Erickson Meets The Press
Sept. 17, 2002
(On Fresno State) 'They're an outstanding football team. They could just as easily be 3-0 as 1-2. They had a chance to beat Wisconsin back there and played really well; most of you around here saw the Oregon game, the ninth-ranked team in the country and they had a chance to win that. They're one of the more talented teams we'll face all year. They could play in our league and be very successful in the Pac-10; there's no question in my mind, they have that kind of talent. That's why a lot of people aren't scheduling them.
'You start offensively, and they've got a lot of skill. They've got a lot of skill at wide receiver - Marque Davis is one of the better ones around, and he's got great speed. Deandre Gilbert ... they've got four or five of them who make a lot of things happen. Their quarterback - I believe they're going to start Jeff Grady, who got hurt a little bit against Wisconsin but put on a courageous effort. He hurt his hip and played the whole game and he's back now, and from what I understand is going to start; he's an excellent athlete, he's been around the system. Their freshman that started, Paul Pinegar, is also a good athlete; obviously, he hasn't been in the system as long. Jeff Grady is an outstanding player; he's not a David Carr right now, but nobody in this country is David Carr right now, so it doesn't really make any difference. Their offensive front is pretty much back intact from last year, and it's a really good offensive front - very big, very mobile, very physical and they protect the quarterback very well.
'Defensively, to me, they're very much like us - they're pretty much a speed defense. Their front is led by Nick Burley, who might be one of the best defensive ends in all of college football - he's quick, he's agile and they move him a lot; we haven't blocked him yet, we didn't block him at all last year - any of them. They move them and they do a good job of coaching them, and they're a heck of a front four. Marc Dailey, the middle linebacker, and Sam Williams, the outside backer - they've very athletic, very fast. And then Bryce McGill might be one of the better safeties we'll see and Cameron Worrell is the other safety that creates some problems for you. Their two corners, they play a lot of man coverage and they've got good speed. Defensively, they're very aggressive.
'You can't overlook their special teams. They take a lot of pride in them like everybody takes a lot of pride in special teams, but they get it done - they block punts, they get returns, they can change games real fast for you on special teams.
'I look at it, as a football team, we've got nine games remaining, nine good football teams in our league and we play eight of them, and Fresno State can play with anybody in our league. You talk about tests, this is a huge test for our football team. Where are we? This will give us a little more of a barometer of where we are because of how they've played. They've had a week off to rest and get healthy, so it's going to be a heck of a football game. We're excited about playing them, and I know they are, so we'll see what happens on Saturday.'
(How difficult will it be to prepare for Jeff Grady, because you haven't seen as much of him on film?) 'We've seen him one game, and we've only seen the other guy two games, so ... they do the same things they've done in the past, offensively; maybe a little difference here and there. You watch them in the first game and they do the same thing with both quarterbacks. You're not really preparing for a quarterback as much as you are an offense.'
(How much does last year's loss at Fresno State factor into this game?) 'Well, it wasn't Fresno State's fault what happened last year - it was our fault. They outcoached us, they played harder than we did, they wanted it more than we did and they kicked our rear ends, pretty simple. Is that their fault? No, that's our fault. So the bottom line is, we'd better prepare and get our rear ends ready to play this football game. So what happened last year hasn't anything to do with how Fresno State played; it's how we played and our preparation - nothing to do with them. They just kicked our rear ends and should be congratulated for it. Now it's a different year; hopefully we prepare better and attack better and do all the things better than we did a year ago, and if we do then we've got a chance to win the game.'
(Is Fresno State's defensive front one of the most worrisome things to you this week?) 'No question about it. They've got great speed and quickness, and they move them. They do a good job of coaching them; they take advantage of what they do well. Their ends are really fast, so they put them on the edges and they bring them up the football field. Their tackles aren't real big but they're really quick, so they move them all the time and they create problems for you. They've put pressure on everybody they've played, and they're going to put pressure on us. They blitz quite a bit, they zone blitz quite a bit. Their ends are very athletic, so they can drop them and play coverage in the zone blitz scheme that they run. They create problems. They don't bring guys off the edge all the time; you've got to be prepared for it. But Derek (Anderson, OSU's quarterback) hasn't seen pressure like he's going to see this week.'
(With close losses at Wisconsin and Oregon this season, does Fresno State look comfortable playing on the road?) 'That's their theme. Pat (Hill, Fresno State head coach) has decided to play anybody, anyplace. When you do that, the road shouldn't bother you and it doesn't bother them. You watch them last year and you watch them this year, and playing on the road doesn't affect them at all. They come out and play just as well on the road as they do at home - maybe even better, sometimes. That doesn't affect them at all. You've got to congratulate that coaching staff for that, because that's what they've taught them and that's how they play.'
(There are six Pac-10 teams in the top 25 - does Oregon State deserve to be the seventh?) 'I wouldn't say that we've proved it yet. We haven't played anybody that would merit us being in the top 25. Cal broke in because they beat Michigan State at East Lansing - that's a pretty darn good win. There are some teams that are up there that were there at the start that will stay there; but for us, starting where we started, we've got to prove ourselves. We've got to prove ourselves week-in and week-out; we've got to prove ourselves in games that are big games like this one, and the rest of the Pac-10 schedule. The old clichï¿½ - we'll see what happens at the end, because that's the bottom line.'
(Is Derek Anderson ahead of where you thought he'd be at this stage?) 'He's done some things so far that I'm not surprised at, but he's done some things that have surprised me. Probably the biggest thing is his mental adjustment to the game. When you play three games and throw as many times as we have and you haven't thrown an interception, that's a pretty good understanding of what's happening. To me, I'm more pleased with that, probably, than anything.'
(What's been the biggest surprise about OSU for you so far this season?) 'We're making more plays right now, offensively, probably, than we did a year ago. We're catching the ball quite a bit better; throwing and catching it better than we did a year ago at this time. Our receivers are playing with some confidence and we're making some big plays. Defensively, we've pretty much dominated from game one. I felt we would do that against the first three teams we played. Again, I say we're going to be tested this week, but I'm happy with how we're playing defensively, also.'
(Pat Hill has turned the program around at Fresno State - what have you observed of that, and how does it compare to what you've done at Oregon State?) 'I know the Fresno State program fairly well because I coached down there many years ago for Jim Sweeney. He first took the program over, and Pat's done a great job but let's don't forget how it was turned around to start out with. In 1974, I believe it was, they played in Ratcliff Stadium when Jim Sweeney first got there and now they're playing where they are, so you've got to give him a little bit of credit for what's going on, I would like to think. Even though I coached and played for him, I'm not prejudiced at all, but I think Jim Sweeney should get a heck of a lot of credit. But what Pat has done in the last six years is a tremendous job in the (San Joaquin) valley of recruiting. They're making it the valley's team and it's an awfully big valley, and it's the only thing in the valley. They've done a tremendous job of rallying those people, and he's done a tremendous job of recruiting players out of that valley and he's also done a very good job of using the prop situation, which I don't fault him for that; he's able to get some players to come up there for a year and not play but they can prop and then put them on scholarship the next year. They've done a nice job doing that within their system, so they've got some awfully good players because of that. But he's also done a great job, like us, of going out and recruiting and knowing and evaluating what fits into their system. But he's done a great job, and they're redoing their stadium. Again, if I were looking at a team you'd like to get in the Pac-10 - and people don't like to hear this - but they've done a great job and they've got a great valley there as far as the number of people they get at games. He's done a heck of a job. It's a little different than our situation in how it was done, but he's done a really good job.'
(On Oregon State's improved kick coverage - more intensity, or change of personnel?) 'Probably both. We made a few changes here and there, but it's a matter of running down there and making plays - that's the most important thing in kick coverage. We made some adjustments, but it's like I said: This group we're playing this week - as far as kick coverage, kickoff return, punt return, punt cover - is really good, so we're really going to have to be good at it. It's a pride thing, and believing you can do it. Everybody has a responsibility; we've got starters on our coverage team as well as backups. You've got to be accountable, whatever you do, and hopefully in special teams we're becoming more and more accountable each week.'
(If the Pac-10 expands, is Fresno State a school you think should be considered for membership?) 'Sure. I think what they've done there is wonderful. The valley - and I know the valley, because I was there for a while - has really supported that program. If it does expand, and if you're going to expand in the state of California, that's someplace you've got to really consider serioiusly. Whether that'll happen or not ... first, I don't think the league is going to expand, but if it did, I'm just telling you how I feel about it - they would deserve that opportunity.'