Washington St. Football: Mike Leach Press Conference Transcript

MIKE LEACH: All right. Any questions?

There’s Peyton Pelluer over there. He’s got the samurai hairdo going, middle linebacker, great player. And then Jamal Morrow, running back. And he continues to walk away, very disinterested. And a very versatile running back. Does a tremendous job. Very consistent out there. Two quality players getting their degrees, and basically everything that my parents wish I was.

Okay, go ahead.

Q. Coach, you’ve struggled with season openers since getting to Pullman, how do you get over the hump against Montana State?
MIKE LEACH: I think the biggest thing as we get older, we’ve got a little more experience. Last year we were predominantly freshmen and sophomores, and I think we struggled as far as adjusting to being on the field for the first time in some cases. We did some really good things in practice. Go out there, first game, college football, first time. All of a sudden, eyes got wide and we tried to do too much.

But then I think that we assembled ourselves pretty good as a team as we played together some more. In the last two years, even though we’ve got quite a bit of youth, I’d have to look at it, but we won as many games, I think, maybe more than anybody the last two years as far as the conference goes. We’re a work in progress, like anybody. But we’re getting better.

Q. Do you think an early signing period is good to push up the calendar even more?
MIKE LEACH: I’m generally against that. It depends when. I think anything before December is ridiculous. I think this business of everybody forgets what it was like when they were 18, you know, and maybe I remember better than some. Part of it is because I’m around 18-year-olds all the time. But when you’re 18, trying to sort out a decision of when to go to college, you could make the argument February is challenging enough. Then all of a sudden, you’re going to make kind of a binding, significant decision, and all of a sudden people are, you know, you move it up even more. I think it’s difficult.

Q. How are you adjusting to the elimination of two-a-days?
MIKE LEACH: Really no adjustment. We haven’t had many two-a-days for quite some time. It’s not, you know — it’s not just some nice, generous, benevolence, I just felt like if you get too ground down, you’re working on something, you’re not working on football, you’re working on something. You know, toughness, persistence, pushing through, your body hardens up to develop around playing football, I think there’s benefits, but then as far as the pace and the timing, you want that sharpened, and if you overtrain, it’s counterproductive.

So I think that years ago this would be — well, I would say even clear back to when I was at the University of Kentucky, we didn’t have two-a-days back-to-back. We’d go two-one, two-one, and a lot of times on the double day it would be like helmets and shorts, that type of thing. It wasn’t mandated. It wasn’t suggested. We just felt like that was the best way to do it.

So I wish they had two-a-days. I think they ought to have four-a-days so hopefully some of these teams will pound their teams into submission and make our work a little easier for us. But it doesn’t sound like they’re going to let them do that. So we’ll just go about our business as usual.

Q. Is there any chance the running game is going to have some more prominence this year with all the guys coming back?
MIKE LEACH: I think we have the most productive backs in the league. If you add up the yards, we had the most productive backs in the league. I think it went us, Oregon, Stanford. That’s good company right there. But I do think we’ve got them all back. We’ve got some young guys that have some experience under their belts. So I’m hopeful that we’ll be better.

Q. I have a Twitter question, and I know that you love Twitter.
MIKE LEACH: Well, I’m getting the hang of it.

Q. They want to know is a hotdog a sandwich?
MIKE LEACH: I don’t like hotdogs. I never liked hotdogs when I was a kid, and I think that some of that started with when I was a real young kid. I’d have bologna sandwich after bologna sandwich. So anything that even remotely resembled bologna, I hated. Everybody says go to the ballgame and eat a hotdog. Not me.

No, it’s not a sandwich. I’m not into hotdogs, with all due respect to those that are, but they can have mine, so there will be more for them.

Q. How can Luke Falk grow as a player this year?
MIKE LEACH: Really doing the same thing that he has been doing. I would say that’s one of his strongest qualities. He’s always been a focused guy. Always been a guy that’s constantly worked to improve. Always been a guy that understood as he improves that it translates to others. He’s not a guy that has a bunch of highs and lows. Just kind of steady, focused, intense work ethic without any panic to it. I do think his best football is ahead of him. I think he needs to just keep doing what he’s doing.

Q. What is the most challenge with Millennials and the most fun?
MIKE LEACH: The biggest challenge is, I think, a lot of times there is a sense of a lack of accountability. I think that. But also I think it’s a lot like Frank Martin said. He said something to the effect that players haven’t changed, parents have.

But I think — then the other thing is their best feature, probably, well, they’re experts on technology. Heck, when I was a kid, I would watch Star Trek. These guys could have invented the plane, the computer, Scotty, the whole thing. I do think that, you know, just the knowledge base at your fingertips is such that at a very young age there are a lot of people that know a lot. But I think along with that is as soon as something gets hard, you don’t give in. You push through it. I think, you know, nowadays there is a temptation to do that.

I do think we’ll cycle out of that. There’s always been a cycle. Heck, we got out of disco, you know? We survived that. We had punk rock briefly as we were recovering, you know. So then things evened out.

I do think, you know, stuff goes in cycles, and I do think we’ll cycle through it. Paul Harvey always said, Tomorrow’s always better than today. And he was supposed to be the old-fashioned guy, right? I believe that, so…

Q. There’s been a push on your campus by students to ban athletes who have any history of sexual violence. I was curious if you have any thoughts on that. Is a blanket ban a good solution in your mind?
MIKE LEACH: I don’t know that a blanket ban is. I think it’s a tremendous issue. I think it’s a huge issue. The thing is the combination of innocent until proven guilty, but then if you are guilty, I think you get rid of those people. I mean, that’s terrible. I think the worst thing, I think, would be to be the victim of some level of sexual assault or something. That’s terrible. Somebody’s weak or somebody’s stronger, and you’re helplessly taken advantage of. That’s terrible. The second worse thing would be accused of sexually assaulting someone. I think with an eye on innocent until proven guilty, I think definitely it needs to be addressed. I think it should be addressed quickly as you get all the facts, and I also think it’s serious enough that probably ought to be suspended until sorted out.

Q. Talking about concussions and CTE, Pac-12 and studies about that, you know, Luke Falk has had some pretty heavy hits and his share of concussions. Can you talk a little bit about that? Specifically, is a little bit of a red flag for you with Luke? Do you have to be more careful?
MIKE LEACH: He’s only had one that I’m aware of. I don’t know about a bunch. He’s only had one that I’m aware of.

I think you always have to. I think everything goes hand in hand. I think the technology of protecting student-athletes, the treating and diagnosing, I think, I think it all goes together. And I think we have to constantly elevate it, the work and attention on it.

The other thing that I think that I would be curious about, and I haven’t read anything on it, I think there is maybe something like that, but some of these things in the past. I’d also be curious like drugs or steroid use, how that impacts some of the people that have had the scans where their brains are bad and things like that. So I think we need to address all the variables on it from every angle we can.

Q. In coaching, have you seen a turnaround like USC’s last year?
MIKE LEACH: Yes. Ours would be one.

Q. You’ve had the running games materialize and the defense is great. What can the fans expect this year in terms of improvement in position?
MIKE LEACH: Well, I guess I feel good about saying — I mean, the best problem to have is just a glaring weakness. You don’t want to have a glaring weakness. I don’t feel like we have a glaring weakness. I feel like just steady development, really, at all of the positions, which you always want. But I don’t feel like we have a glaring weakness. I think we’re stronger some places than others. But you try to avoid having glaring weaknesses. You try to have a balance where you’re not just horrible somewhere. I think we are pretty balanced that way.

Q. Is there one area of your team — a Friday night game in September, what is your feeling about the short week and Friday night game?
MIKE LEACH: I’d rather have it on Saturday, but it’s on Friday, so we’ll be there. We’ll be there bouncing around. The other thing is that the other consideration is, yeah, I’m a little sensitive about detracting from the high school efforts on Fridays.

Q. Is there one area of your team that you’re particularly confident will be better this year than it was last year?
MIKE LEACH: Well, we’ve got so many — we’ve got a number back. I think we’ll be better in the secondary. I mean, I don’t know, there is not a sane coach around. I think we’ll be better everywhere. You know, heck, by Thursday of game week, I think we can beat New England. You’re not getting a lot of rational thought out of somebody in this business.

Q. What is your thought on early signing recruits, and how do you think that could impact your recruiting?
MIKE LEACH: I’m guardedly curious about the December. Anything earlier than that I think is a bad idea. I’m not sure December is a great idea, but we’ll find out. I guess I kind of treat it like the JC signing period a little bit.

Q. What would be your concerns?
MIKE LEACH: Guy’s 18 and making a very important decision, and between him and his family needs more time to make that decision. In addition, as a school, you try to evaluate character and things like that. The more opportunity you have to get to know them and spend time with them and their family, the better your chances of making accurate judgments on that. So from that standpoint, I think the additional time is helpful.

Q. Peyton said he was shocked when Joe left in January from Oregon, were you stunned?
MIKE LEACH: I wasn’t stunned. They’re a quality program. The other thing is he did a tremendous job at our place. He did a tremendous job at our place. But also, I think that, you know, the opportunity to go to another spot, do something different, and then, of course he gets to work under Jim Leavitt, which I think he’s kind of excited about that. You know, just kind of a change of scenery.

But I’m excited about him and his career. Hopefully they have a horrible day when we play. But other than that, unless we’re behind by additional games and we need him to lose more, I hope they do really well.

Q. Can you sum up what his contribution was for the defense –obviously he wasn’t the coordinator, but just from that line?
MIKE LEACH: I think a good recruiter. I think a good presence as far as the D-line in general. He’s a really passionate guy. I think that rubbed off on really everybody. Not just defense but offense.

Q. Larry Scott was talking about experimenting with shorter halftime and shorter TV timeouts and the early signing period as well. I just wonder how much input you as coaches are having on these things. Signing period, it seems most of the coaches aren’t exactly thrilled about that, and also your thoughts on the shorter halftime plus TV timeouts?
MIKE LEACH: We have almost no input. Less TV timeouts, I think, is fantastic. Shorter halftime, I don’t know if I’m a big fan of that. We’re talking about five minutes. I don’t know how much they need that five minutes. Plus we’re not going to get it all the time, anyway, if the other team doesn’t agree to it out of conference.

But, yeah, I thought we had too many TV timeouts for a long time.

Q. Do you feel coaches aren’t getting enough input on some of the experiments and rule changes?
MIKE LEACH: Generally, no. Almost never.

Q. What’s the biggest challenge of building a program in the Pac-12 and how long does it take to fully feel like you’re going in the direction that you want?
MIKE LEACH: I’ve never felt like — you know, I don’t think you ever feel like you’re set. This isn’t really a destination business. You just continue to work, continue to develop. And somebody graduates. You continue to work, continue to develop some more.

I think it’s a constant growth process. I think that’s what makes it exciting. I think that’s what coaches and players need to embrace the most, because I think that’s the biggest point of all of it.

And then I think it kind of depends on the situation. Washington State, they were on outright hard times. They were on hard times facility-wise and talent-wise and all the rest. I think different places vary. It’s hard to give just one answer for that. You constantly plug away and do the best you can.

I think one thing, when it comes to recruiting, they become familiar with you, your staff, and they kind of see the vision, direction, characteristics of your team, and you can illustrate that. I think that does help the recruiting process because then they have something to draw on.

Q. What is the philosophy behind the Conference schedule? And how’d you go about preparing for it?
MIKE LEACH: I think the biggest thing is to prepare yourself. You want to prepare yourself for conference. I think that you want them at home. You try to get as many as you can at home. You’d like, you know — also, I think you want to go out there and play well so hopefully you can get some other guys in so they can get some game reps. As you get into conference, somebody sprains their ankle, you’ve got a little experience with with your guys. That’s very hard in the Pac-12. If you think about, really, most of the Pac-12 games, those things will come late into the fourth and that type of thing. It’s hard to get a bunch of people in in a Pac-12 game just because the conference is so quality from top to bottom.

Q. Do you think it’s fair that the SEC has four non-conference games with one of them usually in November when most of the rest of the country — I think they nicknamed it the Cupcake Wars — where most of the country is in rivalry games and the meat of the conference schedule?
MIKE LEACH: I think it’s very smart by the SEC, and I think it’s a lesson we can learn from the SEC. I think there is a lot of kind of figurative muscle flexing that goes on with regard to how many conference games and who plays who and who they play non-conference, and all this chest beating is kind of — quite overrated.

I think it’s important to win your conference. I think as a result of that, I think the SEC laughs all the way to the bank. And I think other conferences would be able to laugh a little louder if we learned some of those things.

Q. Interestingly, yesterday Saban was talking about exactly the opposite of that, about making the Power Five conferences play only for Power Five conferences in nonconference.
MIKE LEACH: Well, then, see it would be even. The biggest thing is you want it to be even. Every conference should play the same number of conference games, I think. You know, just you try to even the thing out. Right now it varies all over the map, which is the other reason that I would like to have a lot more extensive playoff system. Everybody else does.

The most amazing thing to me is the befuddled expressions that Division I gets. Well, how can that happen? It’s impossible. How’s it impossible? Everybody else does it. You know? States with a lot of states have a 16-team playoff or more. The NFL does it. Lower division colleges do. We’re the only ones that don’t. So anybody that can draw up a softball bracket, you know, go out there and play, you know, men’s league softball or something can draw up a bracket.

It’s pretty easy to sort out. You can get the whole thing done in 16 games and have some well-placed breaks in between. Half the country’s off, half the country’s playing next week, the other half off, the other half playing. It would be incredible fun.

Stanford Football Media Days Transcript

DAVID SHAW: Hello, everybody. I’m joined today by fourth-year senior Harrison Phillips and Bryce Love, our defensive tackle and running back. Excited to bring these guys. Two of our guys that are going to be leaders on our football team this year. Both these guys are replacing great players, but at the same time, these guys are great players in their own rights and I think a lot of people will find that out this year.

Opening statement, we won ten games last year, and felt like a disappointment, felt like a down year to a certain degree. But we’re proud of the fact that we’ve won as many games as we’ve won over the last few years. Ten games last year in particular. But at the same time, I think we can play better. We have a chance to be a better team than we were a year ago, a complete team, even though losing two of the better players in the nation last year.

We believe we’ve got some depth that we didn’t have a year ago. We’ve got a lot more experience we didn’t have a year ago. I think Keller Chryst stabilizing our quarterback position at the end of the year was a plus for us. The way we played on the offensive line at the end of the year was another plus for us. Excited about where those guys finished off.

Defensively, we come back with Harrison up front, who has a chance to be one of the better players in our conference and around the nation. Really good group of linebackers inside and outside with speed, athleticism, length and experience.

Defensive backfield, I’m excited about that position as any position we have on our team. We think these guys have a chance to be one of the better units in America.

At the same time I thought we had some really good gains made by our skill positions last year. I think JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin coming along as receivers at the end of the year, Dalton Schultz making an impact, and hopefully his impact in the passing game will continue to be felt.

We believe we have some younger guys coming in as well that we believe can help in the passing game, so I think we’re in good position right now. It’s a difficult conference. I think everybody has guys coming back. Everybody has new guys coming in. But they’ll be very competitive this year.

Q. What has to go right for Stanford to get back to the championship on your watch?
DAVID SHAW: If we can stay healthy, I think we have enough experience and we have enough depth. We have some young guys that we have to have come along. But at the same time we have to stay healthy and play at a high level. Because the thing that happens in our conference, and it happens every single year, you look at our run two years ago to go to the Rose Bowl, we were one of the better teams in the nation, and we played a really good Oregon team late and lost that game.

You look at Washington’s run last year. They’re one of the best teams in the nation. They played a really good USC team late. We played nine conference games. And every week we have a chance to get beaten. It’s staying healthy and playing your best football every single week.

Q. How gridlock has this PAC-12 North been? Especially with Oregon, Washington, yourself and other teams like that?
DAVID SHAW: Oh, it’s insanity. It’s crazy. But it’s great. You know there are no bye weeks, there are no off weeks. No one talks about the Washington State program that they put together up there. It’s not just the passing game with Coach Leach. They ran the ball well last year. They were physical up front last year. They played great defense last year both secondary-wise and up front. So you’re going to have a tough game in the entire conference.

Q. Can you talk about the change of the elimination of two-a-day practices?
DAVID SHAW: That would not have been my choice to eliminate two-a-day practices. I think it was an overreaction to a certain degree. I think we all want our guys to be healthy and make the best decisions for our guys, but there is a way to have two-a-day practices and be safe and be smart. I think if we put enough constraints around what those — how long those two-a-day practices can be. Because the other thing we did by doing so, you can go back and say you can come to training camp a week early to make up for the practices that you lost. Well, we also have athlete time-demand issues. So now we’re going to take away another week away of their summer, another week of their training and those internships and summer school the guys are doing.

So to me those are conflicting things that we have to deal with. I do believe that we should continue to have those discussions and maybe go back to the point where we don’t come in a week early and we’re able to take the minimum number of opportunities to do two-a-days as long as you abide by these rules, which only so much tackling and only so much hitting, because the second practice of our two-a-days, our plan was to be non-padded.

So it’s nothing to do with concussions or guys getting injured. But it’s another opportunity to be on the field and teach and have skill development, because there is an element of a grind that training camp in a positive way can be for guys to prepare for the season that we’re not able to have this year.

Q. How is it have Willie Taggart in the PAC-12?
DAVID SHAW: It’s great. It’s great. I called him right before and right after his interview. I’ve been so excited for him this entire process and so proud of him and so happy for him as a friend to see what he’s able to do at Western Kentucky and down in Florida, to have this opportunity for he and his wife, Taneshia. I’m just ecstatic for him. And I’ll just root against him for one game a year.

Q. Your program has had a lot of success, how much pressure do you put on yourself to continue that success?
DAVID SHAW: I am not a fan of pressure. I don’t believe in pressure. I believe in expectations and hard work. If our hard work is smartly done, then we have a chance to reach whatever expectations we put it ourselves. So for me I don’t think about the pressure. Usually pressure comes from other people’s expectations. For us, we have a plan and we do whatever we can to work our plan.

Q. There’s not another Christian McCaffrey out there, is there?
DAVID SHAW: If there was another Christian McCaffrey, I’ll take him.

Q. But Bryce Love, can you incorporate that into the offense and how do you do that with his skill set?
DAVID SHAW: There’s no question. Every time Bryce has touched the ball for last two years there is a collective pause that happens on our sideline and the other sideline and there is a gasp that you can actually hear that anticipation because he is so explosive. He averages seven yards a carry for his career. So many long touchdowns, so many explosive plays.

He’ll have an opportunity in the return game as well. Catching the ball, running the ball outside, running the ball between the tackles. Because he’s not just a scatback, he’s a running back.

I’m excited for his possibilities. But I’m also excited to have a lot of versatility in our game, not just with him but the other players on our team. I think Bryce is going to have a breakout year and be one of the better players in the nation.

Q. Daniel Marx’s role a little more of a a featured back or how will you?
DAVID SHAW: I’m excited to get Daniel back. Daniel has missed a lot of time in the last couple years. Daniel is an X-factor of an athlete. He can help you on special teams in a lot of different ways. He can help you as a lead fullback. He’s a guy that can take two yards back from that fullback position and he can hand the ball off to him. He’s that kind of an athlete. And we’ve had these plans for Daniel since we recruited him. Our plan is, and he’s on course right now, to be healthy and to use his versatility.

The other thing I count on from him is his leadership. This is a smart young man. This is a tough young man. This is a consistent young man. This is a guy that our young players look up to because of the way that he operates.

So here’s a guy that usually when you don’t get a chance to play and you’re injured, you kind of get lost in the muck and the mire, kind of away from everybody. It’s not that way with Daniel. When he walks around, guys are still asking him questions and guys are still following him because he’s one of those guys that you look up to.

Ten years from now he’s going to be running something. Maybe the Stanford football program. You never know. But he’s one of those guys that when you meet him and talk to him, this guy is a leader. I can’t wait to see what he accomplishes on the field and off this year.

Q. Can you talk about Clark Yarbrough’s status on the team?
DAVID SHAW: Clark has taken a medical retirement. Still at Stanford. Has a phenomenal internship that he’s doing really well in. It was a tough decision medically for our people, but it was the right decision. He’s still part of our family. He’s still one of our guys. We’ll touch base periodically. He’s got a great family and a great base. He’s going to do some great things outside of football the rest of his life.

Q. You mentioned Dalton Schultz being more involved in the passing game. How is evolved in your program?
DAVID SHAW: Our plan for Dalton when we recruited him — he was the No. 1 tight end in the nation coming out of high school. Our plan for him — we’ve had so many guys that have had kind of a niche. Levine Toilolo was at the line wide receiver, Kobe Fleener was the long fast guy, and Zach Ertz was the route runner and great on third down and red zone.

And our desire for Dalton was to be that complete tight end, that complete NFL tight end. And that’s what he’s becoming. As we stabilize the offensive line and quarterback position, he’s one of those guys I think is going to benefit and really have a breakout year this year. And won’t just be statistically. I think just the different things that he can do, I think, will show more. He’s one of those guys that you’re going to see him play on Sundays.

Q. Coach, what is your opinion of the new early signing period and recruiting, and how do you think that might affect the recruiting for the Cardinal?
DAVID SHAW: I’m still personally not a huge fan of the early signing period. I think the earlier we make it, the more difficult everybody’s job is going to be because there is a contingent of young people, recruits, that want to sign earlier, and I understand that, there are a lot of coaches that want them to sign earlier for their own reasons.

But I think what happens that we forget about, these are still 16-, 17-year-old kids. No one can tell me some of these guys still aren’t going to change their minds between December and February. And when they change their minds, guess what, we’re going to let them out of those letters of intent, because we’ve never held anybody to a letter of intent that really wants to get out, whether they have a legitimate reason or not.

So my thing has always been let’s let the process be as long as it can be and let’s give these guys and their families as much time as possible to make a decision and leave a late date to where they can sign.

Because, honestly, what’s going to happen, my little crystal ball here, you’re going to recruit and sign an offensive lineman. Great, he’s committed, his family’s committed. He wants to come. He wants to be there. The O-line coach may get a coordinator job someplace else, may become a head coach someplace else, now you might talk about changing the offense with a new coordinator and new line coach. Well, he may not want to play in that new system, so now we’ve created a problem in December that we wouldn’t have had in February because he wouldn’t have signed to begin with.

So for me it’s created more problems than I think many people are seeing that are going to happen. So for me, these are still young kids. This is not a legal document they sign on signing day. This is a general agreement that I think needs to happen as late as possible, because they’re still kids and they still have the ability to change their minds.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your quarterback situation and the competition there?
DAVID SHAW: The big thing for us in quarterback-wise is Keller Chryst really stabilized this last year. Played extremely well, 50 points against Oregon, 40 points against Rice. Undefeated as a starter. Ten touchdowns, I believe two interceptions. Really, really just kind of started to come into his own until he got hurt in the bowl game.

So for me, when he’s healthy, he’s our guy. Hopefully he’s healthy Game 1. If he’s not, Ryan Burns started for us last year. Ryan Burns is a better quarterback than he was a year ago. He’s really worked hard in the off-season. Had a really good spring training session and is really going to come into this year ready to go.

K.J. Costello, he’s got all the tools. He learned a lot this past off-season. He had a really good spring ball.

So if Keller can’t go, we’ve got two great options. And it may be one, may be the other, may be some combination of both. Biggest thing for me, though, is for Keller to get ready, and hopefully he’ll be ready week one.

Q. Is he 100 percent right now or where is he?
DAVID SHAW: He’s closer than maybe I thought he was going to be. We practiced our first practice on Monday. He’ll be out there with everybody. He may not do everything, but he’s going to go through the quarterback drills and go through one-on-ones, seven-on-seven. He can drop back full speed and throw the ball.

It’s now all the other things that come with running and cutting, et cetera, that we’re going to continue to build for him. But he’s going to come back. He’ll be practicing, and hopefully he’ll be ready.

Q. How competitive do you expect Sarell and Little to be on the offensive line, maybe even starting?
DAVID SHAW: That’s a great question that I can’t answer just yet until we get into practice. There is a physical aspect that you have to make sure young guys in particularly offensive line are ready for. These are bigger guys than they’ve ever blocked before, and it’s a different world than they’ve been in before.

But at the same time, these are very, very talented young men. At the same time, there is a lot of thinking that has to happen. There are a lot of calls when teams stem and change and move and calls that have to be made, it’s a learning process. We’ll see what that learning curve is and whether these guys are able to contribute early or maybe later. We only know by getting on the grass and seeing how it goes.

Q. In the off-season, pointing out how Stanford pretty much has USC’s number with highlights from last years game, is there something you guys are doing that gives you an edge?
DAVID SHAW: Kicking the ball off and crossing my fingers. It’s a very, very talented team down there. Clay Helton I think has done a phenomenal job in the way that he’s approached not just how they play but how they recruit and who they recruit. I think they’ve done an outstanding job. I think they have the best quarterback in the nation right now. And they’re going to be a tough team to beat.

For us, it’s not just about who we play, it’s about us, it’s about how we play and what we do to make sure that we try to play to our strengths. Yes, we analyze our opponents, but at the same time we have to be the best at what we do. I don’t know if there’s anything different particularly we do against USC or UCLA or Washington. The best thing is we try to make sure each game we give ourselves the best opportunity to win.

Q. There were some untimely injuries last season. Was there anything during the season or off-season that you looked at in terms of trying to mitigate that?
DAVID SHAW: The crazy thing, they were all different injuries. They were all very unique injuries, and honestly, we had been the healthiest team in the conference for seven years, eight years. It was almost like the pendulum just swung back in a big way and kind of kicked in a couple walls on us.

But, yeah, we had a hip issue, a shoulder issue, a knee issue, and a hand issue, all these little things. It would be one thing if they were all hamstrings. Okay, great. We know how to handle hamstrings. But it was like a little bit of everything.

It’s part of playing the game of football. This is a contact, collision sport, and unique and crazy things happen. I really trust our staff, our strength and conditioning staff and training staff, to make sure we’re in the healthiest position as possible and flexible and explosive as we can be. But last year was one of those freak years on us.

Q. Is there anything in terms of getting the next guys performing better, or is it tough to do if somebody gets hurt on a Tuesday and you’re playing Thursday or Saturday?
DAVID SHAW: Yeah, that’s a tough thing to lose one of the better corner duos in America. To lose them before you play Washington was not my choice. But at the same time, when we had inexperience on the offensive line, but then you have injuries and inexperience, so you have a couple inexperienced guys playing being backed up by game experience guys, so whatever experience those guys had is they were growing, they get hurt, and now you put in another young guy, and we had to throw Nate Herbig into the wolves last year probably before he was ready. Now, he came around and played really well and ended up being our first freshman to start on the offensive line for us for any stretch of time.

But he was learning every single week. You’re in week three and somebody makes a call, what’s that call mean? Like, oh, my God, he doesn’t know. But Coach Bloomgren did a phenomenal job with all those guys as they continued to learn. We got to a position the last month plus of the season, and we were as good up front as anybody. We were consistent, pass protection was good. Great in the running game. Which is why I think you saw Christian McCaffrey starting to go off late in the year, and Bryce Love had a great game against Notre Dame and in the bowl game. Keller Chryst started to play well. Those are all functions of the offensive line stabilizing itself.

Q. The secondary historically hasn’t maybe been the greatest strength for Stanford, but obviously that’s changed the last couple years. What’s different for you guys with that? Is it the way you’re recruiting or coaching them, why is it a strength now?
DAVID SHAW: It’s a combination of a few things, honestly. I have to mention Duane Akina, who is our defensive back coach, who is widely regarded as the best in the nation at what he does. He’s outstanding and phenomenal. He’s attracted a lot of the guys that have come because of his ability to get the most out of the guys that he’s coached.

At the same time, we’ve been able to recruit long, athletic, explosive guys. And I’ve got to get a little credit to Richard Sherman too. Richard being one of those guys that when you talk to him, he’s loud, he’s crazy, he’s brilliant. He’s been like, yes, this is a Stanford guy. This is a guy who is very opinionated but very smart and has reasons for everything he says and does. But he’s also long, explosive, and athletic. He’s been kind of one of those beacons, like, you know what? I want to go to school where that guy went to school and have a career like him. You see a lot. You look at our corners now, they’re 6’1″, 6’2″, longer guys like Richard that have a chance to play well at this level and the next.

Q. Since he played so much receiver for you guys
DAVID SHAW: Oh, yeah. It was my fault. I tried to keep him at receiver and not let him play defensive back. But he’s had a phenomenal career.

Q. Do you keep in contact with Jim Harbaugh? Have you talked about the summer?
DAVID SHAW: We haven’t talked this summer. I think we’ve both been pretty busy.

Q. What are you expectations for Trenton Irwin at receiver this year?
DAVID SHAW: I think Trent’s going to have a breakout year. I think he’s ready. The combination of him, the receiver production is a function of the quarterback and the offensive line. If we stabilize those two positions. Trenton is one of the best route runners in the nation. I’ll put my stamp on that right now. I’m excited to see him have more opportunities to effect games this year.

Q. How did Casey Tucker and A.T. Hall measure against some of the talented tackles that you have, and how much are you counting on those guys to really set the tone?
DAVID SHAW: Well, A.T. especially, listed as a starter at right tackle for us right now. He had kind of an up-and-down year, but his up was really, really good. His upside, his length and athleticism, I mean, it’s exciting. He’s got a really good chance to be a really good tackle.

We moved David Bright to left tackle this year. Dave’s got a chance to be really good. A fifth-year senior, one of our budding leaders on the football team.

Casey Tucker is going to have a chance to compete inside. He’s one of those guys that had dealt with so many minor injuries. He’d miss a game, and then come back and play maybe 80 percent, not really capable of doing the things we know he can do. Now completely healthy. Had a really good spring, an exciting spring. He’s got a legitimate shot to start and play for us at right guard.

Q. Is Keller Chryst going to be limited at camp at all?
DAVID SHAW: He will be limited early on. Keller has most way down the road for his recovery. I think we’re going to be really smart with him early on. But he’s able to drop back full speed, he’s able to throw, make every single throw. He’s running full speed straight ahead. We’ll see when we completely release him. Hopefully it will be before the first game. It may be close. But he’s going to start by practicing with everybody, but we’ll be cautious early on.

Q. What have the Cal players or staff told you about the Australia game and just the travel and everything associated with it?
DAVID SHAW: Oh, yeah, this has been — so Matt Doyle, our football operations director, went to that game, and he experienced the whole thing with Cal. He saw them, saw what they did, didn’t do. He’s been in constant communication with all those people.

I’ve had multiple conversations with Sonny. I talked with Sonny when they first got back, Sonny Dykes. I talked with him midway through the year as we were planning this. I talked to him after the season briefly about the things he would have done differently, what did he do, what would he choose not to do.

So we put together a pretty good plan, I believe. The big difference for us, our guys are not going to be in school. So they’ll be able to come back and truly rest and recuperate before we start that preparation for USC.

Q. What are you most excited about that trip?
DAVID SHAW: I want to see a kangaroo. Dead serious. I want to see a kangaroo. We’re going to go to the zoo early on. There’s a beach right by our hotel. We’re going to get down to the beach. Keep our guys moving the first couple days, get them used to the time difference.

I’m excited to see the University of Sydney and the Opera House. There are all these things we’re going to see the first three days that we’re there, before we really buckle down and start getting ready to play a game.

Q. One big topic this off-season has been coaching staffs. Is that something you weighed in on or have strong feelings about? Would you like to see limitations or regulations in that regard?
DAVID SHAW: My view is the same view that I have on scheduling, which is, if we can have some kind of uniformity, that promotes equity. For me, I think when the guys that are coaching on the field — that’s all I care about. If we can put the same number of guys coaching on the field to where we don’t feel like someone that has four more coaches than we do, five more coaches than we do, I think we all feel better that it’s more of an even playing field. So we’re all being able to coach our guys the same.

That’s the biggest thing for me. It’s not how many people work in the athletic department or in the football department, have as many as you want, but when it comes to coaching the game and working in the media rooms, we should all have the same number.

Q. Is it too loosely monitored right now?
DAVID SHAW: Loosely monitored is a nice way to say it, yes.

Q. Throughout your process as a coach, what type of advice did your father give you? He was a Stanford football coach also?
DAVID SHAW: Yes, yes. I’ve gotten a lot of advice from my dad over the years. Early on in my career he just reminded me to be me and coach with my own personality. I don’t think I completely understood it at the time, but this profession has so many strong personalities, so many unique personalities that there is a danger for young coaches in particular to try to emulate someone else’s style.

I think all good coaches steal from other coaches and copy things, but it comes down to being a genuine person and being who you are. That is the best connection you have with your players, is if they believe you’re just being yourself and not trying to be like someone else.

So thankfully I got that advice early on that I can be who I am and still be successful, even though I don’t have the same personality or persona as Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney or Jimbo Fisher. But at the same time we’ll all be successful just because we’re just being who we are.

Utah Football: Kyle Whittingham’s Media Days Transcript

KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Great to be back. Media Day is always kind of the signifier of the starting of the season, that football is upon us. That’s exciting. I brought two players with me today. Two of the big guys up front, both fifth-year seniors, Filipo Mokofisi, a defensive tackle, and Salesi Uhatafe, our offensive linemen. Both those guys have been in the program a long time, done everything right. Leka is in a Graduate program, already earned his bachelor’s degree, and Filipo will earn his bachelor’s degree in December. So couple guys that have been instrumental to our success at Utah.

Excited about this season. Had three pretty good seasons the last three years, but fallen just short in each of those years. Got to find a way to get over the hump and try to win a Pac-12 South Championship. We’ll see what happens this year.

Took a big hit with our senior class talent-wise, and a couple underclassmen that declared. We had eight drafted players and eight signed free agent contract players, so 16 of our roughly 20 scholarship players that graduated are in NFL camps right now. So lot of work to do replacing those guys.

But we feel we’ve recruited the right way the last several years, lot of young players coming up through the ranks, ready for their opportunity to show what they can do, so we’ll see what happens.

So, questions?

Q. Coach, you’re the longest tenure in the Pac-12 as a head coach?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, can you believe that?

Q. I can’t believe it honestly because you look like you’re five years old. But that being said, what has been the key to your success at Utah?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Good players. Recruiting the right way is what it’s all about at this level. We’ve had a group of assistant coaches that have done a great job targeting the right guys, bringing the right guys into the program. I think that’s been manifested the last few years, and how you’re doing recruiting-wise shows how you’re moving on to the next level. And that’s been the real key. That is the key to longevity and success in college football. 80 percent is tied to recruiting.

Q. Having Darren Carrington in as a transfer, what went into that decision, and what do you think he might be able to offer you?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: It’s always a tough decision when you’re talking about a player that you’re going to add to your program that potentially has a checkered past. You have to make a decision based on all the information you can gather. Based on the athlete’s attitude. You know, is he remorseful? Does he understand that he’s done some stupid things and ready to put it behind him and move on? There is so much that goes into it. It’s a judgment call. You’re not always right. But I feel in this case it was the right thing to do to give Darren another opportunity.

Now, he is not cleared to practice or even compete. There are still hurdles to go through. He’s on campus right now, and we’re hoping that things get worked out. But there are some hurdles he has to get over before everything is a done deal.

Q. You’ve played against him?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, we played against him. Caught the winning touchdown against us.

Q. Yeah, what can you do?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: He’s a terrific talent on the field. One of the common denominators that came back from all the people I talked to about Darren was his fierce, competitive drive on the field, on the practice field. He’s just a guy that is the ultimate competitor. Brings a toughness to that receiver position that will help us out.

Q. What did he do or say that made you that made you make the decision and decide it wasn’t going to be a risk for you guys?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Well, I think I spent a lot of time talking to him, his parents, coaches that I know that have had direct contact with him, guys that I really trust. You know, it was very apparent that he’ll be the first to admit that he’s done some dumb things, made some bad decisions. But he’s got the right attitude right now. He’s bound and determined to put this behind him, move forward. Try to have a successful senior year, and then hopefully have a chance to move on to the next level.

Q. What are the hurdles you are facing with him?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: No, it’s more conference hurdles, NCAA guidelines and things that have to happen, waivers and just paperwork things that have to all be in order before he’s good to go.

Q. So you feel confident?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: We hope it will happen, yeah. We’re confident that it will happen. But it’s never a done deal until it’s a done deal.

Q. Has he been on a tight leash at all?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Sure, you treat players how they deserve to be treated, so with his missteps in the past, that’s definitely puts him on a shorter leash. No doubt about it.

Q. What do you think about the change in two-a-day practice?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: I don’t like it. I think it was fine the way it was. What you’ve got to do now to make up for those two-a-day practices that you don’t get anymore is come in a week earlier, which makes it five full weeks before you play a game. Five full weeks of fall camp which is too long in my opinion. Four weeks was too long, but five weeks is bordering on ridiculous.

But to get those 29 practices in, you have to move it up a week in order to have the time to do that.

Q. What do you think about early signing day?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: I think it’s a positive for us. I know a lot of coaches are not high on it. But for our situation at Utah, I think it gives us more clarity earlier in the process, and I view it as a positive for us individually.

Q. You talked about some of the guys you’ve lost. Where do you think you are in terms of rebuilding the offensive line and back field?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: I think we got a good start on it in spring ball. We came away with a good idea who those five offensive linemen will be. Secondary-wise, we got a good start there as well. Although we had two or three guys coming in right now that weren’t there in spring that could factor in. But the bottom line at those two positions, very short on experience, but the talent level is there. So it’s up to us as coaches to get the right guys out there and get them up to speed.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about Troy Taylor? It seems a couple years ago he was coaching Jake Browning?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: He was a couple years ago coaching Jake Browning.

Q. Can you give us any insights?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: There is no inefficiency with Jake. He’s the complete package. But I’ve been watching Troy a lot of years. My nephew played for him at Folsom High School. My brother who is on our staff now, when his nephew got there, he said, you’ve got to look at this guy. This guy is phenomenal as a coach. The schemes, the way he handles the players, his approach to the game is unbelievable. So I started watching him, was very impressed. Still it was high school, so I was a little bit skeptical there.

When Troy went on to Eastern Washington and had the same success there that he had in high school, I was sold at that point, and that’s when we pulled the trigger and brought him on board.

Q. How is it different with the offense he’s bringing?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Heavier throw element to what we are doing. Little different route structures, little different read progression for the quarterbacks, very simplistic in how he coaches quarterbacks. He’s got a great track record. Not only is he a good offensive schemer at putting things together there, but just tutoring and mentoring and developing at the quarterback position has been a strong suit for him.

Q. Talk a little bit about Troy. I imagine his reaction —

Q. Troy Williams. With a guy who wants to throw the ball, I’m guessing he’s excited?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Very excited as were the receivers, as was really the whole offense. He was very well received. Spring ball was very positive, very productive, and the players are excited about the direction we’re going with the offense and the attitude.

Q. How is Troy Williams, the quarterback, progressing?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Progressing well. He had an outstanding spring, as did the other two behind him, Tyler Huntley and Cooper Bateman, came out of spring one, two, three, in that order. Tight enough race that those three guys will continue to get reps at least for the first week or two in fall camp, and then we have to make a decision to get things pared down to the two guys who are going to be getting all the reps and the one guy who is going to be the guy.

Q. Can you expand on why the early signing day may be beneficial?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Well, you’ve got a guy that maybe has a Utah offer or a Alabama interest, and December, or whatever, 20th comes along and we say, hey, we’ve got a scholarship for you now or we’re going to move on, you can wait and roll the dice and see if something else materializes, a lot of guys are going to take the bird in the hand concept.

So I think it’s an earlier indicator for us where we stand with a kid, how strongly he feels about us. I think it’s going to make things a lot clearer. Because the commitments, they change. They commit, decommit, recommit. It’s such a — there are so many unknowns and so much uncertainty in that, this will provide a much clearer picture where you stand. At least on December 20th, it’s almost like you have two milestones now, December 20th, who can you get in the boat and get signed up, then you know what you have to do December 20 to February 1.

Q. Is Kyle Fulks going to be a full participant when you start up tomorrow?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Like health-wise? He was completely cleared about a month and a half ago, so he’s good to go.

Q. What went into the decision for the timeframe?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: He played tackle in high school, and we lost both our tackles last year with Garett Bolles moving on and Sam Tevi. You look at getting your best five guys out there. And we think the best five guys are the guys we have labeled as the starters, obviously. And he is the best fit at the tackle position. He’s a guy that’s taken reps at tackle periodically throughout his career at Utah, so it’s not foreign to him.

Like I said, he played there in high school. He’s got the most length, other than Jackson Barton, of any of the candidates, and that’s a big thing at tackle. Your wing span, and how you can — you know, your length to ride guys around the edge of the defense. And with Jordan Agasiva, a highly touted JC recruit that we got, more suited to play guard, it seemed like a natural to make that switch.

Q. How much is tempo part of Taylor’s offense?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: It’s a part, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. And what you’re going to see a lot of is not fast tempo until we’ve made the initial first down or two in a drive and then pick up steam as the drive lengthens. One of the worst things you can do is have a 25-second three-and-out, and your defense is right back on the field.

That’s Troy’s philosophy. That’s not something I’m trying to convince him of. He’s fully in tune with that. And as a head coach in high school, he’s aware of not stressing the defense any more you have to. So there will be times we’re going as fast as anybody in the country, but typically and most predominantly early in drives, a little more methodical.

Q. Do you have to adjust defensively to those change in styles?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, and that’s more difficult as a defense to adjust to teams that go at all speeds than a team that’s going at one speed all the time. So I think that works to our advantage.

Q. When Colorado came into the league, they designated you as rivals. I think the last four or five games have been down to one score.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Been very competitive.

Q. Is there something organic that’s growing into that game and becoming a little more —
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: I don’t want to say it’s a rivalry yet because it doesn’t have that feel. We have all the respect in the world for those guys. They do a great job. Hopefully the feeling is mutual. To me, the term “rivalry” is some sort of bad blood. Some sort of rift, I guess you could say. I don’t feel that with those guys. We respect them, like I said, and they’re a great program.

But as far as any bitterness or, you know, something that transpired in the game that really upset you and you want to get back, that type of deal, I don’t think you can manufacture a rivalry. I think it’s got to happen naturally, and hasn’t happened yet in my estimation.

Q. Being that last game of the season, though, it comes down to somebody winning the Pac-12 South. Do you like having that kind of game at the end of the season like that?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, sure. Geographically you think you could have the makings for a rivalry, the closest to each other as far as the rest of the conference, the timing of the game being the last game of the year. Everything’s in place for it to become a rivalry, but I just don’t feel it should be termed a rivalry at this point in time.

Q. Given all the competition you have at several different positions, especially running back, do you think TJ Green could come in and make an impact out of high school?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, he was certainly a dynamic player in high school and did a lot of good things. How those players, especially a high school player, adjusts to the speed of the game and complexity of the game at the next level, not everybody adjusts the same and in the same timeframe.

So I’ll give you a lot better answer in about four days of what we think of TJ as far as his readiness to contribute. But he certainly is a talent. We wouldn’t recruit him if we didn’t think he was a big-time talent.

Q. You’re the last team that beat USC. What challenges does Sam present to you this year?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, tons of challenges. The guy is incredible as far as his skill set to play the position. He’s got everything. The size, the arm strength, the mobility, the pocket presence. He seems to be a great decision-maker.

So, yeah, we caught him on his first start. We were able to get the win. But he is one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the country, in my opinion. And we’ve got several of the best quarterbacks in the country in our conference here that we’ve got to face.

And he’s got a great supporting cast. Don’t forget about that. They’re loaded. They’ve got players at every position. So that will be a big challenge for us.

Q. Flip that, what kind of challenge does your quarterback present?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, last year we were pretty pedestrian on offense. Is that the right way to use “pedestrian”? So we weren’t scary or potent as far as capability. Now, we’ll hammer you and we could hammer the ball down just about everybody’s throat, but it’s proven not to be enough. You’ve got to be more prolific in the throw game. We’ve got to be more efficient and productive than we were last year. That’s why we brought Taylor back in, is to give that a shot in the arm.

Q. Now that Utah has been in the league going on seven years, as you look back on that time, what was the biggest challenge of building a program in this conference?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Recruiting, getting the team up to speed, I guess you could say. When we first joined the league, we felt really good in the line of scrimmage and we were matched up well at the line of scrimmage from day one. At the perimeter we were way behind, and I think we’ve closed that gap. And we’re not a done — we’re not a finished product. We’re still a work in progress. But we have come miles in that regard as far as team speed, team athleticism overall.

Q. When did that shift?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: When we got in the Pac-12, I’m going to tell you right now, I say it every year, percentage-wise, probably 80 percent of our team, we don’t get — if we’re not in the Pac-12, if we’re a Mountain West, a non-P5 team, and so every year that’s just built on. I think you’ve seen that in the NFL production too. The guys we’ve had drafted, it just increases each year. This year is a high water mark. That’s going to be difficult to duplicate every year. But you’ve seen a trend of more talent come to the program. And the best barometer that I know to determine how well you’re recruiting is how many guys you’re sending on to the next level. That’s probably the best indicator as far as just a raw data that you can look at.

Q. Various teams have won the South and haven’t been able to maintain that. Is that a commentary on the competition?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, very balanced. Everyone’s won it but us. That’s very well known. Since we’ve joined the league, with Colorado winning it last year, we’re the last two teams that haven’t won the South. I think that speaks to the level — I hate the word “parity,” but balance in the South. People take turns beating each other up in the South.

I think that’s taken a toll. Does anybody know, has the South won the championship game? Yeah, I think we’ve had so much competition amongst ourselves that we’ve been pretty beaten up throughout the year.

Q. You’ve arguably been the most consistent throughout the time, too.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, I guess you could say that. The last three years, for sure, we’ve been able to maintain a pretty competitive balance — not balance, but competitive situation in that conference — division. I guess it’s division, South Division.

Q. Kind of off topic here, but hot topic nationally, the coaching staff sizes, that something you’d like to see more regulation on?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: You’re talking about non-coaching personnel? That would be great to see regulation on that. There are some schools where they have a recruiting department where they have 20 guys and they’re all making $100 grand a year or more. And that’s not fair. What is fair? People have bigger stadiums, bigger buildings, bigger budgets. So there’s nothing really fair in the truest sense, but I think it would help if there was some regulating of non-football personnel, what you could have. Because right now it’s way out of whack. You have some teams that have it all and some teams that have nothing in that regard.

Q. Have you heard discussions?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, that seems to be a topic, we’re going to limit it to six non-coaching personnel or eight or whatever the number is. But any way you slice it, it’s not going to be equal. Because if you get eight, we’re going to pay our eight $300 grand a year, you’re going to barely struggle to give them a couple thousand a month. So it will never be a completely level playing field. But I think it makes sense to try to level it at least a little bit.

Q. Have you tried to get creative in that regard?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Very creative in that regard. Very creative. We’re doing our best to try to keep up. We’ve made a lot of progress in that area. I guess the benchmark school is Alabama. You look at what they have, supposedly — haven’t been there firsthand — but in their recruiting department, it’s a full-blown — it’s almost like its own entity. It’s a corporation of its own. But I’m all for the tenth coach, I can tell you that. Adding that tenth coach this January, I think that’s a positive thing.

Q. How will that change things?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: It won’t be a dramatic change. But it gives guys an opportunity to coach at a Division I level and gives the players more. I think our ratio might be as low as any sport as far as coach-to-player ratio, so that will help to balance that out a little bit.

Q. What are you hearing by your stadium expansion?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: I’m hearing that things are on track and progressing. Nothing is a done deal still, and, again, until the actual construction takes place, you never know for sure. But I think it’s being well received. Eight straight years of sellouts sure doesn’t hurt our argument for it. But you want to be careful not to overbuild because you don’t want a bunch of empty seats in your stadium. So there is a balance you have to strike there. It seems to be in the low 50s is a good number in the Pac-12. That seems to be a targeted number that makes sense. So we’ll see what happens.

Q. Sam Darnold was talking again today about after the first couple of series last year in the Utah game he realized he could play.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: I knew he could play before that. I watched him in high school. We were his first offer out of high school. Ask him who offered you first in high school, and he better say us.

Q. I think he may have.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Anyway, what was your question?

Q. Just the idea that you say you knew already?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: We knew he was a tremendous athlete. We were very surprised that he hadn’t gotten his opportunity prior to our game. I had not been at their practice to see what’s going on, and I’m not criticizing anybody, but we knew he was a very talented kid.

Q. Can you talk about the quality of running backs in this conference this year?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Coming up this season?

Q. Yeah.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, there seems to be a bunch of good backs every year. Quarterback seems to be the premier position in this league, if you look at what the Pac-12 is known for. We’ve had our own run of thousand-yard rushers. We’ve got Armand Shyne this year who we really like.

But I haven’t really, off the top of my head — who is coming back? USC has a couple of really good ones coming back. So there is definitely talent in that position in this league. But there is talent at every position, in my opinion.

Q. Can you talk about Phillip Lindsay from Colorado?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Tremendous back, great runner, quick, fast, makes you miss, and he was a big part of their success last year. Huge reason, yeah. Is he a senior yet, I hope?

Q. Yes.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Thank goodness. Yeah, we were hoping he was coming out last year.

Q. He’s pretty good.

Q. You talk about the quarterback as well. You saw Sefo for the last several years, but Steven Montez —
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, huge arm, big arm. Is he 6’5? Big kid. He’s got a cannon. He looks like he’s got a lot of upside.

Q. That game, it seems we always ask about that rivalry, supposedly rivalry. But it keeps getting better every year. That game is always within a touchdown. It meant a lot last year. Is it exciting to see that sort of rivalry develop and that game mean so much?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, I think if you’re playing for a chance to win it in November, that’s great. We’ve been in that situation for a few years now. We were in that situation in year one. We haven’t gotten over that hump. But at the same time, if you’re not winning in September and October, November doesn’t matter. You’ve got to win — in order to make November important, you’ve got to win in September, October — you’ve got to win every month, that’s the bottom line.

So right now we’ve not been able to win every month. We’ve had a couple good months and not so good Novembers. A lot of that is scheduling. You play the Huskies, and Colorado in the last month, that’s, you know — that is a factor.

Q. I know you’ve been asked about Darren a little bit, and maybe I’m late to the party, but have you been able to sit down and have some conversations with him?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Oh, yeah, extensive. Him and his parents. We’ve done our homework on Darren. We’ve talked to everybody that we think would have valuable input in that situation. Guys that we trust, guys that I trust. You know, made the decision after all was said and done that the kid was worthy of a second chance. Has the right attitude and right mentality for that.

Again, I keep saying, it’s not a done deal. He’s not been cleared to practice or compete for us. That’s still in the works. We’re hoping that happens. We expect it to happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. So if, in fact, he gets cleared and he’s able to be on our team and compete, we think he’s going to be an integral part of the offense.

Q. What was his message to you?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: That he screwed up. He understands that. He did some dumb things. Put himself in bad situations, very bad situations. I’m very — I’ve had strong feelings about some of the things he did. At the same time, you help get a kid get back on track, get his life back in order and open up opportunities for him. I don’t think you kick a kid to the curb because he made a mistake or two. Unless he’s got no remorse and doesn’t care.

There is so much to — his state of mind and a player’s state of mind in that situation to me is one of the real keys. They could probably fool you and tell you what you want to hear. That’s what you’ve got to decipher as a coach, is he being sincere.

Q. Did you talk to Willie?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: No, I don’t have a relationship with Coach Taggart, but I’ve talked to coaches that were with Darren for four years at Oregon and had some great insight.

Q. So his paperwork, would it involve any graduate transfer?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: No, pretty much the same process you’d go through with any graduate transfer. Although, being inner-conference puts a different spin on it. Very similar to what we went through — well, not us, but what USC went through with Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, trying to get him ready. Yep.

Kahne Breaks His Slump to Win Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400

Kasey Kahne won his first race since 2014 with a victory Sunday in the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kahne fought weather delays, numerous yellow flags and even a few red flags to take down the win. His post-race press conference transcript is below:

THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by the winner of today’s race, Kasey Kahne, driver of the No.5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Kasey, you had quite a race out there today. Your first victory since 2014, your 18th career victory. It was one of those wild, crazy, did?that?kind?of?happen kind of days, then you find your way to Victory Lane. How were you able to make that happen today?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, I was just not going to give up. First off, the strategy worked out perfectly when we pitted and got to the lead. We had been running 11th to 14th, somewhere in there I feel like. Had a pretty good car at the time, once we got it to turn. Early on, it was on the tight side. Once we got it to turn, it was actually pretty quick. We just needed to get the track position.
Everything worked out perfectly on that strategy. We got to the front, then it was restart after restart. We got the first one, was pulling away, then there was a wreck. The second one, we were three?wide into three, there was a wreck. Then the next one, Keselowski kind of figured out how to get the lead there. Then the final one, we were able to get the lead back.
I had a great car out front. I had a pretty good car all day long. It was just a matter of kind of getting that last little bit of turn in the car, then controlling the track bar to keep rear grip in it as the tires wore off.
I was really happy. Unbelievable to win at Indianapolis. Unbelievable to win a Cup race. It’s been a while. It feels really good for myself and my confidence. I know it’s great for our team. We needed it as a team.
Just really, you know, excited. Indy, I moved here in 1999, live here for three summers, raced Sprint cars, midgets all around the area. This was the track that I always wanted to win at, and dreamed of racing at.
Me and my dad, when we first moved here, we got (indiscernible) shop on Gasoline Alley. We came over, went to the museum, then got on a bus. They bused us around the track. Got to feel the track in a bus. That was a really cool day. That was in 1999. That was a blast to be part of that with my dad.
Then to be able to race here starting in ’04. Came close at winning some races early on, led a lot of laps in ’12 or ’13. Was close again. To pull it off this year, it’s unbelievable.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open up the floor to questions.

Q. If you’re the leader going into over time like you were, is that race you should win if you are a Hendrick driver, considered to be an elite driver?
KASEY KAHNE: I think it’s one of those things that you as a driver, you know, all you’re trying to do is everything correctly, and control. As the leader, you’re trying to control it, right? That’s your prize for being the leader, is to control the restart. They put marks on the wall. You get to control it in those areas.
I didn’t get to control that one restart, so I was confused as can be why the guy in second gets to control the start. Then before I was even going, I was getting pushed from behind because the inside row was going. It made sense why Denny was pushing me. I’m the one that gets to control it.
That one didn’t work out very well. The other ones did. The final one, we started second. I had a great restart, you know, engine?wise, gearing?wise, was able to clear Brad off turn one. It worked out perfect. We got the win.
As an elite driver, you want to win that, but there’s a bunch of guys that want to win it. You do all you possibly can, and it fell in our favor today.

Q. There has been a lot of talk about your team’s struggles the last couple years. Did you ever wonder if you were going to win again?
KASEY KAHNE: Oh, man, it’s been a while since I’ve won, so… I mean, you have to wonder, like, you know, as a driver all I want to do is win, all I want to do is perform. I put the effort in each week, whether it’s at the shop, whether it’s physically, mentally, at the race shop trying to prepare, watching videos, looking through old notes, how can we be better.
My team works really hard, as well. But we haven’t had the performance. We haven’t ran up front. We don’t lead a lot of laps. We don’t lead many laps. Yeah, those things have to cross your mind. If they don’t, something would be wrong, I think.
I think a win like today can give myself confidence and momentum, our whole team a boost, which is something that we need. We work hard, too. But the guys that are winning and running up front, their momentum, their confidence is tough to keep up with when it’s been a couple years.
Yeah, I feel like this is a huge win for us. Being the Brickyard means even more to me. One of the toughest, biggest races that you can win in NASCAR. So, yeah, it feels really, really good.

Q. Three weeks ago you said you still had wins in you, you just didn’t know when they would come. Did you ever dream it would be three weeks later at the Brickyard?
KASEY KAHNE: I don’t know. This is a track I always wanted to win at. Feel like I’ve actually been really fast here since I started. 2004, we had one of the best cars here. Jeff Gordon won. But we had to pass the field from the back, and were able to. I think we were in fourth.
But ’05, battled with Tony all the way to the end. He got his first win at the Brickyard. We were right there with him the whole time. To me, it’s always been a track that I felt really good about and confident with. To win here is unreal.
I’ve been to all the races here. I’ve been to Brickyards, 500s, Formula One races. I went around the track in a bus with my dad. This place is pretty neat. I got kicked offer the track once when I was at Gasoline Alley. I was jogging, I came here, jumped a fence, because I wanted to run around the racetrack. It didn’t take but probably two minutes and they were on me in a truck. It wasn’t like a race weekend, it was an open day.
It’s pretty wild. This is a neat place. Spent a lot of time here thinking and dreaming about winning at this track. Literally just racing at it was pretty awesome.

Q. You talk about all the technical stuff you did. How deep was the determination to accomplish that being a special place to you?
KASEY KAHNE: Absolutely. I was sitting on the frontstretch after they gave the 2 the lead. We were sitting there for 20 minutes or 15 minutes. All I could think about was what can I do here, what can I do here to not let this go.
I could picture a couple restarts in my mind from other racetracks. Myself and Jeff Gordon had a restart here in ’12 or ’13. I could picture those things, trying to run through my mind on what I needed to do. It worked out.
I knew I needed separation when I got to turn one. We were able to get back to the throttle right away, get clear. So, yeah, the determination was there.
My body was lacking fluid. I was cramping pretty badly. But it didn’t matter at that point. It was just all about trying to win at the Brickyard.

Q. Talk about how you’re feeling now and what it was like the last few laps, and what sent you to the infield care center?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I feel really good now. I went and got some IV, a huge bag of fluid. I feel great. I feel like I could probably go racing right now (laughter).
I was struggling there. Before the first red, my left leg was cramping. I knew then I was out of fluids. My calf, my left calf, had started long before that under braking. After the reds, my right leg started, my chest, my rib and my left arm. It just kept getting worse.
But I’ve cramped before, so it wasn’t like the end of the world or anything. But like on the restart, as soon as I get to wide open throttle, my leg would cramp out. So then it was kind of like to back pedal and stuff was a bit annoying.
But it was what it was. I just sweated way too much, I guess. I didn’t drink near enough fluid. I work out really hard, I bike, I train, run, do a lot of different things, swim. Didn’t really help me today, I don’t think.

Q. Just wondering now that you’re in the Playoffs, how do you move forward with the 5 team? What did Rick Hendrick say to you in Victory Lane?
KASEY KAHNE: He was just really excited and proud of us to finally get a win. I slapped all my guys five on the wall, just felt really good about that, seeing the guys up on the wall, how excited they were. I climbed back in the car. It was a late race, you’re not going to do an interview out there. Need to get to Victory Lane.
I saw him standing at the gate. He was trying to come over. He came over. He was just really happy that we won. Just told me, Great job. Asked me if I needed any fluids and things. He could see I was hurting.
Yeah, it was just neat. It’s always neat to win. Like ever since I started racing for anybody, even my dad, even Steve Lewis back when I raced the 91 car here, the midget, if you see the owner after you win, how happy they are, how excited they are, that’s a great feeling. That’s what I saw with Mr. H today. It felt really good.
I have that same feeling when Brad Sweet, Darren Pittman win Sprint car racing. It just feels really good. You’re proud of them. You’re proud of your driver, your team. You’re proud of what you do, what you put into the sport, as an owner.
Like, it was neat to see him come over to the car, give me a hug. I’m in the car, so he couldn’t really get in there. Worked out pretty well.

Q. How to you approach the Playoffs?
KASEY KAHNE: We’re a little ways away from the Playoffs. We need to keep getting better. I think we really need to figure out how to qualify better, get that track position. Today the track position was key. Once I got to the front, I felt great. When I was in clean air in the back, I felt great, too. It was just a matter of getting to where we needed to be.
We need to really work on that. There’s a couple other things we need to work on with the car, the braking, things I struggled with early on in this race. We fixed it the last half of the race. I was struggling with picking up throttle, how it would point the car in the wrong direction.
We have a lot to work on, for sure, but we are heading the right direction. We won a big race today. I feel good about it, man. I feel like I can still race these cars. I’ve known that, and I’ve wanted to, and I have the passion to. So to be able to get a win at this track, this stage, was great for our whole team today, for sure.

Q. You mentioned earlier it being tough to keep up with the guys who win and have a lot of success in the sense of the confidence. Can you further explain what the challenge is. This is only one race, how this might help.
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think it helps me personally. I think it helps. It has to help the driver. But from a team standpoint, when you’re, like, working as hard as you can every single week, putting in tons of hours, you’re away from your family, all this stuff’s going on, you’re not getting results for two years. At some point, there’s no way me as a driver or my team guys are doing what some of the other teams are doing. I mean, it’s just the way that life is, I think. It’s the way that we work.
So I would hope that this would give us all confidence and give us momentum and push us to, yeah, we’ve been at the shop, giving 100%, but now we really are giving 100%. Now we’re really excited to go to the next race because we didn’t run 15th or 18th or crash today, we actually won the Brickyard 400. So I just think that it helps me and it helps my guys.
I don’t see how that can’t make us better the last 17 races of the year.

Q. How much will this help you?
KASEY KAHNE: Maybe just be more, like, excited to be at the track, you know, more excited. I love driving the cars. I love racing. I go and race my Sprint car when I have time because I enjoy that stuff. But just be a little more happy in doing it.
There are a lot of reasons to be happy. After a win like this, hopefully that gets all of us just pointed in the right direction a little bit better, working for each other a little bit more, having faith in each other. I think all those things help. There has to be things that you lack after a couple years of not winning races.
Especially when you have great?? you know, Jimmie Johnson, the guy still wins, he wins all the time. He’s unbelievable. So to have a teammate like that, then we’re not performing as well as we need to or want to, it’s beats on you a little bit, so…
This has to help.

Q. Rick said the plans aren’t set for the 5 car for next year. Do you think after this win that this could help you stay at Hendrick Motorsports? You just perform the best you can perform, wherever chips kind of fall where they may?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think this just shows I still want to win races. This shows that I gave it all that I can to get a win. It shows that I’m passionate about driving stockcars, that I can still win races, too.
I have a deal through 2018 with Hendrick Motorsports. Hear a lot of things, but tough to say exactly what’s going to happen because I don’t know at this point this time. I know me and Mr. H will figure it out.
But I think this just shows that I want to do it, and that I still have the drive and passion to do it, and I enjoy it. So I’m going to keep trying hard, I know that.

Q. What were you thinking when Jimmie took you three?wide on the backstretch?
KASEY KAHNE: Jimmie didn’t have any options. He had the run. Me and Brad were both?? Brad was probably a little on the tight side being up there, trying to finish the throttle. I was loose. I was sideways under Brad, like slid all the way to his door off turn two. Jimmie was coming from behind, had a little gap getting into the corner, was able to get the run. His only option was to put us three?wide.
But we all had about the same amount of speed down the whole straightaway. Nobody lifted getting into turn three. I’m surprised that two of us even came out of that. I could have saw all three of us being in the wall at that point. We both came out of it. Hate that Jimmie got in that wreck. He was sideways really early. I’d have to watch it again to see it really well, but I felt like he was sideways early coming in my direction pretty quickly. I think I bounced off the 2 also.
It was wild. There’s no other options. It was three?wide going into turn three. That’s the way it was going to be.

Q. Talked to Ricky Craven about being that car at Hendrick Motorsports. You’re not the 24, you’re not the 48, you’re that car. He says everyone wants to tell you what you need to do to improve your job, but you have to find that within. Who have you relied on during this three?year drought, who do you lean on to get through those tough times?
KASEY KAHNE: That’s tough. I mean, that’s actually a really tough question because I don’t really lean on a lot. I think the best thing for me is I get a call from Tanner on FaceTime after a race and I’m instantly happy from my son. Like, that’s who I got to stay happy and grounded in my life.
But as far as the team stuff goes, I just keep trying hard. I keep working hard. I keep wanting it. It just doesn’t seem to happen all the time.
So I don’t know. Just kind of feel like you’re out on your own little deal a lot of times, your own little island, trying to do the best that you can. Things don’t work out too often for us. So it was great to be able to win up, close it, get in front of the 2, at the Brickyard in Indianapolis. It was unbelievable.
But, yeah, I don’t know. I don’t really have anybody, to tell you the truth. I just feel like I kind of enjoy life a lot because of my son and just try to show up at the track and do the best that I possibly can and put the work in during the week, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to run well. Everybody is putting the work in. The competition is so tight, so close. You need that little bit extra all the time. Hopefully this win will give us some of that because we definitely haven’t had that.

Q. You’ve been running up front, but bad luck seems to have plagued you every race. How does it feel to finally be able to burst through that barrier?
KASEY KAHNE: It feels good because I think today was actually the strategy and the way that the caution came at that exact time, it was complete luck. So the luck was on my side more than on anyone else’s today. For us to finish it off and get the win on that type?? I don’t know if I’ve ever won a race before because of luck like that, to get to the front like we did.
I think the strategy, the caution, like the luck was on the 5 car’s side today, and I was able to pull it off. So, yeah, it feels pretty good.

Jodan Spieth Goes Wire to Wire to Win British Open

Jordan Spieth survived a crazy day to become the second youngest player to win the British Open (after Jack Nicholas). Below are his comments after his big win.

JORDAN SPIETH: We are going to skip the first 12 holes, right? (Laughter).

MIKE WOODCOCK: I’d like to welcome the 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year, Jordan Spieth, into the interview room.

Jordan, congratulations, first of all, tremendous performance. Is that one of the more dramatic final rounds you’ve had in a major championship?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I’ve had quite a few, though, or a couple, I guess. Boy, this was eventful. I told Michael and I told Jay after the round, 17 pars and a birdie would have been fine, too. But there’s a lot of roads to get there. And today was — I was put in a tough one early on.

And showed some resiliency and give a lot of credit to my guy on the bag for that. Because as you can imagine, thoughts come in from my last scenario when I was leading a major on Sunday. And never mentioned it, but all of a sudden it creeps into your head. I was so confident and all of a sudden, the wheels have kind of come off everything. And how do we get back on track to salvage this round and just give yourself a chance at the end. It took a bogey to do so.

Q. You seem to had an incredibly good knowledge of the rules when you got in trouble on 13. Have you studied them in great detail?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I’ve just hit it in a lot of places before (laughing).

And honestly, if I was a very straight driver of the golf ball, I would have made a different score son that hole. And having been in unplayable situations before, I just asked the questions, is the driving range out of bounds? And I got the answer, no. And I thought, well, then, that’s a much better location for me to hit the next shot because I can get it much closer to the green and it saves me almost a full stroke from going back to the tee.

And the amount of time it took was trying to figure out where exactly the drop would be, to where my nearest point of relief from the equipment trailers, would be to the right side on the driving range instead of to the left side, where I wouldn’t be able to get a lot of club on the ball. I knew that on that line I was going to be — I was going to be okay hitting from the driving range, and getting it up somewhere near the green.

And from there it was about which club to hit. And Michael told me, “No 3-wood, hit 3-iron.” And I hit it, thought it was right. After I struck it, I didn’t like it because it wasn’t where we were trying to hit it, but I had some room, given the club I had and the yardage I had, which Michael was right on, fortunately.

Q. You touched on this, but what is the significance of getting over that hurdle, winning that major after what happened at Augusta last year? Is it maybe more than you let on before or said publically?
JORDAN SPIETH: Probably. Probably. You know, I thought winning a few weeks later in Fort Worth was huge. But I knew that another major would be the one thing that would, I think, just completely, over the hill, you know, I’m capable of closing these majors out. Because you just — I didn’t really do much wrong, just hit a couple of bad swings. And all of a sudden it was, in my own head, “How could I not close out a five-stroke lead with nine to play?”

And today could have been — I felt once I lost my lead completely and we were tied, I actually felt the nerves go away for a few holes until I got the lead again. And then they were back. And it’s just kind of powering through that. You just don’t know really what your mind is going to do to you sometimes. You can control it to an extent but certain situations are going to bring more tension and you have to kind of channel that the right way, play the right shots. And that was a difficult thing to do today because it was just so up and down. I mean, I’m starving, you know.

Today took as much out of me as any day that I’ve ever played golf.

Q. What happened today, does that give you the feeling that in the future there’s certainly nothing you can’t overcome if you get into similar trouble? And also you mentioned you wanted to hit 3-wood on 13. Was that must have Michael’s vetoes?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, it wasn’t a veto. We just didn’t really know the yardage. I walked up there and tried to do the yardage in my head, and thought I was somewhere around 270 to the front and Michael was like, “Buddy, you’re 230 to the front,” somewhere around there. He goes, “This is where we’re equal to.”

And typically I would — if you asked me who has the better yardage, myself or Michael in a lot of situations, when we’re on a crazy angle, I’d pick myself. And on that one he seems very confident. He was very adamant about what club to hit, and it gave me the confidence to hit it, because sometimes when that happens I’ll still go with what I think.

But he was right on.

Q. You’ve obviously had great things to say about Michael. With regards to today, was today as much influence as any on any win you’ve ever had? The gesture on 15, with the eagle, it looked like you were complimenting him for a read?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I told him pick the ball up out of the hole. It was kind of like an old-school move, when the caddies used to get it out of the hole when guys holed a chip. When you’re here, the TVs are always playing old Open Championships, and especially at that venue. I don’t know, I saw it, and for whatever reason, I didn’t really know what I was doing at that point. If I could redo it, I would have done a big fist pump in celebration. I don’t think I enjoyed that eagle as much as I should have. But I looked over at Michael and he was in shock, too, and I just said, “Pick that ball up out of the hole.” And he didn’t really know what I was saying at first.

Yes, he had as much influence for sure on a win as any. He and Cameron have been very important in the mental side of the game for me in the past, well, couple of years. Dealing with my own expectations and dealing with coming off a year like ’15, and trying to game plan and set goals. And I owe them both a lot. Michael is obviously on course, and Cameron is off course, as far as mental coaches for me.

Michael did a great thing today he said, “Do you remember that group you were with in Cabo last week,” in a picture that I posted. He goes, “You belong in that group.” This is when I was 3-over through 4. I’m sorry, this was on 7 tee box. We walked off 7 tee box, and he made me come back. He said, “I’ve got something to say to you: He said do you remember that group you were with? You’re that caliber of an athlete. But I need you to believe that right now because you’re in a great position in this tournament. This is a new tournament. We’re starting over here.”

And over a couple of putts when I wanted to kind of back off, I wasn’t comfortable, I thought this is — I just thought — it just changed a bit of a mental — I definitely thought about what he was saying while I was over some of those key 3 to 4-footers that I made on I want to say — 7 was one of them. 8 was one of them. 11 and 12, those were — I mean for the way it was looking, those weren’t easy; those 3-footers were 10-footers to me. And all of a sudden the lid came off. And the 30-footers were 2-footers to me. I don’t know why I can’t make it a little more boring sometimes.

Q. Obviously at 23, a three-time major champion. Just how exciting might it be to have the career Grand Slam at this stage may be around the corner in three weeks?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it’s incredible. It’s a life goal of mine. It’s a career goal. I never — growing up playing golf, I just wanted to be able to play in major championships and compete with the best in the world, and things have happened very quickly. And it’s good and bad, because a lot comes with it. And a lot more attention, a lot more — versus just being able to kind of go about your own thing. And I never realized how underrated that was. I wanted to be in this position but then, you know, here and there, it becomes harder when it doesn’t go your way. And you’re harder on yourself because you expect so much.

Therefore, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this. I look back on ’15 and thought, yeah, I enjoyed it, but I never realized the significance until you kind of hit a low, hit a pitfall, to appreciate the high so much. And this is as much of a high as I’ve ever experienced in my golfing life. And I’m going to enjoy it more than I’ve enjoyed anything that I’ve accomplished in the past.

Q. After everything that happened at 13, making the bogey as you did, what did you do to gather yourself there on the 14th tee? And obviously you went on that great run. Was there a calmness about you at that point that allowed you to do all that or how did you pull that off?
JORDAN SPIETH: The putt on 13 was just massive. Going 2 down, and not even 2 down, but into a tie for second. And thinking, man, I’m 5-over. That was crossing my mind. When I hit the tee ball, I put my hands over my head, walking up, thinking, oh, boy, this could be 6. And all of a sudden it doesn’t change in one hole. He’s now leading, he gets to play safe and you have to — when that putt went in, I was really, really obviously excited. But I was walking off the green and Michael said, “Hey,” he held me up, and he said, “That’s a momentum shift right there.” And he was dead on. And all I needed to do was believe that. I was starting to feel it, but when he was feeling it and he was saying, “That was a momentum shift, even though you lost the hole, you went one down.”

I went to the next hole and Matt hit one to what was a par range, and I had a good number, I had a 6-iron, 199 or something, with the wind a little down off the right. And I could hit it, a hold 6-iron and I hit a laser, and I knew I could swing smooth, didn’t have to try to do too much to it. If I held it out, I was going to be on the green. If I hit a stock shot, I was going to be on the green. It was a good number for me to have at that moment. And it almost went in. When that putt went in was my first vocal appreciation of the day. And I knew that this was — we had momentum on our side and we were tied. And all of a sudden I felt and believed that I could win that golf tournament, when 30 minutes prior and really the entire day after the 4th hole I didn’t feel that way.

Q. Evidently, Jordan, you’re very good at golf. But I’m wondering if there are other things in life that are more important to you?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, absolutely, yeah: My faith and then my family, and then after that, you know, this is what I love to do.

Q. Does that make golf look any easier for you when you have that kind of ranking system?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, but when you’re out there oftentimes you’re not thinking about stuff that’s more important to you and oftentimes it’s just the situation at hand. If you put things into perspective, absolutely. But unfortunately that didn’t come into my mind necessarily today and it probably should have and would have helped.

But, yeah, to answer your question, absolutely. It’s not No. 1 in my life. And I’ll have a family of my own some day and that will be — golf will be fourth.

So as of now, you know, my relationships I have with my best friends and my family and my girlfriend are second and golf’s third.

Q. You touched on this in another answer, but you’ve joined Jack Nicklaus in winning three majors before the age of 24. It would beat Tiger’s record. You could be the youngest to win the career Grand Slam. What does it mean to you to be in that sort of circle?
JORDAN SPIETH: I’ve answered this question a few times a couple years ago, so I’ll be careful with my answer. It’s amazing. I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love, but I don’t think that comparisons are — I don’t compare myself. And I don’t think that they’re appropriate or necessary. So to be in that company, no doubt is absolutely incredible. And I certainly appreciate it. And we work really hard to have that, with that being the goal. Therefore, I enjoy moments like you saying that.

But I’m very careful as to what that means going forward because what those guys have done has transcended the sport. And in no way, shape or form do I think I’m anywhere near that, whatsoever. So it’s a good start, but there is a long way to go.

Q. There was a number of players who were surprised by your start today, as I’m sure you were, as well. I’m curious, did you at all think about your reputation as a closer before you started, during the round? And now that it’s over, do you have any opinions of it now?
JORDAN SPIETH: I thought before the round, I thought I have a reputation as being able to close, but I was hesitant in saying “majors”, to myself, because there was a lot of — I put a lot of pressure on myself unfortunately, and not on purpose, before the round today, just thinking this is the best opportunity that I’ve had since the ’16 Masters. And if it weren’t to go my way today, then all I’m going to be questioned about and thought about and murmured about is in comparison to that, and that adds a lot of pressure to me.

After four holes it was even more so. And I wasn’t questioning myself as a closer, but I was questioning why I couldn’t just perform the shots that I was before. I was just as nervous yesterday during the round, and I knew the conditions were harder, but I just wasn’t executing. And sometimes you just can’t really figure it out, put your finger on it. Am I pulling it? Pushing it? Am I doing both? What’s going on with the stroke? It’s just searching. And during the round today I definitely thought while any kind of fear or advantage that you can have in this moment over other individuals, not just Matt Kuchar today, but other people that are watching, that’s being taken away by the way that I’m playing right now. And that was really tough to swallow. And that kind of stuff goes into your head. I mean, we walked for two minutes, three minutes in between shots. And you can’t just go blank. You wish you could, but thoughts creep in.

And the finish today was a bit fortunate. I don’t know what I make. I probably make five, if it doesn’t hit the guy in the head and it just stays up there on that mound, I probably hack it back out to the fairway and make four or five, but probably five. But it doesn’t feel the same as the way that I did it. And so I feel fortunate, obviously, in the way that everything happened.

I felt like I got a good break on 17. I hit it right of the bunker. Matt had to sit there and say, you’ve got to be kidding me. And if I was on the other side of things — and I apologized profusely to Matt about the amount of time it took from when he hit his shot to when I played my second, because that’s just — it’s tough. There was nothing I could do, and he told me that. But just trying to figure out what to do, it’s tough to play golf that way and step up and hit a 6-iron when it’s starting to rain and the wind is blowing and you haven’t taken a full swing in probably ten minutes, 15 minutes.

And so I didn’t feel like that was necessarily fair to him, but I needed to do what I could to produce the best score, and I didn’t go overboard in what I was doing. This is where I need to be, this was there. It just took that much time.

But closing today was extremely important for the way I look at myself.

Q. I think you said earlier that you thought uncomfortable the first couple of holes. After the 13th, how would you describe your emotions? Were you comfortable?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I was still uncomfortable. But after the putt on 13, I felt a lot more comfortable because I felt I made a putt that really mattered from seven feet, six feet, that just was enough to say we’re still in this tournament and create a new type of scenario. So I became the challenger instead of the leader at that moment.

And so I was still uncomfortable but I was able to take that shift that I’m talking about where your mind’s going through a bunch of different thoughts, and able to really take it over to the other side and say, this is a completely new situation, because there was no other way I could think and still get the job done.

Q. You just announced you’re coming back to Australia three weeks before Christmas. I wondered why you keep coming back, when you could be kicking back —
JORDAN SPIETH: I do kick back there.

Q. Also, you one two majors after winning the Australian Open in 2014. You’ve now won another one after winning in 2016. Has that in any way helped sell it for you?
JORDAN SPIETH: I’m very excited to go back. We really enjoyed our time there. It’s tough to say. Anytime you can close a tournament, it helps going forward. The more you do it, the more scenarios you’ve gone through, and so the more you’re prepared for it and that helps.

Last year I wasn’t putting great and made a big putt on 16, and then a nice par-putt on 17 and then went in the playoff, after I couldn’t make anything all day, similar to today. And I thought that was important to look back on and I think, I didn’t have my best putting stuff, which is normally what has won me tournaments, but I was still able to close the deal. And I’ve taken that into is this year.

The Travelers was huge for today. I felt just as uncomfortable on the greens. I didn’t feel great this whole week. I mentioned to you, Doug, that when I’ve been talking about — I’ve been mentioned as putting well this week. I just haven’t felt like I had done that, even though I had some go in. It’s something that I’m still going to be trying to work on. But the Travelers I was able to win without really putting well, at all. And that was the first time ever in a PGA Tour event. And today that prepared me for the feelings I had on the green that I can still win, even if I do have these kinds of feelings.

Q. Matt is known as someone who always has a smile on his face. He was about as emotional as you’ll ever see him in the awards ceremony and afterward. Did you notice that at all? And what was that like, given that you probably felt the same way in the ’16 awards ceremony at the Masters?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I noticed it when I walked up and saw his family hugging him, and I think Cameron is his oldest, that was in tears. At that moment I’m so happy. And at the same time I see that and I thought to myself, man, put this in perspective, he’s a dad. I’m not a dad, I don’t think that way. And I was able to kind of get a little glimpse into what that’s like. I’m a son who was very emotional and one that —

Matt didn’t lose the tournament at all today. He played well down the stretch. I mean, I just had my long putts go in, his didn’t. That was simply it, versus the Masters was a different scenario where I had full control and then I lost the wheels.

But I was very emotional after, and I had my dad was the guy who came up and was able to calm me. And it seemed like Matt was doing that to his son. And I could tell he was emotional once he had sat down in the scorer’s tent.

I believe Matt Kuchar will win a major championship. And I believe that he’ll do it sometime soon. He’s a great champion and he’s such a great person. And he’s a great individual to look up to. He’s one of these guys, when I talk about having great role models on the PGA Tour, and I’m fortunate in that, he’s at the top of the class. And you’re able to see it with how he handles that kind of situation right after just a crazy day.

Q. Two-parter, if I could: When you’re standing on top that hill on 13, you’re 125 yards to the fairway, if we told you you were going to shoot 32 on the back nine, you would have told us, what? Secondly, you mentioned the picture in Cabo with special athletes in there. What is it about you that you think internally as an athlete that allows you to summon that burst of (inaudible)?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would have thought you were crazy. I would have thought how many eagles or holes-in-one did I make? I would have thought I’d sign for 34 — what did I shoot, 32? Instead of 32.

I’m not sure. I think just a little bit of belief that you are, you know. Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps are the greatest to ever do what they did, and I’m not. But if you believe that you are, then you’re almost as good as being that. And it’s so hard in that situation to believe that, but just having just the slightest bit of belief in it makes you so confident. And I thought that that was so well said. It was just such the right time.

And I think that — I’ll never forget what Michael — how he told me that, when he told me that and the significance that it had. And just that bit of confidence that when he had said that early in the round and then he had another thing to say there that momentum is on our side, “Just do exactly what you’ve been doing, it’s going to go your way.” Just his belief, when I know him so well, just fed over a bit. And all I needed was just a little bit of self-belief to be able to produce what I had there. And birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie. After I made the eagle I thought to myself, hit the green in regulation on the next hole, they might go in from anywhere now. And we’ve got an easy par-5 17th, and sure enough, that’s what happened.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Jordan, congratulations again. Well done.


Auburn Football: Coach Gus Malzahn’s Media Days Transcript

MODERATOR: Gus Malzahn is our next head football coach.

COACH MALZAHN: All right. Good morning. Glad to be back here. This always kind of kicks off the start of football for our staff and our players. I brought three of our team leaders with us today. The thing about it, all three could have left early, and they chose to come back, and I think that’s really big.

Braden Smith, our offensive lineman, All-American, First Team All-SEC. Probably one of the more talented offensive lineman. He can play tackle. He can play guard. One of the more talented offensive lineman I’ve had at Auburn.

Tray Matthews, our safety, led us in tackles last year, really is our leader of defense. Probably our team leader. Tray has his degree, working on his master’s.

Daniel Carlson, our kicker, two-time All American, last year’s special teams SEC Player of the Year. He also has a degree, working on his master’s. Really on a sidenote, this is pretty interesting, both his parents and grandparents graduated from Alabama. I think that’s a pretty good sidenote there. And then the fact that he got engaged this past week. So there’s a lot of things going on in his life, but he is really a true weapon for us.

Just a quick recap of last year. We started out, we had some major adversity. I was real proud of our team, the way they rebounded. We went on a six-game win streak, and I really felt like we were playing as good as anybody in the country.

We had some key injuries late. We kind of limped home. Just had that bad feeling the way we finished. We felt like had a real opportunity there and just didn’t seize the moment.

This season we have one of the more experienced teams coming back in our league offensively. We hired Chip Lindsey. I’m excited about Chip. I got a lot of confidence in Chip. He’s going to provide more balance for us. And he’s a quarterback guru, too. So I feel very good about that. And probably the thing that I’m most excited about is we have quality depth and our quarterback position. And that’s been our Achilles’ heel the last two years. That gives me, I know our coaches and our players, comfort.

Defensively, our defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele, is back for his second year. Just did a wonderful job. Turned around our defense. Top ten defense. We’ve got seven starters back. They understand his expectations. In the spring it was like night and day compared to last spring.

They had that edge, they had that confidence, and I think we’ve got a chance to be really good on defense.

Special teams, it all starts with Daniel Carlson. I really feel like he’s one of the biggest weapons in all of college football. Not just the field goals and the range and all that, but the kickoffs. He all but eliminates the kickoff return.

Our returners are all back. I think we got some explosive guys that can do things with the ball after they catch it. Probably the biggest question mark about the team is who is going to be the starting punter. Ian Shannon is a guy who is competing with Daniel Carlson right now. The thing about Daniel, he has done it as a true freshman, so we’ll see how that goes.

Overall I’m very excited about this team. We have a lot of experience back. I think we’ve got more returning starters than we’ve had the last 12 years at Auburn, and of course in this league there’s nothing like experience.

We have quality depth. And really as a head coach of the Auburn Tigers, it’s the first time I can say that we have quality depth in all areas. And that’s very important. We have some key injuries late the last two years, and it has hurt us.

We have strong leadership, the three guys that I brought today, but we’ve got a lot of other strong leaders back at home.

And probably the biggest thing that’s standing out to me about this team, that they’re hungry. They’re hungry and they’ve got something to prove. And really the last time I felt this was 2013. So that’s a good comfort for me. I mean, obviously, we’ve got a challenging schedule. We’ve got some great teams in our league. We play the defending national champions on the road week two.

But I really like where we’re at. And just got that feel where there’s a lot of excitement around our complex, not just with our coaches, but our players. And we’re really looking forward to the season.

All right. I’d like to open it up to questions. And if we could, Bob Holt, we’ll give you the floor first if you want to ask the first question. I caught him off guard. He’s over there sleeping.

Q. I was going to ask you who your starting punter was going to be, but I guess I’ll ask you about your quarterback situation. Stidham, is he the guy? What do you think about him? What’s he going to add?
COACH MALZAHN: Like I was saying, the biggest comfort right now is we have quality depth at the quarterback position. Jarrett Stidham is a very talented young man. I think that’s a common sense deal. What he’s done since he’s been at Auburn, just his leadership. He’s really done a good job trying to win over his teammates and his work ethic.

Sean White. I’m very excited about Sean White. When Sean White’s healthy, he plays at extremely high level. Last year when we got on that roll, that 16-win streak, he was leading the league in completions and quarterback efficiency.

And we got two of the better quarterbacks, I feel like, and we got a young one in Malik Willis. That is a freshman that really caught my eye in the spring.

So the exciting thing for me is we’ve got depth. Like I say, that’s been our Achilles’ heel the last two years.

Q. Gus, hot topic this week throughout SEC Media Days has been who can catch up with Alabama and what they’ve done. Obviously that’s magnified inside the state that you’re coaching in and at Auburn. What makes you believe that this season you can catch up, and how do you believe whether or not you’ve been able to do that through recruiting and then also in developing the players you have?
COACH MALZAHN: Well, I mean, obviously they’re on the top. I think they won it the last three years. They’re number one recruiting class in the country every year, and they’re playing a high level.

What I do like about this team is they have high expectations. Their goal is to win the SEC Championship. And to do that, you’ve got to beat Alabama. And the last two times we beat them, we won the league and we played for the national championship, winning one of those and coming close to a second time.

But we got them a home. That’s a positive. But we have a very confident team.

Q. I just wanted to ask, obviously Kam Pettway is your starter, but Kerryon Johnson is one of your more versatile players. How are you planning on using him in the new Chip Lindsey offense?
COACH MALZAHN: You calking about Kerryon Johnson? Yeah. Kerryon is one of our most versatile players. He’s an excellent player. I know the thing with Chip, he was brought in to provide balance and worked extremely hard getting the ball to the back side of the backfield. Really that’s K.J.’s strength. You see that will be a little bit difference than what you see in the past. Kerryon is an excellent running back in his own right, too. He’s a tough guy, he can catch and can do a lot of things.

Q. Tim Horton has been saying that finding the third running back has kind of been an issue. When you look at Malik Miller’s injury last year, what do you think the impact is going to be for you this season?
COACH MALZAHN: Well, you know, he’s a guy, just saw him in the weight room the other day. He’s a guy that’s gotten bigger, he got faster. He played very well when he got the ball last year before he got hurt.

So it will be good competition. We got three, four guys right there who be competing for that third spot behind our two veteran guys, and he’ll be in that mix.

Q. If there’s a trend on defensive fronts, maybe it’s more toward three man, I guess you guys are kind of multiple up front. What do you like about the three man? Versatility? What is it you like about playing three man?
COACH MALZAHN: Kevin still likes — he likes to mix it up. He likes to go four down and three down, and I think doing both, you know, I think gives offenses — presents some challenge. The thing about a three down front, you know, obviously they can do some different things with some athletes on the edge. It puts a little more pressure on your tackles.

The thing about an odd front team, you better have some pretty strong offensive tackles, especially in the run game if they have some good anchors. And it puts the center on the island a little more than it would four down front.

Our league, if you look at it, it used to be about half and half. This year we expect probably to have more odd front, see more odd front than we do even front. So you just have to have the ability and — to be able to run the football versus both.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Braden Smith. I know he was a physical freak already when he came to you, but he was always kind of a shy guy. What kind of growth have you seen from him in terms of vocal leadership and on the personal side as he’s kind of blossomed during his time at Auburn?
COACH MALZAHN: You’re exactly right. He is a quiet guy. The first two years Braden was at Auburn, I would get short answers, you know, and sometimes maybe just a grunt, you know? He has really come a long way from a leadership standpoint. The fact that he’s here and wanted to come be a part and represent Auburn, I think that says a lot about him as a person.

His skill set. And like I said earlier, he’s — we’ve had some very talented linemen, offensive linemen during my eight years at Auburn, and he’s right in the middle of that.

His versatility, he’s played guard the last couple years. Really think he’ll probably play tackle more than likely this year. And he could have left early. If he would have left early, I think he would have been picked up pretty quick. So, the fact that he came back, that really helps us.

And, you know, if you look at it, when you got guys that have a chance to leave early and they’re that talented and they choose to come back, that’s usually the years that you got a chance to do something special, and he’s one of those main guys.

Q. Coach, what have you learned about Jarrett Stidham and his ability to escape the pass rush and his ability to throw and run down the field?
COACH MALZAHN: Yeah. I’ve got a lot of history with Stidham from the standpoint — we actually recruited him in high school. He’s a good athlete. He’s a lot better athlete than people think. I think he started at wide receiver his sophomore year. He can return. He’s got a 35-36 inch vertical. He runs a 4.6.

In our league, you have to escape. Things are going to break down. The defensive lines are too good. You have to have a quarterback that can escape pressure, keep his eyes down the field, know when to throw it, know when to run it, and protect the football and make good decisions.

We had a chance to really evaluate him in the spring. Our defensive line is pretty talented. And so we got a lot of good information. And we like the way he reacted, too.

Q. Not many folks are talking about your linebacking unit with Deshaun Davis, Tre’ Williams, and Darrell Williams there. Can you talk a little about that unit and what they bring to the team?
COACH MALZAHN: Yeah. Last year they really came on. Travis Williams is our linebacker coach, and he just did a super job with those guys. And they just got better and better. They were playing downhill, hitting gaps, very secure tacklers.

And the fact that they are coming back, both those guys are like quarterbacks on the field. They can dissect what the offense is going to do. They can get the front set. They’re two as good of linebackers that we’ve had together since my eight years at Auburn. We’ve got depth there, too, like you said, with Darrell Williams and some other guys. That was a big part. Those two were a big part of our turnaround on defense last year.

Q. Could you talk about Marlon Davidson? What do you expect out of him as a sophomore and pass rush in general?
COACH MALZAHN: Yeah. Marlon Davidson — we lost Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams. So we need some guys to step up and fill that void. Marlon Davidson is a guy that started as a true freshman. From the moment he got on campus, he didn’t look like a true freshman. He looked like a veteran just with the way he practiced, his work ethic, how tough he was. And he’s a handful. He got a chance to be an impact player. I can’t say enough good things about Marlon.

Q. You said in the past a move to the East would make sense geographically for your program. What specific methods would there be in a development like that if that ever happened?
COACH MALZAHN: I think our commissioner already answered that the first day. I think it was brought up, Coach Dye said something about the map and all of that. I just confirmed, yeah, if you look at the map, that does make sense.

You know, hey, I like the way it is right now. I mean, the West right now is the best league in college football. It’s a man’s league. You got Alabama right now that is the top of the deal. And I like playing against them. I like playing against them every year. I like playing against LSU. I like Ole Miss and Mississippi State, Texas A&M. So, I think that was probably a little bit blown out of proportion, but I like the way it is.

Q. You mentioned the 2013 team feeling the same way. What similarities do you see early on compared to that team?
COACH MALZAHN: Well, really the biggest similarities I see from that team, this team, is how hungry they are. And in that 2013 team, you know, they went through a storm the year before. They were embarrassed. They wanted to redeem themselves. And they had that edge to them that just brought everybody together and just do that little extra more that it takes, and they were an extremely close team.

This team, we got more starters back than we’ve had in the last 12 years. We were close. We were close. Like I said, we were playing as good a football I felt like as anybody for six games. We had some impact player injuries. It is what it is.

We weren’t happy the way we finished. And so those guys had that chip on their shoulder of rebounding. We got to redeem ourselves. You know, from a coach’s standpoint, that’s what you want. And when you got a chance to have one of those special teams, they have that characteristic, and so that’s the reason I brought that up.

Q. Gus, you’ve talked about the defensive turnaround of last season, and you nominated Kevin Steele for the Broyles Award. He didn’t end up as a finalist. Do you feel, especially considering the statistical turnaround that was so dramatic, do you feel he got enough attention and praise nationally for the job he did last season?
COACH MALZAHN: You know my opinion. He should have been right in the middle of that thing. What he did turning our defense around, if you remember what he did this time last year, our number one goal as head coach is getting us to play top-ten defense. We weren’t anywhere close to that the year before. So for him to get us to play top-ten defense, I think we were seventh in the country in scoring, just did a super job in the red zone, third down. And his defensive staff did a super job along with him, but Kevin was a big part of our success last year.

I really like where our defense is right now. They’re so much further ahead. And the thing about Kevin Steele is — and he’s a great coach, but he’s a great person. He’s a great person. He truly cares about our players. He’s a great relationship guy, and I say we got a chance to be really good on defense again. And that’s what it takes in this league.

Q. Coach, if you would please address your two-grad transfer offensive lineman in Dunn and Bell. What do you expect and how they may fit into the mix?
COACH MALZAHN: Both of them will have a chance to really help us. Wilson Bell is our mountain of a man. He’s big. We recruited him really hard when we first got here in 2013. So to have him added to what we’ve got, that’s a big help.

Casey Dunn was a phenomenal player at Jacksonville State, two-time All-American. He’s a big guy. He’s a smart guy. So both of those guys will definitely be in the mix. Depth up front, I was telling the group earlier today the depth up front on our offense has been as good as it’s been. You can’t have enough depth on the offensive line in our league.

Q. Coach, how much involvement does Cam Newton continue to have with the program and with the players? And what does it mean to the program to have somebody with his pro resume, MVP, et cetera, involved in, to whatever extent he does, kind of being a resource for the players?
COACH MALZAHN: Yeah. Cam Newton is one of the better players to ever play college football. Obviously MVP of the league and took him to the Super Bowl and all that. Cam’s a great person. I’m very fraud of Cam, not just what he’s done on the field, but off the field. The example he’s been for younger kids, he’s got a great heart for youth and the things that he does off the field.

Cam will come back from time to time. He was at two of our games, I believe, last year. And when he has off time, he likes to come back to Auburn. It feels like home to him, but I’m very proud of Cam. And I would say this since you asked, with all the referees in the NFL and all that, they need to protect him like they do the rest of the quarterbacks.

Q. Obviously the nonconference schedule is something you inherited, I assume, when you took the job. What had been the positives — what have been your reactions to play Clemson at home in a home series? Has that been good with our program?
COACH MALZAHN: Yeah. We have a little history with Clemson. When I was coordinator in 2010, we won the National Championship. We played them at home. It went down to the very end. So that’s always a good rivalry for both of our fans, especially the location. The fact that they’re defending national champions, we’re playing them on the road early in the season, it would be a good measuring stick of where we’re at, and we’re still sick about the loss at home last year, you know, but they’re a good team, I said defending national champions, but I do like that rivalry.

Q. You have been a run-heavy team up until now. Who are some wide receivers that we can look forward to seeing this year, maybe some guys that are flying under the radar?
COACH MALZAHN: You know, you look, most of our receivers are back. We had the number one receiving class recruiting two years ago. You know, I think as a group, this is a very talented group of receivers. And in the spring, they really took that next step. And so that will be a group[ — and we’re going to throw it. We’re going to throw it quite a bit more, and that’s going to be a big key for those guys to make one-on-one plays.

I can list everybody; Nate Craig, Kyle Davis, Darius Slayton, Eli Stove, Ryan Davis, John Franklin. I do need to say something about John Franklin who is an ultimate team player, played some quarterback in the spring primarily at wide receiver and really he can run. He’s one of the fastest guys I think in pads I think I’ve seen. So looking forward to him making that transition. And he’ll also play some special teams. And I think he’s got the ability. You know, people say when you put the ball in his hands, he can do something with it. And so you know, I’m excited about that.

But we have numerous — I would say that’s probably one of our areas that we have a lot of depth. Kodi Burns has got a good problem with the depth that he has. Will Hastings is another guy that really had a good spring that is really coming on. And Jason Smith is another guy that’s made a lot of plays for us.

Q. Hey, Gus, do you miss calling plays? And what was it about, I guess, Chip Lindsey that made you feel good to be your play caller? Also I couldn’t help but notice a couple minutes ago you talked about how you like playing the West. You mentioned every year team but Arkansas, was that a —
COACH MALZAHN: You know what, I think you asked threw me off by not asking the question the first time. No. Arkansas definitely. I have a lot of respect for them. And of course, we go on the road this year as far as that goes.

So, what was your question? Oh, calling plays. You know, Bob, this will be my fifth year to be the head coach at Auburn in this league. And you know, I came up offensive side of the football, offensive coordinator. The first year, just hit the ground running, you know. And then the second and third year, trying to balance that, head coach, offensive, call plays and all that. And I learned a lot. I learned a lot the last couple years. And it just got to the point last year where best for the team, I need somebody else to call plays.

And we got on a roll. And we were playing very well. And I think if we hadn’t had those key injuries, I don’t know — we would have had a pretty good season I feel like. And so after the season, you kind of step back, and you evaluate things and what is best for our team. And so that’s really where I’m at. And, you know, Rhett moved on.

And Chip Lindsey, which I have a great comfort with him, he was with me in 2013 in an off-the-field role and really was a right-hand man for me. He’s a former high school coach. He understands our core offense. He is very good with the passing game with the RPOs. He’s a developer of the quarterback. I got trust in him. He’s going to do this thing and do it very well. So it’s kind of the transition of being a head coach, being a head coach at this level, in this league. It’s a little bit different than other leagues.

Q. Gus, I know you’re pretty good friends with Hugh Freeze. He’s obviously got a challenging situation where they can’t play for a title or a Bowl game. How do you think he’s going to handle that?
COACH MALZAHN: You know, I mean, Hugh is one of my good friends in this business. He’s one of the good guys in college football. And you know, they’re going to be extremely talented on offense, and their new defensive coordinator was our co-defensive coordinator last year, so I expect them to have a very good team.