Baer Enjoys the Chess Match

The focus so far this fall camp has been on the offense and particularly the offensive line. Nobody has seemed concerned about the defense because the strength of the 2003 Irish team will likely once again be the defense. Irish Eyes spoke to defensive coordinator Kent Baer to get his thoughts on the 2003 Irish defense and Washington State.

The Irish coaching staff was not able to attain game film on Washington State. They've had to use a television copy of their game against Idaho but Kent Baer says you can still learn something from their copy. "I wish it were the game film but it's not," Baer said. "The only thing you have is the TV copy so you've got to study it a little harder. You don't get the end-zone view and stuff to see a lot of things. You can see splits with receivers, you can see blocking schemes, you can study the quarterback off of it. You can pick up a cadence off of it so it's been valuable for us."

Without the game film, Baer has had to go back to film from last year to try to come up with a game plan for Washington State. "We certainly studied last year, we've seen all 12 games and they've changed some this year. They're in a couple of different personnel groups. They try and utilize their tight ends more and they try to utilize their backs more so we've had to adjust a little bit this week. We were practicing really based on what they did a year ago and obviously a good offense will change to utilize their talent."

Baer knows he has some surprises waiting for him on Saturday. "They've saved a lot of things for us—there are a lot of things they didn't do Saturday that they did last year. I'm not quite sure what, you go through 12 games and you've got a whole list of things, you've got a list a mile long and you can't work on everything but I think we've got a pretty good handle on what we're going to see. We're going to see some things we've never seen—there's no question about it—and we've just got to adjust on the run."

Washington State lost star quarterback Jason Gesser to the NFL. They have a new quarterback and we asked Baer if he were tempted to get after the new quarterback. "I'd like to think we could but the game plan dictates that and the nature of the game and how it progresses. I'm not quite sure how and when but when we do get our chances we need to put some pressure on him. We're going to try to give him as many different looks as we can and hopefully we can confuse him some. I'm sure he's studied us just as hard as we've studied him. I know they worked on us all summer—it's a game they're looking towards and we'll just have to see how the game goes."

The first quarter of any game is a chess match between opposing coordinators. The key is to try to get Washington State to change their offense based on what his defense is doing on the field—he's not sure if he can do that this early in the year. "I think the first game of the year is a little bit tougher than most because you'd like to get your guys settled in. I'd like to dictate (what they do) but there are some many things that I know they've saved for us. We've got to be a little bit careful on how much we try to dictate too early. Obviously as it goes on we get a pretty good feel for it but that is exactly what it is—a chess match. There are some things we're going to do no matter what, there are some things we're going to check to early on to see and we're going to make some adjustments at halftime, no question."

Baer admits he enjoys the chess match. "I enjoy that part of it—I really do. The first game is always some jitters because you just don't quite know what you are going to get. You've worked and worked, you've studied them all summer, you've worked all fall camp and that's the one team you always study more than anyone (first game). We've looked at our first four opponents quite a bit but you've got to study the first game more than any of them. You're going to get one or two game tapes on the others down the road so it makes it a little bit uneasy not knowing but I think it's the same thing for them. They've had the advantage of playing a game and I think teams make their most progress between the first and second games of any games of the year so that's a little scary but on the other hand—they haven't seen us play yet this year."

The status of Cedric Hilliard remains unclear. Baer isn't sure if we will see the senior nose guard on the field this Saturday. "Cedric, everyone knows he hasn't been as healthy as we'd like him to be but I think he's making progress and we'll just see how healthy he is on Saturday. He's starting to get more healthy and we'll see what happens."

Does he expect him to start? "I don't know that, I would doubt it. That decision may not be made until Saturday morning."

The Irish defense played hungry last year. Baer is hoping he'll see much of the same in 2003. "I'd like to think we are," said Baer when asked if his defense is hungry. "I think that's one of the hardest things you have in coaching, when you follow success, I think you've got to really keep your thumb on them. You can't rest on your past laurels; you have to rely on what you've done today. As long as we keep that in focus we'll be O.K."


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