The Rice Coach's Press Conference

Rice's Head Coach, Ken Hatfield, answered questions from the media Monday in his own press conference, talking about his preparation for the UCLA game and his opinion of the Bruins...

Rice's Head Coach, Ken Hatfield, spoke with the media Monday.

Hatfield's Opening Statement:

"We finally get to play. I think I've watched every team in the country. We're anxious to play someone else. Saturday, we scrimmaged under the lights. Game-type, and we went for about a half. We got a good effort from a lot of our backups. They were trying to make a place for themselves on the team, kind of like a guy trying to make a cut the last week of a pro camp.

"The people that stood out were Nick Aranda, who caught two long balls; Jeramy Goodson, our backup quarterback that we just moved over there, has really shown a lot of poise, both running and throwing; and Joel Armstrong and Chase Clement have done good jobs at quarterback with our first unit, and I feel good about them.

"Defensively, our linebackers continue to be big-play people for us, providing a lot of great leadership for us. Our whole team is ready to play UCLA.

"They (UCLA) certainly started off in a grand manner the other day. They have tremendous speed and talent. They can hurt you in a lot of ways, as they did the other day. Their special teams were really good; they made some big, big plays. And their tight end is as fine as there is in the country. When you're 6-6, about 260 and can run like he does, it's hard to simulate that in practice.

"We're anxious to play someone else, and we're anxious to play our best this week."

On Rice's young players in the season opener:

"They are eager to play. It's been a long time since they've played someone else. Like I told them the other day, all the practice and everthing you do in the off-season is just for the enjoyment of playing the games... and winning. This is the opportunity you want, and the time is here."

On the Rice quarterback rotation:

"We'll play them both in the game. Joel naturally is the starter; he's done a good job. Chase will be in the game, but I don't have any preconceived time-frame. A lot depends on what UCLA is doing. Joel is definitely the leader, and he's an inspirational leader as well as a production leader. Chase has played a lot in the preseason. That's why we held Joel out a while, to help get Chase a lot of work with the first team. Both will have a place to play and contribute."


"We have a little better idea on what UCLA is going to do since they've already played a game and they were on TV. We saw what they're doing. The great running backs they've got, the little guys are really powerful. Their receivers are really good and big. Their special teams will be a challenge this week, because they made three big plays in special teams which turned the game around. San Diego State was getting a little lifeblood, then UCLA would break one of those big plays. You've got to try to limit those big plays."

On the Rice running backs:

"We've got great depth at running back, especially at the A-back position. All of those guys have done a tremendous job and they've all played well. Quinton Smith, Marcus Rucker, and Bio Benibo is playing his best football, ever. The plays he's made in scrimmages have been really good. Tommy Henderson has done good, and Thomas Lott has played both the A- and H-backs. Mike Falco was one of the most improved players on the team last year, one of the most productive. We have good backs back from last year, and all of them have played, with the addition of Tommy Henderson. And Tommy's going to be a good back for us."

On the Rice defensive ends:

"We've got to find another end to go with John Syptak. John is really a productive guy at one end, and we need to have one or two ends step up on the other side and really play great. Courtney Gordon has done a great job for us, and Thadis Pegues is back and has made some big plays from time to time. Dietrich Davis is a young guy who we redshirted last year, and he's one of three guys. Rob Daniel is the starter over there now, and he's really effective because he knows what he can do. We've got some good skill people.

"I look for a lot of double-teams and attempts to negate John Syptak's ability. Other guys would then have some opportunities to make some big plays. Anytime you have two good defensive ends playing for you, you can keep the other team corralled so they don't get outside on you for a lot of big plays. It allows you to play a lot better defense."

On the Rice defensive backs:

"They secondary is a real key for us. We're probably playing five or six new guys in the first two units. Two of them are freshmen, Brian Raines and Carl Taylor. We recruited them to play this year, and they have proven that they have the ability to help us. The other new guys are Ja'Corey Shepherd, Bencil Smith and Brandon King, guys that we redshirted and knew would have to play this year.

"We've got other guys coming back. Chad Price needs to continue to improve, Andray Downs has played a lot, Matt Ginn has the experience, Jonathan Turner has played a lot better, and Lance Byrd has got a lot of experience. All of those guys are going to play with the first unit, and whoever is the most productive is going to play the most for us."

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