So we had decided that we weren't going to be doing the coaches show this year. There were a lot of reasons, really, time commitments and access to the broadcast, but the biggest thing is the new media deal with KIRO/KTTH would have hopefully seen the show as a podcast of some sort. Well, no dice - the coaches show isn't really anywhere as far as a podcast. In fact, during tonight's show someone emailed asking about it (no, it wasn't me!), and Bud said that the show is actually part of the IMG All Access package that is something you have to pay for. But no podcast for now. So, we decided to do the radio show one more season (but hopefully this will be it!).
With that, let's get started on the Week 3 of 2011 coaches show recap! We'll touch on the top 10 things to take from this week's show, so, here we go:
First off, I guess we'll call it week 3, even though two games have been played. We are in the third week of the season, so, yeah, it's week 3.
1) Bud Nameck immediately started asking about this week, and the idea of getting out on the road with this team. Wulff said it's a "great opportunity to learn more about ourselves. This will be a very good challenge, and we are excited for it." Bud then asked about the idea of bonding on the road, spending so much time together, etc? Wulff said "It's great to get together but it's a fine line to making it a vacation. It is a business trip, but we will take a relaxed approach on Friday. We will go light on Friday, and we'll actually practice on Friday morning, then fly down to San Diego and do a 15-20 minute walk-through in the stadium. We'll have a quick meeting and then that will be it." Wulff said we'll walk through "in our clothes", and Bud chimed in "In your clothes? Not in the nude!?" To which Wulff replied "....No, probably not."
2) Moving on, Bud asked about special teams and the focus on them of late. Wulff said the kickoff coverage has actually been pretty good, but, "the kicks haven't quite been as consistent. But we have been pleased with the kickoff coverage teams overall. And it's a "good" problem to have, that means you are kicking off a lot because you are scoring points!" Bud asked about the UNLV kickoff return, and Wulff did say in that situation, "the coverage AND the kick were both issues on that one. But we have to get better ball placement on the kickoffs. We just have to get the consistency down and we'll be much better going forward."
3) Bud shifted gears to San Diego State, and the challenges they will present. Wulff immediately praised Ronnie Hillman, calling him "one of the best young running backs in the west. Ryan Lindley at QB is one of the best, a real NFL prospect with a strong, accurate arm. They have 4 seniors on the o-line, and some very good tight ends who can block and catch the ball. On defense, they are unconventional in that they aren't the biggest defense around, but they play a "radical" style with a lot of different looks and they are very hard to read. And they have a lot of speed on defense." Bud mentioned that they are technically a 3-3-5 defense, to which Wulff replied "yes, and they come at you from all over the place. It makes them very difficult to read as an offense and identify what they are going to do before the snap, and it can be a challenge to face them on the road. They are not afraid as a defense to change things up, move around, pressure you and play a lot of man coverage."
Later on Hillman, Wulff said on defense one of the things they have been focusing on is less yards after contact! Bud asked about Hillman, and Wulff said "He is a complete back. Maybe he won't run over you every time in that bruising style, but he is fast and shifty and has a good ability to make people miss or make them try and arm tackle you. To be that good and have that many rushing yards, you can't be one-dimensional. On defense we have to be good, we have to be strong, and we will have to tackle well and get him to the ground." Bud mentioned that vs. Army, they only ran 42 plays compared to 83 that Army ran, but they still won as it shows how explosive they can be on offense. Wulff said "Army fumbled 8 times but only lost 3, otherwise that could have been a much bigger margin of victory. Ball security has been good for us and it has improved. We would like to get more takeaways ourselves, but turnovers are going to be a key for this week. We have our hands full."
4) Bud asked about the way the offensive line will handle their defense? Wulff said that "It all starts with the center, on down the line. They identify who and where to block, basically ID who to block. There is a lot of communication that happens on the field, but we work on that kind of thing all week in prep time for the upcoming game, and hopefully get the linemen comfortable with what they are going to see during the game." Bud asked about the no-huddle offense, and if that helps identify the D by getting to the line so quick? Wulff said "No doubt, it does help the line with the calls. You get more time at the line with the play already called, and make sure we ID everything correctly and use the play clock to our advantage, and then we go!"
5) A caller asked about the "easier" schedule to start the year. Wulff kind of downplayed it a bit, but said it is nice to get off to a 2-0 start. But still, "as coaches and as a team, we just take them one at a time, one day at a time. At the end of the year, we'll look back and hopefully be happy about what we accomplished, but we can't do that sort of thing right now."
6) There was a question about the refs in general, and the kind of refs we'll see this weekend in San Diego. Wulff said that "the refs have been doing a good job of spotting the ball as quickly as they can. With so many teams now running hurry-up, no huddle offenses, it's been a real point of emphasis the last couple of years for the refs to get the ball spotted as fast as they can. And when they can do that, not only does it let the teams get to the line quicker but it also just speeds up the games."
Bud asked about the ref situation this weekend, and Wulff said that it will be a MWC crew for this game, which Wulff didn't sound real thrilled about. Wulff said "It was probably because 4 years ago when the home-and-home contract was done, the game was played at a neutral field at (then) Qwest Field. We had Pac-10 refs at that game, and now we get MWC refs for this game. For our contracts now when we have a home-and-home, we want to always have our conference crew on the ROAD with us, and let the traveling team have their conference crew with them when they come here."
Now they didn't flat-out say it, but they were kind of hinting around the idea that it's a tougher situation when you travel on the road and the crew doing the game is from the home team's conference! Obviously Wulff wasn't going to go on too much about the refs, and it could only lead to trouble to do something like that in a public forum. But you could get the hint that they aren't real thrilled by playing at a MWC venue with a MWC crew.
7) Bud asked again about the 2-0 start, and the difference compared to a year ago when they were 0-2. Wulff said "having the great start has a very positive impact on the team. And this team, they handle things a lot better than in years past. 2-0 is always a positive, and the attitude is great, the work ethic is really solid. But there hasn't been any adversity yet, and we know it's coming. I really want to see how we respond, and I'm anxious to see how it goes.
There is a lot of youth on this team, but they aren't immature. As individuals and as a group, they are mature. They are what we've been working hard on to get the culture to this point in the program. And today, I believe we are able to handle a lot of things that we couldn't handle in the past."
8) Of course, Marshall Lobbestael came up (how couldn't he at this point?). Bud noted that he is one of eight QB's nationally to be eligible for the Manning QB award for this week, and that overall, four of the eight QB's nominated are Pac-12 QB's! But Bud noted how Marshall went in some people's eyes from maybe the #3 QB on the depth chart....to the #3 QB in the NATION right now in passing! Wulff said "Marshall is very mature as a fifth year senior, and he's playing really well. He has done a great job leading this team. But Connor Halliday has also played well, and we already saw a big improvement from week one to week two. And Jeff Tuel has been working with both QB's on the sidelines and at practice, and that's been a huge help."
Bud asked if Tuel would be making the trip this week, and Wulff said "Yes, he will make the trip. He's been great at talking to both QB's, reminding them of things that they might miss or things they should remember to key on or check down to, things like that which we covered in practice or on film prep during the week." Bud asked if that would continue in the future, or by NCAA rule, should he stay behind in place of a healthy player? Wulff said "NCAA rule is that you can travel 70 players, and they can be any 70 players you like, injured or not. Jeff will travel with us, NO MATTER WHAT."
9) Bud asked about something he has seen, which is the "Four Covenants" of the football program. Wulff said "We have a grid, and in that grid are four areas. They are Trust, Family, Intensity and Attitude. We have the definitions for each of those things, and it's something we believe in very strongly for this football team. The covenants cover everything from behavior on and off the field, grades, community involvement, everything. And everything is improving right now. We have had fewer off the field issues, our academics have greatly improved, our community involvement is much better than it's been. And our physical growth, you can see it in the players. Everything is improving, and you can see it before your eyes. It used to be that we would see it in small specks here and there, but now we are seeing it everywhere."
On that same note, Bud noticed that there are a lot of changes around Bohler Gym and the locker rooms. Wulff said "We've done some new things, new paint in the facilities and in the locker room, things we've wanted and needed to do for a long time. But what you see now is just a small taste of what's to come once we have our new football facility constructed into the stadium (Wulff referring to the new 100,000 square foot facility that they will start building after the year into Martin Stadium). But right now what you see is the blueprint for the team and the program."
10) Finally, Bud asked about the improvement on the defense. One of the thing that stands out already after two games is that the leading tacklers are linebackers. Wulff said "That's the way we would like it. It has been an issue in the past with our line play, and we have had too many secondary players having to make tackles. But this year the D-line is much better, especially at defensive tackle. They are making some plays but holding off the offensive line and occupying them, allowing the linebackers to make tackles." Wulff went on to say that "The defensive tackles are so key to a defense. They can be so valuable against both the run AND the pass, and they are so close to the football at the start of a play. If they can disrupt the run and get after the passer, it just takes so much pressure off the rest of the defense."
So that about covers it for this week. Wulff was in a good mood, but not exactly giddy as a school girl if you get my drift? That's not really his style anyway, as he is usually pretty steady in the way he deals with things like the radio show, never too high or too low. But he doesn't sound the least bit surprised that they are 2-0 right now, and that they have played well. You get the sense from his tone that they pretty much expected to be exactly where they are right now. And you also can tell that they are very focused for this game at SD State!
All for now. GO COUGS!