Oct. 10, 2012
Assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Duane Akina
On what has impressed him about sophomore DB Mykkele Thompson: He is coming along. When we recruited him, he was recruited mainly as an athlete. I really liked some of the things I saw with him running and jumping athletically. He is now starting to see the game quicker and become more confident. The reps are starting to matter and he is becoming a little more physical. Anytime you recruit an offensive player that is used to avoiding contact, one of the first things you have to get them used to is running through contact. Sometimes that takes longer than others, but he is really starting to settle in in that area. He is getting the guys on the ground and I thought he really tackled well against West Virginia. There are a lot of tough tackling situations for him. Now we just have to take the last part of the experiment and that is to finish a couple of plays that were right there for him to make.
On why the results have not been what is expected of the secondary: I think first you have to attribute it some to the offenses that we are lining up against are really pretty outstanding. If someone was going to tell me that [West Virginia QB] Geno [Smith] would have been 3-for-12 on third down and [West Virginia WR Tavon] Austin would have 102 yards receiving with 10 receptions and four of the catches were fast sweeps coming underneath and [West Virginia WR Stedman] Bailey would have had 75 yards and eight catches, I think you would be pretty pleased with that. I guess I don’t see it quite the same way. As an offense they are really productive and I thought we handled some of those things really, fairly well. There are some of the critical situations that we did not manage as well as in the Oklahoma State game. Really, in a lot of ways you don’t look as much at numbers as you do situations, because there are so many different things that determine the outcome of the game. I think if you look at just raw numbers you are actually pretty satisfied with that game.
On how Oklahoma’s offense compares to the last two offenses the team faced: I think they are similar if you are talking about numbers. Like the last two offenses we played, they are No. 20 [No. 28] I think or somewhere in that range [in total offense]. They have a very capable quarterback [in Landry Jones] that many people believed a year ago would come out in the first round. Maybe his raw numbers don’t look the same, but when you look at actual arm talent and you have a five-year player, obviously he is a very capable player. I think their receivers are very capable also and they have helped themselves in the run game. They are probably a little more balanced then what we have seen the last two games, more like Oklahoma State. It will be another great challenge for us.
On cornerbacks Carrington Byndom and Adrian Philip’s motivation to win after last year’s loss to OU: I think they are motivated every week they go out there. By nature for them to be competing at this level it has to be guts of their personality. That is who they are. Nobody likes to lose to Oklahoma and I am motivated too. I think they are excited to play this game. They understood the situation last year that we didn’t play well, starting with me. Whatever is out on that field I am responsible for [whether is it] plan or techniques. All those things really fall back to me. I have to do a better job of preparing them and making sure we can get them in the right place so they have a better chance to succeed.
On senior safety Kenny Vaccaro: I think Kenny has really completed his game. I think Kenny had the ability for me to really talk about him in the same light that I have talked about some of the previous safeties. Now you have to go out and have that kind of senior year. With everybody, I have said that he has the ability to be [former Longhorn Michael] Huff, or a [Earl] Thomas or a Michael Griffin. That is who I said he could be, that kind of player. To date I think he has impacted the football game much along the same lines those guys did their senior years. He did an outstanding job against [West Virginia WR Tavon] Austin. Like I said 10 catches and he was matched up with him all night. The one big play that Austin had we were in a zone and he got 40 yards for a touchdown. If you want to look at that film, I think Kenny really matched up with an outstanding player very well.
On Vaccaro’s growth: He is a very physical player, a dynamic blitzer and a very emotional player. When you become a press-man guy and you are lining up on those little 5-foot-8 slots that are very explosive and can stop-and-go, patience becomes a big part of your world now. I think that is where he has grown, because he is very strong and very physical and now he has the ability to be patient and be calm.
Co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Major Applewhite
On upcoming challenges against Oklahoma: They have a great defense. I have played against Coach [Bob] Stoops and he just demands a lot out of his players and they do a great job getting to the ball. They are aggressive, tenacious, and they don’t quit. It is going to be a tough one against those guys. They are great on the back end. I think they have a great secondary, they play well at corner, and their safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris have got a lot of ball underneath their belts. They have played a lot of football and have seen a lot of different things. Tom Wort same thing; he’s a typical Oklahoma middle linebacker. They are always going to have guys inside—Coach Jackie Shipp has always done well with their defensive line.
On running back Johnathan Gray having to adapt from the high school to college game: That is something I have noticed with all backs. Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Tre Newton, Jeremy Hills — any back that comes in is typically going to have been a 2,000-yard plus back in high school and there is not many 2,000-yard backs in college. So you have to start understanding that a 4-yard run is a good run. That a 6, 8-yard run or even in some cases when it isn’t blocked well or somebody shakes it loose, that a 2-yard run is a great run.
On how Johnathan Gray has improved his knowledge of the college game: He sees it and understands it as he has gotten more through fall camp and the early part of the season, he is starting—I can tell in meetings that if you make a comment to a back like, ‘hey that is a great run right there. You know you are hitting the backfield and getting 2 or 3 yards out of it, that is a great run.’ And I can see that head bobbing. So he gets it and understands it.
On pressure phasing Johnathan Gray in big games: No, I think that has just been since his sophomore year [of high school]. If you have been to the community and you see how much Aledo kind of rode his success and how that community gravitated towards him and then his junior year and senior year winning all those national awards. I think he has been someone who was created underneath the spotlight and that is what he is taken to. I don’t think he would feel it any other way. I didn’t notice any nervousness or any big eyes the other night and that was one of the best and biggest atmospheres I have ever been a part of, period. As a fan or coach.
On the similar personality traits of David Ash and Johnathan Gray: David is very serious. Johnathan is too. But they are similar from that respect from the standpoint of just even-kill. They are not somebody that is going to disrupt things in the locker room or off the field or anything like that. Each of them is very good behavior-wise and just kind of even-keeled, not trying to bring about attention to himself or anything like that. This kind of mentality is fun to coach.
On what running back Jeremy Hills brings to the team: Experience. There is not a substitute for experience. I think that he has been through so many things on and off the field, within the classroom, and just college experience in general, that he is to that senior year, he has gone to classes, been overloaded with mid-terms, he has had to deal with all of [football strength coach] Bennie Wylie’s workouts, and still get to the practice field and perform. So I think everything else the longer you stay in school, you notice by your senior year that everything starts to slow down. Now he has that senior-sense of urgency about him that you saw with Fozzy Whittaker, you are seeing with D.J. Monroe, and other players. He is doing a great job of what has been asked from him.
On Jeremy Hills helping the younger running backs: Oh yes and he was helped by Fozzy. And that is what we try to do. I know it may not matter but that is what we try to do that with our Big Brother program. When those guys come in as freshmen, that’s their job. You may not play as a senior so it is your job to be able to teach the younger guy how to go to class, what is expected when they are in the weight room, what they need to do on certain plays, and when they come into the meeting room it is all business. This isn’t the time to play; it is the time to be serious. So Fozzy was that with Jeremy and Jeremy is being that way with the younger guys and it will continue to pass on.