When you are the people putting on the Pac-12 Media Days, Day 2 has to be hard, because how do you top the comic stylings of Washington State’s Mike Leach from Day 1? Well, you get through the football stuff, but you make sure you include coaches telling the media they don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to preseason prognostications.
Todd Graham, Arizona State
There is a great deal of difference from the 2015 season to the 2016 season and a great deal of difference in Graham. Last year, The Sun Devils came in with conference championship talk and an equal amount of bravado. This year, ASU doesn’t even have a quarterback who has thrown a Division 1 pass, and there is a more humble Graham.
- Manny Wilkins and Brady White are the two most viable choices for the starting quarterback. They are both tall, (Wilkins is 6-3, White is 6-2). They both need to put on weight, (both are about 185 pounds). But here is where it gets tricky; neither has taken a snap in a D1 game and both came into the program lauded as pro-style quarterbacks while new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey is more prone to the spread. Clearly, there are issues to work on in camp.
- ASU came into the 2015 media days with a lot of swagger. The Sun Devils had a veteran quarterback and were picked by many to win the Pac 12 South. They wound up finishing fourth in the South and had a losing record, both in conference and overall. Graham says he learned a lot from last year, and clearly their presence at media days was significantly more low key.
- “You may only have one opportunity like this, (coaching), and you have to do it right,” Graham said.
Gary Anderson, Oregon State
You know it is going to be an interesting season when a school brings its punter to conference media days. Such is the situation for Oregon State.
- On punter Nick Porebski representing the team at media days, Anderson said, “He brings juice!” Anderson said he viewed it as a reward for a player to be at media days.
- For his part, we asked Porebski if he was surprised to be here. “Yes, very much.”
- Anderson is in his second year replacing the popular Mike Riley. He says the players have gotten used to the culture change but added, “I’m not interested in talking about a lot of things. I am interested in getting out there and getting things done. Nothing says conference media days quite like a coach who says he is not interested in talking about a lot of stuff.
Jim Mora, UCLA
There was probably no coach who dreaded this event this year more than Mora, as it was only three days ago that a two-year-old deposition in the Jerry Sandusky case was unsealed. The deposition, by former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, said that then-Penn State and current UCLA assistant Tom Bradley was aware of the sexual molestation issues before they were reported to the authorities. Bradley, through his attorney, issued a statement Tuesday denying McQueary’s claim. The large throng of attendees wanted to get right into the subject with Mora.
- He said the first thing that matters in any of these situations is the victims. “As a father of four young children, I can’t imagine the horror of being in that position, and I can’t think of anything that could be more horrifying as a parent or as a victim.”
- With that having been said, Mora stood by the vetting that went into hiring Bradley. He said it was done at the highest levels of the university and thus he was not sure if the deposition that was released this week was available at that time or not.
- Mora spent time addressing football issues, but then also took on a question about his outspoken sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen. In the last nine months, Rosen was photographed with a hot tub in his dorm room, playing golf at a Trump course, wearing a hat with words that were not so complimentary of The Donald, and he took to twitter to express his displeasure at how much money schools make with athletes getting zero cash from it. “UCLA has a long history going back to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was Lew Alcindor at the time, and Bill Walton, of having people on their campus that are socially aware and not afraid to rattle the cage a little bit. I just want to make sure that Josh understands that this is a different world and that everything that he does say is being analyzed and sometimes over-analyzed, and that he’s making good decisions and thinking twice before he speaks once, and more for his future than anything else.”
Chris Petersen, Washington
Petersen gets the self aware award as he thinks his team is being given way too much pre-season credit and he says they have done little to earn it.
- “I am amused that we keep getting better in people’s eyes and keep getting more credit even though we have not played since December.”
- Just how hot are the Huskies on people’s radar right now? “We have as much hype as the new Pokemon game that no one knows anything about but thinks it’s really cool, that’s us.”
- Since we are discussing pre-season hype, Petersen says the whole idea of pre-season polls is ridiculous. “I’m a voter on the top 25 football teams, and it’s a complete waste of time and crapshoot for the first five weeks. I don’t know, and I study this stuff all the time. I don’t know who’s any good.” Imagine how much anticipation he will have for the LWOS Top 25 Pre-season Poll next month.
David Shaw, Stanford
If Chris Petersen is self aware, Shaw thinks the media is unaware.
- “In case you don’t know, my name is David, I’m the head football coach here at Stanford. You never know if there’s people here from out of town.” Yes, he really said that…after the moderator introduced him as David Shaw….and with a big screen behind him that read “David Shaw.”
- Speaking of unaware media, Shaw was asked about being chosen to win the Pac-12 title. “It truly shows that you guys don’t know what you’re doing.” Not the first time someone has told me that.
- Stanford of course returns one of the best all-around players in college football in Christian McCaffrey, who obliterated the all-purpose yards record last season. He starts at running back, catches passes out of the backfield, returns kicks. He pretty much does it all. Shaw was asked if he is worried that McAffrey has too much responsibility. “Are you kidding me? I’m going to start giving him some of my responsibilities. The guy has handled everything else.”
- While the answer was glib, Shaw was serious in that McAffrey will not have his workload lightened. “When you have a great player, you have to challenge that player, because he will push the rest of the team.”
Training camps open in only a few short weeks. The coaches are in rare form already and the media clearly has much to learn in a short period of time.