The weekly press conferences are back! The season is only days away from kick off, and this week, we have Coach Kingsbury, DT Broderick Washington, and OL Paul Stawarz in front of the mic. Let’s get to it.
After the media availability Kingsbury held throughout fall camp, the media jump right into game prep for Eastern Washington and ask about the Eagles.
Q. What do you see from Eastern Washington last year (inaudible)?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Very well-coached, first and foremost, lots of talent. They had two players drafted last year in the NFL, and some others that are still in camp. So they are a very good opponent. It will be a great test for us to start the year.
Q. How hard is it to replace a guy like (Cooper) Kupp?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, every year it seems like they have a tremendous offense. I’m sure they’ve had guys waiting in the wings, Kupp and those others were dynamic players that could have played for anybody, so I’m sure they’ll have another group that can come in and compete very well.
Q. What do you know about their quarterback?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, he’s a good player. Really moves around, extends plays. We had one at Houston named Case Keenum that he kind of reminds me of. Very accurate, can get out of the pocket, make plays, can hurt you getting first downs with his legs. He’s a real competitor.
Cooper Kupp there in the second question was their all-world receiver. Fortunately for the Red Raiders, Kupp has moved on to the NFL after he amassed more than 6,400 career receiving yards and 73 TDs for the Eagles. And anytime a QB is compared to Case Keenum, especially by a guy that coached him, you know he’s got some talent.
Q. Other than you obviously pick up the win, what do you want to see from your team?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, defensively trying to stop the run, first and foremost. Then we’ve got to create more turnovers. We’ve got to find a way. There will probably be a lot of plays in this game, and we’ve got to find a way to get the ball out. Got to find a way to turn them over somehow, offensively start fast, secure the football, and establish the run game. We weren’t good enough by a long ways last year running the football. Hopefully we’ve made some strides in that area.
Q. I know they’re replacing a lot of production, but they’ve also got a lot of players who have a lot of snaps. For your team you’ve got a bunch of players making their first snaps this year. Is that a concern for you?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, we have a lot of guys back as well. So I think both teams do, really, when you look at it. We have a lot of veteran players on both sides of the football, so I don’t think that’s much of a concern.
When asked about takeways from this game, Kingsbury is obviously concerned with stopping the run. Run defense will determine this team’s success, even against teams like EWU that can air it out with the likes of Texas Tech. The EWU offense actually performed slightly better than Tech in both rushing (1800 yds, 24 TDs – 1200 yards, 22 TDs) and passing (5614 yds, 54 TDs – 5516 yds, 47 TDs). The two teams obviously play in different divisions of football, but I think this will be a closer game than most expect (or Tech fans would like), especially considering EWU is returning so much talent while Tech is replacing so much.
With Tech recently releasing the depth chart, there were some questions regarding Quentin Yontz being listed ahead of Joe Wallace at DT, and the running backs.
Q. Quentin Yontz hasn’t been talked about much over the past month. What can you tell us about his progress and what you saw from him that enabled him to earn that spot?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, he got here late, but has really come on the second part of fall camp. We feel like we have quite a few bodies that can rotate through there now. He’s a guy that made some plays in the last couple scrimmages, and we feel like had earned the right to get in the rotation.
Q. Is Joe still in the mix there?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: He is, he is. We’ll see how that all plays out, but he’s had a good camp. He’s worked hard, so hopefully we can get him out there.
Q. Did you decide on the running back rotation might shake out Saturday?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I really can’t because I’m not sure exactly. I think Justin Stockton will start the game and we’ll kind of roll with it from there. We want to make sure the next guy’s in, if it’s going to be Trey or Desmond are comfortable with the plays we’re giving them being that they haven’t been in the system very long. So we’ll kind of start with Justin, and seeing how the game goes, take it from there.
Q. Is Felton in the mix there?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: He is. Felton’s had a really good camp. He’s a guy you know you can put in. He’s going to execute your offense at a high level and be very steady for you.
According to the depth chart for RB, you’ve got Stockton as the starter, then Desmond Nisby and Demarcus Felton listed together as being next. Kinsgbury also mentioned that order in the last media availability after camp, but this answer was different. It almost seemed as if Stockton is the starter, and then Nisby and King are listed as next, with Felton just being a rotation guy. Certainly something to keep an eye on.
Washington is asked about progress from the defense and which players around him that have impressed him.
Q. How much progress have you seen this defense make from that first scrimmage from I guess about a month ago, we talked to you after that, to the last four weeks, how much progress have you seen in general and on the D-line as well?
BRODERICK WASHINGTON, JR.: Since that first scrimmage I’ve seen a lot of progress between the whole defense, just with us coming closer together and actually playing with each other and for each other and knowing that we have each other’s back and just building that trust. From a defensive line standpoint, I feel like the guys around me are doing a great job. The same thing, really with the whole defense. We’re all coming together and playing better with each other.
Q. In your defensive line work, what one or two guys really progressed the most, do you think?
BRODERICK WASHINGTON, JR.: One of the guys that I feel like has progressed the most is the same guy I’ve been saying Lonzell Gilmore. He’s going to be a name to remember. Really just everybody else, really. All the guys around me really are just doing a great job of what they’re doing.
Hop aboard that Gilmore #hype
He’s also asked how they’ve prepared for a team that has won a ton on the FCS level and actually beat Washington State last year.
Q. Anybody that’s watched Eastern Washington knows how many championships they’ve won at the FCS level. They beat Washington State last year to start the year, and Washington State ended up being pretty good last year. What is the biggest challenge with you and your teammates? I know it’s the first game. I know everybody’s going to be hyped up. But almost just not sleeping on a team that might be really good, and not on the same level with you guys as far as divisions, but dominated at the FCS level for a long time.
BRODERICK WASHINGTON, JR.: Really, we can’t overlook anybody this year. We’re going to treat every opponent the same way like it’s a big game. Eastern Washington won’t be any different. Their offense works well together. They can present a lot of problems that we could see later on in the year. If we don’t come prepared, then they could beat us. We’re really going to have the mindset of treating everybody the same.
Q. Can you guys talk about that game for Eastern Washington against Washington State last year? Is that something that was brought up in conversations in meeting rooms?
BRODERICK WASHINGTON, JR.: Yes, sir. We actually talk about the last three games because the first — well, hold on. Let me get it right. Over the last couple years they’ve played good opponents like outside of their not conference and in bigger conferences and they gave them a good game and they barely lost those games. So we know they’re going to come out, fired up, ready to play. So we can’t overlook them at all because they’re a pretty good team.
Q. How much of that falls on you and Nic and guys in the locker room to make sure the team is up and not sleeping on stuff like that?
BRODERICK WASHINGTON, JR.: Making sure everybody’s on the same page and not overlooking any little thing about them. We really haven’t even — like normally you would hear guys talking about like, oh, it’s going to be a breeze, stuff like that. But everybody’s just locked in, focused and making sure they’re doing their job to the best of their abilities.
This isn’t Kansas.
Stawarz appears to be making the adjustment to FBS football and should be considered a contributor for the remainder of his eligibility at Tech. He’s worked his way up to a starting position along the offensive line, bumping Morales off the center position.
Q. How well have you settled in and how confident are you now with the calls?
PAUL STAWARZ: I’ve been playing it for a while now through spring and through fall camp, so I feel comfortable. I think the guys around me feel comfortable too with me making those calls, so I’m ready for it.
Q. What’s been the biggest adjustment for you playing under center?
PAUL STAWARZ: I think the biggest thing is just embracing that leadership role. You have some guys relying on you in making certain adjustments, certain points, so I think that’s the biggest thing. But I think just playing throughout this fall camp, playing that position. I think I’ve gotten comfortable with it and it’s been going well.
Stawarz was also asked about players around him that have impressed, and he calls out a JUCO transfer in particular.
Q. Who do you feel had the best camp?
PAUL STAWARZ: I’d say Jacob Hines had a really good camp coming from JUCO. I know what he’s going through. I think he did really well. Travis Bruffy is also another guy who really improved.
You would have to agree with him because a JUCO making the transition to D1 typically comes with a year of adjustment, but Hines has stepped in and taken a starting position.
Q. The offensive line has gotten a lot of criticism from fans, from media, from the outside world. What do you say to those guys about how hard you guys are working and how much improvement you guys expect to make this year?
PAUL STAWARZ: Yeah, there are some things that we were proud of last season and some things we had to improve. There is nothing I really want to say to them. It’s something as an offensive line you’ve kind of got to live with. We’ve put in a lot of work this off-season. So I’m really excited to see how things play out, but I think we’re ready.
He’s also asked several questions about improving the run game and what that looks like this season.
Q. You guys have been focusing on the run. Kliff has been talking about that all preseason. How important is it to get off to a good start against a defense that’s struggled around here?
PAUL STAWARZ: Yeah, the run game is the main focus for us. I mean, we know how last season played out. We’re not really happy with that. We’ve made huge improvements I’ve seen since last year. So it’s really just going out there and showing what I know this offensive line is capable of. That’s really about it.
Q. What are some of those improvements that you’ve seen?
PAUL STAWARZ: I think the biggest thing and the biggest strides we’ve made as an offensive line is how close we are and just the camaraderie and how much we jell together. I think that’s a huge thing in just the way we communicate and target things. I think we’re all on the same page now. We know the scheme. We know what Coach Jones has in place for us, so I think that we understand all of that is what’s really going to set us apart from last year.
Q. Is there a difference in physicality along the offensive line particularly the running game, having guys who, for example, came from a running offense (inaudible)?
PAUL STAWARZ: It’s just the mentality you’ve got to bring with playing the offensive line. I think Coach Jones has really drilled that into us in how you need to play, especially in the run game. That’s something we need to change this off-season.