Pre-Oregon State interview: Brent Etiz

Every week Stanford sends out three captains to the opening coin toss —- one from the offense, one from the defense and one from the special teams squad. The offense's leader is Andrew Luck and Michael Thomas always represents the defense, but the special teams captain changes from week to week depending on last game's performances.

Last week against USC, redshirt sophomore linebacker Brent Etiz got the nod as a captain. Etiz came up big in Stanford's win over Washington, forcing a fumble on one of the Cardinal's kickoffs. The Bootleg caught up with Etiz after Wednesday's practice and got his perspective on that fumble against Washington and Stanford's special teams performance against USC.

The Bootleg: How did you get named the special teams captain?

Brent Etiz: I think after the game, the coaches take a look at the film. From the Washington game, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to play on a couple of plays, and just made a couple of plays. I guess they reviewed the film and thought I was a worthy candidate for special teams player of the week.

Can you take me through that fumble you forced against Washington? What does it mean to you, as a player who doesn't traditionally get as much playing time?

BE: I was playing the one, so I was coming down, kind of saw things unfold a bit, had a lead blocker coming up on me. I kind of had a two-way go, so I stemmed him to the outside and kind of jumped back in on the right, and I was fortunate enough to cause it with my helmet. I was a little dazed after the play—got a nice little hit out of it. It means a lot, definitely, to be able to contribute to the team at a time like that, and to get some playing time really meant a lot. I just want to be able to do whatever I can to help out the team in any way possible.

You guys kind of lost the field position battle against Southern California on special teams. How are you going to make sure that doesn't happen against Oregon State?

BE: I think it starts out by coming out in practice and working hard every day. SC has some great athletes and they made a couple of plays, but I think it all starts out with practice out here—just working hard and taking every play like it's our last, and making every play count. In the game, you're never going to know which special teams play might win the game for us.

Are you afraid at all of a letdown game against Oregon State?

BE: They're a great team, but it all starts with us. We come out to every practice and we practice hard no matter who we're going to play. It doesn't matter if it's Oregon State, doesn't matter if it's Oregon, doesn't matter if it's SC. We come out here and we take pride in the work that we put in, and we work hard every single play because we know that these plays are going to pay dividends in the future. For this upcoming game against Oregon State, they're a very good team. I'm looking forward to taking them on—it should be a great game.

Who's the toughest kick returner that you've covered so far?

BE: I'm going to stay at home with this one and say Chris Owusu's definitely the best kick returner I've played against. Great moves, a lot of speed—speed kills, and he's a great returner.

If you didn't pick someone from Stanford, who would it be?

BE: I would definitely say Robert Woods from USC. He was electric and just has some intangible skills with his speed and his cuts. If he gets north and south he can be gone in a flash, but I think we did a good job of hemming him up with our scheme. The coaches put in a great plan to get through and we ended up hemming him up, but I think he's a great returner and a great athlete.

What was the impact of losing Jordan Williamson and David Green on the special teams unit?

BE: It definitely had a big impact, but hats off to Eric Whitaker—he came in and made some huge kicks. And also Daniel Zychlinski, I believe his first punt, he came in and nailed it down at the one. I'm so proud of those guys—we have so much depth where guys go down, and everyone works hard in practice so when they come in it's not a big deal and they're able to make plays. So hats off goes to Eric Whitaker for all the kicks that he made—I think he made like eight kicks, and then Dan Zychlinski coming in and doing a great job too. We definitely felt the losses, though.

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