March 27, 2003
On spring football's delayed starting date:"One of the blessings in disguise about having some turnover in our coaching staff is that by postponing the start of spring practice, we have spent more time talking about football, watching video tapes and doing things that we enjoy doing to get ready for the spring practices than we have in years. We have had almost all of February and March. I have watched more film and done more discussions with coaches, and we have talked about things in more detail than we have done in years."
"It's going to be a little warmer, but if you are at Arizona, you shouldn't be worrying about whether or not it is going to be warm for football practice. I believe it will work out just fine. The guys will finish with about three weeks to go in the semester. It also has given the players an extended period of time to work with Brad Arnett, so they could get started on their strength conditioning and running."
On the team's goals for the opening weekend:"We start on Saturday. We will not be in pads on Saturday and Sunday, just helmets. Those will be big installation days for us. Saturday and Sunday are big days for us to get our offense put in there and get it started, but they are even bigger days for our defense to get ready to go."
On the offense:"From an offensive standpoint, we have some new coaches. They have moved along quickly; they learn very fast, and they're smart, so they know what we're doing. Mike Deal knows all of our protections and our run games because we have done them all together before, so that is not an issue at all. Jeff Hecklinski has taught the same passing game for about five years, so that's not an issue."
On the defense:"Defensively, we are making a dramatic change in the scheme and in our style of play. We are switching to a three-man line with four linebackers. In this defense, our defensive ends fit very nicely into the category of outside linebacker. They are the size of what a lot of pro teams would be looking for in outside linebackers. This is a range of guys who can rush the passer and who are physical enough to rough the passer and play the run. In addition, our linebacker depth is a little better than it might look because we have some young players who are familiar with this style of defense. In our secondary, we played a lot of four-man coverage concepts last year, so it is not foreign to what we're doing now."
On Arizona's objectives for spring drills:"We have to install our defense and get our personnel situated. No doubt, there will be some players who change positions or maybe fit something a little better. We will be moving them as time permits and as the opportunity presents itself. We want to get a good nucleus of people, and we want to get the players in places where they can play and have some success. The biggest thing is getting our personnel lined up because not everybody fits into a position when you change defenses."
"We have to do a better job of establishing a basic defensive discipline. Watching tapes over the winter, we saw a lot of instances where play after play, someone was in the wrong position, someone missed an assignment, or someone didn't get the call. There were just too many instances where we did not have all 11 defenders playing exactly where we wanted them to play."
"On offense, we have to get our offensive run game going again. We will cut back to a limited number of plays and be a little hard-headed about it, which is okay because that's how you have to be in order to run the football. We will just ram that ball in there a little more this spring than we have in the past. That will be good for everyone involved."
"Also, we have to renovate our pass protection. I don't think we have to change schemes, but we have some different emphasis points. Being in the NFL, Mike Deal really brings some knowledge to us and some understanding of the pass protection part even more so than when he worked with me at two different places. I'm really pleased that he is back. We gave up far too many sacks last year, and Jason Johnson really played well, but I think he could have played even better if we had done a better job in some of these areas."
"The other thing is for us to develop our quarterback position with our young quarterbacks. We want to be sure that these guys can handle our offense. It will basically be between Nic (Costa) and Ryan (O'Hara) in the spring. We need for them to get a hold on some things and then for us to go from there. We won't throw everything at them as much as we might in some other places. We also will go slowly enough so they can learn exactly what we want them to do, and they can grow from there. What I don't want is for them to be overwhelmed with so many things that they never get to master anything. That is a big challenge for us."
"The third area is the special teams area. In the past, we have always given a lot of attention to the punt game. We will be working on all of our special teams, with punt getting the major emphasis. We will be working with all of our special teams units throughout the spring and giving them more emphasis than we have in the past."
On the battle for the No. 1 quarterback position:"It is going to be up for grabs. I would be surprised if somebody outdistances himself from the other this spring. Nic (Costa) and Ryan (O'Hara) are going to get about 75 to 80 percent of the work and maybe even a little more, and everybody else will get a little bit less than that. Our priority has to be with those two players with whom we have invested the most in, and we have to find out what they can do. Based upon that, it will determine where the new kids fit in when they come in the fall."
On potential position changes:"There aren't too many. Anthony Fulcher was targeted as a strong safety, but he winds up being one of our faster guys, so he may be tried at cornerback as well. Lamon Means will probably flip flop between both safety positions. There are not a whole lot of differences. What does make a little bit of a difference is that some of those outside linebacker types, the rovers and whips, like Joe Siofele, will start at the Mike linebacker spot, which is basically the middle linebacker spot. Kirk Johnson and Matt Molina, who were whips, will be targeted at the inside linebacker positions. The defensive ends like Marcus (Smith), Copeland (Bryan) and Andre Torrey are going to be targeted as outside linebackers. Some of them may not be able to play standing up, and that's what we have to find out."
On Arizona's 2003 schedule:"We have a great schedule starting with our non-conference schedule. It will be challenging. Players like to play good teams, and I think we will play better. We will have to play better because three of our four non-conference opponents were all bowl teams last year. Everyone we play in the conference went to a bowl or was bowl eligible, so it will be a tough schedule. Our home schedule is fantastic, and this is as good of a home schedule as anybody could ask for."