Aug. 29, 2006
Stanford, Calif. - Stanford football head coach Walt Harris, along with players Nick Frank and Brandon Harrison, addressed the media during the first Stanford Football Press Conference of the 2006 regular season Tuesday on the Stanford campus. Stanford opens its upcoming 2006 campaign with a Pac-10 contest at Oregon this Saturday, September 2 (12:30 pm, PT, ABC). After a game at San Jose State on Saturday, September 9 (3:00 pm, PT, Comcast Sports Net), Stanford is slated to open the new Stanford Stadium versus Navy on Saturday, September 16 (7:00 pm, PT, FSNBA).
Here's some of what coach Harris and the players had to say to the media on Tuesday.
HEAD COACH WALT HARRIS
"We're excited about the start of our second season. We know we have an outstanding challenge. We play a very good football team that has really upgraded their program since I remember way back when, when I was out here. Everyone tells me it (Autzen Stadium) is the toughest place to play in the conference. Not only is it going to be loud, but they also have some of the best talent in the conference. We did not play well on defense against that system last year. I thought they operated it tremendously. Offensively, we were competitive for a while but couldn't keep it going. They shut the door on us in the second half. Special teams was the best area of our game. I think we blocked a punt for a touchdown. It wasn't respectable but it made the game a little closer than it really was. We know it's a big challenge. We're looking forward to hitting someone else besides ourselves."
On the 2006 Stanford Football Training Camp
"We've had a challenging training camp. Our goal is to make it challenging so our players grow together as a team, and become more mentally and physically tough so that they can handle the competition of the Pac-10."
On opening versus a conference opponent
"I think what was a deal-breaker was the fact that at the time we would have played a 12-game season with all the games in a row. I didn't see how that could happen with the depth concerns that we have here. Honestly, I did not want to play a conference game right off the bat. I don't think that's good for us, trying to rebuild our program and just in our second year to go against a coach who's so fully entrenched. It's already tough, but it makes it a lot harder. I thought about the health of our football players and our team throughout the season and that's what made the deal. I couldn't see us going 12 games in a row."
On the urgency of training camp
"I would hope that when you play a team like Oregon, it would seem very logical that we would have a better camp than if we were not doing the same thing. It's hard to tell. We're still trying to find out who we are and establish our program and disciplines. It's hard to tell right now whether a top-notch opponent like Oregon improved our preparation than if we had played someone who wasn't so well respected."
On "getting the players back" after a difficult training camp
"I think they feel better health-wise. Rest and cutting back practice and having some time off really gave us a fresh attitude and a fresh outlook. It's always a challenge to bring a team back. We don't want to be tired and worn out when we play on Saturday. We have to be intelligent. We practice a long time. It's exciting for coaches but sometimes it gets boring for players and those are the ones that are playing the game, so hopefully we won't wear them out too much this week. We're going to need to be excited in order to be in this game against a quality opponent."
On Stanford's offense line
"I would think they're better. How much better? I don't know. Oregon was formidable last year and very challenging for us to block. That became a very difficult afternoon for our quarterback and our offense and therefore our team. Hopefully, we're better. Hopefully, their graduation has made us better and that their new recruiting doesn't make them the same."
On Stanford's blocking and pass protection
"I think we're better than we were last year in all phases. We know our players better; we know our backs better. I think our backs know what it's like to carry the ball in college football better than they did last year at this time. We had a pretty good game offensively last year in the opener, which kind of surprised some people. I thought it was a really good job by our players executing. We matched up better against them. We had a good matchup for us physically at that time."
On the challenge of facing Oregon's spread offensive and quarter Dennis Dixon
"I think it's going to be a big challenge, just because he's such a great athlete and they're spread out and in the shotgun anyway. I was very impressed sitting on the sideline and watching the athletes and the size of the athletes they had at receiver last year, as well as the number of athletes that were tall and fast lined up at wide receiver. I didn't spend much time admiring it because it proved to be devastating for our defense. They have a lot of athletes and a great athlete at quarterback. Last year they had a great quarterback. I thought [Kellen] Clemens really did an outstanding job all year long in playing. He was a perfect fit for what they did. He did a great job."
SENIOR FULLBACK NICK FRANK
On opening the 2006 season against Oregon
"We all know that they're a great team and have in the Pac-10 for a number of years. It will be a tough challenge. But, it brings out a greater level of excitement in all of us to play against a big-time team on a big stage to show people that we are a good team and not just pushovers."
On the environment at Autzen Stadium
"There's nothing better than silencing a crowd. Something that coach [Walt] Harris really tried to bring out in this team last year was that when we go on the road, it's 60 against 60,000. We're a tight knit unit, and we're facing the masses. We've taken that approach. We enjoy playing in the hostile environments."
On entering his second year as a starter in the backfield along with Anthony Kimble
"We work well together. We have a better sense of what each other will provide on each play. We watch film together. We talk to each other [about things on the field]. I think that level of communication is going to make us a better running package. If I can block for him, I think he's going to provide a lot for us."
On the offensive line
"These guys are getting more confident. It's hard when you look back on a season and you may not have had the running game you wish you would have had. But these guys have been fighting through. Coach [Tom] Freeman and coach [Walt] Harris have pushed them and challenged them, and I think they have stepped up to the challenge. All I see from them is dedication and commitment. We're trying to put this thing together. We're confident we can do it, and we hope it improves."
SENIOR CORNERBACK/SAFETY BRANDON HARRISON
On opening at Oregon
"It's a crazy environment. They have an advantage of playing in that stadium every week. They have a raucous crowd who's always behind them who is as lowed as anywhere in the country. Opening with a game like that does a lot for us in terms of helping us get focused at the beginning of the season. Sometimes you open the season with a maybe an opponent that is a little bit of a lesser opponents and you might get lulled into a false sense of security at the beginning of the season. Starting out with a team like this who we know how tough they are the last few years does a great job to get everyone on the team focused.
Great athlete4s all over the field. Tight ends running all over the field. They have a quartrback who is a Vince Young kind of guy, fast and athleteic runs as well as running back. This kind of am takes intense focus all the time because they have players who can break it at any time. But, I think we're doing a g ood job getting prepared for them."
On the urgency of this fall's training camp
"It's a lot easier to understand the importance of every two-a-day, every workout when you know you have an opponent who is such a great team and coming off a 10-win season and you are opening with such an important a Pac-10 game. It elevates the importance of every individual thing that you do day-to-day in camp."
On the new Stanford Stadium
"I think the new [Stanford] stadium is unbelievable. We got to go on a little tour of it during camp. It has that feel of the fans being right on top of you. It has the sense of a stadium that can just be so loud with such an advantage to the home team and the home crowd in the opponents' ear the whole game. I'm glad we got it done for my senior year, and I'm so excited that I get to play in it."
On senior quarterback Trent Edwards
"He does amazing things. I've heard the quote somewhere that "he's the best quarterback you've never heard of", and I think that's true to the utmost. He has so much talent. He's had an up-and-down career with the injuries and being hit hard, but God-willing if he stays healthy this year, he's going to do amazing things with the offense we have. He's such an intense player. He has so much focus and is so dedicated to the team. You can't go wrong with a guy like that."
On senior wide receiver Evan Moore
"He looks even faster [than before last year's hip injury] to me. He's lost a few pounds, his routes are cleaner, his hands are just as good as ever, and he's still just as tall as he was, so he's still going to create mismatches every game. Having to play against a guy like that every week is great practice for us, but I'm glad we don't have to do it on Saturdays."
On being underdogs
"I try not to think about it too much. Since I've been here, we've been picked eighth, ninth or tenth by every publication every year. I try to focus on the guys in the locker room, and the belief and talent that we have sitting in the locker room. If people don't expect us to beat many teams, that's fine. We can go for that underdog role and be the surprise team every week if we have to. At the end of the day, it comes down to being prepared, playing well and winning football games no matter what people think."