Coaches and players from the six Mountain West West Division football teams are meeting with the media Tuesday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Below are some notes and quotes from the interview sessions. It will be updated throughout the day.
Rocky Long, San Diego State coach
– Long stood by his comment from last season that he doesn’t think there’s a “mystique” advantage for Boise State playing at home on the blue turf. “Look at the scores the last four years,” he said. “You tell me if there’s a mystique. There’s no mystique.” The Broncos are 23-2 at home during that time with losses to TCU in 2011 and San Diego State in 2012. San Diego State also led 20-0 in the first half last year in Boise but the Broncos rallied to win. Four of last year’s home wins were by 14 points or fewer.
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– Long, a defensive guru, said he doesn’t get involved at all in the offense. He doesn’t attend meetings or watch film. He only has two requests – the coaches must run trick plays past him first and he decides whether to go for it on fourth down. “And if they go, ‘Ah, ah, ah, ah’ ... OK, we’re kicking it,” he said. He gives offensive coordinators autonomy because that’s how he worked as a defensive coordinator. “Put me in charge – if I’m not good enough, fire me,” he said of his attitude as a coordinator.
– On being the preseason favorite in the West: “I’ve been in this league long enough that I’ve been picked last, I’ve been picked in the middle. This might be the second time we’ve ever been picked first on a team that I coached. And it had nothing to do with the season. The season didn’t turn out that way any time. It’s a lot easier if you’re picked last because that gives you automatic incentive. It’s things you can talk to your players about. It’s things you can challenge their manhood about. You get picked first, now it’s a question on how are the players going to handle it. Are they going to forget it and go about their business or are they going to think they’ve arrived and go out and not practice well and not play well?” Last year, Fresno State was picked first and San Diego State was picked second with a difference of two points. They tied for the division title and Fresno State won the tiebreaker.
– “We have not only the best running back in the league (Donnel Pumphrey), we’ve got two or three other really good running backs in our program. But the offensive line is inexperienced and a little shaky, so that doesn’t go together.”
– On the lack of proven quarterbacks in the Mountain West: “That’s the most interesting thing to me about the conference this year because usually when you pick teams to win this thing you go around and go, ‘They’ve got a good returning quarterback, they’ve got a good returning quarterback – these four teams have the best chance to win because they have the best quarterbacks coming back. I think there’s only one established quarterback coming back (Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton) ... and he got hurt. But he’s had great years before that, so you would assume he’s the best quarterback coming back in the league so you would assume they have the best chance to win it all.”
– On what Chris Petersen will experience coaching against his former team: “Every time I play New Mexico is the worst week of my life because I want both teams to be successful but then when you get to the game you want to beat the heck out of them.”
Tony Sanchez, UNLV coach
– On his move from high school to college coaching: “I’m real excited, because at the end of the day, not enough guys have had the opportunity. It’s one of those deals, is there enough of a case study to know whether or not it does work? Have high school guys made the immediate jump and impacted college? Unbelievably. You look at Gus Malzahn, what he did as a coordinator, coach (Art) Briles, you look at Todd Graham, the amount of impact that guys who have spent the majority of their career in high school have had on the game of college football in the last 10 years has been significant. I do not think I’m the only one capable of doing what I’m doing, I just think I’m fortunate I got the opportunity, so I want to be successful. I think we’re going to open up doors. If you surround yourself with good, quality people, the game of football isn’t much different. It’s just managing the other things. I’m very fortunate –my last job, we played on national TV, we chartered planes, we traveled, we stayed in hotels, I did a weekly radio show, cameras in the locker room, doing interviews, this is not new. None of this stuff is overwhelming. I think there are other guys in situations like me, and I think other guys are going to get opportunities and I think we’re going to show it’s going to work.”
Ron Caragher, San Jose State coach
– Senior linebacker Jared Leaf returns this season after burns from an apartment fire forced him to sit out the 2014 season. He is a projected starter. Leaf began in 7-on-7 work in spring ball but was a full participant by the end of spring. “I really am pleased with Jared Leaf, just what he went through the months in the hospital,” Caragher said. “You go down to the burn unit, that’s one of the toughest places to walk through. ... It’s been a journey. I can’t say everything has been smooth. But with prayer and the support of family and the support of teammates, Jared is on that journey back and he’s done a great job. We’re excited to have him fully back. I can’t wait to see his first snap in a game after the long haul coming back from where he was at.”
– On his team, which is 9-15 in his first two seasons: “I’m very encouraged. I feel like we gained valuable experience last year. I think we’ve had two really good recruiting classes under our belt just to build off. We’re ready to reap some of the benefits from the growing pains of playing some young players and the inexperienced players and I’m really excited.”
– On having assistants who were his coaches at UCLA (Greg Robinson and Al Borges): “It's been really good, even though the roles have kind of changed, they've been professional, and know at the end of the day I have to make the ultimate decision.”
Brian Polian, Nevada coach
– On Twitter: “It is an absolute necessity to have in recruiting, and it takes everything in my power not to reply to a guy that’s got 12 followers and wants to be a clown. A lot of it is good fun, and I laugh, I giggle and I show my wife, I'll say 'What do you think of this?' because they get very creative with pictures. I laugh about the vast majority of them, but unfortunately in our world today this stuff has given people a forum to say hateful, disgusting, mean stuff and not have to put their name next to it.”
– He said most direct stuff comes from BSU fans. “One guy sent one and followed it up with ‘how long will it take me to get blocked?’ and the the answer was about 7 seconds.”
– “If a guy picks a school because of all the cool edits he got, good luck to you, because you’re picking a school for all the wrong reasons.”
– On guys tweeting photos of all their recruiting mail: “I took all my bills on like a Wednesday, and I laid them all out and I took a picture, said ‘this is what your life is going to be like in reality.’ ”
– On the biggest issue in college football: “What seems to be the inevitable, and I don't know it's intentional, separation between the Power Five and everybody else. In my opinion, knee-jerk reactions to some of the issues that are occurring now. ... I fear that our game is becoming very reactionary to a very quick media, a very quick Twitter world. Cost of attendance is a real issue. Cost of attendance matters. Do we need to be giving guys $5,000? No way. Why can't we find a happy medium for everybody in the country to say, give them $1,000 a semester. Yes, it would help some guys. We have guys that come from difficult backgrounds, I get it. But five grand? My first job, I got paid 14 grand to coach tight ends. There are approximately 14 million students across the country that have financial aid, that will graduate college with debt. We have players that graduated our team in their fifth year that have an MBA that carry no debt. There's got to be a happy medium somewhere. The perception by the media and by the general fan base that everybody's just rolling in money is irresponsible.”
Norm Chow, Hawaii coach
– On comments by former Athletic Director Ben Jay about the potential end of football at Hawaii (Jay resigned in December): “It’s hard. First of all, I think that was taken a little bit out of context. The AD who is no longer there, probably because he made those comments, was just trying to make a point – he really was saying: ‘Hey, we’ve got to get with it. We can’t just meander along. We’ve got to make a statement.’ But it hurt us in recruiting. There will always be football. People are too passionate about it. It’s the only game in town.”
– On what it will take to get his offense (11th in the Mountain West last year) to match his defense (sixth in the MW last year): “Get a quarterback in there. Get him going and get him playing well. Football is quarterback-driven, we all know that – from Pop Warner to the National Football League. I think we have a guy that can do that.”
– On USC transfer quarterback Max Wittek: “He’s a junkie. He loves looking at tape. He’s a good, strong-armed guy. The fact that the kids voted him captain overwhelmingly says a lot about him.”
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State coach
– On late-night games: “I’m not so concerned about the night games as I am Friday night games. ... When you’re playing on Fridays, it’s tough on fans in your community that want to support the high schools as well as go to your game. You make them decide. And selfishly, from a recruiting standpoint, that’s one less recruiting opportunity.”
– On Boise State playing six Friday games: “If they go undefeated, maybe they should be in the playoff.”
– On not having Boise State on the schedule for the first time since 2000: “I like playing them. I know our fan base likes playing them. To me, when you’re playing against the best teams in your conference, it makes you work a little harder – not that we’re not going to work hard not playing them. ... As we go through and we don’t play them I might get a little withdrawal shakes.” The teams could meet in the Mountain West championship game, as they did last year in Boise. “That’s the thing we tell our fan base is hopefully we’ll play them in Fresno at the end of the year. And if we have to, go to Boise.”
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Our Wednesday live chat schedule:
1:30 p.m. MT: Darian Thompson
1:45 p.m. MT: Rees Odhiambo
4:30 p.m. MT: Boise State coach Bryan Harsin
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MEDIA DAYS COVERAGE