Erickson Meets The Press
Aug. 28, 2001
(On Fresno State in general) 'We're talking about a football team that you all saw Sunday against Colorado - a team that has a lot of talent and plays with tremendous intensity, and has great speed. I really thought they dominated the football game, they created turnovers. You can talk about turnovers, but they created turnovers, particularly the first two on the sack and the fumble, that put them in position to win the football game. They're an outfit that does things well. David Carr is an outstanding quarterback, they've got great skill. Defensively, they're an outstanding football team, (tackle) Alan Harper is the leader of that defense. They're a football team that is awfully good.
'The game itself (at Colorado) didn't surprise me at all. Pat Hill has done a great job of coaching, they've got some tremendous athletes there, and they've proven it over the last couple years. We're going to have our hands full, no question about it. They're a defensive team that's going to blitz you and try to create opportunities as far as turnovers are concerned. They're an offensive team that has great skill and a great quarterback who can get big plays. They run the football well, and they're just a darn good football team. They've got very good special teams, they pride themselves on their special teams and did some darn good things. Their punter (Jason Simpson) punted the ball very well. They're a team that I think is one of the better teams around, and certainly could play in the Pac-10 and play very well in the Pac-10.
'It's going to be a very difficult first game playing down there. I'm familiar with Fresno, having coached down there in the 1970s when that program started under Jim Sweeney and they've got great fans down there. They've created some great atmospheres down there over the last few years with the new stadium and so forth. It's sold out, so it's going to be a tough atmosphere for us to go play in. But it's a challenge for us and something we're looking forward to. Hopefully, we can go down and play well. But again, I've got to congratulate them on the dominance they had against Colorado and a big win for them, winning a game on the road against a Big 12 team. They've got a lot of momentum going. Playing that one game really helps. They didn't have any injuries, so having played at the speed of a game already is definitely an advantage for them. We've got to go out, understand the speed of the game, hopefully when that game starts we can understand it, then when we get into the game and grow into the game, hopefully we can catch up with the speed. It's different, and when you play that first game it's probably the biggest thing - the speed of the way things happen. That's an advantage for them, having already done that.'
(Does having seen Fresno State play once this season compensate for them having already played a game?) 'Not really, because they're doing the same things they've been doing. They're not doing a lot of different things than they did before. It's hard to tell, because you can't scout them - you can only watch them on TV. What we saw is what you guys saw, so if you guys can give me a couple answers, go ahead.'
(How do you keep the Beavers from overlooking Fresno State in a game where they've got nothing to lose and OSU has a lot to lose?) 'Anytime you play a game, there's a lot to lose for either team, there's no question. For us, it's a starting football game. Our players know what's at stake every time we line up and play, they also know how good the team is we're playing. We also realize in our meetings that if we don't go out and play the best we can play, we're not going to win the game. It's very, very simple. We know where we are and what we've got to do and how we've got to play. If we don't turn it over and things go well for us, we've got a chance to win the game. But I again want to emphasize that we're playing a football team that can play with anybody in our league, without a doubt.'
(On Fresno State quarterback David Carr) 'David, from having studied him last year and watching him against Colorado, is big and he has a strong arm and is a very accurate thrower. The NFL people rate him very highly. He has good mobility and can run for his size, and he makes things happen. He's a winner. He's the leader of that football team and is a very competitive guy, and he makes things happen. He made things happen for them last year and did the same thing against Colorado on Sunday. He's an outstanding player. And early in the season when you have a quarterback returning and he's experienced, it makes a heck of a difference as far as they're concerned. They have a lot of those offensive people returning.'
(Which Pacific-10 team does Fresno State most remind you of?) 'They've got the skill, for example, of Arizona State's team as far as speed is concerned. They play a lot like them. They've got speed on defense, somewhat like Oregon. They're a combination of a number of different things. Their quarterback is very similar to (Oregon's) Joey Harrington as far as size and so forth is concerned. It's hard to compare them to any one team, but skill-wise, they're as skilled as most teams in our league.'
(Is it easier to get your message about Fresno State across to the Beavers after FSU's win over Colorado?) 'Our team knew that Fresno State is a good football team, they watched them play all last year. How they played against Colorado emphasized what I've been emphasizing for a long time. Our players know that they are (good). That win proved that they are a good football team, and we know we're going to have to play our best to beat them. Win or lose, winning probably woke everybody in the country up a little bit more.'
(Has the national attention in the offseason made you nervous?) 'I'm always nervous, hype or no hype. You get to this point in coaching, whether you get publicity or you don't, when you're getting ready for your first football game and the challenge and being competitive and trying to keep the program going, and I'm always nervous. When I quit getting nervous, I'd better get out of the business.'
(If Fresno State is unable to run the ball, how successful do you see the Bulldogs in passing against your secondary?) 'That's something that remains to be seen as we get into the game. They didn't have to run the football successfully in that game (at Colorado) because they got ahead and did some things that they did well. But they can run the football, Pat (Hill, FSU head coach) likes to run the football and they've got a couple good running backs. I'm sure they'll come in and try to establish that. But really, their strength right now is throwing the football with their receivers returning, with the ability of David Carr. I look for them to be balanced, but they've got some skill people who can catch it so it will be interesting to see what happens. I like to think that any football team, if you can stay balanced, you're going to have a lot more success.'
(Outline OSU's situation at tight end and wide receiver) 'It's gotten a lot better. I'm very happy with our tight end situation. Tim Euhus has played extremely well all fall, as has Tyler Ross, Mark Walsh ... those are guys who have been in our program for a long time and they all add something to us at that position. Tim Euhus, athletically, is probably as good as we've had running routes and so forth. Tyler does it all, Mark is an extremely good blocker. So we're going to use the three of them in different situations, so I'm happy with that.
'The receiver corps, you don't know until you play a game. James Newson and Seth Trimmer played very, very well for us and George Gillett will be our other starter, at split end. Shawn Kintner will play quite a bit. We've got some untested people out there who haven't played, so you don't know until you play a football game. They're very talented, we've just got to see how they react on Sunday. We've got some other guys - Kenny Farley, Jason Boyd, Josh Hawkins - these are all young people in our program who are going to have to play on Sunday, and when the lights go on, we'll see how they perform.'
(What has Ken Simonton and his Heisman Trophy candidacy meant to OSU?) 'It's had a tremendous affect on the awareness nationally. Any time you have a Heisman Trophy candidate and you're in Sports Illustrated and some of the other publications, Oregon State is out there. The awareness of our program, because of that, is at an all-time high. What he means to us is, `How he goes, we go.' Him running the football, his ability, makes a heck of a lot of difference. The great thing we have is Patrick McCall behind him, which allows us to not wear him out, which makes him better as the year goes on and the game goes on. The combination of those two makes our team better, plus it makes Ken better as the year goes on.'
(How do you keep from letting the preseason hype overwhelm your team?) 'You just have to deal with it. You talk about it. At Oregon State, there hasn't been a lot of hype - a lot of negative hype over the years, but not a lot of positive hype. You've got to take it in stride. Our players know where we are, and it's something new for us but I don't think it will affect us - hopefully it won't. I've had some experience with that in my coaching career and hopefully have been able to handle it the right way then, and hopefully we'll handle it the right way now. '
(Does Fresno State's quick defensive line pose potential problems for OSU's young offensive line?) 'No question about it. Like I said earlier, Alan Harper is one of the best defensive linemen in football, (nose tackle) Jason Stewart goes right next to him. They're very quick, and they move a lot and create a lot of problems with their line stunts. We've got to be very aware of what's going on as far as what they do. We do a lot of that ourselves in our defense, so we see it a lot, so hopefully that will make a difference when we play that game.'
(Has Terrell Roberts made a late run at earning the start at left cornerback) 'Terrell did, and we still haven't made our mind up whether he's going to start or Aric Williams is going to start. It'll be one of those two. Terrell has really come along. The great thing about our secondary right now is, we're playing well and in a lot of situations the competition is there, we've got great depth. To me, it's a positive not knowing for sure who's going to start there right now.'
(On the after-effects of the Beavers' penalties in the Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame) 'We've addressed it. Do I agree with it? No, not entirely. I've mentioned this many, many times - about 500,000 times, but I'll do it 500,001 - we did some things that weren't right at the Fiesta Bowl, there's no question about that, as far as penalties were concerned. We've talked about that, and that's going to be corrected. It got blown out of proportion because of the people like (ABC-TV announcer) Sean McDonough and some of those people, so that's just how it is. We're going to play hard and play with great intensity, we're going to run to the football. We're going to get after people, that's our style. But hopefully we don't have penalties, and I don't think we will. We may have some penalties because we play hard, but as far as the unsportsmanlike things that you saw that I disagreed with, you won't see them.'
(Fresno State's quick defense is reminiscent of OSU's 2000 defense - what are the keys for OSU's offense against FSU?) 'We've got to be very disciplined, we've got to be able to understand what they're doing, we've got to pick up like I mentioned earlier because they'll do a lot of blitzing and line stunting. We've got to be aware of that, be able to pick that stuff up. To me, it's a physical aspect of it, but it's also a mental thing with us offensively as far as being able to pick a lot of the things they do up, because they do a lot of different things. We've just got to be aware of it and hopefully not make a lot of mistakes in blocking assignments, because that's what that defense creates, which ends up having guys come free. If you make a mistake and they come free, it creates problems for you. The mental aspect of it is really a key for us in this game, like it is in every game you play. But when they're moving a lot, you really have to be aware of what's going on.'
(OSU linebacker James Allen's health) 'James is fine, he's 100 percent, he'll be ready to go today.'
(Do the raised expectations at OSU now make every game the biggest game that you've played? Is this the biggest game in this program's history now?) 'Probably not. There's been a lot of big games. Every game is big. Are we going to cancel the program if we lose this one? Probably not. But you get to a point now where it's a different thing we're dealing with. Expectations are high, my expectations are high, the alumni's expectations are high, the fans' expectations are high. That's just how it is. But you're only as good as the next time you line `er up. The Fiesta Bowl, all of last year, is behind is. Great memories of a great season, but it's all behind us now. Now it's this season, and this is the first game of 11, hopefully 12, football games. How will we measure this year? It depends on what happens. Is it on one game? No. But there have been lots of accolades about our football program, and you'd like to come out and win this first game. Hopefully we will, but we've got our hands full.'
(Are OSU's fans realistic in their expectations?) 'Nobody's realistic. Expectations are high and they should be. I expect our fans and boosters and alums to have expectations that are high, and that's why we sold out season tickets. Again, they're like I am - they're waiting to see what happens on Sunday. I've been coaching a lot of years, and sometimes you don't know until you play that first game. You can have a lot of guys coming back and great experience and high accolades, and until you play that first game you don't know how good you're going to be because it's chemistry, team chemistry. How are these guys going to play together, how is all this going to set as far as our football team is concerned? I like it right now, but we haven't played a game. We'll see. How will we handle adversity? Great teams and great programs handle adversity. What happens if we turn it over, if we get behind? What happens if we lose a game? I'm talking about programs that have been solid for years. You've got to be able to deal with adversity, good teams deal with adversity. And we won't know that until we play.'
(Having been an assistant coach at Fresno State in the 1970s, what are your memories of FSU? Is this sort of a homecoming for you?) 'I really enjoyed Fresno when I was there. I was there with Coach Sweeney when he built the program. Jim Sweeney is the guy who made Fresno State what it is, and Pat Hill has done a great job of continuing that the last five years. I happened to be down there in 1977 when they had the first winning season and won whatever the conference was (Pacific Coast Athletic Association), to me, that was kind of the building block to start that program. I had a lot of fun, I love the area, and I love the people. They were people who loved football and loved their Bulldogs, and if you go down there and look in the stands, there'll be a lot of red there. They're very good fans. I've got great memories of Fresno.'
(Ken Simonton and Jonathan Smith were largely overlooked while in high school - with OSU's recent success, would the Beavers be recruiting these guys today?) 'You'd have to have tremendous judgment if you did. Those are both tremendous stories. I never saw Ken or Jonathan play in high school, but stature-wise ... that goes to show you that recruiting isn't a real art. There are players out there that you've got to look at. I talk about this all the time - size, speed, all that stuff is important, but heart and how important the game is to you sometimes becomes important. And that's why you've got to evaluate talent not just on the field or how well they play or what they are physically, but the other aspects of their lives. Physically, size and speed and all that stuff, you probably wouldn't recruit them. But that happens. You get guys like that, and that's why you've got to do a good job of evaluating.'
(Having been through OSU's turnaround and the initial stages of Fresno State's program, how good does that type of accomplishment compare to taking over an already-successful program like Miami?) 'They're both hard. I think back to 1977 when we had that (FSU) team, and I think Jim Sweeney is one of the great coaches to ever coach the game, and will always been in my mind. He went in and turned around the attitudes of players and alumni and players that you could win, and that's what it's all about when you go into a program like that - turning around attitudes. When you go into a program like Miami, you keep the attitude the way it is - but you have great players to do it with, and that's kind of fun, too.'
(OSU's two-deep depth chart lists three true freshmen as backups - slotback Josh Hawkins, flanker Jason Boyd and defensive end Bill Swancutt. Will they play?) 'All three of them will be in the rotation, yes. Bill Swancutt is going to play, Josh Hawkins is going to play, and Jason Boyd could or could not. We haven't totally decided on him. But the other two will definitely play this year.'