Interview: Michael Pitre

The redshirt freshman fullback, <b>Michael Pitre</b>, has come back from an injury that kept him sidelined during his entire true freshman season. He talks about it, and how he'll be utilized in this new offense...

Michael Pitre is a 5-11, 228-pound redshirt freshman fullback who sat out all of last season with an injury to his neck. Finally cleared to play in spring, he had an impressive spring practice, which he has followed up with an equally impressive fall camp. He figures to be prominent in UCLA's offensive plans this year.

So, give us a rundown on what happened last season?

"In high school I got a little injury. Coming in here I had to go see a few doctors so I could get a medical release. UCLA doctors. It was just a long process so I could get released. But then I got released and I could play."

Was there a time when you thought you might not return to football?

"Yeah. Through the whole process I wasn't positive if the doctors would release me. And then a lot of the doctors were saying different things."

But once you got sufficient second opinions that said you could play, you decided to do it?

"Yeah."

What was the time frame of this?

"It started during camp last year. Then all through the school year I had to go to different doctors. But once I talked to enough doctors and talked to my family about it, then I made the decision."

After going through that it must have been pretty exciting when you knew you were going to play...

"It was exciting, but it was kind of nerve-racking also. Once I got out there I couldn't think about my injury. I just decided I had to go out there and play."

You had a great spring and fall. Did you think you'd have such an impact as this?

"Our off-season workouts and condition were great. In the off-season I dropped probably 15 to 20 pounds. The coaches talked to me and said my goal was to lose about 20 pounds, to make me a better player. Through the whole process of conditioning with (strength and conditioning coach) Doc (Kreis), our whole team was out here working hard, I just came out and did it. Right now I weigh 228. At one point I was actually about 256. When I decided to come back and play that's how much I weighed. So since December, I've lost 30 pounds or so."

But it must be pretty exciting as a redshirt freshman to know you're going to play, right?

"Yeah, it's exciting, to know that I'm an option in the offense. But with our offense everything is so interchangeable that anyone can be an option. So you really don't know how much you're going to play in the game. I'm just here to do what they ask me to do and do it the best I can do it."

Are the coaches indicating to you they're going to use you extensively?

"Yeah, I guess. It's hard to say, though, since we rotate so much. Like I said I can only think about it as being ready whenever they want to put me in. Whatever they ask me to do I'm going to do to the best of my ability."

Has it been satisfying to be used as the single tailback at times?

"In high school I played a little bit of tailback. But like I said, it just depends on personnel in certain situations. Our backfield is pretty deep, so we're able to interchange a lot of things. So whenever they need me to play at tailback, I'll do it."

What do you think are your strengths?

"Catching the ball out of the backfield, I think I'm good at that. I make a good second effort once I get the ball, to get up field."

Is it fun hitting guys?

"Oh yeah, that's fun."

How about blocking?

"Actually that's the thing I need to work on the most, getting my pad level down. I think once I can block, and also understand the offense better, I think I could be pretty good."

How are you in picking up the offense?

"I got it pretty good. There are still some wrinkles in there that I have to get. But overall, I'm pretty confident going out there."

Now that they've started game planning, like with Oklahoma State, after learning the base offense, is it a lot to learn in a short period of time?

"Not really. The coaches' goal is to keep everything simple for us. So when we get in the game against Oklahoma State we can just get out there and play at full speed and not have to think too much about our assignments and what we have to do. They're keeping it simple. The stuff we have so far, as long as we can execute what we've been doing, we should be good."

How good is the offense?

"I think we're great."

How about the offensive line? They struggled last year...

"Yeah, I wasn't out there last year but just from seeing, the offense was kind of confusing to everyone last year, the schemes and everything. I think that everyone is doing a good job this year in learning the whole offense and wanting to learn it. I think the offensive line, for the majority are the same guys, given what they had to work with, were good last year. And then this year they have a better attitude. It will make us that much better, since everything starts up front."

What kind of impact has Tom Cable made?

"I think Coach Cable has made an impact. He basically changed the whole offense, and the attitude of the whole offense. He makes you want to play for him."


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