Video: Press conference [Aug. 31, 2009]
Aug. 31, 2009
Opening statement: Before some of you ask today, Colt McCoy is the starting quarterback, so we can start off of the first press conference of the year with that news. Guys had a restful weekend. They needed it, but we were able to meet at 6:00 on Friday morning and then give them some time off Friday and Saturday. We came back Sunday afternoon and met and then had a good team dinner Sunday night. This morning because of class conflicts, this afternoon, we actually got the guys up and 4:45 and we've already practiced, so we were in the stadium at 5:45 in the morning. It was good, it was cool, but at the same time, it was dark like a night game and it gives them a little more time off before they'll come back to practice tomorrow. So we thought it worked well and something that we might look at.
Opening ball games scare you to death because usually both teams are fresh and healthy, so your depth isn't as big a key in an opening ball game as it is later and also turnovers and kicking games seem to jump up and bite one of the teams, because you haven't played in a game like preseason with the NFL. All of those things are things that really scare you to death and we also know can start talking about this week's game instead of the end. Everybody talks about what kind of season they want to have. They talk about their goals for the season. This week you need to get back to just the game of the week with Louisiana-Monroe. Charlie Weatherbie is the coach. He's been there for six years. They're a spread offense. They're all over the place with multiple formations. Zone read has been a key play for them. Their QB is a big tall guy and can throw the ball.
We know that the Louisiana teams can always run. They've got great receivers. They've got a young running back that beat (USC RB Joe) McKnight in the hundred in Louisiana. They are a team that can run. They are a team that will have a really good passing game, and it'll be interesting to see, because their quarterback was more of a runner last year.
Defensively, they have hired a new defensive coordinator from New Mexico. He runs a 3-3-5, so they will be all over the place. What we have seen in New Mexico film because we don't have any Louisiana-Monroe film with him there is that they blitzed about 70 percent of the time. So again, it's good that our defense blitzes so much. Our offense has worked on blitzes a whole lot. It is very much like El Paso last year. It will be a game with some big plays and some bad plays. They've got young man that was out last year and in the second ball game, they actually got beat by Arkansas by one point, 27-28, and had a chance. I know they missed three field goals in the end. The young man got hurt in that game and is an outstanding player and pro prospect. It's number 34, James Truxillo, a 6-2, 210 pound senior (defensive back). (Linebacker) Cardia Jackson is a guy that they are pushing for the Lombardi. He was their leading tackler. He averaged six tackles per game, and (DE) Aaron Morgan is a big defensive end that had six sacks last year. We feel like they will be very, very aggressive on defense. It will challenge us mentally. Offensively, we are not really sure what they are going to do because we haven't seen much of this quarterback. You go back to two or three years ago, they beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Last year they had the real tight game with Arkansas. They play Arizona, Kentucky and us on the road, and they are a senior football team. They have five seniors on offense and seven seniors on defense, so they are not a team that is going to come in here and be intimidated. I think they will be very similar to the Arkansas State team we played two years ago that we didn't play very well against, so that should get our players attention.
On what he tells the players to guard against media and fan expectations: We tell them not to listen to (the media). One thing you learn around here is that there is a certain group of people that will not give our opponents credit, and I think our players understand that. They're not the ones that play. They're the ones that sit in the stands. What I would ask our fans to do is come to every ball game ready to play because you never know how one is going to come out, like the one two years ago with Arkansas State where we were ahead at halftime, everybody went home and we did too, and we needed to finish. I think that our players do understand they're the ones that have to play, they're the ones that have to produce, and they see upsets all over the country every year. You go back to Appalachian State-Michigan two years ago. Everybody said the same thing that week at Michigan, and it wasn't a fun day.
On finally getting to play a game this Saturday: You coach and you play for the games. When you're talking about all the things that you can't answer, when you get to a game, it really is a waste of time. The preseason chatter, everybody has it, but very few live up to it. Even as the head coach, as I sit out and watch our practice every day I'm still not sure what will happen in a game with this certain group against this group, because I've been seeing our two groups compete against each other and one loses every time, so I'd like to see us win and that's something you can't do till game day.
On early morning practices: It was really good this morning. We do that now for our off-season program and we also do that now in the morning for bowl practice, so it's something that they're used to. When we're practicing on Monday with 30 guys with class conflicts in the afternoon, it's something that we will continue to do. We might even look at it more. We asked the players to talk to their coaches about it and see if it would be a good way to get them ready. We have to be finished before their 8:00 classes, but would it be a good way to get them off their feet more in this afternoon heat?
On the emphasis of succeeding in special teams early in the season: Of the three phases in the first ball game, you'd love to see your kicking game be successful because you can change field position and you can score points more easily in the early part more easily in the middle or late because a lot of teams have not been able to work full speed. We work our kicking game full speed. That's why Duane Akina, we feel like, has been so good at blocking punts early. ULM is a spread punt where they're all over the field like Oklahoma State and like Texas A&M used to be, so you're trying to block punts and return punts. I would like to see us do a better job with kickoff return than we did last year. We had the one against Oklahoma, but we weren't consistently good in that phase. Justin Tucker has been kicking the ball in the end zone. Kicking game is key, and it's one that changes up the outcomes of opening ballgames probably more than anything.
On the importance of consistency: It is something that's really important. We've always said you need to be consistently good to become great. And what we're trying to do is get our players to have an edge every ballgame and compete every ballgame and not sit around and talk about the other team. Let's talk about us. We want to be good; we want to be consistently good at the highest level.
On if the staff plans to use starters on special teams and using the first game to work out substitution patterns: Yes. We always have and always will. You have to be smart in that if one of your guys is a guy who cramps more readily than some others and it's a real hot night, which it probably will be, then you can put him on special teams, but you're probably pulling him out at the end of the first quarter. One of the things we will be doing this week will be looking at substitution plans, which we'll try to formulate by Thursday. We also have to look at substitution in the kicking game and look at who we feel like can be out there the most, and you've got problems with double numbers. The NCAA will not let you have two guys on the field at the same time with the same number, so that's something we're all going through right now to figure out who we can change and usually the younger guy has to change his number. Christian Scott did it last year. That's something that will help us in the long run.
On QB Colt McCoy beginning his fourth year as a starter at Texas: I actually told the players the other day that I hope they realize they're playing with the most accurate quarterback in the history of college football, and that they need to enjoy it and embrace it. The defense needs to get off the field as fast as they can so we can get Colt back on. The offense needs to really appreciate him and what he's doing, and the offensive line needs to block well for him. The better we can run the ball, the better we'll pass protect. We need to really enjoy him being here, enjoy his success and make sure we don't take him for granted.
On the emergent leaders on the team: Chris Hall and Adam Ulatoski are doing a great job of trying to lead. Colt is without question. Jordan (Shipley) outside with the receivers, and I think Vondrell (McGee) has stepped up and is leading with his toughness. He doesn't say a whole lot, but he's really been aggressive and tough. You go over on the defensive side of the ball and it's Sergio (Kindle), Sam Acho, Lamarr (Houston), (Roddrick) Muckelroy, Jared (Norton) is trying, he just was hurt and a little bit slower getting started. I do think that Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon both are in the secondary.
On the staff's plan for freshman QB Garrett Gilbert on Saturday: We would like to get him on the field. We will talk about it on Thursday. Greg (Davis) and I talked about it some on Saturday and we mentioned it again this morning. We've got to be fair to our team, fair to Colt and get Garrett reps. Sometimes in the past we've put a quarterback in third series or the fifth series or tried to get them in the first half. The most important thing is you try to win the game, then you'd also like to get Garrett some quality snaps.
On the status of sophomore RB Fozzy Whittaker: He practiced this morning, but we'll just have to wait and see. Right now Vondrell (McGee) would be the starter and Cody (Johnson) would back him up.
On junior RB Vondrell McGee leading: His success on the field, I think, is allowing him to do that more because he worked so hard this summer. They gain a lot of respect with each other over summer workouts, just listening to them and watching. He's so strong and in great shape. I really still believe that he banged his knee up against Florida Atlantic and then played the rest of the year. He looked like in some cases he was pressing so much he wasn't patient enough to see the hole. I think our fans are going to see a different Vondrell Saturday. We're really impressed with his patience and his toughness and his conditioning.
On the anxiousness before a first game: There's always a little anxious moment about the first game because it's the unknowns and even the unknowns for guys that have played a lot because they haven't played in six months. You're really unsure of the other team. They've got a new quarterback, they've got a new defensive coordinator, they've got two players that didn't play last year. A receiver that didn't play last year wasn't eligible, and then a young man that got hurt early. Just the unknowns of how the game will start, what happens, how you have to change it, all of those things are things that make you anxious. At the same time, they're so tired of practice. They've worked so hard since the Ohio State game and they've been in the off-season program about every day. They're working on their own if they're not with us, and then a real physical spring practice where they got after each other, and the seniors understand this is their last trip. That's what they are looking forward to. I think anxious would be fair, excited would be fair, but they want to have some fun, and the games are fun. Practice is hard, so they're looking forward to a fun Saturday, and your young ones haven't played in this stadium. So there are a lot of guys that will walk out there for the first time ever in front of fans, and they're dressed in a uniform.
On his thoughts on Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium after finishing all the renovations: One of our boosters walked in the stadium with me this weekend and said, "Wow. We've always said we got it but now we do." I would think for us, we think it's the best in the country. I think it would be fair because a lot of people think they have the best stadium in the country. If this isn't the best, it's even with the best because I don't see anybody having a better place to play than this right now. They've just done an amazing job with it.