Generally the practice was good, crisp, with the offense looking pretty sharp for being off three days and some of the injured defensive players looking better. Middle linebacker Justin London looked like he had fairly good maneuverability.
Dennis Keyes is still in a red, no-hit jersey.
Many readers were unsure last week as to what defensive line position freshman Nathaniel Skaggs was now playing. He's playing left end. Head Coach Karl Dorrell said that he fared well in the scout team scrimmage last week.
Two new walk-ons were at practice, not dressed, but just observing. One was Brandon Paris, the son of Bubba Paris, and the brother of Courtney and Ashley Paris, the two top ten national basketball prospects from Piedmont (Calif.) High. Paris looks to be about 6-2 and 200 pounds. The other walk-on was Josh Martin, but his background is a bit sketchy at this point. He is originally from Oregon, and he might have actually been in the Oregon program in 2002. He will have to sit out a year. He looked to be about 6-0 and 190.
Tab Perry moved to the top of the depth chart at flanker with Bragg out. Keith Carter also has moved ahead of J.J. Hair as the second-string tight end. While Wesley Walker and Aaron Whittington are listed as co-starters at outside linebacker, Whittington got quite a few reps with the ones. Nikola Dragovic had moved ahead of Wiliams Snead at the left defensive end #21 spot, but is injured.
The Arizona game at the Rose Bowl October 9th will start at 3:30 and be televised by Fox Sports Net.
Head Coach Karl Dorrell addressed the media at his weekly press conference.
"Welcome to the game week of San Diego State. We had a good week of practice a week ago, with only a handful, actually less than that, three days of practice. We used that opportunity to get our healthy back for some of the guys that are ailing, particularly on defense. And also to get a little bit of our health back in terms of getting some guys with those smaller injuries a chance to get completely healthy. We're going about our preparation for San Diego State today, on Monday, which is usually a light day in any particular game week. But given our bye situation we will have a heavy schedule practice today and tomorrow and then lighten up again by Thursday. We're eager to get started. San Diego State is off to a very good start, and is a very good football team. They play an aggressive style of defense, and really attack an offense. They've created a number of turnovers already at this point in the season. We need to do a better job four ourselves and our offense of limiting those turnover issues, which we're working on and trying to reduce, particularly now that the conference season has started. This team that you'll see Saturday evening is a very potent offense. The quarterback is a returning starter, and has weapons, particularly at the wide receiver position. They're real solid there. A good backfield. They may not have their best back from a year ago, but they have another back that has replaced him and has done a very good job, and is a very good pass receiver out of the backfield, and runs the ball very well. They have some experience at their offensive line. They've done some good things offensively. Defensively they gave us a lot of fits a year ago. I know they'll do the same again this year. With their style of play, they're an aggressive, blitzing-style of defense, with tight man-to-man coverage, and they put a lot of pressure on an offense. Our hands will be full this week, particularly in having a bye week, we have to keep the continuity and the momentum that we established in the first three games of this season. Even though we've had this bye week, we have to improve and build upon our win the last time we played against Washington.
We're excited about where we're at as a program. We're 2-1 with a breather, and now getting into a seven-game stretch. It's important, starting the conference season, even though we play San Diego State, this stretch is a particularly important one. You want to make sure that you're improving the momentum that you've built to this point. The difficulty we're going to face is not playing last week, but trying to continue that continuity and momentum going into this week with a week off. That's why today and tomorrow's practice, we have to get right back at it, to get that feeling of normalcy, within your team again."
What's the status of the various injured?
"We're okay. We're not completely healthy. Most of the players on defense will be back this week. Justin London will be back in the fold. We'll see what his status will be by the end of the week. He will practice today and through the week and we'll see in terms of what percentage he will be. But he'll be ready to go as planned. The only one that is significant that's missing is Nikola Dragovic, who had an high-ankle sprain last week in practice and it's unlikely he'll be playing in the game this weekend. He's one of our reserve defensive ends. Everyone else is back, and we're getting them back in the fold."
What happens at wide receiver with Craig Bragg out?
"Tab Perry is his replacement, who has been playing at that flanker position. He's ready for the challenge, and he's excited for this opportunity, even though it's a situation where we're losing our best receiver right now. He's excited to not only fill the shoes but do a great job in keeping the level of play at that position. He'll be our starting flanker, and Brandon Breazell is the back-up behind him."
Is there anything to update on Bragg's condition?
"Not since last week. He's still in the sling and rehabbing. That's going to be at least three to four weeks before we know anything."
Who is the #3 receiver?
"Brandon Breazell (is the back-up at flanker). Joe Cowan and Junior Taylor we're going to keep at their (the split end) position. What we do is, we lost one and we slip one into the next slot. That's how that works."
What was your reaction to how Washington fared against Notre Dame?
"They are two different games. I believe they were really waiting for our game. Coming off a bye week, playing at home, those are all strong factors in getting yourselves ready to play UCLA when they come up to your place. They were disappointed in their game against us, and I don't know how much of a recovery period there was, that they were able to heal enough before going into that Notre Dame situation. That's part of football. A year ago, we played twelve straight. We didn't have much time to sulk when things weren't going good. You had to keep moving forward, which is a difficult task, when things aren't going that well. That's what this profession is all about, to find a way to get your team to rally, and get your team to make the necessary plays to get yourself out of those situations. That's the situation we're hoping not to be in again this year. We're guarding hard against that, and I'm trying to keep the mometum going in our favor."
What kind of challenge do you expect San Diego State to present?
"It's a great challenge. That's a pretty good football team. They're really good on offense. Their defense makes you earn everything you can get off them. They proved how good they were a year ago. It's going to be a tremendous challenge for our team, particularly after a bye week, and getting ourselves ready to play, and being at the level or better before the bye week."
For the bye week, did you do any game planning for future opponents?
"Are you kidding me? I'm not that smart. We can't figure that out. No way. We do one game at a time. Our hands are full every week. With the Pac-10 Conference, your hands are full every week. You don't have a chance to think three or four games down the line. San Diego State, even though they're not in our conference, they're a good football team. They've proven they can go anywhere and have the ability to beat you. They just about did that in Michigan. Our hands are full this week. We know that. We know we'll have to play our best effort, and continue to improve and do the things we need to do to win the football game."
Have you seen the improvement you were hoping to see so far each week?
"I have seen that improvement. The improvement of the defensive line, I wouldn't even say it's just the line. It's the linebackers, it's the front. It's all those things. Each week there has been improvement in those areas. Some of it has been because we got a few players back here and there. But part of it is also playing your defense and playing your responsibilities in your defense. That's the challenge we face each and every week. Our kids are getting better at it. They're getting more experience as they're moving forward, too. They took their lumps early, and they're still taking their lumps, but not as much now. That's a process that's still going to get better as we unfold during the season. But it is helpful, it is very helpful, when you get your veterans back in that defensive front. It does allow for a calming effect on some of the younger players, in making sure we're making the right adjustments."
Can you talk about Junior Taylor's progress?
"Junior Taylor has improved quite a bit since I've been here. I've only been here a year and a half. He's a lot more confident in what he's doing offensively. That helps, when you feel comfortable with our offensive scheme. He's worked hard in the off-season. He's changed on a lot of different fronts. In the last two quarters of school has been over a 3.0. He's done a number of things where you can tell he's a different player and a different person right now. I like what we see in Junior right now. He's becoming the complete player, and he's becoming the complete student athlete."
Did the Washington game build some confidence for this team, like in being able battle back?
"It was a little while ago, and we've talked about a number of issues to build from that game. The biggest one is, when you're down so big so early, and being able to battle back. That can do a lot of great things for a team. But that's only in that given game. You have to prove yourself each and every week, to do the necessary adjustments, or respond to a situation that's not in favor for you. We're very fortunate to come out of that game with a win, given the situations, given the turnovers we had, and they had none. Usually games like that you do not win. For our kids to show that kind of resolve and character and win that football game, those are great things. We're hoping for more great things as the year unfolds."
Do you want to be able to force more turnovers yourself?
"We need to force more turnovers. If you noticed, even this past weekend, there were a lot of turnovers in the games. Teams really lost the game because they did not handle the football properly. That's going to be the case. I know for a fact, that's going to be the case, for us, for the rest of the season. We have to be better at taking care of the football. The only way to address those things is to do it daily, not only talking about it, but doing the necessary things in practice. But not to a point where you want your players to be nervous Eddies out there playing. You want them to play with their natural instincts. But you want to always coach them up as well as you can about taking care of the football. And conversely, on defense, you have to create those turnovers. It's good when you practice against each other, because you have the defensive guys trying to strip the ball and the offensive guys trying to secure it. Those are the other things that can help them subconsciously take care of the football, and on defense to continue to work on turnover drills. Those are the types of things you continue to address in practice. One of the things I'm disappointed in, we're in the bottom of the conference in turnover ratio right now. We need to improve that quite a bit to stay where we need to be."
Dorrell's post-practice comments.
"That was a pretty good Monday practice after three days off. I was impressed with our guys today, coming back with a good installation of work that we're doing against San Diego State, and to do the things we did in practice. The tempo was good, the attitude with what we're trying to get done today was good. Was it perfect? No. But it was a pretty good day for having three days off and getting back to work. Real pleased with that. Our health looks okay. Justin did a little bit of stuff today, not a lot. We're going to try to bring him back slowly and see what he does by the end of the week. He looks just about what he looked like before Washington. I don't know what percentage that is, but we'll see how he feels in the next two or three games, and then make a determination of what his availability is for us. Who else? No one else really. Dennis Keyes is in red, with his sore shoulder. He'll probably be a late week determination, too, whether he'll be available for the game as well. Other than that, I'm excited about how it ended today. And we're ready for another great day tomorrow."
With London, is it good that he has the mobility of the Washington week?
"I don't think he's any worse. He's about the same. He needs to get a comfort level with that thing of moving around. He knows it's going to be sore. That's part of having that type of strain. The biggest things is, we don't want to reinjure it in practice. So, we'll see where he's at by the end of the week. He's going to be sore. It's one of those injuries that's going to be sore."