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What Jedd Fisch said at Arizona’s pre-BYU press conference

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arizona-wildcats-football-byu-press-conference-debut-coaching-quarterbacks-las-vegas-injuries-update Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s finally game week.”

That’s how Jedd Fisch opened Monday’s press conference, the first of his tenure with Arizona in which there’s an actual game to discuss.

More than nine months after being hired, Fisch is only a few days away from his debut as a head coach. The Wildcats will face BYU on Saturday night in Las Vegas, a nationally televised game that will be the first chance to see what Fisch and his staff has done with a UA team that is riding a program-record 12-game losing streak.

“I feel really good about where we’re at, I feel like we’re in a good place, both mentally and physically, to go out there and succeed,” Fisch said. And we’re looking forward to the opportunity, looking forward to heading to Vegas. We’ve got a really, really good team we’re playing, coming off of a great year.”

Here’s what else Fisch said in his presser in the Sands Club, within Arizona Stadium:

On the team’s health: “We are in a good spot in terms of everybody should be practicing, I believe, this week. Out for the season because of injuries? No, not that I know of right now. I’d be surprised, other than Jamarye (Joiner), who’s got a couple of weeks left, I think that we’re gonna have everybody.”

On picking team captains: “The team voted for that group. The players had one vote for offense, one vote for defense, one vote for special teams.”

On what’s on his mind as the season begins: “A lot. I’ve got to call a game, and a game plan. So, not only are you responsible for managing the game, but also responsible for being the offensive playcaller, making sure that the game plan is what we want it to be called, making sure the quarterbacks are ready to go, making sure that the offense (is) installing every offensive play this week to make sure we’re all on the same page in how we want it to look. Game management is a huge part of it. Excited about this privilege of being a head coach. We’ve got great coaches that I can rely heavily on, from Brennan Carroll and Jimmie Doughtery to Don Brown, and special teams with Keith Dudzinski and Jordan Paopao, so I feel really good about where we’re at in terms of our staff. Our back end guys, with DeWayne Walker and Chuck (Cecil) are in great spots, so I know that the team’s going to be in a great spot, they’re gonna know what to do. But we still have to go out and execute it. And that’s the key right now and, obviously, as the head coach you’re responsible for what the team looks like. And we can’t have silly errors, we can’t get plays where there’s 10 guys on the field, we have to avoid having free runners or free guys in the backfield and all the things that you agonize over, but you’ve gone from being the guy that makes suggestions to the guy that makes decisions. So that’s an important part of this.”

On being nervous for his first game: “I don’t know if I would get nervous. There’s obviously the anxiety and the butterflies, and if you don’t have those I don’t know if you’re a real competitor, but there’s always that juice out there, and you want to put your best foot forward. I’m not sure I’ll do a lot of sleeping this week, but I’m certainly excited about where this thing can go.”

On how much input his staff will have on the offensive game plan: “Most of our staff input is done prior to the start of the game. It becomes difficult or challenging to have long-winded conversations during the course of the game, though conversations will occur between series. Conversations can occur all week long, with our whole coaching staff. We’ve been in meetings last night until late, this morning started right away, offensively and defensively. I’ve been just plugging along and making sure everybody’s on the same page and making sure we all are comfortable with everything that’s in it. Coach Carroll will put the runs in to the team this afternoon and then I’ll put the passes into the team after that.”

On BYU: “They’re coming off an 11-1 season. They’re tough, they’re physical, they’ve got some guys they replaced but they replaced them with veteran players. They’re always gonna play good, sound fundamental football, they’re always gonna be hard to block and hard to tackle. And we know that. They’ve got some ability to be super explosive, they brought some guys in there that can certainly stretch the field. And we know that we’ve got our work cut out for us with that team, and we’re excited about the opportunity. We know that it’s a good defensive team, it’s a good offensive team and they certainly know how to not beat themselves on special teams. That’s all three phases working together. That’s how you go 11-1.”

On remaining safe as COVID cases continue to rise: “We’re certainly very COVID-aware as a program. As you know, we made vaccinations an enormous priority. We were able to get 100% vaccinated with no exceptions. We didn’t have any exceptions. Every player on our team, every coach, every person that works in our building. Then on top of it, we also understand that there’s breakthrough cases and that COVID is the real deal, that we have to make sure that we don’t lose guys. So we let them know that every day is a game, every day it’s a competition. Friday night, you’re competing, you’re competing against BYU, you’re competing against the rest of the country, are they going to get COVID, are you going to get COVID? Are you going to be able to avoid getting sick, are you going to be able to avoid missing time. And with that comes every decision you make. It’s really important for us to make smart decisions and wise decisions so we don’t run into a problem, or we lose guys because of a Friday night or Saturday night out and socialize with people that have COVID.”

On if the team will be able to socialize in Las Vegas: “They can interact with their team, we’re pretty strict about that. I don’t know if there’s other rules, outside of our team rules, but our team rules don’t go past much interaction with anyone else. They’ll be able to see their parents after the game. We’ll talk about that more with the team, most of our time will be spent as a team, isolated from almost everyone else.”

On playing in front of a big, potentially partisan crowd in Vegas: “At the Pac-12 media day I was told that there was over 55,000 seats sold. I’m hopeful that we’re traveling very well. Everybody I’ve spoken with feels really good about the way Arizona is traveling to this game. Our group likes being in Vegas. They like the opportunity how close it is, that they could drive to Vegas, from Arizona, from California and then, obviously, with people that live in that area. We’re hopeful we’ve got a really big crowd of Arizona Wildcats. Hopefully it’s a split stadium, I would assume they’re gonna have a big crowd as well. So we need all of the Wildcat Nation out there. If we could have a split stadium that’d be pretty awesome, kind of like the Florida-Georgia game.”

On quarterbacks Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer: “They’re pushing themselves. There is some separation continuing to go on. As we continue to evaluate that we’ll make decisions on how much separation is actually occurring. Right now we plan on playing and both, how much we’re not sure yet, we’ll see what that looks like. See how the game goes. There’s certainly an opportunity for a little platoon system. Right now they’ve embraced it, they’re working hard at it, they’re working hard at getting better.”

On playing two quarterbacks: “I think that there’s been some success here in the past of a two-quarterback system. From what I understand, I think in 1998 there was a two-quarterback system and they went 12-1. So, we’ll let’s see what that looks like. Not saying it’s gonna look like that, but I do know that it has happened here before.”

On if he will stick with one QB if he’s hot: “Yes, 100 percent. I’m not bound to put another person in if we had two touchdown drives in a row. That’s a champagne problem.”

On rotating players in on offense: “Whatever we believe is best to be able to move the football. That’s at all position groups on offense. We’ll see what it looks like in terms of who’s giving us the best matchups, who’s giving up the best chance, what coverages are we getting, what fronts are we getting, what type of defensive gameplan do they have to our personnel and then we’ll decide who we play.”

On how this game could help (or hurt) recruiting: “Recruiting is the lifeblood of your program, so you’ve got to be able to constantly work at it, you’ve got to build your relationships that they’re strong enough that they’re not evaluated on every game, just the game itself. But we are certainly excited about the opportunity to play on national TV. We believe that we’ll have that opportunity often to be there on one of the ESPNs or on Fox or on the Pac-12 Network. We certainly hope that everybody can watch our games. We know that you’re always being evaluated, you’re being evaluated by your own team, your former team. You’re being evaluated by people that want to be on your future teams, you’re being evaluated by the people that are watching it on TV. We always want to have a good performance, and we also recognize it as a game, and it’s a game that sometimes the ball bounces in funny ways, so hopefully it balances in good ways this weekend. “

On any remaining position battles: “We’re pretty much set. I can’t think of any jobs that are up in the air right now.”

On the running back depth chart: “There’s a good group of backs out there that we’ll have. You’ll see everybody from (Michael) Wiley to Drake (Anderson) to (Stevie) Rocker to Jalen (John) to Bam (Smith). I think we’ll probably get, hopefully, a good dose of backs. We’ll see how far we go in the depth chart in terms of playing the game, but we’ll certainly list all those kids.”

On how many defensive linemen and linebackers will play against BYU: “In terms of the defensive line, it seems as if everybody’s back at this point. I feel good about Jalen (Harris) and Mo (Diallo), and then Tre (Mason), JB (Brown), Kyon (Barrs) and Paris (Shand) all being available, I believe. plus other guys may get opportunities to get certain reps in there as well. Tank (Wilson) is another one. And at linebacker, you’ve got Tre (Hayward), you’ve got (Anthony) Pandy, Jerry (Roberts), Kenny (Hebert) and Rashie (Hodge) ... and Malik (Reed). So they’ll be rotating in different packages based on what we’re trying to get done defensively, but I would assume we’ll see all six of those backers and all seven or eight of the defensive linemen playing.”

On who from his coaching past he plans to talk with this week: “I talked to some coaches this morning. I would assume that throughout the week I’ll probably talk to some guys. Talked to Josh McDaniels this morning, talked to Vic Fangio this morning, two guys there that are very good friends of mine. I think we have a really good relationship with a lot of guys, and there will probably be a couple of questions I ask as the week goes, but it was just nice to catch up with them. Obviously these are important people in my life, people that have made great impacts, and there’s always gonna be something that comes up this week or in weeks ahead that are important to be able to talk to, talk through with guys that have done it.”

On former players who will be at the game: “I would hope that a couple of of our ex-players will be there. I think we have a very large group of like 78 former letterwinners that are going in one group and then there’s another additional former letterwinner group, but I was told today that it was in that formed that there’d be 78 guys that we’re going together that are letterwinners. Tedy (Bruschi) will not be there, he has ESPN obligations, I don’t expect him to be able to make it to the games this year.”

On what previous players think of the current team: “I hope they’re embracing you know our team, our program, everything that’s going on here right now. It’s awesome, it’s what you need. I’ve said from the very, very first day I was hired, that college football is about the people that have done it before you, and they’re about the pageantry and the alumni base, and the people that have really walked this turf and walked these fields. It’s our job to respect that and our job to show them what our program is all about and what our team is all about. Troy Polamalu, in his Hall of Fame speech, said the best indication or best reflection of being the type of player that you want to be is if the people that play before you want you as a teammate. And that’s our goal. Our goal is that players on our team are wanted by the Desert Swarms and before. And if that’s the case, we have a good team.”

On what Stanley Berryhill III and Jalen Harris had to do to earn the No. 1 jerseys: “They had to do a lot of different things right. Number one, no misses, had to be at every practice, had to participate. Had to go hard every play every day. Can’t be late to any meetings, can’t be late to campus. Have to do well academically, both of them graduated, both of them still maintained their GPAs and did a nice job there. Had to lead the team when the team was tired, they were certainly two guys that made sure that everybody worked extremely hard. They really are everything that a Wildcat should be. There are people that give back to the community. They’re people that love being Arizona Wildcats, they’re both Arizona natives, they’re both people that dreamt of playing here, and they both are accomplishing that. They’re both start. I’m proud of both of those guys, they wanted to be in the derby and they did a great job winning those jerseys.”

On giving out two No. 1s: “The beautiful thing about college football is that you double up on numbers. Both of those guys deserved it, and they’re about the only two that were in that elite category for that jersey number, and they were the guys that deserved it and hey both wanted it. If only one of the two wanted it, we would have only had one.”