UW second-year football coach Jimmy Lake met the media for his first weekly news conference of the 2021 season Monday. Below is a full transcript of Lake’s media session.

“OK, good afternoon. All right, football is back. We are extremely excited. The whole building is buzzing. Our game week for 2021 … it’s been a normal offseason, a normal spring football, a normal training camp. We built a lot of chemistry throughout training camp. I thought it was a very successful training camp. We got better in all three phases. I thought players took the next step in their game on both sides of the ball. But now it’s time to sharpen up the last details and get ready for our opening opponent this weekend. But we’re excited to go out there in front of our fans and not play in front of cardboard cutouts and actually feel the energy and feel the juice from the greatest fans in the country. Questions?”

On how well he knows Montana coach Bobby Hauck:

“I don’t know him that well. We’ve met a handful of times but really no communication. We’re not very close.”

On what Kamren Fabiculanan has done this offseason to earn a starting job:

“It all comes back to what they do in practice. We’ve been able to trust him with the calls. He’s been in the right position. He’s tackled well. He’s been where he’s supposed to be, made plays on the football. He’s been here now for a couple years and it’s been fun to watch his progression, and now we’re excited for him to go out there and get his first start.”

On whether Fabiculanan will start at safety, with Brendan Radley-Hiles at nickelback:

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“We’ll see. We’ll see on Saturday.”

On how Cooper McDonald has progressed since 2020 to claim a starting spot:

“If you remember, I mentioned last year that the game did not seem too big for him. He was out there as a true freshman, making plays. He was out there in practice, running with the ones. You could just see the look in his eye. He was ready to play some big-time football. Now he’s a better player now than he was last year. He’s made a bunch of plays, and he’s going to make some more plays now that he gets to hit a quarterback. Our quarterbacks are completely off-limits. So it’s going to be fun really for that whole defensive front now to have that leash taken off, so to speak. They go to actually go hit the quarterback. I’m excited for those guys, because all they hear from me every play is, ‘Stay away from the quarterback! Stay away! Don’t touch him. You’re too close. Don’t breathe on him.’ So now they get to go hit somebody with a different jersey color in the strike zone, legally, and not after the whistle.”

On how close the outside linebacker competition was:

“We feel really good about our depth at that position right now, and just because Cooper is slated as a starter … all those guys are going to play. You’re going to see all those guys play on Saturday evening. So you’re correct, it was a hotly contested battle — very, very competitive. But at that position, just like a lot of our positions, you see guys roll in. When those guys need to get a break, get on the sideline, get refreshed, get regrouped, get their legs back under them, those other guys are going to be in there. We’re going to get a bunch of guys opportunities, especially at our defensive end/outside linebacker position.”

On UW’s running back depth:

“Oh, yeah. The stable is deep. The stable is deep. We have a bunch of players who have played a lot of football for us in our running back room. It’s always nice to get a fresh guy back there going at our opponent. So you guys see the depth chart there, guys with a bunch of carries, that have made a bunch of plays for us over the years. You’ll see those guys on Saturday.”

On what Lake sees as the strength of this team:

“The first thing is our offensive line. We are extremely veteran, talented and deep — very deep — on our offensive line. I would say that is a definite strength of ours. I’ll leave it right there.”

On how UW leverages its depth on the offensive line:

“With our offensive line we have everybody back from last year, for one, and we also have guys back from the year before who have a lot of starting experience for us. Then we’ve added pieces to our offensive line as well, and they’ve been able to come in here and learn what we do and learn from some veteran guys. I think the talent we have in that room … some of our backups and even backup backup guys could start for a lot of places. So it is a pleasure to have so much depth at that position, which I think is the most critical position on a football team and is by far my favorite position.”

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On if Jimmy thinks his experience will be different to be the head coach with fans in the stadium:

“Yeah, it’ll be more enjoyable. That’s what it’ll be. We missed them last year. We missed our fans. We missed that energy, that boost that they give us. I know our players in the spring game, when we had the 9,000 fans, how much they appreciated that and how much they felt that energy. So hopefully we get a packed house on Saturday. Our staff, our players, we cannot wait for that moment to hear their cheers and go out there and make plays for them and play smart football and get them out of their seats cheering for the Dawgs. We’re all excited about it.”

On returners Trent McDuffie and Giles Jackson:

“I’ll start with Trent. I really love when defensive guys are return guys. I really like that. It really shows off their ball skills, their ball awareness. Trent’s one of our faster players. He’s really good with the ball in his hands. So that’s going to be exciting. It was exciting last year. He only had a couple to field that he was able to return. He had a really good one against Oregon State. But I know our opponents are going to take notice when 22 is standing back there. He’s lethal with the ball in his hands, and I know he’s excited and hungry for the opportunity to go make some plays. And then Giles Jackson is obviously explosive. He’s also one of our faster players, who’s already done it for another team. Now he’s shown that he’s very, very capable of doing that, which we’ve seen in practice. You’ll see him back there. He’s another guy where if you don’t fit it just right, he could take it the distance.”

On running back Cameron Davis’ ability as a kick returner:

“You see Cam in the running game, he’s so explosive. I mean, the hole opens, he just hits it in the running game. And so very, very similar to kickoff return. He has that next gear where he can take it to the house. And so we put him back there, he’s strong, he’s big. We feel he’s going to be a difficult return man for a kickoff team to bring down just with one guy. They’re going to need multiple guys to bring him down. Just like they do on defense. It’s hard to bring him down. So, we’re very, very excited about him back there. Just gives us another threat to try to really give our offense some great field position or get our PAT unit out there. That would be nice. He just goes out and then PAT field goal, let’s go, let’s get out there and kick the extra point.”

On what wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk has done since arriving in the spring to solidify a starting spot:

“I am so proud of that young man. He has put so much work in. I don’t know, it might go back and forth who’s first in the building, either Eddy (Edefuan Ulofoshio) or Ja’Lynn Polk. He is here first thing in the morning and he is just ready to grind, ready to learn, ready to watch his reps from the day before. How can he get better? What’s the install in for the day? What I love about him is the mentality that he brings every single day to practice. He’s tough. He goes up and he makes the tough catches with DBs draped all over him, grabbing him, pulling his jersey off, and he still makes those catches. He knows who to block in the run game. I told him the other day, his mentality, he could play DB for us. He really could. He could play safety, he could pay nickel, he could play corner. And I want all of our receivers to be that way. But, he’s also game-changing in catching the football. He’s hard to rip the ball out of his hands. So, I’m very excited about the work that he’s put in, and now let’s go do it when the lights are shining bright this Saturday night.”

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On whether wide receiver Rome Odunze had the camp the coaches were hoping for:

“He did. And some. He took on a leadership role. Another guy that all you’ve got to do is just watch him, you can see his work ethic is just off the charts. He’s hard to cover, he’s got size that you can’t teach, he has speed that you can’t teach, and he has the right mentality. Another guy that I’m extremely excited about. And now, we’ve got to go do it when the lights are shining. But, I’m very excited about Rome. He had an excellent training camp.”

On the biggest area of improvement for Odunze from last year to this year:

“I think just more, now he doesn’t have to think about where he’s lining up, or what the route is, or where he’s supposed to break the route off of, now he’s just doing it because he’s done it so many times. So now I see him actually coaching the new guys now. ‘Hey, no you’re supposed to do this, you’re supposed to do that.’ So just, when you’re the new guy you have to absorb the playbook. You can’t just say, ‘Hey, I’m 6-3, I’m fast, I’m going to go make the play.’ You’ve got to know where to line up. Well, if you get this coverage, now you’ve got to run this route, if you get this coverage, you’ve got to run that route. What’s the depth? And then, oh, by the way, go catch the football. And so I think he’s passed all of those obstacles now. Now he’s going to play and he’s going to play fast. And so that’s where he’s at now. And I think we’re all going to see it on Saturday and beyond.”

On the difference between now and a year ago with the offensive install:

“Oh yeah, and a quarterback that’s never played college football before. I mean, there was about a million obstacles last year. Brand new offense and everything that you just said Softy, so yes, we are light years away from where we were last year. We have a quarterback that’s got starts under his belt, he knows what it feels like, we have an install now that is, we have installs on top of installs, three, four, five plays ahead now, not just the beginning play that we all just have to learn. A complete offseason, spring football, a complete training camp, we never missed a practice due to anything like we did last year in 2020. There’s no pauses, no nothing. We’ve always got to get better. We’re not going to be perfect. We’ve always got to get better. But, we are light years away from where we were last year.”

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On how much more difficult roster management is in the transfer portal era:

“It’s more difficult. It’s more difficult. But, it’s part of the job. It’s part of the job. We’re not going to make excuses, not make explanations, things change and this is part of the change. What really though is the big obstacle right now is the pause year that the NCAA gave all of the student athletes last year. So everybody’s on pause, so who’s a senior? Who’s a junior? Who’s going to leave early to the NFL? Are they going to stay for their senior year or are they going to leave? So that’s kind of even more of an obstacle of adjusting. Do you have extra scholarships? Do you not have extra scholarships? But, you’re right, the transfer portal as well, maybe someone you thought was going to stay is leaving and now they leave and then you have to replace that guy with somebody else if there’s a viable candidate in the transfer portal.”

On if they have an assistant coach dedicated to the transfer portal:

“Without giving away the details of how we do it, because I think we do it really, really well. But, we’re all a part of it. Our recruiting staff, our coaches, and of course myself, we’re all a part of who’s available, who’s not available and of course who may be also jumping in the portal from our team.”

On Lake’s confidence level in freshman quarterback Sam Huard, should he have to play at any point:

“Yeah, I think he’s put in the preparation. He’s made a bunch of plays here in training camp. You guys saw it. He even took more of a step in this last week and a half. Took a bunch of reps. My confidence level would be high. This time last year guys we had Dylan Morris who never played a college-football game. I’m going to keep saying that over and over. Just want to remind you guys. We had a starting quarterback who never played college football before. JD (John Donovan) and the crew did a really nice job of making him operate and making him successful. So, my confidence level would be extremely high if Sam Huard was in there. I know we would prepare him. We wouldn’t put him in adverse situations, and we would lean on our strengths as an offense and make sure we’re getting plays to him where he can be successful.” 

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On how much quarterback Dylan Morris has improved from last season until now:

“He is a way better football player. I just keep saying it. Now he’s started four college football games, where last year he had never played football ever in a college football atmosphere. He just went through a whole offseason that was regular for the first time. 2020 was not regular, as we all know. He has taken his game to new heights. I don’t want to put a metric on it. But I know you guys saw it. All the open practices that we had open, you guys saw his progression. He makes the throws. In turn, what you guys don’t see is he gets us in good plays. We call a bad play into a front that we don’t want to go into, or a coverage or blitz, he gets us out of that play and gets us into a really successful play. Turns into a touchdown. Turns into a 20-yard gain. Those are the things you can’t see obviously from the naked eye. But what you guys did see was an accurate thrower. A quarterback making really good decisions and getting it to the open player and not forcing it. So, he’s a way better player — and he should be — from 2020 to 2021.”

On how Lake would describe Morris’ leadership and the respect he commands:

“The guys gravitate towards him because they know how much work he puts into it. They know that it means a lot to him. They see the preparation that he goes through. Again, another player that’s hear early, that’s always up in the hallways. He’s here late. They see when he commands the offense he knows the adjustments. He knows where we’re supposed to run it, where we’re supposed to throw it. So, there’s a lot of respect. Not only on the offensive side of the ball but on the defensive side of the ball. He makes a bunch of plays and puts the work in. So, his leadership, right now, he’s still a younger guy but everyone gravitates to him because he’s such a gym rat.” 

 On if he would redshirt Sam Huard if possible:

“So, those are open discussions throughout every single position group. I never say I want to redshirt anybody. If we need somebody to play to help us be really good in 2021, at any position, those guys need to be prepared and ready to go. So, I never want to say, ‘oh I want to redshirt that guy’. What I want to do is I want to win the Pac-12 Championship and go to a big bowl game, and so does all of our team. So, whatever we need to do to do that that’s what we’re going to do.” 

 On freshman walk-on quarterback Camden Sirmon’s impact on the team:

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“Yeah, Camden. He’s a player that’s very athletic, for one. Very athletic. Can probably play multiple positions. Does have a live arm. Another guy I just love because he’s such a hard worker — we call them bricklayers. He’s a bricklayer. A guy who works his tail off and when he gets his opportunity he goes in there and makes plays. This guy is a freshman that’s out there throwing it to who he’s supposed to. He pulls the ball and runs the ball. Our defense can’t catch him. He’s definitely an added addition to our program and we want to keep adding tough, physical, hardworking players on campus.” 

 On why this team is in a better position to win a big bowl game now:

“I mean, that’s what we work for every single day. I don’t want to just sit up here and talk about it. We got to go do it. We feel like we’ve got schematics in all three phases that are going to help us. We feel we’ve recruited and have players here that’re going to help us win the Pac-12 Championship, first, and then go to that big bowl game and win that game. So, we feel we are on that right track. But guess what? We have to go do it. So, I don’t want to sit up here and talk about it. We need to go show it. Five months from now that’s what we’re doing.” 

 On the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC alliance and if a nonconference game against a team like Montana is an endangered species:

“That’s interesting. I don’t think so. I think — and again this is probably more of an athletic director question in terms of scheduling an all that — there’s always going to be a place for this somewhere, whether it’s us or in another conference. I know the SEC they love to play Northwestern Direction State. I mean, those guys play two of them a year, but nobody talks about that. So, I think it’s still here to stay. I think it’s great. I think it’s great. I played and coached at an FCS program. It’s great for college football. I don’t think those should stop, at all. Even with this alliance I don’t think the main goal is for all your nonconference games to be against all those teams. I don’t think that’s the goal. Especially geographically it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So, when you have teams out here on the West Coast, whether it’s an FCS or Mountain West team. That makes more sense for the Pac-12 to play an FCS team out west, a Mountain West team out west. Just like you’ve seen this last weekend with UCLA playing Hawaii. The games that are coming up this weekend, in terms of us playing Montana (or) San Jose State playing USC. Those are geographical games that make sense. So, I don’t see those going away, but that’s just coming from me. I’m that way.”

On asking their offensive skill players to block:

“Football fundamentals on the offensive side of the ball, you’ve got to be able to block. To run the football and to throw the football, you’ve got to be able to block. And then on the other side you’ve got to be able to tackle. So those are football fundamentals that are extremely important.”

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On the transition from Pete Kwiatkowski to Bob Gregory as defensive coordinator:

“It’s been seamless. Coach Gregory’s brought some awesome ideas, which we have implemented. A defensive guy, or an offensive guy, would be able to notice what we’ve done different in spring and in the fall. But you guys have to remember, Bob Gregory and I have been coaching together going on nine years, two years at Boise State and all of our years here. He has always been a very important part and role of how we devise game plans from week to week. He runs the inside linebackers and he’s right in the middle of the d-line and the DBs, and also our middle linebackers call the defense, so he’s been right in the middle of it for almost a decade. We’re running our defense, the defense that’s been one of the top defenses in the country for a lot of years now. We’re running the same defense.”

On how this opener compares to last year’s for Lake:

“Preparation-wise it doesn’t feel different. I’m just really excited for our fans, and I’m really excited for our players to play in front of fans. There was just an eerie feeling going out there, we’re piping in music, pumping in fake crowd noise, and the creepy cardboard cutouts … if we ever have a pandemic again, let’s not do that. Let’s get that canceled. They’d scare me when I’d run by to go do my workout in the middle of the day and all these things are looking at me. The biggest thing is, we can’t wait to go perform in front of our fans. If anything, if anybody in all of sports in the last year, we haven’t realized how important fans are to sports. You’ve just got to see the magnitude of what they mean to the game. Every single game, not just our sport. But then you look at college football, it’s such a passionate, passionate sport and the fans are so fanatical about it, which we love. And to not have them for all of last year was extremely tough. So that’s what I know I’m looking forward to, and our team is looking forward to.”

On beer and wine in the stadium and fans having to stay in the stadium instead of leaving at half, and if that affected any decision when it came to wanting the ball or not to start the third quarter:

“No, that didn’t influence us. We definitely noticed the stadium emptied out when the third quarter would begin. It’s really hard to try to dictate if you’re going to have the ball or not have the ball. You’ve got to win the coin toss to dictate those sorts of things at the beginning of the game. I think our administration noticed that, and hopefully this helps. And hopefully this helps our fans not feel like they have to leave in order to have the beverage of their choice. Now they can just stay seated and it can come to their seat, or they have to go and get it. I’m not sure how that is going to work. Hopefully, this is an upgrade. I feel like it’s an upgrade. I’m excited that our fans will have that option.”

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On how involved he is on those kind of decisions:

“Not really directly, just notified really. Just notified. That is definitely not on my plate. We’re trying to complete passes and stop people and get sacks and make field goals.”

On if there will be season captains or game by game:

“It’s game by game.”

On what kind of training camp the punters and place-kickers had:

“They had a very competitive training camp. I was very proud of Peyton Henry and Tim Horn. Two quality kickers. And even our punters — Race Porter and Triston Brown — performed really, really well. Long Snapper Jaden (Green) has performed. You don’t ever want to talk about him, that means he’s doing his job. And he’s been like a ghost, which is perfect. He’s firing that thing back there. We’re deep at those positions. Again, extremely happy when we have depth that we trust and we have a lot of depth at kicker and punter.”

On if the specialists have to make any adjustments now that the stadium is going to be full with fans again:

“No. Just like we all do, we’ve got to go perform and execute and do our job. If we expect to throw the ball and complete at hitch, that’s what we’ve got to do, whether there’s cardboard cutouts, or fans. And the same thing with the field goal kicker. If there’s fans out there, we’ve got to make it, and if there’s not, we still have to make it.”