Feb. 21, 2013
Opening Statement: We feel like we are taking a lot of momentum and excitement into spring practice after the comeback win at Oregon State. Guys came back really pumped up in January for the offseason program, and I do feel like it's been the best offseason program we've had in the last four.
I think that there's a number of reasons. We've had a lot of staff continuity since our changes in 2010. [Strength and condition head coach for football] Bennie [Wylie] and [Assistant Athletics Director for Strength & Conditioning] Jeff [Madden] seem to be much more on the same page than they were; that's quite a shakeup in your strength and conditioning program when you change what's been going on for ten or so years. And Bennie and Jeff have really done a great job in my estimation moving forward this spring.
We have got an older team, a faster team, a stronger team than we have had the last two years, for sure. And this team has shown more leadership, toughness, confidence and discipline because of all those things. They feel like we can be really good, but they understand where we have got to get to be good, and all of those things that made the offseason better.
We will open only two practices during spring practice. That will be March 1, which is our fifth practice, which will be pads, and it will be in the stadium if the seats are available. I don't think that's a problem. So we'll have to move around because they are redoing a lot of the seats, but we think we'll have enough room to safely be in there. And March 2, which will be the sixth practice, both in the stadium, both in pads. It's also in conjunction with our high school coaches' clinic. That's what we've done the last couple of years.
And then the spring game will be on the 30th of March. It will be at 6:30 and it will be right after the Texas Relays. We tried Easter a couple years ago. We thought about it this year. We talked to a lot of our fans and a lot of them said that 3 o'clock is okay on Easter, but still, some can't come because they have functions throughout the day. And we know there will be a lot of traffic after the Relays are over, but we think there may be some carryover with people staying. Only the second time we've had a night game in 16 years for the spring game, so we think it could be a lot of fun, and the guys are excited about it.
If there's inclement weather on the 1st and the 2nd, we would have to move indoors. If we move indoors, we cannot have fans come in. So that's the same situation it's been. So hopefully the weather will be good on those two days and hopefully we can be in the stadium and everybody can see it. But everybody would have to understand we would list it on our website if the weather looked like it was such that we had to go inside and could not go outside earlier that day, so we would be able to make those decisions for everybody and not make it uncomfortable for them. But we thought, also, Friday and Saturday gives the fans some time to drive their children up to see us practice, and that's tougher to do during the week.
New playing rules. There's about eight or nine - I thought that were four or five of them, six of them that I've got here, that were specific that you guys would be interested in. Probably the most talked about one is targeting and the difference that we're hearing - and we have only got written explanations so we have not met with the officials yet. So some of this is still you have for clarification through interpretation. But right now, when a targeting penalty is called, targeting a defenseless player, we are told it will be taken to instant replay and reviewed, and if they feel like it was an intentional act in trying to hurt the other player, then they eject the player from the game at that time. You can have a penalty without having the ejection if they feel like it was a headtohead shot, but it wasn't intentional and trying to hurt the player. The other thing that we understand is the ejection means that you're out four quarters from the time you're ejected. So if this is right before the half, then you don't play the first half of the next week. So that's a very, very serious penalty, and it's one that coaches are concerned about and that we are going to have to some consistency in calling it or it could really disrupt some players’ lives.
Blocking below the waist has not really changed that much even though they are going to make an emphasis on offensive linemen downfield across the field blocking back, or cutting from the side or behind. And they are also going to do the same thing with wide receivers. So more than just blocking inside, which has been a problem, if the wide receiver on the right side of the field goes all the way across the field and he cuts going up the field, then they are going to call that blocking below the waist down the field to try to be more protective of wide receivers.
There's a tensecond run off for injury time out late in the half. So if someone takes an injury or someone gets hurt with ten seconds left, the official has the right to say that the half is over, which could be critical at that point.
I thought this one was interesting, because they have always had inconsistency in the spike play to try to stop a clock, how much time does it really take? Does it take five seconds to get it off? Does it take one? Does it take two? Is the clock operator upstairs? What they have done is they have made a specific threesecond rule that if you have three seconds, you can spike the ball. If you have less than three seconds, you can't possibly get a spike off. So the way we would understand that is if David Ash sees that there's two seconds on the clock when it's about to be snapped, he has to run a play. If he spikes it, they say that the half is over or the end of the game. So if you've got three seconds, when the ball snaps, you can spike it and they will let you have a second left. That's the way we understood the ruling.
Assisting the ball carrier. That one's changed. We all saw the Reggie Bush/Matt Leinart at Notre Dame a couple years ago. We have seen people with running backs and try to pull them - that is now illegal. You can push a pile but you cannot take a receiver [or] running back and pull him into the end zone you and can't push him just by yourself. So they will call that as a penalty if you're assisting a ball carrier.
And the last one that they put in, there's something about color of the jerseys. They want to make sure that the numbers are distinctly different enough from the uniforms that people can see them because everybody is wearing differentcolored uniforms now. They want to make sure I'm sure Boise, and I think it's Eastern Michigan now, it's colored fields. You have to have a distinct difference in color combinations. I guess that means you can't wear blue on a blue field. They have changed some of those things.
The last one is that if the helmet is knocked off and you have to take the player out of the game for a play, and you have a timeout in your pocket now, you can actually use the timeout, and he can put the helmet back on and go back in. So if your quarterback, last second of the game, you've got a timeout in your pocket, he does not have to come out or your running back or wide receiver or such. I'm sure that was added because of something that came up at the end of last year.
Recruiting - we'll have our second junior day on Saturday for our second practice. I think we are expecting 25 to 30 young guys coming in. We do have eight commitments. It's going really well, but we are going slower and trying to make sure that if a young guy commits to us these days. We don't care if they commit when they are here. Don't care if you're going to come, come and stay, and that's not the environment out there at all. So many kids are changing their minds. It's never been that way here. And we are trying to make sure that we slow everybody down. If they are here with their parents and we have talked to the high school coach and they want to commit and everybody understands the deal and they are not going to visit, they are not going to take calls, they are not going to see people again - that's fine. But if that's not all in place, then we will simply say we had one guy the other day said, “I don't want to commit, but I've got one more visit I want to take.” I said, “No, we are not doing that. That's not the message we want to send. We want you to be sincere with the people you're going to see, and we want you to be sincere with us.” So that's what we are working on, and that's who we are. It's not that way many places right now. We are going to try to stand strong with who we are and that's what we are working on.
There's been a lot of discussion over the last month with the rules changes in the NCAA of possibly adding positions. We are looking at that very hard right now with [Athletics Director] DeLoss [Dodds]. I think we are in line with the Big 12 schools pretty much throughout. Alabama is ahead of all of us with the number of personnel that they have hired, and that's something that everybody is looking very closely at.
We are posting a position today of a director of player personnel that would oversee our recruiting. There's a lot of discussion about the possibility of an overriding committee that will slow some of this down this spring and that some of the roles might change. They might just hold them right now and review them for another year, I'm not sure about that. Everybody has been a little bit all over the place; where is it going? What's going to happen? How many personnel will they let you have? They have put a limit on the NCAA put a limit on strength staffs I think last year. They cut it to five. And those five are all that you can have working with football. I think that in the near future, I think in the near future we'll see the same thing with administrative staff.
I think you're going to see this many people that can work with football, and there is not a limit right now on analyst or quality control guys. I think you'll see a limit put on that in the future; just my opinion. But right now, there's not one. And again, it's something that all of us have looked very carefully at and what's best for college football and what's best for Texas. And some don't have as much money and those are things that NCAA, that athletic directors and presidents are having to look at very closely. The way I understood the new rule is, even with media guides, and [Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations (Football)] John [Bianco] and [Special Assistant to Football Coach for Communications] Bill [Little] and I have had discussions, we have not started them because we don't know if you still are going to be able to have them. If you can have them right now, there are no rules. So if you can have a 35,000page goldplated media guide, if you want it and you can afford it.
So what I think we will see is more sense put into those rules and not leave it out there like that. The way I understand it right now, starting August 1, you could have a poster sent out every day if you wanted to, and that's not going to fly with schools across the country. So I think we'll see some regulations back in place on some of those things in the near future.
Injury report, [LB] Demarco Cobbs is out for the year with his knee. [LB] Deoundrei Davis got hurt during the season last year, he is out for spring practice. [OL] Trey Hopkins who broke his leg is out for spring practice. [P] Will Russ had a back injury and he is out for spring practice. And then [OL] Camrhon Hughes will be limited, but he's been working in the offseason program and he will get to do some things. And [DE] Jackson Jeffcoat looks very good. I think he will be limited but he will be able to do a lot of drills. We'll just keep him out of contact throughout the spring.
Philosophy moving forward. We have talked long and hard about who we want to be for this year. We want to be attacking on both sides of the ball and be aggressive like we were the second half of Oregon State. That's who we want to be. You start looking at the tempo on offense - John told me that there was some confusion that I left last time. I guess when I said it's not confusing you write what you hear and not what I say in some cases and that's difficult for both of us. I wish we had more time to sit and visit.
But we'll still run the same plays. We will still want to be very balanced. There will be similarities to what we did with Vince [Young] and Colt [McCoy]. As I've said many times, I thought we got a way from the running game with Colt in the end, and we got so we couldn't run the ball and we're in a better place right now running the ball than we were the last two years. So we will continue running the ball a lot and be balanced. We will have fewer formations, and we will substitute less, because one of the real advantages right now for defenses is that when you substitute, the defense gets to substitute. I think that's one of the big changes that's occurred the last couple years in college football - that with up-tempo offenses and especially in this league, and we have the best offenses in the country in this league - people got so they could not call defenses and you got so you couldn't substitute, and you were wearing people out much like happened to Oregon State in the end of our ballgame and it changes everything. And that's why we feel that this is definitely the way to go. Use what we have done for the last two years to move forward, but keep your best players in the game. Try to develop, create a twodeep as such that when you change, you change everybody. You're not running people in and out and allowing defenses to rest. Then you're wearing out defenses who are less than twodeep.
We also feel like that the tempo offense should really help our defense, because we were at a disadvantage some last year where you couldn't practice against it very often, and then you're out there and you're wearing out. It's hard to call your defenses and as we said, we look very poor, especially early in the year on defense and we think that by working against tempo offense every day in practice is going to help us a lot when we get ready to play against these type offenses next fall. We have created a tempo environment in the offseason. Everything we did in the offseason was for both groups to be around tempo and we also feel like that we have better players. We do have a better chance to be twodeep, but we would like to create a twodeep with no drop off between the ones and the twos. That doesn't happen very often. But we are getting at a point where we'll have a better chance to do that and we have got to force ourselves to play them. We would like to play them, but we have to force ourselves to do that. It helps team morale and it helps prevents injuries, because we have had more injuries than anybody in the country the last couple years. I think part of it is we are thin and I think the other parts, we have been young and playing some freshmen. And freshmen get hurt more readily than seniors, because they have not been around as long and they are not as strong and they are not as confident.
Defensively, we have to go back, and we have to do a better job at the line of scrimmage with our front and our linebackers of stopping the run. And when you stop the run, you can create havoc with the quarterback and force more turnovers. But we did not do that well consistently all year, but we did it very, very poorly through half of the year.
On clarifying that LB Demarco Cobbs is only our for the spring: For the spring. I'm sorry, all these are springs. That's why be sure and ask me. My spring is the year right now, but yes. And I think they usually look at the operations for a year. He's going to be a guy that will be close. It usually takes 12 to 18 months for guys to come back and everybody comes back differently. He has not been ruled out, but he has a lot of rehab to do before he can be ready to go in August.
On if it is realistic to change to up-tempo offense in the offseason: I think without question because we did it with Vince in one offseason and we kind of started the stuff out here in a lot of ways. I think that's where [offensivie coordinator] Major [Applewhite] can be so good because he was here in '04 when we were doing it so well. The other thing is we have done it a lot. We really planned on doing it the whole game at Oregon State, couldn't run the ball to start the game and what we did, we ended up doing it at the end of the game. We tried the tempo, but you didn't notice it because we were threeandout so fast, we didn't have a chance to stay on the field. We felt like what we want to be is where we were at the end of that game, but with a good balance of run plays and we were behind by ten. So we didn't have a chance to stay as balanced as we wanted to. That's what David was in high school. We feel like he'll be perfect for this. It's what Case [McCoy] has always done. It's what Connor Brewer has done and the two young ones, Jalen [Overstreet] and Tyrone [Swoopes] will get a good look at it this spring. And we'll work Case and David with the young ones more and work the young ones with the twos and get a good feel of what they can do. But we feel like that’s where it is an advantage for us, we can go back to the tempo very easily. But now we have got our power runs and short yards and goal line, and most tempo teams can't do that. And we feel like we can. So we feel like that what we have done for the last two years is a great advantage for where we're going.
On if the offense will be like Oklahoma State’s: Well, they have done a great job with that. I mentioned Oregon has got a tempo offense. There's a difference in the plays you run and the tempo you run, and what we want to do is run a very fast tempo and keep our same plays. We really talked about it on offense. We don't want to be anybody else. We want to be us. And I feel like that we can do that. The offseason program, you can do a lot of things in the offseason. You can only work four guys at a time together. Always [looks] a little bit foolish when you're working in football, so you can't have a formation but you can have a center and three people to the right. So we are trying to get some mental work with where we're headed, and it will be interesting to see today. But I'm excited about it. I think that it will be fun to watch.
On when the decision was made to go with a tempo offense: Oh, it was interesting. We talked about it after we made that run of Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Baylor or Oklahoma and Baylor. All those teams were really, really good offensively and Oklahoma was the only one that wasn't tempo as such and they were some, but we looked up and it was the best five offenses in the country, or four of the best. And I think if you go back and look at it, the Top10 offenses in America last year were tempo. Florida State was not always tempo. They huddled up some. If you go back and study the high scoring and the most yards and I think it's here. Alabama has still been better than people and they lineup and run it when they want to. But the ones that are moving the ball consistently the best are spread out, and they are staying balanced and we feel like we are ready to do that.
On who will play at safety: We had a good discussion about that for about the last ten days, and [assistant head coach/defensive backs coach] Duane [Akina] will continue to work the same. He's going to work them all. We got Sheroid [Evans] starting out at corner, and this will be his first spring because he is not involved in track. But Quandre [Diggs] can play safety. He can play corner. When Adrian [Phillips] was out some of the bowl practice, Quandre got a good week at safety in there. And Duane has got to find his best five because of nickel. So we are really trying to see who the four are, who the next best four are, but who is the fifth one and who will be the nickel guy and then possibly the dime guy.
On the linebackers being important to the defense: Yes, I thought that I said that the big plays were killers. You go back and study, we were not consistently good at linebacker in our play and we had some safeties miss some tackles early in the year that just were killers. To me right now, we have got some good linebackers to look at. I was so excited about Peter Jinkens at the end of the year. He made a difference. He played like he was old at Kansas State, and he played great in the bowl game. I mentioned it the last time I talked to you that Dalton Santos is down to 235 [lbs] from 255, 256 and he looks like he's moving a lot better and it will be fun to watch him. But Tevin Jackson played great in the bowl game. We have got Jordan Hicks back. Steve Edmond has really lost weight and he's trying and he's in a fight right now at linebacker, and you have Tim Cole coming on. There's Kendall Thompson - Aaron Benson has had a good offseason and Aaron has not played very much. So we really have six or seven guys there that have a chance to step up and play and that's by far better than we've been since Emmanuel [Acho] and Keenan [Robinson] left.
On if Jordan Hicks will play middle linebacker: I think right now, we are going to look at him on outside either way, Will or Mike, because Steve and Dalton are more the inside guys. Kendall Thompson can play inside, because you still like your girth in there if you can.
On any particular traits he is looking for in the player personnel position: We are really trying to decide. We have talked to so many people across the country and everybody is having the same discussions as what we are having. What we feel like it needs to be is as good a recruiting coordinator as there is in the country and that would mean a guy that can look at the new rules and see, what can we send out, and be the best. One time we were the best in our media guides and one time we were the best in our website. Right now I don't think we are, and that's who this person we think needs to be.
On if he would bring in a person that has worked in the NFL: I think, again, we are posting today and we are going to see who’s interested and then we are going to look very closely at we've got some ideas that we've discussed, but we are going to look very closely at who is interested and see who fits. If you look at social media is a huge part of that position now; video being sent out over airwaves is a huge part of that position now. All those things are things that are bigger than they were five years ago. Every kid is on Twitter. Every kid is on Facebook. Now they are jumping on Instagram. It's changing so fast that we feel like there's a person out there that can help do a better job with their process.
On if he is comfortable with no limits on personnel in the football office: I can't blame Alabama for doing what they needed to do to be successful. And the thing you've got to look at if you're looking at college football is, can everybody do that and is that fair. And it's fair for Alabama because they have made it work for them, so I would not be critical of them at all. What I think, the patterns I see in my past in this job, is when there were strength coaches that were doing the same thing and everybody had ten strength coaches and they had everyone for that position. The NCAA realized it, and they cut them to five. I think what we'll see in a year is that the analyst/quality control positions will be cut to a certain number. I think that we will see that the positions that you have across the board will be cut. So you'll have nine assistant coaches and the head coach. Right now, we are restricted to four graduate assistants. There is no restriction on quality control. I think that you'll see a restriction coming. I'm sure that will be by the presidents and the athletic directors. I personally would elect to see the quality control guys be able to coach, because if they are coaches, it's hard to monitor who is and who is not, so let them coach, and I would like to see that. And then I think you'll see that they will have a number of 20 or less that can work with football. In general, I think you'll let them see all those guys recruit, but I don't think that we will have unlimited numbers this time next year.
On working on tackling this spring: I think it's probably the most talked about thing for the teams that didn't tackle well and when they did tackle well, you say you have a good defense. I've done both. And you have done the same drills, basically, when you do both. I thought we tackled better the last of half of the season, and you just continue to work on the fundamentals of tackling. I did think, and you're in a position in modern day that when you say anything to help a kid you get overanalyzed and criticized for it. But a young man like Adrian Phillips, I don't think we were fair to him publicly because he missed spring practice. He had a shoulder operation, and they would not let him tackle all fall and because he had been a good player for us, we threw him out there and said “Go.” And then wondered why he struggled some early. In retrospect, we probably should have tried to get somebody more ready and let him ease back in instead of jump back in with the speed in this league. But I think that being in better shape, being older, being more confident, playing more football, being more prepared for tempo, all of those things will help our tackling.
On if he thinks he will have more physical practices: I've had coaches come from everywhere in the country and they say we are just as physical as everybody they have ever worked with, so that's a farce. That's a myth. It's a fun one. People have enjoyed it, but it's a myth.
On the running game and offensive line: I do think [offensive line coach] Stacy Searels has done as good as anybody in the country at coaching what he had since he's got here to now. And I do think he recruited potentially the best offensive group in the country this year. So we are headed where we wanted to go when he came. He had some opportunities this year to leave, and he's so excited and he was pumped about going forward. I didn't like the fact that we couldn't line up and run it when we wanted to in some games and those were the four losses. Most of the year, we were able to do that. Oregon State, we couldn't do it but we were able to still win because we were able to throw the ball. I think the fact that we have gotten better, we have gotten more physical, we have got returning offensive linemen for the last three years that have worked for Stacy; with the new guys coming in, we'll obviously look at combination that is may help us even more. When we get everybody in, we'll look at some of that this spring. But we know what Trey Hopkins can do, so he's going to have a place in there somewhere most likely, so we'll look at some other guys. But I think the biggest thing is by spreading things back out and having your numbers game, it makes it much more easy to run the ball and wear people out, and when you do, then you can be more physical in short yardage and goal line, as well.
On the running backs: I think what we felt is that what we got from Boise was really, really good for the two years. It helped us get back on track. We got more physical. We are attempting to run the ball better than we did three years ago. And at the same time, we felt like that by packaging so many things, that sometimes you had to take [former WR] Marquise [Goodwin] out of the game or maybe [RB]Johnathan Gray out of the game. What we do feel like right now is our tailbacks have not consistently stayed healthy. But, we do feel like that we can have two to three tailbacks, and you're hoping that one of the main reasons you go tempo is to get more snaps and to try to get the ball in your identified playmakers's hands and by doing that, you're going to need guys in shape and you're going to need if you get 85 snaps a game, which we feel like you can, minimum - then you're going to need a lot of guys to play.
On any more players changing positions: I think what we said at the signing day, probably is it. [WR] John Harris is going to look at wide, he'll look at tight end but he can still play wide receiver. Daje [Johnson] is still playing both. I think he'll continue to do what we have done with him but have more opportunities. [DE] Hassan Ridgeway, I said he was 306 pounds, he will move inside; has moved inside. [TE] Caleb Bluiett will go back over to defensive end, and he's had a good offseason. Right now, Jake Raulerson will start at center today. He obviously can still play on defense, but his first day would be at center. Like I said, he's 260something, nearly 270, so I think he's buying into the right position right now, seems like what he wants to do.
On QB David Ash: I thought David played really well at Ole Miss under some pressure. I thought he played really, really well at Oklahoma State and won a game late which is hard for a young quarterback to do. I thought that was kind of a breakthrough moment for him. We didn't finish West Virginia like we wanted to. We didn't play well at Oklahoma. He had a great game against Baylor, and then he didn't play well at Kansas. He came back and had great game against Iowa State. That's when he got hurt. I think TCU is probably on us more than him. And then I thought he came back in the latter part of the bowl game, I thought he had a real breakthrough on about three plays with his feet. The play that he scrambled and dived for the first down down to the right side of our bench going in, the quarterback draw that Major called, he dove into the end zone, spiked the ball and had a little emotion there and all the guys rallied around him. And then I thought really, specifically, the play that he scrambled and threw to Johnathan Gray, was a great play, that changed the game. And then he stood right in there and threw deep to Marquise at the end and made that play. So I think we are seeing David Ash as the clearcut starting quarterback going into spring. Coming out of a year where he's won ten of the last 13 games he's played. He was in the Top10 in passing efficiency. I really don't think he's gotten near the accolades that he deserves. And I think he has a chance to be really, really good this year.
Vince [Young] being here as helped him. He's had numerous conversations with Vince about leadership and moving forward. I've talked to him about those conversations. He and Major hit a really good point. I think he's ready to go and he's excited about what we are doing as well.
On feeling any pressure: I don't think so. I think you feel the same pressure you did in 2010. Thought it would be a good day and didn't win it. I would say, excitement more than pressure. Got 19 of 22 starters back. We have got a chance to get the program back to a toplevel program. And with what's happening right now, keep it there. Again, so I would think that the biggest thing that we are so excited, we had to go through a process here of getting it back, and I think we are headed back in the right direction and we have shown that over the last two years. And I think we'll see more progress this year.
On Ash being able to rally in the bowl game: Yes, I think we label things pretty quickly sometimes. He got a slow start at Kansas and did not come out of it, and I think that was a great learning experience for him. We had conversations with him the next week and said, “ What's the deal, what happened? You just looked like you were in the fog.” I think he gave us an answer that was, “It was something I learned; I didn't come out of it.” TCU, I don't think that one is on him. Like I said, he really showed a lot of courage to play as sore as he was and try to fight through it. But I thought the bowl game was a perfect ending for him. A slow start, new offensive coordinator, had not called plays all year, the whole offense should have been in trouble, putting pieces together for a bowl game - the plan that you had didn't work at all. They laughed at me, I kept saying, “You know, you made one first down.” And they would say on the head set, “Yeah, we got you, coach.” I said: "You know, you made one first down and we've got seven minutes left in the half. So just be aware." And I went in at halftime and I said: "Do y'all know you made two first downs the first half?" They said: "Fully aware, fully aware." So I said: "You need more. If you are not fully aware of that, pick it up." And that's when we decided to go tempo. I think it led to right where we're going. Like I've said, when we were seeing all the great tempo offenses there in the middle, we were going to head that way and I think it's probably easier for Major to do it, because it had not been a huge part of [former offensive coordinator] Bryan’s [Harsin] background and it's been what Major likes and what he does and it's been what [co-offensive coordinator/widereceivers coach] Darrell Wyatt likes. Darrell was at Arizona with Sonny Dykes, and he was at Southern Miss with Larry Fedora. They are doing all the [Gus] Mahlzan-Tulsa stuff that Todd Graham had at Arizona State. So we are really at a good place and that changes it, too. It's not like we have got rookies doing this stuff. They have done this more than they have done the Boise stuff.
On if he feels they can win with what’s in place: We try to win every game. That's what we try to do. Thank you.