Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Steve Sarkisian comments on Josh Shaw story
Each week the football coaches of the Pac-12 gather on a teleconference to talk with the media and address the trending topics of the week. Check Pac-12.com each Tuesday afternoon for a recap of that day's call.
The Pac-12 coaches teleconference returned for 2014 on Tuesday with focus on an odd developing story: USC Trojans cornerback Josh Shaw's account about saving his nephew from drowning and injuring himself doing so has been questioned. Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian touched on that, while the rest of the conference's football coaches gave their season opener injury and depth chart updates.
USC's Steve Sarkisian
Cornerback Josh Shaw said he injured his ankles while jumping off a high balcony to save his nephew, who was drowning in a pool below. While Sarkisian refused to comment further, he confirmed he is vetting the story after receiving several phone calls to his office that questioned the accuracy of Shaw's story. “I will say that Josh has never given us any indication not to believe his story,” Sarkisian said. “I have no reason not to believe him. Now, we did receive some calls that question the validity of his story.”
Sarkisian is glad that talented former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr is done with college. The Bulldogs, who face USC on Saturday, still have a dangerous look at quarterback, be it Brandon Connette or Brian Burrell starting. “Where they can be different some is the athleticism of the quarterbacks,” Sarkisian said. “Big, strong guys who can run the ball.”
On coaching his first game as a USC head coach: “It means a lot. I'm a kid from Southern California. Now to have my opportunity is humbling, it's an honor."
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
How do teams allocate their time scouting upcoming opponents in the offseason? The Ducks apparently place a little more emphasis on teams that have coordinator changes. Helfrich has no problem over-scouting teams, and he has a new word for it. “Is that a phrase, over-rehash? If it's not, it should be.”
Speedy wideout Bralon Addison tore his ACL in the spring, and Oregon still hasn't ruled out a potential return at some point this season. “He's working diligently to get back and ready to rock," said Helfrich, who added there's no timeline on a return.
Left tackle Tyler Johnstone re-injured his ACL and will be out for the season, but Helfrich is confident in the offensive line will have a good chance at being better than it was last year. ”They kind of prepared in the offseason with a chip on their shoulder, and now we have to go out and prove that was an effective method,” the coach said.
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
Under newly hired offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, the Utes have found that a more up-tempo style has its benefits beyond game action. Whittingham said that in charting and comparing the number of snaps from last offseason to this one, Utah has run 200-300 more plays despite having less practice time.
Last season, quarterback Travis Wilson stared at the end of his football playing career because of a head injury. Once he was cleared to continue playing after the season was over, Whittingham has seen an even more motivated quarterback. “Travis was a very competitive, hard-working kid to begin with,” the Utes coach said. “There was never any lack of determination and motivation. But after that … I think that gives you even more of a renewed energy for the game and passion for the game. He's really taken his training and preparation to the next level.”
Offseason rule changes allowing coaches more time with their players has been beneficial to Utah, which opens the season Thursday against Idaho State. The biggest change for Whittingham is the ability to help freshmen and transfers play catch-up so they can better fight for playing time.
Stanford's David Shaw
Receiver Ty Montgomery will play without any restrictions against UC Davis on Saturday following shoulder surgery in February. “He's just attacked the rehab in such a way that it's gotten him back a little earlier than we anticipated,” Shaw said.
Shaw's goal in starting the season against UC Davis: “The big thing is starting the season fast. We want execution in all three phases. We want the work that we've put in training camp to show up on game day.”
Shaw is really impressed with the Pac-12's quarterback depth. “I like to talk to the older scouts who have been around, seen a lot,” he said. “I don't recall a conference like this where you're looking at two guys who could potentially go No. 1 overall. It's almost unheard of.”
Washington State's Mike Leach
Leave it to Mike Leach, discussing the lack of injuries to the Cougars, to give us Tuesday's reminder that it's great to have college football back. “We haven't had so much as a hangnail in two and a half years," he said of WSU.
Washington State faces Rutgers at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Thursday. The Cougs' top priority is stopping experienced quarterback Gary Nova. “He leads and operates their offense,” Leach said. “He's been king of the hill there for a long time.”
Leach added that Rutgers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen has an impressive ability to lull defenses to sleep. “They will go deep on you when you least expect it,” Leach said.
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
Arizona named quarterback Anu Solomon as its starting quarterback for a Friday night season opener against UNLV. Rodriguez doesn't want the redshirt freshman looking over his shoulder – he'll be allowed to make mistakes that aren't too egregious. “He's a cool customer,” Rodriguez said of Solomon. “He's hard to get rattled.”
Rodriguez, a usually honest fellow, has confidence that the new college football playoff system will be run well by a selection committee. “I think there's a lot of smart people on that committee,” Rodriguez said. “There's so much eyes on them, so much scrutiny. There will always be controversy whenever you have a human poll, so to speak ... I think the committee will do a great job of evaluating all the variables.”
Rodriguez said he'll use three, four or even five running backs to replace now-Chicago Bear Ka'Deem Carey, the workhorse for the Wildcats over the last two seasons.
California's Sonny Dykes
Injuries killed the Bears last season, and defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil missed time over the last few years with knee issues. He's expected to start Saturday at Northwestern.
As a freshman last season, quarterback Jared Goff showed signs that he'll be effective with a little more help. But Dykes likes that Goff has made the expected improvements since his freshman campaign, when everything tends to move so quickly. “The biggest thing year one to year two ... His reaction time, how quickly he can see and identify things, has gotten faster," Dykes said. "He's just got to believe what he sees.”
Asked which inexperienced players could surprise, Dykes gave praise to some of the defensive players in the trenches, crediting the young linebacking group of Michael Barton, Ray Davison and Devante Downs.
UCLA's Jim Mora
Why are the Bruins so much more confident than they were when Mora arrived? “I think we're a mature team and a focused team,” Mora said. “I don't think you gain confidence by other people telling you you're good. I think that confidence is internal. It comes from working hard every day. It comes from playing together as a group over and over and over again."
The Pac-12 may be getting a lot of positive coverage, but Mora doesn't want it to end there. “It's really nice to see us get some recognition nationally,” he said. “I think for us to really, really validate who we are and who we believe we are, we need to win a national championship.”
Take note: Mora is a big fan of Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly, widely considered the one quarterback in the conference that doesn't get enough credit. “Taylor Kelly, that's a big-time player nobody ever talks about. I love him. I don't like playing against him.”
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Not to be outdone by Jim Mora, Todd Graham one-upped the UCLA coach in complimenting his quarterback. “I think Taylor, he's the best I ever had. I've been coaching 27 years; he's the best I ever had.”
Protecting Kelly was one of the biggest priorities for the Sun Devils from 2013 to present. Graham thinks the offensive line is one of the most improved units on the ASU team, but avoiding negative plays falls on Kelly, too. “Holding the ball too long is one of the things we've worked on,” Graham said.
Graham called himself a “traditionalist” in believing that the winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game should in no way be left out of the new college football playoff.
Washington's Chris Petersen
Petersen thinks preseason polls can be dangerous down the road in projecting teams that make the new college football playoff. “I don't think we should have preseason polls factored into (the final standings). I think we should get through a handful of games to say, 'OK, here we are.'”
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
Colorado put all of its eggs in the Sefo Liufau basket last season, and the young quarterback returns this year with high expectations. MacIntyre loves how his sophomore sticks in the pocket. “He's big. He's strong. He's an excellent leader,” the CU coach added.
The rise of running back Michael Adkins combined with the size and versatility of Christian Powell will give the Buffs a one-two punch this season. “Different games, as we go into different packages, either could start,” MacIntyre said.
Oregon State's Mike Riley
Riley said offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo, who underwent foot surgery, won't be able to return until after the team's bye week, meaning the earliest he's available is a Sept. 20 game against San Diego State. Otherwise, Riley said the offensive line is as healthy as it can be.
On the health of Oregon State's defense: “We have been a roller coaster, a year ago. But we do have a lot of experience coming back.”
While it's clear that Sean Mannion is on deck to have another productive season as starting quarterback, the Beavers have a backup battle between Luke Del Rio and Brent VanderVeen that has yet to be resolved.