Coordinators' corner: Oct. 2
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Oct. 2, 2012

Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Manny Diaz
On how to fix the missed tackles: Well, you keep drilling what you're drilling. But now the advantage we have as the games go on, you may start to see trends, you know what I mean? We can do two things. We drill. We can punish and give friendly reminders to make sure we do that. At some point the bench has to talk. You have to just not be able to play if you can't tackle. I will still say this. Our missed tackle numbers aren't more extreme than they've been in the past. What's getting us is the tackles we're missing are causing explosive plays to happen. We had more missed tackles last year when he played Iowa State than we have in the last two games. Iowa State had no points. The problem is where we're missing the tackles. Are we better or worse? The missed tackles we're having have been crucial. We're looking for trends and coverages, where they're happening. You also have to speak to where college football is at right now. On the plane ride home, we got onto the highlight shows. What offenses are doing now with the way they're spreading out the football field, they are creating one-on-ones down the field. They're putting everybody in a run-pass conflict. What they're doing is putting great athletes in a position where if a tackle is missed, it goes all the way. That's part of the reason we said number two most points scored in a day. It's a little bit indicative of the way college football is right now.

On if this is cyclical: It can be cyclical, like you said. Every time it comes around, it comes back with a little different juice or flavoring to it. Certainly the game has gone to a vertical game with throws down the field, usually with some sort of run conflict going on. When you have the team that the quarterback can run the football and can spread you out from sideline to sideline, but now stretch you vertically - if you think about it, the West Coast passing offense, which was hot, and the BYU offense was turning into the Texas Tech offense, was still all predicated on get the ball out quick. Guys turn around quick, catch the ball, run after catch, that type of deal. What has happened, that has evolved from the same formations to now the routes are developing down the field more. Quarterbacks are doing a great job. Seven-on-seven. Everything that's happening, it's where we're at right now.

On the challenge West Virginia poses for the defense: It's the ultimate challenge. Number one, you're playing a quarterback that is not going to have to wait long in April to get his name called. Great player. Great wide receivers. Plays in a great system for success. As a player, for me as a coach, it's a game you want to play in. Thankful it's in front of our fans. Our fans have a chance to add an impact on this football game. I would think it's the type of game you want in your stadium. That's what you come to Texas for. You come to Texas to play in these big top 10 matchups. When you have a challenge like they do on offense, I look at it as an exciting thing.

On if it is important not to get beat on deep passes: There's no doubt. Well, to make it a little bit broader, the key is to not give up the explosive play. That's what it comes back to. They can do that by throwing it over your head. They have highlights after highlights of them doing that to people. They also can do it because they can throw it short and have guys that can run away from you. It's a run-after-the-catch game, which puts the onus on tackling these great players in space. You're going to miss tackles. I just watched LSU playing against them. LSU missed tackles all over the field. You have to try to limit the damage that they can cause. What jumped out about the game this past Saturday they played this last Saturday, both teams scored on enormous chunk plays. It is really hard to score 133 points in a game without the scores happening so fast. When it's an 80-yard touchdown this way, 70-yard touchdown that way, the offense gets rolling up. That's a part of it, as well.

On this being a game where the defense needs a couple of stops: You have to make great offenses earn everything they do. Oklahoma State has a great offense. They're not a good offense, they're a great offense. Everything in their background résumé film pointed to that. The first eight times they had the ball they only scored two touchdowns. Touchdowns are what win and lose football games. Both of those touchdowns, you can't say they didn't earn it because their guys made winning plays to score touchdowns on us. But we helped them with missed tackles. What we saw, in fact after that second missed tackle, we didn't have a missed tackle for the next 40 plays in this game. I think that stretch went along with the stretch where they didn't score a touchdown from midway through the first until right to the end of the third quarter. Scoring slowed down for the middle 30 minutes of that contest. What you're trying to explain to the guys, number one sort of philosophy, our creed of how we play defense - if you don't give up long touchdowns, play great defense in the red zone, don't worry about surrendering yards. In this day and age, yards are going to happen. These offenses are going to get yards. You will win if you deny them points. We won this football game because we got down there four times, scored four touchdowns. They got down there five times and scored two touchdowns. They had six trips to the end of the field, and they only got the 14 points off of touchdowns. That's why we won the game. It's not always pretty to watch. There's a million mistakes we made to help them get down the field. But if you have the resolve, you can keep somebody out of your end zone.

On what West Virginia does well on offense: I don't know they put enough on tape right now to say that they've got a weakness. They're so dynamic. [QB] Geno Smith, to me what separates the pro quarterbacks, the great quarterback can throw it to the guy even if he is covered. They can throw you open. You can't be on the right side and the left side of the guy. You can't be on top of the guy and under the guy. The great ones in the NFL, Drew Brees, Tom Brady - if you have the guy blanketed on the right side, you throw it to the guy's left shoulder. You see that with Geno Smith. The issue is that puts some strain on your pass defense. Route A is still the run game. They had a big back that didn't play for them last week. The hammer comes up the middle. That will be a major concern for us. They have a good thing going right now. Don't forget the value that they have older guys. If you look at all football teams, it's no coincidence that on fourth-and-six a senior made that catch, no coincidence a senior had a sack and an interception. They have seniors that are making senior-type plays. You want your oldest guys to be your best players and step up in the big games. We have to try to match them play for play.

On worrying about stopping a Heisman candidate: I think when the ball hits the foot, his Heisman status will not really have an impact on the football game. The film doesn't lie. It's obvious the guy is a great quarterback. Make a play on him, that's a tape that people are going to be watching. You want to make plays against great players if you want to prove you can play at the next level. I think our guys will understand that, and I think that will be important to them. We can cover their wideouts, their wideouts are going to play on Sunday. You better cover these wideouts. That challenge, the Heisman is more of a hit-and-miss type deal. I think the pro potential, what they get on film will get the attention of our guys.

On looking at how Maryland played against West Virginia: You know, you're going to watch everything. You're going to go back and watch everything they've done. One of the great things about this offense, the reason why they're so successful, they just do what they do. They're going to run their plays. It's an execution game. They're going to try to execute what they do better than what you can execute what you do. Because they do a great job, no matter how you cover them, they run away from your coverage. If you're in zone, they'll find ways to find holes in your zone. If you're in man they are going to throw the ball the opposite the way you're covering man to man. They don't care a whole bunch what you do. You're always looking to see through the years. But if you watch them historically, people have played coverage and gotten hammered. People have done pressure, rush three, gotten hammered. If there was a way, we would all do the way to stop this style of offense. I don't know that there's one smoking gun. This is a game where you have to rely on your players executing whatever it is you tell them to do.

On the linebackers: Well, obviously our youth and inexperience is showing up. We're playing in difficult environments, difficult learning environments. Nobody has any sympathy for our plight. I like the guys we have. I think it's going to be exciting to watch these guys grow. I'm excited to coach them every day. But we have to push through these big-game environments. I think the experience from last Saturday will help them this Saturday because some of the things they saw when they watched the film, they couldn't even believe that that was them on film. The simplest of chores. Like I tell them, football is a simple game that's made complicated by all the things surrounding it. The atmosphere. The offense. The tempo in which the offense is running. Follow this guy around, okay. All of a sudden all this stuff is going on that just distracts you. They saw that, and they just couldn't believe the simplicity of the mistakes they made. But I got to coach them through that. I enjoy the challenge of coaching this group of guys because they all want to get better, are passionate about the game. Like I said, nobody is going to wait for us to grow up. We have to do it in a hurry.

On if playing Oklahoma State before this game helps the team: Without a doubt. When you look at what we've done this year, we went from Wyoming, this, that and the other to the glorified wishbone, to Ole Miss, which everything was a deception. Where is the ball? Different formations like that. Then we have a week off. In essence we're playing structurally the same offense in back-to-back weeks. It's nice to not have to erase the chalkboard. The difference obviously is the matchups change, the strengths and weaknesses change, things like that.

Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin.
On RB Johnathan Gray's effort against OSU: Yes, I think fantastic. I think that's what he's been preparing for. Any young player, as you bring them along, in the back of their minds they want to be out there as much as they can. They feel like they're prepared, ready. They have all the answers. As a coach, you try to look at what's best for us. As the season has gone on, he's had more and more reps. We know at that position, not everybody's going to be out there at all times. When that does come up, Johnathan was a guy that came in, did a fantastic job in his role. There's some plays in there, we were backed up. Got great ball security. He's covering it up. He understood the situations we were in. He just wasn't out there playing and running the ball. He really understood what needed to happen. Ball security was huge in those type of situations. As the game went on, he got more and more carries. You could feel he started to get into a rhythm. You could feel he was seeing what the defense was giving him, got better and better as the game went on. I think great running backs do that. As the game wears on, they get more and more opportunities, the better they get.

On the running back rotation: I think the same in some respects. Malcolm [Brown] and Joe [Bergeron] and Johnathan, having his plays in there as well, now there might be more. There's more opportunities for him. He continues to play like that, continues to practice like he's been practicing, more opportunities come up. Nothing is set in stone from that standpoint. That's part of competition, even amongst the team. When guys go out there, take advantage of their opportunities, they deserve more. As game plans get put together, look at what type of runs we have in, what backs fit best in those types of runs, we start to maneuver it that way. By no means has he done anything to not deserve any carries. There's just a group of running backs back there that are very good that we have to divvy the ball up to and make sure we have fresh guys out there when they run the ball.

On if he will call certain plays against West Virginia knowing how quickly their offense can score: Not unless their offense plays defense. We have to operate our offense the way that we do. We have to run our system that fits us and how we need to do things to score points. That's really all we can worry about, is what their defense poses. They have a very good defense. They're very fast. I think their D-line, they play with three D-linemen. They cause disruptions by the alignments they play. That's our main focus, is how do we put our guys in the best situation to be successful in every play. Hopefully we go out there and execute the way we practiced it and feel that our game plan is good. We have the options needed to make adjustments when we have to and go from there.

On when he would go to a fast-tempo offense: Three-and-out is a three-and-out whether you're huddling or no-huddling. It puts the defense back out there. You want to make sure whatever tempo you're in, that it's successful, that you're putting together a drive. If we're three-and-out, three-and-out, we're in trouble anyway. As far as that goes, our job, we have to score points. That's our job on offense, to score points, try to do it as many times as we can. Whatever it takes for us to do that, however we operate it in our tempos, spread, heavy sets, we're going to do that. Those are the things we discuss in between series. This didn't work, that looked great, come back to it. We just worry about those things.

On what is expected of the offense: I think just overall execution by the 11 guys out there at all times. One of the things we talked about was doing your job. I know it's very simple, a simple term. We're not the ones that coined it by any means. It means a lot to our guys that you're responsible for this on this particular play, make sure it happens that. If all 11 guys do that, we can be successful. This last game, the end of the game we had the drive, protection, routes to throws, everything was done exactly flawlessly on those particular plays. When you see that on tape, it gives you confidence as a player, gives you confidence in the system, what you're doing, preparation, those types of things. That's all we can really control. We can control our effort, attitude and preparation. We get into a game, if we do those things, our emotions are right, our minds are ready, we go out and give it our best shot in that situation.

On if RB Johnathan Gray would have had the repetitions he had in any other game: You know, I don't know. The flow of the game [mattered]. One of the things he was doing, the wild, he was running some of our wild formation, was doing a great job with it. That was something as the game went on could have been used more in situations like that because of what he was doing. But is hard to say. Probably not, with all three guys in there, because you have all three in there playing. But that's part of that running back position is when you don't, guess what, reps just went up for you, you better make sure you're ready.

On how Baylor attacked West Virginia's defense: Yes, we definitely watched that game. Baylor moved the ball well. They're explosive on offense. They do a great job with their tempo, spreading teams out. You want to look at what they did successfully. You also look at what West Virginia did to them to stop them, just start to use some of those formations, thoughts and looks as far as your preparation. We have a little bit different setup formationally with maybe some tight ends and fullbacks and things like that. You can still get enough from that video to see how they're going to play in those type of formations as well. You want to watch personnel, watch how they tried to attack them and why. What was Baylor's game plan? See if that is something that fits into what we feel is going to be best for us this week.

On what he likes about how the offense is playing: What I like first and foremost, those guys throughout the week, I like their preparation habits is what I really like. You see guys in the locker room having conversations about football, about scheme, about how they're going to handle something. Those are little things as a coach, when you walk by, you sneak around the locker room, they're talking about football, makes you happy about it. They're thinking about it. How they can prepare, thinking about going out to practice with the right mindset to get ready to go play on Saturday. We feel like if we take care of business on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday [and] Saturday, we already have the formula to go out there and be successful. We just have to execute it one more time. We practiced it all week long. I like their habits, the way they're translating those practice habits into games. It's not perfect by any means. They have confidence going in there because of the way they prepared. This game was a real test when it came to guys in a clutch situation. What was going to be their reaction? [QB] David Ash and [TE] D.J. Grant, two guys on one particular play on the fourth down were flawless the way they executed it. Like they'd done it a thousand times, and they have in practice. They trusted each other and made a play. Nobody flinched. That was the biggest thing. You could see that on the offensive side. Nobody flinched, backed down. They went for it. That particular play gave us momentum. Then [WR] Mike Davis comes back two plays later, rips the ball out of a guy's hand. I thought that was great poise from our side of the ball that came from their preparation habits and what they've done in practice.

On how WR Mike Davis has improved: I think it's maturity. I think [wide receivers] Coach [Darrell] Wyatt has done a great job with them, that entire group, providing the mentality we need to have. We need to be tough at that position. We run block down the field. I think it's maturity, his practice habits. Mike two weeks ago in practice during the bye week, he made that exact same play in practice, going up for the ball, falling down, selling out, nobody around watching. Did the exact same thing he did in the game. We showed him that yesterday. We pulled that clip out and showed him catching the ball against Oklahoma State. Then we showed the same clip in practice of him doing the same thing. It's not going to happen in games. It's not going to magically happen, it has to happen in practice. You have to sell out in practice. That's just who you are and how you do things. He had already done it. To me, I don't think Mike was real surprised when he caught it because he'd already done it. Neither was anybody else. We'd seen him do that. He's preparing better. He's practicing harder. He's doing everything that another year of experience gives guys, just the maturity level. On top of that, buying into what Coach Wyatt has been telling all those guys, they need to be tough, physical and play hard.

On RB/WR D.J. Monroe: He is fantastic. No more so than the kickoff return that he had in that game. That was a momentum changer right there that we needed. Fozzy did it last year in that game. D.J. decides, "It's my time to do it." If you watch it closely, about takes his legs out, like Dukes of Hazard over there, he's off and running. That was impressive. His whole attitude and approach to what we're doing, he knows he's going to be a factor in critical situations. Fourth-down-and-three we give it to him around the end. What better guy to give the ball to than him. Going to make something happen. He's going to get us the first down. We really felt that way. He's continually this season proved that in clutch situations, you can give the ball to [him], he'll get you what you need out of it. A lot of times score down in the red zone situations.

On who he gets the most questions about: D.J., Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown last year. Every year. That's great. You got a lot of great football players on this team, a lot of great competitors. Everybody wants the ball. The one thing that really matters is those guys understand, like [WR] Jaxon Shipley in this game didn't get as many touches, he gets three touchdowns. Where was Jaxon Shipley last game? You never know which guy is it going to be this week. All 11 have to be prepared,"It might be my opportunity. I might be the guy getting three or four touchdowns this week, so I better prepare this way."

On WR Daje Johnson: He always showed what we thought about his strength. He is a very strong football player. Two times we ran a little sweep with him. I think they played it very well. The D end got him wrapped up. He just absolutely fights his way out of a tackle of a bigger guy. Bottom line, ends up getting us positive lines out of it. Threw one out, we gain five yards on it. He's just not going down. He's very competitive. He's very strong. He wants to be successful with the ball in his hands. There's just a determination about him that you see in practice that comes out in games. He's a guy that continues to be a factor in what we're trying to do each and every week. How we find ways to try to get the balls in his hands and utilize him as well.

On if he likes coaching in shootouts: I like coaching, period, whatever we have to do. You know, no, I'd rather have it the other way. If we could be up at 45 at halftime, it always feels a lot better. I think that's the league that we're in. We have very good football teams that we play against each and every week. As a player, I think guys want to play in those competitive games. That's why they come to Texas. They know it's going to be competitive. They know a lot of players they're going to play against with these Texas teams, Texas players. They enjoy that. I thought in this game against Oklahoma State, those guys were relishing the opportunity to put a drive together and win. There was nobody like, "Dang, we have to go do this." They were like, "We've worked on this a lot. Here is our chance to go out there and win this game on the offensive side of the ball." That was impressive. As a coach you want to win by 50 at all times. As a player, you want to play every play. You don't worry about the score, you just go play.

On how big a game-winning drive was for QB David Ash: Yes, it was huge for the whole team, but for David in particular. When you practice it, you can't simulate that. You can't simulate the crowd barreling down on you, the pressure in that situation. The game's over if you don't make it. Everything falls on your shoulders. All those things from the quarterback standpoint. To do that, to execute it the way he did, to have the type of plays in that drive that he did, it gives him something to recall on when we're back in that situation. Another two-minute drive, "I have to execute like I did before. I know what to do." So he'll have to recall that at some point again this season, and that gives him tremendous confidence, in my opinion, to do that.

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