Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez

Alvarez talks about Central Florida, stadium renovation and putting Starks in at kickoff return

Can you give a synopsis of where do you think the team stands now?

"Where do I think our team is? I think I have a pretty good idea of what I'll see Saturday because we have so many veterans, but as a head coach, I think most coaches are always very leery because you know all the things that can go wrong in a football game. You're leery. You're anxious to get out there just to see them play, just to see that team play, and execute, and go about their business. But when you have as many veterans as we have, I think I have a pretty good idea.

"We had a very good camp. I really pushed them. I think most of you saw the camp and it was a very physical camp. We went after each other live nearly every day. And so, I think we're in pretty good shape on both sides of the ball. I don't know what else we could have gotten done. We got a lot of good kicking work done. I think our kickers responded very well. I like what I've seen thus far. So I don't know what else we could have accomplished.

"You always have your bumps and bruises during camp. You miss some guys, and when you miss a couple people and you lose that continuity, you always worry about that. Yet, I think that happens to everyone during camp. I think yesterday we had the majority of our guys practicing and that's what you want."

Barry, you said you were anxious. Do you get the sense that your players are anxious to play their first game?

" Yeah. I've never been around a football team that wasn't anxious to play in their first game. We had 17 days at the Seminary alone and you can get a little (anxious) out there after awhile and particularly when you're competing against one another. We really went into preparation for Central Florida two days earlier just because we had gone at it so hard against one another, so I'm sure they're very anxious. Guys want to play other teams. They want to be competitive. They want to play games. That's what it's all about."

I know Central Florida's schemes are a little bit of a puzzle, but what do you expect from them personnel-wise?

"My first reaction would be speed. As I study the personnel that is returning from last year's team, I see speed, which you would expect from a Florida team. You see a multitalented quarterback, a quarterback that can beat with you with his hands, with his arm, and with his feet. You see two good running backs and, from what I read, a true freshman that is legitimately an excellent running back and an excellent group of wide receivers and a big tight end that can run. So, offensively, they present a lot of problems with the speed that you would expect. Defensively, the same thing, although I think their secondary, their safety zone in the secondary are very physical as well."

Barry, the depth chart that you guys have, it looks like you guys are going with (Scott) Starks on kickoff returns and is that true that Brandon Williams won't be returning kicks?

"Well, Brandon missed the spring because of an operation on his leg. I think, at times, his leg was sore and we just don't feel comfortable right now exposing him. I think as we go along and he's conditioned a little bit more and you feel more comfortable with that leg that we could work him back in there. But Sparky did a nice job and we like his quickness back there and so we're going to give him a shot there."

He did a lot of things in high school. Did he return kicks?

"He did it all, he did everything in high school."

In the Virginia Tech-USC game the other day, they were identifying the players who committed penalties. I understand that's new this year. Can you just give us your feelings on that rule change, like it or not?

"I don't particularly like it. I think, many times, we make rules because the NFL has rules. What's the difference who held? They tell us on the sidelines; that's who it's important to and just to make sure that they know who held or who the penalty was against, but I don't think there's a place to identify someone who's at fault for making a penalty in a college game. Next it will be in a high school game. I just don't see any reason to do that."

You talked about or we talked about your kickers in camp. When you go into game day, do you have a feel for how long Mike (Allen) is comfortable, at what distance he's comfortable making a field goal whether it's 42, 44, and if he gets outside his range a little bit, what's going to be your gut decision on using Taylor (Mehlhaff) for a long field goal attempts? "I talk to the kickers prior to every game, ‘tell me what your range is', because it varies. ‘Tell me what it is according to the wind. If you got the wind to your back, what can we go to, what yard line do we have to go to,' same thing into the wind, depending that particular day. Taylor is an option. If it's a long field goal, he certainly is an option that we could use, but we would just have to see at that particular time, but he gives us some other, just another thread in there. And I think you've all seen him kick and know how the ball jumps off his foot and I'm very anxious to see him kick Saturday."

Are there any particular preparations necessary for a coach in his first year, like you're taking on the UCF coaching staff in its first year, compared to a team that's had the same coaching staff?

"Well, it's a much more difficult preparation because you don't know exactly what they're going to do. You don't know if they will take the head coach's former team and use the schemes that he used at Georgia Tech. You don't know whether he will use the schemes or the base that he used defensively at Minnesota. You don't know whether the offense will use their new coordinator scheme or a scheme that they used at Georgia Tech, which is similar to the Maryland scheme. It goes on and on. So we have broken down a number of different teams that George O'Leary has been in contact with or coached, just trying to familiarize our guys with the gambit because we don't know what they're going to do and we've got to be able to adjust to everything on both sides of the ball. So it's a very difficult preparation."

I'd just be interested to know this George O'Leary, first coach back since the thing a couple of years ago, is going to be a big issue. ESPN has already done features on all that stuff. What was your take on that? And are you surprised that, you guys, through the years, you'll be in the business for 30 years, you may have five different guys compiling your bios for these Web sites and whatnot, are you surprised it doesn't have more and what was your feeling when he went through that a couple of years ago or that situation?

"I really didn't think it was very important to George or anybody else whether he played football and lettered someplace. It really didn't have anything to do with who he was, what job he had, what new job he had accepted. I thought it was totally irrelevant. I mean, who even looks at those? So I thought it was an overreaction, personally, and really had nothing to do with him getting the job. So that's just what I thought. It's a shame. He's very well thought of in our profession. He's done a tremendous job every place he's been. To get a dream job and to lose it the way he did and for the reason he did is a shame."

Barry, the changes have been made at Camp Randall. Obviously at least, or at least to this point, there's been suggestions that the wind direction has changed the kicking a little bit. What other issues might you be concerned with going into a game, having not experienced the full stadium, all those types of things at Camp Randall?

"You know, a few years ago, I went to watch Nebraska play Texas. We had an open date, and it was the first year of their replay board, their boxes and their suites were probably in the state similar to ours last year. And I came out of there saying, ‘boy, this, if you didn't know anything about football, this would be entertaining'. It was a lot of fun to watch the board, and I told Frank Solich that. And he said, ‘you know, quite frankly, it's a distraction'. So I think there's a fine line there.

"He came to our Alamo Bowl game that year and he said, ‘boy, I just loved how the cheerleaders, and the band, and the students, and your fans were into the game'. It was about football. It wasn't about watching the replay board. And so I think there's a fine line there.

"In the same respect, and I've talked to our players about this, we have a wonderful stadium. It's a tremendous atmosphere. It'll even be better than what we've know. But the stadium doesn't win games for you. It's about how you play down on the field. If it's louder, which I think it will be, it still doesn't win games for you. It's about how we execute and how we play on the field. So, those are things that you have to concern yourself with."

Are you referring to your players that you have a kind of a protocol that, if a great play comes up that you're not to turn around to at the board, it's not a free statement kind of thing?

"No, I'd expect them to look at the board. I'm talking about the fans not getting into the game, being more concerned with watching the replay and what's coming up on the board next instead of just being into the game and knowing the down and distance and watching the game per se than watching the board or listening to the music or knowing to try to figure out what's up next or trying to figure out the question, you know, A, B or C. Those are a lot of things that you have concern yourself with."

Along the lines of the replay board, when you got permission to use instant replay for this game, did you deal with the MAC Conference or the school? Because George O'Leary today said, if he would have had a decision that he wouldn't have wanted instant replay for this game.

"He had a decision."

He said he didn't.

"He must have, somebody didn't give him the letter. Everybody had a decision. Our league wrote everyone that it was playing, every out-of-conference team. I know Iowa State didn't, refused to use it, decided they didn't want it. I think there are four teams, if I'm not mistaken, where I read they chose not to use the replay. So where the communication broke down with George, whether it went to his director or who it went to, but he certainly should have had an option. And if he feels strongly about it, he should let us know now."

He suggested, he thought that maybe the MAC decided beforehand, and if any of our teams are in the situation, just say yes. Because he . . .

"You know what? I don't know that. We'll have to call one of the Chryst boys and find out."

Do you have more teams turning that down than you expected, that the four that did, or was that . . .

"I would think the only reason you would turn it down is if you were bringing your own officials. And I would say, if Iowa State is going to Iowa and has Big (12) officials, maybe you don't want a replay."

How imperative is it that John Stocco gets off to a good start in this first game? Is that important?

"Well, I don't think his career would be over. You always want young quarterbacks to get off to a good start. And just like a team, you want your team to get off to a good start. So I don't think he's any different than anybody else, whether it be a running back, other than his position is very important because he's going to touch the ball every snap."

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