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Derek Mason has a lot of respect for Northern Illinois

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We recap Derek Mason’s weekly press conference ahead of the Northern Illinois game.

NCAA Football: SEC Football Media Day Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Mason took to the podium for his weekly press conference ahead of Saturday’s 11 AM game against the Northern Illinois Huskies. We paraphrase Mason’s comments below:

  • You have to respect Northern Illinois, who they are, and what they do. Mason is familiar with Thomas Hammock (Northern Illinois’s coach) from when Mason was on the coaching staff at Ohio. They’re fighting to stay above water, and we’re fighting to stay above water.
  • The first quarter of the season is done and now we’re on to the second quarter of the season. There’s been progress on all fronts.
  • Our offensive line is getting closer to full strength. We understand where we are on the defensive side. It was great to see some turnovers and a couple of sacks in the last game, but it needs to be better.
  • Northern Illinois is going to be a challenge. They’re a physical football team; we need to match their physicality and play clean football.
  • It was good to see the penalties go down.
  • What are the factors you consider when blitzing more or dropping more into coverage? Mason says everything factors into it: quarterback, what type of offense, what they’re looking to do, etc. It always centers around what your guys can do, however. In looking at how much we pressure, we hit the quarterback, but we need to tighten up the coverage. The first three games have challenged us as a group to trust in the process. Guys aren’t going rogue, but when they’re playing together for the first time, they have to trust where other guys are going to be. All we’re doing now is tightening some things up, including pressure and coverage.
  • Is it ideal when you have a young defense to have an easier game earlier in the year? Do opponents like this make it more challenging to get that together? The front end of the schedule really exposed everything on the front end. It’s tough to get exposed and make changes in the middle of the season. You truly understand which guys can play 15 snaps as opposed to 45. Our guys really got put in some vulnerable positions because of the schedule. Defensive football is about eleven guys being on the same page.
  • Do you have to guard against the idea among the players that things are going to get easier? It doesn’t get easier. If you fall into that mindset, Northern Illinois will “beat your face in.” (said with emphasis) We’re trying to go 1-0 this week.
  • Any worry that there’s not a number in front of Northern Illinois? We put up the numbers for Northern Illinois’s program for the last ten years. In the last few years, they’ve beaten Nebraska and Purdue. I’ve got experience coaching against this squad; we only beat them one time when I was at Ohio.
  • The few mistakes that Jaylen Mahoney makes, he makes them fast. Guys like that just get better and don’t make the same mistakes twice. He’s got a bright future.
  • Ke’Shawn had a couple of big plays. What was the common denominator? “We had hats on hats, and he ran through the hole.” The more touches he gets, the better he gets. We have to let Riley (Neal) continue to grow his game.
  • Ryley Guay is “day to day.”
  • The other teams in the SEC are throwing more than they’re running now, while you’re not. Mason says running the ball has become extremely hard and when you have athletes and you can get them in space, it helps to spread people out. I think most programs in the SEC are looking at their roster that way; most of them have spread principles built into who they are. We’re throwing the ball better than we’re running the ball, and we have enough playmakers to put the ball in space like everyone else.
  • The offensive line is getting healthy, but Jonathan Stewart and Tyler Steen have played well enough that they may still have spots on the line.

And here is the latest depth chart:

There are a few changes from last week. Chris Pierce has moved up to #1, ahead of Justice Shelton-Mosley, at one of the WR spots. Cody Markel is down to the fourth-string TE, with Ben Bresnahan and Gavin Schoenwald ahead of him; that’s honestly something that I was surprised held up as long as it did. We still have co-starters listed at both LT and LG; I assume Devin Cochran’s still questionable, but if he’s available, Jonathan Stewart has honestly played well enough in his absence that he might still get playing time somewhere else on the line.

On the defensive line, Daevion Davis is now listed as a co-starter with Cameron Tidd. Caleb Peart and Dimitri Moore were listed as co-starters at ILB last week, but Peart is now listed as the starter; at CB, B.J. Anderson has moved into a co-starter designation with Cam Watkins; while at the other CB spot, DC Williams is listed as the starter where he was a co-starter with Randall Haynie last week. At safety, Tae Daley and Frank Coppet have moved into a co-starter designation.

And, of course, at kicker, Ryley Guay (injured) and Javan Rice are listed with the or designation, presumably because Guay might not be available on Saturday.