Dorrell Meets the Press

New head football coach Karl Dorrell talk to the press today about the hiring of his complete staff, recruiting, and other issues facing him this spring...

Exerpts from head coach Karl Dorrell's Monday press conference:


Opening comments:


"I completed my staff yesterday afternoon, with the last two positions. One is Bob Lopez, who is an associate of mine in my coaching profession, and was well qualified to be our director of football operations. He's worked in administration for a number of years, he's coached for a number of years. He's meticulous in how he runs his daily business. I'm really excited about him being a part of our staff and running the area of football operations.


"The last addition is Brian Schneider. He's a young coach and very energetic. He's an up-and-coming coach that has a lot of upside for his career. He's been coaching on offense for the last few years, and special teams. He's a former linebacker at Colorado State, so it's a natural fit for him to go back to defense and help coach Kerr with outside backers, nickel backs, and also be involved in our special teams.


"I'm very pleased with what I was able to do, and the coaches I was able to bring here to UCLA. There are a lot of guys with a lot of different experience. There are some older guys, and some younger guys. A good mixture of guys. There are experts at their positions, particularly our coordinators.  I'm real pleased to have those two guys in particular.  We have a good balance of guys who are very energetic, very enthusiastic, who will bring spirit to our program. So, I'm pleased with what we have here. I think it's one of the best staffs in the Pac-10."


Did you strive to get a balance of experience among your assistants? Is it something to try to get?


"I think it is. You want to have enough experience where they've been through a lot of different situations. There is a former head coach, and he's been in a lot different situations that I haven't even approached yet. So it's good to have a Steve Axman, who's been a head coach and offensive coordinator for a long time. He's a very solid man, solid football coach, with principles in how he approaches the business. He's someone that I highly respected that has been through a head coaching position and coordinator. Then with the other guys you need to have young coaches to work with young players. To build better connections with the players. There is a natural affinity when you have a young coach. He's not so far removed from the player. Eric Bieniemy and Brian Schneider are in their early 30s. They're far enough removed from the players but yet they're still young enough to understand some of the issues that young people are going through. Up-and-coming, energetic coaches. That was one thing I wanted to stress. Eric I think is an up-and-coming coach in this profession, as will Brian be, if you look at what he's done so far in his career. So I'm real happy with those two guys.


"Then the guys in between are the guys who are in position to be coordinators fairly soon. Jon Embree, my assistant head coach, is 37 years old and has a lot of coaching experience and also does a great job with dealing with the media, people and alumni. He has very good ideas on how to run an offense and a program. I think his next step is to hopefully be either one of those positions (coordinator or head coach).


"Then two guys who were in the program (coach Don Johnson and coach Mark Weber). Both of those guys are truly veteran coaches that have worked up through the small school ranks. The thing that struck me about those two in particular is that the players love them. Their position players absolutely love them.  It's something that's fundamental for this program is that we want to make sure that our whole program has a level of discipline, toughness, commitment and work ethic. And I think that starts with your interior people. So if you have your interior people, offensive and defensive line, on the same page, in terms of being the backbone of what you do, it gives you a chance to let that permeate to everyone and everything else. So, I'm really happy about those two being retained.


"Then coach Bernardi, one of the elder statesmen on the staff, even though he hasn't been a coordinator, brings a lot to the table because of his experience at a lot of top institutions. He's also serving as our recruiting coordinator. He does a great job, and knows the climate of our recruiting, and the areas that we need to improve upon and have a better presence. He does a great job of organizing that area of our program, having done that for years. So, those guys have been good for us.


"A guy like Gary DeLoach. His defense was ninth in the country last year. He's from a smaller school in Division 1, and he played schools like Oklahoma, Texas, those kinds of teams and still came out of the season ranked ninth in the country. He probably didn't have as much talent as those teams he played yet his defense was able to play at a pretty high level. We're hoping he can do the same thing here as our secondary coach, to help bring some of that experience from his coordinatorship at North Texas, and help coach Kerr develop one of the best defenses in the Pac-10. We're excited about having him aboard.


"I took my time with this, as you guys know.  It came down to making critical decisions based on three different areas. One – how well you communicate. Two – you have to be able to be strongly committed to helping young people. The kids come first. The last is – we're teachers.  I've always approached the coaching profession as a teaching profession. I felt this staff would be good communicators, good teachers and good people that value relationships, and that was critical in making this decision."


How has the response been from recruits about the staff? We've heard good things about coaches like Embree and Bieniemy.


"They were my first hires because they were excellent recruiters, excellent people who can identify and establish a relationship right from the start with a kid. It's just natural ability that they have. If you met them or had a conversation with them you would know why.  Their persona. How they present themselves. They're likeable people. They value relationships. Kids are attracted to an Eric Bieniemy or a Jon Embree.  So, yes, to have some of those assets you have to be genuine, too. That's what I'm all about. That's how I've approached my life and my profession. What you see is what you get. It's gotten me this far. I'm happy being in the position I am, but then again I know that I have work to do. These guys aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and get some work done, along with doing things within this program that are important, like influencing young men."


Do you consider yourself good with the media?


"Am I good with the media? That's probably a matter of opinion. I think I am. I'm kind of who I am. I guess I don't know if that means I'm good with the media or not. I don't hide anything. I don't try to pull any punches. I tell it like it is. That's what's gotten me this far. Am I going to tap dance for you? No. Not going to be that kind of media person. I think I'm a man of integrity, and that's what's important to me more than anything."


You haven't had much of a media presence since you were hired...


"In hiring a staff, and in the middle of recruiting, those are two big jobs that are hard to do at the same time.  All I was trying to do was stay focused on the jobs at hand. I really didn't have anything to report to the media yet. So, I thought the best thing to do was, once the staff was completed, to make comments at that time about who I brought in.  The issue about me waiting until yesterday to complete the staff in relation to recruiting, we can only have seven coaches on the road in recruiting at one time. If I hired all nine of them right away, I didn't feel we had to do that. With myself as a recruiter, and I had already hired six or seven other guys, I tended to focus more on recruiting the last couple of weeks.  It wasn't by design to hold off the media, but it was in the best interests of the program."


Who will coach special teams?


"The special teams will be divided into the responsibility of mainly two people, between coach Bieniemy and coach Schneider.  Both come in with tremendous special teams ability. They were special teams coordinators at their last positions.  I think coach Bieniemy will be our kick-off and kick-off return, and coach Schneider will have punt and punt return."


Did you know about all of coach Bieniemy's background?


I knew of his background. I thought he had more positives than negatives. We've already seen the positives in the short time he's been here.   Coach Guerrero, I call him coach Guerrero sometimes, did know about me wanting to hire Eric. I did tell him as much information as I could about what he had in his background. To me he had far more positives than negatives."


Did you look for aggressiveness in recruiting when hiring the staff?


"No doubt. You have to have guys that have a deep passion to recruit. I feel really good about this staff. They like to work at recruiting. They value relationships, and building relationships in recruiting."


Have you made efforts to get out to high schools, even those where you might not currently be recruiting a player?


"I have done that. And that was received very favorably.  I have been out to certain schools in the area and it was a pleasant surprise, them seeing me there. I plan to do that."


What are you expecting on Wednesday, signing day? How do you feel about how you're going to do?


"Hopefully we're hanging on to all those guys we have. The class that we have I'm really pleased with. I really am. We're going to recruit guys that are profile guys we think can help our program. Sometimes it might be a guy who has a lot of accolades and is on everybody's list and everyone knows about him. But there might be a guy that you'd say, ‘Who is this guy?' He's not well known, but he does certain things that we like as a football player that make him a tremendous asset for us. We'll have a handful of guys that are surprise guys. Then the rest of them will be guys who were highly recruited."


Are you amazed at the amount of information that is out there now, with the Internet? Is it a big difference from when the last time you coached college?


"You're right. That's the biggest difference. How much information is out there. There are a lot of media channels. I've only been out of the college ranks for three years, but it's changed a lot in three years. A lot of it is beneficial, and a lot of it can hurt you.  Obviously we can't comment about recruiting specifically, but you can get a lot of specific information from recruits on the Internet, and sometimes it's truthful and sometimes it's not.  It can be damaging at times.  But we're at where we're at. We want to turn it into a positive. But it is a tremendous change."


Do you intend to save some scholarships from this recruiting season?


"My impressions were to do that initially. We've finished up pretty strongly here this year so I don't know if we will now.  We're not completely full but I anticipate in the next couple of days we may be. My impression when we first started, in terms of how late we were in getting out, I didn't think we could possibly fill them but it's actually been a pretty good stretch here."


Joe Tomasello and Antwuan Smith are now in school, correct?


"Those two are in school."


How many scholarships do you have to give out?


"We have two that are currently in that are mid-year, and are that type of status. So, without them we have 19. If you add those two, we have 21."


Being on the run since you were hired, how much time has the staff had together as staff time?


"Not much. We've been on the road recruiting, and every weekend when we're back it's been recruiting weekends, so we haven't had much time together. Now that we'll be off the road for recruiting, we'll get more time in the next couple of weeks. We'll get a chance now to put some staff time together, and start building what we want to do offensively and defensively, the things we need to get done for spring ball. So, we have a lot of work to do right now, and it won't slow down."


Do you feel you'll have to work a lot with the staff to get the plans on what you want to do offensively and defensively? 


"Part of that process is hiring people familiar with what we want to do on either side of the ball. I think that will help in that process. The hardest part will be teaching the system to the players.  Everybody is on the same level in terms of learning a new system on both sides of the ball, so we have a lot of work to do as a program, the staff and our players, too. Learning a new system as quickly as we can, and hoping we perform it well."


Have you gotten a head start at all, like issuing playbooks?


"We have not issued playbooks. We're not that far along yet. We can have information meetings right now, but not football meetings. And we just now started the third week of winter conditioning. So many things they have to do on their own right now and we can't instruct them. So, a lot of the stuff they're doing from a football standpoint has been on their own."


Have you been able to fully evaluate the players currently on your roster?


"Not fully, because of recruiting. We've been mostly focused on getting players to come to UCLA the last few weeks. We have watched some tape to assess our status at certain positions but not completely."


Is it going to be hard and fast getting prepared for spring practice?


"It's unfortunate because of our situation we don't have a lot of time. It's really going to be, in your term, hard and fast. We have to put everythin in, and evaluate at the same time. That's just what we're dealt with right now. I've been meeting with my players all morning, expressing how difficult it's going to be to learn a new system, and get an evaluation of film, and perform, and be very good by the time we break fall camp and are ready to play by September. But they're chomping at the bit. The unfortunate thing is we haven't had a lot of staff time to do it."


What are your impressions so far of your players?


"I think they're great kids. They're doing a great job in our conditioning program right now. Everyone I talked to today was asking when do they get it all, their next set of information. That's what's impressive right now. They're gung ho. They're doing everything above what they've been asked to do. And they're anxious to get started as much as we are."


What are your impressions of your two quarterbacks?

"The only time I saw footage on them was during the bowl game.  I think both of them have very good arms. They're both very young players. They have a lot of grooming to do, and that's why it was critical for me to hire a coach to coach that position.  I needed a guy who really knew how to develop quarterbacks.  Both of those guys are chomping at the bit, as is John Sciarra. He's a player who wants to prove he's ready to be in the mix. This spring will give them this opportunity. Because we really don't know how good or bad we are.  Spring ball will tell us."


Do you see yourself focusing and tuned in to the offense?


"I think in time I'll be equally tuned in, but I think initially I'll probably be more in touch with the offense. Coach Axman is new, so to speak, in this system. So I'm going to have to give him a quick overview of what we do. So he has some learning to do also in terms of terminology.  I think initially I'll be more involved with the offense. But once the offense is in, I'm going to be a guy that oversees both sides."


How would you describe the offense?


"I'm going to have a balanced offense, with the ability to run the football and ability to throw the ball with a lot of efficiency.  It's really the Broncos system."


How did you feel watching UCLA in the Vegas Bowl?


"I was interested in seeing how hard we would play.  That was the one thing I wanted to observe. I saw our spirit and guys playing hard. The sideline was alive.  That was what was exciting to me. This is a team sport. It's camaraderie. It's unity. It's cohesiveness. It's all the intangibles. The best team is always a combination of talent and intangibles. That's the challenge of coaching."


How did you feel personally watching that game?


"At that time I kept pinching myself. ‘Am I the head coach?' I couldn't believe it at the time. That was early in the process. I was excited and driven at the same time. There are a lot of expectations here, and I have a lot of expectations.  To do those things, it's going to require some work. And that's the mode I'm in right now."


It seems there are a couple of coaches you hired – DeLoach and Embree – who might be waiting in line for the coordinator positions if your coordinators became head coaches. 


"I think that's still the aspirations of the coordinators. They would love that opportunity, to be a head coach.  For Coach Axman, he's been there. And coach Kerr, he's got a reputation out there as a solid football coach and coordinator and his next step is to be a head coach. What's great about both of those guys is that they're some of the best out there and they're still driven. You would hope you would get guys who will have the opportunity to be a head coach. You don't want guys who are just stagnant and want to be just who they are. You want guys who want to get better as people and as coaches.  I'm hoping they get an opportunity."


Did you think about Embree and DeLoach as potential coordinators down the line?


"Not really. I wanted to get the best coaches, teachers, people possible. I wanted to get the most experience I could in certain areas. On the defensive end, we have a couple of guys who have run the same system. That was the most intriguing thing with DeLoach and Kerr. They ran the same defense, at different schools, and they were both coordinators. Now I have two that ran the same system. So the experience with that system will be even better. With Axman, he's been one of the best offensive minds out there. He's helped groom me as a coach. I told him when I hired him, ‘Your challenge is to learn my system. Not to do what you've done before but to learn this one.' That kind of excited him. He's always heard about our offense in Denver, so he's excited and challenged to do something different. I think you have to have those sorts of things in coaching. Something to drive you. If not, you get stagnant."


What were you looking for in hiring your coordinators?


"On offense, it really came down to, who was the most capable quarterbacks coach out there. And that's why we came to coach Axman.  What stage we are in with our quarterbacks, that's critical to the program, getting that position developed as quickly as you can.  Defensively – who knew the most information about the scheme of defense I wanted to run? It came down to two guys that I brought in here to interview, and we got both. I really struck gold with those key positions."


How different will your defense look compared to recent UCLA defenses?


"You'll still see remnants of the same package. The thing about defensive packages, the different looks that you get every defense has. It's just – what's your backbone? That's really the only difference. So there will be similarities to what we've done in the past. But I don't know if it will be our backbone."


Coach Kerr Kerrr said it would be the Tama Bay Buccaneers defense. Is that how you would describe it?


"That's what we're patterning ourself after. We're going to try to do their system. All of our players are excited about it. They see it on Sunday, and they see how successful it's been. But it takes some certain players to perform it. It's not anything special in terms of the most innovative thing. That's a big myth in football. Football is football. It's just how well you perform it. You try to coach it as well as you can. You coach it well, the players understand it and they perform it, then we're all great coaches. No one has cornered the market on any innovation. It's however you coach whatever package you do. We want to be a program that is coached really well, plays hard, and plays with discipline and passion."


How much of a say did Albert Carnesale and Dan Guerrero have in hiring your assistants, and how involved were they in the interviewing process?


"They were very interested in all the candidates as people. They wanted to meet them. The first impression you want to see is how he would fit in a particular program. From that standpoint, I wanted them to meet everyone we had in here, to see their impressions of the person, but in terms of thumbs up or thumbs down, no. That wasn't part of the process."


So, everyone you wanted to hire you hired?



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