I've been interviewing Concord's football coach Mike Kellar for the last few weeks. He's very insightful and always has a lot of good things to say about his team. Below is the latest Q&A that I conducted with Kellar, after the team's first loss of the season.
The sports page has kind of gotten a bad reputation over the last several years. Honestly, part of that was because the football team didn't have a great record. It was never fun to open up the sports page and see a negative headline. The staff also did not do a great job of covering the sports who were doing a good job.
Then there was the "Mike Stanton factor." If you didn't agree with Mike's opinion in his column "Mike's World of Sports," then odds were you weren't a huge fan of the sports section last year. He was the Sports Editor and, because there was such a small staff, he wound up writing probably 90% of the content on the sports page last year.
Personally, I liked "Mike's World of Sports." He's an entertaining guy. He's been talking about re-creating that column in his blog, but I don't think he's ever gotten around to doing that. Whenever he does, I'll give everybody a link.
Useless Trivia: I created the name "Mike's World of Sports." Several years ago, Mike sent in his first column with a really long, generic name & I turned it into that.
Hopefully this year's sports page will help turn around public opinion. Coach Kellar has told me he reads the sports page, so hopefully other coaches and players do as well. Hopefully students do as well. Sports has the potential to be one of the most popular sections - there just needs to be enjoyable content to read and look at.
The first few weeks have been a sort of "experimental" phase with the sports page - they've been trying to figure out what goes in there each week. The first week, there was no football coverage and the next week there was nothing but football coverage.
I'm not in charge of anything, so all I can offer is conjecture. I think the sports page has found the following formula -
- Football update
- other sport update (to alternate each week)
- schedule of events
- "Sports Corner" column
If you haven't read it yet, the "Sports Corner" is the column by Zack Graham, the Sports Editor. He's still trying to find his voice, but I think the column is coming along nicely.
I think there's a lot of potential for this year's sports page. If you gave up on the sports section years ago, I think you should take another look at the page. Try it out for a couple weeks - if you don't like it, it didn't hurt you to at least give it a shot.
My Q&A with Coach Kellar is below. I created a story out of the interview and that is what you'll see in this Wednesday's issue of The Concordian. I'll post a link to the story on the website whenever it comes out.
I'd like to give a shout-out to the two people who help me out with questions. Before the interview, I usually solicit potential questions for Kellar through Facebook and Twitter. I've gotten a couple questions from other people, but the majority come from Mike Stanton and Pat Keys, my former roommate.
If anybody else would like to offer questions for me to ask Kellar, feel free to leave some here in the comment section, or message me on Facebook, or get them to me somehow.
* * *
Interview with Mike Kellar, Concord University's football coach (9/21/09)
Chris Slater: You suffered your first defeat of the season, 52-14 against Charleston. What happened in that game?
Mike Kellar: Well, I mean, you know, we went into a game against a team that was picked number 2 team in our conference, an undefeated team, a team that had a lot of success this year. They beat Tusculum in the opening game of the year. They were a good opponent. Our kids, it was the first time we’d been in a big game like that, being 3-0 and playing for first place in the conference and we just didn’t go out and perform as well as we’d like to. A lot of the credit goes to Charleston. A lot of times when you don’t perform as well as you think you could have, a lot of times it’s because your opponent did some things to you. You know, I’d like to have that week back, but it is what it is at this point. We’re moving on to State.
CS: In the game, what did Concord do right?
MK: A week ago, against West Virginia Wesleyan, our kickoff coverage was awful. We did a great job with our kickoff team. They were number one in the country in punt returns at 22-yards a return, going into the game. We had three punts, and I think they only had one return of seven or eight yards. The other two, they didn’t get any yards out of. And, that’s a testament to our Special Teams coach in Jason Woodman [sp?] and all the guys helping him out, and all the kids who bought in and had a good week of preparation. I thought that was a good sign. The other sign was, even though we were getting beat badly, we played hard from start to finish. The kids never gave up and they very well could have. I mean, you knew for a while that we were out of the game, but we played hard. We ended the game on the 10-yard line, driving it. We didn’t quit.
CS: Has the loss done anything to affect team morale?
MK: Not really. I have a little saying, that half the teams in America lose every Saturday. I told the team after the game, and I do believe in this, that whether you win or lose, you’ve gotta come in and make corrections and fix mistakes that you’ve made in the previous game and prepare to win the next game. And, that’s where we’re at right now. We went in this morning and had two good weightlifting sessions already and we’re going to have a walk-through tonight and practice hard Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and try our best to come and regroup and have a better game this Saturday coming up.
CS: How do you think the school is handling this? Do you think the school spirit is still there, among students?
MK: Oh yeah. I think the people at the university, students and administrators as well are smart enough to understand that this is a process. Chances are, we were never gonna go undefeated. The fact that we’re 3-1 with a team coming to our place should be a good thing. I think the school morale should be as high as ever for the football team.
CS: Do you have an update on the Quarterback situation?
MK: Last week, Steve Harris and Evan Dusold went in and played very well for us. Zack Grossi, our starter for the first three games is out for the season. It’s a definite now. We are going to “medical red shirt” him and get him three more years of eligibility. I’m really proud of the way the quarterbacks played. I thought Evan and Steven did a good job under tough circumstances. We weren’t able to do the things we normally do offensively and we just hung in there and made some good throws. We didn’t turn it over any and we didn’t get sacked any. We played pretty heavy. There are some things we’ve got to get better at, but I think that’s to be expected.
CS: Okay. Do you have a starter yet?
MK: Steven’s our starter. I don’t believe in co-starters. I believe that it’s going to take both kids. Both kids have such different skill sets that I think it makes us a more dynamic offense. It has nothing to do with “I like one kid better than the other,” it’s trying our best to utilize the talent we have on the field.
CS: Who are some other players who are putting up some good numbers?
MK: I think Brian Kennedy’s having a pretty good year, as our running back. Obviously, Thomas Mayo. He was leading the nation in yards per game. This last game, he only had four catches for 44 yards, so that’s going to hurt him, that’s going to damage those numbers a little bit. Right now, Thomas is having a pretty good season. On Saturday, Jared Brown had a very good game. He was our Offensive Player of the Game. Nate Tanner had a pretty good game. Andre Coleman had a pretty good game, he did okay for us catching the football. You know, they’re all playing all right. They all need to get better, but they’re all playing fine.
CS: You play West Virginia State this weekend. Last year, Concord lost 41-7 to them. What do you think will happen this weekend?
MK: Well, hopefully, we’re a better Concord team this year. West Virginia State has something like 18 or 19 starters returning from last year’s team. You know, they’re a pretty good football team. They’re coming off a bye week, where they’ve had two weeks to prepare for us. I’m sure that they’re going to have some tricks up their sleeve. But, I can’t really get caught up into worrying about State. We just have to go out and do the best that we can in getting ourselves ready. We’ve got to get better this week. Win or lose, we need to improve as a football program this week.
CS: You mentioned that they had the bye week, while Concord played that tough game. Do you think that will be a factor?
MK: It can be a factor either way. Sometimes on a bye week, you’re a little sluggish because you didn’t play. Other factors are that they’re probably a week healthier than we are, they’ve had two weeks of preparation for us when we’re only going to have one week of preparation for them, they got to see us play live - they were at the game. Those things can all factor in, but at the end of the day they’re just excuses on both sides. At the end of the day, they’ve got to come here and they’ve got to play well to beat us. We’ve got to go out and play well to beat them.
CS: What do you think your chances are for the rest of the season, in conference and out?
MK: Well, I like my team. We’ve got seven conference games left. There’s not a team on our schedule who [pauses] they have a chance of beating us, just like we have a chance of beating them. There’s not a team on our schedule who we can’t beat; but conversely, if we don’t show up and play each one of those weeks, there’s not a team who can beat us. We just have to show up. I wouldn’t trade teams with anyone. I love my guys, I love my coaches. This is a process. There’s going to be some bumps in the road along the way, some growing pains so to speak. It’s just the nature of the game, we all knew that when we came here. As a staff, we all knew that it wouldn’t be easy. But, it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy.
CS: How do you think the other teams in the conference look? Who do you think are the teams to beat?
MK: Right now, I think Charleston is the team to beat. It would be hard pressed not to say them. I think they’re 4-0 right now and they’ve got a lot of skill. Their team’s speed seems to be a little better than everybody else’s in the league. I think West Liberty - from what I’ve heard , I haven’t got the chance to see them on tape yet - are a good team. They’re as good as anyone in the league. Even though Glenville is coming off a loss to Fairmont, anytime you’re the defending league champs, you’ve got to pay your respect to them. We’ve got Shepherd in two weeks - they won the league four of the last five years. They’re a very good football team. It’s a very even league. I could see any team in the league winning it, to be honest with you.
CS: Concord’s record hasn’t been good the last couple years. Now you’ve gone on this roll lately, how do you think Concord’s reputation is among the league now?
MK: Well, I think that the league has noticed that the school has made a commitment to this football program. We’re going to have a great football program here, there’s no doubt about that. Starting at the highest levels at this university, down to the smallest people on campus - everyone on campus wants to see us do well in football. You know, it’s my job to see that that happens. We’ve got good coaches, we’ve got good players, we’ve recruited good players, we’ve got good players that we’re trying to recruit. We keep developing them and keep coaching them, that’s how you get respect in the league. It’s not by talking about it, or who has the best facility or - whatever - the best website. One thing about sports is you earn your respect on the field.
CS: Who was the Offensive Player…
MK: Offensive Player of the game was Jared Brown. Defensive Player of the game was Ethan Perry. And, the Special Teams player was… Oh hell, who was it… Oh hell, I can’t remember. I can look it up for you. [Leaves the room and comes back to tell me that Shariefe Williams was Special Teams Player of the game.]
* * *
The interview ended kind of abruptly. He was pretty busy that day and he had to reschedule our usual meeting time. I talked to him during a small break he had between meetings that day. Still, despite being pressed for time, he was very accomodating to me.
On a final note, I still get lost when I go downstairs in the athletic building to look for his office. I wound up in a locker room at one point. I think I have a route figured out now. I'll let you know next week if I get there without getting lost.