Football Media Day Press Conference Quotes

Aug. 4, 2015

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Head coach Rocky Long

Opening statement:
“Obviously everybody in our profession is excited about the season when this time comes around and we are too. We think we’re going to have a pretty good football team. We have a challenging schedule and we’ll see how it all works out.”

On quarterback Maxwell Smith:
“Nothing surprised us (about Maxwell Smith), because we remember him from high school when we recruited him. We watched his film when he was playing and actually starting at Kentucky. He did a nice job there. He’s a big and strong guy, but very mature. He hadn’t played much lately, so he was rusty when we got him into spring practice. He was much better at the end of spring practice than he was at the beginning, and he’s going to compete to be the starting quarterback. He’s tall, he’s big, and he’s got a pretty good arm with really good touch. He was probably the most accurate quarterback we had during spring ball. Another good attribute is because of his age and that he is a transfer, he’s started in the Southeast Conference (SEC) before. He started when he was really young, but he hasn’t played in a while because he got hurt and by the time he got back there was a new coaching staff and a new system. It’s been a while since he’s played, but he’s played in stadiums with a lot of people with a lot of noise against good players. You would guess that’s one of his advantages that he’s been there before.”

On the quarterback battle between co-starters Maxwell Smith and Christian Chapman after spring drills:
“Christian Chapman and Maxwell (Smith) will go into fall camp on an equal basis.

“I won’t make that (quarterback) decision, our offensive staff will make that decision. Ultimately the players make that decision, but our offensive staff will decide when they want to name a starting quarterback. For me the sooner the better, but they have control of the offense.”

On Christian Chapman’s improvement since he arrived on campus in the summer of 2014:
“He’s a good athlete and has some quickness and speed about him. He’s got a quick release of the football and is very accurate with the football. Those are his positives, the downside is that he hasn’t played before at this level and he’s 6-feet tall, where Maxwell (Smith) is 6’5”. He’s more mobile (than Maxwell Smith).”

On the running back depth:
“The strongest position on our team is running back. We’ve got one of the premier running backs in the country and my opinion the best running back in our league, but most people don’t know that there are three players behind (Donnel Pumphrey) who can play too. One’s another little guy - not little, but short - but he weighs close to 200 pounds. He’s the one with the most experience and the other two guys are youngsters, but their big guys. They’re both 210 and 215 and they both can run.”

On the new uniforms:
“That uniform is fancy. It’s cool. I’ve been told it’s cool, but I have no coolness about me. I’m just going by what I was told.”

On running back Donnel Pumphrey:
“There are two things that are the most amazing thing to us. Going into last year, we weren’t sure he could carry the ball 25 or 30 times a game because of his size. He proved he can, which is pretty amazing for a guy his size. And then running between the tackles, where he can make people miss or break tackle or run over guys for his size is pretty amazing too. When he’s in the open field, he’s like some of the other running backs we’ve had here. He can outrun them, he can make them miss. He can make tacklers look really bad in the open field. So could Ronnie Hillman, but Ronnie didn’t run in between the tackles like D.J. does.”

On the defense:
“We have a lot of experience coming back. They played really well last year, so we should start ahead because of experience. Last year we went into the season with very little experience in the secondary and we were really worried about the safeties, because they were all brand new. This season all five of the guys in the secondary are back. They should be confident and we’ll probably do some things that we didn’t do with them last year in terms of disguising coverage scheme wise. Our defensive line is big and strong and we have some experience there. We’ve got a couple of really good veteran linebackers, but linebacker is the key. After Calvin Munson and Jake Fely, the rest of the guys haven’t played. The depth at linebacker is a concern.”

On what having J.J. Whittaker in the backfield does for this team:
“J.J. is a good player. He’s got a great personality that lends itself to being a leader on our football team. He does a great job of leading out defensive unit and you can’t be a leader unless you can play. He also exhibits the work ethic, want to and the pride that you want to see in the player. He leads in the right way, so that is good for all of us.”

On where this defense ranks in terms of others he’s had in his career:
“It’s impossible to say now. If you’d have asked me that same question last year, I’d never say we were going to be the 13th-ranked scoring defense. I’d never guessed in my wildest dreams we’d be in the top 10 in pass defense. This defense has a chance because of experience to be just as good as that, but you have to take into account the kind of offense that you play against. Last year we played three option offenses, so that allows you to play pretty good scoring defense and good pass defense because they’re not throwing it 80 times at you. This year we play Cal, which has a top-5 NFL Draft choice quarterback and we play Penn State, which has a top-5 quarterback that are going to throw the ball 50, 60 or 70 times in our game. This defense could be better (than last year), but the statistics might not be as good. You determine a defense on how few points they give up and if they give you a chance to win.”

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Senior defensive back J.J. Whittaker

On fighting through the adversity to play another season:
“It was pretty easy for the most part after it’s all said and done. I have a great family, team support, the guys downstairs at the training facilities and the coaching staff who never looked down upon me. It was a team effort, not me alone in this situation.”

On going into this year:
“With the experience that’s coming back I think it’s going to allow us to play a lot faster. Guys are going to know what they’re doing and won’t have to think as much. I think this year, we’re going to work on our communication on the field which will help us too.”

On Rocky Long’s coaching:
“It’s kind of like, you live and you learn. You can’t sit in a room and try to figure it out. You got to go out there and make mistakes. You have to be full speed and I think learning by example is fun. You have 3-3-5 and blitzing everywhere, and this bug guy dropping back and going hard, you never really know what we’re doing. It’s very complex and it’s perfect.”

On what he’s most looking forward:
“September 5 (vs. San Diego). We get to come back and try to redeem ourselves and try to win the Mountain West Championship.”

On last season:
“In a lot of those games that we lost instead of won, it was a lot about finishing. It came down to the wire whether it was end of the third, mid-fourth, overtime. Guys didn’t finish and we didn’t pull through when we needed to. We try to preach it and look at it in the huddle but something didn’t click. We have emphasized it a lot more this whole offseason – finish, finish, finish. Our toughness is always there, it’s just a matter of finishing these long games. It’s a long game and long season. This year we can hopefully we can finish.”

On the experience factors in the backend:
“Our conversations our positive whereas we had to prove ourselves before. This is a new season where we’re going to come against a bunch of new guys but it’s still the same. We just played with each other last year, that’s the only difference. This year we have to come back and prove that we can still be a dominate force on the defense in the backend as well.”

Junior defensive lineman Alex Barrett

On J.J. Whittaker’s leadership:
“Definitely (J.J.) being here that long, I look up to him as a leader. He has experience and he’s been through it all. All the injuries, especially the injuries to me this past season.”

On is health:
“I feel 100 percent right now. Throughout the summer, I’ve been battling pain stuff and just the annoyance of wear and tear on my foot but you get through it. I feel good.”

On where he’ll be playing this season:
“This camp, I’m going to be working at (defensive) end. I’ll be working outside because we have Christian Heyward coming back so he’ll be taking over the nose (tackle). We have some good young guys coming that will play a nose role too. I’ll be working mostly on the defensive end and I’m excited about that. Playing outside, I’ll have a little more freedom and utilize my skills as a pass rusher with speed and quickness.”

On what he’s most looking forward to:
“(The) first game of the season. With the SkyShow, USD and all of it, it’s going to be huge. It’ll be great competition.”

On playing against a friend from USD:
“One of my best friends from high school will be playing wide receiver there. His name is Parker Rasmussen. He went on a mission for two years but has the opportunity to play Division I ball again so I’ll be seeing him on the field, which will be cool.”

Junior running back Donnel Pumphrey

On how he has changed as a running back this year:
“This year I’m working on coming out the backfield and running more routes than I did last year to impact our receiving game. We have big expectations as a whole offensive group because we want to be the best offense in the conference.”

On if the numbers have surprised him:
“Honestly, no. Our big offensive line is a huge help and we’re just able to gel together. Our ground game has always made a big impact for San Diego State’s offense so hopefully this year, we can continue to make it better.”

On the depth at running back:
“We have four other guys and an incoming freshman who are all beasts. Hopefully this year they can impact the running game as well, not just me.”

On if any other running back on the team reminds him of himself:
“We all have different styles to run the ball. (Marcus) Stamps runs people over and is a big powerful guy. Rashaad Penny is fast and explosive and can catch the ball in the backfield. We haven’t been able to see Juwan Washington but on the highlights, he looks similar to me. Hopefully it’ll be a fun year.”

Senior offensive lineman Pearce Slater

On coming to SDSU after spending his first two seasons (2012-13) at junior college:
“I think it might be a little more complex. It’s a little different going from junior college to the Division I level but if you study your playbook, you’ll be just fine as long as you stay committed. It’s definitely more physical.”

On the best thing for a transfer when they first arrive on campus:
“From my point of view, it’s giving them confidence. Getting them out there and getting them reps. Once they start live games and doing well with assignments, they’ll be just fine.”

On learning run blocking versus pass blocking:
“I’d say it’s easier to learn run blocking because there’s only so much you can do, double teams, man, zone…that’s pretty much it. Pass blocking has different slides, fronts and for me, tackle short chop which is corner blitzing. We’re responsible for down lineman and linebacker.”

Junior wide receiver Lloyd Mills

On working with the different quarterbacks:
“I missed spring but I got to watch them in film and this summer, we have been working together a lot. One thing that I like to see is the competition. If any of them see somebody out there working, they also want to get out there. We’re all competitive and everyone wants to play. If I see Eric (Judge) working out and running routes, I’m going to go out there too, just to make sure we’re pushing each other to be the best. In all honesty, quarterbacks and receivers need to improve from last year because the offensive line and running backs combined with the defense won us a lot of games. If we pick up our slack, we should be a tough team to beat in the conference.”

On (wide receivers coach) Hunkie Cooper and his expectations:
“The first time I met him, he came across as a very stern, very forward and very passionate person about what he wanted us to do. That translates to how we play on the field in practice. He’s an awesome coach. I’m glad he’s here. He’s continuing what Coach McDaniel tried to instill in us and he’s making us better so we can improve this offense. Last year, it looked like a freshman high school team the way we were passing the ball. But we’re trying to improve and hope that with (Donnel) Pumphrey in the backfield, they’ll load up eight or nine guys in the box and we’ll beat them off the top.”

On making route mistakes:
“For me in particular, I wasn’t always in the right place or running the right routes. You have to go back to the basics. Coach Horton made the offense similar for us because last year, there were a lot of route changes. The offense is simpler for us to play fast and not think as much and just react.”

On if there are any wide receivers stepping up this season:
“Mikah Holder. He’s the most consistent guy and the one who made the most plays. He’s the one who has stood out, day in and day out. He’s matured and about to have a good season.

“I want to be the best receiver we have here. When I saw him and saw him make plays like he did at a very high level, it pushed me to get back faster from my injuries. I tried to play the spring game but I wasn’t cleared to go. I’ve been wanting to go out there and show what I can do also so they don’t forget about me. Watching him has definitely made me get better myself.”

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