Dorrell's Monday Press Conference

Head Coach Karl Dorrell answered questions from the media Monday, those about the ASU game, the tailback situation, Matt Moore's performance, not looking past Stanford, injuries, and the national lack of respect...

Head Coach Karl Dorrell addressed the media Monday.

His opening statement: "Obviously we have four games left of twelve games. We feel real good about where we are, in terms of being in the upper tier of the conference. These games ahead are going to be a tough stretch for us. Three of the four games are on the road. So we're going to have to start playing at our best. The signs from last week are positive signs, that our team is starting to play a little better in all phases. Our defense has been playing well all season long, but offensively we were able to do some things that were some positive steps forward, and hopefully to build on that for going into this last stretch here.

"Like in all cases, though, in the game of football you always have your injuries. Losing Manuel White is going to be a significant blow for us. But we have some other guys that played well when Manuel was absent in the second half of the game.

"Rodney Leisle left early in the game with a high ankle sprain. Whether he'll be available this week we don't know for certain right now. With a high ankle sprain it's usually a weeks-type of injury.

"Other than that, we're still hanging in there. Our kids are getting better. And we're starting to play with some focus, and things are starting to come together. Hopefully we'll continue that trend, particularly in this last stretch of the season."

Will Maurce Drew start?

"No, even though Maurice had a very good game. He had the bulk of his carries in the second half. Tyler Ebell is our starting tailback. What we've done at that position is very good anyway. We've done a good thing of packaging people and utilizing them at certain times and certain periods, in not only the game, but certain things we do from a personnel standpoint. I think we're going to continue that trend and then evaluate as the game goes on. Maurice had a very good game this game, but in the previous two games Tyler played very well. So, we'll continue with the roles we have. We're one less guy because Manuel is out of that picture. Akil Harris is now in that third position now. But we'll do the same philosophy that we've been doing for the last four or five weeks."

Do you have anyone who can replace White's versatility?

"No. That's why he was so versatile. He was a fullback and a tailback. We don't really have anyone in our backfield who can play both positions. I think now we just have our designated tailbacks. And two fullbacks, with Pat Norton and J.D. Groves carrying the load particularly at that position now."

Can Pat Norton catch the ball as well as White?

"I think so. Pat made a key catch for us in a Cal game in a third-and-short-yardage situation. I think those guys will get better now that they're in the position to get some playing time and splitting duty at that position. I feel really confident with those two guys. They've had playing experience this year and they'll do a nice job for us."

Will Akil Harris now play?

"He's now moved up into our third slot. We'll probably still feature the two other guys, but he'll be ready and take some reps in practice. If need be he'd be ready for action, if it comes to that."

Is losing White like losing two players?

"In a way it is. He's a dual-role type of player. His versatility gave us some versatility of our offense. So now we have guys who are tailbacks and fullbacks primarily. But the thing about our offense, I think we'll function just fine, we just won't have guys that play both roles."

How would you characterize Kevin Brown's performance?

"New. Actually he played well. For his first time playing in the heat of the battle. At the beginning he struggled a little bit with the heat of the game, but has he settled in he ended up playing fairly well. I think for him to watch the game yesterday with the rest of the linemen and see the issues that he had, and concerns he had going into that game, he'll be a lot better going into this week. He played like a young player, but as the game got going and he settled in, he ended up playing well for us."

Is running back Jason Harrison close to returning?

"He's pretty close. From a doctor's determination, he's ready to go. But he's wearing a knee brace still. He's not favoring it but he's not quite 100% like he was before the injury. He's still working his way through that. He's still practicing and doing everything and helping on our scout team and trying to get himself back into playing shape. He's getting close."

What's Matt Ware's status?

"The high ankle sprains you have to evaluate day to day. We can't judge or make an assessment on him until he starts running and doing some stuff and he hasn't been able to do that yet. So hopefully he'll be able to do some jogging and stuff tomorrow. But he's been in a boot. It's harder to make that determination right now."

What is it that you do that has made you so successful in the second half this season?

"Do you think I'd tell you? That's a joke, by the way. A very subtle one. We've been really fortunate. I think our staff has done a nice job of doing some things to really focus in on certain areas in the second half. And I think our players have done a nice job of wiring in and trying to make the adjustments needed and then executing those issues in the second half. I don't think there's any formula to it. I think it's just the make-up of our team right now. We seem to have the character to push through some things and we've been real fortunate so far."

Do you think your team is better shape than your opponents?

"I try to make sure our team's in shape. We do a great deal of conditioning in any given week. Are we in better shape than most other teams? I really couldn't tell you. There's something about our team, in the second half, where we're able to take things up a notch. We have a good deal in pride in doing that. Is it a shape factor? It might be. But I can't tell you if we're in any better shape than any other team."

Is Rod Leisle in a boot also?

"Yes, he's wearing a boot. I would say because he just recently had the injury and the nature of those types of injuries, the likelihood is not good, but I'm not ruling him out yet."

Will C.J. Niusulu start if Leisle can't?

"When he did go out we moved Ryan Boschetti to the three-technique. So C.J. Niusulu would move up into that (nose tackle) slot. If Asi Faoa is full speed, that might be a game-time decision between Asi and C.J. But probably with Asi health it might just be C.J., but Asi could get some time in there as well."

Could you describe more what you mean by packaging the running backs?

"Our offensive staff thinks that certain backs to things very well compared to other backs. Some are better inside runners, some are better outside runners. Some do a nice job on stringing. It's a lot of different issues you want to put together in the offense. You want to try to utilize their talents the best way they can help us. That's what I mean by packaging. They're not all the same. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, and we try to maximize their strengths to be productive for us."

What's your opinion of Stanford quarterback Chris Lewis and his effectiveness?

"He's a tremendous athlete. He has a good arm. Stanford has good players. With their record you might not think so. But I see a lot of talent both on their offense and defense. The game of football, your success is just not based on talent alone. There are other factors involved. All I know is that the Stanfords I used to play against and coached against have always played us well. We've never thought we had the edge whenever we played them. This will be another week to challenge the team to stay focused. Obviously we're in good position in the conference right now but to maintain that type of position we have to make sure we're doing what we do best. I know Stanford will come out ready for us."

Is it a concern again about looking past a team, like it was against Arizona?

"Hopefully we learned our lesson from the last time. I don't think so. I think what we're trying to do is really focus in on this week. We understand that we haven't beat Stanford the last two times going up there. The wins we've had against them have been at home. So that's a challenge we have for our team, to be on the road. We beat Arizona on the road, but it wasn't a clean game. We're going to have to play one of our best games, if not the best game, going into this weekend. And then keep trying to get better week to week."

Was Larry Kerr and Steve Axman on the Stanford staff when you played against them at UCLA?

"I don't think so. I'm much older than you think. I don't think they were on the staff when I was playing. They had some teams that we played against that we're pretty good. I don't know my record for certain as a player against them but I remember we did lose. They were always down to the last four minutes of the game. I anticipate this to be another one of those hard-fought games. They played Washington State two week ago, and gave them all the wanted, at home. So I know they'll be ready to play."

Do you think your 4-0 record in the Pac-10 has surprised some people?

"Probably."

Does it matter to you?

"Not really. What we try to do is focus on what we can control. We're trying to do the things we need to do to be successful week in and week out. So that's really the only thing we concern ourselves with right now. We're not in the top 25, which was a question that was asked, and I don't really think much about. I know those might be a concern. We just need to continue the trend that we're doing right now. We've made a big jump of getting better offensively this week and hopefully we can make another big jump like that again. Our defense played solid. It seems like things are hopefully moving in a trend where the offense is starting to make its move, while the defense has done a nice job all along. We're working on doing those things right, hopefully winning games and then everything else will take care of itself."

Do you think you should be ranked?

"I don't know. What do you guys think? I'm in no control of that. I just hope we stay the course with what we're doing. Keep our kids focused on this given week, which is Stanford week, and those plays will work itself out at some point. Our team is really focused on this given week and my job is to keep them focused."

Is your team more confident now than it was before Pac-10 play?

"Probably a considerable amount. As it should be. We're starting to do some things and things are falling into place. Were they falling into place early in the season? Probably not. But things are starting to, where you see the hard work and repetitions over and over, are really starting to get some things going in a positive direction. We're hoping to keep building on that."

How comfortable are you with the prospect of Keith Short as your long-term starter at corner?

"He was player of the week for our defense. He, like most players that get the chance to start and take most of the reps, can play like a starter. And that's what he's done. He's been solid. He's tackled, forced the run, and done everything he was supposed to do in the framework of our defense. I feel really confident in him now. He's had two weeks of being a starter, taking all those reps, and he has a confidence level now. I think he feels he's one of the eleven. We feel really good about what he's done."

Will you try to roll out the quarterback more on obvious passing downs?

"We actually tried doing a little bit of that in the game that was unsuccessful. We're still working on things to try to move the quarterback's launch point. You have to. The last couple of weeks we played against eight-man-front teams. Both Cal and ASU blitzed a lot. The team we're playing this week will do the same. So we're trying to devise ways to protect the quarterback, but also changing his launch point too. Those things are in the works right now."

Do you think your team is wondering why they're not ranked?

"I'm sure in the back of their mind they're probably wondering why. But what I say is, go out and prove them wrong. Like we said at the beginning of the season about where we were ranked at the beginning of the season. Just go out and prove people wrong. So far we're still in that same mode of doing that. Our motivation is to continue do what we're doing and hopefully keep the success going. I think when it's all said and done everything will wash out to where it should be."

Were you more afraid of making mistakes with Drew Olson as the quarterback, and more prone to throw down the field with Matt Moore?

"Not really. It might have been perceived that way. You know, I hate long-yardage situations. Those are thing that drive me crazy more than anything. Third and fifteen. You being successful on those plays is unlikely. I think in any given week we try to stay out of those situations as much as possible. You have the penalties, you have the sack on second down or first down. Those put you in those situations. The last two weeks teams have really taken some things away when they lined up on our noses at the wide receiver position. So that's why we took some shots down the field. Our whole offense is predicated on do things on what teams gives you. This team was challenging us and we were able to have some success throwing over their heads a little bit. And we'll continue to do that and do whatever we have to do to move the football."

What did you think of Moore's performance?

"We're hoping to do things better generally. We knew that him coming into last week's game as the starter, we knew that it wasn't going to be a flawless performance. We knew it was going to be a baptism from a standpoint of just getting back to playing at game speed, the rush, getting hit, all those things we knew would be factors in the game. It was just him getting used to the fire again. He'll play a lot better this week. He needed a week of getting hit and getting beat up, and getting hit out of bounds, to get used to playing again. I would strongly believe he'll play a lot better this week than what he did last weekend."

Are the things he did wrong on his throws fixable?

"I think they were. He mis-threw a couple of passes. The two unfortunate interceptions he was getting hit, the ball was tipped and up in the air, and guys were in the right places. Like I said, he'll get a lot better. He's the type of player, the more he plays the better he gets. With a second week of getting most of those reps again he'll play much better this week."

Is your team now watching the Pac-10 standings?

"I think it's hard to ignore. As much as you try to guard against it, you're 4-0 in the Pac-10, there's four left, and there are key games every stretch of the way. We try to do what we can control at any given time. My challenge is keeping them focused for this given week. Let's get through this week and then we'll worry about the succeeding weeks when we get to them. So we're in a pretty good position right now, a top tier of the conference, and we have a shot just like any of those in the top tier. We just have to take advantage of what we have before us, which is Stanford."


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