Erickson Meets The Press

Sept. 25, 2001

(General comments) 'The biggest question I've been asked last week and this week is, 'How do you think the layoff is going to affect you?' I'll just answer it, because I know it's coming - the answer is, I don't know. I really don't. It's hard to tell. I've never been in this situation before, other than a bowl game, where we had that long a period to prepare. To me, it can be positive in a lot of ways. We've had an opportunity to improve the last couple weeks as a football team. What we did last week is we went our first group against our first group all week - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - pretty hard. Not necessarily in scrimmage situations, but team and skeleton and things like that where we were going 100 percent other than the tackling aspect of it. To me, that was the only way you could simulate a game-type situation, to go our best against our best. It's really hard to tell. Obviously, playing a game is an advantage for you, but that didn't happen, so there's nothing we can do about that.

'Now this week we're preparing for UCLA. We spent no time last week, at all, in preparation on the field for UCLA. We'll start that this week just like we normally would just because of that situation where we needed to go our first group against our first group to try to improve as a football team. We've got a long ways to go, no question about it. In some ways, it's like starting the season over with from the beginning, but that's fine.'One thing we are, we're fairly healthy. We did have one injury occur during the two weeks that we had off - (strong safety) Calvin Carlyle's shoulder came out, separated, he'll miss the rest of the year. He'll have surgery on it in the next couple-three weeks, and then go from there. We believe he can redshirt and play next year. His shoulder is in a situation right now where he just can't play. It keeps going out, so he's going to have surgery on it to have a shoulder that can play football and have a shoulder that's healthy the rest of his life, which is the most important thing. So we won't have him this year.

'Because of that injury, Mitch Meeuwsen will be the starter. He's played some, he's a redshirt freshman and is a guy we think is very talented, and he's a guy who has to come in and play for us and fill in. We really believe he has an opportunity to be a very good football player for us. Other than that, we've not been getting injuries. Eric Mobley, also at safety, will be the other guy who will fill in at that situation along with Jake Cookus. We also moved D.J. Coote to safety from corner to give us four safeties, so those are the moves we made because of Calvin's injury.

'As far as the game this week, you've all seen UCLA play, they're obviously very good. Anytime you beat Ohio State and Alabama, you're playing an awfully good football team. They're a football team that is very, very talented, I said that at the beginning of the year, that UCLA had as much talent as anybody in our league and I believe that. They've stayed healthy, the last couple years they've had some injuries at this time but they're very, very healthy right now.

'Probably the biggest improvement we've all seen is on defense, and they're playing extremely well on defense. All of those guys have played and have started at times. They're led by Robert Thomas, who in my opinion is one of the best middle linebackers in college football, he's a guy who plays with great intensity, great speed - just a heck of a leader out there. Marques Anderson at free safety is one of the premier secondary players in the country. Their defensive front is playing extremely well. Kenyon Coleman, who I've always thought was an outstanding player, is playing very well for them. They've got some talent and they're using it. They're moving around and playing hard, they're playing with great intensity, they're tackling, they're getting turnovers - that was proven in the first three football games. That improvement defensively is the key to some of the things that have happened.

'Offensively, they're as potent as ever. DeShaun Foster, to me, is along with Ken Simonton one of the better backs in the country. He's big, strong, fast ... he's been hurt off and on, but he's healthy. When he's running the football extremely well, they're very explosive on offense. Cory Paus is playing very well for them at quarterback. He's a guy who can really throw it. He's had great games off and on through his career and is really playing well right now. Brian Poli-Dixon at wide receiver and Tab Perry at wide receiver, their two tight ends (Bryan Fletcher, Mike Seidman) are very, very talented and they're playing very well together as an offensive line.

'Coming out of the chute right now after three football games, they're probably playing as well as anybody in our league. Again, the biggest thing is to find out where we are - that's the most important thing for us, because we really don't know. The first game, we didn't play very well against Fresno State, we got a little better against New Mexico State. We'll find out and see where we are. We're excited about finally playing a football game. We're excited about playing at home. The last two years, we've built our fan base up pretty good. It's going to be exciting to play at Reser Stadium with a full house and have home-field advantage having played those first two games on the road. We're excited about that, our team is excited about coming out and playing, and obviously the first Pac-10 game of the year, there is going to be a lot of excitement. After that football game, everybody will know a little bit more about where we are. It's going to be an exciting Saturday for all Oregon State fans.'

(Is UCLA doing anything different defensively this season?) 'They're healthy, they're running around - they're probably not doing as many things, to be honest with you. They're letting them play, keeping it very simple and letting them run to the football and they're making a lot of plays. Their front four are playing really well and getting penetration. Robert Thomas is a different player right now, he's lost some weight and he's running around making plays. He's a real key. They've got some other players - Ryan Nece is an All-American. They're just playing well together as a defensive football team is probably the biggest difference, and they've all played together now for three games and that makes a heck of a difference.'

(OSU has many players from Southern California - are you now able to go after more of the blue-chip high school players in the region?) 'We're getting attention from better players, no question about it. Are we able to go down to Southern California and beat USC and UCLA recruiting on a daily basis? No. But we've got to be able to evaluate guys who can fit into our situation and to our system. There are a lot of great football players in Southern California, and USC and UCLA can't take them all. So you evaluate who fits into your program, and there's not much difference between one from the other. There probably isn't much difference from the guy UCLA gets to the guy we will get. There just isn't. But you've got to evaluate, you've got to spend a lot of time evaluating how it fits into your system. But we're getting into the homes and talking to players and getting players here who, two years ago, we couldn't do that.'

(Last year OSU - particularly your defense - played with a bit of a swagger. Have you seen that this season and will you be looking for it on Saturday?) 'I haven't seen them play enough games yet, to be very honest with you. We'll have a swagger - we're going to play hard and with great intensity, which we did on defense last year and which we'll do on defense this year. You've got to have that air of confidence when you play the game, and there's no question about it. We're just trying to come together as a defense right now. We've lost some players, we're going to try to get an identity, more than anything. A lot of the swagger in college football is taken away because of the penalties, any longer, so you've just got to play as hard as you can to the whistle and play with great confidence.'

(What have the last two weekends been like for you?) 'Obviously, the first weekend, we were all in the same situation dealing with that tragedy, and dealing with what happened in the United States has been unbelievable for all of us, to deal with that kind of blow. To see it come back the way it has in the last couple weeks - talking about our country - has been something that's really been inspirational to all of us. This last week, I just kind of treated it like a regular bye week, which meant sitting around watching college football like all the rest of you do on Saturdays. But it's been a hard couple weeks for everybody involved throughout the world, and college football has been a small part of it. But last Saturday it was just fantastic to see games back on, to see fans in the stands, to see the tributes that were paid to all the people we lost. It was nice to get college football back going again.'

(What will Mitch Meeuwsen bring to the defense?) 'Mitch is a tremendous athlete, and he understands the game of football extremely well. He has good size at about 215 pounds, he's a good tackler. Probably the best way to describe him is, he's just a real good athlete. He really has a good feel back there at safety, which is what you need to have.'

(UCLA was fumble-prone last week against Ohio State. Will you emphasize that to your defense?) 'Backs have those days. Ken (Simonton) has had those days, DeShaun (Foster) happened to have a day like that on Saturday where he fumbled a couple times. But they're not a fumble-prone team, he's not a fumble-prone player. It's not like that's going to happen every time he plays, not at all. But we talk to our defensive team all the time, regardless of who we play, about trying to knock the ball out, trying to get turnovers. We haven't created turnovers - we've created one turnover all year ... in the two games we've played. So we'd love to get some, not because of what he did last week, because it was just one of those days he had.'

(Will Mitch Meeuwsen the starter the rest of the year, or will you just see how it goes?) 'They're both going to play a lot, and we'll just see how it goes. We're going to play both him and Eric (Mobley) and see what happens. In fact, we talk about a starter, and we've really got to look at practice this week, so maybe I'm talking ahead of myself. We'll wait and see, we may not make that announcement until Friday. We'll see how both of them practice and how they work with Jake (Cookus), because it's a combination of both those safeties playing together back there.'

(Did the two-weekend layoff give linebacker James Allen a chance to get healthy?) 'James is 100 percent, which he wasn't the first two football games. So if there's any positive out of the two weeks - and there were - that was one of them, where he's healthy and ready to go 100 percent. (Cornerback) Terrell Roberts is now healthy and he's got his pins out of his hand, so he's 100 percent, too. You pretty much healed up anybody who had any kind of a nick, other than Calvin.'

(On OSU's new Indoor Practice Facility) 'We worked out in there one day during our bye week just to change practice, change the monotony of what's going on. It's great. It's great inside, it's nice to be in there when it's pouring down rain. The turf is great, our players really enjoyed it. It's a great facility.'

(How big a blow is it to the team and the defense, emotionally, to lose Calvin Carlyle?) 'Calvin was a tremendous leader and played with tremendous emotion. Obviously, it's not going to help us. I really believe that those two other guys can fill in and play well. It hurts your depth. But Calvin, emotionally and physically, was a real leader for us so it's going to hurt us some. But that's football - you're going to get injuries and you're going to lose people. That happens all the time. Everybody is losing people. Good teams fill in and have guys come in and play, that's what it's all about.'

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