Wednesday Coach Interviews

SEATTLE - spoke with Steve Sarkisian, Justin Wilcox, Keith Heyward and Jimmie Dougerty about new DB Travell Dixon, position evaluations through the non-conference schedule, and what they are looking for as the team prepares for league play - starting with Stanford a week from Thursday.

Steve Sarkisian

On the roof going up on the South side of the stadium: "The roof, it is, I saw I don't know what they're called but I saw the first one go up a couple days ago and you see it on the way to work and then coming over the bridge and I'm like "wait a minute, the jaws are coming back together" so it's an amazing project. Everyday to be out here watch it grow and the different facets of it, and watch the guys working, what a great job they are doing and how fast it is happening."

On the new player, Travell Dixon: "Yeah we do (have a new player), he's a junior college corner, Travell Dixon who decided to go to Alabama, things didn't work out and we had a scholarship available, and were able to get him in academically and get him on board which is good because in our conference, the more good corners you can get, the better. To get a guy with some experience for next year as we lose Tru will be good for us. We knew about him, we didn't know how much of a need it was. When Justin and Keith Keyward came on board, hew as on their radar as well and between all three of us, we had a pretty good relationship there. He probably would have been a real real priority for us if it weren't for Tre Watson but now they are staggered and get to be veterans as we move into next year. He has great length for a corner, tremendous speed, which are two things we are continually looking for at that spot. Ideally we recruit six foot or taller corners that can run and defend the length of receiver in our conference. He can practice, I think was his third day now so starting tomorrow he can wear pads, he is essentially in the same boat Tre was in a year ago for us. He can practice with us, he wont be able to suit up for us or go to a bowl game but he can practice and go to school, all of those things."

What is the mindset of the team this week? "I think it's both, as I said Monday, when I met with the guys Monday morning, there was a seriousness in the room about the areas that guyus new that they could improve upon within their own game to improve the team. This is a great week for us to self analyze in the things we need to improve upon and the things we do well to continue to improve on, and some of those are individual position specific, some of us which are offense, defense, special teams, so I thought their approach to this week has been a professional one, they recognize areas that they can improve on and they brought a workman like attitude to the last two practices and they've done a nice job."

Will tomorrow be a usual Thursday? "It will be a little bit lighter, there is definitely some special teams things we are going to handle tomorrow that we want to get done. We've looked at a couple things here the last couple days schematically and hopefully tomorrow we can finalize do we want to keep, do we want to scratch? And then an opportunity for some of the younger guys to play within our system and get a decent amount of work done but it wont be as lengthy as the last two days have been."

Is the punting job being competed for right now? "Yeah it is, for sure. Travis Coons is an excellent punter as well, he's done well, I haven't done that in the past, having a kicker be a punter and vice versa, I know it's worked for other schools around the country, so we want to put the guy out there who gives us the best job for us to be successful. That doesn't mean Corey's lost his job but were allowing them to punt every day and find out who is best for the job."

On the competition for the third wide receiver spot: "I thought it's been great, I've noticed that group is a pretty tight group for not being together very long and they really pull for one another regardless of who is making plays, they bring a lot of energy to practice, I've been impressed with their maturity level so, so far so good."

On the defense forcing a lot of turnovers today: "Well today's turnover Wednesday for us and for them to create three turnovers in the team period I thought was great. I love it. Obviously we would like to take care of the ball but if they are making plays like they are making today, that's a good sign."

Justin Wilcox

His impression of Portland State: "My impression is that our effort was good, we had some guys that really played well. We didn't play real smart all the time, which has to improve. Whether it was penalties, poor eye control, not knowing a situation, things like that, it cost us against them and times where it should have cost us but didn't. There is progress being made obviously getting the win is big but there are plenty of things to take away from that game that we have got to improve upon."

On Shaq Thompson breaking out in the stat column against Portland State: "I think the game is starting to slow down for him a little bit, not that it was ever too fast but we are asking him to do a lot and it isn't 100% fair to him because he is playing in our base group, playing nickel, returns kick, on punt, the guys has been here since August, he's real talented and getting better everyday and I think we're able to see some of things he has the ability to do and he will continue to do better."

On Shaq being able to handle everything being thrown at him from a mental standpoint: "He picks things up real well, very coachable, loves the game, has things he needs to work on like everybody else, but he has a good feel for the game and sometimes it's very hard to tell in recruiting how well they pick the game up and everyone is different."

On why the base defense is what it is: "Get our best people on the field, that's really the root of it. You can call them whatever positions you want but it's all about getting the best football players on the field."

How has the defense changed schematically: "Yeah it has, just because there's certain things you want to ask them to do because there are things they can do that they are good at and we're not going to stack certain guys in the box in the A gap if we can control not doing that but there's times where we're going to have to change things to fit our personnel."

What does Shaq have to work on: "Well, I think technique things, how to use his hands better, playing the run game, he's never really done that before. He's working with Coach Sirmon and Coach Heyward both, because he does soe things a linebacker does, some things a defensive back does because he's essentially our nickel so we'll put him out there on the #2 or slot receiver and let him play. And then play him in the run game quite a bit, so a few technique things that really show up. He's got to continue to train his eyes, know what he's looking like all the time. Especially because high school guys, you put them out there and say go get the ball, as much as everybody wants to do that, it's a little bit different. He has to train his eyes and he's done a better job each week."

Has Shaq been too overloaded? "I think you worry about a mental overload with any of them. There are certain guys who have played out here 3 or 4 years and still make mistakes. We've been very aware of what we are giving him and make sure it's not too much and slowing him down. We've put quite a bit on him and he's handled it well, he hasn't been perfect but done a great job."

Did the minor league experience help Shaq mature? "That's a good question. I don't know if going off on his own doing that. I think it has as much to do with type of guy he is. There's guys out there that aren't real mature too. I don't know if just because you play minor league baseball it does or we'll send all our guys to play minor league baseball."

On the biggest challenge Stanford poses: "They are very good schematically, they give you every formation, every personnel grouping, every gap run scheme that you see and they do a really good job with it. Their run game and pass game coordinate very well together. Some teams you get in certain formations, and you know here's the two things they do, they don't really have that, because everything compliments so well."

On stopping the play action, what needs to be done: "Eye control, you have to have great eyes. Everybody has a key, every linebacker, defensive lineman, every defensive back has a key on every call and to make sure that your eyes are on your key, especially on the sixth, seventh, eighth play of the drive and you just got the call and they are going hurry up and you got to get your eyes on your key and play it just as disciplined as we did in the walk through. It's not always easy to do so we got to make sure we get our eyes right and don't give them anything easy."

Keith Heyward

On Tre Watson playing with aggression: "He just plays really smart, disciplined is something we have to work on but he always comes up with the turnover or interception, always on the ball."

Would he have guessed that Tre Watson was a walkon when he joined the coaching staff? "We always, it's not an exact sign sometimes, some guys are missed,for what we had here, he stepped up and made plays when he needed to so if you do that, you get recognized."

Did he know Travell Dixon for awhile? "Yeah I recruited him when I was at the school. He was a tall corner, athletic, can run, good hips, so that's why all the other schools in the nation were recruiting him, they wanted great big corners. We wanted to play physical and get up there and challenge receivers. As he learns schemes through his redshirt year, we'll be able to utilize him and he's a big guy who can step up on the run but he's also able to challenge receivers at the line."
Video Interviews:
Steve Sarkisian - WATCH HERE
Justin Wilcox - WATCH HERE
Keith Heyward - WATCH HERE
Jimmie Dougherty - WATCH HERE Top Stories