COACH SARKISIAN: I would like to thank you all for coming and taking the time to promote the Pac-12 conference and what we do and how we do things here, obviously in a first-class manner. I can't thank you enough for being part of this. If you have a chance to go in the back, they have the bands and names that have performed here, and we’ll maybe get Keith Price up there. It's great to be here, and for the first time, to bring two players who we actually recruited into the program.
I think it speaks volumes to where we're headed. This is a team that has a great culture about themselves and one that I believe is headed in the right track of not only what we're doing on the field but off the field in the classroom. It's a young, talented football team that is maturing rapidly. I think we're projected to start four seniors this fall, Desmond being one of those. So, it's a great time to be a Husky.
The defensive staff on board, I couldn't be more impressed with Justin Wilcox, Tosh Lupoi, Keith Heyward, Peter Sirmon, the recruiting that they have brought along with what they have been doing on the field. And they have put challenges on Keith and what he has had to do in spring ball, and also where we're headed from a recruiting standpoint and some of the players that may be able to step in and contribute early on as we move forward.
This is an exciting time of year for me, because the anticipation of the college football season, I think, is what is so intriguing — that all of you are here to support college football. You're writing about it; you're blogging about it; you're typing about it. I think it speaks volumes to what college football means in this country, the passion, the pageantry, as we move into August and the training camps and you're trying to formulate your team.
We have a team that is one we're proud of, and we think we're on the brink of something special here at the University of Washington.
We're all aware of the renovation at Husky Stadium and how unbelievably fast they're working on this thing and the steel going up. So, the opportunity for us to play at Century Link this fall against our opponents is one we're embracing. These guys are excited about it, and it's a great schedule for us to open with San Diego State and then go down to Baton Rouge and come back and play against Portland State and kicking off Pac-12 play and taking on the three most successful teams in the last three years — Stanford, at home, going down to Oregon and then coming back home to take on S.C.
It's an exciting first-half of the season. We would be remiss to put all of our eggs in the basket during the first half of the season; this is a season-long venture, and having two guys here with us that we recruited sets the stage of what we talked about when I got hired four years ago. Four years later, that culture is in place. This is the most competitive team we have had with one another – whether offense or defense and, ultimately, on the field – but the most the together of a team we have had since we have been here.
It's not about inheriting some players, bringing in new ones. These are our guys. They give us everything they have every day. We love our guys and can't wait for the season to get started.
Q. Steve, what's the plan to replace Chris Polk's production and, regarding USC’s preseason no. 1 national ranking, you were there dealing with that pressure. What's it like internally, week-to-week with everybody expecting a national championship or bust?
?COACH SARKISIAN: Replacing Chris, we have Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey, and whether it's one of them or both of them — Deontae Cooper is a guy we hope to get back, and with the addition of younger players, I think that position is one we feel good about the depth. How he gets replaced remains to be seen, and maybe we throw the football a little more with this guy to my left because he's talented and [we can] utilize him in the short-passing game. That remains to be seen.
As far as S.C., Lane [Kiffin] has done a great job, and they have a talented football team. Obviously, [Robert] Woods, and [Curtis] McNeal brought late in the year, and what they were able to do, I think it's a different era. There are no gimmicks, and I think the conference has changed in that aspect over the years. This is a balanced, deep conference, and you have to show up every week – week in and week out – especially playing a nine-conference-game schedule.
Q. Question what did it mean to you to elevate your game?
KEITH PRICE: Before we start, Coach Sark said we were going to break records, so I knew he was going to call up stuff. And I knew it was a big stage but either you show up or you go home. We showed up to play, obviously we didn't get the win but it was fun playing against RG3, he's a great talent.
Q. Steve, you mentioned earlier, Tosh Lupoi and the situation last January. He was recruiting a certain number of players for Cal, and literally the next day, he was recruiting those same players for you. I know it happens throughout college football, but do you consider that ethical?
COACH SARKISIAN: I think it's the business. I think that the decisions we make as a program and as a head coach have to do what's in the best interest of the University of Washington, our athletic department and our football program. When we made the decision to make changes on our defensive staff we wanted to hire some of the best coaches in the country and some of the best recruiters in the country, and Justin Wilcox, Tosh Lupoi, Peter Sirmon, Keith Heyward, they fit those criteria. It wasn’t about stealing other schools' recruits; it was about bettering the University of Washington and for our long-term success on the football field. And I believe we've done that.
Q. Steve, could you talk about your offensive line and the questions surrounding them?
COACH SARKISIAN: The questions are obvious. When you think you return four starters, you lose one to a medical hardship in [Colin] Porter and you're down to three and one of them is coming off a knee, you have concerns. I think we have depth and versatility at the position, and we will be able to do things to make that happen.
Obviously, that is one of our question marks, who are going to be our five guys? Where do they fit, making sure that our best players are in the toughest positions so we can be successful. You're going to see times at training camp, Drew Schaefer will be at tackle, Taniela [Tupou] at center and [Erik] Kohler at center, and we will do it time and again to get the best 5 guys to be successful on the field, so we can run the football the best and protect this guy and so that we have the best continuity as we continue to move forward. Like anything, we have question marks. The O-line happens to be one of those.
Q. We have been soliciting questions from fans, and Keith there is a question for you, even though you were amazing last year, have you made adjustments in the off-season that have helped you?
KEITH PRICE: Actually, I'm still learning things. Obviously, I'm not a senior. Last year was only my first year. I think the next step for me is recognizing defenses and being able to change protections and getting ourselves into the manageable plays without Coach “Sark” having to tell me to check. I think that's the next step for me. I'm looking forward to it. I've been working on it all offseason, and hopefully we can see a lot of that this year.
Q. Steve, could you give us an update on Hau'oli Jamora, and is there a verdict on the 3-4 versus the 4-3, or is it the famous media creation of the hybrid scheme?
COACH SARKISIAN: I kind of like the "hybrid." It's a hip term in the car industry now, so we'll keep that. Jamora looks great. He's recovering well. He looks beautiful. He was up in my office the other day. He's under 260 pounds, looks strong, feels like all of the rehab and everything that he's put into this is paying off for him.
?It's going to be a unique situation getting Jamora back, where Josh Shirley fits with that. Andrew [Hudson] came on strong the second half of the season for us. That's why the term hybrid is there. There will be times when we will look like a 4-3 defense, and there will be moments where we look like we have a 3-4 defense in.
That's kudos to Justin Wilcox, putting the guys in the best position to be successful when he’s on the field, and like I said, I thought our defense had a tremendous spring, and hopefully, that's a sign of things to come.
Q. Coach, year four, back-to-back bowls, where does this fit into our plan to be a national contender, and second question, who did you upset in the Pac-12 scheduling office to get those games back-to-back?
COACH SARKISIAN: I don't know, maybe ran a score up too much back in the day or something, I don't know. I think that when we look at who we are heading into year four, I think we made incremental progress. I think from what we inherited, to who we were in year one, winning five – it’s so frustrating now looking back on that season, losing at Notre Dame, Arizona State, UCLA. That team could have been a much different team if we had won those.
And the Jake [Locker] coming back and to win the last three in the final part of the season and going on to win the Holiday Bowl, and then last year to become bowl eligible and playing Washington State and playing a good Baylor team and the frustration with that loss –I think we're progressing, and we're learning along the way.
Every season has been different for us, they haven't all been the same. The thing is for us to put it together. Ultimately, you get dealt a hand, and you have to play that hand. I think that's one of the beauties of these guys who have been with us since day one, hearing the consistent messaging, it's not about what just happened to me, it's about what we're going to do about it, that's our schedule, let's go play it.
Q. Steve, what plans do you have for Shaq Thompson this season as a true freshman?
COACH SARKISIAN: We have to get Shaq on campus first. I was jokingly thinking everyone is ripping Shaq for 0-39 with 37 Ks. We'll get him here and get him to learn our defense, he hasn't been here in the summer league program, but he will get on the field and there will be moments where we will look at him on the offensive side of the ball because he's a talented quit but ultimately it's getting him acclimated and if he's prepared to play we're going to play him.
Q. COACH SARKISIAN: Tru, what do you think of our defensive coaches and what do you think heading into your senior year?
Desmond Trufant: The defense is looking good, spring ball is looking great and obviously we had to learn some new stuff but once we learned it, we had to start competing.
Q. Desmond, a lot of the talk of the SEC has been dominance on the offensive side of the football, how much of a factor has speed been for the defense on your team?
DESMOND TRUFANT: Speed kills, the secondary, the "D" linemen are going to be blitzing and we will be using speed to our advantage.
Q. Obviously Justin Wilcox praised, universally, how much can a defense improve from one year to the next? Can it improve dramatically?
COACH SARKISIAN: I think it can be dramatically improved and I go back to one instance in our own conference when Dwayne Walker came to UCLA and I feel something very similar with us, we have mortal lent on our defense than we have been given credit for, a lot of it is young, the Danny Shelton, Princeton -- a lot of guys played good football as true freshman and sophomores and now as they have matured they understand the preparation that needs to be laid to make that happen but a new reenergized focus, and I want to give these guys credit for their ability to be flexible to fit the personnel that we have and for them to think the decision and to think that nature fell in her who has been a three-year starter for us at safety can now play an outside backer spot tore us and to implement the 3-4 principles to fit Josh Shirley's strength and to bring Desmond into the slot where he can do things on the edge, blitzing, covering receivers man-to-man were things that we haven't done before and I think they have helped us make dramatic strides and changes in the short amount of time.
And I only say this because I know the difficulty we had offensively going against them this spring so obviously time will tell and fall camp, there is still improvement and things that need to get done but I don't feel like this is going to be a long, drawn out process. I think this thing can get turned around and turned around relatively quickly.