Head Coach Rick Neuheisel Weekly Press Conference
Sept. 3, 2001
General Remarks: 'This is an exciting time for us here at the University of Washington and certainly an exciting time around the country because football season is underway. We begin this weekend and it makes it all that more special in the fact that we get to host a premiere program in the University of Michigan. You can't have a long conversation about college football without talking about Michigan and what the program means to the college football world. It is an honor to be on the field with them and we look forward to a great afternoon of football. As a coach of the Washington program, you are concerned that you have got so many players that are going to be playing for the first time in this type of a game. You have to at least wonder what it will look like and how they will respond to a national telecast. I am hopeful that we will take the field and look like a team among the nation's best. We finished last year at No. 3 in the country and we are excited about that. The one thing that we would like to keep from last year is that resolve, to find a way. It won't always be pretty, it wasn't always pretty a year ago, but as long as we play hard and try to play physically, we will have a chance to hang in there. Hopefully that will be the case this weekend against Michigan, we will find a way in the fourth quarter. We have got a lot of exciting young players, as well as some experienced kids that have done great things for this program, and we are excited to get this season underway. It is hard to watch as many games as we have watched and feel like we are still on the sidelines. We are starting against a great program and we are looking forward to the challenge.'
On Michigan having already played a game: 'There are two schools of thought on this. Number one is that the biggest improvement a football team can make is between game one and game two. If you believe that, then certainly you think Michigan would have an advantage. The other school of thought is that if we look down the road five weeks, normally people believe that the team that has the bye in preparation for the game have the advantage over the team who has to prepare for another opponent. So in essence, we had a bye last week. We didn't get to take advantage of it like most byes because we couldn't start our fall practice any earlier than the NCAA allows. But I think the Michigan kids are right that they may have a slight advantage to the team that has already played a game.'
On Michigan's performance last weekend: 'I thought they looked like all Michigan teams-very well coached, very poised, and great athletes. I know they are probably looking at the tapes and seeing all types of things they can improve on, as will be the case for both teams after this weekend. It was obvious to me that Michigan is still Michigan, meaning a dominant team in the country.'
On Washington's offensive philosophy: 'I think the philosophy any time you talk about offensive football, is doing the thing that your kids do the best. With the departure of Marques Tuiasosopo, we have to make subtle changes to our offense to suit Cody Pickett. I'm pretty confident that everybody will know which team is which.'
On feelings of being left out of 'national contention' talks: 'I think it can serve as a motivating point. It doesn't concern me because there is a lot of football to be played before they are going to hand out any prizes. I was watching the Oregon State-Fresno State game last night and one of the commentators was ready to hand out the Heisman Trophy and put Fresno State in the BCS, It just tickled me because here we are in week two and we are already deciding who is going to play in what game and so forth. I think that I prefer to have the bye in the middle of the season so your team can have some rest, but this is the way the schedule works out this year and we are going to make the best of it. We have a chance right out of the box to prove that we belong in the national scene.'
On Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick: 'Reggie will play this weekend, how much, we will have to wait and see. But he has been what we expected, he is a talented young man who has learned quickly, so there is no reason to save him. I wouldn't be shocked to see him play anywhere from 20-25 plays. I think he deserves that kind of time. In regards to Charles Frederick, obviously he is a young player from a long way away and I don't think this is the first time you have ever reported on a player who got a little homesick. He certainly had a bout with that dilemma and has hopefully turned that corner. He has been back at practice with a big smile on his face and I am hopeful he gain a little experience this weekend as well.'
On Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr: 'Lloyd is definitely one of the better coaches in the United States. His teams are always extremely well-disciplined. There isn't any shortcomings as you look at how they play. I am sure it has been that way for a number of years. As a player and as an assistant, I have been across the field from Michigan a number of times and it is always the same, you are going to get in a fist-fight with one of the top programs in the country. We had some good games against them when I was at Colorado where they ended up on the right side of the scoreboard. Then we went back to Ann Arbor where we got our tails handed to us. Hopefully we can play much better this time out.'
On Michigan quarterback John Navarre: 'He looks like a very talented thrower. Just in watching the television copy from their game against Miami (OH) he can see over the line of scrimmage, he seems like he is seven feet tall back there. He is definitely an imposing physical specimen. We are going to have get some pressure on him and get those passes to be a little bit errant. But it didn't look as if he rattled easily in the opener or on the tapes we have seen from last year. I saw the tape of their game against UCLA last year and he looked like a very poised young man.'
On bringing Curtis Williams up for the game: 'I appreciate the question. Our hope was that Curtis would be at the ballgame because that is what he wanted to do. We had several people volunteer their airplanes to accommodate the trip from Fresno to here. But unfortunately, the specifics of Curtis's wheelchair require a much larger door than the aircrafts that were volunteered. We then had to go and try to charter a plane that would work with Curtis's unique demands and unfortunately the cost there became something that Curtis and his brother, David decided were just a bit too much. So I don't think that Curtis will be able to make the game this weekend. My hope is that I can have him speak to his teammates on Thursday. I also understand that ABC has plans to get Curtis involved somehow with the telecast on Saturday. Although he won't be here in person, he will certainly be in our thoughts and in our minds.
On Penn State player Adam Taliaferro walking onto the field: 'That was an emotional thing. I have had an opportunity to talk to Joe and Sue Paterno about Adam's progress over the last several months and it is a wonderful thing to see a young man deal with the things he has been dealing with and actually overcome them. To see him run on to the field was a very emotional thing for several people and I just can't tell you how much I hope for that to happen to Curtis someday.'
On the difference in the team at this time last year: 'I think we have a chance if we improve each and every week to be a little bit more explosive this year than last. But we have got a ways to go before we can utilize that, just to know what we are doing and get comfortable with game situations. I made a list the other day of guys who are going to be playing extensively for the first time. You have to kind of weather that storm and if we can do that, I'm liking what we can become. Hopefully we can mature very quickly and play a great game as soon as this Saturday.'
On whether or not being at home makes a difference in the first game: 'First games are first games. There is always nervous energy or butterflies, whatever you want to call it. When you add in an opponent like Michigan it becomes a little more nerve-racking. Your mistakes can magnify because a team like Michigan seizes those opportunities. But they are not an extremely experienced team, at least on their offensive side, so maybe being in Husky Stadium in a hostile environment, we can capitalize on mistakes of theirs.'
On Michigan being on the schedule: 'The fact of the matter is that this is a great game for both teams. They are two very proud programs that are beacon-type schools in their particular geographic regions. It is great for the game and I have said all along that this is a great opportunity for both coaches and players. It is the way of the game that one team is going to end up with a loss, but that doesn't mean their season is squandered or can't still have a wonderful year. To shy away from these types of contests would be the wrong message.'
On pregame preparations for first-year quarterback Cody Pickett: 'Throw it to the guys in the purple jerseys. You could get real sophisticated but I'm telling you, if you just keep it to that, he will be just fine.'
On Pickett being able to handle the quarterback role: 'I don't know how I would characterize it, but there is a quarterback personality. There is a personality that your shoulders are big enough to have someone chewing on you and to handle failure, but you come back and make a good throw the next time out. There is just some moxie about you. And also, you can handle success. You are not necessarily going to become somebody you never were just because someone is patting you on the back and telling you that you are pretty special. I think that Cody is that person. I think he can handle it. His upbringing is kind of rugged with the rodeo and being around that. I can't imagine tougher people than that who travel around from city to city roping cattle. That is rugged. And also, I base it on last year, even though it was only three plays. He got into that Rose Bowl and he responded by coming through for us, even when he went the wrong way on the first play. Instead of panicking about it he came back and threw two perfect passes and kept the drive alive that was instrumental in the victory that day. The only thing that hurt him was his shoulders after the entire team was pounding on him, congratulating him. This kid can play at this level, under the intense scrutiny. Will he be perfect? Absolutely not. As will hardly any player on the field. He will make a mistake or two and it is up to us not to get nervous about that. Our team has got to grow into itself and I think we are going to like the finish product.'
On bringing Pickett to Washington: 'He had committed to coach Lambright and his staff prior to the change. We got involved because someone told me that he was about to change directions and head to Arizona State. I guess I called the night before so I'm glad I got on the phone at the right time. I got the chance to go visit him in Caldwell, Idaho. I made the right turn on 'Chicken Dinner Road' and got a chance to talk about what I envisioned for this future at the University of Washington. We are excited that the Cody Pickett era begins.
On bringing in Taylor Barton: 'I would love to get a lot of players snaps in a heated battle on Saturday. But whether or not we are going to have the opportunity remains to be seen. I'm very confident that Taylor Barton can go in and play winning football. But I don't ever want to say we are going to play a guy, not have the timing be right, and abuse that trust there is between a player and a coach.'
On coaching inexperienced players in their first game: 'We can not panic. We have got to hang in there and make our sideline adjustments and continue to bolster confidence. We have an opportunity to stay within ourselves and play a long football game. We don't want to overreact to blemishes that might occur early.'
On the offensive line: 'Eventually they have got to play and it is time to play. We have watched a lot of football and now it is time to play. We will know a lot more about ourselves than we do now after that game on Saturday. I still think that regardless what takes place on the field, we can still be a very good team.'
On whether or not Washington has a speed advantage over Michigan: 'I don't know if we necessarily have a speed advantage over them. Their recruiting classes are always ranked very high because they recruit speed. Our paths have crossed in the recruiting trail, usually on speed guys. But I don't think we necessarily have an advantage. I think we have an advantage in speed over Miami (OH), but we are not playing Miami (OH).'
On Navarre's mobility: 'I just don't see his immobility as a huge factor. On the plays that I saw on the television, a lot of them were bootleg. It is not like they are trying to keep him nailed down to one spot on the field. They are still moving him around. One of the touchdowns was where he was the lead blocker on a reverse. I think he is a fine athlete, he has just got a big body.'
On Pickett's hometown Caldwell, Idaho: 'It is a great spot. There is a rodeo stadium right next to his high school stadium.'
On Paul Arnold: 'I think he is going to figure prominently. I think he has worked to earn that distinction and he has become a very talented receiver. Right now we have got a nice group of receivers and I am sure we will split time amongst all the guys. But Paul will be in the front group of guys to go.'
On the fullback position: 'I haven't decided exactly how that breakdown goes. I am pleased with both guys (Matthias Wilson and Ken Walker). I don't think that one guy needs to be in there over another in any situation, I am just fortunate that we have two guys that are pretty darn good. And I feel confident in Braxton Cleman as a third. But we like what Matthias has done and we like Walker so I think those two will be fine.'
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