Riley Meets The Press
Dec. 16, 2003
(On Oregon State's bowl preparations thus far) 'I think we've had a good start to this thing. We gave everybody finals week off, then Friday afternoon we gathered back together and practiced that evening. So we've had four or five practices now, and they've basically been practices where we competed against one another, not a lot of the specific game preparation - it's all game preparation, but we're not running a lot of periods where we're running New Mexico's plays or their defense. But we are looking at it; we are taking some practice time to do that. It's been a lot of good competition. We spend a lot of extra time with our young players; hopefully, that will be real helpful in their development for the spring and spring practice. I'm real excited about what's gone on in practice so far, and really looking forward to now, in the next couple days, focusing on New Mexico and what they do. We're just practicing football; now we've got to look at that defense, and it's very complicated. A lot of people, when you watch film, have problems with it and you see that result in sacks, pressures, tackles for losses. And then offensively, they have some talent. That running back is an excellent player, so it's going to be a tough football game with some new stuff that we have to face.'
(On paper, are these teams almost a mirror image - good running backs, play-action passes, some difficulties on special teams?) 'I've heard that. Rocky (Long, New Mexico's head coach) actually referred to that in the Las Vegas press conference we had, that you've got a couple of programs that want to run the ball because they have great runners, and also have defenses who have been great against the run. I think they've been fourth-ranked nationally in run defense, and I'm getting tired of that - SC was pretty good, too; they might have been first. But it will be tough sledding, for sure. Nobody just kills their defense. They beat an explosive Utah team and did a great job against them. You're hoping to look at film and have some encouragement along the way about what people have done, but you don't get a lot of that.'
(On your first bowl game as a head coach and how you approach preparations and how you get work for younger players) 'That's exactly what we've been doing. Our young guys have been practicing; we've either put them right in the middle of practice and got going, or they've practiced by themselves at the end of practice for a while and get some individual coaching that way. I think that's an important factor here. We've got ample time to do that; nobody's got a class they have to get to, so there's not a lot that gets in the way right now. I really like it, I think it's great for our team. There's some of these same thoughts - they weren't original, for sure. Other teams do them, and I know when I was with the guy who has probably influenced our thoughts about it more than anybody, John Robinson ... we had a great bowl game record when we were down there and our kids had a good time and definitely our team got better during that time. We're trying to use it as both a great end to this year and a beginning to next year. That's kind of our theme.'
(Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards sort of an unsung key to OSU's defense?) 'Dwan is probably not talked about as much as some of the other guys on our defense who have those positions that more people notice, for sure. The other thing is, he's probably the only quiet guy on that defense. Everybody has the stage before him, it seems like. He's just a quiet, hard-working, very talented guy who will play 10 years at the next level. He'll be one of those solid people you can always count on and they will like forever, and he'll make plays and be very consistent in that regard.'
(On OSU cornerback Brandon Browner) 'Brandon Browner has answered the question with an exclamation point - I think him and Aric Williams together have answered that question - about whether or not we'd be as good or be able to hold up at corner. Brandon has made a particular mark because he has done it without any previous experience playing. He moved in and people earmarked him. Our coverages aren't corner-friendly, necessarily; we put a lot of pressure on our corners with what we do and I think he's held up to it very well. For him, it's a matter of never being complacent because, as we all look at it, the sky's the limit for him. He made a major impact in our conference to be named Freshman of the Year, so his deal now will be self-improvement and attitude and, obviously, an opportunity to really make a mark as a great corner. And great corners are only great when they're really, really consistent, so I think that's a big factor.'
(On New Mexico's offense) 'They like to give the ball to the running back and they like to pitch it to him on the option, so I think they're versatile that way. They have a good play-action game off of a good running game. The quarterback is a good athlete and very active and handles that offense very well. Rocky has had the ability to stay there at New Mexico and establish his systems and continue to grow, and now he has a senior-laden team that knows what to do. Therefore, they go into games confident with what they do and their offense is a great example of that.'
(Do you expect the atmosphere of a home game? Road game? Somewhere in between?) 'I have no idea. I'm really just looking forward to playing the game down there. I would say that, knowing our fans and the way they've turned out at all of our other away games, we've had great support at these ballgames. So I'm excited about our fans getting a chance to go down there. I don't know if it's a great time of the year - Christmas Eve - necessarily, but I think it would be a great trip. I anticipate a great game, and there's obviously a unique trip to Vegas involved in that. I would hope we'd have a great crowd down there and that it would end up appearing like a home game for us. I imagine New Mexico would travel well, too, not being from very far away.'
(On team rules on the trip) 'We've got some stuff lined up for the rules of the road, and we're going to prepare our players both here and with a group of people down there, talking about the pitfalls of what can happen. So we're going to try to prepare them and set some guidelines as to what will be expected of them down there. I would like them to be able to enjoy their time there, and would also like to say that when it's time to work, we need to work. It would be a terrible waste to not be, in every way, prepared to play this last game.'
(Does that play into deciding when to leave for Las Vegas?) 'There are some events that dictate when you have to be there, and the first event is Saturday afternoon. Saturday is like Tuesday for us in a regular week, so we're going to try to approach it with our game plan stuff just like a normal week, so Saturday is Tuesday, and Sunday is Wednesday, and Monday is Thursday, and Tuesday is Friday. Then the game is Wednesday. And that's the way we're looking at that, so we'd like to stay on track with that but we're actually going to go down with our players on Thursday night and Friday will be kind of a get-settled day a little bit. Get down there, get into the hotel, and Friday have a light workout and then get all of our practice stuff set up. We're going to practice at UNLV.'
(Injuries) 'I'm excited to say that Harvey Whiten practiced today for the first time, and that's great to see. We are encouraged by Dan Rothwell in practice; I don't know if he'll play defense, but he's getting closer to being able to snap for punts, along with his field goal snapping. Jonathan Pollard is getting better but would not play today if we were playing. And Mike Hass has a sprained ankle and probably would not play today if we were playing. I would hope by the weekend both of those guys would be close to full speed and participating in practice.'
(On Derek Anderson) 'Every position is always a process of growing, and every guy can get better, but I think Derek has worked really hard and has really improved. You have to remember, there was a major transition - probably as much for him as for anybody - as to the offense and all the terminology, all that, and handling that. But I think he's really, really had a good last month, month-and-a-half. There are obviously plays we'd like to have back and he'd like to have back, but overall he's making more plays, more big plays, and playing much more consistent. You can see that in his efficiency rating, percentage of completions, and just total production. He's on the verge of a 4,000-yard year here, so his production has been outstanding. I'm really looking forward to this ballgame, but I also would say that for our team and for Derek and what he's doing at his position, that I'm really looking forward to spring ball and the offseason and his senior year. I think it's ridiculous that he wasn't recognized in some fashion in this conference as an all-conference player; I guess he was honorable mention.'
(On Tim Euhus) 'It's a great senior class, a great group of guys that have obviously had as good a careers at Oregon State as any football players in history, probably, or in a long time. They have to be proud of what's been accomplished, and I think they'll look back at their time here at Oregon State as a very fulfilling time. I think Tim is a great example. We got him right out of the Ducks' backyard and recruited him here, and he's had a very fine career here and has culminated in his best year, most productive year, and an all-conference selection.'
(On Richard Seigler) 'It's going to be hard to replace him in a lot of ways. He's a great player. I think Richard really likes to play football, really takes it seriously, works hard at it. He makes practice more fun for everybody because he sets a tone for competition in practice that is good. I think his intentions are at the highest level. He had that for this team and worked toward that end; I really admire him. He's going to continue to play, for sure. Oregon State, to me, has become Linebacker U. You look at the last couple years, James Allen playing for the Saints, then Nick Barnett goes out and he's the leading tackler, I think, for the Packers. And Richard will make the same kind of mark in the future, too. Outstanding career, great guy, and I think will leave a long-term mark on that position for Oregon State.'
(On Mike Hass) 'I couldn't have picked him out from a lineup last spring. It's a credit to him that he came back and really went to work. He was playing behind James Newson and was basically productive. This was in practice, and his production was rewarded with not a job, but an opportunity to compete for another position opposite James. Then me made the most of that and has made plays. We'd be lying if we said we weren't surprised at the numbers; but as we see him, we aren't as surprised because he has some things that have stood out from the start of fall camp. He and I have talked before, and he didn't have an outstanding spring. He had a good spring, but not one that would stand out that would say he's going to have this kind of year. But Mike Hass is strong, he plays the game fast, and he can go up and get balls. You don't have to throw it right into his stomach for him to catch it - he has a nice target area where you can throw the ball around him and he will go get it. That's one of the keys to being a great receiver, is the ability to adjust to the football and make a play with coverage or when a ball isn't perfect. Running fast and being able to catch the ball in your hands, and the ball that necessarily isn't right there - those are the things that separate receivers, and that's what he's been able to do.'
(First bowl game as head coach ... nervous? Excited?) 'I'm real excited bout it. This is, in some fashion, what you shoot for at the start of the year. Initially, you'd like to get in a bowl game; you'd like to get in the highest bowl game you can according to your standings. We might have been somewhat disappointed that we didn't finish better, but we're like 90 other teams in that regard; but we are all pleased and excited to still get to play. We're also excited about the Las Vegas Bowl, because I've heard great things about the people at the bowl game and what they do for your team, so I think our team will enjoy it. And I think we have the added bonus of eight of our kids being from Las Vegas, so they'll get to go back and play there in front of their hometown crowd.'
(Does having coached against Rocky Long give you some start on understanding what New Mexico does?) 'As far as an initial setup of what they do, it's not unfamiliar. However, Rocky has transformed this thing a little bit, too. The coverages are different than he used to play; I think that changeup in coverage has added to the overall complexity of the defense. It used to be that you had a pretty good idea of what you were going to get in coverage, and I liked that - you could throw against them; all we had to do was make sure we protected and we'd throw. Now the coverages are of enough variety that it's not that easy.'
(Is there a misperception of the public about how good the Mountain West Conference is?) 'I'd be surprised if real football people didn't know how good they are, because if you watch that league, they'll always beat some people. Whether it's Colorado State, UNLV beat Wisconsin this year, Utah beat Oregon, and New Mexico beat Utah - there are obviously some very good football teams and good football players and a lot of good football played in that league. And on any given Saturday, it appears they can compete and be involved in our conference at any time.'
(Does this game take on added significance with how much OSU recruits Las Vegas) 'It might have, because with the people we have here from Vegas have obviously talked about that, so that's something that's a topic out there that our guys know about. And I think our fans recognize that, and the people in Las Vegas recognize that, especially when there are four starters from our team that are included in that group. Those starters happen to be really good players, so I think that's definitely an issue for us. We will continue to recruit Las Vegas, so I think there's some real added bonuses to this game for the Beavers.'