As promised earlier, here is the transcript of Steve Sarkisian’s appearance on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference earlier today:
On general accomplishments and questions remaining from spring football: “I think from an accomplishment standpoint we obviously, when you implement five new coaches, four of which are on the defensive side of the football and one of which is on offense, it’s first developing the continuity of the staff, and I thought that developed all spring.
“Second is the implementation of the defensive scheme which I thought our guys did a great job of that. I thought our four defensive coaches worked hard and communicated really well and ultimately motivated really well on the defensive side of the ball to get the scheme implemented. Now there is still a lot of work to be done there but to get it implemented during those 15 practices was a good accomplishment.
“Offensively, a lot of individual accomplishments. Really tried to focus on the individual development of players. Guys like Austin Seferian-Jenkins and developing him into a complete tight end. Michael Hartvigson at the tight end position and developing him whether it was in the pass game or the run game or pass protection. What we were able to do at the running back spot — I thought Bishop Sankey had a nice spring that way developing individually. Kasen Williams the second half of spring really understood the value of doing things right consistently and utilizing the details of things to his advantage. And then the depth, accomplishment from a depth and special teams and utilizing our younger, athletic guys, whether that be in the punt game or the kicking game for that matter really seemed beneficial for us.
“As we move forward, obviously the implementation of a new kicker, a new punter as we get into fall camp will be big for us and putting them into some stressful situations to where they can gain confidence in those stressful situations. We hope on the offensive line to get back Drew Schaefer completely healthy and get back Colin Tanigawa completely healthy and get back Erik Kohler completely healthy for fall camp is big. And really the third wideout spot is one that is somewhat of a concern offensively. We know what Kasen Williams is, we know what James Johnson is. But who is going to be that third guy that is a consistent contributor? Can Cody Bruns get healthy and do it? Can a young guy, a Jamaal Jones, a DiAndre Campbell, a Marvin Hall — can one of those guys step up? So that will be big there, as well. And then defensively, the implementation of some of our incoming freshmen that we think can step in and contribute right away and how does that fit in with our current roster? So those are some of the issues we still have to work through.”
On if there are any significant injury issues lingering from spring camp and if there’s an update on Johri Fogerson’s status: “Nothing major on the surgery front. We had some guys had to clean some stuff up, but nothing that is significant. The one guy that will be significant is Cooper Pelluer — he will have surgery which will probably sit him out this season on his shoulder. But more than that is the development and the rehab of the guys that weren’t able to participate this spring — Hau’oli Jamora, Colin Tanigawa, Kevin Smith, the limited role that Deontae Cooper had this spring. Those are the guys that we are encouraged by their progress as they continue to move toward getting prepared for camp. So that’s been very encouraging. Johri Fogerson is going to graduate this spring from the University of Washington and then play his final season elsewhere, which we don’t know where that is yet.”
On if there is any specific theme to the off-season conditioning program as there has been in the past: “We’ve had to have those areas of focus because of one (he cut out here, but he was referring to taking over the program and having to get the players fit initially) and two how we were going to develop ourselves as we move forward. I think now we are at a point where there are a lot of individual goals for certain players — some need to get stronger in the upper body, some need to get stronger in the lower body, some need to get more explosive, some are trying to get faster or quicker. So I think what Ivan Lewis has done a nice job now is we’ve built this thing up and heading into the fourth year of this so now it’s individually where are areas for specific guys and how can they improve so ultimately the team can get better. So that’s been the focus this off-season.”
On what Tosh Lupoi’s addition to the program has meant so far: “I thought Tosh’s group really responded well to him this spring. It’s a relatively young group — we’ll have I believe two senior defensive linemen this fall in Semisi Tokolahi and Talia Crichton, but the rest of them are underclassmen and I thought Tosh did a nice job of really connecting with those guys and communicating with them really well, teaching well. And the reason I can say that is I thought the things we were trying to teach got taught and then ultimately were performed on the field, and that’s a sign of a guy that can teach really well and then ultimately motivate. I thought we saw improvement in just about every one of those guys and their playmaking ability, the style in which we played, and the implementation of a new scheme and new techniques and new fundamentals. So I thought Tosh’s presence on the field was excellent. An excellent communicator and teacher and so far, so good through 15 practices.”
On how different the defense will look than in the past: “I think how it will look, it’s going to appear more of a 3-4 feel to it with a lot of nuances from a 4-3 defense and the ability to interchange between the two is something we have really tried to work at. And it’s a real credit to Justin Wilcox to get all that done in 15 practices. So I think it’s going to appear but that it’s a 3-4 defense but when you really start to break it down it will be relatively multiple whether it’s 3-4 or 4-3 principles involved.”
On the battle to replace Chris Polk: “It’s obviously a tough task, a big challenge. Chris was a tremendous player for us for three seasons, really was a big part of changing the culture and getting us on the right path as a program and we couldn’t be more thankful for what Chris brought to this program, his work ethic, his ability to practice day in and day out and then what he brought to us — a physical mentality that was tremendous. That being said, those are relatively big shoes to fill and there are a lot of carries to spread around. The natural guys that come to mind right off the bat are Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey to step in and get the bulk of those carries since they got the bulk of them in spring ball. That doesn’t mean that a Deontae Cooper come fall camp, or a Dezden Petty come fall camp, can’t step up and take on more of that role, or Antavius Sims can step in and take on more of that, so there are a lot of carries to be spread around — it’s just a matter of finding the right mix and to put players in the best position to be successful.”
On his thoughts on the playoff proposals and how he would like to see the teams selected to best protect the Pac-12: “That’s a great question and there are obviously a great deal of debate on this topic right now and we dealt with it last week in our meetings and I’m sure every other conference is and the NCAA is at this point because I don’t know if there is an exact right way to do it when you are dealing with over 100 football teams — how do you find a common ground that is an equal playing field for everybody to say ‘okay, these are the four best teams.”’ I think that’s a really unique challenge. It’s different than the NFL where you’ve got 32 teams and the scheduling and the even playing field in a sense. There’s a great deal of challenges involved. You are talking about conference championships in some conferences and not in others. Talking about a nine-game conference schedule in our conference and not in others. So what is the even playing field? So I think that is the biggest topic of them all is how do you get to the right four teams so that we all feel good about what we are doing. Do I have all the answers? No, I don’t claim to. I think that it’s a unique challenge and you would like to think that a conference champion is deserving of being one of the top four teams, but anybody can point to a scenario where maybe that conference champion isn’t deserving of that. So is it a conference champion but also have to fit a criteria of X number of wins, or where they are ranked in certain polls, things of that nature to fulfill certain spots I think is a big task and a big challenge. I wish I had more time to study on it but unfortunately I don’t — I have other things on my plate here that are more important than that right now.”
On if there are just four you are leaving two BCS champions out — can anybody ever really he happy with a four-team playoff? “Probably not. Somebody is going to be five and somebody is going to be six and they could easily have an argument for being four or three for that matter. I think last year the final BCS standings at the end of the regular season I think Stanford was our and Oklahoma State was three and Oregon was five and Oregon happened to be our conference champ at the time. And that wasn’t including USC and where they would have been had they been in the BCS. So I think you are always going to have people upset and I think you can please more people the larger the number you include in that playoff if it ever increases itself to eight, or 16 for that matter, but four is the number we are pegged on right now and you are going to have a couple of people upset about it.”