Tracking Mack: Nov. 17
Nov. 17, 2010
Opening statement: This weekend, we're so honored to have our Hall of Honor banquet and have our inductees come back. And Mike Perrin will be one of the inductees for football who was [not only] a very good player for coach [Darrell] Royal, but he was one of our first scholar athletes for the National Football Foundation. He's done so much for the university and our football program since he graduated. Bill Wyman is a unique case. He was the center that led Roosevelt Leaks and coach Royal always calls him the best center he ever coached which is a great compliment to anybody, which is unbelievable. He will be back, and obviously Heisman Trophy winner and retired jersey award winner Ricky Williams will be here on Friday night. It's great for Ricky to be back and we're going to try and get him to see the team and talk to the team on Friday afternoon when he gets here, but he will be at the banquet on Friday night.
We're also excited that Ron Gardenhire who played baseball here and has done a great job of managing the Minnesota Twins will be back, I look forward to meeting him and Chris Mihm. Chris played when I first got here and he was a great basketball player for us and obviously has done the same in the NBA. So we want to invite Chris back and welcome him back because he's done such a great job honoring our university. There are some other guys that are older that I haven't met, and we will meet them on Friday night.
There was a story that came up last weekend with a veteran named Nate Boyer. Nate is a young man who is a 29-year old freshman from California. He didn't play high school football because his high school didn't have football. He was in a situation where he played the other sports. In  he joined the Special Forces as a staff sergeant. He was a Green Beret and he won a Bronze Star in the Middle East. He can't say all of the places that he went. He came back and went to junior college and he's carrying a 3.4 grade point average coming into Texas, but he's also a guy that went through our walk-on process and handled the academic and the physical part of it and joined our team. We didn't know any of this and then as the kids started talking to him about his background - he didn't say a lot about it - but it was very unique and the players asked that he be honored on Veterans Day as an honorary captain with the other captains last weekend. He said that was one of the best moments of his life, and he carried the American flag out and he's a guy who has been really, really special to our team. As a 29-year-old freshman, he can also talk to them about how hard things are at other places. So he's had a great message this year.
Six days left to practice, eight days left of football during the regular season. This is our last Wednesday press conference and I know you're all crushed from that, but it is our last one. We will not have one next week before the [Texas] A&M game.
Coach [Howard] Schnellenberger has coached against Texas at four different universities which is hard to believe. [He coached against Texas] when he was at Miami, Louisville, Oklahoma and Florida Atlantic. I don't know if that happens very often, but he's done a tremendous job wherever he's been. Their offense, they're doing the same things they did when he was with the Miami Dolphins and had Dan Marino. They line up with two backs. They run the ball. They're very physical. They don't care what you do, and they do a tremendous job with play action. We've got to do a better job of stopping the run because they're going to try and run it right down our throat. Then you have to do a great job with your eye discipline so the play action doesn't hurt you deep. Defensively, they're a bend-not-break defense. They're not going to blitz very much, so we've got to be more consistent than we've been. We've got to score in the red zone, but we've got to take care of the ball because they're going to make you march down the field. They're not going to give you cheap scores. In special teams, we've got to force good field position, try to force some turnovers in that area and try to score some points.
It's important that our team finishes right. The guys know that. They've talked about it. Normally this would be a game for us that people wouldn't think is important. It is important this weekend. It's important for a lot of reasons, but it's also important because we played hard against Texas Tech and came back and did not play well the next week against UCLA. We played really hard against Nebraska and thought we'd gotten some things fixed, and we came back the next week and didn't play with passion against Iowa State. We played really hard on Saturday night against Oklahoma State. [We] didn't get the win like we did in the other two games, but now we need to show that with everything on the line to finish with a winning season and have a chance to go to a bowl game here, we don't have the opportunity to go out there and not play hard and play our best. That's kind of a challenge for the guys this weekend.
On S Nate Boyer: The military is really important to our program, and obviously our country and our players. Again, the other day I asked how many players are directly touched by the military with their family. I'm going to say it was 90-something percent. It was unbelievable. I guess in the state of Texas we've got so many bases and we've got so many military folks, that it does touch more families than we even can imagine. But for Nate to come in here as a walk-on; nobody knew who he was. He wasn't even from the state of Texas. He'd never been here. He just wanted to come to Texas, and he wanted to walk on for football. It's a story in itself that a 29-year old would walk on and didn't even play high school football and think he could make it and not tell anybody he didn't play. Secondly, what a message to our players about being in the Middle East, fighting in the war, being a staff sergeant, becoming a Green Beret and winning a Bronze [Star]. All those things are things you read about and you see on TV, but they're things that you don't think you're going to be around. I asked him to speak to the team the other day and he said, "Coach, that's not my deal. I don't want to talk to the team. I'm just honored to be here and appreciate you guys letting me be part of this." But he would not talk about the war. He would not talk about where he'd been, what he'd done. Very honestly, [Special Assistant to Coach Brown] Bill Little found out all this stuff for me through asking Nate behind the scenes. He wouldn't tell us. I'm sure some of the players are going to be surprised. They knew he was a Marine. They knew he was tough, but I don't think they knew of the honors that he's gotten.
On running backs coach Major Applewhite getting more responsibility with the offense: No, we haven't changed anything. We've been working hard to beat Florida Atlantic, but there have been no staff changes. Nothing adjusted or anything else.
On defensive coordinator Will Mushcamp having an influence on decisions outside of the defense: None. Will's the defensive coordinator, and that's the way it's been. Will's fighting really hard to help us on defense the best he can.
On finding it harder to compete with so many in-state schools and talent: It's a good question. There are a lot of small schools in North Carolina. We could get walk-ons in school up to a certain number at North Carolina, so we felt like a lot of good players that walked on at North Carolina and could have earned a scholarship went to the other schools. Here, you have to be in the top-10 percent to get in, period. So I don't think it probably affects us that much. I've always thought it's great that the in-state guys have a better chance of staying at home if they want to stay at home, and if their parents can see them play. That's why I'm excited about [UT] San Antonio starting football and the fact now that they're in a league that will really help them [as well as] Lamar University in bringing it back. I thought that it helps our high school coaches as much as anything. And if we have a guy that we really like but the numbers don't fit and he may not be in a Big 12 school, then we've helped a lot of these young guys by calling other schools instead of having [them] to go to Louisiana or a junior college in Kansas. A lot of these guys have opportunities they might not [have had] before. So I really think it's a good thing. I don't think it dilutes the talent because we're still going to take the ones we want. Most of the guys that are going to play in the Big 12 are not going to be interested in those schools that are in 1-AA anyway. It does, when you've got a Central Florida and you start looking at South Florida and Florida Atlantic, Florida International. Those schools are getting much better, and it's something I think has gotten everybody's attention. They are [big schools]. I think Florida Atlantic's at 32,000 [students] or something, and I remember Central Florida was maybe bigger than us when I went down there, which surprised me. I do think like us [and] California, you've got so many schools. There aren't that many junior colleges that play football in Florida. A lot of the junior colleges are in Mississippi and Texas and Kansas, but it gives these guys an opportunity to play in those schools, and I think there's a lot of good talent around that nobody sees.
On the running backs: Number one, we have to wait and see with Fozzy [Whittaker]. He will probably be a game-time decision, so we'll know more about that at the end of the week. Chris Whaley and Ryan Roberson are both having to work at tailback, so they'll have to be ready in this game because we don't know whether Fozzy will be ready or not.
On Whaley and Roberson's move being permanent: We'll have to look after the season because with Tre' [Newton] leaving, we'll have to look at our numbers and see where that fits. I think, right now, we're trying to just finish the season properly.
On RB Tre' Newton's departure affecting recruiting numbers: It can. We've talked about it briefly, but we obviously haven't made any decisions on what we do with it because it was so quick. We really didn't know until Sunday that Tre' wasn't going to continue to play, so it just popped up on us.
On how head injuries have affected players finding a balance between aggression and safety: I think that's what everybody's looking for. That's why the NCAA has changed. The safeguards committee and rules committee have changed some of the rules regarding football, especially the head-to-head shot with the unprotected player. I mean, that is a huge change from football, and we've seen the NFL even clamp down more during the season because they had some incidents in one week they thought people needed to be aware of. I think the penalties are higher, and I'm sure everybody will keep looking at it. It's something that all of the coaches are trying their best to do a better job of - making sure you don't get the defensive player hurt - because you're taking away his chance to properly hit somebody and at the same time you're really trying to get him not to go with the head-to-head. Sometimes it comes up and it's just hard because of moving parts, and you're not really sure where the impact's going to be and guys fall and change. And it all happens at such a quick moment that it's a very difficult thing to try and determine.
On how his evaluation of coaches has changed over the years: I do not think that it has changed that much. I hope that I have gotten more mature. You go back, and we had two bad seasons when we started at North Carolina. I really struggled with what to do because we were just bad. It was a bad team and had been bad for two years. So, you had to look at so many things that were wrong. Where did you start? Then, we had one 7-5 year, I think, about midway through at North Carolina. Other than that, we have won nine or more. I evaluate the coaches every year. I have changed some coaches when we have won because I felt like something in an area needed to pick up, and it wasn't. I had addressed it for a year and did not see changes. I think that you are constantly reevaluating your staff and who you are. We have had so many injuries this year. Why? You have to look at that. You have to look at a process, and it is not an easy thing. People just want you to whip through and make a decision. If you make a decision without the proper information and the proper research, you are not being fair to anybody. At the end of the year, coaches are usually tired. You are so focused on the kids and trying to win that you do not want to drift and start looking at other things at this point. That is why I will get with myself, I will get with some people I trust at the end of the year and try to make some proper evaluations like I always do. That is really no different than any other year. There is just more attention put on it by you all this year because we have not done well.
On defining the senior class's legacy: I think that they have had a great run here. It should not be just this year. You go back and they were a big part of that 25-2 run. They won a conference championship. They played for a national championship. A lot of guys will have gone to school and never had a winning season, so these guys have done really, really well. They just will not have finished like they wanted to, regardless of the effects here at the end.
On recruiting happening earlier and earlier: I do not know. It is tough. It is a tough thing because it is what is happening now. Regardless, I think that Coach Paterno started it. Coach Cooper at Ohio State started it. Coach Holtz at Notre Dame started it many years ago, probably 15 or 20 years now. It just keeps speeding up, and I do not like it. I would like to go back to what we did when we first got here and that was evaluate guys in their junior year, watch them in spring practice, hope they can come to your camp, and at the end of that you would have a pretty good feel of who you are offering. Now, most people are forcing you to offer them in February before they even start spring practice of their junior year. It is a much more difficult thing than in the past, but I think that it is hard to stop when the train gets rolling.
On whether other schools wait later to offer players scholarships: I do not think that there is any question. I would not name schools because all of them have different opinions in their recruiting, but I would think that sometimes we are going to miss on a guy who pops up in his senior year that we did not see. Maybe he did not get the ball as much. They were talking about the young tight end who will play against us this weekend from Florida Atlantic. He was on an option team, and they did not throw it to him, so nobody recruited him. Here he is. He goes and he shows up and he is going to be a pro prospect, and he was right under our noses and none of us saw him. Those are things that happen to you. I think the other thing that happens is that if there are 375 guys who sign on the average on a yearly basis, and you are going to take 20 of them. It is tough. It is really tough because you are going to play against a whole bunch of them, and all of them are mad at you. That is just the way it is, and that is not going to change. Regardless of how many you take, you are going to play against a lot of them you did not take not because you turned them down, but because your numbers did not fit.
On whether he thinks there are fewer great teams in college football this year: I do. If you look at South Carolina right now, they have one game left and they are going to be in the Southeastern Conference Championship game with at least three losses. It is different, and I see it changing out there for good. I see this being more of the norm.
On whether that is for the better: I think that it is better for fans and you guys [the media]. I think that it is harder for coaches. It is probably better for players because it gives more Cinderella hopes. It gives guys that can go to other schools a better chance to have a chance to win and play for a conference championship, and that has not always been the case.
On whether that is good for television: I think that it is great for television because everybody wants to see the upset. Here I am, when I sit around, I hope somebody upsets somebody. [My wife] Sally says, "You better understand sweetie that every time you are on, most of America is pulling for that to happen to you." So, I do not like upsets anymore. I think that everybody likes to see the guy who has not done it, do it. That makes it harder for the Texas' of the world.
On whether it is hard for him to watch all of the analysis of teams when Texas is not in the mix: Very honestly, I have turned off TV this year, put myself in a room, and tried to figure out what we are doing. I obviously see the polls that come out, and I have some good friends who are doing very well. I will text them now and then, but I could not tell you who is No. 5, 6, 7, or 8. I have been too focused on trying to get us fixed. I am watching games, but I am not watching them like I would if we were in the mix and trying to figure out who they are. It is just not as much fun when you are not in it, very honestly.
On TCU and Boise State: I like Gary Patterson a lot. I like Gary and Chris Peterson. I get in a bind sometimes because I am an old guy that loves the history and traditions of college football, and this is out of the box. This is different, but I like both of them, and they have done tremendous jobs. They have older teams and are playing well. It will be really interesting to see how that ends up. I want to watch the BCS this year and see how it comes out because I think that we are back to where there is a lot of stuff that has to pan out. I kind of hope that everyone keeps winning, so we will have to see how it works out instead of the teams working it out.
On the BCS process: I have always said that I think that the strength of schedule is the weakest part of that process. The two things that I did not like from the beginning is, that you got to play in a BCS game if you won a conference championship because that is about money and about the BCS and each BCS conference having a winner. To me, I have always felt like if your conference was not good enough to deserve a guy in that game then give your conference the money, but don't let your team play. I would like to see the best teams at the end play. Secondly, I have never felt like strength of schedule has made a big difference in the BCS. That is why I think that people have watered down their schedules so much. It is easier to get in if you are not playing good teams. If we played nobody out of conference and we won all of our conference games, we are going to play in that game. I do not think that is right. I think that the process has hurt the great intersectional games. I would like to see that change.