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We’ll come out this afternoon at 3:30 in full gear and get after it pretty good. But just very pleased at where we are right now. For our first time going through a lot of the in-game situations that can be very critical in a season if they come up, they were locked in and they understand it. And I think that’s the function of having a veteran quarterback, a group of guys that listen, and a group of coaches that coach it well. I continue to like the way we’re headed, I like the attitude, we’re staying healthy. Theo Howard is still nursing his hamstring a little bit, we’re going to keep him out of practice today, and then he should be good to go Monday morning up in San Bernardino. Paco Perez is making a lot of progress. Marcus Moore, don’t look for him anytime soon, just with the back. And other than that we’re rolling. So it’s real good, real positive.
On Mique Juarez missing practice:
Yes he has.
On if there is a reason for that:
He’s got an excused absence. He’s got an excused absence from us.
On if Juarez has left the team:
He’s just got an excused absence from us.
On if he has an expectation for when Juarez will return:
He’s got an excused absence from us.
On if the secondary can lead the conference in pass defense:
You know what, that’s a great question, because we did lead it. And I like to say the glass is half full, but I think you have to take a look at things critically. And a lot of people have said, and I’ve said, that one of the reasons that we were so good against the pass is that everyone ran the ball on us. What I didn’t realize is that we had the third-most pass attempts thrown against in the Pac-12. So that indicates to me that we were good, that was a legitimate ranking. But we’ve got to be able to win the Washington State game, you know. That’s the step we have to take, in my opinion. Close things out. That’s the step that we have to be able to take, in my opinion, to really reach that elite status. I’m pleased with the direction we’re going, it’s great that we were ranked where we were. But now we’ve got to take that next step. And I just believe that we have a real great group and the capabilities to do that. And I love their mindset. I know Randall (Goforth) and Fabian (Moreau) are coming over today and they’ll take about it. But those guys are really challenging each other, and it’s fun to watch.
On having Fabian Moreau back:
It’s great on many levels. Number one, it’s great because of his ability on the football field. Number two, it’s great because of his enthusiasm for the game. And number three, it’s great because of the leadership he brings to our locker room, or to meeting rooms, or to just being around. He conducts himself as a professional, he’s been here a long time. As has Randall, and they understand how things have to be done if you want to have success. So in all of those areas, it’s just a bonus to have him back. I love it.
On if he sees the physical growth:
I have. If you look at our defensive line right now, and Takk’s about 260 and he’s playing our razor position, so that’s about right for him. And then at the other side, you’ve got Matt Dickerson at about 290. And then Eddie (Vanderdoes) and Eli (Ankou) are both hovering around 322, 323, 324, right in that area, and yet they’re moving very well, and they are strong, and they are explosive and powerful. Some of the young guys that we’ve brought in, or that came from JC , Nick (Terry) and Chigozie (Nnoruka) and Boss (Tagaloa), big bodies, 320-plus pound guys. Offensive line, Scott Quessenberry is at 318, the guards are around 305, the tackles are 310. So I do see that. Plus at the linebacker position I see it as well. That’s what we need to be able to do, get big up front, stay athletic, have the endurance to play the way we want to play, and continue to do that through the season. Every day we weigh them in and weigh them out, they’re doing a great job with their recovery and their hydration, and they’re eating right. So they’re not losing a lot right now. So I’m pleased.
On the middle linebacker competition between Isaako Savaiinaea and Kenny Young:
Close. It’s great. And it’s not just Kenny and Isaako, it’s Kenny, Isaak and Lokeni (Toailoa). He’s really played himself into that spot, into the competition, I should say. For a young guy, he has tremendous awareness, a tremendous grasp of the defense. He came in and immediately kind of established himself as someone that the guys can depend on, which leads to being a leader. So with those three guys going after it every day, they’re all just continuing to get better. It’s a fantastic competition.
On if he’s seen the weather in San Bernardino:
No, what is it? (106 degrees). Really? Awesome. You guys will be over there in the shade. We’re excited to go to San Bernardino. It’s been great to be here, and we’ll be back. But for us to be able to go up there for six days, and they’ve just done an amazing job for us up there. The facilities are fantastic, the food is good, the fields, we have a lot of field space, we’re on grass. Which I think we need, we need to get on grass for a while. The heat will be a challenge. It will be a challenge for us to keep the momentum that we’ve established so far, but I think we’re looking forward to that opportunity.
On if they’ll alter things with the heat:
No, because a two-a-day is morning and then 5:45 (p.m.). So it’s starting to cool down. A one-a-day is 3:30 (p.m.), and we want that intensity. The thing that we are very aware of all the time is just heat exhaustion. You remember when Korey Stringer died with the Minnesota Vikings and up until that point, people hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to the conditions, the heat. And I was in the NFL at the time, and we all had to take courses on recognition of heat exhaustion and heat-related illnesses. That’s something that we’re always very, very aware of. We’ve got the cold tubs set up, we’ve got paramedics on site. We’re very tuned in to where our players are, we give them water breaks. But in terms of the work, we’re going to work.
On how one week in San Bernardino will help compared to two:
See, that’s a great question. And you’re hitting the nail right on the head. What I’ve found is that last year it felt like we were kind of measuring ourselves a little bit. Guys were measuring themselves to get to that second week and get through it. And so now we can go out there for six days, have nine intense practices, and say there’s nothing to save yourself for, let’s just go. And then we’re coming back to UCLA. So from a mental standpoint and emotionally, I think it’s really going to help us. You really don’t want it to become a drag. You want them to approach every day with a sharpness and a freshness and an enthusiasm. And I think what was happening is, like you said, it was just bogging us down. And so that’s why we made the change.
On if they’ll do first week in Westwood, second week in San Bernardino in the future:
I’ve thought about it a little bit. I think when we get back I can answer that question much more completely. My gut feeling is that I still want to go out there. But I also know that we’re building this amazing new facility, we have two brand new fields that are being put in, we have access to this field, an amazing hotel right there. And we’ll just take a vote amongst you guys. I know what you want. But I do think that there’s a real benefit to doing it. So I would assume, without guaranteeing it, that we will continue to do it.