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Washington Picked First in Pac-10 Football Media Poll
Release: 08/05/2000
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Washington has been picked to win the 2000 Pacific-10 Conference football title in a pre-season poll of West Coast media members that regularly cover the league. The Huskies nipped USC by just three points, equaling the second-closest voting since the pre-season poll began in 1961. Washington garnered 16 of 30 first-place votes, followed by USC with 11, ARIZONA STATE with two and OREGON one. Washington tied for second in the Pac-10 last season with a 6-2 league mark in Coach Rick Neuheisel's first year at the helm. The media poll has correctly selected the Conference Champion in 17 of 39 previous polls.

Following are the results of the pre-season media poll (points 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1), with first-place votes in parentheses:

 1. WASHINGTON (16)        275
2. USC (11) 272
3. Oregon (1) 211
4. UCLA 181
5. Arizona State (2) 167
6. Oregon State 163
7. Stanford 133
8. Arizona 127
9. California 63
10. Washington State 47

POLL NOTES: Pre-season media poll has correctly picked the Conference champion 17 of 39 times. Poll has correctly selected the champion just two times in the last seven years ... It might be wise to read this poll upside down. In four of the last seven years, the eventual Conference champion was picked to finish in the bottom half of the league in the pre-season media poll ... The three-point edge Washington has over USC in the poll equals the second-closest poll ever. USC was picked by two points to edge UCLA for the championship in 1989 and the Trojans did, indeed, go on to claim the title ... OREGON STATE has been picked for its highest finish since the Conference expanded to 10 teams in 1978 ... Defending champion STANFORD is picked to finish seventh this year. It is only the second time since 1978 that the defending champion has been picked to finish in the second division the following year. Of all teams, the pollsters seemed to have the most difficulty predicting how the Cardinal will fare this season. Stanford was picked to finish as high as second and as low as 10th ... Washington was last picked to win the league in 1997, but ended up in fourth place. The Huskies claimed their last Pac-10 title in 1992 ... Seven different teams have won the Pac-10 title in the last eight years.

Pac-10 Football Media Day
Coach and Player Quotes

"All of our players reported back to Pullman on June 5, and it's the first time we've had all the scholarship players in Pullman all summer. We have a new strength coach, and if we win any games this year it's because of the job Rob Oviatt has done in the weight room in the offseason. He's added discipline and attitude in our training we've never had.

"Our secondary is led by Lamont Thompson and Chris Martin. The other corner is Marcus Trufant, a freshman who started the last few games as a true freshman last year. Bill Newman is the leader at strong safety. We have a couple of transfers to come in and help.

"(Quarterback) Jason Gesser reminds me a lot of Jake Plummer at the same time in his career. He's backed up by Matt Kegel. Kegel is really an athlete, a Fran Tarkenton type of guy who runs all over the place. He's exciting and fun to watch and will back up Jason. A lot of our success depends on keeping Jason healthy. If he stays healthy he can be a real catalyst for us. I'm not nervous about injuries and his health because he's such a rambler and gambler.

"We'll move Jason (Gesser) much more than we have other quarterbacks. He's not the typical Washington State quarterback, that stands back and strong-arms it, so we'll do some things differently."

"The last game of the season (Hawaii) gave us a taste of the future as well as what we're capable of doing. Last year wasn't a very good season for me. I was playing out of position, but I'm back at free safety where I'm comfortable.

"Everyone stayed in Pullman for the summer and I thought it was really important for our team to work on the team aspect. I think we have a good chance of competing in the Pac-10 if we stay healthy."

"Last year obviously we had a disappointing season after coming off 20 wins in two years, two Pac-10 championships and two New Year's bowl games, but that's behind us. Last year we were young, inexperienced and had a lot of injuries. We had 45 players that started for us last year, and the good news is we have many back. We have 17 starters back.

"Defensively, we feel we're as good as we've been since I've been at UCLA. We've had the same defensive coordinator for two years, which will give us some continuity and some consistency. We have eight returning starters on defense.

"We have not made a decision at quarterback and won't until a week to 10 days into camp. We want both guys to work hard. Cory Paus had surgery, has recovered and is much improved. Ryan McCann filled in for Cory in the Washington game and did a good job. Spring ball gave him a lot of experience because Cory wasn't there.

About playing a strong schedule early on: "We'd all rather play someone good and beat them than someone not good and beat them. It does something for your program. When we beat Texas 66-6, it jump-started our program."

"This season I'm looking forward to the fact that we'll stay with the same type of defense. Since I've been here I've learned a new defense every year. I'm excited about that. The offense has carried us, but I believe this year is a chance for our defense to emerge and not carry the team, but be strong.

"We have tremendous athletes on defense. Our offense is talented and so are our skill players. We have a tough schedule -- both the nonconference and the Pac-10."

"I really like this team this year. Last year the team got a lot of experience, and I hate to look back and chalk it up to experience. But a lot of last year's redshirt freshmen, freshmen and sophomores are now sophomores and juniors with a lot of experience.

"Our offense needs to improve. A lot remains to be seen and we need to produce. Our offensive line returns one senior but four starters. The younger kids are all guys that will be around for two or three more yeas.

"(Quarterback) Kyle Boller is as tough a kid as I've ever seen. For a kid that had to carry a Pac-10 team on his shoulders offensively, I thought he did a pretty good job. He would step in front of the media and take responsibility for his team last year and I respected that.

"I like our chances and I like our team and that gives me a lot of hope. I want to win each week and take it from there. Our defense finished first in the Conference statistically last year. I don't know if that will happen again but I can't see there being a big drop off. Our offense can make all the difference this season."

"We've had our ups and downs. We were pretty young (last season). I have so much respect for Kyle Boller. He took some hits and made some great plays. He's matured a lot even in the spring. He's definitely matured.

"As far as the defensive side of the ball, we've lost a lot players. But the current players have stepped it up and this year is very exciting for myself and the team."

"Our offense will be led by Ortege Jenkins. Over the last three years he has helped lead our team to 25 wins -- the most in the league. We want to reestablish ourselves as a defensive force in the league. Our special teams did some things well but we're looking for consistency this year.

"We all have a terrible feeling about a year ago, but that feeling has been eradicated by watching this team working in the offseason and becoming a disciplined group. They have worked so had to be as good as they can be."

"The Conference as a whole this year will be better. I have great respect for the coaches, players, and quality of play in this Conference. We have more balance from top to bottom than any other conference in the country. I was in the league as an assistant coach when there was dominance and it wasn't that much fun. It's more fun to let everyone have their day."

"I'm excited about the fact that we have a veteran offensive line coming back. As a quarterback that gives you the chance to win lot of ball games. I feel we have a great chance of establishing ourselves with a good offense. Our schedule is tough, but we'll step up to the challenge.

"We need to make the adjustment from going to being a preseason top team to ending the season 6-6 . It doesn't matter what the media say about how good you are. You have to come out and play to win each week. Each year is different. Those are some of the things I've emphasized with our team this year.

"We don't need to have as many turnovers as we had last year. Last year we had a lot of interceptions and fumbles that were at crucial points in games. We also need to score more when we're in the red zone. We struggled in the red zone last year."

"We have a lot of returners, but chemistry is so important in regards to how many people you have coming back. We had an embarrassing loss against Washington last year in Corvallis. We coaches sat back and evaluated what we needed to do to win. It was really a turning point in our season. We decided to become a little more conservative, take advantage of (tailback Ken) Simington, run the football, cut down on turnovers and play great defense. That's what helped us be successful.

"The big thing at Oregon State was getting past not winning six games. Now we need to take it to a level where it's consistent. This league tough, and you never know one week to the next what can happen. The bottom line is our players know they can be successful.

"When we were fortunate enough to beat Cal and get that sixth win, there were guys 80 years old with tears in their eyes. The reaction of the town and the students, was really unbelievable. It was a fun year. I've had a chance in coaching to be involved in some great coaching and some great wins, but looking back on last year, it was one of the most enjoyable for me.

About contending for the Pac-10 Championship in 2000: "You never know what can happen as time goes on. If you stay healthy you can beat people. If you get hurt, as a lot of teams do in this league, it's more difficult."

"We had a pretty good season last year. This year we can be even more successful. The team is dedicated to winning. We have a lot of returners on offense and a lot of returners on defense. They have great attitudes and believe we can be successful.

"We dedicated ourselves (during the offseason) and tried to just get it done."

"I've not been around a better tight end than Todd Heap, and I say that having coached Russ Francis. Delvon Flowers will be our starting tailback and we will not drop off at that position. (Fullback) Stephen Trejo will be strong returner. We're in good shape offensively.

"We need to be more consistent than we were a year ago. At times we played good and at times we didn't. In terms of the Conference race -- it's an even race. The difference between the top team and not the top team is not very far. One of the things I've witnessed is if you can get on a roll with your attitude, courage and character, you will win a lot of football games on momentum. Overcoming distractions also plays a role.

About the Pac-10 athletic directors' recommendation for a year-round training table: "I think that's a step in the right direction for several reasons. I believe in the offseason the athletes do not eat properly due to their lack of knowledge of nutrition and the fast-food thing. It still has to go to another committee but it's a step in the right direction in my opinion."

"The defensive line really controls how well the defense plays and is directly responsible for how well I play. I have a lot of faith in our defensive line. I predict they will step up at camp and develop into the type of players they need to be to help our team.

"We want the Pac-10 to start making some noise on the national scene. I don't pay a lot of attention to what the media say. We need to help get the Pac-10 back on track to get the recognition it deserves."

About being picked first in the pre-season Pac-10 media poll: "It's exciting that the perception of our program is such that we receive such recognition. But it doesn't mean much. Three of the top four teams (in last year's pre-season poll) didn't play in bowl games. But it's nice our program is thought of that way. It nice we're worthy of (the media's) generosity.

"The question mark on our team is defense. Our defensive front returns only one player with experience. That makes you concerned, but I'm sure the kids that are given the opportunity will respond.

About taking a different approach after being picked first in the Conference: "It merits conversation. I don't know that the approach changes. We have to look at what we took to achieve what we did last season and having the mental discipline to handle success and enthusiasm. Humans have trouble maintaining consistency because they relax. It's paramount we don't let that happen."

"We have a lot of returners on offense. We have a good group of receivers and I expect a couple of them to step out of the group and play very well.

About being picked number one in the Pac-10 preseason poll: "A lot of people are saying a lot of things about our team but we just want to work hard. When the season's done we want to be number one.

"We definitely want to do better in the nonconference games to help the image of the Pac-10. I think its a great conference . We beat up on each other and we schedule great teams in nonconference play. We'll play better and be able to improve our image this year.

"It's a long year. We'll have to stay together as a team. The key is to stay together and stay focused. We had a better spring practice and our summer was more efficient since we know what our coaches expect. We understand their philosophies a lot better."

"There are more questions in my mind about this team than any team since I've been with the Ducks. It's a positive that we've been picked third (in the Conference). I'm hopeful that this group of kids is prepared to meet that challenge and step up.

"I'm hopeful despite the loss of an all-time leading receiver (Tony Hartley) and one of best rushers in history of this conference (Rueben Droughns). We have no experience in the backfield whatsoever, but the depth we will have in our receiving corps will be the best it's ever been. The offensive line is a question mark.

"On defense we have huge questions. We return three starters. I feel like our defense has the opportunity to be better than it was last year. It will be important to have that contingent improve to be competitive in the Pac-10.

"We had a lot of players stay in Eugene this summer and work hard. They worked together to build camaraderie by lifting together and working out together. It helped build that comfort zone within our defense and in our team so we can trust each other.

"People are starting to realize the caliber of team we are. We don't pay attention to rankings. We know we have to go out and put it down on the field and have a good season. Hopefully there will be a time when we're ranked number one, and that's what we're working toward.

"Our program was a fine unit last year but it's no longer 1999, it's 2000. We have to go forward and try to replace a lot of players who provided us with All-American play. We have some building to do but we are extremely excited about the challenges that lie ahead for our program

About the quarterback situation: "I think I'm firm today on the quarterback position. Randy Fasani is the starter and Chris Lewis is the backup. The plan was already in place for Randy to get a lot of snaps in the spring in case Joe (Borchard) would not be back. It's a case of us simply accelerating that plan.

About the experience of playing in the Rose Bowl: "There's a tremendous amount of confidence anytime you accomplish something of significance. It has given our program broader visibility around the country, even though I like to believe we've been progressing in the four years previous.

"(Running back) Kerry Carter is 100 percent and ready to go. We are very excited about our backfield with Kerry Carter, Brian Allen and Casey Moore leading the way."

"There is a lot of publicity about where we should be ranked and what we should do this year. The team wants to win. It doesn't matter where we're ranked, it's how we will come together as a team to win. We'll see soon how well we use those skills to come together.

About being picked seventh in the Conference: "It will be a driving force in the back of our minds. It's all about how we produce during the season. Come October we could be a seventh-place or second-place team. It's about how we respond and produce."

About playing Penn State in the Kickoff Classic: "We are honored as a university and a program to start the season off in New York. It's very exciting and that's the focus right now. ... It's also going to be a measuring stick for us. Playing teams of that caliber this early will be good for us. The team wants to play this game and is excited to play this game.

"We have a core of players who really sense a chance to do something and make a difference. That momentum has carried us into the offseason and the preseason. We're also very excited about the defense.

"(Quarterback) Carson (Palmer) has been teasing us for two years. It was difficult to play without your leader last year. He went through a maturing process being on the sideline. He's worked hard and has a new appreciation for being healthy. I'm excited about him, too, but Carson needs to perform. He has marvelous ability and talent. He missed a whole year and we will have a lot of work to do in camp to figure out the timing and get him caught up."

About the image of Pac-10 football: "I was talking to some other players at dinner last night and we all agreed. I root for any player in the Pac-10 except when we play them. We need to go out there and earn our respect. We just need to go out there and get it.

About losing games by narrow margins last year: "They were all tough games. The games came down to the wire and that's just how it goes sometimes. We kept going, kept pushing and hoped the outcome would be great. That's what we expect again this year."

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