Oct. 26, 2011
Co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Major Applewhite
On how he knew RB Foswhitt “Fozzy” Whittaker would be able to make plays on kickoff returns: I was recruiting down there in the Houston area and was talking football to some guys, some local high school coaches. I thought [WR] Marquise [Goodwin] and [RB] D.J. [Monroe] have great speed. But when you look at great returners in the league, they have that ability to break those one or two tackles. When you look at [Fozzy’s] returns, he’s had that tackle he’s had to break. Or run over a kicker. So he’s got that extra little “thump” back there as a returner. So down there talking to those coaches and they say, “[CB] Quandre [Diggs] and Fozzy. They’re great guys. They’ve got those great ball skills. They catch the ball well. They run well. They’ve got that extra power.” Great kick returners break that tackle.
On Fozzy not having returned kicks in high school at all: I talked with [Pearland High School head coach] Tony Heath. I talked with [Dawson High School Head Coach] Eric Wells, and those guys down in the Pearland area about that. I remember talking to Tony and he said, “Fozzy could in high school. He did a little bit in high school, but he was too valuable to us. We had other guys who could do it.”
On RB Malcolm Brown’s performance against OSU: I thought he’s played well in all the games. I thought he got a chance to really get into the flow early and stay in it. It reminded me of the UCLA game, in terms of how he ran and how we fed him a number of carries. I think he gets better as the game goes on, the more carries he gets. We’ve got to continue to stay consistent in the run game. You can get misled at the end of the game by the number of yards. We’ve got to be consistent and keep getting those four-five yards. We have to get in those short third-down situations.
On if as a former Longhorn QB, he ever gives advice to the current QBs: I think it’s emphasizing the big points. In terms of huddle management, making sure you’ve got 11 guys in there and the right formation. Taking care of the football. Celebrating and getting excited for the quarterback when he makes a big quarterback play. Which might be just throwing the ball away. It might be checking the ball down. Emphasizing the key things that you hear [co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Bryan [Harsin] talking about. The one thing you never want is two different messages. So I’m always very careful about that in terms of reemphasizing what Bryan’s saying. We talk to them about management, talk to them about ball security, and talk to them about letting the other ten guys play for them. We say, “Let the other ten guys play for you. You don’t have to go out there and do it yourself. Those guys have got to help you along the way, too.”
On both quarterbacks taking reps at practice: We’re going to practice them here on out every week. Both of them. See how they practice and go from there. It’s not going to change. That’s the process. That’s how we’re doing things.
On the quarterback situation: We’re going to continue to develop both quarterbacks. We’re going to need both of them during the six-game stretch with no off-weeks. They both need to get better, as well as the offense needs to get better. So we’re going to work them both hard and get them to the top of their game. We may need to play both of them during the six-game stretch. So we’re not going to sit here and make a clear-cut, clean decision and put one guy on the shelf. They both need to be there. They both need to be ready. We’re going to make this more about our offense than about our quarterback situation. We’re going to spend as much time deciding who starts at left tackle as we do at quarterback. So that’s what it is. It’s a process of getting better. Not necessarily worrying about the taglines, or the lead article, and all that kind of hoopla that you get caught up in. Let’s worry about getting better. That’s what our whole motto has been – brick-by-brick. We’re not going to get caught up in all the other talk.
On if he can relate to what freshman QB David Ash and sophomore QB Case McCoy are going through as young quarterbacks: Yes, there are certain situations. First down, you’re taking a shot down the field. You understand coach is trying to make an aggressive throw right here. If it’s not there you have to throw it away and play second-and-ten. Or drop it down to the back and play second-and-five. Understanding shot-downs. You get this in your mind as a young quarterback, “Oh, he wants this shot. I have to throw it deep.” No. If it’s not there, save it. We’ll come back to it later. Drop it down to the back and throw it away. Those types of things. I was fortunate, I was in a different situation than David and Case. There were four seniors on my offensive line. There was a senior receiver. There was a senior at tailback. There was a senior at tight end. So there was a lot of experience around me that could soothe me a little bit. Especially in terms of being surrounded by other true freshman.
On if Fozzy Whittaker’s first return for a TD was an accident: No. He called him off. He called his own shot. I have to tell you the truth on that. He told [RB] D.J. [Monroe], “Not today.” And then grabbed it. I didn’t believe it at first. I told D.J., “I don’t believe you. Fozzy wouldn’t say that.” And then I asked Fozzy and he said, “No. I said, ‘Not today.’” Ultimately, when I heard that, that’s what you want your kick returner to say. You want to have a guy that wants the ball. That’s very important.
On if RB Malcolm Brown has exceeded his expectations as a freshman: I think he’s like all of the other freshman. We’re going to wait. Honestly, they’ve all done great things. I’m not just saying that. But we’re going to wait until the end of the year to put the stamp on how they did. But I think all those young freshmen are doing a great job. All the guys - [OG/C] Dominic Espinosa, [OL] Josh Cochran, Malcolm Brown, David Ash, [WR] Jaxon Shipley – all those true freshman playing are doing a great job. But this is the real stretch. There are no more pit stops. We’ve had two, but now you’ve got to stay in the car the whole time. We’ve got six more games in conference. Going back and forth on the road. It’s going to be a challenge, but I think they’re ready for it.
On RB Traylon Shead playing other positions: He’s playing some h-back, playing some tight-end flip stuff. He’s helping us a lot on special teams. He had some great blocks on kickoff returns. He’s really doing a great job helping us on special teams.
On keeping the guys focused against the Kansas defense: I think the guys just need to settle in and execute. It’s been two weeks off, so we’ve really talked to them about a sense of urgency this week. Understand that last week, you could blow the whistle and run the play again. But it’s for keeps now. We’re back into that mode. It’s gameday. We’ve got to be precise, be sharp, deal with the clock, substitutions - all the stuff you see on gameday. We’ve just need to settle into the game, play our game. We’re not looking at stats or records or all that. They’ve played some great teams. The last three teams they’ve played when they played them were all undefeated. That’s something you’ve got to understand. They played some great people.
On RB Cody Johnson: He’s taken to the role. He’s done a good job. Just like everyone else, we can all get better. We can keep getting better at all those spots. That’s what we’re going to keep emphasizing because they’re a young team. So even though Cody’s a senior, he’s still working on getting better at that role. It’s not something that we’ve done. We have not been a two-back run team. So now we’re getting two-back runs, and he’s doing a good job taking to it. He just needs to keep getting better with his hands, his pad level and all those things. And finishing blocks. But he’s done a great job thus far.
On Fozzy having fewer injuries than past seasons: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think he’s had some looser runs, so he hasn’t been going through the tackles and taking as hard of hits. I think also, just experience. Being around the program a long time, he understands how to take care of his body better. He’s learned the ropes. In terms of, “Okay, I can get this treatment now. I can go do this with flexibility. I can go do this in the weight room.” And the relationship he’s built with [strength and conditioning head coach for football] Bennie [Wylie] has been exceptional.
On if Fozzy is faster this season: I think he’s faster. He’s probably a step faster. He does a great job. He goes over in the spring and will run track. He’s always been extremely fast. I think you’re getting a chance to see him on some looser plays. You’re getting to see that speed, and he’s not running in between the tackles as much so he’s flashing to your eye a little bit more than the past.
On how he feels with the six-game stretch ahead: It’s a great point to be at with a young team. You’ve got a lot of places you can go with this team, in terms of what you’re record can be. So it’s a big challenge week-in and week-out. I can assure you, because they’re young, they’re focused on the game right now. It’s not an established team where in the past, maybe around here you’ve said, “We’re looking down [the road].” No. This team is brick-by-brick. Day-by-day. Play-by-play. Practice-by-practice. Game-by-game. It’s a lot of fun working with these guys. I enjoy the mentality that we have right now in terms of working on that opponent.
Assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Duane Akina
On DB Carrington Byndom’s development this season: Carrington is really playing well this year. He’s been a pleasant surprise. I knew he was going to be a good player, but he’s really ahead of schedule, much more physical. As you know him, he’s a very nice, good natured guy and he’s kind of moved to where his personality is changing now on the field. I think that’s confidence with him getting stronger in the weight room, I think Bennie [Wylie] and the strength staff have done a good job in helping his confidence. He’s really just seeing the game. He’s an outstanding athlete and now the game is really beginning to slow down. All those reps are starting to catch up. He’s drawn some really tough assignments. He really played [OSU WR Justin] Blackmon well last week and that was all part of it because we knew where Blackmon was going to align and we wanted Carrington at the point of attack and put a lot of pressure on [S] Kenny Vaccaro. Kenny was in a one-on-one situation in the slot quite a bit and having the whole field. Those guys really showed up and did a great job.
On if Carrington’s aggressiveness on the field surprises him: No. He’s very prideful. Football means a lot, and he knew that he had to get to that point. It’s in there. He’s a tough physical guy. He’s just a class act, much like [former Longhorn DBs] Aaron Ross, Michael Huff and yet, on the field, very competitive. I don’t think you have to let that demeanor fool you a little bit. He’s a physical, tough guy.
On a calm, nice demeanor being something that could concern a coach about a player coming out of high school: You wonder, but some way I can find a way. It’s one of the things that we have to do. I can remember driving home, similar to Carrington, with Michael Huff, because he was such a good guy. He had speed, but we had to get him more physical and violent in the game. You have to challenge them sometimes and maybe even they will snap and get upset at you. Somehow you have to find that hot button. I can remember driving home with Michael one day just saying, “I can’t believe I made Michael Huff do that today.” That’s what we’re paid to do, get them through barriers. And Carrington has done that and it’s really improved his game. He’s now one of the best corners in this conference, and his goal is to become national.
On whether or not he’s gotten the “hot button” on Carrington Byndom: Yeah, I think we’re getting there. There’s still more in there. He’s a very physical player. You can’t be lined up in the situation he was last Saturday and not have some mental and physical toughness.
On Carrington Byndom being able to put on more weight: He can and he has great work ethic, and he’s down there lifting. He’s gotten stronger. He’s not holding the weight. He has gained some weight since he got here. He’s really a joy to coach. I enjoy it.
On what he’s seen from the Kansas offense: It’s a very efficient offense. I think that’s visible with their numbers from their passing game such as passing efficiency, being 16th in the nation. They will challenge your eyes in the run game. They’ll run the ball, play action and then play action pass vertical. It’s a game that will challenge you downfield. They have capable receivers, but the quarterback has been very efficient with the football. He’s well drilled. So we’re going to have to play well again to hold up.
On making up for the possible absence of DB Adrian Phillips: I think we’re at a point now, mid-season, all the four freshman have been playing. They have found, not only time in-game, but we’re giving them a lot practice reps and they’re working against outstanding players. I am good to go with all of them. I color code them all. They’re all green, or ready to go if anything happens. We also build enough position flexibility where Kenny can play nickel, he can play safety, he can play corner if he needs to. Christian [Scott] can play dime, nickel, he also has the ability to play safety. Blake [Gideon] is a nickel, a dime, a field boundary safety. We’re also drilling Carrington in nickel. It’s a way for them to learn the whole concept of the defense so if that day ever comes where they have an opportunity at the combine to talk football with [New England Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick, it’s a way for them to also learn the total package, but it also gives us position flexibility.
On the Big 12 passing offenses: I think that three of the top five passing offenses are in the Big 12. That’s what this conference is and what makes it a lot of fun. It’s a conference that challenges you defensively, especially in the secondary. I think it’s what makes it a good conference to come play defensive back in. That’s why on any given day, much like in the Pac-10 when I was back there, if you have a quarterback that has a hot hand, anybody can win on any given day. I think we saw that Saturday night. If a guy catches a hot hand, it can get exciting back there.
On the development of such a pass happy conference: I know when I first got here the conference was a little bit different with the dynamics of Kansas State, Kansas, Texas A&M. Even Missouri was 12 personnel, run the ball. At Oklahoma when Mike Leach was the offensive coordinator and left for Texas Tech, you saw a lot of the spread stuff come into play. Something that we did not used to see quite a bit prior to coming here and you have to be careful what you wish for because then Missouri shifted gears [and] Kansas, and now all of a sudden games are five hours long. I think it creates an exciting game and sells tickets. There are so many different ways to win football games. It’s whatever your philosophy is. It’s certainly a conference that is wide open.
On whether or not he gave Byndom any words of wisdom prior to the Oklahoma State game: I just told him to understand why we had him playing just left corner because he’s one of the best defensive backs in this conference, and that he was ready for this challenge. When he really came out last year was in this Oklahoma State game. In that game [DB] A.J [White] got hurt and Carrington came in to play the entire second half and really defended him [Blackmon] very well. Him and AP [Adrian Phillips] - last years true freshman. AP had his coming out at Nebraska where he came and played quite a bit. Both of those guys are very mature and have a quiet confidence. There is a lot of self-confidence in them, don’t let their quietness fool you.
On there being a particular thing that the secondary has been working on over the bye week: I think we’re all tied into whether it’s pass defense or run defense. We’re [defense] all tied into this thing together. What we do with the secondary in the run game is we let them understand they have run gap responsibilities. Whatever the run game numbers are we are certainly a part of that. Any big running play we look at it as the secondary has the last chance to get it on the ground. We’re involved in any run game, and passing game, much like the front feels the same way with the throwing game. We’re just going to continue working on being a balanced secondary. We have a lot of football games ahead of us, and we’re still young and there’s a lot of growing that we have to go through. We’re working on it all, not one particular thing. You work on whatever the other team does well, and every week it’s a little different but every week we’re working on gap cancellation, overlapping in the back end with the three different levels of defense. So that doesn’t change, but we just have to do a better job up front at the second level and at the third level at getting that one runner on the ground.
On what stands out when recruiting players to such a pass heavy conference: We want to find guys that are excited to play at the University of Texas and play defensive back here. Obviously, it’s an opportunity to play at a great institution that has had success with defensive back players, and I think part of the reason that there has been success is because of the nature of the conference. It showcases a lot of your skills because the offenses here have quarterbacks that go out and study through the NFL and get very creative offensive ideas on how to throw the football. We do the same thing. We go out and research and find blitzes so there’s a lot of NFL principles built into our pass defenses over the last few years. It maybe helps them if they’re successful here. It’s not such a difficult step when they get to the next level because they’re great athletes and they’ve already been exposed to a lot of the NFL principles.
On DB Josh Turner and DB Mykkele Thompson being ready to take more snaps: They’re both ready to play. They’re just playing behind some really good players right now. Much like when Kenny got here he was playing behind Earl Thomas and Earl was playing behind Michael Huff and Michael Griffin, so there is a natural progression that goes through it. I think it’s good for them to learn from really good players in front of them and when it is their time, they’re ready to step right in. Much like Carrington learned from three outstanding corners, all of them still playing in the NFL.
On the freshman beginning to resemble sophomores at this point in the season: They’ve had a lot of reps. Where they have benefited is that they have been able to come right into the depth chart right away. Since the summer time [and] two-a-days they were second team. So they have had a lot of exposure, a lot of experience and I guess you could equate the number of reps they have had as true freshman. It would probably add to that of a sophomore.
On watching his former players in the NFL: I try to. I am really proud of those guys. I’m proud to be associated with them. Many times I’m walking through the locker room and one of their games are on. Or when I look at ESPN and you see what’s scrolling on the screen and it will say, “49ers” and I will have to stay and watch Tarell [Brown]. Or the Titans are on and I have to stay and watch Michael [Griffin] or Minnesota or San Diego. It’s nice when you have ten guys who are on different teams. That’s a third of the league that a defensive back from UT is being represented [on] and guys in our room understand and take great pride in that too.