fair point that
You said the other day that you thought Mario [Ojemudia] would most likely miss the season with an Achilles [injury]. Is that the case, and who do you look at to step up obviously with him being out this week?
“Yeah, that’s…that is the case. Look at- look within our roster, look within our defense. It’s a…don’t know exactly who yet, but I mean, you know the guys.”
How long have you known Pat Fitzgerald and could you talk about any background with him?
“Yeah. Great competitor. Background would be starting with I was Stanford, he was at Northwestern. First crossed paths on the recruiting trail. Sized him up and said, ‘This guy’s a fine, fine coach and great competitor.’ He’s done a fabulous job. He’s a great coach.
“And got to know him this summer. Came to our football camp and did a tremendous job talking to the campers and sharing football lessons and life lessons with them. Thought it was fabulous. And his football team is a tremendous football team, so, you know, everything you look at with Pat Fitzgerald is really good. Admire him.”
Watching them on film, what impresses you most about their defense?
“Athletic. Mike Hankwitz does a great job. They react as athletic and fast as anybody we’ve seen. No. 18 [Anthony Walker] is as good a player as we’ve faced, so all those things. Really good scheme. Great team defense. Leading the country in points allowed. I think that’s the thing mainly is this team reacts and flows to the ball as good as you’re going to see in college football.”
Going back to the reference of sizing up Pat Fitzgerald, with the defense of Northwestern No. 1 and you guys right behind them, have you given this a lot of thought as far as [being] a battle of the defenses? Is this a big game in your mind for both defenses, yours particularly?
“Well, that’s part of it, yeah. Offense, special teams; all equal parts of the game.”
But given the ranking for both defenses, do you feel like it’s a bout or-
“No, the two defenses won’t go against each other. They won’t face each other, so look at it the way you always look at it: it’s three phases, and you want to win each of those phases.”
[After THE JUMP: “I’m paraphrasing here, but how many hits can you take and keep coming back? So pull up that clip. Sylvester Stallone did it well.”]
Where has the line improved from the first week?
“Oh, they’re getting better, you know. Really building a good brotherhood amongst each other, great communication, playing with better pad level, really paying attention to details of what we’re trying to teach them. So, it’s exciting.”
What about that forecast? Do you prepare differntly for heavy rain? Do you do drills?
“No, not really. I mean, you always take it into consideration. Everybody has the wet ball drill and different things like that like everybody practices. We’re keeping our eye on that, but you just plan. You don’t change your gameplan. You just go with your gameplan that you originally wanted to and stay with it. I’ve been in situations where you change everything because of the weather and it really messes with your mindset.”
Jay says you guys are a weatherproof team for the most part-
“Who said that?”
Jay said you were a weatherproof team for the most part. What does that- do you agree with that?
“What, weatherproof? Yeah, absolutely. Whatever Jay Harbaugh says, that’s what I agree with. Oh yeah, absolutely.”
Is that a testament to your versatility?
“I just think that what we do offensively, it’s- we can spread out, we can bring it in tight, we can throw the ball deep, we can throw it intermediate, we can run the toss play. We’ve got a lot of different things. We’re not one-dimensional, so we can adapt and change quickly for what people are giving us.”
Was it significant to have the BYU game when you did? A turnover-free, kind of smoothed out offensive game?
“Uh, it was positive. I think it’s something that you build on, and that’s what you want to be, turnover free. Absolutely. That’s what you’re striving every week to be, so that was good. Really good.”
[The rest after THE JUMP]
You’ve got to be pretty pleased with the play of your group through four games.
“Yeah, definitely really pleased. Lot of room for improvement still, but we’ve made a lot of plays and are gradually improving week to week in terms of technique and everything.”
After one week it looked like Jake was going to be kind of the focus of your group; he caught eight balls, and now you guys are spreading it around. Which is more desirable, to have a lot of different guys or one that you know will [inaudible, but they’re insinuating a go-to guy]?
“More desirable would be to have more guys that you know you can trust, so I think we’re working towards that. Spreading it around is good. I think being able to get a bunch of guys on the field and not have anyone know who you’re throwing the ball to or whether it’s run or pass is a good thing, so we like having more guys involved.”
A lot’s been made of the wide receivers’ blocking. How do you like your group in terms of that?
“Yeah, we’re doing a nice job. The receivers are setting the bar really high, though, in terms of their effort through the end of plays and second-effort blocks, cut blocks, so they’re giving the rest of the offensive players something to strive for and putting really impressive stuff on tape.”
Khalid [Hill] was saying after the game that that was sort of an important moment for him to actually get involved in the offense again. Have you seen sort of a difference in him over the last few weeks, and even now with sort of a confidence boost from that?
“I don’t think a difference necessarily in him. I know obviously he was excited, and then the group’s excited for him to get a few touches and to have his number called but he’s been working hard. I don’t think he’s approached anything differently.”
[After THE JUMP: Hopefully the MARS game is more fun than the MOON game]
Note: Jabrill was on his way from class and missed the time they do the two-player panels, so we got extra time with him in a scrum. I jumped in mid-answer here.
“…in terms of punt returning, we’re almost on the brink of taking one back. Just minor corrections and me making full-speed decisions and trusting the blocks and the way it sets up. I think I’m right on the brink of breaking one.”
Your thoughts on how the secondary’s coming together right now after four games?
“You know, it all starts with the coaches. They do a great job of gameplan and coming up with schemes that best fit us and our best attributes and they put us in the right positions to make plays and it’s been working so far. It’s just all in the schematics.”
Talk about the coaches as technicians. What have you learned technically from them?
“It’s almost too much to name in terms of techniques and different things they teach us, different pointers what to watch in terms of route recognition, formation recognition, what they like to do out of said personnel or said formations so it all helps us out there on the field. We rep it so much in practice it just becomes second nature.
“In the games it actually slows down because we were prepared for tempo. In practice we kind of killed ourselves all week thinking they were going to go tempo, and if they did I didn’t notice it. You know, it definitely all starts with the preparation.”
How comfortable do you feel in this hybrid role that you’re playing?
“It’s…I’m always comfortable with the guys around me. They do a great job of preparing and helping me. I just do whatever I’m asked to do. You know, put the time in the film room, put the time in the playbook, learn the position as if I played it all year and just try to go out and compete each and every day.”
What do you like about the position that you’re playing and what you can do every week?
“I just like how I’m around the ball a lot. They put me in spots where I can excel, and then it’s up to me to play. That’s how I look at it. They can’t go out there and play for us, so they put us in the right spots at the right moments. Coach Durkin does a great job with knowing the personnel and what they like to do on each down and what’s their tendencies and while I’m out there I remember that. I can kind of get a jump on a route or get a jump on what play or what kind of run I expect them to run, so it just all goes back to schematics.”
[After THE JUMP: The best way to talk trash it to let your pads do it for you]
Kyle Kalis and Henry Poggi
Henry, it seemed like Jim challenged you guys after week one about physicality and being more physical. Have you kind of taken that to heart and you’re making strides there?
“Yeah, I think so. I think just the way we play, we want to bring a lot of physicality every game. You know, the biggest thing is just progressing week to week, so every practice, every rep, just trying to be more physical.”
Henry, the fullbacks and H-backs are a lot more involved than they used to be in past years. What is the conversation like each week when you guys are trying to figure out if you have a mismatch or the coaches want to get you involved in the game?
“You know, I think it’s just gameplan. I don’t know if it’s anything specifically like a conversation with us. I think it’s like the flow of the game, who’s playing well, who’s not. We’ve got so many guys who can do so many different things I think it’s just really who’s playing well that day.”
Kyle, how much did you guys as an offensive line learn and take from that Utah game and how far have you progressed?
“I think a lot. I mean, obviously Utah, as you’ve all seen over the past couple of weeks, they’re a really good team and we played good against them. Obviously we could have played better, but the thing was just going back that next week and just the way we practiced, our practice style. And a big thing too, I want to give props to our D-line. I mean, our D-line is incredible, and us getting to go against those guys every day, that is huge for us to be able to get ready for games where we have players like we have. That’s a huge part of it, just going against our guys and our work ethic.”
Kyle, Jim said last week you graded out at 90%. He said you had another good game Saturday. What’s gone well for you the last couple games?
“Just having fun. I mean, football’s fun for me. Getting to go out there and practice every day is a privilege, and I see it that way. I don’t know. I’m just playing good.”
[After THE JUMP: More Kalis and Poggi, and Jarrod Wilson]
[even his wardrobe has a constraint play]
How do you keep your team from listening too much to all the good things they’ve heard about themselves in the last 48 hours?
“Outstanding game, congratulations, and hard work.”
Jabrill doesn’t play a traditional safety position, and he doesn’t play a traditional cornerback position. Why is that spot that you guys have him at best for him and best for you guys?
“Uh, well, it’s a nickel position. Takes an athlete who’s physical but has the ability to cover receivers in the slot. Can also contribute in the running game. Usually somebody who’s a really good corner and a good safety is ideal for that position. I mean, pretty much every team has that position so no, not inventing anything. It’s looked at as a starting position by just about every defense that plays football.”
You were optimistic about De’Veon’s health the other day. Are you still optimistic? Do you have an updated on De’Veon?
“Yeah, he’s gonna be sore. He’ll be working through the soreness.”
Is it a questionable situation for him Saturday?
“I don’t think we have to do that in college football, do we?”
What’s the diagnosis?
“He’s got something he’s working through.”
Is he still in the boot?
“I haven’t seen him today.”
[After THE JUMP: Philosophizing on polls, talking contact courage, and do fourth and longs exist in Australia?]