Dennis Erickson Press Conference

With the beginning of Spring Drills just a few short days away, University of Idaho head coach DENNIS ERICKSON held a news conference this afternoon with the media to answer questions regarding the current state of the Vandal football program. was on hand for this event, and we present the complete transcript from the news conference.

Many thanks to Larry Johnson for making the trek over to Moscow from Seattle for today's news conference, and to Gaylen Wood for transcribing the tape this afternoon. Media from around the area were on hand for this conference, plus an unspecified number were connected by phone. A number of outstanding questions were asked, and are presented below.

Q: Coach, are you ready to get on the field?

DE: No question about it. It seems like I haven't been on the field in a long time, which I haven't. You sit out a season and haven't been out on the field; so it was exciting just to get back out there number one, but more than anything it was just to see where we're at and get a chance to look at our players. You can look at 'em on tape and you can look at 'em in the weight room and all the things that they're doing right now, but we've just got to find out who the football players are. We've got a lot of teaching to do on both sides of the football; so to me the most exciting time, the most fun time for me, is practice. Looking forward to it.

Q: You've been bouncing around at different booster functions, shaking lots of hands and things like that. Is it a much more likeable situation to be on the field? Do you feel more comfortable there?

DE: Well, I like to do both. It's been great going around the state because I've got a chance to see a lot of old friends, a lot of people that played for me and a lot of boosters that I've been around a lot, and that's been a lot of fun, and to see the enthusiasm that is out there right now as far as the Vandals are concerned. They deserve that enthusiasm after the things they've gone through the last few years. That was fun, but I like the coaching aspect of it. I enjoy that too, and I obviously will wind up doing a lot of that as time goes on.

Q: What can we expect from the first practice?

DE: Well, there will be a lot of enthusiasm, believe me. I mean, that's how it is. We're without pads; so you'll see a lot of organizational things, just the basic things that first practice brings. You'll get a lot of formations, putting in basic stuff for the game. Offensively we're relatively new in what we're doing, terminology, all those different things. It's a huge learning curve for them. Defensively we're doing a lot of the same things that we've done, but then again we've got guys playing different positions; so it's a lot of work as far as learning the new systems basically.

Q: How is your offense going to make Steve Wichman maybe a better quarterback?

DE: Well, hopefully we're going to give him some opportunities to be protected a little bit better. I think we've got to be able to run the football with more success...maybe not more, but with more success than we have in the past. When you do that it enables you to throw play-action pass which enables you to protect better and give him a better opportunity to throw the football. We will also do some things out of the shotgun with spreading people out with nobody in the backfield which I've doing every place I've been in my career. He's a very accurate thrower, gets the football off real quick. That'll really play to his positives doing things like that. Probably those two things more than anything in the passing game.

Q: Are you at all concerned? Basically what Coach Holt said slowed him down last year was just learning the offense, and now he's got to re-learn another offense. Is that a concern at that position?

DE: Well, it's always a concern. I believe terminology is the biggest thing that Steve will have to learn. We all do the same things as far as our reads and everything are concerned. He's played a year. He understands what's going on as far as coverages are concerned. I believe it's more that than it is what you do offensively. It's what people do to you defensively. Having played a year, he'll be so much better at that, and he won't make some of the bad decisions that he made which created a lot of interceptions that he had last year.

Q: Having had a look at tape, what do you think your strengths and weaknesses are position-wise right now?

DE: Well, it's so hard to tell. It really is, because I just haven't seen them on the football field. When you look at it on tape, when you win two football games, I mean you haven't done a lot of really good things... that's just how it is. But as I look at us, we're very athletic offensively, in the offensive line. Our running back, Jayson Bird, if he stays healthy; Wichman our quarterback is a strength for us. Defensively we've got a lot of players coming back - our corners and our defensive ends and tackles our guys have played a lot; so I would say that those are our strengths. We could have won a lot of football games last year. We had some bad breaks and we turned the ball over. But it's hard to tell until I see how they adjust to what we're doing. Strengths and weaknesses of a football team right now, you really don't know until you play your first game in the regular season, but you won't know going against each other in the spring. I mean, we try to go ones against ones as much as we can, our best against our best to try to continue to improve, but again we've got a lot of work to do. I love their enthusiasm, and we're going to be very competitive. We've got a chance to win a lot of football games, but we've got to continue to improve. It starts on Saturday.

Q: How about the name learning? How's that going?

DE: It's gone pretty good. I've done that. I've done that a lot of times, and I use a lot of those different tricks, but I know 'em all. I'm starting to even to get to know the boosters names...if I want to.

Q: Do you have everyone available this spring? Is there anyone sitting out with injuries?

DE: No, we're pretty healthy. Right now we're not going to have anybody that misses that I know of. I'm going to sit down with the trainer tomorrow. There'll be some that might be questionable, but most of them will be in there.

Q: Anybody that was on the team last fall that isn't going to be back this spring?

DE: Well, Hank Therien is not going to play. He started at tackle for us the last couple of years, I guess. He's decided to give it up.

Q: No chance of him coming back in the fall?

DE: Not as far as I'm concerned. If he thinks he is, he's not. You can tell him that. I haven't talked to him.

Q: Is this a situation where everything starts from scratch for most of these guys? I mean guys that were maybe key contributors last year on one side of the ball or the other are they going to have to re-prove themselves?

DE: To a point, but I mean there are guys that have played, that have been successful out there that that are good football players that have spilled a lot of blood for this program and have earned an opportunity. So you put a depth chart together, obviously those guys are the guys that are going to be on top of that depth chart and the other people have got to beat them out. You've got to look at those that have played and that's where you start. If somebody beats them out then that's where you go from there.

Q: Practice - You said you'll start without pads. When are you going to go to pads?

DE: We'll go without pads Saturday and Sunday. The reason that we're doing it on the weekend is it gives us more meeting time and they don't have to worry about classes and so forth. It gives us a lot of time to learn things, put things in, terminology, things that I was talking about; so we're not in pads those two days. Then Tuesday, the 28th, it will be our first day in pads, and then Thursday we'll be in pads. We'll be in pads, some sort of pads, the rest of the time. Really our first scrimmage won't be a total scrimmage. It'll be kind of a half pad scrimmage Saturday April 1. Our total scrimmages will be April 8 and then 15th in Coeur d'Alene and then the spring game of course April 21. The only other time we'll be in shorts is the 20th before the spring game. Other than that we're in pads all the time. As you know the rules, you can only scrimmage so many times. You can scrimmage 50 percent of the time in some of those practices; so that's something that I'm having to get used to because it wasn't like that 30 years ago.

Q: Is this pretty standard for one of your spring practices, this schedule?

DE: Yeah, pretty much. Pretty much the same every place I've been the last 10 years. It doesn't change much.

Q: Even if you've been there a couple a years it doesn't really change too much?

DE: Well, the learning curve obviously, once you've been in a program, the terminology aspect of it and some of the things that we'll probably do without pads those first two days will be a little bit different. You can't put as much in as you would like to early because you're starting from scratch particularly on offense. It's a little different. A year from now when those guys are in the system for a year, obviously they remember everything so you get a lot more in in the spring. This one will be slow as far as that is concerned. We've got to be real careful on how much we put in, make sure that we don't overload 'em; so it is a little bit different.

Q: Coach, you mentioned that some guys might be moving positions around. Anyone that you care to mention?

DE: No, not really. It's not like we're moving a bunch of people from offense to defense. I mean, we might move a guard to a tackle or an outside receiver inside to a slot. There really isn't much to it right now. Now at the end of spring there'll be some movement that might be permanent after we go through it.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about getting back on the field?

DE: Just being around the players and coaching, the camaraderie of the game. See them learn and get better, improve all the time and being around the coaches and just coaching football. That's what I do best. Probably the most fun is to see them get better as a football team and as individuals as you go through spring. That's what I miss most about the game when I was out that year was coaching and being around the players.

Q: Coach, is Luke Smith Anderson back and ready to go full speed?

DE: Luke is back. He's looked really good in the off season. Physically he's full speed, and I'll be anxious to watch him play. Physically he's got all the tools to be a great football player. Obviously we all know about his injury situation, and knock on wood he's had enough of those. I believe looking at him physically that he can be as good as anybody in our league at that position.

Q: Are there any newcomers, guys who are just showing up for the spring for the first time you expect to make an immediate impact?

DE: It's hard to tell. I mean we've got some gray shirts that are here. It's hard to say - Miles Robbins is a wide receiver that came in as a gray shirt that we think as a receiver has a chance to help us. I'm just looking down our list here. Nathan Enderle, the quarterback that came in from Nebraska that's a freshman. Of course we haven't seen him. I look at him physically and he's young, but it looks like to me that it'll be interesting to see him grow as a quarterback. Stanley Franks who's a junior college transfer from Long Beach City College is here who has played receiver and corner. We're going to play him at corner. We believe he's got some ability to run and cover people. Adam Shamion out of Post Falls that was a gray shirt linebacker that we'll see for the first time. You can go on and on. I mean there are guys that have played. To me they're all guys that I haven't seen, but those are the guys that are new that just came in this semester. We've got some defensive linemen, Jon Dominguez out of Fresno that is new also. It'll be an interesting group to see, but for me, like I said, they're all new as far as I'm concerned.

Q: You mentioned Jayson Bird. How is the running back lineup looking right now?

DE: Well, of course we've got Jayson who was hurt. I really like what I see in Jayson. Tracy Ford I thought played very well. We're going to play him at running back and play him in the slot some. He's a guy that does some awfully good things.real quick. Rolly Lumbala who's got good size and played quite a bit last year that I think can help us. We've got some depth there. Gavin Smith who is actually a walk on that was at Eastern, not very big but he's got some great quickness. You can see that. I remember him. We had him in our camp when I was at Oregon State. So we've got some depth. Obviously we've got a couple of young guys coming in. Brian Flowers is a junior college running back out of El Camino who was very highly recruited who we think has got a chance. That position to me looks like a strength.

Q: Dennis, how much adjusting do you do to them and vice versa, especially with the offensive system you want to run? [Specifically] do you see them adjusting to what you want to do more, or do you meet them [halfway]?

DE: Oh, you've got to meet halfway. I mean, we're going to put in a system, and then we've got to see where we're at, what our strengths are offensively. I mean, if we can't throw it and catch it, there's no sense throwing it 50 times a game. If our strength is the running game, then of course we're going to run the football more. We're going to teach the basis of what we do offensively, then of course you've go to look and see what our strengths are, and you've got to look at what we're like on defense too; so when you go into the fall we've got to do whatever it takes to give them the best chance to win. I don't know what that is right now. You've got plans on what you want to do, and you want to spread it out and you want to do all these different things, but how well do we do it? What do we do the best?

Q: Dennis, how about your seniors? This is their third coach now since they've been here at Idaho.

DE: Well, you hate to seem them experienced at that kind of situation, but the seniors...I mean, they've been through a lot of things. To me it's always the seniors' football team. Of course they were recruited by Tom and Nick for two years and now they're finishing up with this coaching staff, but they've got a great attitude. All they want to do is be successful and win, and they're dedicated to the University of Idaho whoever the coach is; so it's their last hurrah; so they're going to give it everything that they have, and that's not going to be a problem at all.

Q: Coach, have you been watching film of these players last year against teams in the WAC? How quickly do you think you guys can become a factor in that conference?

DE: Well, I don't know. I guess it's what you consider a factor, but we're going to be competitive next year. I really believe we can be competitive. We've got guys that are pretty darn good football players on this team. If you stay healthy we'll be very competitive. I think in a year or two that we'll be competing for that championship. That's what our goal is in the next couple-three years. But as I look at this football team, they're hungry. Who knows what happens? I mean I've been in this situation before, and they'll be competitive. A lot of things happen as the year goes on as far as confidence, and if you can stay healthy and you win a game here and you can win another game, and who knows what can happen? Like I've said, I've seen it happen. There are a lot talents in this league. I mean, Boise has proven itself. Fresno's got some great athletes. Hawaii. You can go through the whole league. It's very, very competitive. That's why I'm so excited about being in the league. We've just got to continue to improve. Is there a set date on when we're going to win the championship? I don't think so, but I mean we'll know more about what we need to do recruiting-wise at the University of Idaho as we go through this year and see where we're at and where we've got to get to. I say this with great respect for Boise State, and I know it's our big rivalry, it always has been and it always will be, but I have got great respect for what they've done with that program. They've done a tremendous job starting with Koetter and Dan Hawkins. So I mean as we look at where we're at, we've got to get to that level. When we get to that level then we'll be very competitive in the league. I talk about rivalries. Rivalries aren't rivalries until both teams win games; so it hasn't been much of a rivalry here in the last six years. We want to make that thing a rivalry; so we look at them. We look at their talent. We've got to see how far away we are and coaching-wise too. It's not all players. I mean, we're all in this thing together.

Q: Coach, what has the last month been like, kind of deja-vu from the early 80s when you were been going around the state?

DE: Well, if I had Eric Yarber still playing and some of those guys it would be. A little bit, but then again it's a different challenge. It's hard to explain. When I first came here it was a great challenge, the Big Sky, 1-AA, and that was great. Now I see it as a totally different challenge. The WAC, we've got bowl opportunities, we've got TV opportunities. I mean, it's totally different than it was when I was here the first time, and, as I said before, that's why I'm here, because it is a new challenge, and it's a big challenge, but it's going to be fun. So, we've got to go back to East Lansing, I think, is the first ball game.

Q: Do you talk to John L at all?

DE: I talk to John L. I talked to him the other day and told him I'll see him, and I said I'll be there on the fifth. He said, 'I thought you played on the second?' No, we'll see you the fifth, John L. Good luck to you.

Q: Coach, is there a position that is the focal point for you to get really shored up and I know they're all important, but is there one particular position that you're really concerned with?

DE: Well, obviously the focal point on any football team is the quarterback. There's no question about that. I feel very, very good about Steve. We have got to get a backup. We've got to find out who our second guy is, and that's real important because, as you know, injuries occur and we've got two real young guys, and we've got to see how they develop; so that's real important. Then our fronts, both offensively and defensively, have got to come together. You win games in that offensive front, and with Hank leaving now we've got to get a group together. We don't have a lot of depth there, but we've got to really develop a group that can be solid for us, because that's where you can win some football games. The same thing in the defensive front. Right now I have some concerns at safety as far as depth is concerned. We've got to try to develop some depth there. We've got to develop depth every place on this football team, and I'm starting to see that with the last couple of recruiting classes that Nick has brought in. I haven't seen the freshmen obviously play yet other than on tape. We're getting more depth and we're getting faster and stronger. You can see that. It's very obvious in our off-season workouts.

Q: Dennis, on the flip side, what's really missing there that you really need to beef up at first glance?

DE: It's hard to tell until we get into spring football. I mean, depth is the biggest thing. We're very young. We're young. There's not anything you can do about that. We're just a young football team in all areas. We've got to become more consistent catching the football. We've got to become more physical on defense. Those are all areas of concern. That's just how it is. As you're building a program, depth and those types of things are going to take some time; so that's the biggest concern.

Anything else? Alrightly.

Thanks, guys.

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