Below is the transcript from Jon Embree's weekly press conference on Oct. 9, 2012.
"Before I get started, I would like to say congratulations to David Wineland, he's a lecturer in the Physics Department and today he won the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for physics... We're excited to play Arizona State. We're coming off of a bye week, which has been good for us. It's allowed us to get some guys back healthy. It's allowed us to address a couple issues with tackling and turnovers. We did a lot of tackling in practice. To the players, it may not have felt like a bye week because we had a lot of live periods within practice, but it was good to do that. Our preparation for Arizona State started on Sunday. They pose several different problems with how they run their spread offense. It's a little different than what UCLA did, but we have to do a good job with our assignments and make tackles when we get the opportunity. Defensively, they are a blitzing, pressure team. They come from all different angles. They blitz different parts of the field and there are no set tendencies with them. We have to be good with our protections and with our tempo up front when we throw. Running the ball, we have to do a good job of getting it to the right guys."
On Coming Off A Bye Week
"It's been good to have a bye week. It gave the kids a chance to get away a little bit. We gave them basically Friday and Saturday off. That gave them an opportunity to get away from football so to speak and a couple kids were able to go home. They haven't been able to go home since early June and this gave them time to see mom and dad. That's been good."
On The Crowd This Season At Folsom Field
"We're really looking forward to Thursday night and having a great crowd. You guys have been tremendous for us all year. We got a commitment at the UCLA game from a kid who had a couple of SEC offers. He in fact had been committed to a school in the SEC. Him seeing our environment and our fans at Folsom Field; it convinced him to be a Buff. Don't underestimate the impact that you guys have on our recruits. We don't have any recruits in this weekend, but we will every other weekend. Your role and what you guys do is important and we really appreciate you guys."
On Safety Ray Polk
"He's back this week and it means a lot. The communication and all of that; we'll see how he feels today, but I think we'll have him back. If not, for some reason if we don't, we have to continue to move forward. He does a great job of getting guys lined up in formation. When you have young guys back there, it's important to have someone back there that not only knows what needs to be done, but is good about communicating it and not whispering it. He yells and makes sure guys see what's going on and then if it doesn't happen, he's able to cover for someone. When he went down at the CSU game, I knew in my heart that if he had been in there, two of their touchdowns wouldn't have happened. That's how big it is having someone like Ray Polk in the game."
On Freshman Defenders Taking On High Temp Offenses
"It can cause problems. We practice it a lot so they can see it. I think when you look at our last game; our issues weren't necessarily assignment issues but more physical issues. I think for our younger guys in the backend, you just have to simplify it, which we've done. A lot of times when you play those teams, you're in man coverage, so that makes it even easier for them. Most of the time, they understand that. You have to simplify what you're doing in the backend. Up front, there are some things that we're trying to do to help them. Again, there haven't been too many mental mistakes from those guys. If there have been issues, it's been from a physical standpoint. I expect that to continue to improve and get better. I really am pleased with our young guys and how they've played this year on both sides of the football. I think they have represented themselves well. Yeah, they make mistakes but at the same time I see a lot of them make plays. You see the confidence with them. As they gain more confidence and understand that they can play at this level, their talent will continue to shine. Having said that, it's going to be an entirely different issue when you play Oregon. The speed of how they do things is completely different from anything that we have seen or that we will see."
On Thursday's Game Being Nationally Televised On ESPN
"Every game is important. With the way things are now with the Pac-12 Network and with the other TV packages we have, a lot of kids watch us play. So every game is important. This game is important for us for a lot of reasons. Obviously we have the opportunity to get to 2-1 in the South. Playing Arizona State on national television is good so that kids out there can see how we play. When it comes to recruiting, a lot of kids are looking for opportunity. That's really the number one thing they are looking for. As you've seen, I'm not afraid to play freshman. If they are the best guy, they are going to play. I think all of those factors override the fact that it is a Thursday night ESPN game. It doesn't make it any bigger than what it is. It's an important game because it's the next game. It's an important game because it's a home game and we need to win at home. It's an important game because it gives us an opportunity to get to 2-1 in the South. It just happens to be on national television. That's our approach to it and we will never change that."
On Defending High Tempo Offenses
"You have to have versatility in your players. That's why guys like Kyle Washington from safety to linebacker and Paul Vigo, you need those body types to help combat what these offenses do. You need guys that can cover, yet are big enough to do some stuff in the run game. Parker Orms, if he's our nickel and our dime player, they can put him in a bad situation in these spread offenses. We use him a little bit differently. Having Paul Vigo and guys like Kyle Washington being able to do those things, it allows us to at least have better match ups. When you look at other teams around the conference and the things that they do, it's more of that all-around athlete on defense now. It has to be speed first and size second. Hopefully you get the total package. You've got to keep recruiting speed and that's something that we've talked about from day one since we've been here. We aren't where we need to be from that standpoint. We need to continue to improve that. You have to have speed. With the tempo and them spreading you out; there were a couple of times that we had the opportunity to make a tackle for a no gain and it ended up being about a 10-yard gain one time and about a 15-yard gain another time, and it was a scheme where our guy just wasn't fast enough. You don't fix that in the weight room. You have to go out and recruit that. That's something we'll address on the recruiting standpoint on the defensive side."
On ASU's Spread Offense
"They do a good job of spreading it around but they still have tendencies. You can still use those tendencies to help you prepare. Their go-to guy is really D.J. Foster, he's a true freshman. When they really need a play, I feel like that's the guy that they'll go to. Him or receiver [Rashad Ross]. Those are the guys that when it's crunch time, they'll look at. With D.J., they'll put him at running back, slot receiver, outside, they move him around. Same with [Jamal] Miles, those are their core playmakers. Not to say the other guys can't make plays or don't make plays, but I think when you look at it in crunch time, those are the guys they will probably go to first."
On Feelings After Last Year's ASU Game
"Guys are competing, they care about what happens, there's pride. There's a lot of fight in them. That aspect of it has changed."
On ASU's Defense
"They're good against the run. When you watch them, watch Will Sutton. He's a junior and he's a great player. Right now he is the best defensive lineman in the conference. He's dominant and I love the spirit that he plays with. He plays with a lot of energy. He's a three technique so he plays on the guard. Whenever you can get pressure on the passer from the inside, that creates a lot of issues. Now your tackles can't help out on the edges. Junior [Onyeali], he's a kid from Mullen, he's another player that has played well coming off the edge. That's a good combination to have when you're getting that inside pressure and from the edge. When Junior is doing what he's doing and he gets you to step up, Sutton is there to make the tackle. He has tackles for loss. The thing I like about him is that he plays the run with as much passion as he does the passing game. That's rare. They'll pressure. They'll bring their linebackers; they'll bring their corners - occasionally a safety blitz. They have all the different kinds of pressure. You have to do a good job of identifying it and seeing it when you're pass protecting. Our guys against a four-man rush, we have to be better about giving our quarterback a pocket so he can step up and make the throw. They play fast. It's similar to last week's defense. It's similar to UCLA. Our guys should be used to the tempo and the speed of everything. "
On The Importance Of Practice
"We did a tackling circuit that I'm sure the kids just loved; we did that every day to start practice. Then within practice, it was live. Whether it was seven on seven, which is something you normally don't make live, we also made some team periods live. And we did that just so that they are aware. It is not something kids do on purpose, kids are trying to make plays, but we have to get better about understanding when you have the football and what that means. So we just keep harping on it, we have the scout team guys tackle the football against our offense, then when defense is going against our scout team or against our two's. We did a lot of good work this week. We try to emphasize the same thing. I know they look at me like I'm crazy sometimes, but I get on guys if they miss an interception. You have to do it in practice if you are going to do it in a game, same with fumbles; we don't get the ball, coach Embree is not very happy and I let them know about it. So I am going to keep emphasizing it until it becomes a second nature to them, and some of it is just getting the bounce. We have to be better about being around the ball when it is fumbled. I think we got one against UCLA, but there are more opportunities out there for us. Some of it is just when you're young, you are just worried about doing your job, you are not thinking about when you are tackling, about getting the football, you are just thinking about making that tackle. Some of that stuff goes hand in hand."
On Screen Passes
"We are not getting what we need out of the screen game. We are working on it, we are emphasizing it. We have had some big opportunities and just for whatever reason they haven't been able to connect. Last year, [former QB] Tyler [Hansen] had a good knack of doing some stuff on screens to help us too. I am not saying Jordan [Webb] doesn't. Sometimes when you are running screens and everybody is running in at the quarterback, he (Hansen) knew where Speedy (former TB Rodney Stewart) was going to be, and sometimes Speedy knew when to go quicker. I wanted to slow it down, and those kinds of things were not quite in sync like that at times. Sometimes it is the quarterback, sometimes it is the back, and sometimes it is the line. But we work it every day, we work screens every day, it is a part of our TTO period, and then we work it at practice. It is something we will continue to emphasize and hopefully it will pay off."
On Getting Wins At Home
"I have never been around anything like this in my life; as a player, or as a coach, where you struggle when you are at home or on the road. It is something that we have talked about, and I'll talk about it tonight. Tonight is the night that I will address the team about where our mindset needs to be for Thursday. It has been talked about, when we trained this offseason; [director of speed-strength and conditioning] Malcolm [Blacken] had the guys running and doing different things in the stadium and about defending your home and about what it means and why we are doing it in this stadium. Why your guys are throwing up and different things that are happening to them. Why we are training at such intensity and doing things to protect this field, this stadium. For a reason it hasn't worked. I know that is why coaches do stuff where they spend the night in the gym to, 'Protect their house' but I don't think I can get away with that, sleeping out there on Ralphie, that might be the last straw, so if that happens we need to have a fundraiser to get us some sleeping bags. We will need about 70 of them, or actually I will make the coaches sleep out there too, so we will need about one hundred sleeping bags. If it gets to that."
On A Winning Mindset At Home
"I don't think the guys look at it any differently, I really don't. Again I haven't been around where it has been that extreme at either place. I just knew where bottom was as a coach, and as a player, that when you win it somewhere else, the best sound is silence. The best sound was singing the fight song with your fans and it is quiet, that was your mindset. Then being at home, it is about the place being definite. You can't hear yourself, talk to your teammate, you go on in there and you sing the fight song with your teammates. The bottom line was the common denominator was winning, like [former defensive tackle] Kerry Hicks (in the crowd). Kerry can probably tell you about this; going into K-State beating them to go to the Cotton Bowl. That place, it went quiet and there was not a better feeling in the world. Then beating Nebraska 62-36, just how crazy that was. But it is all about winning, so I emphasized about winning on the road last year, this year I didn't really say anything to the team about only winning on the road we were only 1-1, it wasn't the same kind of emphasis. At home, you have mom, dad, grandma, whoever is here, girlfriends, all those people are there and you want to represent well. There is nothing worse than losing at home and then you go home and don't want to do anything. So hopefully our mindset has changed."
On Creating Turnovers
"Generally, what you would like is that the first guy is going to make the tackle and put his hat on the wall, so to speak that is a term for your helmet. Put your helmet right there on the ball, or tackling him with enough violence that he doesn't care about the ball, so that is the first thing and that is a one guy deal. If not, you wrap them up; the second guy comes in and says, 'Let's go get the football. So that is how it is on defense. Like I said, we did a lot of tackling, trying to work on that. We caused some fumbles. Really one of best players in the tackling drill was Marques Mosley, he had a great knack that showed in that drill of tackling, having him wrapped up and being able to get the ball out. I think out of his five times he went, he caused three fumbles. And the thing I love about that kid and I told you guys about his toughness and his want to; we had to call a time out at Fresno State to get him out of the game because he was hurt, and so I come to find out in the tackling drill that the second time he went, his nose was bleeding and he didn't blink, he went every time. Finally, we had to pull him out of that drill to go get his nose fixed. Some guys have it; some guys have a good knack to force a turnover. I remember we had a guy here, [former safety] Steve Rosga, he was always around the ball and got turnovers. He was not a great tackler but he was always making sure that he was the second guy. So he would go tackle the ball and get the ball or make plays and interceptions. Marques is one of those guys, and I think we have some guys that have that in them, it is just working on that technique."
On His Number Two Quarterback For The Game
"It should be Connor [Wood]. I think he is good to go."
"I will know more on a lot of those after practice because I like to see the guys go a couple days and then see how they respond. We talk about some of the issues these guys have, also they wake up and it's worse and not better. Because you have to practice, I have a rule: you have to practice and really practice on Wednesday's, so in our case yesterday. And then I want to see how you respond going through stuff today, before we can say you are in or out. But I hope to have a lot of the guys back... We are in full pads, we got after it. So I need to see how guys respond doing that."