Mired in a 10-game losing streak, the longest in program history, Arizona Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin was understandably not in the best of moods Monday for his weekly Zoom press conference.
Many of his answers were tinged with the frustration that comes from having been outscored 105-74, losing consecutive games by 17 points apiece. And while the next game is home, it’s against a Colorado Buffaloes team that has been a big surprise at 3-0.
Here’s what Sumlin had to say at his weekly presser. (The full interview can be watched the end of this story.)
On Grant Gunnell’s injury: “We’re still evaluating it. We’ll see where he is. If he can go he can go. If not, I think it’s too early to even talk about that. I’m not gonna go specifically on where he is right now but he wants to play. He and his family, in our conversations and with our medical team ... we’re going to do the best thing for him in his in his career. So we’ll see where he is.
On why he won’t specify what the injury is beyond it being to Gunnell’s right shoulder: “It’s college football, I don’t have to.”
On true freshman QB Will Plummer’s performance: “For a guy that didn’t even get a chance to warm up, because Grant walked off the field—he didn’t have a chance to throw a football or do anything. For a guy that has never played at this level, to go out there and do what he did was, I thought it was a pretty good performance. Could he have been better? Yeah, there’s mistakes he made. He made plays with his legs. With one-play notice, 20-second notice (to) get in there and do what he did, I think he he performed the way he’s performed during practice. The two picks are not necessarily his fault. We had routes ... that guys broke off and he’s anticipating something. He got to hit a bunch, but he’s a tough guy and he moved the chains.”
On WR Drew Dixon’s breakout game: “He played 70-some plays the week before, he didn’t play the first game because of some other issues. He played 70-some plays the week before and nobody knew he was on the field. Did not start the game last Saturday night, so that might have had something to do with his performance.”
On not challenging a UCLA fumble: “The answer from the league was that was not a fumble. That was their reply to me today.”
On several defensive backs opting out for the rest of the season: “There were guys that were injured. We didn’t have a handful of guys opt out. We had a handful of guys that were injured in our secondary. We’ll see where that is. We’ve had guys who said they’ve opted out and then you see them play. So, we’ll see where they are this week. Some guys were hurt and some guys have opted out. But as I’ve said before ... we’ve had guys that have gone on social media and said that, and then you’ve seen them play the next Saturday. There’s been a lot of reactionary stuff. It’s 2020, right? There’s been a lot of reactionary things from the beginning, even from this summer, where guys have been on social media and said they’ve opted out and then you’ve seen them play. You deal with emotions all the time in this business, with young guys. It remains to be seen, I’ll just put it that way.”
On CB Bobby Wolfe suiting up for the first time at UCLA and then announcing an opt out: “There were some other issues before that. He wasn’t available to play before Saturday night. Because of some other issues that have happened, I’ll just put it that way. It had nothing to do with football, it’s some other things, off-the-field issues. He dressed for the first time this week.”
On WR Stanley Berryhill being graded as the second-best wide receiver by Pro Football Focus: “We’ve assessed his emergence since we’ve been here because we gave him a scholarship. He’s a walk-on, so you know where we stand with Stanley.”
On defending the outside run: “I thought Chip (Kelly) made an adjustment to get to the edge. I thought that our defensive staff did a pretty good job in the second half, or at halftime, of making adjustments to make it more difficult. They had that same success against Oregon the week before with an unbalanced attack. They came with a different attack like they do every week, we adjusted and we were able to get them off the field three or four times in second half, particularly in the third quarter, to get back in the game. That’s a cat and mouse game that goes on every Saturday night. I mean, structurally we changed a little bit at halftime to help that, but even with that we missed too many tackles and that’s something that is a work in progress. I think structurally, the adjustment at halftime helped us to get more people to the ball. It’s not just setting the edge but it’s the people from inside out that can, after you set that edge, it’s running to the ball and guys that get free by angles and blocking.”
On finding ways to get the wide receivers open: “We’re going to help them. I think you’ve seen a lot of bunch sets, cluster sets, things that force people to do things a little bit differently, to help those guys. Everything works together, the timing, protection. You’ve seen a lot more cluster sets out of us this year because of man coverage.”
On Colorado: “Karl (Dorrell) has done a really good job. He has maintained some continuity with the offensive and defensive coordinators, but put his stamp on it. They’re different offensively. Karl’s been around a lot. He’s been a head coach before, he’s been in the NFL for years, has done a great job wherever he’s been. And defensively they changed. Coach has gone back to his roots as a defensive coordinator, being at Georgia. A lot more pressure, a lot more man-to-man. A little different style. Defensively they’re playing at a high level, I mean they’re second in the league in total defense right now. And second in run defense. They’re doing a lot of different things than they did last year, and bringing a lot more pressure. They’re playing defensively pretty stout. I think everybody’s seen that.
“Offensively, they’ve been able to move the ball, they’ve been able to score. They’ve got playmakers. They’re young but they’ve got playmakers. They’ve got older guys that have played a bunch, not necessarily starters for them, but have played a bunch of football. They’re in a good place right now, obviously, with the way they’ve been winning.”
On his relationship with Colorado coach Karl Dorrell: “We’ve known each other at different places. He’s been a head coach, and been an NFL for a long time. Obviously he’s doing a really good job, as I said, with keeping in some continuity there but putting his stamp on the program. It was a long time coming after his stint at UCLA, with his journey through the NFL. Obviously, he’s doing a great job at Colorado right now.”
On the cornerbacks: “Lorenzo Burns has been phenomenal. Whatever we need him to do, he does it. Special teams-wise, as a corner, I mean he is giving it his all. And so is C-Ro. Those guys are playing a lot. They understand the situation. We’ve got confidence in those guys. We need more guys to help them, and it’s our job to get those guys in here to make sure that we have confidence in, and (know) those backups are. They get challenged every week, and they respond. I think our team sees that, everybody sees that, and those guys are playing their tails off right.”
On CB Christian Roland-Wallace’s play: “It’s like a lot of things. If you’re doing your job you don’t get a lot of credit. If you, if you don’t, and they catch balls, that’s when you’re on the highlight films right. He is making sure that he is in the right place. He’s communicating, which is a lot better than last year when he was just out there playing. I think what you’re seeing is him communicating with the rest of the secondary. Lorenzo is always drawing the best guy. And then everybody’s motioning, trying to get on C-Ro, which you’ve see them challenge him a bunch every week. And he’s made plays. I would say the communication is between the safeties and him. I thought Rhedi Short and Jaxen (Turner), just to get lined up and where they were last week because of all the unbalanced (sets), all the motion, everything else, when to go with him when not to, to try to change it up ... becomes important. As a corner when you’re out there by the numbers and the ball’s on the other hash, it’s hard for you to communicate, but these guys are doing a pretty good job of communicating. That communication defensively, particularly in the second half, was very important to keep us in the game.”
On potential changes to the offensive line: “I would say that with Jordan (Mordan), where he is physically, I would anticipate some changes after the last couple weeks just because of where we are, with where he is physically. We had that discussion yesterday and this morning, just about getting the right people on the field and where they should be. I would anticipate some changes there.”
On if LT Jordan Morgan could return after missing the UCLA game: “Possibly. We’ll know probably middle of the week.”
On no longer being allowed to have family at Arizona Stadium: “That’s a tough deal. But we’ve been on the road the last two weeks and no one’s been at the game. So they understand that, they understand how fortunate we were to have them three weeks ago. At this point, with what this team has done, with what our administration has done, what our doctors have done, they understand the importance of health and safety. The communication with the parents has been ... we’ve talked with them, we sent them notice early. Is everybody disappointed? Yeah. But, our guys understand that, to play football right now, I think our parents do as well, at this point, that’s a no go with what’s going on, not just here in Pima County, but around the country. We’ve been to two empty stadiums at this point, without parents anywhere, and we were really fortunate three weeks ago to have the parents here for for both teams. They get that, they’ve sacrificed. Players have over Thanksgiving, parents have over Thanksgiving. Is it disappointing? Yeah, but to play this game, they understand that.”