Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Ducks and Trojans prepare for freshman QB showdown
Oregon and USC talk about their decisions to make a midseason change to freshmen quarterbacks, while UCLA head coach Jim Mora clears the air surrounding Josh Rosen's reported shoulder injury.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
All talk was on Oregon freshman quarterback and Pac-12 offensive player of the week Justin Herbert. “Our players believe 100% in Justin,” says head coach Mark Helfrich.
What makes Herbert a special quarterback? Aside from his basic knowledge and skills of the game, Helfrich says he’s “very honest” and eager to learn.
When asked about making the decision of putting in Herbert as the Ducks’ starting quarterback midway through the season, Helfrich said the conversation happened between himself and his coaching staff, and was pretty clear-cut: “We needed a boost, and it was best for our football team, so we pulled the trigger."
USC's Clay Helton
This weekend’s matchup at the Coliseum will be a freshman QB battle. The USC Trojans have seen wild improvement since making the change to starting Sam Darnold in the spot, something head coach Clay Helton attributes to two things.
“He [Darnold] has two great qualities,” says Helton. “One, he’s a team guy. He’s always wanted to be a Trojan. Two, his maturity. He’s an old soul, and even though he’s having this early success, he’s honest with himself and knows he has room to grow.”
Similar to Oregon’s decision to make a QB change midseason to a freshman starter, Helton says the talk came after they “needed a spark.” After speaking with his coaching staff and “seeing the confidence the players had with Sam,” they, too, pulled the trigger.
UCLA's Jim Mora
UCLA head coach Jim Mora had just three things to say regarding the reports circulating about Josh Rosen’s shoulder injury: “Number one, there is no nerve damage to his shoulder. I’m not a doctor…so when I give an answer it’s not always the correct verbiage. Number two, Josh is a tough son of a gun. I put nothing past what Josh’s future this year looks like. Number three, we always do what’s best for our players long term.”
With that out of the way, Mora continued by speaking on this week’s Thursday matchup against Colorado in Boulder. “The altitude, that’s a media thing. It has nothing to do with anything,” says Mora.
What does matter, however, is the Buffs’ gritty competitiveness. “The way they compete…they just compete,” says Mora. “They’re very balanced."
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
The rise continues to be a topic of conversation surrounding the Colorado Buffaloes. “There’s a ton of season left and what I’ve told our guys is that they’ve made our program good again, and now they can make it great again,” says head coach Mike MacIntyre.
Even off the field, the Buffs have been feeling the buzz surrounding their recent success throughout Boulder. MacIntyre is sure to keep his team humble, though, and says to look at these “pats on the back” as motivation, and “not for you to think you’ve arrived.”
A topic that couldn’t be ignored this week was the possibility of the Buffs’ name appearing in the College Football Playoff rankings to be released this Tuesday. While MacIntyre makes it clear that his focus for this team is on one game at a time, he did mention the benefits of appearing in the CFP rankings for recruiting.
“Anytime your name can get out there in those types of media outlets it’s a good thing,” says MacIntyre.
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
The Utes weren’t hanging their heads in the locker room following last week’s loss to Washington. “They’re angry. They’re frustrated. They’re mad. That’s what you want to see,” says head coach Kyle Whittingham.
With a bye week on the schedule for his Utes, Whittingham has given his team some much-needed rest and a whole lot of tape review, but says all his guys want is to be back on the field. “That’s what you want to see,” he says.
Stanford's David Shaw
Stanford head coach David Shaw is pleased with what he’s seen in Keller Chryst and has just one plan for him in future games: Keep him in a rhythm.
Another player Shaw had nothing but praise for is defensive end Solomon Thomas. Shaw compares Thomas to Christian McCafferey in how they’re built by giving 100% effort every play, coupled with speed, technique, and having great hands.
“He’s one of the few guys in college football who can change the game from the interior defensive line position,” says Shaw. “A couple times a day you’d say ‘Wow, we haven’t had a guy around here able to do those things in a while.’"
Washington State's Mike Leach
Washington State head coach Mike Leach again didn’t have too much to say on Arizona ahead of their matchup this week out of “fear of being fined or publicly reprimanded,” but did comment on the Cougs’ overall improvement.
“We’re playing together better,” says Leach. “We’re more synchronized.” Leach says this is especially true with the Cougs’ offensive line.
How are the Cougs planning on getting the win this weekend against Arizona? “Play the best game we can."
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez knows that the pressure is on if his Wildcats hope to make a bowl game this season. “We’ve got to win out,” says Rodriguez. “They know that.”
The first step to do so will be taking down No. 25 Washington State on the road this weekend, a game Rodriguez calls “a challenge.”
On the quarterback side, Rodriguez reports that starting Brandon Dawkins or Anu Solomon will be a game time decision. “Brandon’s the better runner, but Anu has more experience,” says Rodriguez. “I’ll make a decision maybe five minutes before kickoff, or maybe two days before."
California's Sonny Dykes
Cal is looking to do what no team has done so far this season: Stop Washington. When it comes to doing so, head coach Sonny Dykes says the important thing is stopping the run game. “In college football, it’s hard to play good defense if you can’t stop the run game,” says Dykes.
Dykes knows that he’ll have his work cut out for him against Washington, but is excited to have the opportunity to play the Huskies at home. “Our guys like playing at home,” he says. “They’ve got some confidence at home."
Washington's Chris Petersen
Washington head coach Chris Petersen wants to make one thing loud and clear: The Huskies aren’t overlooking any opponents this season. “We didn’t overlook Arizona by any stretch…and if Cal beats us it’s not because we’re overlooking them,” says Petersen.
Speaking of not overlooking, Petersen is still not looking at the ranks, or the impending College Football Playoff Rankings. “Everyone else wants to talk about it, and gets semi-irritated that I don’t want to talk about it,” laughs Petersen. “If you want to win championships, it’s one at a time. You don’t do it by talking about winning championships a month out."
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Arizona State has not been a stranger to the injury bug that’s been hitting college football this season, and are looking forward to this week’s bye. “We need to focus on getting these guys healed up,” says head coach Todd Graham.
Oregon State's Gary Andersen
“These kids have expectations of who they are now. They see last year as the past.” Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen is seeing a newfound confidence in his Beavs this season, shown in the fight they put up against Washington State this past week.
Something arguably more valuable than confidence for the Beavs, however, is the teachable moments that Andersen says happen in close games, rather than blowouts. “There’s those critical teaching moments, and when you get beaten badly it’s hard to find those moments,” he says. Andersen plans to take those moments and apply them to his team when they face Stanford in Palo Alto this weekend.