Just a few questions for Steve Sarkisian in the first Pac-12 coaches’ conference call of the season:
(on benefits of reviewing the bowl game vs. Boise State) I think there’s a lot of use for it. Obviously from a personnel standpoint, looking at the personnel on their roster compared to ours and looking at some of the matchups that are potentially there. Some of the guys that are now starters for them were key components on special teams, so you get a gauge for ’em that way. Obviously, there are great coaches on that side of the ball, so from a scheme standpoint there are going to be the subtle tweaks and changes, especially with the up-tempo stuff they’re doing. But the reality of it is they still have the principles in place for plays they like to run on both sides of the ball. So I think there’s plenty of use for it, but we can’t hang our hat on everything from the bowl game, but there’s plenty we can take away from it.
(on reasons for optimism with the defense) I like the maturity of this defense. You look at last year’s team and you look at just our linebacking corps in general, we started two freshmen and a sophomore. Well, now those guys are a junior and two sophomores. I think the maturity of Danny Shelton, now a junior at nose tackle, and the reemergence of Hau’oli Kikaha, formerly Jamora, back at defensive end. The maturity of a Josh Shirley, a Cory Littleton; obviously in the secondary, the maturity of Marcus Peters, Greg Ducre’s a senior, Sean Parker’s a senior. So I just feel better about these guys having a better understanding of what we’re doing and why we’re doing the things we’re doing on the defensive side of the ball, just from sheer experience and maturity.
(more on the rebuilt and rejuvenated Kikaha) Man, I think he’s better than ever, quite honestly. He is flying around all over the field. You really notice him in practice. He’s creating turnovers, he’s moving all over the field at different positions for us. His intensity is as high as it’s ever been; the guy practices like crazy. I think he’s got great leadership qualities. What I thought was a real tribute to Hau’oli was, we had our team select our captains; we just had our vote last week, and he was voted one of our three defensive captains. For a guy who hans’t played in two years, I think that speaks volumes to the type of leadership he has on our team.