Free safety Tevin McDonald missed Monday's practice due to a person issue. He's home in Fresno, but is expected to participate in practice tomorrow.
JM: That was a typical Tuesday practice of game week. So what we’re going to do this week is go through what would be a typical “game week” of preparation. Meetings and on the practice field and get our whole game plan installed. Come out here and practice it. And then when we get down to San Diego, you know there’s a few more distractions obviously. We’re out of our element. And we’ll practice. And we’ll practice the way we practice. But we’ll be just kind of keeping it sharp. Polish-it-up practices. We want to get the majority of the mental work done before we go down to San Diego. So that’s what today [Monday, 12-17-12] was. Tomorrow will be like a typical Wednesday. Wednesday will be like a typical Thursday. And then Thursday, we’ll have a… it won’t be a typical Friday because that would be a walkthrough for us. We’ll probably have a little move-the-ball and a young guys’ scrimmage again. Like we did at the end of practice today and what we did the last 2 Saturdays.
Q: you look at the tape of Baylor’s defense, do you see a defense that’s 119th in the nation?
JM: no. You see a bunch of fast athletes. They’ve played a lot of really explosive teams. And they’re capable. Very capable. And their offense is ridiculously good. They go at a really fast tempo. I think they’re comparable to Houston and Arizona and probably are a little bit faster in their tempo. They’ve got guys that can run after the catch. And they stretch the field well so it’ll be a barn burner.
Q: what’s the key to keeping up with the tempo?
JM: I think the key thing is getting off the field on third down. Unless you can get a takeaway on first or second down. Try to get off the field. Fortunately, for us, it’s not a real big shock when we face a team like that because we practice against a tempo offense. Our offense doesn’t work at quite the same tempo. But our look teams have done a pretty good job, in the games that we played uptempo offenses, giving us a look. The fact that we’ve played Arizona State, Arizona, Houston… I’m sure I’m leaving people out. Those are the teams that just come to mind. That’ll help us because we’ve got experience. It won’t just be a total shock.
Q: you’ve got guys who have been out for awhile like Devin [Lucien] and [Steven] Manfro. Is it hard to reintegrate them back into the game plan?
JM: it would be, I think, if it was just a week of practice. But the fact that we got the last Saturday, this previous Saturday and then we get 4 practices this week and then the practices down there [in San Diego], I think it makes it a lot easier. I think they’ll feel comfortable. I think it’s really important for Devin especially. Steven’s played at least. Devin… it’s been a long time. I don’t remember what game he got hurt in.
JM: Colorado? It’s been a long time for him. But having the extra practices will help.
Q: do you have any impressions how Terrance Williams might compare to Marqise Lee?
JM: well, they’re both All-Americans. Much more familiar with Marqise. I’ve seen him a lot more. I’ve seen him in person. Terrance is more of a down-the-field straight line, just big-time speed guy. When he gets into the open field, he’s just tough to catch. He’s tough to tackle. Same with Marqise. Different offenses though. Marqise runs a more typical route tree. They’re both great players. They’re first team All-Americans so we have our hands full.
Q: with this much preparation time, is it kind of reemphasizing the fundamentals, going over and over and over? Or maybe going a bit more deeper into the playbook?
JM: you know, it’s probably a combination of both. The last 2 Saturdays have been really all about fundamentals. We have pretty long individual periods so we’re always stressing fundamentals. That’s one of the things that we really believe strongly in. I think one of the challenges when you play a game like this where there’s a long time that you’re practicing and preparing for, is that you don’t get stale. So what we’ll do is, like I said, we’ll have 3 really hard days on Baylor. And then on Thursday, we’ll kind of back off Baylor and just go against ourselves again. Kind of an emphasis on what “we” do. Not necessarily planning against what they do. And I think that’ll be what sharpens us up again. And we’ll go down there and hit it up pretty hard again for Baylor.
Q: do you get the feeling that this defense relishes this challenge? Their quarterback has thrown for over 4000 yards and almost 350 [yards] a game.
JM: I hope they do. When we’ve faced quarterbacks that have had a lot of success, we played pretty well. This is a unique challenge. Like I said, they go fast. They have an All-American receiver. They score points. I was watching them last year when they just ran up and down the field on Washington. And Washington was keeping up on offense but couldn’t quite stay up with how explosive they are. But I think our guys… they’re competitors. Competitive kids love those challenges. So we’ll see how we do. We’ll see how we react. I know this: their attitude, the last week or so, has been great. They’re excited about playing again. As a team. As a defense.
Q: with how young your offensive line has been all season, have you been impressed with the steps forward that they’ve made?
JM: yeah, I think they’ve worked hard. They’ve had a great attitude. They’ve improved throughout the course of the year. They’ve fought through some injuries. Simon’s [Goines] knees have bothered him. Torian [White]. He’s had the heart procedure. Jake’s [Brendel] played pretty healthy. I think the fact that Jeff Baca has been able to be consistent in terms of his play every week has helped us. Helped the young guys. So I’m excited about the progress that they made. They just have to continue to keep moving in the right direction.
Q: with Xavier [Su'a-Filo], is it amazing the season’s that he’s had considering he was away from football for so long?
JM: you know, I don’t know. I guess he was a freshman All-American a couple of years ago so he’s had to come in and perform quickly then. He’s a smart guy who works hard. He’s a good athlete. A good player. He takes his craft seriously. He’s a good role model for these guys. You’ve got those 3 freshmen. You’ve got X. You’ve got Baca. Those are 2 pretty good guys to look at in terms of how to prepare for what your mindset needs to be.
Q: with finals week over, have you gotten any grade reports? Is there anybody that you’re worried about academically?
JM: No. I asked last Friday, and our academic people said we looked pretty good. But you never know if there are any surprises or not. But I think they worked pretty hard at it. So hopefully everyone’s cleared. I hope.
Q: you get 15 bowl practices. You’re not going to get to that number. Is there some concern that you didn’t get to take advantage of all those and why did that happen? Because of finals week?
JM: no. 2 reasons. 1 being finals week, yes. We don’t want to practice during finals week. You’re allowed to but we needed to give them a chance to really focus in on school. And we decided that first week after the PAC-12 championship game, to just come out twice. And do the skills and drills stuff. 7-on-7. 1-on-1. Those will count as practices. So I don’t even know the number that puts us at. I like the way our schedule’s laid out. I think it’s going to be great work for us, and I think we’ll be sharp going into the game.
Q: do you get the impression that Anthony [Barr] is close to officially making a decision either way yet?
JM: I don’t know yet. I really haven't asked him in the last couple days. We’ll see.
Q: when you talked to him before, how did that conversation go?
JM: well, he’s got a lot to decide on. We’ll see. I think he’ll be better to ask than me but I’m sure he won’t answer it.