Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Arizona gets another crack at UCLA, GameDay
In this week's Pac-12 football coaches teleconference call, Arizona looks for its first win in the Rich Rodriguez era against UCLA, and with ESPN's College GameDay in town, no less. Meanwhile, David Shaw drops some nerd knowledge and Sonny Dykes remembers Arizona fans not doing their scouting report on former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
Linebacker Scooby Wright will be limited in practice Tuesday and Wednesday as Arizona determines whether its defensive star can return from a lateral meniscus surgery by Saturday. While it sounds like Wright is close to healed, it also depends on whether he's feeling good enough to play effectively. “The biggest thing from the medical staff, is he 100 percent cleared and ready to go?” Rodriguez said.
Arizona hasn't fared well in its last few matchups against the Bruins (Rodriguez is 0-3 against Jim Mora) and Rodriguez said it's simply come down to poor performances from his team. What's the most difficult challenge for the Wildcats this year? “The obvious, is it starts up front,” RichRod said. “They're very, very athletic on both lines. We all got good skill players, but we haven't seen their speed and athleticism this year.”
Rodriguez said UCLA's offense looks similar to last year's, aside from freshman quarterback Josh Rosen not using his legs as much as the departed Brett Hundley. “He can make all the throws. I mean, he has a really, really strong arm,” Rodriguez said of Rosen. “They're still pushing the tempo at times, they're still running some of the same run plays, some zone reads and some powers.”
UCLA's Jim Mora
Freshman quarterback Josh Rosen threw three interceptions in UCLA's 24-23 win against BYU, but Mora liked how he responded to a series of mistakes. “He reacted like I thought he would, which was calmly,” the Bruins coach said. “That cliché, you know, 'played within himself or didn't try to do too much,' he did that.”
Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright's availability in the teams' nationally televised showdown this Saturday won't change the Bruins' preparation. “We're always scheming for a scheme,” Mora said. “I don't necessarily like playing against him though.”
Mora said he recruited Arizona running back Nick Wilson, a sophomore who came out of Central High School in Fresno, California. “I think he's extremely versatile, he runs hard,” the UCLA coach said of the Pac-12's current rushing leader, who is averaging 144.7 yards per game.
Last year, UCLA beat Arizona 17-7 and Mora credited his team for putting pressure on then-freshman quarterback Anu Solomon. The key this year will be keeping Solomon in the pocket, Mora said.
California's Sonny Dykes
Dykes, a former Arizona offensive coordinator, remembers the 2009 College GameDay visit in Tucson for a game between the Wildcats and Ducks. Oregon won in double overtime as Arizona fans prematurely rushed the field. The Wildcat fans didn't know Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli had a tendency to "pull a rabbit out of his hat," Dykes said. "I know Tucson was humming that night. I just remember thinking they hadn't seen Jeremiah Masoli on film like we had.”
California visits Washington this week, and Dykes sees similarities in now-junior Cal quarterback Jared Goff and freshman Husky signal caller Jake Browning. “Both of them were very well coached in high school. I think that's where it starts,” Dykes said.
Goff and receiver Kenny Lawler have developed a strong rapport with one another – mostly around the quite effective back-shoulder throw. “Jared knows Kenny's going to be in a particular place, and Kenny knows Jared's going to throw the ball in a particular place,” Dykes said.
Stanford's David Shaw
Does David Shaw believe in the hard-to-quantify sports phrase known as momentum? Yes, and he'll ironically turn to a math equation to explain this. “I call it the only equation in team sports, which is field position plus momentum equals points,” Shaw said. “Sometimes those things equate to points, it's a real thing you can feel when you make plays to steal momentum.”
Shaw credited the Cardinal receivers and tight ends for winning 50-50 balls thrown by Kevin Hogan in their win against USC last Saturday. That stretched the field and was a big factor in the win against USC, he said.
Stanford visits Oregon State this week, and Shaw admitted the Beavers often match up with Stanford well, partially because of their small, but speedy defensive line. “It's a whole different set of circumstances up there at Oregon State. It's a group that always plays well against us,” Shaw said.
Oregon State's Gary Andersen
Andersen didn't see many differences between the Stanford team that lost to Northwestern earlier in the non-conference schedule compared to the one that beat USC this week. It just came down to the Cardinal, this week's opponent for the Beavers, making more plays. “They ran the ball very, very efficiently, quite frankly, in all packages. The offense was clicking,” Andersen said. “Not really anything different as far as scheme goes. When you're a very good team like they are, it's a couple opportunities for plays here or there.”
Oregon State fell behind, but rallied for a 35-21 victory against San Jose State this past weekend. “It should let (the Beavers) know when you're down, you have the opportunity to come back,” and that no lead is safe, Andersen said.
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
Colorado's come-from-behind, 27-24, overtime win against rival Colorado State this week impressed MacIntyre, who believes his Buffs are turning a corner as a program. “We played 98 plays on defense and I think our last four plays were our best plays of the game,” the CU coach said. “The energy they used to block that field goal (to win the game), I've never seen them move that fast. I didn't see any apprehension. I saw 'go take it.'”
MacIntyre believes it's been a huge building block to win by holding off a rally and then by coming from behind in the Buffaloes' last two games. “It gives them more confidence. The way we won the two games was totally different,” he said.
The Buffs are recruiting the obvious places like California, Texas, Colorado and Arizona, but they're also going deeper into the south, such as Georgia and Florida. It's helped that their new facilities can sell recruits as well. “That's really helped us. When the kids come and see it and the parents come and see it, they're blown away,” MacIntyre said.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Helfrich said quarterback Vernon Adams' availability won't be revealed, just like last week, when backup quarterback Jeff Lockie played for the Ducks in their win against Georgia State.
Here's a shortened version of Oregon's game plan this week as it faces Utah. “It starts certainly with stopping the running game and all the things Devontae Booker presents,” Helfrich said of the Utes' running back.
Against Fresno State last week, the Utes saw kick return man Cory Butler-Byrd and punt returner Britain Covey score on special teams duties. It's clear losing talented return man Kaelin Clay to the pros didn't mean the Utes would take much of a step backward. “They're worth the price of admission for their special teams,” Helfrich said.
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
The Utes will be hoping to get running back Devontae Booker rolling against what Whittingham says is a talented front seven. “Defensively, same scheme, odd front, got those long defensive linemen. Nose guard (Alex Balducci) is good, he's a run-stopper,” Whittingham said.
On 5-foot-8, 160 pound wide receiver Britain Covey, a freshman receiver who has caught at least three passes and also has been a dangerous punt return man: “He's not the biggest guy. He's lightning quick, tough as nails and an exceptionally smart football player.”
This highlight of the Utes' defensive line pushing two Fresno State offensive linemen into the ball carrier during last week's 45-24 win is going around social media – and no Whittingham hasn't seen its virality. “I haven't seen it on YouTube, but I've certainly seen it on the film we analyze,” he said. “It's pretty impressive. That's what you want out of your linemen. We got four or five of those guys who are capable of doing that. “
USC's Steve Sarkisian
USC, which fell to Stanford last week, hits the road with revenge on the mind after Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici connected with Jaelen Strong for the “Jael Mary” last season. “I had recruited Mike pretty extensively coming out of high school,” Sarkisian said of the ASU quarterback. “He's got a bit of a gunslinger mentality. He's going to let it rip.”
Sarkisian gave a blunt message to his team after falling to the Cardinal last week. “We got beat by a team that played well. That doesn't need to define us. Do we need to play better? Yes, I don't doubt that at all,” he said.
The Trojans head coach said his team proved last season that it could rebound from difficult losses. USC didn't lose two games in a row. “Last season, we had some real tough losses, a couple of them on the last play of the game, one where we went out and didn't perform,” Sarkisian said.
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Graham believes that coaches earning the attention of football players during their first year on the job is the first step. The next is allowing a team's culture to evolve. “We went from being the most penalized team in 2011 to top-3 least-penalized teams,” Graham said of his first season at ASU. “I think young people will meet whatever standard you fit. We conformed the culture quickly. I think now it's transformed.”
On taking on USC and, more specifically, facing the Trojans' defense: “Obviously, big, physical, talented, got all the tools to be great. Their size and speed ... Su'a Cravens is probably as good a strong safety as there is in the country.”
Washington State's Mike Leach
Leach knows both of Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and Arkansas head man Bret Bielema, who are currently in a media-driven spat. While the Wazzu coach didn't have any thoughts on that conversation, he did admit that some coaches of more traditional offenses feel threatened the way the game of football is going. “Spread passing offenses, the power run guys feel they are threatening their religion a little bit,” Leach said.
There probably aren't many similarities in recruiting to Lubbock, Texas, where Leach's former Texas Tech team is located, and the Palouse. Well, other than this: “They're similar from the standpoint in that a lot of people hadn't seen Lubbock, hadn't seen Washington State. Once they do see it, they love the place,” Leach said.
Washington's Chris Petersen
Petersen didn't look into the long term when deciding if freshman Jake Browning should win the quarterback job. He won it not because Washington wanted to give him experience, but because he was the best man for the job right now. “We have to live in the here and now,” Petersen said. “What gives us a chance to succeed right away?”
Apparently, Browning had the largest amount of ground to make up when the quarterback competition neared its end heading into the Huskies' season. He also made up the most ground, especially in the final week of the battle, according to Petersen. “It was kind of a tight competition all through fall camp,” Petersen said. “Jake was probably behind the furthest. He had spring ball, but he was probably behind.”
The most difficult part for a first-year head coach at any school is getting everyone – players, coaches and administrators – on the same page, Petersen said. “That's really, really hard to do in such a short time, especially when they've been doing it another way,” he said. “It's really hard on the older guys.”