Quotes From Coach Dennis Erickson's Weekly Press Conference
Aug. 25, 2008
'Well it's a start. The first game, I've mentioned many times, is an exciting time. Everybody's anxious to see where they're at. I don't know that you can continue to practice against each other and find out where you are at. It will be a start for us to find exactly where that is. I've known (NAU head coach) Jerome (Souers) for many years and he does a tremendous job up there and has done so for a long period of time. Seems like the last couple times they've played us we were lucky to get out alive. That's how I look at it. I look back on my career and when I was at Oregon State, the year we won the Fiesta Bowl and lost one game, we opened with Eastern Washington in Corvallis and had to score at the end of the game to win it. We were very fortunate to win that football game. A year before that we played Georgia Southern in Corvallis and won by three points. So NAU has a great program and their players are going to be hungry, they don't have anything to lose. They are going to give us everything we want. The bottom line for us is we need to be ready to play. It's the start of a season. It's an opponent that if we don't play well we will get beat. That's the nature of it. The old cliché that I say all the time is, `this is the start of twelve opportunities for us.' We're excited to play the game and get back into it. I know our players are and they understand the situation. Some of them were here a couple years ago when we played Northern Arizona and were tied going into the fourth quarter. We're all aware of that. That's how we're going to face it and hopefully we play well and see where we're at.'
On NAU's unique defensive formations:
'They play with three down guys, with two down guys. They play with five defensive backs. They play with three linebackers. They change it up: standing guys up and putting guys down. It's kind of the old Bear defense. Cal Poly runs it. Actually Dick Tomey ran it at Arizona for a long period of time. A flex defense is what we call it, and it can cause confusion. They'll bring different people, they'll blitz quite a bit. They'll bring five guys; you just don't know where they are coming from. I've faced it in my coaching career quite often. It's not like we haven't seen it before. You have to try and keep it as simple as you can, particularly in your running game and pass protections, because they'll bring guys that are unaccounted for just because of what they do blitz-wise. We have to be very aware of that. We started working against it on Sunday and will continue to. I'm sure that they've got a plan. When you're in a situation like that where you have nothing to lose you gamble a little bit more. But that's their style and they have a good secondary. They play a lot of man coverage back there. Hopefully we can take advantage of that. It is unique, you don't see it a lot, but the people that run it, run it very well.'
On if WR Chris McGaha will play Saturday:
'We saw him yesterday and he practiced very well. I don't know that he's 100 percent, but he's close to it. Unless there's a drastic change in his condition, I would expect him to start and play.'
On other injuries affecting the team:
'We'll know more about Garth Gerhart on Tuesday, see exactly where he is. Brandon Smith practiced the other day and has a chance to come back and play. James Brooks has been beat up with an ankle, but it looked like yesterday he'll be able to play. So we should be fairly healthy. We should have most of our players back. Shaun DeWitty is a question mark from what I saw yesterday with his hamstring.'
On his expectations of kicker Thomas Weber this season:
'What did he miss last season, one field goal? I think that's going to be hard for anybody. Thomas is going to be a huge weapon for us, there's no question about it. We have a great deal of confidence in him and he's got a great deal of confidence in himself. The biggest thing is you have a new snapper and a new holder. That becomes huge. They've spent a lot of time together. Tom Ohmart will be the snapper and Danny Sullivan is the holder. To me, I don't know if it's Thomas as much as it is the timing of all that. But he's kicked very well in the preseason, and I look for him to have a great year. Now is he going to have as great a year as last season? I would hope he would, but that is a very difficult year to follow. He'll win some games for us; I can guarantee you that.'
On what range he feels comfortable sending Weber out there:
'It depends on the day. You watch him warm up and see where he's at. What I try to do with Thomas is he comes out, he warms up, and then we'll sit down before the game and I'll ask, where do you feel comfortable from? Where can you extend yourself to? Can you kick it from 50 yards? Would you have to extend yourself for 52 yards? A lot of it is wind, the humidity, and it just depends on how he feels, what direction he's going.
On the battle between Terell Carr and Pierre Singfield to start at cornerback:
'They are battling. They'll both play quite a bit in this game. They are that close. We just have to see. To me, it's a name that's starting. They'll both play, which is good. It could be good; it could be bad. I think it's good because we have two guys competing, Josh Jordan on the other side is playing very well. He will be our fourth corner as a true freshman. He's had a very good camp. As time goes on you could flip him too. We'll see what happens there.'
On how he will approach the running game:
'Dimitri (Nance) and Keegan (Herring) are our two backs that we are going to use primarily. Jarrell Woods will be involved a little bit for short yardage because he's bigger. Ryan Bass will see action in that game. How much I don't know, but we're planning on playing him.'
On how many true freshmen will play this season:
'We plan on playing eight or nine true freshman in this game and for the year. Starting on defense with Josh (Jordan), Clint Floyd, two linebackers: (Shelly) Lyons and (Brandon) Magee, Lawrence Guy. Offensively, we'll have (Zach) Schlink, Ryan Bass and Gerell Robinson.'
On if he had an inkling that this many true freshman would play in the spring:
'It's just kind of how it shook out. You never know until they get here and see how they adjust. It's hard and we had some depth problems. Our offensive front is missing a class or two that we have to fill with freshmen. The linebacker situation, they came in and played well and they can help us on special teams. Clint Floyd was a quarterback, a corner, a receiver; he was everything out of Crenshaw High School. We decided to put him at safety because he's athletic, and he picked it up very well. Lawrence Guy, we felt he had the physical ability to play and he has picked it up pretty well. Before camp he's probably the only one I would have thought physically could come in and play right away. But that's where we are at right now and we'll see what is going to happen.'
On if he is immune to `season-opener jitters' after coaching for so many years:
'When I quit getting jitters, I better quit the business. I always have jitters, for every game. I have jitters now and hopefully I'll have jitters twenty years from now. That's what it's all about. The excitement of coaching the game and coaching the opener and coaching every game you play. If you're not nervous, and when I say nervous I mean stomach jitters, nothing other than that, because you want to win and you want to be successful as a team. You always want to have that. I have a great deal of confidence. It's not because of lack of confidence. It's just my nature I guess.'
On the familiarity with the players now that they are in the second season:
'I believe the second season, if everything is equal, you should be a little bit better because you know what you are doing offensively. I believe Rudy (Carpenter), his receivers, the offensive line, are all going to be better because they are familiar with what they are doing. The offensive front, even though we lost some players, are more familiar with the technique and the things that we want to do in our offensive scheme of things as far as run calls, blocking, and protection. Our backs are more familiar with the protections and so forth, so it will make a difference. Same thing defensively with what we are doing. They have been in that system under Coach Craig Bray so that will make it simpler. However our schedule this year is quite different than it was a year ago so that makes a difference too. The schedule, where you play, and all, that works into it. I feel a lot better going into this year than last year because those guys have been through a spring and a fall. That makes a big difference.'
On if his feeling on the season is comparable to past experiences:
'Without a question, yes. I mean our second year at Washington State was pretty good. They were familiar with what was going on. The same thing at Oregon State. Overall, just familiarizing yourself with what's going on will help.'
On leadership on the team:
'The senior group, there aren't a lot of them, but they've taken things over. We asked them to do that. They have been around us. Another reason the second year is simpler because they are familiar with what we want. Those seniors took over during the wintertime and took over this summer organizing things and knowing what we wanted. That makes a big difference. You got some key players there. Our two captains, Rudy Carpenter and Troy Nolan, are the leaders of that, but we have juniors and sophomores like Mike Nixon and Shawn Lauvao. The leadership you can't put on just the seniors. It's a group that everybody is pretty much on the same page on what they want to get done, so that helps also. That carries over onto the field when you play, when you have leadership out there. There will be some good times and there will be some bad times. It's easy to be a leader when you are winning; it's hard to be a leader when you're getting your rear-end kicked and you have to battle back. I have a great belief in this group and it really is a good group.'