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Todd Graham - Weber State Press Conference
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 08/25/2014
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Coach Graham Press Conference: Weber State

Monday August 25, 2014

“We are ready. I can tell our guys are ready to play a game and they’re getting tired of practicing and hitting each other. We have had a really good preparation, and the guys have been really healthy. I feel really good about where we are in terms of our development. The key is going to be going into this game like any first game; we need to monitor penalties, false starts, off sides, things like that. We are going to be playing a team who is going to throw the ball really quick, try to spread and run a lot of exotic formations and things like that, so we just need to make sure that we are sound about what we are doing and play fast and play hard. Our guys are excited. I’m excited to get these guys out there and the first game is always a measuring stick to see where we are at, and then we can get to work. Our guys are ready to go.”

On his satisfaction with the Devilbacker position:

“I feel really good. I think Edmond (Boateng) is a guy who has really helped us because that position looks a lot different than it did last year. He’s emerging as a player in that position who is really allowing us to do more of what we did last year. Antonio (Longino) has really stepped up his game. Obviously, De’Marieya (Nelson) gives us some versatility there, and he’ll play as many snaps as he can, but I feel really good and think that a strong point for us right now is the Devilbacker position. We have a lot of new guys playing there so we are going to see how they respond. I have also been very pleased with Marcus (Washington), who is another guy who does some really quality things. Antonio and Marcus are more stand-up guys, and De’Marieya and Edmond are more hand in the ground guys. So we have four guys that can play that position, and I feel good about it.”

On the younger players being ready to compete at the college level:

“I feel really good. I think (Tashon) Smallwood is the best freshman that I have ever had, but you want me to say you’re the best I’ve ever had period, and not just freshman. But he is really just a good kid and person, and wants to be great. He listens, is very coachable and just gets better everyday. I have a lot of confidence in him, and I think he is going to be a great addition for us. We will see how he responds when the lights come on. If I’m correct, I think he is going to respond in a big way. I think he’s going to have a great opening day. DJ Calhoun weighs 205 pounds, but plays like he’s 230, very explosive, and goes full speed, and I like his toughness. It takes a lot of mental toughness to play at this level week in and week out, and I think that those two players will definitely, in my opinion, start on defense as true freshman on Thursday. I also think Christian (Sam) and Armand Perry will play quite a bit as well.”

On his perception on offense:

“What I would like to see us do is really run the football. In order to be a championship caliber football team we need to make sure that we can really run the ball well. We have developed our offensive line now, our center and our two guards are strong, Vi (Teofilo), (Christian) Westerman and Nick Kelly at center, so I think we are going to be a power zone team down there, and we need to be able to be satisfied with four yards, that’s a good first play, so we need to have that mindset. We’re really going to run our offense; we’re going to take what people give us, period. But the key is going to be that run game. I am most confident in our team’s ability to score points on offense, and our skill players are really good. The line is really going to determine how good we are going to be, and I think they are going to be really good.”

On Weber’s exotic formations and how the team is going to deal with them:

“Obviously they need to be able to protect their quarterback, so you’re going to see the ball thrown quick. Quick passes, empty formation, no back formations, a lot of motions and things like that, and those are things that we have prepared hard for. The main thing is just going to be able to line up and play football. We just have get in there and get out there and challenge them, and our goal is to stop the run, and make sure we are redirecting and getting our hands up on quick game, and be patient with everything. I want to see our guys really attack, I don’t want to give them a lot to think about, I want to let them go and run the ball and make things happen. Weber State has a really good coaching staff, their head coach comes from Utah, and they know what we do and how to defend what we are doing, and they understand what we do defensively. Our deal is about us going out there and executing, and play Arizona State-caliber defense, which is explosive plays, sacks, TFLs, and interceptions. I’m excited for our special teams, I think that’s one of our most improved areas that we have right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing those guys get out there and get after it. The main thing in this first game that we’re looking for is to not do things to beat ourselves, like penalties, and taking care of the football.”

On whether he is harder on D.J. Calhoun then others:

 

“I try to clap for them and cheer for them and be nice to them. I’m not going to go out and give them a hug at the beginning of practice. He is tough. It shows your mental maturity with how you handle it.  You have to have that mental maturity. You don’t want to find out how they are going to respond to adversity on gameday. You want to see how they respond before then. I think Coach Patterson does a nice job of getting those guys prepared. No one likes being strained. I don’t like getting yelled at or coached hard. You have to surrender to the team. It is a lot easier to do when you have been here for four years. It is easier to for them to understand that because they have that experience. The worst thing that can happen is to have these young guys go out on the field and do their own thing. Our system does not work that way. Our system is complex and you have to do your job. D.J. is one of the toughest players we have had. He is tough mentally, you can coach him hard and he doesn’t pout. One day I wore myself out trying to get a response from him to being strained.  I wouldn’t say he has been strained any more or any less than anybody else. He is only getting strained more because he is in the starting lineup.”

On the team’s participation in the Riddel/TGen technology study:

 

“One of the things that we want to be a leader in is being on the forefront of taking care of our student-athletes. We are involved with them in a study in which they place sensors in their helmets and test them.  Hopefully in the future it will really help prevent concussions and things like that. Being able to identify them better and prevent them. The sensor measures how hard the contact is so we can tell how hard the blow was. We are the only Division 1 school in the country that is doing that. We want to be on the forefront when you talk about caring for the student-athletes and their futures. That partnership has been very productive for us. For our players it is not an easy deal. There is a lot of testing added on to all the other things that we already do. Nothing should come in front of the well being of our players. I like being a partner with Riddell and being the leader in that area. There are going to be some great things that come out of this study.”

On how they will utilize De’Marieya Nelson:

“I think that De’Marieya will play as many snaps as he can. He is primarily going to play on offense. I figure 15-20 snaps on defense. If he can play more than that, more power to him. I still think he is dynamic when he is on the defensive side of the ball. We will kind of play it by ear, but I have a lot of confidence in (Edmond) Boateng and (Antonio) Longino. We feel good about the depth there and De’Marieya is obviously a critical part of what we do offensively. Three weeks ago I would of told you we would have him primarily on defense. Those guys have stepped up so he can be a primarily offensive player.”

On the pace of play he expects from his offense:

“We are moving faster. One of the things when you first come in to a program and you go to a fast-tempo offense, the key is you have got to find a happy medium. Even last year there were times where I had to say “Hey, we got to slow down,” because of the amount of snaps. The key is the amount of snaps. We run a fast-paced, no-huddle, run ‘n gun offense, not fast-pace, no-huddle pass. When you are running the ball, the clock runs. Time of possession doesn’t matter; it’s how many snaps you take. We want to keep those snaps under 70. It takes experience to be able to go fast. It takes the most experience at quarterback and offensive line.  The receivers usually pick it up fast and line up quickly. In practice, I am having to say “Stop,” to let me get the defensive call in. I am trying to get the defensive call in while they continue to go. I hope people will see a noticeable change there. I don’t consider myself to be an offensive or defensive coach, but I coach defense here because it is a necessity. It is the biggest challenge we have here to winning a championship. You can’t hurry up and mess up.  There is a strategy behind it, we are not just offensive no-huddle, fast tempo. This is a team no-huddle philosophy on both sides of the football. Snaps are something I monitor very closely in a game. Last year against USC, I told Mike (Norvell) to stop scoring so fast because we couldn’t stop them either. It is a game and the end idea is to be ahead of the other team. I said this when I got here, it takes three years to be able to go as fast as I want. This year we should be able to go fast.”

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