Sept. 16, 2008
Running backs coach Major Applewhite
On his familiarity with Rice: A lot of those guys were recruited by us or already there, so I see a lot of familiar names and coaches on the flipchart.
On how his familiarity with Rice helps in designing a game plan: In the planning process it's helpful, just so you know if there's a mismatch somewhere, if there are certain things that you can exploit, depth, those type of deals. Mainly most of the time we're game planning structure, what are we going to do against the structure of the defense. On Monday, we just go through the personnel and obviously it's helpful knowing them and practicing against them for a full year.
On how he feels he has adjusted to his transition back to Texas: As far as adjusting to the role, I'm just trying to help the (offensive coaches) room. I told Coach Davis when I came back; having been a coordinator for two years I know what it's like to be the guy that has to call the play on fourth-and-inches. You're not necessarily the most popular guy sometimes, and you need four or five guys, depending on how you staff yourself offensively, you need guys that believe in you, believe in what you're going to do on Saturday, and are full-steam ahead in coaching it. I always appreciated it when assistants were behind me as a coordinator in pushing that agenda forward and speaking with the same voice, so I'm trying to help our coordinator and just be one of those guys that's getting his position ready to play. As far as adjusting to it, I'm enjoying it. I'm having a great time.
On what he expects out of the running backs: I expect them do what we ask. It's very simple, either you do it or you don't play. That's just kind of the way we work. Our guys have all responded well, our (running backs) room has been great. Fozzy (Whittaker), Vondrell (McGee), Chris (Ogbonnaya), Cody (Johnson), Luke (Tiemann), all the guys have contributed this season, they've all been great, they've all responded. They've done a great job of doing what we've asked them to do.
On having a group of running backs that is eager to play: It makes me excited because you have such a hungry group. You have guys that sat behind Jamaal (Charles) for two years, so when they get that opportunity it's not so much them responding to me as it is they're responding to their opportunity. It could have been any guy in that room as a running backs coach, they're all happy about getting their opportunity. You just want to do your best job so when he finally gets his chance to play, he's able to perform and he knows what to do.
On the staff's offensive philosophy: Philosophically, we all talk from the same standpoint as an offense. The two things that win and lose ball games are turnovers and explosive plays, and the only way you can have explosive plays is to maintain possession of the football and understand your assignments. If you understand what wins and loses football games, that's where your teaching starts. As a running back position, how do we protect the ball, we're going to protect the ball in the run game, we're going to protect the passer in the passing game because of the sack fumbles that usually occur. A sack puts you behind in yardage so now you're trying to get back on schedule. We start everything offensively from the two things that win and lose ballgames, explosives and taking care of the football.
On how he much teaching and advice he gives to Colt McCoy: Coach Davis teaches Colt McCoy. He's taught Colt, Chris (Simms), myself, Chance (Mock), Vince (Young), he's taught all of us and he's a great teacher. He's taken everybody from different backgrounds, like Chris who had a Hall of Famer in his house (in his father, Phil) to Vince who was learning how to play the position, truthfully. He's done a great job of teaching them. My job is just when Colt leans on something, he wants to know something - How'd you handle this? How'd you do that? I'll help him in those areas, but as far as the reads and protections, that's Coach Davis. It's always important because when you're the quarterback at Texas you have a thousand different coaches. I understand that about Colt, I stay away from it and let his coach, coach him.
On Rice: They're a good program. Coach (David) Baliff does a great job with his guys. He's done a great job at Texas State. I can see he's doing the same thing at Rice. He's got a unique group of guys that are extremely bright. Everybody says that about them. They carry a chip on their shoulder because that's usually what people talk about first is their character and their intelligence and not their athleticism. They're a ballclub that's very dangerous. They've got great players on offense that can do things with the football and they're very disciplined. Very seldom do you see them out of position. We've got to carry that kind of discipline and intensity into the game, as well.
On Rice's duo of QB Chase Clement and WR Jarrett Dillard: The thing that I've seen doing it for four or five years coaching now, is their discipline. They're disciplined with their eyes, they're disciplined with their assignments and every time there's a chance for an exposure, those guys are disciplined enough to be in the right position, to have their eyes right and make the play. Very seldom does the defense give them an exposure and they don't take advantage of it. When they expose themselves, those guys are at the right depth, their eyes are in the right place and they capitalize on it. That's what makes those two guys so tough to defend - ery seldom are they misaligned or have their eyes in the wrong place.
On not looking past mid-majors: I don't see it where they're at a disadvantage. After we got beat by Louisiana-Monroe last year at Alabama, I don't think anybody's at a disadvantage when they kick it off. That scares the heck out of me every team we play. You've got to be ready every single week. There's a number of teams since the season started, you can make a laundry list of them, that weren't ready, that were looking forward to that next game.
On what he looks for in production from the running backs: It's a lot like the defense if you've heard Will (Muschamp) talk - we don't worry about stats. It's about wins and losses. It's about taking care of the football because that's what matters, and it's about creating opportunities for explosives. Chris (Ogbonnaya) made an explosive on a wheel route against Florida Atlantic. We also did things in protection when UTEP was bringing the house at us, where we stepped up, created a solid pocket for Colt (McCoy) and he delivered the ball. We try to get as much excitement about stepping up in pass protection when Colt hits a skinny post or something like that to Quan (Cosby) for 49 or 50 yards. To us, that's the same as making a 49 or 50 yard run. You made it happen, you stepped up and you protected.
On the significance of throwing check-down routes: It's large, because it's player control. It's how you disperse those intermediate backers. If they're playing two-deep, it makes them respect the things underneath and it's a maturation process you begin to go through as a quarterback as you begin to feel more comfortable with your second, then your third progression, then your fourth progression. He has gotten to where he's taken so many snaps now he's comfortable and he knows where they're all at and he's been extremely disciplined in the first two games with his eyes and he's done an excellent job of getting the ball to the right guys.
RB Fozzy Whittaker
On his excitement to play Rice: I think it's going to be a great atmosphere. It's going to be a fun game, also. I'm just excited and ready to play and go against another team since our bye week got skipped up. I'm just ready to play.
On how he felt about the extra time to rest his knee: I did enjoy that. I look at it as a blessing and extra time to stay healed and get better time to recuperate myself and my knee and everything. It's back to business now.
On if it has been tough for him to focus on football after Hurricane Ike hit close to his home: Not really because I talked to my parents throughout. They lost electricity and things, but they still had cell phones, so I stayed in communication with them. They were doing good. My brother and my mother are doing good, so I didn't have to worry too much.
On how he hopes to build on his performance against UTEP: It feels like it's just a good starting point for me to get out there and actually get a feel for an actual game. The foundation's just building up from there.
LB Sergio Kindle
On Rice: They're putting up points. They're averaging 40 points a game. People categorize Rice as an underachieving team but I'd say that's a false statement. They're a great team. Any team who can put up 40 points a game is amazing. We've just got to try to maintain them and come out with a win; get a good game plan coming in and try to get some pressure on that quarterback because he's a great player, too. Not only can he throw it, he can run just as good too.
On the preparing for the upcoming challenge that the Big 12 schedule will pose: I haven't seen a team in the Big 12 that looks bad yet. We're just going to have to play when the time comes. I hope we're able to step up and show the world what we are capable of, but you never know until you play them. Every team you see, when they play here, they play differently, no matter how good or how bad they are, they play like a top 10 team even if they're not.
On how he feels the team has performed so far this season: We've got two W's and no L's, so it's all fun. I feel great. The team's looking good on both sides of the ball. Everybody's out there having fun. We've got some nice chemistry. We're going to try to keep the train moving.
On the importance of getting pressure with four pass rushers: That way we can have a little more help for our secondary. I'm not saying that they need it, but it's always good to have help and it's great if you're able to have pressure with four. If we can do that, we can try to stick to that and throw some pressure with additional blitzes now and then, but pressure with four is great.
On Coach Muschamp's satisfaction with the team's second half defense thus far: He's been happy with our second half play, we just have to step up our game play right before (the end of) the first half because we gave up a touchdown both games right before halftime. If we can correct that, I think our defense can carryover momentum from halftime to the third quarter.
On his goal for rushing the passer: If I can get a sack, that's good. If I can just get there and make the quarterback get rid of the ball off his timing, and give a defensive back the chance to catch it or a linebacker the chance to make a tackle for a short gain and put them in long distances for third down, that's a win too.
On how the defense is improving: We're taking steps gradually every day in practice. We have miles and miles to go in my book. We're a good team that could be great with a little bit more work because the schedule goes up a steep hill from here. We've just got to keep working, that's what it's going to take for us to win out.
LB Rashad Bobino
On playing again this Saturday: We want to go out there and execute our scheme. Rice is a really good team, they have been averaging over 400 yards of offense and they have been averaging 39 points per game. So, there's no overlooking them. They have really great players and they do a lot with their two receivers, 12 and 81. They are really good players. Their quarterback is a really special guy. He is really good on the run and he is really good at scrambling. Those are the things we want to focus on.
On having a little extra time to prepare for Rice: Yeah, we had a little bit more time. It is a good thing, but also a bad thing (to shift to Rice unexpectedly). But, we still get to start on something new, and starting on something new and fresh always gives you a chance to do better with whatever comes up. I'm looking forward to Rice. It's been an long week and it has felt like an eternity. We haven't played in a long time. So, everyone is pretty much excited to get back on the field and we're all ready to go play.
On how playing against Rice's offense helps them prepare for the Big 12: This really does help us with the Big 12. There are a lot of good quarterbacks and they have been the ones everyone has been talking about. The quarterbacks from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas Tech are all incredible. The guy we are playing against this week, [Chase] Clements, is a really good quarterback. He's going to really give us a good look on how good we are going to be going into conference play. He can run and he can throw the ball. So, this is going to be a really good experience for us to see how we adapt to this.
RB Vondrell McGee
On how difficult the transition has been from playing in an I-formation offense in high school to a spread offense: It hasn't really been that big of a deal because we also ran some spread offense in high school. We mostly ran out of the I-formation, so I'm more comfortable with coming out of the "I." But, it doesn't really bother me coming out of the spread.
On Major Applewhite: I think he's a really good coach. He teaches all of the little things about the game that you don't really think about. He talks about what the quarterback is thinking and what the line is going to do rather than talking about just running the ball all the time. That's something we should already be able to do, because that's what we're here for. He teaches you all of the little things, picking up blitzes and just a little of everything.
On Coach Applewhite stressing holding onto the ball: He tells us that when you get into that triangle pressure, you have to have two hands on the ball. We always have to have the ball up to our chest and not just carrying it down. A lot of teams have been losing games lately because of fumbles and turnovers, so we are avoiding turnovers because of that.
On if he likes what he sees out of the running backs so far: I think we are really strong. You saw that anybody is capable of putting it in there and taking it to the house. So, any one of us is ready to go.
On what the coaches have been saying leading up to Rice: They tell us to stay focused the whole game and learn how to finish a game. Rice has great players at every position, they're smart, they know how to play and they are coached well. So, they are going to come to play for four quarters. We just have to learn how to finish a game and stay with it for all four quarters.