2008 Pac-10 Football Media Day Coach and Player Quotes
July 24, 2008
2008 Pac-10 Football Media Day Quickie Quotes
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham
Opening Remarks: 'The University of Washington football team is looking forward to 2008. We have a mixture of youth and experience. It should be an exciting year, we can't wait to get on with it, especially with the leadership of our quarterback, Jake Locker, who is one of the finest players in the Conference and in the country.'
On the strength of schedule: 'I look at it as a challenge and I think our team accepts it as a challenge. We have one of the most difficult starts in the country because we play our opener against a Conference team on the road. But we believe that If you can prepare yourself for Autzen stadium and for Oregon to start off, you can do anything down the road.'
On Locker: 'The thing that I value most in Jake is the person more than the athlete because I think it is the person that creates the athlete. He is a solid young man and you can give him these accolades in public and it doesn't change him as a person, it creates a drive in him. There is no one on our team who works harder than Jake. When I talk to our football team, I always tell them to be humble and he shares that value. He is humble but hungry and he has the potential to be very special.'
On last season's five losses by five points or less: 'As a coach, you've got to look at three things. One, are they physically able to finish the ball game? Two, as coaches are we making the right decision? And three, did they have the right approach in those situations? We beefed up our conditioning this summer. Coaching-wise we are making sure that we clearly understand those situations, and we're making sure our guys know how to handle those situations.'
Washington QB Jake Locker
On playing baseball this summer: 'I got an opportunity to play baseball this summer with an amateur team in Bellingham on the weekends. We played a three-game series on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was fun for me, I got to hone my competitive edge and I enjoyed that. Anytime you can do something that counts and keep score it's fun.
It didn't take away from what I did football-wise, I feel like I really improved myself as a football player this summer. We are young at receiver and in the backfield, so being around those guys has helped me take a bigger leadership role, just because of the necessity to have them understand what they are doing. I took them under my wing and am trying to give them the best chance to succeed this year. I believe that one of the best ways to learn is to teach, so hopefully that is portrayed this Fall.'
Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Opening Remarks: 'It is good to be here today with Alex [Fletcher]. I find my mood and demeanor gets better every day as we get closer to July 31 when we open camp. I'm ready get outside and coach. I feel something very special about our team as guys get in the best shape of their lives. The guy next to me is a tremendous leader with a great heart. A lot of hard work has been put in thus far. When you look at our team, the reason why I brought Alex is because that is the strength of our football team, our offensive line. We have four experienced lineman who have played in big games. We have three quarterbacks we feel we can win with. I will tell you right now I bet we could win with all three of them. It will be a heated competition. The neat thing about watching them compete in the spring, is that the guys see it, and the coaches can feel it. Every single snap is important to them. All three of them want to be the starting quarterback. It is truly the best thing for our football team to have that competition.'
On Jim Dray and Allen Smith: Jim hurt his knee last year in the TCU game about as bad as you can hurt it. He had two-to-three different surgeries and they thought about a year of recovery at the time. But as a testament to our trainers, doctors and the heart of Jim Dray, he was ahead of schedule and expected to return to action Sept. 1, and now he is ahead of that schedule. It is a real testament to his heart.
Allen Smith is progressing very well lately. He had a couple of setbacks in January and February. I anticipate Ben Muth will be our starting left tackle and we will see where Allen is when we get to our opener. There is a chance he could play this year, and a chance he could not.'
On beating USC last season: 'It was a great thrill winning down at the Coliseum. That being said, that is water under the bridge. 2008 is a whole new dynamic, new culture, new team of guys.'
Stanford C Alex Fletcher
On the other centers in the league: 'Playing guard last year, I like to look at all three interior positions on the line. I watch a lot of guys. I have watched Alex Mack, Max Unger and Juan Garcia. I have tremendous respect for them, they are all really good players.'
On the offensive line: 'In terms of the offensive line, when I came in we were the weakness of the team and now we are finally the strength. A lot of guys had to develop and get better. That is one of the best places to have strength, but you are one out of five and you are only as good as the guy next to you. We have worked together for a while now and that is huge because you know the difference between the way OSU runs its defense and the way USC runs its defense. It's a huge advantage.'
Washington State Head Coach Paul Wulff
Opening Remarks: 'I am honored to be back at Washington State. As a former player, to be a part of the program again is a special feeling and honor. We have work to do, but I think we have the tools. We have the opportunity to really surprise some people and have a very successful year.'
On his offensive philosophy: 'We're not considered a spread offense. We'll be under center, but in the shotgun 50-60 percent of the time too. We'll be extremely multiple in what we do, but hopefully give the illusion of a lot of different things. We want to be balanced and we want to run the football. We will try and run first and we may do it in a multiple of ways, but we want to stretch the defense and use the whole field. We also want to play off of those things and throw the football.'
On QB Gary Rogers: 'In our quarterback situation we have two players that are talented kids, but neither have a lot of game experience. Gary, because of his history at WSU, is our clear cut number one, but that doesn't mean that a number two or anyone else can't catch up. Ultimately, my job is to have the kids out there who can help our team and if that means playing one or playing multiple, we will do what works.'
Washington State FL Brandon Gibson
On coming back for another season: 'I didn't feel I was ready to compete at the NFL level. In that league, you are playing against grown men. I thought another year would help me mature and I'm happy with my decision.'
On coach Wulff's offense: 'As far as protections and running the ball, things are a little bit different, but mostly the same. Concepts are a little bit different. The offense tries to find the best way to get people the ball and it allows players to move easily. I like learning it as more and more as time goes on.'
California Head Coach Jeff Tedford
Opening Remarks: 'Great to see you all here. I'm really excited this time of year to get started and get with the players. I'm very happy to have Alex [Mack] with us. I always joke that he is our number one recruit because he chose to come back to school for his senior season. He is a great player and a great leader, we very fortunate to have him. The guys have been working very hard, the chemistry that we are able to build in the spring will help us. We had some talented guys who have departed, but we also have guys eager to fill in. I'm looking forward to camp on August 3 when players report.'
On the quarterback competition: 'We feel like we are in a great situation with a our quarterbacks. Nate [Longshore] has played in a lot of games and won a lot of games for us. Kevin Riley had a couple of opportunities last season and played well. It's going to be very competitive going into Fall camp. We will pick a starter the first week of the season and it might take both of them. To clarify, they are both going to get game time.'
On Jahvid Best: 'Jahvid's health is very good. We held him out of spring drills with a hip injury that he suffered in the USC game. He rehabbed through spring, but has been through the summer program and is 100% healthy.'
California C Alex Mack
On the Conference race: 'I think it's really competitive. I think everyone in the Pac-10 is really great, we have to come out and play each week. We had close games last season that we could have won, but lost in the last second, so we have to be ready.'
Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops
Opening Remarks: 'We are excited like everybody to get back and get started. This is going to be another tremendous challenge. This is a terrific Conference one-through-ten so it presents some unique challenges week in and week out. We haven't established ourselves as where we want to be in the upper half of the Conference, but I think through this journey we have really come close. Developing a team to win consistently takes a unique group of players. I feel like we have some of those ingredients this year, including a senior quarterback and 10 starters back offensively who will be able to put some points on the board. This is the best group of offensive players we have had since I've been here. Defensively, we`ve lost some tremendous players so we will have to play better team defense. We lack some of the experience that you would like defensively, but young and enthusiastic and playing scared is not a bad place to be.'
On carrying momentum over to this year: 'When you look at the last two years, we won four of our last six, and we`ve done that back to back years. However, we haven't gotten off to the start that we would have liked. This season, we open up with two teams at home, with two teams that had lesser or the same record as us in 2007. We have always played strong out-of-Conference games. You go through some tough times, but it still tells you a lot about your kids when they fight through.'
Arizona QB Willie Tuitama
On understanding the Arizona offense: 'I feel like last year in terms of the offense, when we started we knew what we were doing, but we didn't know how to do it until mid-way through the season. As an offense, we are the most comfortable we've ever been. We are doing things now and making plays with ease, but that's because we have a better understanding of the offense.'
Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti
Opening Remarks: 'It's exciting to be back for the 2008 football season, despite the fact that we are mourning Todd Doxey. He will be forever with us in our hearts. Our players are committed to honoring his memory. With that said, we are excited about opening our season against Washington because it's a Pac-10 game, it gets our team's attention, it's on TV and we have three weeks to prepare for Jake Locker, one of the best players in the Conference. Our quarterback situation is of interest, we have 4-5 players competing for that spot. We have a pretty good supporting cast on offense, Max Unger leads us on the line. Jaison Williams will probably be our all-time leading receiver in Oregon history. Defensively, we can talk about our secondary a lot. We have three three-year starters and they are tough, athletic and play makers. The play maker is the difference. We are not trying to contain we are trying to attack. We are excited and seem to be healthy.'
On Jeremiah Johnson: 'Jeremiah is totally healthy. He ran a 4.4 40 a few weeks ago, and is totally ahead of schedule. I see it much like I did last year as a 1-2 punch. LeGarrette [Blount] is a power runner, he can break a lot of tackles and run north to south. Jeremiah is one of the best athletes on the team, he is a jitter bug in terms of his skill. They will compliment each other. I see them protecting each other, and pushing each other.'
On the Conference race: 'I think that USC has the best talent coming back, ASU is better, and UCLA will be better. I think its a tremendous Conference, both from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint. You've got to have support people because the quarterback can't do it on their own. It's a dog fight and you have to protect your players and be healthy.'
Oregon ROV Patrick Chung
On playing special teams: 'I love special teams. Playing defense is focused work, but special teams is more fun. I like running down on kicks, trying to get the returner. I just like being on the field.'
On persevering through Doxey's death: 'I think it made us stronger. A lot of tragic things have happened recently, but it has built us as a family. We're working for Todd. It's hard to talk about it, but we are working for him.'
UCLA Head Coach Rick Neuheisel
Opening Remarks: 'Needless to say I am elated to be here. It is a thrill to be back in college football and back at my alma mater. UCLA is a great place, it was great to me and I look forward to helping rekindle a rich football tradition.'
On Brigham Harwell: 'I don't think there is any question that to play great defense, you have to have the ability to create a pass rush with the front four of your defense. If you look at the national champions from the last four years, they have had a great defensive line. If you don't, you have to risk having a fifth man on the pass rush. If you have the advantage of a guy like Brigham, it's a nice place to start. It gives us hope to be a very strong defense.'
On the quarterback situation: 'You know it was a strange day that 14th practice. We had no pads on, we were out there just going through some drills. Ben [Olson] took off and went to hand the ball off and I thought he had his foot stepped on, he was hopping around and I was kind of giggling at him. The very next play, Pat [Cowan] went down in a heap. Ben went back and couldn't take two steps away from center, so I had two senior quarterbacks both in heaps on the ground being administered to by our training staff. I moved the drill up and I'm wondering what just happened because neither one were touched? It just goes to show you what can happen in football. Pat is out for the year. He still has not had surgery, but he'll have surgery in August. Ben is just out of a boot. He had surgery to put a pin in his foot. The healing process is going as planned, he is doing everything he can and hopefully will be at full speed early on in camp.'
UCLA DT Brigham Harwell
On the defensive front: 'We're pretty good working together. There is a huge pressure on us as a defensive front. We are looking forward to the season because the defensive line is the strength of the team right now.'
On missing last season due to an injury: 'Being out last year was really tough for me. Being at home watching the games on TV, I had some tough Saturdays. I'm looking forward to having a great season. I'm done with school, I can focus on football and just come out strong every Saturday and help the team to win games.'
Oregon State Head Coach Mike Riley
Opening Remarks: 'I'm excited to be here, represent Oregon State and be with Brandon Hughes who is a great great guy and was just elected a team captain. We have a lot of shoes to fill. Defensively, we lose virtually everyone in the front seven. The offensive line going into camp is an unknown. The running back situation will be entering new territory without Yvenson Bernard, one of the finest players I've ever coached, but we have good candidates there.'
On the quarterback situation: 'Lyle Moevao will take the first snaps, he is basically the starter going in. There will be competition there. A year ago we sat here and we told you we were breaking new quarterbacks in and my goal was to have two quarterbacks who could play. I think throughout this process, we now have two guys that can play. I'm proud of Sean's [Canfield] rehab work. I think those two guys have handled it tremendously well. Lyle ended up coming in and starting and won four games so he'll take that nod but I'm glad we have both of those guys.'
On the return of Sammie Stroughter: 'It's great to have Sammie back, I'm very thankful he was granted that year. He is just a great young man. He, like Brandon, is another one of our team captains. He had a great offseason, great spring practice and he is really ready go to. He is thankful for this year.'
Oregon State CB Brandon Hughes
On Stroughter: 'To have him back is a blessing just because of his personality. He is an A+ guy all around. He commands respect. Just for me to come in and play side by side with him my freshman year until now, it's been a tremendous blessing. It was tough to see him go through what he went through. He's a benefit to our team, to the Beaver Nation and I'm excited to see what he can do on the field this season.'
Arizona State Head Coach Dennis Erickson
Opening Remarks: 'It's a pleasure to be here and to have a guy like Rudy [Carpenter] who has been around the program a long time. When you talk about a Sun Devil, you talk about Rudy. As far as our football team is concerned, when I signed a contract a couple years ago, they didn't show me this year's schedule, they showed me last year when we played seven games at home. It's a little different this year. Offensively, our strength is with Rudy at quarterback, we have a lot of our wide receivers back. We lost three starters on the offensive front and we need to get better. We have Keegan Herring back, he played extremely well. Defensively, we have a lot of experience coming back. Troy Nolan is the key to our defense, he is a huge leader and we look for great things from him. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Thomas Webber who only missed one field goal last year. I usually don't coach kickers, but i did last year. When you have a weapon like that, a lot of good things can happen.'
On the offensive line: 'We lost a great center in Mike Pollack, he is going to be difficult to replace. We're going to be young, but a little more athletic. We're going to throw the ball, we are going to go four wide. I've run every offense that's been invented, but we are trying to take a little pressure off the offensive front. A lot of the sacks we had last year was because of play action passes and we were taking seven step drops. We didn't protect well and we didn't get the ball off quick enough and Rudy would the be the first to admit that at times.'
Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter
On last year's game against USC: 'I think for one, it was a big game atmosphere, we got the chance to play USC on national TV. We'll take that experience from last season into this season for other big games. We have a tough schedule so we'll need that experience.'
USC Head Coach Pete Carroll
Opening Remarks: 'This is the day that marks the start to the next challenge and I can't tell you how excited we are about this. We've had a terrific run with the kids that have been in the program, that have won national championships, but they've all left us. To see the change in leadership and the emergence of the leadership, we sense a whole new excitement and I've never been more pumped up. There was energy, intensity and competitiveness in the spring practice. It seems like it's the first time for us. We have tremendous challenges and a schedule that will give us an opportunity to do everything in college football. Every game is a championship game for us, so here we go. There is great anticipation and a I look forward to doing something special. There is a changing of the guard. I'm really proud to be part of this team, we don't start camp until August 5 and Cush [Brian Cushing] and I are going to go one-on-one in the hallway to get pumped up.'
On USC's solid turnover margin: 'We emphasize taking care of the football and getting after it more than anyone does. In the last couple of years, our numbers have been down and we continue to emphasize that approach because it's a key to our success. As we go about the defense this year, we are always looking for ball hawks. Our philosophy is all about the ball, getting it and keeping it. The defense needs to create, we've seen great numbers in years past and our scores have been positively effected because of it.
On the culture of competition: 'We have a number of spots up for competition. It's clear that with new starters coming together on the offensive line, there will be a tremendous amount of competition there. That is going to be a big spot for us. Maybe a few weeks into the season, we'll get the chemistry right. It's a deep group but they are young. The competition at wide receiver is going to be outstanding. It's a group that wasn't up to the level of play in years past but Patrick Turner is the leader coming back. It's going to be cool to watch.'
USC SLB Brian Cushing
On being a senior leader: 'I think overall coming into this program and knowing that one day I wanted to be a leader on this team was very important to me. I learned from the older guys, understanding what the program is about and the philosophy of coach Carroll. Hopefully I can give the same competitive leadership to the younger guys and lead this team through the season.'