Monday Barry Alvarez Press Conference - Verbatim

Alvarez talks about observations from Fresno State film study, the upcoming game against UNLV, captains and walk-on scholarships, a proposal to eliminate the redshirt year and give every player five years of eligibility, his relationship with John Robinson, why the option wasn't called in the opener and much more.

How did your receivers adjust, having watched the tape, as the game went on Friday night?

Alvarez: I think more than anything else, they realized there is a little more speed involved. The timing wasn't the same as maybe what they see in practice, and they were playing against good corners. They were playing against a good secondary that was very aggressive and physical. I just think they adjusted to that speed and that tempo as the game went along. If you remember the first out-cut we threw to Jonathan Orr, when he brought his head around, the ball was there. The ball went through his hands. He didn't even slow it down. Another time we throw a timing route out to Brandon Williams and his head wasn't turned around. As the game went on, they were able to adjust. And you have to give them that credit because you can get frustrated and you can throw your hands up, or you can compete and make the adjustment and that's what I thought they did.

Is there any update on the status of Ryan Aiello and Matt Bernstein?

Alvarez: We'll get some more answers when we go along. I would think both of them are possible for this week.

Will you be able to bring all three kickers on the road this week?

Alvarez: Actually we can take up to 70 (players) and I think we took 68 to the hotel (Friday night). We'll be able to handle that. That's not going to be a problem.

Can you talk about the changes you've made in announcing captains? In the past you've announced them sometime in the spring, but this year, to my knowledge, the first time they were announced was before Friday's game?

Alvarez: I knew that there were three definite captains last spring. Actually I named them right after Christmas break or semester break. I named Brooks (Bollinger), Al (Johnson) and Lee (Evans) because there was no doubt in my mind all three of them were outstanding leaders and would give us leadership and we needed some in the offseason. I wanted to give them that role and I named them. We just decided as we went along that we'll allow somebody on the defense to step up. So we really haven't voted. I named those guys and I think this week we will name a defensive captain for this week, and then we will go from there. It is a departure but we've done some different things and I think flexibility is something a coach should always have.

After the game you talked about Jake Sprague and Erasmus James and the pressure they had coming off the edge. Does their responsibilities change at all this week with a different style quarterback in Jason Thomas?

Alvarez: Well they'll have to be responsible for containing him, and they'll have some option responsibilities. When you're at the end of the line of scrimmage, we anticipate that they'll run option against us. They'll have option responsibility, so there's a little more responsibility that they have other than just rushing the passer and playing run.

As a voter on the coaches poll, what is your philosophy as far as dropping a team that has won a game, as they did with your team this week?

Alvarez: Unless it's someone who is a huge favorite and doesn't show well, and no one else plays, I doubt whether I'd drop them. I might drop them from No. 1 to No. 2 or 3, but polls really don't mean anything right now. We'll find out, there will be a lot of surprises this week. I think everybody is playing this week. I'm more into polls in November than right now. Not many people know where they are right now.

Have you awarded your walk-on scholarships yet?

Alvarez: We have.

Can you reveal who they are?

Alvarez: You know what? I'll put a release out because right off the top of my head I might forget someone and there are a few situations…I don't have to announce them until school starts and actually I have even three days after that. I have told five guys already and we have an opportunity of possibly offering two more, so I'll just wait until it's all finalized and I will have a release on them.

As far as Jim Leonhard, there is a lot of interest about him. Is he eligible to receive a scholarship?

Alvarez: No, it's a shame. I teased him yesterday in my team meeting. He was the defensive player of the game, he played outstanding, he could have been the special teams player of the game. He's really a special young man. I explained it to him a year ago, where we were and what we had to do. There are no initials left. With us losing those four initials, that really limits us. So if you're in the program for two years, then it does not count against initials. So at the end of next season, I told him as soon as I can, he will be on scholarship but that won't happen until next season. I'd give him two if I could.

How did your young secondary do after you saw them on film?

Alvarez: I thought they played very well. We had a blitz on one of the touchdowns, where if it was executed, the linebacker runs right in there and he's in the quarterback's face, I don't know if he would have had a chance to get it off. They were beaten inside leverage on a couple of those quick, skinny posts where they should have been outside leverage. But other than that, I thought they were aggressive, they were around the ball, they played the ball. I was pleased.

Is this week somewhat of a better test for them? Different test?

Alvarez: Every week is a test. They've got a different type of quarterback. They are going to see three wides. They are going to see the ball thrown down the field. This kid will launch it now. They're going to have be in the run support, helping with the option game. You've got a little more responsibility in the run game this week than you did last week, but it will be another test. Every week will be another test, but for the first time out, and losing (Ryan) Aiello in the middle of the second quarter, I thought Brett Bell came in and played well, Dontez Sanders stepped in because of injuries in our silver package and had to play, and was able to do some things, (Robert) Brooks, a lot of guys played. I'd like to see Levonne Rowan. Hopefully we'll get him in some action and get some activity from him and give us a little more depth there. But all in all it was a pretty good performance (against) a team that tests you pretty well. We didn't know exactly what their passing attack was going to be like. It was a new passing attack. We didn't know what they were going to feature. So there were adjustments being made from the first series on. And I thought they communicated and made good adjustments.

Can you talk about the pros and cons of a team that has played a game competing against a team opening its season?

Alvarez: Well the benefits of playing the game are you know where you are right now. I sat here a week ago and talked about being concerned about guys taking the field for the first time. I knew what we would get from most of our veterans. I didn't know what we would get. I think you saw a lot of guys that had stage fright to start with, but after a while they settled in. I think it took them, on the first two offensive snaps, a little time to adjust to the speed of the game. They couldn't adjust. It was hard for them because they hadn't seen somebody like Anthony (Davis) coming at them. So I think guys now understand the speed of the game. They've been under fire once. I think coaches can correct mistakes. They can point out some things that young people didn't think were very important that now they will see are important. And you should make a big improvement. On the same hand, if you take a look at a team that hasn't played, they didn't get injured last Saturday. And they have a chance to study the film. Now I made an agreement with Pat Hill that we would not send the film to San Diego State, and they were not to send it to UNLV. But I would anticipate that UNLV will find some way to get that film.

Do you enjoy matching up with old-school coaches like John Robinson?

Alvarez: I really don't put much into that. John and I are friends. I consider him a friend, but he will be an enemy Saturday. So I don't really put a whole lot of stock into that. I do have a whole lot of respect for him, and a lot of respect for the great teams he's had, and what he's been able to accomplish in his career. But he's a guy when I was a young head coach that would give me time and spend time with me and I've always appreciated that.

How has he changed from the old USC days, as far as what he does on the field?

Alvarez: John still wants to run the ball. And I think if you go back when he was winning Rose Bowls and national championships at USC, they hung their hat on running the football. Then they'd throw it around. I know I had him speak at a clinic here several years ago. And he came up, he brought his offensive line coach with him and wanted to spend time on studying running the ball more. He was at Southern Cal at that time, his next to last year. He wanted to get back to establishing the run. Southern Cal had gone away from that. But this team will run the football, and I think if you don't stop them running the football, they will keep running the football.

There has been some talk about trying to relieve Anthony Davis a little bit, but it didn't happen Friday. Can you talk about that?

Alvarez: Well I want it to happen and we'll try to get those freshmen ready. Hopefully they learned a lesson, they will have a good week of practice and we'll feel comfortable putting them in. Because I definitely do not want to go 30-some snaps a week with Anthony. You'd like to have him in the…I don't even want to put a number on it. But I do not want to do that to him. I just think it would be an awfully long season. And I think those guys certainly are capable. Physically they are capable. Now we have to make sure that mentally they understand what it's all about. Just the intensity and the speed of the game, they have to understand all those things first. But I think we can get them there.

The fumbles by Davis and Jerone Pettus, were they errors or great defensive plays?

Alvarez: The ball was exposed just a little bit. I have to give their defender…he had a clean shot at them, but he put the hat right on the ball and knocked it out of there. In both cases, it was really an outstanding defensive play. It wasn't that they were negligent with the ball, or flashing the ball, or sloppy with the football. They might have exposed it a little bit, but they were pretty good defensive plays.

Have you ever had a situation where young guys have gone on the road and not made the normal progress you see from week one to week two? Or will this first home game take care of that?

Alvarez: Well I hope it does, but I'm sure I have had that happen before. I always say, any time you do something a little bit different, guys regress some. But we keep them pretty much…I think they understand the speed of the game and the intensity right now, and the urgency of things and why we do certain things and ask of certain things. Once they show up with us on Friday it's all football. I think for the most part the young guys learned a valuable lesson. I don't anticipate it's going to affect them on the road.

You've had a few games on the road where the Wisconsin crowd has taken over the stadium. That has to be pretty demoralizing for the host team, is it not?

Alvarez: You probably ought to ask (Coach) Jeff (Horton) that. I know our first Rose Bowl, the 1994 Rose Bowl, the UCLA players talked about that. They were in the visitors locker room and they hit the field and the majority of the stadium was red, and how demoralizing it was. I know UNLV has implemented some things with tickets so that our people just didn't have straight up access to them. Yet they still have budgetary problems too, but John is the (athletic director).

How unique is this opportunity for Horton to go back to where he was a head coach?

Alvarez: I'm sure, Jeff will probably downplay it. I'm sure he will and has. Yet he's given an awful lot of his life to that program and that city and that university. I'm sure it will be very special to him to go back there and want to perform well.

Has Bob Docherty helped you pick up some of the slack in the passing game?

Alvarez: Well Doc had three receptions the other day. I think the more we go along, the more comfortable he feels, I think he certainly could be a good receiver.

Are you aware of a movement to eliminate the redshirt and give student-athletes five years?

Alvarez: We've talked about that for the last three years in coaches meetings. So I am aware of it. It's a situation where guys who worry about depth, their argument is, you hold someone out, you're playing someone that shouldn't be playing where you could be playing a freshman. I think there is some merit to it. I don't know how strong the movement is. It's been moved forward several times, but it's been turned down several times. I wouldn't have any problem with it.

Are you concerned at all about your red zone offense?

Alvarez: I was concerned that we had the ball 10 times in plus territory and didn't put more points on the board. That was an emphasis of ours going into the season, getting touchdowns in the red zone. So that's something we have to get better at. I'm not concerned with it. Really I'm concerned with everything. But we'll have to improve on that. When we get a turnover on the 30-plus yard line, we have to cash in. When we get the ball down in there that deep, we have to make our opponent pay.

You didn't run a live option Friday night. Did FSU's defense not allow that?

Alvarez: Their defense…it was not a feature because of what they were doing. We take a look what we anticipate an opponent to do and draw up our gameplan. You can't run every play every play in your offense every week. You don't have enough time to prepare for it all and rep it all, so you squeeze down. I'd rather go in with a small package and execute it well rather than going in grab-bagging. You have to run plays that you practice and things that are in the gameplan. For the most part, that's what we're deciding now and as we go through the week we'll pare things down. But our spread option was up for midfield and down on the goal line, and we didn't. We had it called one time and we had a wide receiver jump.

How many plays do usually have by gameday?

Alvarez: I don't know. I've never counted them. More than a lot of people can remember.

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