To listen to Part Two of our interview with Conway, click on the audio link below.
How do you see the North panning out this fall - “It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be the South from a few years ago when Arizona and Arizona State, everybody was saying that they had a great chance of being one of the top teams in the country. Now it’s shifted to the North. You look at Washington State and what Alex Grinch has done with that defense over there. We already knew Mike Leach was going to put up points on offense, but the defense - where was that going to be? Alex Grinch, he was my defensive coach of the year last year just based on seeing Washington State taking that big jump. And then you look at how the defense improved, I think they are going to be better. They are going to sneak up on some people. Of course Washington is getting a lot of publicity, as they should the way they finished up. And then of course you’ve got Stanford and Oregon. I think a lot of people are going to sleep on Oregon because they feel like they are going the other way but this is the same football team that went to the Farm and beat Stanford with a healthy quarterback. So I don’t think Oregon’s as far away as people think. I think it’s going to be one of those deals where it’s dawg-eat-dawg in the North. It’s going to be exciting for us in the Pac-12. Unfortunately nationally we’re probably going to be beating up on each other and it may hurt us in the playoffs, but the parity in this conference, it’s going to be amazing - especially in the North.”
Do you think the 9-game conference schedule needs to be pared down? - “No. Everyone else needs to catch up. You can only be the best if you beat the best. Taking a week off in the middle of the season, that’s a bye week, basically. We know that. We can say, oh no we’ve got to prepare for these teams that aren’t so good in the middle of the season, kind of what the SEC is doing - we can always say that. But you know. As players, we know, so we know the coaches know. I still think the SEC is top dawg. Until the Pac-12 comes out of the Pac-12 and beats the SEC or beat the Big Ten or beat one of these big-time schools? We’re still going to be looked at as, they are good. They have a lot of parity. But when they step out of the conference, other than SC no one has been that successful. Stanford’s been stepping out and making some noise. It’s going to be an interesting year. These schools in the Pac-12, it’s going to be interesting to see what UCLA and USC does against Texas A&M and Alabama.”
Does it feel like there’s a shift in power from the South to the North in the Pac-12? “It’s definitely going to the North. No question. If you are a true football fan and you’re watching the Pac-12 you already know the dominant division is the North. Look at Washington State. Of course you’re crazy if you can’t see what’s being done here at Washington. Stanford is going to be good again. They have two great quarterbacks and I don’t think they are going to miss a beat at quarterback. Nothing against Kevin Hogan, but I think the guys Chryst and Burns, either one of those guys can come in and rip it up. If Oregon can solidify that quarterback position they probably still have the most talent in the Pac-12. If they can get anybody remotely close to who Vernon Adams was they are going to find themselves back in the national hunt.”
Based on your travels so far, give me a team and player in the Pac-12 everyone is sleeping on - “I haven’t been to that school that people are sleeping on yet. I will say this: Stanford was the most impressive. They looked like they had been together 10 years. The way that practice went, the way those guys were hitting, the way the offense was clicking - it was one of those deals where I don’t know if it was just the practice we were at but you saw the offense click with both quarterbacks. You saw the defense make plays. They just looked like they were ready to go out and play right now, and play Stanford football.
A player? I’m going to say (Stanford receiver) Trent Irwin. He’s a guy no one really knows about. I remember Trent in high school. Probably one of the best route-runners in high school. Watching him at that practice at Stanford, he was one of the guys as a young guy making catches, finishing - not just taking 10 yards but running the length of the field. I think David Shaw and his staff, they do a great job of coaching that up. That’s how we were in the pros. We catch a ball…you see a lot of young guys, they catch a ball or run the ball, they only go 15 yards. These guys were going the length of the field, jogging back, getting ready for the next one - and it didn’t slow the practice down.
Not to be jumping on the Stanford bandwagon, but so far…I haven’t seen Washington yet, I’m interested to see what they do with Jake (Browning) coming back his second year, (Myles) Gaskin coming back…I think the way Chris is running things here it’s going to be interesting to see where they are. I think they are going to have that same type of tempo in practice that I saw at Stanford.”