Opening Statement: We're finally here. We're excited to get going. It's a Thursday opener, which it has been for quite a few years now. We think that's a positive. It gets you a little extra time for the next game too. Camp went well. We came out healthy - healthier than usual. We had a couple of setbacks. One major setback was Reggie Porter, we lost him for the season. Otherwise, it was a productive camp. Very positive. I'm very excited about this new class of recruits. They will make an impact. We're excited to get them on the field Thursday night and see exactly what we got. We have a good idea based on working against each other, but you never truly know what you've got until you line up against an opponent, so we're looking forward to that.
On true freshmen who will play: There will be a lot of them who will play on special teams. Boobie Hobbs, Kenric Young, Monte Seabrook, Marcus Williams, Andre Godfrey (when he is able to), and in the recruiting class, Devontae Booker and Tim Patrick. We think that we've got a really good group and I'm excited to watch them play.
On Dominique Hatfield playing on both sides of the ball:
He's been a receiver since he got on campus (this is his second year) so he's a proven commodity there. He did some things last year for us as a true freshman, particularly toward the end of the season and has continued to develop. He was the MVP of his league in high school at defensive back, so he's very experienced. I believe he had 10 interceptions his senior year. So it's not new to him. He came to us midway through camp, maybe a little sooner, and expressed an interest. When Reggie (Porter) went down it left a void there, so he volunteered his services and said he'd like to give it a shot. We started working him in and it was very apparent from the first rep that he took that he may have a future there. He may end up there full time down the road - we'll have to see how things shake out. But he will play on both sides of the ball on Thursday.
On opening with Idaho State: We treat every opponent with respect. Every year, you hear of an FCS team pulling an upset. It's not that uncommon. You better be ready to play well and execute and do all those things. Really what we're concerned with this first game is us, and making sure that we operate the way that we need to operate. Clean, efficient, good tackling on defense, minimal penalties, taking care of the football - all those things that we've been preaching throughout fall camp need to show up on Thursday night.
On the identity of the offense: Tempo would be one of the operative words. We're going to be snapping the ball more quickly than we have in years past. We've got to be more efficient in the throw game. The last few years we haven't come anywhere near the numbers that we need to throwing the football from just about every viewpoint - yards per game, completion percentage, touchdown/interception ratio. We've got to be much better in that regard.
On being the special teams coordinator: I've liked everything about it. Punt team is the one thing that I have completely on my plate. We've given Morgan Scalley the kickoff coverage team, we've given Taylor Stubblefield the kickoff return team, Sharrieff Shah has the punt return team and Jim Harding has the PAT/field goal. I assist in each of those as well, but we have what we call a 'ramrod' coach for each of the functions. Each function has its lead coach, and there is a core of coaches that coach on every special team. I've enjoyed it. Love working with Tom Hackett and Andy Phillips. Great guys, hard workers. They handle themselves like professionals - particularly Andy. He's the leader of that group. It's been a pleasure to work with those guys.
On Travis Wilson: We're elated that he's back. There was a long period of time where his career was thought to be over with. It was tough on him. It was tough on his family. He kept persevering through that and kept his head up. When we started to get glimmers of hope as the process continued, we were encouraged, he was encouraged, the family was encouraged, and when we got the final word mid-June that he was good to go, it was great for our program, great for him. Most of all, is that he's in good health. Football is a bonus and a sidebar to the whole thing. Him being healthy and the doctors declared him not any more at risk than anyone else on the team, was a big positive. Travis found out a lot about himself and how much he loves the game during that period of time. Not that he wasn't a hard worker and a guy who was all in and competitive, when you have something taken away from you for a period of time, it opens your eyes a little bit and he came back with more of a purpose than he had prior to.
On the number of quarterbacks and the competition to determine who would play: It's been pretty smooth. The four quarterbacks who were here in the spring got a really good look and lots of repetitions. During fall camp we knew the plan going in was that Kendal and Travis were going to get the majority of the reps. After them, we didn't have a big body of work in camp for the other guys, but that's just how it goes. When you are that deep at any position, you can only sink your reps into so many guys. I think it played out pretty good. I think we've got the right 1-2-3 right now and we're set for the season. As the season progresses, things could change and we'll see how people play and what kind of performance we get. The guys who are behind have to be patient. Adam Schulz is the guy who really didn't get much of an opportunity this fall, and he's a junior. Conner Manning and Brandon Cox are both redshirt freshmen and Donovan Isom is a true freshman, so they have a lot of football ahead of them and a lot of time to continue to work. Adam, who had a great attitude through the whole thing, is a team guy all the way. Sometimes things aren't fair in football. You have to do what you think will give you the best chance to win. Adam didn't get many reps during fall camp, and he handled it like a stud. He's a guy who everyone on the team loves. If someone may have not gotten a fair shake, it was probably Adam Schulz.
On being banged up on defense: We're in good shape on the defensive front. We really don't have anything to be concerned about as far as depth or health. Losing two linebackers in spring ball (Jacoby Hale and Gionni Paul) was big. That was a big blow to us. We should get Gionni back before too long, but Jacoby is probably a mid-season return. That position was probably a little thin for us anyway, as far as sheer bodies, so that's probably the biggest concern. In the secondary, losing Reggie Porter was really unfortunate for us. Overall, if you look at the big picture, other than needing to stay healthy at linebacker, I think we're in pretty good shape.
On being excited to start the season: I'm so excited I can't see straight. It's time. It's been awhile. Just watching the preseason NFL games gets your juices flowing. I can't wait. I'm very eager to get the ball in the air at 5:32 on Thursday evening.
On the Pac-12 Networks commentators mentioning that Utah was one of the biggest teams in the conference and that the Utes had improved their team speed from last year: That's good to hear. I guess they have good perspective, they got to see everybody. Sometimes as a head coach, and particularly when you have been in one spot for awhile like I have, you lose a little bit of perspective of what is out there, other than when you play them. We felt that last year we matched up against Stanford well because of the physicality. We've been a physical team for a lot of years. I don't think that's anything new to us. But it's good to hear the team speed factor, because we know that's something we've been lacking for the last few years and we've been working hard to get that up to where it needs to be. We have felt that we're a lot faster, but it's good to hear someone else give us some confirmation on that. That's going to be the same focal point going forward of our next recruiting class, is to build on that and increase the speed. I don't think that you're ever at a point where you say that you're fast enough. You want to continue to get that done, and also, with our linemen, on both sides of the line of scrimmage we've been very physical. We have a lot of guys in the NFL from those positions to back that up.