In the last press conference prior to Saturday's game, linebacker Carl Jones Jr. and receiver Kyle Philips talked about what's been going on during the extra prep week at Wasserman Football Center.
The two were the final players made available to the media ahead of the game between No. 13 UCLA football (2-0) and Fresno State (2-1) on Saturday night. Jones talked about the success and aggressiveness he and his teammates have had on the edge, while Philips broke down his two key blocks from the LSU game and the hall of famer who visited him on the sidelines.
In better shape with no COVID limitations and Belton here?
There’s definitely been an improvement. I feel like everybody just felt like the need to get better, faster, stronger and this off-season that’s all we did was just that right there—get faster, stronger and smarter, so.
Kyle Philips blocks?
It was definitely amazing to see that everybody, even when they don’t get the ball, that they still are trying their best to help their brother score and that’s exactly what K.P. did. K.P. took on a block probably bigger than him but he kept it going and I just feel like everybody, not just K.P. but everybody is just taking that step of just being all for the team.
Facing active quarterback in Haener, how do you make him one dimensional?
All just focus and attention on doing our job. He’s just another quarterback to us, we don’t think of him as any higher or any lower, just another opponent that we’ve got to face and we’ve got to do our job.
Defense become second nature in second year?
I would say just reps, everyone is back another year, we had that COVID year to see what we could do and this year, we just showed it out all on the field. Last year we were minus-15 as in we lost by 15 points in all seven games, but I feel like everybody this year just wants to win and it’s just another year of everybody knowing what they’re doing, so we’re really much more mature, that’s really what it is.
Mentality of players pressuring QB? Internal competition?
We definitely feed on each other, whoever can get there, the first thing we do is [inaudible], we celebrate with our team and just hopefully the next person gets to wear it themselves. That’s a big goal.
What do you and Bo Calvert bring to that position?
Honestly, Bo gets in and he does his job and when I get in, I do my job, so honestly it’s nothing really big or small, it’s just we’re both doing our jobs right now, so that’s just been the main focus.
Mitchell Agude being disruptive?
He does it at practice. That’s as simple as I can put it, you know? You do what you do at practice, you sink to the level of training and he does it every day at practice, so I was just waiting for it to happen and it happened, so the play was in his favor on that one.
Crunching blocks lead to attention from teammates? New nickname?
No, I haven’t earned any nickname yet, but that just kind of came from how these coaches have us practicing every day. In the past, maybe pass play happens, you don’t get the ball, we kinda would just run off the field, wouldn’t do anything, but now it’s kind of turned into we can make big plays out of anything. So if the ball doesn’t come to you, you have to go turn, look for work, find someone to hit, make a block in then – the other one that was more in the red zone, we’ve just been practicing playing really hard. Coach Kelly’s giving us more responsibility in the running game, so he’s trusting the receivers to sometimes pull around, make some blocks and it’s been fun.
Haven’t really heard too much. One cool thing that happened though was Troy Aikman was on the sideline after the blocks, he kinda came up to me, said ‘Good blocking.’ I was like, kinda frozen at first, I was like ‘Oh, dang.’ It was a cool experience?
Which block was it?
Yeah, it was the one where the ball was thrown to Zach and I just kinda went upfield and made a block.
Want the pass game to break open more, get more touches?
The selfishness in me would say yes, but this team’s really been focusing on really putting the team first and focusing on winning. We’re not focused on getting stats, doing this, what we’re doing is just focusing on winning. And you can’t complain when you’v got Zach and Brittain Brown in the backfield, cause those guys make crazy plays. One thing that Jerry kinda brought into the wide receiver room is just the saying ‘Whatever it takes.’ We’re gonna do whatever it takes to win. So if we get zero balls and we can just make blocks and win the game, that’s what we’re gonna do. The team comes first and we’re gonna do whatever it takes to win the game.
What’s Jerry like on sidelines during games?
Oh man, Jerry’s a blessing. Yeah, he’s high energy, gets us pumped up. I think the best thing he does is he’s just so over positive. So let’s say maybe I make a bad play or something, it’s human nature to kind of get in your head, but Jerry’s just on your side the whole time just being positive in your ear to getting me back going. He’s helped me tremendously with that, even at practice, like something happens wrong, Jerry’s just there, getting me up, keeping me positive. It’s made a huge impact on the wide receiver room and to the team in general. We’re just overly positive all the time and energy’s high, energy’s good, we play well.
Matching up with Derek Stingley?
It was awesome to go against him. He’s a great player, we watched a lot of film on him and yeah, he’s just a phenomenal DB, he’s got great patience, he plays the ball well, he does all that. And as a competitor, I think that’s kind of what you want, you want to go against the best, you want to compete against the best and so it was just really fun and exciting to be able to go against who some consider the best DB in college football right now.
Jordan Genmark Heath reining in celebrating teammates? Impact of transfers?
It’s amazing. We’ve got a lot of transfers that kinda came in, just very mature and they seem to be just kind of that missing piece on the team for making plays and kind of taking control as well in situations like that. With them coming in, the team is just significantly better and the culture here is definitely just changing better and that’s a good example. We’re not really focused on talking trash anymore, we’re focused on, as coach K is always saying ‘Mudita,’ just celebrating each other, just the success of each other and that’s just been phenomenal for our team and just gonna continue to be great.