Arizona State and Todd Graham
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to Pac-12 Football Media Day. We'll get started with Arizona State head coach, Todd Graham. He will make a few opening remarks, and again, the format will be the same as last year. After his opening remarks, we'll have Coach up front and the two players will be in the back.
COACH GRAHAM: It's an honor for me to be here today and really, really excited about our season. A couple of the gentlemen I'm going to introduce here in a minute is one of the reasons why I'm excited. Our program going into our fourth year, my team. I've got a tremendous belief in this football team. It's the best football team that we've had since we've been at Arizona State. The character, the discipline, the speed, the athleticism, just being in our fourth year, it's just a special time and special group of young men.
Some of the things I'm the most proud of is we had 13 all academic Pac-12 players last year. That was second, I think, to Stanford. We've had more All-Conference, and more academic All-Conference players in three years than any time in the history of our school, and we've won 28 games in three years and in a three-year period, that's a school record. Moreover than that, just the development. You know, being in your fourth year and seeing the training, seeing the, obviously the schemes and things that we have are really, really established.
So our program is about winning championships. We've competed for the Pac-12 south every year. Had an opportunity to win it in 2013.
Our goal and our mission is to be Pac-12 Champions and national champions. So we approach that by winning every day everything that we do, and I'm really proud of not only how these guys perform on the football field but what they do in the classroom and in the community.
So at this time I'd like to introduce two of our team captains. Both of these young men are
graduates of Arizona State University. Both these guys are scholar-ballers is what we call our 3.0 or higher students and exemplify what our football team and our program is all about.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll have a breakout session.
Q. Coach, could you tell us about the story of your boots?
COACH GRAHAM: Yeah, obviously, I'm from Texas, so I wear boots. That's what I wear every day. So I've got one of our supporters and a great friend, Jack, is the owner of Lucchese Boots, so he hooks me up with alligator and a fork on the front, and Sparky on the back. It's pretty cool.
Q. Are you going to be wearing them to games this year?
COACH GRAHAM: No, I don't wear them to games. I'd probably slip down on the sideline. I move around a little bit. No, I actually have always worn boots, because in Texas that's what you do with your slacks, whether I'm wearing a suit or whatever, I always wear boots. So these are just ones we get. I have a black pair, a maroon pair. I've got different pairs of them. I don't know if you can see them, but they're on me. Here, I'll show them to you.
COACH GRAHAM: They've got the little Sparky in the back, little square toe too. If you're not from Texas, you don't know what that means.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about Kalen Ballage and the spring that he's had?
COACH GRAHAM: Kalen Ballage had a tremendous spring. The young man's going to play both ways for us. He's going to rush the quarterback, an outside linebacker on defense. Obviously, carry the football and be a playmaker for us on offense as well as return kicks. We really made a -- he was a difference maker for us in the bowl game with a big kickoff return for the touchdown. He was probably, I would say, the MVP of our spring training. He just had a tremendous game. Really just being a true freshman; he could just tell the difference. He figured out that he was a pretty difficult guy to tackle, and he dominated.
So we're going to get our money's worth out of him, and he's going to do a lot of things for us. I think just how he's matured mentally. That's the thing about this team, in our fourth year these young men, and obviously a lot of young guys played last year, but the mental maturity, you know, we talk about having a freshman year, sophomore year, junior year. I just want everybody to have four senior years.
So the mental maturity of this team, and Kalen's obviously a big part of that, gives me a lot of confidence. I've got great belief in our team because of that.
Q. Does a player at some point have to make a decision which side of the ball he plays on, offense or defense?
COACH GRAHAM: No, I think you've seen different players manage that. I think he's, obviously, a guy we're going to put the ball in his hand. We've had guys in the past that have been able to be a third-down pass rusher and do those type of things. But we think he's one of the most dynamic players and versatile players in the country, so why not utilize that. I don't really care what anybody else is doing. We've got to do whatever we've got to do to win games, and Kalen's willing to do whatever we ask him to do.
Q. How do you visualize the breakdown between what offensive and defensive plays Ballage will be in on?
COACH GRAHAM: I don't know. I think we're going to evaluate that for probably the first six to eight days of fall camp and kind of see how that's going to go. Obviously we know from the spring what he can do. In the spring we went over, but we were just so impressed with what he brings. In this league it's a very, very important to score points and we've been second in the Pac-12 for three years in scoring points, 7th in the nation. So we're going to score points, and I think we'll be able to score more points than we have.
But you've also got to be able to impact the quarterback. So he's a guy we think can do both. So we'll kind of evaluate that. Going in, I can tell you right now going in, we're kind of looking at it 50-50. Maybe one day offense, one day defense. Really just evaluate it, and then we'll assess it, and get it narrowed down pretty quickly
what he's going to do. Whether that be full-time offense, third-down pass rusher, or play both ways and try to get as many reps as we can out of him.
He's also very smart. You have to be very smart to do that, and he's very, very smart. One of our smartest players as far as learning the schematics of what we're doing.
Q. What is the biggest challenge to be coaching in a league with multiple good quarterbacks?
COACH GRAHAM: Well, obviously you look at last year. Six bowl victories. Heisman Trophy winner. It was a big step for us as a conference. Obviously, the next step for us is to win a National Championship, and I think that's in our near future. The big challenge is no one goes through this league undefeated because of the parity and obviously the players. It's not just quarterbacks. It's running backs, the receivers, and then the coaching.
One of the things you see now, the league's gotten so much better. A lot of us were hired four years ago and already have three years under our belts. So we've got our players, our systems in, our development. So we're faster, we're stronger, and I know as a program, I can't speak for anyone else, but I can tell I feel like our league, the Pac-12 is one of the best in the country and can, obviously, until you win the National Championship you can't say you're the best, but the coaching in this league, the dynamic players in thisleague.
For us as a program, we had four guys taken in the top four rounds last year. We've got 7 to 9 guys on the draft board for next year. That's one of the best in the country. Our talent, our speed, our physicality is all at a different level, but so is everybody else. This is one of the most competitive places to be in the country.
Q. You don't think anyone's going undefeated in the Conference?
COACH GRAHAM: Well, that's what we intend to try to do. Our deal is to be 1-0 every week, and win every rep, win every day. Our program is about winning championships, so everybody has that goal. I'm just speaking about the past. Since I've been in this league, no one has gone undefeated in the Pac-12, and whoever the champion has been has had at least one loss.
So this tells you the parity in this league. You know, Oregon played for a National Championship last year, but didn't go undefeated through our league. So that tells you. I think the league is going to be a lot better this year than it was last year. And a lot of that has to do with where each program has been established.
I can tell you that this team that we've is one that we've not made any exceptions. We've built it the right way. We've built it for the long haul to compete year-in and year-out for championships. This will be the fastest team we've had. This will be the strongest, most explosive team we've had, the smartest team we've had. So in every area we're going to be better, and I figure everyone else will be too.
Q. What are your thoughts on playing Texas A&M, season opener? Obviously, scheduling is a hot topic.
COACH GRAHAM: You know, when Steve Patterson was AD, he asked me about that game, and there's no return game. It's not a home at home. It's just a one-game deal, and those people probably wouldn't take that kind of game. I did, because that's the kind of game that my players want to play in, I want to coach in, and our fans want to see.
I can tell you, our summer has been the most remarkable summer just the kids' sense of focus, their sense of urgency. When you're going in, kicking off in a game like that, and obviously they can watch the film and see how talented and explosive A&M is, and we just felt like we're ready for that stage. That's something that I also want to give our fans what we want, and that is a game I'm excited to coach in.
Q. Being in the conference the last two years, what is the biggest challenge of recruiting in the Pac-12?
COACH GRAHAM: Our deal is our plan to be successful and to be Pac-12 champions and national champions is unique to Arizona State. So our plan is being diligent in finding the young men who fit who we are, and that's character, smart, disciplined and tough; and we don't compromise that. If we compete for the five stars, four stars, three stars, we don't just look at film and offer scholarships. There is the intangibles.
The thing that gives me the most confidence about this team that I'm coaching now is not just talent. It is talented, but it is the desire, the heart, the character, that this team has. We have 11 guys that play together, and that desire and heart is what we're looking for in recruiting.
So we're very much on track. I think if there's anything that the most important thing that I micromanage of anything is personnel. That is who our selecting the right coaches that believe in the Sun Devil way and then recruiting players that believe that way. So I think that's something we've done a really solid job of, and that's why we've been able to be successful, not only on the field but in the classroom.
We have over 70 players out of 110 are scholar-ballers, 3.0 or higher students, and that's something I'm really proud of. And I really believe that when you see that on the field in wins as well.
Q. When did you start to see Taylor Kelly as a future coach?
COACH GRAHAM: I think I said that last year at these Media Days. As soon as he's done playing, I'd hire him as a coach. Pretty much a no-brainer. We're in the process of doing that. Obviously want to bring him on board with our staff as a graduate assistant. We haven't gotten that done officially yet, but he's a guy that we've talked about that. He probably could go be a third team quarterback in the NFL.
But this guy, Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the Pac-12, 4.0 student. He's obviously a graduate in our sports law degree school, and a guy that is one of the best leaders that I've ever been around.
Obviously, the legacy he passes on to Mike Bercovici, when you say all those things about Taylor, you can say all those things about Mike Bercovici, and that's something that's exciting. So Taylor is a guy that something I pride myself in is identifying talent. He's a guy that I've identified that is going to be a really big-time coach. He's a guy that wants to serve and give back. So to me it's a no-brainer to have an opportunity to bring a guy on board that is not only a Sun Devil, but believes the way we believe and has the skillset that he has to be a great teacher.
Q. Do you think Mike and those guys will see him as a coach and not a peer?
COACH GRAHAM: Oh, no doubt. I told people this last year, I thought Taylor was one of the, if not thee most respected people in our building. If you're around him, just how genuine he is. When he went down with a broken foot, if you will pull those tapes out and watch, he was actively coaching Mike and helping Mike on the sideline. Their relationship is one that's really different than two people that you see as competitors usually don't have that kind of relationship.
So I think he'll be really, really valuable to us. A guy that's been in that head gear and be able to be a great counsel for Mike as we navigate the season.
Q. How has he taken the reigns as a leader now that Taylor is graduated?
COACH GRAHAM: Well, obviously, three starts last year. He's already got a USC victory and Stanford victory under his belt. And too, I mean, this guyed graduated before last season. He could have left and played two years somewhere else, and never even crossed his mind. I mean, a guy that shows you what his character's about. Obviously you see how the NFL people are looking at him, his skillset, but the intangibles with him, the heart and character that that shows, is tremendous. So the respect that he has on our team, every player on our team and every coach voted for him. You get one vote for our sole leader, and Mike got everybody's vote.
So that tells you the respect that he has on our team. This guy has sacrificed for this opportunity to be the Sun Devils quarterback. So I've got all the confidence in the world in him and how he's embraced it. He's not a first year quarterback in my mind. He's got a lot more experience under his belt. He's sacrificed an awful lot to wait his turn to get to lead our team. So that gives me a lot of confidence because it all starts with the quarterback.
Q. You've got three recruits this year from the same area. You've talked about Tim White and Brady White, they went to the same high school up in Santa Clarita, and also Jay Jay Wilson. Is there something about that area?
COACH GRAHAM: Well, obviously, we're looking for the best and the brightest with the best character that fit who we are, and those young men sure fit who we are. I think to be successful in the Pac-12 Conference you obviously have to recruit and win the right players that fit you in California. Obviously, our home base, we've got to win at home as well. So our base recruiting area is within a gas tank away. That's Arizona, and it's Southern California. Those are the two most critical areas for us. Obviously we move into the whole state, northern California. We go into Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington. We go to all those places, but you have to win in those areas, obviously, like-minded programs. Those kids have the character and the discipline. They embrace who we are as a program. So you like developing those pipelines and keeping them going.
I think it's more about what type of young men they are and what type of programs they're coming from is something that entices us to continuing to back there.
Q. Can you talk about Brady White specifically and what you saw from him in the spring?
COACH GRAHAM: A tremendous young man. He's got a bright future. Obviously, one of the highest rated quarterbacks in the country. Came in and obviously putting on some pounds. Training him up. Did a great job competing in the spring. He and Manny will be competing as well as Bryce Perkins to see who will be the back-up for us. Right now starting camp, Manny is a little bit ahead because he's been there longer. But Brady, when you look at who Taylor Kelly is, who Mike Bercovici is, the character, the discipline, the integrity of how they work, how smart they are, when you talk about Brady, you can see all those same things and characteristics in him. So we're excited about him and his future.
Q. Have you had any questions from the recruits how long you're going to be there?
COACH GRAHAM: No, I really don't. I've been pretty straightforward with recruits about where we're at. I've paid my house off and I've donated half a million dollars. I don't know what else I can do. Obviously, too, here's the other thing I tell recruits. We're building a $300 million new stadium and football complex, not a lot of people around the country are putting that kind of commitment into the program. You look at the commitment our university has made to our coaching staff, assembling one of the best and using the resources to do that speaks volumes about the commitment. I don't get that question much anymore.
Q. What is Devin Lucien's status? Is he in school?
COACH GRAHAM: Uh-huh.
Q. Have you ever come across a situation where someone so close to a rival has come in?
COACH GRAHAM: I've never done anything like that. I think the relationship that Mike Bercovici and he had -- Mike came to me about it so that's why we -- and then meeting Devin and just really seeing does he fit. Taking a person one year is something we don't do very often, but it was something unique to him as a person, and we felt like his characteristics and the thing that he brought fit our program and what we were about. So it's been a good transition so far, and we're happy to have him.
Q. What way does he fit in with the offense?
COACH GRAHAM: How does he fit with the offense? Well, we think he's got the ability to stretch the field vertical. Obviously got great speed, great athleticism. What we do offensively, we'll run play action pass teams, so he's a guy that can really stretch the field with home run posts, fades, back shoulder fades. A guy that really possesses great speed down the field.
So that is something that we had last year with Jalen and with Cam Smith. So he's someone that we think -- I think he's a very similar receiver to Cam Smith in the speed and the explosiveness that he has down the field. So that's how he fits us schematically.
Q. You've got a unique senior class. You have three transfers, Auburn, Washington State, and now UCLA. You have three JUCO guys, one that was out of football before he went JUCO in Kweishi Brown, and you've got three red-shirts, Mike Bercovici, and you've got one true senior in the class in D.J. Foster, and you call this the best team you've had so far. What about that kind of hodge-podge senior class?
COACH GRAHAM: I don't worry about all that. Just watch and see what they do on the field. When you generalize where someone's from, I'm not really into that. I'm into the person, and each one of those young men have impeccable character, have worked their tail off. Isn't that what it's all about? I think diversity in your talents and on your football team makes you great. I come from a family that no one had ever graduated college, and I'm thankful that someone gave me the opportunity. I had some issues with dyslexia and things like that, and I didn't do as well on the ACT test, but someone gave me an opportunity and a chance.
So we have, just like D.J., D.J. the only reason he's a true senior is he didn't red-shirt. There are other people in his class. Our APR has gone tremendously up. Our GPA has gone tremendously up. The retention of our players is the best it's been. There wasn't but two people in that class that played as freshmen because we had 30 days to recruit that class. Just like junior college players. People have a negative connotation about junior college players. There
are great young men in junior college that are looking for the opportunity. So I don't really -- I think our players celebrate that. They celebrate. We've got kids from urban areas. We've got kids from California. We've got kids from Louisiana, Virginia, Philadelphia, all over the country.
But every one of these kids come together with one set of values. It's character. These guys serve and sacrifice for each other. They're smart. They're seekers of knowledge. They're kids that are not just trying to be an All-American on the football field, but trying to do it in the classroom as well. We have proof of that by what we've done with 70 players over 3.0, 12 Academic All-Pac-12 players, the Scholar Athlete of the Year players. And Mike Bercovici's got a chance to do that this year as well.
So I think all of that is awesome when you hear that. I love that D.J. Foster talked about that when we were breaking the rock. I think that's awesome to have guys that come from all walks of life. I look at Antonio Longino, I mean, you could make a movie about his plight and what he's overcome to be here. To me, that's what this is all about is giving young men that have a burning desire to do things the right way, and have great heart, great character, give them an opportunity to get an education and being a part of playing at this level.
So we've got guys that are 4.0 students and busting their tail and fit us, and we have guys that are 2.5 that are busting. I want all of them on my team. But we come together, character, smart, disciplined, tough. That's why all those guys were selected and why they're on our team.
We don't get them all right. We're not immune to guys making mistakes or whatever. But I've never been around a team that has the character that this team has and has the discipline. I find myself standing back and watching now and they're leading this team.
I'm excited about it because of those things.
Q. You guys are replacing both your tackles this year. Can you talk about how far into summer ball you expect the competition to go before you set and who you might expect to be the leaders?
COACH GRAHAM: Yeah, I think Billy McGehee and Sam Jones are guys that are coming out of spring at right tackle. I think Evan Goodman at left tackle, a guy that's got NFL first round ability. Obviously we've got Steve Miller. We've got a lot of freshmen players coming in that are very, very talented. They'll have the most depth.
But that competition will be probably through the 12th of August. We'll come out of there with a pretty good idea of who our people are going to to be.
Q. Obviously everybody talks about the leaders with Bercovici, Simone and Foster, who is the biggest leader on your team that you think people aren't talking about right now?
COACH GRAHAM: I think those three young men were selected as captains. The growth that D.J. Foster has been phenomenal. I think that's something really become big time. Jordan Simone was a walk on, earned a scholarship in All Pac-12, and now a team captain. Obviously Mike and his plight. Man, I love the sacrifices that these guys have made.
D.J. Foster sacrificed and trusted me when he didn't have anything to go in, so that was pretty tremendous.
But I tell you the guy that no one really talks much about that I think is one of the most powerful leaders on our team is Nick Kelly. A junior college transfer, center, had three years of eligibility, has developed into being a guy that's one of the top centers on the draft board in the nation. A guy that I think, if not the best, he's one of the best centers in the Pac-12 Conference. Just his leadership and the intangibles that he brings, the work ethic. I think those offensive linemen, especially guys like Nick and Christian is another guy in the same mode. Don't say a whole lot, but they get a lot done when it comes to leadership.
So Nick would probably be the guy to tell you that not many people focus on because I guess he gets to touch the ball, but not for very long.
Q. Whatdoyouneedtodotobe competitive?
COACH GRAHAM: Number one thing that we've worked on is with our -- obviously, we talk about being one of the most explosive teams in the country. Third in TFLs in the nation in three years. Second in quarterback sacks. Second in interceptions. It's a big play. Obviously, we're in attack defense, and minimizing risk and those type of things are things we've really researched and worked hard on.
But the key for us in the first game is that, don't give up big plays, and that is the key. But you can't attack and -- you're going to have some of that. That is the number one area we've got to get better at and then obviously continue to get
better against the run. So in our league with the diversity of the offense is phenomenal each week. We don't worry about how many yards. We don't worry about total yards. We worry about turnover ratio. I think we were in the top 5 in the country in turnover ratio in the last three years. That is taking care of the ball on offense, getting takeaways on defense. So our league is dominated by the no huddle, so snaps are so important. I was telling you how our snaps from '07 it's been like 85 to 67, 67 snaps on defense, 85-plus plays on offense.
So to do that you've got to run the ball, you've got to stop the run, and you've got to win the explosives. We've won the explosive. We've been explosive, but we've got to limit the big plays over 60 yards for touchdowns. The games that we lost, the three games that we lost, all three of those games were marked by that one stat. So we need to eliminate those games and not have those big play runs and big play passes.
On the same hand, we're not going to quit attacking. We're going to attack, we've just got to get better at minimizing those risks.
Q. In terms of walk-ons like Jordan, what advice do you have from kids that might be struggling to do the same thing he did? What are you looking for in something like that?
COACH GRAHAM: You can tell how I answer the one question from guys from different walks of life. I'm a guy that I like people that have taken the path least traveled because that is the path that I took. When you really sacrifice for something and somewhat suffered for something, it makes it different. I think the life blood of our programs are walk-on programs. You look at how many scholarships we've awarded to walk-ons, five last year, is something that we really believe in. I love young men that come, and they've got a passion and a dream, and they're not going to let anyone tell them they can't do it, and they're willing to work with a passion for it.
And many of these walk-ons, they didn't walk on. Jordan is one of the few that was able to walk on and be a starter and earn a scholarship in his first year. Think it took him a year. Most of our walk-ons have been there three years and four years to earn that scholarship, and man, when you've got young men that have sacrificed and poured into your program like that, that gives you a chance to win and be successful. That's why I like our team. You're going to have to win a lot of close football games, and I believe down the stretch, that character that's born through adversity and perseverance through adversity is what defines a football team, defines a person.
Q. I know coaches don't look at things like media members do, but your division is as tough as any in the country. Do you guys ever think we just played Utah and now we're playing USC? It just doesn't seem like there are too many breaks in the south schedule.
COACH GRAHAM: No, no, there is not. There's not a team in the Pac-12 that can't beat another team. In my opinion, I think everybody knows that. You look last year, and we thought we were through the meat of the conference, and we lost a couple of games we were picked to win. So you have to play an entire season.
Obviously, one of the toughest things about the Pac-12 south and the Pac-12 is you've got to stay healthy. And that was something that the depth that we have this year will help us, because that hurt us down the stretch last year being our third year.
Obviously, special teams. Nobody ever talks about special teams. I think special teams is critical when you have the parity that you have in our league. You look at that south, and it's a battle ground. Then we kickoff with USC and UCLA. Then obviously on the road to Utah pretty early there.
But we signed up for it. So we know exactly what we're getting into. I think championships are won in the spring and in the summer with conditioning and how well you can be durable as a team I think is critical.
Q. You were first hired, you didn't really know what you were getting into, in terms of it's a lot better, the whole conference in the south is so much better than when you were first hired. Why do you think that is?
COACH GRAHAM: I think there were three of us hired or four, I think hired the year I got hired. So all of us have our players in place. We have our schematics in place. We've also all kind of sized each other up and kind of figuring out how to navigate each game and each week. And our players are stronger and faster and develop. I think there's not been a lot of turnover in the league for the -- I'm going into my fourth season. I think that's one of the big things. I think the coaching in this league is as good as there is.
Then also the talent level. Obviously the population, you look at the players that come out of California and the west coast, and then you've got coaches that have ties and are able to draw nationally and recruit nationally.
It's something that every year the players have gotten better, bigger, faster and stronger. And I think every year, every team is recruiting better. So it's just constantly moving forward. I think it has a lot to do with the programs and how they're established now.
Q. Player movement is more scrutinized today with transfers. Is a guy like that that sticks around and waits his turn, is that becoming more rare?
COACH GRAHAM: I don't know. I don't understand why it's any different for a quarterback than it is for a defensive end. At the end of the day we bring guys in that want to be Sun Devils. We've got a culture at our place that is unique to our place. So I think it speaks volumes. As a matter of fact, I know how the NFL people that come in and look at Mike, it means a lot to them when they talk about the character that that takes to do that, because most people thought that he would not stay. Except him. So it is a rarity, I think.
Also, all the young people out there facing that decision, if Mike Bercovici would have taken his toys and went somewhere else, he would have missed out on the greatest play in Arizona State history. So it doesn't always work out that way, but I wish people would track and see when kids transfer and they do go to other places, just what kind of success rate do they have? You get one chance to get it right, and that's why you have to find a school that really fits you in all aspects of your life, so that's one of the reasons we're so diligent in recruiting. You know, Mike has had three seasons under our coaching staff, and with Coach Norvell and his growth has been tremendous. I like that. I think it is rare that you have a young man that will demonstrate that kind of character.
Even last year, when Taylor broke his foot, he came in and I labored over that decision. That was not an easy decision. Many times I struggled with that because of how good a football player Mike Bercovici is. But he's a guy that's never wavered in his commitment to being a Sun Devil. He's pretty motivated. I don't know if there would be a more motivated quarterback in the country than he is because he's sacrificed so much to be here.
Q. You mentioned continuity. How difficult is it, particularly on the defensive side of the ball to be learning a new scheme, installing new schemes, and be successful on that side of the ball in this day and age of college football?
COACH GRAHAM: It's hard. I mean, obviously, we're going into our fourth season with the same scheme. Coach Patterson and I, our defensive coordinator, were college roommates and he was my defensive coordinator at Allen High School. So we're pretty much on the same page. Jackie Shipp, I've got a long relationship with him. I've got a 25 year relationship with Shawn Slocum who coaches our outside linebackers. I learned and studies defensive-back play under Chris Ball, our secondary coach.
So that's what helps us. We haven't had much turnover on our staff. We have some great teachers. But even at that, it takes time to develop a system and a scheme. So, obviously, those three years of doing that.
The problem is, the kids keep graduating. If you could keep them longer, you'd be in good shape. But we had four or five true freshmen that had a couple of starts under their belt last year that now have a year under the system, then the older guys. Just, man, we just so much, it breeds confidence because knowledge breeds confidence. So that's why it's so big to have that experience in there.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and continue with Oregon State, Coach Gary Andersen.
COACH ANDERSEN: We're excited to be here. It's been a great transition. We're fortunate to be around tremendous young men in a school that we all have great belief in and an administration that's allowed us to continue to grow and take next steps. We're in a good spot. We're a very young football team. We have 11 scholarship seniors on the team. Lot of young guys are going to play. How we move through our fall practice is going to be very important. We'll start with some broken up practices, A and B, split the team into two different practices just for the case of getting everybody reps and seeing how many young guys can play, little bit offensively and defensively for us. The freshmen quarterback is guaranteed to start, don't know which one, but there's three of them.
So we'll see which freshman is going to come out of there, and that is exciting. If you look at the offensive line, we have some returners. If we can get Isaac back, that would give us another huge boost. He's a proven, in my opinion, top level player in our league, and exciting to see where he is. He looks to be in great shape.
So we'll lean heavily on those offensive linemen as we go through this season. We need some big plays out of our wide receiver core. Bottom line is that Victor needs to come up big, Jordan needs to come up big and the rest of that crew. They've made some big-time plays in this league, big-time moments that have really helped the team move forward in games. Now the challenge for them is to make those plays and also make the consistent plays throughout a game, catch them all, make the plays that need to be made, and we'll lean heavily on them.
Storm, who is with us today, we'll lean heavy on him. He's got experience, he's got toughness. He's a young man that's played in this league, and high expectations on him and he's had
them for himself. Also, he's moved forward. He's a tremendous, tremendous young man, and that's why he's here today. He's got his degree. He's moving forward in life are and very excited about the opportunities in front of him.
On the defensive side of the football, I don't know if the stat is correct or not, but I was told yesterday we returned 20% of our tackles from a year ago. That is obviously concerning. It's not the ideal stat that you'd like to have, but we have a young, hungry defense.
Larry Scott is the other young man that's with us today. Larry is a proven player in this league. He's very excited about his future. He's also in the same position academically as far as moving forward in life, and he'll be in those, the graduate situation as he goes through time here. I'm proud of him and what he's done off the field. He's a tremendous leader. He'll be the leader and the catalyst to that defense as we move forward with a very young crew that's excited to go play.
Coaching staff, very lucky to have the coaching staff, in my opinion the players on this team are very lucky to have the coaching staff we have in place. We'll work like crazy to put these kids in a position to move forward and play at a high level, which you have to play at a high level to have any chance to win a game in this league.
Q. In the last couple years you got to Media Days with Urban Meyer, and now you get to hang with Kyle all day. What do you think about that?
COACH ANDERSEN: It's good in evenings when we can get around each other and spend time. But it's always fun to be around people that you like to be around. So it's different when you've got to compete. We've had that discussion many times. But it's great opportunities to see where we've all come in our career, and we're all lucky to be in the spots that we're in.
Q. Do you get to hang out a little with Kyle?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, absolutely. We'll get to hang out a little bit tonight and spend some time with each other. Both our wives are here, so it will be fun to get together.
Q. Can you talk about your matriculation from Wisconsin to Oregon State, and kind of the thinking on your part to make this move?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, that question is always the transition for us. There's always that question of the whys. The easiest way and cleanest way for me to answer that question was I was given a tremendous opportunity in a school that I have a hundred percent belief in, and that is Oregon State. I saw a lot of things from afar for many, many years from recruiting to competing against the kids to you grow up in this profession, and 20-plus years you get a really good idea of the communities that you liked, the schools that you like, the different universities are different.
For us to be in a spot where we're a university that is so intertwined with the community, the community is so intertwined with the school in a small town, it doesn't happen everywhere, obviously. That's what we like. When I say we, that is this coaching staff. All of this coaching staff has been together before. Different timeframes, different spots, different places, but we all belief in the same thing, and that was key for us.
I'm always going to go where I think I can affect kids lives, and at this spot I believe I can do that consistently. I had great kids at Wisconsin, but any time I'm in a position to compromise what I believe in coaching, that's hard for me to be in the middle of it. When I see an opportunity that I want and I'm told to go there, then I'll go.
Q. Where do you see this team now, and where do you see it going in the immediate future? Is it a team that can contend for the conference championship?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, everybody's going to sit here and say they can contend for a conference championship, obviously. For us, we're really a day-by-day working team right now. We are so youthful. We have to worry about today and then take on the fights for tomorrow and find a way to be consistent. I think that's our challenge. We have some very talented pieces of the puzzle. I guess you could say unfortunately everybody in this league has some very talented pieces of the puzzle.
We are extremely youthful. How we handle adversity. First time we get smacked in the face, what's going to happen? Are we going to put our tail between our legs and go sit in a corner or are we going to ball up and fight? We are going to
face adversity. It may be the first day of camp. It may be the first game. Who knows what it's going to be?
But how we can grind through those situations and fight through it with our youth will be imperative. The few senior leaders we have got to carry us through those moments of con controversy, adversity, hard times. That will be a big key. Just believe in ourselves, believe in our system.
So where that all takes us, I don't know. I know this. When we jog out of the tunnel every Friday, Thursday, Saturday night, whenever that may be, we expect to win that game.
Q. Until Mike Riley and Dennis Erickson, Oregon State had not had any sort of consistent sustained success. Do you feel the television exposure and the balance of the financials has sort of negated whatever lack of tradition for lack of a better term, Oregon State may have had in the past?
COACH ANDERSEN: No, I think we need to lean hard on the tradition and successes that we've had in the past that Coach Riley had, Coach Erickson had. And we go back to the Rose Bowl team. We need to lean on all those teams that sat back and did tremendous things at the university.
But Oregon State's in a great place right now. We are moving forward in a very aggressive way with the facilities, with the way we handle our kids academically, with the way we feed them. Our expectation level of them and their GPA situation. So it's all been pushed up. You know, the bar has been rising and it's going to continue to rise at a very high level.
But we have what we need to be able to compete at the highest level. Every place is unique to recruit to. The question I always say to my assistant coaches is, do you believe in the place that you're recruiting into? Because in the end, it's still a relationship business. It's not about a street agent. It's not about this guy knows that guy. It's about your relationship with the people that are important to the young men. And if you believe you can recruit, that's when you can win games is when you have really good players.
Q. You mentioned splitting practices. How's that going to work?
COACH ANDERSEN: We'll split our first three practices. We'll go Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and we'll practice. It will be a practice A and B. So first, it's not really ones and twos and threes and fours. The team is just basically split. They'll come out for a 16-period practice, and we'll have a special teams practice in between, so Group A comes out, group B stretches, they're all together for special teams. Group A goes in, group B practices.
So it's a good way to it's also a good way to find out, because the first practices are about four hours, but that's a great, the kids are on and off quickly.
Q. Have you done this in the past?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, we've done it in the past three or four times.
Q. Comparing the Big Ten to the Pac- 12, why is the Pac-12 different?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, the speed. If you want to talk about something that is different. This is without question, and I'm looking from afar through a TV screen or a big jumbo screen we have in the offices that we watch film from and on the TV.
So not firsthand experience. But this league has what we like to call juice. It is fast. There are a lot of guys that make one mistake and you're going to pay the price quickly. On the defensive side it is the same way. There are elite pass rushers that are fast and quick. There are linebackers that can run on the back end that I believe can make up for a lot of problems that -- it's hard to solve with a pen in your hand, but genetics take over and make you some special plays.
The thing that I think is way underrated, and again, not firsthand experience from watching the film, is the way that this league plays in a physical nature in the box, with the defensive lines and the offensive lines. I never hear people talking about this league is tough minded. I know it's not the class, flashy thing to talk about, right, anyway, with the offensive and defensive lines.
But the fact of the matter is they're well coached. They're tough kids. They play with leverage and play with great technique. That is something that jumped out on me on film because I look for that stuff. Maybe it's the old O-lineman coming out of me. But it's apparent the kids are coached and they play the game the right way and they're tough, tough guys.
Q. Compared to other leagues, the Pac- 12 doesn’t get much attention. Do you feel that’s changing?
COACH ANDERSEN: I absolutely have felt a huge swing in the last two years, and that's me being in the midwest for two years that the Pac-12 has gained a ton of respect nationally. It's
not that another league has taken a step backwards or not as good as they were. I don't believe that. I just believe that the Pac-12 has gotten better and better and better, and it's because of the investment in athletics as a whole is my opinion. It gives you the opportunity to take better care of the kids. If you play in the Pac-12, you play at Oregon State, you deserve to have the best of the best and that is a fact. Do you need everything that you have? Yeah. It's going to make you better socially. It's going to make you better academically, and make you better on the football field. All of these things that kids are getting now helps and it makes them more competitive.
Our situation, we're going to be a developmental program and take great pride in that. We're going to recruit at the highest level against anybody in the country. We'll go banging heads with you recruiting-wise and love to get into those contests with you. But on the flip side of that, what we have in our weight room, the way we feed our kids and the way our kids can go, we can take a developmental kid that nobody else is going to give a chance and let him develop with us. And they'll catch that, whatever star that other guy was, we'll catch that dude. Just give us a couple years. We'll catch him.
Q. You mentioned this conference has juice. What is it like as a first-year staff to teach a defense and get your guys playing at a high level on that side of the ball against these offenses?
COACH ANDERSEN: One of the biggest challenges that we face is we are changing the offensive scheme and we are changing the defensive scheme. Again, in my opinion, off of what I have seen, you better be able to run at a high level on defense. You can pay a price very, very quickly. We have got the coaches in position that have played, or excuse me, have coached together. It's awesome to have Kalani who has coached in this league. Huge advantage. He knows personnel. He understands the systems. He understands it so cleanly it's good to have him with us. Ilaisa's with him. Coach Chad was also in this league for a couple years, so he gets it. That's a head start for both of those guys.
So we're young, we're youthful. They need to play hard. How do you get them to play hard? You get that mentality through what we've done and what we call our first, second and third quarter. So hopefully right now we're prepared to play hard. We seem to be, but we'll see when we jog out of that tunnel.
Q. You mentioned young quarterbacks. Is it going to be a freshman no matter who it is? Can you talk about the summer workouts? Is that hard?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, it seemed to me in just going through -- we get them for a little bit every week, and the discussions that Coach McGiven had with them, and I think Kevin's a great teacher. We talk to them a lot about that. You don't have to be the leader, but I'm just telling you, when you jog out on the field and we're not a huddle team anymore.
But when I was a center and I had to look my quarterback in the eye, I had to have the feeling that this guy's okay. I didn't have a rah-rah quarterback in college. He just sat back and did his business, and that's what we need, but you have to carry yourself with confidence and the team has to believe in you.
That is a big part of the picture. When you sit back and we ultimately decide on a starter and how we go about that, do the young men that are jogging out there. Those other ten guys on the field with him for that snap, do they believe he can be the guy that can move them down the field? And that comes through leadership, yes, but that also comes through how he prepares. What is he doing Friday night? What is he doing Saturday night?
Q. In your short time what's been the biggest challenge of recruiting in the Pac-12?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, the biggest challenge for us right now in recruiting is we identified our areas. We've got that done. We knocked it out. It's definitely for us showing the kids what we'll have in a year, and letting them understand the great facilities that we have through this conference, and there are many of them. You know that as well as I, we'll have those in a year. Is that a reason to go to a school just because of the facilities? No. But it does matter, and it shows a commitment to football at a very, very high level that you are going to have the best of the best when you walk into your locker room, your team room, your academic center, the way you eat. All of that stuff matters.
In one year we'll have the best of the best. That's been a challenge for us to be able to present that to the young men and making sure they'll walk out of our place saying, okay, I get it. And then our low numbers in recruiting is a challenge for us as coaches. We graduate, like I said, 11 seniors, and we'll be in a full boat of 85
scholarships. So technically on paper right now you're recruiting 11 or 12 guys. That is a challenge.
Q. You mentioned Isaac Seumalo, what is his timetable?
COACH ANDERSEN: I expect Isaac to start camp the first day and be ready to go, which is great. I'm not even using those words anymore, optimistic. I don't want to see him on the injury report anymore. We're past that. As you know, as well as I, no young man in the country deserves to have an opportunity to play football again than him. Nobody's worked harder.
Q. Have you had a freshman quarterback before?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yes, Utah State. Chuckie Keeton, we had him as a true freshman. He came in in fall camp and ended upstarting. In an easy one against Auburn, they won the National Championship. The year after, I guess, they won the National Championship.
Q. Can you talk a little about the ups and downs of coaching freshmen quarterbacks?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, to me I could never be a quarterback coach. I think I'm way too emotional. So I kind of stay away a little bit sometimes and let those guys do what they do. You're going to go through some growing pains. As you move through that, you have to be patient, but you also have to have expectations. You have to be careful that you put the young man in a position to do things that he can do. Don't expect him to be a junior quarterback that is in the spread offense and has done some wonderful things throughout his career. But have expectations that the team is going to surround the kid, make some plays for him, but sooner or later you have to forget he's a freshman and you have to go play.
Q. The fact that you have a running back like Storm, does it give you a little more of a platform to build from with your quarterback knowing that you can hand it to a guy like him 25 times?
COACH ANDERSEN: It has to. It absolutely has to. And Storm's ready to accept that role and that responsibility. He needs to be a young man that gets the ball in his hands 20, 25 times a game. Every game is different and there are different opportunities that arise. But he needs to carry the load for us back there. He's excited about it. He's trained the right way to be prepared to do that. So it's going to be fun to watch him go.
Again, five offensive linemen back that started the last four games, that's a good starting point. It really is a nice starting point.
Q. How is the Pac-12 atmosphere different than the Big Ten so far for you?
COACH ANDERSEN: It's not. Big time college football, it's the biggest stage there is. I always say it, but I'm going to keep saying it. We're all very lucky to be part of it.
Q. What does winning the Civil War rank as a priority for you?
COACH ANDERSEN: It's extremely high. Those rivalry games are so important to everybody. The challenge with those, and I've been around this in very similar, at Utah State, when we were trying to chase Utah and trying to chase BYU at those times. A rivalry still can be a respect. We have great respect for what's gone on at Oregon. I don't get into all the stuff of saying that this team is down there and this is that. That's not how I work. I'm not made up that way. I'm going to respect our opponents. I respect this whole league.
But it is important that we get after the fact that we need to win that game. Eventually, when is that going to take place? Well, obviously, they want to win next year. We want to win next year. It's an important game. It's a big-time moment and a time that those kids will remember the rest of their lives that they played in that Civil War game and they're going to remember every snap of it, because I do. I remember those games when I had a chance to play in special games. They remember them.
So we're excited. We respect them, but we're going to chase like hell to catch them.
Q. Do you have any idea of what position Isaac's going to play when he's back?
COACH ANDERSEN: That's a great question, and he's so talented, he could do all three of them. So we'll look at it, let those kids get out, filter themselves through it, and then put him in the best spot.
Q. What do you see from Melvin Gordon in the NFL?
COACH ANDERSEN: He'll be a tremendous player in the NFL. He'll be a starter as a rookie is my guess. I'm no NFL coach, I've never coached in that league, but I'd be shocked if he didn't start as a rookie and play very well.
Q. For you, what's important in replacing a long-time head coach to kind of show to the players that gives you some credibility?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, a few things are important. Number one, it's important to show respect to Coach Riley and his staff, and that was important. In this transition, that's gone both ways. Respect to their staff. Their staff has shown great respect back to us, so that helps within the structure of the kids understanding. Setting up our core values, our beliefs, our values where we're going to go with what are our goals, what are our expectations of you academically?
And in the end, if you follow our core values and stay on the right side of our core values. Don't go on the left side of those, you'll have a real issue on your hand, you'll be fine. If you look to succeed every day academically, socially, and athletically and do your best. That's us in a nutshell. That's our rules. Here's this book. Read this and see what the rules are about, we don't have that. That's what we're about. Then you work to get that trust. The only way to get trust and build a family environment is through time and going through experiences together. Now we've had eight months to do that, and I think we've got that accomplished.
Q. One of the things Storm said when you came in is you called him and talked about his video and what he could improve. How much did you kind of cram before you came on campus to show guys how to pay attention when looking at tapes?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, we all pride ourselves on our staff of being a players' coach. We want to have good recruiters and a players coach. You can do both. Some guys pride themselves on being a recruiter and they don't develop relationships with their kids. That guy's never going to work at Oregon State University. I promise you that much.
So you want to be able to reach out to the kids and help them move through life. When I watch the film on storm, I just saw a few things that I thought could really help him improve. Not that I'm a guru of running back coach, but I want to try to help him move forward. It's a good start. But I studied a lot. I tried to sit down with kids and watch film and help them learn to watch film. That's a fun part of my job as a head coach, because I don't get to do that stuff very much anymore. When I have an opportunity to really coach a kid, those are fun moments for me.
Q. Reading the reports on Seth Collins, he sounds a lot like a Chuckie Keeton style quarterback.
COACH ANDERSEN: Oh, God, I hope you're right. That would be fantastic. To compare Chuck or Seth to Chuckie or Chuckie to Seth right now is very tough. We'll see as he goes. Athleticism, yes. Chuckie was very athletic. Competitive, both very competitive. High belief in themselves and don't really care at this point. Seth doesn't really care what environment he's in. Chuckie seemed to have that same thing as we went through camp. Then he did it as he walked out on the football field. He walked out against Auburn and played in that environment. I'll never forget the war eagle bounced off the window on that day when they were going, and it kind of hit the window. Chuckie looked at me and he was laughing. He said, do you think the bird is okay? I said, are you kidding me? You're a freshman. What are you doing?
So hopefully Seth can carry some of that with him. But we need to control ourselves. There are experiences that we can learn, whether it's Seth, whether it's going to be Nick, whether it's going to be Marcus in that situation at quarterback. Learn how to play in the spread offense, because you're playing against really good guys that would like to see you exit the game or affect the game in a positive way. So they're going to be coming after you.
Q. You talked about speed earlier, and you landed a last-minute recruit in Paul Lucas who might well be the fastest kid in the entire country. What do you envision his role being?
COACH ANDERSEN: He needs to play. We need to initially spoon feed him within the offense to the package that he can affect the game. We will run fly sweep. It's going to be part of who we are and we're excited about it. He is dynamic. If you get his shoulder square on the edge of the defense, any team in the country is going to have a hard time with him. He has handled summer very well, from a school standpoint, to the workout standpoint. And it's hard. You guys can imagine. You graduated from high school and two days later you're on a plane, and that's hard. We expect him to play as a freshman. If he's ready, he'll play more. If he's not ready, then he won't play. But we expect him to play and we need him to play.
Q. Have you ever been as reliant on young guys, new guys as you're going to have to be this year?
COACH ANDERSEN: No, I've never been around a team, and so many things get you to this point. Three or four years of culmination of different scenarios to getting to having 11 seniors on scholarship. This is the youngest team I've been around. But that's exciting too. It's like having 13-year-olds again, and my kids are grown and gone, 13-year-old teenagers, something's going to happen, and you hope it's the right thing, right? Every night they go out, what they're doing. So this team is the same way. Something's going to happen, but I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Do you have to adjust your mindset knowing that certain mistakes are going to happen just because it's their first time at this level?
COACH ANDERSEN: You do have to have some sort of patience within yourself, which none of us are patient at coaches, and quite frankly I don't want our players to be patient either. But you understand the process. Which, in turn, I believe does mean you have to have some patience as you go through. Now, to go out and walk through a football game and have ten administrative penalties or unforced errors or missing lay-ups, you can't do that. You can't jump off sides. You can't drop balls. You can't have those unforced situations when you're a team that's young. You'll never win a game. You'll be 0-12 at the end of the deal, and you'll be right back to winter conditioning before you blink. So those are the things that we have to expect to play at a high level. Then the other stuff, I believe, will take care of itself.
Q. Larry mentioned that you recruited him when you were at Utah State. What do you remember about him from then?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, we thought we would get him. We recruited like crazy to get him in there, and he came and got swooped away from us, and I understand why he did what he did. But he was a tall young man, and we liked him on offense. He would have been a player that maybe he would have turned around and played defense for us. Who knows as time was going to go on.
But he was a tall, athletic kid that could run, had a very good motor. To me, he was underneath the radar. Unbelievably unrecruited. I was shocked, to be quite honest that he was still in the middle of it. But he was high on our board, I know that. Oregon State did a good job of getting him.
Q. Especially given the program that he came out of.
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, you would not see him in that position. It was a little bit shocking. It shows you, it's not a perfect science. Not even close, that recruiting part of things.
Q. How much emphasis are you placing on developing a deep passing game given the inexperience of the quarterbacks?
COACH ANDERSEN: We need to be able to take shots. The key thing to that is it's one thing to take shots and another thing to be able to complete shots. I'm very interested to get into camp to see how we can throw the deep ball. Deep balls are going to become contested balls. When it becomes a contested ball, the opportunity to make a play is where a good receiver becomes a great receiver. We've got to be able to make those plays when it's contested. We've got four, five wide receivers or big tall kids that can run, and can they make that contested catch?
But the ball has to be there. We need to take shots to loosen them up, yes. But then you need to be successful with those shots. If you really sat back and watched your National Championships from a year ago at Ohio State, their ability to change the game was throwing deep, I don't know four to six times a game, and the success rate they had was amazing, and how many of those balls were contested balls. It flipped games in their favor early, and obviously they were a great team. But you need to be able to do that.
Q. Do you feel like Darell Garretson being thrown in the fire at Utah State, winning the ballgame and coming over, do you think his experience in any way would help some of the young guys that you would have?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yes, I absolutely do. Darell went through this when Chuckie got hurt and Darell came in. Chuckie was a tremendous mentor to Darell as a true freshman. Now we're going to ask Darell to return the favor to another freshman. Darell's going to do that for this year, and he's accepted that role. He's excited about that role, and he's excited to compete, obviously, and be a starting quarterback in the future, like every kid in our program wants to be a starter.
But Darell will be a vital part of our production at the quarterback position this year through his mentorship.
Q. I saw Coach Wells yesterday in Vegas, and he said great things about you. You've been doing this for several years as a head coach. Do you find yourself mentoring the coaches too as well as the players in guiding them as they go on?
COACH ANDERSEN: Oh, I sure hope so. I take a lot of pride, I guess, is the right word, in hoping to get young men to coach and let them start and move their way through this career. Because when I coach a kid that I think is going to be a great coach, I really encourage him to do it because he can be good at it, take care of his family, and he can also change kids lives, which is important. Those two kids back there today, they should both be coaches. There is no question. I don't know, maybe they don't want to be a coach. Maybe they'd look at me and say, you're crazy, I would never do that.
But they'd be good at it. So I take pride in helping young men get into coaching. But then with Matt, yeah, Matt and I talk a lot. Kalani and I through the years have continued to talk a lot. I never say I've got all the answers. I've got very few. But I'll tell you what I believe.
Q. How does it feel to see Matt doing so well?
COACH ANDERSEN: Awesome. He's in a very good position. And Utah State is a very special spot in my heart and will be forever. To have him at the helm of that program, I think they're in good hands.
Q. You said a big focus this year is on development. What are you looking for in terms of consistency this year? In terms of something to rely on?
COACH ANDERSEN: We'll find out who we can rely on as we go through camp. We have to be competitive. We have to be physical. Camp has to be challenging in a lot of different ways, mentally and physically. Then you start to understand who you can rely on and who is going to be there day inform and day out.
Now, unfortunately, practice is practice and a game is a game, so we'll learn a lot more when we start playing games. But this staff will do a great job of identifying who the play makers are and who we can rely on, which isn't always the same. We want a play maker and consistency, if you've got that, then you have a special young man, and that's what we look for.
Q. Storm seemed perfectly at ease with the quarterback competition going all the way through summer and fall camp. How do you feel about that? Have you given a time line to when you'd like to know who the guy is going to be?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, we'll hold back. These kids have handled that quarterback situation well as a team. It always seems to me those position battles become crystal clear when they become crystal clear. We'll let it grow. Whether it's the right guard or the quarterback, we all like to talk about the quarterback position because he's the guy that touches the ball every snap, and he's important.
So we'll let it filter out like we do all positions. I do not have a timeframe. We'll talk about it as a team. We'll talk about it, just like we do at any position. But when it happens, it will happen.
On the similarities between Chuckie and Matt
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, it's been wonderful to watch Chuckie grow and develop. My boys on that team and both of my twins are both there in Logan going to school. So I get to see Chuckie on whatever it is, Snapchats and FaceTimes and different things every once in a while. To watch him grow and see where he's coming from, overcoming two devastating moments and fighting back, and quite frankly, wanting to fight back. He seems to be from, what I hear talking to Matt and talking to the kids on the team, in a better place than he's ever been. That's great because he's unbelievably talented, and I want to see him have a great, successful year.
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, those guys went and found him. So I can take very little credit in saying, other than they brought him to the table, they got him to say yeah, I'm coming on a trip this time of the year. That was very abnormal for us to say we're going to bring a kid up on a trip at that time, let alone a game like when he came up. I don't think we beat BYU in 175 years, and then we were going to turn around and play him and bring him to that game. It happened to be an unbelievably special night that Chuckie was with us, and the rest is history. They wanted to bring in a quarterback early. He had some early offers. Lot of people wanted Chuckie to play wide receiver. He wanted to play quarterback. He grew into it.
But I thought Matt and all the coaches in that position did a great job of recruiting him. Then
he stayed very loyal. Chuckie was like, nope, that's what I'm doing, as he went through his senior year.
On the offensive line
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, I think that offensive line has definitely got some toughness to them and experience to them. I've challenged the defensive line, and I've said this many, many times and I'll continue to say it. How you just described them as a tough, salty group that's talented, that's what I believe they should be, but I haven't seen that consistently from them. I need to see that in fall camp. We had flashes of ourselves in spring where it was like, wow. Then I would get a flash again, like, wow. And that has to go away. Coach Chad will handle that. A lot of that sometimes is the defensive lineman coming out of me. Coach Chad and I talked about it the other day. He's like, no, Coach, I know exactly what you're going to say.
But I expect a lot out of those kids. Having Kyle finally get there is great. Kyle's played junior college football. He hasn't played a snap in Division I football. Quite frankly, he deserves the opportunity he has, but more importantly he owes Oregon State University a good year because they've done a lot for him. He doesn't have to be there. They've allowed him to stay and be part of it. He worked his tail off to get academically eligible, so did a lot of people and staff to get him where he needs to be. So he needs to, and he owes the university a great year.
Q. What is going to be the biggest thing you take away from your time at Wisconsin that you bring to Oregon State?
COACH ANDERSEN: What I bring, say that one more time?
Q. What is maybe the biggest thing you bring from your time at Wisconsin to now coaching at Oregon State?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, I learned a lot. This level is different. When I say that I mean it in a positive way. Kids are kids and how they go about themselves is the same. 18, 19, 20-year-old kids are the same. But to get into this position and this level, whether it's these elite conferences, and obviously the Pac-12 is one of them, and so was the Big Ten. As a coach you're able to understand recruiting better. You're able to understand academically you can have a little more aggressive plan for kids because of the professional help you have surrounding the young men is so good, and those are probably really the two biggest things. Then handling yourself and handling a team where people are very interested and a lot of them are very, very interested.
That's no knock on anyone else, but the bottom line is just the media coverage and how kids handle that, the way these kids today stick their nose in every bit of business out there because they're doing this and reading everything about themselves and about their team. That's sometimes hard to overcome.
Q. Obviously Wisconsin has had two coaches leave, maybe in a little surprising manner, is there something about Wisconsin? Why do you think that is?
COACH ANDERSEN: Just personal choice.
Q. You've been on the job now (No microphone). Do you feel like the new guy?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, I guess you're always a little bit of the new guy as you go through the first year through. But it's been very welcoming. It's been good. There have been new issues with that. But, yeah, I'm the new guy for sure. They were all talking on the airplane and telling me stories about the league and everything else. But this is a great crew of coaches. I don't know if you can get another conference together and those guys can fly back across the country on an airplane and nobody's trying to throw anybody out the back end or stuff them in the luggage rack, so it turned out pretty good.
Q. Did you all come back from Bristol together?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, it was two planes. But it was good. Some interesting things. You learn a lot about a couple coaches in five hours on an airplane.
Q. Anything can you share?
COACH ANDERSEN: No, it was fun. Let me put it that way.
Q. I'm sure you discussed this earlier, but do you have sort of a vision of how you want the quarterback decision to come about and what you need to see and when you need to see that?
COACH ANDERSEN: There is no realtime frame on it. Sooner would be better than later. But by the time we get to that second scrimmage, that's three weeks into camp, basically, we need to have a pretty good feel of
what direction are we going? And it could be multiple directions. We just don't know yet. It's too cloudy to say this is our guy, or this is the two guys and I don't know what I even want to say yet. I just have to wait for it to filter out. I believe that Coach McGiven, Coach Baldwin have done this before. Not once, not twice, but many times. Once together. What Kevin went through last year to play basically three or four quarterbacks at Utah State was as challenging as there was in the country for a quarterback coach. What Dave has done with quarterbacks throughout his career, I think, gives our quarterbacks a good opportunity to be successful and they're really good at what they do. I'm far from a quarterback coach.
But they'll make the decision with me the right way, and I guess I'm more involved from how does the team feel around them. It's just a feel sometimes, right. So it's fun. They were in a good spot, and they're going to compete like crazy.
Washington and Chris Petersen
COACH PETERSEN: Hello, everybody. Thrilled to be here and get through this day or two, and it means we get to start playing football, and we're excited to get back out on the field. It seems like it's been a long time since we've been on the field since spring ball. I think our kids have worked really, really hard progressing and taking the next step.
So we're excited. It feels, being a year through it, it feels like the process is getting a little bit smoother, and we're excited to get out there. We have a lot of young guys that need every rep, and every minute we can get on that practice field. We're excited, like I said, to get out there in another week and a half.
Introduce our players, in the far corner is our running back, Deontae Cooper, and in the other far corner is our senior linebacker Travis Feeney. We're expecting big things from both of those guys. I think one of the keys to certainly our success and a lot of team's success is how well your old guys play. We know we're going to play young guys, and we know that they're going to improve and improve rapidly.
But the old guys that have been here are really anxious to see them play their best football. We don't have a lot of seniors, and Coop is technically a junior. He's been around for a little while so he's kind of like a senior. If these guys can take their next step in their progression and play really, really good football, we only have 13 seniors, we can have a significant impact on our team. So we're excited to see these seniors do some good things for the Huskies.
Q. You mentioned in your opening remarks that you know freshmen and young guys are going to have to step up and play. But realistically, how much do you expect them to contribute and who specifically are you working towards?
COACH PETERSEN: Yes, we are. We played eight true freshmen last year, and I don't know if we'll play eight again, but I know we're going to play a handful of them. We really like this recruiting class that's come in. I think there are some really talented guys. Some of the guys we're going to have to play out of necessity. But there are also a couple guys I think we can play just because they're that good. Who exactly that is, I think that's kind of the fun and intrigue of some of fall camp, and we'll figure that out in the first couple of weeks.
Q. What's been the biggest change going into the first year versus year two?
COACH PETERSEN: Year two here as opposed to Boise?
Q. Yeah, you were there, you learned the system?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, everything's completely different. First of all, it was so long ago I don't remember what year two at Boise was like it was so long ago. But I think when you come to a new place, it's significantly different than when I became the head coach of Boise. You made a few tweaks. It was part of what we were doing there already, so you make a few tweaks and away you go. That is an easy transition. Being a new head coach for the first time, that's always different, very different.
But it's the overall, being what the program's all about, a tweak here, tweak there, and keep evolving. That is a lot different than, okay, starting from ground zero, and nobody knows anything how you do things. So I think this time fast forward a year from now, it feels better to me, certainly, than it did just the kids, hearing it so many times really start to get what we're talking about.
Q. And a big part of that was Boise (No microphone). How was that adjustment process?
COACH PETERSEN: I remember when I first came here and took the job I was under no illusions. My opening statement, I think, was probably something to the effect that my football life got significantly tougher. So I was under no illusions. So all that lived up to the billing. Every week you've got to play your best. It's really hard to get momentum going because it's just such a tough, hard game every week. So it just makes you just really get back to your process and focus on this one game at a time corny coaching talk, but that's what it is. So, yeah, it wasn't different than I thought. I thought it was going to be hard, and it was hard.
Q. You've referenced that 18-month number a couple of times how long it takes to get everybody on board?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, I said 18 to
Q. Is it looking like it will be closer to 24 or do you feel like you're almost there?
COACH PETERSEN: I think we're making good progress with those type of things. But I think it's going to probably be closer to the 24. I really do. I think when you get guys and recruit guys from the start that come in and it's like this is how we do whatever, they don't know any different. So it's a lot easier that process other than changing this is how it's done. We're going to do it this way now. That's always much more difficult. And just learning schemes and all of that and the young guys that we have and will play, it's probably going to be closer to that 24 months. It never stops. It's not like we got it. We're continuing building and working on that all the time.
Q. Jake Browning, thoughts on him and if he plays this year?
COACH PETERSEN: He certainly could be. So we have three quarterbacks in Jeff Lindquist, K.J. Carta-Samuels was a freshman that red-shirted last year, and Jake came in mid year. They all got three good reps in spring football. They're going to all three get really good reps in fall camp.
It always seems like the media kind of thinks we play our cards close to the vest and kind of know who -- we don't know. We really don't. I wish we did. I think your starting quarterback needs every rep he can get, let alone three guys that water it down, but that's just where we are. So as soon as we figure out who gives us the best chance, we'll take some time.
Q. Is he in the mix?
COACH PETERSEN: Jake is definitely in the mix, absolutely.
Q. How much of a better grasp do you think you got in April of those three with what they're able to do?
COACH PETERSEN: What they're able to do? I think the thing about Jake and K.J. is they've never been in a game. Now they've played a lot of football and they've been good players there, but that's a little bit different but I think we got a decent handle of where they are.
But everybody has to get better. That is the bottom line from Jeff to Jake. Everybody needs to get better. That guy you can see growing and getting better, that's probably going to be the guy.
Q. Where does Tony Rodriguez factor into that?
COACH PETERSEN: In an ideal world, Tony red-shirts. In an ideal world. He just got here. We're trying to figure out how he can call it and lineup formations. But he's studying hard and he's getting there. That's where I think in an ideal world he would be able to red-shirt and learn and grow and be in the weight room and all those type of things. But we'll just see.
Q. How did that come together and when did it come together?
COACH PETERSEN: What's that?
Q. With Tony.
COACH PETERSEN: We've been looking at Tony for a while and just analyzing the quarterback situation. We needed more arms and we thought he was a good player that was out there, available Seale that was underrated. So we had talked to him for a long time and really got to know him and thought he would fit.
Q. You came into this league really at a time when it's probably as good as it's ever been?
COACH PETERSEN: Yes, I did.
Q. Does it give you an appreciation for maybe a coach in the SEC who has had to try to make up ground when it's just so hard?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, I think that's a good point. I think it is hard to make up ground. You've got these teams that have been doing it for a while and really rolling in a good groove. I certainly understand being in a good groove and how hard it is to make up ground. But I think you know it's just as elementary as it sounds, just staying to your beliefs and your process of recruiting a certain -- the OKG kids that are our kind of kids and are serious about that and what that means. And how we're going to practice, and just that developmental stage and not wavering from it. Eventually I think we can get there. I really do.
Q. You mentioned sticking to your beliefs, but coming into the Pac-12, do you think you've had to adapt or evolve your coaching style process recruiting or anything like that?
COACH PETERSEN: I think if you're not always 24/7 analyzing what you're doing, you're making a mistake in whatever field you're in. Now I think you've got to -- you can't be flip-flopping it all over the place and changing strategies every other month, but I think you're always looking at it and going, okay, what are the best practices out there? Are we doing them and missing something? And I think that's part of any good organization. We certainly try to do that ourselves.
Q. You mentioned -- is it a little bit more difficult to have some heavy hitters in this conference? (No microphone)?
COACH PETERSEN: I've had that question a few times. Is it easier recruiting now being at Washington? No, it's harder because of that reason. You're recruiting. It's all relative. Recruiting is always hard and difficult, but I think that's part of that process I'm talking about. I will never get caught up in the ranking star system. I actually take pride in maybe going the opposite way because it's a crapshoot after the time anyways. We take pride on this is our job is analyzing these kids and doing homework and research, and so that's part of it. But I think there are enough good players out there. The whole trick in the recruiting world, whether you're a coach or a recruit, is finding the right fit for you. Forget all the hype and all that stuff.
Do you fit that culture and those coaches and what they're all about in that locker room? And at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. We need to stay true to our beliefs there and find those kids that can figure that out. That's when good things happen.
Q. What have you seen out of Travis Feeney over last season? What makes you think he'll be a leader for this defense?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, I think Travis can be a -- I think if Travis takes that next step in his game, he's going to be a leader by the example
that he leads. He's tremendously, physically talented. He's still a true senior, so he's a fairly young guy. But he can run with the best of them. He's tall and long. He can cover ground. He's a physical player. So if he can have some luck and healthy and be one of those guys that can elevate to the next level. That's what we need. We need guys like Travis Feeney to take the next step to do what we want to do, and I have belief and hope and confidence that he can do that.
Q. What is that?
COACH PETERSEN: Just consistent player in terms of assignments and being a dominant player out there. He's been on the field plenty of times to know what it's like. I think it's all about consistency in everything we do in all of our lives. We all show flashes in some way or another. But the great ones are consistent day-in and day-out. We're hoping Travis will do that and take that next step.
Q. Travis mentioned the guys like watching MMA in their off time and some of them are doing some MMA training along with football?
COACH PETERSEN: Maybe that's our problem. Spending too much time watching MMA and not enough football.
Q. But they say it might help them with their training. Do you have any thoughts about that?
COACH PETERSEN: We have our strength coach who brings in different people, MMA, martial arts, all of it is quickness, hand placement, grip strength, all those type of things. I think it's smart when you're strength coaches are good in a lot of things. But if they're not experts in that, they'll bring them in and our guys gravitate towards that. Those kids work so hard all summer and all year long in that weight room, and anything we can do to freshen it up and bring some outside energy, I think is a good thing.
Q. You opened up the Boise can of worms?
COACH PETERSEN: Oh, you're going to put that on me like anybody here wasn't going to ask that?
Q. Haven't yet. You used the word awkward. How different is it for you?
COACH PETERSEN: At the end of the day let's look at it like this. If this would have been a couple years ago and they're asking me and I'm at Boise, you want to play Washington? Yeah, okay. If I had any inkling whatsoever that I might be sitting here, that would be the last team out of 128 division whatever it is teams.
So, you know, just us being tied into that staff over there that are all good friends of ours. We recruited a lot of those kids. Makes it awkward. The fans are awesome and passionate over there, that whole thing. But at the end of the day, it's the first game. It's great for college football. Our guys will be excited to play because they know that Boise has a really good team this year, and it's going to be big.
Q. There was some talk when you first got here and whether it was rumor or actually happening, but did you ever consider trying to change that?
COACH PETERSEN: I thought that would be kind of ridiculous and selfish. So, you know, it's awkward for me, I get that. But I'm going to change this for everybody because it's awkward for me. That's not my style.
Q. Because it means a lot to them?
COACH PETERSEN: It means a lot to them, and I think it's good for college football. The only thing that's awkward because so many of those kids that we've recruited, and I haven't had any contact with those guys because we are playing them, so that's made it more awkward. Take all that out, and it's great for college football. Take me out.
Q. How quickly after you took the job did it hit you or did you realize this game was on the schedule?
COACH PETERSEN: I don't know when I remembered or knew or it hit me. You know it's a ways away. So you kind of say, oh, that game? We'll deal with that down the road. Well, down the road is coming.
Q. What kind of reception do you think you'll get?
COACH PETERSEN: I don't know. I think it's so irrelevant. I really do. It's so totally irrelevant in this whole thing. It's about the players. It's about the game. The Boise fans are Boise fans. They're all about the Broncos. It doesn't really matter about me. My concern is I have 1,000 concerns that are much more, maybe 2,000 that are much more of how it's going to go for me over there in terms of that stuff. Our guys have to
be ready to play good football. That's what I'm concerned about.
Q. You mentioned the players, but the coaches, (Indiscernible), has meant a lot to your success. What's that going to be like going against him? One of you has to win and one has to lose?
COACH PETERSEN: Not only him. But Coach Harris obviously go way back, but Julius Brown, and Marcel Yates and Scott and on and on and on. And the strength coach, we were with him for a long time and our equipment manager. I mean, we could go on and on. So that's what -- it just makes it different and awkward.
Q. On the other side of the coin you guys (No microphone) so your team will be playing against a lot of their own staff?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, good point. I'm not playing when we go to Boise. Coach Sark is not playing on that field, so it's about the players. They've got to play each other. That's where I think their focus needs to be. The Boise players will be focusing on our players, and our players will focus on USC players when we play, and that's what it's about. Everybody else wants to talk about this other stuff.
Q. It's still a long ways off, but what do you say to your players when they want to get ready for the same mentality?
COACH PETERSEN: USC will be one of the better teams in the country, and that's enough motivation right there and enough focus. If our energy and focus is on the wrong things, that will just have to do with us not playing our best ball. You can definitely be out of your emotional element, and you see that a lot. You can get too up for games and those type of things. So we'll deal with that down the road as well.
Q. Being on the other side of it, what are your thoughts on the blue as well?
COACH PETERSEN: That turf is still blue?
Q. It's still blue.
COACH PETERSEN: I thought the NCAA had changed it. Hey, I never knew what the big deal was anyway. So that's not going to affect. Again, if I was playing, it will have no affect, and it will have no affect on our players. We'll ask that discussion. That's truly how I feel. We would always kind of chuckle when everybody makes such a big deal about it. The big deal is the guys in those blue uniforms, not the blue turf.
Q. What about you guys coming out of the other side of the tunnel? What's that going to be like for you?
COACH PETERSEN: The visiting locker room, coming out the other side. Like I say, by the time we get there, you're worried about your team. That you've prepared them well and they're ready to play good football.
Q. Was the hip injury begging him last year?
COACH PETERSEN: So, Cyler's a tough kid. He really is. He never missed a practice or anything, but it was bothering him, and it got worse after the season. It continually got worse. In fact, we had to take him out of his training. The one thing about Cyler. Cyler's a tough guy, that I know. So we had to take him out of doing some different running stuff and squatting and stuff because it was just too much, and it wasn't healing. Then when we really looked at it, it was going to maybe never heal the way it needed to. For him to get back to where he wanted to be.
Q. Do you think that affected the way he played last year?
COACH PETERSEN: I think there are a lot of things that affect your play. But there are a lot of guys that got to play injured, and he did.
Q. You mentioned last year and this year, what did you learn most about yourself and the defense?
COACH PETERSEN: I think the big thing is just really believing in your playing and staying with it, and knowing that you are where you are as a program and as a team, and what's the best. To me it's always about practice. It goes back to your practice and meeting preparations. We're always doing the best chance to win.
So there are certain weeks you go back and look and say, did we do the best? Did we do too much? Did we confuse them too much in doing those sorts of things? Those are a lot of things you look at. As you go through the second time, there are going to be guys more on the same page, and we can do a little bit more with them and those type of things.
Q. Coach, did you do anything a little different before the bowl game, the Oklahoma State game? You've been to a lot of bowls, but now you have a team that's going to be losing
a lot of the defensive stars to the NFL. Did you prep and give the underclassmen some more work?
COACH PETERSEN: We had 15 practices, so we gave everybody work. I think our coaches even had a scrimmage to buy time out there. So, yeah, so the young guys did get a lot of good work. Yeah, that's a whole thing, like analyzing the bowl situation, because that was a really perplexing game to us, because nobody wants to play in a bowl game that late unless you're playing in that tournament. Nobody.
So our guys really did a great job. I was very pleased with them how they prepared. They practiced hard, we went down to Arizona. They were focused. We went out and just didn't play well. So we've really tried to analyze that, what we missed. I think if there were two or three games that you could have back and you could have gotten over the hump. We could have had a really, really good season as opposed to where we were. So that's the stuff that kind of gnaws at you as a coach, like how do you fix that? How do we learn from that?
Q. Deontae said he would be the starting quarterback, have you seen his arm?
COACH PETERSEN: I have, and let me tell you, we'd be in big trouble if that's what we're left with. Better handing him the ball than letting him throw it.
Q. Deontae got a lot of praise for the way he bounced back and the setbacks. But as he deals with the personal tragedy of this off-season, has he kept that same demeanor and focus?
COACH PETERSEN: He is such a special guy. I mean, you take the football out of it, he's one of those interesting guys that you know he's going to do something special. He just needs to find his passion and meet the right people and have a little luck down the road. He's going to do something really cool with his life because to me he's got the it factor. Just if you talk to him long enough, it's like, wow, this is a really good person. I think that is the coolest thing about him.
Q. Most of his teammates were in middle school.
COACH PETERSEN: You're probably listening to Travis Feeney too much because he keeps joking with him that he's an old guy. But he is. I didn't even know that. I think that is the other thing that is so interesting about him. He blends into all of our guys so well. You don't even think of him -- he's mature but you don't think about him because he's so much older as everybody because he relates to the freshmen who walk in the door as well as he does seniors in there. He's just got that unique gift that relates to so many people.
Q. Obviously you've placed more impact on Kyler. But when you replaced Kellen Moore at Boise and you have a multi-year starter who kind of becomes a superstar, is it different because you have so much time with that one quarterback and the team almost becomes kind of the guy who is out front and representing the team and you can rely on them so much? Is it much different replacing a guy like that compared to maybe a quarterback who is a one-year starter?
COACH PETERSEN: There might be a little more added pressure to that guy that's taken over. You try to take as much pressure off as you can, and there is a lot of pressure on those guys anyways, and you try to live up to somebody who has done so many good things. So it could.
So I think the big thing is, how long do you have with a guy that is behind how much time have you had to train him? That's the big question right there. And if you've had significant time in transition it's a lot smoother.
Q. Are you feeling any personal pressure to repeat the success at Washington that you had at Boise State?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, that's a good question. I got that earlier. I feel no more pressure, no less pressure than I did at Boise. That's just how we operate, and I feel a lot of pressure 24/7. That's just how we're made up. Nobody has higher expectations than me or our coaching staff. We get it. We know what we're all about. We've had tremendous success over there.
But I think Boise is a unique situation, and I think it will be very hard to replicate that type -- that many wins, that dominant wins anywhere. I mean, that's a unique place. Now, do I think that we can get Washington eventually up to competing for Pac-12 Championships? I do. Or I wouldn't have come here, and I believe that. But I think we're talking about apples and oranges.
Q. With the quarterback situation, what happened to Troy?
COACH PETERSEN: Troy transferred. I think he felt like he just -- it's all about that fit I was talking about in recruiting and he maybe felt he
was going to fit somewhere better and decided to move on.
Q. I know when you were at Boise and your players all knew each other's names and they spent time with each other and you preached that family bond. How important has that last 18 months been to get to know these guys and the significance of that bond as you start another year?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, as part of that culture we talk about. I think it's really significant. I think we made a lot of strides as a team, just simple stuff like that, getting to know each other and really trying to care about each other and not just have that dog-eat-dog locker room that all I care about is getting mine and trying to get to the NFL. I think that's a recipe for disaster.
So I think we've made a lot of en roes that way, and that's where it's going to take more time to get there.
Q. Talking with a couple of your players today, they said you really came in and put an emphasis on valuing not only football, but their life after football and education. How quickly were you able to -- was everybody able to buy in on all of that and did everybody buy in?
COACH PETERSEN: No, not everybody. But a lot of them are and have, and you can see when the wheels are starting to turn. And I have conversations with some of these guys that surprised me. It's like, oh, it's starting to click with him. They will get it. I know that through experience, it's just takes some time. Sometimes it takes four years for them to get it and figure it out. But eventually they're like, oh, I just feel like we and they are just cheating themselves if we're just there to play football. There is just too much there, and to get a degree.
I mean, that's not what this thing is about, just to get a piece of paper, it's about connections. It's about experiences. It's about learning and really using this opportunity we have to like change your life. I'm just passionate about that. So they're starting to figure that out.
Q. For you, the life changing move came 18 months ago. When you lived in Boise for 13-some-odd years. Does Seattle feel like home now?
COACH PETERSEN: Luckily, I live very close, so I kind of know that. But it is. I mean, it takes a while when you live in a place for a while. And I always tell our freshmen, there are so many different season changes from fall camp, to summer training, to winter conditioning, to spring ball. I don't think it's different with the coaches just to go through a cycle. We know what they feel like, but to be in a place for a year before they feel like, okay, this feels comfortable to me now.
Q. Coach, we missed you at the Mountain West in Vegas the last couple of days. I'm going to ask you the same thing I asked those he coaches. They're in the same boat. A lot of them left and they don't know what to do. But there are different candidates. Varying answers from the coaches, would you consider rotating as a last resort, not at all, or yes. Bob Davie said he's probably going to use two quarterbacks. What is your thought on that?
COACH PETERSEN: I think Bob's done that a few times if I recall right. I don't think anybody likes that. Everybody likes to have the guy and say, here we go. We have the guy. That just helps everything. You can't just say that. If that doesn't give you the best chance to win, I think that would be short sighted. As much as I want to do that and say that, that might not be the best option for us. That might be, hey, we do use two of them. He does this a little better, and you figure out how to rotate that, or you figure like this guy's going to continue to grow. There are just different ways. I'd love to just say that's the guy, but it might not be that.
Q. Ask you about the other Kridhsen at linebacker?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, Kridhsen Bierria, he fits in good, and he fits in well. We're expecting big things from him. Another one of our linebackers. He played a little bit as a red-shirt freshman last year. We really like him and expect him to have a good year.
Q. (No microphone)?
COACH PETERSEN: Yep.
Q. What do you think he can do at the job?
COACH PETERSEN: He can do some good things. We saw that up close and personal. He's a good player and a heck of a competitor and can throw that ball. He's an accurate thrower. He had a heck of a day against us, so I'm sure he'll do some good things.
Q. Is he a perfect fit for what they do?
COACH PETERSEN: I know he's a perfect fit from what Eastern Washington was doing. I'm sure he'll fit really well there.
Q. Recruiting in the west and some new hot beds, Las Vegas has now turned into a real -- it's burgeoning and there are a lot of kids coming out of there. Are you going to make that priority to get a presence there?
COACH PETERSEN: We make everywhere in the west a priority. That hasn't changed for a long time, so we've got our footprint really hard here. Once we start to get out of the west, we always debate those things, and it's usually on a case by case basis. But I think that's awesome. I think it's great that Vegas is starting to pump out more guys that have grades and all those type of things because it helps the pool.
Q. The quarterback situation is one typically associated with leadership. But for it to still be determined and losing so many players last season, how do you address the leadership situation?
COACH PETERSEN: That's a good question, because that's a hard one for all those guys. I think any one of those guys that became our quarterback would do a really good job in the leadership department, because they're good guys and they get it, and they're really good to their teammates. They're hard working guys and they're passionate. They have all that. But I think until one of those guys is anointed that okay, this is the guy that's going to go, I think it's hard for everybody else to truly rally around and go that's our guy. So I think that's still a work in progress as well.
Q. What about on the defensive side of the ball?
COACH PETERSEN: I think some of the guys that have played -- I think it always starts with them. It doesn't make a leader, but the guys that have played significant and done some things, that is always the first guy they're going to kind of look to. Then if a guy is a good person and really cares about the team and they can trust him, they're going to really start to let those guys lead.
So it would go with guys like Travis. And we have some freshmen that have played. Eight of those freshmen got a lot of time. They're good guys and good players, so all this stuff is a work in progress.
Q. How important is it for someone like yourself who places such an emphasis on life and decisions off the field to have someone who can not only be a strong leader in the huddle and on the field, but also lead their teammates outside of football?
COACH PETERSEN: I think when your program really starts to move, the leadership comes from the locker room not the coaches. We kind of direct the ship a little bit, but the true heart and soul, the heartbeat of what you're all about, we're getting there. It will be another year. I think everybody will get what we're all about and be ready to roll in terms of leadership things for those players.
Q. A couple years ago the Pac-12 passed a rule that they had two contact practices a week. I know it was a rule before then. Have you seen any affect on defenses, particularly tackling techniques? Because that was the big argument against defenses would suffer because they wouldn't be able to tackle three or four times a week. Have you seen any impact the last couple of years?
COACH PETERSEN: No, not because of that. I really think this. If you're putting pads on three days a week in tackling, I mean, I don't know who does that. When I talk to the other coaches, I'm like who would do that? It's that fine line that you've got to practice some tackling things, but you're not going to do it three days a week. You might do it one. You can do some mirror stuff, but physical tackling, you know, again early in season we'll have the pads on. We always have done this forever. We'll put the pads on twice a week. Then we might have the helmet and shoulder pads, but it's not -- so when they mandated that rule I was like that might not be an advantage for us anymore because I want to play against teams that are scrimmaging and tackling. I think you're going to beat your team up and wear them out.
Q. So most people were probably doing that?
COACH PETERSEN: I think so. There might have been a couple out-layers that maybe, you know. Even if they wore the pads, I bet it wasn't really physical all three practices. It was more of a mental thing. And I get that. But I don't think you're going to be physical for three practices in a row when you're in season.
Q. In terms of actual physical, to the ground tackling, how many times do you do it
during the season? Once, twice, sometimes, none?
COACH PETERSEN: We don't hardly ever take our ball carriers to the ground. In fact, we're trying to wrap them up a lot. But if they're going to go to the ground because it would be a profile type tackle, then they'll tag them off. They won't wrap them up. The running backs take so much punishment anyways that we're not going to tackle those guys. The only time in fall camp we might do a live tackling drill every now and then. If we have a couple scrimmages, but other than that, they're not going to get tackled to the ground.
Q. Talking about Brian yesterday, he said one thing he was grateful for was you believing in a 29-year-old and giving him a chance to be an offensive coordinator. Why did you do that?
COACH PETERSEN: He was good, and he was around me for a long time. I remember when we hired and made him the coordinator and Justin Wilcox. They were both 29. And everybody was like, what is he doing? Well, I didn't know they were 29. I didn't. I was like why is everybody making such a big deal about it. And I kind of chuckled because they were totally ready for the job. And we had worked so long together, that I had no reservations. No doubt at all. He was very smart, very passionate about it, and he was going to continue to improve and all those things, and he did all those things. Those decisions were great. I have a lot of hard decisions, but making him the coordinator sure wasn't one of them.
Q. Were guys set to make a larger contribution, like Kendall Taylor moving on and transferring, is there anybody down to a walk on like Taelon Parson who you think could maybe step up and take on the extra load and contribute?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, we'll see about that. We have four returning scholarship receivers. Then we have a handful of walk-on guys that have been there. Then we have four other -- actually five other, scholarship guys coming in. So probably three of those scholarship kids will play that are new, and there will be a walk-on or two that probably can be. You just need that many guys.
Stanford and David Shaw
COACH SHAW: It's a difficult conference. It's an exciting conference with a bunch of different teams and have a bunch of different styles. It's an exciting year. I think it's going to be an insane year in our conference just with the amount of good football teams that we have and the exciting players that we have.
As far as our team's concerned, on the offensive side, having Kevin Hogan come back for a fifth-year I think was great. I think the way he ended the season last year he's playing as well as anybody in the country. Very excited about him coming back as a senior again as a captain. Really, I they we got a glimpse of how good he can become. I think he's still one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation. But you look at what he's done leading us to back-to-back conference championships, back-to-back bowls two or three years ago.
Having some ups and downs as a team as we had last year, now looking forward to what we have. I'm excited about him coming back. I think we have a phenomenal group of tight ends that I think everybody is going to get a chance to see. I'm excited about the running back position.
Chris McCaffrey showed me some phenomenal things a year ago. That is just the tip of the iceberg for him. But I also believe Remound Wright and Barry Sanders will have a big hand in what we do going forward. I think those guys are going to play very well for us. Really excited for us in the next step with the offensive line. The majority of our guys being fourth year seniors, and a lot of guys that have played some football for us. I think this is the first year in two years we've had competition.
So we're going to have competition for the right tackle position. We're going to have competition for the guys on the inside who really have a chance to put together a really good group
of mature young guys that learned a lot of lessons last year.
Defensively for us, actually, talk about the offensive line and being able to protect Kevin Hogan and having two senior receivers on the outside and Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector have both made a lot of plays. We didn't perform at a high level last year as we did two years ago, but Michael Rector averaged 30 yards a catch, and Devon averaged 20 yards a catch.
So we have two big players that we're excited about. Defensively we don't have a lot of returning players coming back. Losing a lot of guys to the draft and graduation. But the guys we have coming back are obviously exciting for us. You look at the guys we've recruited and the guys that have gotten just a little bit of playing time, we're excited to start up front. We have our first fifth-year transfer in Brennan Scarlett coming over from Cal who has played very well for them. He's been injured on and off throughout the years and he looks like he's going to be healthy enough to start camp in some way, shape or form. But healthy enough to play during the course of the year and to have that experience I think is phenomenal for us. Aziz Shittu coming back as a fourth year senior and highly recruited young man that has unbelievable talent that if he can stay healthy he'll be great for us. Two sophomores that one played last year and one red-shirted. Harrison Phillips played there for us. I think we've got a good group of guys, our line backing corp. Really excited about it.
I think Blake Martinez will be a household name by the end of the year. I think a lot of people know how good he can be. He's here today. But we have great book ends on the outside linebacker position, and we have a competition for one position inside. But as you can see, we've recruited a lot of linebackers, in particular, to vie for those spots. Safety-wise, I think we've got two seniors back there in Dallas Lloyd and Kodi Whitfield that haven't played a lot but they're both seniors and had great springs. Really excited about their prospects. They're backed up by four guys that we've recruited and we're really excited about that we'll have a chance to compete for playing time as well. Ronnie Harris is coming back. Earned his starting role late in the year last year and played extremely well. Excited about him coming back for his fifth-year, and we'll compete for the other corner position with a bunch of guys that we think are talented.
So we're a talented football team. We're lacking a little experience in some spots. But at the same time, it's the reason why you recruit and you recruit depth. So when spots open up, you have great guys vying for those positions. So that's where we are. As I mentioned, Blake Martinez is in the back of the room, and Kyle Murphy, our left tackle moving from right to left tackle, his natural position has a chance to be an outstanding football player. He's in the back as well.
Q. In your last few games you ran the ball 35 to 45 times. Was that a conscious effort to get back to basics, and if so, what prompted it?
COACH SHAW: So, those are always difficult questions for me because we had a lead in those games. Our biggest thing is we like to be balanced. We like to be balanced. But if we get a two-score lead or three-score lead like we did against UCLA like we did against Maryland in the bowl game, we're going to try to run the clock and run them out of the stadium. It's just our mentality. We're a physical team. That time also coinciding with us jelling as an offensive line and being a more efficient and explosive running game.
So those things kind of played into it. It wasn't things that we wanted mentally to do it. We got in a position where we got early leads and we got after both those teams pretty well on offense, very efficient offensively as well as very explosive offensively. And we ran the ball more in those second halves and not just to run the clock, but also to try to impose our will.
Q. What is it about the culture? It seems you guys kind of reload every year. What is it about the culture of the team and the players?
COACH SHAW: It's a mentality to make sure that we're recruiting depth. That we always have enough players because you never know when there is going to be an injury. I go all the way back to the 2006, the year before Coach Harbaugh came, that 1 and 11 football team. There were five or six NFL guys on that team, but the team wasn't very deep. In one injury, they were not able to replace anybody that got hurt. That was a lesson that we weren't a part of that,
and we said we have to continue to recruit. We can't recruit one good class and then take a break. We have to recruit class after class of good, solid football players so if somebody leaves early, like Andrus Peat and Alex Carter did or someone leaves to go play baseball, which has happened to us twice now in the last three years, we have to be ready. So we recruit depth. We recruited two great safeties that were freshmen last year, we recruited safeties this year that have a chance to potentially contribute. If not, they red-shirt but they're in the program. So we try to have depth at every position.
Q. You guys have dominated UCLA the last couple of years at least. What is involved in playing that team? Is it more mental than physical?
COACH SHAW: I think our games against UCLA have been tighter than most people remember. This past year, second half, yes, we opened it up. But the Pac-12 Championship game against them was a tight game. The game before the Pac-12 Championship game we extended the lead kind of late to give us a two-score lead. The year before that it was coming down to almost a red zone stand.
So those games have been tight. They're as talented a football team as you'll find in the nation, and we know that. We recognize that. It's our mentality that we have to play our best against those guys because they are so talented and well coached, and we've been able to do that the last few years.
Q. Will Devon Cajuste be fully healthy for camp?
COACH SHAW: It looks like it. Some point in camp he'll be healthy. I think early on we'll have to watch him a little bit. But he's made great strides in the last week and a half. I saw him the other day, he's walking with no limp. He felt great. He's going to start running straight ahead pretty soon, but he'll be ready to go.
Q. How much can you disclose about that situation? I heard he had surgery?
COACH SHAW: No, actually they didn't need the surgery. That was the rumor going around through social media, and that's what happens. What you read is not always what is true. There was a chance for surgery, and we talked about it, went and saw doctors, didn't needed surgery. It's been healing great. He's been great with his rehab. He's a diligent young man what it comes to the physical stuff. He knows how to push himself in the smart way. At some point in camp he'll be full go. But he's a little ahead of schedule which is great.
Q. Is that a high ankle?
COACH SHAW: It's hard to term it as that, similar to a high ankle. Generally probably the best way to say it is a high ankle.
Q. With so few people coming back as starters on your defense, what do you say to people who are skeptical of Stanford maintaining the high standards they've had on defense for so many years?
COACH SHAW: I say thank you. I say thank you. It's great. I like when people doubt us as opposed to getting pats on the back. I have no problem with that at all because I'm one of those guys that believes, yes, we should have to prove ourselves every year. Even if guys are coming back and we have everybody coming back, it doesn't mean anything. It's all about what you do here going out now. We've recruited extremely well. I love our line backing core, even though not everybody knows who they are. We've seen these guys. I think Peter Kalambayi is another name that's going to explode on the scene. Kevin Anderson played well last year, he'll play better this year. Blake Martinez is going to play as well as any linebacker in the country. I'm excited about his prospects on this level and the next. They're going to have a lot of names that people don't really know that are going to come in and play well for us.
Q. What can Christian McCaffrey give you as a full-time lead back?
COACH SHAW: Versatility. I think the biggest thing for him last year, which I took some flack for, understandably. But for him coming as a freshman, I believe this, and I've done it with so many guys over the years. When you have to play a guy who is a freshman, we spoon feed them. We give him only those things we know he can be successful at because we want him to start his career off on the right foot and not have any setbacks. We needed him to get stronger before we asked him to do much more than we asked him to do last year. He's bigger. He's stronger. He's more physical. Had an outstanding spring. He's a dependable pass protector now, which early on in his career, a lot of freshmen, it's hard to ask them to do that. We've got Blake Martinez blitzing through the A gaps that can stand up and pick those guys up. He can do that now.
So he's a guy that can line up 7 yards behind the quarterback, and run the ball between the tackles and pound people, yes, he can do that. But he can do all the things you saw him do last year, run outside, run inside, be part of the gun run game. Return punts and kickoffs and catch the ball in the back field or catch the ball as a receiver. There is not a lot limiting what he can do.
So for us, that's where Remound Wright and Barry J Sanders are still going to have their role because we're going to use Christian all over the place. We don't want to kill the guy in the first three weeks of the season. So we have to make sure we play those other guys because Christian is going to return some punts and return kickoffs. There are going to be a variety of different things we use him for.
Q. What do you think the glut of experienced quarterbacks and proven quarterbacks in this league, what is that going to mean for the quality of play week-in and week-out, do you think?
COACH SHAW: I think the quality of play, I attribute is going to be really high, and I attribute that to the coaches that we have. We've got very unique coaches that have their style of offense and they're experts in their style of offense. So I think you're going to see a lot of the same things. I think there are going to be teams that don't have a quote-unquote returning starter that are going to play beyond expectations.
Once again, we all kind of know each other. I know who they recruited at UCLA. And I know they're going to be good. I know who they recruited at Arizona State, and I know how well he can play. We all know who is going to Oregon and seeing how dynamic of a football player he is. So there are a lot of guys that have moved on. But I think we have outstanding coaches with really good talent, and that talent will show itself.
Q. As deep as this league has gotten, does it still need to win a National Championship to maybe get the same benefit of the doubt that the SEC gets?
COACH SHAW: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think you error when you try to prove too much. I think the people that know and particularly the people that I've talked to, whether they're on the playoff committee, people at the NCAA, people in the media that actually watch all the games, we were voted as the most difficult conference nationally last year from top to bottom. I think the people that know and watch how we play.
This year is going to be crazier than last
year. This year in our conference it's going to be insane because everyone is so good and talented. You're going to lose a game to a really good football team. Somebody's going to say you shouldn't have lost to them. Three weeks later, that team's going to be to be in the top 15, top 10. That is the way this conference is going to be. I won be shocked if this is the year we have a conference championship with a team in there that has two losses.
Q. Does that worry you in terms of the playoffs?
COACH SHAW: Not at all. Once again, talking to those committee members, they recognize how difficult this conference is. If you can come out of this conference as a conference champion, you're going to get into that four team playoff because of the road you have to travel. You look at the non-conference schedule on top of our nine games and look at the non-conference schedule for our conference. We're playing Notre Dame every year, Northwestern, Central Florida, Arizona State's playing Texas A&M, and UCLA's playing a tough out of conference schedule. We're playing the best of the best out there. If you can navigate your way to the top of this conference, you've traveled a road that is going to have a resume that the committee is going to look at and say they are deserving of this four-team playoff.
Q. Do you need to add size and strength (No microphone). Where's he at now and where do you want him?
COACH SHAW: He's over 200 pounds, very physical. Took it to heart what we needed him to do to be a complete back. Worked on his pass protection. I want to give Barry J Sanders the same credit. We needed Barry to get stronger and be more physical as a pass protector so that we can lead those guys in in those passing downs, so every time they come out, they're not going out for a pass or handing the ball. We can play action pass with those guys and have them straight drop back pass and pick up linebackers. That is a complete part of being a complete back at Stanford University. Both of those guys have made huge strides to where they are now capable of doing those things along with Remound Wright, so we have three complete backs in our back field.
Q. Can you elaborate on Aziz and Brennan, when they'll be ready to go?
COACH SHAW: Well, Aziz is completely healed from what kept I am how the of spring. She completely past that. He tweaked his hamstring. We'll prepare him in training camp. He's going to be fine for the start of the season. Brennan we're going to be careful with and cautious with with all the major surgeries he's had over the last few years. But he's a worker. He's blown away our trainers. He's blown away our strength staff about how hard he works and how specific he is with his rehab. He's been way ahead of schedule.
But we also know with his injury history, we're going to be very cautious with him throughout training camp. We probably have a modified double day schedule with him just to make sure. He probably won't want to do it. But that's why I get to be the head coach and he gets to be the player. We make those decisions for him. We need him to get through the season and be healthy and play as many games as possible.
Q. Aside from those guys, Davis and Cajuste, is anybody else not going to be ready for the start?
COACH SHAW: Noor Davis was injured training. It's a rarity for us, kind of a freak deal. It was a lower leg injury, a tendon injury. But he looks like he's earmarked somewhere around midseason to be back, and he's well on the way to doing that. Doesn't want to try to get a medical red-shirt and all that. If he can come back and play, he wants to come back and play so that is the one major one we have. Most likely he's going to miss some game.
But he's on the road to recovery right now. He's a little ahead of schedule. We'll see over the next month or so, if that's going to be a reality for him to come back maybe for the second half of the year.
Q. Anybody else aside from those four?
COACH SHAW: No major ones. The guys that missed spring. Most of those guys at some point will be back from training camp. Besides that we'll be pretty healthy.
Q. Will Jake Bailey be your kicker?
COACH SHAW: He's going to compete for it.
Q. What about the punting?
COACH SHAW: He's going to compete for that too. Because he's an incoming freshmen, he's got the ability to do all of it. We're going concentrate on the punting. He'll battle for kickoffs, field goals, I think we have an in-house candidate and a freshman coming in also. We'll see how that competition goes. Jake can do that, but I don't want to stretch him too thin as a true freshmen. But if he can handle competing in all three, that's great. Otherwise we'll leave him at kickoff and punts.
Q. Can you compare Hogan's mastery of the offense, setting aside physical attributes to where Andrew was going into his final year? Is there any shot Kevin might get a game like Andrew did?
COACH SHAW: It's just, you know, we're talking about rarefied air. To the point with Andrew that it's an unfair comparison with Andrew, and anyone outside of John Elway or, you know, that is the rarefied air that Andrew was in to the point where we have -- Kevin is really, really close, I believe, to mastering our offense. I think his spring, I thought was phenomenal. We're so excited about it. We can give him two or three plays in the huddle, the audible package, and he's been great. Andrew got to the point where we could call three or four plays in the huddle, and he might choose a fifth play on his own.
Q. And it would be the right one?
COACH SHAW: Yes, it will be the right one. We'll say, hey, we didn't think of that. Nice job kid. But, yes, that's a whole different stratosphere that's just in the words of Urban Meyer, you only get one of those guys. It's unfair the rest of us don't get more than one.
Q. How committed are you guys to finding time for whoever wins the back-up quarterback role during games this year?
COACH SHAW: I would say beyond committed because it's going to happen. We need for it to happen. It's what we did with Kevin early on in his career. It's what we did with Tavita Pritchard early on in his career. We have a history of doing that. The biggest thing in doing that, that position is so vital I would never want to come into a year having a quarterback that's never played in the game. I don't ever want to have that again. It may get to the point where if we can't decide between the two, we'll play them both.
Maybe this week you're going to get four or five plays, and the next week we're going to get him four or five plays and we'll evaluate you guys that way. So they'll get a couple plays in the first and second quarter and very similar to what we did with Kevin. Get their feet wet in college football
and evaluate them that way. I'm not averse to doing that at all. I think it's vital to do that.
Q. Did Chryst or Burns have the edge coming out of spring?
COACH SHAW: That's hard to say. I think purposefully we didn't want to gauge the competition. We just wanted to have them continue through spring and pick up where we left off in training camps where we have certain factors that we're marking and evaluating that I think we're going to just kind of go in the flow and see what happens and see who executes the offense better. See who has the best understanding of what to do and how to do it, and goes out there and performs.
Q. Did Crower ever find a home?
COACH SHAW: I haven't talked to Evan in a while. He still had a couple possibilities as of a few weeks ago, and I don't know if he's made the decision. But hopefully he does, because I think the kid can play.
Q. What about offensive right tackle? How does that battle shape up? Is it Tucker and Austin or Davidson?
COACH SHAW: Nick getting hurt, I think hurt his chances a little bit, but hopefully he'll get back at some point in training camp to be pretty close to full go. But we're going to compete for that spot. As I've told my coaches, the best times we've had on the offensive line when guys earn spots. We can't hand them out. So all those guys will compete for that. There is going to be tough competition in couple different places in there, and we'll see how those competitions bear out.
Q. At that spot, is it Tucker and Austin or somebody else?
COACH SHAW: There are a few guys. David Bright has done some guard and tackle for us. We'll give him some reps out there at right tackle as well. So I think all those guys are going to rotate through there and we'll play the best guy.
Q. What is the biggest challenge of recruiting in the Pac-12?
COACH SHAW: It's hard to say what the biggest one is, because it's pretty brutal. I like to say that we don't recruit against any one place. We recruit against geography. So we recruit against LA, we're recruiting against the two LA schools as well as other places. A kid from Arizona, we're recruiting against both Arizona schools. In the midwest, you find yourself recruiting against UCLA in different places. But Michigan, and Notre Dame, and Ohio State, et cetera. So recruit against the geography of wherever the kid is from. But you throw in our academic requirements and test scores and application process, it weeds it down even more so for us.
By the time we get to this point for the next recruiting class, our number of guys has completely dwindled. So we're looking at 35 guys, trying to get 20 out of those 35. So for us, it's a pretty narrow road to walk.
Q. How do you stand on the graduate transfer role at this point? You lost a couple of guys to it. But how do you stand on it? Should it be tweaked or what is this?
COACH SHAW: I'm in the minority here. I think the rule is great. I have absolutely no problem with it. Which is strange coming from a guy that's had guys leave. But the way I look at it common sense wise, if I'm one of those guys that I red-shirt my freshman year and I play three years and I've been there four years and I get my college degree and I look up and I'm a back-up and there is some place else I can go play, I want to play. I want to start. I've fulfilled my obligations with my letter of intent. I went there four years and got my degree and prepared myself academically. I've earned the right to seek another place to play a fifth-year. So when a Kelsey Young comes in and says I recognize you guys have great backs and I want to go some place where I have a chance to carry the ball 20 times a game. I say, great, who do you want me to call for you? So we've helped our guys find places to go because as far as I'm concerned they've fulfilled their obligation to Stanford University and gotten their degree. And I have a tough time telling a guy with a Stanford degree what to do.
Q. But (Indiscernible) would have been starters for you too, wouldn't they?
COACH SHAW: Possibly. I mean, Wayne lost his starting job to Harris later in the year. He would have to come and compete to get back now. Would he have the leg up? Possible with his experience. I love where some of our young guys are coming in. It would have still been a battle. Patrick Skov had the inside track to be a starter. I love where Daniel Marx is as well. So maybe they could be the front runners, possibly.
But it's part of my job to make sure we recruit with depth. We've got two fullbacks on our team right now. Both of them have a chance to be outstanding football players. So the thing came up
with Patrick. We talked about it. Talked about what he was looking for. I didn't try to stand in his way. I wanted to think about it, and make sure he knew what he was doing. Make sure it's the exact program he was looking for. With Patrick it was also a serious academic situation. He's got a chance to get a business degree, and that is the program he's in at Georgia Tech. So I said, if that's what you want, go get it.
Q. Is Trent Irwin likely the most of the true freshmen to play a lot?
COACH SHAW: That's fair to say. But I can't answer that until I see them on the field, particularly with the pads on and going through our ringers and going through some scrimmages before I can really see first and foremost who is physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to play, and who can go out there and execute. On top of that, we have a lot of guys that are coming back that I'm waiting to see that are veterans also. I have no problem playing freshmen in they're ready or red-shirting freshmen if they're not ready or somebody else in front of them is better.
Q. In a league with so many good teams, what do you see is the edge you guys have against everybody else?
COACH SHAW: To me, that's what makes this conference so exciting is I can't answer that question. I have absolutely no idea. I don't know if anybody has a true edge over anybody else. I think the biggest thing is anybody in our conference, if they play their best game, they can beat anybody else. The hard part of our conference is you can play -- everybody uses the Tiger Woods phrase that he started years ago -- you play your B game against anybody in our conference, there is a good chance you're going to lose and lose by 20 points. So the key in our conference is playing your best game every single week, which is hard, which is training because we're talking about it on the ride from Bristol last night.
In our conference with the 9 out of 12 conference games, you're playing conference games, you can play four conference opponents in a row, and now four of those guys might be ranked in the top 25, and that fourth game, you might be beat up and tired, and you're going to have to go play at Utah or at Corvallis or at Oregon or something. And those are tough, tough games to get your team up to play your A game again for the fourth week in a row against top competition. Those are tough games.
Q. Looking at your team, what is the number one thing you guys have to do?
COACH SHAW: The biggest thing for me and our team right now is for us to play like we played at the end of the year last year, which was to play fast, to play with confidence, to play with energy, to execute and make plays. I know it sounds nebulous and nonspecific, but it was the biggest difference between us early in the year and late in the year. Early in the year we played tight. We didn't make as many plays. We didn't take advantage of opportunities. Later in the year, we played free, and loose, and relaxed and confident, and it was fun to watch.
Q. What specifically did (No microphone)?
COACH SHAW: I think it's pretty widely known now what he was going through personally in his life with a family illness that a lot of us didn't know how bad it was because he is such a stoic person, and he seems to be able to handle so much. I didn't know how much that was affecting him at the time. I think he was going through something that no one -- very few people can even understand as far as imagining being the guy that replaces Andrew Luck and takes the team to back-to-back Rose Bowls. That next year the amount of pressure that he put on himself I think was huge.
So he's carrying around these two big boulders. One on the personal side and one on the football side that I think I don't know that football was fun for a while for him. I think it was really, really hard. I think he took everything really hard and really seriously, and he wanted it so bad. The more he wanted it, the more he tries. I talked about this before and last week, the more he wanted to choke the football he was so tense. Later in the year he was smooth, confident and relaxed.
So I think the biggest thing for him was dealing with his family situation, getting back to the point of being what he was early in his career. When he first started he was a sophomore that went out there and just played ball. Getting back to that I think his use of the virtual reality later in the year helped also just to get more reps without being on the field mentally because that virtual reality, the biggest thing for quarterbacks is speeding up the decision making process. I think he was able to make quicker decisions because he recognizes things a little bit faster and he was able to play smooth. He said also as well that was one of the things that helped him kind of make that turn
later in the year. Late in the year, you look at UCLA, you look at the bowl game, he was playing as well as anybody in the country.
Q. You mentioned replacing Andrew Luck. Is it harder or is there something different about preparing the next quarterback when they're replacing a guy who is literally a legend? Like Oregon will be doing and Boise State will be doing and that type of thing?
COACH SHAW: There is no question. We can sit in a room, a coach and quarterback and talk about this is about you being yourself. But he's going to answer that question 20 times a day. He's going to go back home and get a call from a friend of his and say, how is it replacing a legend? So it's like you can't really escape it. But the thing with Kevin is Kevin did it, and did it at a high level. As a sophomore, he took us to the Rose Bowl, and came back and took us to another Rose Bowl. It was like, okay, while you did that, now what is next for you? Now what can you do? The stakes continue to get raised. Whereas really, hey, let's go back out there and play more football and see how good we can be as opposed to trying to live up to some nebulous thing that's out there in the ethos or in the cosmos. Hey, let's just go play football. I think if nothing else, and you watch us play even the games we won early in the year, it didn't look like our guys were having any fun. I couldn't put a finger on it. Later in the year we were having a blast. It wasn't just because we were winning. We were playing with that emotion, we were practicing with that emotion. The practices were great.
So as a coach what I had to do was say, hey, guys, this is us. This is our standard. It's not just winning football games, but it's what it takes to win football games and how we win, and how we play, and how we practice. Those things are indicative of us being successful. So that mood and that mode of practice, that mode of meeting and that mentality that we have as a football team is my responsibility. It's my job to help us stay in that fast, explosive, fun, enjoyable environment that helps us be successful.
Q. What have you seen out of the 2012 offensive line recruiting class over the years? How have they grown throughout the years? Now obviously you have a lot of them starting.
COACH SHAW: I think the big thing for that group right now is growth. Last year, and one of the things that I kick myself for, I probably put them up on a pedestal way too early. I was so excited about this group and having the opportunity to play and play together. I didn't recognize, which I should, kick myself later, that you start four new starters on the offensive line and put the pressure on them to be great? That's not fair. That's just not fair. They had to learn a lot. They had to gel.
So you talk about individual learning, yes, I'm learning individual lessons. But now I've got to learn to speak this language with the bullets flying. You're looking at Josh Garnett, and Josh played great the year before. He played about ten plays a game. Now he goes from 10 to 65 or 70. Now I'm next to Andrus, which we're good buddies and we know each other, but now we're playing under fire for the first time, and you're playing against the number one picks at Washington. You're playing against great players at Notre Dame, and great players at UCLA, and stuff's happening fast. They had to learn some lessons.
Later in the year I think we learned a lot of lessons and got more comfortable. I think we as coaches knew what they did well and what they didn't do well, so we could utilize that knowledge to help them be successful better. We ran the ball better, protected the ball better. Everything was better at the end of the year. Part of that was four new guys gelling as a unit.
Q. You took responsibility for when it wasn't so fantastic, the execution in the red zone. Then it was exceptional down the stretch. Is it still going to be you calling the plays in the red zone?
COACH SHAW: Coach Bloomgren and I, we work together on the play calling and kind of running pass to a certain degree. Although I make run suggestions and he makes pass suggestions. Coach Tavita Pritchard is intimately involved in the passing game with me as well. But the red zone for us came down to execution. I'm a firm believer in this. The red zone for me comes down it three different things: Number one, running the football. You've got to be able to run the ball efficiently in the red zone, no matter what style of offense you use. Number two, having an athletic quarterback, whether you can use him in the running game or scramble for first downs and scramble for touchdowns. Number three, is finding match-ups.
Later in the year I thought we did a better job of finding our match-ups, making the throws, making the catches, having the coaches put guys in position. I think Devon Cajuste and our tight ends down in the red zone, those guys are tough one-on-one match-ups. When we find a good match-up, we have to exploit it. Now with people
trying to protect over it, that's when we can run the ball and do different things. So I think later in the year we did all three of those things. Kevin did a great job scrambling. Didn't force the ball, scrambled. Got positive yards. We did a great job running the football, more physical up front. I think we ran through some trash, and broke some tackles. At the same time, you saw Cajuste make plays, you saw Austin make plays and our guys make plays in the red zone that helped us get to that ridiculously high touchdown percentage which is years ago was kind of our standard.
For about three or four years straight with and without Andrew we were one of the best in the nation in red zone offense. We became unbelievably inefficient this past year to the point of, and I'm exhausting the subject, and this is vital so I don't mind talking about it, we missed a ton of field goals inside the 35-yard line. We turned the ball over five or six times, I believe, inside the 25-year-old, which never happened to us before. We had more negative plays in the red zone this past year than we've ever had in my eight years there as a head coach or an assistant.
So all of these things that killed your red zone percentage, we were doing all of it. At the end of the year, we weren't doing any of it. Efficient running the ball. Athletic quarterback that made the throws. Outstanding, big, physical guys to go up and make plays. So it was a huge lesson for us to how vital doing things right in the red zone was.
Q. You talked about the fun aspect of the game. Can you talk about how cathartic John Flacco's speech was? A number of players have pointed to that as the moment where a lot of things got said that needed to be said.
COACH SHAW: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was at a low point to where, gosh, we just couldn't get the ship turned right. I tried to say all the right things and that didn't work. Other guys tried to say the right things and tried to do the right things and forever reason at the end of that, John Flacco put it all into perspective. I'm sure there are some guys in the room that are in the interview room with me that we heard the yelling and screaming coming through the room. For a split second I thought, oh, my God, we're fracturing. There are guys out there screaming. I heard. I was trying to talk and listen at the same time, and I heard what he was saying, everything he was talking about was about brotherhood. It was about being together and being there for each other in tough times. It was about doing your job and counting on the guy next to you saying all the right things.
But saying it with such passion, energy and focus, and you look at who is saying it. Here's a guy who was a walk on. Here's a guy who earned his right to get on the field. Earned his right on defense, and earned his right to get on special teams. He's basically saying it's not about what you get but what you give. What are you doing for your brother or to have somebody else's back? What are you saying to tell a guy that you were there for him? All those things. I think it flipped the mentality on our football team.
Q. Your first recruiting class is really unique in that you dipped into Arizona really hard. You've got a guy playing pro baseball and a guy playing pro football, and you brought them with you in Blake Martinez, and to be able to have that (No microphone). But you have about a third of the true seniors in the entire conference playing. You have over ten from the class of 2012 who are true seniors. What about the class made it so that so many of them were game ready from the git-go?
COACH SHAW: It was a very talented group. It's a group that we are leaning on maturity-wise for us. They're an older group. And they've won a lot of football games. The biggest thing I pressed upon those guys is identifying the leadership that was there before you and being that example for the guys behind you. As I said, it's a talented group and group that really has the ceiling is the limit.
But at the same time, it's a group that we lean on for leadership as well as execution for our game plans. It's a group that has a chance to be a phenomenal group that we'll remember for a long time.
Colorado and Mike MacIntyre
COACH MACINTYRE: Kenneth played for us last year, started every game. He was our leading tackler, defensive MVP. He played last year at 205 which is really small for a linebacker. He now weighs 220. He's bench pressed and he's bigger, and stronger, our whole team has done that. So it's exciting to see our maturation process and what's going on with our team.
Q. Coach, you guys didn't get a Pac-12 win last year, but you were so close in so many games. What does that do this year for you to be that close? Is there a hunger factor that comes into play with that?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, it was. It was interesting. When I came to see you, everybody would come up and say I just want to see a full football game. I want to see a competition in the Pac-12, and we did that last year. We left a lot of games on the table, so to speak. Very frustrating. But our young men were very young, and just an example of our quarterback, he's played a lot of games now. He's set 51 school records last year, and we only won two games.
So our whole team is maturing and doing that. They are hungry about finishing. I think just all the guys we have back have played a lot. They've been in those situations. We had quite a few injuries last year, so even our back-ups have played a significant amount of plays. In our conference with all the great teams and us playing 13 games straight, we're going to need all of them. So we'll win a lot of those close games we lost last year.
Q. With the stadium and the success near the end of last year, how do you see this program moving forward, and what all do you seek from it?
COACH MACINTYRE: We move into our football facility tomorrow, our overall athletic
department, and new champions center into the football area of it, a $156 million complex. So we have commitment from our president, Chancellor, AD, all the way down. I feel like you can feel the surge of it. I really do. It's not just me saying that. There are a lot of people around our program. So I'm excited about this fall and getting out there and getting it rolling.
Q. What's been the personal challenge that you had for your team?
COACH MACINTYRE: Well, our personal challenge is for our young men to trust each other in the fourth quarter. We were ahead of a lot of games at halftime. The year before that wasn't the case, and against very good football teams, highly ranked football teams with excellent players and excellent coaches. So our job is to finish the fourth quarter and trust each other in that Heat of battle, and just execute your job. Those are the things we've been talking about.
When you've been there before you can kind of relax and do that. The maturation process of a team, especially where we were with all the young guys playing, when you're a freshman, you're kind of just glad to be there and be on the team. As a sophomore, you kind of start playing, but you're glad you're playing a lot. You're glad you're starting. Now it's kind of like I'm tired of just playing. I want to win, I want to be successful. I've seen that in them. I've seen their attitude and work ethic change. I've seen the overall maturity of our football team. If you've seen these guys, I mean, Stephane and Kenneth are a great example. Kyle's seen them grow up, the way their bodies changed and their physicality, our whole team has done that.
Q. Why did you play 13 games last year?
COACH MACINTYRE: Well, we're playing 13 games because we were playing Hawaii.
Q. No, I know that.
COACH MACINTYRE: The way the calendar falls we have 13 in a row. We picked up another game. We need to create some more revenue, so we get another home game, so it puts money in our budget and everything else as we're building our program. So we're going to play 13 straight. There are a bunch of teams that play 12 straight. Either they had the last game off or third game off. I don't like bye weeks anyway. So hopefully we'll stay healthy and keep playing, so we can kick our stride and keep the momentum going. But it is 13 straight.
Q. Coach, how better prepared is the program to handle that from when you first took over?
COACH MACINTYRE: I think we're better prepared because we have more depth that's played games. So if we have an injury that happens, it won't devastate us as much because a lot of those kids have already played. Ryan Moeller, for example, has played in four or five games as the main safety. Now he'll be competing for starter or back-up, and the other guys have all started. So we're deeper at all our different spots. Even our offensive line is maturing and gelling with more back-ups which will help us.
Q. Talk about the Hawaii game, you’ve done it before, why do you schedule it in?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, the good thing about playing Hawaii the opening game, both teams will be excited and all of that, but you're not in the middle of your season and it wears you out for the rest of the time. We're playing them on Thursday night.
Q. Oh, it is Thursday night?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yes. So we'll fly out Tuesday, play them on Thursday, and we come back and land at noon on Friday. Well, we have time to recover if before the next week. It's not like you play Saturday night and land Sunday at noon, and you're trying to get ready to go Monday.
So I think the way we have it scheduled will be beneficial to us. But Hawaii has a new quarterback in Wittek from USC who is really a good player. They play really well what they call the rock. They play well on the rock, so it's going to be a tough game for us, but we expect to win every game, so we need to start out doing that.
Q. How do you prepare for a team bringing in a new coordinator? They got the fellow from SMU. Will you be looking at SMU stuff from last year?
COACH MACINTYRE: They have a new defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator.
So we'll look at tape where they've been before, and put in our defense and offense, and it should be able to handle anything. They're kind of the same way too. We've kind of made a few changes, so it will be a chess match probably early a little bit.
Q. I saw Isaiah Oliver listed on both sides of the ball on the roster, which is something he didn't even do until late in high school, but really excelled in both. Is it a matter of it not being determined?
COACH MACINTYRE: No, we're going to look at him at both sides of the ball early in camp and find out where he would fit the best to help us this year. He's got so much speed and athleticism. Hopefully he's ready to do that. So we're kind of giving him an option. We talked about the it the other day, myself and him. And he's all up for doing that.
Q. So you see him playing as a freshman?
COACH MACINTYRE: I'm giving him the best opportunity to try to play as a freshman with his speed and athleticism. So if he could help us quickly at receiver or at corner or that enables us to do what he can do on special teams, that's what we'll do. So I give all the freshmen a chance to play. Hopefully we don't have to play a ton of them.
But the better I can give them opportunities to what they feel most comfortable at coming out of high school, we'll get them on the field quicker and be able to help us quicker.
Q. From what you've gathered in your time in the conference, what is the biggest challenge of recruiting in this conference?
COACH MACINTYRE: The biggest challenge in recruiting in this conference? Well, great question. I think that the league is so good. I think the positive recruiting in this conference is there are so many people that want to play in the Pac-12. There are a lot of kids in the south now that want to play in the Pac-12, the brand of it, the type of football, the type of energy and throwing the ball all around, that type of thing. But the hard thing is the conference is so good right now. Is everybody's good; and we're at the bottom of it right now. In our division, the Pac-12 south, everybody's ranked in the top 25.
So when we beat a couple of those, we'll jump to the top 25. I just think the conference is recruiting for itself in a way, but every team is.
Q. How do you see Sefo's development going into his third year in terms of grass roots offense and ability to run the team?
COACH MACINTYRE: Sefo's development is going well. He got thrown into the fire as a freshman. Last year he played well. We had a few mistakes here and there, but a lot of that wasn't really all Sefo's fault. We weren't very good on defense. We had to keep putting pressure on him offensively to keep moving the ball down the field, keep trying to score to stay in the games. This year will be better on defense. He's more mature. Our lines are more mature. Our running backs are more mature. So I feel like we won't have to put as much pressure on him. I still feel like he'll have all the great numbers he has, and he's an excellent leader. He's 6'4 and a quarter. He's 240 pounds. He has a good arm. He's a good leader, and he's extremely tough. He has the ability to escape in the pocket. He's not a scrambler, but he has the ability to stay alive and make plays. He started running the ball a lot last year. He's in better shape and better running capabilities this year right now than he was last year. So I see him coming along good. I think after this year's over, everybody will say he's one of the best junior quarterbacks in America. I really do.
Q. How has the relationship developed with Nelson specifically? I think Nelson did so well last year. Do you feel like Sefo and he --
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, for some reason Nelson had Sefo move into his apartment, so he could throw it to him more. No, they're really close. They work hard all the time. They're together. They're young men that you never, ever, ever have to worry about, ever. Work ethics, school, what they're doing, how they're studying. And Sefo and Nelson have a good timing relationship. Nelson's bright. We can move him all over the place when they start trying to key on him, because he's an excellent player. So I see a good relationship with those two guys.
Q. When did you first realize that Nelson's father had been a body builder?
COACH MACINTYRE: I realized when Nelson was a junior in high school, because I tried to recruit him to San Jose State, but he didn't come. So I've known about the family and all that. His dad's a great inspiration to Nelson, and follows him closely and a really Goodman. Really like his dad.
Q. A family of Vanderbilt people, we all want to wish our best to your dad, and I hope he's doing well.
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, he's hanging in there. The MS has taken a toll on my dad's body. But he's living in Nashville still. He's out at the Bellevue area at the Meadows.
Q. Okay, very good. Back to Colorado. When Coach McCartney was there?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, Coach Mac.
Q. The best teams he had there, he was able to get a pipeline out of California. Is Denver, is that enough to be your base there, or do you have to get back to California somewhere else?
COACH MACINTYRE: No, we recruit Colorado hard, but we recruit California extremely hard. We have a lot of connections there from the past and from our coaching staff now and from our players on our team. The biggest group of players on our team is from California. Then in our student body there are about 15 to 20% of the students at CU are from California. So we are working that pipeline. Playing in the Pac-12 has even increased that more.
Q. Is there a favorite aspect to the new facility that you're moving into that you've enjoyed looking at?
COACH MACINTYRE: Oh, yeah, there are a lot of favorite aspects. I think the players' favorite aspect will be the players lounge. It's 7,000 square feet. We have Gatorade machines in there and a little eating area, and a barber shop, and a 15-seat theater, and we have a pool table and Ping-Pong table. I think there are six or seven different televisions in there that they can play all different games and watch all different things. It's a place away from home that they'll relax and hang out in. So I'm really excited about that. There are tons of other features.
One of the cool things for a football coach is for preparing a team and keeping a team moving in the right direction during the off-season and during the season. Our weight room is about 12,000 square feet, but it connects right to our indoor. In our indoor you can open up the glass. It has a six-lane track around it. You have a full indoor and an 85-foot season, so that turns into the whole weight room, and the whole ability to keep evolving our program. So I'm excited about that feature.
Q. How many times have you been able to sit them down and say back in my day our facilities were --
COACH MACINTYRE: I haven't said that to them that much. All I tell them as we walked up -- I walked to school back and forth in the snow in a hundred degree weather every day barefooted. That's what I tell them.
Q. What is the plan in Colorado? Is it like a one-year plan or two-year plan to not just be able to play on the field but to actually start winning?
COACH MACINTYRE: I expect us to win this year. I really do. I think we're right there, and definitely could have won a few last year and didn't do it. I feel like our team has matured to that spot. Being a junior sophomore team, they've been there. The next year they'll probably have the biggest junior-senior class they've had, and one of the biggest in the history of the school.
That's how you develop a program. You have to build it and develop it. We'll be able to red-shirt more kids the next year, and we just keep the cycle going to develop. So I see us being able to win a lot of the close games this year, and do better the next year.
Q. Where are you at with the CSU series? I know they'd like to get this thing home at home.
COACH MACINTYRE: Well, the CSU series, the way I understand it ends in 20. Then I don't know when it's going to go back together, because I know we scheduled Air Force which everybody wanted in the state to do. With us playing nine conference games, which is a great thing because I think all the major conferences should play nine and play a championship, period, it limits the amount of teams we can play out of conference. If you played eight, you could do that more.
So we're a little bit stuck in the scheduling there on that. But I don't know when it will kickback again, but I know it goes to 20. I'm worried about our first game, our second game. I think about the CSU game every day since we lost last year, so that's going to be a fun game for all of us.
Q. Do the players love going to Bronco Stadium?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, the players do like playing in Denver. I think both sets of fans like it, but I think both sets of fans would rather
have it on their home field, I think. But our players really love playing in the Bronco Stadium, and I'm pretty sure CSU's players do too.
Q. Is it more important to you to seal off a big win against one of the high-profile members of the conference, or is it just improving your overall win total is against smaller teams or less prominent?
COACH MACINTYRE: Both. We want to do both. We want to keep improving our record, and we want to beat everybody we play. There are so many good football teams. I think it's a great conference and we'll have opportunities to do that, week-in and week-out, beat some really good teams.
Q. Do you sense that your team has accomplished what they think they earned last year?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, I think all teams are confident this time of the year. You are. Everybody's healthy. You're excited. But I think with our team maturing, going from teenagers to 20-year-olds, going from can we compete with these guys, knowing they can't compete with them, now they want to. They've got the feeling, hey, can they beat us?
We can beat everybody now is the way they feel. I've had a lot of conversations with kids -- the kids coming up to me and talking about it. Seeing their work ethic, and hearing the things they're saying when they're running and working out, and the way they're pushing themselves. It's a whole different level of accountability. When you have that rise in accountability, they feel the standards are have risen, and I see that.
Q. When you came on the job, the Pac- 12 South wasn't as difficult. What is your take on that? Because you've got to beat some dramatically good football teams?
COACH MACINTYRE: Right. This south division is no doubt about it has gotten better and better. There are a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches. So when you do accomplish some things in that south division, you really have made a hugely, not just a little leap, a huge leap. I think that's a big measuring stick for us.
Q. You mentioned not having any bye weeks, and you get USC on a Friday in November. How does that change your preparation on a short week like that?
COACH MACINTYRE: On a short week thank goodness we don't have to travel. It makes it harder when you're traveling on a short week. We'll look at our team when we get to that spot because I'll cut practice back as the season goes along. On a short week that might be a week you don't go in pads much if you're beat up a little bit. You just look at your team and evaluate it on Monday, get with a trainer, get with the guys, see where you fit, kind of watch their vibe and you'll have to make that call. If you decided it right now, you might have a situation that's not the same at that time. But definitely you're a day shorter in practice, so you'll have one less practice and one less pad type situation.
Q. With Gary taking the job at Oregon State, kind of a Mountain West/WAC, you're seeing a lot of familiar faces?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, Sonny's an excellent coach. Gary's an excellent coach. They did a great job in the WAC, and I think they're both excellent coaches. We see each other Media Days there. And Sonny and I, his dad was a coach, my dad was a coach, so there are a lot of connections there. Gary, I really respect Gary and what he does. He's an excellent football coach.
Q. Surprised you've all landed in the Pac-12?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, I guess so. It's kind of funny, it really is. It's good seeing them, but we both definitely on every Saturday we play each other, we want to beat each other. But I think we all respect each other well.
Q. The couple years comparison now that you've been in the Pac-12, the WAC was a decent league. Utah State got better. But what is the biggest difference between WAC/Mountain West and Pac-12 that you've seen?
COACH MACINTYRE: I think the biggest difference is the Pac-12 each week on both sides is really a battle. We play in the Pac-12 south, everybody knows. Well, two of the teams that Cross over to play us are Stanford and Oregon. So seven of the nine teams we play next year right now going into the season are ranked in the top 25. I think four of them are in the top 12.
So it's that caliber you play week-in and week-out. There is truly not even a breather. You can hardly breathe. You've got to keep pushing. But that's exciting to me. It's exciting to our coaches and our players. We came here to play against the best and beat the best, so that's what we plan on doing.
Q. One other question on the schedule. Two years ago you had that game in Fresno that washed out. Did that hit the department hard? You lost a game there.
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, we made up that game with Charleston Southern, but you had to pay -- it did hit a little bit. And then the Nichols State game was a way to add more revenue too.
Q. Addison Gillam had some injuries last year. How do you see his performance this year? Do you plan to keep him middle linebacker so he can get back to the first year he had with the program?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yes, Addison did get sick last year. He got hurt last year. It was kind of like a perfect storm for him. He's had a really good summer, gained his weight back, got the smile back on his face, stayed healthy. He'll have a better year than he did as a freshman. He'll be, I think, a Pac-12 performer. I really do think he's that type of guy. So I'm excited about seeing him back on the field, so I would say Addison is back.
Q. It was really interesting to talk to Stephane. He talked about one of the hardest things for him to learn coming to college football was the playbook and things like that. Can you talk about what it was like working with him and getting him up to speed?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, Stephane learning the playbook and everything, he's an amazing young man. All he's had to do and overcome to excel in college, excel on the football field. He's truly an example of improving and working hard every day. Communication and understanding the terminology in football, it's like a whole new language. He knows 13, I would say he knows 14 languages now. Just learning all of that and watching him grow and how hard he's worked. The first year he was there, he would say I'm playing football to get my education.
The second year about the second game he came to me and I could see a whole new look in his eyes. He loved playing football. He said I can excel at this. So he kept improving last year. Then this year you're going to look out there and see a beast. He'll play for a while in the NFL and then he'll go there with his degree and go back and help Cameroon and be a success. He's an amazingstory.
I think one of the things that college football is all about is how much he's improved and what he's done with his life.
Q. You lost Josh on defense. How are you going to make up for that personnel-wise, scheme-wise?
COACH MACINTYRE: Right. Losing Josh is tough. He's a good football player. But one good thing for us is we sign quite a few guys in our signing class. Three of them are junior college linemen that were coming in. Then we red-shirted some linemen last year, and we have Justin Solis and Eddy Lopez who played last year.
So I feel good about all of those guys being able to play and improve. If we wouldn't have gotten the junior college guys and all that type of stuff, we'd be in a little bit more of a hurt. But Josh is a good player. We hate to have him not out there. But I feel like those other guys will be able to take up some slack.
Q. How important is it to your season to have the kind of improvement on defense that you had on offense last year?
COACH MACINTYRE: Right. I think that is the key. I really do. I think the way we improve on defense this year, I don't know if we can jump from there to 37th. But if we can jump and stop teams in the scoring defense, be able to, when we get ahead, keep the lead and not just give up big plays, that our improvement will be the difference in our team this year. That to me, you're exactly right. We need -- national statistics, we need to improve our scoring defense. In the other area that we can drastically help our team, and I believe we can, and it comes on defense, we didn't cause enough turnovers last year. And you've heard me talk about that a lot. But now that we're bigger and stronger, we'll knock more balls loose. Now that we have more experience on the back end, they'll make more plays on the ball. So we had three interceptions last year. We had a few called back that were picked off that they were called back. We had a ton that we could have caught. If we could just move that from three to eight and go from 15 interceptions to 10, we've changed our record dramatically. So we've got to do that.
Q. Schematically with a new coordinator, are there going to be changes you're looking for?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yes, there will be some changes. We've gotten together and worked on it. He has a great expertise. Then bringing in Joe Tumpkin in that was a defensive coordinator at Central Michigan. We have two defensive coordinator type guys. It's going to be good.
Studying our league and looking at our league and how our league plays. It's a little different. I'm excited about what we're doing and how we're going to do it.
Q. I was talking to Coach Davie yesterday at the Mountain West, and he's still upset about a replay call in the Boise game that he thought was wrong, and I think probably was wrong. Oregon State game last year, I don't remember the specifics but I know you were upset at the end of the game. Are you comfortable with the whole challenge, procedure, replay, review? Are you comfortable with the way that is now?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, I am. I'm comfortable with the way we're doing everything. In all the games there are different situations that happen, and you just hope certain situations don't happen to you that cause the outcome of a game. But I am pleased with how we're doing with everything there within the Pac-12. Everybody's working at it hard.
Q. They're going to show the replays in the stadiums as the officials are reviewing them. Is that a good thing? How do you feel about that?
COACH MACINTYRE: I think they're just trying to be more transparent on that. I think it's a good thing. I think it's a good idea on that. I think it's just being more transparent in what you see and how it's done.
Q. You mentioned Stephane's now 343 pounds, so he's put on a good bit of muscle.
COACH MACINTYRE: Yes, he has.
Q. How much weight has he gained?
COACH MACINTYRE: I think Stephane's gained 15 to 18 pounds since the season was over of really good weight. If he took his shirt off, he doesn't have an ounce of fat. Kind of like Kyle, not an ounce of fat on him. So he's really improved and done well. Our whole team is like that, really. It's exciting to see all the numbers that we've increased in the weight room and what we've done. That is one of the reasons we practiced spring practice early, so we have a lot of lifting cycle. At that stage I thought that was extremely important to do.
Q. You mentioned some changes on defense. Without giving away the playbook, are we talking about more multiple, more blitzing? What are you looking at specifically?
COACH MACINTYRE: We can't do the exact same thing we were doing, so we've changed it up. We'll be a little bit more multiple, but you can't do too much either, because if you do too much, the kids are just standing there and not running to the football and reacting. So we've adapted the playbook more to be able to stop a lot of the Pac-12 offenses.
Q. Have you noticed, I know a lot of teams based off of what we see, were you doing that a lot more last year?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, we based a nickel most of our games because you can't substitute. Most of the time there is ten personnel, I call it four wide receivers, eleven personnel guys, a tight end that plays wide receiver and might go back in the back field.
So to be able to match up with that, you really have to stay in a nickel-type principle. Now there are some teams we play that they're not playing as much four-wide or eleven, and you won't see as much nickel.
Q. That is the Pac-12 where you're going to see a crazy different line every week?
COACH MACINTYRE: Exactly. Most of them are wide open, but you have a few that aren't.
Q. In the spring you talked about defense, and you talked about just wanting to get guys, get a feel for what everybody could do with some of the concepts you were thinking about and putting in. Now that there's been so much time between that, is there going to be a big learning curve for guys in fall camp?
COACH MACINTYRE: No, there won't. One of the reasons I decided to do spring practice that way, and two, the NCAA new rule change where we could meet with the kids two hours a week after spring practice is over and in the summer.
So we've been doing that and showing them the tape of the spring and prospects of what we're going to do and film from other teams that we've added in. So therefore we meet, go over it, talk. Then our kids went out and did their player-led practices and able to do all that. Without that rule, I would have done it different. But with that rule, we were able to take advantage of the strength side we needed. And being able to meet on all that, we kept it fresh in their minds and kept going over it, so it was like it was there.
Q. Jim Leavitt being who he is, how has he made the transition on defense easier?
COACH MACINTYRE: He has great expertise, number one. Number two, he has great passion and energy; and number three, he's a grinder. He works at it hard. So he's been with our defensive staff meeting a lot, with me, and then he's had those -- we were able to meet two hours a week with the kids and he's been able to do that. I think his overall energy and expertise and effort, the combination of the whole has been exciting for us.
Q. Sometimes when you hear a guy described as a grinder, that starts, over time, that can wear players out.
COACH MACINTYRE: Right.
Q. But he seems to have an opposite affect on players because he's such an affable guy. Do you see that?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, I agree with you. But the way the NCAA rules are, we can only meet with them so much. So that doesn't affect him. No, I'm just saying that he's not going to leave any stone unturned. He's going to make sure, if, for example, I learn a certain way and you learn a certain way and we're not getting it, he's going to find a way to make sure we're going to figure it out. He's not just going to say well, he doesn't get it.
Also, as a staff they're going everything fine-tooth comb, really great attention to detail. You can't do enough of that.
Q. Howniceisitforyoutohavea coach like Coach Leavitt who had been a head coach for so many years to lean on?
COACH MACINTYRE: It's good. Jim was at Kansas State, and they helped turn that program around. He started the program from South Florida from scratch. So both of those he's been kind of where we are right now. So when we talk about different things, he can give examples. So I listen intently to it. I like all of our stuff. I don't want yes men on our staff. I want guys that bring things up over and over and over, and they do, then I have to decipher where we go from there. So he brings another expertise that's been there and done it.
Q. You guys, I think your program has more Sacramento kids than anybody in the conference. But what is it about Sacramento that you like, and these five guys Carrell, Falo, Jones, (Indiscernible). How do they figure into the team?
COACH MACINTYRE: All of those guys are going to play a ton, and all of them are really good athletes. We have a recruiter up there, Clayton Adams that's from Sacramento. Played at ARC, played at Boise, and coached at Sacramento State and coached for me at San Jose. We had recruited that area for a long time, and we have a lot of connections. So we know a lot of coaches. We know a lot of people. All of those young men are really good players.
So we'll keep recruiting the Sacramento area hard. There are some really good football players up there. So that is part of our connection.
Q. I live in Las Vegas, and it's amazing how many kids are coming out of there. It has been a hotbed. Your presence in Las Vegas, is that appropriate?
COACH MACINTYRE: Yeah, we're looking in there. But we're spending a little bit more time in Arizona, California, Texas, and that area because of proximity of the team for playing. So it makes it a little bit easier to get them. But there are definitely good players in Las Vegas. There is no doubt.