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Ask Coach Willingham
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 09/12/2000

Sept. 12, 2000

Week 3

M. Torres (Visalia, CA)

Last week against Washington State, the screen pass seemed to work so well for us. Why was it not used in the San Jose State game?

Each week in our ballgames, we make a decision as a staff as to which are our most effective screens that we believe will work against a particular team. We did not rely as much on our halfback screens this week as we did some of our wide receiver screens. So, we used a variety of screens in order to 1) keep the opponent off balance, provide some variety and hopefully some surprise in our attack as we work against each opponent each week. So, as you look at our football team, each week you will probably see a different area of emphasis. Our screen package was in. It was just a little different usage in who we tried to feature versus San Jose.

Randy Whittell, '74 (Los Angeles, CA)

There has been a lot of discussion amongst alumni friends of mine about the difficulty of recruiting top-flight football talent given the university's tough admissions requirements. An observation is that we have often lacked team speed that is competitive with other major programs in the PAC-10 and nationally, perhaps as a result. How do you view the current team's overall speed, and do you think we will ever have the speed and depth to compete for a national title?

We are getting better in terms of that question as it relates to the speed of our football team. The recruiting and admissions standards that we have are a double-edged sword. They are very good. They work in our favor. They provide us with an outstanding young person to work with. A young man that is bright, that is goal-oriented. At the same time, it limits our pool, and anytime you limit a pool that means you have a small range of athletes. So, it works both for us and against us in terms of recruiting speed and helping our team be a better football team. We are improving our speed and hopefully as the years to come, we can do an even better job of doing that. But, sometimes, you fall victim I guess to what's available that year based on our academic requirements, which do kind of tie your hands just a little bit. But, will we have a chance to compete for a national title? I've always said that to win a national title, you don't necessarily have to be the best team. If we can find a way for our football team to play or be the best on 11 Saturdays that will at some point put us in position to be the best team in the country on the one given Saturday that counts. The goal is to have all the ingredients ? the speed, the power, the strength, the size ? to be a national champion, but not believing that that in itself will give you a national championship. But, the play of a team and to be one against someone else that may be 11 will be what we'll be seeking.

David Tomlinson (San Jose, CA)

I know you have built a fine football program, and despite most of the country's perception, SJSU has a fine program too. However, I do believe we are more talented than the Spartans - is it that they just match up well against us? This season seems to be mirroring last year - which is great!! Let's go back to the Rose Bowl!

Well, first of all, I would like nothing better than to go back to the Rose Bowl, but what we're trying to do in our program is develop a consistency of attitude, a consistency of play that regardless of who you play, you play you're best game. There is no question that San Jose (State) is very energized when they play Stanford and rightfully so. But, at the same time, we should be energized to play San Jose (State) because it offers an opportunity to win another game, which puts us closer to being a bowl team. It also gives us the bragging rights for this backyard, and we would like to have those bragging rights. It also has a national perspective from the standpoint that it is very difficult to be a national team if you don't win all of your ballgames, and that is a goal of this program.

Sean Lowery (Los Angeles, CA)

Looking at Texas, what do you feel will be the key to winning that game? I'm glad to see it's a pretty late start - kinda turns the tables on them after that early start in Austin.

Number one and a very simplification of what has to happen, we have to make sure that our preparation is not only mental but also physical and emotional. If we can do that, then we prepare ourselves to play our best game. Then, when you start getting down to the things that win football games, you can almost see it every Saturday. The team that wins the third down war, meaning on offense we convert our third downs into first downs and touchdowns. On defense, we keep them from making first downs and touchdowns on third down. The team that wins the turnover game, we had 600 yards (614 yards) on offense against (San Jose State) but we lost the turnover game, which really meant we probably took another two or three scores off the board, which might have put us in a position to win. So, those two things are critical as we look at the overall play of a football game.

Mike Andrews (Los Gatos, CA)

Coach, great story in SI a couple of weeks ago. I hope you never leave Stanford, but I know you have to do what is best for you and your family. My question is, if you could name just one aspect of college football that appeals to you most, what would that be? Thanks and hope you pick my question.

The number one thing in anything that has to do with people would be the people themselves. Being a football coach, you're working with young people. You're instructing young people. The number one element that is most pleasing about it is the opportunity to work with young people. We're blessed at Stanford to have a very bright and articulate group of young men that have goals set for themselves in football and also outside of football. That is a very precious young man to work with because I've always said that our greatest resource is our children, and I think that other people have said that in many different ways. If we can get them to have a better understanding of themselves and the world that they live in, and have respect and responsibility to others, I think we have created something good and hopefully the game of football allows us as coaches to teach them some of those characteristics.


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