Arizona Football: Rich Rodriguez’s Transcript

A softer, kinder Rich Rodriguez is now coaching, he claims. The head football coach at University of Arizona spoke about how he has changed as a football coach at his Pac 12 media days press conference.

COACH RODRIGUEZ: Just a couple brief remarks. Did you all know it was the hundredth anniversary of the Pac-12? Just making sure. It’s exciting.
Let’s see. I’ve got two outstanding players here. David Richards, senior wide receiver, and Will Parks, senior safety. That’s good. Got some good players returning. Got a quarterback coming back, and that’s a good thing. I said this, am I excited to be here? I’d rather be practicing, watching film, golfing or at the lake, but I appreciate you all coming. That’s the truth.
We had a pretty good year last year. Really proud of the way the guys competed. Lost some key players on the offensive line, some key players on defense at safety and up front, but we got some good players coming back, and we’ve got a lot of good skill players, I think.
Our schedule is unique. We have 12 straight games and no open dates. Not happy about that. There’s nothing I can do about it, but that’s going to be a unique challenge.
Pac-12 is really good. That’s true. Pac-12 south is really good. That’s true. And University of Arizona is a great school to go to, get a degree, play football at. Tucson, Arizona, great city. If you haven’t been there, you need to come visit us. With that said, I’ll open it up for questions.

Q. Can you talk about how competitive the Pac-12 South is?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: How competitive it is? Well, the Pac-12 south, I think it’s always been good, but what’s changed is the commitment to football in our league in general and in the Pac-12 south, in particular is unprecedented. I mean, everybody’s putting money into the programs, reinvesting in football, so to speak. I think a lot of the talent that’s been out west that maybe had left the western part of the country going somewhere else is now staying out here because they see that commitment. We’re one of them.
But the other schools in our division and in our league are doing it. So I think the Pac-12 south is probably going to be better this year than it’s ever been. The Pac-12 will be better than it’s ever been, and I think it’s going to stay that way into the future.

Q. Do you feel like the Pac-12 is getting the respect nationally it deserves?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I mean, I think there are always some arguments about which league is the best, which division is the best, and that’s good for debate. I don’t worry about it. Hell, I’m trying to get a first down in a first game. I don’t think when you line up middle of the fourth quarter and it’s hot and you’ve played 200 plays already and the guy’s worried about crossing the line. Wondering I wonder if we’re getting respect as the Pac-12 south? Hell, just try to get the first down and get a stop.
But I think if you look at the non-conference results and you look at the bowl results, I think the conference as a whole stands pretty good.

Q. Did the poll yesterday surprise you?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Tell me about it. There were several polls.

Q. Pac-12 south came in fourth?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Fourth? You know, is that where we were picked last year?

Q. I think so, yeah.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Good, that’s a good sign. Somebody told me, maybe you’ll know. There was some poll, I don’t know, some expert poll that gave us a 2% chance, is that what it was? Hey, it’s like that dumb and dumber. What are the chances of me, a guy like me getting with a girl like you, like one in a hundred? One in a million? More like one in a million. So you’re telling me there is a chance. So 2% is better than one in a million, right?

Q. Do you like the underdog role?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I guess. I’ve been in situations where we’ve been the league favorite to win in situations like last year or this year where nobody would predict you’d win. 2% would be a pretty good T-shirt to make or a hat or something. But if it motivates your guys to run an extra sprint on their own or something, maybe it will be good. But when you’re lined up in the fourth quarter and you’re hot and tired and you’re like, you know, the ESPN media poll picked us to have 2%, I think I’m going to shut her down. I don’t think it makes a difference.

Q. Where has Anu Solomon made the biggest strides from last season?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Probably in the spring. He was a little bigger, little faster, little stronger. Had a better knowledge of the offense. I thought he did really well last year in his first year as a starter, and I said this quite a bit yesterday. I think the other part of it is we know what his strengths and weaknesses are at crunch time as well.
So I think he’s not a rah-rah guy. He’s a good leader, but he’s a little bit more quiet in that respect. But he’s worked extremely hard in the off-season, and it’s important to him. It’s the up with thing I can assure you about Anu Solomon that football’s important to him and he’s going to be a better player every year.

Q. What are his strengths?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you because maybe you’re friends with the defensive coordinator from UCLA or ASU or something. Oh, he can throw pretty good. He’s a better runner than you think. He’s a strong kid. One of the strengths I think he has, which is kind of a new quality is that when we do have an open guy he usually finds him and hits him. I always use the story Shaun King who played for me at Tulane and we went undefeated that year. He had a phenomenal year. Everybody asked what were his greatest strengths?
In that year he never missed an open touchdown throw. In other words, you call a play and it matched up right and the guy’s going to be open for the touchdown, and the quarterback missed him or he underthrew it or overthrew it, I think Shaun was a hundred percent that year. And Anu is not a hundred percent, but he’s pretty good with that.

Q. Why didn’t you bring Scooby?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Scooby’s not a senior. Couple reasons. I always brought seniors and there is nothing wrong with bringing underclassmen. But I thought maybe if I didn’t bring him he would want to come here so bad next year that he’d come back for his senior year. Yeah.

Q. Good strategy?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, so that’s actually Scooby probably is thanking me as we speak that he can be in the weight room right now and doing a few more curls. He might be getting another tattoo. I think he had a two-star Scooby; he might be putting one on that says “Still two-star Scooby.” We’ll talk about him quite a bit. The legend of Scooby Wright grows, but he’s earned every bit of it.

Q. Can his story be repeated? He can’t do what he did last year ever again?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, kind of out of nowhere, unrecruited guy that nobody knew about and wins all the awards. I think Daniel heard kind of a Scooby Wright story. We had probably the best practice field in the country. Can I get some recruiting in here? We’ve got the best practice field in the country. Big billboard with all our First Team All-Americans on the picture there. It’s not like anywhere else in the country.
Anyway, before spring ball, Scooby who doesn’t say a lot anyway, kind of had this look saying, Coach, you’re not going to put my picture up on that wall?
I said, yeah, you’re First Team All-American. Ka’Deem Carey’s up on there, you deserve that. And Scooby said, can you wait until I’m done playing here? Because he knows if you put his picture up on the wall and he misses a tackle at practice or does something wrong we’re going to tease him relentlessly like Mr. All-American right there, Scooby Wright, missed his tackle. So I granted his wishes. But what I should have said is if you promise to play two more years at Arizona, then I won’t put your picture up on the wall. But Scooby could care a less about that stuff.

Q. So you’re not putting it up per his wishes until he leaves?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That’s right. Unless he threatens –unless he leaves after his junior year, then I’m going to put it up before the season’s over. But he may not tell me until then. He’s pretty smart.

Q. Do you think the days of defensive players winning the Heisman are over?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, yes, it’s going to be hard. I think with the way offenses can score and put up numbers today just kind of the glamour that they’ll get on that side of the ball, it would be extremely hard, no matter what numbers you put up.
I was kind of tickled that Scooby and some of the defensive guys got some recognition last year. He had great numbers because he’s a great player, but I don’t see a defensive guy get it. You have to be really, really dominant to win that trophy. But I think does a defensive player deserve it sometimes? Probably, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Q. What about a running back? It’s happened once in the last 15 years. And you’re a guy that’s produced it here.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, we’ve had a bunch of thousand yard rushers. I think a running back can. But frankly, this is a team sport, but the most important position in football is quarterback. Let’s make no bones about it. I don’t think you can win big without quality play at that position at any level, pro, college, high school.
So that being said, that means a quarterback has the most pressure on him. He’s going to get the most spotlight. I know my sons. I tell him that all the time. He’s a pretty confident fella, so he can handle it.

Q. During games, where will things be different for Scooby Wright?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think people said, well, there will be more. I think by the end of last year we moved him around quite a bit. People knew where the number 33 was. I think it will be more so this year. But Scooby’s worked hard. In the spring and looking at him I think he’s better now than he was a year ago, and he’d probably tell you the same thing when you get a chance to talk to him. But I don’t –because he’s a year older in the system. But I don’t know. We’ll try to do some special things because he’s a better athlete than what people maybe have projected. But he’s worked hard on his craft. That’s the thing I love about Scooby. We call it OKG. He’s our kind of guy. He still has the same chip on his shoulder as he did the day we recruited him.

Q. What have you seen from Will Parks in the secondary?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, Will’s been a good player for us and what we’ve considered a starter the last couple years. The difference now is that the three seniors we had at safety played a lot of football. They were kind of the leaders back there. Now Will’s got to take that role on, and I think he’s embraced it. He’s a good athlete and good football player. I think he’s going to take it upon himself to be the leader of that group and when we need somebody to step up and make a play or keep things calm back there, he can do that.

Q. You’ve been in the conference now a couple years. What is the biggest challenge recruiting against some of these coaches?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think the biggest challenge for us, and we’ve got a great place and great location, we’ve just got to get them to come to campus. I’ve said this many times, if we get them on campus, our rate of getting them is over 60%. It’s just convincing them, hey, take a side trip, go to Vegas and take a right. If you’re coming from LA, coming from the east and going to Vegas take a left and you’re in Tucson, Arizona. Once we’ve got them on campus, we get a lot of them. So just getting them to visit. You don’t pass through Tucson. That’s unfortunate because we’ve got a great place.

Q. Where are your biggest concerns for you with this team?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It starts with the guys up front on our O-line, both tackles on defense at the safety position. You’re losing three guys out of your secondaries that have been multi-year starters. So you can put some talent in there, but the experience part of it is going to be new. That is the same with the quarterback. When we had the quarterback the first two years and Matt Scott, B.J. Denker, they didn’t have much experience but they were older guys.
So it’s going to be easier for them to handle that situation. When you put a younger guy replacing an experienced guy, it makes you a little more nervous. I think our guys can handle it.

Q. How is Freddie doing for you?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Freddie will be the first guy off the bus. He can do like Incredible Hulk commercials. If he hit that pinata one time, I think those things hang up –by the way. I don’t know why we bash our own pinata. We should be hitting ASU’s or somebody’s.
But Freddie will be the guy that it would be one swing and it would be obliterated. He’s a mountain of a man who loves football. I’m excited for him. He’s been sitting out a year, so I’m hoping he can perform well over there, and I think he will.

Q. Is it refreshing to have a starting quarterback returning?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Refreshing? I think a nice cold beer or a Bacardi and Coke, or maybe even a nice iced tea sweetened is refreshing. What was the question again?

Q. Starting quarterback.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, starting quarterback back, yeah. It’s like I tell our players, having a starter return is good if he played well when he started, which Anu did, and if he’s better. I thought Anu played well for the most part and I think he’s better. So that part makes you excited. And the fact that every year there are more guys in the program that understand how we do things.
So the only guys that need to learn are the freshmen, the newcomers. We have more guys returning that have been in a program in any time I’ve been there.

Q. The quarterback play, the level of quarterback play in the Pac-12 is so high, how difficult is it to play against all of them?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That’s a good point. I mentioned it earlier. I don’t know if you can play well particularly offensively if that guy doesn’t play well at quarterback. We had a bunch of return last year. There are a whole bunch of good quarterbacks in the west and they’re staying out here now. I think some coaches don’t like the influx of 7-on-7 football in the summer and guys playing year round. I think it’s fun. I think it’s helped improve the quality of play at quarterback, and in our league especially.

Q. Is it geographical? You said there are more quarterbacks out west. Is there anything you can attribute that to?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, there are a lot of people. You ever get on the 405? Hell, I don’t have to do it every day, but there are a lot of folks. I remember when I lived in West Virginia and you’d fly over the state you’d see more deer stands than you would homes. You fly over LA and just over the 405 or 101 and the amount of people that live here is enormous. So every time I fly over and look at it, I say there’s got to be a quarterback somewhere amongst these many thousands of cars and houses, and there is. There are some guys out here.

Q. Is the eighth official going to have any affect?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We’ve all gone to it. I don’t pay much attention. There is one more guy to yell at that won’t listen to you. I quit yelling at officials anyway because one, they’re usually right, and two, they can’t hear you anyway because of the crowd noise, so it’s pointless to do that. I thought it probably appeases the fans if you think it’s a bad call and the coach is yelling at them, but I don’t do that too much anymore. The 8th official will probably help manage the game a little bit. I don’t think some coaches are concerned it will make it overofficiated. There is one more set of eyes that can maybe call a penalty or something. I think it will be managed well, and I think the officials in our league are a pretty good group that will work hard and have a great season.

Q. What have you gotten established with your program and what still remains?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think culture is probably not the right word. Maybe the atmosphere that we have, atmosphere and attitude that we have in the program has taken hold and gotten better every year. I thought it was great. I’ve said this a bunch of times. I was fortunate that the transition when we got here three and a half years ago was really good, because the seniors bought in from day one, and they were coachable and really tried hard. It’s been really good every year. But as we go now into the fourth season, I don’t see myself having to lecture or tell the guys as much how we practice, how we work out, how we approach things on and off the field. I think they get that.
Again, the only people that have to learn are the incoming, the new guys. That doesn’t mean upperclassmen don’t make mistakes. That’s going to happen with 120 teenagers. But I think as far as how we want to approach things and having a hard edge and playing hard all the time and being coachable is pretty much established now.

Q. Todd Graham at ASU talks about winning a National Championship. That’s almost a theme. Do you talk to your team about that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Not much. Every coach has their own philosophy. I don’t talk about –at the beginning of the year we don’t talk a lot about goals. We’ll talk about winning the Pac-12 south, and then winning the Pac-12, and if we do that we should probably be in a playoff and then go from there. Then that will be easily the last talk I talk about it until the end of the year when you have something on the line. Because like I said, if you’re in the middle of the fourth quarter and you’ve played 200-something plays as a team and it’s a tight game and you’re tired and sore and lined up against somebody, you’re not going to think well, coach said in August that we’re going to win a National Championship, that’s not going to make a difference. You’re like, how do I whip this guy’s ass on this play or how do I keep him from whipping mine. So I’m more of a, I guess, in-the-moment-process kind of guy. That doesn’t mean other philosophies are wrong or bad, it’s just ours is different.

Q. What about the National Championship Game? Does that add any level of motivation?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No. It could be in Mexico City or, hopefully it’s nowhere cold. I don’t like to live in the cold anywhere. There are a couple of places I coached. We had two seasons, winter and August. So I wouldn’t want to be anywhere cold. No, motivation, you can ask the players, but I don’t think that makes a difference. But it’s a great city to have it in. I think Tucson would be better. Can we convince them to come down south? We have a better atmosphere.

Q. What’s the secret to beating Oregon?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, you’ve got to play really well, have a little luck. Hope they make a couple mistakes. When we played Oregon and we beat them the two times, we played really well. But in the second game last year, early in the game, early season we played well but we didn’t play perfect and they made a couple of mistakes. But our kids believe what Oregon does and they do a great job, they’re well-coached, they’ve got great players, but that’s the same world we’re in. Somebody going fast and all that, we live in that world too. So that’s not anything different or our guys have to adjust to a championship game. We just played really bad and they played well. You’ve got to have good players play well. It’s pretty simple.

Q. Coach, there is supposed to be a decision coming down today about the Ed O’Bannon case, they’re going to ban $5,000 year trust funds?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Trust funds? We now have trust fund babies in college athletics.
We’ll do what everybody else can do. I think the one rule they passed last year, we have unlimited meals, free meals. I think that was long overdo and was great for student-athletes. The cost of attendance varies. Some schools may have $1,500, some schools may have $5,000. Even though it’s the same sized town, that’s kind of unique. But I’ve also heard rumors that cost of attendance is being paid for years at certain schools, it just wasn’t legal. You know what I’m saying? But I don’t think it’s a big deal.
I’ll say this: The life of a college student-athlete on scholarship has never been better, with everything they can do for them now. I think that’s a good thing. But paying them, they’ve got a paid league, and that’s called the NFL. If our guys are good enough they can do a three-year internship, getting everything paid for. Don’t you think doctors and lawyers are like that? Shoot, I just do three years of schooling and I can go ahead and be a doctor or lawyer? Our guys don’t have it that bad.

Q. In your equation, year four wins big?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You know what? Somebody else –I should have never said that. I said that one time. Bobby Bowden told me this a long time, and I’ve been coaching quite a while, he said there are four stages –let me tell you there, rich. Let me tell you. There are four stages when you become a coach. And at the time I was a young head coach at Glenville State 20 years ago. He said you lose big, then you lose close, then you win close, and then you win big.
So I’ve repeated it many times. But that was usually when I was in year one, two, or three. Now I’m in year four. What I told you before wasn’t the truth. That was a lie.
No, it usually felt that way. We won kind of close the first year, and won kind of close the second year, and then won kind of close last year. So we’re probably, if that trend is the same, if we want to win, we’re going to have to win close this year.
The one thing I did tell the team in August last year was we’re probably going to be in a bunch of close games. We’re going to have to play hard every snap to the last minute and then look up and see what happens. We were in a bunch of close games last year, and we won more than we lost. So I hope and think that’s going to be the case again this year.

Q. When you survey the roster, could this be the best team you’ve had at Arizona?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I don’t know. I’ll be able to give you an honest answer on Thanksgiving weekend, which we have open by the way, which is kind of strange. We have 12 straight no open dates. Yeah, you probably haven’t heard that. We play 12 straight games with no open dates. Every other year there’s a short calendar year, right? There’s only 13 weeks to play your games in. So somebody in our league is going to get –two years ago it was Cal. So, okay, I understand that. But then if you’re going alphabetically, who is next? A, B, C, oh, we went backwards. So that is going to be a unique challenge.
Yeah, and they chose to play Hawaii. See, they want to go out there to Hawaii. That’s a pretty nice place. They get the luau and get some pineapples and stuff like that. But we didn’t choose 12 in a row. But as I said, I’m not going to complain about it after today (laughing), unless we’re not winning, and then I’m going to complain about it quite a bit.
No, we’ll have to make a few adjustments because we’ve used that open week as a good week to get some of the younger players ready and to get a good four-day rest period. We can’t do that now, so we’re going to have to, as a coach, coaches, we’ve got to have a plan in August and the beginning of the season to make sure we’re ready for that.

Q. The past quarterbacks you’ve coached.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Pat White, Denard Robinson, Woody Dantzler at Clemson.

Q. How have you sort of evolved as a coach?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I’m softer on them now. Rod Smith, my quarterback coach does a great job, but when I think back about Shaun, and coaching Patrick White and Woody Dantzler and all them, I think I was meaner back then. I must have mellowed with age at times. Honestly, if you ask Anu, when he screws up majorly and I don’t say something, he’s probably like, what the heck’s going on? It’s like reverse psychology or something. So, no, I love coaching with those guys. I’ve got great respect, because I can’t throw the ball from here to that screen. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been very fortunate to have really good quarterbacks. I’ve been able to recruit really good quarterbacks. Anu is, I’ll say it again, you look back on it what he had last year was a great season for a first-year starter as a freshman, and I think he’ll be better this year. He’s going to get pushed. I know it sounds like coach speak, why do you have other guys in case he doesn’t? But Jerrard Randall has worked his tail off.
Dawkins I think is going to be a really good player. So if Anu is not doing what he’s supposed to be doing, we’ll put somebody else in. But I think Anu’s going to be okay.

Q. Is there a playbook in your mind for what you can give the quarterbacks after each year?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That’s a fair question. It’s not so much –yeah, it all starts with what he can handle. I always say our quarterback has to be like a point guard that can shoot the three and he’s leading the fast break every time. It’s either 4 on 3, five on 4, two on one, whatever he can handle mentally, he, himself, is probably what we’ll add offensively. I do think we can add more, and we wanted to do that anyway. But sometimes as coaches we try to think we’re the smartest guys in the room and we do too much.
I always tell our guys, it’s checkers not chess. You don’t have to think six moves ahead. You only have to think two moves ahead and you’ll be okay. So we have to sit back and like hold on a second. We watch a lot of film and all that.
I’ve said this before, he doesn’t call the plays. We call the plays, but he has to make a decision on the play. He said why don’t you let your quarterback call the plays? And I said I’ve got a pretty big mortgage payment, I don’t want to let a kid that watches SpongeBob SquarePants on Saturday mornings calling the plays. Are you kidding me? Not that it’s SpongeBob SquarePants, but he doesn’t have the time to watch the film that I do. So we’ll call the plays. He’s got to make a decision on 80% of them, and I think he’s been pretty good at it.

Q. How early do you start watching film on opponents?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I haven’t watched. I watched Josh Rosen in high school; he’s a great player. And I saw Jerry play a little bit. They’ve got pieces on him. In the summer we’ve watched our summer scouting. Our staff watches all our league opponents and first three opponents, but we don’t break them down extensively until the week we play them.

Q. You joked about being picked fourth in the south.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I wasn’t joking. I was serious.

Q. You were ranked in the national coaches poll.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That’s really important too.

Q. The point is that obviously Utah was fifth.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Your point is it’s a good league and good division, and it is. You worry about respect. No, you talk about respect for your league, and you want that. If nothing else, in recruiting. That is the only part you get frustrated at is there is this perception if I want to go in the NFL I need to go in the SEC. Didn’t the Pac-12 have more first rounders picked than the SEC? And there are great players and great coaches and great teams in the SEC, don’t get me wrong.
But the SEC is in a better –or the Pac-12 is in a better spot than it’s ever been, but so are the other leagues. I don’t think recruiting-wise we have to take a back seat to anybody, and that’s what we tell our guys. I think they can see it when they visit camp and visit Tucson, Arizona and see our facility. They’ll say, okay, this is big time. That’s fun to talk about.

Q. On those two last losses, did those factor into the season?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Did you see the movie Lion King? There is a point in the movie where the monkey hits the lion over the head. He said, what did do you that for? And the monkey says it, doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.

Q. I’ve never heard that.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You’ve never heard that? What was your question again? Oh, the last two losses. I was in a good mood. Now I’m pissed.

Q. Does that factor into your off-season motivation?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I was miserable for a month. Usually during the season you have a 24 hour rule. If you lose, you move on. But if it’s a bowl game you have like seven months or something, so I was pissed for a month and a half. Then we got over it a little bit. Everybody said I guess they made light of it because I said what did you tell Anu after the game and I didn’t talk to him for a month and a half. That wasn’t true. I did send him a text message, and I did talk to him after the game because I love Anu.
But then we went recruiting so we didn’t have time to have a little Kumbaya. But we didn’t play well. That was a disappointing part. We played awful in the championship game, which is disappointing and didn’t play well in the bowl game until the end. But I’m still proud our guys were able to get there.
But is it extra motivation? I would like to think whether you win or lose at the end of the year, the next year you’re motivated to be better. I was really pleased with our off-season. What our guys did in the weight room, what they did in spring ball and so far in the summer, I think they’ve really worked hard. I think our guys, if you ask them, they’ll take pride in the way we work.

Q. You have 14 upperclassmen, do you see the state playing a central role in the University of Arizona’s success?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely. We can’t have great success unless we recruit really well in state. And I think we’re recruiting well. We get frustrated sometimes when some of the top players in the state look to go outside and don’t give us a visit. Now if they choose another school outside, that’s fine. But at least come to our campus and give us a shot, give us a look, even as frustrated as we get sometimes, I’m going to keep recruiting them and make them tell us no. It’s not like if we don’t get them, it’s not like we’re going to forfeit. There are players everywhere. We’ll get them for whatever we’ve got. But the state of Arizona is our first recruiting base. And we’ve got some really good players every year. And we’ve got some walk ons. I think this year we’ve got 35 new players, and it might be the best group of walk ons that I’ve ever recruited. Or when I say recruited, ever had coming in. We’ll wait to see how that turns out.
I can say in walk-ons you’re not going to win a National Championship with just walk-ons. But for us, we can’t win it without some. So you’ll see some guys on the roster that wind up playing from the state of Arizona that maybe didn’t start with a scholarship but wound up getting one like Jared Tevis.

Q. Along those lines last year you said recruiting impact-wise you thought it would pay off more than 16 or 15. Are you finding it easier?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I hadn’t thought much about it. I think there were like two weeks ago we were –I don’t know. We were sitting like six or seven commitments and people were like, gosh, they won the Pac-12 south and they’ve got everything going on. Why don’t they have more? And I kind of thought, yeah, but at the same time we want to go approach this a little slower. Next thing you know we get seven or eight in one week. I think that’s helped. I think more than anything else they see the commitment to the program from the facilities standpoint, from a competitive standpoint, and they like what they see.

Q. How’s the in-state rivalry compared to a backyard brawl at Ohio State?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It’s pretty intense. I’ve been asked a couple times, Pitt-West Virginia, Pitt’s still a four-letter word. That was pretty intense. Ohio State, Michigan, that was pretty good. This one’s in state. Like Ohio State-Michigan, I remember when I get there, because I don’t like to talk a whole lot about the Ann Arbor days.
But I remember when I got there they were like oh, Ohio State-Michigan you won’t believe some of the things you’ll see when you go down there. The rivalry’s so intense and all this kind of stuff. Then we pull into Columbus on the bus, and there are two elderly women probably in their 80s, and they wait for us to get off the bus. Hey, Coach Rod. And they give us the middle finger. So some of the folks are like, see, I told you how intense it was. I said, hell, when we were at West Virginia those same old ladies were mooning us. No, it’s all good.
I think ours, because it’s in state and in the same division and same conference, it adds to it. Because we’ve got great respect for them doesn’t mean we like them. But we’ve got great respect for them.

Q. What are you looking for from David Richards this year?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think David is poised to have a big year. He was good last year. He was banged up early in his career. David has worked his tail off each year to get better and better. We’ve played him mostly on the outside at receiver. But he can play tight end, which we’ve got tight ends now so we don’t have to. But he can play at every position at wide out for us. I think he’s going to have a big year.

Q. Because of his size, could he become a security blanket?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, a security blanket sounds a little too intimate. I don’t know about that. But, yeah, I think Anu at times we don’t want him to look at one particular guy. We just want to throw him to the most open guy. But David’s size and his strength, and for us to move him around to different positions is going to help. But the good thing, and I think David will tell you too, there are five or six other guys at receiver that have a lot of experience so he doesn’t have to be thee guy. But I hope he wants to be.

Q. Talking about receiving coach, what’s it mean to have the flexibility as you’re touching upon there with all the guys?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, Samajie Grant, Nate Phillips, Cayleb Jones, David Richards, Tyrell Johnson, who am I missing? Trey Griffey, a really good player. Trey’s a really good player. We have five or six guys that can play. Not only do they have experience, they can play now all four receiver positions. So we’ve got a little flexibility. Hopefully we can keep them healthy.

Q. Coach, talk about (No microphone)?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: They did. The fighting Larry Cokers. They’re good. They play them in the Dome, they had 30-something seniors. They’re a well-coached team and an athletic team. We’ll have great respect for them. We’ll have to play well.

Q. When you start transitioning camp in the first game –
COACH RODRIGUEZ: After two weeks. The first two weeks is all about us. Then after two weeks we start to get into our game plan.

Q. Is there a name on the defense or offense that they talked about, like another Scooby Wright?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Scooby Wright. Oh, another Scooby?

Q. The next Scooby Wright?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, we’ve got a lot of two stars. Too many. I’m going to leave out somebody. But Will Parks, he’s a pretty good player and not a lot of people talk about him. I see his name’s up on the screen, so you’ll want to talk to Will. And David Richards is another one. His name will come up in a minute. There he is, David Richards.

Washington St. Football: Mike Leach Transcript

Mike Leach never disappoints in his press conferences. He discusses giving dating advice, his books, hunting rattlesnakes, and even some football in his time at the Pac 12 media days.

Leach: All right. First I want to introduce back there, Joe Dahl, offensive lineman, and then over here is Jeremiah Allison. He’s a linebacker.

Given the fact that typically regardless of what I say in opening remarks, you guys go ahead and ask what you want anyway. We’ll get started with that pretty shortly. But proud of our group, the work we’ve had in the off-season and spring. We’ve got most of our guys coming back, so we’re going to see how much we can expand their role, develop as a team and as players and coaches together. So we’re excited about it.

Q. Can you talk about running the ball in the air raid offense?
Leach: Well, that’s not entirely true. Our yards per carry are reasonably high, and our offense has led the leagues as far as yards and production out of our running back position, and been in the Big 12 a number of times. As we develop and we have three running backs back, young guys, but steadily develop behind an offensive line that’s back, we’re excited about the future of it.

Q. How would you rate the quarterback play between the line last year with guys coming back this year?
Leach: I think it’s good. I mean, we were a great league last year. Last year is a quarterback league might have been one of the best in history. This year will be some new faces, but they’ll be quality quarterbacks. The thing is these other guys, nobody heard of them at one point in time before too. Occasionally some of these guys that are great players are getting out just ahead of the posse because young guys are closing in on them anyway.

Q. Do you think having been out west now for a few years recruiting California, recruiting the west coast, are there more guys out here than there used to be?
Leach: I think there’s always been a lot, yeah, I think there always has been. You mean quarterbacks, right? But I think the development of them has been more aggressive. I think first of all, they play seven on seven nearly year round. Second of all, a lot of people are throwing it. The teams that I had the opportunity to be part of we’ve been throwing it since 1989. But now a lot of people are. Of course the NFL is too. So I think as people see it and develop characteristics of their own with their offenses, I think that all that plays in the hands of guys out there throwing it.

Q. What about your situation with quarterback? How do you feel?
Leach: Feel good. Two really good players. Both of them had good springs. Of course, Luke averaged 460 yards a game passing as a freshman. So I don’t know. There might be some kind of a record. I don’t know. But I tell you, that’s a pretty good starting point. Biggest thing is he has a lot of composure and stability, and had the ability to go out there suddenly and play like he belonged there.

Q. How hard would it be for Payton to beat out a guy who’s played in a couple games?
Leach: Well, I think the hardest thing’s going to be because he’s a quality player. Luke’s a quality player. But I think that the one thing is both of them have that I think is very strong is they stay out of their own way. They’re not one of those people that dwell on something to the point where they don’t continue to improve, and also, they’re very focused workers and learn quickly.
So the biggest battle is just going to be the quality of play of the other guy. So then we’ll tee it up and let them both compete for it.

Q. What does this offensive line have to do to improve?
Leach: You just keep improving. We’re a pretty young offensive line. I thought it was impressive last year when you consider three of those guys had never played college football before, but played fairly well. Then now of course we’ve got them and a whole ‘nother off-season under their belt and kind of a good mixture of older guys ask younger guys. We’ve got more depth than we used to have there too. That’s offensively your most important position. Everybody talks about all the positions. The reason they have football is offensive line and defensive line. So that’s been a key area for us to develop.

Q. How hard would it be for somebody to beat out the five returning starters?
Leach: On the offensive line? I think it could definitely happen. There were flashes of that in the spring. That could definitely happen. Then also hopefully then we have the opportunity to play a couple more guys, and then, of course be more efficient at running the ball, then maybe (No microphone) will come to our school. You never know.

Q. You guys have been recruiting California pretty well. You’ve got some big-name players over there. In your time at Washington State. What do you have to do to look for the type of recruits to come over?
Leach: I think the biggest challenge is a lot of people haven’t been there. People that go there like it. I mean nearly every head coach that coached at Washington State has retired there. I think the biggest thing is to get them through there so they can get a visual. One of the best things about the footprint of this conference is you’re only a couple hours away. Because we have direct flights to Spokane from nearly every area that exists in this conference, and that’s been helpful. The other thing is we are a true college town and a conference that’s predominantly urban settings.
So once they get there and see it, and they see the landscape and the atmosphere of a college town where you just step out your front door and everybody you’re going to school with is right there, creates a level of energy that’s very much unique, and I think that’s why so many people return.
In my neighborhood you run into all these people, and yeah, I went to Washington State. Couldn’t get a job here. I’m moving back. We have all these retired people moving and coming back. I think I haven’t found it– the biggest difficulty is I’ve heard it’s nice. I haven’t been there. You’ve got to get them there. And our facilities are the best in the conference. They were completed in August. We went from among the worst facilities in America, to now we have the best facilities in the Pac-12.
So you guys need to come check it out and then you can tell everybody and get the word out and everybody will know. Because right now it’s kind of word of mouth. The other thing on that computer, as you look on the computer, it is that fancy. It is that nice. But all that stuff’s bigger than it looks on the computer.

Q. What do you like most about the facilities?
Leach: Right in the middle of campus. We got very lucky that way, because the founding fathers of Washington State I don’t believe said– now some day they’re going to build a football facility, and we’ve got to make sure there is space right here in the middle of campus. I don’t think they did that. I think we got very lucky because it’s literally the center of campus, and satellites out from there, which makes our players’ day very simple. They start out in a dorm that’s a heck of a lot nicer than the dorm I was in. Big, spacious, brand-new, sky deck up there with heat lamps and all this stuff. Then they walk across the street and there is the academic center. Then they walk across the sidewalk, and we have the biggest locker room that I’ve ever set foot in anywhere. We have 15,000 square foot weight room with windows over the practice field and the game field, state-of-the-art training room. A training table where we have two full-time chefs, a full-time nutritionist.
And then we’ve got seats in the team meeting room that make Joe Dahl look like a normal person, and I look like a kid in a high chair. But the thing about it is then from there you just go up the elevator and stairs and you’re on campus in the middle of all your classes. So logistically it’s the best situation I’ve ever been a part of.
The other thing is, like I say, we’re just very fortunate we were able to put–

Q. I have a question from Twitter. A young man would like dating advice from you.
Leach: Dating advice? A guy can get in trouble giving dating advice. What would I say dating advice? Well, the first thing is you’ve got to put them in a position where they’ll talk. You’ve got to want them to talk, because you’ll be nervous yourself. So you want a situation where you have to engage in conversation. You don’t let them bring their friend with them. Now what I used to do is I had the two for one. You could buy two for one coupon book, and you go to the sandwich place, and oh, this looks good. What are we having? I don’t know. You pull out the coupon and say here’s the menu. But that’s not the first date.
I think make sure you go somewhere where you can talk. If you go to Washington State, we’ve got five of America’s greatest Rivers around there. That would be a great place. We’ve got dunes, mountains. You can hunt rattlesnakes, if you want to. You can fish for sturgeon. I tell you what, if you took her sturgeon fishing I don’t believe she’d ever forget it.

Q. How does that translate into recruiting?
Leach: As far as the recruiting thing, I mean, the biggest thing with recruiting is you figure out what somebody wants, what’s important to them, and then you illustrate how your situation fits with them. In the end how down the road it’s going to benefit them. Whether it’s the role they have on your team, but in particular the education, the environment they get to do it. Because you’re going to be dead in a hundred years anyway, so you want to go to a setting where you think you can flourish, and then you’re going to have great memories and enjoy.

Q. How was the Batman?
Leach: It’s pretty good. I’m not a huge Batman guy. Now my kids are going to be really jealous, in particular the Harry Potter portion of the tour. But I do recommend you go. They have everything from Batman helmets to some cool brass knuckles that the Joker has to Catwoman outfits, and some definite villains. Then you can go upstairs to the Harry Potter exhibit and they’ll stick a wizard hat on you and tell you what tribe you’re in or whatever, or the fraternity or whatever. I can’t remember. Mine was Huffle-something.

Q. Could you imagine the facilities becoming this extravagant 25 years ago?
Leach: Yes, and no. I guess I didn’t know how it would manifest itself. I knew that it was going to continue to be an arms race. In college athletics continues, it’s like one of the big benefits of the social media is that everything that happens in college athletics positively gets to be shared with a lot of people.
So a lot of people can be engaged in what’s going on. Football has always been obsessed with technology and innovation. So we’ve got to adventure for the sake of adventure. So I guess I felt like it would continue to grow. I didn’t think it would go backwards. One thing that surprised me when we first put one in, and I’d never used it, but just the thought of it, and now everybody’s got one of these practically. There is a hot tub with a treadmill in it. You can get it up chest high or a foot high. Then the jets blow into your chest to give you more resistance and you can speed the thing up and slow it down. There are cameras that go down there beside it that will measure all kinds of things, so you can tell range of motion and how injuries are coming back and that type of thing. Just how elaborate some of that stuff has gone. Also, I think the nutrition consciousness of what you’re putting in the athletes I think is a very positive step.

Q. What is your vision for Washington State football?
Leach: Well, I think you just continue to progress and improve. I thought we took a step on offense, led in a lot of national categories, but we’ve got to steadily improve. Defense and special teams, we’ve got to improve there. The good news is we’ve got a lot of people back. We’ve got nearly everybody back. Some of them were pressed into service before it was probably ideal, but they’re what we had. Of course that experience, I think, will be helpful this year, and we have to continue to build on it.
But there’s never really any set point. It’s just you’ve got to really enjoy the process and improvement and do it every day. It doesn’t really matter how good you are and where you’re at. We’ll show the video to our players and stuff like that. But after the Super Bowl and after the Pro Bowl, Jerry Rice would run up and down that hill just like he was a rookie and trying to make sure that the 49ers didn’t cut him because he was one of the greatest players that ever played.

Q. With all the new facilities, and I’m sure it comes with new different toys and stuff you’ve been given, you don’t seem like the kind of guy to really embrace that. So how do you change or do you just let other coaches do it?
Leach: Embrace the what?

Q. Embrace the new facilities and new toys that you’re talking about, the treadmill, the water, and stuff like that. Are you embracing it or leaving it up to others to deal with that?
Leach: No, what I embrace is the fact that the job can be done more efficiently. That you can come back from injuries efficiently. You can feed guys quickly, and efficiently, and nutritiously. You can show your film in a meeting room where you’re not crowded and somebody’s looking over each other’s head and you’ve got great film and technology to show them.
So you can teach better and more efficiently with more clarity. Then, of course, the weight room you can condition them. You can have everybody in there at the same time. You’re not on top of everybody. To me, what’s the most appealing is the efficiency part of it. Then, of course, you want really nice stuff that they’ll be excited about. I’m not as, perhaps, into that part of it. But I’m really excited about the efficiency it gives you as far as doing your job.

Q. Have you tried the underwater treadmill?
Leach: No, my dad did though one time because they talked him into it. He wanted to do it just for exercise. There would be people that go in and jog. But I haven’t. I’ve seen it happen. I raised it real high and I pretended I was walking on water one time.

Q. I have a schedule question, do you have any input on the home game not in Seattle this year?
Leach: No input, but excited it’s all at Martin Stadium. And a portion of it had to do with the fact that a lot of our alums and fans kind of really embrace the opportunities of coming back to Pullman. They’ve got the whole process, the whole tailgating thing and look forward to as many weeks of that a year as possible because we would gain people when we went to Seattle, but we’d also lose a portion that wanted to stay with their routine there in Pullman.

Q. How do you see Jeremiah coming into his own?
Leach: Well, he’s always been smart. He was a salutatorian at his high school. Then he just brings a lot of energy. He’s a high energy guy. Jeremiah’s got optimism all over him, and I think it translates to different people, and to the players as their level of play has steadily improved.

That and the fact that I think he’s talking about being an attorney and I forget. He’s got pretty big aspirations as guys that work as hard as him too. I think he’s building his experience space and his portfolio as well as an opportunity to reach out. Jeremiah’s background is such that he’s been through some tough times that people helped him through. So I’m sure that some of that has to do with giving back in the same fashion that he’s appreciated.

Q. Have you talked to Conner Halladay and did his decision to leave football surprised you?
Leach: The decision surprised me. But the biggest thing, and it’s about as simple as everybody’s got their path and selects their path, and he decided he didn’t want the National Football League to be a part of that and just kind of wanted to move on. My biggest hope is that he doesn’t regret it. Because he certainly had the ability to play and things like that. But, yeah, it did surprise me.

Q. Did he consult you at all? Did he talk to you before and after the decision?
Leach: Yeah, just a little, but it was kind of point blank. There is no, you know, I’m not going to tell you it hasn’t run through my head and I haven’t thought about it, but the whole thing is just quite simple I think he just decided he didn’t want that journey and was just kind of done with football and wanted to move on to other aspects of his life, and he’s never varied from that. But I hear from him quite a bit and I see him, so I certainly wish him the best.

Q. Has he expressed the interest in coaching to you?
Leach: Last I heard he wanted to be a golf pro, because I know he likes to golf. He goes to Coeur d’Alene and bats it all over the place, and they travel around the country and golf.

Q. You’ve written several books.
Leach: Yeah, make sure you tell everybody they can get them on Amazon, and they should have a number of them. Don’t forget the Swing Your Sword one too.

Q. What is your next book going to be about?
Leach: I don’t know. I’m open to suggestions. It’s kind of like each one of them seems like kind of a daunting task like, oh, my gosh, is this possible? And then you get into it and you roll along pretty good, and then by the end of it, because you’ve read it about six times as you look at it carefully, and you’re not reading it for pleasure, you’re reading, at least in my case, I have the sense that, okay, this is now printed on my tombstone, and unless it’s perfect I have to live with this forever.
So then it’s a lot of, do I like this word? Is this word too strong? Is this word too weak? Which one is the right one? Should this paragraph be here? So there is a lot of that second-guessing. Then when it comes out there is quite a sense of satisfaction, although you’re not really interested in reading it again for quite some time. But they’ve all been exciting for different reasons. Geronimo just came out on paper back, so that was good. Yeah, it’s always sort of come together as why don’t we do this and what of this? Of course the idea of it is a lot of fun. Then there is a little procrastination, and once you’re into it kind of explodes from there. They’ve all been fun, but there is also a very busy quality to it too.

Q. What was your inspiration behind it?
Leach: When I was a kid, back then you played Cowboys and Indians a lot. It’s not quite as popular now. People play machines now. So we played Cowboys and Indians, and I always wanted to be the Indian. So then I had never been to a library before, but I heard there were libraries, and I was pretty young. I was probably, I don’t know, first or second grade. I’m like, what is this? You can get a book and take it with you? So I asked my mom, why haven’t I heard of this? We have to go.
So I go to the library and it’s me and my sister. She says, well, each of you can get a book. I said, all right. Where’s the Indian section? Then I’m thinking, okay, now– I felt like she was kind of withholding information from me just a little. This business that I hadn’t been made aware that libraries existed prior to this. She says, you can get a book and I’ll read it to you. Well, I wasn’t sure when or if I was ever going to get back to the library, so I made sure it was a big book. Got a big book on Geronimo, and like a trooper, she read it, and she read it to us. She’d have to explain stuff, because it wasn’t one of those with a bunch of pictures. I think that’s what she had in mind and she was hoping for when she suggested get a book and read it to us.
But she read the whole thing. From there I became interested and read everything I could on him. Then when we did Swing Your Sword, the guy that helped put that deal together represented a guy named Buddy Levy, and Buddy Levy has done a book on Cortez, a book on Davy Crockett, and done a number of books. Then Buddy and I got acquainted. Through Scott, the guy that helped put Swing Your Sword together, well, we did Geronimo.

Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Sonny Dykes? You guys have little small bets between the two of you?
Leach: No, not really. The thing is I’ve known him for a long time. He was my GA at Kentucky, and he worked for me at Tech, of course. Then once the game starts you’re just kind of teeing it up. There are players running around everywhere and you just kind of focus on solving a set of problems that it presents.

Q. Do you feel proud when you see he took the air raid system as well and implemented it and it’s taken off pretty much too? You kind of mentored him into that offensive line. Do you take a little bit of pride in that?
Leach: Well, he’s a good quality coach, so I knew he’d do well. Also I knew that he really liked kind of our concepts, what we did offensively. So it doesn’t surprise me that he went ahead and stuck with it and that the philosophies were very similar.

Q. What are your thoughts on UCLA?
Leach: Well, good team. Real good team. They’re always explosive. The biggest thing that I guess I see when I watch UCLA is you notice how explosive they are. I’ve never been– I’ve never coached a game in the Rose Bowl, so that will be fun. It’s a great stadium with some history. So it will be exciting to go play there.

Q. With Luke coming in as I guess the presumed starter, is there a different level of expectation that you personally had for him?
Leach: Not really. Just steadily improve. He does a great job leading the unit. Just really, even though he’s a youngish guy, he does as good a job at managing the offensive unit as anybody I’ve dealt with. He’ll continue to get better.

Q. Do you think walk-ons deserve a special route of earning the respect of their teammates?
Leach: Maybe. I mean I’ve had some really good walk ons over the years. But I think that if they’re the right type of guy, I think you really get focused, committed effort, because they have a little something to prove. Also they want to earn a scholarship.

Louisville Football: Bobby Petrino Press Conference Transcript

Louisville head football coach Bobby Petrino met with reporters earlier this week during the ACC Media Days. Despite losing six players to the NFL draft. Petrino still believes he has a top 10 defense. His comments about the upcoming season:

Q. You open up conference play with a Clemson team that’s picked pre-season favorite in the ACC. What is your outlook on that?
COACH PETRINO: It’s a great conference opener for us. Obviously we need to play our opening game in Atlanta versus Auburn first, then a very good Houston team comes to Louisville and plays us on Saturday, then Clemson is a Thursday night game, a short turnaround, something that is going to challenge our players to get ready for. We have to have a good plan for it. We’ve been working hard, getting ready for that game already. They’re a very good football team with an exciting quarterback. It’s a challenge for us but we’re looking forward to it. I know it’s going to be a great game to have at the University of Louisville, Papa John’s Stadium. That’s a fun thing being in the ACC, the teams we get to bring in on a year-to-year basis at Papa John’s.

Q. Two stats jump out at me. You led the league in turnovers forced, 30, 26 of which were interceptions. You were almost dead last in sacks allowed. Only Wake Forest’s quarterback was sacked more. As you look to this year, can the Cardinals continue to be a turnover-creating machine and can you continue to protect the quarterback?
COACH PETRINO: I think we’ve got to do better. We have to continue to get turnovers, force fumbles, interceptions. Holliman had a record-setting year. I don’t think we can get that from one player. A lot of times you get turnovers because you pressure the quarterback, you’re able to hit the quarterback, make him make early decisions or tip balls. So defensively we feel like we have a very good team coming back and we’ll be able to do that. Offensively, you know, one of the things that always creates sacks is not doing a good job on first down. So really when you look back at us, we need to be a better first down offense, be more successful on first and second down so we’re not behind the sticks and in the third down situations. We are going to be inexperienced on the offensive front. That’s something that is obviously a concern for us going in. But I do like our talent there and I do like the size and strength we have there. We just have to do a great job of teaching and getting them ready to play and do it very early.

Q. Coach, Brandon Radcliff came on the end of last year. He talked after the Georgia game about becoming a leader. Has that happened in the off-season? Do you like what you’ve seen from him?
COACH PETRINO: I thought he was a leader last year. The reason that Brandon came on and took over the position is how he worked in practice, how hard he went, how hard he went every time he touched the ball. He’d run it in the end zone. Just his work ethic gave us an opportunity to say, Hey, we need to get this guy on the field. Then he learned how to protect the quarterback, how to pick up blitzes, not only who his responsibility was, but the technique to get it done. That allows him to play more. I feel like he’s a good leader. He works hard for us. He pushes guys in the weight room and in the conditioning drills. Obviously we all know that the best way to lead is by example. That’s certainly what he does.

Q. Reggie Bonnafon, you talked about the offense being younger, less experienced, but what have you seen from him and his leadership moving forward?
COACH PETRINO: I thought last year Reggie came in as a true freshman. I remember the first day of practice, I threw him in the huddle with the ones just to see how he would react. He showed his maturity and his leadership ability on the very first practice of the summer. Then when he got the opportunity to play in the game, I felt like he early was inexperienced, wasn’t confident in what he saw. Then when Will came back and played, got injured, Reggie came in in the second half of Boston College, then the Notre Dame game, and things were different for him. He believed in what he saw. His confidence was much better. He was throwing the ball with confidence and velocity. He had a great spring. I think the number one thing he needs to do is be consistent with his footwork so his accuracy is good throwing the ball. The benefit that he has is if he can get consistent throwing it, he has an ability to make plays with his legs. He can run out of the pocket on pass plays and he can run when you call quarterback run plays. He’s a great athlete and an unbelievable person.

Q. Your coordinators were sought after. How important was it to keep them?
COACH PETRINO: It was huge for us to be able to keep Todd and Garrick, continue to build and grow on what we did last year. It’s great for our players. We didn’t lose any assistant coaches. Our meetings as far as a staff all go by quicker. We’re all on the same page. I think that gives us a chance to take a step forward and get better.

Q. Of all the coaches in the ACC, you’ve probably had more exposure to the various levels of football all the way up. Based on one year, what is your impression of the football culture in the ACC?
COACH PETRINO: I think it’s a great culture and very competitive. I think one of the things we found out early is every single game we play, we need to be ready for. Most of the games that we’re in are going to come down to the fourth quarter, whether we can find a way to win the game in the fourth quarter, which challenges your discipline, challenges your conditioning, and challenges your depth. One of the things that’s neat to me about the ACC is you see a lot of difference in schemes and different types of football from defenses and offenses, some people running the spread, some people running the power running game. You have the option football from Georgia Tech. It’s exciting and challenging for us as coaches.

Q. Based on evaluations by objective analysis of your recruiting, you’re getting a higher level of commitment than the program has gotten in a long time, maybe ever. How much of that do you attribute to the ACC and are there other factors involved?
COACH PETRINO: Yeah, I think definitely the pool that we’re going after since we’ve been in the ACC is different. It also makes it more competitive and makes our assistant coaches and myself to be thick-skinned, understand we’re not going to win all the battles. I think that it helps us that we kept our staff, kept our coaches in their area so that we can build relationships, know the high school coaches better, know who the freshmen, sophomores and juniors are. We’ve worked extremely hard here in the spring and the summer of getting kids to come to our campus and see us because I really feel like anytime we can get them on campus, see what the University of Louisville is all about, the city of Louisville is all about, we have as good a chance of getting them as anybody.

Q. You had three guys on your roster last year that started at quarterback, plus you added some guys this year. What is the atmosphere like amongst the quarterbacks? Is there such a thing as too much competition? Are they friendly? What’s the vibe like?
COACH PETRINO: Yeah, I’ve never seen anything about too much competition. I’m enjoying it. They are friendly. They’re all very good friends. They push each other. They work hard together. They like to be in the meeting room. Garrick does a great job of teaching and coaching in the meeting room. They go out on the field and they’re starving for reps. That’s the one thing you worry about, is having enough reps. But we practice at a very high pace, a very fast tempo. We feel like there’s enough reps. Obviously I feel like we’ll need to have a starter two weeks before the opener. Hopefully we can get that done. But I feel like they’re going to make each other better. Not only the fact that they’re competing at the quarterback spot, it will make the guys competing for other spots understand that they need to come out every day and do their job every day.

Q. In the Coastal Division, a dogfight every year. Atlantic has been dominated by Florida State and Clemson for four or five years. Do you see any change in the two-team domination? Do you see the Atlantic Division being more balanced now?
COACH PETRINO: I think it’s up to us to make a difference in it. You saw how North Carolina State finished the year last year. They’ve got great players coming back. They do a great job of coaching. They did a nice job of recruiting. Obviously with Florida State winning a national championship, Clemson having the success they’ve had, the wins in the bowl game, we have to go out and beat ’em on the field. We have Clemson at home on a Thursday night, which will be a great game, a great venue for us. We need to play well there because it will certainly have a lot of recruits watching it. Then we get to go on the road and play Florida State at Florida State. But certainly you have to go out and play well and find a way to win the games.

Q. The graduate transfer rule is something that’s been talked about the last couple months. What do you think of a school allowing a player to come in sort of like a free agent? Do you think it’s an option for a player to further his career?
COACH PETRINO: I think the players that did a great job in the classroom, found a way to graduate, still have eligibility left, it’s kind of a bonus for them to figure out what they want to do with that last year of eligibility. You look at guys that have success stories like Russell Wilson, how much it changed his career. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it because they’re the ones that went out and earned the degree and earned the opportunity to do what they want that last year.

Q. Is there a danger in the storyline being we’ve got all these guys to replace, you sent 10 to the NFL Draft? Is there a danger of your players thinking about that too much?
COACH PETRINO: I mean, it is what it is. We’re on, one hand, proud of it. We’re proud of the fact that we had 10 guys drafted, another four or five free agents. But the fact of the matter is we had 23 seniors, we had three juniors that came out early. That’s a lot of players to replace. Our players see it as opportunity. The young guys have an opportunity to come in and compete and play right away. I feel like we have to do a great job of coaching, a great job of teaching, maybe make sure we don’t ask them to do too much. I think the number one way you win is you don’t beat yourself. It’s up to us as coaches to make sure we don’t try to do too much and we don’t beat ourselves with mistakes so we have an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter. Our players are confident. Defensively we have a good nucleus back, particularly in the front seven. We had two guys that redshirted that have played in this defense before and been very successful. So you feel good about that. Offensively I think we’re going to be talented, but very youthful. We’re going to have to do a good job of being aggressive and finding ways to make plays on offense.

Texas Football: Charlie Strong’s Press Conference Transcript

The Texas Longhorns, 7-1 underdogs to win the Big 12 conference this year, will make a big jump this year, says head coach Charlie Strong. Strong, entering his second season as coach of the Longhorns, spoke at the Big 12 media days yesterday:

COACH STRONG: Really excited about the upcoming season just days away. We’re going to report on August the 6th and then get ready to go on August the 7th.

The good thing about it, you go through winter conditioning and then you go through the summer, and most of our guys are in place, even with our freshmen. Just really excited about our team because one of our goals is to build a team. The way you build a team, you just have to get everyone on board.

So much was made last season about the suspensions. I want you to understand this. My goal is never, ever to kick a young man out of the program. I want them to have every opportunity to be successful, but decisions are made, and sometimes guys feel like they want to do things their way. When that happens, then we have to make a decision on our end.

But if you look at this team now, you’re always looking for leadership, you’re looking for discipline. We have to have a winning season.

Last year 6?7 is not good enough. It will never be good enough at the University of Texas. We know we lost a lot of players on defense, returned a lot on offense, but we have to improve as a coaching staff. We have to do a better job of coaching. But we’ve also got to get our players to go play and go compete and go compete week in and week out.

The schedule is very challenging. It’s very demanding. We open up in South Bend, and you look at two programs so rich in tradition. We go there. You come home against Rice. You come home against Cal Berkeley. Then we have Oklahoma State coming in with our first conference game. Then we have to go on the road to TCU. Then we have the Red River Shootout.

But the good thing about it, why would you want it any other way? That’s why, if you’re at a place at University of Texas, and that’s why players have to understand, it’s all about competing. That’s why you’re here. You’re here to go compete for championships.

Q. When preseason camp starts, what do you want to see out of Tyrone and Jerrod?

COACH STRONG: I always say this. A lot is made about the quarterback position, and it should be. When it plays well, it gets a lot of praise. When it plays bad, it gets a lot of criticism.

I was just saying earlier, and I think about this, not to compare?? no way am I trying to compare here. But every quarterback I’ve ever been around, there’s been really good players around them. I could just go back University of Florida, and I think about Tim Tebow, you had Percy Harvin lined up, Aaron Hernandez lined up, you had Riley Cooper outside. You had Rainey behind, you had two first?rounders on the offensive line. Everybody’s got to do their part. It’s all about everyone doing their part.

You talk about what you see out of Swoopes and what you see out of Heard, both those guys are very competitive, but everyone else around them needs to play well also. We need to find playmakers at wide receiver. We need the running backs. You got J. Gray here. We need him to have a big year. We need the offensive line to protect the quarterback. Then you will have a chance.

But it’s all about them managing the offense, putting us in position where we can move the football, but not turning the ball over and having dumb plays or dumb mistakes.

Q. From what you’ve seen over the summer and what Coach Moorer has seen working with the guys, do you believe you have more guys or have found more guys who are just as mad about the end of last season as you were?

COACH STRONG: Well, they all want to change it because now that?? and I was talking to the senior group, and during their whole career, they have never had a double?digit winning season. So it’s more about them. They want to show that what it’s all about and what the university is all about and just how they want to go out and compete.

But it’s happening. And I talk to Coach Moorer all the time. I always ask him what’s the pulse of the team, how they’re doing, how they’re acting. And he said now you’re beginning to see more guys step up.

But you know what, when you’re at a place like here, it should be like that. We shouldn’t even have to have this conversation. It should get where each and every year we talk about competing.

Q. What are you looking for in terms of body language from your guys as you look at them in the spring and summer and get into fall? Are you looking for nonverbal cues that they’ve gotten over the end of last year?

COACH STRONG: Well, anytime you talk about body language, you want guys that are confident and guys that believe in their ability and believe in who they are. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a little?? a few words that come out of their mouth to make them feel good.

But when you talk about the body language, they understand, and they look at last season, and they know themselves, they understand just how important it is and how important football is and what they have to get accomplished and everything they have to overcome.

When you talk about body language, it has a lot to do with confidence and how you carry yourself.

Q. My question is last year you dismissed the nine players during your off?season prior to your first season, and you talked about this earlier. You brought up that new set of rules. Has this?? how has this culture changed in the locker room? And has it had the effect that you want it to have?

COACH STRONG: Well, it wasn’t so much. Let me say this. It wasn’t so much new rules. Coach Brown did an unbelievable job. Anytime there’s a coaching change, some guys just felt like they want to do things their way.
So like I said, so much has been made about that. When you look at what happened and when, as a coaching staff, we sat down, even with our players, it’s not where you got to sit there and say, hey, listen, you’re out. You’re out. You’re out. You start pointing at guys and telling them they’re out of the program, that never, ever happened. They were given plenty of opportunities to do what was asked of them.

So the culture?? it wasn’t so much you had to have a change of culture because, when you look at this, you say nine guys. We have 85 guys on scholarship. So if the other 76 can do everything we ask of them, then why can’t those nine do it?

Q. Coach, you talked about the wide receiver position. You lose John Harris, a guy who really stepped up. Who do you see in that role as wide receiver to step up like he did last season? How has Coach Norvell kind of changed the mentality of the wide receivers?

COACH STRONG: You look at Daje, he’s a senior now, Marcus Johnson, those guys need to step up and become playmakers. I was just teasing Daje the other day, and I said, You haven’t made a play since Oklahoma when you returned that punt for a touchdown. There’s got to be a point where he’s got to step up and start at that position. Because you’re always looking for playmakers, and then that takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback because, if you can throw the ball out there and make a guy miss in open field and you can take it the distance, then you always give yourself confidence and also give the offense confidence.

You look at Peter, Warrick, look at Leonard and Lorenzo Joe, but we have to develop playmakers at that position. Jay’s done an unbelievable job. He’s an unbelievable coach. He came in, and players have really taken a liking to him. They do everything that is asked of them from him. And the thing about Jay is he’s very detailed, very disciplinarian, but he’s a guy that’s making sure that that position improves.

Q. Everett Golson said that he would have considered transferring to Texas. Notre Dame blocked that transfer. Should, in your opinion, schools have the power to do that to a graduating senior?

COACH STRONG: Anytime you play someone and you just feel like you’re going to go compete against that team next year and he was the starting quarterback, so much of whatever they have within their program as far as what’s their defense, their calls, what’s their offensive calls, and they may feel like that’s what he knows.

But when a young man gets at a point?? it’s just so hard to say, hey, where are you going to go play? Because they’re always searching. They want to go to a team where they feel like it’s lesser talent, where they can get on the field the fastest.

Q. What’s the current status of the office tigers?

COACH STRONG: You want one? I’ll give you one. I’ve got a pet tiger, if you want.
What happened was someone had brought it by the office. Santos brought them and put them down in front of me and says, Coach, let me take a picture, because he’s king of the tweet. As all of you know, you can go on his, and you’ll find out anything.

So he brought them in and said “Coach’s Day at the Office,” and he tells me he tweeted it out. That’s why it ended up like that. But, no, those tigers are where they need to be right now.

Q. Charlie, how big is the barometer for the entire season, the opening game at Notre Dame?

COACH STRONG: You like to always say this. When you have an opponent like Notre Dame and it’s right there at the beginning of the season and through the winter conditioning, through the off?season, it’s something that you’ve been working to. So now it’s something that’s sitting there where they understand just the whole?? just the magnitude of that game, and they return a lot of starters. It’s going to be an unbelievable game for us. Very challenging game.

But we need to go out and we need to go play well, and they understand what’s really good is Notre Dame. So not a lot has to be said. Now it’s about us now just building our team.

Q. What would Jerrod Heard have to do to impress you in order to take that spot from Tyrone Swoopes?

COACH STRONG: Well, they both are going to get that shot. It’s not so much as what he’s got to do. It’s still a learning process for him, and Jerrod is coming along good, and both of them are there this summer. Haven’t had a chance to watch them really look out because we can’t. When we get into fall camp, we’ll see just where he is and how much more he needs to learn.

Q. How tough was it your first year coming in as a defensive coach by trade and having to deal with the high?powered offenses like Baylor? And is there a temptation this year to take more chances offensively?

COACH STRONG: What happens is it depends on your personnel. So when you talk about the Baylors and the TCUs, just defensively you had to get a line. You have to get lined up. So when you talk about chances, if you feel like you can’t score on offense, you can’t take too many chances because now you’ve got to sit back and just hope you can keep them from scoring.

But just learning those offenses and just making sure that on defense we just don’t?? it doesn’t become a mismatch game, because a lot of times that’s what it is. They’re looking for mismatches. So instead we can throw the ball to the outside, make a guy miss, get it one?on?one in open field and see if you can get him on the ground.
But just defensively, I thought Vance did a really good job of just going in and just game planning. When you talk about chances, if you can’t score, then it’s really tough on you.

Q. The Southeastern Conference passed a rule back in May where they said they’d bar the signing of athletes who had been disciplined for serious misconduct at other places. I’m curious your thoughts on that, and would you favor the Big 12 doing something like that as well?

COACH STRONG: I would favor it because I always look at it like this. If you are a student?athlete and you have a chance to go to University of Texas, go to Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU, wherever you go, and then for some reason you did something that they had to dismiss you from that program, I don’t think that you should be given another opportunity to go to another major school and just start all over like your slate is clean. I just don’t think that should happen for you.

You look at it, you were at an unbelievable place, and so now you did something yourself to get yourself dismissed out. So why do you think that you can go somewhere else and just start all over like it’s a clean slate for you?
I’m all into giving guys second chances, but I want to give guys on my team second chances, not someone else from another program.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about just the freshmen play that you have. You’ve got some freshmen with some definite talent, in particular, Malik Jefferson. Can you talk about those guys on the defensive end.

COACH STRONG: Well, you look at our freshmen, and the good thing about Malik, he was able to come in in the spring and did a really good job. I think he came in at like 217. He’s up at like 240 now. Connor Williams is another that came in as an offensive lineman, was a tight end in high school, went to offensive line, and has done an unbelievable job.

With the rest of them, they’re coming in right now, and there’s some freshmen on campus. But the good thing about it is the upperclassmen have done a great job of just walking them in and teaching them everything. You look at those from the Holton Hills, those young DBs, from Davis to Kris Boyd, there’s a lot of learning for them. It’s all about the learning process.

When you look at the freshmen, they’re all excited week one, and then all of a sudden it all hits them with the classes and the working out, and they kind of calm down. So now it will be interesting, when we get them to August, how they’re going to react and how they’re going to go out.

Q. A couple of years ago, you had three good running backs and one left, last year two with Michael and Jonathan. Now it’s Jonathan. Might this make things easier, depending on- and I’m sure you’ve got backups too. But for Jonathan and maybe for the running game, for him to know he’s the main guy?

COACH STRONG: What happened last year, you had Jonathan and you had Malcolm. The thing about J. Gray, he was coming back from that Achilles, so you just didn’t know how healthy he was. I think we had to get like within the season for him really to get back on track.

Now with him being the guy, you expect big things for him. And I told him that, I said now with you being that guy. We have backups, but we’d like to see J. Gray go out and just have a big year.

Q. Charlie, if you get quality quarterback play, is this team the upside? Is it a team that you would see going 9?3? Or is this a team that you would see winning the league? If you get that good, quality quarterback play.
COACH STRONG: I don’t know what the number would be or what would happen, but not only with the quarterback, it’s got to come from all positions. You look at us on defense, we lost six key starters there. So we’re going to have to play really well on defense. That’s where it all starts at.

With the quarterback position, it is a very critical position because you want to see that position play so well. And Swoopes- and I’ll tell you this right now. He wants to play well because of so much has been said about him, and he wants to prove to everyone that he can play that position. I hope he does do that. I’d be more than happy if he did.

But it’s all about us just performing well as a team in all phases.

Clemson Football: Dabo Sweeney’s Press Conference Transcript

The Clemson Tigers head into the 2015 football season in strange territory: they are favorites to win the ACC. At least by the media; odds in Las Vegas still have Florida St. as the team to beat in the ACC. Coach Dabo Sweeney spoke about his team yesterday:

Q. Coach, just your thoughts on being picked as the favorite to win it all and upend Florida State?
COACH SWINNEY: Good morning, everybody, first of all. But I don’t really have a lot of thoughts on it, to be honest with you. I never really get too caught up in the pre-season prediction-type stuff. I appreciate people having respect for our program and our players. But, you know, really it truly is about the performance. Hopefully when it’s all said and done in December, whoever voted for us, we can make them look really smart, see if we can get it done. I do think we’re definitely one of those teams. There’s several teams in this conference that I think have a chance to win the league. I think we’re one of them. Our guys realize over the next 46 days we got a lot of work to do to have a chance to do just that. So looking forward to it. We got a lot of people to replace, those type of things. I love our team. I love our roster. I definitely think we have as good a shot as anybody out there.

Q. I believe before you had a Twitter account, how did you use that then, and how do you use it now recruiting the guys?
COACH SWINNEY: I’m what they call a Twitter quitter (smiling). I think I quit in like ’09. I didn’t last very long. Yeah, I don’t tweet. I don’t really think people really care what I’m doing or what my opinion is on certain things from day-to-day. I’m not really interested in having a bunch of followers or whatever. I’m kind of old school with modern ways, if you will. Steal a line my O-line coach talks about all the time, I’m young, but I’m still kind of traditional in ways. I still actually like to talk to people on the phone. I still do snail mail, email, all those type of things. Certainly it’s a huge part of our program, social media. We have a very active social media department, if you will. Our staff does a great job. Right now Twitter for the coaches has been a way to communicate with the players. That’s been very helpful. I think the texting thing is probably going to change at some point here in the near future, which will probably alleviate some of the need to have to use the Twitter. Really doesn’t make much sense right now. You can tweet ’em, but you can’t text ’em. I don’t really participate too much in that. But we do as a program. There’s a lot of things that I’ll suggest from time to time, Hey, let’s send this out, so forth.

Q. I know you have two games before it, but that first ACC game against Louisville. What are your thoughts on the overall Thursday night game?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, seems like we get a Thursday night game every year on the road somewhere. That’s just kind of one of the things that comes with the territory at Clemson. But it’s going to be a tough venue. I personally have never played there or coached there, but I certainly have seen Louisville on TV many, many times, especially on Thursday night. I know it will be a great crowd, a lot of anticipation leading up to the game. The biggest thing for me is the preparation of it. It’s a very, very difficult challenge to get a team ready. We play on Saturday afternoon against App State. You have Sunday, Monday, Tuesday to get ready, challenge on Wednesday. A difficult challenge from a routine standpoint in prepping your team. We’ll definitely have to have a good plan as we move forward through our fall camp preparing for that. Look forward to going up there.

Q. Deshaun Watson showed you some things last year. What can you say about him? Picked as the pre-season Player of the Year at this point.
COACH SWINNEY: He’s as advertised. Y’all are picking him to be the pre-season Player of the Year and all that stuff based on what y’all have seen. He’s beyond what you’ve seen. He is a great football player, there’s no question about that. It’s pretty easy to watch this kid play and say, Wow, this is a rare guy. But what you don’t know, he’s only been in college a year. What you don’t really know is who he is. I mean, this is a special person. He really is. He’s a great leader. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. I haven’t been around many seniors with the football IQ that this man possesses right now as a true sophomore. Really excited about his future, his potential. Can’t wait to get him back out on the field. When he’s out there, we got a chance each and every play for something good to happen. That’s a good thing.

Q. Coach Tommy Bowden, how has he influenced you as a coach? With being picked pre-season ACC champion, with the Player of the Year, anything specific you do to try to keep the team grounded in the face of those expectations?
COACH SWINNEY: First of all, I love Coach Bowden. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for Tommy Bowden. He was my first position coach at Alabama. A lot of people don’t know that. When I first joined the team in the fall of ’88, spring of ’89, fall of ’89, he was the receiver coach. I really liked him as a coach. He was an excellent receiver coach, a lot of energy. Then right after my redshirt freshman year he left for Kentucky. But we always kind of maintained a relationship. He was only at Kentucky for like a year, then he was at Auburn. As I finished my playing career, I would see him before the games. We would always talk. Then I got right into coaching. So I’d see him on the road all the years that I was at Alabama and he was at Auburn. Then obviously he got the Tulane job. I was still at Alabama coaching receivers then. So always communicated with him. Even when he went to Clemson. Just a real blessing. He literally called me out of the blue on a Friday. I coached eight years at Alabama, then got out of coaching ’01 and ’02, those two seasons. He just called me in February of ’03, asked me if I was interested in getting back into coaching. I said, Absolutely. Had it not been for that relationship, just that seed that was planted years ago when I was just a young player, probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity. So very fortunate that he gave me a chance to come to Clemson. We have a great relationship. In fact, that was my very first interview was Coach Bowden. What a way to start the day off. But he’s been incredibly supportive. In fact, when they made the change at Clemson, Terry Don Phillips, I’ll never forget it, that day, his exact words to me were, That was Coach Bowden’s suggestion, would he give me a shot to be the interim. I’m very much indebted to Tommy Bowden. He’s as good as it gets as far as a person. I’m not sure he’s quite all into this media stuff, but he’s getting better. I think he’s getting more entrenched. Really I appreciate the opportunity. As far as the expectations, we talk about that stuff with our players all the time, whether it’s good or bad. Just don’t pay attention to that stuff. I think Oklahoma last year was picked to win the national championship, pretty much maybe the consensus. That just doesn’t mean anything. It’s fun for talk, fun to predict, all that. There’s so many things that go into a season. What I tell our guys is, when we won the league in 2011, I don’t think we were ranked in the top 25 pre-season, yet we won the ACC. I’ve been on teams that were pre-season top 10 that didn’t finish ranked. So what you better focus on is you better have a formula for excellence that you believe in and that better be what you focus on. Don’t get distracted by that stuff. This is a game of performance, not potential. It’s great that people say, hey, they have good potential, but it’s really about the performance on those 12 Saturdays. Come November and December, that stuff is a little more meaningful.

Q. You already mentioned the Louisville game. After that you also have Notre Dame, Georgia Tech. What is your outlook on that part of the schedule?
COACH SWINNEY: They’re all tough. There are just no easy Saturdays, despite what some people may think. When you do this for a living, there’s no easy Saturday. Every week is you better be all in and fully prepared and have great respect for the opponent that you’re playing. That’s just what we try to do. We like to tell our guys, We’re playing Clemson 12 times. Let’s take care of Clemson. We’re going to prepare each and every week for whoever the opponent is. Let’s take care of Clemson. Let’s be committed to how we prepare, the effort that we apply, our commitment on and off the field. Those are the things that we talk about. You can pull out any of them, any opponent on our schedule. They’re going to get our best because we know we’re going to get their best for sure. I’m excited about Notre Dame in particular just because as a college football fan, as well, never had the opportunity to go to Notre Dame, play Notre Dame, coach against Notre Dame. That’s exciting to be a part of that game at Clemson because it’s been I think since ’78 since they came to Clemson.

Q. Right after Florida State, your memories of last time you were at the Dome. There was a little run-in with the coach. Talk about your thoughts on that.
COACH SWINNEY: Tremendous place to go play. Really that was a neat experience. Obviously glad we won the game. Our guys played well. Coach Shafer’s first year. He was just kind of getting going. We had a strong team that year. But I’ll tell you, he’s done a great job in really building them up. They’re a tough team to play, done a great job in coaching those guys. I loved playing up there. I thought it was really cool, just the whole environment of Syracuse. I’d never been there. But I’m glad we played well. It’s definitely a place, if it’s a tight game in the fourth quarter, the crowd can be a factor.

Florida St. Football: Jimbo Fisher’s Press Conference Transcript

Head coach Jimbo Fisher and his Florida St. team is dealing with a lot of changes this off-season, including the loss of star quarterback Jameis Winston. He talks about the upcoming season at his pre-camp press conference yesterday.

Q. With Everett transferring in, you were talking about your experience transferring in as a quarterback. Can you discuss what that was like for you and some of the challenges you had while trying to earn a starting spot?

COACH FISHER: In a short period of time, what you have to do is understand how to get these people to trust you. That you’re not here to be an individual, you’re not here to disrupt thinking. You want to be part of their family and have success and we all do this thing together. You get that by one thing: You put your nose down and go to work, treat people very fairly. They see your work ethic, demeanor, personality is to be one of them, not be above them. You get acclimated. Once they realize you’re there with them, you’re walking side-by-side with them, you’re there to help in their success, they usually accept and then go to play.

Q. You brought over Roberto Aguayo. Can you talk about the leadership he’s shown from being the kicker.

COACH FISHER: It’s odd until you meet him. You say ‘a kicker’. To me, he’s probably going to be one of the greatest in college football history. This guy is a special guy. The respect he has on our team, he’s so athletic and he plays. But when you watch him work and practice, the grind, I mean, he’s good because he’s talented, but he’s great because he has a tremendous work ethic. He’s a perfectionist. Our kids say that. The confidence, when he walks on the field, our kids jump up, How far is he kicking this one? They know what’s coming. We had Dustin Hopkins, Graham, but this guy is a special guy. He’s a great leader on our team, has a huge influence and impact on our players.

Q. To look at this team on the field with all the success you’ve had, off the field you’ve been able to corral the team. What can you say about this family and the environment you created that even when things are happening off the field, you can still get it done?

COACH FISHER: I think life is like that. Think about your life individually. Nothing’s ever smooth. There’s always an issue. There’s always a problem. You talk about learning to perform and getting what athletics teaches you for life. Like the scenarios I go through with my son. I revert to when I was a player, how to compartmentalize and take care of the things you can take care of. I got one problem here. I don’t need two problems by letting this go away. When you’re a husband, you’re a father, you’re a mentor, whatever it may be, there’s issues at work. There’s always going to be something in life. Life never goes smoothly and it’s not fair. What it teaches these kids, you got to control the things you can control with the time can you control them in, deal with the others later. We’ve put a lot of time in our mental conditioning, mental preparation, in our sports psychology and all those programs to help these kids deal with that. It’s not just helping them win football games, it will help them down the road in life. It’s exactly what I’m dealing with, with the personal circumstances I go through now in all the different things.

Q. How frustrating has it been for you with the recent activities off the field and the fact that your president had to step in and say, Let’s get this in order?

COACH FISHER: I think it’s disappointing. But our president is over there when we’re doing well. We communicate quite often, once or twice a week. He’s in our locker room. He also knows we’re the window of this university. I think bringing him over, along with ourself, our AD, it’s another voice to these kids. It takes a village to raise kids. When you hear it, it’s like teachers. You’re the principal of an organization. You have so many different teachers that affect the kids differently. When they hear it from a different voice, it catches their attention. One of the ultimate challenges of coaching, it’s something I love the most, and it’s also the most frustrating. Just like today, I’m speaking and there’s 75 people in here maybe. Whatever I say today can be interpreted and written 75 different ways and will be. That’s human nature. We all process information on our own level totally differently. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just like players. You’re talking to 120 players. You’re saying that. They’re hearing that 120 different ways. How they process it and how they filter it. I think the more voices you get there, they emphasize the importance of it, the role in which they play. That’s one of the challenges as a coach, he interprets it this way, he interprets it this way. Making sure you have the individual relationship with those guys to be able to get them to hear that message consistently. When you have great people like President Thrasher, our AD Stan Wilcox, it only enhances it. That’s the challenge when you’re dealing with such a large variety of players.

Q. You’ve won 29 out of 30 games, suddenly you’re the underdog in the pre-season poll. How does that feel?

COACH FISHER: When we were the favorite, they didn’t give me the trophy. When you’re the underdog, they’re not giving Clemson the trophy. It’s all about how you perceive yourself in going at it. It’s great to have the expectations. Clemson deserves it. They’re a great program. Dabo has done a great job. We have our work cut out. There’s other great teams, Louisville, Miami, Georgia Tech. We have to have those pre-season polls. If it would, I would have more free time on the weekends, if we just had to live out the pre-season polls. It would be more fun. I don’t know if it would or not. It is what it is. That shows you to me the depth of the conference, that we’ve had three conference championships in a row, but they’re thinking another team is going to win it. To me, that’s only great for the ACC because I think they’re such a great brand of football out there.

Q. Florida State finished dead last in sacks. Is that acceptable?

COACH FISHER: I’m just worried about winning games. Whether there are sacks or whatever. If that helps us win games, it does. I think we will. I think we have more fast twitch guys. Style of defense, the way things go. Those are all things that you have to consider when you do that. In an offense you do what your players can do. On defense you do what your players can do. You have to pressure the quarterback. That’s something we must get better at.

Q. With the offensive line this year replacing a bunch of guys, how important is it that these guys have had a chance to work behind the guys who have left?

COACH FISHER: I think, again, it goes back to your culture. I think that’s the most important thing of any organization, how the kids eat, think, believe, the way they act. I think the standard that’s been set by the previous groups for these young guys to watch, learn and experience I think are very critical. We are a very talented football team. Hopefully they can take the work ethic and demeanor of the previous teams, how they prepared and got ready to play, be able to take that to the field. I like our offensive line. That’s one of the areas you always worry because up front, the guys that put their hand in the dirt are very critical. I was very pleased coming out of spring, we have a lot of work to do, but I can see where we can have a very good football team up there.

Q. You have developed a pretty strong intra-divisional rivalry with Clemson. Do you have a particular preference as far as playing that game earlier or later in the season?

COACH FISHER: No, I don’t necessarily. I think it’s fun. It’s become such a great rivalry. I think one of the things about rivalries, you set a time for them, you play ’em the same every year. I think that’s a very good thing to do because, like I say, inter-divisional rivals, whether it’s early, late or in the middle. Like every rivalry out there in college football, you know the date, the time, the network. They’re always on the same date, time, same network, whatever it may be. I think this game is evolving into that. That’s something we need to think about. I think it not only builds the brand of those two teams, but your conference.

Q. You lose half of your starters this year. There are a lot of question marks on the board. Have you seen younger guys step up and fill those roles?

COACH FISHER: That’s one of the things I’m most excited about. Whether they fill those roles, they have to to do it on Saturday when the scoreboard counts, when those numbers really matter on that scoreboard. But I like the demeanor of this team. I think the chemistry is very good. I like the work ethic. I like the hunger. They’re fighting to be the next guy up, the competition within practice. Again, talent, we are very talented. But what we have to do right now, I think what’s happening in sports today, we’re pushing this up so much, guy plays as a freshman, as a sophomore, goes to the league as a junior. I think what you’re starting to see in the NFL, they’re having a spring developmental league. I think there’s better athletes playing football than ever. We have to make sure they’re great football players playing football. I think there’s a difference learning to be a great football player than being a great athlete. That’s why all you see that in the NFL. These guys are all coming out so early. Back in the old days you never played as a red-shirt junior. Now these kids are playing as a freshman and leaving as a junior. My point is, getting them developed. I think it’s the same way, we’re having to play younger players because of that consistently every year. I think our challenge this year is this: We’re a very talented football team. We have to do a great job as coaches of educating and teaching what a football player is and our players have to do a great job of learning and accepting that coaching and developing. I think that’s going to be the key to our success, because we have talent, we have a great staff, we got to get them into being good football players and not good athletes.

Q. You came into Louisville on a Thursday night last year, an electric atmosphere.


Q. They’re going to travel to Tallahassee in October. What’s different about a game day in Tallahassee? What are they going to experience?

COACH FISHER: I think it will be great. I think Louisville is great, Bobby is a great coach, great tradition. They had a tremendous football game. We had 11 guys drafted, they had 10. The division with the most draft picks in all of college football was the ACC Atlantic Division. We had the most draft picks in all divisions of college football. They talk about the quality of ball in the ACC. Louisville is one heck of a football team. It will be a great environment because we’re going to have to bring our A game like we do every week to play them. They’re very talented, very well-coached. I’m sure it will be as electric down there as it was in Louisville. I know we won the game, but I’m talking about the atmosphere for college football. That was a great night.