Camp Closes: Walt Harris Q&A

Saturday marked the final practice of Stanford's three-week 2006 training camp. To gather his take on the Cardinal camp, and to help wrap some of Stanford's story lines, the local media chatted with head coach Walt Harris afterward. He offered his opinions on injuries, the running game, Trent Edwards, freshmen, kickers, the depth chart, Tim Mattran, the offensive line, captains and more.

Who do you expect to start at tight end?

"We don't know yet.  I'm not as ready to give the proverbial starting lineup.  I think we have so many injuries that we're not ready yet."

There will be a lot of 'OR's on the depth chart this week, then?

"Yeah, if we give it out."

Did Tim Mattran aggravate his previous injury, or is this a new injury?

"I think it's the same one."

When does he need to practice for you to feel like he can be part of the Oregon plan?

"We needs to be practicing at least by Wednesday.  Our rule is that you need to practice Wednesday to start; you must practice Thursday to play."

You don't have all your tight ends healthy, but how do you feel about the young guys - Erik Lorig and James Dray?  Do you think they can play for you early?

"I think anytime you are thinking about playing a freshman, whether that is a redshirt freshman or a freshman, that is always scary.  There is nothing like experience, and there is nothing like having already been in the battle.  It will be a nerve-racking experience, so we'll see what happens."

Are you hopeful that Matt Traverso will practice next week?

"We are.  We are hopeful, but we were hopeful the last couple of days, too."

Do you expect Toby Gerhart to play at Oregon?

"That just depends upon how he practices.  I don't think he has run full-speed yet, so it depends on how he practices.  And the final, final [decision] is up to Coach [Buzz] Preston."

So this is like the last day of fall camp...

"This is the last day of fall camp, actually.  I think that they have worked hard and had a competitive, good camp.  Now they're on their own."

What are your other impressions of this fall?  Any other conclusions?

"No, I think it's hard to say until we play and see how well we have prepared them and how well we play under pressure.  We're playing against an outstanding team - on the road and in a hostile environment."

You have told us several times how nerve-racking it was last year to start a backfield of Nick Frank and Anthony Kimble, when neither of them had played running back in college previous to that.  How do you feel about the two of them now, starting their second year for you in the backfield?

"Oh, I think that they're way better.  I wish that they had the chance to start their third year - both of them.  But I think that they're much improved.  They have to be.  It's like a first-year writer and a second-year writer after you had never been a writer before.  I'm sure your editor could agree how much better you were your second year after your first year.  We hope [laughs]."

What kind of excitement or confidence level do you have for them?

"It gives them way more confidence, and it gives us more confidence, too.  It should factor in hopefully.  But we're playing against an outstanding defensive football team, now.  They have great quickness on defense and outstanding size.  I know that they say they have some injuries, but I am sure they are getting them ready to go.  They dominated us [last year] in the second half when we had to try to get back in the game.  We were actually playing pretty well in the first half, and then in the second half on both sides of the ball they dominated us."

With the new blocking scheme you have talked about, plus those backs, how do you feel about the running game?  What is your expectation for Stanford's running game this year?

"I think that we always want to run the ball, but I have always said that we are going to do what we have to do to win the game.  It just depends.  It depends on how they line up against us.  We can't run uphill, and we can't throw uphill.  We have to pick and choose our opportunities so that we don't put our players in a position to not be successful."

Injuries aside, did you get what you wanted out of this camp?

"I don't think that you can have this many injuries and have a real confident feeling about everything.  We had way too many injuries.  Just like last year - way too many injuries.  And I don't know what the problem is.  We obviously have to do something about it because we've had way too many guys [injured].  We have the best equipment that money can buy.  We have had way too many concussions and way too many hamstrings.  I always thought fast guy got hamstrings, but we don't have a lot of fast guys and we're getting a lot of hamstrings.  I don't really understand where the problem is.  I guess we need to work harder during the summer because we haven't had any heat.  It might have been hot a couple days.  This is way different than any other camp.  We have no humidity and no heat, so I don't understand why we're having so many injuries."

How is the development of the offensive line?

"I think that was a position where we had a lot of problems and have had a lot of problems over the years - not just last year.  I think what happened this year is that we had a bunch of injuries again.  The ones who survived are probably worn down pretty good already, from having practiced so much.  That's the bad part about getting hurt.  Not only that you're not practicing a guy that you think is going to play, but also you are practicing a guy that you think is going to play double-time because you have so few numbers.  It's a hard position to play.  Hopefully with the last couple of [light] days, giving them the rest of the afternoon off, plus we had more of a mental practice here today - some physical, but mostly mental - we'll get our freshness back."

How heavy will the next practices - Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - be?

"They will be longer.  They won't be snappy.  Hopefully they will be snappy, but they won't be quite as short.  We knew that we worked our players hard in camp, and that was purposeful.  We're trying to bring them back right now."

You have a bunch of freshmen, redshirt or otherwise, on defense...

"Yeah, we sure do.  Playing against a team that won 10 games.  That's pretty scary, but those are the best that we have to offer.  So be it.  It's the same thing if that happens on offense.  If that is the best we have to offer, then so be it.  We'll make do, and that will only be good for the future.  And they will respond.  They will get better, and they bring some youthful enthusiasm.  I'm excited to look at some of those young guys play and improve as the season goes on.  The one thing we can't forget is that we're trying to rebuild a football program, and that's not done overnight because it's just never done overnight.  It takes a long time."

What does Richard Sherman have to do to make an impact?

"Practice.  He missed a lot of practice during training camp because he was in summer school.  We have a conflict between summer school and football practice because we moved this game up, which we should do most every year - having an earlier game.  But it really conflicts with summer school, so he missed a lot of practice.  Then he got hurt, so that makes it worse.  He just has to practice, and when he starts practicing regularly, he'll be more confident in what he is supposed to do.  Then he'll do it faster."

Has Austin Yancy been a pleasant find for you this camp?

"Austin Yancy is a freshman, and we don't like to talk much about our freshmen.  But I think you could say he has been a very pleasant surprise.  He still has a long ways to go, but he probably can get there."

You said that you still need to determine some things because of injury situations yet to shake out, but are any of the five positions on the offensive line penciled in now for Oregon?

"No, because depending on health, people move around.  I don't know that you can say that right now."

Matt Kopa and Clinton Snyder won their jobs in the spring...

"I don't think you ever win a job in the spring.  I think you win a job in the fall.  You can play great in the spring, and if you play lousy in the fall, you are going to lose your job.  I think it is ultimately during the fall, during training camp, during the dog days of August - though we didn't have the kind of weather to have those dog days, but we tried to make it hard and I think that we did.  But I think that those guys have done a solid job."

Can you comment on the strengths or weaknesses of either one of those two?

"I think it's hard to say about any of them right now because they haven't played.  Their eyes are going to be as big as silver dollars.  So we'll see.  We don't talk much about our freshmen because we don't know how they are going to perform.  They can go completely haywire, which can happen to a good football player, so we're just going to have to grow with them and hope for the best."

What kind of camp do you think Trent Edwards had?

"Pretty good.  With the volume of throwing he had to do, I think that probably affected some of his play.  I think we had more balls intercepted, which was disappointing to me.  He had more than I can remember before.  That's an area we have worked on, practiced on and talked about because that is our only salvation offensively - to take care of the football, gain field position where we can and score when we can."

If he had a stronger first half of camp than his second half of camp, what are you going to do this next week to bring him back to that previous level?

"I think being comfortable with what we're doing.  I think we've done some different things, and I think he's getting used to our receivers who have done some different things.  I think it just takes time to get it all down.  I'm optimistic that he should be ready to go when we get started, and if we can do a good job protecting him, I think he'll play well."

How would you evaluate Evan Moore and Mark Bradford, when you have had them this camp?

"When healthy - of course we have missed them quite a bit, too - I thought that Mark had an outstanding camp.  He's one of our captains for the game, which I think is a great compliment to any of those kids who were voted captains by the coaching staff.  I think he had a tremendous camp, for him."

Who are the other Oregon game captains?

"Trent, Nick Frank for special teams and Trevor Hooper and Brandon Harrison on defense."

Have you made your decisions on the kickers?

"Aaron Zagory right now is our field goal kicker.  We haven't made a decision yet on our long field goal kicker."

And for kickoffs?

"Derek Belch."

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