“You never know until you play somebody. As far as what we put in, I think they’ve done an outstanding job. How we matchup and how we execute against somebody else, I don’t know yet.” How has the offensive line come together? “They’re younger but I think they have a chance to be the best offensive line we’ve had. Austin Pratt moved to center. Will Cavanaugh and the right side of the line (Jordan Gray) have been started on the right side of the line for the first couple of ball games last two years. But they’re playing together, they’re playing as a unit. I think Coach Markuson has done a great job with them.” Why did you switch Cavanaugh and Pratt?
“We just thought it gave us the best chance to win. I’m not going to go into details. We’re going to put our best five up there. The center has to make a lot of calls and the snap has to be perfect. There’s a lot more that goes on at center than meets the eye. We’re just finding our best five and putting them in the right spots.” Halen Steward is starting as a true freshman. Do you remember starting a true freshman?
“It’s rare. Fullbacks are hard to find. He’s explosive. He can do a backflip standing with two feet on the ground. He’s about 250 pounds so he has a lot of punch, but he has some athleticism too. He’s brother plays for the Bills. So he has athletes in the family. You don’t see it when you look at him but he can move.” What standouts about QB Blake Bogenschutz?
“Blake has a poise about him that’s rare. I’m on him sometimes to say a few more things but that’s not his personality. He’s going to go out there and lead by example and speak up when he needs to. I think his peers respect him. He’s making plays and they look up to that too.” How close was the QB competition?
“It was very close. And we told them the competition is not over. This thing is going to battle out throughout the year. You may see more than one quarterback in the first ball game. It’s very tight, very close, and I feel like we have three guys we can stick in there and move the ball and win football games for us. But that’s an ongoing deal.” So you’ve told Russell Bellomy to be ready for game one?”
“Oh yeah, absolutely.”
How good is the Arizona defense?
“They’re multiple. They’ll get in three down. They’ll get inside the eye of the tackle. They’ll get in five. They’re multiple in what they do, defensively. They’re going to chew up the offensive line and let Scobby (Wright) run. I don’t blame them. He’s a good player. They’re younger in the secondary than they are upfront. They have a new corner and a new safety but it’s Pac-12, they’re going to be athletic. Overall, they’re really good. But we’re going to prepare to win the game just like we have every game since we’ve been here. But they are talented and Scobby makes them good.”
“They’ll be the best skilled group that we will have ever seen and we’ve seen some real good ones. Their receiving corps is outstanding. The quarterback is just a great operator, runs what they want him to do and runs that offense very well. And of course the tailback is fantastic. They’re really strong at the skilled positions. We’ll have our hands full.” How were you successful vs Arizona last season?
“We got them early in the year. I think they were still a little bit green. We played well upfront. We did a good job in the redzone. They had a lot of field goals. I think we played well inside. I think our tackle and nose played well. So I think they didn’t run the ball quite as well as they normally would because of those two guys. But those two guys are gone for us. So we’ll see if we can do it again.” Is there a unit you’re really pleased with coming out of fall”
“I’d say the d-line. We came into it with so much new there. I’m really happy with how that’s progressed. We’ve got some depth again. It will be really, really hard to be as good as we were last year but we’re not as far off as I thought we would be.”
How are the linebackers shaping up?
“I like them. They’re smart players, they’re real serious about their business. Drew (Douglas) is just really a bright football player. All of them have taken that lead from him. La’Kel (Bass) has had a little ankle injury but he’s out there with a notebook taking notes during practice. He’s scribbling everything down. I’ve never had a player do that. He comes to meet with me every afternoon on his own. They’re all real serious about it.” How many freshmen do you think will play?”
We’ll see, probably two or three. We definitely feel good about our class. We’ve seen enough of them to know that they got a chance. You’ve got to get them out there and see a four-year body of work but I think there are some guys that will help us right away and hopefully some we’re able to wait a year on before we use. You just never know. It’s a long season, it’s not if somebody gets hurt, it’s when.”