Alvarez' Opening Statement:
I appreciate all of you being here today. Let me give you my first impression that I have with our freshmen group. First of all, I think our staff is very pleased with what we've seen. I think this group will help the speed of our overall football team. And I don't want to be premature, but I really anticipate we'll get some immediate help out of this new class. We've made some decisions on some of these positions. We had several running backs and guys that have opportunities to play a number of different positions. We've been able to make some decisions in four practices. We're going to move Tony Moss to corner. Lamarr Watkins will move to drop linebacker. Both of them would have had great futures as running backs, but as I've said before, we can't keep five guys at running back with all that ability. We wanted to spread out the ability and athleticism that they brought and try to help our defense out with some athletes in those positions. Phil Fuller will be redshirted. His knee is solid. He just has to rehab his quads. He's really not 100 percent yet. We've already made a decision, he's not 100 percent. He'll be redshirted this year but still be able to practice. I really like five of the walk-ons that we brought in with this class. Normally, I don't take the time to mention that, but I'm real impressed with their ball skills, their versatility…they are guys that can play a number of positions. I'm talking about Cody Childs, Zach Hampton, Ryan Effertz, Joe Stellmacher and Jeff Holzbauer. Those are guys the coaches really had a tough time deciding where they would put. But those guys, like many former walk-ons here, if they stick with the program, will be good contributors and be able to play in this program, and I did want to mention them.
You may notice today at practice, Dan Buenning will not be here today. He will not start practice with us. We found out a week or so ago he's got mono. We're trying to keep him in air conditioning and trying to get him treated. He's improving rapidly. He's gained some weight back and hopefully we can have him back at practice next week some time. We don't know the exact date, but we're certainly going to take care of him and make sure he's ready to go 100 percent when we get him here.
We had a walk-through this morning and I really felt we had excellent retention from our older guys. I thought the young guys fit in very well. Many times their eyes are wide open and they're scared to death. Yet I thought they fit in and made an easy transition. I like this football team. I like the attitude they've shown ever since the end of last season, the way they've gone about their business and worked to prepare for this season. With that, I'll open it up to any questions you may have.
Q: With a 5-7 finish last year and what you have coming back, is your No. 23 ranking maybe a sign of respect for the program, or maybe a sign of potential of what you have?
Alvarez: I think probably a little of both. I think people really respect our program. Even though we didn't go to a bowl game, I think all you have to do is take a look at our schedule last year. We lost to a team that arguably should have been in the national championship picture and I felt we should have walked off that field with a win, at Oregon. When we lost to Fresno (State), they were the hottest team in the country. We could have padded that schedule and had three patsies in there, and you're at a bowl game. I think people see that, and see how competitive you were, and some of the games that we did lose, and know the quality of some of the players we have coming back. All you have to do is take a look at our quarterback, our offensive line, the leading returning rusher in the league, the leading receiver returning in the league, and then some of the potential we have on defense. I think people recognize we have a chance to be a good football team.
Q: Last year special teams was down for this program. Have you made a special effort to boost that back up this year?
Alvarez: I've been asked that question several times, and anybody that's watched us practice knows we give a lot of time (to special teams). We gave a lot of time last year. We didn't get the results, and most of that was in kicking. We didn't have productive kickers. For the first time in a number of years, we were counting on true freshmen stepping in and filling some roles. They were all new kickers. And quite frankly, maybe we were spoiled with some of the kickers that have gone through our program. We really didn't worry about kickers. They stepped in and did the job, and we had a string of three with John Hall and (Matt) Davenport, then (Vitaly) Pisetsky. I think all three were finalists in the Groza Award. Then (Kevin) Stemke wins the Ray Guy Award. All of a sudden, you have guys that have never done it before. We didn't get productivity. A lot of the problems were with the kickers. So I think with experience, a little more competition…I think more than emphasis on more time, I think you'll see maybe a little better teaching. We've re-shuffled some things, and we've spent more time in the offseason studying and doing some other things to prepare our guys. But I don't know how we could give any more time than we have in the past.
Q: Following up on that, do you have a replacement for Nick Davis, or is that job wide open?
Alvarez: We've got some freshmen we want to look at. If we started right now, I feel very confident that Jim Leonhard would do an excellent job of securing the ball and getting it north and south. But we have a question there that has to be answered.
Q: What do you expect from Darrin Charles in the absence of Lee Evans?
Alvarez: I would expect Darrin to make the natural progression from a true freshman to someone who now understands what playing at this level is. Someone who is much stronger and understands our system much better. I do think naturally, you should see a huge jump, a tremendous improvement from our freshmen. The guys that played last year as true freshmen, who really didn't understand the program, and it's hard…to saturate them with all the things that are going to happen to them in two weeks of camp and then throw them into a game. They know now. They are much stronger, they're more physical, and I think you'll see tremendous improvement. That's all I expect from him. I expect improvement and everybody else to pick up slack for the loss of someone like Lee, until Lee comes back. So we'll have talent there, as we will a number of the other receivers.
Q: How confident are you in your defensive line?
Alvarez: I feel like our defensive line could be one of the strengths of our football team. Two of those guys were starters a year ago today when we were starting. Jake (Sprague) didn't play any, and Darius (Jones) didn't play much. They're a year stronger. You'd like to see them stay healthy. I think the key there is we have athleticism. We probably have more speed on defense, and particularly in the front seven, than we've ever had. I really will be disappointed if that front seven isn't one of the strengths of our team.
Alvarez Verbatim - Part 1
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