In Part I we looked at the first five press conferences, in Part II we obtained a wealth of information from Tedford and Mohamed, and today we wrap up with the final five press conferences: USC, Stanford, Oregon St, Arizona, and Oregon.
It was hot out, my laptop was melting, and I had already heard from Tedford and Mohamed. My enthusiasm, as much as I hate to admit it, had fallen to levels known to mankind. That is, until Jim Harbaugh took the stage and provided some comedic relief. That raised my enthusiasm levels and helped get me through the day, as I did a favor for our friends at Building the Dam, managed not to say anything inappropriate in front of Chip Kelly, and even had a chance to say hi to Ted Miller. After I finished the day by talking with Mohamed and Tedford, the Pac-10 Media Day ultimately proved to be a success, even if I didn't get a chance to talk to the elusive Jim Harbaugh. Next year we'll find out what his deal is...
If three days' of CGB coverage hasn't been enough, check out Conquest Chronicles' coverage of the first five press conferences.
After the Cal press conference we were given a fifteen minute break and a chance to get out of the sun for a bit. I grabbed a gatorade that the Rose Bowl staff provided for us and then looked around for someone interesting to talk to. Ted Miller was nowhere to be seen. Tedford was hiding. Mohamed was gone. But I did happen to run into Joey Kaufman and Julio Nievas of Conquest Chronicles. We conversed a bit about the media day, our expectations for our teams this season, and, of course, we made some Masoli jokes. Speaking of which, with breaktime coming to a close, we had to return to our seats where our laptops may or may not have been waiting for us.
Much to my delight, no Oregonians had stolen my laptop. Even better, they put up a few more wireless networks and moved some umbrellas to our tables. The wireless networks were unbearably slow and the umbrellas could only fit a few people, but at least they tried. When the umbrellas couldn't cover everyone, they handed out Rose Bowl Game hats!
USC: Lane Kiffin and QB Matt Barkley
- The only coach who wore sunglasses, Lane Kiffin was exceptionally well prepared for the event. Let's hope he doesn't put that kind of thought and dedication into preparing for Cal this year.
- Kiffin could not talk about the ongoing lawsuit filed by the Tennessee Titans.
- Apparently he couldn't talk about much of anything to my interest, as my notes from the USC press conference are woefully inadequate. Instead, let's look at some notes I wrote from what Barkley was talking about during the luncheon.
- Someone asked if Barkley thought cheerleading is a sport. He didn't seem to provide a straight answer, but he did acknowledge the number of injuries cheerleaders sustain each year. He says that has to give it some credit.
- Although USC lost several players to transfers, Barkley says the team's leadership is intact this year.
- His playing time last year gave him great experience, but he believes he could have performed better. In the offseason he's been working on improving his decision-making. He specifically mentioned that it is much better to pass for a short gain than to toss an incompletion if a play breaks down. He intends to try to make more use of those small, positive gains.
- When Carroll left, Barkley knew he was going to stay, regardless of who would be named as the replacement coach.
- Kiffen is much more subdued than Carroll, but he still keeps players disciplined.
- Kiffen's reputation doesn't seem to have a big impact on the players. They know what others say about Kiffen, but they don't see him in the same light as his critics.
- He's considering a mission trip, not unlike Tebow's offseason mission last year.
- This was the most entertaining press conference of the day, by far. It had more metaphors than English 1A! Not surprisingly, he also had the longest opening statement.
- The first words that came out of his mouth indicated that this press conference was going to be a comedic gold mine: "A lot of people who espouse Catholicism and Christianity call Jan. 1 as the New Year. But for football players like Owen and me, that's Aug. 9, when we get back on the football field."
- Refuting the "finesse conference" stereotype from the SEC, he referred to the Pac-10 as a "strong-man" conference. Strong-man.
- He may use a committee of running backs to replace Toby.
- He referred to Owen Marecic as "the perfectly engineered football player." He repeated Owen's name about 20 time throughout the conference. Harbaugh really likes saying people's names.
- Marecic kept talking about how he plays on offense and defense, but he and Harbaugh kept referring to it as "going both ways." Owen talked about "going both ways" in high school too. It was...awkward. He and Harbaugh said the phrase about ten times.
- Harbaugh is convinced that Luck is the best QB in the country.
- He said something about how a good QB, a good defense, and a good kicker are the key ingredients for a championship. We'll see about that...
- Asked if he'll leave Stanford anytime soon, he said "God-willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be at Stanford."
- Asked how he'll sustain the success from last year, he burst out "We're not sustaining a gosh-darn thing! We despise the word 'sustaining' and we despise the word 'satisfaction'!" PURE GOLD.
Best of all was when someone asked if Mohamed's pick stalled their late-season momentum. Harbaugh danced around the question a bit, said it was a great play, and said he was disappointed to walk off the field with a loss. I don't remember who asked it, but it was the best question of the entire day.
Pained looks accompany painful memories as Harbaugh and Marecic recall Mohamed's game-sealing pick.
- One highlight of their brutal non-conference schedule (@TCU, @Boise St, Louisville) is that the Rodgers brothers will be able to play in front of their family and friends. For a team that has started off 2-2 every year since 2005, a OOC schedule like that is either a brilliant or a ridiculously misguided move. We'll have to withhold judgment until September.
- Losing Victor Butler and Slade Norris to the NFL was tough on the team last year and losing Keaton Kristick to the NFL this year ought to be problematic for a team that had trouble pressuring the opposing QB last year. Riley says transitioning from guys like that is "a process," but he's confident that they'll still be able to get pressure with guys like Steven Paea, Taylor Henry, and Gabe Miller. Since I asked that question on behalf of Building the Dam, the CGB community will have to come up with a creative way for them to return the favor.
- He had high praise for Sean Canfield's replacement, Ryan Katz. He described Katz as "unflappable." With help on offense from Quizz and James, Katz should have a smooth transition into the starting role.
- Their season ended with a 33-0 thud against Nebraska. Stoops said the team learned from that incident, though. He said it helped demonstrate what happens when the team loses its focus and makes mistakes.
- Losing a playmaker like Delashaun Dean is tought, but Stoops singled out Juron Criner as someone who can fill that void.
- Stoops believes the team can improve on last year's mark, but that will be contingent on the defense. We'll see how the unit fares under new defensive coordinator Greg Brown.
- Of course, someone asked about the possibility of playing his brother Bob Stoops and Oklahoma under that Pac-16. Mike was relieved that he will not have to play his brother in the foreseeable future. He was also concerned with the possibility of playing them during the bowl season. The only circumstance when he wouldn't mind playing his brother is if it's the Rose Bowl or the National Championship Game.