Does your workload during a bye week change from season to season based on how many guys are banged up? Or do you follow the same formula each year?
Alvarez: I think you have to take a look at it. I have taken a look at it every year, because every year the situation changes. This year's different than some of the rest. If it's earlier on, we give them less time off and probably spend a little more time on fundamentals. Really some basic practices. It depends on where you are, and where it hits, and just because of where we are, I just felt the most important thing right now is to give them a little more time off. We'll still get three more full days of preparation. The staff, half of them are here working on gameplan, breaking down film, and the other half are recruiting. Each year is different.
What is your schedule this week?
Alvarez: We met yesterday. Put the game to rest, flexed them, had a shake-out run. We went through our normal grading of the film. Then we turned them loose. They are free today, and they're free tomorrow. We'll practice Wednesday, we'll practice Thursday and then we'll practice Friday morning. We'll practice 6:45 (a.m.) on Friday. We have very few guys that have classes Friday afternoon. We have a handful…most of the guys who have classes have them Friday morning. So they're free after their classes on Friday. I thought this way, a lot of them could go home. They don't have to be back until…we'll give them Saturday off and Sunday. I might want them to check in to have dinner Sunday evening. So I figure that they'll get a half a day Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday off, and we'll resume on Monday. We'll get three good work days. We'll get an additional work day the week of the game.
How much did the timing of this bye week factor into your decision to play the extra game against Fresno State?
Alvarez: I didn't look at the bye week when we made that decision.
You talked about freshmen hitting the wall. Is there a specific time that usually happens?
Alvarez: I think it varies. If I had to put my finger on it…if you would figure out when they started camp as a high school senior and when they played their last game, count those weeks up, in most cases it's about eight or nine, something like that. Maybe 9-10. We've been going close to eight weeks already. Another week without a break, I think mentally they're going to hit it. So this really hits it just as the perfect time.
So you think this will make a big difference for this team?
Alvarez: I think so. I really do. Especially if they can get home. Just to have two days off where they can be regular students, not have to worry about practice. We'll make the freshmen go to study hall, but be able to go home tonight and watch Monday Night Football, just not worry about conditioning or anything else. I think that will help, and then have an entire weekend off next week, I think that will be huge. I really think they will come back re-energized.
Aside from winning all the games, what has pleased you most about this team thus far?
Alvarez: I think we've improved in all three phases. I think we've done a lot of good things. I'll give you an example. I think you remember me talking after the first game that we had 20-odd mental errors in the first game. This game we had five on defense and eight on offense. That's huge. That's a tremendous improvement. And that's pretty good. That's huge to have…when you're in the low single digits, that's outstanding. But this is a group that really wants to do what the coaches ask, and has improved. They've done a lot of good things.
How much will it help to have played so many freshmen, not just this season but as their careers progress?
Alvarez: Well there's nothing like experience. And these guys are learning under fire. To be able to do that and have some success is outstanding. It should pay huge dividends. It should give them tremendous confidence for the remainder of their careers.
Would you say the calculated risk you took in playing the extra game with Fresno State has paid off?
Alvarez: I like the way it worked out. I couldn't say that it was a mistake. I think it was a win-win for us. We had a chance to play a lot of young people. You think back at the way Jonathan Orr started and Brandon (Williams) and some of those guys started, and how fast the game was for them and how far they've come. I don't think we've had any major injuries in that game. I thought we got better out of that game, improved since that game. Then you throw the factor in that it financially it was good for the department. I would classify it as a definite success.
You said at the beginning of the season you don't place much emphasis on polls. But now, five weeks in, do you have a clear idea of where this team stands in the conference and nationally?
Alvarez: I don't think anyone has a clear idea. I think you can take a look at where the teams are and see that half the teams in the league have a legitimate chance. You can also see by what happened this past Saturday and the Saturday prior to that with us, that everybody is going to have a down week. Everybody is going to have a game where they don't play well. If you're fortunate enough to win, that's huge for you. We saw it happen this weekend. Ohio State was fortunate to walk off the field a winner against Cincinnati and Michigan had their hands full with Utah. The team that took us to the wire, Northern Illinois, goes down and Western Illinois, a Division I-AA school beat them. So it just shows what can happen when you're not hitting on all cylinders, or there's not the right matchup, or whatever the reason might be. Everybody is going to have a down game. Some people have more than one. But I think our league is wide open. I think we have some very good teams in our league. But I also think if you're not ready to play and you don't bring your `A' game, you're going to be in trouble in our league.
The offensive gameplan that you showed against Arizona, is that something that was aimed at that one opponent, or are their lessons that can be taken from that and applied to every game down the road?
Alvarez: I think there were a lot of lessons from it. I think more than anything else. Just to be a little more versatile on offense, just to make people do some more things instead of allowing them to tee up and come after you and put all the pressure on our players. You can in turn put the pressure on the defensive people by changing formations, making them communicate, getting people out of the box so that they can't have somebody always running free to the ball carrier. I think what we did there we certainly have to incorporate the rest of the year.
Did you really feel like you were dictating the game to the defense?
Alvarez: We were, because they had to answer. When we went to four wideouts, they had to cover it down. We played a lot of the game…once we had a lead, and actually before that, we played with two tight ends and one wideout, because we knew we could balance them up. Yet we threw the ball out of that formation some, so they really couldn't zero in on what we were going to do formation-wise. We ran and passed out of the spread formation. We tried to make them play us as honest as you can.
Are you certain that Lee Evans is going to play this year?
Alvarez: I don't feel certain about anything. I don't know…don't read anything more than that into what I said. Until a doctor tells me he can play…I know he wants to. I don't know. I'm not asking. I'm waiting for answers. We can all speculate all we want, and we can write what we think, but he still has to have approval. And when he does, he'll play.
How did Mark Bell do as the second tight end in that game?
Alvarez: Mark played very well. He strained, I really thought he competed well. I was impressed with how Mark played. And I know there was a little more incentive, having played against some of those guys and going to high school in Arizona. I thought he played very well.
Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez Verbatim
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