Kyle, a lot’s been made about your maturity and now you’re in your third year here. Just talk about how you’ve grown and how you’re ready for this role as a leader.
Kyle Kalis: “I think a lot of it was the offseason condition. You know, we grew a lot as a team through coach Tolbert’s workouts and stuff, and a big thing not only personally but as an O-lineman and concerning my unit is coach Drev’s ability to coach us.
“He’s taught us stuff that we had no idea was even out there, and his experience, his vast knowledge of O-line play and the way you have to do it, the way you have to take that mentality every day has been huge for us. So that’s probably the biggest thing is coach Drev.”
I know that you guys are probably tired of the offensive line improvement talk, but last year it was said that the offensive line had improved. Do you feel that this season there is real, tangible improvement? Is this finally the year that the offensive line will come together?
KK: “Yeah. I mean, the past couple years we’ve been good. It’s just hard- it was hard to find…to look through the cracks and see us doing well. But this year I think as a team us being able to come together [and] have all the parts working together as a cohesive unit is going to be huge to not only be successful as a team, but also, you know, get the big guys some love. That’s the thing [is] you have to be successful as a team to let everybody have the spotlight.”
You mentioned the spotlight. Are there any guys out there that have impressed you? A lot has been said about Mason Cole. Talk about some of the guys who you’ve seen a lot of improvement from.
KK: “Yeah, Mason’s definitely…Mason’s Mason. He started all last year as a freshman. That’s huge. I mean, no one does that really anywhere, and so that’s huge for him. He’s improved a lot. Again, with coach Drev he’s been able to make some strides. Dave Dawson did really good. Tulley- Logan’s been doing really good. Blake’s [Bars] had a really good camp. A lot of guys have been really coming along and it’s been good.”
[After THE JUMP: More Kalis and Houma, plus Desmond Morgan and Chris Wormley]
Sione, what is this experience going to be like for you, going back to Utah and playing in your home state?
SH: “It’s going to be…starting off my senior year back at home, it’s going to be fun. My family members and my friends are going to be there to support me and my team, so there’s nothing better than to start off my senior year playing at home.”
Can you talk about, now that you’ve been through it, what has Camp Harbaugh been like and being in the submarine?
KK: “Uh, it’s been an experience that I’ll probably tell my kids about when I’m older. It’s been…it’s definitely been like a camp we’ve never had before, and I think that’s going to pay off in dividends down the road this year and this upcoming Thursday, too. We’ve come together as a team really well. We’re super close right now, super tight knit. We know what we’re doing execution-wise. Now it’s a matter of we’ve got to go out and show everybody what we’ve been doing in the submarine. Make it pay off.”
Sione, obviously you and Bryan are really close. What’s it been like over the last couple weeks trying to counsel him? Obviously he’s not going to get the experience you are going home.
SH: “Yeah, just going off that, I know Bryan comes from a- growing up with Bryan I know he comes from a God-based family, and knowing that his faith is really strong right now and he’s keeping a positive attitude throughout the whole situation and our team is behind his back supporting him throughout his whole rehab. And we’re always going to be there with him, no matter what.”
Sione, I’ve been interested in the difference in elevation. With you being from there, do you feel like that’s something that might take a toll on these guys or have you talked to these guys? Is there a different way you prepare, or is it even a concern?
SH: “Well, for me personally it’s not really a concern for me, because I’ve been flying back forth from here to Utah many times. Working out in Utah it hasn’t really been a concern. My breathing’s been fine. I got a lot of questions from my teammates about the elevation and I told them it’s nothing to worry about. They’ll be fine just as long as they…yeah, they’ll be fine. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about.”
I think you’ve said in the past that coach likes to keep you off balance or doesn’t prepare you for things. Give me a couple of examples of what form that’s taken.
KK: “Some examples of what he’s done?”
KK: “Oh God, where can I start? You know, the big thing is that he likes us to…well, for example, during camp a lot of teams will have practices in the morning or at night to be easy on the guys, but oh no, no, no. Coach Harbaugh wants to do it during the hottest time of the day, so it’s 1-4 and specifically to ‘shape the body and mold the mind.’
Is that a quote?
KK: “Yeah, kinda. But, you know, stuff like that. Especially being behind closed doors with him and just seeing him in his environment is…it’s funny, but it’s also- he’s just such a football-mentality type guy and just an awesome coach. But yeah, he definitely keeps you on your toes. All the time.”
Even though it was scheduled…?
KK: “Yeah, we walked in that morning and he was sitting in front of the team, and he said, ‘Alright boys, the record is..’ I think it was like 10:30 or something, and he’s like, ‘We need to beat that record today when we get our picture taken.’ And we beat the record. We got it done in 10, so…”
You guys usually have captains by now. Have you voted on captains yet, and who are they?
KK: “To be decided today.”
[So obviously me and not Upchurch or Fuller]
Chris, the defensive line is supposed to be one of the strengths of this team. Will it be in your opinion, and talk about some of the guys who’ve stepped up?
CW: “I definitely think the defensive line will be one of the strengths of the team. We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of fourth-year and fifth-year players on the D-line. I think the defense as a whole will probably be one of the main strengths of our team. I’m just excited for the season to get started.”
Desmond, a lot of people share that excitement but as long as you’ve been out you’re feeling it maybe even more than most. Can you talk about that?
DM: “Yeah, definitely. I’m anxious. I haven’t played a game in over a year now. It feels weird. I don’t think I’ve ever gone that long in football without doing that, but I’m just exited. It’s been a heck of a fall training camp with these guys and I think everyone’s fired up to get to Utah and play our first game.”
Desmond, can you talk about what camp has been like and how it’s prepared you for opening up next Thursday?
DM: “Yeah, it’s been a grind. We’ve been working hard going through the two-a-days and things like that. The way the schedule’s set up it’s intended to be hard, to push you to your limits with adversity. That’s what you’ve got to do in fall camp to come together as a team and I think coach Harbaugh’s done a great job putting us through that.
“Now that we’re kind of coming to the end of it and getting ready for game week I think we’re ready to start hitting someone else for the first time, because I know going against each other every day kind of gets a little bit old after a while.”
Chris, with Bryan out for Utah and possibly longer, what have the discussion been like between the defensive linemen especially as you mentioned with the defensive line being a perceived strength of this team? Have you gotten together and talked more in depth about losing a key piece, especially for the opener?
CW: “Like I discussed earlier, the depth of the D-line is probably one of our strong points on the D-line. We have a lot of guys who can play a lot of different positions. With Bryan being out for the first game it’s going to be tough, but we have a lot of guys, like I said, with a lot of depth and we all trust each other and have the confidence that one of us can go in and play two or three different positions and get the job done just like they would if they had that one position and knew it really well.”
What are have you talked about as a D-line group since knowing Bryan would be out.
CW: “Yeah, I think everyone’s stepped up their games a little bit, gotten at the playbooks a little harder, watched a little bit more film and just understood that with one person down the next person has to step up and come together as a D-line and defense and as a whole team to get the job done next Thursday against Utah.”
Desmond, this program has struggled on the road the last couple of years. What kind of things are you guys doing or have you thought about, talked about in order to prepare for obviously hopefully a different outcome for your team?
DM: “Yeah, I mean, I think you approach every year a little bit differently, but being here quite a few years now I realize that’s kind of been an ongoing tendency in some ways, and I think one of the biggest things to overcome that is kind of coming together in the offseason and learning to face that adversity. Offensive and defensively, staying on each other’s side no matter what’s happening with the ball and things like that. I think this is one of the closer teams I’ve been on in terms of overcoming that sort of stuff, so I’m excited to see what we’ll respond like when we finally do face that test.”
Chris, Kyle Kalis is a guy who’s seemed to grow a little bit in his role. Can you talk about how he’s elevated his game?
CW: “Kyle is going to be one of our key parts of the offensive line. I can tell you that personally going up against him every day in camp. He’s big, strong, physical- he’s put in the work in the offseason to become that guy on the offensive line that we can trust and that we know will get the job done each and every week.”
Your head coach said that Jabrill Peppers has been everything as advertised. What does that mean in terms of how he’s looked in fall camp?
DM: “Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of hard to say. You never want to put expectations on someone. I think that’s unfair in a lot of senses like that, but I can tell you firsthand that he’s a guy who comes in the meeting room with a lot of intensity to learn things the best he can. He’s a guy who, even though he’s younger, has been falling into some leadership in some aspects being- playing on the field playing so much, playing multiple positions, things like that. So in a lot of ways I have seen him step up to fulfill those expectations, but again, I don’t want to set a ceiling or where he should live up to.”
Desmond, with you and Joe Bolden obviously being the experienced linebackers what was this camp like for you guys, and maybe some of those conversations between you two as far as preparation?
DM: “Yeah, I think the conversation actually started even last year. We live together, so it’s one of those things where we’re close on and off the field, and playing with each other there in the middle kind of helps with that as well. But I think it’s one of those things where being veteran guys who’ve both played a lot of football here and been around for a couple years, been around for a while, so it’s one of those things where we kind of know what to expect and how to do it, and we’re trying to bring some of those younger guys along as well and really hone in on how to communicate with everyone else and get everyone on the same page.”
You mentioned that guys live together. What’s the Morgan-Bolden household like the week up to the Utah game?
DM: “Well, it’s broken up with training camp and kind of with our living situation we ended up having to pick out some different things, but it was good. We’re both fired up. I see him every day, and we’re both ready to just get this ball rolling just as everyone else is.”