Here is what Jacksonville State University head coach John Grass said about this Friday’s game against Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich.:
"We feel like we had a great camp and that is where the backbone of your team is built. Our camp was very productive and made it through without any major injuries. We had a good scrimmage the other night and made it a replica of the game as best we could. We are getting better every day, but we are no where close to being where we want to be. I am pretty pleased at this point with our effort because camp can be tough, but I think we demand more out of our guys during camp than most. We practice a lot faster and we get a lot more reps in practice. In doing that, it takes a toll on your body and they have handled it pretty well. I like the shape of our football team and progressing in all three phases of the game. I think we are a lot deeper and want to get deeper as the year goes on. It is good to get to a game week situation and preparing for a game."
On play calling:
"I am still going to call the plays. I am not as heavily involved day-in and day-out as I was last year, but as far as game plan-wise; I am still in the room and breaking down opponents and finding ways to attack them. It changes a little but because last year, I did not have to worry about special teams or defense. Now that you are back to being a head coach, you have to make sure all three areas are doing what they need to do."
Thoughts on handing over the play calling duties:
"I am more of a hands-on type of guy. I think it is enjoyable for me and hopefully I am decent at it. I don't ever just want to be a CEO because this business can make you one of those if you let it. I believe in surrounding yourself with great people and that is what we have done here. I enjoy being around the guys and enjoy being in that huddle when the game is on the line. I have confidence in Coach (Jimmy) Ogle and Coach (Larry) Smith in calling plays, and I think Coach Smith has a bright future in calling plays. We are grooming those guys right now and everyone in the room has a voice and has input on what we are doing."
On the defensive front adding some transfers
"It makes me sleep easier at night. It was not a deep position on our team last year. I think we just added some depth to that position last year. Last year, you had Caleb Lawrence, who had an exceptional year and he is a mainstay there. Chris Landum had a great year for us and do did Dustin Gayton. We have some guys that played last year that helped us win 11 ballgames. All we have done is add to the stable there.
Defensively, if you are not good up front, you are in for a long day. It all starts up front with the line and makes the defensive backs job a lot easier when you only have to cover for 2.5 seconds instead of four seconds. In the run game, there is no worse feeling of a head coach or a defensive coordinator, when a football team can run at will on you. We have been able to add some depth there and will definitely help our football team. We feel like all these guys can make plays for us and we have guys that don't have to take 50 to 60 snaps per game, we can split those snaps up. We try to keep those guys fresh and keep them rolling. The key to being a great defensive lineman is to have a great motor."
On the defensive line helping prepare the offensive line:
"It has definitely made us better. Blocking the caliber of players that we have on the defensive line, has been an advantage and make the game a whole lot easier."
On Michigan State:
"It will be different playing on Friday for sure, but it is going to be great playing on the Big Ten Network against a great opponent. You have a lot of folks talking about them being in the national championship game. It is an honor for our football team to play on that stage and travel there and get to play. We are excited about it and excited just to get the season started. We get to see where we are as a team against a team that people are predicting to be in the national championship. We are going to battle and play every snap and not fold. Michigan State has a great program and I think Coach Dantonio does a superb job recruiting and they have been good in the past. When you think of Big 10 football, you think Michigan or Ohio State and Michigan State has dominated those teams the past few years. They have been very consistent the past few years and it's a reflection of their coaching staff. They have a solid program and an established program. Our goal is to win the national championship on our level and we get to go against a team that will have a say in the national championship picture."
On his first game as a collegiate head coach:
"It is my debut as well and I got my feet wet last year and having the kind of year that we had last year will only help me. We didn't get to play a game like this last year, so it will be fun for me. It will be the biggest crowd I have been in and it is going to be exciting and that excitement is building this week. We are looking forward to it and it is a blessing just to be able to be in this position. We are taking the Marching Southerners up there, so we will win the halftime show."
On Jermaine Hough:
"Jermaine has had a great career and has another year to play. He is one of the best corners that I have ever lined up against in practice. He has an uncanny act to be around the football. He is great at anticipating routes and has a great ability to play corner in the SEC or ACC. He is our lock-down guy and we stay away from him in practice. We look for him to have a great year."
On Max Holcombe:
"Max is a returning All-American from last year and a preseason All-American this year and is having a great career here. He gets it done upfront and he helps everyone upfront and is the quarterback of the line. He gets us in the right call and manages the game well from that position."
On Justin Lea:
"I think he might be a little nervous at first with it being his first career start, but what a proud moment it will be for him to get a start on a great offensive line as a redshirt freshman."
What the players have to say:
Sr., Offensive Lineman
On playing Michigan State:
"It is great because I love playing in front of a big crowd. The excitement is great and you just feed off the fans. I know that the fans that we will have there will be loud. Our band is going, so they will be rocking. I love playing in the big stadiums and a great experience."
R-Fr., Offensive lineman
On playing Michigan State:
"It is going to be new for me and being on the offensive line, I get to play next to guys like Max and others who have been there before. I am really confident in our ability to perform at a high level. We are going to go up there and play with confidence."
Jr., Defensive back
On playing Michigan State:
"The excitement of the game is like no other game. You really don't get nervous out there because you are feeding off their fans. There are so many people out there and you just want to make that one play. Going up there is going to be a great challenge and I have been looking for this opportunity since last Spring."