For the fourth straight year, the Pac-12 Media Days set up in a major Hollywood movie studio at Paramount this week after stops at Fox, Sony and Universal. But the iconic gates and busy working sound stages set it apart at this middle of Melrose location in old Hollywood.
In fact, the folks here seemed so busy doing their movie and TV production thing, they let the Pac-12 media, coaches and players do theirs. It was actually kind of cool -- as hot as it was here. And a bit different.
Also different this year was getting all dozen media guides on a flash drive. No books to take home this time for the first time. Kind of a shame. Just four teams -- Arizona State, Cal, Colorado and Utah -- even bothered to print out their preseason notes.
And only one Heisman promotion brochure was on display: for Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion.
Probably more radio talkshow booths than we've seen but otherwise, it was much more at a relaxed pace with almost informal interviews with the coaches and players. That part was good. Maybe missing something a coach said while you were talking to one of his players in the other part of the Paramount Theater lobby was a downside although we did get transcripts of the coaches' interviews.
And that lets us present for you a quotable quote from each of the Pac-12's dozen coaches. Here we go.
QUOTING BY THE DOZEN
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez: On how happy he was to be here. "I could be like every other coach in America and tell you how excited I am to be here, but that would be lying. Truth is I'd rather still be on vacation or meeting with my coaches. But it's all good. I appreciate everybody coming out and giving some attention to our league and to our programs. We're going into our third season at Arizona, and we are pretty excited about where we're at and where we're going. We've moved into a brand-new facility from this time last year, which I think is a program-changer for us. I have the entire coaching staff returning. I have some talented young guys coming back. We still have a few things we've got to figure out in August camp. Everyone's going to ask about the quarterback, and I could be coy and tell I don't know, but I really do know, but the truth is I really don't know. We'll figure that out."
Arizona State's Todd Graham: on this year's theme. Uh oh. "Well, our program's about winning championships, period. Our motto this year is unfinished business. You see it on my wristband here. We're one game shy last year, and we don't want to be Pac-12 South Champions.We want to be Pac-12 Champions, Rose Bowl Champions, and obviously, win every game. That's the standard. What I like is our players expect to win. How you do that is winning every day. Talked a little about that what our guys are doing on the field, off the field, in the classroom gives me a lot of confidence."
Cal's Sonny Dykes: on the challenge of recruiting against USC now that the Trojans are back to full scholarships: "Well, USC's always going to recruit well. I think the tradition in that program speaks for itself in a lot of ways. So I think that as more and more teams recruiting on the West Coast. When you look at where guys are going particularly in Southern California and the Bay Area as well, people are recruiting the West Coast probably much more frequently than they have in the past. So USC's presence is always going to be here. Obviously USC and UCLA are going to recruit well, particularly in Southern California. They always have and expect them to do so. But USC is going to make a difference. But more than anything else just all the people coming out West now probably makes a difference."
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre: on his struggling program: "We're excited about the future at Colorado. The future is now for a football coach always. But our new football facility, our $143 million football facility we're building has already broken ground. You'll see it. Our first game playing Arizona State, you'll see they've already changed the stadium, and it will be ready next April. So things are moving well, and we're excited about our future. We're ready to get ready with the process of practice, which we start on August 1. So it's not far away. The hard work we're going to have to do to be successful this year in the Pac-12, which I think is the best conference in the country, and definitely the best conference with the best quarterbacks, no doubt. It's going to be fun for us."
Oregon's Mark Helfrich: On what he thinks of this year's USC defense: "Probably like the old really great SC defenses just staying in scheme and style. There's not really anybody in the Pac-12 today that plays like them or does what they do. But they're outstanding, outstanding in every phase." And then on playing in the Pac-12: "I love this league. Period. We've been a part of this league off and on since 1997. I think the overall skill level of this conference is way better than it's ever been, and the trench play is better than it's ever been. That kind of used to be one of the things people said about our league and a couple of the Western leagues where it's pass-happy and finesse and that kind of stuff. And I think our rushing numbers can speak to that in a different way."
Oregon State's Mike Riley: On how tough it is to coach defense in the Pac-12: "I think that when you look at the overall deal when people talk about spread offense, they're really talking about a very generic thing because there are probably, what, people would say seven or eight different spread offenses in the Pac-12 Conference, but they all have their own particular flavor. They're not all created the same. So it does put a lot of pressure on defensive teams, defensive coordinators because you're going to have to prepare for a variety of different things as the season goes on. So that is kind of the world that we're living in right now. The spread offense you'll see from Coach Leach at Washington State is different from the spread they're running down at Arizona State and of course what they're doing at Oregon. Everybody's got their own little deal that is different. Then you've got a team like us that is a little bit of a dinosaur. We still huddle. But we try to put pressure on the defenses by changing personnel groups and doing some stuff like that. So I think the diversity in our league is awesome."
Stanford's David Shaw: on losing so many veterans: "We've lost a lot of senior leadership, but that's what happens every year. Every year you lose guys and guys step up. I'm excited about where we are, and the fact that we're bringing back a three-year starting quarterback. Bringing back one of the most explosive players in college football in Ty Montgomery. We have a young, athletic line that needs to gel for us. Looking forward to the new tight ends that will step in, and the receiving corps and rotation in running backs that will be exciting to watch. It's a good chance we'll start four fifth year seniors, potentially one senior. But we're talking about a veteran group that's learned how to play at a high level. And we'll see who our senior leaders emerge throughout training camp and the regular season. But we have an experienced team that I think can play with the best in the nation.
UCLA's Jim Mora: on Steve Sarkisian's return to USC: "Well, it's a fresh start for them. It's a guy that had success at USC. So I think it's given them a shot of energy that I wish they didn't get, you know. I have great respect for Sarkisian and I like him as a person and as a coach. I just know he's going to make my job harder." And on recruiting against USC: "They're always difficult to recruit against. Everybody is. But I'm very happy with our recruiting class. It all depends on what you're looking for and how you evaluate players. We all have our own criteria for what we're looking for. And we're very, very happy with our class, very happy. I don't know. At what point do you evaluate whether or not a class was successful or not or a good class? I think you have to wait a little bit.
USC's Steve Sarkisian: On the kid from Torrance coming back to USC: "It's humbling. You don't know me growing up. There are a couple guys that knew me as a kid. I'm from a pretty humble town. I don't know if you've read the book "Unbroken" on Louis Zamperini, but he was a kid from Torrance. I think you learn to work hard when you're from Torrance, to push yourself to try to achieve some of the things that you want to achieve, and to have the opportunity now after growing up watching SC football, after coming to SC out of high school as a baseball player, after being here as an assistant coach for seven years with some tremendous experiences, to now be back as a head coach, it's humbling. When you start thinking about John McKay and John Robinson and Pete Carroll, and to think that you're in that position now, it's a position, like I said, I'm humbled by it, but also one that I'm proud of the fact that I am that kid from Torrance. That is the head coach at USC that I think a lot of people can relate to and know that I'm one of them. I think that is really important to me."
Utah's Kyle Whittingham: on the adjustment to the league: "Yeah, the transition to the Pac-12 was as expected. I don't think there is anything that caught us by surprise. I can tell you the thing that's really been very apparent is the Pac-12 in 2011 when we entered and the Pac-12 now is far superior from top to bottom in the progress this conference has made in the last few years is phenomenal. They've put themselves in a position where we put ourselves in position where we're arguably one of the top two conferences in the country."
Washington's Chris Petersen: on whether he's talked to Sark: "No, not one time. I think it's better for the kids. Everybody has their own opinion, and everybody gets biased, so I just don't ask the question." And on the transition: "Transitions are hard, and I think it can be really, really hard on the old guys that have had their coaches for quite a while, and here comes some new guy trying to tell them how to do things. These guys have embraced us, and the culture we're trying to get done."
Washington State's Mike Leach: On how much USC's scholarship issues -- maybe not well understood by Mike -- affected the Trojans: "I don't know. Not very much. How many scholarships were they down? Four? I guess it doesn't make a difference on 10 more guys divided by 500 players. That means not very much. I don't think it will make much of a difference, I really don't. Because they've already had a huge appeal. The other thing is you can get it done with limited numbers providing you select the right guys. Then them getting first pick in a lot of cases. I don't know how big of a hit that was -- depth-wise probably."