This is part one of Joey's 5-hour long journey through the Rose Bowl at Pac-10 Media Day. Part two and Part three will be published as well in the coming days.
I am a lucky man it seems. While Snowman nearly showed up late due to LA traffic, and our new friend from California Golden Blogs, Berkelium97, took over 2 hours to meander his way up the 110 to the Rose Bowl, I made it to the event in 20 minutes from Burbank with very little traffic, and was even a little early. You can stop clapping now.
Once there and nestled in, I tended to follow the crowd for the most part on this scorching, yet still interesting day. Initially, I talked to some USC students, who were interning with the athletic department and the Pac-10, Pedro Moura from ESPNLosAngeles.com, and Ted Miller from ESPN (note: unlike the folks at CGB I did not and do refer to him as Uncle Ted).
As expected Kiffin and Barkley were hounded by local T.V. stations and big-shot columnists such as Bill Plaschke, Rick Reilly, and T.J. Simers. In turn, Snowman and I were relegated to the back of the large crowd, simply attempting to record what this year's Trojan ambassadors had to say.
While Paragon was afforded the opportunity in New York on Tuesday, there was to be no one-on-one time with either Barkley or Kiffin Thursday afternoon. Granted, it was a little disappointing, because who wouldn't want to hang out with King Kiffin and the Golden Boy, but hey, I'm sure they had more fun listening to Reilly ask them to pee in a cup.
So Thursday largely consisted of me following people around, writing down what they said and recording what they said, while simultaneously trying to save my laptop from being fried in the Pasadena heat. In short, it could've been a lot worse. I got free media guides, a nifty black Rose Bowl hat, and a nice sun burn to sport for the rest of the weekend. I'll take what I can get. It sounds like Berkelium enjoyed himself as well.
As I stated earlier, I was fortunate enough to avoid traffic, and subsequently, I made it to the Rose Bowl in plenty of time. No parking issues. No trouble getting access. No difficulties finding the field either. I was on a roll. Hey, this usually doesn't happen for me.
But the fun wouldn't last forever. Instead of getting to ask all the mainstream media writers: "So how do you get paid to just bash USC on a consistent basis," they asked us to sit down and listen to Larry Scott talk about the growth of the conference and the dawn of a new era for Pac-10 football in the midst of a barrage of cliches.
If that wasn't fun enough, Washington State head coach Paul Wulff and defensive end Kevin Kooyman would soon get on stage to talk about a team that has won 3 games over the course of the past 2 seasons. Isn't this exciting!
So coincidently enough, I found myself looking over the Pac-10 preseason media poll, which they handed out at the front gate.
- Oregon (15)... 314
- USC (12)... 311
- Oregon State (3)... 262
- Stanford (1)... 233
- Arizona (2)... 222
- Washington (1)...209
- California... 175
- UCLA (1)... 134
- Arizona State... 81
- Washington State... 39
It was fun to look at it, but seriously, who the heck knows how the conference race is going to play out? Do we really have to vote? And by the way, whoever gave UCLA a first place vote should have their credentials revoked.
So, instead of continuing to look over the projected order of finish, I thought it'd make more sense to do what I was supposed to do, and listen to what the coaches and players were saying. That's why I made the trip, right?
So, here are my notes from the first five teams.
Washington State: Paul Wulff and DE Kevin Kooyman
- I don't know much of anything about Paul Wulff or Washington State football, minus the fact that Jason Gesser used to haunt me as a kid in middle school when he torched the Trojans back in 2002. But Wulff seemed like a decent fellow. He was frank, yet optimistic regarding the Cougs, and that's hard to do when everybody out there wants to tell you your team sucks to your face. Hey, Uncle Ted, I caved, did ask how it felt to be picked to finish 10th again. Cold.
- Wulff proceeded to tell the media that WSU is going to surprise people. Nobody took him seriously. Wulff compared Jeff Tuel to Drew Bledsoe. Nobody took him seriously. Then Kooyman said the Cougs would "shock" people. Everybody tried to refrain from laughing.
- Additionally, they talked about how WSU was a hard-working team despite their recent track record and perceived lack of talent.
- At the end, Wulff seemed to be pretty high on the 2010 group. It may not translate to a ton of wins, but it doesn't appear as if the Cougs will be a pushover forever.
- I've never been a big Dennis Erickson fan, and nothing he did or said on Thursday had anything to do with changing that. For starters, he wore his Miami national championship ring, and proceeded to lecture the media on the importance of a kicker. Odd, that the guy who coaches the 9th team is lecturing abut anything.
- Then, Erickson threw San Jose State under the buss, as the Spartans abandoned their matchup with ASU in favor of adding Alabama to the schedule. Yea, I would have done the same thing.
- Then to the surprise of everyone, Erickson gushed over the New York City trip, saying that it was an "unbelievable experience." Yea, like anyone was going to say it was a waste of time right in front of Larry Scott.
- He did eventually get to talking Xs and Os. Doesn't seem to have a quarterback yet. Not a good thing. And said freshman phenom Vontaze Burfict is still work in progress. Too many penalties, but great natural ability. Great analysis!
- Slick Rick took the stage. Mushroom proceeded to get a hard on. Along with that, it was simply the same 'ol same 'ol with Skippy.
- He talked about how great the pistol offense will be, especially after consulting with Nevada's Chris Ault. Sorry but wouldn't it be better to consult with Alabama, Florida, and LSU - the last three national champions?
- He refused to acknowledge USC by name, only saying "our crosstown rival." That's weak. In general, he was overly vague. But that will help you win political offices nowadays, so maybe that's where he's coming from.
- And in usual fashion, he talked about how winning the Pac-10 and competing nationally is now possible because of "sweat equity" and the momentum wave the program is riding. This is all news to me.
- Sark did not bring Jake Locker. I was disappointed.
- Subsequently, I left to try and find Kififn somewhere in the vicinity, but I failed, and was soon back in my seat.
- Then, before I knew it, Sarkisian was finishing up his remarks. Interestingly enough though, he said some nice things about his former co-offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Lane has friends!
- And now I refer you to CGB. This is why I make friends:
Picked to finish 7th, Tedford and the team are focused on their own goals instead of external expectations. He repeatedly emphasized aggression on defense and clearly looks forward to what Pendergast will be able to do with this defense. Despite the loss of Syd, Tedford is confident in the secondary. He says Steve Williams is as talented as any DB he's had on his teams. Additionally, he praised the tandem of Conte and Cattouse. Their jobs ought to be easier if the defense can consistently pressure the opposing QB. To help with that, they want to rush enough personnel to get Cameron Jordan in a one-on-one situation. His presence was limited last season because he was consistently double-teamed. Despite the loss of Best, he insists on a balanced attack of passing and rushing. Beyond playcalling, this will require that the defense not let the team fall into a hole which requires Riley to pass his way back into the game. Also, the O-line has to do its job and give him enough protection to allow him to pass well. Tedford had much more praise for Riley than I have seen in the past. He believes Riley is poised for a breakout year. If the O-line can block well for him and if the receivers fulfill their potential, Riley ought to have a great year. Tedford emphasized the importance of special teams (ALAMAR!), particularly field position (ALAMAAAAAR!), and spoke highly--though briefly--about Jeff Genyk. Tedford was positive about expansion and believes adding Utah and Colorado will not affect the balance of power in the conference. Tedford is looking forward to the future with the SAHPC and next year's home at AT&T Park. The level of interaction he has had with officials at AT&T assures him that it will be a great gameday atmosphere. In the immediate future, he recognizes that as the second-winningest program in the Pac-10 since 2002, second place isn't going to be sufficient. He knows his team has to break through and win the conference and he is committed to leading to team to great heights.
With the first five teams done, it was time for a fifteen-minute break, where I tried to drink as many waters as quickly as I could.
To be continued...