Steve Sarkisian talked with the media after practice on August 20th. Since it was the first day that the media could talk to the freshmen, many of those questions were focused on them. He also addressed a couple of injuries, the tailbacks and more.
"Today was what would be a typical Tuesday practice for us in season," Sarkisian said. "Just from a sheer reps standpoint and intensity standpoint. Tuesdays are lunch pail, hard hat kind of days. We have to work and there's no easy way around it. We have to get a lot done. It's going to be a physical practice and I thought today was."
"We'll get better at practicing on Tuesday," Sarkisian said. "We'll stay off the ground a little bit better than we did tonight. I was pleased with the intensity and the effort. Now we'll be able to go to the film and clean some of this stuff up and get back to work tomorrow."
How the freshmen are doing as a class
"I think they're doing really well," Sarkisian said. "As I said, it was kind of a highly touted group coming in. So I think there were some expectations that this group was going to come in, contribute and compete. To their credit, they're going to prepare for it. They've prepared for it. They've had a good summer with their strength and conditioning staff. I thought our seniors and veterans did a nice job in the player run practices getting them prepared for training camp. And they've battled through it."
"Training camp isn't easy when you're back being a freshmen again," Sarkisian said. "You're learning new plays and new practice plans and different things. You're sore and you're tired. I think this group, for all intensive purposes has really battled through it. They have some quality maturity about them and good work ethic. I think they're really going to contribute to our success this fall. I don't want to get into each guy individually but I really believe that in all three phases of the game we're going to see freshmen contribute to our success."
"We needed that coming in and we felt that as a staff," Sarkisian said. "We addressed that with the team and how important it was to get them ready for training camp. They did it and now we've come through a good training camp and they're in a position to start to get the game plan in for Fresno and go out and contribute here in a week and a half."
"I think Ajene Harris," Sarkisian said. "For a guy that's never played the position, for being a high school quarterback, we knew he was a really good athlete. We thought he could be a slot receiver and a return guy. We just didn't know how long it would take him. To his credit, he's picked it up really well."
"I think that goes all the way back to the summer," Sarkisian said. "He's studied and worked at this thing. He appears very natural. He looks like he's been doing it for a very long time. I hate to say that we've had a surprise. We try to have a clean slate and let them tell us who they are. But that one was really impressive to me. For a guy to be able to do that."
"The other that jumps out to me is for Adoree' (Jackson) to be able to do both sides of the ball, the way he has," Sarkisian said. "Not just physically handle it but mentally handle it has been impressive to me as well."
"Our doctor said it could be anywhere from ten to fourteen days," Sarkisian said. "It could be a case of where it's a little shorter based on how his body responds and it could be longer to be quite honest. It could creep his way into three weeks. They think that naturally, what he has is around ten to fourteen days. It would a luxury for us if he was available for Fresno but we'll have to wait and see how his knee responds."
Damien Mama possibly starting at right guard and Toa Lobendahn starting at left
"I think you guys had a chance to visit with both Damien (Mama) and Toa (Lobendahn)," Sarkisian said. "They're both really mature guys. Hopefully that's not just my opinion and you guys gather that in talking to them. They're mature guys, they work at it. We've really been pushing Damien (Mama) physically the last few practices. We've made it hard on him and left him in for extended reps. He's responded very well. He's a big human being in there at right guard. He's hard to run around."
"I don't always like comparing guys to people but he does remind me of Deuce Lutui when Deuce played for us," Sarkisian said. "Really fun loving, mild mannered guy off the field. He gets between the lines and he's physical and tough. He plays the game the right way and he's mature about it. Those two guys have played really well. Toa's been unbelievable. Toa plays left guard and he's going to center with the two's to get reps there. Both those guys have shown a lot of maturity."
What Buck Allen needs to improve on
"The biggest thing to me and this sounds like something so small," Sarkisian said. "When Buck (Allen) would run to the left last year and in spring ball, he would keep the ball in his right arm. He wouldn't have the same weapon. If you look at a lot of his runs, a lot of them were to the right. He would have the ball in his right arm and he would be able to use his left arm as a stiff arm and as a weapon. It took spring practice. If you guys remember, he injured his ankle in a tackle drill where he had the ball in his right arm going to his left. He got tackled and rolled his ankle. It took that for him to realize that he needed to be fundamentally sound and to get the ball in the correct arm when running in the proper directions. He's worked on that and I think it's helped his game this training camp."
When Tre Madden will be back.
"I don't know," Sarkisian said. "Turf toe is unique. Some guys it might be tomorrow and some guys it could take a week. It's how you're body heals. We want him back sooner rather than later."
"It does offer an opportunity for Justin Davis, who in my opinion, in the two scrimmages we had, might have performed the best of anybody in those scrimmage settings," Sarkisian said. "He's earned more reps and it's been good for him."
"It's been good to get Soma (Vainuku) some carries as well," Sarkisian said. "Soma popped a few runs again tonight. When we get Tre back and going again, maybe it'll lighten the load on Buck a little bit to make sure all those guys are fresh and ready to go when the game rolls around."
Putting it together offensively
"I think we're very close," Sarkisian said. "I think we had a great practice this morning. We worked a lot of special situations. Guys are really starting to key into those special situations and understanding the types of calls to make in certain scenarios. I think we're very close. We really put it all together Saturday in a mock game. We utilized all of our substitutions and the flow of the game with special teams and what not. i think we're very close. Practices like tonight make me feel better that we're getting close. The intensity, the guys have a good understanding of what we're doing. And we're turning it lose and making plays."
Incorporating Juju Smith on defense
"Probably pretty difficult and quite honestly, he's going to play so much for us offensively and he's earned it," Sarkisian said. "It probably wouldn't be fair to him right now. He's going to play quite a bit of offense for us and he deserves it. He had another long touchdown for us again tonight. He's really good for us on the offensive side of the ball."
"I have a good feeling of Max and I think he's in a good place," Sarkisian said. "I think he still has room for improvement. He has a good understanding of what we're doing. He's a confident guy. A lot of times in practice, we put guys in scenarios of things to work on that maybe he's not great at yet but will be in time. It might not show his best right now but if we were to play a game, we would have a game plan that would be conducive to his skill set and I think he would go out and perform really well."
What he would have thought knowing Damien Mama could be the starter in the opening game
"I would have that I guess it's possible," Sarkisian said. "It wasn't the deepest group for us upfront on the offensive line. Unfortunately, we've gotten nicked up some there and it's provided opportunity for him there. To Damien's credit, he's worked at it. He's not perfect yet, believe me. We're going to go look at the film and coach (Tim) Drevno will have his red pen out inking up everything for stuff he needs to get better at. But what I like about Damien right now is that he doesn't get discouraged when he makes a mistake. He gets right back in and he goes after it again. that's a sign of a player who's resilient, tough minded and has a chance to be successful for us for years to come."