Tracking Mack: Sept. 3
Sept. 3, 2008
Opening statement: Practice has been really good. Tuesday usually starts a little slower, because they're banged up and still stiff. We practice on Sunday afternoon late and we run them quite a bit, but we do not hit again until Tuesday, and Monday is a day for them to back away from football and do the things they need to do up on campus. Today was really good. Yesterday was a very solid, good practice, but today was emotional and it's been like it's been for us. We discussed the night game. I think the National Championship game started at 5:32 and that was about 8:00 here so we've played a lot of 8:00 games, a lot of night games. I think every time we go to Stillwater it starts at 8. So I'm not concerned about the time of the game at all. When you really think about it, we played good at Rutgers. We've played good all over the country, so it's how you play, it's not when you play or whatever.
The turf out there is the same turf we have in the Bubble, so we've been able to work in the Bubble all week and get that ready. I think the guys will really be excited about national TV. They'll be excited about playing in the Sun Bowl. We've talked to them enough about Mike Price, who's a great motivator, he'll run out on the field with that pick, have them all pumped up and ready to go and that's fun for us. You like good games and you like competitive games and the environment should be great. I think the guys are really excited about going.
They blitz about 75 percent of the time, so that's where we've been spending all of our time offensively trying to figure out what they might change because it was a new defensive coordinator in a first game. Since it was a Thursday game they've had a lot of time to prepare for this one and I'm sure we'll see some trick plays that and a lot of different things that we would see in our opening game because they've had all spring and then again 10 days to prepare for this one. Offensively, Mike does a great job. I'm sure they'll take our film of the first half last week and try to pick on some things that we were doing in the secondary.
On UTEP's opening game: What happened is it's a typical first game, four turnovers and then they got beat deep about three times because they played so much man coverage and Buffalo would maximum protect and throw. It was a very close game until the third quarter so I'm sure they're disappointed and didn't like they way they played. They'll tighten some things up. There's no doubt that ours have been bragged on and theirs have been chewed, so that's one of those dangerous things. That's why we've got to make sure that we go back to work, so we've been on ours really hard this week too.
On UTEP head coach Mike Price: He's got a great personality. He's fun for kids. He's a fun coach and he does a great job. I've admired him for a long time. It'll be fun to coach against him.
On winning on the road: I really feel like the team knows they've got less advantages on the road because they don't have as big a crowd. We play here, we've got 98,000, we've got some advantages. We've won a lot of games pretty easily at home. When you start with a new program, it's easier to win at home than it is on the road. Winning on the road is a big step for anybody that's starting over, and we were in 1998, and that was one of the things that we felt like we had to do. Our second and third games were losses at UCLA and at Kansas State, so we made a huge emphasis out of that early and our guys have prepared pretty well on the road. I think the three losses we've had on the road in a long time have been really close. We've been competitive in each of those games, and we do feel like you've got to play better on the road than you do at home. The kicking game and mistakes, turnovers get you beat when you're on the road more than they do at home because you can catch up faster. Our guys understand there's urgency there and they are together and they have less help. I feel like they've had a little bit more urgency sometimes on the road than at home.
On Aaron Lewis and the young defensive tackles: He's been good. Aaron didn't play any power end at all until the latter part of last week before the game and he played 14 plays at power end and 16 plays at tackle. He's really smart. He's been around a long time. He's from Albuquerque, so this is big to him. This is as close to home as he would get. He's really excited and he's had a great week. Michael Wilcoxon, Ben Alexander and Kheeston Randall will all be playing (at tackle) as well, and we've told them `Just get yourself ready to go and play.' We were lucky that Ben and Michael Wilcoxon got to play a lot the other night. Kheeston did not, so we're excited about him getting to play in this one.
On Henry Melton: He was a force in the spring. He's getting so his weight's down. I think he's around 270 now. He's playing harder every play and he's making plays. He actually got his hand on a ball the other night that ended up being intercepted.
On Melton's move to defensive end: We felt like the fact that we moved Lamarr (Houston) inside and Aaron couldn't play because he was hurt, so it was time for Henry to step up. Will (Muschamp) coming in, there was new emphasis on getting positions and starting over. He felt like the competition was there and we were going to move some guys around, so he needed to help us. He stepped up and has done that.
On the kicking rotation: We have actually put them back together because a couple of guys missed a few field goals to start yesterday's practice so we said, `Okay boys, we're bracketed again, so we'll see you Thursday.' We will check it again tonight and we will check it tomorrow because we actually chart everything they do, but then we have some people charting them while we're not watching. We chart distance. We chart hash. We chart everything. We've got a great situation there that we've got a lot of competition so they cannot miss.
On how often the staff plans to use the Q package: It will be dictated more by what the defense is giving us. If it's a situation where we feel like we can get John (Chiles) the ball out of the Q package easily, then we'll bring him in and do that. If not, then we may start playing him more just in a wide receiver position instead of having him in the backfield and bringing him back in there. We're looking at continuing to expand his ability to get his hands on the ball, regardless of whether he's at quarterback or not.
On the young wide receivers: Malcolm (Williams) is really good, he's just got to be consistently good and keep his focus because he's big, tall, fast. James (Kirkendoll) made the great touchdown play, but he also had the 14th ball that Colt (McCoy) would've completed right in his hands and the guy made a super play and scraped it out of his hands, so I don't think it was James' fault at all. We feel like he has a chance to be a good player, as well. Dan Buckner is coming fast. We liked what we saw this week with him. We're really excited about Brandon (Collins). That was definitely an either/or, even on Thursday, and we did not know who we would start during the ball game and now Brandon's come back and had an outstanding week so he will play on Saturday.
On the difference from the first game to the second for a young player: We can coach them differently. The old adage of you improve more from your first game to your second, from my standpoint applies more to young players than it does the older ones. Those two young safeties had years of experience the other night in that first quarter, and I know Duane (Akina) got older in that first quarter. I've heard Earl (Thomas) say, `I was hyperventilating when game started.' They'll be excited, but it'll be more about playing this time instead of the stuff that's all around them. That's what we've found. I think the young safeties and the young receivers will play better this week than they did last week.
On the running back rotation: You would like to see all three play, plus Cody (Johnson). He did some good things the other night too. What we don't want to do is get so we don't have one or two, at least. We feel like you can play two, it's really, really hard to just shuffle three and get someone to get some rhythm. Even in a game like the other night, nobody really got a hot hand. If somebody had gotten a hot hand, you leave him in for that game and then reshuffle them. We thought Chris Ogbonnaya looked much quicker the other night with his 213, 214 pounds than his 228. Sometimes you can't see that in preseason camp. You think you can, but their legs get tired, and you're running against yourself. The counter play he ran on the goal line was really quick that he scored. We're excited about what he brings us right and think he can be a bigger force than before.
On the running back's pass protection against Florida Atlantic: All of that was good. It was all good. Fozzy (Whittaker) didn't play, and that would be his question. He knows what to do, he's just smaller. Chris, I don't think he's ever missed a block, and Vondrell (McGee) did a good job while he was in there. Cody's still a little more behind in that area, and that's why he played more late in the game than he did earlier.
On UTEP's defense: Their base defense is blitz 75 percent of the time, and they're all over the place. We'll have to see since they gave up some big plays, will they play more zone or will they blitz less, what will they change? So we'll probably have to make some adjustments like a first game in the first quarter of this one and not just feel like they're going to come in and do exactly what they did last week. Again, they're everywhere. Our scout teams have done a great job this week of giving us a picture. I mean it's been blitz after blitz after blitz. The obvious thing about that is that you can have some bad plays, but if you pick up the blitz there's fewer people guarding and you can make some big plays. We were not pleased with just nine explosives last week, and we'd like to have more than that.