Aug. 28, 2012
Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Manny Diaz
On his excitement about starting the season: I don't think there's a team in the country right now that isn't looking forward to hitting somebody that wears a different color jersey than what they do. You can only practice against each other for so long and you just get tired of hitting the same people. I'm sure Wyoming feels the same way. At the same time, you are going to see another program that will ask different questions of you than what you see in practice every day, that sees us in a different light and will attack us in different ways than what we get in practice. All of that is the excitement of game one, the unknown. Five games into the year, you have a pretty good idea of who somebody is. But first game of the year, they can come out, who knows what type of style of offense? There's a little bit of that uncertainty that takes you out of your comfort level, and you just want to get out of there and get going.
On the expectations for the defense: We can't possibly live up to any hype, because that's something that's intangible, and how could we ever define something that is undefinable? What we'll do is we'll hold ourselves to our standard and that's something different than what we did last year. And it's nothing different than what we do weekin, weekout and nothing different than how we conduct ourselves in practice. And our standard of play is something we take very seriously in our room, and that's something I don't think we'll ever determine ourselves by. Because things like hype and outside inferences come and go and change weektoweek. If we follow that, we'll ultimately lose sight of what's important, which is the bottom line of stopping the run, being good on third down, and being good in the red zone.
On if the defense can improve from last year’s start: Last year, we thought we knew what we were doing. We looked like a team that we were pretty sure about our assignments, and I hope this year we are a team that knows our assignments and that there's just a little bit more aggression last year that you saw as the year went on. We can't wait six games this year to finally let it go. So that's really the difference this year, as opposed to last, is what I'm looking forward to; I'm looking forward to a team that plays fast from the opening snap. Now having said that, we are going against an offense that's a rule of exception. They are going to line up in empty formations. They are going to line up in unbalanced formations. They are going to line up in tackleover formations. Everything to make you, when you say, “Hey, let's go, you know, fire up, knock 'em back,” And all then of a sudden, you have to get your protractor out there and start doing calculations on where they are all at. That's by design. That's what they do. They have very creative offensive coaches. We have to balance that with what we know in applying our rules to how we know they are going to attack us.
On momentum from the Holiday Bowl win: We talked even before that game, the Holiday Bowl, of that sort of being the bridge into the 2012 football season. We talked about with the Holiday Bowl, about as sort of a practice run of how we wanted to envision this team being. We lost really important guys but overall on the team we didn't have a large senior team, and we knew a lot of the guys wouldn't be coming back. So the way we prepared and conducted ourselves, I think guys took confidence from that. What I took out and what we have been stressing - and the credit goes to the players - our players were very well prepared to play that night. I know defensively they had a great idea of how Cal was going to attack us that night. And what we have tried to explain to them is that if we will prepare that way weekin, weekout, the game becomes easier. So that's really what we are trying to do. We are trying to understand that with great preparation comes great confidence. That's where things like swagger it's like walking into a test and where you already know the questions to the exams before the teacher hands them out. That's the type of defense we want to be. Last year, we kind of had an idea. We thought we knew the answers to the questions, and now we want to hit the ground running from day one. We have an idea of what the answers are and ready to go attack it full speed.
On the defensive ends: I don't know, this sounds like a copout, I don't know who the defensive ends are in the country to compare them to. Certainly probably from what they accomplished, I don't know if anybody had a tandem that could have accomplished that, but I'm not paying attention to that type of stuff. What we need to do is for them to play as hard as they can play and make the plays that they can make to their ability. What I need them not to do is worry about a pressure of trying to live up to that type of hype. I was in North Carolina State when Mario Williams, his last year there, and if you remember, one of the big knocks on when Mario when he came out and Houston drafted him, he had no sacks the first six games of the season. Well everybody knew Mario Williams was there. And they were going to find a way to not have Mario Williams sack their quarterbacks. So everybody thought Mario was having a bad first half of the season when in reality, the other teams they were not going to let Mario Williams run around and sack the quarterback. And as the year went on he started getting more successful and we had to do some different things schematically to get him going. The important thing for them is to make sure that they play within our system. Make the plays that are there to be made within our system. And again the tough thing is don't listen to all the outside things that can't be defined. When we are not worried about putting on tapes and doing things any different than what we did in our best games that we played at the end of the year last year. And if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.
On the importance of turnovers: We want to get more turnovers and touchdowns than we allow and that translates towards winning. I'm not going to beat ourselves up because we shut somebody out of our end zone and only got one turnover and we had a great day on defense. One thing that Wyoming has done since Dave Christensen has been there the last three years the year before he got there, there were 117th in the country in turning the ball over. That margin is in terms of how many times they gave it away. And since he's been there now they have been in the teens every year in total turnovers including last year with a true freshman quarterback. When you consider they are an option offense where the ball is being pitched and things like that where they are putting the ball in harm's way a little bit, it's pretty astounding numbers for three years in a row to not have 20 turnovers through 12 games. That will be a big challenge for us to try to turn a team over that doesn't turn the ball over very often.
On what to expect from the linebackers: We are going to find out. We have no choice. I know Jordan Hicks has provided great leadership. Jordan is ready to go. I think Jordan is ready to sort of piggyback off the performance he had in the Holiday Bowl last year. I know Demarco Cobbs is eager to get in there and play. We think very highly of what he's able to do, and Steve Edmond, as well. Just have to go in there and do it. That's part of what this game is experience is all about. You have to go in there and play, and find out what it's like being a down for every down player, and once that happens, it just becomes easier every time there afterwards. I'm just looking forward to those guys getting in there, getting their first game under their belt and then being able to move on from there.
On the freshmen defenders: Freshmen, we just hope that when we talk to them that they are not like looking up in the stands and counting all of the people that are looking at the JumboTron, because it is an experience. You know, it’s hard to imagine what it's like to play in front of 101,000 people for the first time. Things are going to happen really, really fast for those freshmen that first night and that's why generally speaking, the development of a college football player, what you want is your freshman's first impact to be on special teams because it's a lot easier in theory to stay in your lane on kickoff than it is to get lined up when Wyoming goes empty with four receives to the field. So if I know that if you can't handle standing in your lane off kickoff, you probably can't handle the four wide receivers. But once you start to handle that, now I'm ready for the next thing, “Coach, what's the next thing.” The next thing might be to block this guy on kickoff return, and then what's the next thing. That's how you start to build and it's no different than at work. You have a job, you may start off in this department and prove that you're able to handle that department, they start giving you more responsibility - a football team operates in the exact same way. Where you have problems, whether in the workplace or in a football program, when you have to hire young, new people and put them in massive roles of importance where they don't get that natural development. We are in a position now defensively where we worked this way last year, we are more experienced in our first 11, so now, the newcomers that we feel very highly of, we can start them off in the mail room a little bit and then work them into [bigger jobs] later on.
On the coaches: I think the biggest thing as coaches, there's no doubt it's better in terms of just being in the war together. I don't think the coaches are counting the players in the seats, I promise. I do think having been in battles and understanding how we operate in that type of setting because we only get to do it 12 days a year and what we have done from January to today, that environment you get put in on game day but the biggest thing is our relationship with the players. We understand the players more and they understand us and they know how we respond on game day and know how we act on game day and what our expectations are. And now we are past all that and we can just go hit the ground running and be ready to go.
Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin
On the quarterbacks: First of all, I'll say, this all of the quarterbacks, all those guys have done a tremendous job in fall camp, and you know, the battle between Case [McCoy] and David [Ash] continued from spring through summer into fall camp. You could see the growth that both quarterbacks had made throughout the summer, and I always felt like that was a big area for a quarterback to take tremendous strides was in the summer. Because they are on their own, you'll find out what kind of work habits they have and both guys did a tremendous job. David did earn it. He did a great job. David played very well and Case played very well, and it was a tight battle and that's what you want in that position and really every position. You want to come in there and nitpick one or two things that separates players. We are very excited about David. We are looking forward to having him go into this game and play well and just do what he's been doing. He's done a tremendous job in meetings. Right now that's where we are and Case continues to be a guy we feel comfortable with putting in a game at any time, and he can play. He's done a great job. His leadership has shown this entire camp, and his maturity and his age and all those things. We are really fired up about both quarterbacks right now.
On what separated the quarterbacks: It's a day-to-day deal, whether it's command that particular day or that particular situation or that particular drive. You know, what's funny is both guys had opportunities with the ones, and they both did well. And what we looked at, we had opportunities with the twos going against the one defense; what did they do? That's where you're getting yourself backed into a corner and how do you operate? Both guys did well. David did some good things in those type of situations of leading the team down and putting ourselves in scoring position in some of those tougher situations. So you know, one or two things came up daytoday, and I think just overall, when you look back at it, both guys have studied hard and both guys understand the system and both guys are doing their job. And David was a guy that continued to progress day after day, and really felt like he was making good decisions in keeping the ball in our hands in certain situations that we put them in. That's really the bottom line. We know the turnover thing here is huge and we have got to preach that and we are going to continue to preach that, and I thought he did a good job of that.
On possibly playing both quarterbacks: I think at the quarterback position, you always want to go into a game and you hope that you're in a situation where both quarterbacks have an opportunity to play. And when we went into the bowl game with the same scenario, the same situation, you know, that game was tight. That game, the flow of the game, didn't allow us to do that. And so you know, does it mean that we don't want to have that situation come up? No. But the flow of the game is going to tell us how we are going to rotate our quarterbacks, and also how our offense is playing with those guys out there on the field, as well. That's something we plan for and prepare for with both guys. They know the offense, and what we are doing. So if there is a change, we don't have to stop what we are doing. We continue with the flow and now we may get a spark in that situation, but that's what we are planning on doing. It's really going to be dictated by the game.
On the plan to get young players in the game: I think you would like to get in as many as you can, all of the faces that are going to have opportunities to play. I think that's an ideal situation for any team. You want to be able to get obviously your starters in there, significant reps and you want to let the backups or young guys get in there and have a role in that particular game and get their feet wet out there in front of 101,000 people staying in a stadium in a real situation. Those are ideal situations for us. If that can happen, then things are going well for us. But we'll have packages, and we'll decide that towards the end of the week of how much each player will have to play. As you look at as the week goes on, if you look at, “Okay, how many reps does this guy get and how many opportunities does he have to touch the ball, is there something in there or is there too much? Do we have to spell him with somebody else, and all of that will come up on Thursday. We'll decide that personnelwise, but as the week goes on, everyone is getting an opportunity still, and the starters are getting more reps but the backups are having the opportunity to come in and spell them. If they do well in those situations, that might be his play to help out some of the starters and keep fresh legs out there. So we'll make the personnel decisions of how many plays and who is going to play come Thursday.
On the “wild” formation: Well, it can be at any time, I can just say that. It's one of those plays that really works well anywhere, and with the right people in there, and how we have utilized it, I think the effectiveness that we have had with it and we have gotten better at it. It's something that we feel like we can use anywhere on the field at any time. Last year what Fozzy [Whittaker] did is provide a big spark for us. We used it in the red zone, kind of a high red zone area there and we needed something to happen. He would burst through there and get 13, 14, yards and created some momentum for us. It's one of those things we have in our back pocket and can utilize at any time and we'll roll with it then.
On not knowing what to expect from Wyoming with their personnel changes: I've always felt like the first three games, you know, any team is trying to identify themselves a little bit. Even a veteran team. You try new things in fall camp, you went out and professional developed with other coaches and you're going to have new ideas and you'll have those wrinkles in the first three games and then once that's done you start to settle down and figure out who you are. Obviously this situation with the new DCoordinator coming in there, and they have done several different things in the past on defense, we just have to kind of plan for everything. What we hear about. What we prepare for in the fall camp. We have seen a lot of different looks now. Our defense throws about everything at us that we can possibly get, so it's just a matter of playing fundamental football and being able to communicate to each other. This is what I'm getting and adjust to this and just be ready to make those adjustments and treat it like you do through fall camp in a lot ways. You have to be able to adjust. You have to be able to adjust on the run. You have to be able to come back and communicate what you get and make adjustments on the sideline and put something out there that's going to help them.
On RB Joe Bergeron: Joe and Malcolm [Brown], those two guys, they are so close in so many ways. I don't know if it's one or two things. They are so close when you put them out there and watch each one of them run, and they both do things very, very well. Joe has done a nice job. Joe, he's a big back. He's been really physical I think at camp, just with his running, getting his pad level down. Seeing holes even quicker on some of our zone schemes and things like that, just sliding through there. He's elusive for a big guy, as well, inside the tackle back there. And that's just kind of been consistent through camp. Malcolm has been the same way. Both guys, just from a year of experience, you can see how those guys have come back and understand the offensive line and understand the run game and understand we are trying to hit with the run. And so I've been pleased with both guys. I think they have been tremendous through camp.The other area, not just running the ball, but in protection, as well. Both guys, they understand it more. We ask a lot of them in protection, and they have done a good job.
On Bergeron’s personality: You know, Joe is fun. Joe is a fun guy, and I enjoy him in practice. He's smiling. He's a tough guy. He's got great personality, especially for that position and when it's time to go, he can flip the switch and I really like that about him. I just think he's got a good personality for that position and what we ask of him, and I've always enjoyed being around him out there.
On the tight ends: Again, one of the things about our tight end position, we ask a tremendous amount from those guys and we have not backed off on that one bit. And so where are we going to put them? At receiver? At tight end? Are we going to put them on the backfield? They move all over the place, so they are the jack of all trades. I think this year they understand that better. [Last year] all of a sudden they are in these different spots and now I think they really understand that. They have taken to that, and I think they continue to get better. I think Greg Daniels has been a great addition to that room. He's a guy that we felt like had a great camp and looking forward to him having an opportunity to go out and play in live bullets and see what he's got. But those guys continue to get better and those guys continue to be a huge asset for us offensively and what they can do.
On the difference in the team from a year ago: I think it's amazing. It's like a player, you watch a young guy go from year one to year two, and just I think all of the anxiety of the unknown, that's what really gets you. I mean, even for a player in practice, you walk out, where do I go for drills? Where do I go with my group? And they understand all that. The same thing for coaches. How you work together. What's the schedule? When do we do run game? When do we do pass game? What are some of my tendencies when we call plays? Are we going to take a shot here? Are we going to run it here? And it's things like that. It's different. It's different in that we have all been different places and guys have done different things. Well, once you start to work together, you start to figure out guy’s tendencies and strengths and how to build on that. It's no different than a player. I think we have done a good job of that, and I think that in the springtime, after going through the entire season together, going back, looking at it, analyzing, goods, bads, uglies, whys and things like that; then really starting to put things together for spring, and it just started to click in spring and through summer and now the fall camp. And now talking about adjustments, it's already done. It's already thought out like, well, yeah, we are not going to do that because of this. You don't have to sit there and have a fiveminute discussion about it. The guy has already got it right now, don't forget this, we have to do that. That just speeds things up. It calms everybody down I think. You just feel more confident. And so you know, I think that's where we are at. We understand the system better. Our players understand it better, and we are able to get into some more of the details and really the fun stuff when it comes to just the coaching part of it when everybody around you gets it.
On what it means to start the game aggressively: I think the mentality on both sides of the ball is to be aggressive. You know, obviously you want your defense attacking and you want your offense attacking. By no means do we want to sit back and let things happen. That's offensive football. You want to be aggressive and you want to attack. Now, does it mean we are going to throw in four verticals every time? No. It doesn't mean that. But it means that if you're running the ball, you're attacking running the ball. Your mentality is really to come out there and be aggressive in whatever play call it might be. I think that's just the whole mentality of the team. And so, the offense through fall camp, we felt good about just the understanding of where we are at and I think the guys are playing faster because of that, kind of like we talked about. And so we want to come out there with that same mindset like we have had through camp and go out and do our very best from that standpoint and defense to come out and do the same thing. So that's the an overall team mentality.
On the wide receivers: I think from the quarterback standpoint, from the receivers standpoint, those guys have a chip on their shoulder and they have done a nice job in camp and they have really worked over the summertime together to come into camp and be prepared and show the timing and the accuracy and all that is there for them to be successful. I just think overall, again, on both sides, and obviously for the offense, but there's a chip on their shoulder at all times. I think no matter who you are, you have to have that type of attitude out there; run game, goal line, running game, pass game, wide receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, backs. Anybody that's going to have an opportunity to touch the ball, there's got to be that mentality. There's something to prove, each and every week. I just think that's something that overall, offensively, that that's a mentality that we have got to come out there and fight and play as hard as we can and play to the standard that we have set for ourselves and don't let down on that. And that's really what we are trying to do.