Head Coach Rick Neuheisel Talks In Weekly Press Conference
Oct. 8, 2001
General Remarks: 'We are excited that we find ourselves undefeated at this point in the season. We are certainly excited about the prospect of playing a very good UCLA team this weekend, also an undefeated team, and also a team ranked in the top-10. It is a marquee match-up, as is usually the case when these two teams get together. Hopefully we will go down there and give them a good game. I am a little concerned about the health of the team, given the injuries we have sustained. But, we are not going to make any excuses. We will go down there and line up, play as hard as we can for as long as we can, and when the dust settles, we will see how it all turns out. I am expecting a great match-up, a great game, and probably a great crowd too. It should be a fun Saturday.'
On Cody Pickett's health: 'Well, it is what we said it was, a separated shoulder. He is questionable to doubtful for this weekend. I think he will participate in the game as the holder, meaning he will be on the travel list and so forth. But I think it would be hard for him to get ready to play a game this weekend as the starting quarterback.'
On the change, if any, for the game plan this weekend: 'Certainly there will be lots of things discussed in terms of preparing the game plan. But I think the first and foremost thing we will discuss is how best to attack UCLA, rather than how to protect our quarterback. You knock on wood that your quarterback will stay healthy during the game, but if you are not fortunate enough to have that happen then you have to have somebody step up for you in a backup capacity. In this case, Cody Pickett is the backup capacity, and if he is not able to go, then the job goes to Casey Paus. Casey got a scholarship here and we think he is a big-time player. If the big-time game is this weekend, so be it.'
On the running game: 'We were excited with the development of the running game last weekend against USC because USC's defense is pretty salty. They held Kansas State to zero points in the second half, Oregon didn't have much success with them in the second half up until the last drive of the game, and Stanford did not have any success with them in the second half. For us to be able to run the ball as effectively as we did in the second half is definitely a positive sign in the development in our young offensive line.'
On UCLA's defensive look this year: 'I think it is a case of them being healthy. A year ago we played them without a lot of their front-line guys on the defensive line. This year they have got them all and they are playing well. Kenyon Coleman is a dominant defensive lineman. They have a couple of other guys along that front in Ken Kocher who is a gifted player and Anthony Fletcher who is also a gifted player. Robert Thomas might be the best linebacker that we have seen. UCLA always has big skill on the back end. They are just playing well as a unit and hats off to everyone associated with them.'
On UCLA's DeShaun Foster: 'I would say DeShaun Foster will have every bit that many carries this week. He is as good a running back as there is in the country. He is physically blessed, competitive, and has all the tools that you look for when you are trying to come up with the prototype running back. It is certainly a wake-up call for our defensive front that we have got to be pretty stout against their run if we want to stay in the conference race.'
On UCLA's defensive scheme: 'They are not doing any nickel, it doesn't look like they are doing any substitutions. Which is probably wise because they have got such great athletes that they don't need to do a lot of substituting. Because there is not the substitution they are able to play the same defense with more repetitions and you get pretty good at what you are doing. It looks like they have a whole lot of experience on defense. All those names have played a lot of games, with the exception of Matt Ware, their freshman corner, they are pretty much a proven group. Phil Snow is highly regarded in this league as a defensive coordinator. At Arizona State he gave us fits. It's interesting, the two Arizona State coordinators will be on opposite sidelines this week. They have got Phil Snow, we've got John Pettas, and I just had to pay much less than they did so I feel honored.'
On UCLA's defense relying more on power than scheme: 'I don't want to take credit away from Phil Snow, I think he has done a good job, no question about it. I think they are not trying to over-scheme people. I don't see it as something they have created defensively that has yet to be invented, they are just playing really well. They are playing inspired. It is obvious that guys like Marques Anderson, Thomas, and a couple of their other up-front guys are emotional when they play.'
On opponents taking advantage of UCLA's young corner Ware: 'Teams haven't had much time to take advantage of anybody with that defensive front because they have been able to get to the quarterback. Watching the Oregon State film, Jonathan Smith took some hellacious shots. With regards to our quarterback, we have got to be pretty careful with respects to how many times we want to expose him.'
On special teams play: 'I'm proud of our special teams play, but I think we can continue to improve. The 'Player of the Week' deal is a nice honor for the individual, but doesn't necessarily reflect the talent of the teams. It just so happened that John was there at the end and he gets to win the award and I am happy for John. I think we can pick it up on special teams and we are going to have to if we want to win this conference race.'
On Pickett's progress: 'He is getting better. I don't know if you recall, but I talked about my similar injury college. The procedure for how you go about allowing this to heal is much different than it has been in the past. In the past, they put pressure on your elbow and pressure on the shoulder to keep the clavicle bound. Now, they do that for a little while, but they don't mind the clavicle being out, it doesn't make a big difference. It is much less painful as it was with that kind of pressure. A lot of guys had muscle spasms or inflammation, so there is certainly hope that he will be available a week from now, so we have got our fingers crossed.'
On the likelihood of surgery: 'They say, and again I am relying on the people who know about this much better than I, that surgery is not a part of the equation of this anymore. It used to be that you did that, but you'd trade the look of a clavicle that is slightly up for a four-inch scar. In terms of what it does for you, it doesn't do much.'
On the quarterback position and the possibility of a controversy: 'I think that we are very fortunate to have a little bit of depth at this position. I think we are also very fortunate to have two guys that are not so concerned who is first-string and who is second-string, as they are to helping the team win. That may sound like lip-service, but I believe that. If things were to go, and this is completely speculative, Cody Pickett is our first-string quarterback, and if Cody is ready and able, he will go back in there. Taylor won't blink and eye, he just wants win, and he will be ready.'
On Taylor Barton working with the first-string offense: 'We will defiantly have some snaps with the first-string center. That was a mistake I made a week ago.'
On Omare Lowe's health: 'He also has a bruised shoulder, but not damage that Cody sustained. I think he will be fine for the game. It will be painful, but fine.
On recruiting Barton: 'Taylor was a highly sought-after quarterback, much as Corey Paus was at UCLA and Carson Palmer was at USC. Those were the three guys I was recruiting. I tried hard to get Palmer, but he chose USC. Corey Paus chose UCLA early on because he didn't want to wait to see if I got Palmer. I called Taylor after Carson had made his choice and he says 'Oh, so Carson is going to USC, huh?' Usually that is kind of the counter-punch that tells you you are not in it anymore, but he was such a recruiting guru, he knew what was going on all over the country and he said he would still come out and see us. He came out and we watched his high school tape, where I think they lost the game 54-53, and he had this unbelievable game. What struck me was that he knew every play and what had happened before it came up on the screen, he remembered it that vividly. I don't know who I was talking to about speaking to a guy in three-dimension. But in other words, if I told you 'Here is the formation: we are in a right formation with the z on the post, the x on a drag, a tight end on a dig, and we are in cover two. The linebacker jumps the drag, who is going to be open?' To be able to keep track of all that and Taylor would say, 'The tight end is going to open and I would just have to make sure the corner didn't fall in and then I would find my tailback out in the flat.' To be able to track all that without drawing it on paper, that is what I am talking about, that three-dimensional mind. This guy, Taylor Barton, has that and he loves it. It is almost like playing pick-up basketball for him. He likes to shoot it around and talk ball and his dad is very influential in that. His dad played professional football as a quarterback and also is involved in teaching young quarterbacks, and Taylor goes and helps out with those. He is around the game, he is a gym rat around football. He is very valuable for us and proved that value for us last Saturday. When I decided to leave Colorado to come to Washington, Taylor Barton was the first person I told because as usual he was in my office early Saturday morning to find out what recruits were going to be on campus so he could help recruit them. He was in my office and I had made my final decision to come here and I told him to sit down and said what I was going to do. It was emotional. He wanted to come with me and I explained to him that he couldn't because he was held by his letter of intent and by the fact that Colorado was a great school. He would be the Colorado quarterback if he would have stayed there and trusted his decision. Well, eventually after the turbulent times, he tried to find out about transferring on his own and that is when Colorado decided that I was influencing this. Nothing was more further from the truth. There became this big stink and when we made the mistake of being out on a day that we shouldn't have been, we leveled penalties against ourselves. One of the thoughts was to make the NCAA realize that none of this was going on, we put an arbitrary rule on it that we wouldn't take anyone from Colorado. I don't understand why we did it, but we did. Taylor then fell out of good graces with Gary Barnett and the staff and decided he wanted to leave. He wanted to play, so he went to junior college, and had a great season. He only played every other game, they had a quarterback rotation, and lit it up when he was in the game, which is what I would've expected. While all this was going on, he challenged our penalty against ourselves because he had done nothing wrong. Eventually he had an audience with our president and Dick McCormick was impressed enough to let the people here at Washington try to appeal the penalty and allow ourselves to impose another penalty, which resulted in the loss of a scholarship. So basically, Taylor cost two scholarships. It wasn't so that Taylor could come in and be our starting quarterback, although he competed for the job, but because it was the right thing to do. Taylor had done nothing wrong. If anybody had done anything wrong, it was me. Although I am a little bit shocked that saying goodbye to your former players via telephone, is such a terrible thing. The bottom line is that all is well that end well. Taylor Barton, given all that he had been through, got a chance to play in a big-time college football game last weekend, and will probably get another chance this weekend and I expect him to compete like a champion.'