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August 28, 2012

Rocky Long

COACH LONG:  First game of the year is always kind of exciting.  You go into it with an idea of what your team is like but you're always surprised on the first game.  We have a pretty good opportunity against a really good football team.  They averaged over 33 points a game last year; and the quarterback is back.
And they have changed their defensive coordinator because they were extremely good on offense last year and not very good on defense.  I know him not personally but I know of him and he'll do a great job on defense.  He's had great success.
So I imagine they are a better football team than they were last year.  It's a good opportunity for us but we'll find out where we are in our development, because we are a pretty young football team, especially up front.

Q.  After the scrimmage, it's an by couple of days or weeks now that you've been inconsistent‑‑ has the team improved, becoming more consistent, do you think?
COACH LONG:  I'm going to say yes, but I don't know that for sure, because after that scrimmage, we stopped full speed tackling, and we stopped going our offense against our defense.  So we have been more consistent against scout looks.

Q.  Comment on the captain ‑‑
COACH LONG:  Actually I think being a captain on this football team is the greatest honor an athlete can get, because coaches have no say‑so.  It's purely a vote by the players.  They pick who they think are the best leaders on the team.  I don't think because there's some of the guys that have been picked in the past, as well as this year:  It's not necessarily the best player on your team; it's not necessarily the most popular player on your team.  It's the guy they think that deserves to be the captain, or the leader of the team.  And that says something about all three of those guys.

Q.  The depth chart ‑‑ inaudible.
COACH LONG:  Left guard is finalized, yeah.  I don't know what your depth chart says about special team ‑‑

Q.  Inaudible.
COACH LONG:  I would say that's not solidified yet.  They are still competing.

Q.  Inaudible.
COACH LONG:  Yeah, it didn't happen.  A lot of things that don't happen.

Q.  Why is that?
COACH LONG:  Because the kickers are so inconsistent.  Depending on the day, a different one as a good day.  Or depending on the day, a did I know one has a bad day, one or the other.  So I don't know if we'll even know‑‑ we have to know before we get on the plane because we have a limited number of players we can take.
So we have to know by Friday and it might take all the way to Friday to decide who we are going to have kick for us and who is going to punt for us.

Q.  But you're not going toneed him anyway, right?
COACH LONG:  Well, I don't know about the kicking, but hopefully we need the kickoff.  Or at least we're going to have to kickoff one time.
So we are going to have to kickoff one time and I imagine we are going to have to punts, unless we are always going to get the ball on their side of the 50 or get the ball ‑‑ move the ball on their side of the 50.  So I would assume we would have to punt at least once or twice.
I mean, you're a positive thinker, yeah.  Because you're not the coach.  (Laughter).

Q.  Usually when you lose a quarterback who started for so long and going with a guy who maybe never has started‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ and the guy that has, albeit not for San Diego State, does that make a difference?
COACH LONG:  I think having an experienced quarterback helps, sure.  I think Ryan Lindley, people can argue that he might be the best quarterback ever played here.  I don't know if they would do that or not.  I think he's got a chance, a pretty good chance of making an NFL team.  So we are going to miss him, and him being in the same offense for three years really helps a guy perform well.
Ryan Katz is a really good player.  He's an excellent quarterback that seems to get more familiar and more comfortable with our offense daily.  He's been a lot better the last week than he was the week before that.  But I don't think he has the grasp of our offense like Ryan Lindley did, because he was in the same offense for three years.
But the part that he's been in the arena before sure helps.  Now, he's even played at Washington, but he didn't play at the field we're going to play at.

Q.  Teams like Washington, Oregon State, have you seen the current gap narrow a little more between teams in the Mountain West and the Pac 12?
COACH LONG:  I think there's some elite teams in every one of those leagues; that the gap is probably the same as it ever was.  But you get in the middle of the pack on down and I think there's very little difference between leagues.  I think it's all hype.

Q.  You guys are not getting a lot of love from national publications and things like that‑‑
COACH LONG:  San Diego State, 1960.

Q.  For the people who are not really believers, what would you say to them about this particular team that they may not know?
COACH LONG:  I wouldn't say anything to them.  The only way you can make believers out of anybody is to win, simple as that.  Doesn't matter what a coach says.  I can have the best publicist in the world and he can tell me exactly what to say and it's not going to make a difference; it's not going to make anybody a believer until you actually prove it on the field.

Q.  Where is this team, going do you feel like, going to spring camp, now having gone through fall camp, where does it stand as far as what your expectations were versus where you guys are right now?
COACH LONG:  That's a good question.  Since we have so many guys that are playing for us this year as compared to last year, a lot of those guys had been in the program for a while and had been starters for a while and we have several new starters this year, especially in the offensive and defensive line.
I think we are a lot better than we were in the spring, and I have a real hard time comparing us to who we are going to play, because I don't know how good they are.
And you don't really know how good your guys are until you play someone else besides yourself and all these guys have ever done is competed against each other, the guys that I'm concerned about, because you never know how they are going to perform if they have not performed at that level before, you're not sure how they are going to perform.
So it's hard for me to‑‑ our expectations are always high.  Everybody is undefeated right now.  And our expectations is to win every game.  And depending on how you do on that game, you change your goals weekly probably.

Q.  Inaudible.
COACH LONG:  He was there when I recruited.  He was really a good athlete.  His high school highlight tape is one of the best highlights tapes I've ever seen.
And I would tell him this if he was here; because of immaturity and a lack of focus, it's taken him a long time to get on that football field.  He's been on the scout team the last two years and we can't cover him on the scout‑‑ we couldn't cover him on the scout team and he scored a lot of touchdowns which made us coaches very angry, but he was doing it off of cards.  Somebody drew him a picture and told him where to go, and he would run down there and go there and catch the ball.
He's matured as a player.  He understands the offense now.  He knows how to adjust patterns.  He knows where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there.  When you know that and you have the athletic ability, guess what, you turn into a pretty good football player.
Now, he has not done it on any stage but our little stage right out here in the practice field, so it will be interesting to see how he does Saturday.

Q.  What did you see from his high school tape that jumped up out of you?
COACH LONG:  He's six foot tall; weighs 200 pounds; runs really, really fast; jumps really, really high and catches the ball.

Q.  With the crowd noise and the emotion, at some point it's going to get‑‑ even if it's just the opening kickoff.  Have you talked to kids that have not played in a game before about what they are going to encounter and how to deal with it, and if so, what do you say?
COACH LONG:  Talking too much today.  I don't believe in talking.  I believe in preparing.  And just like I think the rah‑rah speech is so over‑publicized and over believed that it's ridiculous.  If you prepare to play well, you are going to play well.
Now you are talking about the environment they are going to be in.  Well, we are pumping crowd ‑‑ we are going to do it again today‑‑ we are going to pump crowd noise in today.  Now I've heard, I haven't been there, but I've heard, that it's the loudest stadium in the NFL.  And sometimes that bothers teams that don't play in that environment all the time.
So we are trying to prepare our players by pumping in crowd noise and it bugged the hell out of me the other day.  It was loud now.  I'm surprised we didn't get a bunch of complaints from the neighbors.  But we are going to do it again today.  We might do it again tomorrow.  So I think talking's overrated.  I think doing is much more important.

Q.  You don't give any rah‑rah speeches?
COACH LONG:  No, very seldom.  If you call it a rah‑rah speech, it's when I'm mad and my vocabulary gets really, really small.

Q.  McFadden, has he been kind of the consummate player for your defense, the 3‑3‑5?
COACH LONG:  I don't think it has to do with the 3‑3‑5.  I think it has to do with anybody that plays man‑to‑man coverage.
If you're going to play a majority of man‑to‑man coverage, your corners better be pretty darned good.  And in that case, he has been one of the best I've been around that way.  You can put him on an island and most of the time he's going to make the play and very seldom is he going to get beat.  Even the great ones get beat once in awhile.
The other thing about Leon is he's soft‑spoken, he's humble; he's a team guy; so all that added together, if they cover man‑to‑man‑‑ I don't care if they are brash, I really don't care.  They can be as brash as they want to be if they can cover him.
But I would much rather be around the ones that are team guys and not brash, and Leon is as easy going and as laid back as there's ever been, and he covers them just fine.

Q.  For the value of this team for this season, were you pretty concerned last year when he was talking about‑‑
COACH LONG:  No, I was not.  I think every young man has to make that decision for himself.  Him and his family have to make that decision for himself and I always want what's best for the players.
Now, for our team, it was much better for our team that he came back, yes.  But for him, that was a decision he had to make.  I mean, just like Ronnie Hillman made the same‑‑ I mean, he had the same choice; he made a different decision.  But I'm not concerned about that.  I think those kids have to make their own choices and I wish them the best when they do.

Q.  If you had to replace him, how difficult might that have been‑‑
COACH LONG:  Well, that would be hard, but college football is that way.  We replaced Ryan Lindley, we replace Ronnie Hillman ‑‑ college football is that way.  You have to replace seniors, and if a guy leaves early, it's just like replacing a senior.  When you have a really, really good player, and I've only learned this through experience.  When you have a really, really good player, you have a plan if they leave early.  And if you don't have a plan, when there's a chance they are leaving early, you're an idiot.  (Laughter).

Q.  Inaudible.
COACH LONG:  I don't know.  I mean, I don't really know‑‑ I know they are perceived to be really, really good, because they are almost in the Top‑25 in all the polls, and their quarterback is kind of on the edge, but he's a Heisman Trophy candidate.  Their tight end is supposedly the best tight end in the country; I would be willing to argue that we might have the best tight end in the country.
They have proven themselves on offense.  Probably the hardest thing now, I say that, they are really good on offense but probably the hardest thing is us practicing against what we think they are going to do on defense.
If we have practiced against what we think they are going to do, we are going to be just fine.  If it's something different than we have practiced, we are going to be in deep trouble.  Because we are so young on offense, especially the offensive line, that if they throw something at us that we didn't anticipate or didn't prepare our team for, we will really struggle.

Q.  New design on the helmet?
COACH LONG:  Yeah, I guess so.

Q.  First time you've seen it?
COACH LONG:  No, I saw it yesterday for the first time.  We had a little senior luncheon yesterday, and we had two players model the new uniforms.  That's the first time I've seen them.

Q.  So you had a big hand in designing everything?
COACH LONG:  That's for‑‑ the design of the uniform is for everybody else.  That's for how it looks on TV and for promoting things.  I could care less if they played in their practice stuff.
Do you like it?

Q.  I do like it.  You should take some credit for it.
COACH LONG:  Since you like it, well, I designed this helmet.  (Laughter).

Q.  Is Brice Butler looking like the impact player you hoped he would be as a senior?
COACH LONG:  I think Brice is going to have a good year.  I think that ‑‑ what's really strange to me is, last year we didn't have any wide receivers.  Last year, we were moving defensive backs to wide receivers so we have a couple wide receivers to put out there.
This year, it seems like all we have is wide receivers.  I guess that's a good problem to have.  I'd rather have maybe a couple older defensive linemen‑‑ give up ‑‑ is anybody willing to trade a couple wide receivers for a couple really good defensive linemen?  Because I'd do that.  Too bad we can't do that in college (laughs).

Q.  The way you went out and were able to get Butler and ‑‑ two guys with a lot of experience, how critical was that in moving forward?  And obviously it's an unusual situation and not something you would necessarily do every year.
COACH LONG:  Yeah, I think that's happening more and more.  And I think it was really good for our program to get those two guys.  And there will be times we will try to do that, probably again, since it's becoming more common, we will try to do that again, I'm sure, when we have a big hole that we need to fill with an experienced guy, we'll try do that again.
And the best coach I know, has built a program doing that.  Coach Fisher has built a program doing that.  So you've got to learn from the best.

Q.  Last season you guys went on the road into a big stadium, hostile environment at Michigan; I know the situation is a little different this year, but do you notice the buzz and attitude around the team, is that comparable to when you played Michigan?
COACH LONG:  No, it's not, and I'm glad it's not.  Because when a team is overly excited or overly hyped, because of where they are going to play or who they are going to play, that means you're not good enough.
When you prepare for a game, every week the same way, no matter who it is or where it is; guess what, you're good enough.  Ain't nobody else‑‑ do you think Ohio State worries about going to Michigan and playing?  They don't worry about that.  They worry about trying to beat them but they don't worry about that because they think they are good enough.  Teams that get over‑excited and over hyped for those games, deep down, they don't think they are good enough.
So our team has been as calm as I've ever seen the team.  Maybe they don't know what's coming.  But I think maybe our guys think they are good enough.  And you're never going to win those games unless you think you're good enough.  I'm glad you asked that.  I was wondering‑‑ you know, because I kind of thought there would be a little more buzz, too, but we are just taking it like any other game, which is really good, by the way.

Q.  You mentioned the program‑‑ when you look at this season based on what this program has been able to accomplish over the last two, three years, how big of a season is this, as far as moving forward?
COACH LONG:  I think we have to win enough games to keep the momentum going.

Q.  What number is that?
COACH LONG:  Whatever gets us to a Bowl game.

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