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What Jedd Fisch said at his press conference to open USC week

arizona-wildcats-football-jedd-fisch-press-conference-2022-territorial-cup-asu-pac12 Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona begins the final stretch of the 2022 season with a Homecoming clash against No. 10 USC, and will be doing so rested and refreshed after having a bye last weekend.

As expected, The Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) are huge underdogs against the Trojans (6-1, 4-1) but are hoping they can replicate last season’s Homecoming performance when they knocked off Cal to end a 20-game losing streak.

“Got a big game ahead of us with USC,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said Monday. “Need to play our absolute best in this game, they’re a top 10 team in the country. They do a lot of things extremely well and we recognize that. We know that we need to do a great job of defending them when they’re on offense, we need to do a great job of moving the ball when we’re on offense, and scoring touchdowns.”

Here’s what else Fisch said in his press conference to open the week:

On his expectations for the players during the bye: “We get them on Friday and Saturday off completely. If you weren’t on the treatment list, meaning you didn’t have any injury or trying to come back from an injury, you were not required to be here at all. We asked them to enjoy their time. Rest. Don’t use it as, all of a sudden you come back more tired. Use it as an opportunity to recharge, watch film on your own. Use it as an advantage. Use it as an opportunity to get a step ahead. You’ve got really the opportunity there to get your body right. We sent them home with whatever they need from the training room to get the body right and and use that time. The rest of the year, at the end of the year is your time to stay out late and do all that other stuff. Get ahead of school, do well in school, which they’re doing a great job at, so you don’t have any distractions the week of USC.”

On how recruiting went last weekend: “Really, really good. I feel very good about where we’re at there. Our guys a great, great time watching all the kids play. Obviously we don’t we can’t talk about the kids, per se, but we were all able to get to a lot of games. We were all able to see a lot of football, and I think it was a success. Looking forward to Signing Day.”

On the response from recruits and their families: “Guys are excited about our program, as they were a year ago. This is now our second recruiting class. They get to see what the last recruiting class has been able to do. They get to see how willing we are to play freshmen. They get to see what we are trying to get done on all sides of the ball. They get to see where they would fit in now. I think a lot of guys that are on the offensive side of the ball are excited about the chance to play with the players that are on offense right now. The guys on the defensive side of the ball are excited about an opportunity to get in there and play. They know that we’re willing to do that. We showed that with Jacob Manu, we showed that with Ta’itai (Uiagalelei) playing a lot right now, (Jacob) Kongaika is playing a lot right now. (Ephesians) Prysock will be playing a lot. So they can see freshmen getting in there and playing. It’s a nice story to tell when you can tell the guys you’ve got a lot of opportunities.”

On red zone offense: “Done a lot of great things in a lot of categories on offense this year but need to be better when we get to that red zone. It’s got to be touchdowns. It’s got to be touchdowns against USC if we’re gonna win this game. Otherwise, we’re gonna have a long, hard battle ahead of us. So we’re looking forward to being as good as we can in the red zone and using this bye week to get better there.”

On his expectations for the linebackers: “Be around the ball, make plays around the ball. That’s the most important part to me. Being able to set the front, communication. As the Mike linebacker you’re responsible for making sure that the defense communication is on point. I like to see our linebackers be able to shed blocks and get in on as many tackles as possible if it gets past the defensive line. And then be very aware, you have to be an aware player as a linebacker because of the fact that your ability to recognize run and pass is the difference in the game. So you have to be able to see a play-action pass, you have to be able to see a run, you have to see a dropback pass or be able to turn. If we’re gonna be a zone coverage team you have to understand where you where you fit in those zones. And if we’re gonna be a man coverage team, you got to be responsible ... one for the quarterback and one for the back.”

On what the defense worked on during the bye: “We made big points of emphasis on pad level, we made big points of emphasis on leverage tackling. A huge part of the game is being able to understand where your help is coming from. If you have a force defender outside to make sure you don’t have two guys outside the ball carrier and nobody inside. Gotta make sure you don’t lose force and have everybody inside the ball carrier and nothing outside. We’ve worked on taking on blocks, the ability up front for the defensive lineman to handle double teams. That’s a big part of what we’ve been seeing recently is a gap-blocking scheme. A lot of counter has been run, and when you get a lot of counter you have to be able to handle playing into the block, handling the tackle, understanding the down block and not just entering the guard. And then continue to work on our coverages. Route recognition is a big part of it, to understand what this formation indicates, what this split indicates. So we did a lot of good on good. They went against our offense a lot. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday they went against our offense. And then yesterday we did a mixture of going against USC’s offense and our offense.”

On defensive linemen getting double teamed: “We don’t necessarily have a true tracker on that or a count, I would say. What we look for more so than that is to have a better understanding of, if you’re a 3-technique or if you’re lying up on the outside edge of the guard, how often are they trying to come down with that tackle? And if you’re lined up on the outside edge of the tackle how often they’re coming down with a tight end. We’re looking more for that than a necessarily true track of how many times are you getting it.”

On DL Kyon Barrs: “Kyon has played both the shade and the 3-technique. There’s times that there’s a double team there but I don’t see much difference in how often he’s being double-teamed and how often Paris Shand is being double teamed and how often Tank (Wilson) is being double teamed. I think it just comes down to where you fit in. If you’re playing a lot of 3-technique, and teams are running on a counter, you’re getting double teamed more. If you’re playing a lot of 3-technique and teams are running a lot of zone, there’s a good chance that you’re getting singled a lot. So I think it really, more so, is based upon what we’re getting offensively than it is necessarily a true game plan.”

On USC: “They’re a very good football team. Very well coached. They’re gonna give us a lot of challenges on all phases. The one game that they lost, against Utah at Utah, a 1-point game. They got a good quarterback, they have good receivers, their offensive line is playing well. And obviously on defense they’ve done a good job. They’ve done a really good job, and they take the ball away and don’t give it away. So that’s a good formula. Right now we’re a lot better than we were on. I think we’re 44th in the country, rather than 120-something, in the country in terms of turnover margin and giveaways, but we need to continue to be better there we were. We need to keep protecting the football. And we need to have more games like we’ve had this past week against Washington where we didn’t turn it over. We got to do that more on offense, and take it away more defense.”

On USC’s FBS-best turnover margin: “They took it away four times against Oregon State and they did took it away two or three times against Stanford. Quarterbacks got a ball tipped up in the air for an interception. I think there was six interceptions in those two games, maybe seven or something like that. I think for the most part they’re just coming from good coverage.”

On having extra time to prepare for USC: “I would say we had a bonus, I would use the term Bonus Sunday. They were coming off a bye as well, so you’re in a situation where both teams ... the last film we had was eight days ago. So you’re really able to be way ahead, you’re able to watch your own film, you’re able to self-scout yourself, but then on the same token, you’re also able to start looking at SC a few days ago. Five, six days ago, so on Sunday, we were able to use it like a Tuesday. We were able to get a lift in. We were in full pads, where on a normal Sunday if we were playing a game on Saturday we would be in just shorts and helmet. In this case we were in full pads, we were able to hit and have a good 2-hour doozy of a practice, and then give us a way to kind of pace ourselves for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. We’re using the same ... schedule as we used for the San Diego State game.”

On possible personnel changes: “We looked at both sides of the ball in terms of our personnel, because as we’re looking at what we have currently, we also have to have roster management for the future. What our numbers are going to look like and who we have coming back and all those type things. And then we looked at what gives us the best chance currently, which players do we feel as if we need to get some game reps on to get a good feel for. But for the most part, there’s a couple of guys here out there. But I thought that (Ephesians) Prysock has practiced extremely well, as has Tacario Davis. But I think right now Ephesians has done a good job to be able to get himself into the rotation and be able to play some more snaps. Prysock should be playing some more this week for sure.”

On QB Jayden de Laura’s elusiveness: “I would say it’s very good. He’s not getting sacked very often. He’s making plays with his feet. He’s running around. He’s very hard to tackle, very slithery back there. And I love that. I think that you need that nowadays. The best athletes, the big athletes, are on defense. Those guys are the pass rushers, so you’ve got to deal with some great athletes that are 250-260 pounds, 270 pounds coming at you. You’ve got to do a great job of being slithering and avoiding. We throw it about 41 times a game, something like that, so the amount of times we drop back we need a guy like Jayden to be able to make some plays with his feet. He does that. I think you see that in the NFL. You watch some of these quarterbacks that have great escapability you can see those are the guys who are winning a lot of games right now. Whether you’re talking about (Patrick) Mahomes or Josh Allen, Tua (Tagovailoa) does a nice job of not getting sacked very often, they’re winning a bunch of games right now. Geno Smith has done a great job this year. Daniel Jones, he doesn’t get sacked very much, they’re sitting at 6-1.”

On his message to DE Hunter Echols ahead of playing his former team: “Hunter’s been a very good leader, a very good vocal leader. My message to him is do your job. Do your job as a defensive end, do your job as a pass rusher. Don’t feel like you have to do more than that. It’s not more than that. It’s your responsibility to play your best game because it’s the next game. And regardless of who we’re playing. Now, do I think it means something to him, do I think it’s got a little bit of special meaning? Sure, I do. There’ll be a couple other games coming up that we have guys that were on another team that are now playing that game that I’m sure there’s some personal ... feel there. But for the most part, I just told Hunter, hey, embrace this opportunity. You got a great shot at it. You know them, you know who you’re playing, and now it’s your job to do your job really well.”

On Homecoming festivities: “Big weekend for the Arizona football Ring of Honor. Vance Johnson, Oretege Jenkins and the family of John Button Salmon. Surprising to me that that hasn’t been done before. Hopefully we will Bear Down on Saturday. Excited about Rob Gronkowski being our honorary captain, that should be a great time to have him here. I think he’ll be here a couple of days early, be able to spend some time with our team, be able to watch a practice, hopefully talk to our guys. Should have a lot of great, great people, great players coming back for Homecoming. So very excited for that to occur. I think that’ll be great for our players.”