CAMBRIDGE — We trekked over to Harvard Stadium Wednesday to talk with some Crimson players as they prepare to open their season against San Diego on Saturday at noon.
Here are a few notable quotes from sophomore quarterback Jake Smith, safety and captain Zach Miller, and wide receiver and kick and punt returner Justice Shelton-Mosley to the assembled reporters.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Smith
Q: Where are you this year as opposed to last in terms of your ownership of your role as a quarterback?
JS: I'd say my confidence is at an all-time high right now. Last year I was kind of thrown in the fire, had to learn on the go. I think going through even the winter workouts, stepping into that leadership role up a little bit, spring ball, going through the offense all spring, getting reps there. And even summer, I was out here all summer getting reps. So just getting as many reps over however many months has really made me feel a lot more comfortable.
Q: How do you think this offense is going to differ in 2018?
JS: I think we just have so many weapons, whether it's on the perimeter or into the backfield. I think this team's just going to be very explosive. I think a lot more explosive than last year's offense, that's for sure.
Q: Does anything jump out to you when you watch San Diego play?
JS: They're a really physical and fast team. They flow to the ball well, and they're aggressive. I don't know, I'd just say sticking to our philosophy as an offense is what we're going to do.
Safety and captain Zach Miller
Q: What was it like being named captain? Was that something you expected?
ZM: Never expected that I would be voted captain. You come out here, bust your butt every day, grind, work out with your boys, and I suffered a couple injuries, so I wasn't really thinking about it. Then, when they elected me, it was a huge honor, seeing that those guys respect me, look up to me to lead the team. The tradition of captain, there being only being one, is a lot. It's a lot of weight on my shoulders, but I'm happy to think those guys know I can handle it, and can lead them to a great season this year.
Q: San Diego has already played a couple games and you still haven't yet. Is it sometimes frustrating to have to wait this long when you have to play a team like this?
ZM: Absolutely. It can be very frustrating, just going against each other, but the goal is improving every day, just getting something out of every day, taking steps forward each and every day. And also it also helps, they have two games on us, we've also had three weeks to prep for them. So a little bit more preparation time, so when they come in, they've only had four, five days to prep for us, and we've been focusing on them since the beginning of preseason.
Q: Seemed like going 5-5 last year left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. For some teams, that may be a decent year, but for Harvard football, obviously not the standard you're used to. How much of a motivating factor has that been?
ZM: I can't even state how much that has motivated us this season. From the second we left from Thanksgiving break, guys were grinding. I cant say enough about how much that has motivated this team. We've been working at it for nine months because we know the feeling of going 5-5. We know the feeling of seeing Yale walk off the field 9-1, beating us, winning the Ivy League championship. Put a sour taste in my mouth. We've had a sour taste in our mouth since then. So we've been working with that in the back of our mind every day.
Wide receiver and kick and punt returner Justice Shelton-Mosley
Q: I don't know if you were able to watch the Patriots game this weekend, but there was a big muffed punt . . .
JSM: Yeah, I didn't get a chance to watch that.
Q: Do you think sometimes people overlook the difficulty of that role on the team, and how much it can actually change the game?
JSM: Yeah, I think maybe a little bit. It's just one of those things you've got to be in someone else's shoes to really know what's going on. So fumbling a punt is really, really easy. Just first, it's being back there by yourself. No one else is back there. All eyes are on you. That can be a tough part. And then you get a punt, it's all the way up in the sky, being able to judge it can be really tough, too. So, definitely, it can be overlooked and how tough it is sometimes.
Q: You're playing San Diego this week. With the weather around here, do you wish you were in San Diego this week?
JSM: Oh, yeah. Even to be back in San Diego, to be close to home. It's an eight-hour drive from home (Shelton-Mosley is from Sacramento). It would be great to have all my family there, but being here is not too bad, too.
Q: I know you haven't played anybody yet, but have you seen any progression from how your offense is different from last year?
JSM: It's a big difference from last year: a lot more physical, a lot tougher. It starts with the guys up front. We have some seniors, some guys with experience. And then Jake's coming back after a year of experience. You can't just put a price tag on experience. It's made it a huge difference with our offense, from the wideouts, to the line, to the QBs, to the running backs. So it will be a different offense this year.