BCA Football Classic: USC vs. Virginia Tech
This is a very exciting time. I've been more excited about this season than I've ever been before. It's because of the challenges and the opportunities this season presents. We have had a very solid camp. We worked well and we worked hard. We were also fortunate to make it through in pretty good condition. Guys that were injured will be able to return soon, maybe even for this game. There have been a number of distractions. A lot has to do with us being the No. 1 team and all of the things that are going on around us. All of the stuff that has happened, we have treated with great respect. But it all just makes it that much more important for us to perform well.
We have a fantastic opponent in Virginia Tech. A storied program with a great
history and a fantastic coach. Our kids are excited about this opportunity to
play them. It is an incredible setting. There are just so many things that make
this a really exciting opportunity for us. What we have to do is stay on track
and stay focused. We have to be ready to perform at a very high level or we will
have a difficult time against a great program like Virginia Tech.
Matt has had an elbow that has been sore throughout the summertime and during camp. We have managed it very well. He has had great scrimmages when he has been tested fully. He had a great night at the Coliseum on Thursday - he was 19-for-23 and he threw four touchdowns. He was running around and looked terrific. What we've done is just rest him so we can manage it and so he's okay. He'll get to work these next two days. It is not something he can't play with and he's already shown us that. His accuracy, his arm strength and his timing have all been more than adequate.
So far, it does seem to be a chronic feeling in his elbow and it's something that he has to live with right now. We treat it, manage it and make sure he's okay.
David Booty's elbow
John David's elbow is a much different situation. He banged his elbow and it's like hitting your funny bone. It has been more bothersome to him because he has not been able to throw since it happened. We're still waiting for everything to heal and we're very reluctant to push him. Every day is critical to get him to return. John had a fantastic camp and he got great work because we were resting Matt. He's ready to play if we need him to, provided his injury heals. We're taking it day*to-day and we have to wait and see how that turns out.
Brandon Hance is our back-up quarterback and he's ready to go. Again, our quarterbacks have had a lot of work this camp because we rested Matt quite a bit, so we're in pretty good shape. Brandon Hance and Matt Cassel have gotten a lot of work so we're okay in terms of the preparation of those guys.
We're taking this day-to-day. Someone asked me if there was a drop-dead time and I'm not even thinking about that. As far as his situation goes, it has been a long, hard and difficult process. It continues to be very cumbersome to get this thing finalized. Even today there are still some hold-ups in the processing. It has been extraordinarily frustrating for Mike and his family. We have done all we can and we still can't get the word as to what is going on.
Now our football team is prepared to play without Mike because we have been practicing that way for some time now, even back to spring football. That isn't an issue at all for us. We have played without him in the fear it would come to this point. This is why I did not want to practice with Mike towards the end of our camp. I thought it was better for us to go without him during this time, and then we'll bring him back when he's back. It has been very, very difficult to get Mike back on the playing field.
Being the optimist that I am, I do hope this will turn out okay. It's just highly unlikely that anything will be resolved for the game this week.
I have been hesitant just because of the signals I have received in the process. This was never a slam dunk. Mike has done all he can. He has passed his units, he has completed his coursework, but he was in a situation where he could not be in class in the spring semester and that six-hour rule has affected this whole process. Mike has done everything you can do under the circumstances. Everyone has anticipated that this was going to be a no-brainer, but it is not that at all. We have had to work very hard to get the point across.
(Six-Hour Rule) This is a new rule that was passed last year that an athlete must pass six (credits) in the semester preceding the competition season (not including summer sessions) to be eligible for competition. This was the first year that this was instituted and this is the key issue in Mike's case. He has enough units, he has the grade point average, but he was not enrolled in the spring.
Our position at receiver is really a transition spot. Steve Smith has had a fantastic camp. It looks like he's in total control of playing the Z position where we had so much production from Keary Colbert last year and the last couple of years. We're really excited about his play... he's stronger and faster. He's just a really talented kid.
Chris McFoy has also been a consistent performer at the position. He is hard-nosed and tough and he's just had a very good spring and fall camp. He will be in there playing the spot, down after down. Along with Chris, the guy who has just jumped off the charts is Dwayne Jarrett. He made a fantastic first impression. He is an extremely talented kid. I think we have had a perfect gauge in being able to watch Mike's development as a young kid and seeing if it can help us. There is no question in our minds that he will be able to play and be a factor in this game. To have a kid come in at 6-5 and over 200 pounds, who can run, jump and catch, is most reminiscent of what Mike came in like in his first camp. He has made special plays on a regular basis that reminds us that he is a player that we think we can really count on.
You'll also see Fred Davis in at wide receiver, and inside as well. I think we are in a good situation under the circumstances, but we are extremely untested.
Re: Virginia Tech
They are a very wide-open team. They spread the field very well. The quarterback (Bryan Randall) is really efficient and he is a terrific runner. When you a play a QB that can run with the football and strike you dead from that position after the play begins, that is the most difficult element of any football team to defend. He was a 61 percent completion guy last year, plus 15 touchdowns and he rushed for almost 500 yards. They are not hesitant to use him as a runner so that makes him an extraordinary threat to us.
He can do all of the running that Ell Roberson did. They don't feature him as much because they feature his throwing ability, but he can do all of that stuff. He's an option guy and he runs all of the stuff out of the shotgun that teams are doing nowadays. He's a real threat. He's a very good thrower and a very natural athlete.
They have fast, young receivers. They have enough linemen coming back. They cause problems because they play a different style of football than what people play in the Pac-10 and on the West.
We have seen everything they can do and it is a lot to prepare for.
Re: Question marks on team
There are uncertainties, but they were different uncertainties last year. There will always be question marks because you are never going to get everybody back. You will always have issues to deal with on your depth chart. We have had huge question marks on the offensive line and huge question marks regarding the receivers. As well as other battles that you have to face. I didn't know what kind of team we would have last year and I don't know what kind of team we have this year until we go out and play. That's what is exciting about a new season and I can hardly wait to get there.
Re: Offensive Line
What we have found is that we have had really good competition. It started in the spring with the return of John Drake, which was a big plus for us. Tatui has been a big factor as well. Those two guys are enormous and they both play with a good attitude. They have a real savvy for the game. They give us an additional boost in a spot that needed some help. Sam Baker has had a great spring and fall and he is very solid for us in the left tackle spot. The guard position has been kind of in flux because guys have been injured a little bit, but Fred Matua comes back at the right guard. John Drake and Travis Watkins are at the left guard spot. It's a rush for these guys to be starting right now because they don't have the game experience, but we're throwing them in there and they have just got to get it done. We have Jeff Byers and Ryan Kalil at the center spot and that's a real plus for us. We will continue to develop confidence in our guys and they'll learn to play together. Hopefully we'll be settled by the time we get to conference play.
Re: Playing an NFL Stadium
I don't expect to feel any different at all. Like playing down in the Orange Bowl, each stadium has its own feel and flavor to it and I don't think it's that much different. This is certainly not a home game even though we are wearing our Cardinal jerseys. There will be a lot of Virginia Tech fans because it is a great opportunity for their fans to see them play. Even though we are wearing our home jerseys, we are treating it like an away game.
I am real excited about the defense, knowing how many guys come back that have played for us. I look at it as nine starters that are returning. We have a bunch of guys that have played for us quite a bit. I feel like this is the most experienced group we have had in the years we've been here in terms of our system and what we've done. We have terrific leadership with Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson in the middle. Dallas Sartz has six games under his belt. Collin Ashton started for us in big games we have played at the linebacker spot. Jason Leach, on the back end, has played in some huge games. Darnell Bing, who will be practicing at full speed today, looks like he's back. Kevin Arbet and Ronald Nunn have both started games for us so I feel really confident in our background. I have felt really good about them and I expect them to play at a really high level.
I cannot comment on his situation at all. We can not be talking or commenting about any of this stuff because it is an ongoing investigation. We have heard next to nothing from the authorities. Hershel Dennis has been suspended and will be suspended for this game. It is an indefinite suspension.
He has had a great camp. He was healthy throughout and gave us fits on defense. I am really excited to go into the season with Reggie Bush as our punt returner and kickoff returner, knowing how much pressure that puts on our opponent. Our guys have really worked hard in our return game. Reggie is stronger than he was before. I don't know if he can be much faster, but he's in tip-top shape. Both of them, Reggie and LenDale White, are in fantastic condition compared to where they were a year ago because they've had a whole year and off-season to train. Those guys are ready to go. Both are starters for us and it does not matter which one you call a starter because both are going to play on a regular basis and both will be big factors.
Re: Keith Rivers/Jeff Schweiger
We anticipate that they will both play in the game. We have given them a great opportunity because of their athleticism and their work habits. They have acclimated and have competed very well. I hope that they will get considerable playing time. I am really excited about those kids.