March 24, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
An interview with:
COACH LONG: I appreciate being here. It's kind of a privilege for me being here since our basketball team is doing so well, and we knew they were going to be (in the Sweet 16). We actually think they're going a lot further than they've been so far, that's why we put all of our practices on Monday and Wednesday, and didn't have them on the weekend so our players could watch our basketball team play. So instead of having our spring game on Saturday, we're having it on Wednesday night. The scrimmage starts at 7 p.m., and once it's over, spring ball is over. So I appreciate the honor of being at this press conference just to tell you about the spring game. But as a football program I think we're moving in the right direction because we kind of modelled ourselves after the basketball team.
If you look at the first six or seven years Coach Fisher was at San Diego State, you'll see a very similar type of progression. We've been co championship at this time in his career. They had been tournament champs once. They've been to the NIT. We've been to several Bowl games, and I guess I'm still right. We're 1 out of 5 schools now that have been to four straight bowl games and five straight NCAA Tournaments and the only non BCS school. So we're the only school to do it without a monstrous budget, which is a pretty good deal for both, for everybody.
Q. Since you're on the subject of basketball, when you watch the basketball team, as a football coach, who is your favorite player and why?
COACH LONG: I'm not going to get into that. I do have a favorite player, but I think the best thing I'm speaking, and I know very little about basketball other than my daughters played in college on scholarship and both of them are coaches, so I get all my basketball knowledge from them. The best thing about our basketball team is team. There's a lot of basketball teams still in this tournament that are built around one or two individuals, our basketball team is not. Our basketball team is the best team left in the tournament that plays as a team.
Q. Rocky, I used to work in Albuquerque and covered your tenure there. How hard do you think it is for local fans to see the Aztecs move on in the tournament?
COACH LONG: I don't know. I've got a lot of friends still in Albuquerque, and our team has made me some money. Let's put it that way.
Q. Coach, are you going to Anaheim?
COACH LONG: No, I'm not going. I don't know if I could get a ticket. I had a hard enough time getting tickets to these games.
Q. How would you evaluate your team as you get into the last spring practice?
COACH LONG: Oh, you watch us practice all the time, so you know. I think we have a chance to be better than we were last year, we're more experienced in some places and less experienced in others. We need to develop a running back to go along with (Donnel) Pumphrey. We have to have a back up quarterback that hasn't been determined yet. I think we're going to be much better at the line of scrimmage, much better at linebacker. We're questionable in the secondary. I think even though we lost some receivers, better at wide receiver. So I think we have a better team right now than we did last year at this time.
Q. What do you think has been the biggest area of improvement overall this spring?
COACH LONG: I think the biggest area of improvement is the defensive line and linebacker. We're not even playing a couple of our best D linemen because of injury.
Q. How about the offensive line? That was an area of emphasis for you guys going into the spring. Do you feel like you have the guys that you think might start in the fall have emerged?
COACH LONG: I think four of the five have. I think that our offensive line is better right now than it was last spring at this time. It's got to get a whole lot better for us to be a better football team because we won't get into this until the fall, but our road schedule is unbelievable.
Q. You said four of the five. So which is the position?
COACH LONG: Oh, you can figure that out.
Q. What are you going to be looking for in the spring game? Like you said in recent practices, you like to balance, is that what you're really hoping for?
COACH LONG: I'd really like to see balance, but since we divided the team up well, I didn't divide the team up. Since the seniors divided the team up by a draft, I think the two teams are pretty equal. But it's not the first it's not the ones playing with the ones and the twos playing with the twos, it's all mixed together. My concern is that it's going to be really sloppy, but I don't have any concerns that it's going to be highly competitive. That is the best thing we've done all spring. The groups have really gotten after each other and we're very physical, which is a dying art in football, if you ask me. We'll have some huge advantages of teams that want to play the spread, I think.
Q. What makes you say physicality is a dying art in football?
COACH LONG: Number one, the offenses are changing where they spread you from sideline to sideline, so there are not near as many collisions. Number two, the rules are making it less so. You hit the wrong guy hard and it's a penalty. You don't even have to hit him hard and it's a penalty. You bump into a wide receiver, it's interference. I mean, all the rules are changing the game.
Q. What would you say to encourage your football fans to get out there this Wednesday night and get pumped up a little bit?
COACH LONG: I would say that it's a great warm up. They've got plenty of time to get to Anaheim. Come warm up watching us play, and have energy from that and move on to Anaheim and carry it with them. I wish I was going to Anaheim. I wish it wasn't against NCAA rules to bet, but it's against the rules, so I'm not going to. But I know which team's winning.
Q. Couple days ago Mark Few, the Gonzaga coach, was in here talking about playing Arizona and he said these are the two best programs in the West over the last decade or so.
COACH LONG: He lives in Spokane, right? That's because he lives in Spokane.
Q. But you probably experienced that a little bit with your football program. Do you think San Diego State doesn't get the national respect and acclaim for its basketball program and also maybe for your program that it deserves?
COACH LONG: Well, I think the basketball program is starting to get that kind of notoriety nationally, they're starting to. I think if you're not a traditional power in any sport, it takes you a while to get that kind of recognition, but our basketball team is starting to, but it's been a 15 or 16 year process to get it there.
I think the football program will eventually get to that same place because I think we're on the same if you look back at coach Fisher's record, we're on the same trajectory he was. I think it will get there. I think the difference is very few football programs in the country that have an NFL football team in their same town ever get that kind of recognition, and that's just the way it is. If you look at all of them that have pro football teams, the football support is divided. Automatically, it's divided.
So you have to realize, when you run a program, you have to realize that and understand that's part of the deal. Just like if there was an NBA team in town, there would be some problems too.
Q. How long do you think it will take the football program? Do you have a timeframe in mind?
COACH LONG: Well, I kind of like the Coach Fisher deal. That means I can be here for 15 years, right? I've been here for five, so I've got 10 more. And if you look at those things, I mean, it wasn't always upwardly now. There were there was some huge momentum upwardly and a step backwards. Huge momentum and a step backwards. It's only been the last five years we've been consistently a Top-10 basketball team. As long as Coach Fisher and his guys stay here, it's going to be like that until they decide to leave.
Q. Who would the two starting QBs be?
COACH LONG: Two starting QBs, Brett (Brad) Odeman and Chase Favreau. See you almost got me back into football. You almost got me. I'm into basketball. I like watching those guys after the games and stuff. Some of them cry. Some of them are mad.
Q. Kind of like you, Rocky, after one of your games?
COACH LONG: I'm a little more emotional. I like how Coach Fisher does it. He's cool, calm and collected all the time. Now he broke from that a little bit though. I enjoyed it too. I enjoyed watching him because he's never done that since I've been here.
Q. What can that do as a coach for a team when you go out of character? Does it immediately grab a team's attention?
COACH LONG: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I don't think what Coach Fisher had to say I agree with, but I don't think it had anything to do with his team being ready to play or anything. He was discussing some other problems, I think, and I agree with him. We talk about student athlete. That's the number one criteria. Well, it looks to me like it's not always.
Q. Have you dealt with that in traveling?
COACH LONG: It's a completely different thing. When you have 150 people on a trip as opposed to 20, it's a completely different thing. You've got to go when the plane's ready to go. I mean, when you have 20 or 25, it looks to me like you could make arrangements that they could go the next day.
Q. I know you probably weren't there, but any word or have you talked to any of the players that participated in it?
COACH LONG: No, not really. I mean, the players were happy to be there and they were happy to show what they had. I think a couple of them really helped themselves. I think Eric Pinkins really helped himself by his numbers. I'm not sure anybody else did because only Nat Berhe was about the same he was at the combine, ran a little faster. I don't know if anybody else helped themselves. I know some of the pro scouts talked about Pinkins afterwards.
Q. Coach, do you feel like Adam Muema's shot at the NFL is done?
COACH LONG: I think it probably is, yeah.
Q. Were you at the workout at all?
COACH LONG: I watched from upstairs through the window. What do you want to know? You can see better up there.