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August 6, 2012

Rocky Long

COACH LONG:  We have got two, and one who is not here in training camp, so he's not out there.  And probably won't play this year.  I'm guessing he won't play this year.
Kenny Galea'i (ph) has a broken foot.  He's probably got a another two to three weeks before he would be cleared to go 100% and so he's not out there, either.  All of the rest of them are out there.
We had several surgeries after the end of last season and we had a couple at the end of spring ball and they have all been cleared to practice.
You know, the first two days are just helmets.  The next two days are helmets and shoulder pads.  And not until Friday do we get to go full pads.  So you won't really be able to tell until Friday whether all of those guys are able to hold up when people start running into them full speed.

Q.  Did all of your signees make it‑‑
COACH LONG:  Yeah, we have had a couple guys that are going to stay in school and try to work on test scores or grades.  And the deal we have made with them is basically we are gray‑shirting.  We had one guy come this summer and decided because of personal reasons he needed to go home and we are going to give him the chance to come back in January, too.
Trying to think, we had one kid that we signed, Favaro (ph), we signed him under that, that he was going to be gray‑shirted.  We knew it, he knew it, everybody knew he was going to be gray‑shirted because he wants to be a quarterback and he wants to compete‑‑ after next year he wants to come in and be our next quarterback because we want to only have five on the roster.

Q.  Depth chart notwithstanding, I know changes can happen any time in the season, but how well settled is this depth chart?
COACH LONG:  You always start with the depth chart.  That gives you, so when you go to practice, you can say ones against ones and twos against twos and all that kind of stuff.  You say that once get this there, but that can be adjusted daily; that can be adjusted during a practice, which happens quite a bit.  In our program it happens quite a bit.  Guys not going full speed or makes an assignment error; sometimes he went from first team to second team; and sometimes it goes all the way down to the third team running with the starters.
Now with ten days going before the first game, now the depth chart is pretty solid and we have worked on our game plan and all that, and so there's not much chance that you would lose your spot, if you're a starter with ten days to go and you're probably not going to lose your spot unless you play really poorly in the first game.

Q.  Positions that are still pretty much open for competition‑‑
COACH LONG:  That's true, they are open for competition.  But you can go down the list just as well as I can go down the list.  If you have a player in a position that has had a really good career up to this point and he's been a starter up to this point, there's very little likelihood that he's going to lose his spot.  I would say Leon McFadden is going to start in the first game (Laughter).
You know, even though it's open, it's open for competition.  They are all open for competition.  Gavin Escobar, I would just guess he is going to start in the first game.  You can pick out the roster and you know which ones are the starters and which ones aren't, even though they all think they are competing.

Q.  One of those starters, Jake Fely, can you talk about the year he had last year and what you're looking from him this year?
COACH LONG:  Jake had a good year.  Sometimes his size is a deterrent because he's not very tall and he's not very big and he runs up against a lot of real tall 300‑pound guys that can knock him around, throw him around a little bit.  He uses his athletic ability and his quickness to overcome some of the size issues and then he really diagnoses plays well.  He sees what the play is a lot quicker than a lot of linebackers do.

Q.  Just looking for more this year?
COACH LONG:  Defense we play a lot of guys.  Last year I think we averaged 24 guys in a game on defense and that's the same way we'll do it this year.  I mean, Rob Andrews got hurt, broke his foot last year and he's coming back and he was a starting middle linebacker before he got hurt and Jake took over.
So you've got‑‑ you've basically got two starters at midline backer.  That's a good problem to have.

Q.  When you say that about having to play off those guys, how do you feel about your depth?
COACH LONG:  It's not having to play all those guys.  We do that on purpose.

Q.  I understand that.  But how do you feel about‑‑ you do that on purpose, but how do you feel about the guys that you have right now?
COACH LONG:  I feel really good at the linebacker position.  I feel really good in the secondary, okay.  I don't know what to think of our defensive line.  There's a whole bunch of guys up there that we are counting on that have not played very much.
Now, they are kind of talented athletes but my opinion is the closer you get to the line of scrimmage, the more mature and tougher you have to be.  You can play wide receiver and be a corner and you can be 16, 17 years old and weigh 155 pounds and get along just fine out there.  If you're a defensive tackle‑‑ guess what, you can't put a 165‑pounder in there.  An immature kid is going to get beat up.
We have a lot of guys on the defensive line so we are worried about how they are going to hold up.  We have got three new starters in the offensive line, even though those guys have played quite a bit.  It's not as‑‑ the offensive line is not as critical as the defensive line.  We have to have some young guys step forward and play.

Q.  Can you remember when you had as young a line as you do now defensively, and how did that go?
COACH LONG:  I mean, I've been coaching so long, I'm sure it happened before.  I don't necessarily remember right now when it happened.  I would guess it was fine.  I don't know, I think we are going to be pretty good.  I think those defensive linemen by the third or fourth game‑‑ they might not be very got first couple of games, but to survive, they have got to get better.
So I think by the third or fourth game, those defensive linemen are going to be just fine and on defense we'll be good.  I'm more optimistic than some of the procrastinators‑‑ that's the wrong word.  But the guys‑‑ that's the word I use for them; the guys that try to say what your depth chart is and what your strength and weaknesses are.  Are you kidding me?
You know what, I'm with those guys every day.  And what they say and what I think, I mean, maybe they know a lot more than I do, because we think completely different things.  I hear about some of our great players coming back and the guys we are going to miss, I hear all that stuff, and that's not how I view our team.  I read all those magazines.  I wouldn't view our team the same as they do, no way.
We are worried about losing Ronnie Hillman ‑‑ and Hillman was a great player.  I'm not concerned.  We are going to get just as many yards and score just as many touchdowns, but it's going to be three guys doing it instead of one.  I don't know, I guess the fans won't like it because it won't be quite as flashy, but the production is going to be the same.
And we lost a great quarterback.  Ryan Lindley might be considered the best quarterback ever played here.  I think we've got two quarterbacks now.  I don't know if they are as good as Ryan, but last year I was really hurt Ryan might get hurt because I didn't know who the backup was going to be.
Now we have two guys that can play that are competing for the job.  So I guess I'm building myself up.  Those defensive linemen are going to be just fine.  I'm not going to tell them that, though.  (Laughter).

Q.  When the prognosticators‑‑
COACH LONG:  You know how to say the word.  (Laughter).

Q.  Does that motivate you at all?
COACH LONG:  You know what I first started coaching about a hundred years ago, you used that as motivation.  I learned‑‑(commercial played) ‑‑ the most current depth chart because coaches don't like to give that stuff out in the spring and the summer.  So those magazines, they watch practice and Tweet it to everybody in the world so they have got the closest thing to a real depth chart.  So then I can go and watch film and evaluate the players that they have on the depth chart instead of wasting my time evaluating a guy that graduated and I didn't know he graduated.
So there's benefits to those magazines.  They get my $25 every fall.

Q.  Your team as those defensive linemen are taking three games or what have you to get up to speed, considering your schedule‑‑
COACH LONG:  I think it's more about the schedule than us.  I mean, now we can get into‑‑ Washington has a really good team coming back, really good.  In my opinion, they are in the top third of the Pac 12.  They have got one of the Top‑5, in my opinion, one of the Top‑5 quarterbacks in the country.  He's really, really good.  If you watched the Washington ‑ Baylor game, the Bowl game, you know what I'm talking about.
So we will know early in the season how good we can or will be, because that will be a very tough opponent on us, and it's in the pro stadium and I heard that's really loud.  They will get a big crowd.  They are playing late at night and we have got a whole bunch of things against us and we'll see where we stand.
Then we have to come back here and play Army, and it's Army's first game.  And for those that know how this works, when you have three days to get ready for a triple‑option team, you are at a huge disadvantage, huge.  I wish it was our first game, and then we could spend two weeks getting ready for it and it would be equal but they are going to spend their whole training camp getting ready for us because we beat them last year.
So we are going to step into that one.  Then, I don't know, who is the third game?  I only think about the first two.  San Jose, or North Dakota is third.  Worry about them when we get there.
I think early in the season we'll see where we're going to be.  I think we'll hold up okay.

Q.  Do you like the schedule?
COACH LONG:  Ah, that's another thing.  When I first became a head coach, I worried about the schedule and where they were sending us and all that kind of stuff.  I have no control, so why worry about it.
We do play Wyoming on November 24.  That was a nice deal for the Mountain West to send us out that way.  You ever been in Laramie?  I have.  Because I coached in Wyoming; you ever been in Laramie on November 24?  There's no chance that it's going to be sunny.  And there's no chance it's going to be warm.  None whatsoever.  In October you've got a little bit of a chance.  But in November, there's no chance.

Q.  What do you worry about then?
COACH LONG:  I worry about making our team as good as can be.  I worry about winning.  I mean, we don't play this game just to look good.  I mean, everything we do, you look back there on the board, we had our first competition in our meeting today right back there, the offense is ahead 2‑1.  That's right up there.  We compete every meeting, we compete every practice, we compete walking in the door, because there's no reason to play unless you want to win.

Q.  How do you make players compete in a meeting?
COACH LONG:  Here is one of the questions today.  So you pick out a guy on offense and you pick out a guy on defense and this might be good for everybody in this room, too.  For a young man that's 18 to 22 years old, even though we teach him, does he not know the legacy of this program very well.  And there was a guy that played here that was a pretty good player that I played with in Canada by the name of Carl Weathers.  So this will get all of you because you all know who I'm talking about.
So I'm asking the kids in the meeting if they knew who Carl Weathers is or how Carl Weathers became famous after he stopped playing football.  They had no idea he was Apollo Creed.  None whatsoever.  Except one kid knew who Apollo Creed was.  He was on offense.  The offense is always smarter than defense, anyway.  (Laughter).

Q.  What's your situation at quarterback?
COACH LONG:  I have not made a decision.  We are going to let Adam Dingwell and Ryan Katz compete for the first week of camp and we'll make a decision early on.  I mean, they competed all spring, too.  We have seen the good and bad of both of them.  They have had good days and bad days, so we'll have a starter to he can get most of the reps the last couple of weeks of camp before we can play our first game.

Q.  More fun for us if there's a quarterback controversy.
COACH LONG:  Okay, we might play two quarterbacks at the same time, we might alternate them, we might bring in plays with the quarterback.  Sam does a really nice job carrying the ball from the shotgun and he's great, big guy so we're going to use him.  Does that help?  (Laughter).
Apollo Creed I have not seen him since ‑‑  guess what, he as a good player once.  He can't play anymore.

Q.  So Katz seemed to somewhat emerge in the spring, and he obviously has experience.  What do you like about him and what have you seen so far?
COACH LONG:  Basically, I think he's a very accurate passer.  I think he's a really good athlete in the pocket.  He's not necessarily a runner, but he can be; and he can get out of trouble which gives you a little bit more time, especially if you think that he might be a little bit inexperienced in the offensive line.
Like you said, it's basically, he's been there.  I mean, I don't know what the last time he played in Washington was, but I bet you he already played in Washington.  He's been in a big stadium and he's been in a big game, one of the better rivalries I've been around is the Oregon State ‑ Oregon game, and he's played in that game.
So none of that will bother him.  I don't think any of that will bother Adam Dingwell, either, to be honest with you, but Adam has not actually done it.
So you never know if it's going to bother him or not until they actually get into that situation.  It's not going to bother Ryan Katz, because he's already been there.  So I mean, that's his advantage.

Q.  What is Dingwell's advantage?
COACH LONG:  I think Adam Dingwell is one of the toughest guys on our team.  And that might not mean anything to anybody else, but guess what, it means a whole bunch to me, and it doesn't matter what position they play.
I think he's a great competitor and I think he can will his team to win, and I think he can will his team to score touchdowns.  He's a good athlete and he's not quite as accurate with the ball as Ryan Katz is.  He's just as good an athlete and probably a better runner.  He gets out of trouble and that's part of his problem, because he wants to make the play himself; and in practice, he gets mad when we blow the whistle when he takes off.  He wants to lower a shoulder and take those linebackers on.
But a quarterback that's a tough guy, guess what, you win a whole bunch of games with a tough quarterback.

Q.  Are there any true freshmen that you think could have a chance to compete for the job?
COACH LONG:  I don't think so, but they surprise me all the time.  The first ten days of camp will give every freshman a chance to prove he's going to be in our two‑deep and if they are going to be in the two‑deep, we give them the option of playing or not.  Because a lot of them want to redshirt, and we always try to convince them to redshirt, even if they could play for us, we try to convince them to redshirt because they are so much better players as fifth‑year seniors than they are as freshmen.  They are so much better.
But if a freshman was going to be in our two‑deep, we ask him if he wants to red‑shirt or if he wants to play.  If he's not going to be in the two deep, he has no choice; he's going to redshirt.

Q.  You left out the kickers; how's that situation?
COACH LONG:  I did that on purpose.  I don't know who our punter is and I don't know who our kicker is.  I don't know who our long snapper is, either.  We have got two long snappers out there and we have got two punters and we have got four kickers out there that get to compete all during camp.
That decision of who the punter is, who the kicker is and who the deep snapper is won't be made until the first game because you have to put them into situations where it's kind of live, where it's kind of a scrimmage situation and the best guy gets to do it.  And if we don't have a guy that can't kick and can't punt, then we just won't kick and we won't punt.  I told Danny, if we score every time, we don't have to worry about punting.

Q.  How about the receivers, are you feeling more confident?
COACH LONG:  Our receivers are the deepest, deepest position on our team‑‑ after last year.  But that's one of the reasons it's deep is because Carl (ph) turned into a really good player and Dylan Denso is turning into a really good player.  And those guys, the first time they played was last year.  Brice Butler is a transfer that's got great ability.  Ezell Ruffin has great ability and Jemond Hazely has great ability.  And these are our young guys.  Larry Clark has great ability.  They all have real talent.
But we have got experienced guys.  We have got three guys that have played a lot of football.  And Nick Rudolph (ph) who we thought was going to be starting wide receiver last year but injury kept him from doing it; he's healthy again and we thought he would be our best every last year, so that's a complete turn around.  Last year we were trying to figure out guys to be receivers, and this year we have all kinds of them.

Q.  You're obviously busy at the start of camp.  Did you get a chance to watch the Hall of Fame game last night?
COACH LONG:  No, I didn't get to see it.  How did he play?

Q.  Pretty well‑‑ they were giving a lot of publicity to the program.  Any thoughts on that?
COACH LONG:  I think Ryan's going to make it, and I think Ryan's going to be‑‑ eventually be a starting‑‑ I don't know how long it will take but he will eventually be a starting quarterback in the NFL.  Actually the best gig is the backup quarterback and the starter never gets hurt, because you get paid really, really good and you never get hit.
Thanks, guys.
That is one, Leon is two and Jake is three.

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