Willingham End Of Season Press Conference
Nov. 21, 2005
On offseason calendar:
'We will begin recruiting on the official contact period, so that would be the 27th and 28th of this month. In between that time we will be setting up our recruiting, and our post-season evaluation. Then, recruiting runs from the 27th up to February 2nd. After that, we get into preparation for spring practice. Alumni and national meetings, speaking engagements, etc., around the country and state.'
On positives from season:
'There is a great deal to be positive about, it is not entirely reflected in our wins, obviously, and you would like it to be reflected there, that is the one that really counts. But, I do like the manner with which our young men continue to play, they don't give up; I think that is something to build on because we do return a few of those young men. But, I have always said, it is not just returning that makes the difference, it is getting better. And that is what we have to do. So, I think that there are young men in there that want to get better, and I am very positive and encouraged about that.'
On job done coaching:
'I thought, based on the circumstances, we did a good job. But, that is easy for me to say, I usually leave that to the outside critics to decide how good or how bad.'
On whether job is tougher than he planned:
'I think it is not a tougher job than I thought it would be. I came in with the intentions of trying to adjust to whatever I found. I think that is what coaches do, you adjust; you take your system, your thoughts, your plans, and you adjust to whatever the environment is.'
On position battles:
'Every position is always open. I have been saying this for a long time, even if you have an All-American, who is the greatest player in the country, I think he practices that way, and plays that way because he wants to be the best. It is funny, because a couple of weeks ago I was sitting there watching, I think it was USC vs. Washington State. It was amazing because Reggie Bush made a run down near the goal line, from the left-hand side of the field from my television angle, and the announcer says, `that is the way he did it on Thursday at practice.' To me, that is what great players do, they work and they perform every day. So, to me, all positions are open every day.'
On areas for improvement:
'We have got a lot of work to do. We have got to get better in our run game, in our consistency in it, our passing game, we have got to get better on both offense and defense; third down conversions, we have got to get better at two minute. There is no place where we don't have room to improve.'
On most important area of improvement:
'They are all critical, because you know at some point they could jump up and bite you and cost you a ball game. So we have got to get better at those. But with the strength of this football team, the way it currently is, we have to have a running game. We may have to compliment that with our passing game. Defensively, we have got to have the ability, when we play a big time runner, to shut him down. Okay, you start there. But also, in this league, there is an extremely potent passing game. So, you have got to get better in the secondary, so you can hold in check some of the better receivers, and some of the better passing games that we see.'
On importance of recruiting class:
'Very important, any class is important. I think last year's class was critical, because you start to lay a foundation of personnel that create the character of your football team. This year we will have even more scholarships available than last year. So now, you are talking about having even more impact on that equation. That is why I will say that it is more critical than last year, but at the same time, they are both very important.'
On whether winning matters in recruits:
'Well, you have to say yes to that. But you can't use that as an excuse. It is all about relationships, hopefully over that period of time we will have the ability to establish those. You have the ability to help the young people see your program and have some idea of what it is really about. And again, that is where the winning is so important, because young people find the teams that are successful in winning. So, we have a lot of hurdles to overcome.'
On Junior College players:
'It depends on how good the junior colleges are. That is first thing, you have to evaluate those, because sometimes it is not necessarily a step up. Every player has got to be a step up, but you want to get good football players. Players that can have an impact, whether it is Junior High, High School and/or Junior College. And understand, we don't usually work with Junior High players, but if they are good enough, and the rules allow it, that is what you want.'
On recruiting focuses:
'We are looking at any area that we think they are good enough to help our football team. Obviously, the area that probably will lend itself, will be our defensive backs.'
On offseason expectations for players:
'I expect them, in the immediate future, to just take a break. Get the season behind you to some degree, get refreshed, maintain your physical conditioning to some degree, not in game condition, but start to do the little things it takes to be a great player. Once you finish that break, then really start to get serious about what we have to do. We have got to get smarter about the game of football, about the system. We have to get bigger, faster, more explosive, and tougher, mentally and physically.'
On biggest personnel losses:
'The offensive line is the one that is hardest hit by numbers, that is relatively speaking, because the linebackers also, we lose two of three guys there with Benjamin and Lobendahn, so we have got some replacing to do there. The whole key, and the most important position on your team is the offensive line, so that is an area where we really have to do some restructuring. We have to do some realigning and find some bodies to add to some of the young bodies that we have.'
'I think that I said earlier this year that his improvement this year didn't just start with the season. I think it started in spring practices and his ability to get a much better grasp on our system, I think that has to continue. He has to really take the experience of these games and really put it to good use. Because, hopefully the mistakes he was making this year, he won't be making next year, because of his experience. Learn our system better, learn the game of football better, become more of a leader in our system, and then start the physical act of the execution, and of the little things that it takes to be a quarterback.'
On being consistent in practices:
'I think that is what we struggled at, and I think that is a cultural change that needs to take place. I think we are starting to understand how Coach Willingham wants us to go about our daily business. All year we have been inconsistent, and you have heard that word many times, and it is still a figure in many areas of our football team.'
On Junior College recruits:
'I don't know, we have already committed ourselves to basically two of them if everything goes correctly, that number could vary in terms of what is available to us in terms of their ability academically and terms of our ranking them and needing them.'
On importance of Junior College players being able to practice in the spring:
'Absolutely, because it gives you a leg up, so we want to see if we can get all of the documentation set before December 21st, I think. Which is their signing day.'
On quarterback position battle:
'I'm expected to have a very spirited competition. Not just at Quarterback, but at Wide Receiver, Running Back at a lot of those spots, it should be exciting.'
'That is always a void in so many of our athletic teams today. Young people who want to step up and be leaders, and be critical of their teammates, but do so in a positive manner. So, that is one of the areas that we as a football team really have to grow. I don't know who that is now, but that will be conducive to me as well as their teammates through their work and their leadership this winter.'
'I think I said this maybe a couple of weeks ago, that the way things had gone, the way we had played, not having knowledge of those teams, I thought we should have been able to play that last ball game the whole game.'
On whether win vs. Air Force would have changed season:
'I say hopefully that would be the case. But, you don't really know, but it would have been a great way to start the year 1-0 and see what would happen.'
'I thought the overall understanding of what we were trying to do was much better than we had been. I thought we showed some glimpses in some areas, we were inconsistent though. But being a sound football team some games our running game, some games our run defense. On special teams I thought they showed some positive signs, I think Sean finished the year very strongly. So, I think there were some signs of that we are a better football team now than we were at the beginning of the year.'
On recruiting pitch:
'I think it is really quite simple, we have great tradition, there is great passion for the program and I think there is excellent leadership. We need some young men that want to join in and make this once again the best program in the Pac-10.'
On E.J. Savannah:
'Right now, I don't know if he will be ready for spring. We anticipate that he will be, but he is basically just dealing with the previous shoulder injuries he had in high school.'
On Trenton Tuiasosopo:
'The same is true, I think he is close to being able to pass all of his physicals. I think it was the eye that was holding him back more than anything else, and that is completely cleared. Hopefully, he will get the green light and we will see what happens in the spring.'
On Running Backs:
'Hopefully a great deal. That makes the competition at that position that much better. It raises the bar. You have got Louis Rankin coming back, who for a couple of ball games was a 100-yard rusher, and you have Kenny James coming back who lead the team one year in rushing, and you have a young man who is proves to me everyday in practices that he wants to be a back. So that raises the bar, and any time you can raise the level of competition very high, that makes everyone play.'
On improving passion and heart:
'That is where we have to grow, that is where we have to get back to being a Husky type team. That passion that is undying and unyielding, and I think our inconsistencies speak to that.'
On offseason conditioning:
'Mine is very similar to what most programs run around the country. It is as much as anything else a quickness focus, a team building program during the winter, in addition to the training outside of that.'
On Apple Cup winning touchdown reception:
'We didn't contain it, we let the receiver on the screen get outside of our containment. The rest of our help was inside.'
'I think we are still in the process of getting the large and the small things, and being the consistent, tough football team I am looking to have.'
On whether culture change hinges on recruiting:
'Some of it will. Some of the culture can only be changed when you get new personnel. These young men came in, on same cases in a different plane. Sometimes that is agreeable, sometimes that is not.'
On how to find recruits that fit into desired culture:
'Well, hopefully it is something that we know. And that is why we are recruiting them. They need to not only meet our physical requirements, but they need to meet our mental requirements.'
On post-game incident:
'No, because what I have seen, from the video I can't see the events as they really unfold. But from what I could see, it is not anywhere near what you saw in South Carolina a couple of years back. It wasn't even close to that. To me it still just tarnishes the way football should be played.'
On implications of incident:
'I don't know, it will be interesting to see if the conference takes a look at it, and see what they have to say. Because usually if there is anything from the standpoint of fighting, they usually have something to say about it.'
Have you talked to WSU Coach Bill Doba about the incident?:
'No, I think we will both look at it a couple of more times, and see if we can gather more information. Maybe somebody has some different angles that we don't have.'
On performance in Apple Cup:
'I don't rate it that high, because we didn't win. That has always been the standard. I think someone asked that question earlier. Did we do some good things? Probably yes, but not enough, we didn't win.'
On Chancellor Young:
'I liked a lot of the things that I saw from Chancellor. What he will add to us is a little moxie, toughness and tenacity. And hopefully some speed.'