Sunday Call with Neuheisel

Rick Neuheisel talks about Kevin Prince's development, the overall performance in the ASU game, and getting Richard Brehaut back this week...

Q: The last couple weeks you guys have been doing some neat things with personnel on defense. What led to that?

A: That's kind of born out of necessity. Number one we were having some attrition, number two we weren't having a lot of success. So we had to figure out ways to utilize our personnel so we could find different ways to, whether ‘confuse' is the right word, or at least just give different looks to opposing quarterbacks.

Q: What is Kevin Prince seeing differently now that he wasn't seeing earlier in the year when he was throwing a lot of interceptions?

A: We've worked hard at it, in terms of number one trying to understand what defenses are trying to do to us and so that he can be aware and so forth. And the second thing we've worked really hard on is his feet. Most of the times Kevin's been inaccurate is because his feet have betrayed him. It's that he's not been organized there, and so the ball doesn't fly like it does in practice when he is organized. There were a couple of times yesterday where he was just absolutely beautiful with his footwork and put the ball right on the money. So, I think we're just seeing some maturation there, and hopefully it's going to continue. It needs to for us to be successful. And the other thing that's happening is he's becoming a real weapon as a runner, so defenses are having to do maybe a little bit less than they might have done previously because they always have to have somebody attributed to him. Maybe the looks he's seeing aren't as multiple.

Q: As far as grading out his decision making, how'd Kevin do?

A: We looked at the film today and there were only two or three times where I though he was wrong. And I'm a harsh grader. That's pretty darn good for a game.

Q: Has the offense gotten simpler the last couple of weeks for Kevin?

A: I don't think it's fair to say it's simpler. We've gone more to the run action game, which means that we're playing off the run game and because of that your reads are a little more out in front of you because you're not trying to read the whole field on those plays. But that all requires that you stay ahead of down and distance. We still have our drop back game which is where we're going to have to be on some third down and longer situations, but we're trying hard to stay out of it.

Q: Is this the best the offense has looked since you've been running it, or at least the most comfortable the players have looked?

A: Definitely the most comfortable, and that's because we've really worked at it and especially worked to find the balance in it. The relationship between Mike Johnson and Jim Mastro is starting to come around where they're kind of playing off each other, and it's fun to see. I hope like heck we can continue to get better at it.

Q: You made a comment last night that this atmosphere is how you remember it. How much have you yearned to have that kind of electricity again?

A: Oh bad. Bad. The first game that I got to coach as the head coach against Tennessee felt like that. Since that time, it's been hard to have that kind of excitement. We've had some games here and there, but that felt like genuine excitement last night. Hopefully there's more of that to come, but it will only come because we keep busting our tails and understand that this is a one game at a time process.

Q: Are you feeling kind of "how do you like me now?" considering you were almost dead and buried a couple of weeks ago?

A: No. And while you may have had me dead and buried, I certainly wasn't throwing stuff on top of myself. I've been in this business long enough to know that you're not as good as they say you are and you're not as bad as they say you are. My old coach taught me that a long time ago. I'm going to keep doing my best and that's always going to be it. But I do believe you can build things if you stay the course and if you have a good plan and keep a very positive outlook. That's just the way I've operated my whole life.

Q: What was the thought process that led to Randall Carroll being at cornerback?

A: We have had such attrition in the secondary. After losing Dietrich Riley, you go, "ok, who's going to be the next safety?" We're down to three safeties. We've got Tevin McDonald, Dietrich, and Stan McKay. If we lost one, now it might be Andrew Abbott who has to go back and play safety. And if he goes to safety, then who's the next corner? Well then the next guy is Randall Carroll. So during the bye week I was looking ahead and made sure he had some practice time at it. This last week, after losing Dietrich, I said, "You've got to spend the whole week." One thing we're blessed with is that Randall is very smart. Randall could come over there and play offense in a heartbeat and not necessarily have to have been in our meetings to remember what to do. So his ability to grasp and play fast and all that kind of stuff is a real asset to us. He can play both sides of the ball.

Q: That speed probably had a lot to do with it.

A: Yes. The fact that he's as fast as he is played into it, no question about it.

Q: What have you seen as far as Utah's improvement?

A: They're a very talented football team. They were picked by a lot of people who know a lot about the game to be one of the front runners in our division. Their coach there has done a great job. I watched that game a couple of years ago where they whipped Alabama down in the Sugar Bowl. This is a bona fide big time team and it's no accident that they got invited to be a part of this new Pac-12. And their home field advantage has been well documented so this is going to be a huge challenge for us. We have to remember how we got ourselves into a big game so we can survive one.

Q: What was your message today to the guys? How do you get them back on track after celebrating the big win?

A: I just mentioned that we know how we got here. Now we put two great efforts together, but we need another great effort. We also need to get better. We need to make sure we position ourselves to play with great emotion and great fire. I mentioned a raucous crowd next weekend, but we also have to get better. We have to secure the ball. We have to do a better job of stopping the run. We have to play our best game, and if we do, we'll give ourselves a good fighting chance. That'll be exciting if we could pull that off.

Q: When you looked back on those big defensive stops in the fourth quarter, what did you see that impressed you the most?

A: What I loved about last night, you know, like I said in the press conference, we did not play a clean game. There were some things we have to get better at in terms of ball security, with respect to penalties and so forth. And some of our gap control. But what I loved was every time there was adversity , the sideline didn't go in the tank. We responded. Guys found a way to pick each other up. That hasn't always been the case. If you've been in a program that struggles, you can start to find that comfort zone of dealing with the disappointment again rather than find a way to (say) "disappointment be damned, we're going to find a way to win." Hopefully we're going to learn from that, because that's how good things continue to happen for you.

Q: How imperative is it to continue to stress that one game at a time approach you went to a couple of weeks ago?

A: It's absolutely critical. We've earned the right to play in a big game. Now let's focus on that big game and nothing more. That's all we can do, that's all that matters. It's absolutely imperative that that's where our focus remains.

Q: Talk about Derrick Coleman's emergence the last couple of games.

A: Our running game over the last couple of weeks, and you know two weeks ago because we didn't have a lot of wide receivers, has gotten into a lot of two tight end (sets). And in two tight end offense, you're going to be inside a lot. So Derrick's been able to make some heavy yards in there.

Q: How's Jordan Zumwalt doing? Is he going to be alright?

A: We think so. He had a hip pointer which unfortunately kept him from playing the rest of the game last night. But we think that it will resolve itself and he'll be ready to go. But I'd list him as questionable.

Q: Anybody else show up hurt today?

A: Just bumps and bruises. Nothing else that looks like it's going to keep anybody from action. And Richard Brehaut will probably get to practice a little bit this week.

Q: Any chance he's ready to go for the game?

A: Well, I don't know about that. We'll know more on Tuesday after we see him kind of run around, but it's nice to get him back, or at least moving in the direction.

Q: When he comes back, would he go back to being the starter?

A: We'll have to determine what that scenario is when he returns. I've always said I've got two quarterbacks that are proven and that's a luxury for me. We'll cross that bridge at the appropriate time.

Q: Will success on the field be a large part of the equation?

A: You have to see exactly what the best thing is for the football team. I think both kids are capable of playing winning football. There's no question about it.

Q: Any chance you get Chris Ward back this week?

A: I sure hope so. We'll have to wait and see.

Q: What about Riley?

A: He talked to another doctor this week but I'd say he's less than questionable.

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