After Bye Week, Rich Rod Says Cats Ready For Stanford - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

After Bye Week, Rich Rod Says Cats Ready For Stanford

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After a bye week, the Arizona Wildcats are refreshed and ready to smack helmets against Stanford this Saturday. It's also homecoming on the campus of the U of A. 

Here's more with from the "Monday's with Rich Rod" press conference (compliments of the Arizona Athletics):

Head Coach Rich Rodriguez Opening statement: “It was certainly a much needed bye week. We got a couple days of practice in, worked on some fundamentals and got a little bit of a head start on Stanford. We had a couple extra days for guys to get healthy, which we needed. For the coaches, we also spent a couple days recruiting, so I think it came at a great time. Certainly for us, with certain guys being injured, the bye week came at a good time to get some of those guys back. Guys were refreshed; last night we had a good meeting and good walk through session. We’ll be ready to play Saturday night.”

On changes in defense with new staff: “The changes weren’t as much philosophical or scheme-wise. Your base defense is probably a little different, which when you hire your coordinator, he has to be comfortable with his base defense. Some of the things we are doing defensively, scheme-wise, are similar. We needed to up our recruiting defensively. I like the attitude; there are moments when we play pretty good defense. We haven’t gotten a lot of turnovers, which is an issue, and we haven’t done really well on third-downs. But it is not for a lack of effort, and as coaches, we are trying to put together everything we can to make us more productive and stop some of these good teams on our schedule.”

On not producing as many turnovers: “I don’t know what the difference is. As a staff, that is part of our job to try to figure it out. I always remind the guys to play aggressively. Some of it is, when you play aggressively, you will create some turnovers. Some of it is luck. We have emphasized it so much in practice from a standpoint of getting your hands on the ball from the beginning of camp, that it has been a little disappointing in the last few weeks that we haven’t gotten any. We probably aren’t good enough to win games without getting turnovers, so that has been a point of contention for us as coaches, and it is our job as a staff to try to figure out ways of how we can get our guys in a position to make some plays. When we get our hands on it, we have to pick off the pass or get a fumble.”

On assessing personnel changes: “We assess everything, and personnel changes are ongoing. I think that sometimes the assessment has to come because of injuries and sometimes it comes because of performance. That is part of our job as coaches; we have to assess everything and figure out what we are doing. I don’t think you can change an offense or defense, or change all 11 people on all three phases, but I think you have to look at everything you are doing, what you are executing and what you are not executing. It seems like it is a lot of time that we have do that, but you really don’t have a full week because you are on the road recruiting. But it gives you some time to at least look at what guys are doing what and what you are doing well, then attack that going forward. When you play a team like Stanford that is a little different on offense scheme-wise than what you’ve seen, that plays a factor in what you are going to defensively as well.”

On recruiting Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey: “I think everybody in the country wanted him. I don’t remember when he committed, but I remember watching his high school highlight film, which is what you would expect. He is a phenomenal player and did everything, and has done that in college. Some of that has probably hurt them, even though they are pretty talented with their backups. He is one of the best players in the country.”

On Christian McCaffrey not putting up big numbers: “I think the biggest reason is that he has been injured. He hasn’t played as much and he maybe wasn’t 100% in the last game, but that was a pretty good defense he played against. I think the expectations are probably so high for the numbers that it is almost unrealistic for anyone to reach that height. Watching him play in some of the games this year, he is the same guy when he is healthy. He is just explosive, and you have to know where he is because a large part of their offense and a certain part of their special teams goes through him when he is in the game.”

On receiver Samajie Grant at running back: “We experimented a little there a few week ago, but with Nick [Wilson] being injured again, [Samajie] has been almost exclusively at running back. He knows wide out; he is a veteran so he can play there anytime. We felt that we had to take what we could have and get him a lot of reps there. He is a competitive guy; he is fast and tough. With everything going on there, at least he gives us an experienced player there. We needed that, so he has been playing running back. Tyrell Johnson has been a little banged up. We still have Zach Green, and we even moved Matt Morin. He is the jack of all trades, he has been playing some running back too. It has been an interesting situation for Coach Magee.”

On tight end Matt Morin with two positions: “With the quarterback health situation, he’s not taking reps at quarterback like he was. He is still playing tight end, full back and tail back. I think he is excited about that. He is a big, physical guy who loves football. We are trying to make sure we have every position covered.” On who stood out in workouts last week: “We had at least a 20 minute scrimmage with the young guys. I really like them. I don’t know if anyone stood out for me to say ‘we have to move this guy to the ones or twos right away’. The speed and skill level of the young guys is what we hoped it would be. There are several that need to get in the weight room and have a good offseason program to learn what we are doing, but there are a lot of good, young players in that class. As I have said before, the positive thing is that those guys have been truly committed. The attitude of the team has been good and I think recruiting has been fantastic, so we will be alright.”

On quarterback Anu Solomon: “He was able to get to practice, although we were limited. He was able to take team reps, not just individual. He was able to take reps with the team and throw and plant off of his foot, and run around a little bit. That is going to be the key to run this whole offense, and not just sitting in the pocket and passing.”

On starting quarterback factors this week: “Not only health is the main part of it, but also what kind of plays we plan on opening up with and what we are doing throughout the game. I’ve said this many times, even though a lot of people have different ways of how they are handling quarterbacks, we treat it like another position. We’ll change quarterbacks based on a particular type of play we want to run. We rotate them in at practice that way so it is something they are accustomed to.” On players’ health: “We feel a little healthier. At the quarterback position, we’re healthier. We get a guy or two back on defense, but we had a couple injuries in the last game that are still lingering. The bye definitely helped; we would have had a whole bunch of guys out if we had played this past Saturday.”

On Stanford’s struggles: “I think they have played pretty good teams, they’ve just missed big plays here and there. [Christian] McCaffrey being out certainly didn’t help. They are the same big and physical front. Their quarterbacks are still talented and really fast at wide out. I think they’ve had some really close games, as we all have. They have lost some really tough close games this year.”

On obtaining and maintaining success: “I’ve been asked that quite a bit over the years. ‘Hey coach, is it harder to get up there or stay up there?’ I think it’s both. It’s hard to get there when you’re really down because you have to recruit. If you recruit well and stay healthy, you can stay up there. Those folks that you’re competing against are working hard too. Sometimes it takes a few years, like Colorado. You see what an experienced, talented and well-coached team does, they have success. I’m confident the first half of this season was just a little bump in the road. Some things were out of our control, but we can fix all of the issues we have, so that is a good thing.”

On putting in Josh Pollack for kickoffs: “They [Josh Pollack, Edgar Gastelum] both have different kicks that they are better at. We wanted to kick away, and do some different kicks. Edgar probably has a little stronger leg from a kickoff stand point, but Josh is a little more accurate in different places. We’re going to work with both of them this week.”

On kicker/punter Josh Pollack’s performance: “He’s been pretty solid his first year kicking and punting. There have been some punts that we want a better direction. His field goals have been pretty solid for the most part. I think he’s performed pretty well. You want every kickoff to go out of the end zone and that’s always an issue if you can’t. We’ve worked really hard on our special teams. Part of the issue has been the revolving door because of injuries and moving guys around. We haven’t had a consistent performance in our return units, but that is not for a lack of effort.”

On game plan similarities with Christian McCaffrey and Adoree’ Jackson: “If you are going to kick it to them, you better be able to kick it with a lot of height and have guys around him. With guys like McCaffrey and Jackson, if they get the ball with space, on any special team or really anywhere, you can have talented guys but they are going to make you miss and create big plays. You have to be aware where you’re at and be really good with the placement of your kicks.”

On recruiting style of new coaches: “I don’t think players look at schemes as much as they look at personality. We are getting position coaches even more involved in positional recruiting, and that has been overwhelmingly positive. The new defensive coaches have resonated really well with recruits.” On looking at the big picture of the program: “My job is to always look at the big picture from a recruiting and player development standpoint, and making sure our young guys are doing the right thing including academics. All the coaches do a little of the big picture stuff. Outside of that it’s dayto-day, guys are committed daily to be a better player and making themselves better in the program. The season, although it seems like a grind at times, does move by quickly and we don’t want to miss opportunities.”

On defensive lineman Parker Zellers: “He is a former walk-on who plays with a chip on his shoulder. Even after he earned a scholarship, he still plays with that chip. He worked his tail off to come back and plays hard, and he’s active on defense. I love the way Parker Zellers approaches the game, everybody sees how hard he plays.” Arizona will host Stanford for its homecoming game Sat, Oct. 29. Slated for 8 p.m. MST, the game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.

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