My first PAC-12 Media Days experience has (so far) been a blast! We started employing tag-team interviewing techniques (digging deep) early Thursday morning at the Warner Bros lot in Burbank CA. “TK in the Midday” met “Bill and OC” and while we won’t be going to 3 in the booth anytime soon, for this kind of non-stop talking and rapid-fire interviewing format, my measure is how much fun I had and how many times I laughed out loud. Lots and many times. Hope the fans learned and laughed right along with us! We’ll do it again today!
First up was a man very familiar to all Utes fans (even if no longer beloved by all) new Oregon State Head Coach Gary Andersen.
“How do you like me in Orange?” An incredibly gifted communicator, he told us first meeting with Beavers players he told them, “look around at eachother because some of you (he meant alot) aren’t going to make it.!” Among other GA tidbits “We have 11 seniors, that’ll tell you about where we are” TRANSLATION: Early in a textbook rebuild. I asked Gary if he knew where his team was picked to finish in PAPC-12 South? He replied, “No, I haven’t seen the poll yet but I’ll bet we’re dead last.” Before I could take his temperature on that he stepped on me “...and I love it, I can work with that.” Huge roster turnover and no stability at the most important position, QB. Says at first blush he’s EXTREMELY impressed with front seven’s at all PAC-12 schools. “I’m surprised at the overall physicality.” I predict this will be a long year for GA, Sitake and company but it will be the last ‘long year’ for a…long time in Corvallis.
PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott (He’ll be at Rice Eccles Stadium for the Thursday night Sept. 3rd season-opener vs Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines.)
Told us he’s thrilled with the major deal the PAC-12 just struck with AT&T, won’t mean immediate DirecTV acess but that’s just a matter of time but he’s not sure how much time. Commissioner Scott told me when he first evaluated the Utes program heading into the PAC-12, he thought Rice Eccles Stadium would be a serious homefield advantage for Utah and Scott says it’s all that and much more. “As great a homefield advantage as we have in this conference.” KUDOS MUSS and company and every opposing player we spoke to Thursday echoed similar feelings. I asked the Commish if, as impressive as the first year of the new national championship playoff was, if there wasn’t some momentum to add teams to it? He was forceful and direct. “No, not at all. It worked well and I think we all need to step back, take stock, understand what we have in THIS system and maybe down the road look to adding to it because I believe the money will be there, but there’s no reason to tweak what worked so well last January!”
Colorado (Buffs come to RES Nov. 28) will be frisky. HC Mike MacIntyre told us returning 6’4″, 240 lb Jr QB Sefo Liufau set 51 school records last season. Coach says Liufau’s improving, experienced and eager to lead. “FINISH” is the buzz word used by Colorado’s representatives at Media Days, DB Kenneth Olugbode and OT Stephane Nembot. The 6’7″ 315 lb Sr Nembot will cover Liufau’s blindside and Stephane’s got some vocabulary. Including his parents’ 9 tribal dialects in Cameroon, Nembot speaks 12 languages. I asked him which language he uses when he’s talking trash at opponents in the trenches? “Oh it’s some combination of all 12 languages. They’ll have no idea what I’m saying!”
Riles, OC and I seemed at all agree, the most impressive group (HC and 2 star players) was Arizona State (5-0 vs Utes since Utah joined PAC-12. Starts with the “Drawl sayin’ ‘we’ll win it all”. Texas native Todd Graham who’s absolutely unapologetic in his stated pursuit. “Of course I’m saying we want to win a National Championship, what’d you expect to come out of my mouth!? We want to win everything right down to the tiny details. We want to win the play, win the drill, we want to win the period, the practice, the pep-rally and course the game on Saturday. String enough of those together and that has to mean National Championship.” Sun Devils have talent to back it up. QB Mike Bercovici was the only QB of the team reps on day 1 of PAC-12 Media Days and he passed the interview test with flying colors. Passion and perspective for days! “When I first broke in with ASU, I was honored to handle holding for out PATS.” Bercovici proceeded to detail just how honored he was to do whatever his coaches wanted him to do. The 3 of us where wondering ‘hey where’s the standard QB ego?’ Nonexistent with Bercovici who’s (finally) grown into the right man for the Sun Devils Quaterback job. PAC-12 TV Analyst Brady Quinn, former Notre Dame QB says “Berkovici can be really special this season, he’s got weapons everywhere and he’s got a very bigtime arm.” Mike joked easily with us about how much gel or palm-aid he needed to properly prepare his coiffe for something like Thursday’s media frenzy. Then his roommate, ASU
Safety Jordan Simone, showed no mercy, (this perfectly played photobomb was a precursor for what would follow) bringing Berkovici down with several well-delivered 1-liners about his QB’s hair, (“My hair takes half the time to prepare, obviously looks twice as good as Mike’s! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I”m not!”) Then there’s Berkovici’s pitch n catch video with SunDevil Dance Team girlfriend Jaylee Merrill.
ASU QB Mike Bercovici talks about playing catch with his girlfriend http://es.pn/1IsRZXf
Then Simone drove home the 3rd part of this Sun Devil prong, telling his story of walking on at Arizona State. The hard work, dedication and love for the school that’s now made Simone a possible All-PAC-12 Safety!
UCLA’s HC Jim Mora was feisty and way energetic. From the jump, “…sure I remember last season, Utah kicked out asses, they didn’t just beat us at the Rose Bowl, 10 sacks?? Are you kidding me? They kicked out asses!” He
acknowledged that 16 starters are back but the QB isn’t and he still hasn’t decided between incoming Tr Freshman Josh “The Chosen” Rosen, (although Mora bristled when I asked him about that nickname “I promise you that’s not a name we use for him, not even close”) or former Bruins HC Rick Neuheisal’s son Jerry who played a lot last season, including a wild road win at Texas that won Neuheisal a ton of respect in the huddle and along the UCLA sideline.
I was also impressed with former Boise State HC Chris Petersen acknowledging to us that seemingly annual magi he brought to Boise State.
can’t be delivered to the Husky fan base, because to the vastly different dynamic at UDub. That’s not to be read as frustration in any way, shape or form. Petersen just understands he needs to build the model for winning at Washington in a vastly different way.
The final takeaway from Thursday’s opening round of PAC-12 Media Days would be the PAC-12 Network analysts, specifically QB’s Brady Quinn (Notre Dame) and Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart (USC). Hilariously glib, comfortable in who they are now and delivering analysis with the mind of a quarterback. Both, in different ways, spoke to the new set of circumstances that is Utah QB Travis Wilson’s 2015 reality. The Utes QB job is his and Leinart was direct.
“With so much talent and experience all around him (Sr RB Devontae Booker, 4 out of 5 starters on the OLine returning and Kenneth Scott et al in skill spots outside and in) Travis could be content just to play it safe (already improved his TD to Int ratio way up to 18-5 last season) and manage games but Trojan leader who won the Heisman Trophy and National Championship in 2004, is a testament to pushing the envelope when there’s help all around you.
“He (Travis Wilson) could keep it dialed back a bit, ride what he’s got and hope it’s enough OR he could trust the work he’s done. believe those around him will flourish as he does and just let it rip, that’s what I hope Travis does this season!”
Friday, is Utes Day at the PAC-12 Media Days 2015!
Subscribe to ESPN700's News!
Get the latest sports news, contests and flyaways, and more straight to your inbox with our weekly emails.