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PAC-12 Media Days: HC Justin Wilcox Q&A

Coach takes to the podium for the first time this season!

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

HC Justin Wilcox took the stage Wednesday morning in Los Angeles to talk to the media about the upcoming season. Here are some of his key answers!

How are you looking at the quarterback position heading into camp?

Obviously, the quarterback position, you always get that question this time of year. We have a returner in Ross Bowers, who did some good things last year and has grown a lot in the last year and half. Ross has done a nice job since the season ended working on his body, did a really nice job in spring. He’s a much better player than he was a year ago right now, which is encouraging. So, it’s going to be competitive though for him. We got a couple other guys, Brandon McIlwain a transfer who brings a little different element, and Chase Forrest, Chase Garbers,

So we’re not ready to name a starter yet. Ross obviously has an advantage because he’s got so many game reps, and he has improved, so I don’t discount that at all, but it will be a competitive camp.

Coaching there with the administrations the ability to recruit academically?

Yeah, well, we’ve got the number one public school in the world in the Bay Area, and every school has challenges. I don’t think there is a perfect place out there, and we’re trying to make it the best place we can. We like where we’re at, and we like the people we’re recruiting and the guys on the team.

Now it’s time to take that next step in the program.

You are returning a lot of the key pieces in your secondary, what are you seeing from them at this point and what are you expecting from them this season?

Yeah, we got a lot of experience coming back in the secondary, some good players back there, and I think now for them each one of them taking the next step as a player some of those guys didn’t have a ton of experience last year, but they’ve got talent. Now it’s about the smallest details, the football intelligence, playing the game within the game.

Before the snap, you’re kind of knowing what to expect as opposed to reacting when the ball is snapped. I think across the board in football, but especially at that position, that’s where you take your game to the next level.

I know players mentally and physically prepare for fall camp, how does the coaching staff prepare for fall camp?

Yeah, we put a lot of time in for the preparation for camp and cut up some teaching. We have a system that we have in place in terms of how we’re going to introduce things and how we’re going to teach them. So we’ve done that. Spent a lot of time on that in spring and summer, so absolutely.

And then it’s preparing your mind for the season. So I know I was ready about two weeks ago to get going, and I know our players are itching and our coaches are itching. It’s just that time.

With the new rule redshirting freshman allowed to play in four games, how does that impact your roster and are you looking at one position that would impact more?

Yeah, we’re going to determine that during fall camp. We’ve had a lot of discussions about that and the best way to do it. You’re not going to know exactly because things change daily on your depth chart and injuries and so forth. So I think it’s a good thing for everybody. I think it’s good for the entire team. I think it’s good for the players, and we’ve had a lot of discussions on how we’re going to do that. Some of it will be determined, again, like I said, based on depth chart and injuries and how ready the guy is. Yeah, by position, it’s just too hard to tell right now just because you guys know. Recruiting, you think one thing and then they get there, and they’re going from high school to college and things change significantly, and you’re never quite sure how they’re going to react.

You mentioned the players you have with you today, Patrick’s reading program and Jordan going to Mexico, how do you feel about how your players are using their platforms?

It’s unbelievable. I wish more and more people would be telling their stories, and we should be talking to them. But they’re special guys. Patrick, with the reading program, he’s got 3500 kids on his reading program, and that was all his idea. This wasn’t something that somebody thought of and went to Patrick and asked him to do. He thought of it.

The university, we’ve supported him. Our people have done a great job of helping get the word out there, as have you guys. It’s a really neat deal. We’re proud of him.

Pat, like we said, he’s a special guy. We’ve got a lot of guys with great stories, but he’s one of them that embodies what we’re all about.

Jordan went down and did some work. Just selfless people; both have a high level of self-discipline and have earned everything they’ve got. Nothing has been given to those guys along the way. Really strong characters, so we’re glad to have both of them.

You talked about tight ends, it seems like there is more importance on that position recently, what does that position bring to the team and what does it mean to have Ray back?

It’s great having Ray back in that position in general. Like you said, we made it a priority once we got here a year and a half ago. We now have a number of guys that can play there, different body types. You kind of have the traditional tight ends, having Ray Hudson back who is a guy that can flex out and catch the ball, but also get in there and mix it up.

It just gives you a lot of versatility in terms of run and pass game and protections and a lot of different things. We want to be able to use those guys, and we’re going to.

We’ve got some guys that can help us. We’ve got Malik McMorris, which is however you want to categorize him. He’s kind of that fullback, H-type guy that can do some things for us. So we’re going to continue to develop that position, but we like the guys we’ve got coming back too.

Any take aways from your first year as the head coach and lessons learned?

How long do you have? I’ve got a notebook full. I think you’re always learning along the way. If I’ve done this for 15 years, I’d hope I’d learn something. I think kind of each day there is something you’re taking away. Whether it’s scheduling or practice, nutrition. You’re just constantly trying to grow your program and build on what you’ve established. The good thing is we’ve got a lot of really good people, from coaches who we were able to keep most all. There is a lot of continuity there to our support staff. Knowing what we’re about and who we’re recruiting and how we’re going to go about our daily operations, I think everybody’s got a much better comfort level. Getting a lot of support from our new athletic director and administration, which is key.

So it’s exciting where it’s going. Like I said, I learn something new every day, and I hope I continue to do that.

When you say what is an offer how do you explain that to recruits?

When we offer a person a scholarship, they have a scholarship offer. There may be things tied to that, whether it’s academics or whatnot, but we know enough at that point. That’s how we do it. I’m not saying that’s how everybody does it.

Patrick was saying that you recommended books to read this summer. How encouraging do you find your players?

Well, they’re the ones that talk about it more than I do. To be honest, Patrick’s the one that will come up and offer ideas to the coaches at the times. It’s pretty cool.

Both those guys got a lot of depth. They’re not the most talkative guys, but they have a lot of depth and strong character, so thoughtful. Both very thoughtful guys. So it’s fun to converse with guys like that. I’m glad they’re on our team. We have a lot of really good guys on our team, and I’m glad those two are here so you guys can get to know them and ask them questions. It’s pretty neat to have people like that that you get to coach.

How do you feel about the depth of the tight end position?

It’s better than it was. Better than it was. So more bodies and guys that can help us do some things. When you look at Ray coming back and what he can provide, and he and Bunting, who is a transfer, and Gavin Reinwald, and then you’ve got Malik, you know, who are doing some things for us in that H-back, fullback role.

So obviously having more options and guys that can do different things, that position a lot of times they don’t look the same. So we’ll use them accordingly. Whatever they do best, we’ll find a way to use them doing that. I know Beau’s excited to have that group as well.

How would you describe Gerald Alexander?

I think the same kind of thing. Gerald’s got juice. I coached Gerald at Boise State. Known him for a long time. He was an intense player. He’s an intense coach. Very knowledgeable. He’s a really good, young coach. And just like all of us, he’s continuing to get better. The players respond to him, and he provides discipline for that room and some levity. But guys can talk to him, but they know the line and what the expectations are, and that’s a sign of a good coach.

[Gerald Alexander] has a big social media presence, what does that bring to the team?

He does, I think it’s important, because I know I don’t. Yeah, he’s one of those guys that’s got personality, and I want all the coaches to be themselves. We don’t want everybody to be the same.

I’m glad Gerald’s on our staff. He brings a lot to our team. I could go on and on about the rest of the guys, because we’ve got a big-time coaching staff.

We’ll have more from Coach, RB Patrick Laird and LB Jordan Kunaszyk from Media Day, so look out for that early next week!