Here is part two of our conversation with Western New England College’s head football coach Keith Emery.
On takeaways and turnovers last season: “I hope to see improvement, but we had a really good takeaway number last year at the end of the regular season [because] we led the nation in interceptions, so I don’t know if we’re going to top that again, but I think we had 24 at the end of the regular season.”
On duplicating the team’s offense from last year: “I don’t know if we’re going to be the same style offense from last year, especially with a different guy at the helm. Like I said, we want to do a better job of going after it for 60 minutes instead of waiting for the last minute. We want to be better in the first five minutes [of a game] and throughout the first 60 than having to rely on Bryce’s skills in the last minute, so I think if we do the things we’re supposed to do and capable of [then] I think those [rankings/statistics] from last year can go up.”
On the impact of Michael Graham on special teams: “I don’t expect guys to be kicking to Michael very much, so we have to prepare some different contingencies in case people are just kicking away from [him] all the time. We’ll have to figure out some ways, but I hope we’re not receiving too many kicks and I don’t think Michael’s going to get too many opportunities, but we’re going to try and find some places for him to see the field more because he’s just a special kid and his speed is great, and his determination is unbelievable.”
On the team’s strongest unit entering the season: “Our defensive backfield. We return everybody back there. Two starting corners, our starting safety and then some depth their too, so our defensive backfield is by far the strongest point of the team.
On the team’s defense: “We lost [a few linebackers due to] graduation, two inside backers and an outside backer, so that’s an element of concern and some area’s of where there’s going to be some competition, but defensively I like our skillset, I like the kids we have there, so I’m pretty excited about what we can do on that side of the ball.”
On the team’s first NCAA championship appearance: “Well, we have a little bit of a little brother syndrome down the street. Springfield College is a mile and half down the street, so we’ve been playing in their shadow for the last 30 years, and we’re real excited about the opportunity to play those guys next year, so our first goal is to be the best team in the city, and let the chips fall where they may after that, but recruiting has gotten better. The incoming group that we have right now [has made our coaching staff really excited] and it’s a different a talent level completely than the guys we were recruiting [before I arrived] here, and I think personally that was a great deal of humble pie that I ate the first couple years here, and it’s definitely changed our outlook and how we situate our self from week-to-week. The lessons that we’ve learned here early on in our program has gone a long way toward helping our success now.”
On three goals for a successful season: “It’s game by game, but we’ve got to do a better job in the third quarter. We were dismal in the third quarter last year, and that’s one of our big focuses. Go through some of the adjustments, and really make the third quarter ours. [We’d also like] to outscore our opponents, 2-1 in the third quarter. [Also], I don’t put a win-loss record on anything [because] that’s not our goal here, but we just want to get better every single day. So, improve in the third quarter, get better at every single game, make sure we’re better in game 10 than in game one, and stay healthy. We practice a little bit differently here to make sure we stay healthy and making sure that our best players our on the field in every game of the season.”