Aug. 29, 2011
I'm so excited about the season starting on Saturday with Rice. I remember after the national championship game, [former Texas Rangers owner] Tom Hicks asked me to come up and throw the first pitch at the Rangers game against the Red Sox. And I'd never been to the opening day of professional baseball, and there was such a buzz, such excitement, and that's the same way with college football.
I love our staff. They've been fun. They've had great ideas and tremendous energy through camp, and guys have been very competitive, but they've enjoyed working against each other. I feel like the players have bought into the new ideas. They've worked very hard. It could have been our best camp. Guys were very physical throughout, and we had very few injuries, and it looks like there's a great possibility that everybody will be ready to go on Saturday night against Rice. Guys came back in great shape physically, and they worked hard in the 112degree heat index throughout the day, and I think it's made them tougher mentally, as well. I'm very proud of the players, and I can't wait to watch them play. It seems that they have good leadership to this point, and the chemistry on the team has been very, very good.
Finished camp strong, and the guys are formulating game plans today as we speak. So they did a few things yesterday. We had a light practice yesterday for about 45 minutes. We looked at Rice. We looked at the game plans, but now for the first time they'll be focusing in on what we're doing against Rice. And with, obviously the new offense, defense and some special teams changes, we'll be in a position now where we'll have to see how much of it we can get in and try to be good at when we start the game.
We're releasing the depth chart today. I wouldn't even have a depth chart until game time if it was up to me, but we have to release it for Rice. That's just something that you do ethically in college football. Each Monday the two teams [ex]change their depth charts. But ours is very fluid. It's probably changed more during the preseason practice this year than ever before, and we feel like that it can change again by Saturday. I will say that as you read the depth chart today that doesn't mean these folks will start on Saturday. It just means that those are the guys right now that if we played today would be starting.
We're really not worried about the starters near as much as we are the first 22 in each phase. We've been able to win a lot of games around here because of depth, and we feel like that is the key this year, as well. And this is our youngest staff we've ever had, but it may be the youngest team we've ever had, as well. And when you start looking at that, Coach Royal used to say something like, "If you've got young players, just hope they're good and young. If they're bad and young, you've got a problem." If they're talented and young, you're in good shape, and we do have some very talented young players. In fact, if we were starting today, we'd be looking at 12 freshmen or sophomores as starters. Seven on offense and five on defense for the game on Saturday.
Finally, as they put these game plans together it won't be about Mississippi State or Kansas or Georgia or Alabama [or] Boise. It'll be the Texas offense and the Texas defense, and it should be very interesting because all the Texas schemes have changed much more than at any time in our past.
I'm really proud for [TE] Blaine Irby. What a story. He's a young guy that two years ago got his knee hurt against Rice. Hurt to a point that he probably would never play again, and now he will go back and be a starter this weekend if things do not change between now and the game against Rice. So he's gone full circle in these two years. He brings back a lot of maturity and leadership as he gets ready to play this weekend. I'm sure excited about him, and we all want to wish him well and know it'll work out well for him because he's worked so hard and he deserves that.
Got a tough three game out-of-conference stretch to start with. Rice came back and won their last two games of the season last year when their quarterback got healthy. They come in here with a lot of momentum, and the way we ended last year they'll be excited about their chances of winning on Saturday. And then Brigham Young seems to be a great team. They're looking forward to an outstanding year. They've got a great young quarterback that can throw, and we've got some young guys playing at corner. And then for whatever reason, we haven't played very well against UCLA. They're talented. They're well coached. But last year they lined up and just physically whipped us. So that's something that we've got to really focus on is not the conference at this point, [but] getting better as a team, working on our depth chart throughout the first three weeks, working on what we can get in out of our schemes, and not trying to get too much in but get enough that we can win with all the new stuff going on and try to have a good out of conference schedule.
We didn't play well at home last year. It was interesting going into the last year we were 66 and 6 at DKR, and we had played so well here. At one time we won 20 straight. And then to come in and play like we did last year was very disappointing. So we need our fans to come back Saturday and give us a huge advantage at home. We've got to start a win streak at home again and get back on track because there's no way in the world that you shouldn't play well at home if you're at the University of Texas and have 101,000 fans that are pulling for you.
[Rice head coach] David Bailiff is an good friend and an excellent coach that runs a multiple spread type offense. They'll be up tempo with it. Sam McGuffie is a great running back that transferred in from Michigan and gave us some problems last year, and he gained nearly 1,000 yards [for the season]. They've got four fifthyear guys back on the offensive line, and the other guy is a junior. They'll be multiple on defense. They'll be a 43. They blitz about 20 percent of the time. They move all the time, and we've seen a lot of movement in practice, so that should help prepare us for Saturday. Most of their blitzing comes in the red zone. They did lose a great safety, Travis Bradshaw, with a careerending injury, but they have eight starters back on defense. And again, a defensive line with all seniors, so they're experienced in both lines of scrimmage and have a great punter.
As far as the new rules are concerned, the wide receiver blocking rule has changed. If you're outside of the tackle box, as such, and you're blocking back toward the ball, you cannot block low. And that's a safety rule, which should take care of some linebackers and the defensive backs playing inside. Even a cornerback that may be lined up in inside. If you're head up, you can block the guy low. Anything inside of you anymore you cannot block low.
Secondly, one that concerns me a lot is the unsportsmanlike rule has changed now, and if the official thinks that any player going in to score has unsportsmanlike conduct, he will throw the flag and the penalty will be marked off from the spot of the flag. So if he scores a touchdown they'll call it back, much like our Quan Cosby lastsecond score in the Ohio State game at the Fiesta Bowl in the BCS. He knew it was man coverage. He dove across the in line. He was flagged. We got the penalty on the kickoff. Now, that play would be called back. There wouldn't be a touchdown. The clock would be running. We didn't have a time out left. We probably would have lost the game. So I think the officials are really going to have to do a great job of calling that penalty because they could very easily cost someone a game, and then go back on Sunday and say that it wasn't a good call. So it has now become the most costly penalty in college football.
And lastly, before I open it up for questions, there's a tensecond runoff rule now right before the end of the half and at the end of the game. If you saw the TennesseeNorth Carolina bowl game, there were some things that happened within the last seconds. Now at the end of the half or end the game, if you're within ten seconds of the end of the game and you don't have a timeout and the offensive clock is running and you either have 12 on the field or you have a motion penalty, the ten seconds will be run off and you'll lose the game. So you will not have a chance to have another play.
So now strategically, we're probably going to have to hold a timeout. So you're probably going to use two per half and keep one in your pocket because if you have a timeout in your pocket and they say the tensecond rule means the game is over, you can call timeout and save those ten seconds. Obviously, if there's 18 seconds it goes down to eight. That's going to be a rule to change all of us because you never know, you don't plan on a motion call and it could definitely happen. And it's only if the clock was running on the previous play. So even if the clock is running offensively and you get up to spike the ball and your formation is wrong or somebody jumps offsides and there's nine seconds left, the game is over. And you don't have an opportunity to kick your field goal unless you have a timeout in your pocket. So it's a very, very difficult those two are very difficult rule changes. The other one makes it harder for the receivers to block because now if they're blocking back inside on a linebacker. they're going to have to stay up on a 230pound linebacker and that puts them in a more difficult spot.
As far as the depth chart is concerned, as I said, it's changed. It's changed daily more than at any time in my career, I think, not just here at Texas. And we have told the guys that we're watching it very closely, and that this does not have anything to do with who will start on Saturday. It only has to do with if we played today who would start today. But the coaches are grading every play every day, and I think the players that you talk to today will tell you a lot of guys with some stripes and some great moments here have been put on second and third team. But we've got to make sure that we find those 22 in each of the three phases, and right now we do not have 22 that we feel like can line up and start for us in each of the three phases. We're still working on that for Saturday.
Unlike in our past, we've normally practiced on Monday after an off day or the opening game of the season. We practiced light yesterday. We're taking off today. We'll have our regular Tuesday, our Wednesday [and] Thursday practice leading into the game on Saturday.
Kicking game is key in an opening ballgame because usually kicking game and turnovers determine the game, and with our turnover ratio last year, we have worked so hard to make sure we're protecting the ball better and at the same time that we're forcing turnovers on defense.
On keeping morale high after the release of the depth chart: What we've told our guys, if you're going to get your head down in practice over something a coach tells you or where you're placed on the depth chart, what are you going to do in the fourth quarter? We're wanting a team to grow up and be tougher and be more mature, and if the depth chart isn't released like you like it as a player today, fix it. We're playing the guys that give us the best chance to win, and nothing else matters. And our guys understand that. So this has been a hard camp now. After last year there's not much sensitivity of feelings. We're trying to win football games.
On the quarterbacks as listed on the depth chart: Garrett Gilbert will be our starting quarterback. If we played today, he would be backed up today by Case McCoy. If we played today - and David Ash and Connor [Wood] are an either-or at three right now - and we've really got to decide based on this week whether we would play David Saturday or not. Are we going to redshirt him or are we going to move him forward and play [him]? The quarterback battle has been the best one that I've ever seen. I think that Bryan Harsin has done a tremendous job of making sure that each have had their opportunities with the different levels of competition. They've been against the "one" defense as such. They've been against the "twos", but they've all had their chances. Every pass that's been thrown in preseason has been charted. Every meeting has been charted about who missed a question and who got them right. Leadership has been a huge part of this. We've had competition in 3rd down and 4th downs on the practice field, and who did the best in those areas is a huge part of this. And I think to their credit, it wasn't a knock to Garrett that the other guys have been competitive. It's a fact that all four of them have a chance to be really good players, and it's tough on some of the others that they're not having their opportunity to start because they've worked very hard. All four of them have worked hard, and they've earned the right. We started talking to them after the second scrimmage about this setup, and again, it can change at any time. But the players on the team have known how we feel as coaches since the second scrimmage. So last Monday we started talking to them about where they fit on the depth chart rather than today. Today is the first public day, but we had to start working on the fundamental things we needed on offense and defense and then special teams last week. And we have a special teams depth chart, as well.
On why Garrett Gilbert was chosen to start: I think [co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Bryan [Harsin] could talk to you more about that in a minute, but I think it's the experience. The onthefield leadership. He's just older. He's done it before, and that probably helped him as much as anything. But again, I'll let Bryan talk to you as [defensive coordinator] Manny [Diaz] will talk to you about the defensive players on the depth chart, as well.
On making sure players know not to celebrate too much after a touchdown: Let me touch on that even further. If the quarterback hands the ball off and a player is about to score and the quarterback turns and does something to the other bench, the play will be called back. Wherever the ball was at the time the quarterback did it, or if an offensive lineman does a throat slash or something like that, or if you yell at the bench and say something that the official thinks is not in the best interest, then that play will be called back. They even asked about throwing the horns up when you score. They said as long as you throw them up to our fans and not the other team's fans, then we won't call it. But if you're taunting, then we feel like it'll be called back. I know we were playing in the early 2000s at Tulane and [former DB] Rod Babers did this [holds up a "Hook em" sign] to the crowd. We had about 45,000 there, and they had 5,000. And the official threw the flag and said you were taunting the Tulane crown, and I said there's not [a Tulane crowd]. So come on. He honestly looked around and said, "You know, you're right." But it's a different rule, and it's one that can cause all this trouble. We had Big 12 officials come in and meet with our players. We showed a video of what they're going to do, and what they do not think they would call. And we had the players asking questions, and the officials said you don't want to be the guy that loses the game - because of you the play is called back. And I worry that we're trying to keep some of the guys from having the emotion and the passion that they want to show when they score and make it exciting. If you high step, if you turn your head back, if you hold the ball up, any of those things will be construed as a penalty that will have the touchdown called back. It's a very difficult penalty, and I hate to see it because in my experiences across the country it's been called very inconsistently. Just like [former WR] Quan [Cosby] diving in the end zone with 16 seconds left. I think he was trying to score, and he knew if he got caught and we didn't have a timeout in man coverage, things were going to be tight. And Quan has never done anything to try to put something in somebody's face in his career. And again, they didn't know Quan, so I thought that made it different, as well.
On WR Jaxon Shipley being compared to his brother Jordan: I think we'll get turned into the NCAA because they're going to think Jordan is back when they see him out there for a 12th year. Jaxon is mature. He's caught just about every ball. He runs great routes. He is tough. He knows what to do. He would also be back as of today to catch the first punt. We're putting the players out there who have performed the best and give us the best chance to win based on what we've seen in practice.
On RB Fozzy Whittaker staying healthy: Yes, Fozzy is about 205 pounds now. So I think the change in our strength area with [Assistant Athletics Director for Strength & Conditioning] Jeff [Madden] and [Strength and Conditioning Head Coach for Football] Bennie [Wylie] has really helped our team, but it's also helped guys like Fozzy. He's much stronger than he was before, and we knock on wood, he's been a good player. He's just had trouble staying healthy, and he's been hit every day, and he's hung in there and done a really good job for us. Got tremendous leadership, already graduated, working on his Master's Degree, should finish that before he finishes. But we feel like he's playing at a higher level than ever before.
On improving from last year: The thing I've learned about the players is they're tired of hearing about last year like I am. And they've done everything we've asked them to do to get ready to play Rice. They've been attentive. They've worked hard. I'm not sure we haven't worked this hard ever, and especially we've been outside every day in 112degree heat index and we're out there practicing hard and they didn't gripe at all. And that's why I feel like they're in the best shape I've seen them in in a long time. So I'm pulling for them. I don't know how good we'll be. That many young players, all the new schemes that we've got, it shouldn't work great the first time you throw it all out there together. But I'm excited to watch it. It's time to see what [it will] look like, and I think the players are excited about it, too. They were abuzz yesterday. They were just chirping in practice yesterday with each other and can't wait to play. And I did tell them, we don't play until Saturday at 7:00, so let's be careful here not to play the game on Monday or Tuesday.
On the competition for playing time helping the team get better: The players have been under tremendous pressure in the spring and in the fall just because of the circumstances of change and new coaches. And if they have a safety net with their previous coach they don't anymore because the guys didn't recruit any of these that are coming in new, and Garrett is in that group, too. So I think that the pressure of Bryan Harsin coaching him, the change in the offense, like all the other quarterbacks, is healthy. Garrett will be here today and you can talk to him about it.
On why some of the veterans are not higher on the depth chart: Well, it concerns you why the younger ones are playing before some of the older ones, so obviously something happened over the last couple of years that wasn't good to get us to this point. I know we weren't able to redshirt enough offensive and defensive linemen, so that's hurt us some, too. But it tells you how bright the future is. We don't know how the freshmen will respond in front of 101,000 on Saturday. That will be interesting for all of us. But it also tells you that it's not going to be for long. If they're going to get us, they'd better get us quick, because we're going to be good again pretty quick here.
On if young players are ready to play so young: Absolutely. Coach Royal's quote, "If you're good, you can be good young." When you line up against somebody, they don't care how old you are, and I think it bodes well for the future. We just need to win with them now.
On correcting the early season issues that occurred last year: It wasn't the score of the Rice game that made me mad. It was the fact that we had three scrimmages last year, and I didn't feel like there was just passion and energy in any of the three scrimmages. And I begged our fans - the 70,000 plus - to come to Reliant Stadium to see our guys play to get them stirred up, and our fans were great. They were all there. And I thought we played the same way we scrimmaged. I didn't think it was a passionate game at that time. I think I made a huge mistake because I was probably mad through whole preseason camp, and when they win a game they should get credit for winning a game. It doesn't matter if it's by one point, the key is to win the game. I probably started off the season on a wrong note because we're sitting there and we're 3 and 0 and then we got worse as the team progressed through the season, and I thought it's probably me not being positive enough. I should have taken the guys after Rice and said, "Okay, we did what we needed to do to win and let's pick it up and be more positive." And I really got on them, and I didn't think that team was ready to handle that kind of pressure from me.
On the players letting loose and having more fun this year: It's been great. I've never had more fun. These guys are laughing and they're cutting up with each other. [Assistant Athletics Director for Football Operations] Arthur Johnson makes the announcements after practice, and [OL]Thomas Ashcraft has got him down pretty good, and he can [imitate] Arthur. I'd heard that, so I asked Thomas to step up and be Arthur last night and do the announcements, and you couldn't even hear him they were laughing so hard. It was a miserable year last year. It wasn't fun. And football should be fun, and it wasn't fun for any of us, fans or players or coaches. And we've told them when it's time to play, you play but you have fun, and when you're outside of that area you have as much fun as you can. When the Longhorn Network gets sold and it's up and running, people are going to see kids having a blast. They're going to see things that they just can't imagine kids are doing behind the scenes in college football, and it's so much fun to watch them. I've really enjoyed them. It's renewed my energy for sure.
On the defense: Defense has played really well in preseason. Our front has stepped up, and our linebackers are really good. [DT] Calvin Howell has come on, and he would be the guy next to [DT] Kheeston [Randall] if we played today. Safeties are playing really well. Young corners are the question, and when [S] Christian [Scott] had his issue, [CB]Adrian Phillips moved over and played some safety and some nickel. He would have probably been the starting corner by himself if he hadn't done that. [CB] Quandre Diggs is playing well, and [CB] Carrington Byndom is playing well. The only real question in the defense there's two questions from my standpoint, is depth and the youth at corner. Other than that, I think we're really solid as far as our defense is concerned.
On if they have confidence in the defensive tackles: We do. There's Ashton Dorsey, Greg Daniels [and] Chris Whaley. You're only going to play one or two depending on whether you're in a three-man front or a four-man front. So we've got enough bodies there. They just need to play consistently well.
On the Rice Owls: Yes, Taylor [McHargue] is an excellent quarterback. He played against us some last year, then he got hurt and he moved the ball against us. Then he didn't play much of the season, and their success was based on his success the last two games of the year because he came back in and really helped them and led them on. So he's a guy that I think gives them a chance to win every week if he stays healthy. [RB] Sam McGuffie was a great player out of high school. We said he was a YouTube sensation because some of the runs he made were just phenomenal. He went to Michigan. He started at Michigan. He had a great year, and he came back last year and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards. So our guys are aware of both of those young men, and then they've got a tight end that caught 80 something balls and a receiver/tight end from last year that had eight touchdown passes. They'll run the option. They'll do a lot of things that we're doing offensively. I think it'll be a real challenge for our defense against their offense on Saturday night.
On if this team can turn it around as fast as the '98 team: I don't know. I don't have any idea. I think there's more unanswered questions going into this game than there were in '98 because we at least knew the older players. We had some video on them, and who knows how the young guys are going to respond. They're going to be out there, and they're going to be out there fast. All those fans that have always griped about me for not playing the young ones early, now they might be griping about me for playing the young ones early.
On the assistant coaches' coaching their first game for UT: They're asking me questions like, "What's it like and what's our fan base like and when will they get there." So it's a fun time for all the new coaches, and the guys that have been here are telling them all the things about game day on Saturday. I remember my first game against New Mexico State as a coach here, and it was so much fun. And you think about it - you see video about it, but when you get out there . . . so I'm excited to watch the coaches coach on Saturday because it'll be so fun to see their faces, as well. Pregame is where a coach usually gets the setting and the moment and then after the game starts you forget it and go forward. But I think they're ready for it. They'll embrace it. But I can tell there's a little buzz, a little edge to them this week, too. So it'll be fun to watch them coach.
On knowing the players have learned what they needed to: Because we started making those decisions a week ago. We've had two weeks, and most of them don't change. You look at most of the offensive linemen. They've been in some position in that offensive line, those five, except for Dominic Espinosa because he had the shoulder injury in the spring. Those other guys have been working with [offensive line coach] Stacy Searels since January 20th or whenever he got here. Somebody said, "Are you worried about them looking over their shoulder and feeling pressure about being moved?" If they're going to feel pressure from their coach, how are they going to feel from 101,000 [fans] and an opponent? They have to handle pressure, and we think that's good, as well.