Nov. 7, 2012
Assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Duane Akina
On the development of Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson at linebacker: That’s obviously a development. I believe in any sport you need to be strong up the middle, if it’s baseball, if it’s basketball, just pick a sport - hockey. That development and those reps are really starting to matter. Those guys are doing a nice job. Now they are seeing and reacting instead of seeing things, thinking about it and releasing. I guess you could take that to the next level with [DBs] Josh [Turner] and Mykkele [Thompson], and it is wonderful to see. In this game I have said many times, it is not add water, instant player. It takes time to develop, and things are coming around. Early on if you just look at numbers [of our opponents], those are some pretty powerful offenses. They are going to move the ball against a lot of people. I think it is unfortunate, but we would really like to get some of those back right now. Understand we are 7-2. There are a lot of people across the country who would love to be 7-2 right now.
On schematically if the defense is going back to basics: No, we are playing our same stuff. I don’t think anybody goes out and reinvents the wheel. I think it is just real difficult to do that. We have a system; we believe in they system and we have been doing it, at least from the secondary standpoint, for a long time. Even prior to coming here, a lot of the concepts are still the same. We believe in those concepts.
On CB Duke Thomas’ confidence level: It is high, and Duke is a great player. I think Duke has the chance at being an outstanding player, and I think you will continue to see him get snaps. Of course, there are a couple of corners out there who are playing well and that are good corners themselves, and this is a good secondary. They came after him right from day one, right from the first snap. He got the sweep his way and then they came back with a slant and that is all it is. When a new guy comes out there, they are going to find out why you are not in the starting line-up. We understand that, but Duke did a nice job and I think you will see Duke’s reps continue to grow as the season
On the players understanding Coach Darrell Royal’s legacy: Coach Royal was around here quite a bit. Whenever you have one of the real principle players in college football, there are very few names that you mention that no matter where you were from [you know]. I was born and raised in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and we knew all about Coach Royal and the University of Texas. At a time when you talk about college football, there are a few programs that are out there like the University of Texas, Alabama, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, and Coach Royal is obviously the one who threw the University of Texas into the forefront. We are all honored that we had an opportunity to be around him and to share some of his philosophies. As coaches we would sit around the table and he was just a wonderful resource here, and we will all miss him dearly.
On taking pride in tackling: We have always taken great pride in being a physical secondary. I think some of those things get blown out of proportion quite frankly. When you play against offenses like this that spread you from sideline-to-sideline, there is a lot of vertical game and a lot of open-tackling situations. You can make a case in a lot situations; someone could say LSU has a tackling problem on that last play. I think our players are tackling better, and they are very prideful. A lot of that is blown out of proportion quite frankly. We are playing well, we are continuing to be physical and we all take great pride in that. Me as a coach, whatever is on that screen I am a part of. I wasn’t happy with everything that was out there, but we got after it. We practice with a lot of intensity, and I think we are getting better at it. We are growing up. For us, we are still not at the level we want to be at, and I’m not sure we ever will be there. Our standard is very high on defense and in the defensive backs room on being a complete player, being physical, understanding assignments and what that means and running to the football, which eliminates big plays so you are not in open-tackling situations. Often times it is the effort, people swarming the ball. There are a lot of things that we looked at as a staff and as a defense. It is great that we have all decided we are going to solve this. I thought last week was one of our better games in a real spread out offense when there we a lot of open-field tackling situations.
On the progression at safety position outside of senior S Kenny Vaccaro: I think they are playing well and every game they are playing better. That position for us has always been a real high-profile position since we’ve been here. If you go back and look at some of the guys who have played; the first safety that played back there [was former Longhorn] Nathan Vasher, then from there it went to Michael Huff, Michael Griffin, Earl Thomas and now Kenny and [former Longhorn] Blake [Gideon]. It is a very high-profile position. It is a very difficult position in our defense to play, because we are very demanding on them. Athletically, they have to line up in the slot with receivers. They also have to be very physical and play in the box. I believe Kenny is one of the best defensive backs in the country right now. Since I have been here, we have seen some of the best defensive backs walk out of here. But what we are asking him to do with a very young defense we had never asked Michel Huff, Michael Griffin or Earl Thomas to do or as many of the things in terms of coverage and blitz. We have put a lot of run-pass strains on him. He is playing at a very high level right now, which is a very good model for Mykkele and Josh. I would say Kenny is playing as well as any defensive back in the country.
Co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Major Applewhite
On what coaches have said to players about Coach Darrell Royal: Each of us addressed it in our own position meetings, talked about it as what he meant to us as position coaches, and then Coach Mack Brown had a team meeting and talked about some of his accomplishments. Not necessarilty on the field with wins, bowl games and national championships but with community service and just how he treated people in general. I think it helps. It certainly helped me when I got around [Special Assistant to Football Coach for Communications] Bill Little and [Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations] John Bianco when they started telling me a little bit about him. Just coming from Louisiana or wherever you are, you may not know enough about him just because of the generation gap. It was good. I learned some things in that meeting as well.
On paying tribute to Coach Royal this weekend: I am not sure you can ever pay enough tribute to a guy who has done so much for this place. Just everything he has meant to Texas football, the coaching business in general, and him as a person. Just one on one, you know a guy who didn’t even play for him and several generations after him. He is just a personable guy, and it is a tremendous loss. I know a lot of people think of him as a coach but I can tell being around Bill Little, Coach Brown, other people like [Rehabilitation Specialist] Doc [Charles] Craven on our staff, he is a lot more than just a coach and a colleague.
On thoughts about being put into the Longhorn Hall of Honor: It is nice. It is special. I don’t want to down play it too much because it is a great honor, there are a lot of great players, coaches, and people who have been affiliated with the University of Texas. It is a great honor, but you gain perspective when you get older. You realize it is not about you necessarily and what you have done in your accomplishments. Its the support you get from your mother, your father, your brother, your wife, your coaches in junior high and high school. Everybody has something to do with it. Every manager, trainer, and assistant coach. Everybody who was here made that experience happen. It is not necessarily about you anymore, and you start to gain that perspective as you get a little bit older. Right now I am kind of in the moment in terms of the season and in what we have to do against Iowa State. So I am not going to get too sentimental in that until probably after the season. It is an honor. It is a nice thing, and I do graciously accept it but at the same time, it is humbling because you realize like what about [former NG]Casey Hampton who made a play in that game and what about [former WR] Wane McGarity who laid out for that ball. You just realize it’s not about you but about everyone around you and how they have helped you.
On thoughts about keeping the offense on top of things: Its been about improvement and the process of getting better as a football team and also getting better as a program. If we go out and do what we are suppose to do on Saturday and play well, we will have won as many games as we did last year in total. Its all about developing and getting better and better so that allows us to improve on last year’s record if we take care of business on Saturday. That is really more or less where our focus has been. Just getting ready to play an Iowa State team that who is very well coached. Very tough football team. They have played every team close so we understand what kind of team we are getting ready to play, and that is where our focus has been.
On thoughts about the early kickoff time: Our guys are used to it now. They are starting to get use to this 2:30 p.m. and 11 a.m. games the last three or four weeks. Our guys are used to it now, like I said from the last three or four weeks. Time is a number and it doesn’t matter if it is 11 in the morning or 11 at night, we got to go play.
On Iowa State LB Jake Knott being injured and not able to play: He is a great player. When you see him and A.J. Klein play together before he leaves, there is just so much those guys do pre-snap. Talking, communicating. “Hey watch this. Here’s the pass,” and “watch this guy.” You can see those two guys talking out on the field. Now that Jeremiah George has come in, he is still working with Klein the same way. Those guys are flying all over the place. So George comes in last week and right out of the box 17 tackles against Oklahoma. So he is a great football player and it’s not like they just replaced him with some other guy. He is a great football player who can fly around and make tackles. So we are going to have our work cut out for us and they do a great job on that side of the ball.