A relaxed and happy Rich Rodriguez met with reporters this afternoon for his weekly news conference.
The coach was obviously still pleased with his team’s 35-0 win over NAU, but would like to see several things get cleaned up before Saturday’s road contest at UNLV.
Oh, and he still hasn’t heard about the eligibility of receiver DaVonte’ Neal, but hopes to by Thursday.
Here’s a CliffsNotes version of what Rodriguez had to say this afternoon.
On his impressions from Friday’s game after watching the film: “I think the first game always answers a lot of questions that we might have. Some of them got answered; some of them are still to be determined. I thought the guys played pretty hard. We weren’t very crisp. We have a lot of things to clean up. On offense, our execution was poor at times. Defensively, we were solid, but there are still a few things we need to fix there. The guys played pretty hard. We had a lot of young guys get some of the jitters out in the first game, but we have to get a lot better and I think our guys know that. “
On running back Daniel Jenkins: “I thought he played pretty well. He was our pick for player of the game offensively. He ran hard; he did a good job in protection. We only had 47 snaps on offense, but he was the spark we needed. I thought up front, we were very average. We didn’t grade out high. We didn’t do a good job of pressing out blocks. If we would have played better up front, he would have had more yards. He made the big run and played really well we thought.”
On special teams: “Going by units; the kickoff unit was good, the kickoff return, we didn’t have any. The punt team was below average and the punt return was awful. We missed the one field goal and the pressure on the field goal block was pretty good. A couple of the units were pretty good and a couple of the units were really bad. I’m disappointed because we put a lot of time into it and we’ll continue to fix it and I think we can fire some guys and hire some guys and do some switching out, but some of that comes back to us as coaches and me and make sure that we’re getting that taught right and emphasized right. I have to make sure I emphasize it. Coach (Charlie) Ragle does a good job of emphasizing it, but we have to get better there.”
On Nate Phillips muffing two punts: “I don’t know if he dropped one in practice. He was maybe a little nervous and getting used to the lights. The lights are a little different. We’ve practiced a couple of times at night in the stadium, but it’s a little different when it’s live. But he’ll be fine. Hopefully that will be the last two he ever drops. Johnny (Jackson) did a nice job when he got back there. Nate will still return some as will Samajie Grant, the other freshman.”
On what he looks for at the spur position: “It’s a combination of an outside linebacker/safety type. You have to be strong enough for the run game, particularly on the perimeter and then be able to cover people too. You have to be able to go man coverage and zone coverage. Tra’Mayne (Bondurant) plays a position where there’s a lot of quick recognition and he has to be good with his eyes. He has to make sure his eyes are in the right place and seeing things because he’s out in space. Not so much NAU, but just about everyone else we play, including UNLV will spread guys out and put those guys in a bind.”
On Bondurant: “He loves playing the game. Some guys just have a feel and recognize things quicker. I think all the best defensive players recognize things a little quicker and have a way of getting around blocks or shedding blocks or making the play. That’s what Tra’Mayne does. He has good size, but he doesn’t overwhelm you with his strength or his speed, he’s just got great, great instincts. He’s one of the guys that as good of instincts as anyone we have on the team.”
On freshmen being able to contribute right away: “That really depends on what kind of recruiting class you have. Not that if a guy doesn’t play his first year he’s not going to wind up being a really good player, but some kids develop at a different time frame. Some guys develop in high school and become really good college players when they get there. Some guys become good college players, but it takes a year or two in the weight room or what have you. This past recruiting class, we had some guys that we thought were ready physically. I think the Scooby Wrights and the (Derrick) Turituris and Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant, they’ve shown that in camp. Some other guys in this class are going to wind up being really good football players, but it’s going to take time in the weight room. I think this next year’s recruiting class, there will be more true freshmen ready in this last two and we’re excited about that and that’s going to have to be the case.”
On Scooby Wright: “Scooby, whatever he weighs, 235 pounds, he’s got good strength, he’s got instincts, he’s a fast learner, he’s a tough guy. Scooby, to play linebacker, there’s a lot going on in this scheme, to start in your first game; that says a lot about him.”
On the linebackers as a whole: “The guys that are returning have a year in the system and should be better. We got more guys that can play. We shouldn’t have to play guys 105-110 plays. All I did on Saturday was watch football and a lot of teams we’re playing, you talk about some talented teams that push the tempo and spread you out and create some conflicts. We got a whole lot of challenges ahead. We need a lot of guys to play. We’re not there yet.”
On the team’s offense: “We have to be able to throw the ball better than we did Friday night. I was really conservative in the playcalling. I told the team that, I told the coaches that. We could get by on Friday because we could run the ball, we had a nice lead and they weren’t scoring. But, going forward, we’re going to have to throw the ball better. In practice, we work more on the throwing game than the running game. So, I think it’s there. We’ve seen it happen. But, teams are going to put everyone in there if you don’t have the threat of a passing game. It’s not so much B.J. (Denker) to Terrence Miller, it’s whoever the quarterback is to whoever the receivers and tight ends are. So, I think we’ll work really hard on that. I was really ultra conservative in our play calling and we only had 47 plays. If we had 80 plays and only thrown it 10 times, that’d be one thing unless those 70 runs are really, really good. I’m not too concerned about it right now.”
On if the plan changes for UNLV: “We go into every game and do what we need to do to win. If we have to run 100 times to win, we’ll run 100 times. If we have to pass 100 times to win, we’ll pass 100 times. I said that before that last year. People would say ‘all you did was run the ball with Denard (Robinson) and Pat White’ and then I think the Stanford game, we threw it 71 times with Matt Scott. So now all we do is throw the ball. Whatever it takes to win, that’s what we’re going to do. I’m not married or set on having to do one or the other. We do what we have to win the game.”
On his son Rhett starting at quarterback on varsity for Catalina Foothills High School last Thursday: “When he first got the word he was going to start, he knew for a couple of weeks and didn’t say anything. Rita asked him why he didn’t say anything and he said because the coach told him not to. So, he’s coachable. I was a little nervous. Rhett didn’t seem nervous at all in the game, so I was pretty proud of him. I got a chance to break it down with him on the film. I let Coach (Jeff) Scurran and the staff at Foothills take care of him. When I got back to the hotel for the team meeting, everyone asked how Rhett did, I said he did well and they won. He had a couple of touchdown passes and no turnovers and they were all excited for him. As a dad, there’s no greater feeling than seeing your kids happy. That’s your greatest joy to see your kids happy. As a coach, it’s the same way with your players. That’s the same feeling in a winning locker room. I hope our players understood that. Some of them have kids of their own; you could see their heads nodding.”
On if things change offensively this week with Ka’Deem Carey back: “We’ve been doing the same practice rep schedule with Ka’Deem throughout camp anyway until the last two or three days of last week’s practice. When we were doing some two-back stuff, we put Jared Baker in there with D.J. But, now that Ka’Deem will be playing in this game, it will be back to that regular mix.”
On targeting: “I think I saw two targeting penalties. One of them was blatant; you could tell he was going to be ejected. And the other one, it looked a good, hard hit, and I don’t think the intent was to injure. The intent was to make a good hit. You could see a penalty, but not an ejection. It goes hand in hand with both of them there. It’s getting reviewed. It’s going to be hard for that person to overturn that. You’re going to see that every week with guys getting ejected. You just have to educate your players and I think every time, I have to get our video guy, every one that shows up, every target and ejection, we have to copy it and show our players.”
On Denker: “B.J. is the starter, Javelle would be the next guy in and Jesse would be third guy for right now. I thought B.J. played pretty well. He was solid. He understands our system pretty well.”