Transcript: Utah State Football Press Conference
Matt Wells
Nov. 13, 2017

LOGAN, Utah - Utah State head football coach Matt Wells, along with senior wide receiver Braelon Roberts and junior safety Gaje Ferguson, held a press conference Monday to recap the Aggies’ bye week and preview their upcoming Mountain West home game against Hawai’i. A complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.

Head Coach Matt Wells
Opening statement:
“As I look at this week, coming off the bye week, I’ve thought before I’m not sure what bye weeks late in the year give you, but I know this: we are re-energized, and we have a little bit of a hop in our step. Late in the year, a lot of teams get tired, and a lot of teams can start going through the motions, or they can get re-energized and re-focused. I’m hopeful that’s what the bye week did for us last week. It’s a similar plan to what we’ve done in years past for the bye week in terms of practice, rest, getting some of the youthful guys some reps and getting a head start on your next opponent. We tweaked it just a little bit because it was week 11. It seems like we had a really good lift this morning, so it seems like the guys have used it in the right way. Now, the key is how we practice this week.

“Coming off the bye week, going into Hawai’i this week, this is certainly, really no different than the New Mexico game for our outlook. Our back is against the wall, and I think our players know that. We control our own destiny in this deal. This week against Hawai’i is really a couple things. Number one, we’re looking for our first Mountain West win at home. Second of all, we’re looking to send the seniors out with a win, play great and win a Mountain West game at home in front of our fans, but send these seniors out as winners at Maverik Stadium for the last time in their careers. That certainly is plenty of motivation for us this week. This is a Hawai’i team on offense that can give you fits if you don’t fit up the run very well. Their running back can get downhill in a hurry. He’s over 1,000 yards and is a very good running back. (Quarterback Dru) Brown is accurate. They’ll throw it. They’re averaging over 250 yards per game throwing the ball, and he’s been good. They have some good receivers, (Dylan) Collie, (Ammon) Barker, those guys are good wide outs. Certainly, our defense, coming off the New Mexico game to this Hawai’i game it's absolutely different, schematically. It’s about as different as you can be from playing the option to going to a team that’s really going to throw it quite a bit, but they’ve done a good job running the ball out of the one-back. The kid is really strong and a downhill runner. He runs through tackles, you don’t see the first guy bring him down very often. With that, it’ll be a big test for our defense, a major test for our defense to be able to flip gears, change gears and go to this type of offense.”

On Hawai’i’s running back Diocemy Saint Juste:
“He runs big. He’s a big back, he runs big and he runs behind his pads. He runs close to the ground. He has a low center of gravity. He runs like a big back.”

On how Hawai’i’s Jahlani Tavai compares to New Mexico’s Kyle Rothschiller in playing style and as a defensive playmaker:
“They’re completely different players. That kid was more of a safety coming down playing closer to the box. They’re two different types of players. This guy is very active. They move him around. They’ve gone to moving their linebackers around quite a bit. They play out of an odd front, playing four linebackers and they’re all over the place. Some snaps it looks like old-school Arizona Desert Storm defense, flex defense, with the way they lineup some guys. That kid’s very active. He’s all over the place.”

On if the offensive numbers suggest Hawai’i should have scored more points than they have:
“They’ve moved the ball quite a bit. They’ve done it by running the ball and throwing the ball. They’ve put up good numbers on both of those. I can’t tell you why their points per game is not higher.”

On if Hawai’i’s offense is more explosive or methodical:
“When you see them move the ball, you see explosives. You see runs that burst through for explosive runs, and they’re moving the chains. In terms of the passing game, you don’t see a whole lot go over the top. I think with what coach (Nick) Rolovich is doing on offense, it’s a controlled passing game. But Brown does a nice job. He sits in there and he’ll take hits. I’ve been impressed just watching him real briefly.”

On anything specific he worked on with Jordan Love during the bye week:
“He had a couple things I know coach Yost identified. Quarterbacks are not guys that we take out of practice or rest during practice during bye weeks. We’ve never done that for those guys to be able to get a little more individual work. There’s some technique stuff I know he was working on a little bit, and then trying to get ahead on Hawai’i.”

On being 13-3 the last few years with a freshman quarterback:
“That bodes well for Henry Colombi next year.”

On if he’s satisfied through 10 games with what they’ve done offensively:
“I hate when you all say ‘satisfied.’ Have you all ever seen a coach satisfied? I like where we’re at. I’m not satisfied, no coach is ever satisfied. But I like the direction we’re going on offense. I like what David (Yost) is doing with the offense. There’s been times where we haven’t been very successful, and we haven’t played as well as I've wanted us to play, or him for that matter. With where we’re at, LaJuan Hunt’s had a couple good games here lately, but we haven’t had crazy-good production out of the running back spot. We have a rebuilt offensive line that I think has played pretty well as the year has gone on. We’ve protected the quarterback pretty good. Outside of (Ron’quavion) Tarver and Dax (Raymond), Braelon (Roberts) has played well, (Zach) Van Leeuwen has played well, (Jordan) Nathan played well early on, (Aaren) Vaughns has played pretty good lately, but really besides Tarver and Dax, nobody has really been a breakout performer on the perimeter. It’s been good. I think the move to hire David has been excellent, and what we’re doing on offense, I’m all-in. We’re all-in. We want to play good, obviously, down the stretch here in these last two weeks. But no one is satisfied with where we’re at. You always wish the production, the numbers are always higher.”

On how it looks like the late bye week ended up working well with the current situation of the season:
“It really has. I’ve talked to our players about that in a team meeting today, and we talked about it late last week. I would have, preseason and even early in the year, hoped that the bye week was a little more mid-October. It happens to be right now. But, like I said in my opening statement, teams at this time of year get tired. They get tired, they get drained, teams get banged up. What are some teams playing for? Pride? Well, guess what, we all play for pride. Every one of us plays for pride. Everyone the last game of the year at home is going to play to send their seniors out as winners. But what is real and what is not real? But we have a real motivation these last two weeks. I think what the bye week has done for us is help to re-emphasize that. It’s also got us healthier. We’re going to have a lot of guys back. We’re about as healthy this year as we’ve been since I’ve been the head coach. Very few season-ending injuries. Really, only one, Ian (Togiai), that we’ve lost for an extended amount of time. He’s getting closer to getting back, so we’ll see on that here this week. I think we are re-energized. We re-focused. You watch the Mountain West this weekend and see what happens. Then you look at where you’re at and you say, ‘You know what? Dang, we can really control our own destiny in terms of what happens in December.’ Our guys know their backs are against the wall. We’ve performed well when we’ve had that challenge so far this year. We’re going to have to go out and do it this week. All we’re worried about is being 1-0 and beating Hawai’i, finding a way to beat Hawai’i here at home and send these guys out as winners and win a Mountain West game in front of our home fans. That’s all we’re worried about this week.”

On if he feels the Aggies have a special teams edge heading into this week:
“When I think in terms of special teams and what we’ve done, I think we’ve done a nice job in special teams this year. I think we have created an edge for our team in special teams with how we’ve covered kicks, how we’ve covered punts. We’ve been pretty consistent. That’s another area that gets overlooked with the health of your football team. I just got out of a staff meeting going over the special teams depth chart. Usually at this time of the year, it’s who’s healthy. It’s, ‘well, this guy can back up four spots or three spots.’ We have legit back-ups. We have more depth because of health and recruiting than we’ve ever had at this time of the year, which gives us a chance to be different in special teams late in the year.”

On if he did any recruiting during the bye week:
“Quite frankly, the bye week late in the year hurts us in recruiting a little bit. I would have rather had it earlier because in recruiting, you can only go to each school one time during the fall from September 1 to the end of November. You can only make one appearance. We got a lot of appearances done in September and early. During those Thursday night games, we took advantage to go out Friday and Saturday. This weekend, we were a whole lot more out of state. We did a little bit of in-state on Friday. I would have liked the bye week to have been earlier to be able to have a little bit earlier evaluations done.”

On how he would explain his 5-0 record following bye weeks as a coach:
“I like what we do during bye weeks. What’s different than some of the other times where I’ve been an assistant is sometimes you grind them too much. I don’t know if there’s the right mix of getting rest and being off. Here’s what it comes down to. It comes down to a mix between rest, between practicing for the next upcoming opponent and getting a head start, between practicing your fundamentals with your younger players. Not just your redshirts or the guys that are playing scout team, but the guys that don’t have a tremendous amount of reps but they’re still playing. We always scrimmage on Thursday with the guys that are not playing very much, and then we have rest. But I think the key to the bye week is what you do coming off that week, this week. This is the week that’s the key. It’s key for our players, it’s key for me and Dave Scholz and our coordinators as we lay out what we’re doing practice-wise, that we don’t lose what we gained in terms of rest and an edge, a little bit of getting ahead for the next opponent this week. This week’s important. It’s important for our players. The choices that we make and the investments we make as our players is so important. I’m talking about getting ahead in school. You wait until the end of the week and it all piles up, you’re going lose your rest. Then you just lost things because you’re stressing out about school. I’m talking about getting ahead, being an overachiever in school and getting ahead and all that stuff. That’s what I hope we do as a team. I hope we’re mature enough to handle that. But I think the key to playing well after a bye week is really the week of the game and what we’re doing on the practice field and how our players are handling it off the field.”

On if the graduation success rate is one of his proudest achievements as a coach:
“Yeah, it really is. I’m very proud of that. The graduation success rate takes into account the guys that come here and maybe leave after a year, so that is maybe not as high as I would like it to be. I know this: every senior that has gone through Utah State for the last eight years, we’ve graduated every one of them on time except two. I had two knuckleheads mess it up two summers ago. This year, we have 18 seniors, 13 of them are graduating in December, the other five are graduating in May. The five that are graduating in May, three of them are true freshman that played in 2014, they didn't have a redshirt year, so they're right on track graduating in four years. The other two came in as a transfer and the other one was a walk-on that we put on scholarship, so we're right on track to make that nine out of nine. We only missed those two guys, that's going to be over 200 and something players. That's something I'm very, very proud of. There's two promises I make to a recruit and his parents or parent or whoever's with that player when they first come to Utah State. The first one is I'm going to coach them hard and I'm going to love them hard, and that goes hand-in-hand. The second promise is that they will graduate on time. And that's one of the two things that president (Stan) Albrecht, when he hired me in 2013, he said 'Matt, keep graduating your players at the same rate and at a high level. And the second thing, oh, by the way, win a lot of games.’ So, I got hired to do two things: win games and graduate players. From a graduation standpoint, I'm very, very proud of that because football is not going to last very long for these guys. Some of these guys have two, hopefully, three games left out of these 18 seniors, and maybe one of them, maybe two of them, maybe if they beat all odds maybe three of them have a chance to go and play a little bit longer. But, we all know that stats and the percentages, and those aren't very high. So, I'm proud of what this program does in bringing these players and taking them from young men to grown men and helping them get their education. Not just their degree, not the piece of paper, but their education which is a process of growing up. I'm very proud of that.”

On balancing work and rest during the bye week:
“We take a lot of consideration. Real specifically for this bye week, number one that we went 10 straight weeks plus three and a half weeks of training camp. So, those players have had 13, 14 weeks straight of ball. So, I took that into major consideration. Another thing is the amount of reps. We keep a running tab of cumulative reps. Sometimes, those guys up front, the o-line their reps, they're not as much running as say a Jalen Davis or a Dallin Leavitt or Ja'Marcus Ingram, actually, has played a tremendous amount of snaps for us. You take all those things into consideration. You have to keep the conditional level up, so while they may be limited in practice, we do different conditioning things and coach Scholz does all those. If we're kind of working through a hurt — won't call it an injury cause then if you have an injury, you're not playing — but guys that are hurt and banged up, we condition them differently. So, we're just trying to be smart with it. Then kind of have a gut feel about some of those players. So, there’s a mix of all that practice, rest and conditioning, as well. Then we lift them a little bit more during that week.”

Senior Wide Receiver Braelon Roberts
On the bye week:
“It was a great bye week for us. We got better over the bye week. A lot of guys got good rest in, we got our bodies back and we’re ready to go for this game.”

On Hawai’i:
“For the seniors, this is our last home game, so the team’s going to really rally around us so that they can send us out the right way. It should be a good weekend for us so we can get bowl eligible.”

On the senior group:
“A lot of things come to mind, but this is a great group. We’re all brothers. We treat each other like brothers and we would do anything for each other. We treat each other like brothers so much that when we get on the field, it’s so much easier to play next to the guy. That’s how I feel about these guys.”

On how he ended up at Utah State as a walk on:
“Out of high school, I had about 10 to 11 offers. I was committed to Arkansas State coming out of high school, but I wasn’t eligible when I graduated. So, I had to make a decision: either I go to a junior college or I would sit out a full year to be eligible to play for Arkansas State. So, coach (Kendrick) Shaver called me, because I was also recruited by Utah State in high school, and said if you can get eligible when you come up here, you can play next season and have a chance to get a scholarship. I took that chance and I just ran with it.”

On having a chance to clinch bowl eligibility on Senior Day:
“That’s special, it’s really special. Guys don’t get that opportunity a lot. It gives us a chance to play hard. Hopefully, guys will play hard, and I know guys will play hard for this. This is our last chance, and I know guys will play hard and they’ll put their hearts on the field for it and it’s just a special opportunity to be able to become bowl eligible at home, so it’s a good thing.”

On if they were on a regular weekly schedule during the bye week:
“It was our weekly schedule. We did Hawai’i prep, but this week was predominantly toward rest, getting our bodies back and getting 100 percent. So, that’s what this week was really about.”

On the Hawaii defense:
“They’re a zone team, so there are a lot of windows open. So, we should have a big day going out against those guys.”

On the offensive changes:
“It’s going good for us right now. We’re on the up right now, as an offense. We’ve been clicking the past couple of weeks, so we’re right where we want to be right now.”

On the offense against New Mexico:
“It was a little slow the last game for us because it was a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of guys were not in the right spots. We cleaned it up, and we should be good this week.”

On working on cleaning up the offense during the bye week:
“It was a lot of just mental reps, making sure guys know their assignment 100 percent and just being ready.”

On if he feels the team is healthier this year:
“Absolutely. When you only have one guy that’s down, that’s good because football is a dangerous sport, it’s a very violent sport. I feel like we’ve been healthy this year, and I feel like we have more guys than ever.”

Junior Boundary Safety Gaje Ferguson
On the bye week:
“Obviously, it was great for our team. Ten weeks into the season, I won’t say it was much needed, but greatly appreciated. It was really good for us to have it and it came at a really good time. We got our fifth win and are looking to get a sixth here, another big win for Senior Night and our last game at home here in Maverik Stadium. So, the bye week was great for us, everybody feels a little bit more refreshed and refocused and we’ve got that hunger back to go out there and play football again and get a win for our seniors this weekend.”

On the potential of Mountain Crest winning the state championship and Utah State becoming bowl eligible:
“It doesn’t get much better than this. Along the line, you said Mountain Crest has a chance to be state champs, so I’ve been watching them, keeping in touch with some of the coaching staff and I know some of those players, personally, so I’m excited for them and hope they do well. As far as for us, every win’s important and every game’s the most important game of the year because it’s the next game. So, you don’t want to think too much about the bowl game. Obviously, that’s the end goal and we want to be there. But, every win’s important, so we just need to take care of business this weekend and do what we do.”

On if he played in the last Mountain Crest championship game in 2012:
“I played on defense and offense. I believe it was double overtime, against Timpview.”

On the Hawai’i offense:
“I haven’t broken down or watched a ton of film yet. I’m actually headed there after this. But, from what I’ve heard and talked to coaches about, they have a few good weapons, some solid people and they’re capable of putting up numbers if you let them get going. It’s something if our defense, if we do our job and play how we know we can play, we should be able to take care of business with their guys.”

On Hawai’i running back Diocemy Saint Juste:
“We’ll bring hats to the ball with him and wrap up for sure.”

On how satisfying it was that the defense helped get the win against New Mexico:
“Really satisfying, especially since we were put in some bad situations as far as field position. We were against the wind the whole time, we couldn’t really get ourselves out, had our backs against the wall the whole time and we were able to come up with big turnovers, big stops and big plays to keep giving our offense the ball back and keep them from capitalizing in the red zone and scoring. It was a huge game for us. The defense really showed up and we played well. It was really fun just to be out there with those guys. Even when the offense had a turnover or something, everyone was just excited to go back out there and play defense because we were playing well and we were having fun. Those are the games you look forward to, especially on defense, when it doesn’t matter what the offense is doing, whether they’re scoring or they’re giving up turnovers on our 20. We’re just excited to go out there and play defense. That’s kind of how it was. So, it was a huge game for us as a defense, it gave us a lot of confidence and a little bit of swagger going into these last two games.”

On a lot of players having playing time in the secondary:
“I’d probably have to agree with that. We’ve had a few guys get banged up and a few minor injuries, as well. (Aaron) Wade hurt his knee and has been out. But, that’s kind of how we expected it to go. A lot of guys were going to play. We’ve been told since spring ball through the summer and the fall camp that we’re deep and we’re going to use that to our advantage, and we’ve done that and it’s worked out for us pretty well.”

On if it matters where he plays as a safety:
“All the safeties know both positions. There’s the free safety and then we have our boundary safety. I start at the boundary and that’s where we try to keep me, for the most part. Some games, depending on the offense, we’ll move. When we played New Mexico, we played three safeties in the game and had two of us play at the overhang position. But, it just kind of changes week-to-week. For the most part, though, I play boundary, but I can play both.”

On what Senior Day will be like for him:
“It’s hard to say because you’re not a senior and you can’t relate with what it feels like to be a senior out there. The only thing you can really go off is kind of how your Senior Night felt in high school. I remember before that, even, everyone was saying go out there for the seniors, let’s get a win for the seniors and all that talk. I did that, but I never really knew how important it was or how big of a deal it was. So, I can imagine just a relation to how I felt my senior year of high school at the college level, it is really important to these guys and they definitely want to be sent off the right way. The time, the commitment and everything you invest to be here, to be a Division I athlete and a football player at Utah State, the time goes by so fast, and to be here at your Senior Night and to think this is your last night playing at Maverik Stadium as an athlete. I can’t really imagine how they feel like, I can a little bit, but I’d imagine it’s going to be emotional and they’re going to want to be sent off the right way. Everyone’s going to come together for them and put together their best game for them.”

On seniors Dallin Leavitt and Jalen Davis:
“Something that is special about those guys is they work very hard in the offseason all year round. Those guys work very hard and they’re very disciplined. But, they always want to have fun, they’re always joking around, smiling and they don’t really complain about anything. So, that is special about those guys. They enjoy the game of football and they’re a really good example to everybody around them. They are just good football players and good people outside of this building and in the classroom, as well. Those two are special to me. I’ve really enjoyed playing with them and getting close to those guys. So, it’s going to be a big deal for me to come out with those guys and make sure we get the win.”

On if the team ever rallies around being picked last in the mountain region of the Mountain West during the preseason:
“We’ve never really compared ourselves to that. It was definitely something we talked about when that happened and when that was said. It was something that was discussed that everybody in the Mountain West, media and coaches, they all voted us last place. It was something that we all talked about for a meeting. We made a point that we all knew that, but it was not something we’ve ever brought up since then. It’s not something where we’re like, ‘Hey, we passed that level,’ because, obviously, we’re not just trying to better than last year, we’re trying to be the best and the greatest we can be. It’s awesome that, obviously, we’ve gotten further than that, but there really is no ceiling to how good you want to be. That’s what we strive for, just always be better and that’s the way I look at it, at least.”

-USU-

 

 

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