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July 27, 2013

Q & A with Bulldogs head coach Tim DeRuyter

LAS VEGAS -- Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter addressed several topics at the Mountain West Media Days. Here is part two of our conversation with the Bulldogs' head man.

Thoughts on Derek Carr's injury

"He's such a classy kid. He was never gonna use that as a crutch, never gonna use that as an excuse. But we had some things where we would try and move the pocket, especially when we were having some protection issues where, quite frankly, we just couldn't do last year because he couldn't get out there. When he would burst, that was when it would flare up. This year, because he's healthy, we'll be able to do some more things that way. We may do a little bit of quarterback run. We're not gonna be a big quarterback run team because we still don't want that many opportunities for him to get hits. But I think he's going to be much fresher. He'll have much more escapability in the pocket this year, being that he's gonna be healthy.

"As you look last year where we can improve, we took too many sacks. Part of it was that we didn't do a good enough job protecting him, part of it was Derek held onto the ball too long, and stayed in the pocket. It's a mix. Sometimes you want him to do that and he wants to make that play, but other times you just need to get rid of the ball and live to fight another down. Hopefully this year, having gone through it, he'll make better decisions that way."

Are the conference changes exciting?

"Oh, it's huge. I think it's huge for the long-term viability of our conference. Getting back on ESPN, as I mentioned before, was huge. The two division format, having a conference championship game, and having it on that Championship Saturday - I don't know if our commissioner has announced yet what TV [station] that's going to be on, but I'm hearing good things about that. You're going to have a chance to be in the national profile like the BCS leagues. I think all of those are positives for our league.
How about the possibility of playing a team twice.

"It is what it is. It happens in the SEC. It happens in the B1G, in the Pac-12. Didn't UCLA have to play back-to-back weeks? Those things are a little bit funky. Because it's like, 'okay, I'm playing the first half of the game this week and the second half next week,' but I think the league did a good job. I don't believe anybody plays a crossover game the last week of the season. So you won't have a situation where you're playing back-to-back weeks. But it's very likely, I mean, it's a 50-50 chance that you're going to be playing someone twice. Because you play half the other side every year. So it's going to be a coin flip."

Do they like playing Boise early?

"I do. I look at it that they're going to be one of the top teams in the league. I think we're going to have a chance to be one of the top teams. To have it early in the season, I think it makes it a little bit exciting for our whole league. The other thing I like about it is, you know, unfortunately, one of those teams is going to have to lose. With the emphasis on the BCS, if you lose early, it's kind of better for you than losing late. So whoever loses that game has a chance to move up in the BCS rankings as the season goes on. I think it was fortuitous for us to play early. "

Concern with high expectations?

"Yeah. If your team is a little bit immature, then that would be the case. But I think we've got some kids that are pretty grounded. We lost early in the year last year to Boise and we ended up getting a share of the conference title. Our guys realize that one game is not going to make or break this season. If we lose the opening game, all of our goals are still out there ahead of us. So I don't worry about that. If I start losing two or three games early, things aren't gonna be so good. I don't worry about one, individual game. "

How do you feel about the four-team playoff

"While not a perfect situation, I think it's a pretty good blend. I still am a traditionalist. I like the bowl structure. Thirty-something teams get to end their season on a good note. Seventy of them or so get a chance to have a great experience at an exotic bowl site. We went to Hawaii last year. Or maybe an exotic place like Shreveport, Louisiana. You see a different culture. The people at the bowl sites are usually over-the-top friendly, great hospitality. On the educational side of it, guys get to see a different culture. I think it's all good for college football. And then blending that in with a playoff, it appeases both sides of things. Where I would have issue is, I think that maybe that number, instead of four, should be eight. Then you get into, 'well, how much does that diminish the bowls?" People say, 'well if it's eight, then it will be 16, 32 - I think the top eight teams could have a legitimate chance at winning a national championship. You get to 16 - if you're the 16th seed, you're probably not going to win it anyways. The likelihood is that you really don't deserve that shot. My opinion is that eight is a good number, but at least four is a start."

Do you think this helps access?

"Absolutely. In the past the non-BCS schools were never guaranteed a spot. We're guaranteed a spot in the host bowl, given if we're the highest ranked BCS team. It doesn't have to be in the top 16 this year or higher than the BCS champions. There's no caveats like that. I look at it, and look at where our league is with the twelve teams we currently have, and you just look at the last ten years of history, the Mountain West champion would have gone to a bunch of bowl games. The BCS-type bowls, the host bowls. So I think we're gonna have better access. I think we're gonna be able to use this in recruiting against BCS schools. If you're in the lower half of a BCS league, whether it's the B1G, Pac-12, whatever, and you've got to go through a battering ram of beating SC, Stanford, and Oregon to get to a host bowl, is it easier to do that or to go through the Mountain West. So, arguably, you got a better chance of going to a host bowl at a Fresno State, at a Boise State, or a San Diego State than you would being at a BCS-league school that's in the lower half of that league."

Do you think anything has changed as far as how people perceive who should be in the Final Four?

"You know, I think it's gonna be interesting. I think that the SEC is gonna think that they should have three or four of those spots, and maybe they should. That part is gonna be interesting. You talk about 64 teams going through and all the consternation, there's only four? That fifth place team - if there's an undefeated team out there from a non-BCS school and then there's a two-loss SEC, or a one-loss SEC team - who knows. That's why I think eight is probably a good number. We'll go through a couple of rounds of it where people are up in an uproar. You know, it's like anything. If people are talking about it, whether they're complaining or happy about it, if they're talking about it, it's good media."

Targeting rule thoughts

"Oh, no, no. We all heard about it. Walt briefed our coaches yesterday morning. Walt is very professional and I like the work that he does. He's trying to - we're trying to make the game safer. The officials have got a tough job. They're charged with making the game safer and yet they have got to administer the game in an efficient way, where you're trying to appease all sides. It wasn't Walt that came up with this rule. It was the rules committee that decided we got to get targeting out the game, and so they're gonna eject a player who's flagged for targeting. The issue I have is that there are so many where they're - is that targeting? Is that not targeting? There's some grey area and to have the penalty be, 'hey, we're gonna throw you out of the game right now,' I think that's tough to put on an official and a young man. It's a split-second decision, some of these things. Some are clearly - hey, the guy was defenseless and you just laid him out. There's some obvious ones and those ones should be called. But there's other ones where it's a bang-bang play you try to avoid - an offensive player, he's changing his position and getting lower, you happen to hit head-to-head, that's great football. Some people may interpret that as targeting. We had a discussion with the coaches yesterday and there was pretty much a consensus in there - a really good number of those, everybody in the room was like, 'I don't even know if this is targeting, but we're gonna throw a kid out of the game?' That's where I have an issue with it. My preference would have been to throw the flag, targeting or whatever, and on Monday have a committee in each league decide, 'hey, you know what, that was flagrant and he's out of the next game.' I think kind of the NFL model of 'we're gonna fine you,' but not take care of it during that particular game because, like I said, to make a split-second decision and throw him out before the next play starts, that's tough."

On the challenge

"It's supposed to be reviewed regardless, but if you don't like the review, yeah. You take a timeout and maybe use your challenge. But I don't know. That whole challenge-rule thing - if it's a judgment call like that, if you challenge it, I don't know that they're going to reverse their decision. They've already made a decision. So, if it's something black and white, whether he stepped in bounds or not, maybe you can get that overturned. But a judgment call on whether he thought it was targeting or not targeting, I don't know that you ever want to use a challenge on it. "

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