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Archive for August, 2007

Q&A: Outland Trophy Winner Kris Farris on Mark Weber

In this interview, former UCLA All-American offensive tackle Kris Farris offers BYU football fans some unique and personal insights into the Cougars’ new offensive line coach, Mark Weber.

Under Weber’s guidance at UCLA, Farris earned consensus first team All-American honors as well as the Outland Trophy award for best interior lineman in the country as a junior in 1998.

Farris didn’t give up a single quarterback sack that year. In fact, the entire Bruin line yielded only 10 sacks in 1998, while helping their offense rack up a single season school record of 5,847 total yards. UCLA won the Pac-10 title that year and lost a heartbreaking 38-31 nail-biter to Wisconsin in the 1999 Rose Bowl Game.

Following his junior season, the Pittsburgh Steelers made Farris the 74th pick overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.  Two weeks after the draft, Farris broke his ankle, which kept him off the playing field for two years of painstaking rehab. He then signed with the Buffalo Bills and cracked into the starting lineup, only to break his leg against the Steelers. He decided to retire after being picked up by Atlanta in 2003.

Farris earned a bachelors degree in English at UCLA and is currently working toward an MBA at his alma mater. He is Sales Manager for Crest Steel, a steel distributor serving the Western United States.

CG365:  Do you recall the first time you met Coach Weber?

KF:  I actually first met him during recruiting when I was in high school, but he was at UNLV, I think.  It wasn’t more than a handshake at the time, but he reminded me later when he came to UCLA that we had met.

Aside from that, I didn’t officially meet Coach Weber until my sophomore season.  We were in off-season conditioning and Coach (Bob) Toledo walked in with him and Weber was this bald, stern-looking guy and I thought, “Oh boy, what are we in for now?”

Now, he always talks about the first time we met, too. The year before he got there—my freshman season—I had played really poorly. It was like I was starting more because the cupboard was bare.  So, I walked into his office, and he always says the first thing I said to him was “I’ll bet you already heard how bad I am.” He says my shoulders were slumped over and we sat there and talked for a while. It was the first of many talks we had over the next six months. He had a lot to do with helping me get my confidence back and helping me learn how hard I needed to train in the off-season in order to succeed.

CG365:  Would you credit Coach Weber with helping develop you as an offensive lineman?

KF:  I credit him more than anyone else. Coach Toledo gets credit, and it didn’t hurt to red shirt behind Jonathan Ogden for a year—watching him work and how he did things, obviously, helped me a lot.  But, Coach Weber guided me a lot. He talked me through a lot of things. We’d go out to practice and one of the main things he taught me, and I actually still use it in life, I’d go out to practice and run around like a chicken with my head cut off, because I thought, “I’m so bad. I want to be good.”

Coach Weber would say, “Look, you’re not going to get there overnight.  Let’s pick out one thing together everyday that you can work on, and we’ll keep on working on that one thing until you master it, and then we’ll move on to something else.”

That made learning all the nuances of the position and developing my skills a lot more simple.  By the end of my college career, it evolved from “let’s work on your stance” into “let’s work on getting this one step a few inches wider.” We had really got to the point where we were honing in a lot more on refinements that elevated my game. It really helped me out.

CG365:  As you were working on all those little intermediate skill steps, did Coach Weber help you put it all together and see the big picture?

KF:  Yeah, big time. I remember walking into the film room after the Washington game late in my first season under Coach Weber and he told me that I had finally put it all together. I had a dominant performance in a really important game for our team against a top player in the conference. I am still proud of that moment; it showed me that all of the hard work I had put in during the off-season and after practice every day was paying off.  That game skyrocketed my confidence and it carried over into the USC game, our bowl game, and the next season. Twelve months later I won the Outland Trophy.

CG365:  What were your observations of Coach Weber as a recruiter at UCLA?

KF:  He was a really good recruiter. He brought in a lot of key players. He brought in Cade McNown’s replacement, who started for four years, and several blue-chip offensive linemen, that I know of. He was just a really good recruiter.

CG365:  What do you think are Coach Weber’s greatest strengths as a position coach?

KF:  He is great at fundamentals. In that position, especially when you’re trying to mold raw players coming out of high school, you need to spend a lot of time teaching them what to do with their footwork and their hands. You know, “Put your hands right here.  Don’t put it on their chest, I want you to put it three inches to the left of their number.”  You know, he’s just real precise with the fundamentals.

I always found him really approachable, too, where we could just go in and watch film together or talk things over after practice. We could sit out on the field a half hour or more after practice talking about things, even the most mundane stuff, but that’s how committed he was to fundamentals and helping make his players better.

CG365:   What was he like during game time, say, like if he noticed something that your opponent was doing differently than what you saw in their game film?

KF:   He’s really solid in game situations. We’d huddle up after we got off the field every single time, and he has that great ability to tell which players need to be yelled at and which players just need a pat on the back, like “Hey, you’re better than this. Calm down.  Stop worrying about all this other stuff and work on this one step because the player you’re going against is coming upfield more than going outside,” or something like that.

CG365:   As a junior, you didn’t allow a QB sack, and your entire unit only gave up 10 the entire season. How do you think those accomplishments reflect on Coach Weber and his responsibility for your offensive line unit?

KF:  Well, Coach Toledo was always talking about how good our offensive line was and how we were dictating the tempo in practice and our team’s success in the games. Coach Weber really impressed on us how we were pretty much the key to how the team was doing.  If practice wasn’t going well for the whole team, he’d pull us aside and say, “Hey, you can’t let this happen—you guys set the tone for the whole thing.”

If he felt we needed more intensity, he’d ratchet us up a notch and all of the sudden, we’d have more intensity and the whole team would get more out of practice.

He was really big on us being the core unit of the team and instilling pride in us that we were responsible for the quality of the team’s preparationity. And Coach Toledo definitely bought into that philosophy.

CG365:  What kind of memories do you carry with you from that incredible season when you received a lot of personal awards, UCLA won the Pac-10, and you played in the Rose Bowl Game?

KF:  It was unreal—a once in a lifetime type of experience. We were such a close knit team. The offensive line unit we had that year are still good friends of mine. We were close and spent a lot of time off the field together. We’d go out to dinner together once a week.  We knew each other’s personality so well and how we would react to different things, and we communicated really well.

We had a couple sophomores who had joined the starting unit that year and they stepped up and did a great job. It was a kind of a whirlwind year but really exciting. I think we all have a lot of pride in that year. I got a lot of the accolades that year, but I was just the guy the media chose—our entire line play was incredible.

CG365:  What special skill does Coach Weber bring to BYU’s offensive line that they haven’t seen in previous coaches?

KF:  I keep thinking of the word “polish.” He knows how to polish a player’s skill set.  Like I said, he’s really good at fundamentals and if they’ve got a solid unit already, he’s going to step in and really analyze their game and figure out how to make them even better. He knows how to make a good player great, and a great player even better. He helped make me a lot better than I would have been, and everyone else in our unit, too.

CG365:  BYU plays UCLA this coming season in the Rose Bowl Stadium.  How might Coach Weber’s experience at UCLA and playing in Rose Bowl Stadium help prepare the BYU squad for that game in September?

KF:  Well, he did work with Coach Dorrell for a year or two so he probably knows a bit about how UCLA prepares and such. There might be something valuable there he can tap into and relate to his players. As far as playing in that environment, I’m sure he’ll bring them to the stadium the day before and show them that at the end of the day it’s just a grass field like the one they practice on. For sure, he’ll know how to help keep his unit focused in that game.

CG365:  Do you recall any favorite stories or quotes of Coach Weber that have stuck with you throughout the years?

KF:  Not really that I can recall, but what I’ve always remembered and loved is the fact that he instilled a lot of pride in us and it was always just like, “Hey, this game’s on you guys.  If we’re gonna win this game, it’s on you guys.” That’s such a great feeling.

It’s a lot of pressure he put on us, but we’d respond to it and perform because he’d prepared us and we were ready to go. And none more so, than when there were six minutes left in the game and we had a little bit of a lead. He’d just huddle us up and say, “Okay, just like I said.  It’s on you. You guys are gonna win this game for us right now.”

CG365:  One of the most important responsibilities a college coach has is to help young men prepare to survive, succeed, and make positive contributions to society when they finish playing football.  What are your thoughts and feelings about how Coach Weber helped you prepare in that regard?

KF:  Well, it’s been nine years since I left for the NFL, and I still talk to him about every six months.  I think that says a lot about the type of impact he has on his players.  He wasn’t one of those coaches that are all football, football, football. He always asked me how I was doing in my classes. Graduating was always really important to him.  Since I was leaving after my junior year, he always impressed upon me the importance of returning and completing my degree.

I’ve talked to him about jobs I was going to take like the career I have now after I retired from the NFL. I consulted with him back when I was trying to decide whether to take the Buffalo Bills offer or one from New Orleans after I left the Steelers.

He’s been like a life mentor to me. He’s a good friend and his advice and help has gotten me a long way and I trust him. His expertise on the football field carries over off the field.  Football’s a great metaphor for life, and when you’ve got a great coach like Coach Weber who has helped you on the field, it easily carries over off the field.

CG365:  Based on your collegiate experience with Coach Weber, what advice would you give to a young college lineman at BYU regarding this coming season?

KF:  I would say that you need to trust him.  He might tell you to do some things differently than your previous line coach said.  He might take something you think you do really well and say, “Let’s break this down and start over and kick it up a notch.” He understands the big picture, and the fundamentals he teaches are correct, so I think the big thing is to just really trust him.

Fourth and inches …

Will the Gators repeat? Sorry Gainesville, you’ll have to settle for your repeat in hoops ‘cuz it ain’t gonna happen on the gridiron this season.  Okay, but if not Florida, who will ascend to the throne of college football in 2007?  The smart money says USC or LSU.  Given the experience and depth in both programs right now, I would have to agree.  Keep in mind these five top challengers as the season progresses:  Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, Texas, and Louisville.

Let’s get real about the Heisman Trophy … Everybody’s preseason list this year includes Hawaii’s Colt Brennan, Brian Brohm (Louisville), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Steve Slaton and Pat White (West Virginia), John David Booty (USC), and another Colt, the McCoy kid (Texas).  My dark horse candidate is Nebraska’s senior gunslinger Sam Keller.  Brennan will put up unreal numbers against a patsy schedule (3rd worst strength of schedule in Division 1-A) obliterating virtually every existing NCAA D-1A passing record that he doesn’t already hold along the way.

Can Brennan truly be considered Heisman-worthy if Hawaii goes undefeated and lands in a New Year’s Day Bowl?  I have serious reservations and it’s not because of Hawaii’s weak schedule.  Is it right to place college football’s highest individual award into the hands of a convicted felon who is still on probation (and will be when the award is presented) for crimes committed just three years ago at the University of Colorado?   By all means, flame away with your own take.

For those of you who might have forgotten, as a redshirt freshman at Colorado, Brennan was accused of entering a female student’s dorm room while intoxicated and fondling her.  He was eventually found not guilty of indecent exposure and criminal intent to commit sexual assault, but he was convicted on felony counts of second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass.  He received a sentence of seven days in jail, 60 hours of community service, and four years’ probation, which is still in effect until sometime in 2008.

More on Brennan and Hawaii’s weak schedule … Don’t blame Brennan for having to face patsy opponents like Division 1-AA Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern.  It’s not his fault.  I suggest that the NCAA not include individual and team statistics against opponents from the lower division in the official record book.  That would keep stat-happy coach June Jones from playing Brennan more than the first half of each game.  Instead, watch for Jones to wait until midway thru the 4th quarter before he calls the dogs off.  Figure a minimum of 12 TD passes for Brennan in those two games alone.  Throw in another 12 against Idaho and Utah State and he’d have two dozen TD tosses with eight games to go.

More on the Heisman … The Heisman voting shouldn’t take place until after the bowl games.  Remember when the electrifying Reggie Bush choked in the 2006 Rose Bowl Game?  How could anyone not have voted for Vince Young after his brilliant, clutch performance against USC in that national championship battle?

Speaking of statistics, can the NCAA get their act together?  … They need to go back and include postseason stats for individuals as far back as the record books will allow.  Either that, or don’t include postseason stats for anyone.  It’s ridiculous that bowl game statistics prior to 1992 are not included.  What gives?  One example:  BYU’s Ty Detmer should have something like 7 more TD passes and 1,175 extra yards added to his career stats if his bowl game performances were included.  He still holds the NCAA bowl record for total offense with 594 yards (576 passing yards) against Penn State in the 1989 Holiday Bowl.

More Detmer … This Saturday in their home opener against the Arizona Wildcats, BYU will officially retire jersey #14 worn by All-American QBs Ty Detmer (1988-1991) and Gifford Nielsen (1975-1977).  Both of these former Cougars have previously been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.


Worst name change… D-1A is now supposed to be called the “FBS.”  Never mind what they are calling D-1AA.  Until further notice, I’m sticking with the traditional terms we are all familiar with for both divisions.  Who came up with this idiotic change anyway?

Biggest impact rule change … Moving the point of the kick-offs back to the 30-yard line will result in two major increases this year:  kick-offs returned for touchdowns and injuries.  Longer gains and more pain.

Coaches on the hottest seats … Arizona’s Mike Stoops, Virginia’s Al Groh, and Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom.

Potential BCS Busters … Hawaii, TCU, BYU, and Boise State.

Highest rated academic conference in D-1A? … The Big Ten.

Best 2007 Preview magazine … Phil Steele’s steals every category across the board.

The sports information staff that outshines the rest … Notre Dame.  A friendly, efficient team—always first with their media guides in the mail.

Savviest early season scheduling … USC will vandalize Idaho this week, then they’ll have a bye week to get ready for Nebraska on the road.

Quickest fall from grace … University of Florida president Bernie Machen began campaigning for a college football playoff last year even before the Gators won the title.  His proposal was shot down without any fanfare by his conference colleagues in late May at the SEC Spring Meeting.

Upset Specials of the Week… Wyoming Cowboys over Virginia Cavaliers … Toledo Rockets over Purdue Boilermakers … Utah Utes over Oregon State Beavers … Central Michigan Chippewas over Kansas Jayhawks …