Tracking Mack: Oct. 22
Oct. 22, 2008
Opening statement: One thing we'd like to do is encourage our fans to have the same attitude this weekend they had last week. It was just unbelievable the excitement, coming early, there were so many people around the stadium when we drove up two hours before. The fact that so many fans met the team at the north end two hours before, and then just the noise level that our fans had during the ballgame, we felt like made a really big difference.
There's been a lot said of, how do you get this team ready to play week after week after week with the schedule that they've got? After yesterday's practice, these guys came out yesterday and practiced like it was OU week. I really think it's a compliment to their character more than anything else. It has nothing to do with the gimmicks and all the little things we do that are fun for them. They want to play. A lot of these guys have waited their turn and it is their turn now. Chris Ogbonnaya waited five years to this point, Jordan Shipley went through some hardships, a guy like Ryan Palmer who is one of the great leaders of this defensive team and specifically in the secondary with all those young guys. Ryan was a guy that didn't play early and got a knee operation and he's had a tweaked hamstring. He's become one of the best leaders on the field and a guy that we really missed in the second half at Oklahoma, but he's come back now and playing really, really well and we're really excited about him.
This time of the year you always deal with different things that come up, different issues and different situations that could be distractions and we usually have handled them pretty well. We always have our agent day, Gil Brandt comes down and talks to all the parents of our sophomores, juniors and seniors and we did that last weekend. We ask our juniors and our seniors, but specifically our juniors, not to think about or look directly at anything that might be a distraction for this team until the season is over. Have your parents talk to Cleve (Bryant) and Gil Brandt and have your parents talk to Jeff Madden and the guys that deal with the agent issues. Moving the date back where you have to declare makes it where guys do not have to talk about it during the season and they do not need to even be involved with that process. Their parents can look at it. We've asked them to delay that. The same with assistant and head coaching positions across the country that come up. People aren't going to hire head coaches until the season is over so why discuss it now? Why talk about it? It's a rumor, it's a rumor that's a distraction and what we've always said is if our juniors want to go out, good for them, we will give them the information. They will have plenty of time to make that decision but don't be a distraction. If a guy does want to leave and he gets the proper job, good for him, but that should not be a distraction to our current football team and that's something we've asked each year and something that I feel like that this current staff and players are doing a really good job for.
On if this is the most unselfish team he's had at Texas: It is. It's been unbelievable. You hear nothing from them about who's playing enough, who's carrying the ball. In fact it hasn't been mentioned this year, maybe for the first time in my coaching career somebody hasn't said, `Why aren't I getting it more? Why aren't I getting more touches?' It's really fun. Winning helps a lot, but these guys understand that they need to be the unselfish team that they are to win. They need to make sure that they're focused every week to win because we're a good football team because we're playing really hard and we're playing well.
On double teaming WR Dez Bryant and the Oklahoma State offense: They're running the ball so well, averaging 283 yards a game and being really physical, and they're running the option, which means that you need to play some man coverage because you've got to have run support from a lot of different angles to try to take care of the option. When you do that, it puts (Bryant) in one-on-one situations, and to double-team people, you normally have to play some type of two-deep with deep safeties and that takes you out of safety support for the running game. What they're doing a great job of is running the ball, being really physical, protecting really well inside with their linemen. They've got tight splits, they'll turn back, they'll sprint out, they'll use quick protection, they've only given up five sacks all year, so they're not putting their linemen in a position one-on-one with a (player) like a Brian Orakpo and it makes it very difficult to get there. When you crowd the line of scrimmage enough and bring enough people up, they'll throw the ball over your head and get jump balls with Dez Bryant, who's as good a receiver as there is in the country.
On the value of having the young receivers step up for the offense: We're trying to get everyone to step up, and when you get your young ones to come through this time of the year, it really helps you. Teams get tired at midseason. There are always some injuries that occur and guys get banged up and they're not able to practice at a high level. When you take guys like Quan (Cosby) and Jordan (Shipley) who have played a lot of plays this year and even plays on special teams, you've got to have those young, fresh legs come in and help them some. People are trying to figure out what they can do to stop Quan and Jordan when a Malcolm Williams makes the super catch he did on the goal line, when a Brandon Collins catches a ball against an all-out blitz underneath, when you're seeing James Kirkendoll do some really good things, you're seeing Dan Buckner catch a touchdown pass. All it does is put more pressure on defenses to spread out and cover everybody and not feel like they can just focus on the two receivers that have been around for a long time.
On Brandon Collins: Brandon's got great quickness. His hands are very, very secure, so he's a guy that catches the ball most of the time. He's a very smart football player, his dad and mom were basketball coaches. He's a guy that just has a feel of the game.
On the leadership of Brian Orakpo: He is leading by example. Every day in practice he works as hard as anybody out there. When you're watching him pass rush in our pass rush drills, one of the reasons our offensive linemen feel like they have a chance to block anybody that we're playing is if they have a chance to block Brian, they know that they're not going to see anybody any better, and he plays that way on every play. We'll have some team period at the end today that's pretty much live and you'll think he's playing for the national championship. So he has really, really stepped up and sending a great message to the young ones that it's about work every day and it's about getting better every day.
On if he thinks the team has faced enough adversity this year: We think so. When you get in the Oklahoma game and you're down two different times by 11 points, that's about all the adversity as you need because it tells you that it will be as talented a team we'll play on as big a stage as we'll play on in the regular season, and they overcame it under a tremendous amount of pressure. I'm really not concerned about that right now. I think that they expect in the next few weeks to be behind some and they've been there before, so they'll handle it.
On his concerns so far this season: We need to kick it better. I have a real concern in our kicking game that last week we weren't very consistent. Oklahoma State has been the best kicking game in the league year in and year out since we've been here. Joe DeForest does a great job, not a good job, a great job, and they have Perrish Cox and they have Dez Bryant who can beat you every time they touch the ball and the way we handled our kickoffs last week was bad. I'm really, really concerned about that. I'm concerned that nobody's really returned a punt against us. Dez Bryant can return punts, he has every week for touchdowns so I'm really concerned there and for whatever reason now we have not blocked a punt for a while and we have not returned a punt for a while. (On our) kickoff returns, we've had the one really good one (against Oklahoma), and the others have been okay. I think that we have got to do a better job in the area of the kicking game across the board to continue to win like we have. Secondly, is for whatever reason, we're getting some hands on some turnovers (and) we're not getting them. We have really protected the ball well this year, but we're not getting the turnovers that we need to continue to win all the games. When we get our hands on an interception, we have to intercept the ball. When a ball's on the ground, we had the on the ground I think three times at Oklahoma, we didn't get on them. We've got to get the balls that are on the ground. We've got to do a better job in those two areas in my estimation.
On the benefit of older players coaching younger players: I think that's why our young receivers have gotten so much better. Bobby Kennedy does a very good job with them but when you've got Quan saying, `You're too wide, come here let me show you,' that's even better than the coach. We've got it with Ryan Palmer in the secondary. We've got it with the older linebackers now inside, Rashad Bobino's doing a good job there, same with the front people. It's really been a fun team to watch. They may get beat, but if they do, it's not because they're not prepared and it's not because they don't play hard. I really believe that. I think this team's going to play hard every week.
On the interesting matchups in this weekend's game: We really feel like we haven't been tested in the running game like we're going to be tested this weekend. It's one of the exciting matchups this weekend. You take Dez Bryant and our secondary, you take (Oklahoma State TE Brandon) Pettigrew and the linebackers and secondary and you take their rushing offense at 283 yards against our (rushing defense) at about 49 yards and something's going to have to give, so it's going to be really fun to watch. Then we have the matchup of the two quarterbacks who are just great players, one of them is three and the other one's four in the country in passing efficiency, and then we're seeing a much more athletic defense in Oklahoma State that's playing much better.