LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State head football coach Matt Wells, along with senior quarterback Kent Myers and senior boundary safety Dallin Leavitt, held a press conference Monday to recap fall camp and preview the Aggies' season-opener at Wisconsin on Friday night. A complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
On previewing Wisconsin:
"It's game week and everybody is always excited about that. It's like I told the staff this morning, `The time for good ideas is over.' It's time to move on and get ready to prepare. It's always exciting because you get closer to the game and you're ready to start playing somebody else, and that somebody else is really good, so it gets your attention and it has since January.
"Wisconsin is really good. The success of that program over the last several head coaches is evident. They plug a lot of guys in, they keep on playing and they play at a high level. They have got all-Big Ten offensive linemen and you know that before you even look at the depth chart and there are two of them coming back, who are really good players. They have a great tight end and the fullback, maybe, makes the whole thing go for them. He's a really good player. Alex Hornibrook, the quarterback, is very accurate and runs the offense very well. I think he's an extension of head coach Paul Chryst and their offensive coordinator, Joe Rudolph, and is very well-versed.
"You've seen them on defense and we might be a little bit more familiar with them defensively just because of the scheme when Dave Aranda went there with Gary (Andersen). They have tough, hard-nosed guys up front, and run multiple schemes. Their defensive linemen are big and strong, and the linebackers have length. They are very sound in their schemes and have a lot of guys back off of a defense that was top-15 nationally last year in almost every defensive category.
"Camp Randall Stadium is a tremendous atmosphere, so it will be a major test for our guys and one that we're looking forward to."
On how similar Wisconsin's defense is now compared to when Dave Aranda was there:
"There are a lot more similarities than there are differences, just in terms of the scheme on defense. It looks like maybe they've simplified it a little bit, and Dave has simplified, too, over the years. The base and structure of it, there are a lot of similarities."
On if he would rather play an FCS opponent first, then go on the road to a big-name opponent, or vice versa:
"My rathers ended a long time ago. The schedules are set long in advance. Gary (Andersen) and Scott (Barnes) scheduled this game a long time ago, so it was already set. You play it as it lies. It's going to be a tremendous challenge right out of the gate, and whether it's game one or game two, it doesn't matter when you're playing Wisconsin."
On what teams he has played since he's been the head coach that maybe have a comparable level of physicality to a Wisconsin:
"Southern Cal in 2013, last year's Southern Cal team, the 2013 and 2015 Utah teams, were all very physical."
On what he is looking for early in the game that will tell him they can stick with Wisconsin:
"The biggest thing is Wisconsin will make a mistake at some point and will Utah State be able to capitalize on it quickly? I can't predict the situation, but are we going to be able to capitalize on a mistake by them if they make one early? If we do, then it will be a good sign."
On how the game will play out in the trenches:
"Our scheme on offense and defense is different than maybe what they've seen a lot, and it's different than a lot of the Big Ten. They are a very physical bunch on both the offensive and defensive lines - the front seven on both sides of the ball. We're going to have to match that and we're going to have to be very physical and play with relentless pursuit on defense and put hats to the ball. There is no question about that and at some point, you have got to stop the run, which is the first thing we better do on defense."
On if he's had more shakeups during camp personnel-wise than he thought he'd have:
"I really didn't have any pre-conceived ideas that there would be a certain amount of shakeups. We had competition at every spot and we tried to make it as competitive as we could. You do that, first of all, by signing a good class and I haven't hidden that. I think this is a talented recruiting class with junior college kids, transfers and high school kids. It's been the most competitive camp, I think, since we've been here. You see a lot of new names and the veterans who retained their starting spots or their roles, earned it, and they had to earn it. It was a very competitive camp and that was evident at the end of last year, that we needed to go out and upgrade our roster and our locker room, and we absolutely did that."
On if Mohelika Uasike will play more at defensive end than nose guard:
"He's dual trained. Mo will play nose guard and defensive end."
On the rotation at linebacker:
"Those 2's will play at some point, but what exactly that rotation is, I'm not going to say. We've got enough new guys that we need to see them play under the lights and these first few weeks of the season, you'll see multiple linebackers in the game both inside and outside. Suli (Tamaivena) and Chase (Christiansen) will take the first reps; they'll be the starters and they'll play more, but early in the year, we need to see the newcomers play."
On the coverage units on special teams:
"It's what every head coach and what every special teams coordinator worries about in week one, is coverage units - kickoff coverage and punt coverage units. You practice it as best you can in as many live situations as you can, but until you get on game day and the speed of the game, I think that worries every head coach in the country going into game one.
"You referenced the punt return for a touchdown by Wisconsin in 2012. That wasn't on the punter, it was on the coverage unit. I believe Aaron will have a really good year and I have all the faith in the world in Aaron Dalton, but we've got to cover punts, we've got to cover kickoffs and we've got to play with relentless effort and pursuit.
"When coaches flip on tape on Sundays, when they look at upcoming opponents, the way you cover kicks and the way you penetrate on field goal block and extra point block, those are the two things that tell a culture of a program. That tells a lot to coaches about how they're coached, how that team is and what that team is like. That is a big priority for us."
On the Wisconsin wide receivers:
"Their wideouts are talented. (Jazz) Peavy is really athletic and he also doubles as a punt returner. Their tight end, (Troy Fumagalli), is a really good player, and I think he'll be up for some national awards at the end of the year. But, those guys can really stretch a defense. You get lulled to sleep in the run game and then there goes play-action with the tight end right down the seam, or a shot over the top to Peavy. You have to be worried about those weapons. They are good at the skill positions."
On how accurate Kent needs to be with his passes:
"You have to be pin-point with your accuracy, but the timing with your receivers, the protection from the offensive line, the anticipation by Kent - throwing to guys before they're open and as they are breaking open - has to be spot on. They were ball hawks in the secondary last year and had a lot of takeaways." On what the saying, `The time for good ideas is over,' means: "We're four days away from playing. We've been looking at them all spring and all summer, and even in the last eight days."
Senior Quarterback Kent Myers
On recapping fall camp and previewing the Wisconsin game:
"This camp, offensively, I think we did an amazing job with all of our goals. We had a lot of explosive plays, and the new guys really having that role and coming in. (Ron'quavion) Tarver, Jaren Colston-Green and Dax (Raymond) are all back. We had Jordan Nathan really step up and do an amazing job this camp. Our goal is to score a lot of points and be the fastest team on offense.
"Looking at Wisconsin, they have some big guys up front, and with our tempo, I think we'll have the advantage with that. Other than that, playing man on the outside and taking a lot of shots on them, our guys are going to have to make amazing catches, and I'm going to have to make some tight throws, but that's what we like to do, and that's what we're going to do."
On the feeling of fall camp being different than last year:
"I feel like there is more excitement in camp from all the other camps that I've been to here in my four years. This has been the most exciting. That juice that coach (David) Yost brings, that energy that he has, everybody is really excited to go out there and play. We get tired of playing the defense week in and week out. They're starting to know some of our plays, so we're excited to go against Wisconsin, a team that doesn't know our plays and see what we can do with this new offense."\
On the balance the offense will have as it plays faster:
"With the pace, having the team we have now, throwing screens and things like that, the defensive line is going back and forth, so they don't have that penetration on us. That is the biggest thing. But other than that, trying to line up and get them where they're not supposed to be. They're everywhere trying to get the signal, but we prepared like this for four or five months now, so we're used to it. It's not really making the play go faster, but lining up and seeing what they're giving us so we can run the right play."
On how important it is to take care of the ball against a team like Wisconsin:
"You have to be stingy with the ball. You have to take what they give you. With me, I have to put our offense in the best situation. I think I have more control in this offense. When I see a play that's in, and I don't like it, I can check out of it. I think that's really going to help us with the turnover ratio. For us not to have a lot of turnovers, we just need to take what the defense is giving us and put us in the best situation."
On the new center, Quin Ficklin:
"He brings a lot of energy. If you're out there on the football field, he's the one that's yelling. He's a rah-rah guy, which is contagious. People see that and they feed off it, and I think that's a good thing. Austin Stephens, he was a leader. He started for a couple years, but what I think Quin brings to the table, like I said, he's more vocal. He's getting the guys ready. The guys like that. He came from BYU, so I know he played fullback and back-up center or something like that, but he does have some experience. As soon as he came in, he was determined to get that starting spot. Our relationship with that is, he came in, and he wants to win a Mountain West championship, and I do, too. We clicked after that. We get extra snaps after practice so we're perfect."
On how many substitutions he thinks the offense will do, as Wisconsin is known for wearing teams down:
"That's a good question. I haven't heard of them doing anything like that, but we have backups that have been doing a phenomenal job, too, so we have depth at our positions. We have to be the more physical team. We know they're going to put six or seven people in the box. We know they're going to put a lot of pressure on us, but we're going to have to be able to hold our ground for two or three hours. Other than that, going out there, we're going to be the best-conditioned team because we've been training in this heat day in and day out and running in the offseason with coach Dave (Scholz). Hopefully, we're the more physical team so we don't have to substitute."
On how much of the running game includes him:
"I don't think it's designed for me to run, as in I'm going out there and it's like a sweep or something like that. But, I have my read keys, so if a guy does something and they don't pay attention to me, I'm able to pull it and have a lot of yards on my feet. That's the biggest thing I'm going to have to do this year, too, not only throwing the ball and having the running backs do that, I have to make a lot of plays with my feet. A lot of teams do drop back in coverage, and I think we're more successful when I'm able to use my feet, as well."
On the depth of the wide receiver corps:
"Like I said, (Ron'quavion) Tarver was our guy last year, and we had Rayshad (Lewis). This year, like I said, we have Tarver, Jordan Nathan has really stepped up, Jaren Colston-Green, Dax (Raymond) is back, Damion (Hobbs) has done an amazing job at tight end this camp, and I could keep going. I don't think people realize how much depth we have. With coach Yost's offense, it's an easy offense to pick up for all the new guys and freshmen that have an opportunity to play, so we should be able to move fast."
On beginning and ending his career at the same time as LaJuan Hunt:
"We actually mentioned that the other day. He was like, `We came in together, we started together and we're going to finish it out together.' That means a lot. We've been waiting for this opportunity. We wanted to win a Mountain West championship, so this is the year to go out there for our senior year and go out with a bang."
On whether the main point of the offense is to keep the defense off-balance:
"Just with the pace we run, it's an advantage for us. But also, like I said, we're going to call a play and try to see what is best for us. Coach Yost tries to say he's making the best guess as to what they're going to run, but also, it's on me to put us in the best situation. So, if I see something that I don't like that he doesn't see up there, I'm able to change it. I think, like I said, that's in our advantage, too."
On how the offense won't allow the defenses to substitute very often:
"That's the same thing, too. They're not going to be able to sub people out because we're not subbing people out that much. So, they're going to have to stay in, they're going to be tired and that's where I think we have the advantage and we keep pushing and pushing and pushing. Then, our defense is going to stop them, and we're going to come out and keep doing the same thing."
Senior Boundary Safety Dallin Leavitt
On the defense during fall camp:
"We were consistent throughout the majority of camp. Obviously, there are ebbs and flows, and people get dinged up and people needed to step up, but as a whole, we did a really good job causing turnovers and making plays on the ball when it was in the air. One thing we have emphasized has been attempts at the ball, stripping at the ball and eventually it's going to come out. Our goal was to have 30 a day and we did a really good job of that, for the most part, and it'll show up come game time."
On Wisconsin's offense:
"They are exactly who we think they are and who we know they are. Obviously, they haven't played a game this year, but just based off film last year, based off who Wisconsin is, they're going to run the ball, they're going to get behind fullbacks, they're going to run pulling guards and tackles, they're going to try and big boy you up and down the field, then around the logo they're going to take shots. So, it's something our defense is ready for and it's going to be a great opportunity for us to show what we've been working on and show exactly who we are."
On if he feels a sense of urgency from players after coming off a 3-9 season:
"Yeah, I do. I feel like people really did have a different idea about what we wanted. We didn't want to do the same thing twice, we didn't want to have another poor year, we want to get back into a bowl game and we want to get to a Mountain West championship. I do feel like that there was that urgency, that leadership. There were guys who did a good job stepping up and helped lead our team during fall camp."
On senior Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli:
"He's a good player. It'll be a good opportunity for our guys to see a guy that is going to be maybe the best tight end that we cover all year. He's very similar to Dax Raymond, so it's been a great opportunity for myself and the other safeties, specifically, to be covering Dax all camp and to be seeing that size and athleticism."
On how the defense will know it is on the right track against Wisconsin:
"Stopping the run. If we can get three-and-outs stopping the run and cause turnovers early, that will be a sure sign that we're doing exactly what we need to do. They're a team where they run the ball a ton, and if we can force them to pass it, that's in our favor. If we are able to stop the run, get the ball out and can get a lead early, that's what will, obviously, be best for us."
On how deep the Aggie secondary is:
"Very. We have five or six guys who can play at corner that coach (Julius Brown) wouldn't be afraid or hesitate to put in the game, and it's the same thing at safety. We have a lot of guys that can play the dime in the nickel spot and guys who can cover and do a lot of different things. We have a very versatile back end and it will be a really good year for us to be able to show that."
On who might be a surprise player:
"Aaron Wade is somebody who hasn't played much in the past and is going to have a really big role this year and a really big role for us, and he did a lot of really great things in camp. He's been a different guy on the field and in the film room. He's really ready to play and it will be a great showing for him. Then you have the same guys as last year, Gaje Ferguson and Jontrell Rocquemore, that are great players and they'll make a huge impact for us, as well."
On Aaron Wade being around the ball more:
"Yeah, he's been making plays at the ball in the air and that's exactly what we need him to be doing and he's done a great job of that."
On if there is a greater emphasis on plays on the ball than last year:
"Much more. I can't remember exactly where we graded out in terms of turnover ratio, but I know we were in the negatives last year and you won't win many games like that. The offense has done a great job of taking care of the ball and securing it, but we've also done a great job of taking it away. In the scrimmages, we haven't had as many turnovers as we'd like, so kudos to the offense for doing a great job there, but in practice we've done a really good job of creating habits and teaching us to make those type of plays and to force those turnovers."
On if he's been to Wisconsin before:
"Yeah, actually, my true freshman year when I was at the school down south, we went there. It's a cool opportunity. Camp Randall is an awesome stadium, but it's 100 yards of turf that we get to be playing on."
On Wisconsin students:
"They do have some fun. They're pretty wild out there, so that'll be fun to see."
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