to have to prove yourself on the field that weekend. He's shown his team a chart of all the teams that have recently started the season ranked No. 1 and not finished there, as well as all the teams that have finished the season ranked after starting it outside the top 25.

--Andrew Johnson didn't get unseated by Terrell Floyd at corner, he lost his spot because he missed three or four practices due to injury. The battle at that position was very close before he got hurt.

--George Durant has had an outstanding camp and he's been here long enough to know exactly where he needs to be at all times. That's why he's earned the starting linebacker spot.

--The decision on who the starting running back is will be made on Tuesday or Wednesday.

--All three running backs will play, but one guy will be the feature back.

--Bryce McNeal is no longer with the program.

--We haven't beaten Kentucky at home since 2006 and they've beaten us four out of the last five overall. We're still the hunter and that's the mentality we have to keep.

--Teddy is more comfortable with the offense, he's become a student of the game, and he's also far more vocal than he was last year. Those were all things we needed him to do.

--You don't have to worry about a team being ready to go when it's the first game of the season, but you do have to worry about them getting too fired up.

--We've had some really good hitting practices, and now it's time to back away a little more. This has been a really physical camp.

--When you're ranked and you have the chance to be a good football team, that's when you have to work the team harder. You don't pull back on the reigns.

--It's so hard to praise a team right now because they haven't played a game. When you're trying to build a program you can't afford to take a step back, and that's why we have to make sure these guys aren't complacent with preseason expectations.

--(On the game being important for in-state recruiting) Well, if you look at in-state recruiting, most of these guys are leaving anyway. Both programs have to figure out a way to keep these guys in-state. The good players are all leaving. If they go to Kentucky or come here I'll be happy, but we've got to figure out a way to keep them home.

--A few freshman will be thrown into the fire immediately and won't redshirt. They have to make a decision about guys like Hunter Bowles and Nach Garcia. What's happening right now is that guys like Champ Lee, Titus Teague and Zed Evans who have been in the program for a few years are really coming on and demanding playing time. When that happens it's really hard for freshmen to get on the field.

--Wants to see this team play hard, fast and with confidence. He wants these guys to carry themselves like they are a big-time program because that's the mentality they have to have.

--Bryce McNeal left on his own. "This program isn't for everybody. Soem guys can handle it, some guys can't." He was an outstanding player, but he said he didn't want to play football anymore.

--This game is big for bragging rights and it's also critical because it's the first chance to see what type of team you have.