Aug. 27, 2012
LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State football head coach Gary Andersen, along with junior center Tyler Larsen and senior safety McKade Brady, held a news conference Monday to open the 2012 season. A complete transcript of Andersen, Larsen and Brady's remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Gary Andersen
Thoughts on camp:
"Overall I thought that the kids did a nice job of coming back in shape. Obviously, (strength coach) Evan Simon and his crew and the kids did a very nice job. So that is always a huge positive when you can start fast in camp. It was a long camp, three weeks, and we are just starting school today, so it was a little bit different as far as that goes. Overall, it was a very positive camp. We stayed healthy for the most part, which is a good thing for us. Some young kids stepped up and did some nice things, we had a lot of position battles. Our identity and our belief when we bring a junior college kid in is to give him a chance to be able to play early and to complete and that took place. Some junior college kids had the opportunity to make the travel squad and some of the other kids didn't because the kids already in the program held them off. It was a good, competitive camp for all, and we felt like it was positive. We moved into game week, really a week ago even though it was still camp. I have spent a lot of time getting ready for Southern Utah and basically had four bonus days to get ready for them. Camp has been positive overall. It was hot! I can tell you that much! You guys who were out there know it was hot."
Who are the new guys who broke in?
"The third back has a great opportunity, we will see how it goes with Robert Marshall and where that sits right now. Robert (Marshall) got hurt and that opened up the window there for Kelvin Lee and Abou Toure to come in and compete for that third spot. It is not solidified by any stretch of the imagination right now, but it definitely gave them the reps they needed to be able to compete. Alex Wheat, Jr., came in and has basically solidified himself to be on the travel team if we were going today. Joe Summers came in and he is definitely the back up center, he did a nice job in that spot. The young defensive lineman, Sini (Tauauve'a) and AJ (Pataiali'i) have come in and those two kids will play and so will Paul (Piukala). Paul in the last four or five days has really gained a lot of momentum, so the biggest change there, I suppose would be at the defensive front. And Cade (Cowdin) got his year, so he will be ready to play. That has been granted from the NCAA, so he will be eligible to compete this year. He will be in the two-deep at the inside-linebacker position. He will be a junior."
What did you see in preparations for Southern Utah?
"First of all, they have a very good quarterback in Brad Sorensen, which we all know. He is smart, big and a tough kid who throws the ball well, and he gets rid of it on time. I think that Steve Clark (offensive coordinator) and the quarterback are on the same page as far as the offense. Steve Clark, I have known him forever, he was with Utah for a long time. He does a good job of coordinating that offense and putting them in a position to make plays. It is quarterback driven and it should be with (Sorensen) pulling the trigger, he has a really good grasp of game situations, I believe, and he understands that part of it very well. He is also a young man that moves around a lot, better than some people may give him credit for. He has been well trained and he is a very good athlete. It is a passing attack and yet they do a nice job with the draws and screens that gave them some big plays last year. I think they have a sound offensive scheme. They don't get out of the box as far as what they want to do and what they can do. They do a tremendous job on the offensive side of the ball of using their personnel that they have to the best of there ability. To me that is a sign of a good coaching staff. Defensively, they are going to play hard. Ed (Lamb) has done a nice job with those guys as far as hiring a staff that I believe is a quality staff. They play extremely hard, (Cody) Larsen is a very talented football player and is surrounded by some good players. All you have to do is throw in the tape and watch them, they are going to be a sound offensive team, a sound defensive team, sound in special teams and they are going to take care of business. They have a very business like approach to football, which I like. They are a well-coached football team, they have good kids from Utah that you know what you are going to get. They play hard every single snap, it is an in-state game, it means a lot to them and it means a lot to us. So, I expect it to be a highly competitive and very physical football game."
In the first two weeks you are going to face two of your former teams, what is that like?
"It is always a little bit different to play an opponent that you have a background with. I had a great experience with Southern Utah, I am glad to see them taking the steps in the right direction to get into the Big Sky Conference. It is a tremendous city, it has a fan base that loves athletics in general and obviously they have a president and athletic director, in my opinion, and a head coach that is allowing them to take the next step. It is just great to see. The same thing Utah wise, obviously those ties are there. It has kind of gone away over the years I guess. Knowing that you are going to continually play those guys, but it will always bring back memories more than anything with both schools when you sit back and talk about what was there. Kids seem to reach out to you that may not have reached out to you for years in the past. All of the sudden they see that you are playing Southern Utah or see that you are playing Utah and they will reach out to you, and it is always good to hear from those kids."
Talk about how good Southern Utah's special teams units are:
"Well, they are very disciplined within their scheme. It is not a scheme that is reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination. They have kids that do a nice job of getting on blocks, sustaining their block and understanding leverage. Where ever they get the ball kicked, they understand how to adjust their blocking schemes, and whatever the kicker is doing to get it to them. So they are going to get the best return regardless of where the ball may fall. Again, that is a sign of a well-coached football team that can get themselves into that position. They also have some good players and some good people returning. This year in the return game, the (Griff) McNabb kid is going to be somebody that we have to keep a long, hard eye out for. He returned punts last year in the PAC-12 and did a nice job. He is a tough-minded kid. I have known him forever, way back into the Idaho State days back when he was probably just barely born. I have known his dad for a long time and Kyle (Whittingham) and I are great friends with his father."
What about the change to the kickoff rules?
"Basically people are going to make a decision. Are you going to bang away and kick it away, take the five yards and try to put it out? That is a philosophy on the kickoff side of it. Or you can try to hang it up there in the air and drop it on the one or two yard line, because technically they have to get it out to the 25 yard line or better or you win, if its not a touchback. It is a dynamic and it is interesting. It is going to be interesting to see how its going to time up with the kickoff team now that they are not back there as far, they don't get such a running start. It will also be interesting to see where you just take the ball on the 25-yard line and be happy. If you catch the ball two or three yards deep in the end zone and the ball is up there for any amount of time, it is a very good return to get it out to the 25-yard line. It really is, a 28-yard return, three yards deep in the end zone is not the easiest thing to do. There is a whole bunch of work to get 28 yards and there is zero work to get 25 yards. There is a big part of you that says, take the knee and go. It depends on your team; it depends on the kids that are really returning and the people that you are playing against. If you think you have the opportunity to break a big one then you should go full steam and try to break one. We have some good players, so we will try to do some things there."
As a defensive coach that is like a five yard penalty:
"Yeah, its five yards, there is no question. If you feel like you have a cover team that is not very good, you might want to pound it away. If you have a kickoff cover team that you think is pretty talented and well-schooled, than you want to drop it on the one yard line, get it up in the air and take your chances to try and pin them on the 15, 18 or 20-yard line. You do gain a couple of yards or even more if you can do better than that. We are going to go for it on both sides initially and see what we can do, we will see what our returners can do, we will see how well we kick the ball off and see where it sits. It will be an interesting dynamic, it really will be."
Do your guys have permission to use their own judgment on kickoff returns?
"No, they have parameters. It really depends. If it is really much more than about three yards we will probably sit on that thing, but it just depends. It depends on how the ball is kicked, how long we feel like it is up in the air, and then on top of all of that, you give them to many things to think about and the ball bounces off their chest because they are thinking about how high it was. There are some different situations to it, but we want to try and be aggressive. It is hard to say how aggressive you are going to be when you haven't lived it yet and none of us have. So, we will see how it goes. It will be a little bit of a different dynamic. You watch the NFL right now and in the NFL it only comes out to the 20-yard line but they never return kicks."
How do you describe Utah State's offense?
"Initially, we definitely want to be able to run the football with some physicality. We want to be balanced in the run and in the throw, we want to do everything we can to establish our physicality. I think that with our three returning offensive linemen we want to be able to do that. That goes in the hands of the backs now and we will see where we go. One piece to that, with Tarren Lloyd being gone, he was kind of the silent guy last year that did nothing but block great and we will see how our tight ends can handle that. DJ (Tialavea) is obviously out for this game and hopefully we can get him back for the next one. How well those tight ends can handle the run game will also let us know how good we can be in the run and we will see what the running backs can do. Are we going to stay healthy at the running back position? Is there two of them? Is there three of them? Joe Hill is an unproven player at this point obviously, but he has done well in spring and he has done well in camp, but he hasn't consistently been in Division one football game, so we will see how it goes. We want to be balanced, but we want to throw the ball down the field more. We want to take some more shots than we did a year ago because of the players that we have. We want to highlight our athletes and give them an opportunity to make plays."
Is Nick Diaz still going to be your starting kicker?
"No. Brock Warren will kick the first ball, so we will see what happens. Kickoffs are going to be Brock (Warren) or (Jacob) Haueter. It depends on where exactly that goes and we will watch that close through the week as we move forward. Either one of those kids can go out there and kick it off. There is a real interesting battle going on at the punter position. Tyler (Bennett) will be the punter when we walk out there the first time, but Jaron Bentrude has done a nice job. Credit to that kid for finding a way to do something very important for this team as a holder and he is a backup punter, he can kick off, he has become a very valuable part of this football team over the last year. So we have some interesting things going on there and Josh Thompson will be the back-up right now at the field goal kickers position. So we will see."
So Brock Warren is as big of a surprise as anybody right now?
"Yes, he has done a nice job. I think he started very strong, he hit a little bit of a wall the second week of camp, but then after our last scrimmage he really solidified himself and has done a nice job. I think that he has got himself slowed down. Kickers are a little bit of a different breed, which we always talk about and we try to let them be there own and take care of business. It has been a great situation for all of us and it has been a great competition all the way through camp. Hopefully it carries over to some field goals."
The Southern Utah coach says that the best units on his team are in both of the lines, do you agree?
"Yeah, I would say that. They are physical, and they are big, tall kids. I know Ed (Lamb). I have talked to him for years, and I know that their philosophy when they first got there was to recruit to get some tall, long-levered kids, and then put some weight on them through the program. I think they are starting to feel that take affect. They have quality lines and they do a nice job. Overall, I would say that they play extremely hard as a group. Any part of their film, you are not going to throw it on and say 'that is a lazy team. That is a team that doesn't play hard. That is a team that doesn't care a lot.' If you score on them, they get down; you don't see any of that stuff. They compete hard all of the time regardless of the score. Again, that is the kind of program that he had at Utah. He is a tough-minded coach and he has tough-minded kids. They play hard all of the time. Their lines are quality lines."
On Tyler Larsen and his recruiting process:
"When I came up here, we were going through the recruiting process for the whole year at Utah with Tyler and there were a couple of kids on that line that year at Jordan High who were very, very good football players. We were always close, but as soon as I took this job he was somebody that we wanted to get in the program as soon as possible."
How would you compare the excitement in the valley this year with previous seasons?
"You know for us as a staff and a group of kids, it is awesome to see the excitement that is in the community and to see the excitement that is in the valley overall. It has definitely been boosted up and we are excited about it and I think that everyone is excited about it. Hopefully we can go out and play that way as we go forward. It is fun to see athletic events truly matter and it is great for our kids, its great for recruiting and I believe that it is great for the community. Hopefully the place is going crazy, which I am sure it will be on Thursday night."
It seems like you have had a lot more people at scrimmages and practice:
"A lot more. That is important for us and that is why I kept them open the whole time. I get a lot of phone calls from other coaches saying, 'what are you doing? Why are you leaving these scrimmages open?' If people are going to look at us and come in and write down the playbook off the second scrimmage of fall camp, than so be it. Congratulations, you are going to spend a lot of time practicing stuff that doesn't matter and is not going to show up. I want the fans there and our kids want the fans there, it is so worth it. I will be quick on this, but I read this note to the team the other day from a father who sent me an email. Matt Austin worked with the basketball camps this summer and Matt spent sometime with a kid that was at that camp and to make a long story short, Matt built a relationship with this kid and he was at the scrimmages. It effects Matt's life in a very positive way, that Matt can reach out and be involved in a little kids life. I am not going to say that it is a life-changing experience for the little kid, but it maybe for Matt Austin, because he knows he can reach out and he never knows when he is going to effect a young persons life. That matters and if we didn't have scrimmages open those relationships would never be built. So that may seem like a little trivial thing but it is not to me. It makes a big difference and it is fun for our kids to be in front of the fans as much as possible."
Do you see the turnovers that were created during camp translating into the season?
"You know, I couldn't really answer that with a yes or a no. I hope so, how about that? I hope that it translates in a positive way for us on the defensive side and not on the offensive side, that we have those turnovers. We have had some turnovers in camp and I think that the defense has made it a point of emphasis, which is great to see. Not that you don't always harp about not getting turnovers, I have never said that to a defense. We always talk to them about getting turnovers and flying to the football and tackling well and all of that stuff. They have done a nice job of getting turnovers and I think that a lot of times, and hopefully this holds true also, when you start to get turnovers it has a lot to do with the athleticism of your defense. So we will see how that holds up as we move forward. That is one of the biggest questions we have, getting the athleticism out there and how are we going to deal with the amount of youth that we have. I can't prove this, but we have got to be one of the youngest teams in the country when it comes to the amount of seniors and the number of young kids that we have. Those young kids have to play in a Division I football game at a high level. Our 17 seniors, now that we put Cameron (Webb) on scholarship, we have 17 seniors on scholarship, and those kids have to carry us because that normal number is 24 or 25, so that is a low number, which is good for the future."
How does it feel to have the first two games at home?
"It is great to have them at home, it is a great time of year. Looks like the weather is going to be great, the students are just back, I mean I couldn't really write a script that is better for the first game of the year for us. It is an in-state opponent and kids are obviously going to be excited. Then to have Utah coming up here, really regardless of the opponent, the ability for us to have two home games back-to-back to start the season is fantastic. It is where we like to be. If you tell us we can play at home or play on the road, we will obviously play at home every single time if we have that opportunity. It is great to be here to start this thing off, I think it is just a good way to start it for the fans as well and hopefully we can represent ourselves well."
Junior Center Tyler Larsen
Thoughts on fall camp:
"I think we had a very successful camp. Everyone was out there competing the entire time, doing a great job out there together and coming together as a team, just playing our hardest. Overall, it was a very successful camp. We're looking very positive for this season coming up. With Southern Utah, we're just ready to get up there and play our first game. We're ready to start the season and continue what we started last year."
On committing to Southern Utah first, then coming to Utah State:
"Utah State offered me, and it was the better opportunity for me. It was a little better of a situation and it's closer to home. Overall it was just the better choice for me."
On going against your brother in this week's game:
"It's going to be fun! It's going to be an incredible experience being out there and playing against each other. I'm looking forward to it. There might be some little jitters, but after the first play I'll remember that it's just another game, just like playing against any other guy. I'm going to be there trying to be quiet and playing my own game, and he'll be talking alongside me."
On growing up with Cody:
"We definitely grew up in a competitive environment against each other, but that got us to where we are now."
Comparing the offensive line today to the one a year ago:
"We are a lot more organized and really on the same page now. We have a better understanding of the offense. We have a better understanding on fronts we have coming up against us. We've brought our education into the meeting room. We're a lot more advanced, being able to see pressures and fronts and knowing how to go against those."
On playing with two different quarterbacks:
"Coach (TJ) Woods will get out a play for us and we just go out there and do it. There's not really anything different in the blocking schemes or anything between the quarterbacks."
On Southern Utah:
"Their defensive front is very active, very physical. It's going to be a nice, hard-fought battle throughout the entire game. They compete against everyone and are just as good as anyone that we've played. They're going to come out ready to play. Just talking to my brother, he says he's more than ready. They're confident in their scheme. We can't let that lower division talk get to us, because really it doesn't mean anything."
On wearing the same number as his brother:
"In high school he was number 59 and I was 58. When he went down to SUU, 59 wasn't available so he just chose the number closest to it. I've always liked 58, so it's just stuck with me."
On Southern Utah's line and having different personnel than this year:
"I've seen a couple of the guys play. I went down to their spring game, so I have a little bit of an advantage. Cody also came up for our spring game. I'm able to see what they have on the table right now since I was able to go watch them. They play just the same as the guys they had last year - high-motor and coming at you."
Thoughts on upcoming season:
"This season has a lot more excitement coming in, just because we had such a successful year last year. Just seeing what our team has the capabilities to do, we're really anxious to get this thing going. We're anxious to show people what we have on the table."
Senior safety McKade Brady
Thoughts on fall camp:
"Camp was a bit of a grind, but it was camp. I thought we did a good job of staying focused day-to-day. We had a couple guys merge as playmakers that we were counting on. Kyler Fackrell emerged and will help us out a lot. Southern Utah looks really good. Their quarterback is a great player who throws the ball well and with a quick release. He doesn't get in a lot of bad situations or with bad passes. The receivers are solid; their two guards on the offensive line are really good. The quick-pass game is something we're definitely going to have to stop. Getting rid of those second, third and short situations where the quarterback thrives and makes good decisions, to make him uncomfortable, that will be ideal. Our defensive line will have a big part in that."
On the emergence of Brian Suite:
"He's always been a good player. He's going into his third year after redshirting and then hurting his shoulder. He's been in the film room a lot. He knows what he's doing and has been here for a while. It was just kind of getting him healthy. Since he's been healthy he's been making plays and doing what he's been doing for the last two years. He's just finally able to show it."
On starting the season with two in-state home games:
"It's really big. A lot of the guys are guys we know from high school, so there's a lot of trash talking and rivalry going on. We grew up playing these kids from Little League even, so we know who we're playing. It also makes it more fun for the fans I think, being able to come out and see local guys play. It's a big start to our season. It's nice to be at home for the first two games. I think that will make it more comfortable transitioning into the season. Last year we went to Auburn and had a good start, but weren't able to finish the game. Being home is a little more comfortable. You're a little more relaxed out there."
On being a stronger secondary this year:
"I think we've got a lot of talent, a lot more experience back there. People know where they're supposed to be and are a lot more mature. We've been in the film room a lot more and are more comfortable with the scheme. We'll be able to make those plays when they come our way. We've had a big emphasis on turnovers this camp, and I think we've done a good job of creating them so far."
On Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen's biggest strengths:
"He does a great job of making the play happen when it looks like it's bottled up in the pocket. He has really good feet. He's not super fast or a big threat, but he's got great pocket strength and can step up when he needs to. He can find the open receiver. He makes good decisions and gets the ball out quickly. It's always hard to defend that."
On increased outside expectations this season:
"I think there's definitely a lot more expectations this year. When you start to turn over a program, new expectations will obviously come. Everyone in the locker room is excited. We're ready to show people what we've been working on."
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