On Texas’ success vs. Cal defense last week - “I think the quarterback hurt them with his feet, which really doesn’t have much to do with us. That was probably one of the big thing. I think they did a good job executing their offense. But there’s nothing tougher than a scrambling quarterback, and there was a lot of that going on.”
On Cal defense this year vs. last year - “I think it’s a combination of guys being experienced. I think they’re healthier than they had been. I think even when we played them early in the year they had some health issues. So it’s Year Two in that scheme and everyone looks better.
On managing practice/workload as season progresses - “That’s a big topic that we’re always into. We kind of have our monthly plan. We kind of break the season down to thirds. The first third of the season to us is going through this game and then we have a bye, and then we make our plan from there. And then the next third and make another plan from there. A lot of it has to do with the health of your team, but we still know how it goes during the year, even if guys are healthy, in terms of trying to keep guys fresh.”
Does having the bye next week allow you to maybe go more ‘gung-ho’ this week?) “Not necessarily. This early in the season, with all our new guys, we have to practice. We have to practice hard and we have to get the reps. This team is not experienced enough to back off. What we have to do as we go forward is learn, even if we take some pads off or shorten practice, the time we’re out there we have to go really fast and we have to try build skill. And that’s really hard for most guys, let alone young, inexperienced guys.”
With all the young guys, do you notice a different feel out there now that they’ve been through a few games? - “I think there’s some familiarity with some of our plays that three weeks ago — I know Trey Adams didn’t know some of these plays. He didn’t even know ‘em, let alone ‘Can he execute his assignment in detail?’ So there’s some of that. But the nice thing is these guys, they know, they’re hungry. We’re so far from anybody having this figured out that they practice with good urgency.”
Have a better feel for who these guys are? - “Yeah, I think so. But I do think that the one thing we know is we’re still going to make some mistakes. I think everybody makes mistakes and we’re still young enough that we’re going to make mistakes. I think our coaches have done a good job of – we don’t cater down to young guys. These are the plays we’re running, and these are the standards we have, and we’ve got to get them right. So I think the kids feel that urgency out there.”
Interested to see how you fare against a Pac-12 team as good as Cal? - “Every week is the same thing. it is no different. It’s about us, and how we improved. We may have a better opponent, but it’s still about us. And the next week it’s going to be about us and the bye week, and then the next opponent we play, it’s always about us.”
How about for the defense, going against Jared Goff and that offense? - “I think we have a new challenge because we haven’t seen anybody throw the ball like this. This is what they do, and he’s as good as anybody out there. so we have a humungous challenge, for sure. But it still comes back to us. We’re going to put the tape on and say, ‘did we execute our assignment, or did they execute theirs better than us?’ And at first, one, we’ve got to get lined up right. Two, we’ve got to use our techniques, and three, then we look (at) did they just do it better than us? I think the thing as coaches that you get really … that we’re all eyes and ears about is, are we doing what we’re coached to do, and if we are, and somebody can out-execute us, then you tip your hat and go back to practice and try to build more skill.”
Cal’s offense different from WSU? - “I think it’s much different. I think it all comes out of that school, but I think it’s much different. These guys run the ball for 200 yards a game. They’ve got some running backs that can really go. They like to run the ball. So they’ve got a nice blend. If they keep you two-dimensional, which this team has been able to do, that’s hard, hard playing defense.”
How was Trey Adams able to improve enough to be able to start? - “Learned the plays better. I don’t mean to sound like a smart aleck here but that’s really what it is.”
Was that through watching film, meeting with coaches, etc? - “It’s all that. There’s a lot, and I always say that this o-line position is really complicated. It really is. As soon as they change the front, as soon as they change the blitz, you have how many calls in a game? You multiply that by the looks you can get, and there’s a lot on a new guy’s plate. That’s why I say, you’ve got to learn the plays, and that’s no easy task being here for a month or so.”
On if it’s been dedication to film or working with coaches that has allowed him grow in playbook knowledge “It’s all of that. There’s a lot. I always say that this o-line position is really complicated. It really is. As soon as they change the front, as soon as they change the blitz, you have how many calls in a game? You multiply that by the looks you can get, and there’s a lot on a new guy’s plate. That’s what I say; you’ve got to learn the plays, and that’s no easy task being here for a month or so.”
On how he and the rest of the coaching staff evaluates pass protection “Every rep is graded by every coach. It’s color-coded, it’s graded, it’s numerical, I mean it’s over the top. We just try to keep it simple for our guys, whether it was good enough or not good enough, if their game grade was good enough. Sometimes, again, stats and grades and all that, you can get too hung up in that. Are we progressing? Are we learning? It really comes back to that, because a lot of times, the young guys, if you just give them that grade and you play 60 or 70 snaps and you’re grading every one in that kind of detail it’s not going to be good enough. Actually, when you look at the big picture, it is good enough. We’re making progress. You made some really good plays that you didn’t make the week before. I think that’s how we look at it.
On the cut in penalties from last year to this year “I think the big thing is, I think that last year, the kids, we tried to get them to play very aggressive. There are certain penalties that are going to happen; you’re going to get a handful of penalties every week and that’s how it goes. If a guy is having a repeated penalty, a holding call or something like that, that’s something we really have to pay attention to. Every now and then there’s going to be a holding penalty. The ones that are frustrating we call the ‘football intelligence penalties.’ You know they’re going to try to protect the quarterback. You know they’re going to try to protect the guy going out of bounds. Sportsmanship and those types of things, you know they’re going to be all over that. Those can be very frustrating. I think we’ve made some strides there. I think our guys are getting that. Targeting is another one that always shows up, because that’s a fine line. I’ve seen some kids get thrown out of games that you’re going ‘that’s hard,’ because they’re trying to strike zone, the strike zone changes at the last second, and, you know, he hits him in the head. They’re taking that shot out of the game, which they should. There are certain penalties that are part of the game. You’re going to get those when you play this fast and this physical. I think we talk about them. We pay attention to them. We emphasize them in practice. We have officials at practice. Hopefully we’re making progress.”
Comfortable with the depth at safety? - “I think all those guys have been doing great. We love these young guys. As you get on with the season…we’re still early in the season. I think there’s a handful of teams that are going ‘I really like our depth right now’. I think most say, ‘I wish we had more guys’.
“I think this keeps coming back to me…we’re so early in the season, and to me it still keeps coming back to five years of eligibility. I still want somebody to present to us why five years is not a good thing. Because you talk to us in the last third of our season, that every coach in America, those kids that they are redshirting, they wouldn’t like to to throw some kids on a kickoff team or a special team. Or, it’s time for you to go in at running back. You talk about athlete welfare? I think that is. By then they are ready to go and we didn’t burn somebody’s year super late in the year. I’m on my horse on that one.”
People are also bringing up the idea of a redshirt academic year - “This next year, if a kid doesn’t have a high enough grade point they’re going to have to go ahead and redshirt, and I get that. So that’s fine. But I think that’s going to be few and far between for us. Let’s make sure the academics are taken care of. But for the rest of the guys, why can’t they have another year? And if they are super-good and leave in three years, they’re going to leave in three years anyway. And if not, and they can stay the fifth year, it’s going to help ‘em get closer to that degree. If you played them as a true freshman, now it’s harder to get that degree by the end of their senior year and they’re off trying to play pro football and that degree’s hanging out there. I think there’s a lot of reasons why it would be good if there was a fifth year for these kids.”
Do you think some movement will have to happen because of so many impact true freshmen now? - “I would hope that people would pay attention to that. I just don’t think people do. I know that our long-time (Boise State) AD Gene Bleymaier, who’s at San Jose State now - he’d been on that for twenty-something years. And every time you’d present it to somebody it’s like, yeah. That’s a good idea. And I think the more true freshmen that are playing, the more you’re probably like - they’re not all going to go to the NFL. So why wouldn’t you give them that extra year and keep them excited about being in football and get ‘em that degree.”
Any expectations from the fans Saturday since attendance was poor for Utah State? - “This thing is marketed as the Greatest Setting in College Football, and it’s not because of just where it sits. It’s when that place is packed and out there watching a great college football game. I think that’s what makes it. So we’re always hopeful that everybody will show up and come out. There’s some really good football players that are going to play on Saturday. We’re excited for our student to get back to help those numbers as well.”