Coach Mike MacIntyre: “We're excited about being here today. I brought Chidobe Awuzie and Sefo Liufau. They really represent our program. They've started since they were freshman, and now they're seniors. It's fun to watch young men grow up, and we've done it kind of the old fashioned way. Our guys have rolled their sleeves up and worked hard, and look forward to watching these guys play this year and kind of get the fruit of their labor, so to speak. I'll take any questions at this time."
Your new facilities look spectacular. How has that impacted your day-to-day operation?
“Our new facilities are phenomenal. They're transformational for our program. Day-to-day it's just given our guys a lot of pride, a great atmosphere to work out in, and they're there all day long. We have the players' lounge and the recovery pools that we have, it's made a big difference. And then in recruiting it's made a really big difference this year in recruiting for us. People when they come see it, they can't believe it. It shows a commitment that the University of Colorado has to being successful in football."
Condolences on your father, by the way. He was a good man.
“Yeah, he was. Thank you.”
Sefo, how injured is he?
“He's been cleared. He was cleared a couple weeks ago, and he's working hard, and he's in excellent shape. He's really taken this and run with it. He's taken the high road, so to speak. We'll be cautious with him in camp, but he's doing good. He's in better shape than he's ever been, and he's really working hard, and I'm excited about watching him have a good senior year.”
Is he ready for CSU do you think?
“Oh, yeah. He'll be ready the first day practice starts.”
You guys have the only quarterback that's here. There's been a lot of turnover in quarterbacks in this conference. Are you excited about the conference because of that, because there's so much unknown at that position?
“Yeah, it was interesting; we did bring the only quarterback here. I think one year there might have been a million quarterbacks here one year. Everywhere you turned there was a quarterback. Yes, Sefo coming back is big for us. He's broken 75 records. Our team has kind of caught up with Sefo, so I'm excited about seeing him perform this year and lead our team. He's a three-time captain. That's only happened twice in the history of the school, so I think that shows his leadership ability and how much the guys believe in him. And then as far as the season, you always want to have an experienced quarterback if you can that you feel like can handle the pressure and do it, and we feel like he can. It's kind of good that you're not walking out there against a lot of senior quarterbacks this year as much as in the past.”
Chidobe is getting a lot of attention. He's on some watch lists. What have you seen over the years that everybody is now just starting to see?
“You know, Chidobe is an excellent player. The thing Chidobe does so well is he can play all three spots at a high, high level, and so I think he's one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12 or in the country. I'm a little bit biased, of course, because I coach him but I'm even more biased because I remember seeing him as a ninth grader, and it's amazing. I've seen him from 15 to now 21, and seeing the change in him and how he's grown, and I'm really excited about watching him play this year. He graduates in December, and he'll be off and going.”
The CSU series, I know there was some talk about going home with that, but you're still in Denver this year. What's the status of that, and do you like the game being played in Denver?
“I don't know the status of the situation. I know we're not playing after a couple more years for a little while. We've got Air Force coming on and some other things. But the CSU game is fun to play in Bronco stadium. You're playing in the Super Bowl champion's stadium. Our kids love that. I'm pretty sure their kids do, too. It's a neat atmosphere. And then being a big rival game, opening game of the year, puts a little bit more hype on it, a little bit more to it, so it's a fun opener.”
Is there anything that you can pinpoint that's going to be improved upon from last season?
“Yeah, I definitely think that we'll be a better red zone football team. Our offensive line is better. We've got good running backs. Sefo will be healthy. I think we've got some guys who can catch the ball in the end zone. We've got a really good tight end. So I think us getting into the end zone more this year is important for us. Last year we moved the ball we didn't quite finish some things like we wanted, and a few injuries here and there would be my excuse, but I feel like we have a lot of depth to be able to take care of that this year, and I feel good about us being able to do that.”
Can you talk about the seniors taking ownership of this team a little bit?
“Yeah, we have the most, according to David Plati, we have one of the top junior-senior classes in numbers in the history of the school, which shows a lot about our young men have stayed and worked hard. A lot of them have played. We have a lot of returning starters and we have a lot of backups that have played significant plays. I really like this team in the fact that they are self-starters. They control themselves. They push themselves. They inspire themselves. I don't have to say a whole lot. The culture is there and built in that they understand what it takes. For example, they understand what it takes on July 15th. I called in this morning and they're working hard. July 15th matters for September 15th, for October 15th. So they don't have to be told that. They understand that. The upperclassmen are leading by example and by voice and doing a great job.”
In Arizona they're going to vote soon on recreational marijuana use. Having gone through that, even though campus laws haven't changed and NCAA laws haven't changed, have you had to address that in the locker room to make sure there's no confusion with your players about that?
“No, not really. It's definitely something that's against the law on our campus. The NCAA drug test, we drug test, so it's no different than it would be anywhere else. I guess it's an issue that you have to deal with daily. You were asking about if it becomes legal. It's an interesting deal, especially when it first becomes legal.”
You mentioned recruiting. You guys are off to a pretty good start. How much of it is facilities, and how much of it is other factors?
“Yeah, I think it's just recruiting has just kind of kept building, and with the stability of us being there, they see that our program is improving. And then also I set in a new kind of recruiting policy, a whole recruiting office, about 18 months ago. I wanted to do it when we first got there but we didn't really have the budget, but now we've got it all set up, and I think you're seeing the fruition of our whole recruiting staff along with our coaches that recruit that we have a built-in system that's very effective. And it's enabling us to make quicker inroads, quicker evaluations, and be able to do a good job, and then on top of that, you add the new facilities. When they add the new facilities, they're blown away, so it's kind of the icing on top of the cake that solidifies it. I'mexcited about where we're headed in that area.”
What specifically did you change in the policy?
“Well, I have a whole recruiting staff, a whole wing of recruiting, we had one guy before that was our recruiting coordinator. Now I've added five other people to it, and I finally got that put in place about 18 months ago, and you're seeing the fruition of that.”
Following up on him recruiting-wise, Coach McCartney really got the program going, pulling some kids out of California. Can you get this program elevated recruiting locally or do you have to go out to places like California, Las Vegas, Arizona?
“Right, we definitely can sustain the program. The majority of our football team comes from California. Being in the Pac-12 and doing what we do, we recruit Colorado hard, but it's just not as populated, and then Arizona, and we're getting guys out of Texas, so I'm excited about the inroads we're making there. But I think the majority of our football players, at least 40 to 50 percent, will be from California.”
I'm not sure if you heard the story that came out two days ago about the comments made by the Chancellor of the University. Can you please address those comments?
“Yeah. I've talked to quite a few of our players, and not one of them has ever heard that or used that or anything. I think it was something that happened about 10 years ago the way I understand it. The diversity on our campus and within our athletic program is very important to us, and Rick George has done a phenomenal job of us analyzing and looking into everything with our diversity and our program. Talking to a lot of the players I've talked to since I came out, they were just dying laughing about it saying they've never heard anything about it whatsoever, and they feel very, very comfortable and love the campus and love what we're doing there at CU. I kind of take it as a bump in the road, so to speak.”
How excited are you for the challenge coming up? Two road games back to back, Michigan and Oregon.
“Well, I'm looking forward to August 4th when we start practice. I really am. And taking it from there, our CSU game is a big game for us. We play in great facilities and great stadiums as we go everywhere, so a lot of people have asked me about the Michigan thing. I said, well, playing at Utah and playing at Oregon and playing at Southern Cal, and I can name all the other places that are just as exciting as it would be playing at Michigan. Our kids are used to playing in front of big crowds and big fans, and that will be fun, too.”
Can you talk a little bit about Tedric Thompson, what his role is going to be and how you've seen him develop now as a senior?
“Yeah, Tedric has been a young man that's started for us as a freshman and played really well. He's a big, athletic safety, has very good ball skills. Tedric is going to be a mainstay for us in the secondary again this year, and we look forward to having him making plays. He's a leader back there, very durable, very reliable, and I think he's a heck of a player that will be a big impact for us.”
And how have you seen him develop over the last years?
“It's fun. I've seen Tedric develop in all different ways. If you've met Tedric before, he's a little bit shy. He's opened up a lot. He's done very well academically, and then he's been a very athletic football player for us and been--this year I've seen more and more leadership skills out of him, and I'm excited about what he's done. But it's been fun watching him grow up.”
The only guy that didn't really get recruited much out of high school broke out in your spring game, Justin Jan. Is he somebody that's a redshirt freshman that's ready to step in and contribute?
“Yeah, Justin Jan is an excellent player from Chandler High School in Phoenix. He redshirted last year. He's a big, athletic target, has excellent hands, and hopefully he'll start August practice just like he finished spring practice and keep rolling. And he's a guy that we would like to be able to use, and I think he has a good future.”
Speaking of Chandler High, you had a kid that wanted to play for you out at San Jose State, Darell Garretson, and the way the ball bounces, you're actually going to be playing against him as he's starting for Oregon State. What's it like to go up against some of these guys that you recruited in high school and you had a vision for?
“Yeah, Darell is an excellent player. I know he'll do well at Oregon State. I know he did well at Utah State when he went there, and I think that I saw him last year when we went to play Oregon State and being redshirted. I think he'll do really well, and I'm excited for him.”
Down at the SEC this week, a few of the coaches, Coach Bielema in particular, he was talking about being in favor of the NFL staging like a mini-combine, kind of like the NBA did this year. Some of the SEC coaches think that would be a good idea for the NFL to do for the college players wanting to come out early. Do you think that would be a good idea?
“So you're talking about where they would go to try out but if they didn't get ranked is how they know to go back?”
“Yeah, it might be a good idea. Especially you have all these young men where different people are telling them to come out, and they come out and 70 of them don't get drafted, and they could have been playing their senior year and got their degree. I think that's an option, too. The only thing, if they started dipping down into younger guys and that type of thing, it might be an issue. But if they could give them some type of judgment call, come out or stay in with that, but I think there's got to be a criteria where they felt like they do the evaluation thing for us now, and they'll tell you, hey, if you're really not a first-rounder, there's really no use in coming out. I don't know if it would be needed or not. It might be for some guys that think they could come out, but I don't know if they'll listen or not, because they're getting some information now that tells them to stay in, and they still come out.”
What's been your biggest challenge so far in building this program?
“Wow, that's a great question. Well, we were so far down when we got there, and I think the biggest challenge in the Pac-12 has been we have improved, but everybody else was so far ahead of us, and they're still driving 80 miles an hour. We've been trying to drive 120 miles an hour to catch them. I think we've gotten close, and we're at that point. I think retaining and building the talent and developing the players, we've been able to do, so it's taken a little bit more time because we were not able to go out and get ready-made guys that were ready to play, developed at 18 years old. We've developed them and they've developed themselves, and now they're really good players, and so they just need to get some size and strength on them. And they've been able to do that. So I guess the patience and persistence to keep pushing them.”
How would you characterize your program now heading into this 2016 season?
“I would characterize our program as a group of young men that have really rolled up their sleeves, worked hard to get to this point. They believe they can beat anybody that they play, and then also I want them to see the fruit of their labor, so to speak, like you do in America. You work hard and eventually it happens, and you get the achievement and rewards. I think--I don't think, I know, they're right there at that step to take that next step to do that. So that's where I see them at.”
You also have new academic facilities for athletics specifically. How has that impacted things?
“You know, what we did is when we built the new Champions Center, the Dal Ward, where the football offices all were, our academic center was right beside it. So when we moved out, they revamped all the football office area and made that all academics, too. So I think we added another 14,000 square feet onto our academic center, which has really given our athletes in all sports the ability to have individual study lounge areas, extra computer areas, and more space. And then we can do more tutoring type things at one time with more players in a nice facility, nice areas where you can get a lot of one-on-one tutoring. So it's been a big help.”
You were really close several games last year, UCLA, USC, Utah. It seems like you're really close.
“Those are all the things that wake me up every night, what you just said. Yeah, we're extremely close. We're right there ready to do that. Players make plays, players win games, and our kids understand that completely now. They have taken that to heart, and they're motivating each other and pushing each other, so when they get in those situations they won't panic, they'll just play through them. And it will end up having us being able to win more of those games with the experience we have and the guys understanding what it takes to do it. I feel like we're right there ready to do that.”
What excites you most about this upcoming season?
“Wow. What excites me most about this upcoming season is these young men that I've been here with going in--we've been three and a half years. We're starting our fourth season, and seeing how they've matured and how they understand what it takes to get it done, seeing that in their eyes. I want to see that achievement when I see them do that. That would be a very gratifying--I want to experience that for them and see that, and that would be very fulfilling for those guys to see that hard work and stick-to-itiveness and effort and intensity and togetherness all really does make a difference.”
I know you're driving down the road trying to get to 120 miles an hour, but as you look in your rearview mirror, what coach or individual has had the most impact on you?
“Wow, there's been quite a few coaches that had a huge impact on me growing up, a coach's son. Of course my dad who was a coach had a great impacton me. And I think that probably two of the people that had the--maybe three others. My high school football coach, Carlton (inaudible), had a great impact on me, and I still talk to him quite often, and I'll get him out to a game this year. He's retired now. David Cutcliffe, the head coach at Duke, he's my main mentor, and I talk to him quite often. He's had a tremendous impact on my life in how to run a college football program, how to take a program that's really down and keep working and stayingpositive and doing that. I learned a tremendous amount. And then Bill Parcells, I learned a tremendous amount when I coached for him four years at the Cowboys. Really how to organize a practice and how to kind of build a team. He's a psychologist, and to kind of see how he motivated and inspired guys. Those three guys have had a huge impact on my life.”
You got the schedule; did you go, that's going to be a W, because fans do that?
“Yeah, fans do that all the time. I honestlydon't do that. And I grew up--since I was a little kid with my dad, he didn't do that, either. And so I learned that you can accomplish anything if you focus in and always try to have--always have a positive attitude, find a silver lining somewhere. And so I've done that. Our team truly believes they can win every single game they play. We've just got to go do it individually at each process, and I think that they are excited about that, and I am, too.”
Your quarterback has been bit by the injury bug. Now that he's healthy, how special do you think he can be?
“I think he can be extremely special. You've seen him, he's 6'4" and a half, he's 230 pounds, he's streamlined, he can run the football, he can throw it. He's broke 75 records at our school without our team really being as high as he's been. Now we are. And he has the tools surrounding around him. I think he can make a lot of plays and do a lot of good things for us, and he doesn't have to make all the plays now. We've got other guys that can do it. So I think that kind of takes a little bit of the pressure off of him, which allows you to make some plays more than you probably would have if you tried to press yourself to do it, and he understands and sees that with the talent around him.”
And who are some of those guys?
“Well, offensively we've got Shay Fields, who's made a lot of plays for us. He's going to be a junior. Phillip Lindsay, Michael Adkins, Donovan Lee. Those guys in the backfield there that have played a lot. We've also got Devin Ross and we've got Sean Irwin playing at the tight end spot. So those are kind of the guys. We have a guy named George Frazier that's kind of a tight end, fullback, H-back, can do a lot of things there, and then we've got a couple other receivers. We've got Jay MacIntyre. We have Kabion Ento, got Bryce Bobo. So we've got quite a few guys, got another guy coming in I think is really good, Juwann Winfree, who's a junior college transfer we have coming in. He came from Coffeville Junior College, and I think he's an excellent player. We have quite a few weapons that can go do some things.”
Your defense took a big step forward last year. Does it have to take a similar type of step for you guys to take the next step as a team?
“Yes, I thought our defense would take a step forwards last year, so we had so many guys coming back who were freshmen and sophomores. This year we're junior-senior laden on that group. I definitely think they'll take another step. We made a big jump. I think we'll make a relative type jump this year. I think we should be--I think we have a good D-line, a good line backing crew, a good secondary. I think we have good depth in those areas. So I'm looking forward to those guys improving from what they did last year.”
Josh Tupou was a guy who didn't play for you last year, spent a year away from the program, he's back this year. What kind of difference can a guy like that make for you?
“Josh Tupou was out this past year. We had to dismiss him for a year. He's back, doing what he's supposed to and doing well, going to graduate. Excited about that for him. He's 6'4" and a half, 330-pound nose tackle that can move and play, and he'll be a really good nose tackle inside for us and be able to sustain for us on the run and also push the pocket. So I'm excited about watching Josh out there.”
With all the renovations done on campus for your facilities, how will that impact the fan experience on game day?
“Great question. With our new facilities, we built two areas that were really used last year for the season. Where our old weight room was, we made that a stadium club, and then we put loge box seats outside of that, so everybody that sits in that area can come up and they've got drinks and food and all that. Then over on the other side in the Champions Center, the cafeteria for the football team and everything is there on game day. We built stool seating all the way down, so they can see it's a great angle in the stadium and sits up good, and then the cafeteria is really a plush cafeteria. It's got wood floors and brick and all this stuff. That's used as another stadium club where they can get drinks and food, so that's basically enhanced the seating there, luxury type seating along with all our luxury boxes we have upstairs, so that generates revenue on game day. So we've been able to kind of kill two birds with one stone with our cafeterias that we've developed, but then also using them on game day to develop other revenue for game day.”