"On the Spot" with FB/ILB Owen Marecic [#48]
The Bootleg's "Emeritus" spent a few enjoyable moments chatting with senior fullback and linebacker Owen Marecic at Thursday's "Pac-10 Media Day" at the tradition-rich Rose Bowl in Pasadena (where the Cardinal will play UCLA on September 11, 2010 and hopefully participate in a low-profile little game on January 1, 2011! Finding shade wasn't easy, but we made our way to the stadium tunnel to avoid suffering heat stroke!
The Bootleg: It's "Pac-10 Media Day" and we're here at the Rose Bowl with senior fullback/linebacker Owen Marecic - are we going to have to start calling you "Slash" now, Owen?
Owen Marecic: [Grinning] Oh, like Cordell Stewart? Yeah!
TB: Have you already been getting ribbed by your teammates for this unusual "double-duty" you are drawing for 2010 season? The spotlight is definitely being shined on you today, with this 'versatility' you are displaying?
OM: Speaking of being down here in LA.... It's funny - I already have the family texting me, they're watching this event online. They are jabbing at me a little bit already!
TB: Coach Harbaugh referred to you earlier as "the perfect football player? Knowing your humility and work ethic, we doubt you would agree with him. Especially at linebacker last year, there were a few instances in which mistakes were made... If you are not the "perfect" player, and you'd be the first to admit to that being the case, what are some of the things you feel you still can do to improve as an inside linebacker?
OM: I think developing a better understanding of the defense, building the mental aspect of my game, really understanding how the defense plays together as a group - rather than just knowing one's individual responsibilities - I think that will go a long way, Knowing where the 'help' is, knowing how to fill the gaps correctly, understanding the coverages a bit more. Those are areas in which I definitely can see a ton of improvement and where I am planning to make a lot of strides in the coming weeks. Fortunately, we have a week and a half before the start of fall camp.
TB: Coach Harbaugh is known for having great confidence in his players - he calls you "the best fullback in the country", but you personally are never "satisfied" with your play, you guys have developed utter disdain for such progress-restricting terms. If you were a Cardinal coach, what are some areas in which you'd be "coaching yourself up" as a fullback?
OM: I have to bring more "pop" to the collisions. I think I have to drive my feet a lot better. The area in which I feel I can improve the most is pass protection. Guys like Chase Thomas and Thomas Keiser on our team - they are going to expose you and I have been exposed - too much for my liking - in practice. That is something I have been working on a lot this summer, working hands, hand-placement and moving the feet a bit. I would also like to understand the offense a bit more, understand the routes more so I have the mental preparation to take on more responsibility, maybe ask for it a little more on the offensive side.
TB: Now, it appeared that you were rewarded a few times last year, given a chance to get the ball in the end zone. Was that simply part of the gameplan, to change things up, or was it indeed a bit of a reward to Owen for doing a lot of solid blocking for Toby?
OM: I think it's all game plan. I don't know if it was justifiable to think that somebody could stop Toby, but it was definitely a good wrinkle at the goal line when everyone is gearing up to take on Toby on the "Power" and then you slip in and catch the defense completely by surprise where they are asking "What the heck is he doing with the ball?" That kind of thing.
TB: You mention both Thomases, Chase (Thomas) and Thomas (Keiser). Those are the two toughest match-ups on pass rush, but what about run-block - who are the guys that you don't necessarily look forward to meeting at the point of contact?
OM: Shayne Skov. He'll come at you like a freight train! He'll come downhill hard and fill the gaps. Chike Amajoyi has shown all summer that he's got the power. With "explosive squats" and the other stuff we do - he's got the numbers to "wow" you... and then Max Bergen can "crack" you too - just to name a few. They're all hard-nosed guys.
TB: And they aren't giving you a free pass because you are helping out over on their side of the ball.
OM: Oh no. They are not holding back at all. Delano Howell is another one - he'll "smoke" ya!
TB: This additional move to linebacker -why do we get the sense that you would have said "yes" to any request? If Coach Harbaugh had asked you to play tight end, you would be playing tight end, if the staff had asked you to play defensive end, you'd play d-end...
OM: Right. Anywhere. What I have thought about as a player - it is your responsibility to do whatever you can to help the team. I have been thinking a lot about that. The hardest thing, I guess, would be not playing as much. You have to do whatever helps the team, whatever your role is. Whether you are a starter, on the scout team or someone who may never get a chance, there is "honor" in embracing your responsibility as a teammate.
Note: The interviewer had to pause for a moment while it sunk in that this last sentence, stated as it was by Owen with complete sincerity, was one of the more extraordinary statements I have ever heard from a student-athlete.
TB: We have a stable of backs looking to replace Toby Gerhart, but now you get to go and tackle some of these youngsters. Let's talk about some of our leading candidates at running back, starting with Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor.
OM: Sure, we have some up and coming young guys. Gaffney has got a lot of power to him too. He's not afraid of anything. That guy will lower his shoulder. Neither is the biggest guy, but Stepfan too, they' get ya, they'll get the hard yards and they have the quickness, the shiftiness to make you miss and "get north" and get up field. They both have great vision, right form the snap. I think they've developed that nicely during the last couple of years.
TB: What about this new group - in many cases they come to the college game rated by scouts even more highly that Toby was coming out of high school. Does that provide a strong challenge, to see if you can "keep the train going", that as great as Gerhart was, and despite the obvious pride you all have in your association with #7, that you can make it happen again in 2010!
OM: Definitely, I think so. That is part of our identity, at least it was last year and we don't want to let go of that. We enjoyed the identity that we found last year and we want to keep that going.
TB: The "Tunnel Workers Union" has not been disbanded?
OM: Oh yeah, they are still going to work, every day!
TB: Who is replacing the graduated Chris Marinelli's leadership of the group?
OM: You can't replace a guy like Marinelli! Or a guy like Jim Dray! But we do have solid guys like Andy (guard Andrew Phillips) and (center) Chase Beeler, "Moose" Martin (left tackle Jonathan Martin), David DeCastro. James McGillicuddy and Derek Hall. Those guys are animalistic!
TB: What happened to that skinny Martin kid from '09? He seems to have disappeared and been replaced by this hulking giant wearing his number! Young #73 is clocking in at 300+!
OM: [Laughing] I know! I don't what's going on! He is a very hard worker. That offensive line unit as a whole is one of the hardest-working units on the team, if not "the" hardest-working. I think it is a great example - last year, for example, we surrendered very few sacks. I accounted for a couple of them - I'll take that blame. I messed it up for them. It is a great example of guys working together and how this team has really matured over the last few years and gotten a lot closer. You can look to the offensive line for that. Going against them - it's like blitzing a brick wall. Those guys are real tough. They know what they are doing and, technically, are really sound. They've been working at it all summer long.
TB: No "satisfaction" or "sustaining"?
OM: No! Never.
TB: Now that you are a senior, looking back, for what would you like, eventually and ultimately, to be known?
OM: I'd like to be known as a team player and a guy who was always there, on and of the field, to help out whenever I could. It has definitely gone too fast, but it has been a lot of fun, having a chance to play every year. I guess I would like to be known as a guy who contributed, on and off the field.
TB: Last question - In trying to take on this two-way challenge, have you changed anything as far as nutrition or training regimen? What have you done to try and prepare for what is certainly going to be a fairly formidable challenge, even with TV time-outs?
OM: I am just trying to get in really good shape, more than anything.
TB: Did you work out this morning?
OM: [Appearing genuinely disappointed] I never feel right unless I have worked out. I am usually up working out right off the bat. I was going to do it, but didn't get the chance.
TB: Understandable. OK, so big things ahead for Owen Marecic! Thanks for your time.
OM: Thank you!
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