April 10, 2004
BERKELEY, Calif. - Cal free safety Ryan Gutierrez earned Defensive MVP honors at the Insight Bowl in Phoenix after making a game-high 12 tackles (including 11 solo stops). Gutierrez concluded the season with 93 tackles, second on the team behind first-team All-Pac-10 rover Donnie McCleskey (102 tackles).
Q) How is spring practice going?
"It's going really well. As far as the defensive unit, it's going really well. We're missing some guys right now. As far as the defensive backs, we're jelling real well. We've got some corners, some young guys who are getting the chance to step up. For me personally, it's my last one, so I've been trying to go full speed every day."
Q) How does it feel going into the spring as the starter as opposed to last year, when you were the backup?
"A lot of excitement, a lot of anticipation. Matt [Giordano, who started the first four games last season] is a good player, and we're really good friends. It was good to see him doing well, but the competitor in me was eating me up inside, mainly because of my knee. I wasn't able to do the things I can do. It was frustrating for me because I wanted to be out there. I worked so hard to get to that point, and then an injury set me back."
Q) Have you worked on any particular part of your individual game during the offseason?
"Nothing specifically. I can improve on everything. If you're already perfect, why do you come out and practice?"
Q) With yourself, Donnie McCleskey and others back, how strong will the secondary be?
"This secondary, coach says it a lot, has a chance to be really, really great. Now we're good. We have a chance to be great. It's experience all the way around. And we'll have some young guys who are exciting to watch, Tim Mixon, Thomas DeCoud, Brandon Sanders, who didn't get a chance to play last year who'll step up."
Q) What did it mean to you to earn Defensive MVP honors at the Insight Bowl?
"It was awesome. It was also so surreal. Standing there and accepting that award, I was proud for my teammates. It wasn't so much my award as it was a culmination of the whole year. The defense was playing really well at the end of the year. For me it was an honor."
Q)Where is your Defensive MVP award now?
"Probably collecting dust. The hardware's not the thing that I really strive to attain. It's the experience. That moment when I first got it, it was one of the greatest experiences that I've experienced as an athlete. It's collecting dust right now. It's sitting somewhere. To be honest, with you, I don't know where it is. I think it's at my parents' house. It's kind of an afterthought now. I took that moment and moved on."
Q) Because the offense put up a lot of points last season, much of the focus on the football team has been on the offense. Did that ever bother the defense?
"No. The defense that we have plays really well together. We're not looking for the headlines. We play hard for each other. I was proud of the offense. The defense was proud of them. To have an offensive unit like that, going into every game, you have a lot of confidence as a defense. We go in playing hard, but we know that the offense is there to back us up. At the same time, I think it happened a few times, Stanford was a really good example of when the offense was sputtering and the defense really stepped up and kept us in the game. We know they're going to have our back and we're going to have they're back.
"There's no jealousy. We love seeing the offense go out and score 51 points and written about the next day. It's awesome. The defense just comes out and plays."