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December 27, 2019
Q. Wanted to ask you about Jonathan Taylor, what you've seen from him. Obviously he's been a pretty special player for a few years. What's the challenge when you approach trying to handle him?
COACH AVALOS: I think, number one, he's been blessed with a size-speed combination you don't always see, his change of direction. To go along with that his vision is really, really good. And obviously within their offense they run multiple run schemes, whether it be zone schemes, gap schemes. And he does a really good job seeing and fitting all those things in, obviously working off the blockers.
That's the challenging thing is, on our side of the ball, when we're looking at defenders, especially defenders that stand up, we're always looking for read and react, guys that have the ability to feel and react to what's happening. And he's got really good read and react skills in terms of finding the holes.
Q. Is there a guy in your conference you feel compares to him in any way, or is this going to be a completely new challenge for your group?
COACH AVALOS: You know, every week is a completely new challenge. Every -- we always talk about each game has a life of its own because of the personnel, the players, the scheme within it.
And obviously with the challenges that Wisconsin poses, there's a lot of guys that are very talented, the running back being extremely talented. But the O line is really good, too.
And we've seen some pretty good backs this year. But by no question this is the best back we've seen this year.
Q. What do you think the key has been for your defense in turnover total? Not only that but especially the picks. So many guys contributing and guys forcing fumbles.
COACH AVALOS: You know what it's the emphasis with which we create. Number one, the number of guys contributing, I think that's collectively as a whole is guys buying in to the philosophy of, number one, we're going to play a lot of guys. We always talk about having dependable depth. Everyone wants depth but we want dependable depth. We want to be able to work guys in. We're not worried about who is in there, it doesn't fall off from who is out there on the field when the game's started. And the habits and traits are consistent all the way through and that's what we're trying to build.
And obviously we preach a lot about the ball. This game is about having the ball and tackling the man that has the ball. So our coaches do a great job of spending time and teaching different ways and studying the positions we've got to put our players in that are coming up in the games.
Q. We were able to talk to a couple of the guys about Kayvon and both of them basically said, we knew as soon as we saw him he would contribute. How long did it take you to realize that he would be a significant factor on this defense this year?
COACH AVALOS: No question, not very long at all. For most freshmen, it's a matter of learning the language, right, because we try to simplify things, and a lot of times football is football. It's about learning a language, learning techniques, and becoming consistent with those techniques so that you can contribute.
Not only -- for him early on, it started off in pass-down situations. As we progress through the year, naturally as a freshman coming in, playing in the run-down situations, he got better and better. And obviously now he's a 1-through-4-down player. And that was what we were hoping to get done by the end of the year and naturally progress.
But it's not just -- for a freshman coming in now, it's not just about the football stuff. It's everything that goes into it. It's school, being away from home, managing your time, and learning how to prepare at a whole different level and how you prepare and things like that.
And so not only with KT, but we have a bunch of other freshmen that have done a really good job this year, and guys that did redshirt that we could have played. But maybe we do have seniors or whatever that were in front of them this year.
Q. I assume his ability to get in early and (indiscernible) parts (indiscernible) contributed in him getting acclimated off the field and all that stuff as well.
COACH AVALOS: Yeah, no question, no question. He's done a great job on and off the field, and it's a challenge. It's a challenge for a fourth-year senior, a junior. It's a challenge. The standard that we set at Oregon and the way you've got to practice and prepare every single day, it's hard.
And so that's a challenge that we make the guys meet each and every day, each and every week. Like we said, each week has a life of its own, and meeting that challenge is probably the hardest thing.
Q. As someone who is around college football, obviously you're not spending time studying Wisconsin (indiscernible) prep, but when you were talking about Jonathan Taylor, do you ever sort of marvel at the level of consistency he's played with, not many college football players have played with? Do you pay attention to that as a season is going?
COACH AVALOS: Yeah, there's no question. From before this matchup was created, we were both in this situation, having the opportunity to play in this game. You pay attention. And Wisconsin is constantly on TV and you see and you know not only about Jonathan Taylor, the offensive line, the tight ends, but the defense.
It's just not an offensive thing you see on TV. Their defense is really good as well. And being familiar with those coaches and knowing those guys and stuff like that, I do pay attention. I've got friends on that staff. So very aware of not only the offense and how explosive they are, but how their culture is and how good of a program they're running.
Q. Do you know Jim Leonhard or have you run across them?
COACH AVALOS: I know a couple of the coaches on their staff, defensive staff.
Q. The quarterback, Coan, doesn't wow anybody necessarily with his arm talent, but what makes him so successful, when he completes 70 percent of his passes and takes such good care of the football with four interceptions?
COACH AVALOS: There's no question, that's what this guy is all about, is moving the ball. And this offense, led by him, does a really nice job, not only with the play-action, the pocket movement stuff, the intermediate pass game, but also the drop-back game.
And they use different personnels and obviously a ton of different formations and sets. And for a quarterback to be able to handle all that stuff and all the pre-snap movements, all the post-snap movements, that speaks for itself, the level of intelligence and the ability he has to operate within that offense.
And so obviously we've got a huge challenge sitting in front of us here at the end of the week.
Q. Have you seen a change in them since that loss to Illinois offensively, maybe specifically with how much more willing they are to throw the football and take shots?
COACH AVALOS: You know what? I mean, I think there has been, towards the end of the year, there's been more vertical pass game down the field. You could see it from the first Ohio State game to the second Ohio State game. I think Illinois out front is a little bit different than anyone they've played this year.
So like we were talking about, each week presents different challenges, each week has a life of its own, and obviously they're a really good program. So through the course of the year, they're going to grow and build. They have. I believe they've grown.
And the vertical pass game is something we've studied, and there are going to be some routes that pose challenges to us that we know we're going to have to face.
Q. Talking about their offensive line, their center, he's up for the Rimington, (indiscernible), being one of the best in the country. I don't know how much you study an individual players, but what do you know about Tyler Biadasz?
COACH AVALOS: Very well deserving. In the run game, again, the things they do in the run game, scheme-wise, he does a really nice job leading up front with those things. Not only that, but in the protections and blitzes and fronts from the defensive side and being able to see the numbers and count and redirect protections and things like that.
But not only is -- again, he's got the size and speed combination for an offensive lineman that you don't really see. His feet are really good. He's able to get in there and off the blocks and work up to the second level. Obviously they use him in the gap schemes and things like that as well.
Q. What has impressed you the most about Kayvon as a freshman?
COACH AVALOS: His natural ability. His natural ability to pass rush is probably his biggest asset, and he's able to come in and obviously be very effective for our program.
Q. Did he come in, did he already have a bunch of moves or is it just on motor and physical ability and he still has to develop that side of it?
COACH AVALOS: He came in with obviously a lot of natural ability and pass rush is all about the get-off. Naturally most pass rushers have a good get-off, and that's what he has, to be able to mold his movements and get him comfortable in his rhythm down within his different moves.
Pass rush is all about angles -- using your feet, hips and hands. And he's done a nice job over the course of the year developing those. And obviously every pass rusher is different, how they operate, the moves they use, the angles they like and all that stuff. He's done a nice job finding what's comfortable for him and working that each and every week.
Q. He was obviously the top piece in a really big recruiting class. You added to it again a couple weeks ago. Did you know coming in how relentless Mario was when he came to recruiting? Is that kind of part of the job description?
COACH AVALOS: Yeah, coming in that's always a big question. It's -- recruiting is a huge piece of this puzzle and obviously the standard was set really, really high last year. And we worked really hard this year to build a class to contribute.
Each and every year you're trying to build your class, build your team to get better. And so we set the bar pretty high these last two classes. To continue to make our team better we're going to have to find not only really talented players but players that have the right values, traits, characteristics, that they're going to be able to come in and contribute with the talent we have.
Q. With the changing dynamics in Southern California -- SC going through their struggles, UCLA still trying to find their footing -- was it important to get a player like Kayvon to sort of set a footprint that hey we're going to, we can get the top guys from here in So Cal?
COACH AVALOS: I don't think necessarily we're about that as much as building our best team and finding the best guys to fit our team.
Q. Going back to March, that whirlwind teaching process (indiscernible) with how long it takes for old terminology to leave and new terminology to sink in. How do you see it from your perspective -- 20 plus guys on the two-deep learning a whole new system and terminology and all?
COACH AVALOS: I think it's been a long process, and through the course of the offseason, I think we made tremendous strides in the summertime. The summertime is really when it was, like, okay. You always got three phases of install, the spring, the summer and then you go into fall camp. By the time you hit the season your guys have heard and seen and been through the install three times is usually the goal.
And so in the summertime, felt really good about what we were able to retain from spring ball. And then obviously going into fall camp it was a huge. But in the middle of the season, in the middle of the season when guys are starting to make adjustments, when they're asking about the adjustments going into a new week, and, hey, is this going to be the same as this, and this happened in week two, week three, whatever, it was, okay, we're getting this now.
And we're going to need that. We're going to need that experience and that growth we've had from this year with the multiple personnels, the pre-snap movement and shifts and motions that we'll have to deal with within this game, that's going to be a huge part of it.
Q. I know you're going to tell me everybody was vital, one through 11, but anybody surprise you the most? We talked earlier about Jevon's position inherently is more (indiscernible) or (indiscernible) at the point of attack or (indiscernible) to being very big, but who has most surprised you in all of this?
COACH AVALOS: You know who has done a nice job, number one, in our deal, Von has to do a lot and the Mike has to do a lot in the boundary safeties. And it's a lot of work every week for those guys. They're the quarterbacks. They're the quarterbacks and the thing about playing on defense there's not one quarterback. There's three.
And so three guys having to work together and being on the same page and creating that every week and obviously through the course of this season we've had different guys. Obviously Von's been a staple. Von has been a staple at the nickel position. That's where transitioning him there, just before -- in the middle of fall camp going from primarily field safety to the nickel position, his ability -- and obviously it speaks to his volumes of his football IQ -- his ability to make that adjustment, move and still really the conversation to him is just because you're playing nickel now doesn't mean that you're not running the show still.
You handle the calls. You make the calls. Your presence to the field needs to be felt not only on how you play but you how you lead and communicate in the pre-snap.
So Isaac Slade has done an unbelievable job. His growth over the season, having conversations in between plays, at practice yesterday about what happened, how we see this, hey, on this. And the ability to communicate back exactly is tenfold obviously now with the experience and the time of the defense.
Q. Mario talked about how Thomas and Thibodeaux and those guys, the linemen (indiscernible) the draft. Will you have conversations with them after the game about their thought processes individually?
COACH AVALOS: You know, all that stuff will come up in due time. That's always -- timing's everything and I think some of the biggest things that you have to be able to focus on is always there's always a multiple of things going on, and to be able to focus at the task at hand in the present time is everything and that's what the goal is all year. And now the challenge of it, at the biggest moment is that.
Q. At the linebacker position (inaudible). Something about Sampson and M.J. and Drew, just what that position looks like?
COACH AVALOS: We'll get to all that when that time comes. You know we're not going to right there. We're talking about -- we'll get together on that. We'll get you on that after this.
Q. When you finished up your playing career and you went back and coached Jack Coan for, was it two years, one year?
COACH AVALOS: One year. You're going back to the past on me now. Couple of the players, I saw the sign for (indiscernible) from Disneyland the other day. Just the experience going back and coaching?
Number one I never thought I was going to be a coach and I missed it so much that I coached at my high school.
Q. Did I see something, like you wanted to go be a police officer?
COACH AVALOS: I was going to go into law enforcement. I had already done internships with narcotics teams in the Boise area and the DEA. So that was going to be my career path.
Q. What was your interest in that or where did that kind of come from?
COACH AVALOS: When I did the internships, the team atmosphere, because you're separated from the rest of the police department. And when I got to do the internships those narcotics teams and DEA teams and the way they work together, the way they had to be on the same page, the way they prepared for certain tasks that they had to go on and things like that, to me that was sports.
That was the preparation and obviously the adrenaline rush of it all and all that stuff. But after being away from the game for five, six months, I missed it so much that I was fortunate --
Q. That was from after you finished at Boise? Did you move back to Corona right away?
COACH AVALOS: Right away. I had done internships going into my senior year at Boise State.
Q. And then how did you kind of get your feet in the water to become a coach again with high school?
COACH AVALOS: You know what, I was back home -- I did that -- I was back home and my old high school coaches asked me if I wanted to help out. And so I was like, yeah, the more and more I was away from it I started to miss it and I said I should see if this is something I wanted to do, some of my mentors said go back and coach your old high school, see if this is something you want to do.
It's very time demanding and obviously you take the next step. I was fortunate to become a GA when Dan Hawkins left Boise State to go to Colorado. And that was an opportunity for my wife and I to see if this life was for us. And so we're very fortunate after the first season of coaching at my old high school, I got an opportunity to be a GA.
Q. Was the police thing, was that did you have to make a decision then to do that or would you have been able to fall back into it like after being a GA could you have gone back?
COACH AVALOS: I would have been able to fall back into that, yeah.
Q. From being from that area, how much has that helped you? Troy said that's helped a ton relating to each other and your relationship. And I know you only have him for a year but how important was it to kind of like especially early on with what he means to this team?
COACH AVALOS: There's no question there's a lot of familiar faces recruiting and/or from being from the same area and for me and knowing who Troy is and knowing who a lot of these players are from being around that area and recruiting that area, but also the guys that coached Troy and coached some of these other guys from the Inland Empire, I know a lot of these guys, a lot of guys, the same as me, guys I played against in high school and now have become coaches. So being able to have conversations with those coaches back in the area about the guys that play for us coming into this deal and it was a huge part of it because we didn't have a lot of time going into spring ball and you've got to forge these relationships and you've got to move quickly.
And ultimately this game is all about that. It's so demanding that it takes strong relationships. And those are always in constant motion of being built enhanced because of the demand of the game.
Q. Growing up, even like coaching, could you have imagined players like Kayvon and Justin in back-to-back years leaving town and going to Oregon?
COACH AVALOS: No. I grew up, my dad was an assistant high school coach, I grew up on the football field running around. That time in Corona wasn't a very big place. So growing up and ever imagining that, playing in the Rose Bowl with the group of players, coaches for the University of Oregon, sometimes you've got to pinch yourself and enjoy the hard work that you're blessed to have.
Q. You said at home you loved the Xs and Os part of this deal, kind of maybe talk about that if you would what do you enjoy so much about that figuring out the defense.
COACH AVALOS: I guess it's more so the competitiveness, you get older, can't compete at a lot of things like you used to and you find different ways to compete to challenge yourself mentally. And even so, even as a player going all the way back, those are some of the things that always intrigued me that I found week to week, day to day challenging studying film and trying to prepare the best. And those are things that we try to breed into our players and try to build within our program and not only for the sake of football but for whatever career path, whatever field that our players go into down the road.
You're going to separate yourself by how you work, how you prepare yourself and that's a huge part of our program. I think Coach does an unbelievable job with that and that's one of the things that drew me to Oregon.
Q. Transitioning back out to the field, do you enjoy the teaching part, the hands-on teaching part in practice?
COACH AVALOS: There's no question. That's the fun part about it. You get to run around go out there. I never played in the Rose Bowl but I'll get to practice in Rose Bowl and run around. I think all of our coaches do that. I would say that our coaches are extremely active at practice, moving around in drills, drill to drill and within the drills with our players. And in the training process as well, it's not only during the season but in fall camp, spring ball, we're out there and running around. We're all trying to do it together.
And being able to take the stuff from the classroom to the field is a huge challenge and sometimes being able to be right there with the players in the middle of it all and helping them communicate and make those adjustments to build that confidence they need to build to be able to do on their own when the time comes.
Q. What can you say about Troy Dye's leadership skills?
COACH AVALOS: Troy's personality is -- he'll light up the room when he walks in. He's got that way about himself. And for his ability to lead this group when it's time to work, whether it be in the weight room, whether it be in meetings or whether it be on the practice field, when it's time for Troy to go, Troy goes.
And that right there, we've been able to get to where we are today with great leaders like Troy. And obviously we're going to continue to need that leadership as we prepare for the biggest challenge of the year.
Q. With his halftime speech at Cal, what kind of impact do you think it had. Was it overblown?
COACH AVALOS: No, I think when Troy speaks, guys listen. Troy's played a lot of football here done a lot of things at the university. Leaders, number one, have to have credibility because of how they do things and how they work and obviously Troy's credibility is high and that speaks to what he's done. And again we're going to need that here as we go through. And that was a conversation leading up to this and making sure -- I think Coach does an unbelievable job with messaging and getting the mentality of the program right and that's going to be a huge factor for us in our prep.
Q. Been one of the best defenses in the country. What are you most pleased of when you showed up at spring ball to know the development of the staff players?
COACH AVALOS: Everyone's willingness to work really, really hard and not settle but absolutely for our best and our best is our best. And the hard thing about that is doing it every single day. And we've become more consistent with that as we've grown. And that's one area that Coach asked for us to become more consistent is just in how we prep, how we work, our mentality every day. And it is the players that's who go out on the field and play. But I would say this, too, it always starts with the coaches and the coaching staff has done a great job all the way around on both sides of the ball on special teams as well.
Q. You showed up, the seniors and the redshirt juniors, they've had literally four defensive coordinators. How do you get that buy-in as the new guy to get the group where they are at?
COACH AVALOS: You've got to build relationships and make them feel confident about what they're doing and get them to understand the why and the how and obviously when guys have had multiple coordinators position coaches that's really hard, coming from me not only coordinating a defense but going into a position room where guys have had three positions, that's really, really hard. We hold them to a really high standard but at the same time there's an understanding behind it all too what these guys have gone through.
And to a level that you've got to have some sympathy in how you teach and how they're getting things because they have been through a few different coordinators. I would say this again building those relationships and holding them to a really high standard is the key.
Q. Grady mentioned that spring ball when he showed up he was fourth string safety. What did you see from him and his climb where he is now? He said I'm starting the Rose Bowl, I was fourth string going into the spring season. What did you see from him?
COACH AVALOS: Just his growth in terms of the understanding of the defense. The better you understand the defense, the better you understand how to play to your strengths and your weaknesses and offset your weaknesses and I think for everybody and the growth that we've had, again, I think that's what we're always trying to build towards. You've got to understand what you're doing and how you're doing it and what you're trying to take away and we always talk about the 1-11, my 1-11 how do I play to my strengths to execute this scheme and how am I going to be the best at my weaknesses as well based on who I've got to play against and the different scenarios.
Q. I know highly recruited a guy you wanted. What was the moment that you could tell Kayvon was somebody who could contribute this season?
COACH AVALOS: When he got off the ball, the pass rush. His get-off is pretty unique and his natural ability and so always it's about refining it and building it, growing it, developing it, everybody's unique. Especially when it comes to the pass rush and everybody's different. So finding out what works best for him may be different for what works for others.
And so just being able to study his movements, see the things that he feels comfortable with and then working with them each and every week to build on those.
Q. He mentioned that in the first half of the season he was playing a little more timid. Did you see the moment where maybe a light turned on for him to be more aggressive?
COACH AVALOS: No question. It's getting comfortable, building the confidence to play fast. Technically sound. Downs obviously one through four in all situations needed. And for any freshman coming in and having to learn a new playbook which before you can even learn the playbook you've got to learn the fundamentals and the techniques, and being able to master those is really when it took off for him. The college game is different than the high school game. You can't just line up and go. There's no question.
I think when he bought into that and understood truly what that meant, that's when he took off and will continue to progress as long as we continue to stay on that path of understanding how to continue to develop within the game.
Q. One of the things a lot of your players have said is that this year --
COACH AVALOS: The jokes are getting really fired out.
Q. They were saying that football became fun again this spring and that Troy said the light came back into his eyes this season. What is it that you did that caused football to be fun again for these guys?
COACH AVALOS: You know what, this job is very demanding whether you're a coach or a player and it becomes that sometimes, right, but trying to keep it from becoming that too much and making it month are about the development of everybody and their growth.
As coaches, these guys have helped me grow in so many different ways. And that's just not interview talk coach-speak or anything, these guys have helped me grow in so many different ways and to be able to work together within the classroom settings build relationships where we can be demanding. They're demanding on me.
They expect and they know what it looks like. Now they're demanding on us as coaches and we're demanding on them when we get on the practice field it's very much the same way. We work, we compete together. We have fun on the practice field, but it's very hard now. They'll tell you there's some things on the practice field they're not very fond of as well, but those things as well we try to do with them on the field as much as our older bodies allow us to.
But it's been a blessing. The guys that have been here for a while have been through a few different coordinators, and obviously with that comes position coaches and learning. And I think as a coach and as a teacher, you've got to be aware of those things and you've got to have an understanding and you do have to have a level of compassion for that, but at the same time never sacrifice the standard that needs to be held to accomplish what you need to accomplish.
Q. How much does being able to have fun correlate to the success you guys are now playing in the Rose Bowl?
COACH AVALOS: There's no question. You look back and it's gone so fast, but in the moment it's a bunch of hard work that never goes fast. And so in those moments you've got to keep it light. You've got to have fun. We start the morning off every morning saying good morning to each other bright and early because we're a morning operation, and just trying to find ways to have fun with the guys to change things up, to present things different ways to guys, trying to have fun with the takeaways and the different ideas and philosophies you use to keep things fresh, to keep guys engaged. I think that's one of the biggest things is to find ways to be engaged and so that it's not the same all the time.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports