Utah State football head coach Matt Wells, along with senior defensive end Connor Williams and junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, held a news conference Monday to open the 2013 season.
Aug 26, 2013
LOGAN, Utah -
Press Conference Video
Utah State football head coach Matt Wells, along with senior defensive end Connor Williams and junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, held a news conference Monday to open the 2013 season. A complete transcript of Wells, Williams and Keeton's remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
Thoughts on camp:
"It was a really good training camp. Especially from a health standpoint, we didn't have any season-ending injuries. I like where we're at from a team standpoint. I think we've got a good chemistry going, a good camaraderie. There are a lot of guys back, so that's something to be expected. It's time to quit playing and scrimmaging against our own guys and go play against someone else. We're looking forward to this week being game week. We've been in that mode for three or four days now."
Thoughts on Utah:
"They're an extremely talented team. I see a big improvement on offense. The guys that stand out to me are the skill kids in Dres (Anderson) and Kenneth (Scott). They're the playmakers. They're big receivers, Anthony (Denham) included. They have bodies to go up and make plays. They can highpoint balls. Dres is extremely electric and I love watching him play. I'm not going to love watching him Thursday, but it's fun to watch him from an offensive standpoint. I think Westlee (Tonga) and Jake (Murphy) are extremely talented tight ends. I've kind of got a thing for tight ends, especially being an old tight end coach at Tulsa and they way we used to throw to them. When you have tight ends as multiple as they are, you can displace personnel. With two tight ends at one time, you can get multiple formations and it's challenging from our defensive standpoint. As an offense guy, I'm sure coach (Dennis) Erickson is having fun with that. That to me makes them very multi-dimensional with those two guys. I know they've got big physical running backs, so stopping the run game will be a key to us.
"From the time I can remember going against Utah, the first thing you think about is their defense. From Kyle (Whittingham) and back to coach (Gary) Andersen, what those guys have done over the years. I have a lot of respect for them and they've continued that tradition with Kalani (Sitake). They're very multiple, they're very aggressive, they are very sound schematically on defense and always have been. From the first time I ever competed against them in 2006 when I was at Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl to the days of New Mexico and Louisville to now, they're always strong defensively and I don't see any of that changing. With all that being said, it will be a major challenge for us and is something we look forward to going into Thursday night."
On Travis Wilson:
"I think he's an athletic guy. I'm sure he has some confidence after some of the experiences and situations that he's been in. I'm sure he's improved quite a bit over the spring and summer. He's big, he's tall and he's physical. It's going to take a lot of D-linemen to get him down. I'm sure he's the catalyst for them."
On the Utah offense and how Dennis Erickson runs it:
"The word is paced and high-tempo. Of course that's something our defense sees quite a bit in practice. That, and very multiple. With his personnel groups, he's got a lot of choices of who to play with multiple running backs, multiple wideouts and those two really good tight ends. Those would be hard decisions for me. Which ones do you play? You try to play your best personnel group. Pace offense is something we're ready for and we're expecting. That's a difficult thing to do. Just last year it was me trying to talk Gary (Andersen) into doing it, and it comes with its advantages and challenges. The first three-and-out, coach Andersen sure wasn't happy. Forty seconds later that defense is going back out and lot of those defenders are playing special teams on punt or punt return and they have to flip around and play quite a bit. That's a challenge. It's going to be a great test. It's going to be a slug fight. It will go down to the wire."
On the personal dimension of this game:
"It is a personal game. It's an in-state rivalry, we've recruited quite a few of those kids and I know of lot of guys on the staff. I've known Kalani Sitake since our days at Tulsa and when he was at Southern Utah. We go way back. Anytime you coach with a guy, you have a special relationship. We know a lot of their staff. Kevin Clune has been down there on their staff and they have guys who have been on our staff before. And then there are the players. You've got cousins, you've got high school rivalries and you've got high school teammates. There are a lot of story lines going across both sides of the field. It all adds intrigue for the media, the fans, and the parents, but I promise you that once the ball's kicked you forget about all that stuff and it's game on."
On having a quarterback with so much experience:
"Speaking in terms of Chuckie (Keeton), I feel a little bit less nervous than I did walking into Auburn, Alabama. It's nice. This is his third season-opener to start. I think you'll get someone who's quietly confident, who won't be nerved up and who won't be rattled. He's done it on the road, in those big environments. He's been there and done it. This will just present another challenge for him to go down and do it in Rice-Eccles. It will be a great atmosphere."
On Trevor Reilly and his positioning:
"Trevor is a really good player. He can put his hand down and pass-rush, he can stand up and pass-rush, and he can drop into coverage. He reminds me a lot of Kyler (Fackrell). Those two guys are really good players and you've got to account for them on every play."
On the emotions of a season-opener as being a head coach:
"I haven't had time to think about it much. I'm sure it will hit me at some point on game day. Like I tell the players, if you prepare the right way and train the right way, you're going to have butterflies of anxiousness, but nervousness. Nervous butterflies come out when you're not prepared and you haven't trained right. As long as you've prepared and trained right, you'll be ready for the game and you'll be able to react to all situations. It will all be ok."
On if there were any surprises on the two-deep depth chart:
"No, not really. It stayed about the same. Bill Vavau has probably jumped in. He's got a chance to be one of the next linemen in if we need him. He can play every spot. He's done a nice job."
On the communication of the staff:
"We've worked on that quite a bit. It's been smooth. We worked on some things this spring and then in training camp with extra practices in the stadium and up in the press box. That's an element that we have to be really sharp on as a staff. We have to communicate, press box to sideline, back up to the press box and then even on the sideline from coach to player and player to coach. We do a great job of communicating, but that will be an ongoing process. We'll always improve that as the year goes on, but we have to start in mid-season form."
On the kicker and punt/kick return positions:
"Nick Diaz will take the first kick and be the starting kicker. Jaron Bentrude will be the starting punter. We're still deciding on the starting kickoff guy right now. Nick will be the field goal kicker. Tay Glover-Wright will be back there returning kicks. We've got a bunch of guys back there, Travis Reynolds and Nevin Lawson. Punt returner will be Bruce (Natson) along with Travis Van Leeuwen and Joey DeMartino.
"The competition has been good. They've all kicked well. Josh Thompson has come in and kicked well, Jake Thompson has come in and kicked really well. I like our kickers, I like where they're at mentally. They've got strong legs and they're confident. I think it's been a really good competition and it's sharpened them up. Iron sharpens iron, as the Bible says. I think all competition is good, especially at kicker. You get a direct result after a kick. It's either good or bad, you make it or you don't. You get immediate feedback which is a little different than other positions."
On Nick Diaz's change in confidence:
"It's astronomical. You look at where he came from just in the last 12 months. You look at him coming out of training camp to getting thrown in there mid-season and having a really good season at the end of the year. I'm really proud of Nick. Josh is the same way. He bounced back really well and I'm proud of him in the way he's trained and carried himself, and been a great teammate. I'm proud of both those guys."
On the running backs' roles:
"They've all got three different roles. I think you'll see all three of them at times."
Senior Defensive End Connor Williams
Thoughts on fall camp:
"Camp went really well this year. I was expecting things to change up a little bit as we've had a lot of coaches and staff changes, but it was a real smooth transition. I feel like we're even better on the defensive side of the ball this year. We've got a lot more experience coming back, a lot of solid players and a lot of new guys who were redshirted last year. So, I'm excited for this Thursday."
Being that it is an in-state game, how much more excited are you for games like this?
"Rivalry games definitely have a little of extra magic to them. They're a lot of fun, really, really cool. It's definitely great, and I'm really excited to do it. Last year, it was a bit of a slow start with SUU and stuff like that, but this year we're right to it and couldn't be happier to get it going."
Are Utah's players as big this year in the offensive line as they were a year ago?
"They're a lot bigger in the front this year. I think they only have one or two of the starting guys last year starting this year, the center being one of them and the left guard being the other one. The other guys are new or they didn't start playing until after we played them. They're a lot bigger but it's going to be a good game."
What are some of the challenges as far as moving those guys and getting them where you want them to go?
"They're big bodies, but we've got some pretty big guys on our D-Line with guys like A.J. (Pataiali'i) and stuff like that. I'd say creating a lot of movement for them, because if you are 350 pounds I don't think you can move them that well, but I could be wrong, we'll see."
They're quarterback's pretty big too. Talk about him:
"He's a big, tall player. He played a little against us last year. He was able to come in for them in the later part of the season and do some good things and I've heard he's improved. We'll see on Thursday."
Your uncle (Brian Wise) went to Utah and one of your first college games was a Utah game so what does this game mean personally for you?
"It's special. I grew up watching Utah and, actually, my uncle will be down for this game."
Who's he going to be rooting for?
"He'll be in blue. His teammates will be giving him a hard time, but he'll be in blue. I think after I leave, though, he'll go back to red. It's definitely special, it's a one-of-a-kind experience and I'm just trying to make the most of it."
A lot of people are talking about the Utah running backs and the situation there. Are you guys game-planning for Kelvin York or are you looking at all of them?
"We're looking at all of them, but I heard he's the starter, so yeah we're game-planning for him. We're just going to do what we do."
What was the difference between Utah State's defense two years ago as compared to last year?
"Last year, we had a lot of guys who had played the year before and were new that year, so last year people started to get their feet underneath them and started to get going. Coach (Dave) Aranda and the defensive staff did a lot of good things to put us in a lot of great positions to make good plays and win. Coach Andersen always said `players make plays, players win games.'"
Do you think the mindset of just how you played was different?
"Yeah, when I first got here and coach Andersen first took over the program the mindset was `please lets win this week' and even when people did win it was a bit of a surprise. Now we expect to win and go out there and dominate and do what we do."
Beating Utah last year, do you feel like you have to repeat the feat? That maybe people see it as a fluke or something like that?
"I've heard people say it was a fluke and stuff like that but we're not worried about that. All we're concerned about is preparing, going out there and getting the W. We're not worried about what people think and what their feelings are. It doesn't matter."
With the people you've lost and now what you've got, as you said at the top, your feeling is still that this can be a better defense even than last year?
"For sure. We lost a lot of great players, Al (Lapuaho), Bojay (Filmoeatu) and Will Davis, but we bring back a lot of great players and a lot of players who did some great things last year, and they're going to be even better this year. So, yeah we lost a lot of really great players and coaches and stuff but I feel like we're going to be in a better position this year to succeed."
Junior Quarterback Chuckie Keeton
Thoughts on fall camp:
"First of all, camp was great. It was definitely a time for us to build and see which kids are going to step up this year. We are definitely excited about this upcoming season just based off of how we performed in camp. Compared to last year, it's definitely a step up and we're very excited for this upcoming game on Thursday, and very excited to play against this Utah defense. They definitely have some guys coming back on defense that are going to make some plays, but we do as well. It's going to be a great matchup and hopefully we can come out with the win."
How was camp different this year with the new coaches?
"The new coordinators and the new faces as far as the coaching staff were different. We've had a spring with them so they kind of understand how we are, our personalities, our play style, and on top of that we still have coach Wells who has been carrying down what we've been doing the past two years. That's a big first step. Another thing is that everybody was buying into the attitude and the effort that was needed for the entire camp. This was actually one of the tougher camps we've had, toughest one since I've been here, but everyone decided to buy into the program and take care of their bodies, get to bed a little earlier than they did in the past. At the end of the day it produced results. Scrimmages were a lot better than they were in the past and a lot of guys stepped up. I think we developed a little bit more depth than we had originally."
Looking at this Utah defense, Trevor Riley probably highlights it. Talk about him and going up against the likes of him.
"First of all, he definitely has the size. He's a big kid and he's very athletic for his size as well. He's going to be the anchor for that defense and you can definitely see it not only in his experience but in the way he plays. On and off the field you can just kind of tell he carries himself as the captain of that defense. We're not solely basing it off him, just because I know they have a lot of other players on that team that are great defensively. It's going to be a fun one. I think it's going to be a battle and we just have to play our game and play all four quarters to come out with the win."
The game against Utah last year was one of the tougher games to move the ball wasn't it?
"Yeah, definitely. That's one thing about every season, the second game is always the hardest one. The first one, nobody knows what to expect, but everyone makes the most amount of adjustments going into the second game, so I think that was part of the reason why it was so tough for us to move the football. Having to play them the first game this year is not only good for our morale and our momentum, but it's definitely going to give us a lot of pride and I think it's going to carry us a little going into these next four games."
What do you expect Joe Hill to do this year?
"I'm expecting big things out of him this year. He's one of those kids who is quiet and reserved off the field, but as soon as he gets on he's a character and he's one of those guys who explodes onto the scene. He's definitely going to take off on some guys this year and it's going to be fun to stand back there and hand it off or hopefully throw it to him and watch him run for a touchdown."
What are you seeing out of your receivers?
"I'm seeing a lot of guys who are trying to step up. They've definitely been working hard this entire summer and this entire fall camp. The timing between myself and them has gotten very good and it's pretty precise, which is a big thing, especially when you're going up against a team that is going to play man like we expect Utah to do. Once again, timing is an incredible piece to an offense, especially to ones that are trying to throw the football and they're definitely going to show up this year."
Do you think about past games on the road when getting ready for this game at Utah?
"I really try not to think about the past too much, but it's definitely going to be a little bit hostile. I know that for a fact because we came out with the win last year, but it's still a normal game. No matter where you're going there is always going to be a hostile crowd. Some are just a little bit more hostile than others. That's kind of what I'm expecting out of this game. We're prepared for it and it's college football, you can't really expect anything normal, but one of the normal things is to have a crazy crowd when you're playing away."
I know it's not a conference game but what do you see as the stakes of this game? What do you stand to gain from winning?
"This game is going to be kind of a tone-setter for the rest of our season. I know it's only the first game, but every single game has it's own weight, so this one is a huge one. First of all, it's an in-state rival and then on top of that, the first game gives you momentum at least into the second game and the second game goes into the third one, so I think it's going to be big for our motivation and our morale for the rest of the year."
What did you do from last season to now that you're better at?
"Really just running the offense and not trying to do anything too special, because this offense allows you to do it on it's own as long as you stay within the system. That's something I kind of got away from last year and that's why I had some of the mistakes that I did, as far as throwing picks. I take that wholeheartedly on myself. I think this past camp has definitely helped me as far as staying true to the playbook and allowing the playmakers to make more plays than I have to myself. Whenever the moment presents itself, I'll have the opportunity and I'll take the opportunity to make a play, but the offense provides its own way of allowing special players to make special plays and I'm good being a part of that."
I think you said something somewhere that one of the things that's been worked on tweaking things is tightening your delivery or your throwing motion. Can you explain that?
"Toward the end of last year and going into spring my throwing motion got a little bit long. My arm was dipping a lot and stuff like that. I kind of had a (Tim) Tebow release when he first got into the league and that's not really what I wanted to have. There are a lot of problems that didn't happen that could have happened. One play was last year against Utah, actually, they got a forced fumble and that was due in part to my long delivery. It's been a focus point to tighten it up a little bit and hopefully get the ball out faster. Once again, it's going to help out with the receivers and ultimately to help beat defenses. Pretty much, it was more of like a baseball delivery instead of a football throw, and it's not really something you want to have, especially in this game where you have big D-lineman and D-ends and outside linebackers coming to hunt your head."
How has it been working with offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven?
"It's been a great relationship so far, I definitely look forward to building it a little bit more. He's kept me within our system, that's first of all, and on top of that he's allowed me to learn a lot more about our system. Coach McGiven knows where I'm at now as far as our offense and knowing our basic things and now he's teaching me a little bit more about blocking schemes and defensive fronts, which is a little bit tougher to do. He's also given me some tips as far as how to see some blitzes against our defense, which is tough at times, because they throw out whatever they want to and we just have to react."