Oct. 31, 2006
Stanford, Calif. - Stanford football head coach Walt Harris, along with players Brandon Harrison and Wopamo Osaisai addressed the media Tuesday at the weekly Stanford Football Press Conference held on the Stanford campus. Stanford (0-8, 0-5 Pac-10) returns to action after a bye week to host No. 9 USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-10) at Stanford Stadium this Saturday, November 4 (4:00 pm, PT). The game will televised live by Fox Sports Net with Barry Tompkins and Petros Papadakis on the microphones. Stanford's audio account of the contest featuring Ted Robinson and Bob Murphy with Mike McLaughlin providing the sideline reports can be heard live on KNBR 1050 AM and from a Yahoo Sports! link at gostanford.com.
Here's some of what coach Harris and the players had to say to the media on Tuesday.
HEAD COACH WALT HARRIS
"During the time off we had some shorter practices and took some time off, then came back and had the best practice of the year. I know some of the coaches were enthused about how well they were practicing, considering everything. One of the areas we are constantly striving to get better at is practicing hard, practicing smart, and making practice like a game so we can execute better in the game.
"We are playing an outstanding football team [USC] with a lot of very talented athletes. There are All-American statistics are all over, I'm sure, if you read the press guide. They've done extremely well, they had a tremendous football game last week, but they did the things we've done that torpedo your effort to be successful. They turned the ball over and that was the winning edge of the game, yet they fought back and had every chance to win that football game. That shows the kind of character they have and also the kind of talent they have. We have a tall order this week. Once again our challenge is always us, we have to play our game. We've got to play consistent,; we have to play good; we've got to play physical; we've got to play hard; and we've got to play smart. When we do that we will be giving ourselves a chance to have a chance. We know that playing USC after a loss isn't great, but playing them after a win isn't great either. It's a tough challenge, so we look forward to seeing where we're at against a great football team and a great football program."
On the importance of a bye
"It's important for them to get away from football and get a fresh, brighter outlook. Regardless of your record, I think byes are beneficial especially for college guys. They aren't professional football players; they don't make a living doing this, so I think bye weeks are positive."
On Fred Campbell
"Fred has been working hard, we've tried to make a defensive end into a linebacker because of his athletic ability and size that makes it a better fit at this level. He plays hard and tries to be physical. He is very coachable and is one of the brightest lights on out football team as a human being. He's gone through a lot of adversity but always has a smile on his face. He's a very special person, but he just needs to become an experienced football player and there's only one way to get it, and that's practicing and then playing."
On playing USC this Saturday
"You play this game because you're a competitor. No one likes the predicament we've put ourselves in, but we are trying to deal with it the best way. Now we have a chance to play a team that's highly ranked, highly rated, highly respected and coming off a loss. The fact that they lost to some people might mean they are more human or it might make them more motivated, [but] we can't worry about them. I think our guys are excited. You can see it by the way they are practicing. They are excited about getting a chance to get out there and play again and see where we're at."
On USC's receivers
"The key part is they are really well coached and well drilled, and they have excellent size as well as speed. I talked to Dwayne Jarrett in the tunnel last year at Southern California. He's really bulked up and a well-distributed 6'5" receiver, and then Patrick Turner is even bigger. Steve Smith has really been the guy who has played tremendously well for them and made a lot of big plays, and that was exemplified by the catch he made for them on the sideline in the Oregon State game. He's really stepped to the front this year. Those guys from USC are not only talented and fast, they are very experienced and know out to work guys. Our two young corners, in terms of experience, Tim Sims and Wopamo Osaisai, are going to have a tremendous challenge, and they have tried to rise to the challenge. And that's what you want to do, you want to play against the best. We are going to play against as good a receiver core as you're going to face."
On John David Booty
"Booty is an outstanding quarterback who put the ball right on the money in that game and many other games, so he's a big time player as well. He's the boss, you don't see him malfunctioning on their calls. In lot of ways you don't see much difference from the guy [Matt Leinart] who played last year. They are running the same stuff and running it well."
On USC's offense
"They've lost some of those great linemen, but they have replaced them with some outstanding guys. You can ask Arizona State about their line. When it was 21-21 there was no question about what they were going to be doing, and they went ahead and knocked them off the ball and pounded it ahead with Chauncey Washington. He pounded them on that drive, carried it a bunch of times in a row and the offensive line decided they were just going to make it happen. Their play caller [offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin] just kept running it, so I'm sure they decided on the sideline [that there would be] no more fancy stuff and lets be who we are, and they pounded them. The one thing I've noticed is there is no pass down for them. If its third down and eight, they may run it for a first down, so they have a lot of things going for themselves offensively. But the one thing they did last game that we didn't do when we were successful is turn the ball over."
On Stanford's defense
"We watched [our] Arizona State game and pulled out some plays we wanted to make sure they understood what was happening and what was confusing. We tried to make it an open forum where they could talk about what they were thinking and what they thought they were supposed to do. I thought it was very positive and hopefully the players did as well. We ironed some things out, and we improved our opportunity to coach and play better. It's not what a coach knows, it's what a player executes on the grass. I think our guys have played hard, and they could see in the game against Arizona State that if they just executed better what they were asked to do, we would have been off the field."
On Wopamo Osaisai returning kickoffs
"It will be exciting to see Wopamo back there returning kickoffs. He gives us a more athletic physical guy. Like when he got hit on one return against Arizona State and didn't go down, he bounced off and regained his balance to get a few more yards. So that will give us a little more hope, and that's what we need to build on."
On T.C. Ostrander
"He's doing well. He made some nice plays, but had some balls dropped. He had some times where he didn't get a chance to throw and got drilled. He hung in there and displayed tremendous courage, and he scrambled well and made some nice throws. He is rusty, and now he is getting more of the practice reps and is the focal point of our passing game since he is the quarterback. He will continue to improve. He's got what it takes; he is smart, he's into it, and he's got talent."
On Brandon Harrison
"He is a senior now. He was a real good player from the beginning. When you're a senior you focus on playing as well as you can to help your team and want to be the best leader you can as well as the most unselfish player you can be to help the team. Brandon and Trevor [Hooper] have given us great leadership and an unselfish attitude on defense, and it comes out when they play hurt and practice hurt. But, I think he's starting to feel better and that will help him play better too."
On Richard Sherman and Austin Yancy
"They are two guys who have good solid football playing ability, but they're inexperience becomes a factor. When you're experienced you have a way to make up for what you don't have, you learn the little tips in the game to overcome what you may lack. But when you're a true freshman you haven't learned. They are out there working hard though."
On coaching young receivers
"Probably the most fun part for me of the bye week has been watching our experienced guys out there coaching our younger, inexperienced guys. It is very gratifying to see our team attitude. Watching Mark Bradford and Marcus McCutcheon coach Marcus Rance the last couple days was tremendously gratifying. I appreciate that, and it shows they care about all the guys on our team. Regardless of the record, you can't take away the family atmosphere."
On the benefits of the bye week
"It was very beneficial physically. I got a chance to get some rest and not really do anything. Also, emotionally it's good to get away from things. It's been a grind from camp to eight straight weeks of playing. Just talking it easy for a week will be beneficial in our preparation for this week."
On playing USC after the Trojans lost at Oregon State last Saturday
"They will make sure they have a good focus coming into this week. Obviously, they are a very talented team. Turnovers and mental mistakes hurt them last week, and I'm sure the coaches will put a focus on not beating themselves. I think we will see a team come out with a lot of fire."
On USC's offense
"We've seen these receivers for a couple years now. Obviously they have a lot of talent ... both Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith have experience. We are treating this like another week in the Pac 10. We play guys with size, speed and ability week-in and week-out in this conference, and this week is no different. They are an offense that presents a lot of challenges, just like a lot of the ones we've faced. They've got a couple talented running backs and a real big, solid offensive line. We have to attack them and make them play on our terms, and play on their side of the line of scrimmage. It's going take a tough week of practice and lot of study in the film room, but we will be ready to go."
On last week's film sessions
"We learned that our communication from coaching staff to players hasn't been as good as it needs to be. We had a lot of assignments where the players weren't sure exactly what they were supposed to do, and we didn't realize there was any confusion until we talked about it. We got a lot of things cleared up, and I think Coach Harris was especially happy with the meeting. Now we have a much more open line of communication in a sense that we are not just memorizing what we are supposed to do, but asking questions so the entire concept of the defense fits in together."
On all four California teams (California, Stanford, UCLA, USC) playing at the same time in the same area this Saturday
"Being on TV brings a lot of exposure out here. Being from the South, I didn't really know a lot about Stanford, or UCLA, or USC, when I was in middle school and high school. It's good to get that out to national audiences to show that we play good football out here."
On what he hopes to accomplish in his last month of collegiate football
"Obviously at this point we are playing for pride because there is not bowl game in reach anymore. We really want to play for each other, to not have any guys give up on the season. We have done a good job to not let that happen, but we really want to make sure we end the season on a good note with winning football games and with playing for each other and not giving up."
On whether the team believes it can beat USC?
Definitely. There are probably about 105 people who think we can win, and they are in this locker room and upstairs in this building. Two years ago we played them real tough, and probably about the same amount of people thought we could beat them then too. Playing against a team like this, no one outside the locker room is going to believe you can win. So it's even more important to really believe in your heart that you can win."
On the challenges of facing USC's receivers
"I just try to watch the film to see the routes they run and see how they play. I don't think height is a main factor. I think I am capable of covering them and after watching the Oregon State game I think I am just as capable of covering them."
On his new role as a kickoff returner
"I'm excited about it because I liked the opportunity to return kicks like in high school. Now to have that opportunity again, I want to take full advantage of it and help the team."
On the learning experience in returning kicks
"[It is] just making sure you are catching the ball cleanly. It makes it easier to set up your return. Doing it with confidence is important so you can be sure of what you're doing when you're out there."
On USC not being undefeated after last Saturday's loss at Oregon State
"It doesn't really change much. USC is still just a football team. It's great to play an undefeated team and hand them their first loss, but at the same time we have to focus on winning football games here, and it doesn't matter who the opponent is."
On the excitement of playing USC
"I'm excited to play because they are a good football team, and I like to show I am capable of playing against good football teams and good football players. I'm not looking into their stats, you cant focus on that, their stats are not going to play on the field, the players have to play so that's what I have to focus on."