Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: The mid-season grind is upon us
The mid-season grind is upon us. Cal head coach Sonny Dykes talks about the balance between rest and work during a bye week, while Oregon and Washington both choose to acknowledge the "noise" surrounding their teams (though for very different reasons).
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre isn’t worried about keeping the fire going for his Buffaloes. “They haven’t won a lot, so they like the taste of it.”
Even with Colorado’s successful season thus far, MacIntyre said that hasn’t been what’s impressed him the most about his team. Instead, it’s the “exceptional attitude” his men have when they show up to work every day.
Last week, starting quarterback Sefo Liufau, who was out with an injury, came back to start for the Buffs. MacIntyre was pleased with what he saw and reports that Liufau is in good health. “He will be starting this week,” says MacIntyre.
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
Is Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham surprised by how well his Utes have been playing this season? “Not really,” he says. “We came into the season thinking we could be competitive.”
Whittingham got a little extra help recently with the return of running back Joe Williams last week against Oregon State. The Utah coaching staff reached out to Williams early last week to “test the waters” about Williams coming out of retirement. When he reportedly showed interest, Whittingham picked up the phone.
“I gave him a call…and he called me back a few hours later and said, ‘I’m all in.’”
Williams didn’t appear to have lost any finesse during his four week retirement, running for 179 yards for the Utes, and he is expected to play this week against UCLA.
Stanford's David Shaw
Stanford football showed a flash of its former self during the Card’s win over Notre Dame on the road. “It was just excitement,” says head coach David Shaw on the team's energy following the win. “We hadn’t felt that feeling in a few weeks.”
As with all games, however, it wasn’t perfect. Shaw reports the main thing his Card will work on this week is finishing drives. “We had four drives that were typical Stanford football drives that yielded no points,” says Shaw.
That will be especially important in this week’s game against Colorado, a team that Shaw says plays with confidence and toughness. “The sign of a Coach Mac team is they play hard."
Washington State's Mike Leach
Washington State head coach Mike Leach is happy with how his Cougars played last week against UCLA, but “we could’ve finished the game better.”
In terms of this week’s game against Arizona State, Leach has his mind on one thing: speed. “They’re a real quick team,” says Leach. “We’ve got to be real sound in order to match their speed."
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
Young talent was on the mind of Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez following the Wildcats’ loss to USC. Rodriguez got a close look at Trojans’ freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, a player he said he was impressed with from the first time he saw him on tape.
“He’s athletic and tough and gives another dimension to their offense,” says Rodriguez.
Rodriguez credits the recent rise in young starting quarterbacks to the many elite camps high school players have the opportunity to participate in. “I think you’ll see more and more young quarterbacks prepared to play at this level."
When asked about the choice to start freshmen at Arizona, Rodriguez shared his philosophy that he tells all his recruits: “We don’t recruit guys to be backups. If you’re ready to play, mentally and physically, as a freshman, we’ll play you.”
California's Sonny Dykes
Cal isn't exempt from boarding the injury train that seems to be stopping at every college so far this season. Notably, Cal quarterback Davis Webb and receiver Chad Hansen suffered injuries that head coach Sonny Dykes has done his best to heal up during last week’s bye week.
Dykes reports that Webb was able to practice in full Sunday and Monday, while Hansen is still “day by day.”
Besides resting, the Golden Bears were sure to put in work during their bye week to keep them competitive, especially with fundamentals. “There’s always a fine line between doing enough to get your team better, but give them enough rest,” says Dykes. He’s convinced his team struck that balance this week, and they’ll be able to bounce back in full force against Oregon on Friday night.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
The Ducks are coming off a bye week, but given how their season has been going, a bye week does not equal a break. “There’s no real taking a breath,” says head coach Mark Helfrich.
With his team off to its worst start in a decade, Helfrich is not shy about addressing the criticisms surrounding the Ducks. “There’s a lot of negativity on the outside,” he says. “We need to stick together to get through it.”
One ray of hope Duck fans have is freshman quarterback Justin Herbert. Helfrich says he’s been impressed with Herbert thus far, both in his athleticism and his quickness to learn. “The combination of his height and awareness, combined with being a multi-sport guy, he’s got a good feel for things."
USC's Clay Helton
USC head coach Clay Helton is happy to report that after a rough start to the season, his Trojans have found their stride. Helton attributes the recent turnaround to a combination of playing “really good” teams at the start of the season, and certain members of the team stepping up in the last four games.
Helton notes the offensive line in particular, along with freshman quarterback Sam Darnold. “The maturity of his game is really shining right now,” says Helton.
What impresses Helton the most about Darnold’s style of play? Keeping his eyes down the field. Helton likes that Darnold “looks to create” plays by throwing the ball, rather than running it himself. On the flip side, Helton also notes that Darnold is athletic enough that if it came down to it, he can rely on his legs to get some yards.
Washington's Chris Petersen
Washington head coach Chris Petersen is maintaining the philosophy he’s held strong so far this season: Head down, work hard.
Jake Browning has been in the Heisman talks for a few weeks now, something Petersen believes he deserves. “We make our quarterback successful, then other guys around him can be successful too,” says Petersen.
In regards to the “talk” and potential distractions that typically surround such hype, Petersen chooses to have an open discussion with his team about them, rather than trying to block them out. “You don’t keep the noise out. You just can’t do that."
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham says his Sun Devils’ plan so far this season has been simple: Get better each week.
There was a lot of talk about wide receiver Tim White, someone who Graham says is a “phenomenal young man” off the field, as well as on it. “I’ve never seen someone as competitive as him when that ball is in his hands,” says Graham. “He runs like he’s angry.” That athleticism is easily translated to track and field, a sport which White competed in at the United States Olympic Team Trials.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game against Washington State, Graham praises Cougar quarterback Luke Falk and says he admires his “poise and patience."
Oregon State's Gary Andersen
What has Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen worried going into this week’s game against Washington? “All of it.”
Despite how daunting playing the number five ranked team in the country can be, Andersen is remaining optimistic and instead looks at it as a learning experience for his Beavers. “It’s a great opportunity for us to line up and play the best of the best,” he says.
The Beavers held Utah to a close game this past week, something Andersen was proud of and hopes he can see again this week.
UCLA's Jim Mora
UCLA head coach Jim Mora has a list of what his Bruins need to do for the rest of the season, but the only two points from that list he would reveal are running the ball more effectively and not turning the ball over as much.
“I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to prepare and the changes we’re going to make,” says Mora. “That wouldn’t behoove us to give away our plans."