DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR BRENT VENABLES:
On Boise State running back Ian Johnson
I am a football fanatic and when we are not playing. I follow football and I have watched him. I remember as much as anything him fighting back from the kidney injury and thought how tough that he is. That obviously speaks volumes for his character and his toughness.
As a running back, he is a terrific back. He is really the total package. He has great vision, balance, strength, explosion and he is a very patient runner. He understands their schemes and you can see that he understands fits. He understands safety fits, linebacker fits and he knows when to make the right cuts.
Ian breaks a lot of tackles and the people that we talk to say that however fast he looks on tape that he is a lot faster in person. I feel like he is the best running back that we have seen as far as strength, balance, ability to catch the ball and the fit for their offense. He is really a terrific player.
On BSU quarterback Jared Zabransky
He is a senior that has had a tremendous amount of success and he makes all the right decisions. He is very athletic, very mobile and very efficient at running their offense. The execution, the precision and the aggressiveness of their offense goes through him. Schematically, their philosophy as a staff and as an offense is very aggressive in their approach. They probably don't care what you do as much as what they do, and they try to dictate the tempo from start to finish. However, it all starts with him. He is a very confident player, very aggressive player and he makes a lot of big plays with his legs.
When he is in trouble, he is a scrambler looking to throw. That is the threat that worries you.We have seen a couple of guys this year that were terrific athletes and who concern you running the football, and breaking the pocket down. However, when they can find vision down field and have the awareness with the receivers to get open, that makes it very difficult to defend. It is hard to simulate that in practice. That is it as much as anything.
On Boise State's offense having something to prove
They don't have to prove anything to us. I anybody else has watched them play and hasn't seen what everybody is talking about, then they are blind. You would expect them to come in here very inspired. It is the pundits who have said they have no chance, it has not been us. We don't believe that for one bit.
They are very good at what they do and they know what they are doing. You can see they have a system in place and it has been in place for sometime. They are confident in what they are doing. That is why they have had success regardless of who they have played. Even in the Georgia game a year ago, although they had three turnovers in the first four or five drives, they were moving the ball a lot. They hurt themselves, obviously, with those turnovers so the score to us was not indicative to the game or their ability against good athletes.
"Some people of talked about their size, but they don't need guys to knock you off the ball as much as out-leveraging you, out-gapping you and getting you into a position where you don't adjust. Things are happing awfully fast pre-snap and it doesn't take much. It is six inches here and six inches there. And if you don't get lined up right then they can hit the big play on you. They are very good at that and it's something that we have be careful about and be on top of you game about.
DEFENSIVE END C.J. AH YOU
On his uncle playing Arizona State in the Fiesta Bowl and being named the Defensive Player of the Game
He lives in Hawaii and we talk a lot every summer. Our family is very close and we talk all the time. He was the MVP of the Fiesta Bowl. We haven't talked about it, but it gives me something to shoot for. It is kind of funny how this has worked out. My dad (Charles) also played in this game. So my dad, my uncle and now me have all played in this game. That is unique how that all came out to be.
On the improvement of the defense throughout the year
I just think that every game we came a long ways. In every game, we just tried to break down the film and see what we could do better. We obviously haven't had our best game yet, but bottom line we have been improving every week and making sure that we are up there with some of the great defenses in college football.
On players learning their assignments
We found that out real quick at the beginning of the season. A lot of us were just trying to do to much instead of just worrying about our own gameday responsibilities. It is kind of just gelling with your teammates and trusting your teammates. It took us a little while to get to that point and now we know if you are just a little bit out of position what it can do to you. We definitely got that fixed and we are playing a lot better.
CO-DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR BOBBY JACK WRIGHT
On the move of Reggie Smith to the secondary
It was a move that we had to make to get our best five guys on the field. That move allowed us to get Marcus (Walker) and Lendy (Holmes) in the mix. There wasn't any need for one of those guys to sit and we didn't want to do that. The fact that Reggie had started at safety all of last year as a true freshman, we just felt like that was the best move.
On the play of Marcus Walker and Lendy Holmes
Marcus is an extremely confident guy and there is not anything that he doesn't feel he can do. Really, he can do a lot. The confidence that he is rightfully so, and he should have it because he is a good player. The one intangible that he has in my eyes is that Marcus is extremely smart. He very seldom gets fooled and very seldom gets tricked. He has great eyes and great vision out on the field, especially at the corner position from one side of the football field to see as much as he sees is really pretty remarkable.
That is something that you like seeing and you like having in a guy, but you don't always see that from corners, because they are always stuck off over there on the outside. He has great vision and great awareness and has a great understanding of how people are attacking him in the passing game. He understands how these routes develop and he is very seldom out of position on pass routes.
That is the thing that I really like about him — just the mental aspect of the game. He is really smart and if he ever does get beat or make a mistake, he learns immediately from it. So if they come back with that route again he is all over it. He picks it up and he gets it. He sees it develop and he understands it.
Lendy may be the best athlete on the field. He can really test out and his numbers are incredible. Just from an athletic standpoint, he may be the best one out there. The thing that you really like about him is the fact that here is a guy who has never played that position. We took him from wide receiver and moved him to corner and the guy really knows very little about playing corner, and he still knows very little even though he has a little experience under his belt now.
His is a learning experience every single day, because for a guy who has never played there you just don't get it in practice. We don't have enough time to get him every look that he is going to get, even during the course of a season. However, from the point of his move last spring to this point now he has grown 100 percent in his development as a corner. He will be the first one to tell you that he is still not there, but what I love about him is that he competes.
When Lendy does get beat there is no lack of confidence that is 'Oh, gosh dang. The guy got me." It is, 'let's do that again,' because he takes it personal. He wants another shot at the guy. Even in one-on-one's at practice, he will line-up and go against Malcolm or 'Wick' (Iglesias) or Manuel, who are the best one's we have. If they beat him he will holler back at them to get back over here and lets do it again.
As a coach, as I love seeing that in a guy because it is not a lack of confidence by any stretch. And more times than not he will win the next one. That is what you love seeing in a cornerback who is pretty much out there on an island all day anyway. You love seeing a guy who loves to compete loves winning every snap. That is what it is really all about. You are going to line-up and compete every single snap. He loves to compete.
On Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky
He puts a lot of pressure on the secondary. He has great knack for moving around the pocket and buying time. We would tag him a 'scramble to throw quarterback' even though he is capable of running it. He has made some nice plays with his feet. He really is a guy who scrambles around to buy time to let his wide receivers re-direct routes, and they do a tremendous job of that.
They may be the best corp of receivers who we have seen all year, from the standpoint that when he is on the move and when he starts to work out of that pocket his receivers find a new route to go to.
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