Western Carolina head football coach Dennis Wagner met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the Catamounts' upcoming matchup with Vanderbilt.
Opening Comments: "We've had a great fall camp. We had guys here throughout the summer in preparing for the season, and we are just looking forward to playing someone else. Preparation now is honing in on the game. We concentrated on ourselves up until last week and then started to focus on Vanderbilt this past week. We can't wait to get over to Nashville and to get started."
On the season-opening opponent, Vanderbilt: "They have a fine football team. They have several of their starters back on both sides of the football, in particular on offense. Their skill players and quarterback are very fine athletes, and they have a veteran group up front so we have got to be able to slow them down offensively. Defensively, they have all of their front four back, plus their backups - so they're pretty stout. Their returning nucleus is really strong and it is a good football team. We are going to have to do all phases of the game to make sure we stay in this football game."
More on preparing to play Vanderbilt: "Any time you are in a game like this, special teams come to mind. We have got to do a great job in special teams and not give them any big plays - we've got to look for the big plays. That's what can make the difference in this game. Offensively and defensively, we've got to execute, but special teams could make the difference."
On the excitement going into a FCS game: "I felt like there was a little more energy at practice today, and I expect it to continue to grow as we get to Friday and Saturday. But, we still have a lot of preparation before we get to the game. We just want the players to focus in on this game, relax and the excitement will build. I don't want to put too much on it until we get over to Vanderbilt, have them see the stadium and realize where we are at."
On whether or not the starting lineup is set for the opener: "There really aren't any spots up for grabs. There are just guys with `owies' and it's going to depend on if they are 100-percent healthy. We try to set a precedent here that our guys have to practice Tuesday and Wednesday to be in the starting lineup. We've got a couple spots where guys have had some little pulls or strains that we've just got to get through, and if they are back tomorrow, that might change lineups either one way or another."
On who will start at running back: "Right now, I would say that (freshman) Mike (Johnson) would be the starter at tailback and Nate Harris will be in the game quickly."
Comparing preparing for the first game this year versus preparations last year: "We know our team a lot better and they know us as coaches. And now, it's a matter of realizing what we can do with the talents that we have and we continue to build our depth through recruiting. Our guys understand what we are doing so as we go out there to practice every day, practice just runs more efficiently because they know where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to do. Now we just have to get them to execute their assignments. It has been a lot of fun for us as coaches; there was an excitement in the air today knowing that it is game week and we are finally preparing to play a football game."