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August 21, 2012

Rocky Long

COACH LONG:  We got a few injuries, some guys that have to get well.  I do believe this team‑‑ we make progress every day.  So sometime during the season we're going to be a good football team.  I mean, I'm hoping it's right off the bat.  If I was guessing right now, I would say it's not right off the bat.  It will be partway through the season that we'll be a pretty darned good football team.
But we've still got a week and a half to practice so maybe we'll make gigantic steps in the next week and a half and we'll be a good football team right from the start, because we're not right now.

Q.  Does it alarm you to start the season to find that a couple of players‑‑
COACH LONG:  I don't know if that's going to be our toughest game but they are a good football team.  That's not alarming at all.  I've been doing this forever.  This is normal.  It's not alarming.  It's normal.
The only time you have confidence that you're going to have a good football team right from the start is when you have about 30 seniors on your team.  And we don't have very many senior, and only about six of them are starting.

Q.  So is this the status quo that you feel every season with ten days to go, or what are you concerned about what you're seeing?
COACH LONG:  Last year we had a lot more mature football team than we do this year.  I think‑‑ I don't know exactly, I think we had 23 seniors, and at least 13 or 14 of the seniors were starting.  So we were a lot more mature football team last year than we are at this time, this year.
Most of it's just age, and just like everything else, and the younger the team is, they make progress, they continually make progress, but they are not ready for show time until they get in the show and they have to be beat around some a little bit for two or three weeks, and then guess what.  And then they are veterans.  And when they become veterans, they start playing better and they start playing at the level of the competition.

Q.  How much more of an onus does that put on your older guys and how have they accepted that responsibility?
COACH LONG:  Well, our team has totally developed with senior leadership.  Obviously when you don't have as many and not as many starting, I think it's tougher on them, because our expectation level is so high.  We expect to be a good football team.
We have been a pretty good football team for two years, and right now, I think that we are a young kind of immature football team and we have to mature and the only mature guys we have are the seniors, so we have to lead by example.  It's not the day and the age where they yell and scream and give pep talks and all that stuff.  It's more by example and how hard they work.

Q.  When you look at the film from the last few days, what are now the biggest concerns?
COACH LONG:  I don't think we have changed.  I don't think they have changed from day one.  I think the D‑Line is the biggest concern, and then probably the offensive line is the next biggest concern.
So when you have a concern at the line of scrimmage, that makes you a little nervous, because I think we have really good skill.  I think our quarterbacks are fine.  I think we have good running backs in the program, and I think we have good receivers in the program.  I think we have got good linebackers, and secondary that have experience.
Where we don't have a lot‑‑ I think we have some talented guys up front.  Don't get me wrong, I think we have some talented defensive linemen and I think we have some talented offensive linemen, but that's where our immaturity is, we lost three starters at the offensive line and we're going to play a whole bunch of red‑shirt freshmen and sophomores on the defensive line.  And the only way for them to get better is to go up and play against the good teams and play hard and learn, and pretty soon, they will be good, too.
Now, we are a whole lot better now than we were two weeks ago.  I mean, last night's practice was the best practice of the fall.  And we were physical on both side of the ball and the offensive and defensive linemen kind of beat up on each other and it looked like a real college football team.  And up until last night, we have not looked at it like a real college football team.

Q.  So practice‑‑
COACH LONG:  So you can't tell, you can't make your own judgments, so I'm telling you what to think.  (Laughter).

Q.  How do you think the offensive line is shaping up?
COACH LONG:  I don't know when I said this, but I think it happened in the scrimmage that we had on Saturday.  I think our offense, if we play a team that's a conservative on defense, and there are a lot of teams that are conservative on defense, we'll be fine.  Because I think they are talented enough and we are big enough and strong enough that we'll hold our own.  I don't know if we'll dominate but we'll hold our own and give our skill athletes a chance to do what they do and make some plays and score some points.
When you play ‑‑ and some of this is part of when you practice against our defense.  When you play an unusual defense and a defense that takes chances, and lines up a hundred different ways, it's really, really hard on young offensive linemen.  I mean, it's hard enough for them to know their assignment, and then all of the sudden the guy that they are blocking moves and another guy shows up, and the guy from the secondary comes off the edge and they don't know exactly who to block; if they don't know exactly who to block, it's hard to block them, okay.
So some of it is‑‑ and we are going to go starting Thursday, it's going to be nothing but Washington and nothing but scout teams.  So I'm sure that our offensive linemen will feel a lot more comfortable when they get to the game than they do right now.
And to be honest with you, on defense, we experiment, we do some stuff that will unsound just to see if it will work to rest the passer.  So it's not unusual for an offensive linemen to see three guys coming in the spot that he's supposed to block.  That's hard to do no matter who you are.
Now, we are not going to use some of those, because they have not worked very well; but if they had worked very well, they would have seen them over and over and over again, too. 

Q.  How would you characterize Washington's defense versus‑‑
COACH LONG:  Now, that's a great question, because we have no idea what their defense is going to be.  To be honest with you, we can't watch any of their films from last year.  They had a defensive coordinator that their head coach fired and they hired a new defensive coordinator that came from Tennessee but was also at Boise State.
So you can kind of base‑‑ you try to base off what you saw off a Tennessee film to make your game plan.  But as you watch our practice, some people watch their practices, too.  And as you guys film our practice, other people watch their‑‑ other people film their practices, too.  Now they have closed their practices down and you can't get in.
But early on in practice, everybody that has a little telephone or a camera that views that stuff, that stuff's online.  And what we have seen online, none of it's even close to what he did at Tennessee.
So, I think we are‑‑ I mean, I think we are going in a tunnel and it's really, really dark, because we have no idea what they are going to do on defense, none whatsoever.
Now, their offense, we know they are going to run the same offense and for you that saw the Bowl game against Baylor, it was like there was no defense out there.  I mean, they are so good, they scored every time they had the ball and the other team just outscored them.  And they got most of those guys back, so I can talk about that, because I've seen that on film.

Q.  How do you think your defense will‑‑
COACH LONG:  We'll be all right.  We're a high‑risk defense.  That means that we'll make some plays and that means they will make some plays.  We just have to make more than they do.
See, now that I told you that we know nothing about Washington, there's nothing to talk about, right?  (Chuckling).

Q.  What stage‑‑
COACH LONG:  I think we have got three broken bones now.  As practices get more aggressive, the injuries start to mount.  Chad Jeffries broke his forearm in one of the scrimmages.  He's a freshman quarterback, and he's getting operated on today.  They estimate 5‑ to six weeks before he's well.
I'm trying to think who else; you already knew about the offensive lineman with the broken ankle.  I'm trying to think who else‑‑ oh, J.J. Whittaker, and now there's a technical term, he's broken something in his shoulder.  So he'll be out or four or five weeks and that's our estimate.
Now, Dylan Denso broke his finger, and they have already operated on him.  And the conservative estimate is he'll be practicing the week of the first game.  Now, he has not practiced since, but that was only three or four days ago that he got hurt.
You know and then we have got the normal bumps and bruises and strained muscles and all that stuff.  Some of the guys we're more careful with than other guys, because they are veterans and we know they can play.  So they get time to heal up and the other ones don't get time to heal up because they are trying to make the squad.  They are trying to make where they get to play.

Q.  Is Escobar okay?
COACH LONG:  He's going to be okay.  He's not okay right now.  He's got a strained knee.  Nothing serious and he's one of those guys that we'll take it real easy on.  But there again, the doctors give me the estimates.  The estimate is he'll be fine by next Sunday, ready to practice next Sunday.

Q.  Inaudible.
COACH LONG:  Oh, he's fine.  He practiced both practices yesterday.

Q.  Whittaker, he's a kid that's gone through so much, two knees, now this.
COACH LONG:  Yeah, I think it's the luck of the draw.  Some guys have those problems and some guys don't.  And it's really too bad for him.

Q.  On punting situation, kind of made national headlines or whatnot, but the scrimmage that you had said‑‑ only casually, was that sort of the scrimmage‑‑
COACH LONG:  I'm glad that you brought that up.  Because it has turned into‑‑ the way I read those things now, is that we are never, ever punting.  That's not what I said.
What I said was we are toying with the idea of once we get across the 50‑yard line, of going for it on fourth down.  Isn't that what I said?  That's what we did on Saturday.  That's exactly what we did on Saturday.
When the ball was not over the 50‑yard line, we punted.  And when the ball was over the 50‑yard line, you didn't see one punt.  You didn't see a punt.  You didn't see a field goal.  You didn't see an extra point.  When they scored, they went for two, and they went for every fourth down, okay.
Now, we are still considering whether we are going to do that or not but that's the way we've practiced from day one in camp.
So that's what I said.  I said when we cross the 50, we are considering not punting.  I knew that was going to come up, because in the scrimmage, we punted several times.  But it was always before we got the 50.  But the word has gotten out that we are never punting again, so that is not what I said and that is not what I meant.
And we will, in the scrimmage, we had a plan if one team could get down there and the field goal would have won the game, we would have kicked the field goal.  So that's the idea.  Whether that's going to happen in the first game or not, that's yet to be determined.
I'm glad you asked, though, because I'm tired of everybody telling me that I said we are never punting again (laughing).

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