Highlights from Steve Sarkisian on the Pac-12 coaches’ call today:
(on Arizona’s defense) They’re a veteran group. They’ve got a lot of veterans on that side of the ball who have played a great deal of football for them in all positions, whether it’s in the back end with those five DB; the linebackers obviously spearheaded by Marquis Flowers and (Jake) Fischer. And then the big guys up front with (Sione) Tuihalamaka and (Tevin) Hood and those guys. So they have a lot of experience. It’s their second year in the system now, so I think they’re understanding exactly what those coaches are asking them to do. They’re making plays. They’re stout against the run, and in the back end they’re not giving up big plays and they’re covering really well.
(on backup running backs) I’ve been impressed with those guys. We had some question marks at the running back position coming into the year just because of Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper coming off ACLs. I think Jesse has really started to improve here the last couple weeks; he played really well against Illinois and again last week against Idaho State. I think Deontae has come on; got his first touchdown last week. And the guy we really have high hopes for — he had a couple fumbles against Illinois but bounced back really nicely last week — is Dwayne Washington. So I feel like it’s a good position for us. We have adequate depth there. And we have three young guys who we’re high on; right now, they’re just not able to get the carries. But we really like the redshirt, Lavon Coleman, we got another young guy, Kendyl Taylor, and then Ryan McDaniel. So it’s a good position of depth for us right now.
(on Arizona’s defensive plan vs. UW last year) Well, they created a couple turnovers. That was one of the big keys in the ballgame. With the interception there in the red zone and then the sack-fumble there to start the second half were really big plays in the game. I thought they did a nice job up front of trying to create some thing to cause us to get out of sync a little bit, and then ultimately they did a good of, when they got the lead, when their offense got rolling, they built that lead up and kept the ball in front of them and tackled us.
(Arizona got to 3-0 at a different route, a different schedule. Do you feel like they’ve shown most of their scheme, or do you think they’ll open up the playbook significantly against you guys?) I don’t know. I know Coach Rodriguez is a great coach. They’ve got a lot of talented guys on that roster, obviously Ka’Deem Carey most notably. I think the quarterback’s playing at a really high level for them. Just like every game you go into, I’m sure they’re going to have some new wrinkles for us on both sides of the ball that we’ll need to be prepared for, but at the end of the day it’s football and it’s blocking and tackling and running and throwing and catching. So I don’t think they’re going to vary too far off what they’ve done, but I’m sure they’ll have some wrinkles for us.
(on Shaq Thompson and his recruiting process. Thompson announced on Twitter) I had known for a little bit of time before then. Shaq, he’s not a guy that’s starving for attention. He’s a very low-key guy, he was low key in the recruiting process. He didn’t need the press conference and the hats and all those things. That’s just not his makeup. He’s a great kid. He works extremely hard, not only on the football field but in the classroom and in the community. He’s a really good teammate. So the style in which he committed to us, now that I’ve gotten to know him more, isn’t surprising to me at all.
(on Thompson’s transition from safety to linebacker. Has he taken to that even more this year?) Without a doubt. He’s a completely different player this year as opposed to last year. He’s still only a year under his belt of playing the position. I think Peter Sirmon, our linebackers coach, has done a great job with him. And that’s not easy to do. He’s just got such play-making ability; he works at it, without a doubt … and he really wants to be great. And you see the physicality in his game is showing up more and more and more. We’re lucky to have him. He’s a great player and a great teammate as well.
Note: The Times’ Bud Withers, in the wake of Saturday’s 56-0 rout of FCS Idaho State, asked Sarkisian about UW’s scheduling plans going forward as it relates to the new college football playoff (which will incorporate strength of schedule). Sarkisian planned to meet with AD Scott Woodward today about that very topic. Withers will have a column on that soon.