Head Coach Karl Dorrell answered some questions from the media about the beginning winter practice next week.
How do you view the opinion that Ben Olson is the savior, the missing piece, to the program?
"I'm guarded at first. I haven't had a chance to see Ben on the field yet. I haven't been able to see him really do anything. The way everyone is portraying him to be in regard to our program - we want him to be as well. But it's hard to make an assessment if I haven't seen him on the field. True, we know he had a great high school career and was the top quarterback coming out of high school that year. We're excited about the things he accomplished. Probably the thing I'm most encouraged about is how extremely hard Ben has worked since he got here. He's learned and picked up the system well, and made some good friends with his teammates. We're pleased from that standpoint. The football part of it gets started next week. We're hoping he is what everyone thinks he's going to be."
What are your expectations in winter practice for him?
"My expectations are for him to come away with a solid foundation of our offense. That's really the goal of every quarterback. Like with David Koral, too. He hasn't had that many reps and he'll get more now. With Pat Cowan. With all of the quarterbacks. None of them have had many reps, and Ben Olson hasn't had any. He's been throwing with the guys on his own, but that's it. I want them to come out of spring with a solid foundation of knowing what what we're trying to accomplish with our offense. They're really all in a similar boat. Drew Olson would have been different. But with Drew not being here, we're back to youthful inexperience at quarterback."
How will the reps be divided among the quarterbacks?
"Well, we're going to get them all reps. You guys will just have to wait and see."
How is Drew Olson recovering from his knee surgery?
"We think Drew should be ready to do some practicing by late summer."
If that happens, will he just step in and be the starting quarterback?
"We'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. First, he'd have to be ready to b e full go bny August. We're hoping for that but it's by no means a done deal. And we have to be prepared in either case. I do feel the quarterback is in better shape top to bottom than it's been. But we'll see how the chips fall at any given time."
At linebacker, with all your starters out, is this the a great opportunity to develop depth?
"We're so young at many positions. Like with Spencer Havner, he's such an experienced player, and it will give us an opportunity to develop depth behind him that we feel good about. That's why we recruited four linebackers for the fall."
Are you looking for Fred Holmes to be the guy who provides you strong back-up at that position?
"It's difficult to put that kind of pressure on Fred Holmes, to be that kind of player who can step in and do some things. He had a pretty big quad contusion and had some problems with it. Aaron Whittington really came on late in the season and played pretty well, like in the bowl game. He's one of those guys with athleticism that has a chance to flourish this year. Dan Nelson had to start early in the year because of the injury to Justin London, and then he ended up getting hurt, breaking his clavicle, and he's still on the mending process. We'll see where they all end up."
Will Nelson be able to suit up for spring?
"He'll have some contact, but he just started lifting two weeks ago, so we want to be careful in progressing him along."
How many linebackers will you have at practice, including walkons?
"Probably five, including walkons."
What other guys besides the ones that have been announced could miss practice?
"Chris Horton had minor surgery on his foot, having a pin placed in his foot, because of some lingering symptoms. He had the surgery last week and we expect him to miss most of the spring. Jebiaus Brown had knee surgery to clean up some stuff in his meniscus and it should be a few weeks of recovery for him. Matt Raney had a chronic groin injury last season and he'll have surgery on Friday."
"They'll be used sparingly throughout the spring. They won't be full go. Lombard, because of his shoulder, will have no contact work. Harbour, with his knee, is still recoveirng and is not quite full speed."
Are there any potential position changes or personnel experiments? Like, will Bruce Davis try out linebacker again?
"No. Not really. No. Davis will be a defensive end."
Will there be a possibility of some defensive ends moving to defensive tackle?
"I don't think so. I just don't think they're big enough to do that."
How do you think his bowl game performance will affect Koral this spring?
"We think Koral did some good things in our bowl game. I think it's given him some confidence, and he's working to get better. We expect him to come out and compete, and I think he's excited. With the bowl game boosting his confidence, he want to come out and win the position. We're excited as a coaching staff about that kind of thing."
Why did you move practice to February and March?
"We're getting the field renovation done, and we needed time to get that done in the spring so it wouldn't affect us in the summer."
Jarrad Page won't participate in practice because of baseball, correct?
"Yes, that's correct."
What do you think of walkon running back Ryen Carew?
"He's a a good player for our program to get. Right now he's just getting himself acclimated. We're hoping he'll be a pleasant surprise. He wanted to come in last fall but we didn't have the room for him to walk on at the time. We only have a certain amount of spaces, only have 109 lockers. So we told him to come in winter quarter."