Pac-12 coaches teleconference: College football season is here
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
As Colorado gets ready to play Colorado State, the sixth-year Buffs head coach discussed what the in-state rivalry means to his guys. “It’s a great rivalry. It’s a game our players think about 365 days a year because it’s that important,” MacIntyre said, noting that many of his players know Colorado State guys and that the players see each other at different events.
One of the biggest holes the Buffs need to fill this year is at running back with Phillip Lindsay having exhausted his eligibility. “We’re definitely going to miss Phillip. We’re going to miss his leadership,” MacIntyre said. “He left a legacy of hard work… Our running back spot, we feel good about it, but we’re a little unkown.”
MacIntyre also mentioned that he is excited about his special teams unit, noting that all of the team’s key specialists from 2017 are back in the fold with the Buffs.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Whittingham’s challenge to second-year starting quarterback Tyler Huntley? Don’t take so many gosh darn hits. Whittingham said Huntley needs to “be more judicious in his decision making,” noting he’ll need to slide more to avoid taking direct shots. Outside of that, Whittingham has been very pleased with how Huntley has progressed as a quarterback. “He’s playing with more confidence. He’s making better decisions. He’s really just improved every facet of his game,” he said.
Whittingham also talked about how the Utes go about scouring the globe for international talent (there’s a good piece on Lewis Powell, the Utes’ international recruiter, in The Salt Lake Tribune you can check out). He noted that a lot of international recruiting is done through referrals – the Utes have some contacts in Australia that have led to a nice pipeline of punters in the SLC. Sometimes, though, the international kids haven’t played American football, so deciding who to visit in person is based on the trust they have in their international contacts. Film on some international prospects? Forget about it. “You gather what you can, you do your homework the best you can,” Whittingham said. “Oftentimes, there is no data.”
David Shaw, Stanford
As expected, Shaw fielded multiple questions about Bryce Love’s return to The Farm. While stating that he thought Love couldn’t go wrong no matter what he decided, Shaw mentioned that coming back to school for an extra year will make Love a better player heading into the NFL Draft, which could only be a positive. “The NFL isn’t looking for undeveloped prospects; they’re looking for the best players,” Shaw said. “I think Bryce was ready to play in the NFL last year; I think he’s more suited to play [in the NFL] this year… I think he’ll be more versatile.” Shaw also added that Love put on 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason.
Shaw shared what he and Love discussed after he decided he was going to return for his senior season. “Bryce and I talked about it earlier when he did come back. Two things are guaranteed – he’s going to be the most requested athlete to be interviewed, so we can’t say yes to everything, and he’s going to face more criticism than anyone [in college football],” Shaw said. “He’s gotta do what’s best for him and what’s best for his team and not worry about the backlash that may come.”
Shaw sees a lot of similarities between his program and San Diego State, his Week 1 opponent, noting that when Rocky Long took over as the Aztecs’ head coach, many didn’t see San Diego State as a physical team. But Long changed that perception, kind of like how Jim Harbaugh and Shaw changed the way the country looks at Stanford football. Aztec blood runs in Shaw’s veins, as his father and brother both went to San Diego State.
Mike Leach, Washington State
With the Cougs playing at Wyoming to start the season, Leach was asked about playing high school football in Wyoming, so he recounted some of his glory days in Cody, Wyoming, where he helped his high school win a state title by winning the state championship game in triple overtime. He noted that it was in Wyoming that he first developed his love of coaching. “During that time I started coaching baseball,” Leach said. “Little League baseball, Babe Ruth baseball from when I was 15 to my sophomore year in college, and that’s when I really started to like coaching.”
On the quarterback situation -- “We’ve got four quarterbacks and one of them will play. It will be a thrill a minute to see who will play. I think everyone should come and watch… I think there are a few opportunities that happen every year that you want to be there when it happens and I think this is one of them.” Book your plane tickets to Laramie if you haven’t already.
Kevin Sumlin, Arizona
Sumlin did not seem worried about star quarterback Khalil Tate buying into his own Heisman hype, noting he was pleased with how Tate handled himself at Pac-12 Media Day and mentioning that Tate didn’t even tell his parents that he was doing a photoshoot for Sports Illustrated to be on the magazine’s cover. “We talked about it early this summer; I went to visit his parents,” Sumlin said. “We’ve got some experience in that area that can help him, so I think he trusts us and we trust him. He’s focused on being the best teammate he can be.”
The first-year Wildcat head coach noted how big some of the guys on BYU’s defense are (the Wildcats open up against the Cougars on Saturday). “It’s just going to be one of the largest teams we play; 340-pound guys inside, 6’9 defensive ends,” Sumlin said. “[It’s an] experienced defense that played well with a couple of the best players coming back.”
Justin Wilcox, Cal
Ross Bowers was named the starting quarterback on Monday. Wilcox noted that Bowers, who was the starting quarterback in 2017, has made big strides in his command of the offense and decision-making. “I think he’s come a long way,” Wilcox said. “We’re excited about his growth.”
On North Carolina quarterback Nathan Elliott: “He’s a good quarterback. Came in and played quite a bit. Can deliver the ball; kind of an all-around guy. We have a lot of respect for him… He moved their team up and down the field, and that’s what you ask a quarterback to do.”
With respect to the Tar Heels’ defense, Wilcox noted that the Heels play a lot of matchup coverage, will contest routes, and that their defensive tackles are tough to block and can create a lot of negative plays. “We’ll have to do a good job up front in the run and pass game,” Wilcox said. “It’ll be a really good challenge for our team.”
Chip Kelly, UCLA
The Bruins have yet to name a starting quarterback, and Kelly doesn’t see that as a drawback whatsoever. “I think all quarterback competitions and other competitions have to happen organically,” he said. “I think it has to be won on the field.” He noted that all three competitors – Devin Modster, Wilton Speight and Dorian Thompson-Robinson – “have played at a very high level in camp.”
Chip Kelly noted that he speaks regularly (once or twice a week) with Ohio State interim head coach Ryan Day, who is taking over for the suspended Urban Meyer for the first three games of the season. “[Ryan] doesn’t need any advice from me; he’ll be fine,” Kelly said when asked if he gives Day any pointers on the position. Day played quarterback at New Hampshire from 1998-2001, when Kelly was the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator there.
Clay Helton, USC
Helton named JT Daniels the starting quarterback on Sunday, and he spoke about what made Daniels the right choice in the teleconference. “What I think JT did a really good job of was when the ball was put down in scrimmage and live-game situations, and the ball moved,” Helton said. “It looked easy to him. There didn’t seem to be any confusion; he knew where to go, protected the football. In those live-game situations, he shined.”
Helton heaped praise on UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers, the reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Year (the Trojans open up against UNLV). “You look at the run threat that he is, it just jumps off the film,” he said. “Just so impressed with him not just as a runner but also what he does in the passing game. He’s a kid that we were really impressed with coming out of high school.”
Longtime USC fan Jan Moser Dyer, a friend of Helton’s, passed away over the weekend (there’s a great article by Bruce Feldman written about Jan and Helton’s friendship). Helton said that he and his wife had a chance to visit with Jan on Friday and say goodbye. “Jan was such a special example of how sweet life is. We have a saying at USC, “Fight On,” and she was the definition of it,” Helton said. “She was a good Trojan and a great member of our family.”
Herm Edwards, Arizona State
We got a little bit of the Press Conference Herm magic on Tuesday. He was asked about his famous “you play to win the game” line and said, “I just think you play to win. That’s why America is so great; it’s a competitive place.”
Edwards talked about the importance of having quarterback Manny Wilkins as a building block for his program. “The great part is you walk into a place with an established QB who has a lot of experience here. I think this football team knows what he’s meant to this team,” he said. “It’s Manny’s offense, so hopefully he can have a good year for us.”
When asked about UTSA, Arizona State’s first opponent of 2018, Edwards was quick to point out the Roadrunners’ defense, mentioning their defensive line, a “good linebacker corps,” and noting that their cornerbacks will play a lot of press coverage. “It’s going to be a tough test for us, so we’re going to have our work cut out.”
Mario Cristobal, Oregon
While Cristobal is in his first year as head coach at Oregon, it’s not his first in Eugene after having been the offensive coordinator for Willie Taggart in 2017. He noted on Tuesday that having that familiarity with the program has been a positive as opposed to walking onto a different campus as a first-year head coach. “It certainly helps because of your familiarity with the players,” he said. “Overall, it’s been very helpful.”
The Ducks open up with Bowling Green on Saturday, and Cristobal broke down the Falcons for the media contingent over the phone. “They’ve got a big offensive line with a lot of experience and a big talback – explosive, low center of gravity… Really unique system of how they move the ball around and the way they throw the ball. They put pressure on your corners to make plays,” he said. “Defensively, going through a drastic change schematically- very disciplined and sound. Designed to stop the run first, high movement, high-stunt operation… On third down, they can get pretty exotic to test your protections.”
Chris Petersen, Washington
Technically, Washington’s opener against Auburn is a neutral-site game. But Auburn University is just a little more than a 100-mile drive from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where the Huskies and Tigers will meet, so Chris Petersen doesn’t think of it as such. “I would love to play in a neutral site game; this isn’t a neutral-site game,” he said. “We’re playing in their backyard.”
When evaluating Auburn, Petersen says the Tigers’ “defense jumps out right away. That’s a physical crew, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, plays tight across the board.”
Petersen talked a little about his background with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, as the two knew each other from when Petersen was at Boise State and Malzahn was the co-offensive coordinator at Tulsa. Petersen and his Boise State staff took a trip to Tulsa to get with Malzahn and staff and compare notes because Petersen was a fan of the way Malzahn was doing things at Tulsa.
Jonathan Smith, Oregon State
Smith discussed why he chose Jake Luton as the starting quarterback, noting that Luton really separated himself from the pack (Conor Blount and Jack Colletto) in the last week and a half. “I think he brings some things because he has experience from last year. He worked really hard in the offseason,” Smith said, while also mentioning his arm and growth as a leader.
The Beavers open against Ohio State, a program that has been in the headlines all month for Urban Meyer’s three-game suspension stemming from his handling of domestic-violence issues involving a former staffer. “It hasn’t changed our preparation,” Smith said. “It will be a great environment where we will have to deal with some distraction…Outside of that, just focused on ourselves.”
What’s the biggest thing he has learned about being a head coach so far? “You have to surround yourself with great people,” Smith said.