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Tyrone Willingham Quotes - Text & Audio
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 09/26/2000

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    Could you explain when and why you went about trying to get this bye scheduled in?
    Well, I think the bye would have come at a little different time had we not switched our Washington State ballgame, if I can go back and remember correctly. But, we felt like, one, switching that ballgame gave us another opportunity to be on television. Two, we thought it was a good way to start the season off with some urgency, a sense of urgency with a Pac-10 ballgame. As it unfolds right now, I think the bye is coming at a great time. And, I would say that if it came at any time, so you need to be aware of that. But, the truth of the matter is coming off the victory against Texas, you often have a tendency to overly-inflate what you've done to some degree, so it gives us a chance to get our feet back on the ground and be ready to play hopefully an outstanding football team in Arizona.

    It also gives you time to give your quarterback a few more reps?
    We'll hopefully use that to our advantage, also.

    So, you would have tried to get a bye in at some point, whether it was Washington State or someone else?
    We usually have one based on how scheduling goes now a days at some point. All that is probably mandated with television and different things in trying to rearrange your schedule so you can get certain things. But, normally we'd like a bye to come right about the time that we start school.

    How much does that extra time help Chris (Lewis), particularly in light of that it is not actually in a game situation?
    I think it does help Chris because he now he has more opportunities to take snaps. If it were just one week, then you only have one week of preparation, whether we focused all of our time on Arizona or not. But, now he has an opportunity to take snaps, which gives him more situations, develops a better history of what he's doing. Now, he has more information to recall and all that helps you be a better player.

    Do you have a sense that given the system that you guys run here that it's any harder to grasp the whole system of being quarterback here than it is perhaps at other schools? That it takes a little more time to acclimate yourself?
    I think what probably determines that will be how involved your quarterback is in your audible system and how extensively you allow him to utilize that system. I think that has more to do with it than anything. If you just have a call and run system, where you call the play (and) he goes out and runs the play, I would think that doesn't require a great deal from your quarterback's participation standpoint. Then it just comes down to can he learn the reads, do the different things in your passing game and hand the ball off. But, our system involves a great deal from that standpoint because we do actively involve him in our audible system. And that is an audible system that includes both runs and (the) pass game.

    Because of that, how much do you have to cut back in what you're able to do than say with somebody like a Todd Husak, who obviously was very good at reads and calling audible?
    I think you have to understand that it's an acquired skill. That doesn't happen overnight. That's something that if you went back and looked at Todd's first year in the system, it was probably not as productive as his last years because he keeps getting better, he keeps getting more mature, he understands it better, he sees more. When you first step out on a football field, your vision is extremely limited because the game is much faster because of your processing of information. As you go through your career, usually it slows down. The game amazingly becomes a much slower game and that's because of your awareness of what you're able to see and envision.

    Is there any way you can accelerate the learning process for somebody like Teyo (new second-string freshman quarterback Teyo Johnson)?
    That process started to some degree with the bye week because now what you have an opportunity to do is the same thing you're doing with Chris (Lewis). He has an opportunity to take more snaps, his participation is heightened so now he starts to do those things. You may even possibly look at putting him in more live or game-like situations to kind of accelerate that pace as opposed to a normal practice environment.

    Will you try to find playing time for Teyo (Johnson) like you've tried in the past (with other backup quarterbacks)?
    We've yet to make a decision on exactly what course we'll take yet. That will be determined later.

    Do you remember what impressed you guys as a staff most about Teyo (Johnson) when you were recruiting him?
    I'll speak from my impression. Number one, when we had Teyo in camp, he had a marvelous leadership persona that just seemed like the other kids followed and focused on him. That was the thing that I wanted as a part of our football team and a part of our program. I think his skills as a quarterback are going to continually be developed because he is an outstanding athlete and hopefully under the tutorship of Coach (Bill) Diedrick, we'll really have something special at some point in his career.

    Has he shown those leadership skills or is it too early for a true freshman to do that?
    I would say its probably early, even though I think there are some things that still are evident, but he has probably not even found his way around campus yet (laugh). So, I would definitely say it's a little early.

    How is it for Teyo (Johnson) having an older brother (fifth-year senior linebacker Riall Johnson) on the team like Riall? Does he feel more pressure because of that or does it make him more comfortable on the team?
    Well, I would think you'd have to ask him that question. I think the coaches' response would be that it provides a comfort level that most young freshmen don't have, that when crisis or problems arise that you have someone that's been through the system that you can go to and talk and discuss those problems with that has some knowledge of the system. From that standpoint of the coaches' perspective, I think it would provide a comfort level that most freshmen don't have.

    What's been your experience over the years of how much things change or what changes once school does start?
    I think at Stanford it's tremendous. We've had the luxury of having three weeks where we could focus solely on football and now our attention, our concentration, our focus, our responsibilities have been split. Now, our young men have to take a very active part, and are expected to take a very active part, in their academic life. Any time you have a change in your responsibilities, I think it creates a change somewhat in your personality or what you're able to do and what you're capable of doing.

    To what do you attribute the fact that backup quarterbacks have done pretty well for you guys in the last couple of years?
    I would hope that it's our practice system. That even though the number of repetitions that they receive is limited and nearly not quite that of a starter, it is basically along the same lines, and that our expectation of them is along the same lines. That (expectation), our meetings, everything that we do, is done the same whether you are a backup or you are a starter.

    Would any area of the playbook (be) emphasized more or less with Randy (Fasani) out?
    That will be yet to be determined I think as we start to get a little closer to the game (versus Arizona). Then, we'll know for sure what's good in the game plan, what's not good in the game plan, what Chris (Lewis) has the ability to do, what he doesn't have (the ability) to do, etc.

    In general, what does Chris (Lewis) bring to the position (of quarterback)?
    I think he brings, one, high school and career experience at the position - that he's been a quarterback for some time, he's worked on the position, has an understanding of the position. He brings athleticism as being both a standout athlete in football in his high school career and also a volleyball player in his high school career. He's got athletic success in both arenas, and he has now been in our system going into his second year. All those things are key points for him in terms of taking over the reins of our offensive system.

    From your standpoint, how much is still to be learned about what Chris (Lewis) can do?
    Well, I think you really learn about a football player in the games. The games will start to dictate exactly what we're capable of doing.

    What's the origin of that practice philosophy?
    I don't think it's the origin of a quarterback practice, per se. I think it's an overall practice system that I would be very comfortable saying that Coach (Bill) Walsh started and that Denny Green used very much the same system. I think we use the system that I learned from Denny that Denny learned from Bill. That could go back even farther than that at Stanford. But, the origins of it are probably more in relationship with pro football than anything else.

    And it's based on repetition?
    I would probably say no. It's probably not based on repetition, because I think there are other programs and other systems that you can get more repetition than we get. It's probably based on trying to create, as much as anything else, with each snap that you take a game-like atmosphere, which is hopefully quality opposed to quantity.

    That's interesting that you learn about players in games. You talk about obviously you have expectations for players. In practice every day, you think you have limits that players can reach and perhaps go beyond. When it happens, what is that feeling on the sidelines? Go back a couple of weeks now to maybe Ryan Fernandez would be one of those guys with the way he played against Texas or Luke Powell. We talked earlier about Luke having the same kind of speed that Troy Walters had - he's not Troy Walters yet, but there are some glimpses. What's that feeling for a coach when you see a player reaching up and grabbing those expectations that you have for him?
    Well, that's a tough one. It's rare that a player reaches the coaches' expectation. There's always more that you think they can do, and I think that's probably the right attitude or the right approach for all your players is to expect more. But, it is very pleasing. But, I think it's more pleasing for the player because the great part of coaching is to see young people accomplish. I mean, that's gratifying. When you see them do things and reach levels that you hoped they would reach, that just adds not just to their on-field confidence, but it just adds to their life confidence that they know they've obtained another goal. They've reached another level, and it just keeps building on that success formula. That's what you hope for young people.

    Do you think Chris (Lewis) is better prepared to play this Saturday having redshirted last year than he would be if he'd played some last year?
    I think that's always debatable because there's no question that playing is the difference. But, the question is at what expense. That one I don't know, because there is an expense to the team for a young man playing possibly before he's ready. There's also an expense to the individual because I'm one that has gone on record on this, and I guess I'll go on record again, I think if you play a quarterback too soon you can hurt him for his entire career. In my opinion, you don't want to do that. I think you see a lot of that at the next level where you take quarterbacks and because you drafted them such and such, and you're paying them such and such, that you insert them into the lineup, and they're not really ready to play. You can hurt them. So, I'm not sure if I can give you the trade-off on which one is most valuable, but I will say this. I think there is no substitute for game experience. There's a fine line though.

    Isn't it a perfect opportunity for a quarterback, though?
    When I speak on that, I like to use two positions. I like to use a quarterback, and I like to use a cornerback. To me, those are two positions that you're exposed. If a back does something wrong, he can hide behind the line. If the line does something wrong, nobody sees them anyway. I think when you have a quarterback and you have a cornerback, you have two positions that are clearly exposed from the fan standpoint, from a media standpoint. Those scars can have unbelievable damage and take you insurmountable amounts of time to erase. So, I think you have to be very careful with those two positions.

    Last year, you had two bye weeks. You came out of each of them strong winning your next game. The first one you played Oregon State here at home and the second one was when you played down at Arizona State coming off the Washington loss. Any feeling why the team has been successful coming off bye weeks? What did you do this last week?
    You set yourself up for that one (laugh). We practiced.

    Weren't the coaches not here, though?
    There are a lot of responsibilities that the coaches have. One of them is working with the team, of course, but the other one is recruiting. We chose to make that a major week in our recruiting efforts so, yes, the vast majority of our coaches were on the road. To answer your questions, I don't know if we do anything special that allows us to be more successful than any other team coming out of a bye.

    One of the things I know you've always talked about byes being good for is getting healthy. How much in your assessment did that happen?
    That is always a major goal of ours, is to get healthy. That is the number one thing you have to use a bye for. You have to get healthier to the best of your abilities to get healthy, and I think that was a success for us. Now, the key is can we maintain that our first two or three days of practice and take it into the ballgame, then we'll be in great shape.

    There were only two guys, (Matt) Wright and (Byron) Glaspie, that were still questionable?
    I think only one of those will be questionable now. That would be (Matt) Wright that might be questionable.

    What are your impressions of Arizona?
    I think this is a very good football team. Anytime that you talk about their program, you have to start with their defense. Over the years that has been just a highlight in itself for their program. Whether it's been "Desert Storm" or whatever other name or title they like to wear, they are a good unit and I think that's where you have to start. This year, they're already one of the better teams in the country in terms of rushing defense and scoring defense. They're probably in the top 13 or lower in both categories. That, to me, says one thing that says you're always in every football game. If you're always in the game, to me that means you've got a chance to win them. And, you'll probably win more than your fair share. You start there when you start talking about their football team. Then, on the offensive side of the ball, they have a great quarterback (Ortege Jenkins) and he's played in past years at times very well against Stanford. He's athletic. I think he has the big arm. I think he has the experience, and I think when healthy, and when I'm speaking of health I'm talking about their wide receivers. When healthy, they have an explosive group of wide receivers. Their backs are not to fall off that explosive list either. They've got (Leo) Mills and (Larry) Croom, and probably a guy that seems to be giving them as much spark as anybody else is their freshman (Clarence) Farmer. They've got a very good group, and I think that they felt that one of the strong points of their football team coming into this season was their offensive line. I know they've had a few injuries in there, but I think they're probably anticipating that they'll be pretty close to being healthy for us.

    Is (Ortege) Jenkins a quarterback nightmare for your team?
    I hope it's not a nightmare because hopefully we've improved our defensive speed. We're a little better in terms of our defensive speed. I think we've created some problems for teams also. I don't think it's a one-sided equation anymore. I think we have some players in Willie Howard and Riall Johnson that create some problems for teams and hopefully that will work in our favor.

    What position is the key to containing a quarterback scrambling?
    I think that depends on your system. There are a lot of ways to try to contain him. You can contain him by hopefully keeping your two outside ends fairly well up the field and forcing him to do everything inside of them. You can probably contain him with having a spy doing different things but always having somebody always spy. There are a lot of ways to work it. I think you have to figure out what is best in your system and come up with the right plan.

    Is it a little different with (Keith) Smith gone? It seems like (for) years you had to get ready for two quarterbacks, generally one could throw a little better, generally one could run a little better. Defensively, you kind of had to concentrate on both. A little different in that respect?
    With them for the past couple of years, I don't think it was that much difference because both of them were probably (equal in that) as strong as anything was their ability to run. What will be a factor is probably how much they utilize the option. (That) will be a major key, because that changes more of your defensive responsibilities and forces you to do different things. So, that will be one of the things that we'll be looking at.

    And that's more part of (Ortege) Jenkins' game?
    I'm not sure. It all depends on how they want to use him and what they think of his game more than anything else. He can run and do everything.

    Have they used it (the option) much this season so far?
    No, not a lot. Don't write too much about it because they will use it based upon your writings (laugh).


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