Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Mark Helfrich praises Vernon Adams' approach
This week on the Pac-12 football coaches conference call, Mark Helfrich praises Vernon Adams' approach, David Shaw wonders why we're talking about offensive playcalling again and a few other coaches address injury and quarterback concerns heading into the second week of the college football season.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who threw for 246 yards and rushed for 94 in his Duck debut, has surprised Helfrich by knowing that his success doesn't necessarily mean he's perfect. “I think the biggest thing for a new player at any position – and particularly quarterback – is knowing when you're right and something doesn't work, and knowing when you're wrong and something does work,” Helfrich said. “(For example) if you made a wrong read that was a touchdown … he has a good feel for that and wants to fix that if it's not perfect.”
Receiver Bralon Addison made his return from an ACL injury in Oregon's 61-42 win against Eastern Washington. Helfrich was happy to see the talented wideout back, but said he's not close to being 100 percent “No, no, not by any stretch, which is good in a lot of ways,” Helfrich said, adding that it was good to see Addison just get his feet under him.
On if the Michigan State-Oregon matchup this weekend is “fun”: “Fun is somewhere in there, because it's a huge challenge. It'll be a great atmosphere, like I said, their home opener and the revenge side that's being talked about (after Oregon won last year).”
Stanford's David Shaw
Shaw didn't mince words in explaining why Stanford struggled with a road loss to Northwestern to open the year. In short, he believes his team is better than it played. “It was pretty much what I said right after the game,” he said after watching tape. “Everything you try to avoid in a first game is what we did. I'm not going to blame it on the early start, I'm not going to blame it on the new guys that were playing because we've been practicing extremely well.”
Stanford's opponent this week, UCF, has a complex and aggressive defense, while its offense has versatility with both the run and the pass: “They have size up front on the defensive line," Shaw said. "They have blitzing schemes. It's a group we have to have a lot of respect for."
Shaw said questions about his offensive play-calling come up only whenever the Cardinal lose. “When we win, those questions go away,” he said.
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Arizona State's 38-17 loss to Texas A&M may have been disappointing to Sun Devil nation, but Graham liked that all the mistakes are curable. “We beat ourself really. We had two roughing the punter penalties that really hurt, turned the ball over, fumbled the ball five times, lost it twice, didn't protect the quarterback,” the head coach said, before adding, “I come out of that game really confident after watching the film.”
Graham took some criticism after the game for scheduling a difficult opponent like Texas A&M, but the ASU coach said the outcome didn't change his reasoning for setting up such a difficult first outing. “It's going to make us a better football team by playing that,” Graham said.
On Cal Poly's triple-option offense the Sun Devils must face this week: “They remind me of Navy. It's very, very, very different from what we normally face.”
OSU's Gary Andersen
The Beavers face Michigan in the Big House a week after opening with a win against Weber State and after the Wolverines fell to Pac-12 foe Utah. Andersen knows it's a huge debut for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, his first home game as coach. “I wouldn't expect it to be any different than a normal game day at Michigan, but a normal game day at Michigan is impressive,” Andersen said.
On offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin's influence on the Beavers' offense: “He's been famous for building offenses around the players that have been in the program. He does a great job of matching the personnel, year by year.”
What did Andersen find out about his new team in last weeks' 26-7 win against Weber State? “We handled the moment, which I thought was impressive,” he said. “As far as the team goes, they realize after sitting back and watching that film, we have a long way to go.”
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
Rodriguez never heard critics who wondered if he, as a head coach, should also be calling plays. “I probably didn't play much attention to it. I've done it for so long,” he said, before adding that his co-offensive coordinators – Rod Smith and Calvin Magee – probably would call similar plays because they've been together for so long.
While some new members of Arizona's defense were “big-eyed” in their first significant roles during Thursday's opener, a 42-32 victory against UTSA, Rodriguez said the Wildcats didn't blink when star linebacker Scooby Wright went went down with a knee injury. “I don't think so. Obviously, it was a blow. It was almost like a MASH unit anyway."
Asked if the tight ends will see more action in the passing game this year, Rich Rodriguez reminded that Arizona has used receivers like Austin Hill and Terrence Miller as atypically small tight ends in the past. In any case, tight ends that get open will get receptions, as did a more traditional tight end in Josh Kern (2 receptions for 12 yards) in the season opener.
California's Sonny Dykes
Dykes praised coach Rocky Long's San Diego State defense for how hard it plays and the creativity involved in the blitzes. The Golden Bears play the Aztecs this Saturday. “It's a typical Rocky Long defense, which is they schematically, they're very good. They create a lot of pressure on your quarterback, make it hard on the run game, do a really good job of covering on the back end," Dykes said.
The California coach said his experience starting Jared Goff as a true freshman was similar to UCLA starting true freshman Josh Rosen this year. Both graduated high school early and got to run with the team during spring. “They're not true freshmen,” Dykes said. “They both were very well-coached coming out of high schools.”
Dykes, a former offensive coordinator, gave up play-calling when he became a head coach at Louisiana Tech because the duties – fundraising, recruiting and general oversight of the program – were a lot on his plate. “It's hard to give it up, it really is,” he said. “Something's got to give. This day in age, it's very difficult to (call plays as a head coach). I just felt like it was going to have a negative impact."
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
UMass visits Colorado after falling 41-38 to the Buffs early last season. “I think they're an improved team,” MacIntyre said. “Their quarterback (Blake Frohnapfel) can make all the throws. They have excellent receivers and their offensive line is big.”
On the 28-20 loss to Hawai'i in Week 1: “It was nothing Hawai'i did, it was all we did. Mentally I think (we) understand that and are in good shape.”
Of the positives to take from the loss to Hawai'i, MacIntyre liked the Buffs' kicking game, the run game and the run defense compared to last season.
UCLA's Jim Mora
Mora won't attempt to temper expectations placed on freshman quarterback Josh Rosen after he threw for 351 yards and three scores in a win against Virginia this weekend. That's because the Bruins won't listen to those expectations at all. Instead, UCLA will work on internal improvement. “It's that old cliché, if you're your own worst critic, that's how we like to be,” Mora said.
The Bruins lost defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes to a season-ending knee injury, and Mora isn't trying to pretend the team won't miss the junior. “We're very fortunate to have some young men who have played in games and played well in games,” Mora said. “It's false to say you're not going to miss a guy of Eddie's caliber.”
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
Whittingham said Utah has learned to deal with distractions since joining the Pac-12. That helped in a 24-17 win against Michigan. “That's something that has tempered us since being in the league,” Whittingham said.
In the victory against Michigan, Utah researched head coach Jim Harbaugh's Stanford teams rather than looking at his NFL work with the 49ers. “That's what showed up more in the game. What (the coaching staff) studied and what they targeted turned out to be very accurate in what they saw in the game,” Whittingham said.
Apparently, 6'3, 270 pound defensive lineman Jason Fanaika, a Utah State transfer, is the strongest player on the Utes' team. “He benches over 500 pounds and squats over 800,” Whittingham said. The Utes play Fanaika's former squad this Friday.
Washington's Chris Petersen
Petersen found a few positives in Washington's 16-13 loss to Boise State. “I liked that they played hard, and I liked the fact that in the second half, our defense really settled down and played like we were hoping they would play,” he said.
While Petersen never wanted to play up the game against Boise State, where he coached prior to joining the Huskies. He did, however, admit that it's good to have the game in the rearview mirror. “In the long run, I am glad it's over,” he said. “We have a good relationship with the coaches over there, so many people in Boise. I'm glad that's behind us.”
Freshman quarterback Jake Browning completed 20-of-34 passes for 150 yards and an interception against the Broncos. “He handled it exactly how we thought he would,” Pertersen said. “He doesn't get rattled very easily at all. He's analytical about the game and that's how he competed. I think his temperament and all that was really good.”
USC's Steve Sarkisian
Sarkisian said it's hard to worry about injuries to his players because, as the Pac-12 saw in the first week, so many happen on non-contact plays. “It's the unfortunate part,” Sarkisian said. “Our game, as violent as it is, as physical as it is, some of these injuries occur on our own.”
Defensive back and return man Adoree' Jackson “looked good” during Tuesday practice after injuring his hip in the USC opener, a 55-6 win against Arkansas State. Jackson was held out of contact and will be able to play Saturday. “We obviously monitor him every single day,” Sarkisian said. “We had a great pitch count in last week's game, we didn't have to worry about it because he was out after 10 plays, 12 plays total.”
Washington State's Mike Leach
Leach called last week's 24-17 loss to Portland State “the worst football event we've had in over a year.” He added that he's not worried about his teams psyche. “The attitude seems positive. The frustration about missing an opportunity and playing as well as we coach – of course Portland State deserves a lot of credit, too,” Leach said.
Pressed about past remarks regarding recruiting the New Jersey area, Leach addressed comments he said were taken out of context. “Their state is filled with great players,” he said. “I thought they came to college, they developed quite a lot.” Leach said he also pointed out the state produces many NFL players.
Leach said he wants his quarterback, Luke Falk, to do a little less freelancing, but the head coach put the blame on himself. He added that the offense was often times trying to make the perfect play and overthinking.