Q & A with head football coach Mark Matlak

The Campus sat down with the head coach of the football team and asked him a few questions  we had about the Gators headed into their season opener.

Q: What are your expectations for this season?
A: My expectations are always to win the conference championship. That doesn’t always mean you’re going to win every game, but our expectation as a program is always that.
Q: I heard that Joe Dawida, ’15, who you named the starter, injured his knee. What is the current quarterback situation headed into Saturday’s matchup?
A: We named Joe Dawida, who’s a sophomore, the starter and Mike Person was his backup, but Joe got hurt so Mike Person is the quarterback right now.Steve Nymick is his backup, so that’s our present situation going into Wooster. Mike and Joe had a pretty good competition during camp. Joe has an ACL sprain, so he’s going to be out, but we anticipate him possibly being back against Carnegie Mellon [Sept. 8].
Q: A lot of your starters graduated after last season. Who do you believe will emerge as leader for the team?
A: I think our senior group has really been good. You will see a lot more freshmen faces than we’ve had in the past. Normally we’ve been more of a senior, junior, sophomore operation, but this year you will definitely see some freshmen in there. There’s been a lot of losses so we will definitely be an inexperienced outfit in a lot of areas, so we have a lot of work to do.
Q: Do you think the freshmen who will be forced into starting roles will be able to successfully take on starting positions on the team?
A: I think practice is one thing, or a scrimmage, but you have to look at the long run. Anytime you’re playing 18 year-olds instead of 21 year-olds there’s going to be a big difference, so we’re just going to see how that all bears out.

Q: What are your feelings about the game this Saturday at Wooster? What are the advantages and disadvantages you feel you guys have going in?A: I really feel good about it. I’m anxious to see the guys compete. There are a lot of unknowns. Our kicking game is unknown, we have a lot of new guys on offense. We have some replacements on defense. We’ve worked really hard and it’s probably been my most pleasurable teaching experience that I’ve had in a long time with a group and I’ve been doing this for 33 years now. It’s been a great experience and we’re going to have a good journey this year.

Q: How do you as a coach hope to improve your team and improve upon the 5-5 record from last season?
A: I think the first thing you do after the 5-5 season is evaluate what you are doing as far as systems go and I think we did that and made some changes to things we felt like we weren’t doing as well or needed to improve upon. You look at the what you are doing. Then you look at the how. How you’re doing it, what are the little things you’re doing and do you need to change the things that you’re doing and I think we’ve done that too, but it always gets down to the who. The who is most important in the grand scheme of things. What kind of talent you’re playing with, what ability you have and trying to mesh all of that together. There’s no instant oatmeal (as I call it) as far as getting better from 5-5. It’s a real process with a lot of moving parts. As the head coach, I’m just trying to get all of the parts to move together. It’s the what, the how and the who.