Pac-12 coaches teleconference: Khalil Tate out for Saturday's game at UCLA
Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin
The biggest news bit out of the entire conference call was Sumlin saying that quarterback Khalil Tate will not play against UCLA this week to let his ankle heal.
“Khalil and I met yesterday and we talked through a lot of different things, and I made the decision this week to shut him down,” Sumlin said. “It’s the best thing for him. We’re going to take this week for him to get healthy and give him the chance to be the best Khalil Tate the last quarter of the season.
“[It’s] for safety reasons and for his health and for our football team, and he was in agreement with that.”
Sumlin mentioned that despite Tate’s best efforts to fight through the ankle injury that has bothered him most of the season, he just hasn’t been able to everything he wants from a physical standpoint.
“That thing starts to feel better later in the week but two series in and you tweak it,” Sumlin said, referring to Tate re-injuring the ankle against Utah. “It certainly has hampered his performance and giving him an opportunity to get healthy. We certainly talked through and he understood it and saw the big picture."
That means Rhett Rodriguez, son of former Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, will be the starting quarterback, Sumlin confirmed. “Rhett preformed at a pretty high level when he was in the [Utah] game – he looked poised,” he said.
Sumlin also noted that the two freshmen quarterbacks – Jamarye Joiner and Kevin Doyle – will continue to get reps in practice.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre
MacIntyre said star wide receiver Laviska Shenault is day to day after injuring his toe against USC on Saturday night. “Hopefully he’ll be ready to go,” he said.
When asked about when he realized that Shenault could be a special player, MacIntyre pointed to spring practices. “In the spring, he just showed out more and more what he could do. I didn’t realize he was as good of a runner with the ball in his hands like a running back-type thing,” he said. “He’s an excellent athlete, a humble young man, and he’s done an excellent job for us.”
MacIntyre’s takeaways on the Trojans after the loss: “Defensively, they’re very active. #45 [Porter Gustin, who is now out for the year] is a great player — he wreaked havoc by himself. Added a couple of new wrinkles that caught us off guard. ... Offensively, we stuffed their run and they made some big passes on us, so that’s good by them. They hurt us on two fronts: their pass rush and their deep shot [in the passing game].”
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham
Whittingham pointed to four areas that has led to the Utes’ improvement on offense in recent weeks. The first point he mentioned was the play of the offensive line. “Our offensive line is really starting to gel. We were spotty and inconsistent at the beginning of the year,” he said.
The next area was the improvement of his receivers, nothing that the number of drops has decreased substantially over the last three games.
Giving running back Zack Moss the ball more has also helped: “He was banged up early in the season, so we didn’t give him the dose of carries that we wanted to but now he’s getting a bunch of carries,” Whittingham said.
And lastly, quarterback Tyler Huntley has looked very good in wins over Stanford and Arizona. “He has really settled in and is playing with a lot of confidence right now and is operating exactly like we need him to,” Whittingham said.
Stanford head coach David Shaw
Shaw discussed at length why the running game hasn’t been its usual effective self on The Farm this year.
“We’ve had injuries on the offensive line, injuries to Bryce that have played a part of it, that’s not the only reason," Shaw said. "We’ve played some teams that are very good at stopping the run, and we haven’t met that challenge, offensively. We haven’t been efficient. The other thing that has happened to us is we haven’t started games very well. In multiple games, we were down two scorers, minimum. And the other factor, honestly, is we’ve been really good at throwing the ball. The quarterback is having a very good year, two tight ends and two receivers having a good year catching the ball.
“If you asked me what I’d like, I’d love for us to be more efficient, I’d love for us to be able to run the ball more.”
When asked if he thought the College Football Playoff devalued winning a conference championship, Shaw gave his pitch for the CFP to be expanded to eight teams, with each Power Five champion getting an auto bid to the playoff.
“I just think it would be better. I think it would emphasize winning your conference,” Shaw said. “I don’t think it devalues the committee. [They would] just apply the process they’ve been going through to the next three teams.”
Washington State head coach Mike Leach
Pretty Leachian day on the conference call. What are his thoughts on ESPN College GameDay coming to Pullman for the first time ever? “I’m excited. Looking forward to it.”
What about playing Oregon? “We’re excited to have them up here,” Leach said. “Always excited to play a quality team like Oregon.
And that was that.
Cal head coach Justin Wilcox
The Golden Bears make a trip up to Corvallis to play the Beavers on Saturday, and Wilcox is very familiar with Oregon State defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, as the two worked together at Wisconsin in 2016. Wilcox was the defensive coordinator and Tibesar was the outside linebackers coach. Thus, Wilcox has some familiarity with the Oregon State defense.
“They have gotten better, and I see what they’re trying to do,” Wilcox said. “They’re improving week to week, they have good schemes and it will be a good challenge for us this week.”
UCLA head coach Chip Kelly
Kelly expressed disappointment that the Bruins will battle Khalil Tate this weekend when the Wildcats visit Westwood. “We don’t have to chase the fastest kid in the country,” Kelly said. “It’s sad. I’m a big Khalil Tate fan. He’s a tough kid. I know he tried to gut it out.”
The Bruins have looked a lot better over the last couple of weeks, playing the Huskies to within a touchdown and demolishing Cal on the road. So, what are the biggest strides Kelly has seen his team make? “Points scored and points against.” Fair enough. Can’t say he’s wrong.
Kelly was also asked about the passing of the father of offensive lineman Andre James. “Obviously it’s a very sad situation,” Kelly said. “Andre’s been dealing with this for some time. I lost my dad a year and a half ago, so we’re supporting him in any way we can.”
USC head coach Clay Helton
Helton and the Trojans are getting ready for Kyle Whittingham and the Utes in what could very well be another nail-biter. Last year, Helton said this game was becoming a rivalry game for the Trojans considering what has been at stake in previous games. And with so much on the line on Saturday – the winner stays right near the top of the heap in the Pac-12 South – Helton discussed how tough this year’s contest figures to be.
“You always see Utah at the top of the leaderboard, either first, second or third each year. I have a lot of respect for Coach Whittingham and what he’s done,” Helton said. “You know going into that battle with Utah that you’re in for an extremely physical war. Three of the last four games, they’ve gone down to the last drive… One of those games that you know is going to be a 60-minute game.”
With Porter Gustin out, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare for Helton. The USC head coach noted that team captains Cam Smith, Marvell Tell III and Toa Lobendahn will still provide strong leadership, and linebackers Jordan Iosefa, Christian Rector and Hunter Echols can help pick up the production slack with Gustin out, alongside the help of defensive lineman Connor Murphy and safety Talanoa Hufanga. Despite all that, it will not be easy to replace the versatile and locker-room leader Gustin.
“I don’t know if you can replace the type of leader and player Porter is and the productiveness he brought,” Helton said. “Definitely a blow to our team. … We have the bodies, but it’s just hard shoes to fill. I think Porter was having an All-American year at his position.”
Washington head coach Chris Petersen
Petersen was asked about sophomore tight end Jacob Kizer, who hasn’t had a big role in the receiving game but has played in 19 of the Huskies’ 20 games so far in his career. “He’s doing fine. We used him last year as a true freshman, getting his feet wet. He’s working hard, progressing,” Petersen said. “He’s the next guy up if anything happens to [the starters].”
His thoughts on Colorado, the team the Huskies beat in the 2016 Pac-12 Football Championship Game to clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff: “We know those guys pretty well and the job that coach MacIntyre does. They’re impressive. They play hard. They have good players. They don’t flinch. They had a loss; that won’t bother them. They’ll just come back hungrier than ever. … Steven Montez is playing very well and he has explosive players around him.”
Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards
The Sun Devils play Stanford Thursday night, and Edwards is very familiar with David Shaw and his father, Willie, from his days in the NFL. “He’s one of the better coaches in college football. He does an excellent job with his team,” Edwards said of the younger Shaw. “I have a lot of respect for him and what he’s been able to accomplish at Stanford. They’re always in the thick of things.”
Edwards believes that the CFP system has taken the spotlight off some really good teams that won’t qualify for football’s Final Four. “All of a sudden, college football has gotten to a point where you don’t arrive in the Final Four, they look at you’re not one of the better teams,” Edwards said. “I don’t buy into that. I think that any team that is in one of the better bowl games, you’ve done some things… [Going to the CFP] is like going to the Super Bowl … 99 percent of players never make the Super Bowl.”
Growing up, it was all about the Rose Bowl for Edwards. “I’ve said this and maybe it’s because where I grew up… If you were in the Rose Bowl and you were a West Coast tam, that was like really, really good,” Edwards said. “That’s one of the reasons I went to Cal and not Arizona State, because Cal was in the Pac-8.” This was before Arizona State was in the conference, of course.
Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal
The chat here revolved around Penei Sewell, the true freshman starting left tackle who will be out at least six weeks with an ankle injury. Cristobal declined to elaborate on what kind of injury it was, leaving it at “high ankle injury” (ESPN had reported that it was a high ankle sprain).
“He is a little bit of a kind of freak of nature the way his body developed, so hopefully he’ll be ready sooner than later but it’s got to be about player safety first,” Cristobal said. “It’s tough for him. He has a passion for the game.”
While Sewell won’t be able to play for the time being, Cristobal noted that he could come back an improved player by watching from the sidelines and studying film. “He realizes this could be a time for improvement,” Cristobal said. “He’s got six games and 100 practices of film to study, so I think he’ll utilize his time away from the field well.”
Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith
Saturday will be Retro Benny day at Reser Stadium, with the old Benny Beaver logo on the uniforms of the Beavers for their game against Cal. Smith, a former Beaver quarterback, is a fan of the look. “I think it’s fun and exciting,” he said. “I know a bunch of our former alums and the university takes a lot of pride in the old Benny, and I think it’s gonna be fun.”
Now for the task at hand – the Golden Bears. “I think they’re really sound on defense and they’re physical on defense,” Smith said. “I think what also concerns you is offensively is now that they’re getting into playing – the quarterback (Brandon McIlwain) has gotten into a couple of games so he will continue to improve.”