Fuente, Players Represent Memphis at Media Day
July 29, 2014
University of Memphis senior cornerback Bobby McCain and senior running back Brandon Hayes accompanied head coach Justin Fuente to the American Football Conference's Media Kickoff this week in Newport, R.I.
Following a Monday night clambake at Fort Adams State Park and the summer home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, coaches and players from the league's ten teams fielded questions from members of the media during several sessions Tuesday morning.
Tuesday marked the release of the preseason media poll that ranks the Tigers seventh. Memphis returns 18 starters, including eight from a defense that ranked 12th nationally against the rush last year.
Fuente fielded questions in a series of interviews with print and broadcast media, as well as spoke to an audience from the podium of the Hotel Viking's ballroom and was interviewed by the American.org's radio team in interviews which were both streamed by ESPN3.
The Memphis contingent spent time with CBS Sports Network, which will broadcast a game-of-the-week throughout the season, as well as took part in an interview segment which will be part of a satellite-distributed media package.
The Tigers open the 2014 season on Aug. 30th when they play host to Austin Peay. Memphis' league opener is Oct. 4 on the road at Cincinnati.
Memphis Head Coach Justin Fuente's Comments from the Podium at the American Media Day
"We're entering our third year at the University of Memphis, our second in this league. I'm thrilled with how our kids have embraced the challenge of building a football program while simultaneously taking a step up in competition. We have an incredibly tough road ahead of us with a challenging non-conference and conference schedule. But I believe it's the first time we've had the seniors and the leadership with the guts and passion to help us guide us through that.
"We return many players from our defensive unit that at times played fantastic defense. Hopefully we can continue to build upon that. Then we have many guys coming back offensively from a group I believe that's hungry to improve on their standing, really help this team advance to the next level. That being said, I will be happy to answer any questions any of you all may have."
The benefits and challenges of having new teams come in this year, the three teams, then Navy next year. From your perspective as you're building your program, how do you look at those benefits and challenges?
"Educating both recruits and your fan base, your alumni, on exactly where you're at, who's involved with it, I think is the biggest thing. Obviously we've added some fantastic programs, some programs that have incredible success, some programs that will have success, which only helps this league continue to grow and develop in the future."
You mentioned this is your third season here. You're building the program. What are you looking at in terms of what would be success for you this season in your third year?
"So we tried to take the focus inward, on our own performance, preparation, knowing that will result in success on the field. I've tried to talk to our guys, not in terms of the season or the games or the win or the loss or the points scored or points allowed, but it's all in our preparation ultimately leading up to our performance, our ability to have the discipline to continue that through a long period of time. That's why there's so many upsets, ups and downs during seasons. It's very difficult to maintain that throughout the season."
You see oftentimes universities such as Memphis, we've seen it with Duke recently, in the minds of the athletic public are viewed as basketball schools. Memphis has a strong football tradition, but I would think that's something you've had to deal with in your position. How have you dealt with that?
"We've got to continue to beat the drum for the progress of our athletic department and the progress of our university and our community, it depends on our ability to build a football program. I think that word's getting out. I think our community understands how important this truly is. One of the reasons that, quite frankly, I took this challenge three years ago was because I felt like they understood it. They absolutely do. We do have that connotation, and we embrace that. That's wonderful. There's no reason you can't do both, so we're going to give it a shot."
You came close last year, games like UCF and Louisville. Do you feel this year you have the talent and experience to surprise some folks?
"In order for us to take the next step and ultimately end up on the other side of the ledger in those very competitive games versus very good football teams, we have to make some changes. We have to improve our discipline level in order to hold the rope, so to speak, for the entire game.
"I think it instilled confidence that we could do it, while they were heartbreaking and gut-wrenching losses, when you look back on it with some perspective, it highlights the fact that you are there. But with a little bit more discipline, a little bit better execution, you have an opportunity to do some special things."
You mentioned there's a lot of starters coming back. What has gone on over the summer to prepare them for this upcoming season?
"Our kids have great participation. They've established a work ethic that they understand is expected every day. By and large they have met that on a consistent basis, while at the same time they have done things on their own to kind of grow closer together, which I think was important. So we've had as good a spring and as good an off-season and good a summer as we've had since we've been there. So that's obviously very encouraging."