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Ask The Coach
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 08/28/2000

Aug. 28, 2000

STANFORD, Calif. - Have you ever wished you had the opportunity to ask head coach Tyrone Willingham your most pressing question regarding Stanford football? Here's your opportunity! Each Monday, the Cardinal football coach will answer several questions (submitted during the prior week) from the fans.

Below are Coach Willingham's answer from Week 1. Visit "Stanford Football Today" and submit your question for Coach Willingham!

August 28

Mike Morgan (Santa Ynez, CA) Coach, everyone is talking about USC and Washington and they seem to forget who the defending Pac-10 champ is. I know we lost a few key performers, but do you feel there is not a lot of respect for what you accomplished last season?

Coach Willingham: I do believe there is a certain amount of, I won't call it disrespect, or should I say a lack of respect for what was accomplished. I do believe it is more of a perspective based on Stanford's history, that we have been a program over the years that has a good season, an average season, and then a poor season. We've been on that rollercoaster. What we want to do to gain that respect from everyone - Pac-10 coaches, Pac-10 teams, and the media - is to be a consistent program. Each week, each season, Stanford is going to have outstanding teams. That is the goal of the program.

Cameron James (Fresno, CA)
What were your impressions of USC's win over Penn State (if you had the opportunity to see it)? Do you feel the Pac-10 is on the rise again and what do you feel were some of the factors behind the Pac-10's recent slump against non-conference Top 25? Thank you and here's to another Rose Bowl!

Coach Willingham:First of all, I think it is difficult to win any football game, regardless of who you are playing, regardless of what conference they come from. We've been unfortunate, not really unfortunate, but should I say we've chosen to play outstanding teams. When you play outstanding teams, there is a chance that you will lose. Therefore, based on the nature of the teams we have played, that percentage has swung in the other direction. I do not exactly say that it is cyclical, that it will come back and swing our direction, but I do know that if we get back to playing better football and creating better defenses amongst our conference, then I think you will see a better showing in our interconference matches.

Lane Rincon (Los Angeles, CA)
Coach, tremendous job last season!!!! How is Willie Howard? Is he back at full strength?

Coach Willingham:Willie Howard is back. He is doing very well. He is having a good camp, and we look forward to having him be a true leader on this year's football team.

Michael Gain (Seattle, WA)
What does your team need to improve on most to beat Washington this year? Also, what kind of contribution will junior wide receiver/running back/return man Eddie Gayles make this year? I ask about Eddie Gayles because I played with him in high school and he always was very competitive. Even though he was short, he had a very big heart. I also remember how intelligent he was. He was a fine student.

Coach Willingham:First thing, I think that is a great question but not just a question pointed towards Washington. Our improvement has to be across the board, number one, for us to be able to be a champion and that's what our goal is to try to be a champion. But if you're specifically talking about our Washington game, the thing that we probably would most like to go back and improve, would be, number one, our ability to capitalize and make big plays when we had chances, and then, two, to prevent their quarterback from having the type of game that he had. We have to improve in defending the option game and improve in our ability to stop some of the big plays that he had.

(on Eddie Gayles) We're never quite sure what a young man will do. Hopefully, first of all he will come into camp and earn the right to play and, upon earning that right, really take off and make some big plays. That is probably a better question to ask of the young man than of the coach.

Terry Johnson (Saratoga, CA)
Coach, congratulations on your Rose Bowl season. It was a special season for Stanford fans. As you approach the new season, can you comment on how things are going in fall camp? Are you making progress in replacing your graduated seniors? Do you have areas of particular concern? What do you think of this year's team compared to last year's team at this time?

Coach Willingham:As any coach would tell you, it is real difficult to get a feel for where you are until you play a football game. We have significant losses in our senior class, but at the same time I think we have some young men that in time will become good football players. The one question is how do you find a way to rectify and improve upon the experience that you lost. The only way to do that is to play games. So we'll be hopefully very excited, very enthusiastic as we open the season. Hopefully, we will carry this to success as we try to gain experience with each ball game.

Miguel Cainas (Menlo Park, CA)
First of all, thank you and your team for a magical season last year, I hope we get to see another one this year. Now to my question: Do you think it is possible for Stanford, presumably the Division I-A university with the most stringent academic requirements, to compete for a national championship in football? Thank you for your time. You are a great source of pride and inspiration to all football fans.

Coach Willingham:The first thing that I will tell anyone is that you don't always have to be the most talented team to win. What we seek to do is to be the best team that Saturday and if we can do that 11 Saturdays, then quite naturally I think we put ourselves in a position to first of all win the conference and then be one of the teams left for a national title. So I say yes. There are a lot of things that we need to add in terms of skill level to our football team but at the same time you have to promote discipline, the team attitude and the type of mindset that allows you to be (if I may) Tiger Woodish. I think the thing is to have the ability to focus and concentrate each Saturday and not just one Saturday up, one Saturday down.

Vanessa Long (St. Pete Beach, FL)
Do you plan on giving FB Casey Moore the ball more this year? He seems to have great hands and is very fast!!

Coach Willingham:The first thing we try to do is to put ourselves in a position to win. That is first and foremost, more so than working toward what any individual needs. But we are very blessed and pleased that Casey is an outstanding player that does have the ability to run, does have the ability to catch the ball. Therefore, you want to find ways that you can get him more involved in the system. We will be looking toward doing that in some shape, form or fashion this year.

Ken Yasui (Atherton, CA)
Congratulations again on a very successful 1999-2000 campaign. I think one of the key success factors for the Cardinal last season was staying relatively injury free until the post-season. When I look at this season's schedule and see Notre Dame, I can't help but remember the 'chop block' incident on Willie Howard. I also remember the face mask penalty that blew out both of Mike Mitchell's knees on the very last game of his career. Is there anything you can do as a coach - like calling Coach Davie and telling him we will not tolerate any malicious acts like that? Or is it the case that these acts are carried out by individual intentions and are out of control of the coaches on both sides? I would appreciate your perspective on this.

Coach Willingham:I really don't think that those acts were planned by the players. Nor, do I think that was the spirit of the coaches in those two cases that you mention. I think there are some times that things just happen. Some of it can be based on the rules, not of course the face mask, but the "chop block" as you know is a legal block in football as long as it is not (and I shouldn't say chop-block) because chop-block technically classifies a high-low block in most cases. But blocking below the waist by a single football player is legal and it is unfortunate that Willie was caught in that position, but I do not believe that it was an intentional act either on the individual's part or by the coaches. What we try to do is go back and through our communication with national coaches around the country stress the need to clean up our rules so that the legislation is clear and that we can eliminate certain things that prevent health hazards for the young people playing the game.



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