Q & A With Coach Karl Dorrell

The Head Coach, Karl Dorrell, sat down the UCLA media and answered questions over lunch at Thursday's Pac-10 Media Day in Los Angeles. Dorrell was candid about the quarterback situation, and the inexperienced linebacking unit, and more...

Karl Dorrell answered questions from the UCLA press over lunch at Pac-10 Media Day Thursday.  Some of the responses are partial answers since the audio was very difficult to decipher.

How about an update on some of the injured guys. How is Nikola Dragovic?

"He's doing fine. I don't anticipate a lot of our guys who have had knee injuries to practice more than once a day. Even like here with Junior Taylor. I want to try to keep the pressure off. With Dragovic, he's doing well. I think now he might have a little bit of hamstring. He's been running, though. I would say the guy who is furthest away is Tony Lee."

Are you worried about how long it's taken him to recover?

"His surgery takes more time. It was a re-alignment for him. They had to take the tendon and re-attach it in another area. So to recover from that takes a little time. We knew that. We are anticipating that at the early part of the season he'll be ready. But I wasn't anticipating him coming back before the season."

How about Chris Joseph?

"He's now doing everything."

Will the guys who are doing only one of the practices in two-a-days be held out of contact also?

"Yeah."

How do you feel about being picked fifth again in the conference by the Pac-10 media?

'It's just like I tell the team. You have to start somewhere, right? We'll just have to prove that wer're a better team than anyone anticipated. And that's okay. We've been there before."

How is Ben Olson doing? It seems like everyone assumes he'll be the guy...

"Ben's doing well. I haven't watched him at all, but have gotten some feedback. He's doing well learning, and doing a lot of throwing, and really taken the responsibility in the off-season. That's one thing this team has done real well, they've taken the leadership and responsibility on their own. They're probably doing that better than at any other time since I've been here right now.

"There's a lot of anticipation that he's going to be the guy, but he's got to prove he is the guy. And that's easier said than done. The other guy (Patrick Cowan) is pretty good, too. That's the best thing about fall camp. Both of these guys are performing under pressure literally every day.

"I think everyone thinks that Ben's the guy, but he still has to win it. It's not been decided. He's competing with Pat for the job. I think the team feels good about both of them. It's going to come down to what's best for the team, who can operate the best under pressure situations. They're both very talented."

Would you say the biggest factor for success for Olson is his decision-making?

"You know, I haven't been out there to watch them throw this summer, so I don't know right now."

Would you possibly platoon and go with both of them?

"In a perfect world you go with one guy. So whoever gets the job he really will have a chance to make it happen. You need to build that experience factor with that one quarterback. I think you impede that if he's worried about coming out in this quarter, and that kind of stuff. I haven't seen a lot of programs that have had a lot of success using two quarterbacks."

Have there been any position changes since spring?

"One of our walk-on fullbacks had moved to linebacker and has now moved back to fullback, Trevor Theriot."

And Kennth Lombard? He's inside or outside?

"He's playing both."

Bruce Davis is now permanently at defensive end? No more experimenting at linebacker?

"He's at end."

Now that you have all the freshmen on campus, you have any more insight into who might help you immediately?

"I haven't had a chance to watch. I've heard that they're all doing very well. I've heard that Darius Savage looks good. Micah Kia looks the part. But I'm not allowed to watch anything yet. But I think so far this whole class is doing a nice job. Considering the linemen, though, that's a tough position to come in and play. You have to learn the line calls, and we had strong and weak. There's so much to learn, it's tough to see any first-year linemen playing. More so the offensive side than the defensive side."

Are you happy with the development of the JC OL transfer, Nick Ekbatani?

"Yeah. He looks better to me. He was stockier two or three months ago. Now he looks he's gotten taller. He looks good. I think he's changed his body a little bit. He's about 308, and he looks about 280."

Is he slated for strongside guard?

"He'll play both guard positions. I'll tell you what, he played tackle for Harbor JC, and I'm not ready to say he can, but he looks like he could play tackle again with what he's done with his body."

You have to be pretty happy with how Noah Sutherland, the tackle, has developed? He put up some very impressive weight room numbers...

"He's doing a great job. He's doing very well. There are a lot of guys that will emerge, that will step up and be noticed right now."

How about Robert Chai?

"He's had the knee issues, and has had the surgeries. He's an older guy now. He's like Junior. They're grandparents now. You have to take care of the older guys. He has the knee and he'll be a one-a-day guy, and keep him fresh."

Could Chris Joseph play center?

"That's where we want Robert to be. Chris has played center before. He's an emergency guy there, if we lost some people."

Is the plan for Joseph to play this season?

"We're hoping that's the case. Everything, right now, checks out pretty well. He feels pretty good about it. The telltale sign will be how he gets through camp and if he has any issues. That's where our mindset is right now."

Can you comment on the new look for the away jerseys?

"Right, that's what they were asking about, not the home jerseys against USC. Yeah, the new away jerseys look good. You'll like those. Those look sharp."

You okay with that? That's not the color you wore on the away jerseys? You wore the navy blue.

"Well, actually it was my idea. I wanted the same blue, to be consistent. The blue we have now on even are home jerseys is darker than it used to be. When I went to school it was really light blue. So, we did this because we wanted to match the blue of the home jerseys with the away jerseys."

How about the blue on the helmets?

"That's still the dark blue."

No thought on changing that?

"No. We want to make sure you see it. We still have navy in our uniform. On the gold and white uniforms, there is navy outlining the number. So we can still keep that navy. It's the same with the new away jerseys."

So, how about the home jerseys with USC?

"There was talk about doing it, doing the home and home with USC. Pete (Carroll) and I talked about it.  But we're not making the decision. If we did do it we'd get a penalty, lose a timeout. We all grew up with it like that. It makes it colorful. There's a lot of history there."

Have you made andetermination about the discipline for John Hale and Jess Ward?

"Not yet. I kind of have any idea of what I'm going to do, but I don't want to announce anything yet. I want to get a chance to officially tell those guys first."

How hard has it been to get some cohesion with so many new staff members?

"I think that's the hardest thing to do with your staff. It's harder than putting in an offense. You have a melting pot of coaches, with so many backgrounds, that are used to doing things in so many different ways, and you have to mold it into...this is how it's done here. That's hard. You have older guys, and there is the element that you can't teach old dogs new tricks thing. There is a little bit of that. There are just different working styles, too. You have to get all of those things worked out, so it doesn't result in any non-productivity. And that takes time. My job is to mold the general formula, and this is how we do things and practice things, and then both sides of the ball know that. It got worked out in spring, but it will get worked out even moreso in camp.  We practice early on in camp just about everything. We do redzone, third down, all that stuff, so quickly, so it gets everyone quickly on the same page."

Are you happy with the new turf at Spaulding Field?

"Oh, yeah. It's nice. They got the grass portion in early, too. Earlier than anticipated. We'll probably start the first part of camp on the IM Field, and then we'll go over to Spaulding."

Where will the air-conditioned media tent be?

"You can hang out in Lot 7. There's some shade down there."

Would you say the linebacker unit might be the one you're most curious about in seeing how it will develop?

"Probably. You lose all those starters. Then you have Christian Taylor, who is a solid player at middle linebacker. You have your Eric McNeal, too. But they don't have a lot of experience. John Hale is your veteran and he's started seven games. He has more games than Christian Taylor. Taylor, though, is the leader of that group. Fred Holmes hasn't started many games. Then you have Reggie Carter, the Bosworth twins, Aaron Whittington. You have the numbers there, but not a lot of significant playing time."

Has Whittington gotten bigger? Up to 220?

"He has. He was barely over 200 pounds last year. But he might be right at 220 right now. But he looks really good now. He's going to get a chance. We're still formulating that depth chart there. There's still a lot to go on there"

Do you feel that you need some people to step up in certain positions?

"Always, every year, there are people that emerge. You remember that one year you lose Tab Perry and Craig Bragg, and you wonder who's going to replace them, and then you get Junior Taylor, right? It's just a natural phenomenon in the sport. Someone always steps up and makes a name for themselves. I'm not really concerned about it. I'm really excited about what's in the program, and knowing what's in the program, that everyone is doing a great job and will emerge. I feel very confident about that. There will be a lot of depth at wide receiver.  There's always someone at most positions who emerge. I think the hardest one is quarterback."

What can you do to help someone like Ben Olson develop?

"Really, what I say to him is, 'Stay on schedule.' That's the only thing I want to tell him. Just stay on schedule with your work and development. If he stays on schedule with the regimen and what he's supposed to do, he'll get there. He has to be patient enough, and learn to take what the defense give you. If you're patient enough the big play will happen. That's part of it, the training, to stay within yourself. That's what I tell both of those guys. 'Stay on schedule.'

You're getting another walk-on from the track team. Just how big is this guy? 350 pounds?

"He's actually lost some weight. He was that big, yeah."

What's his name?

"I can't pronounce his last name. You can call him Big V (Vache Sevajian). He's a great kid. The thing about him, we didn't guarantee him anything, because we really don't have any room for him. But he was willing to leave track, and to prove it to us that he can earn it as a football player. I like him already. I haven't seen him play one down of football."

How big is he?

"He's about 6-5 or 6-6. And probably 340. And he's down from what he was. But what a great kid. Anyone that big, you have to see what he can do."

He was on a track scholarship, right?

"Partial, yeah."

So, he has to give that up?

"He did. I respect what he's trying to do. The team likes him a lot."


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