Aug. 5, 2012
Opening Statement: Wide Receiver Marquise Goodwin is obviously very disappointed, because you try to win a gold medal and how many opportunities do you ever get to get to the Olympics? And how many times do you get a chance to win, and you get to the finals? And disappointed as he was, I reminded him that he was our most valuable player in the Holiday Bowl and he was on the [Athletics Director’s] honor roll, a two-time NCAA Champion and 10th best long jump in the world and arguably the best twosport athlete in America.
So he had so many things that were good. And I told him also not to handle the Alabama loss like I did. He needs to be more mature than I was and pick himself back up and be proud, because we are all proud of him and get back and get back to work. He said he was already moving forward and felt like he was in a good spot.
What he's trying to do is all of the flights are such that if you win a gold medal or if you medal, you can stay, and after it didn't work out for him he is talking to the Olympic Committee right now - he and Bubba Thornton - to see if they can get him on the next flight home which will be probably back the 9th, 10th - somewhere like that. So we will get him back for practice hopefully the end of this week or next week for sure, and then he will have to go through the orientation period of a couple of days in shorts and shells and be on time.
We run guys for being late when they are. We just closed the door, and that's what we do normally. He will have the orientation period back when he gets back, because he's in the 105 [team members], and he'll have to have a couple of days in shoulder pads and shorts before he can be back in full gear and none that have should be a problem.
As we speak now, Sany Richards-Ross is getting ready to run and hopefully will have a gold medal for us from her standpoint.
From an injury standpoint. [DB] Adrian Phillips, [DE] Jackson Jeffcoat and [TE] Greg Daniels will be released so they will be full in practice. [CB] Quandre Diggs, [WR] Bryant Jackson, [TE] Caleb Bluiett and [DE] Reggie Wilson will be limited. But Quandre could practice. He could play if we played today, but we'll be careful with him early in practice. And then we'll work Bryant, [WR] Miles [Onyegbule] and Reggie Wilson back into practice slowly.
There seemed to be a panic over [QB] David Ash last week. He's fine and will be released in practice. I think that you have to be cautious sometimes if you hear kids say something in the dressing room and all of a sudden it gets completely blown out of proportion with modern day media and the way that the internet sites are. What we have always done and will continue to do, if a young man will miss significant practice or miss game, we will release the report to you. If not, then somebody might have stepped on a foot. If we released every injury or every strain to you that's all you would be writing and have on TV. So David is fine and full speed and ready to go.
[OL] Camrhon Hughes for his knee, had a knee operation. He will be redshirted and out for the year. And he will not be in the 105. He can't go to meetings and can't do those things. He's just here to rehab.
The NCAA allows to you only have one practice or one player at practice per day for the first five days. Since we came in many years ago, we have split that day up with the players and they only practice once a day, but we have the older ones in one practice and the younger ones in another practice in the same day. Again, you can only have one per each player per day. So we are within the rules, and what it does we have found is it allows us to give more reps to the freshman and allows us to have more time to teach, because they are not involved with the other players at all. So it let's the freshman watch the older guys work and give an idea and the tempo that we want in practice. So in the morning we'll have the older guys out in practice and that will probably be an hour and 15 minutes or an hour and a half tomorrow afternoon. Tomorrow night we'll have the younger guys out for the first time. The older ones don't watch the younger ones much. They will come in, and they will have workouts, lift weights and may come out and watch a little bit later. But the young ones do come out and watch the older ones.
We flip it the next day because of school, and we still have some summer schoolwork to do so the younger ones will practice Tuesday morning and the older ones will go out Tuesday night. We will flip it again probably on Wednesday and Thursday. We'll practice together and that will be in shoulder pads and shorts. Because we want them to be split for one day in shoulder pads and shorts before they come back. They will be in shoulder pads and shorts the next day. You only have 29 practice opportunities before your first game, and we wan't to utilize every bit of every one. Practices will be closed to the public as they were last year, so none of them will be open.
There's been a lot of discussion in the spring about our uniforms. There's been so many crazy uniform changes across the country right now with some teams, I think I heard one team had 18 different combinations, and that's kind of confusing when you have 12 games. I don't know how they use them all. But our players are constantly asking, “Are we ever going to change our uniform or are we ever going to do anything different?” And what we tell them is, we are not. We'll have burnt orange and white. May move a number around. A couple of years ago we had the number above the Longhorn. But we are who we are, and that uniform has been like it is for many, many years. And as long as I'm the coach, we will not have any drastic changes, and it will be burnt orange and it will be white.
What we have done for the players is we have allowed them to design practice uniforms, and we will rotate those on a daily basis. But they will get to wear some orange and black and some different colors and that's what they get to play [in]. That's what they want to do and they are excited about it, and we think it will help recruiting, and we think it will also keep them from asking me to ever change their game uniforms as well.
Coaching continuity. We are glad that our coaching staff and our group stayed from last year. This time last year we were talking about a Boise offense and Michigan State defense and what flavor will Georgia have with their offense and what about [co-recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach] Darrell Wyatt and his travels and how much will that change what we do offensively. And now we have a Texas offense that we are working toward and the players believe in, and the same thing defensively. So very little talk about anything other than Texas and us moving forward.
We are so far ahead of where we were at the Holiday Bowl when we finished because we know more about each other. [Strength and Conditioning Head Coach for Football] Bennie Wylie had two summers with [Assistant Athletics Director for Strength & Conditioning] Jeff Madden to get the guys ready, and we are much stronger. I can just tell by the guys reporting and listening to what I heard this summer that the guys had a great summer and were in great shape. We added a nutritionist, and she's done a tremendous job and we've dropped in body fat and the guys were more ready to go than ever before. And even at our coaches' retreat a couple of weeks ago, the guys were all on the same page and it went so much smoother. Last year they were talking about what are you doing in pregame warmups. They were talking about where we stay the night before the game, and now all of those things they know. We are so much further along than we were, and that leads to more excitement as we start the season as well.
Big 12 in my estimation, stronger than ever. You take two conference champions and two teams that have been players in the BCS for the last couple of years and add them to the league, and it gives you two of the best teams in the country in TCU and West Virginia. Those will be great games for our fans. I've never been to Morgantown but heard that it's a wonderful atmosphere and tough place to play. I've never been to TCU since I've been at Texas. We went when we were at North Carolina, but they were not near as good then, and that atmosphere will be good at both of those places. I'm excited that we are going back and sounds like we are playing on Thanksgiving again. Like that for our players, and I like it for the fans and I would like for that tradition to continue to stay alive.
Twitter and Facebook, a lot of talk with the coaches, as I've talked to other coaches around the country, should they be on it or not be on it. We feel like it's all right as a student to be on it, and it's a means that young people are learning to communicate. And it's there and it's not going to change. And it's something that it may get different, but will always in our lifetime now have things like this for kids to communicate with. It's a wonderful thing when it's used right, and it's really damaging as we saw with a couple of examples in the Olympics if it's used wrong. So we feel like, and we will talk to the players about it in our team meeting in a few minutes, we feel like that it's something that we need to allow them to learn to use but at the same time they can't abuse it. We have a couple of systems that are in place, one called due diligence, that monitors what they say. It doesn't follow their Facebook. It doesn't infringe on their privacy. But if something pops up that's negative about our team, talks about race, talks about guns, talks about drugs, talks about sex, a number of different subjects that they should not be discussing on their Facebook or on their Twitter, then it pops out to our compliance department immediately and they talk to their young men and they handle it. Our staff is treated the same way, and our student trainers, our student managers are all under the same rules and regulations. As far as me getting on Twitter, our staff encouraged it because they thought I needed to be on Twitter for recruiting, and that's where we are and what we are doing. If it will help recruiting, I'll be on it and moving forward. There used to be a time during press conferences where I could see your all's faces and now you're on Twitter and I never see you anymore. I see the top of your head when you bend over and start your tweet. It's something that we feel like we need to stay modern with and stay up with the kids and if they are doing it, we should be doing it. Like when Vince was playing his music, I started listening to it and it scared me to death. I had to get in the groove and start understanding what the players were doing and will continue to do the same.
We are constantly reevaluating everything we do after 14 years on a daily basis. Somewhere said that there was a big change in our recruiting of younger recruits before the 2014 class the other day, and what you did, you can't be afraid of change. [Twenty-fourteen] seems to be a great class. A number of those young men wanted to go ahead and commit and all of the guys were worried that we had not offered them. And then you get into the approval, the offer, how long do you wait and it's six months' difference, and we felt like we had a great hold on the evaluation process and we had about a twoweek discussion. Very honestly that was a pretty big change for us, and we felt like it was best for the time and moved forward and did it and feel good about where we are and moving forward with it. There are still requirements that have to be in place for young guys like that going into their junior year. If their academics drastically change to a negative, you wouldn't take them. If they got in trouble, you wouldn't take them. And obviously if they are not competing for their [high school] if they call and say the guy is not trying anymore and you shouldn't take him, and we have a right and we have explained that to the young men that we have offered at that time.
Longhorn Network will carry the first two games live of the season. They will also carry some practices or parts of some practices as we get started even in preseason. They were not up and running in preseason last year. So there were not any preseason practices last year. But they will do 40, 45 minutes of practice in the morning for fans that have access to it and want to see it.
Summer for us is about a number of things, but it's really about teaching and developing leadership because we found that it's not there in a lot of cases. A young guy may want to be a leader but doesn't understand what that means. So we work hard on teaching it and trying to develop team chemistry and trying to establish a mental and physical toughness, a mindset for that. And sounds like the guys have had a good summer in all of those areas this summer, and since we don't have many seniors, it's going to take leadership from within to really help this football team, and that's something that's real important to us. We have ten scholarship seniors and probably only three or four of them would be listed as official starters. We will have a leadership committee again this year, and it will encompass all of our seniors, the two older quarterbacks and it will also have two voted members from each academic class that the players vote on. And that committee will be put in place the week before, maybe Thursday a week before the opening ballgame, and that's important for us. And then I meet with that group every Thursday and talk to them about issues with the team. We have been doing that for a number of years and move forward.
I thought a good sign for this team was the fact that they came up with their team theme which was RISE, RISE. They even broke it down to where they are: "R," 'relentless'; the "I" for 'intensity' and "S" for 'swagger' and "E" for 'emotion', because they knew we needed all of those things to be successful. A number of our coaches still hold the right to keep the "S" for 'sacrifice' until they produce enough and are successful on the field that they have earned the 'swagger'. So we will discuss that again tonight with them and let them understand both of those.
The three seniors that had an embarrassing moment with the law back in the spring all had terrific summers and have all handled their disciplinary action. Part of that was not to speak to the media until we started preseason camp. So [S] Kenny Vaccaro and [DE] Alex Okafor will be available for you today. So you'll get to talk to both of them along with at your request, the two older quarterbacks. So David will be here today to talk to you, as well. But all three young men and [TE] Barrett Matthews included, had great summers and they worked really hard. This will be part of their punishment – again - was not to represent our team in leadership roles for the summer. And they missed the Big 12 Media Day and missed opportunities to go to ESPN for the “car wash” and get a lot of publicity. But they also got very good grades this summer, and we think that that is another great show that they knew they were wrong. And they have taken their discipline and punishment and moved forward with it and we'll move forward.
Set a lot of goals for pre season camp. What we do is, number one, would be to try to have the best kicking game in America. We have not done that. We have been good in areas but you start looking at, we had William Russ and Ben Bruitt and then we added Nick Rose, a young man who has had a strong leg and from Highland Park, kicker that walked on. Nick Jordan who is a young man who can kick off and kick field goals from Coppell, who will be a freshman. Michael Davidson, we actually called the soccer club in the spring and said, “Got anybody that can kick and has a great leg?” And Michael Davidson's dad, the golf pro at River Oaks Country Club, came out and he [Michael] had never kicked field goals before. Sat there last day of spring practice and watched him kick a few, and I said, “Where did he learn to kick?” And he said (indiscernible) (laughter). Looked at a couple of kickers, and he's a guy that's got a great leg and we'll watch him. And Alex King, the punter from Duke graduated from Duke and he has a fifth year left, so he will come in. And I don't think he will be at practice tomorrow because he's got to get all of his paperwork done for graduate school and then Anthony Fera, from Penn State, has been very publicized over the last six months, eight months probably, but the young guys can transfer. Anthony's folks reached out to us and there is sickness in the family, and a lot of things had to work before this would work for him and for us. He promised Coach [Joe] Paterno when he got to Penn State he would graduate from Penn State. So it's all been worked out that he will come here and he will be on scholarship. He doesn't count in the numbers and he doesn't count in the 105. That's the rule that the NCAA gave Penn State. He will be a junior. He has two years left of eligibility, and he has worked it out where he can graduate from Penn State by having some hours transferred back, which is what he wanted and he will take graduate work for us after he graduates from Penn State. So I do have compassion for the Penn State program and even my friendship with Coach and Sue Paterno, and at the same time this young man reached out to us and had some circumstances that were beyond football, and we felt like that we could also help him and we also need to do what was best for Texas because he needed to get closer to home. So he drove from State College back to Houston. I think he got in yesterday. I think he was about an hour from getting over here today. But again, he'll have to have some paperwork done and he'll have to get in school and he'll have to pass physicals. It will probably be a couple of days before he joins us at practice, as well.
We set individual goals for each of the players and we do that before the offseason program before spring practice, before summer work, and we'll do the same tonight, tomorrow, as far as the preseason practice work and then we sit down at the end of each of those time spans and say, “Here is what we asked to you do and here is where you are.” So it will be fun to see how the guys really produced over the summer and how much they improved. And I just saw [QB] Case McCoy downstairs. So you all will talk to him in a minute. He weighed 185 at the end of the Cal game, and he weighs 200 pounds right now. He also gained four pounds of muscle, muscle mass and really cut his body fat. So guys can make tremendous improvement over the summer and it sounds like he did that. We also try to create competition and develop depth. And that's throughout open competition throughout.
[Looks at phone message showing Sanya Richards-Ross has won the 400m final at the Olympics] Second gold medal and she's still faster than her husband. Great for her.
The time in preseason camp is important to create competition and develop that. The best football teams in the end have depth and it's easier to coach when you have great competition every day. You go back to when Colt [McCoy] and Jevan [Snead] the last spring in practice, most people thought over the summer Colt showed more leadership, and the rest is history. He ended up being the winningest quarterback in the history of college football. And if I had taken a vote at that time, there's no question that from what I was hearing in this room, and outside of this room, that Jevan would have had the opportunity to start before Colt.
Then we've got to look at what we do best and who can do it best and get some offensive identity. How are we going to improve in the red zone? What about the passing game? It's got to get better than it was. We ran the ball well. What about the wild formation? Do you use it? Do you have the guy and who is the guy.?
Running back rotation. You've got some good talent there. What are you going to do with them to make sure you utilize them and what do you do with Daje [Johnson] and D.J. [Monroe], and how do you separate the “Daje” and “D.J.” when you are yelling at them?
Defense. We have got to replace leadership and we have to figure out the rotation up front and we have to figure out our linebacker depth. Who plays safety, who plays nickel and who plays dime. And one of those things as we said, kicking game issues, too.
NCAA. We are requesting from them that we can have more access in the summer. Our coaches don't want to coach them in the summer, but they need to be able to call the kids and ask them how it's going and they need to be able to call the strength coaches and trainers and ask how it's going. You can't just have casual conversations. Most of the kids that get in trouble get in trouble in spring and summer during discretionary time when the coaches are not around and don't have access to them. And I also think that we need to require them to show up in the summer. If you're on scholarship, you ought to be accountable and have to go to workouts. If you don't go to work outs and you still play, could be very, very difficult for a young person's health when he gets back to work. And I also feel like with all of the money that everybody is making in college football that every athlete ought to add a stipend to their scholarship and make more money. There's more pressure, there's more involved for them, so I think that it's time to do that.
We'll have a team meeting in a minute, and then we'll have a senior dinner tonight. We have a guest speaker every year. The senior dinner will be at our house and [former LB] Dusty Renfro will be the speaker and we usually ask the speaker to address leadership, what he feels leadership is, and also if you had your career at Texas, to do over again, what would you do change, what would you differently.
On who monitors his tweets: To make sure I don't cuss or say something bad? The trouble with us very honestly, is that when you're on Facebook and Twitter and you can't text recruits. When you do, it's a violation, so it's a very, very dangerous thing. One of the coaches texted me the other night and said, “You really look tired and sleepy.” And I texted him back and I said, "I haven't seen you in ten days, I don't know who this is." And he said, "Sorry, wrong button." My brother's name is right next to Brown, so I hit the wrong one. It's a dangerous thing.
On leadership: I'd like to have as many leaders as we can, and you either lead, follow or get out of the way. That's the old adage everybody said for a long time, because if you've only got one and he gets hurt or has a bad day or starts being rude, you're in trouble.
On using the bowl win as a springboard: I think it's as important as '98 and '99 and 2000 and 2001. Every season is important. You don't even know if you're going to be alive in six months, so you would like to do your best and win them all. This thing is headed back in the right direction. We took a little dip, everything is positive and everything is moving forward and I've never been more excited about the challenge. We are not that much better than everybody else like we were at one time, so got to coach. But it's a fun time for us.
On if he wants the team to be more of a running team: If I said SEC, I shouldn't have said that. I go back and look at BCS teams, Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, USC. But all of those teams could run it, and then most of those teams could throw it. Alabama was not a team that could throw it very well when they beat us in the national championship game, but Michigan could go both. Ohio State could do both. They nearly won with a true freshman quarterback against us who played great but didn't beat us throwing. It was running, and the same with USC and they had two Heisman Trophy winners and maybe another back that was as good as any on that team. And what I felt like is that it's evident to me that most of the great teams can run the ball, and then the better you can throw it, the better chance you've got to be really good instead of just good. But also, I thought it was hurting our defense that we were throwing it so much that we were not taking on the run in this league very often. We were not taking on the run at all in practice. And then when we got to the BCS games, we were not very good against the run. So it was twofold. Lastly, I thought we were lucky that Vince [Young] never got hurt. Colt got hurt twice and probably cost us the championship when he got hurt. I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure at the University of Texas that we do not depend only on the performance of one player to win or lose the championship and that probably cost us at least two. So we needed to go back and make sure that we could win with a backup quarterback with what we were doing and take some pressure off that quarterback or that we did not have to have a perfect day at quarterback, because we were so fortunate to have two of the best quarterbacks to ever play college football in Vince and Colt and they stayed pretty healthy. We lived a little green there for about seven years, and we have got to be able to play if the performance is not great. We would like to have the Colt or Vincelike performance. I don't want to act like we are not trying to play well at quarterback, that's not what I'm saying. But I would like to take some pressure off that position and if he has a bad day then we just don't lose the game.
On the quarterbacks: They will be the ones to have it done when they make the decision for us, and then we will make it. I do think that some people panic over it and say it should have been done in June, should have been done in spring. I love the fact that if you're not really sure and it's not clearcut that the guys have had to compete and lead the team all summer. The players will have a much better feel now than leaving spring practice who has had the best summer and who has been the best leader and who organized the sevenonsevens and who do they believe in right now. I've talked to enough of them. I've got some ideas about what they think. And now what we'll do is, we'll tell them tonight, we are going to make that decision, not you all. So you all fight for both of them, but we have also said that everybody needs to help us at quarterback right now to get that position back and get the confidence. So the defense needs to help out and the receivers could catch better and the offensive line needs to block better, but everybody needs to help those young guys and you've got two younger guys that may step in and cloudy the picture, as well. We have not seen them enough. We have seen Connor [Wood] some in the spring obviously but not as much as the other two. But I think we will see David and Case so much better in the morning than they were when they even left spring practice because they have had the same offense, the same coach, the same players. That we should have a better group of players on offense than we had last year because we lost very few and a lot of the guys are coming back and they know something about the offense we are trying to run. And the offense has settled down where we want to be and where we want to go. So I'm not panicked over when it's done. I think the worst thing you can do is make it too early and make the wrong decision. I was reading on ESPN.com coming over here. East Carolina, four young quarterbacks, all highflying, excited about practice. Notre Dame, got four options at quarterback. That's just not the way it is here. We had people graduate as quarterback - that's the course that most of our fans and media took, because we don't have a controversy. God, you'd like one. And I don't want to disappoint you all.
On the offensive line: I don't think we are where we want to be but we are sure headed there and our concern now is that we are pretty set with first group and now we need to get seven, eight, nine, ten guys going and you have to evaluate your two freshmen, Curtis Riser and Kennedy Estelle and see where they fit in the mix as they get started. It's such a fun time for the coaches because we have not seen any of these freshmen on a football field, except in a high school game and I didn't even get to see that. It will be so much fun tomorrow night to watch them run and it will be fun in the morning to see which have the guys have improved. When you can't ask, and that's why I would like to have more information before we start in the morning, but that will be a really important practice for us to see who we think has reached the goals that we have asked them to do.
On NCAA rule changes: We are about 18 months behind basketball. It seems to me that they got a lot of their rules changed that were antiquated and right now their rules are in a much better place than ours are. So we as coaches across the country and the American Football Coaches Association needs to do a great job with the NCAA to make sure that the changes are in place as soon as we can and the changes are good for everybody, as well.
On the importance of the return game: Return game is very important and I said we wanted to be the number one kicking game in the country and punting is pretty clear. Quandre and Jaxson [Shipley] did a great job last year. We will look at the new guys and then you look at the kickoff returns that was all over the place because we had some guys injured last year.
On new kicker Anthony Fera: I met him once. I would kind of like to see him practice. He was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award last year and I had four punts over 15 yards and 17 inside the 20. So it sounds like and he [P] Alex King had very similar years last year in their programs. So it will be fun to watch both of those. We probably won't punt for the first couple of days so we can get them settled.
On the big goals for this year: We have got to figure out the passing game. I mean, we've got to throw it better, and we know that, and how much of that is play action, how much of that is drop back? How much is fourwides? Who are we in the passing game? I thought we got a clear picture of who we were in the running game last year, and we never reached the point where I thought we knew exactly what we wanted to be in the passing game, and I think the fact that you've moved Greg Daniels over to tight end from defensive end [and] D.J. Grant should be so much better and faster a year removed from his knee operation. He looked better in the spring. And then you've got Marquise [Goodwin] coming back, and he'll have three weeks to prepare for a game and then hopefully he'll look like he's in great shape [when I saw him] yesterday running. So hopefully that will really help us with our ability to coordinate our passing game, timing between our quarterbacks [and] receivers. Mike Davis [looked] better in the spring. Sounds like he's had a good summer and Cayleb Jones, Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson. Today is Marcus Johnson's birthday. So you have those three guys that were really impressive in high school. So we have just got to get better in our passing game, to me. And therefore, then you've got more balance in your red zone offense, because we were not good in the red zone offense and usually with young and inexperienced quarterbacks that's where you'll struggle the most because they are afraid to take chances. And we had too many turnovers. So we want to take care of the ball and have more explosive plays in our passing game and continue to be good in the running game. Defensively, I think you've got to strip the ball. You go back and look at every coach - end of the year or when they are struggling - he's talking about turning it over too much and not forcing enough turnovers. That has not changed. The game is 100something years old and we'll still be talking about turnovers. The guys have to understand, the first thing our quarterbacks have to understand, you need to manage the game and take care of the ball. And if we had done that better last year we would probably have won two more games and after that try to create explosive plays.
On the kicking competition being wide open: Yes. And we told Anthony that when he came to visit and we told Alex that. Since we have never seen either of them punt or kick, they were good at their previous schools, and we want to see them do the same. They both have great attitudes. They are excited, the fact that Alex graduated and moved on is different from Anthony. Anthony had a really difficult situation. I don't think if it was not for the sickness in the family, I don't think he would have come. I think he really needed to get back close to home and since he promised Coach Paterno that he needed to get a Penn State degree that unless that would have worked out. So he's not leaving Penn State as much as he's coming here. He loves their new coaches and he wanted to stay there and fight against the public perception that they may not be very good. So this was a very difficult decision for him and for him to pack up and be in a car for 20something hours for the last two days, and then hop in a car and come over here, he's had a whirlwind. So he'll need to take a couple of days to settle down, and I'm sure we can get him to talk to you guys when everything gets settled. He's been through a very difficult time. And it was a hard decision on top of that.
On pressure for the kickers to perform: I like the fact that we have got a good defense and if we can get our kicking game where it needs to be and our offense, we have a chance to be really good. I like the fact that we are not putting so much pressure on young, talented kickers and punters and we will at least have experience as an option. I think that those two older guys can really help our young ones that are talented come on, too. So we are really excited about both those additions, and both of them just kind of fell in our lap and we didn't expect or pursue either one of them.
On if one kicker might do it all: I don't know. Anthony did that at Penn State and did it really well. So, I'm not sure. Maybe we just punted too much. I'd like for the punter to be rested. We've had times around here, he didn't letter, so we have to be better.
On the passing game: Yes, we have been talking about a combination between the tailback position and the “Z”, the slot position, for us, trying to get D.J. Monroe involved in downthefield plays. When there's screens, he's got the reverses. But we have got to expand his package because it gets too obvious when he comes in what he's going to do and still have him in the backfield somewhere they can shift into the backfield. We think that Daje Johnson has the same type of abilities and even stronger within his leg, and we would like to see them get more involved in both of those positions but expand more to a wide receiver, as well. We need more wide receiver help than we need running back help right now. So we think that Kendall Sanders did not play a lot of wide receiver, Daje was a lot of running back, D.J. was a running back. So none of those guys have been wide receivers, so we will try to push that envelope more and get more involved at that position.
On the schedule: It's a little bit of a concern, after four years, after the Big 12 sends us the schedule it's always the last option we get. I think what I'll do next year is put the one that I like least, first, and maybe they will give us the other one. But it sounds like nobody is happy. But the fact that you have a midseason Oklahoma in that stretch - West Virginia. And nobody wants to end up at Kansas State in December. That is not a slot everybody is working to get, I'll tell you that. That was not a positive option. I saw Coach Snyder and said we want it at ten o'clock in the morning. And he said,”We only play at night in December.” It's really tough to get our lights to work until December and then they work really well.
On LB Jordan Hicks having a good year: It's really important, because [Demarco] Cobbs has not played a lot and [Steve] Edmond has not played a lot. We lost a lot of leadership and maturity and experience with Emmanuel [Acho] and Keenan [Robinson] last year. So I think the ability will be good enough, but all three of those guys have had some injuries, especially Jordan and Demarco. And Jordan needs to be the guy to settle them down and move them around and get them lined up right in the game. And then we also have concerns that the backup positions at linebacker so that's something that has to step up and in this league, you'll play a lot of nickel, dime, but there's still some times, a lot of times, we'll have three linebackers out there. I think it's Jordan's turn. He looks good and I thought he was good at Big 12 Media Day, so much stronger, more confident, and we forget he played very little as a freshman. Now it's time to have a great year.
On WR Kendall Sanders moving to defensive back: I don't think so. We have such a need. We have a bigger need at receiver right now than we have at defensive back and we felt like that I can't ever say for sure because we have not seen him, and freshmen may come in and their weight may be different than we saw. Or maybe a guy catches better than we thought or doesn't catch as well as we thought. So you withhold the right to make that decision in ten days, but right now I think we are pretty well set and ready to go.
On if he wants the defense to set the tone on the team: I'm ready for the offense to step backup, too. I'm a little tired of us not being as good on offense as we need to be and we ought to go back and score more points and they know that. I have asked the offense to take up their end and our kicking game, I think to come from where we were starting spring and where we are today, has really exciting possibilities. But I mean, we have got to get some things answered there. And kickoff return may change this year, because they have moved it back up and may not have as many opportunities for kickoff return and so that may not be as big of a part of the game. So that changes that part of it and makes it more important for the punting game, as well. But I want us to go back and be good on offense. There was a time around here where when we took the field, we thought we would score. We lost that the last couple of years and we need to get that back. And we need to improve our team speed. We need to have more explosive plays than the last few years.
On moving Caleb Bluiett to tight end: One thing that helped make that decision is we signed Bryce Cottrell and Shiro Davis late. So all of a sudden we ended up with three defensive ends and we thought we might have one or two. And we have got to get our tight end position fixed, and we have got to get it fixed with someone who can block as well as run. And he's a 240pound, 250pound sixfoot three or four guy that can run and catch. He's a baseball player and he's a deep snapper. So we felt like he's got all of the attributes that might be a really good player at that position down the road. And we have to find our deep snapper. We have Nate Boyer and Kyle Ashby that walked on, but we don't have a lot of experience at deep snapper, either.