April 4, 2010
Opening statement: First, happy Easter to everybody. We thought it was unfortunate that the game came on Easter afternoon. I thought the crowd came out pretty well and I’m glad that it was on TV for people that didn’t have a chance to get away from some of their Easter with their family to be able to see it.
I felt like overall that we got out of it what we wanted. We wanted to line up and let them work on the last day. We got quite a bit of work ones against ones and we were able to evaluate throughout the rest of the day.
On sophomore QB Garrett Gilbert: Garrett Gilbert is very smart. He makes very few mistakes and he’s very accurate with his passes. The question mark that you would have coming out of the National Championship game is would he take that game and be able to springboard toward confidence and leadership with his team? He really seems to have been able to do that. The team trusts him. They think he is the guy and at his age and not starting a game before, that’s pretty impressive for him.
On the running backs: When you think that Vondrell (McGee) didn’t play because of a shoulder, Cody Johnson didn’t play because of a hamstring, you still had four backs that did a lot of good things. I concur with Greg (Davis) that Jeremy Hills will flash. He’s got to be more consistent, but there are some times when he’s obviously got the ability and he runs off and makes a play like he did today and excites you. Chris Whaley needs to lose some weight. We want him to lose about 25 pounds. He’s about 259 and if he can get down in the 240s and see if we think he has a chance to be a running back. He has to keep working because he shows spurts of doing some really good things. Tre’ Newton and Fozzy (Whittaker) have had a great spring. I didn’t think they showed up as much today. Fozzy had a couple of bursts. Tre’ probably could have held himself out because he tweaked his ankle on Wednesday and was really sore and did very little on Thursday, so we didn’t know whether he would practice today or not.
On the wide receivers: The fact that John Chiles pulled a hamstring on Wednesday and then Marquise (Goodwin) is not out there, that’s two of your better receivers that didn’t play today as well. I thought James Kirkendoll showed up and did some good things. DeSean Hales is getting better. Brock Fitzhenry made a play or two. We really felt like moving James back outside and moving John Chiles inside made a huge difference for them. John feels really comfortable inside in our twins and slot package, and James feels more comfortable outside. We feel like we’ve got a good combination there.
On the tight ends: We’re working Greg Smith and Barrett Matthews at H-back and B-back and they’re doing really well. I was disappointed to see Dominique Jones drop the ball at the end there because he’s improving and doing some good things. Ahmard Howard’s doing some good things. He caught a good ball at the end. We feel like we’re finally getting our strength back in numbers at tight end and we have a chance to be better there. We’ll have D.J. Grant back in the fall.
On the offensive line: I thought they did a good job protecting today and some good things in run fits. You really don’t have a game plan for the spring game so sometimes a defense comes in there that just doesn’t fit. I thought overall they’ve had a good spring.
On the backup quarterbacks: When you look at it, you’ve still got to separate the quarterbacks more. I thought Sherrod (Harris) has done okay in the spring, the young guys have been up and down, so we’ve got to make a decision there by summer, let the young guys have their summer work with seven-on-seven and come back and see if they can get in the mix to push Sherrod, because we’re still not consistent at backup quarterback like we need to be.
On handling the incoming recruiting class: One of the huge things that we’ve got to do a good job of is taking the young ones who are so talented that will be here in June, and in August mix them in with the team without hurting your team morale and chemistry. Usually your morale and chemistry is with the bottom third of your team, and you’re going to have some guys that get beat out by some of these younger guys. That’s a tough thing and we’re going to have to manage all that and they’re going to have to manage it. We’ll talk to them about it over the next two weeks.
On players held out of today’s game: (Nolan) Brewster and neither Acho played today because Emmanuel’s getting over his surgery, he practiced quite a bit. Sam, we just held out like we did Sergio (Kindle) last year, and then Nolan was not able to practice. And then you’ll add Mason Walters back to the offensive line in the fall. He should be 100 percent so that should help in those numbers.
On the defensive line: We’re really doing some good things at defensive end. Alex Okafor’s had a great spring. Sam Acho is developing into an outstanding leader. We’re still thin at defensive tackle. Kheeston Randall is playing like Lamarr (Houston) did at this time last year. Calvin Howell seemed to do some better things in the last eight days of practice and I thought he showed up some today but we still have to develop more depth inside.
On the linebackers: Dravannti Johnson’s come on and helped us. He’s a guy that can play a linebacker or an end. He can help you on kick teams so he’s made some strides. You’ve got a wildcard with Jared Norton. You’re not sure where he will be for fall, so we’ll continue to look at him. But then you’ve got Dustin Earnest and Emmanuel Acho, and you’ve got Keenan Robinson that have all played and been around. You’ve got some young linebackers that are behind them, and then we think we’ve signed three really good young backers that we’re going to have to give a chance in the fall to see how they do. I think our secondary could be as good as we’ve had. You take three cover corners that I think will all be in the NFL over time with Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown and (Aaron) Williams.
On the return game: Our return game could be good. (Aaron)’s got a burst. We know that Marquise can do things. D.J. Monroe again pulled a hamstring on the first kickoff so he didn’t play any more today. We’ve got to figure out where D.J. fits in all this stuff. I told them all, we’ve just got some guys that are banged up a little bit and I want this team to be a tougher team by fall. We’ve got too many guys that didn’t get to practice in the end. We’ve got to get in great shape and have a great summer and come back out.
On the kickers: I think Justin Tucker will do a great job as a kicker/punter. He will still do the rugby punt. John Gold’s got as good a leg as we’ve ever had. He boomed one into the wind today so we’ve just got to be a little more consistent. We think we can still be good with kickoff return.
On when they expect to make a decision on backup quarterback: I think it’ll be August to be fair to the young ones. Like Greg (Davis) said, they kind of had an introduction this spring. It was just pretty much learning what to do. Now in the summer Garrett can teach those guys, he and Sherrod, through seven-on-seven because they’ve done a tremendous job of that it sounds like over the last couple years. They’ll get a lot of good work. I think even Texas State does it against them some.
On Sherrod Harris: What will have to happen is Sherrod’s got to step up. Do you want a fifth-year backup quarterback or would you rather it be one of the young guys playing and another one redshirting? There’s not a clear-cut answer of what we need or what we want right now. Obviously, it’s Sherrod’s right now. He’s got to be consistent. Like Jeremy Hills, he makes some good plays, but he hasn’t been consistent this spring, so he’s got to get more consistency. He’s been around. He knows what to do. One of the young ones just has to step up too and play with more confidence.
On Garrett Gilbert’s attitude: I’ve really been impressed with him. We didn’t know what would happen to him after the National Championship game. He walked right out of there and went back to work. Not much bothers Garrett. He is very confident and very level-headed. When you win all the games but one and two state championships at Lake Travis, you’ve got to feel pretty good about yourself. What you see is what you’ve got about every day. Greg can yell at him and he’ll say, "Yes sir," and go right back to work. He brags on him and he says, "Yes sir," and goes right back to work. That’s the way he is with the team. He’s got a great presence around him. When he walks in the room all the kids look and they know he's there. I think he has a chance to be really good.
On what he is pleased with from spring, and challenges heading into the fall: To be fair, I think it’s both. I think I’m pleasantly surprised with their attitude and their work ethic. They’ve really worked hard competing with each other this spring. They had a great spring. We do not have an injury that will keep a guy from playing in the fall and we’ve hit just about every day so that’s good. At the same time, as I went through all the question marks, there are still so many question marks that are there. We as coaches have to do a great job of being very honest with the kids, telling them exactly what they’re doing well and what the concerns are. I really believe that it is a very difficult thing to have great young players coming in, some who will take the older guys’ jobs possibly, and still keeping the chemistry of your team. We’ve got to do a better job of that than we did in 2007. That will be a real factor with this team. Will (Muschamp) and Greg now have been around each other for two full years and they’re working much better now. We may be a different team. We’ll run the ball more. We’re going to have to kick it differently and play defense more. This may be a different team. It may not be a team that runs out there and runs up and down the field and scores as quickly as we have.
On the progress of the running game: We did not run the ball well at all last year. I thought in some of the other years, unfairly, we didn’t run it as good as Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson, so unfairly Jamaal Charles had 1,600 yards and everybody wanted him benched. Sometimes I thought it was unfair. Last year, I didn’t think we ran the ball well at all, and I thought we got worse as the year went on instead of better at running it. We’re in a transition phase. We’d said it, but Colt (McCoy) was so good we kept coming back out of it and go throw it every time. We can throw it every time with Garrett, but we want to go back and be more balanced. I do like where we are. I like the progress we’ve made and we’re still not there. We still have to get a lot better to be consistent in the running game. Unlike last year, we’re not going to change it. We’re going to go back and we’re going to be good in the running game.
On sophomore TE Barrett Matthews: Barrett gives us speed, and he has been an inconsistent catcher who now today caught the ball really well. If he will continue to catch the ball like he did today, he gives us a threat back at tight end that we need, and Greg Smith, who’s been center, guard, tackle, tight end, can go back and be the H-back/fullback who can run the short routes and be the blocker at 250 pounds. We feel like right now we’ve got a pretty good combination of both, but Barrett needs to be good next year for us to be able to do the things we need to do. He’s tough, he blocks well, but he ran the 100 in like 10.6 in high school, so he can really run. I thought he made a great move with the ball twice today underneath the chains to get a first down when there wasn’t one there.
On the competition from the incoming recruiting class: I think those are the three places, and then you look at Dominic Espinosa and Trey Hopkins because you also need depth in the offensive line and you’re losing four more seniors for next year. We’re going to have to play some young defensive backs because we will lose some of these guys next year. What we’ve got to do is prepare for two years in advance to make sure we don’t get in a position where we don’t have anybody that’s played like we did in 2008 with the two young safeties. The receivers will have a chance to walk out there and show what they can do. Darius Terrell at tight end. You’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do with Demarco Cobbs, Traylon Shead because all of those guys are talented guys. Defensively, it’s been a huge plus that A.J. White was here. As Greg (Davis) said, he should be going to the prom and he’s out there covering Malcolm Williams, so that’s great experience for him. We’ll need to get all of those defensive backs in here. The three linebackers will have a chance to play. We’re just going to turn them loose. They can all be on kicking teams but they should have a chance. You’ve got to look at Greg Daniels, Reggie Wilson and Jackson Jeffcoat. They’re so talented and Will does such a great job of grouping packages. There will be packages where some of those guys who can go in and speed rush in this league. I think the most important thing for our football team right now is that we look at those three young defensive tackles because we’re going to have to get some time out of them early.