Dennis Erickson Press Conference Quotes

Aug. 27, 2007

Tempe, Ariz. - On the job that Dick Tomey has done at San Jose State: 'I was not surprised with what he's doing at all. We've known each other for years and years and years. And years. And years. He was with me at San Francisco, but decided that he didn't like the NFL and went to Texas. When the athletic director, who had also worked with the 49ers when I was there, asked me about Dick, I thought he was the ideal guy to get that program going. He's done it at a lot of different places. He did it at Hawaii. He did it at Arizona. The Hawaii situation was very difficult when he took that thing over and did a wonderful job there, and I thought he did a great job at Arizona. Now at San Jose State, what he's done is that he's gone out in that area, and really was involved in raising money and was involved in just making the program better, so a lot of the players, high school and junior college players, in that area are staying there. But where it was and where it is right now, I watched them play in my year's sabbatical that I had, I was in San Jose, so I watched his team play a couple of times, and that team from the team this last year as really a great deal of improvement. Of course we played them when I was at the University of Idaho in the last game of the year. He's just done a great job, to win nine games and go to a bowl game is really phenomenal, but I've always thought he was one of the great coaches in the country.'

On how he and Tomey's paths have crossed so much over the years: 'It is kind of amazing. We played against him when I was at Miami a couple of times, and then when I was at Wyoming we played him at Hawaii, and of course in the Pac-10 when I was at Washington State and Oregon State, so it's really weird, but that's how it goes. We're looking forward to this game against him, but like I said, I have nothing but great respect. His football team is going to come in, and this is huge for them, and I've been it that situation. They've got talent, they've got a lot of players coming back, a lot of players that we played against last year when I was at Idaho. This is a football team that's pretty darn good. They should have beat Washington last year in the opener, did beat Stanford, so I told our players yesterday that you better have you-know-what ready to play because it's going to be a hard-fought football game.'

On the differences in the team between now and the first day of spring practice: 'We've grown so much. We've grown as far as the X's and O's part of it. We've grown in how we want them to practice and the intensity level that they practice at. We're so much better offensively and defensively because they've done it together. We're a much better football team right now than we were at the beginning of the spring. They understand what we want, how we want them to practice, and how we want them to play. Now we'll see what happens when we play. All that practicing and all that stuff is great, but will they play at the tempo that the coaching wants them to play on Saturday night. To me that's the biggest thing. I really like where we're at, as far as that aspect of it is concerned. Now when the lights go on, how are we going to react to all this stuff? That's why it's so exciting to see what happens on Saturday night, because I don't know. I really don't, so it's going to be fun to see. I do know we have good team chemistry; we have great senior leadership that wants to win football games that have not had quite the success that they wanted in their careers here. When you look at our four captains, they are a prime example of our leadership. So with those things and having said that, we just have to go out and play on Saturday and continue to improve every week.'

On his specific concerns going into the season opener: 'They are all concerns. Every position is a concern to see how we're going to react. Defensively I thought we really improved in camp. Now let's see how we play against a different offense and something we haven't seen every day. Are we going to run to the football? How is our front four going to play? What kind of depth are we going to develop there? How are our junior college players going to play, that haven't played yet? And then offensively, can we run the football? Are they going to put seven guys in the box or eight in the box and force us to throw it? How are our receivers going to react to this? Because really we are inexperienced at receiver, when you look at it, Mike [Jones] played some, Kyle [Williams] played some, Chris [McGaha] played some, but they are an inexperienced crew, so how are they going to react? Are we going to be able to make big plays? We all have a pretty good idea what Ryan Torain is going to be like and Keegan [Herring], so I really believe we'll be able to run the football. Now when they do things to us defensively to take that away, how are we going to react in the passing game? To me, that's a real concern.'

On the advantage he has from playing San Jose State in the season finale last year: 'I do know that it's a huge advantage. What we were able to do was to take the tape of that game, and a lot of the things that we are doing offensively now we did in that football game. So it gives you an idea of how they may defend you. Defensively we were totally different there than we are here, so it's really kind of hard to tell there. It may help us a little bit offensively. Are they going to play that way against us though? I think last year when I was at Idaho they felt like they could go in and play four across, play six in the box, and do those kinds of things, but I don't know what their plan is right now.'

On the special teams units: 'I feel good about them. I thought Friday night, which was a big night for us special-teams-wise, we faced a lot of different things. I thought Jonathan Johnson was punting the ball really well. Our snapping, [Jason] Perkins is snapping the football really well. And we're protecting. To me, that's the most important aspect of special teams is punt protection. We've spent a lot of time, and it seems like we're doing a good job. It's like anything else, you don't know until you play a game. As far as field goals, you talk about Tom Weber, he's getting better all the time. He's kicked pretty darn well. I put a little too much pressure on him the other night, guys we running in his lanes. But he kicked really well Sunday night. He's got a huge leg, and the thing that's really impressed me about him is his kickoffs. We're kicking from the 30-yard-line and he's still knocking it into the end zone, so that's a heck of an advantage when you talk about field position change. So I look for him to have a good year. He's just got to get more consistent as far as accuracy is concerned, and he'll do that. He's only a freshman, so he just hasn't done it. In our return game, Kyle Williams will return punts for us, and Justin Tryon will return kickoffs. There's some speed there, and they are dangerous, so I like where we're at special-teams-wise, but again we have to wait and see what happens.'

On coaching special teams by committee: 'I like the idea. My philosophy of coaching special teams is as a coaching staff. The hardest job in all of football is being the special teams coach because you can always find something wrong with special teams, and then the head coach yells at you and all that stuff. Now I have to look for all of them to yell at, I just can't get the special teams coach. It gets everybody involved in it. Everybody has ideas. There's only so many ways to do it, but all the coaches are involved in it. I really like it that way, and they are all responsible, so you can't just put it all on one person. The players see that too, that everybody's involved in special teams. We all talk about offense, defense, and special teams, each being a third of the team, but that's now how it always works, because you have one coach working with them. So our philosophy is a little different than the philosophy that they had here before, and I like it. I'm in charge of the kicker. I just stay the heck away from him. It's like screwing with a guy's golf swing. You don't even want to deal with that one, just stay away. It's worked before, and hopefully it's going to work now.'

On the uncertainty of the season opener: 'It is when it's your first year in the program too, even more so. And even after you've been in it, you just don't know how are they going to react to different things. It's the most important game just to see where you're at, identify where you have to get better and the things that you need to do. If we can just come out and play hard, play with great emotion, that's the most important thing to me right now. Everything else takes care of itself.'

On the emotions of his first game at ASU: 'I'm excited to be here. It seems that not too long ago was December 12 or whatever the day was when I was fortunate enough to be hired here. It's come awful fast. We have a plan for this program down the road, and this is just the start of it, so it's an anxious time for all of us. We're all nervous, and I've always said when I'm not nervous before a game, I better get out of the business. So I've had that same feeling for 500 years now. Every year has got to be the same, and if you don't have that feeling, then you shouldn't be coaching.'

On the passing game and going up against San Jose State's CB Dwight Lowery: 'Dwight Lowery is a heck of a player. He led the country in interceptions. What they do with him a lot is that they'll play zone on one side and then man him up one-on-one on the other side, so they can double one side and they feel like he can take the best receiver out of it. He's an awfully good corner. They play a lot of man and a lot of press. But I feel confident in our receivers. Rudy's been throwing the ball real well, so it depends. It's hard to live out there on an island the whole game. We'll see what happens, but he's an awfully good player.'

On whether any of his previous match-ups with Tomey stick out: 'I know one sticks out to him, when they beat us when I was at Miami. They seem to think that was the biggest game that we played against each other. I think the ones that I won were more important than the ones he won. Unfortunately, that does stick out. I don't know, the battles we've had at a lot of different places. I'll never forget the first time we played him, we played them over in Hawaii when I was at Wyoming. We came over there and they had a heck of a team, and we jumped on them early and we were ahead of them. He called timeout and brought the whole team to the sidelines. I'll never forget that. I said `uh-oh, watch out.' They started doing those dances. That stood out, and then we had good battles when I was at Oregon State. We've had a lot of fun. I've had fun four times and he had fun five times, I guess is what the match-up is.'

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