Dec. 4, 2012
Coach Long, Dingwell, Johnson quotes | Coach Long, Dingwell, Johnson presser
SAN DIEGO --
Rocky Long: We're continuing to practice for the bowl game and right now it's kind of spring practice. About a week from now we'll start game planning and all that. We had several people on our team make all-conference which is really nice for the individual, but it's more of a statement about the program. It's nice for the program to be recognized in those kinds of things.
Q. What are your thoughts on being the Mountain West Coach of the Year?
Rocky Long: My feeling is that I'm uncomfortable with the award because it has nothing to do with me. It has to do with players playing well and winning games. You only get those kinds of awards if you win games.
Q. Who puts the players in position to play well and win games?
Rocky Long: The coaching staff as a whole. So it's more of a statement of the program, than it is of an individual.
Q. What does the award say about you and your coaching staff? Does it show how far this program has come in the last year?
Rocky Long: I think it says more of a statement about how far the players have come. Four years ago, I coached the same way I did this year. I wasn't the head coach, but I coached the exactly the same way I did this year. Our coaching staff coached exactly the same way this year as we did last year. It's all about players making plays and winning games. Anybody that gets any of these awards, first of all you have to be in the right situation and then you have to win games. Or guess what? Nobody's name is on that list if you don't win games. I don't change the way I coach from year-to-year. We coach the same way, the players are the ones that do all the work and develop themselves so that they play better.
Q. Would you say it's the cumulative effect of the coaching getting better each year?
Rocky Long: I think consistency in a program has a lot to do with players getting better. If you consistently do the same year after year and players believe in it and work hard, then the players get better. And if your players are better, you win more games.
Q. What has it been like turning programs around?
Rocky Long: When you have a good football team like we did this year, it's exciting. It's fun. It's always fun to go into a game thinking you're going to win.
Q. Who impressed you this year in the Mountain West?
Rocky Long: I truly believe sometimes that a defensive player and sometimes when a lineman deserves player of the year or the Heisman trophy, but they're not going to get it because it's all based on statistics. You look at any of the skill players on the first team and/or second team all-conference, there are several really good candidates to be player of the year on either one of those teams. I think Adam Muema was a good candidate for player of the year in this league. He was only second-team all-conference. If you look at the number of carries he had and the number of yards he has compared to all the other running backs on that list, he was much more efficient than those other two running backs, much more efficient. I thought the quarterback at Nevada had a great year too. I thought a couple of receivers at Fresno State had great years. But Derek Carr is great, a good pick, he had a great year. He's a quarterback on a really good football team, so him getting picked is as good as any. There are probably, in my opinion, four or five guys that could have got picked for offensive player of the year, but he's a good choice.
Q. Were you surprised that Jake Fely was only a second-team selection?
Rocky Long: No. The way we play defense around here, it's very difficult for our defensive players to get awards because we alternate so many players they're not in there as much as other players. Most of these teams are based on statistics. So if you're the leading tackler in the league, you're going to be first-team all-conference. It doesn't matter if you played 700 plays or you played 350 plays. It's the same with Adam Muema being second-team running back. That was totally on total yards, who had the most rushing yards. It had nothing to do with per-carry average. Almost all those awards, other than the offensive lineman, are based on statistics. If you have a defensive player in our scheme that plays 40 plays a game as opposed to a linebacker that plays 70 plays a game on another team, there's a really good chance that he won't get what he deserves because the statistics don't match up.
Q. Have you talked to former head coach Brady Hoke recently?
Rocky Long: I talked to coach Hoke last week.
Q. How did that conversation go and what did you talk about?
Rocky Long: It was a great conversation. (We talked about) each other's season.
Q. Did you complement each other on each other's season?
Rocky Long: We don't always complement each other. We're really good friends and if you're really good friends, most of the time you're getting after each other about something.
Q. What did coach Hoke say about your team?
Rocky Long: He was really proud of this team because he had something to do with it. He recruited several of the players on the team that played well this year. So he was really proud of the team.
Q. Can you talk about how much coach Long has done this season and how far the team has come from the Washington game?
Adam Dingwell: He's done a great job. As for the Washington game, you can't really put that on coach. Put that on the players because we had a scheme that we were going in there with. We had things we were going to do in certain situations and as players, we didn't execute. We didn't get the job done. So I don't know if that's as much a reflection of him as it is of us.
Q. Can you speak to coach Long being named MW Coach of the Year?
Adam Dingwell: He did a great job. It's been a lot of fun to play for him. I'm looking forward to the years to come and I'm sure the seniors had a great year this year. It's been a lot of fun, but we got one more game to play and that's kind of what we're focusing on right now.
Q. You were 2-3 at one point in the season and there was a lot of backlash. What were some of the reasons why you were able to put together that winning streak?
Alec Johnson: Not much. We did the same thing we did all year, honestly. We knew at 2-3 that we needed to win games and we wanted to win games and we prepared hard every week. I don't think much changed at all, to tell you the truth.
Q. How did the team get better?
Alec Johnson: I think we stayed together as a team and played hard. We got better each week and that's a testament to the coaches. I just think we improved as a team throughout the year.
Q. What are your thoughts on being named second-team all-Mountain West?
Alec Johnson: It's an honor to be mentioned as a second-team (selection). I had a good line around me and great backs to make me look good and some slippery quarterbacks to make me not look as bad as the play I messed up on. It is really a team accomplishment.
Q. Can you talk about Alec's all-conference selection?
Rocky Long: To make all-conference first or second team as an offensive lineman is probably more based on how you played than any other position. Because coaches have to watch film to see and really concentrate on offensive lineman to see who the best offensive lineman are. Where a running back might not be the best running back in the league, but if he led the league in rushing, he's probably going to make all-conference. I think it's much easier to pick other guys than offensive lineman. (With) offensive linemen, coaches are actually watching the offensive line and seeing who the best players are. So having two offensive linemen on the all-conference team is a big time reward for those guys because they very seldom get patted on the back. They are very important to your success, so if you're picked to the all-conference first or second team as an offensive lineman, I think that's better than any other position, to be honest with you.
Q. What did Nik Embernate do well this season to garner first-team all-conference?
Rocky Long: Both him and Alec have been playing a long time, which really helps in the offensive line. You don't make assignment errors. You know where to go there and when to go there. So you concentrate on doing it the right way and accomplishing your job. They're both really aggressive, physical, `get after you' offensive linemen, but their technique is good and most of that is training themselves over four or five years. Their technique is good enough that they fit up on defensive lineman or linebackers or whoever they are blocking and open up holes for guys like Adam (Muema) and Walter (Kazee) to run through. I think being picked as an offensive lineman is truly a bigger honor than maybe being picked player of the year.
Q. What has coach Long done this year to put you guys in the position to succeed?
Adam Dingwell: The way he makes us practice. It all starts there and we get after it in practice. We fly around, we get full speed reps and then they always have a great game plan for us to go into the game with. We just have to execute and we know if we do that as well as we can, that we can come out with a victory. That's just what we try to do.
Q. Can you talk about Bryce Quigley and Derek Largent earning honorable mention accolades after their performance this season?
Rocky Long: I think Bryce Quigley is the same thing. If people would have known him, he would have made an all-conference team, but that's actually somebody watching the film and saying, `Who is that guy?' Derek Largent made some spectacular plays that coaches remember. He made a couple sacks, he made a sack and got the fumble himself (and) he tipped the ball twice and intercepted it himself. He had some spectacular plays that stick in coaches' minds, so I think that's why he got that award. I think he's just scratching the surface. I think he's going to be a much better player the next two years than he was this year.