Jake Dean, who is now the starting right guard, talked to after practice this week.
You had some nice plays on Saturday, made some nice blocks …
‘'It was a lot of fun. I've played tackle and I've played center in a game before, but never guard … well, Washington State I played a little bit. But there were a few things I'd never done before and got to do them this week and it was fun.''
Despite that, you looked on top of everything …
‘'Yeah, I've been shuffled around to every position this whole year. I know the whole offense, I even played tight end in some of the tackle-over looks that we've done. So, I basically know all the plays and Kai Maiava is doing a great job. He knows all the plays out there, too. Two minds out there only made it better.''
Lining up next to Kai helped?
‘'Yeah, it's nice. Some plays he'll say, ‘Hey, who do we got on this play again?' and I'll let him know and some plays I'll go, ‘Hey who do we have on this?' and he'll know. It's nice knowing you have that comfort out there, that you don't have to rely solely on yourself, you have someone right next to you that knows exactly what they're doing also.''
It's obviously been a tough go, just getting on the field. It's got to feel pretty good at this point to be able to get out there and be playing …
‘'Yeah, it was fun. Moving positions around was tough, but I feel it made me a better player because, you know, at center I was more used to double teams on pass pro and I struggled with one on one pass pro, but moving to tackle and being out there on an island and doing all that stuff, I feel that's really made me work on my technique a lot more and kind of focus on the little things.''
Arizona State, their front four, their front seven, was …
‘'They are a really good unit, probably one of the best I've faced since I've been here. They're really strong guys, good motors … the Mike linebacker was like 260 pounds so they're a pretty big physical group.''
That's the question I had going in, just how you guys would handle a real physical team. Not to take anything away from your two previous opponents, but Arizona State was at a different level in that regard and you guys were solid.
‘'Yeah, I felt we did pretty well. You know, this whole off season all we talked about was being 112th in the nation in running and how we needed to get stronger and Coach (Mike) Linn worked our butts off and we gave everything we had this off-season and we got to show it against a good physical group that when we need to run the ball we can. I felt we did that. I think Coach (Norm) Chow said we averaged 8 yards per power when we needed to with Chane Moline at the end of the game. That's a big step for the o-line, because everyone talked about how bad we are and we felt we aren't that bad. We finally got a chance to show it that we can hang around with the best of them – they were the sixth best run defense in the nation.''
They're on the same level as USC, physically?
‘'I'd say they're about the same … maybe USC is a little more physical, maybe Arizona State is. SC is a great team, they always have 5-star recruits every year. They have Pete Carroll, who is a great defensive coordinator. Arizona State is a great team, too. You're in the Pac-10 – there isn't too many cupcake games.''
That was the question, the physical aspect, and not getting moved around. You did some moving, so that has to give the group some confidence going into this game …
‘'It does give us confidence going into SC because they're pretty similar – four down, three good linebackers; they're all strong, physical, fast guys. I looked at the depth chart today, I think the d-linemen weight about the same, so it's basically like were facing a similar defense and we got confidence going last week and we can bring it into this game and give it everything we have.''
It doesn't seem like there's a significant gap there any more … ‘
'SC is SC. They're a great team and we have to prove that we can hang with them and this is our game to do that. … They've proven that they're the best right now, they've won, what, four or five straight BCS bowls so they have a great record, they have a great team, they're always ready to play. It's never easy to beat them, so if we want to prove that we can hang with them, this is our chance to do it.''
When you look at the line as a whole, getting back to the physical aspect, at this point last year compared to where you are now, how big of a difference is there?
‘'I think it's a big difference because first of all we're all a lot stronger, second of all because we've had the same offensive coaches for a second consecutive year, which has really helped. This spring and this camp, we weren't trying to learn a new offense, we knew the schemes, we knew the plays, we knew what we were doing. It was more working on our technique and we were stronger, so we were able to jell more as a unit, compared to last year where we weren't as strong, we didn't really know what we were doing as much. It was a new coach, trying to get used to it. I feel those two things together is really what has helped improve this o-line.''
Well, 8 yards of power says a lot …
‘'Yeah, we were happy about that. Chane was running the ball great, he was punishing their linebackers and that's what you like to see, especially when you need it. It's nice to know that when the game was on the line we could help the team out. The defense provided 14 points for us, and it was nice to keep them off the field. I think we held the time of possession, so it's always nice when you can help each other out like that.''
Freshman cornerback Sheldon Price answered questions.
So, I looked it up … your dad was 2-2 against the Trojans …
‘'Yeah … not bad.''
I'm thinking you probably want to do a little better?
‘'Yeah, I'm trying to keep up the legacy. He always talks about how he only lost to SC twice and both times were like … I don't know, both times were kind if flaky. But I just want to keep it up, try to go undefeated … try to do something better, one-up him in something. It'd be real nice. I grew up watching the UCLA-USC game, so I know all about the atmosphere, the rivalry and all that, and now being a part of it, that's just something special to me.''
I'm sure that everyone thinks they know, but once you actually get out there, it probably hits you across the face a little …
‘'Probably. I was talking to (Terrence Austin) about it and he was like, ‘You never really hate SC until you play against them for your first time.' I haven't really been a SC hater, but I don't know … just this week and after Arizona State I've grown a little hatred.''
You've obviously been improving – Hard work? Experience?
‘'Experience, hard work and just playing every down … whether it be somebody trying to block me and getting off the block, or just reading the coverage or reading the line, anything. Every game every play, I've improved. I'm just trying to keep doing that. I keep looking at (Alterraun Verner). He's a good inspiration because he knows his stuff, both on and off the field. Football is just like another class to him, so I'm just trying to perfect my game and try to get to his level eventually.''
Against the run, those first couple of games were a little rough … ‘
'The first couple of games against the run it was real shaky. I was having trouble getting off blocks and stuff, but now it's coming easier and easier. I still haven't got it down pat, but it's getting easier and easier.''
Why is that getting easier for you, because it's not all about technique?
‘'To me, it's more just attitude and just not letting this guy block you. It's like a fight. You don't want to get punched in the mouth and just let somebody walk away. So, I try not to get blocked and just try to get in on the tackle somehow, someway. To me, it's more attitude than technique. I could use my quickness or whatever strength I do have, I could use that, too, but once I put that together with my attitude it works out good.''
That's probably the biggest improvement, don't you think?
‘'Yeah, coverage wise I've gotten better, but I was always known to be a good cover guy. My run support was questionable and that's one thing I wanted to come in and improve on – to show people that I can take on blocks, that I can provide support in the run game. That's all I wanted to do.''