Sept. 26, 2011
• Gametracker (at Iowa State)
Opening Statement: Our coaches and players really enjoyed a week off with the bye week so they could rest their bodies and minds. We got to see a lot of great football over the weekend and especially how good the Big 12 is. We've got five teams ranked in the top 20 and it seems like everybody is very, very competitive in our league. In fact right now there's five teams in the SEC ranked in the top 20 and five teams in the Big 12, so they've been the two most successful conferences as everybody gets ready to go into conference play either last week or this weekend. Our players also saw North Texas beat Indiana. They saw Temple beat Maryland. They saw Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State go into overtime. So it scares you to death when you start looking at college football and you know you have to be ready to play each week because there is parity out there. And sometimes the games that you think are the toughest games you're prepared for and maybe if you think it's a game against a weaker team you're not as prepared for and you're more likely to get beat.
Now we start the second phase of our season with the next three weeks. We'll have undefeated Iowa State on Saturday night and then we will be playing probably two more undefeated teams in the next two and three weeks against number one OU and number five or six, depending on which of the polls you look at, Oklahoma State. And probably all of them will be undefeated at that time. Now you have to cut your travel squad. We could take as many as we wanted to to UCLA, but when you're coming in to a conference game, you can only take 70. So you have to look hard at your special teams and see who's playing on the special teams. We challenged the guys last week to step up and make themselves count, and if you've got a hurt player that you take and he's still eligible to play, he counts in your 70. So they will not allow you to take a guy that doesn't count.
Injury report. [WR] John Harris has a fracture in his foot and he's out indefinitely. [S] Nolan Brewster, we just found out last week, he took a hit in the UCLA game. He's got post traumatic migraines and concussion symptoms, which I didn't realize the migraines that occur after a hit on our testing now come out just like concussions. I've known Nolan since he was a child. He used to play in the house when he was a little child because Tim Brewster, his dad, coached for us for 13 years and was tremendous for us and obviously was at Minnesota as the head coach and will be doing the sideline reporting for Fox this weekend. So it's very disappointing for Nolan. He's a great young man, but modern day concussion testing is so much more advanced than it was when I was playing, for instance, or even five or six years ago. And if a young person does have concussion symptoms they're not going to continue to let them play. So his career is over at Texas. He can graduate. He'll stay around. He'll help us coach, obviously, but he'll have to take a medical scholarship to continue his career.
[LB] Chet Moss and [LB] Demarco Cobbs will have a chance to play this week. They're getting checked out today. So again, you'll have to look at those numbers in your travel squad this week, but we will not have their evaluations until later on this afternoon.
The depth chart is pretty much the same as it was for UCLA. Both quarterbacks will play in the game. Depending on the package that we would start the game with, the starter would be named, so it really doesn't matter because we're not sure which one will walk out until we finalize our game plan. And we're also working on our third quarterback situation. You've got J.P. Floyd, who is a young man that has walked on and a five year guy that has been around a long time, and we're also looking at some packages with some other guys because our offense is so multiple right now, you could even play Fozzy in the wild formation in situations more than we could've in our past.
During the bye week we worked hard on our special teams. We've got to do a better job with our punt block and punt return, even though we've only had three punts that we've returned. We've been in punt-safe most of the time and we had one 20-yard return on that punt. But we feel like that we can gain field position advantages on those teams more than we have. Our kickoff return has been poor. We've only had one that was out to the 40-yard line against Brigham Young. The others have been inconsistent. Our kickoff coverage has been one of the worst in the country, so we're really concerned with that. We've gone back and looked closely at personnel and we're going back and we really worked on it for a long time yesterday but hard last week.
We continue to work on our toughness. We've got to continue to stop the run better than we have. We've given up too many explosive plays inside. We are proud of the way we are running the ball. We need to continue to do that, and we've got to get more pressure on the quarterback. The fact that we're running the ball better is helping us protect our quarterback better. We're working on building depth on boths sides of the ball, especially now with John Harris out indefinitely. We are going to have to have some of those other receivers step up, and we talked to them long and hard yesterday and worked them hard last week. We will limit [WR] Marquise Goodwin's role in special teams some now because of the situation with our wide receivers, as thin as we are at that position. And because of that, [DB] Quandre Diggs and Fozzy Whittaker will probably return the first kickoff now instead of Marquise.
I'm really proud of Cody Johnson and Fozzy Whittaker. They've been so unselfish. They're taking a great leadership role on this football team and both of them have done an excellent job.
One of the major differences in us sitting here with this year's team as compared to the way we finished last year, is we're 13 in the country in turnover ratio, and at the end of last year we were 116. We had only eight interceptions as a team last year, and we already have five interceptions after three games. We're making a lot of progress in that area.
Paul Rhoads has done a tremendous job at Iowa State. He's a tough coach. He's an emotional coach, and he's put Iowa State on the map. He is a risk taker, and especially in games like ours. He had the onside kick that was successful last year and will go for [it on] 4th down so you have to be ready for anything. But they've also improved their speed and their depth as a football team. It'll be a fun challenge for us in Ames on Saturday night. Tom Herman is their offensive coordinator, and he's a young guy who was a graduate assistant for us. He is a very bright young coach, very much like our cocoordinators on offense. He uses a number of trick plays during the game, but they're also 45 percent on their conversion rate for 3rd down, so they're doing a great job of staying on the field. They run the spread offense. Their quarterback has been a key for their 30 start. He's 6'3", 224 pounds, Steele Jantz. He's a transfer from City College of San Francisco, and he plays a lot with his feet. He's very much like Case [McCoy] and David Ash for us. They compared him to a young [Green Bay Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers at the same stage coming out of community college.
They're huge on the offensive line. And Iowa State usually is, but Kelechi Osemele, 6'6", 347 pounds, is projected as a No. 1 draft choice. Hayworth Hicks is 6'3", 336 pounds, and those are the two seniors up front that give them a chance to have one of the better offensive lines in our league. The two wide receivers are tall. They can both run. One is from out here at Connally [High School], and they're both really good football players, and they're playmakers. Bottom line is they're continuing to find ways to win. I really think they should be ranked in the top 25, and they're doing a good job.
Paul Rhoads grew up as a defensive coordinator and had tremendous teams at Pittsburgh and Auburn. Wally Burnham was a defensive coordinator at Florida State with Mickey Andrews during the glory years, and [Texas Defensive Coordinator] Manny [Diaz] knows him. He was part of the Florida State 1993 National Championship team. He also did a great job at South Florida. They have a fourman front. They're not a big blitz team. They have five seniors on defense and are confident with their secondary, and they'll press man all over the field and try to bump and push you around. There's a senior cornerback, Leonard Johnson, who's a great cover corner, and Ter'Ran Benton is a great hitter at safety, and they're both pro prospects. I feel like they'll both play in the NFL.
Stephen Ruempolhamer is a nose guard, and he's an interesting story. He played club football in Holland and came to Tulsa as a junior in high school, and they recruited him. But he's a big, strong guy inside, No. 97. He plays really well. Patrick Neal is a defensive end who had six tackles against us last year, and I actually coached his dad, Brian, when I was at Iowa State.
[It] should be a fun crowd. Should be great weather. It may drop into the 60s, which our guys will think it's winter, and it'll be a great challenge for us. Since I coached at Iowa State from '79 to '81, I'll see a lot of the explayers when I get up there, and it should be fun to see a lot of good friends. And coming out of bye weeks we're 16 and 4, so we feel like our plan has been good, and also starting our conference race we're 11 and 2, so we're excited about working really hard to be 4 and 0.
On the crowd at Iowa State: You've got to give Iowa State credit and their fans are proud, and it's a great place. Their fans are so positive and upbeat. The fans at Iowa State are very much like the fans at Nebraska. They like their team. They're really positive about the opposing team, but they'll be fired up and should be a fun atmosphere. I do think it's good for us that we had to go on the road in a different time zone with all of our young players and play UCLA, because if this had been our first road trip it would have been difficult for us. But they have a better feel right now what a road trip is like than we did two weeks ago.The other thing you have to decide and we haven't decided yet, you're playing a 6:00 at night game. That's different on the road because you'll watch football games all day and sit in your room all day, so it makes the day long. And the other thing is you're 45 minutes to an hour away from Ames when you fly into Des Moines, so do you drive up and work out on the field and then drive back down? It's an hour both ways basically, and you hit traffic late afternoon on Friday. Or do you just not go up there and not see the field, because I guess - I'm not sure how many of our guys were in Ames the last time we went up there - but only juniors and seniors, I guess, if they traveled, would have seen the stadium. So not many have been up there to play. I think that'll be one of the great things about the Big 12 moving forward, where you'll play a team every year, and all of your players will go to the opposing schools at least twice.
On Iowa State QB Steele Jantz: He extends plays with his feet. He's big. He's 6'3", 224 pounds, but watching the Iowa comeback was unbelievable, because they've had trouble beating Iowa. And not only did he bring them back, but the play he made on the goal line where he runs up inside and bounces back out and sprints to the right and hits the guy to win the game in overtime was just an amazing play.
On players going from community college to Division I football: In the offseason they weren't sure who would start, and that just shows you the first game was a difficult game for him. And I think his coming out party was the Iowa game. And then he got hurt at Connecticut at halftime, came back, had a poor start, came back, and played really, really well down the stretch to win the game in the second half. And the players have to buy into that player, and that's the question mark of [when] a junior college player transfers in; when do they believe in him? Well, he's beaten Iowa, which they haven't done. He won on the road against Connecticut when they were in trouble and got behind. He was hurt, he came back in. So I think right now the Iowa State players and coaches really believe he's the guy. And he's been the surprise of their team because they weren't sure who the quarterback would be after the young man graduated last year.
On the Texas wide receivers: Yes, now you're really down to guys who have played a lot, being Jaxon [Shipley], Mike Davis and Marquise Goodwin. So you're in a position where you need to have a solid second team group that has to be DeSean [Hales], that has to be Darius White, and Miles [Onyegbule] has played some but not a whole lot. And then you have to look at guys like Chris Jones who hasn't played. You have to get somebody like Bryant Jackson who moved over [from DB] and dislocated a finger but is back in the mix now and playing. He needs to step up and play well. So it's time for some of these guys that haven't played to step up, and that's what you have to do to have a good football team. It's survival of numbers now in college football, and if you're going to get some guys hurt, that's just the nature of the game. It's a vicious game, a tough game, and you just think about the next three weeks that we've got here, by the time we get to another open day, you'll be lucky if you're still healthy. But when you get somebody hurt it's not an excuse.You've got to step up and play and somebody else has got to get ready. We did not know that John [Harris] probably wouldn't be playing until Thursday of last week, so we didn't have a lot of time to get some of the guys ready, so that will be one of the real focal points for this week.
On if the players have more confidence after the UCLA game: Yes, I thought it was probably good that we had an off week because I thought on Wednesday we were a little full of ourselves and didn't have a great practice. Tuesday I thought was pretty good. Thursday was great. But I thought by Wednesday they thought "off week" meant to be off, and we had to straighten some things out a little bit. So we're probably lucky that we didn't play last weekend.
On if they have talked about last year's Iowa State game: I can talk about it because two weeks ago I guess we were going to UCLA and the same thing happened because the two games are very similar. The way we played against UCLA and Iowa State were both poor and they outcoached us, outhit us, outplayed us in both those ballgames. The players usually handle that for you. You don't have to say a lot about it because some of the freshmen didn't even see the game. So the seniors will step up and make sure that they understand that the standard that we played to last year was not sufficient enough to be at Texas, and at the same time give credit to Iowa State because they can see the players at Iowa State flipping us and they can see them making the plays against us. And all those things are vivid in the coaches' and players' minds that were in that game last year.
On the senior leadership this year: I thought it was important to notice, we're standing in the middle of the Rose Bowl last Friday and I'm talking to all the players about the history of the Rose Bowl and our history at the Rose Bowl and we've had some great moments there and we had a disappointment in the National Championship game with Alabama, but what a great place to play and most people don't get this opportunity and you should take it and enjoy it today and look around and all this. I said, "Okay, seniors, break them down." And [LB] Emmanuel Acho said, "Yeah, it's pretty, and none of that really matters unless you win so you freshmen better wake up." I was going to wait until tomorrow, but if you're that fired up. . . I think it was pretty much the older ones taking the younger ones under their wing and saying, understand, now, this isn't a joy trip. Because I do want the guys to have fun on trips, and I do want them to see different parts of the country. I'm not sure how many of our players have ever been to Iowa, so it'll be a unique experience for them. Some of the freshmen last week were saying can I be in a window seat so I can see LA? I want to see the mountains as we're going across. Then when it's time to play, they've got to play.
On Iowa State's success this year: I think they've upgraded their speed so much. That's what happened. You used to be able to beat Iowa State because they couldn't run with you. And right now [former Iowa State head coach] Gene Chizik did some of this because they've got speed that are older guys that were there when he was there, and Paul has done a great job of building on it. And [former Iowa State head coach] Dan McCarney had them competitive. You just see what he did with North Texas this weekend beating Indiana. He's a good football coach, so he'll get them back. But they normally go to other states because they've got such a small state to get their speed. They get a lot of linemen in their area of the country, but they have to go somewhere else [for speed], and they've done a good job of getting out and finding fast guys.
On if he has talked to QB Case McCoy about confronting adversity when it comes up: No, I think he's been around it his whole life and he understands that. And we didn't make a first down the first series last week, we come back and we're sitting there third and nine when he hits [TE] DJ [Grant] for the touchdown. He scrambled on third and 18 to hit Mike Davis down to the two, and thank goodness as I was screaming, "Get back in field goal range" as he was scrambling. Thank goodness when he came off the field and we scored the touchdown, he was like, "I was afraid I was out of field goal range so that really got me." I said, "I wasn't worried about it. It was a concern for me because I was screaming." It's one of those, "Case, no. NO! Good play." That's kind of what you do, and he's that kind of player. But I think he gets it. I watched him come into the Brigham Young game, and I watched him last week. Not much bothers him. He's got some of those intangibles that his brother - we've seen Colt time after time win games like he did yesterday at the end of the game throwing a 14yard touchdown pass with 43 seconds left at Cleveland to beat Miami. And so far Case has shown some of those same attributes.
On if S Nolan Brewster's decision to quit football making it imperative to cross-train some DBs: Yes, you're in trouble at future safety right now. All of a sudden, you look, you lose Blake Gideon, you lose Christian Scott. Nolan was going to come back, so now you lose Nolan. That's three of your older safeties, and Kenny Vaccaro will be an NFL prospect that people will look at at the end of the year, so you could possibly lose your top four safeties for next year. So it is something we're looking at now and an adjustment possibly in recruiting that we're looking for a safety now because we were looking so much at corners. And what do you do? But you have to stay at least two years ahead in your recruiting process, and you'd rather not play too many freshmen starting at safety because it's such a vital position. It's more like quarterback. But we're not in great shape with Nolan leaving the program, so it's very difficult for him, and his life will change today. It's also very difficult for our program because he's been a really good player for us and was projected as a starter for next year.
On the bye week: I really think that watching all the games this weekend and seeing them last night, everybody was on time, they were all sitting up, they were really eager, and you could tell it was fun. I actually told them, you guys work really hard but what a fun thing for you. It's kind of like a fantasy trip for all of us. We get to practice this week. We get to fly somewhere on a nice jet, get to stay in a nice hotel, get to play in front of millions of people on national TV, and we get to play a game, a competitive game for three and a half to four hours. How cool is that, and how many people in America would love to have our jobs. That's just what it is. This has been a really fun team. I really like this team. They just respond to everything, and they're so eager to things we've added. The packages both grew last week and the coaches have done a great job of putting in a little tweak here and a tweak there, and the guys get so pumped about it. What are we doing today, Coach? So this has been a fun group, so I think they'll be really excited about going to Iowa State and play well.
On if his coaching personality has changed over the years: You know, I've done enough. I mean, I'm not worried about me anymore. It's really a healthy point of your life when you're worried about other people, and you're enjoying the players coming on. You want the seniors to have a great experience, you want the young guys to come on. But I'm really enjoying this coaching staff because I can help them relax and have fun and enjoy it. Not many head coaches are happy anymore across the country, and I got into that some last year, and assistant coaches are miserable. They're all worried about getting fired or they're all worried about their next job. Right now this is a happy staff and they're having fun, and most of the staff has never even been to Ames, Iowa, so it'll be fun for them. You bring in guys from different parts of the country, and it's fun for them to see new stadiums. I was talking to Stacy Searels. I said, "Did you ever think you'd coach in the Rose Bowl? He said, "Absolutely not." He said, "I didn't ever think I'd coach out of the south. I didn't even know you could get to the Rose Bowl." What an experience for him. His mom was out there, she never dreamed of being in the Rose Bowl. This is a fun staff right now that's looking forward to the challenge. The players and the coaches know we have to play well to win. We're not just going to roll a ball out and win, but I think it's a fun time for all of us, and we're really enjoying it.
On Texas A&M leaving the conference: I do think that we're looking at stuff like that happening across the country, and I think you have to say that every university has a right to do what they think is best for them, and then you make the move and you make it the right thing to do. As far as whether we will play them or not in the future, that will be [University of Texas President] Bill Powers' and [University of Texas Athetics Director] DeLoss Dodd's and our regents' [decision]. I'm really excited about what I hear about the Big 12 moving forward. That's my focus. I personally wanted a league that the parents of our players, and our players [and] the high school coaches could have a regional league because I thought about Kansas State playing at Miami and getting back at probably 5:00 in the morning. But we got back from UCLA at 12:30 [a.m.] and it was a 12:30 [p.m.] game. We're going to get back at 2:40 [a.m.] from Iowa State, and that's a conference game at 6:00 at night. So I really think it's important for high school coaches, for parents, for our players, and especially our fans to be able to see games and drive to games. I have a friend last week that went to UCLA, and I said, "How much did it cost you?" And they said it cost a thousand dollars to get out there, stay, get back, and the friend said, "I can do this for one game. I can't do this five times. So there's no way I can spend that much money on every game to see the teams play. I can drive to Stillwater. I can drive to Lubbock. I can drive to Waco. I can drive to Houston. I can drive to Dallas." So most of our games somebody can go see if we keep a regional league. From what I'm hearing it looks really, really positive for the future of the Big 12 to move forward, so I'm excited about that.