Football: Luncheon quotes

A sampling of what was said at yesterday’s weekly media luncheon:




On playing his last home game

I’ve been trying not to think about it. I expect myself to get a little emotional about it. I’m trying to just focus on the game plan and get a win. It would be sweeter to get a win in my last game at Memorial Stadium.


On the emotions of playing his last home game

I’m an emotional guy. I can’t know exactly how I’m going to feel right now until I’m actually coming down there with a flower in my hands and seeing my parents down there and really knowing this is the last time.


On growing up in Berkeley and playing at Cal

I wasn’t quite ready to go away from home out of high school. Being here and being able to have success in front of my family and friends and my community means a lot to me, having them be able to watch me grow up and mature and become a man in front of their eyes.


On if he considered any other schools besides Cal

I considered a couple of other places, but nothing really strong. Cal always was my No. 1 choice.


On whether he watched Cal games as a kid

I actually didn’t come to a lot of games until my brother was being recruited. I wasn’t really a big football guy. I wasn’t that big of a fan, but now I’m a huge Cal football fan.


On Jahvid Best’s injury

Anything like that, you just worry about the person. You don’t really care about the football player. You just worry about him being able to bounce back and get healthy. I know the ins and outs of concussions, how each person responds to them and how severe it is, I’m just hoping he has a full recovery and I have full confidence in our medical staff that they are taking care of him and doing the right things. I just want Jahvid Best the person, not No. 4, to get better.


On the problems on defense

When we watch the tape as a defense, we see a lot of technique stuff. It’s not a lot of plays that they made on us but rather technique stuff that we didn’t do or assignments that we missed. It’s the little things. It doesn’t take away from our confidence when we make mistakes. It takes away from our confidence when they flat out beat us. You win some, you lose some. We’re just trying to get back to working hard and our assignments.


On whether he notices the student section during games

Of course, they are our fans. But you kind of block them out because you can get distracted by the music in the stadium and the fans excited. You can lose what’s going on in between the lines.


On Arizona leading the country in fewest sacks allowed

They do a lot of quicks. That’s why they haven’t been able to get sacks. It’s not a lot of dropback passes. It’s not a lot of downfield passes. They have a lot of quicks, a lot of screens. That’s why people haven’t been able to get to them. That is something we’ve lost with the departure of Zack. We’ve been trying to find it with a lot of different people. It’s been slowly coming along. It’s not quite there yet. We’re getting there. We’re not worried about it for Arizona. We’ve got a couple of other things dialed up for them.


On Arizona’s quick-passing offense

They’re effective in what they do. We have to tweak a couple of things and make sure we get where we are supposed to get.


On the progress of the linebackers

We got guys that can get it done. It’s just, uh..I don’t know…that’s a hard question…I don’t know.


On missing assignments and having bad technique

I can’t really pinpoint one exact thing what it is. It is frustrating. It’s frustrating just to lose in general. It’s a team effort and we just all have to get back on our games and get this last victory here in Berkeley.


On what it will be like when Best returns to the locker room

It’s going to be great to see him, to have our friend back, have our brother back in the locker room. It will be a blessing to have him back out here and being around him.


On noticing Best’s absence when he’s not around

We’re in the same block in the locker room so I see him every day. But he’s friends with a lot of defensive guys, too. We miss him right now. We want him to come back.


On Best as a person

He’s definitely a great player. You can’t replace a Jahvid Best. But we have guys that can still get the job done. We just miss him as a brother, somebody we went through camp with, we bled with, we worked with, we cried with. He’s a real friend. That’s what we miss most


On whether the Best injury halted the team’s momentum against OSU

Personally, I think so. He would want us to keep focused and keep going. That’s what he wanted us to do. It obviously was in the back of our heads.


On whether Best should be careful because of the concussions

I wouldn’t have an answer to that. I’m not a doctor. I don’t know. I had a concussion and it wasn’t fun. I just want him to be healthy. We’re only going to be football players for however many years, not that much longer. We’re going to be walking around interacting with people, so I just want him to be healthy. You don’t want to play around with head injuries.


On Best giving up his body for the sake of the team

It makes us want to do the same. It makes us want to have his back out there. When people do that, it just shows your commitment to the team.




On playing his last home game

I’m not going to be emotional and I’m going to have a great time doing it. I’ve been here for a long, long time, and I’m glad it’s coming to an end. I’ve grown a lot over these six years here and don’t really regret too much of what’s happened here. And I’ll miss it, a lot.


On why he’s glad it’s coming to an end

I like Berkeley, I like the campus, love the people around here and stuff like that. After seeing so many guys, the Andrew Camerons, the Aaron Merzs , the (Ryan) O’Callaghans, coming in, coming out, leaving, it’s your turn. And you just follow in their footsteps.


On the morale of the team

On the Jahvid issue, we’re all really confident he’s going to get better. Concussions are a serious issue, but we have full confidence our medical staff will do everything in their power to make sure they take proper precautions. He’s going to come back, he’ll be fine – when, I don’t know. … Other than that, our confidence – losing games isn’t fun. You don’t play football to lose games. But we’re going to go back to working hard and doing what we do. After watching the film, a lot of it was us taking turns making mistakes, not making plays, execution. We’ll work on it some more.


On Jeff Tedford’s comment that the offensive line has to do a better job finishing blocks

It’s true, we do need to finish blocks and stuff like that. But when you hop down by 14 points and you only run the ball a few times – we didn’t even get the run game started too much. By the second quarter, we were playing catch-up and we didn’t stop until the end of the game, so we didn’t really run the ball that much. Yeah, we have to finish blocks and stuff like that, but in the pass game to keep it to what we were doing, we do have to finish our blocks. Oregon State had a really good defensive tackle, a big load for Justin Cheadle and Richard Fisher. Richard did a little better than Justin, but it’s very typical Pac-10. This week, Arizona’s front seven is just as good. You go against good guys every week, you got to step up.


On the team’s confidence following the OSU loss

I think the first two losses, when we lost two in a row, it was like, ‘Wow, wake up, we’re not the best thing in the land.’ It didn’t scare us or hinder us, just made us want to work harder. After this loss, we realize losses happen but they’re in your control. You lost for a reason. We have to go back and work hard and do everything right … and hitting, finishing, everything you have to do in football.


On whether the offense changes much with Shane Vereen as the starting tailback

Not really. They’re both great backs. Jahvid is a great player and Shane is a great player, they’re both unique in their roles. … Shane is a good back, I love the guy, you’ve just got to adjust.


On whether he’s communicated with Jahvid Best

I wanted to see him at the hospital after the game, but the coaching staff told us not to go. Sunday, I wanted to see him, but he just got released from the hospital so he was in Vallejo with his parents. Well, I don’t have a car, nor do I think his parents want everyone coming over to his house. I sent him a text message, lot of guys did, and he’s responded back. We’ll just let him do his thing, especially with a head injury, don’t want to irritate that. He’s got a big enough headache as it is already.


On the reaction he expects when Best returns to the locker room

I think it will be a definite boost to morale – even if it wasn’t Jahvid, if it was the smallest guy on our team. If something like that happened in a game, it’s a serious issue. From where I was standing, Jahvid’s foot was at my face mask and he was above me. I was like, ‘Oh my God’. That injury with anyone on the team is so severe, everybody will be happy to see him come back.


On Best’s popularity in the locker room

He’s one of those guys who has a little special aura around him. He’s not your T.O. He’s very humble, very quiet. When he walks into a room, he doesn’t really need to say very much because everybody knows he’s there. So when that’s away, it’s a little different. You notice his absence. You want to give him the respect of time, to heal with his parents, but you definitely see the absence.


On Best sacrificing his body for the team

Even if he wasn’t the most popular guy, just to witness someone sacrificing themselves like that energizes the team. It motivates the team when Tucker is trying to do something, or any of the guys is really working their tail off to do something. Even the guys on defense: If I’m on the sideline and I see Bishop really try to drive some guy back, that’s motivating to me. We’re fighting, we’re in a battle. That helps the whole team. … It’s definitely infectious.


On whether Best’s injury halted momentum

No, I think it motivated us. They injured one of our brothers, one of our family members. Even though the team taking a knee and watching for 20 minutes kind of locks you up a little bit, it emotionally and mentally motivates you.


On whether he thinks Best should just shut it down because of the concussions

Whatever it takes for him to get healthy is what matters. When I had my pec injury, they said whatever it takes, don’t rush it. It’s your future. So I’m confident the coaches and training staff will do the appropriate thing. I’m not worried about him. … I’m not the medical staff. Concussions are one of those things where it’s how you feel on a day to day basis. They have 30 different characteristics of how you feel, and you’re still not going back on the field after you zero out.





On playing his last home game

It’s going to be very tough. I’m going to try not to think about it too much before the game and during the game because we have a mission — we have to get this win, I think it’s win number seven we have to get — I can let all the emotional stuff happen afterwards. That’s my plan.

On dealing with Best’s injury

What happened to Jahvid was really unfortunate and we’re all still emotional from what happened and we’re glad he’s OK, but Arizona’s a great football team so it’s important that we come together as a team and we focus on our task at hand. I’m sure Jahvid would want that as well. Whenever Jahvid returns it’s going to be great but we need to focus on winning this Saturday.

On whether it’s hard to get the injury out of his mind

Well, the fact that we’ve been reassured that he’s OK, makes it a lot easier. He’s going to be healthy and that was our biggest concern. As a team we have a lot invested in the season. It doesn’t just come from this week, it comes from months and months and months of preparation. It’s a great opportunity for us to come together as a team and focus on what we’ve got to do. There’s going to be setbacks and distractions, but I think that’s a big part of our team is overcoming adversity. And I think we welcome that in a sense.

On improving the team’s running game against good run defenses

Focus on the little things. You go back and watch the film from the games where we haven’t had our best running games, statistically, it’s all little things on our part — schemes and holding onto our blocks a little longer. Details and stuff that’s day one, that some of us may not do, including myself. I’m not exempt from any of that.


On why mistakes are being made in the run game

There’s a lot of things you can point at as excuses, but it could just be — to me, it comes down to a lack of focus and poise under pressure. There are a lot of things that happen out there during a football game and you need to be a lot more disciplined, remember your techniques and stuff like that. And holding onto your blocks longer, it’s just about heart, it’s just about heart and technique. Just having the desire to want to get the job done.

On what it will be like when Best returns to the locker room
Uplifting, I think. We all want to see him back. I want to see him back with us again. We spend so much time together in the offseason and this season — whenever you lose a brother like that to whatever circumstances, it’s good to have him come back and rejoin the family. I imagine it’s going to be good to see him again.

On whether he thinks Best should just shut it down

Naw, I mean I know Jahvid loves to play this game and he’s a fierce competitor. I am myself so I wouldn’t tell him to do anything I wouldn’t do. I have full confidence in our medical staff, and ultimately that’s what it comes down to is clearing him, making sure he’s healthy to come down to play. When that time comes I’m sure it’ll be the right decision. My only advice to him is listen to the medical staff.


On Best giving up his body for the sake of the team

I can’t speak for every individual and how they feel in their minds and their hearts but I can speak for myself. When I see Jahvid jumping over guys, trying to scratch and claw for every yard, it fires me up because I know he’s going to do whatever he can to help this team. Part of my job is doing the same thing to help him, help us win. It’s the same thing for pass blocking or catching the ball, running the ball, whatever the situation is. When you see an individual sell himself 100 percent on the field, it’s contagious.

On the difference with Shane Vereen as the No. 1 back

I don’t think it’s going to be any different. Shane does a good job preparing as if he was a starter, and our coach coaches us all the same way, to make sure that we’re all mentally prepared for the game. Shane is a great back, and we all have great confidence in him.

On the new 1-2 punch of Vereen and Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson

Covaughn’s a good back and Shane’s a good back. You can’t really compare anybody to Jahvid. Jahvid’s one of a kind. But we have great backs that can get the job done. And whoever’s in the game, we expect for them to be productive. We don’t expect anything less.

On the team’s confidence after the OSU loss

I don’t think we’ve wavered at all. The main thing is there’s more of a sense of urgency. We know that the team that we showed on Saturday wasn’t us. We’re a better team than that and we’ve proven it six times this season, so it’s a matter of just wanting it more. I think we’re still confident in the team that we have, our personnel and our coaches, I think we all still trust in our mission and I don’t think anything is going to change that.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.