Aug. 9, 2002
ARIZONA HEAD COACH JOHN MACKOVIC'S REMARKS
Mackovic's outlook entering training camp:
"I'm very excited as far as what I see and what I know about what's been going on and how we've come together and done things. You can tell walking in the door that things are different in the way people are going about taking care of their issues and taking care of business and getting things done with a nice spirit. Last year, I don't think that we handled adversity very well, and I don't think that we had a number of players who were in a position to know what it took to win in the Pac-10. "
"I believe competition will be as good as we could expect at this point. We have veterans coming back at a lot of positions, but we have some terrific young players. In addition to the rookies who just arrived, we have some young men who didn't play last year because they redshirted, and they also are in a position where they are going to challenge for playing time. We may find ourselves playing some people in smaller doses and playing with more people rotating in a couple of areas. It's beneficial to the team to use more rotations so you have fresh players in there all the time."
"Finally, during the training camp, we have to get ready for games. We cannot wait until the training camp to begin thinking about our opponents. So we will look at our entire non-conference schedule, and we will work through parts of that throughout the training camp although we will focus primarily on Northern Arizona and making sure that we get off to a good start. We have a week off after that, so we will have a chance to come back and focus on Utah and look at Wisconsin and North Texas. Then we play 10 games in a row, so that's pretty tough."
On the training camp schedule:
"We are in helmets and shoulder pads through Tuesday. We will be putting in a lot of offense and a lot of defense over the next three or four days as we get a chance to install as much as we can. My belief is that you install as much as you can as quickly as you can, and then you go back and re-teach it with points of emphasis. Then you go back and re-teach it again as you get ready for a game. Spaced repetition is the best form of learning, and we use that concept in how we get ready to do things. We will continue to go back and review things as we build upon them."
"We have a limited number of scrimmages; we really only have two basic scrimmages. We will do a lot of situation things, and that will give us a chance to focus on a lot of different parts of the game. We will use the two scrimmages as game-style scrimmages."
On Arizona's 2002 schedule:
"This year, I think our schedule will challenge us dramatically before we get into the Pac-10, especially with two bowl teams, Utah and North Texas, who won their conferences, and a Wisconsin team that missed a bowl last year for only the first or second time in about a decade, and it is considered a dark horse in the Big Ten this year. We know that as we get ready to play Oregon in the conference opener, we will have been tested much more sternly than we were a year ago, and that will be good for our team as well."
On the season's division into four quadrants:
"We always break our season into four quadrants. Training camp is really the first quadrant. The second quadrant is the non-conference schedule, which includes four games this year, and what kind of start we get off to sets the stage for the conference season. Then we go into the Pac-10, and you look at the Pac-10 in two different halves, the first four games and the second four games. October will be a big critical month for us because we play Oregon, Washington and Washington State three out of those four weeks, and those are the three top guns that everyone is picking for the conference this year. We play them in the first half of the season, so that makes that part of the year critical. And, if we're still in the race when November gets here, that's the real run for the roses. We have to take care of a lot of things before we get down to the final part of that."
On UA's basic objectives:
"We have some basic objectives that we have to accomplish. Number one, we need to re-establish our defense. There is no question that if we are going to be a championship-caliber football team, we have to play better defense. Our focus will be primarily on that issue during training camp and as we get going into the season. This does not mean that we will do anything to adversely affect our offense, but we will give our defense every opportunity and the focus to see that we get the kind of play that is required. If we don't get it from certain players, and if someone doesn't play up to that, we are going to make the necessary substitutions to get people in the game who will play that way."
"On offense, we ended the year playing beautifully, and in the last five weeks of the season we scored points, we moved the ball, and we finished with Clarence Farmer having a great second half of the season in gaining more yards than anyone in the Pac-10. We have to keep that going. We have to make sure that our offense does not run out of gas. We have to get it going. We have big play-makers, and we need to make sure that we get the ball to them. We need to be sure that we're ready to play right from the get go."
"In the special teams, the thing that was not as prevalent last year, which we should have, is that we really didn't make many big plays. We have to get that started, get it ignited and get it going. We need to make sure that we come out and make the kinds of plays that we can. We are putting an emphasis in our return game especially because Bobby Wade led the league two years ago, and last year, we didn't do as good a job of protecting him and getting him broken away. People like Gainus Scott and Mike Bell are going to have a chance to get back there and return kicks. I think that they can be exciting runners as kickoff return men."
On wide receiver Bobby Wade:
"He's a very good player, and we will count on him in every game that he plays, just as we did last year."
On quarterback Nic Costa:
"Nic is still in the mode of learning, but he's real smart, he knows what to do, and he knows how to do it. We just have to get him the reps. I hope that he can get enough reps in scrimmage situations and the passing situations that he will begin to elevate his completion percentage and his opportunities to make some big plays. The running part of it for the quarterback really isn't quite as critical because you learn the ball handling very fast. I want him to get as many opportunities to throw without jeopardizing what Jason (Johnson) is doing as well."
On quarterback Jason Johnson:
"Jason can be as good as anybody in the Pac-10. He knows that the basic issue at quarterback is your touchdown-to-interception ratio. Jason showed the ability last year to throw touchdown passes. He suffered the most during the start of the Pac-10 season because when those teams came after us, they really went after him. He fought through that to the point where at the end of the season he had come back strong, and he was playing smart and did things well. I really believe in him because of his nature and his disposition as an athlete."
On halfback Clarence Farmer:
"Clarence is one of those rare guys. He's big, fast, strong, and he loves to run with the ball. He can catch, he's willing to block, and he is someone who can be a workhorse- type back with lots of carries and lots of action. Hopefully we can get the ball to him more than just hand it to him by getting him involved in the passing game. That would be good for us as a unit and for him as a player to make some big plays. I think he grew tremendously last season, and he is still growing."
On wide receiver Andrae Thurman:
"This is the year for Andrae to really step up and get in there and become the kind of play-maker that Rob Ianello thought he could be when he recruited him. He made good plays for us last year, but I believe he can make more plays this year. He is stronger, and that will help him along with his speed. He is going to be more physical this year."
On the cornerbacks:
"David Hinton is a senior, and he has been waiting for a chance to play. David worked hard this summer, and he put a lot of effort into the things that he is doing. He is a senior, and he wants to have a good year. We have a couple young freshmen who have terrific feet. Darrell Brooks is very likely the strongest competitor to that spot for anybody. We projected him as a safety, but he really can play corner. To start with, he is probably going to go a little bit back and forth between strong safety and corner, but we really want to see if he can play that corner spot."
On the team's effort:
"Effort is probably one of the biggest issues. I don't think that we played with the kind of effort last year. But I also know that last year, we had players who were playing with effort, but we were not able to protect them in the sense that we were spread out, and we didn't get into some good matchups. Teams had spent their time doing their homework against this base defense. In the fall, winter and spring, we looked at what we could do to compliment our defense, so we can reduce these kinds of things. We definitely are going to be a work in progress, but we intend to work hard and put in the type of effort that we need."
On the Pacific-10 Conference:
"Our conference is an offensive-oriented conference, and yet, if you want to win, this is the kind of conference where a good defense will win you a championship. That's why it is our highest priority to re-establish our defense because everybody in this league scores points. We know that we have to score points, and we are not in a position where we control the game yet well enough to play it close. We are just not there yet. We have to hold the first quarter better, and we have to establish that we are not going to give away easy points."
On team personnel matters:
"We had four players who did not get to report yesterday because of academic reasons. All four are in a position to complete and get everything done, but they are not completed yet. If they unsuccessfully complete them, then they will not be eligible to play. If they successfully complete them, they will be made eligible. That includes Vince Feula, Carlos Williams and Young Thompson, three defensive tackles, and it includes Isaac Watts, a defensive end. I've asked each of them to work as expeditiously as possible. In some respects, they've let their teammates down by not getting all of their work done, but we're not waiting for them."
"We had some players that you may or may not have read about in the newspaper or seen in television reports. They have been good about talking to me about what is going on. I know that they are working on trying to get the facts put together. They do have representation, and they wanted to present their side of the story as soon as possible. I don't feel that it's appropriate to just dismiss them or keep them from working out at this particular time because we don't have all of the facts. We will deal with it appropriately and fairly just as I would hope someone would deal with my children if they were involved."