After closing out the 2010 season with a 3-9 record, Chris Masson just wants to leave the UL program on a winning note. The Miami native passed for 1,842 yards last season and 11 TDs, but he is focused on this season’s team. What has been the biggest change in this year’s team’s preparations and last seasons?
“Well, from a conditional stand point it has been a grind since January,” Masson stated. “Coach Whitt has done a phenomenal job with conditioning; you’ve seen guys bodies transformed from big to lean and strong. Some of those guys that were smaller have put on muscle mass over the summer. We had to run stadiums with sandbags on our backs and push each other to come together to accomplish that task. Coach Whitt has put us in some uncomfortable positions and helped this team totally transform itself physically.”
Masson now ranks 6th all-time in passing with 4,320 yards in Cajuns history. Last seasons numbers didn’t come easy with the number of injuries on the offensive line, but many of those players return this season along with the same receivers. Has there been much more of a comfort level working with this year’s offensive group since spring?
“You know the comfort level is there since we’ve been together last season and through spring,” Chris mentioned. “Last year was tough, but we are not going to make any excuses if we have to make adjustments this year because of injuries. We have to perform regardless to what adjustment has to be made during the season. So we have a comfort level with each other and that young group of receivers is a year older now. I’ve said it before, but this is the best group of receivers we’ve had in the program since I’ve been here at UL. Then you add Ladarius Green, Jacob Maxwell and Ian Thompson to that group, with the way we use our tight-ends in the offense and this could be a very special group. Then we’ve added some running backs to our program and everyone knows Aaron Spikes can catch the ball too. We are going to be very versatile in what we do in this offense; on one play we can line up in the spread and the next play we could line up in the I-Formation.”
Ladarius Green is a preseason All-American candidate, but Jacob Maxwell and Ian Thompson have shown during the fall that they are ready to contribute this season.
“Those guys were freshmen last season, so now they know what to expect in a game,” Masson stated. They’ve worked really hard this year and have put in the practice time to improve their skills. They’ve done a great job this offseason and have developed into the players we expected. Ladarius can’t play every down and they are ready to step in and do many of the same things that he does in the offense. Both of them bring similar intangibles to our offense, and we don’t need to change what we are doing within the offense.”
Coach Johnson brings in an offensive philosophy that has been very successful at Southern Mississippi, guiding the Golden Eagles to three straight bowl games. What has he asked Chris Masson to do in this year’s offense that is different from last year’s system?
“Every offensive coordinator and quarterback coach pretty much as you to do the same thing, take care of the football,” said Chris. “If you take care of the football and don’t turn it over, you are going to give yourself a chance to win. One of coaches favorite sayings is “squeeze the football”, he is always telling us squeeze the football or don’t turn it over. With our defense, we are going to get some turnovers from the opponent’s offense, so we will have to take advantage of that and score points. We just need to play within ourselves and move the chains.”
One of the most glaring questions for Chris Masson and the offense to answer will be consistency in the second half. Like the other parts of the team in 2010, the offense struggled in the second half’s of most football games to score. What have he and his teammates done to prepare or put themselves in a position tor win football games in the fourth quarter?
“I think conditioning is going to help us this year,” Masson stated. “Coach Whitt put us in a lot of situations that most teams don’t go through during offseason conditioning training. We are going to be mentally and physically tough on the field. If you are the mentally tough team out there, you are going to give yourself a chance to win. Then with the new coaching staff and the changes in schemes that they have implemented, we are going to be in a better position to win more game. When you put all those things together, then you have a recipe for success.”
Coach Hudspeth stated coming into the season that one of the team’s goals was to win this season, and not just build the program for the future. Masson and the rest of the team have bought in to coach’s goals, but what are Chris’s personal goals for the 2011 season?
“I graduated in the spring, so that is one goal I’ve already accomplished,” Chris said. “It all comes down to winning and bringing a winning season to the fans and students of UL is the ultimate goal. And then of course getting to a bowl coincides with a winning season. We want to get to the New Orleans Bowl and have our fans come down there to watch us play. There is no other goal then to win the Sun Belt championship and play in the New Orleans Bowl.”