University of Washington co-defensive coordinators Chuck Morrell and William Inge joined safety Alex Cook, edge rusher Jeremiah Martin and linebacker Cam Bright at Tuesday’s press conference ahead of the Alamo Bowl on Thursday against the University of Texas.
William Inge: “First and foremost, it’s an honor to be able to be here, and thank you all for being here right now. First, starting to your right, we’d like to start with CamBright, linebacker, representing the defense, as well asJeremiah Martin, one of our outside linebackers, which we call our edge position, and then we have Alex Cook, one of the safeties, who is just a father two weeks ago, so he’s bringing it home right now.”
Alex Cook, on if he’s been able to get any sleep the past two weeks and his thoughts on Texas receiver Xavier Worthy… “I’ve just got the best sleep of my life the past two days since I’ve been in Texas. I hope that answers your question. Yeah, Xavier Worthy is a super fast dude, someone who can take the top off the defense, definitely a guy we’ve been keying in on a lot game planning. We’ve been focusing a lot on what he does, where he’s at on the field, if he’s outside, if he’s in the slot, if he’s in the backfield. He’s all over the place. Yeah, definitely a guy who can take the top off the defense. We’re going to try to prevent him from taking deep shots and trying to take the top off the defense.”
Chuck Morrell, on if Texas running backs Bijan Robinson and Roschan Johnson opting out of the game changes anything for UW… “I mean, obviously Texas does a great job with recruiting. They’ve got young talent on their squad, and we’ve had a chance to evaluate their younger running backs. I think we don’t see their identity trying to change. I mean, you get to a point where you’re at, game 10, 11, 12, 13 on the season, and I don’t think you’re just going to magically change who you are. I think our plan is pretty straightforward. We’ve got to be able to do a great job in the box and stop the run and force them into the drop-back game.”
Jeremiah Martin, on if this is his first time back in the state of Texas since he played at A&M… “I was here actually like two weeks ago. (Laughter.) I moved my fiancé and my kids back down here. They’re in Grand Prairie, Texas.”
Jeremiah Martin, on if there’s any sense of déjà-vu coming back to where you’ve spent a lot of time… “Yeah, for sure. I started my college career here, and I want to end it here, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Jeremiah Martin, on what a win against Texas would mean for the program… “Yeah, for sure. I think the biggest thing for us, even like out-of-conference games for anybody, I think it’s the biggest thing coming in as the underdog, as people say. I think taking this game and winning it, it means a lot to the program and it’s going to mean a lot to the future people, too. At the end of the day, it’s a bowl game, and whoever is the most conditioned and whoever comes out and plays the hardest, that’s who’s going to win the game in my opinion. I think that’s going to be like the future brand — like of the future.”
William Inge, on how the players have practiced this week leading up to Thursday’s game… “Well, the practices have been very high-spirited and they’ve been pretty good. I think that’s really a testament to these three defensive leaders that we have here, where as a player-led team, they set the identity for the team. They set the identity for the practices.
“Most of the time as your leaders go, the rest will follow. So they’ve been able to set the identity and do the things that we need to be able to get done when it comes to practices, when it comes to offense, defense and special teams, when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance. You still have to know that it is a business trip but you also have to be able to have fun, and most of the time that takes a little bit of maturity, so you have to really understand that you have to know how to flip the switch on and off when it comes to play time and the time for you to be serious when it comes to you being purposeful in your preparation.
“We feel as though the team has been really good thus far, and the area and everyone around us has been very hospitable. It’s been a very good experience for us overall.”
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Alex Cook, on Washington being the higher ranked team and the underdog against Texas… “Yeah, I think it’s just one of those Pac-12 deals where everybody looks down the Pac-12. It’s one of those kinds of situations. It’s okay; we’re okay with that. We’ve been underdogs this entire season. We’ve been not predicted to win in Vegas against multiple teams, more than three teams this year, and we’re fine with that. It’s no big deal. We’re used to it. We’ve been through this. I’ve been through these six years being an underdog. I’m not fazed by this by any means. I’m actually excited to be an underdog. That’s what it’s all about; underdogs come out on top.”
Alex Cook, on facing Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense as a receiver at UW and if it’s changed since he moved to Texas… “Yeah, I played against the defense and I played with Coach K as a safety, so I was kind of in between those two different time zones. But I remember all the calls. I remember every single call like the back of my hand. I don’t forget that stuff. So I think it will be a big advantage for me. If he doesn’t switch up the signals, hey, I might be making a lot more plays than anticipated.”
Chuck Morrell, on the impact of having the extra bowl practices for the freshmen and younger players… “Yeah, I think it’s been outstanding. The bonus practice structure has really helped us with a lot of the younger players in the program. Again, I think it’s really a testament to these guys that are sitting down the line here that do a great job of leading us every day and holding the standard up there and being involved in helping the young guys develop.
“I think that’s part of their legacy. The word “legacy” came up, and these guys have left just this unbelievable legacy this season in flipping things around, but they’re also leaving a legacy for the younger players how to operate going into a bowl game and how to be a pro. So that bonus time has been fantastic for us. Made a lot of progress.”
Alex Cook, on more than half of the team not having played in a bowl game… “Yeah, it’s definitely something we’ve emphasized. Obviously most of the team hasn’t been to a bowl game, and this is their first time really, for a lot of guys, getting outside of the state since the beginning of the season. It’s kind of a time for the leaders to step up and set the standard and make sure these guys are doing the right things on and off the field, but also making sure we obviously spend time with those guys off the field and making sure we spend our last times together and making the most of that.
“I think it’s just trying to find a balance and find a focus, just like Coach Inge said, time to flip the switch. But yeah, the young guys, they’re having a good time. They’re practicing hard, and there’s nothing much we can ask from them.”
William Inge, on the health of the linebacker core and the outlook heading into 2023… “Yeah, in a sense we really love where we’re at and where we’re going, and that’s what development and progression is all about, and that’s the message that we tell our prospects and recruits when you come in, that the expectation is you’re going to be competing for a championship, and that is exactly what we’re thinking.
“That’s the mindset that you have to have 24/7, and that’s how as coaches, that’s how we’re built. From a recruiting standpoint that’s what we’re all about. We’re going to get to the hearts of the players and let them know how much we’re going to love for them and care for them, and for me, I want to be their leader. The one thing we all know as coaches is these young men make us look better than we really are.”
William Inge, on having played in a pair of Alamo Bowl games in 1993 and ’96 and what he recalls from those games… “Okay, I remember 1993 it was the Builder’s Square Alamo Bowl. It was awesome. Our head coach Hayden Fry at the time told us we were going to be playing against a very good Cal team, where initially they were a top-5 team in the nation and had a couple guys get hurt in the middle of the season.
“So, when we came into this game, it was one of those scenarios, like hey, we’re from the Big Ten, we’re going to be all right, and we got humbled.
“It was something as a young player, as a true freshman, it was something that was great to be able to experience as a freshman because I knew if we ever got in a scenario like that again, that was not going to happen. That’s exactly what occurred as we got on through the years in our collegiate experience. When we came down here in 1996, our head coach was playing one of his very dear friends in Spike Dykes, and if I’m not mistaken, I think it might have been Coach Dykes’ last game if I’m not mistaken. But we had to deal with a travesty, today, on the 27th of December where Martin Mitchell, one of our players’ families was on the way to the game and there’s an automobile accident, and he lost his parents. That will really make you appreciate what you have as friends. When we came out, there was nothing that was going to stand in our way as the team on a mission, and the one thing that we just really remembered is just all the fun that we had around walking on the River Walk and being able to play in the game and compete. We knew that as you go through all the years, this has always been a very, very, very competitive game that everyone was going to be able to look at and see outside of your Rose Bowl or your College Football Playoff games.”