Huskies defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake spoke with reporters for a while after UW’s Tuesday morning practice, covering a wide range of topics that included Oregon’s offense, UW’s extra day of preparation and why opposing quarterbacks seem to be avoiding UW cornerback Sidney Jones.
Here’s what Lake said, in Q-and-A form.
(Any concern about an emotional hangover after Stanford?) “There really hasn’t been. It’s been awesome. So far this season the guys are just genuinely excited to play. They can’t wait to put on the tape of the next opponent, now it’s Week 6, got a really explosive offense in Oregon we’re going down to face, and the guys are just excited to play Week 6.”
(What was your Saturday like?) “Here’s my Saturday: I had my big screen at home going. College football was on, and I definitely watched the Wazzu-Oregon game live. I had my iPad going, I was watching another game on that. Then I had my Surface, and I was working on Oregon. So I watched all their games, did all my breakdowns. So it was a fun Saturday for me.”
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(On preparing for a pro-style Stanford offense, then a spread Oregon offense) “Stanford’s really the unicorn of college football right now. They run a pro-style offense. Now, here’s Oregon, (which) is what really everyone has tried to emulate across the country. Oregon’s the originator of the high-tempo, high-speed, multiple formations, zone-read offense, and these guys are running it good. They’re scoring over 40 points a game. They have a first-round running back. I think they have a first-round receiver – this will be the best receiver we face all year, in (Darren) Carrington – and this quarterback is the most accurate quarterback that we’ve faced in 2016, and this guy can run. This is an explosive offense that we are going to have to be prepared for, and we will.”
(Can you take anything from the Arizona game?) “No question. We can take a lot really from Rutgers and also from Arizona. Similar run scheme, but Oregon’s going to have their wrinkles. They have some really good players in the positions they’re handing the ball off to and throwing the ball to.”
(How important are the defensive backs in the run game?) “Very, very important. If you watch our tape, we play a ton of man coverage, and that makes the linebackers and the d-line worry about the run, and we worry about covering up the receivers, and also we’re in the run game a lot. In the Stanford game, we had Budda Baker aligned on McCaffrey, wherever he went, and he did an excellent job of executing the gameplan.”
(How have the players approached this week?) “They’ve been real business-like. They’re excited. They’re texting me, ‘hey coach, which defenses are we going to play this week? Hey coach, what about this? I already watched the game, are we going to do this, are we going to do that?’ They’re just dialed in. They want to know what the gameplan is for Oregon, for Week 6.”
(How early were they texting you?) “Saturday. I was already getting texts from Budda. Budda was like, ‘Coach, are we going to do this?’ I’m like, ‘hold on, patience. I’m still breaking it down.’ Then I shot him some texts on Sunday and he was like, ‘OK, OK, I’m calmed down now.’ But they’re just excited to play. They’re having a lot of fun. They’re excited to hear the gameplan, they’re excited to break these guys down, so they know what their responsibility is going to be on Saturday so they can play fast.”
(Is it beneficial to have an extra day to prepare?) “Yes. It’s a huge benefit. We had to work on a short week last week vs. Stanford, but so did Stanford. And so we’re both on the same schedule. But this, for sure, we’ve got another day for our guys to heal up. It was another day for us as coaches to really get our gameplan dialed in, and there’s no question, any extra day for a gameplan and for our guys to rest up will be beneficial.”
(On Oregon quarterback Dakota Prukop) “Very, very athletic quarterback. He’s played a lot of football. And he is the most accurate passer that we have faced in 2016. He’s almost 70 percent completion percentage, and this Oregon offense, their coach is doing a really good job of letting their quarterbacks go through their reads, whether it’s Mariota, whether it’s Vernon Adams, now it’s Prukop. You can see him going through his reads. They’re disciplined. He gets the ball out on time. He’s got a wicked quick release, and you can’t sleep on him when he keeps the ball on the zone read, because this guy’s an athlete and he can run.”
(Players thinking about ending the streak?) “No. It’s Week 6. It’s week 6, Oregon’s on the schedule, and our guys are excited to play Week 6.”
(On Oregon coach Steve Greatwood’s comments that the streak won’t end this year) “I think their offensive line plays really, really well, and I think their offensive line coach is a great coach.”
(On Oregon’s receivers and skill players) “Carrington, I believe, is one of the best receivers in the Pac-12. He’s one of the best guys we’ll face all year long. He made plays on us last year, he’s made plays on everybody this year. He’s big, he’s athletic, he attacks the ball in the air. And then you go to No. 6 (Charles Nelson), who is also just a freak athlete. Played safety for them last year, he’s the returner, he runs at slot, he plays at running back. Very, very versatile athlete. This is the fastest team that we’ve faced in terms of all their skill positions, that we’ve faced in 2016 so far, and then when you get to the running back position, they’ve got a first-round running back. I said this last year: this is the No. 1 true running back, I believe, in all of college football. You talk about a guy that’s 5-11, 235 pounds, can run, has vision. This is a guy that’ll play 10 years in the National Football League. They right now lead the Pac-12 in rushing, and it’s because of him. Royce Freeman. We have to stop Royce Freeman.”
(On the differences between defending Freeman and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey) “McCaffrey’s more of a versatile athlete. They can line him up at receiver, he’s a returner. He can line up in the backfield, obviously. So he does a lot of things for Stanford’s offense. Royce Freeman is the traditional, get back in the backfield, hand the ball off, break d-tackle’s tackles, and then once he gets into the secondary, there’s where the mismatch happens, because you’ve got a 235-pound running back that’s physical, bruising, fast, and he wears on you. So we definitely have a challenge in front of us.”
(Do you get the sense that other teams are intentionally avoiding Sidney Jones, or do they just not throw his way because he’s always got his guy covered?) “That would be nice to know. I guess we don’t look at it that way. I don’t think they’re going away from him, but definitely when he’s been challenged, he’s been there to make the play, for sure. I guess you’d have to ask the other offenses. I think people go through their progressions, and if they look over there and 26 is plastered all over the wideout, they’re probably not going to throw it over there. And Sidney’s done a really good job of playing coverage this year.”
(Has Sidney’s progression continued the way you hoped?) “Oh yeah. For sure. First and foremost, he’s gained weight, so he’s a lot stronger now. And then definitely above the neck, he’s been off the charts for me, understanding leverage, understanding routes, understanding our defense, always asking inquisitive questions. So he’s definitely matured.”(On any concern about an emotional hangover