Dorrell's Monday Press Conference

In his weekly Monday press conference, Head Coach <b>Karl Dorrell</b> discusses the improvement on defense against San Diego State, the lapses in the passing game, and how to get quarterback <b>Drew Olson</b> in a rhythm...

Spencer Havner was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week, and leads the nation in tackles per game, averaging 15.0.

Kicker Justin Medlock was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week.

The game at California will kick off at 4:00 p.m. and be televised by TBS.

Head Coach Karl Dorrell's comments at his press conference:

Opening Statement:

"We're going into Arizona this week. Now we're in the meat of our Pac-10 schedule. The non-conference games are over, and it's time to get to the business at hand. It's a great challenge with a team that had a bye last week, that's fourth in the conference in defense. They're having some nuances offensively where they're not quite getting things together. What happened in their most recent game against Washington State is that they were able to do some things effectively running and in throwing the football. With a week off, getting a chance to tune up on a lot of different issues, just like we were able to make some changes and improve on our defense. Their offense will be much better than what they've shown to this point in the season. Mike Stoops, who I know a little bit from our careers, coaching against each other in the Big 12, is a very good football coach. He's a good defensive coach, and there's no reason not to believe his defense is not as good as it is right now, with being fourth in the conference. It's going to be another challenge for our team as we continue to improve week in and week out. We're by no means a finished product. We won a pretty good game with an offense that probably wasn't playing its best, but was being very effective whenever it had an opportunity to put points on the board. We didn't score as many touchdowns this week, but we had field goals with Justin Medlock being perfect on the day. Our defense drastically improved. I was excited to see that. Our first half was solid. We did a nice job of controlling the tempo of the game in the first half. San Diego State in the second half had one pretty good drive on us that led to a touchdown. Other than that, our defense made some positive steps forward in getting ourselves to be in the position we are right now. With another week of coaching and working on those issues, we're on an upward trend in our program."

What's the injury status of the team?

"Injuries from the game...J.J. Hair had a minor rotator cuff strain. He'll be available this week, from the information we got from the doctors. From the game, Maurice Drew had a slight groin strain, but he should be okay. Jarrad Page had a thigh bruise and they thought he might have broken a knuckle on his hand, but the x-ray was negative. No one who played in the game will miss any time for this week. So we're in pretty good shape from that standpoint. Justin London, we're hopeful to get him in the fold this week, with another week to mend. Kenneth Lombard, who had a rotator cuff strain that's a little bit more significant that Hair's, we'll see what he can do this week. He still had some loss of strength in that joint. We'll have to see how that goes in practice as the week unfolds. Dennis Keyes, who didn't play in the game, also has a neck strain from the Washington game. He seems to be on schedule to play this week. He probably could have played in the game, but we held him out because he didn't have much practice time in terms of live contact. We're getting closer to full strength. And there's no better time than now to be so."

How about Aaron Whittington?

"Whittington will be okay, too. He could have played in the game. He was one of those guys that had limited practice time last week and we wanted to make sure he was as sure as close to full go as possible to put him back in the game. So he'll be ready to go this week."

What does Arizona's offense do?

"They do a number of things. Their offensive coordinator has some NFL experience. They have a nice package of mixing things up in the running game. They are not a traditional style of offense. They do some shifting and a lot of formationing. They are striving for balance. They have a good quarterback that has a very good arm and good receivers. They have a good tailback in (Mike) Bell. They did a nice job against us a year ago. It was really the same personnel. It was off of a bye week too coming into their place in Tucson. They had a pretty good offensive performance against us last year so we want to make sure we're not in that type of situation again going into this week."

Do you look at Arizona as an opportunity like San Diego State to use some different kinds of plays like the halfback option?

"No. We don't look at it as quite the same. It's a Pac-10 Conference game and in this conference, in any given week anybody can beat you. We know that these are the games that really matter as you start week in and week out of playing conference teams. This team is a dangerous team. It's just a matter of time for them to put a game together and to be clicking on all cylinders on both offense and defense. My concern is that they had a bye week, so they can do more of what they've shown in their first three games. It's always a concern for any coach to go into a game situation like this because of the unknown. They also have some talent. There's a reason why that defense is fourth in the conference. They do a great job of making offenses earn whatever they can get. They're also third in the conference in turnover margin. They get more takeaways than giveaways. They're doing a nice job as a defense. For us as an offense, we're not in on the positive side on the turnover margin. We need to continue to work to do a better job taking care of the football. Once we can do those things and have the productivity we've been having then we'll be the type of offense we need to be. But this team is going to be a tremendous challenge. They're hungry for a conference win, and we're hungry for to keep what we're doing alive. It's a tremendous week for us."

It seems like Drew Olson starts off kind of slow for the first quarter and a half and then has a really good second half. What do you plan to do to get him going a little bit sooner?

"That's a good question. What we are going to do is try to create a better comfort level in the beginning of the game. We do a great job at halftime adjusting to get him to settle down and have him finishing the way we want him to finish. We just need to get him started the way that he's been finishing the second half. We're working on that. That's not an exact science. We are trying to put him in situations where he feels very comfortable with making great decisions and getting started off with a fast start. That's one thing that the offensive staff is working on pretty dilligently to make sure we get a better start out of him in the future."

Can you simplify the playcalling at the beginning until he gets in that rhythm?

"No, it's just not that. It might be a matter of just calling what he feels most comfortable in the throwing game. If anything, we're talking about making him sure he's comfortable with a tremendous start at the beginning of the game. That's something we'll continue to work on."

Do you script out the first dozen plays?

"Yes we do."

Is it possible to put in throws he likes to make to get him comfortable?

"That's part of it. Things that he feels comfortable with. That is part of it. The other part of is not putting so much of it on him at the beginning too. We run the ball pretty effectively. It's good when you have a good run offense and you don't have to rely on him to come out and say, ‘Allright, you have to start off like gangbusters in the throwing game.' Part of it is the balance between both. You want to get him started where he's comfortable in the throwing game and also where he doesn't have all that pressure to make plays in our offense. The running game has helped that process. It's just getting him started with a rhythm where he feels great about the playcalling and you know he's going to make a great decision and the probability for him making a completion is solid."

What did you do better on defense that made you more effective?

"We didn't make as many mistakes. That's the biggest issue. We cleaned up a lot of the issues with mistakes. We cut down on mistakes probably 70% from where it's been in the past. We still made some mistakes in the second half, when they made some adjustments at halftime. We made our adjustments. They did some things that were a little bit different than what they were antcipating. We did make a few mistakes in the second half. But that's a good trend. Our young defense is getting better and better. What's exciting about them is you can tell there's enthusiasm on that side of the ball. They're flying around to the football. Tackling is getting much better. All of those things are starting to fall in place."

Do you think this was a break-out game for your defense?

"It's a start. I wouldn't say a break-out game but a start. Our last four games, they've improved week after week. But this was the first week where the mistakes were cut down tremendously and you saw some good execution and some good opportunities to make some turnovers and make some plays. Those are very, very positive achievements after the Washington game."

Is it going to be difficult this week juggling the reps at linebacker – not knowing if Justin London will play and then where Wesley Walker will play?

"No. We've been practicing that way the last two or three weeks. Justin will be put in there and given an opportunity to see what he can do in terms of his movement and how we need to gauge him, whether his availability will be ready this week. But those other guys for the last four weeks, beginning with the Oklahoma State game, have been doing this type of rotation for a while. It's old news to them. It's just a matter of by the end of the week knowing who's lining up where, and where we're going to stay in locking in the plan."

If Justin can play or start, will Wesley Walker move back to outside linebacker?

"No. I'm anticipating Justin not starting. It's exactly what you see on that depth chart."

Can you talk about Michael Pitre and that rare fullback carry?

"We gave Pitre a belly play. And it was for one-yard loss. That was a good defense we faced. Even the yards Maurice Drew as able to accumulate they were some hard-earned yards. There was that one good run in the first quarter, but you didn't see any types of runs like that the rest of the game. They tightened up their defense and made our running game earn everything they were supposed to earn. We're going to continue build our fullback offense. He's utilized at the position for blocking and as a pass receiver, but we're going to evolve into doing more with our fullback as we continue to progress."

Is that because of Pitre's ability to run the ball?

"Well, he proved he can catch out the backfield, too, with the flip pass to him and running down the sideline. We know that's a position that normally doesn't draw a lot of attention to it, other than as a blocker. So we're going to continue to evolve and utilize him in more things as we move forward."

Does Joe Cowan get credit for a tackle on that play?

"Yes, he got credited with a trip-up. I told Pitre, ‘You better be sure he tripped you up, because if not, you have 104 guys going to be screaming at you why you fell.' That was exactly what happened. Cowan was trying to make a tackle down the field and did trip him up as he was cutting back inside."

In this offense, should Olson's completion rate be higher than 55%?

"It should be a lot higher. We're anticipating more about a 60-65% completion. And we'll get there. We did some things this last week that we were a little bit over-zealous in a lot of different areas, in putting some things into the plan that were a little bit different than what we've done the previous three weeks. You probably heard Tom Cable mentioned that after the game. He felt that we didn't have that continuity in the early portions of the game. But that's part of it. You have to push the envelope with your offense. You have to continue to improve. We're nowhere close to what we can be. And that's scary. We've done some good things already, but we're nowhere close to what we can be. You'll never know unless you continue to push, and learn more and do more, and see what they can handle. That's part of the equation. You put some things in and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. You just have to find the balance that keeps you to be as effective as you need to be, without over-stressing your players so much."

How much do you think he was affected by the inexperienced receivers and not having Craig Bragg?

"The younger receivers played for the first time extensively. Marcus Everett had a couple of big catches in the game. He only played twelve plays, and two of those plays were big catches. Brandon Breazell had thirty-some-odd plays, and he played well. No catches. Blocked pretty well. He's a smaller type kid, and gets overrun sometimes because of his size. But boy he plays hard. I'm really excited about what he brings to our offense. Both of those players will continue to get better week in and week out. Tab Perry, it was his first game of really having a lot of plays. It looked that way. He needs to get more comfortable in now being the starter and having a lot of plays, and playing in a different offense, and all of those different things. He had a big touchdown in the game, too, and he did some good things in his role. Junior Taylor and Joe Cowan, those guys should be pretty comfortable by now. That group is a solid group. We have some young guys that are a part of that group, and they'll continue to improve as we continue to move forward."


Bruin Report Online Top Stories