Dorrell's Press Conference

With the start of fall football practice just two days away, head football coach Karl Dorrell addresses the media in his first press conference of the year. He talks about why he thinks the team will be improved...

Opening Statement:

"Thanks for coming at the beginning of this football season. Football's in the air and everyone's excited about the upcoming season. There is actually a game tonight, the Hall of Fame game, professional teams playing, but we're excited about 2004 for a number of reasons. One, it's a different year than last year. And two, we feel our team is on the right track. We've done some great things this off-season and the effort and attitude is the biggest change I see in this program. We made some adjustments with our coaches and everything is going in the direction I want it to go at this current time. I'm excited about that. Just like I said at media day, we're excited within our program. Our players are chomping at the bit to get started. Most of them stayed here this summer and worked out together. So we've improved in a lot of different ground, and different directions. We're eager to get together now as a program, coaches, players, everybody that supports us, in terms of helping our program grow and do the things that it needs to get done. We're eager to get started. Today's is kind of a fun day because our freshmen come in. In anticpation on our part, the freshmen come and they're naive and new and probably a little scared, too, because now they're playing with the big boys. But they're excited about this opportunity to join our program and being part of the UCLA tradition, and being apart of something that has been built for a lot of years. And also our future. The things we talked about with him in their recruiting. They're big on getting us to the position we need to be. They know how we feel about them, so it's an enlightening time for them as they come in with their parents and siblings, to come an meet our staff and meet other members of our football team. Tomorrow our veterans report. They'll report between the ours of 12 noon and 4 p.m. After that reporting time, we'll have a barbecue with our players, and have a little fun with them and then have a team meeting in the evening, go through some camp-related issues and policies, then Wednesday morning it's time to go. That's how it will unfold in the next couple of days. We're excited. This is a great challenge our program has. Our challenge is to show that we are a very capable team, and one of the best teams in this conference. Our players believe that, and we believe that, and we're excited about the issues that are lying before us."

What's the status of Tab Perry?

"We haven't heard anything recently, as of the last time I spoke to the media. He's still working on trying to get all the information to go to the appeals and get him re-instated. That's still a process for him. He's still in summer school. He has some work to do from that standpoint. He needs to collect a lot of information from the other places he attended to gain more eligibility requirements. We'll see how that unfolds?

When could you anticipate he'll be available, if he is?

"He's going to have to go through a process of eligibility, go through appeals and petitioning and issues like that. How long that process is I can't really determine."

Will he be able to participate in fall camp?

"He's not eligible to go to fall camp. He's not in school here at UCLA. And he's not an incoming player. He's a different classification then, say, what an incoming freshmen would be. He will not be in fall camp until re-instatement, if and will that happens."

Will he be able to go to the second summer session here?

"I think that's a possibility. I don't know his plans right now. I know he has a plan in the works, and he's working hard in getting that information completed."

Why do you think you're going to be an improved team?

"It's been proven with the attitude and work ethic and preparation, both as coaches and players. We've done some great things this off-season. From my experience, whenever you have that type of progression in your off-season, great things have followed, when you've done things like that. This will be true to form again, from what my experience has been. That's why I'm very confident this team will be better than what they think they are. The bottom line is the challenge is not with what the people think we are, it's a challenge within ourselves. That's how we feel. We feel as capable as any team, of doing great things in 2004. And that's what we're going to build on."

How will Robert Chai be used, as left guard or at center, and what's the status of Mike McCloskey?

"For one, Mike McCloskey is doing very well. He missed all of our spring and now he's 100%, he's been cleared and he'll be lining up at center for us. Robert Chai is a back-up center. He played center for us most of last year, and he also plays guard, both the strong guard and the weak guard. Our determination in the front is that we're going to play our best five players. To say where he's definitely going to be, like at left guard, which is what you said. We don't term him has our left guard. He's both guards. We're going to put together a lineup that will put our best five players on the field and he is currently one of those, in that grouping."

How comfortable do you feel going into this year as compared to last year?

"It's a lot more comforting a year later. Everything is now in place support-wise, the way you want it to be. I mentioned it at media day two weeks ago, about our strength area. We hired our strength coach last year in the summer. And he only had five or six weeks to work with that team last year. Now that that same coach has been in place now for over a year you can see the tremendous results that has happened since he's been here. We made gains in that area. We made gains academically, where the team has responded to how we do things now. That's been a positive. We responded to doing a lot of things in our program where everything is in place. Right now the position of our program is moving forward. It's inching up day by day and week by week, in doing things the way it should. That's why we're banking on everything being so much better. Is there a comfort level that I have right now? Yes, I do have a comfort level. Because I see where this team is going. And that's very comforting to know that everything is going in the direction that it needs to go."

What about the potential shake-up and position changes on the OL to start fall camp?

"There's not shake-up, for one. We're going to position our best five players to play. Most of that experience coming back are that best five in that grouping. Now they may not play in that particular position that they played in a year ago. For instance, Steven Vieira is going to play some guard. He played left tackle last year. He may play some guard this year. Ed Blanton was our left tackle and he may play right tackle. There is going to be some positioning within that offensive line, that we're going to try to fit that puzzle together to give us the opportunity to be the best we can be offensively. So you'll see some of that. Is it a shake-up? I wouldn't term it a shake-up. It's more of positioning ourselves to be the best that we can be."

Has Paul Mociler been moved to tackle?

"Paul Mociler is at tackle, and he's also had some experience at guard and at center, which is what he did this spring. He is in that grouping of that top group. Our program at this camp is going to compete. It's going to compete and get better. Just like we competed and got better in the off-season. We competed and got better in the weight room. We competed and got better academically. And that's going to hold to form even as we go to camp. At the end of camp we're going to come out of it with a very strong offensive unit, particularly with that offensive line. We have good experience at the skill positions that are back. Our quarterback is very, very comfortable with things right now. That offensive unit is going to be a better offensive unit than what you saw a year ago."

Are you concerned with the way you ended the season last year?

"I'm not concerned with how we ended it. My biggest concern I would have is if we didn't learn from it. And we've learned from it. That's why the steps we made after the season, and after the last game, the Fresno State game...we took an eye-opening look at ourselves. We put everything on the table, players and coaches. We had to make changes, particularly within our staff. We made changes within our program. And all of those changes have been things that have moved us forward. The only concern I would have is if we didn't get by that. And I think we are by that. That's why things are in the position they are right now. Our players have taken off with their attitude and effort, to get this program in the right direction it should be. Our staff has done the same thing. We're all on the same page. That's why I feel as confident as I do about what this team's going to do for us in 2004."

Can you talk a little bit the adjustment under the new staff and what we can expect as being different on offense?

"You'll see better communication. That was the biggest issue a year ago. There were a lot of times when we weren't all on the same page. Now the staff has some common background philsophically offensively where there is a better mesh. You're going to see a much more unified offensive staff. That begins with Tom Cable, from what he's brought to the table, along with Jim Svoboda, who might not have as much experience in this offense, but he's a quick learner. He's a very bright quarterback coach that I believe is going to be a phenomenal coach in his own right here. Our other new coach that has some experience in this type of system, bits and pieces, is Dino Babers, who coaches our receivers. Jon Embree, Eric Bieniemy, Tom Cable, Svoboda, Babers. All of those guys are on the right page. And I think the communication was the biggest issue from a year ago. Is there a comfort level that I have with them? Sure. Because they're running the system of offense I believe in, they believe in, there are no questions about it, and we're going to make it work. Our players believe in it, too. A year later, it's easier for the players. It's not new. Drew Olson understands what we're trying to get accomplished. He's even coaching the players this summer on how things should be. So he has a comfort level within our system. And that's why he's going to be the player he's going to be for us, which will be a night-and-day difference from what you saw a year ago."

Is everyone healthy going into practice?

"We are healthy going in. There are to particular players, that we're going to have to keep an eye on. One is Keith Carter. On a positive way, Keith Carter was the tight end a year ago that had the dislocated hip from an accident and missed the whole season and had two surgeries. He has done a great job in putting himself in a position to compete and play for us this fall. How much, that will be determined in camp. But we know he's light years ahead of where we anticpated he'd be at this time. He will practice. We want to be practicing him with a guarded temperament. We don't want him to handle too much. That's a great thing that's happened with our team, getting him back. The same position, on a bad note, is Matt Raney, with think has had an abdominal/herniated abomen. We don't know exactly what that is right now. It's a sensitive issue where he's not full speed. He's doing all of his rehab. He can practice, but how much we practice him will be a concern. We have to keep him in a guarded situation. Those are the only two that we see in our program that we have to watch and see how things develop as camp moves on."

Are you going to use Manuel White at just tailback?

"We're going to use Manuel at both tailback and fullback, like we used him years before. He will be featured at tailback more this year than he was a year ago. You'll see him in both opportunities, with Manuel and with him and another tailback in the game."

How will the play-calling be different from last year?

"Tom Cable is our play-caller. Steve Axman a year ago was our play-caller. We have a new offensive coordinator and Tom will handle those duties. Am I involved in the offense? I'm always involved. I'm hoping not to be involved all that much. That's my background. I'm an offensive coach. And I'll always have that type of interest. But I also have interest in defense and on special teams as well. I have a much better comfort level with Tom at the reigns than I had before."

How does the loss of Idris Moss impact the wide receivers?

"That's disappointing, and it will affect us. It's going to give young players more of an opportunity to come in and play. We have three young freshmen who are reporting today that will have the ability to compete and win a job as a reserve on our team. We normally travel with six wide receivers and we usually play six. We'll see how things shake out. The guys we have coming in are very capable players. Marcus Everett is a very capable, excellent wide receiver. He's a young player that's coming in. Ryan Graves and Brandon Breazell. All three of those guys we have a lot of confidence in. Maybe one, or maybe two, you never know. We'll see what they can do in camp and how they measure up with what we currently have."

Who's the man who plays in the slot right off the back?

"The man who plays in the slot right off the back will be Craig Bragg. He'll be our inside player. Junior Taylor is back. He's back playing. And we have Joe Cowan. That's kind of our top group that we have currently right now. Matt Slater is also in that group. So we have four or five guys that can play in multiple receiver formations."

On paper, the biggest loss looks to be on the defensive line. How do you feel about starting out this year with so little experience there?

"You would want more experience. But I feel really strongly about this group of young players that are filling the shoes of the group that left. The reason being, they've worked hard, their attitude and effort has been tremendous, they understand where we're at, they're excited about this challenge before them, and there's a number of players deserving to play. You're going to see two defensive lines playing like hockey lines like in the NHL. You'll see it quite a bit this season until someone rises up to the occasion and says, ‘You know, I'm the full-time player.' The greatest thing about this type of situation is competition. They want more playing time and they'll want to do things right and to play well. At some point in time that will happen. There are about six to seven kids that are coming into play for the first time this year that are very athletic, show a lot of quickness, they're strong. The only thing that's a big negative for them is they're young. They lack that experience. We can live with that. We feel good about that defensive group. They'll prove themselves at some point."

Have you decided about moving guys like Justin Hickman inside yet?

"That will take place some, just like we're talking about the offensive line. For instance, Noah Sutherland will play both inside and outside. We'll see what he can do inside. You'll see that happen a little bit. Justin Hickman will play both inside and outside. We'll move some guys around just to see how things can work out. That's what camp is all about, to try the different scenarios that you can and to build your best team, your best defense or your best offense, or special teams. We'll get that figured out and be ready to go for our first game."

Can you talk a little bit more about Drew Olson.

"You're going to see a different kid. He's kind of off the charts with his attitude in a lot of different ways. He's made major gains in the weight room. And every time he made a major gain the weight room he let me know about it. It's like he made a new max on his bench press. Or ‘I squated this today, coach.' It's like it's a new world for him. That's how he's kind of taken it, as his realm, with this offense. It's a new world in how he's attacking this season. He understands his role in the offense. He understands the leadership qualities he needs to instill in the guys he plays with. And the players have embraced him. You're going to see a different Drew Olson than what you've seen before. You're going to see a difference in a number of different positions on this team. He's worked really hard, in the classroom, preparing his body to be as good as it could be, he's done great things in the summer throwing with the players. He's done everything you would hope a quarterback would do to improve himself. No doubt he's going to be a difference maker in our program."

Does it matter to you that you have the reputation for being stoic, as compared to someone like Pete Carroll?

"You know, I coach from the heart, and I coach by feel. I wouldn't say I don't care about it (the rep for being stoic). There are a lot of things I can improve on. I'll always have that position within myself as a coach – that there's always something you can do better. I know my first year was a tremendous learning experience, in a lot of different ways. I'm going to be wiser than I was a year ago. I want to enjoy my job more than I did a year ago. I want to enjoy my players, and have fun at what I do. Now, am I concerned about the criticism? Is it unfair? That was all last year. Last year was last year's team. This year is the 2004 football team. I'm excited about the challenge we have before us. My only concern is to learn from your mistakes, build on it and move forward. And that's the attitude we've taken in our program. We've moved forward, we're excited about what lies ahead of us."

How comfortable are you with David Koral as a back-up quarterback?

"He's new. He's new in our offense. He's new at UCLA. He's working hard, and he's doing the things he needs to get done for him to improve. He has to keep that consistent attitude and effort in doing those things. He's not where Drew is right now, but he has physical qualities that can make up some of that difference. He will be a better player. The more experience he gets the better he's going to be. His attitude right now is to just learn and improve from what he did in spring. I'm very confident he'll be a very good player for us."

Why was the move made to the grey face masks?

"Because I wore it when I was here. It looks better. I like it. It's not that I didn't like the other one. But if you looked at it closely, that face mask looks purple. That's the tradition of that helmet, with the blue UCLA script and the grey face mask."

Were you shocked by getting picked 8th in the Pac-10 by the Pac-10 media?

"No. It's all about what have you done lately. And we ended things about as bad as you can end things (last year). So, you're probably going to begin that way the next year. So I was not shocked. Remember, we still haven't done anything. While we think we're going to be this type of team, we still have to go out and prove it, including this group around me right here. We have to prove we're as good as we claim we're going to be."

What do you do the freshmen for the next couple of days? Anything fun? "First we try to ease their conscience. Because moms are, ‘Oh, my baby.' I remember my freshmen year, I drove up here in my car. I had a little Toyota Seleca. They got me situated in the dorm and then they left. I was like, ‘Wow.' Here on my own for school."

So are you planning anything fun?

"Yeah. We have to, for their transition. This is their new family. We want to make sure they can feel like they can count on us coaches and the players. We don't haze our guys. We don't believe in that. Now, they're going to have to do a rookie show at the end of camp, which anyone has to do. But they're not perceived as any lower person in our program. We're going to put our arms around them and make sure they're on the right page with everything they're doing. But they have to earn their keep, too. You don't just get things."

Do you think you'll have to play more freshman than you might think?

"We'll have to see. Brigham Harwell is someone we'd like to see if he can help us this year. Just like we said during recruiting, and just like we said after recruiting. Are we counting on them? You really can't count on them, until he's come and done the things you projected him to do and you've made that assessment. You have to keep an open mind. I'm going to keep an open mind to see how we can fit the best players to help us, and some might be freshmen. I'm definitely not against it, but I'm a realist too. Given the state of our offensive line, we're hopeful that one or two of those freshmen will be able to come in and be in the reserve group, or even being in the first group. You never know. We'll have to see how it works out."

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