Erickson Meets The Press
Sept. 10, 2002
(On Nevada-Las Vegas) 'They're a football team that's got a lot of talent. John Robinson has done a tremendous job since he's been there. We all know about Coach Robinson and the things he's done in the NFL and at the University of Southern California. He's brought a lot of excitement to Las Vegas, and his name alone has done amazing things as far as recruiting is concerned, down in Southern California particularly. They've also been able to get some transfers from other schools, so they've got a lot of talent - by far the most talent that we've seen this year.
'When you talk about them, you start offensively with Jason Thomas, who's their quarterback who at one time was at USC. He played with a couple of our players - (defensive tackle) Eric Manning, for one, was actually his center in high school so I'm trying to get a feel for what's going on there. But he is an excellent athlete. He does some things that other quarterbacks can't do; he's really big and runs extremely fast, he has a strong arm and he's really the key to what they do offensively. Their offensive front has really improved, their skill guys are really good - Joe Haro at running back and Larry Croom at running back; Larry Croom was at the University of Arizona when we first came here and he's a very talented young man. The real key to them offensively is their running game and the successes they've had against Kansas - and against Wisconsin they ran it extremely well - but against Kansas, they ran it really, really well and that's the key. They run option with Jason and get him out and he can make a lot of things happen. They're an offensive football team that's got a lot of weapons and that's something we haven't faced. We've got to make sure we know where Jason is all the time.
'Defensively, they've been very physical and very good against the run. Nobody's been able to run the football against them and they take a lot of pride in that. They're very physical inside, particularly with their down guys and linebackers, and they create a lot of problems for you. They've got good linebackers; Adam Seward and Tyrone Tucker are both excellent football players. (Strong safety) Jamal Brimmer in the secondary is a guy who creates a lot of problems. Last week against Kansas, they played all nickel - five defensive backs - and he was the nickel linebacker. I believe he leads their team in sacks with about three. They've had eight sacks in two games, so they're a defensive football team that can put a lot of pressure on you and their secondary is very talented. So it's a secondary that is going to be something new to our receivers as far as how they play, the type of talent they have as far as how they run.
'I know this is a big game for us and for them. Like I said earlier, I've got so much respect for John Robinson and his career and what he's done there. We're looking forward to the game.'
(How dangerous is Thomas when he goes back to throw, and does it look like he might be a little quicker to pull the ball down and run because of his ability to run the ball?) 'There's no question you'd better account for him. When he drops back to throw it and you've got people covered, you'd better know where he is because he's made big plays - as many big plays stepping back and running with it as he has throwing it. He's the type of guy you really have to be aware of where he is. He's made a lot of big plays with his legs, he really has.'
(On going back to playing Saturdays after OSU's first two games of the season were on Thursday nights) 'I kind of liked playing Thursday - you could watch games on Saturday. It was kind of fun. But it's nice to get back into the habit of playing on Saturday, no question about it. That's when college football should be played. Our schedule stays the same now; Monday is our day off, Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday is preparation and of course we play on Saturday. When we play on Thursday, it's a little goofy - I'm not used to sitting here on Monday and having four days until we play; usually we'd be playing in a couple days so it's a little different. Now we get into that habit and it's the best way to do it, without question, although I enjoyed playing those games on Thursday. I thought the one here (against Eastern Kentucky) drew a tremendous crowd for a Thursday night; we were the only game in this area and that made a difference. Then at Temple, for us, it was really good because of the travel and playing a night game, we were able to come back early Friday morning and then have a day to rest before we met again so it worked out pretty well for us.'
(Did you make the strides against Temple that you'd hoped to see?) 'We did in some areas. Defensively, they'd spread you all over the football field and we were able to pretty much control them in pretty much all aspects, particularly in the passing game, playing zone and not having to blitz a lot. I was real happy with that. We've got to continue to get better, there's no question about that. Temple is a team I believe is going to win some football games, to be very honest with you. They do a good job of coaching and they've got some good players. Offensively, they played us a little differently in that they played us off quite a bit and didn't give up the big play, they forced us to drive down the football field and earn it. I was happy with the patience of our offense and the patience of the things we did. We had four drops in that game and two the week before; I was disappointed in that. I thought Derek (Anderson, quarterback) threw it well. Again, we've got to hopefully run the ball more successfully. I don't know if you want to say better, because people put seven-eight people down there against us, it's hard to run it so we've been able to throw it pretty successfully. We're just going to have to do what the defense dictates. I like where we are. Again, we've got a lot of improvement we need to make before we continue on.'
(On quarterback Derek Anderson improving from his first game as a starter to the second) 'There's no question about it, and he got hit a lot more in game two and that's always a test. Sometimes you sit back there and you get a false feeling of not getting hit and that kind of happened against Eastern Kentucky. But against Temple, he got hit hard a number of different times and came back. He actually hurt his ankle and came back and played, so to me that was a learning process for him because obviously that's going to happen every week. He was able to stand in there and make throws. The thing I was impressed about with Derek was that he took what they gave him - they gave him underneath stuff and short stuff, and then when his opportunity came to throw the ball deep, he did that very well, too. I like where he is. As the competition gets better starting this week, he'll continue to grow, no question about it.'
(Is there a different role for OSU's tight ends this season?) 'Not really. Our tight ends have probably caught as many balls in two games as they did a year ago. They're going to catch balls. Again, it depends on what people do to us. It depends on what formation we're in. When we're in two tights quite a bit, which we will be, the tight ends will catch the ball; when we go to four or five wide receivers, they're not going to catch it because they're not in there. You'll see us in more spread formations, probably, because we have a little more depth there than last year so the tight end won't be in the game 100 percent of the time, so that will probably cut down on catches a little bit.'
(When you've made some inroads recruiting in an area - like OSU has in Las Vegas - does that create some word-of-mouth that makes future recruiting there easier?) 'There's no question about it. You get somebody from Las Vegas and they enjoy it here and have some success here - which they have, all of them that have been here so far - the word-of-mouth gets back to the players there. We've been able to go in and have an opportunity to recruit the top players in Las Vegas the last few years. What's happened in Las Vegas is, it's grown so much and there are so many more high schools and high school football is becoming really, really good. You see a lot more people in there recruiting now than you did three years ago or four when we first came here. But because of the success of our players who come from there, we've got pretty good inroads with the high school coaches there.'
(On OSU free safety Mitch Meeuwsen) 'Mitch Meeuwsen is getting better and better. The thing Mitch has is, he's a very good athlete but he has tremendous feeling for the game and tremendous feeling for what he does defensively. I believe he's got three interceptions already - I don't look at the stats much, to be honest with you - but he plays a position where you should make interceptions. He's got a great feeling for the game and he's playing better right now than he did a year ago. Obviously, down the road, he has to make big plays because he's a big-play guy for us as far as that secondary. He's free sometimes in there and makes a lot of plays, which he needs to do.'
(There were about 4,000 OSU fans at Temple with the Beavers playing their first game on the East Coast in 15 years and their first game in the Northeast in 26 years. Would you consider making similar trips more often in the future? Does it give OSU's program wider exposure?) 'Going back there was good for our program. Any time we travel to different places - I don't know that it always has to be to the Northeast - but different places in the country, which hopefully we'll do in the future ... one thing about Oregon State is, you're going to take fans. They enjoy going to different places. Like you said, you sat in that stadium and I didn't count them but we had a big group of them and they were probably more boisterous than the Temple fans. Will we go to the Northeast? I'm not opposed to going there. Am I opposed to going to the Southwest? No. A lot of it depends on who you're playing. Do I want to go to Florida? It depends on who we play. I mean, that's kind of how it is. But I'd like to get some exposure for our football program and for the University. I believe that back there, President (Dr. Paul) Risser was with us and they had a really good alumni gathering and there were people from all over the Northeast - Rhode Island, Massachusetts - I don't know the geography that well, but I know it was a darn good base of fans. It's kind of fun to be able to do that.'