Erickson Meets The Press

Dec. 17, 2002

(On OSU's practices so far and the Beavers' health) 'The health is good. We don't have anyone who is not going to play other than David Lose, who got hurt the last football game. We practiced three times before finals, and practice today, tomorrow and Thursday. We'll start on Pittsburgh today. We've been practicing against ourselves until then, and it's been good. We've got to get back into the feel of things, back to the speed of the game, basically. That's why we went against each other, because we wanted to pick the speed of the game up - that's really important at this time.'

(On Pittsburgh) 'Offensively, they're a football team that's pretty balanced. They've got a quarterback by the name of Rod Rutherford that runs the football extremely well. They'll run quarterback sweeps on option and he's a real threat. Their running back (Brandon Miree) gained about 800 yards; between them, I think they gained almost 1,600 yards between the quarterback and the running back. They've really run the football as a basic part of what they've done.

'On the other side of the football, I think they're 11th in the nation in defense. They play the flex defense quite a bit, give you different looks. They're a team we're going to have to spend a lot of time on preparing, because they give you a little different look as far as what they do. As far as the flex is concerned, it's a lot like what Arizona ran at one time. They're a football team that's played great defense against a lot of good offensive football teams. Their middle linebacker, Gerald Hayes, is really the leader of that defense; he makes a lot of plays for them. You'll see them play a lot of man coverage, a lot of three-deep zone.'

(On bowl preparation in general) 'To start off with, it's about us, there's no question about it, as far as the timing, getting the timing back, and getting the speed of the game - that's the real key, to come back to the speed of the game, which hopefully we can get done tomorrow and the next day. Preparation is the key - prepare for a long period of time as far as what they do, but once you start doing that, that's important. To me, it's probably more important to get ourselves back to where we were at the end of the year.'

(OSU's success with three bowls in four years - to what do you attribute that? How much is fundraising?) 'The number one thing in being in a bowl three out of four times is, it's a credit to the coaching staff and the players - that's what it's all about. When we first came here, we didn't have a lot of things as far as facilities and so forth is concerned. Because of our success, we've built these things and we'll continue to do that. But I believe successful football programs have to have a heck of a lot to do with the revenue that you have in the athletic department, no question about it. Because of our success, we've been able to build the indoor facility, and we're going to add to our stadium. So being in a bowl game has made a huge difference as far as that aspect is concerned.'

(On OSU tailback Steven Jackson) 'Steven Jackson is a great football player who has made a huge difference, actually, since the Arizona State game when we started getting him the football. There's no question that what he's done has been a lot of the reasons we've had success. But you've also got to give credit to the offensive line and the other people, offensively, who have opened things up. Probably more than anything, it's been our commitment to get him the football and to run the football a little more since that time and set up the play-action pass. When we made that commitment after the Arizona State game, we obviously started playing a lot better offensively. We played great on defense all year, but when we made that commitment things started to turn around for us.'

(On OSU cornerback Dennis Weathersby vs. Pittsburgh flanker Larry Fitzgerald) 'Larry Fitzgerald is an outstanding player. Any time you're 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds ... he's caught balls against everybody they've played against - some of the best teams in the country. The thing we've done all year on defense is, regardless of which side he goes to, whether it's Dennis' side or Terrell (Roberts)'s side, we try to match up. We've faced some awfully good receivers, including Reggie Williams from Washington. Fitzgerald is a great player. We probably play a little more bump-and-run than they're used to seeing, so they're going to have to make that adjustment, but I tell you what - he's an outstanding young player and he's going to make his plays, there's no question about that.'

(On OSU quarterback Derek Anderson) 'Derek has developed from the start. The last four or five games, he's played a heck of a lot better. It's like any time you play quarterback - it's a learning process, and you learn as you play and as you get better. Where he is now from where he was at the beginning is between night and day. I'm real happy with his progress.'

(On the blueprint for building a national championship program?) 'We feel that here, over a four-year period, we've developed a program that's going to be very competitive in the Pac-10 year-in and year-out. To me, it starts with recruiting; and not necessarily who you beat recruiting, but how you evaluate your players and what fits into what you want to do as far as your offense and defense are concerned, and the type of people you want in your program. That's how it was at Miami. Everybody thinks that when we were at Miami, we had all the great players in the world - that wasn't true. We had some outstanding players there, but it was more recruiting team players that made a difference at Miami, which is what I see them doing now. That's how it's going to be here. We're going to have some outstanding players, there's no question about that, but to me, it's a matter of who you recruit over a period of time, and guys who fit into what you do offensively and defensively, and want to be here, and believe in what you're doing. That's always what we've tried to do at every program I've been involved in.'

(On recruiting) 'It's a little different when you're at Miami because you didn't have to go out of the state of Florida; a lot of times, you didn't have to go out of the city of Miami. That's just how it was - there are a lot of football players there. Here, we expand our recruiting to basically the West Coast and our state, and California's real big for us. It's quite different in that we've got to cover a heck of a lot more territory than we did at Miami, and that's the biggest difference.'

(OSU's fourth-year seniors will be the first class that's gone all the way through your program. When they arrived, could you have foreseen the success they'd have by the time they left?) 'I don't know that you ever can look that far ahead and see what's going to happen. But we really felt when we took this program over that there were some good athletes in it, there's no question about it, and that we had an opportunity to be successful. In three and four years? Probably not, to be honest with you. But it's happened, and now it's getting easier because we're able to recruit, and compete against anybody in our league as far as recruiting and playing on the football field is concerned. It's happened awfully quick. I guess the biggest disappointment is, we didn't go to a bowl game last year; it should have been four out of four. But this thing is so solid right now, and we've got so many good young players ... we're going to miss the heck out of these seniors who have been here and developed the whole thing. They've been here and seen it from the start to the end, so they're something special. But they've also helped get a lot of good young players here. The future here is so bright with these young players, and the expansion of the stadium, with the indoor facility - it's really an exciting time at Oregon State with the direction we're going. I'm looking forward not just to the bowl game, but to next fall.'

(How big a difference will the stadium expansion make?) 'The stadium will make a huge difference in a lot of ways. It will make a difference recruiting-wise. But it will also make a difference financially, when it's all said and done. If you add 8,000 or 9,000 seats to start out with, all those will be season tickets that will be sold; instead of selling 23,000, you're selling 32,000, which will wind up paying for itself, basically. How it looks, the second level will make a huge difference as far as recruiting is concerned, without question.'

(On the linebacker tandem of Nick Barnett and Richard Seigler, and the defensive tackle tandem of Eric Manning and Dwan Edwards) 'I'll start inside, because that's basically where it starts. In our defensive scheme - and I've said this many times - the defensive tackles are a real key, because when they penetrate and do the things they're supposed to do, it frees up those linebackers. Dwan and Eric have been able to do that, along with James Lee, who's played a lot for us. That frees those inside linebackers up - not just Richard and Nick, but also Erik Tuma and the other linebackers who have played. The thing we do have is speed; when we free those linebackers up to run to the football, we make a lot of plays.'

(On Nick Barnett's progress from being lightly recruited to being the Pac-10's leading tackler) 'I don't know that you can ever say when somebody's a freshman or when you recruit them, that he's going to be the leading tackler in the Pac-10. There isn't anybody who says that. I know Nick Barnett, when he was in high school and when he was first year, could run fast and he played the game with great intensity. The thing Nick has done is, he's improved every year. He was a safety when he first came here; we moved him to linebacker and he's excelled there and he's gotten better all the time.'

(How does Pittsburgh stack up against the other opponents you've faced this season?) 'That's a good question, because to me they stack up with anybody we've played all year. You look at them defensively and they're very similar to USC in a lot of ways, and USC is one of the better defenses in the Pac-10 and the country. Offensively, they're very similar in a lot of ways to Arizona State. You take them as a team, and they're up there in the top two or three opponents we've played.'

(Why did you choose to go to Oregon State?) 'Number one, after being in the NFL, I wanted to get back into college football. I wanted to stay in the Northwest, and Oregon State at that time - when Mike Riley left and went to the Chargers - the job was open. I just felt there was a lot of parity in college football; you've seen it at Pittsburgh as far as what they've done with their program, what Walt (Harris) has done. I felt with the parity in college football, we could be very competitive at Oregon State. I knew there were some things we had to get done; number one, we had to win first. That's how it works - you win and then you get facilities; you don't get facilities first and then win. That's just how it was. We were able to have some success, and we've been able to build a program. But the parity in college football gives you a chance. And this is a great campus, the Northwest is a great place, we have great fans that were starving for wins for a long time. So now that we're starting to do that and to fundraise, everything that's been missing here for a long time is starting to happen and people are starting to come out of the woodwork. Like I said, the future is so bright here at Oregon State as far as our program is concerned ... but the biggest thing for me is to get back into college football.'

(On OSU defensive end Bill Swancutt, who has said his success this season has been because he's just been cleaning up after teammates make plays) 'Bill is probably being modest in a lot of ways, because he's made a lot of plays for us. But the great thing about our defense is, everybody knows their job, everybody does their job, and that's why we've been a great defensive football team. If people double somebody else and single somebody else, then that guy makes a play - that's just how it is, and that's why we've been so good on defense.'

(On OSU's indoor practice facility and stadium expansion) 'The indoor facility is one of the better ones in the country. We don't have a track around it; it's strictly a football/soccer/baseball facility. It's a full-sized football field with room at the end - I don't know the exact dimensions of it. You can do anything in it. We have SportsTurf in it. I've seen a lot of them, and it's one of the better ones in the country. As far as our stadium is concerned, the first phase when we put a deck on the student side will be done for the 2005 football season.'

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