PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE MEDIA DAYS
July 25, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Okay, unlike Rich Rodriguez, I'm really excited to be here and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. This is something I look forward to all year long. I really am excited about the upcoming season. Last couple seasons have been tough. Missed a bowl game the last couple of years, uncharacteristic of our football team and our program. So we're determined to get ourselves back on track this year and get things headed back in the right direction.
But two players with me today, Dres Anderson, the leading returning receiver in the conference, thousand?yard receiver for us last year, nearly 19 yards, a reception, big play guy. Has his degree already in hand. Earned his degree in mass communications this past spring.
And Nate Orchard will be a senior defensive end. Big? time player. He's a big play guy as well. And he'll have his degree in December, finishing up his academics right after his senior year. Never red?shirted, so he didn't get quite the time to complete the degree that Dres did. So, anyway, questions?
Q. On having a healthy quarterback:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: 2008 was the last time we had a quarterback start the season and finish the season. So it's been a tough run in that respect. Travis is the pinnacle staff has indicated to me and to him that he's at no greater risk than anybody else with this condition that he has. So we're just moving forward as though he's a hundred percent.
Q. On looking tan:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, 15 days on Kauai will do that.
Q. On Utah player Harvey Langi:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: I've met with him and his family. He's in the process of making a decision. Bottom line, whatever he feels is best for him, we wish him all the best. We're hoping obviously that he plays in Utah, but whatever he openly decides we'll wish him well.
Q. Any kind of problems with that?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: No comment on that. We'll just move forward from that, I guess.
Q. On how the Pac-12 has expanded recruiting opportunities:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: It has. We had a big contingency of Southern California team guys on our team. It's always been one of our primary areas. However, as soon as we joined the Pac?12, we were able to get in a lot more doors that in the past we weren't able to because of our affiliation with the conference.
Q. On advantage of having the Pac-12 Networks:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Without a doubt the Pac?12 Network and it's coast to coast, essentially. Accessibility. I know it's not available everywhere. But it's been a recruiting tool and particularly for the players that are out?of?state and out of the Pac?12 footprint.
Q. You've got this great undefeated team?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: I think there is a chance. I think it's an outside chance. I think it's going to go 8 or 16. But I think it's going to be difficult for someone to crack that. I think they'll have a pretty good strength of schedule. But just with four spots there, it's going to be hard for us to find a non?power spot to crack that.
Q. On the College Football Playoff:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Too successful and too well?received to not expand on it. It's in place, and the playoffs are here and a reality but I think it's the tip of the iceberg. I think you'll see it expand.
That's part of the debate. But if they do expand the playoffs, will they take away a regular season? I don't know. I don't think you'll have any of the players and coaches in the playoffs complaining about extra games. I think they'll be excited for the physical part of it. That is something that certainly needs to be addressed about that.
Q. On bowl games:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Well, we're not used to not playing bowl games we were close last year. Nobody cares about being close. You've got to get over that hump. We thought we had gotten over that hump. We beat Stanford at the halfway mark of the season at 4?2. Felt good about ourselves next week. Our quarterback gets hurt and we stumble the rest of the way. So it's very important for us to get back on track and play ourselves into a bowl game. Just what you said, for recruiting purposes especially.
Q. On if the bowl game was what they expected:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: It's about what we expected as far as where we were selected. We don't necessarily use that as motivation. We're motivated to win because of the history of our program and what we've accomplished in the last 10, 12 years.
So we're just going to proceed about our business. We've got to have the right mindset going into the season. We've had a difficult schedule, and we have to be ready to play each and every week if we have a chance to be successful.
Q. On if the transition to the Pac-12 was as expected:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, the transition from the Pac?12 or to the Pac?12 was as expected. I don't think there is anything that caught us by surprise. I can tell you the thing that's really been very apparent is the Pac?12 in 2011 when we entered and the Pac?12 Now is far superior from top to bottom in the progress this conference has made in the last few years is phenomenal. They've put themselves in a position where we put ourselves in position where we're arguably one of the top two conferences in the country.
Q. On improvements from Dres Anderson:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Well, more of the same. I think in order for that to happen we've got to get some threats out. We can't just have him and everybody focus on him, double coverage. We've got to have some threats to take the pressure off him.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Well, a repeat of the last year, with a thousand yard receiver, you can tell if he's a big play or deep threat. And that's really his strength is his ability to get vertical. If we're going to be successful, he has to do that for us.
Q. On Dres sharing the load:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: He's a big part of that. We lost him in game one. We've got him back at full strength this year. Kaelin Clay seems to be a guy that takes some of the pressure off. Dominique Hatfield is a kid that dominated from the end of last season. So there are three or four of those guys that need to step up and take some of the stress off of what Dres is doing.
Q. On if the fans are supportive of the switch to the Pac-12 Conference:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: I think some of the fans may have, some may not have. I can tell you the fan support we've had is pretty phenomenal. Our season ticket renewal is 98% from the last five years, so fans are excited about us being in the Pac?12. They're anxious to go to the games. We'll have sold out season tickets. So I think the fan support is outstanding. Whether or not the expectations were what they were as far as going to the Pac?12, I can't answer for that. I know we had high?? everybody had high aspirations. But we certainly are a better team this year. The issue is how much better?
Q. Have you ever spoken to Colorado’s coach, Mike MacIntyre, and do you say similar things?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: I have not. But I can empathize with him. I can't remember what their record was last year. But they're kind of going through the same growing pains that we are coming from the BCS.
You don't want to make excuses, but that's going to be key for us this year two things. Finding a way to finish those games when we were so close last year Arizona State, fourth quarter, well into the fourth quarter, had a chance to beat UCLA at the end we've got to find a way to be better finishers as well as keep the quarterback up. (No microphone).
Q. On comparisons to previous years’ teams:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: No, it's a different team, different time, different players, different coaches. I don't think you can say because of what we did against Alabama in '09 we should be able to do this or that this year because circumstances change. Don't really see that as a comparison. It was a very good team we had in '08. This year coming up. Last year? Very well. I think I counted 15 players on that team that are in the NFL right now from 2008. That was a very talented team and a good group of guys.
First of all, our players love it, it's a topnotch facility. One of the best in the conference. It's given us a great place to train, house our players. All the training and expansion that's taken place with it and for recruiting purposes. Is the wow factor of that building is very good. People that have come through there are very impressed with what they've seen. Recruiting comes down to facilities. Some of the recruits are very concerned with the facilities and what kind of (No microphone). So it's been good.
Q. On recruiting in Southern California:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: There are a ton of players down here. It's a fertile recruiting ground. There are more good players down here. So it's one of our primary areas in state. Utah, Southern California, and it was Texas. It's more shifting to Louisiana and Florida than Texas. But Southern Cal has always been and always will be one of our primary recruiting areas. We think the sheer number and sheer volume of players down here it makes sense. Geographically it's not that far for a trip for those guys. There are a lot of reasons we think this is a good area to stay in.
Q. On the transition from last year to this year:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: It's been a seamless transition. They came in with the same philosophy and concepts and elements that were in place. So there was no wholesale change. Travis went through spring. Even though he was not cleared for contact, he did a bunch of reps in spring. Picked up on the new offense very well.
Like I said, there were so many similarities and more terminology differences but the biggest difference was the tempo. That was probably the most difficult thing and continues to be the most difficult thing for players to get the hang of it and the speed of it.
Q. With the football aspect and the diagnosis of relationships with parents, what was it like for you to have the team energy and the diagnosis of the whole situation?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: It was tough for us. It had nothing to do with football. Just making sure Travis was going to be okay. That was the primary concern for him and us as family and everybody. Making sure this was not life threatening or some situation that was going to affect his life and be a major negative impact. So once we got the password and they determined that, hey, I see no problem with it we felt he's at no greater risk than the rest of us and just a huge relief. That was a distant second of his being able to play and making sure he was going to be able to play football.
Q. Are those guys comprehensive enough, because we see situations where sometimes it's educational?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, we do a pretty good job. We have a very good medical staff and good training staff. I don't know. I think we stack up pretty good as far as what we screening and the physicals we put our players through relative to other schools. Unless you dug real deep on this one had Travis not been with us, so I don't think you could place him?? not that you're trying to do that, or any blame or responsibility.
Q. On minimum number of games to be played in a season:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, if there's one thing I'm not going to argue about whether it's eight games or nine games, what I would argue is that all conferences should play the same. Maybe it's arguing for ten games, ten conference games because that gives you five away every year instead of rotating five and four. So whether it's 8, 10, 9, whatever the situation is, I don't think that's as big a factor as the uniformity of the whole thing. Personally I'd like to see all five power conferences play the same conference format and make it a level playing field in that respect.
Q. On the rivalry game:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, we're in the rivalry game, so we're taking two years off. The opportunity to play Michigan was one of the things that we would have liked to have had a home at home with Michigan. That rivalry is intense. I'm sure when it picks back up, it's going to resume right where it left off. But this is going to be different. I've been involved in that rivalry since 1973. Is that?? one way, shape or form I've had a connection. Whether it was approaching the school, having a brother play or having a dad coach for 30?something straight years. So it's going to be a big departure this year because it's been a part of the football season for so long.
Q. (No microphone)?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Safety. It would have to be dire circumstances to move him to that safety spot. First one would be the linebacker. Now he's down to about 208 pounds, he's got himself in safe mode. I think it would be too difficult for him at this late stage to try to reverse course and try linebacker. So that would be a worse?case scenario.
Q. What's it like to coach a guy like Dres Anderson?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: He's a great kid. A fifth-year senior that's been in our program a long time. Knows exactly what is expected. He takes care of things on and off the field. He's got his degree in hand already. He's just a guy that is a pleasure to have on the team. Media loves him. He's got a lot to say in a positive way, and not arrogant and he doesn't put his foot in his mouth very often. He's been a good ambassador for our team. Love having him on our team.
I don't know his dad real well. His dad was on the Rams and my dad was a coach on the Rams, so I watched him play intently throughout his career. But until we started recruiting Dres, I didn't know him on a personal basis. Still I haven't spent a lot of time with him. He lives out in Georgia. So there are some statistics there. But whenever he does come to town, I try to make a point to talk to him. I know his mom was much more present in the recruiting process, so I got to know her quite a bit better.
Q. On Dres Anderson’s dad:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, he was a great player. My dad passed away about ten years ago. But he would talk about how talented he was. Like I said, I went to a bunch of Ram games. My dad was coaching there. He coached there for ten years, so he was pretty involved going down there much of the time.
Q. On similarities:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, there is. Both of them have great speed. There are a lot of similarities.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, that's our objective get back to a bowl game. The last two years we were one game away. So we've got to be better finishers to win a better percentage of those close games. That's really the bottom line.
Q. (No microphone).
COACH WHITTINGHAM: It shows us we can stand toe to toe with the best in the conference and slug it out. We had gotten over a hump so to speak in that game, and we were poised to have a good second half of the season, and we were doing some good things and the wheels came off.
Q. On going to the KISS concert:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. I'm a classic rocker. Anything pre?1980, that's me, that's my hero. I had a good friend who was hooked up pretty well and got me in. I said will you do this for us and he said you mean for the youth? And I said yes. I think it was Paul Stanley saying you talk about the Utes? And I said, yeah.
Q. On the Arizona game:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: We had the lead against Arizona. We were right in there.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Guy was outstanding. Not to be biased, but I was so impressed with that guy. He had the pace. I've always said, pace and the offense is all fine and dandy, as long as you can execute. They were able to execute at that fast pace, which is a great combination. If you're going fast, you're not executing 3 and out, that could actually work to your disadvantage. But if you're fast?paced and you can execute at a level that allows you to move the gates, that's as good as you can get.
Q. On losing the game to Arizona:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: It was frustrating. I thought our guys were able to compete. They fought all the way and were able to get the win against Colorado, so it's frustrating. Disappointing. But I thought they came through it as well as they could have pulled through.
Q. On Travis Wilson:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: The guy is in tremendous shape. He's always been a hard worker, but he is really taking it to another level in this off?season. I think part of it is the competition. I had to motivate Travis a little. I've always said the competition almost all the time is a good thing and a healthy thing for a team.
Q. On Mike MacIntyre:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: I think Mike's a heck of a coach. I think he's going to do a great job there first of all. But a little bit different. Skipping steam on offense. On both sides of the ball it was different. I have a ton of respect for the receiver, [Paul] Richardson. Great player. We were petrified of him. But it's going to take him a couple three years to get his stamp on the program and get the players in there that he needs to recruit to the scheme that he's running.
So it's going to be a transition. He's proven he's done a great job. The last place he was at, he was a winner there, and he's a very good football coach.
Q. On Nick Nowakowski:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Nick is a blue collar guy. Puts his head down and works. Never complains. Does everything that's asked of him. Great in the classroom. He's doing a great job. This third year he'll be a red?shirt sophomore. He's put himself in position. He's just a great guy. Love him, love him. How do you know him?
Oh, he did. Okay. I feel good about these guys. We've got Jeremiah Poutasi who had a disappointing sophomore year. He had a knee issue, was overweight. Both of those issues are corrected now. I look for him to have a big year at left tackle. We move junior over to left guard. So that part of the line is solidified. We have four or five guys in position at the right guard, right tackle spot. There are probably one or two I'm forgetting, but it's going to be good competition for the right side. I think when all is said and done, I'm very optimistic about it.
Q. On learning the fight song:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: We'll have a team meeting and report on August 3rd. That will be one of the topics of the fight song, and I'm going to leave it in the player's hands. They'll make the determination of what they want to sing. Check with me August 4th.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: You'd be hard pressed to tell me there is a conference that has more talent and as much talent as this conference has?
Q. On the focus on the quarterback:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Without a doubt. It's a quarterback?driven game. If you have a guy that pulls the trigger and can make plays for you at a high level, you can have a chance every week. This conference is loaded with them.
Q. On new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Very comfortable. Dave's come in and done a great job transitioning. His philosophy is very much in line. That's going to be the biggest difference for our players.
Q. D you have a set number of plays?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: No, we just want to play fast. Trust the defense. As long as we're trusting the defense.
Q. On the importance of having played as a coach:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: I think the last either four or five NFL head coaches to be inducted into the Hall of Fame all played. So I think that says it all right there. You cannot be successful. It's all about players; it's not about coaches. It's about the players. The most important position on the team is the quarterback. You have a guy at quarterback that can play at the level you need him to play at, you have a chance to be really good.
Q. On the chance of a three-time winner:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: That's debatable. I find it somebody has pointed it out today, I've been in this league three. Every circumstance is different. There are a lot of factors that go into it. I don't think it's a hard and fast determination. But in this day and age, it's not uncommon in three years to be a winner.
Q. On Michael Irvin:
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Irvin is an exceptional coach. I learned a ton from Irvin when he was at the University of Tahoe. But if it's between coaches and players, the players are going to win out every time. Does that answer your question? Look that up. NFL coaches in the Hall of Fame. They all had great quarterbacks.
True, true. It's subjective.