CU Media Day, Part II

Inside, Gary Barnett talks about the race for the No. 2 quarterback, what it's like to have John Torp and Mason Crosby on the team, the Big 12 North division and CU's tough road schedule.

Q: Is there an early leader in the race for backup quarterback?
Gary Barnett:
I think probably James Cox is still in that position. But we have a lot of time left.

Yesterday afternoon we didn't practice Joel. We let those other three guys sort of shoot it out. We're probably going to do that during two-a-days. One, to rest Joel, and, two, to take one of the numbers out of the rotation so we can get a better feel for where we are at the quarterback position.

Brian White, he's still hampered a little bit from his injuries. The last couple of days have been a little better for him. The tough thing about the quarterback position is we're not going to scrimmage a lot but when we do scrimmage, we're not going to be live with the quarterback. In the spring we go live with them. We can see how they move and if they can make a good play out of a bad play. But it's so hard to do that in fall camp.

It's like kickoff returners. I can't tell you who our kickoff returner is going to be right now. And I can't tell you if he's going to be any good. You just can't go live in that particular part of the process.

Q: You talked about the loss of Blake Mackey. Would you consider putting Bernard Jackson back at wide receiver?
GB:
I wouldn't at this point in town. I wouldn't rule anything out. It's never say never, always. But on the 10th of August, no.

Q: How much of a different place are you from a year ago and everything that was going on?
GB:
I know what you mean by ‘everything.' Last year this team did not let the everything affect them. I think we're further along in our defense. We're further along in our offense. We were a really, really young football team last year. So I see the difference in our football being in the experience we have.

This is a team that can practice really well in shorts. At least the older guys. I may not practice them in pads as much as I have in the past, just because this team practices really well in shorts. I can't say that for everybody, but I can for the older guys. To me, that's the difference in our team.

Q: Do you have a bull's eye on as favorite to win the North?
GB:
I think if we were a unanimous choice we'd have a bull's eye on us. But we're not. If you look at this division, any number of the six teams can win it. We all have the same number of guys coming back.

You look at the way some of the teams played at the end of the year. Nebraska's going to be back; you know they won't be down for long. Kansas State's got a ton of kids back, Kansas was an impressive team at the end of the year, and Missouri was favored to win it last year.

I don't think anybody went out to go after Missouri. You go out to win your games. To me, the important factor this season in our division is who does well on the road. I think that's going to be the difference.

Q: You told as Media Days in Houston that you liked your receivers. Is that a weakness now with Blake Mackey's injury?
GB:
I can't say to the other four guys that we lost Blake Mackey so now we're weak. We only play with two or three receivers. It's the depth. We would have been a better team with Blake that we are without him.

We've just got players at each position. Are they good players, are they great players? I don't know. You don't have to have great players as long as you play as a great team together. And play as a team greatly together. That's what coaches know about this sport. It's not about players. It really isn't, as much as everybody wants to make it about players. It's the way players play and it's the way they come together.

If you're a team that's two + two = four, then you're probably not going to win. Two + two has to equal more than four to win it or to do really well. It's always the intangibles. It's not the team with the best players, year in and year out that wins. Sometimes they do, but it's because the play the best as a team. That's what coaches know and that's what this part of camp is for.

Q: Can you talk about your road schedule?
GB:
Do you have a Kleenex so I can wipe my tears as I talk about this (laughter). Yeah, I can't imagine anybody having a more difficult road schedule than we do. But you ask any of our guys and they're already looking forward to Miami. Not being on the beach, but looking forward to playing the game.

Our road schedule's a challenge. You play in this league and it's probably going to be that way. You throw Miami in and it's really going to be that way. That's why I think the road is going to be so critical for teams in this division.

For us, the Okie State game, the Kansas State game, the Texas game and the Iowa State game – those are going to be critical games. Finding victories in the South is also going to be critical for teams in the North.

Q: Your best teams have historically been very good running teams. Is this team that way, or will you have to throw it more?
GB:
I think the beauty of what we do with our offense is we can be a team like what we were in 2001 and be pretty diverse, throw it around and run it. Then in 2002, we couldn't throw it off the field and we had to turn around and run it practically every snap.

We're flexible enough. I think we've got playmakers, we've got guys at positions that allow us to do both. We'd ideally like to be a 50/50 team. I think we're going to have to see how we develop, or if we get any more injuries at key spots. But we want to be a balanced team. That's the way everybody wants to be, then you adjust as the season unfolds.

Q: Do you feel good about your running game?
GB:
I feel really good. I don't think there's a better fullback in our league than Lawrence Vickers, with the flexibility that he gives us. I really like our two young backs. We're going to have to find a third. Right now it would be Lawrence. And we can play two tight ends a lot.

Brendan Schaub has probably had as good a fall camp so far as anybody. That's going to give us a little bit of depth there we hope.

Q: Is Vickers your Brandon Drumm?
GB:
Vickers is a little more flexible than Drumm. He's a guy that can carry the ball out of the one-back pretty effectively. He's a good receiver. Drumm was critical in our offense, especially in 2002. Lawrence is a little bit different type of player.

Q: Which of the incoming true freshmen have the chance to play this year?
GB:
In the secondary, probably Gardner McKay is going to have to figure in somewhere. He's going to maybe have to be a fourth corner. Maybe a return guy.

At the linebacker spot, I don't know. We've only got one true freshman there, Marcus Burton. I don't know that we'll need to play him, but he might sneak in at special teams.

On the defensive line, George Hypolite's going to play. He's in the two deep already. He'll play in the first game. He's been a real positive force there.

I think Maurice Lucas has got a chance before the year's out to be a fourth defensive end that can rush the passer a little bit.

On the offensive side, I don't see any offensive linemen that we would hope to play. If we do, I'm probably not sleeping well at night, and neither is he.

I think that maybe Riar Geer is going to be our fourth tight end. Whether or not that gets him playing time, I don't know. It depends on the injury situation.

Receiver, Jarrell Yates has had knee surgery. We look to have him back in 14 days. He's a guy who could compete for that fifth spot. He's a smooth kid, he's really tough. He just hasn't been able to practice because of his knee. We finally operated on him yesterday, we scoped him. Prognosis is that he'll be able to compete before the year's over.

The running back spot, Kevin Moyd is going to be forced into being our No. 3 or 4. He's got to step up there.

Q: How has Joel Klatt looked so far? GB: It's a blessing to have Joel Klatt as your quarterback. One, to have him around as a person. Two, because of his knowledge and maturity. He can walk into any offensive meeting room and coach every position. Not the technique, but he can tell the assignment for every position; all the protections. I know it's trite to say, but he is like having another coach on the field.

I think Joel learned a lot last year playing within himself and playing within the system. He handled it great last year when we had a blip on the radar screen and I had to take him out of the starting role for a week. He handled it great. He came into the game and insured the win (over Iowa State) for us in what proved to be a real important game.

I just want Joel to have fun and be himself and stay within the system and be a leader. That's a lot. But if anybody can handle it, Joel Klatt can.

Q: Can you comment about Dusty Sprague and his development?
GB:
Dusty had a pretty good start last year. He broke his collarbone against Texas and had to sit out. He came back and got to play a little bit at the end.

Dusty is probably one of our best route runner. He's got great hands, he's a great competitor. Probably what nobody knows about him is how competitive he is. He has a bit of a mean streak in him that you have to have to play that position, but that you don't find very often.

Dusty works on all the special teams. He's extremely valuable. He's one of the four guys (at receiver). We're also working him a little bit at punt return. He did a lot of that in high school, and he's probably our No. 2 or 3 guy at punt return.

Q: You've talked about how close the North could be. How important is it to have specialists like John Torp and Mason Crosby?
GB:
I don't think we would have been 8-5 last year without those two guys. We won five games on the last play of the game, and Torp gave us great field position for a defense that yardage wise wasn't pretty good.

Of course, Mason is three points when you cross the 50-yard line. You can just count it. Now we probably had to depend on that last year more than we wanted to, but we know that we can depend on it. Thirty-five percent of the game is the kicking game. So we feel like we've got 35 percent of the game sewed up.


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