Aug. 11, 2000
Preseason Press Conference Don James Center, Husky Stadium
(On summer workouts): "We are fired up. We have everybody returning. We feel like the summer has gone well with respect to the amount of investment the kids have put forth and we're just anxious to get down to Evergreen and line up and play. I know the coaches have waited for this day for sometime. I know Keith Gilbertson is chomping at the bit. He's back in his role as a coordinator and so it's time to get it going."
(On Chris Juergens): "Certainly there's been some jockeying prior to our leaving. Chris Juergens will not go to camp with us. His knee has not responded to the point where he feels like he can contribute so he is going to take the time and spend it rehabbing his knee. The likelihood being that he will redshirt this season. We will find ways to fill his void, the void that he creates. We're going to play the position and play it really well. That's why the coaches get paid the big money, to figure out ways to play the position and play it well. We have a great bunch of kids that have bought into our program and are excited about going forward and hopefully if we can get back into the race again, come November we'll finish it this time. That's our goal as we look forward and I know our guys are anxious to get started."
(On the open receiver position): "Todd Elstrom is the returning receiver that has experience. Wondame Davis and Pat Reddick will be called upon. Wilbur Hooks will be getting a lot of opportunities. Certainly Terry Tharps is going to try to create an opportunity for himself. And we're going to look at three freshman: RayShon Dukes and Justin Robinson both have done a nice job in the two days that they've been at wide receiver. And then we're also going to look at Derek Johnson at wide receiver. So we will find an answer and we will play the position really well."
(On looking at junior college receivers): "Possibly. We're still exploring that, we'll have to keep looking. But I'm more inclined to go with the guys we have and spend the time getting them ready because I think they will play really well."
(On Juergens' knee injury): "What they thought was a cartilage defect in the knee, it was actually in a concave part of the knee which makes it very difficult to repair. Basically, what happens is that you just end up learning to deal with the discomfort. Right now because the knee is not strong it just gives him a feeling of instability that makes it impossible for him to compete at the level which he thinks he is capable. He would prefer to use what they call "sindex" (sic) a series of three injections put in there that makes everything move without so much friction which is what causes the pain. After the three injections it will take about a week to three weeks for him to really start feeling it so that's why the likelihood is that he is not going to participate this year. We won't even know if he is going to be able to participate until after the first couple weeks of the season".
(On when Juergens' knee injury started): "They don't know when it happened. He said it first started bothering him my first spring here but he was able to play through but he played all last year with discomfort. Because he was hurting they went in there and decided to clean it up thinking it was just cartilage and it wasn't at all. It was basically a defect which is a fracture back inside the knee cap so when the knee flexes it causes friction which causes pain."
(On what aggravated the injury): "It aggravates it by playing. He started to feel good in the summer. The surgery in January did clean it up a little bit and they were thinking that the strength development in the muscle would help it but there is going to be discomfort when you practice and play and run and flex it as much as a receiver has to in order to perform the duties of his position. "
(On whether Juergens will be able to play again): "Well I think he'll get to play again, the question is whether he'll get to play again without discomfort. Obviously a year to rehab and a chance to build the muscle will allow that."
(On how the team will deal with higher expectations): "Our team must understand something. It's like I was telling our coaches today: if Husky football were stock when we first got here you could have bought it at a pretty goo price but right now the stock is trading at a pretty high number and maybe higher than the assets that we actually have. It's our job as players and coaches alike, those in charge of the program, to get our assets up above were it's currently trading. We can do that if we go at it with urgency. I use that word often only to get everyone to remember where we were at 0-2 last year and the way we came out and played and the concentration and the effort put forth to compete at that level. That's how we need to practice and play this fall if we are going to reach the level that people have determined that we are capable of competing."
(On expectations for Marques Tuiasosopo and Paul Arnold): "Marques is capable of great things. He has proven he is capable of great things.. He is a great physical player as far as getting this school is position to compete at a high level. He's got great tenacity, competitiveness, players like playing with him because he will scrap to the bitter end and find ways to win. He's got great leadership ability. He doesn't just talk the talk he walks the walk and I think people respect him for that. It's easy to want to be around a guy like that. He is a great role model for our entire team. That aside he doesn't try to be holier that thou. He likes hanging out with the guys, he likes hanging out with the guys and his peer group on the team. He's everything you're looking for. In saying that I think he's capable of the whole enchilada. He can be an all-American quarterback. He can win a Heisman Trophy. Those things aren't necessarily in his control because they have to do a lot with media attention and the way the ball bounces but he is capable of the whole thing and anything he achieves this year will not surprise me." "With Paul I can go on my time with him this far which is to say he is as reliable person as there is on our team. We have a lot of tailbacks in the fold, all good players and good kids. Paul is the only one that made every practice. And that may just be good fortune, knock on wood that he can continue that but it also speaks to his reliability. Everyday he shows up to work and gets things done. He has great athleticism, witness the 80-yard run against Washington State, witness the kickoff return against Air Force. As he continues to learn the game and work hard I think the sky is the limit for him as a tailback. Our hope was that he could come in and share the tailback job with Maurice Shaw because Maurice gave us experience but with his departure Paul will have to shoulder a little more of the load than he expected but I think he's up to it. We'll find creative ways to get the big back into our offense and I also think there are other capable tailbacks that will compete for time in Braxton Cleman and Willie Hurst and we have some freshman that will add to the depth."
(On whether Marques Tuiasosopo will pass more this year): "It all depends on the situation and what is the right way to go for us to win the game. There will be games where ball control and elapsing the time is the way to win and the great thing about Marques is he doesn't care. All he cares about is a "W". He doesn't car if he doesn't get enough stats to be the all-American quarterback or he's not getting enough opportunity to be in the Heisman race. He is concerned about getting his team wins so he can take them to the Rose Bowl."
(On Neuheisel's relationship with Keith Gilbertson compared to former Offensive Coordinator Karl Dorrell): "I think the relationship between head coach and offensive coordinator and play caller is going to remain pretty consistent. If I'm going to let him call the plays I have to let him get into a flow calling plays. I have to let him get a feel for the game before I start interjecting all my ideas. I have to maintain the ability to exercise my feel for the game and inject a play at a time where he is not anticipating it. That will probably take some growing pains because when you do that for five years with a guy he can kind of anticipate when you are going to jump in and say hey this is what I'm thinking. My hope is that I can do that between series' rather than between downs. Butt you never know. I don't want to sit on my thought and then go to bed at night wishing I had mentioned it at the time I needed to. Part of being a head coach is "the buck stops here". I've got to make sure I am responsible for what gets carried out. I hired Keith to do a job and I have full confidence in him and it's not like he hasn't been successful before. Further in the relationship Karl and I were teammates. We were newcomers to the coaching profession together so we have a lot of experience that Keith and I have not shared but I think the world of Keith, he was one of my first hires here and he has been unbelievably valuable in helping me weave my way through the Washington landscape with respect to who the players. He is a very valuable resource for me and I can tell you he is just giddy about beginning a new season. He is ecstatic about his position within the staff and his chance to work with a bunch of great kids."
(On Paul Arnold's strength this year): "I think he's stronger like all of our kids who have increased in the weight room and spent the time. Paul's weight is about 202, 203. I've heard reports he's up to 210, he's not. His measureables have certainly increased and, again, this is a kid that's very reliable. Paul Arnold will be there when we need him."
(On Toure Butler): "Toure Butler has worked hard to get himself into a position to play. Toure's knee was very similar to what Chris Juergens is experiencing right now. It required him to sit out last year. He's excited about entering his senior year, wanting to be a real contributor to the team. He'll get a chance as a kickoff returner and probably as a nickel corner. He'll probably practice only once a day because of the knee and the swelling that will result if he gets overworked. But, I'm hoping he can have a great senior year."
(On the backup quarterback spot): "Somebody that can move the chains. The job is a pretty simple one. It's the most complex job to teach and the pressure that sits on a kid's shoulders is immense. It really is only getting ten yards. We think of it as you got to get out and score a touchdown. If you can just get ten yards and move the chains and do it again and again, that is quarterback. And playing within yourself is one of the things I want to see. If the backup kids are trying to be Marques, they're going to struggle. They just need to be themselves, play within themselves, make good decisions so that the team can continue to go forward. I'm anxious to watch these kids compete. I know they've been here, being diligent during the summer months and hopefully their work will pay off."
(On not being in the spotlight as compared to this time last year): "I love the fact that I'm not the story. I do not shy away from attention, I'm not going to lie to you. I enjoy speaking to the Husky groups around the state. That's my personality. But Washington football should be about the Washington players and as the head coach I would like to put the spotlight on the great student-athletes that I am fortunate to coach. I think the focus should be on the kids that are here and what they've accomplished and what they plan to accomplish."
(On recruiting players with skills like Marques): "We'd bring in a Marques Tuiasosopo every time there is one out there. The truth of the matter is they are hard to find. You take players of great skills, maybe their skills aren't exactly the same, and then you hone them into an offense. If we sign a quarterback that is more of a drop back but is a very talented drop back passer, then we need to have an offense that can feature that. It doesn't mean we are going to go away from the running game, play action and all that stuff will be all part of it, but that's the direction we go. You can be adept at that as long as you have the tools to make that offense work."
(On the option): "Well it will be a major portion of our offense because it gives defenses major portions of problems."
(On why the team goes to Evergreen for camp): "I think there are two real evident benefits. One is it's away. There is a 'we are going away together to accomplish our goals.' When you stay home in a comfortable environment or familiar surroundings, you can think 'business as usual.' There's a lot more things going on away from the field or in meetings that has nothing to do with your football team. At Evergreen, all that time will be spent with other teammates and that can do nothing but build and help form strong relationships." "The other advantage is that there is a great deal of construction here on campus. If you walk on this campus you can't help be fired up. That field turf down there is unbelievable. It's better than grass. We're going to have another surface behind the stadium, so we'll have two full fields and that will happen by next spring. We've got an indoor facility that will be completed by next fall. It's no longer talk, there's dirt and there's tractors. We've got a facility second to none in the Bank of America Arena at HecEd that is without question first class. We need to get away from all that and focus, Evergreen gives us the chance to focus. Lots of grass, lots of ability to get practice in without having to do a lot of logistical moving around, saving their legs for the things they need to do most, which is practice."
(On Willie Hurst situation): "The Willie Hurst situation is interesting in how the story took on a life of its own. Willie and I decided that he was not going to come back, at least in spring ball, as the starter at tailback. We went through the experiment of having him play receiver. Two things happened that made that difficult. One, the route runnings just didn't come natural and, second, our offense moved from three wide receivers more to a two-back deal because of the great talent of our fullbacks. And so, there didn't seem to be a lot of opportunities there. While we were talking, Maurice Shaw developed his back injury and doctors said he couldn't play. Maurice has got to retire and so now Willie's got a chance to go back and play the position that he's most comfortable with, that he wants to play and he's happy with the idea that he is going to compete for time. And I'm thankful for his attitude and I'm thankful for him as a player."