He answered questions from the media Monday.
How big of an issue was tackling last week?
"People think we'll have a good game or a bad game tackling. You either tackle or you don't. It's more dependent on the style of offense, really. That lends itself to whether the defense tackles better. Or, say, it puts the running back in a position where it's more difficult to make a tackle. I don't get down about tackling. I think we're a good tackling team. It's the style of offense that really dictates what type of tackles. If you're in a ten-yard space, that's a tough tackle. A tackle in a hole is not a big deal. The running back doesn't have a lot of room."
If you look at the way the defense has performed, and then look at Cal, what leads you to believe you can be successful?
"I haven't looked at Cal closely yet at all. From what I've heard, they're very good. We're going to have to stop the run, stop them from having a big day."
Can you stop the run game?
"Hopefully. It will really help if we get Justin London back, too. He played three or four series in last week's game and said he felt good. So I hope we get him back this week. And then C.J. Niusulu and Kevin Brown played a good game. What we have to do is give our offense back the ball."
Why do you think you'd be able to stop the run when you've had so much difficulty?
"Against Arizona, I'm sure maybe you couldn't see it or a fan couldn't, but there was a certain running play they used that we had some problems with. It has to do with our linebackers and stuff. That and being optimistic."
What was the play?
"It was a split zone play. There are two backs, but one of the backs is offset, and it looks like one side is overloaded, but on the snap of the ball, the one back comes back and cuts off one of our defenders. The running back takes the ball on the other side and wraps it back around. It's a tough read for linebackers. I played on the outside so I was doing other things."
If you go back to playing inside, will you be that guy who makes that read and potentially that play?
Won't Cal recognize the play was effective and do it also?
"If I'm at my position (weak inside linebacker, where he started the season), it's a non-play and they'd stop running it. I've been talking to the guys upstairs (read: coaches) about changing me back to that position. The deal has been, as thin as we are right now, we've done what we had to do to get the best group of linebackers on the field. Because they wanted to get Ben Lorier on the field, I had to move to the outside position. And since I'm now able to play the other position, it's better for our whole defense. I think it's just a matter of trying to get our best players on the field for any game."
Do you think you're more effective at the weak inside linebacker position? And that's where you want to be?
"Yes. The first four games, I had, what, 14 tackles a game? This week I had 11. It's not a secret, as far as I'm concerned. I'll play really well at the WILL position (weak inside linebacker)."
Is it possible that if Justin gets healthier, he plays more at middle, and they then move Wesley Walker back to outside linebacker, and you can move back to weak inside linebacker?
"That's what I'm hoping for. That's what I'm lobbying for. That's what I told coach yesterday. I think it's our best three on the field. Hopefully Justin's ankle would hold up. Like last week, I wasn't able to practice at WILL at all, but I ended up playing it. I know it, but it's better to rep it during the week. I think this will probably happen, but there are different situations. Like if they (an opposing offense) go to more of a receiver set, I might go back to the SAM (strongside outside linebacker), for more of a pass coverage drop. It'd be nice, though, to have Justin in the middle, Wes on the strongside and me in the middle with Justin on the weakside."
It seems like your defense has been pretty good at keeping offenses out of the endzone when they get in the redzone...
"Yeah, I don't know how. Over the past couple of weeks, it seems like they've been able to run the ball down to the redzone and then we've come up big. But I don't like it, that's not how I want it to be. I want to be able to stop them three-and-out, six-and-out. Because that saves field position, too. But we have been good at it."
Quarterback Drew Olson answered some questions from the media.
How many of those passes to Marcedes Lewis were audibles? "A couple were. It's a call within a call. It's two play calls. I don't think of it that way. It's kind of a check."
How many were checks at the line?
"Probably two or three. The other plays to Marcus Everett, those were checks at the line, for the seam route."
On the one play on your last drive in the first half, where the coaches called timeout, were you trying to check to a play that you couldn't run in that formation?
"Yeah. We had a play called. And we didn't have an audible for it. We didn't have one going in. I was trying to make one up on the field. So we had to call timeout. It was pretty funny actually. If we would have run the play, it might not have been good. We ran it earlier in the game and got sacked on it. So they were bringing that same look. So I thought I could audible out of it, but we didn't have an answer."
It looked like you were trying to orchestrate it, though, telling Keith Carter where to line up?
"Well, I looked behind us and we didn't have a fullback, so I thought I could use Keith as a fullback. He had no clue what to do."
How many points do you think you'll need this weekend?
"Quite a bit. I think Cal's offense is, I mean, I don't even know if it's containable. They're going to score points. That's for sure. I don't know how USC's defense this year compares to last year, but Cal had four-hundred-and-some yards on them. I'm just looking at yardage-wise, they move the ball well. And they probably should have had more points in that game. They'll definitely get in the endzone. This, by far, has to be our best game. I think we all know that. Going into that, I think we know we have to take our game to another level to beat Cal."
Do you look at it as a personal challenge when a defense stacks the box, challenging you to beat them?
"I kind of liked it this past week. Even though Arizona looked like they played a two-safety look, they always would bring a guy down, on almost every play. It's a good challenge. Those types of games are pretty fun, for myself and the receivers. It puts the ball in our hands a little bit more. If we can get a good running game against Cal that's huge for us, especially against a defense like this, where it's schemed to stop the run."
Cal leads the conference in rushing defense...
"That's why their defense has been successful. It's schemed that way. I don't know how much people have tried to run the ball on them, but they obviously have been very successful at defending against it. It's a challenge to myself, but it's a challenge to the running game as well, the o-line, the tight ends. Coach (Tom) Cable will definitely run the ball, and we'll give it our full go."
Does Cal stack the box a lot?
"I don't know if they really stack it, but they play two edge guys, rover guys, like a strong safety and a rover, that kind of play a little wider than outside linebackers, and work as run support on the edges. They have that with four down and two in the middle."
It looked like you made better decision in the Arizona game. Is it a matter of you getting better or the specific matchup, or how the game plays out with the defense you're seeing in a game? Are you better at making decisions against certain defenses?
"I came to notice this lately, when we played San Diego State. I get locked on to a certain side, and a certain route. This week I started scanning the field a ton more. Going left to right, right to left. Even up until I got the snap, so I can see what the defense is doing. I think sometimes I'd get too focused. Because what you see at the beginning of the cadence and at the end of the cadence is a whole different story. I kind of got locked in there, until last week, when I was looking at both sides and scanning, and seeing the defense. I think I got tons better. I was explaining to the coach upstairs (in the booth during the game) what they (the defense) was running. If you can do that on the field, it's huge."
Did you then check out of a lot of plays against Arizona?
"We had a primary check, which was based on one safety. So if we thought it was that certain look, we'd check it and change it. We'd go from a run play to a pass play. If they brought that extra guy in the box we'd go to a pass play. That's pretty much what it was."
So that's a pretty easy read, then?
"Not very hard."
Was that the most you've checked out of plays this season?
"Probably. Pretty much."
Do you think it will be the same situation this week?
"Probably not. Cal, they pretty much line up in what they play. They play a defense that's pretty much like Oklahoma State. I think it's pretty much the same defense. So it will probably be less checks. I don't know what the game plan is yet. We'll wait and see."
Do you think you've had more success moving the ball early in games this season, as opposed to last year...
"I think everything is different compared to last year offensively."
As far as the game plan, is it better?
"It's a whole different coach. It could be the game plan. Guys are playing better. Understanding this offense better. I think it's everything. I think the game plans are good. I don't have a problem with them at all."
Was it different this week, getting off to a quicker start?
‘Not really. It really wasn't. I try to focus on getting out of the block right away and being ready from the get-go. I don't think I ever go into a game not ready. I think I was probably a little bit better this week starting off."
Do you think you can throw on Cal's defense?
"Yeah. I think we always can. With this offense, I think we're optimistic in every game. I think there is a legit shot there to have a solid game passing the ball. It's always what you think on Monday."
Did you get recruited much by Cal?
"Yep. A lot. It's five miles from my house."
Did you grow up a Cal fan?
"Yep. I still am. Except for this week. One week a year I'm not a Cal fan. Yeah, but I like the Bears. But it was time to get away. I just felt better down here."
So you went to the Cal games when you were growing up?
"Sure. Probably started out going in a backpack. I've been going to their games my whole life. My parents were there for The Play. Living up in the Bay Area, being so close to Cal, and being sports fans, my dad just started going. Growing up I went to all the games."
How many friends and family will be at the game?
"A lot. All of my family lives in the Bay Area. It seems like three-quarters of Piedmont are Cal fans. I'm sure a lot of Piedmont people will be there, too."
Will the Piedmont people being rooting for UCLA?
"They'd better be."