Editor's Note: This interview took place at Media Day on August 7th.
RD: How have you been?
RD: You’ve got new living quarters for the fall…
CB: Yep, over there in the dorms – same mattress, same rooms.
RD: Your guys look like they’ve been working awful hard this year.
CB: I can’t say enough about Rick Court. I mean, he’s taken these players and molded them into Division 1 athletes. I have to be excited too for our players, because they’ve done a great job of committing themselves to becoming better.
RD: Talking to some of the players this year and last year, it’s apparent that your players respect the hell out of you and appreciate what you’re doing for them.
CB: It’s the respect of the family, and I just happen to be the father of the family. I think they understand there’s a commitment to getting this program back to Toledo Rocket football, and they were willing to do that.
RD: They have bought in apparently.
CB: Yes, they really have. We worked extremely hard this morning. We split up the team today and the two days prior, into a Blue team and Gold team. So they would only have a one-a-day, but our coaches were having two-a-days. And now we got a lot of reps, and that’s what you have to do to become better.
RD: That’s the name of the game, get all the reps in.
CB: You have to. And put them in situations that are game-like situations for them.
RD: Your secondary looks like it could be a strength this year.
CB: Yeah, they’re getting better. I think Paul Nichols and Steven Clinkscale have done a great job with the guys we’ve got in that group. Dez Marrow, coming back…we didn’t have him last year. And the addition of Taikwon Paige, and the maturity of Byron Best…we have made strides in that category. Safety-wise, Jermaine Robinson and Mark Singer…Mark Singer has become a big factor back there. He’s a junior this year. He played a bit for us last year. Not a bunch, but is definitely kind of the brains back there and making sure we’re doing things right.
RD: It’s awful early of course, but what are you seeing defensively and offensively? Break it down a little bit for me.
CB: Well, we’re very, very young. We’ve got 11 guys that are listed #1 (depth chart) that have only been with us for a year and a half, since I got here. That’s one thing – we’ve gotta grow up fast, especially when you play somebody like Arizona and then go and play at Athens, playing the defending East champs. So I see us getting better, both on offense and defense, and on special teams, and I think it’s through getting some players in here and getting some competition each and every day.
RD: It sounds like you’re on the right path anyway.
CB: We’re working it, we’re excited, and we need this place rolling on September 3rd.
RD: There’s a lot of speculation that, as brutal as last year’s OOC schedule was, this one is worse.
CB: Well that’s pretty close! Twelve opponents, and seven of them were in bowl games last year. And some Top 5 again. And let me tell you, Arizona, they’re as close to a Top 25 team as there is. But that’s Rocket football. You get tested and you’re gonna get to play that kind of competition.
RD: We’ve heard some previous coaches say they like the competition but seem to temper their enthusiasm for playing teams like, in Gary Pinkel’s day, Washington or Ohio State. It almost seemed from some of their comments that they looked at them like body bag games, but you don’t seem to have that mentality at all.
CB: I understand because I’ve been at Ohio State and Oklahoma State, some of those opponents we play. But each one of these kids that we’ve recruited in the last year and a half, we’ve told them that they’re going to be playing championship football here, and they’re going to have to play against the best if you want to be the best. We just happened to play some Top 5 teams. Last year it was the Buckeyes, this year it’s Boise State. That’s just going to make our players better. They’re going to have to understand that to be the best, you have to play the best.
RD: Coach, how are you getting the quality of athlete in here now that’s also the quality of student?
CB: Well, it’s the first thing we look at. Both of those two categories, academics and player, go hand in hand. If you can’t be successful in the classroom, you can’t be successful on the field, because this game is hard. It’s not just physically hard, it’s mentally hard too, so you’re going to have to be able to do all those things. So we’re going to recruit a young man that can do it academically also.
RD: A lot of fans have talked about that (academics) since you’ve come on, and are very proud of the job you’ve done.
CB: I appreciate that. And we’re getting where we need to be. We’re going to get that team GPA up to a 3.0.
RD: I know it’s early, but what do you think of Arizona?
CB: It’s a great competition, a great opponent to have in the Glass Bowl. Mark Stoops does a great job. I know the Stoops family because my dad coached the Stoops family at Iowa. Great tradition, well coached team, and we’re excited to have them coming into the Glass Bowl.
RD: We graduated a senior quarterback, a senior running back, a senior wide receiver, a senior safety…where do we stand in the competitions for those slots?
CB: Well you mentioned “senior” a lot. Now we’re saying “freshman” and “freshman/sophomore type quarterback”. Quarterback competition has been outstanding. Right now I think it’s neck and neck. If we had to say who a One was, it would still be Austin Dantin with Terrance Owens right there competing hot and heavy. Wide Receiver right now, Kenny Stafford has had a great three days of practice so far, but you’ve got a bunch of freshmen to throw to who are willing and able to come in and start. And Page…
RD: One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about college football is watching these kids grow up. For instance, Stephen Williams was always a lot of fun to talk to, but the first time I spoke with him, he was a freshman and it was obvious. It was great watching him mature. Morgan Williams is another great example. The first time I spoke with him, it was apparent that he really didn’t want to talk to anybody. He was very uncomfortable. Now he seems to have settled in and is comfortable in his own skin.
CB: That’s what college football, to me, is all about. It’s seeing that young man come in when he’s 17, 18 years old, and leaving a MAN. That’s what we’re trying to do. Teach them how to speak in front of groups, and how to handle themselves in society. That’s what I love seeing as a coach. I love the X's and O's between the lines, but I also love seeing them walk across that stage and graduating, or going out and getting that big-time job. Those are the proud moments.