Sit-Down with Walt Harris: Part II

In the second half of our exclusive interview with Walt Harris, the Cardinal head coach talks frankly about his wide receivers, including one source of pride and another of disappointment. Harris also was displeased at the hamstring and other injuries early in spring ball, which already has him examining the off-season calendar for 2007. Also, thoughts on the young players on Stanford's defense.

Among the receivers, Mark Bradford and Evan Moore have done things on the field for Stanford.  The other guys behind them have not, and somebody needs to step up.  First with Mark and Evan, you had to coach them on a lot of new things last spring.  Are you able to fine tune them now, and are there some areas where you feel good about pushing them this spring?

I don't think Mark has had a very good spring.  I think Evan has had a hard-working spring.  He has worked hard.  He makes practice more like a game, which is one of my old adages and philosophies - you have to make practice like a game in order to get better.  So Evan has worked on it.  He has a lot more things he needs to work on because he missed last year.  He didn't get a chance to work on all the things that Mark did because Mark was here.  Evan has come to practice every day with a desire to really work better and to get better.

He is closer to the kind of football player that you want because of how you pushed him last spring?  He had to make some adjustments in the way he approached the game, right?

Yeah, he is a great young man.  A great kid.  But he grew up a lot last spring.  And he grew up a lot last fall.  I think the injury had a big effect on who he is as a person.  He is a human being, and he can go down like everybody else can.  I think sometimes at that age, kids think that they're going to last forever.  They're superhuman.  "It's not going to happen to me."  I know he has worked really hard in the off-season on improving his flexibility, which should help him in all of his endeavors.  Now we're working hard on trying to get him to do some of the things that he needs to do in order to become a consistent receiver for us.

What has been disappointing with Mark, and how are you trying to approach turning that around?

I think Mark needs to come out to practice every day and try to become an All Pac-10 receiver.  Try to be the best receiver in the Pac-10.  That's what he should be doing because he has that potential.  I don't know if that has really been one of his goals.

Of that group of other guys who don't have the experience, what is their progress report?  I know it was disappointing to lose Nate Wilcox-Fogel, but how do the rest of them look?

It's a work in progress.  They're up one day - up one period, down the next period.  They're all trying.  I know that Kelton Lynn and Mike Miller are the primary candidates, and we are trying to get them to mature and be consistent.  As I said, they're up one period, down the next.

What about Marcus McCutcheon?

Marcus has not been able to go very fast, it looks like.  He has a hamstring problem, so he has not been able to really run to the level that he has to in order to be a legitimate candidate.  He has experience, and that's his saving grace.  But he hasn't been able to run fast.  Hopefully he is faster than what we've seen.

You mention the hamstring.  Are you pleased with players doing a relatively good job of staying healthy this spring?

No.  I think looking back at this off-season, I think we had the better of the two winter workouts.  I think our winter workout was better than it was a year ago.  But because of the way the quarter fell, I think our guys really fell out of shape.  It's going to make us make an adjustment next year.  We're crowded against the May recruiting calendar, you know.  And being a quarter school, with when that schedule starts.  We're trying to get spring practice in this small window, and I don't think our guys are in near as good of shape as they need to be to start spring practice.  So next year we are going to do a better job of getting them in shape before we ever think about practice.  This year, we didn't do that.  That's an area where I know I need to improve.

And that shows up with the early hamstring pulls...

It has shown up in everything.  Just looking at them when we run, when we practice.  They're not in very good shape.  That's when guys get hurt.  That's when they hurt hamstrings.  I think we have some immature guys who didn't train.  In their defense, it was a long time since we quit pushing them.  But they have to be mature enough to get themselves ready.  They had dead week, finals week, and then a week off.  That's when they left the football program, but our winter program was quite a ways in front of that, too.  But they didn't maintain the same kind of conditioning that they need to do.  We need to have much more respect about how important conditioning is to staying healthy and how to play this game.  When you get tired, your mind stops.  When your mind stops, your technique is done and your assignments are done.  Then we don't play very good.

At the least, I saw a lot of guys return on Tuesday.  Do you feel like you have enough pieces in place to have the numbers to end the spring strong?

I think we're banged up again.  I think we're going to lose both of our nose guards.

You just got James McGillicuddy back on Tuesday...

Yeah, but he has another problem now.  We don't know what he did.  His knee has been bothering him during his rehabilitation, and it's gotten worse, I guess, as he upped his rehab getting ready.  They don't know whether it's an old knee or a new knee problem.  And then, Ekom [Udofia], it looks like he is going to be out for a period of time.  I don't know how long.  He has hurt his fingers, and we need to get a handle on that.

You just recently switched Mike Macellari inside.  What else do you try to do to fill out a two-deep at nose tackle on the defensive line, if you have no Ekom or James?

We'll just have to do the best we can.  I'm sure that Gustav [Rydstedt] will have to move in there.  David Jackson might play some snaps in there.  And Mike Macellari.

You mentioned early how this is an inexperienced defense.  Can you give just an overview on how all the young guys have matured so far this spring?

We really have some young guys.  We have guys like Clinton Snyder, who is a true freshman.  I think he has probably performed the most consistently of all of our young guys, but they all have some possibilities.  [Tom] McAndrew and [Matt] Kopa are guys who we are looking forward to their improving.  I think the best thing that the defense has done is that they have knocked down more passes than any time I have seen since I have been coaching.  They have done a great job of knocking down passes.  Obviously, that means the offensive line is too soft.  [laughs]  It's good news for one side, but bad news for the other side.  That is why I mentioned the "improving" running game.  There are some reasons that it looks better why it may not be as legit as we had hoped, but we want to keep everybody healthy.

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