Arizona Football End-of-the-Year Press Conference Quotes

Dec. 2, 2002

On the 2002 season:

'Our trainer went and counted all of the starts missed by our starters and regulars, and 120 games were missed by starters and regulars throughout the year, which in a 12-game season, would come out to a significant number of players on a per-game basis.'

'The team that arrived in August and the team that we really felt would play most or all of the year never really made it to the field. We were juggling lineups all year, and not that it's an excuse, but it is a reality, and that certainly does have an impact on the team being able to get some kind of continuity.'

'In spite of that, we had some players like Jason Johnson and Bobby Wade who had fantastic years. Andrae Thurman had a terrific year, and Lance Briggs had an outstanding year for us once again. David Hinton was perhaps one of our most improved players, and he had his best game ever against Arizona State.'

'We had great young players who worked into the lineup, like Darrell Brooks, Spencer Larsen, Jason Martin, Kili Lefotu, Tanner Bell and the young freshman runners. It looks like you're really set when you have a Clarence Farmer returning, and you're into game four, and he's gone for the year. Then Mike Bell was out, Gainus Scott had a broken leg, and Sean Jones had a broken arm. Before you realize it, you're in game five, six and seven with a couple of true freshmen who did not even play earlier in the year. They were targeted to be redshirted, and then all of a sudden, they were in the starting lineup. That part of it was a little bit tough for our running game.'

On the end-of-the-year review process:

'We review a lot of things at the end of the year. We do some of it during the year; I don't always wait until the end of the year. We do a lot of checking of things as we go along the way. I will be sitting down with the coaches in the next week or so to talk about what they've done, how they see their role and what they can do to improve our football team next year. Each of us has some responsibility to do the things that we have to do in order to improve our football team.'

An assessment of the offense:

'Clearly, on offense, our first priority is to get back to getting a good, solid run game going again. We didn't have it this year; we missed someone like Clarence (Farmer) who had the experience, and it also takes some time to learn the blocking at game speed. From that standpoint, we will be a lot better next year, but we weren't nearly as good this year. Second, we have to get those young quarterbacks trained. As we moved forward, Jason (Johnson) played so much and gave us our best chances to win. We also know that we have some young players that we have to get trained. Third, we have to do what we can to improve our pass protection schemes.'

An assessment of the defense:

'Defensively, our highest priority going into the season was that we would be a good run defense. We didn't do a really good job in that area, which is pretty obvious. So, that again has to be an area of priority for us as we move forward. We haven't made any real decisions about anything in terms of where we need to go and what we need to do. But, we have to look at the options that will give us an opportunity to move forward.'

An assessment of the special teams units:

'In the special teams area, we set a goal to block six kicks this year, and we did that. Six kicks in a single season may not sound like a lot, but if you add it up every year for four or five years, you would have a pretty good reputation as a kick-blocking team. We hope that we can continue to build on that for next year. One of our best kick blockers blocked two of the six in the first game and was not in for the rest of the year. We had some others who stepped up, and we definitely can continue in that area.'

'Bobby Wade again showed why he is one of the top players in the Pac-10. He led the Pac-10 in punt returns, but without him next year, we have to do a better job of getting things ready for Andrae Thurman or Michael Jefferson. It is likely that those two guys, along with Jason Martin, will step up in that area quite a bit for us next year.'

On Arizona's recruiting efforts:

'I was in three homes last night, and the response is positive. It is very encouraging to me that they are hearing and listening to what we're saying. Obviously, I was up front with them about any questions that they had about our program and anything that has gone on, and they appreciated that. More importantly, they are interested in what their future is, and I assured them that I am going to be the coach next year. I also told them that we are going to conduct our program and move it in a direction that will give them an opportunity to have success.'

'Specifically in the recruiting, we need defensive linemen, especially defensive tackles because we only have four tackles returning. We also need linebackers. We are recruiting people at every position, so we are not ruling out any position. We need more offensive and defensive linemen, and we need people who can come in and play. We have looked at the junior colleges, and we are continuing to turn over the stones to see if there is someone that we can find to help us be a better team.'

'We are looking for four, possibly five offensive linemen. We always look for tight ends because they are good athletes, and they have size and growth potential. Quarterback is a key area for us; we only have two returning players on scholarship. We need to have at least one or two quarterbacks come in this year.'

On the true freshmen who earned significant playing time in 2002:

As for Spencer Larsen, I don't know if you could ask for a whole lot more from a guy who just walked on the field. Jason Martin played the whole second half of the California game, and he played very well. Tanner Bell went from redshirting to starting the game at Washington, and he had never played a snap. Beau Carr was running the plays for the scout team, and the next week he was starting. Several of those guys didn't play until the middle of the year, and some weren't even in the rotations. Those guys did as much as we could reasonably ask them to do.'

On Arizona's off-season plan:

'This is an important offseason for our program. I don't see it as being particularly different. We have to get out and work hard on recruiting, but you have to do that every year. I will meet with our returning players this week, and we are going to do some things that will open our lines of communication better as we go through the winter and into the spring.'

On quarterbacks Ryan O'Hara and Nic Costa:

'Ryan and Nic are going to throw a lot because they have to get that kind of training. I am real interested in their technical development as far as their footwork, their ball handling, and the little things that have to get built so that they do them second nature. We likely will be a little more careful about how much we throw at them. When we first came, we taught an entire system. Now, we probably will bring this back a little bit and focus a little more on their development as opposed to the offense's development. We are going to develop them as quarterbacks and let the offense come along. They both have something to offer, and the emphasis is to develop, train and teach both of them because we need both of them.'

On Arizona's NFL prospects:

'Lance (Briggs) clearly is a linebacker. He can run sideline to sideline, and he makes a lot of tackles. Bobby (Wade) can play and fit as a role player on any team. Any team in the NFL can use Bobby Wade because he is a returner, he has good hands, he is smart, and he is a very hard worker.'

On Arizona's first-team All-Pac-10 selections:

'They (Lance Briggs, Bobby Wade, Makoa Freitas and Ray Wells) all deserved it. For Lance, it is three years in a row; for Bobby, it is his second in three years, and it is the first time for Makoa. For Ray Wells, there is no more fitting first-team all-conference player. He was one of our most consistent players all year, and he clearly was the special teams player who had the biggest impact on our team all year. This is a vote of other coaches, so you know that they spotted him out there too. He was our leading tackler of all the special teams players.'

On the team's outlook for 2003:

'I think our team is optimistic as far as what we see and what we can do. Part of the challenge to me, part of the challenge to our coaches and part of the challenge to the players is that we cannot stand pat and just assume that as the months roll by that we will get better. I have to do a better job organizationally, and I have to do a better job leadership wise. I have to do a better job of communicating with the players and coaches. The coaches have to do a better job teaching it, and the players have to do a better job of learning it and doing it.'

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