Oct. 30, 2001
Below are quotes from head coach Tom Holmoe from his weekly media luncheon. The Bears return home after a two-week road trip this Saturday when they host Arizona at 12:30 p.m. in Memorial Stadium.
On the quarterback situation:
Kyle (Boller) is going to practice today and what we'll end up doing, at least today, is see how well he can practice. We anticipate that Reggie (Robertson) will get a lot of reps and if Kyle can take reps and get as many as he can, we might go 50-50 with the reps in practice this week. We'll see how Kyle responds ... he's been out of practice for two weeks. He threw a little bit on the side when we were on the trip, and we think he's back, but I don't think it's a great idea just to rush him back into it right away. I'd rather see how things progress. Reggie's had some good things happen the last two weeks and gives us enough cause to think that he can go play some of this game. It might be a good idea to ease Kyle back into it, at least this week, to see where he's at. Then we have Eric Holtfreter available if need be.
On the difference between current Arizona head coach John Mackovic and former head coach Dick Tomey:
I think it's quite a bit different. Dick Tomey was the dean of the Pac-10 coaches. I remember playing against him when he was the head coach at the University of Hawaii. So, I've known him since back then, and he was the coach of the Hula Bowl team when I played. We've known each other for a long time, so I was really sad to see him go. I think he had a trademark for very tough and physical teams, especially on defense with the 'Desert Swarm' teams. That was a very special time in Arizona football and the Pac-10. He also had some pretty explosive offenses with some excellent players. John Mackovic is a very experienced coach with experience in the NFL and college football in some big-time programs. He comes in at a time where there's a transition. You can see this year that they have some young talent and some veteran guys in the program that they are trying to piece together. Whenever you have a new coach and new philosophies you are going to have some transitions. That's basically what you see right now.
Has the playbook been simplified?
Yes. We have changed things pretty dramatically this year. There were times when we could do a lot of different things. We have new players in the lineup, at least defensively in the front seven, and we have younger players and JC guys on the d-line that are looking at things for the first time. (Josh) Gustaveson, (Tom) Canada, Tosh Lupoi, (Louis-Philippe) Ladouceur, and Lorenzo (Alexander) to name a few. In the secondary, we really had to pair back, so that there wasn't a lot to think about, so that we could get better. In the last couple weeks, we have given up a couple of plays, but it has been better and more consistent based on not having to do too much. I'm not going to say that we really burdened them early, but we have tried to give them a game plan that would be in their best interests and give them a chance to be successful.
Does Arizona have any marquee players this year like they have had in the past?
Clarence Farmer. In our football conference, you have DeShaun Foster, Kenny Simonton, Sultan McCullough, Onterrio Smith, Maurice Morris ... there are a lot of good running backs in this conference. And when you get to Arizona, you see Clarence Farmer. I'm going to tell you right now, you watch him play, that there are points in his season where he is as good as anyone. Now he hasn't been able to put together game after game but he's had a couple of games where he's as good as anybody. He's a marquee player. They have a new quarterback, Jason Johnson, who has been inconsistent but has a lot of courage, a lot of poise, and a lot of confidence in himself to throw the ball down the field. He's got a strong arm, and he's got fast receivers that can get down the field. They don't have a guy like Dennis Northcutt, but they have weapons. On the defensive side of the ball, they don't have a (Chris) McAlister, but Michael Jolivette is a pretty good player. He's got five interceptions in just seven games, and he was like that last year. He has like 15 breakups ... that's a premier player in our conference. So, there have been some national names on some of their teams, but now I think they have some up and coming players that are going to be pretty special.
On the loss of Joe Igber to a season-ending injury:
Losing Joe is very tough. To me, you lose one of your key ingredients on the team, and that's a kid that everybody loves. They love him. He's a kid that works hard. He's always got a smile on his face. He's a smart kid, and he gives everything of himself on the field. He kind of blends through the locker room and can get along with everybody, and you miss that. That's a big, big thing. I don't know if this is of any less importance, but he's also one of our best players. He's given us a lot of different dimensions on offense. He can catch passes, he can run, and he can block. His is actually one of our better blitz pick up guys. We'll lose him and that will be a big loss. But fortunately, Terrell Williams is a young freshman in which we didn't know what we were getting when we got him, and he's a pretty special player. Terrell will have an opportunity now to really fill in and be the guy. Marcus (Fields) will obviously help us. You could see at the end of the game when Joe went out, Marcus was in there on a couple of plays as a single back. Michael Sparks is going to have to come in and play some ball at tailback. We were able to get him some punt returns the last couple of weeks, and he's proved to be very up for the job. So that will be our backup tailback, and we'll have to compensate in some other areas for the lack of Joe.
The doctors feel that it is in his best interest to have the simple surgery to fix the collarbone, and he'll recover fine. He'll heel great and he'll be back for spring football. He's doing well. If there's someone who could deal with something like this, its Joe. He' s had a great attitude about it, and his life is pretty well balanced. Football is important to him, but he realizes that now that the year is over for him, he'll put his attention into other things. He'll still be around though. I might have to make him part of the 60 man travel list just to have him there.
On LaShaun Ward moving over to the offensive side of the ball:
We on offense need a big play threat. We have players that are able to make the plays but the key is the big play. We just haven't had that on either side of the ball this year. One of the things in contemplating moving LaShaun over is that he would give us that big play threat. Instead of just trying to ease him into it, we gave him a limited set of plays, but those plays were big plays. The reverse was a plus-30 gain, the long pass down the middle, and we threw a couple more at him. If anything, even if we didn't complete them, at least it stretches the defense. It gives people a feeling now that we are going to do that. He got confidence out of it, and he spent a lot of time last week working on the offense. Kenny Margerum tried to work him as much as he could, and we gave him a ton of reps in practice. In the game, he was really tired from the week in practice. But that was the only way that we really could get him ready to go.
Will we see the option at all?
Possibly. When we have run the option this year, it really has been an isolated play. We don't run it in a lot of different versions. We don't spend a whole lot of time on it. In order to really run it effectively from different looks and different ways, you have to spend time on it. It's not a hand-off, it's not a toss, it's a pitch. It's a nice little flip. That takes timing and practice, and we've been very good about what we've done. I'm glad we're running it, Reggie's (Robertson) the guy that can run it better than the other guys, but Kyle (Boller) has run some nice plays out of it and so has Eric (Holtfreter). In the next four weeks, it might be something that will play a little bit bigger role, knowing that we have to find a few other ways to compensate for the loss of Joe (Igber).
Does the upcoming schedule give you more breathing room than you've had previously this season?
It's not soft but when you're in an extended losing streak, there are some other factors that a lot of people don't realize are pushing in on you. I think the players realize that when you go up against UCLA in the Rose Bowl and Oregon who is really hot, that you're going to have to play an excellent almost error-free game to beat teams like those. We can't make errors against anybody and still be successful, but certainly if you look at Arizona, they have had their struggles, too. UCLA didn't have their struggles. Oregon didn't have their struggles. Certainly this is a team that we are a little bit more evenly matched with. I think the players would not see this as their only chance but see that this is an important game to get ready for. It gives us a good opportunity. We prepare every week to win. You look for things that you can do to crack the team you're playing, to go for the power pressure play and do it. The preparation will be the same as far as game planning. If we can find a few nitches and execute right, then we'll have a great chance to win. hb