Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Washington faces rolling Stanford, Christian McCaffrey
Stanford coach David Shaw cites early Sunday farmers markets as conflicting with late Pac-12 games, Utah's Kyle Whittingham shuts down rumors about his candidacy for the USC coaching opening, and coaches rave about Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey in this week's Pac-12 football coaches teleconference.
Stanford's David Shaw
The Cardinal host Washington this week and, after averaging 45 points per game in each of the past five games – and increasing the point production in each – faces a UW defense allowing 16.8 per game, which is the 16th-lowest mark in the nation. Shaw sees the Husky defense as elaborate but well-executed. "It's multiple ... It's the ability to play very, very sound but at the same time show some variety in how you line up," he said.
Don't count Shaw as a coach to get involved in College Football Playoff talk at this point of the season – or any. "I think that's a mistake for any football coach - to do what's going on in the media now ... which is talk about the four-team playoff. It's a distraction. Every week, you're up, you're down, you're here, you're there," Shaw said.
Shaw, on the reality of late start times for the Pac-12: "I don't think it's a disadvantage but I would say it's not ideal. Those east coast eyes, they start to go to bed late at night. People have to get up, go to church, go to the farmer's market, or something else."
Washington's Chris Petersen
The Huskies' defense is facing a Stanford running attack that rolled up 345 rushing yards – and an individual school record of 243 yards by Christian McCaffrey – on UCLA. "They come after you, they mash you with the run game," Petersen said. "I just think that they're, each week, getting a little bit better."
McCaffrey's vision and toughness stand out to Petersen, and technically he has the ability to make quick cuts without losing his feet. "Great base, never crosses his feet over," Petersen said.
What's clicked for Washington's young defense? In short, Petersen credits young talent and the coaching staff for preparing them. Oh, and the Huskies are buying in, too. "They've really stuck to the script each week," he said.
USC's Clay Helton
Helton, the interim coach who replaced Steve Sarkisian, lost his first game, 41-31 at Notre Dame. "We took a lot of positives away from that last game," he said. "This team knows they're a good team trying to be great. These kids want to go out and show the world how great they are."
It doesn't get easier this week with No. 3 Utah visiting The Coliseum. Utes running back Devontae Booker will be one challenge for the Trojans. "His legs explode on contact. He runs through arm tackles – absolutely runs through arm tackles at will," Helton said. "You may make contact at two yards and he pulls you for six."
Helton liked how his players practiced Tuesday. "It inspired me as a coach," he said. "I'm usually the positive one. They're doing the things you need to do to be a good team and hopefully that'll carry over into this Saturday."
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
Utah's big fourth quarter helped push it past Arizona State this past weekend, setting it up for another attempt at remaining undefeated. "The big thing going into this game is dealing with the talent that USC has on the roster," Whittingham said. "When you have that going for you, you're capable of beating any team."
Whittingham was asked to give a summary of how the Utes have built their program to compete and succeed in the Pac-12. "Summary is one word: Recruiting. That's a quick summary for you right there. We've had the opportunity now to recruit as a member of the Pac-12 going on five years now, and that's been a big difference," the Utah coach said.
Asked if the USC head coaching opening would be something he was interested in or if he's been approached about his interest, Whittingham chose not to comment. "I never make any comments on any job speculation one way or the other," he said.
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
Rodriguez confirmed that both starting quarterback Anu Solomon and backup Jerrard Randall could play against the Washington State Cougars this weekend. Solomon threw for 283 yards and two scores against Colorado last week, but Randall also got his fair share of snaps, throwing three completions for 42 yards and adding 11 carries, 81 yards, and a touchdown. "We still think Anu's a pretty good quarterback," Rodriguez said. "We have two guys who we have complete confidence in. Jerrard and Anu have been there in crunch time."
Following a 38-31 victory against Colorado, the Wildcats return home to face the 4-2 Cougars. "Mike's (WSU coach Mike Leach) teams just play and they always attack. Right now they're playing at a very high level," Rodriguez said.
In 2012, his first season at Arizona, Rodriguez remembers the Wildcats' eighth game of the year, against USC, being significant. They rallied from a 21-13 halftime deficit to win 39-36 despite Trojan receiver Marqise Lee piling up a Pac-12 record 345 receiving yards. "Because of injuries or what have you, we had four or five walk-ons on defense," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if that was the corner we turned or if it gave our guys a lot of belief that we can get this thing done."
Washington State's Mike Leach
Leach isn't one to think there's anything wrong with the game of college football, but he does seem bothered by the rule book that, in his opinion, is too thick. "I think the game's just fine. If (games) were too long people wouldn't be watching," Leach said. "Instead they're watching them at a higher rate than they have before. We need to stop tinkering with stuff and take satisfaction that we have a great product and everybody's happy with it."
Leach, whose Cougars visit Tucson, Ariz., this week, was asked why Utah has found so much success since joining the Pac-12. "Well, I think they're a very good team, and I also think you've got a great setting and great audience for a football team, as far as Salt Lake," he said. "They're very physical ... I'm not sure they're not the most physical team in the conference, I think they probably are."
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Helfrich said Oregon's facilities are "immeasurable" for the football team's recruiting success but added that the Ducks sell their program because of the people working there. "(Recruits are) blown away by the quality of people that are surrounding them," Helfrich said.
Oregon slipped by a stingy Washington defense to win 26-20 this past week, and Helfrich likes what he saw from the Huskies, who have hardly skipped a beat despite losing Shaq Thompson, Marcus Peters, Danny Shelton, and Hau'oli Kikaha to the NFL Draft. "Schematically they're tremendously sound, they kind of make you earn everything," Helfrich said.
On quarterback Vernon Adams' performance against UW after returning from injury: "You could definitely tell it was his first game back. His eye progression and where his eyes were, to start, wasn't correct. Some things of trying to predict ... there's always that fine line of predicting rather than anticipating."
Helfrich said Oregon's early losses have, in some ways, changed the day-to-day preparation for the Ducks opposed to their championship runs of years' past. There's been more rest in practice and more emphasis on preparing third-string and scout teams. "We're hammering home certain elements," he said.
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Graham, whose team is on a bye this week after losing to Utah, was asked how facilities play a part in recruiting: "I think facilities is huge. I think it's up there at the top. What it shows, I think, is commitment."
When Graham looks at the box score, he looks at turnover ratio, rushing offense and defense, and then third down efficiency on both sides of the ball – in that order, he said.
California's Sonny Dykes
California visits UCLA coming off a bye but still ranked No. 20 after losing to Utah two weeks ago. Has the Cal-UCLA rivalry been rekindled a bit? Dykes admitted he hasn't been around long enough to say and also said "part of it has probably lost a little bit of luster because (Cal hasn't been good recently)."
Dykes said uniform variations and how they impact recruiting aren't his worry at California. "If that means too much to the kid we're recruiting, we're not recruiting the right kid," he said.
The Golden Bears coach didn't buy that fans want college football games to be shorter, or that games drag on. "There's a lot of action, a lot of plays. I don't watch a lot of NFL games ... but when you do watch the game it's so different. The pace is so much slower," Dykes said. "It seems like it drags more than a four-hour college football games because there's so much less action."
UCLA's Jim Mora
UCLA gets a home date against Cal after losing its last two games to ASU and then Stanford. Mora believes his team practices and prepares the same as a 6-0 team, a sign the Bruins are in a good place despite the losses. "If you concentrate on the process you have a chance for success," Mora said. "There's a realism in each season and the reality changes as it goes on. I think it's important every day to focus on being the best you can."
On if UCLA wearing all black uniform combination will help the Bruins: "I think playing well will."
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
The Buffaloes have four night games in a row, and MacIntyre said in the future the Pac-12 should look at avoiding such schedules. "We won't even get back to our homes until 5, probably 6 o'clock in the morning. It messes up the next day," MacIntyre said. "(The players are) taking tests on the road. We proctor tests. That's part of it; they enjoy a good atmosphere and it's good playing in it. Playing night games is fun."
This week, Colorado visits an Oregon State team led by Gary Andersen, who MacIntyre knows well from playing against him in the Mountain West Conference. MacIntyre led San Jose State while Andersen coached at Utah State from 2010-12. "It always takes it a while to get it going, and Gary will get it going," MacIntyre said of Andersen's Beavers.
Arizona edged Colorado 38-31 last week as the Wildcats got their offense going with a two quarterback system behind starter Anu Solomon and the run threat, backup Jerrard Randall. "Both of those guys are high-caliber at what they do. They're not just average," MacIntyre said. "We have to change gears, your defense does. We didn't stop it but we did prepare for it."
Oregon State's Gary Andersen
This week, Oregon State announced it had hired offensive consultant Gary Crowton, the former offensive coordinator of Southern Utah University who resigned at that post mideason. Andersen said he has not talked to Crowton about why he left SUU. "If not a great football mind, (he brings) a ton of experience," Andersen said. "He just wants to get his time and be around these kids."
Call Andersen a Stanford supporter. The Cardinal's only loss this year, to Northwestern, has been labeled an ugly mar on the Cardinal's season by some but not the former Wisconsin coach. "That's a very good Northwestern team. Some people want to debate that, I won't debate that," Andersen said.
Andersen, by the way, seems incensed that Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey hasn't been getting much Heisman hype. "How McCaffrey isn't mentioned in the Heisman thing is ... I don't know," he said.