Rick Neuheisel Talks In Weekly Press Conference
Sept. 10, 2001
General Remarks: 'We are excited about the opportunity to play a premiere university, like the University of Miami, and a program that has been synonymous with great success over the last several years. Certainly in the late 80s and early 90s they were the program in college football. It is certainly understandable why our players would definitely be looking forward to playing the nation's best, at least at this time. We had a great game with them a year ago and we were excited that we came out victorious, but we know that Miami will have an answer for that disappointment. They haven't lost since. They have beaten outstanding teams since that time, such as Florida, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and most recently, Penn State. This is a dominant football team that we are going to play and certainly they have the home field advantage and the climate advantage. Our work is cut out for us, but I think that our job is to focus on improving and trying to learn from our first game mistakes and continue to try and develop as a football team so that we can make our best run at getting back in the conference race on this side of the country.'
On Charles Frederick: 'It is my hope that he is over his homesickness, but I'm not sure if you ever get over it in the first quarter of being away. He certainly has had a good attitude, worked hard in practice, and we are going to get him in the game this weekend. It was difficult given the interruptions in his progress, both by injuries and homesickness, to have him figure a lot into the Michigan plan. We want to try to get him involved this weekend, especially since he is returning home.'
On whether or not Rich Alexis and John Anderson suffered from homesickness: 'They also went through some of this, although not as much with John. But he did have serious bouts with it too. If you recall when John was a freshman, there was a hurricane warning and he wanted to fly home in the face of the hurricane to help his dad board up the house, which was the best reason I have ever heard for a guy wanting to get back home. Certainly both John and Rich both suffered homesickness.'
On recruiting in Florida the past three years: 'Well the first one, John Anderson, was a unique situation. He was recruited by the former staff of Jim Lambright and his crew. John as you know, is a placekicker and looked around the country for a program that was in need of a guy and where he had a chance to compete as a freshman. As he looked around the country, he found that there was not a program in greater need that the University of Washington. He and his dad came out and enjoyed themselves and decided this would be where he would go to school. He had a great experience. He has been our kicker since the first game and he has performed admirably. In the midst of his freshman year, he brought a tape from his high school, saying that he had a friend who was a tailback that he thought was pretty good. For Rich Alexis, it was his first year of playing football, or at least roughly his first year, I guess he had played a little bit the prior year. He was getting recruited, but mostly as a linebacker, and he wanted to know if we would be interested. I looked at the tape, I must admit, a little bit skeptical. When I saw the tape, I got on it immediately because Rich was a talented young man. We were fortunate to land Rich Alexis and have him come here, and obviously you know the success that he had here his freshman year. The two of them, as well as our coaching staff, made an all-out attempt to land Charles Frederick and it was met with success.'
On the luxury of having a talented tight end: 'Well, you can ask coach Coker, he has got Shockey. It is nice to have a weapon at tight end.'
On preparing for Ken Dorsey: 'I'm not so concerned about Ken Dorsey, because this is our quarterback's first start on the road, trying to make sure he performs up to speed. But Ken Dorsey is a fabulous player, very poised. I didn't necessarily agree with the assessment of his performance here last year, I thought he did fine. We got pressure on him and it doesn't matter who you are and how mature you are, when people are in your face, it is difficult to be a good player.'
On Jeremy Shockey and stopping the Miami offense: 'He is a go-to receiver. When you think of Miami, you think of great speed and great explosiveness, and certainly they have all of that. You try to focus on those wide receivers and that great tailback and then all of a sudden, you might leave only one guy on that tight end and he just kills you. He is a talented pass receiver and when the ball is anywhere close, he is going to catch it. I watched the last drive against Florida State a year ago and it was interesting that he was who the quarterback was looking for.'
On coming back in the fourth quarter: 'We just try to stay alive. You just keep playing hard, you never know when something good can happen and as long as you keep playing hard something good will happen. Simply put, we just try and find a way.'
On putting together a more successful first half: 'If you have got any ideas on that, I'd willing to listen. But the bottom line is that our focus is on improvement and putting more maturity in our play. We need to be able to recognize what is happening on the other side of the ball, so we can effectively block and effectively make our coverage checks so that we can be as sound as humanly possible. When you play the likes of Michigan and now Miami, you are playing very sound football teams and so you have to do everything you can to not beat yourself and hang in and have something good happen. In the last several games since I have been around here, we have found ways to take advantage of the fourth quarter. Certainly we would like to play better in the first half and have opportunities to be more comfortable, but given the schedule that we play, that is not the case, so we are just going to take it as it comes and try to continue to improve.'
On handling homesickness and Frederick: 'I think you do exactly what anybody would do. You continue to communicate with them and tell them why this is a good situation, tell them why they are not the first person to go through this. I can recount my own stories from my own college days where I called my father and mother every day for 30 straight days, saying this isn't going to work. My mom and dad kept telling me to stick it out and at the end of my first year if I still didn't like it, then I could come home. And eventually you get over it and you become comfortable. Any time you are thrust into new surroundings with new people, it takes an acclamation period. This is not something uncommon in the least bit. Part of the homesickness period, is being overwhelmed, just because everything is new, you don't have your comfort zone. You don't have that place where everything is familiar, so it can become overwhelming.'
On the offensive line: 'I thought that our offensive line played admirably, given their intensity level, given their communication, given their adaptation scheme, and hit things on the run. They played as expected being that four-fifths of it was playing for the first time. It doesn't get any easier now that they are going to play, no doubt in my mind, the most talented defensive front we will face all year. This is a high-octane group that Miami will start on Saturday. Our guys have got to focus not so much on Miami, but on improving.'
On whether or not there is concern over not scoring an offensive touchdown against Michigan: 'There would be huge concern if we hadn't found a way to win the game. I mentioned after the game that redzone offense would be something we would have to focus on. It was disappointing not to score, we had our chances, but we just couldn't get it done.'
On the success of recruiting out of the Northwest area: 'Part of recruiting is developing relationships. Once you develop a relationship at a high school, part of that means trust. It is easy for the people at Pope John Paul that John Anderson has been very successful, not only because he has done well on the field, but he is doing well in school. They can also see that Rich Alexis is doing well not only on the field, but in school too. As you go to recruit another person, it is easy for them to say, ' you can trust these people.' They do what they say they will do, in terms of providing the resources for young people to be successful both on and off the field. That is part of the recruiting deal. When we go to California, it is often that we go back to the same high schools that some of our current kids are from because we follow through. It is easier to sell your program when they have already seen it work.'
On Cody Pickett's first performance: 'I thought he was terrific. I know Cody will tell you that he wishes he could have a couple plays back. But in terms of handling the pressure of the moment, handling the mechanics at the line of scrimmage, handling the pocket and trying to keep himself from not taking the big loss, I thought he was really, really good. I thought he made great decisions in where to throw the ball, although there were a couple that I am going to ask him about. The bottom line is, for a first game, given the caliber of the opponent, given the magnitude of the game, I thought he was fine. In terms of what we would add to his plate for this week, again our focus is on improvement. We want to play as well as we can against Miami, but we are not going to lose sight that these are non-conference games, and we are going to build for our conference schedule that doesn't begin for a couple of weeks.'
On Reggie Williams' first performance: 'Reggie dropped his first two passes. He came out of the game and I asked him 'are you ready to go now?' He got a smile on his face and went in and performed really well. Reggie is a very talented young man that will only get better.'
On Terry Gooch leaving Pope John Paul: 'Coach Gooch has been a great friend as we have gotten to know each other through the recruiting process. It sound like this was a good move for him and we wish him nothing but the best. If he has got players at his new locale, we would love to recruit them because he is certainly a witness that we do a nice job with the student athletes here at the University of Washington.'
On playing at the Orange Bowl: 'I imagine it will be wild. Most big-time college football games, and I classify this as a big-time game because the No. 1 team is playing in it, attract big audiences. It is a nationally televised game and I would say that there is great pride in south Florida for the Miami program, so I imagine it will be a rock-em, sock-em atmosphere.'
On being a 20-point underdog: 'I don't pay attention to that stuff, I really don't. They are obviously extremely talented and it is clear that those who preoccupy themselves with that type of thing have watched them play.'
On conceding to top-ranked Miami: 'We are not conceding anything. I don't want to get so caught up in game planning of an opponent in the non-conference that we lose sight of what our goals are. Our goals are to win the conference championship here in the Pac-10 and continue to develop our players. If you got caught up in just the game planning of an opponent in this portion of the season, you might exclude some of those young players because they are not up to this kind of challenge at this point in their careers. We have got to continue to build as a program. That doesn't mean that we are going in there to lay down. We played the same team a year ago and fared just fine.'
On having the Michigan game under their belt: 'I think it is tremendously advantageous to have already experienced the field of play against an opponent to allay some of the fears that might be associated with the No. 1 team in the country. The media has a way of building people up to be sometimes almost insurmountable. Certainly Miami is worthy of all their praise but our kids have been on the field with them. They know what to expect, they know what the speed of play will be, they know how good Ken Dorsey and his receivers are, they know Clinton Portis and the extent of Miami's pass rush and their great secondary. This isn't something that we are looking at for the first time.'
On the latest polls: 'They have considered us fourth in the conference. The reaction in the polls to our victory over Michigan is fluke. That is okay. This stuff doesn't matter, let's see where we are in the end.'
On Miami this year vs. last year: 'I see some subtle differences, but it certainly looks like Miami. Coach Coker and his staff have been at Miami for a number of years and I don't think they tried to change the identity at all. They are playing very aggressively, it isn't as though they are trying to fool you, they just come at you with a unique brand of athletes. These kids are very talented. It is obvious that recruiting has gone very well at Miami.'
On the redzone inefficiency against Michigan: 'Michigan is one of the best short-yardage, goal line teams I have ever seen. It has been that way for a number of years, they just play really well. That doesn't mean you can't be successful down there, you just have do be very efficient. Given the inexperience and the immaturity, at least from a playing standpoint, we didn't get it done. Not to make any excuses, as coaches we have to do a better job.'
On preparing for the climate in Miami: 'Well we are going to have all the things that technology has available in terms of the Cool Zones and all that stuff. But ultimately, it is a football game and we have got to go down and play, they are playing in it too. I guess you could climatize yourself by playing in a sauna all week long, but the bottom line is that we are just going to go do the best we can. The key component to that is hydrating and we will begin that in the middle portion of the week, just making sure people get lots and lots of fluids.'
On Kai Ellis: 'Kai Ellis is a complete football player. He in his first game had a real impact in the outcome and hopefully he will only get better. We had a lot of guys play in their first game and to have come out with a victory over a premiere program like Michigan is exciting.'
On where Dorsey has improved the most since last year: 'Maturity. Marques his junior year and Marques his senior year was a vastly different player. He had some great games as a junior, but the consistency that he played with as a senior was much improved. You give that year to experience to a guy like Ken Dorsey and remembering that he has played against Florida, Florida State, and Virginia Tech, he has played against some top programs and all those experiences have made him a better player and a more confident player.'
On whether or not Dorsey was recruited by Neuheisel: 'We got a little bit involved with Ken, but it was during that time when I was at Colorado and we were not heavy recruiting a quarterback in that particular year. But I did visit his high school in May to see what the rage was all about and it was obvious he was talented.'
On where improvement is needed most: 'Redzone, tackling, and punt coverage. Punt coverage will be a huge focus all week because field position is so vital in these huge games. We didn't do a good job in field position, we gave up too many yards. We didn't average enough in our punting. We need to get our average up to 40 yards and we were at 33 and some change. Our net punting was even more woeful than that because we allowed big returns. But we've just got to work at that.'
On college football in the state of Florida: 'I think it has been well documented over the last decade that Florida football has been well-regarded by the pollsters. If you look back at the pre-season polls of the last five to ten years at where those three programs have been ranked, starting the season, before they even played a game, you are going to find a high number. Averaging those numbers would be around three, four, or five. That is just averaging, I think always one of them is picked to be the national champion. They had a little run with Nebraska but it is certainly a hotbed for college football. When people talk about the east coast bias, they might as well say the Florida bias, if there is a bias at all. It is a reach to say there is a bias because of the talent and the way these guys finish. Bobby Bowden has got an unbelievable number of top-five finishes. Miami has been a national champion a number of times and given their great season a year ago and the start to this season, they are clearly the number one team in the nation. Florida started as the preseason number one and I don't know how many SEC titles Coach Spurrier has got, but certainly more than a bushel full. It is an unbelievable area for college football and this weekend showcases that. You've got Georgia Tech at Florida State, Tennessee at Florida and us down in Miami. It will be the place to be if you are a college football fan.'
On Michigan's Marquise Walker: 'You give credit where credit is due, he played very well. But Omare was named the defensive player of the week. Their quarterback was obviously was very comfortable with him, they got a lot of passes and he had an impact in the game. I'd be more concerned if we had allowed him to beat us. Sometimes, especially late in the game, you are going to let things happen in front of you, that is your defensive structure. The more troubling thing was how many times he caught the ball and ran for the first down. Had we just been able to tackle him where he caught the ball, which was kind of the design of the defense, we would have been able to get him off the field via the punt. But he did a great job avoiding the tackle and getting up the field. That is why I mentioned tackling as a key point of interest for us this week.'