Dec. 17, 2012
Opening Statement: First, I'd like to congratulate [women’s volleyball coach] Jerritt Elliott and the ladies on winning the National Championship. They have done a great job, and they have been close over the last few years. They were in the neighborhood and closed it this year and did a tremendous job. Did it in great fashion. So really happy for him and those ladies. We get to see them a lot downstairs, and they, work really hard and are very deserving of winning the National Championship.
Secondly, continued thoughts and prayers for the Sandy Hook community in Connecticut, and our thoughts are with not only the children, which is just horrific, but also the principal, the administrators, the wonderful young teacher that gives her life up to save those children. We all think we would want to do the right things in those situations, but you never know. And what heroes. Just I haven't been able to watch it at night because just the horrific thought of everybody in that building doing exactly what they were supposed to do and lost their lives, and that's not supposed to happen in our society, and especially young people, but even children. Just thoughts and prayers for all of those because it's just a very, very difficult thing for any of us to even handle, especially if you've got kids or grand kids.
This time of the year, the coaches love. You have 13 practices that you can go back and work with a lot of the redshirts that haven't had a lot of attention this year, and it's fun to get around those guys and work them and see how they are going to look. When you really think about it, you only have 15 practices for spring practice, so this is like another spring practice. It also gives you a chance to go back with the intensity that you had in spring practice, so we've had very, very physical practices so far. The guys are getting after it and they are enjoying that, being very, very physical.
The offensive staff after Bryan [Harsin] left has done a great job of moving forward. They are working together well, and it's a difficult thing to put a plan together when you haven't called plays in probably three or four years like [co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Major [Applewhite], but he's working hard at it. The guys are preparing well. We did give the guys, the players a break today, because we have been so hard on them. They went out to Formula I and raced around the track a little bit and got to see it. We thought that was a special treat for them and Mr. [Bobby] Epstein and Mr. [Red] McCombs allowed us to come out. The guys, I think they took a trip in buses around the track. Had a little lunch out there and they will be back for meetings this afternoon.
It's a little challenging when you have finals like we do at Texas, and I'm sure everybody fights the same thing. But you don't have your whole team out there in finals week, so you have to move your practices around. You lose some players, and you don't have the whole team out there at one time to practice because of their schedules and even in study sessions. You have to prepare for all those things. So it does force you to look at different guys at different positions and helps you start creating some more depth, so that's kind of fun. The guys always like that, and we might even look at a guy on defense that's been on offense or vice versa just to get through the practices.
Finals are over tomorrow, so we'll have our first team practice where everybody is out there together on Wednesday and that will be fun to get everybody back out there. And at the same time, we don't expect anyone not to be eligible for the bowl game but since they do finish their finals tomorrow, obviously something could happen, but we do not anticipate that. We think everybody is in good shape going to the bowl game. The only player that has not been reported out, I think [Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations (Football)] John [Bianco] did report this, [OG] Trey Hopkins will not play in the bowl game. He will have an operation on the 20th and he will miss spring practice as well, and then we'll have him back for his senior year. That's a big loss for us, but we appreciate him being one of our best offensive linemen this year and one of the best leaders and expect him to have a great senior year. We will hope he can go to the bowl with us, even though he'll probably still be on crutches.
I do want to congratulate Bryan Harsin on reaching his dream as a head coach. He and his family will move immediately. We appreciate his two years here. When Major and I were talking about this two years ago, we thought that we needed some new ideas and some fresh ideas and Major agreed and so we were able to do that. Bryan brought some great ideas, as well as [Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers] Darrell Wyatt and [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line] Stacy Searels to join with [Recruiting Coordinator/Tight Ends] Bruce Chambers and Major in trying to look at where we are offensively. I don't see a lot changing before the bowl game because they were already into the game plan and so we will be pretty much who we have been all year in the bowl game, but I do see some changes coming in the spring. And we won't talk about those today because we want to get through the bowl game first and then start looking at changes in scheme, and we'll start looking at some of that. We will still have a lot of who we are and what we are in the spring, but I think all of these guys have their own ideas, and they will move forward.
The changes - put Major at quarterback coach and play caller, and he still is co-offensive coordinator. Darrell Wyatt, I've been so impressed with him over the last two years in helping Bryan and Major with the passing game. He's very impressive with his knowledge, and he's called plays before. So I thought it was fitting to put him at co-offensive coordinator with Major. And Major has really been tied into the running game a lot more since he's coaching the backs and Darrell would bring that passing game knowledge and we could put Darrell in a stronger position. Stacy Searels, who has done a tremendous job, and we are getting the bulk in our offensive line that we need over time. He continues to recruit really well. And he says when he came here, “I want an offensive line that can just cover the defensive players.” And we are headed into that direction. We are still young with some of those guys, but I think we are upgrading there as we move forward. And Bruce Chambers has been one of the best recruiting coordinators since we've been here and so we will go back and let him have that duty and continue in that same line. The way this works is that all the guys will have their input. Stacy Searels is heavy into the running game with Bruce Chambers, and they will also do protections, obviously. The running back coach would be heavy into the running game and then Major and Darrell are heavy into the passing game but Major will make all final decisions. And he is to have a co-coordinator situation, you have got to have a guy that makes those decisions, and so Major will set the game plan with those other guys, but he makes the decisions on what he feels best in calling the plays, and he also makes the decisions on practice. So he and I and Manny will sit down and go over there and Darrell Wyatt will be involved but when there comes a final decision, it will be Major to do that.
We plan on hiring a running backd coach. I haven't talked to anybody at this time. We plan on doing it after the bowl game. It's been interesting. I've gotten so many people who are interested, so it's not going to be a hard hire. There's a lot of great coaches out there. In fact, the question will be, which direction do we go, because there's so many great ones that are interested in coming. So I'm excited about that list and what we saw.
And Major talked to [QB] David [Ash] and [QB] Case [McCoy] today, and David is healthy, so David will start the ballgame in San Antonio.
This time of the year, always have some juniors that used to try to check their interest in the NFL and get in the evaluation process and we just felt like it was better for us to be aggressive with it and get them to do that. I don't feel like any of the guys are planning on leaving or thinking about leaving, but we asked them to get their own status checked just so that they will know. One of the things the NCAA can help is tell them, here is what we like about what we see but here is what you need to work on for next year if you come back.
Coaches have been out working really, really hard in recruiting since Kansas State. Recruiting is going well. It will be a small class but should be another real good class.
On young guys who might change position: Really not a lot of that yet, but you have to look at [TE] Caleb [Bluiett] as a guy that, will he be the tight end we want or will he still play defensive end, depending on how recruiting goes. A young walk on named Chris Terry, he's done some good things. Can he be a fullback instead of a defensive end if we get the defensive end that we feel like to continue to come. Quandre Diggs has played some safety. [Assistant head coach/defensive backs coach] Duane [Akina] always likes to move them around and if you have more corners than safeties for next year, you're losing that toughness that Kenny Vaccaro brings and that confidence and leadership. So who will be the guy to step in there and to help that. So Quandre has played about every day at safety, he knows what to do, and the other end of it. We have got [OG] Sedrick Flowers that's playing more now at offensive guard now with Trey [Hopkins] out and that will be either he or Luke Poehlmann, and will probably play both of them. But other than that, it's pretty much the same.
On any freshmen who have stood out this year: Yes, in fact, all of them have looked really good. I think that's a great class. For us to have played 16 of them and the ones that didn't play looked good. So it will be fun to watch those guys through the spring. And that's what I mean. If you're not in a bowl game, you lose another spring practice. So this has been great for us, and it's going to make the guys grow up. We are being very hard on them and demanding and they know that and they are responding to it. So it's been a fun practice to this point.
On Major Applewhite becoming the play caller: Yes, I told Major two years ago, that I felt like it would be unfair to put him in the position right after [former offensive coordinator] Greg Davis. He played for Greg, he coached with Greg and I didn't think he would ever have a chance for it to be Major's input. It would always be, “Well, he's still doing what Greg did,” and that's not fair to him or Greg very honestly. So when he and I really thought about it, and I didn't know it would be two years, but I thought probably whoever we brought in, we had some success, usually our guys get jobs around here pretty quickly if they want them, and Bryan was a guy that he came here to get a head coaching job. That's the only reason he left Boise. We knew that. He and I discussed that. I told Major, “You need to put yourself in position as the play caller every day, because that
day is going to come fast, and when it comes, you need to be ready.” Bryan's process was so fast, I was out recruiting and I think he met with them Tuesday afternoon. About an hour and a half after he met with them, they called him back and said, “We want you to be the head coach.” And I'm on a plane recruiting. So I get a message from him that he needs to talk to me and I call him back about 8:30, something like that, and he says, “They have offered me it to me and I think I'm going to take it.” And I said, "Have you ever been up there?" And he said "No, never have." So I said, "Well, good luck." He said, "Have you ever been there?" I said, "No. I think it's northwest of Memphis." But that's how fast things happen. Obviously with Hugh Freeze getting a head coaching position from there, two, three years ago and Gus Malzahn getting one this year, it's been a good place for people to come in and win and move to something better. So it's a hot place right now, and he was really excited about it.
On any other coaches getting head coaching job offers: No, except the same thing I've always said. We don't talk about our guys. A lot of our guys get calls and Manny [Diaz] had two calls about head coaching jobs last year. He's already had one other one this year. So I think when you look at those guys, I wish we had a system in place in college football where it was better timing for a guy like Bryan Harsin to leave because it puts a lot of pressure on Bryan if he tries to stay. We talked about that just for the bowl game and then all of a sudden you're hiring a staff. It's a difficult thing. And then if a guy leaves this late, it's tougher because now you've got your game plans in. All of that is more difficult. I think the only way you can do it better would be like the NFL and have everybody wait until all the bowls are over before anybody moves; and if you did that, then it's tougher for Arkansas State because they need to move forward, and you would need to move recruiting back, because recruiting would change. So it would take a lot of changes. 2006 it happened just like it happened with Major. Gene Chizik goes to Iowa State and we put Duane in, Duane did a great job in the bowl game. Maybe it's the Alamo Bowl that does it for us that gets Bryan out of there.
On if Applewhite will call plays from the sidelines or the pressbox: We haven't really decided yet. Like I said they are going back through everything. They have had a quick study here of what can we run in a bowl game, what do we change, what will Major feel comfortable calling. And that's one of the reasons we are not practicing today. The guys have worked so hard; we need a break. But the other thing is the offensive staff needed a full day after the last four or five days of practice since Thursday. They need a full day to go back and look at those practice sessions and see, who are we going to be in this game and what are we doing, and they are doing all that today.
On competition for playing time in the bowl game than in previous years: Yes, it's been that way every day I've been here, for 15 years, and I haven't seen any but yes. Yes, every day. We haven't had enough depth. It's been harder to do that with freshmen and sophomores the last two years, but we are getting back now to where if you don't do your job, you won't have one, and they understand that.
On if recruiting will change with Applewhite the play caller: Yes, we will move forward. We wanted to get tougher and we wanted to run the ball better, and we've been able to do that the last two years and we'll continue doing that, so that's not going to change. So I feel good about where we're going. There will be different things that we'll look at and this isn't the time to talk about it, because we have thrown it out in meetings and said, “Let's think about what's the next step.” We have gotten back to eight wins the last two years. We have a chance to get nine now, but it's time to take another step and we are not an eight-win program. I mean, that's not who we are. So the guys know that we need to step it up and do better, and they know offensively we would like to score more points. We really struggled last year offensively, did much better this year but there's another step out there we need to take.
On Applewhite handling the full play calling duties: No, it's his. Major has never lacked for confidence. When I called him and said - and this was Tuesday night at probably 11:00 when everything was tied together with Bryan. I called Major and said, "Bryan's going. His press conference tomorrow is at 2:30, he's leaving here at 10:45 in the morning. They want him to stay and he'll miss Thursday's practice. And he and I have decided it's best for him to go ahead. Are you ready to call plays?" And of course he said: "Yes, sir. See you in the morning." And he's been over here until about midnight every day working since. It's very unfair to judge him in any way with 13 practices before he has to call plays when he has not called them in a long time. But, you know, he's also been involved every day with every plan with Bryan. So it's not like he has not prepared for this. And that's what I've told him. I said that the day may come and, it may come quickly. We have had some coaches stay when they have taken other jobs and we've had some leave. It just depends on whether you're prepared for it or not. In his case, it was easy, because he can do this and he loves coaching quarterbacks. He learned to coach running backs. He's gotten very involved with our kicking game but quarterbacks are his passion, and the quarterbacks are excited about him, too, because a lot of them were raised remembering his name and watching him in their younger years. So that part so far has been an easy transition. Bryan came out and said good bye to the team Thursday or Friday, maybe Friday in practice I think, but that give him a chance to say good bye. With the way things happen now, you have to text or call. You don't even get to see people face to face, it happens so quickly, and it's never happened this quickly before in our business, but it is and it's not going to change. So we told the guys, the fact that you hear it here first, it's not going to happen anymore. It's just changed. It's out. Bryan told me his wouldn't get out and I was looking at it at the bottom of ESPN while he was telling me this wouldn't get out and I said, "Yeah, you're probably right, Bryan. I don't think anybody will know." (Laughing).
On the players’ reaction to Applewhite becoming the play caller: You don't really know. They practiced really hard and they responded to him well. You've got, I guess, Case and David are sophomores and juniors so they are older than the two freshmen. I think guys like change and it's fun for them. It's not a hassle. And Major was right there with them. We have moved Blair [Peterson], the young graduate assistant, or I guess he was quality control, is working with our running backs right now and I'm trying to help them some and Major is still working with them some. He's meeting with them in the same room. So not that much has changed for the running backs, and those guys are all smart and confident. I feel like it's about as easy and as smooth a transition, as it can be and Major, he's a player favorite, so that's been easy, too.
On player’s using these practice as an opportunity for more playing time: Yes, [LB] Peter Jinkins played so well at the end and that was such a blessing for us, because he can really run, and he can make plays. You know, there's a part of me that wishes we got him in there sooner because when he got in there, he really did things well, and I'm excited about that. [DT] Malcolm [Brown] looked like he was older the day he stepped in there because he's 310 pounds or something like that, and he can really run. And [DE] Shiro [Davis], he batted a couple balls there at the end and got a sack. So those young guys are in a good position to move forward. They just need to keep improving. It will be interesting for the linebackers this spring. We were all over the place at linebacker, we had some people hurt, played a lot of young ones; that will be great competition this spring.
On Oregon State: Yes, they were a team that didn't get the publicity near they deserved, because everybody I talked to before we watched video said, they are so much better than people know they are. You know, Stanford beats them by three points. So they are a really, really good football team and they are playing with a lot of confidence right now and they are playing so well on defense. They are stopping the run, so like the last two teams we played, they have got great corners that match up well so they can play the man coverage that you have to beat and we have got to do a great job with that. And then offensively, Mike has been one of those guys we've visited through the years because when he's had the runner, guys rushed for 2,000 yards, or when he's had the passer, they pass for 2,000 yards, and he's been able to stay really balanced. And he's gotten two quarterbacks this year that have been able to balance it really well. You all probably wouldn't like that, but he's made it work pretty well. So it's working well for him. I think they are a really good football team and, in fact, every coach that I talked to said they are going to be better than they think they are, so just get ready. It should be a good challenge for us.
On having his ex-players now coaching for him: It's really fun because I'm so proud of Major. It's just for the things that he did as a player here and it doesn't seem that long ago to me, but it obviously is. Just having him back is fun. [Director of Football Operations] Marcus Tubbs, all of those guys that you have play for you, when you bring them back if I really could, I would have a whole team of guys that played for me. A whole staff and that would be fun, because the trouble would be some of them might not bring in new ideas, they would do the same stuff. But there's a lot of guys that played for us at North Carolina that are out there and I really enjoy seeing them and coaching. Every time they move they call me and what do you think about this, coach and that. So you've just been more involved in their lives and their decisions. I think I've talked to Major before every move he's made in coaching, and for him to leave Alabama and come here as a coordinator was a risk for him, and he loves the school. So I'm proud that it's all worked out for him. And Bryan Harsin is getting his dream now, and Major is getting one of his dreams, and that's to be the offensive coordinator and call plays at Texas. I think he'll be a star. I think he'll be really good at it. I've watched him enough. He's driven and he's always been that way and he gets it and he knows it and he has a way with the kids. They all really like him. It's hard and tough
but at the same time, they embrace that. I think he'll be really good at this.
On getting back in the mix for a national championship: I think that at Texas we want to be 13-0, and that I think that answers it the best. We need to have that position to get its swagger back and step up. I looked at it the other day, we were 75-9 with Colt [McCoy] and Vince [Young] over a seven year period, that's a pretty good run. The standards are higher than 8 [wins], and that's what the kids need to understand and our coaches do understand. And we are ready to take that next step and get it back to where it should be.
On Applewhite bringing more passion to the offensive coordinator position: Bryan has the same passion, he was just up in the press box. I really admire Bryan and Major, because that was a very difficult thing to bring two young ones in that are both really aggressive, both have dreams and aspirations and Major handle it so well; to let Bryan run those meetings and let Bryan make the final decisions. And if Major had thought that or had not felt good about it, might have been a difficult thing for the staff. And I will say, he was unbelievable. He was so supportive of Bryan the whole way, and Bryan, I said, he did a lot of the things we needed to do. We got a different plan, we moved forward, we are headed in the right direction and now Major and Darrell can tweak it because I'm really impressed with all those guys now. And Bruce Chambers has got the tight ends playing good again. That's good, and we'll have to make the right decision on who is in the room usually when you hire a coach, I'll ask our staff first, give me ten names and give me why you think each of those ten names can fit here. And then I'll cut it down to five and then cut it down to two or three and then see what really, really fits for us, and I'll back away from it when I look at it. I do think that Major, his passion, his energy, his savvy, he's got a savvy about play calling that I feel just in watching him. He did he it at Rice and he did it at Alabama, and it's his baby. So I mean, he's excited about that challenge. And like I said, I've been so impressed with what Darrell will bring in the passing game and a lot of those concepts don't change. They might look different on play action, but you can only do so much. You have to figure out who you are and what direction you are going to go in. But there's a lot of carryover even from the Greg Davis years so what we have been doing the last two years even though people didn't notice it sometimes. And moving forward there will be carryover, but each is the play caller who is going to make the final decisions during the ballgame, he has to call what he feels like is the best and when you put that on Major, that's his baby to move forward with it.
On how the coaching changes occurred: All this happened with Bryan Tuesday night, and I called Darrell Wyatt Tuesday night and asked him, do you want to do this; and I called Stacy, do you want to do this; Major, you want to do this? So I didn't even see them. And I got back on a plane and had to go out all day Wednesday. I didn't even see them until Thursday morning. And then we sat down Thursday morning and I explained to them exactly what this meant, who would call plays, who would make final decisions and who would set precedent and practice. If Stacy and Bruce are wanting to go down here and block one on ones with the defensive tackles, Major has the right to say, no, I need you up here, we are going to do some team stuff. So Major makes all those final decisions, and same thing with them. I said obviously I have my opinion, but I asked their opinion first, and if you're going to make a decision, you're going to decide to announce who you think is the starting quarterback now or do you wait until you get San Antonio and see what you feel like is best for that. And Major and the staff talked about it yesterday. They came in this morning and they talked to both kids and they told me about an hour ago that it's their opinion that they would like to go ahead and announce it today and move forward, and that's what we are doing.
On being able to move so quickly when Harsin accepted the job at Arkansas State: Yes, the thing I told him, go get a job. But that's my plan. And that's why it was a no brainer, the minute Bryan said, I'm gone, I speed dialed Major and okay, it's what we talked about two years ago, and you've done a great job. I've been so amazed the job he's done on special teams. He's really taken that on. He obviously never covered a kick when he was playing, but he's done a great job moving in that area, too. So he just wants to win and this place is important to him, and he was the same way with this.
On if he and Applewhite have discussed offensive philosophies: Yes for two years, or four years. We have been working on this for a long time and we have a master plan offensively, and I really feel good that all four guys in the room are on the same page moving forward, and they are excited about that challenge and moving forward. And as I said, and some won't hear this very well, but as I said, we will not discuss that beyond where we have until the bowl game is over. And then we will start having discussions that will lead into spring practice and then we will look at things in spring practice to see where we are before we decide who we are going to be for next fall.
On who will compete for a job in the secondary for next season: All the young ones, you have all their names. You all know them better than I do. I can repeat them if you want me to, but you've got them and that's what we are doing. It's just Kenny Vaccaro is going to be a huge loss. I think he's a top pick in the NFL. He's been such a tremendous leader since the early season. He and Alex just decided they were going to make the defense better and step up and be more demanding with kids, and they really have been good. So those two are our best two leaders on defense and somebody is going to have to step up and take their place.
On who will replace Trey Hopkins in the lineup: Like I said earlier, it will either be Sedrick Flowers or Luke Poehlmann and probably both. Luke will play anywhere, so he'll move all over the place. He's played tackle and guard throughout the year and we just have not decided who is going to start yet. We have really worked Sedrick Flowers hard because it's time for him to step up and start playing more.
On balancing trying to win the bowl game and also getting looks at young players: Yes, you really try to do both and that's the great thing about the bowl games is if you can push those guys and look at those guys and sometimes you're forced, because we would not have played Sedrick Flowers as much if Trey had been healthy, and like the young receivers, they need to play more, so we have demanded they practice better. If you want to play more, practice better, we'll put you out there. But still you want to win and that's sort of the most important thing, because you've got 15 more practices to push them forward. And the day that the bowl game is over, I'll come back the next morning and go to work and take the seniors off the board and start looking at depth chart for spring practice and start looking at recruiting and what will happen and you move forward. I'll be gone for three straight weeks recruiting in January, and then when I come back, the offensive staff who has been in and out, because some of them have to come off when I go on, then we'll sit down and start talking about position changes and philosophy and all that for spring practice.
On other coaches taking over some of Applewhites’ old duties: Manny [Diaz] is taking over kickoff return and he's working with kickoff coverage now, so he's doing both of those at this point for the bowl game, because we took that off Major.
On OG Sedrick Flowers: We see him getting better, he's probably 310 [lbs], 315, he has a lot of mass. And we think at some point, we think he'll be really good, and so we'd love to get him some work in this bowl game. He got hurt last year, it set him back, with his shoulder.
On DE Alex Okafor: He will be [available] for the bowl game. We have protected he and Kenny this week, just because they are older and they play so hard and hit so hard. So they have been limited some in practice just because we want them to be, but I think he'll befine. Everybody I think will be fine for the bowl game.
On high school quarterbacks in Texas becoming so skillful: I think the seven on seven is probably the biggest difference because they are throwing year around and like basketball players that used to play basketball all summer, a lot of them are playing seven on seven all summer and it's just helped. You know, you look at some of the things David [Ash] did this year and I think he's still in the Top 10 in passing efficiency. When he started poorly, he had more trouble than when he started right, but he had some great games and with need to build on those. We talked to Case, he hit 16 straight completions against maybe the best defense in our league and then we turned the ball over. So we just have to keep moving forward with who we are and try to get better.
On the importance of winning this particular bowl game: There's not been one we've played in that I didn't think was important. I was more excited that weare headed in the right direction at 8-2 and then we had two disappointing losses to two good teams, but I thought we had a chance to beat both of them, said that in here, so I would like for us to get back on track and try to get the ninth win going into spring. I've said many times, I think we are headed in the right direction. I'm so excited for spring practice, and I can't wait for this bunch to get back out there, because we are going to have more seniors next year. We'll be older. I think we'll have 15 seniors that will play and that wasn't the case this year. There were very few. We had our chances this year and didn't finish the way we should. I'm pumped about this game, it's going to be a tough, physical game and we are still trying to get there. My plan when we made our changes was that if we were struggling in a ballgame throwing the ball, we could do what Alabama did against Georgia, and that's rush for 350 yards; do what Wisconsin did against Nebraska and rush for 500 yards. We have seen some games where we are running the ball a lot better but we are still not at the point where we can just line up and say, here is what we are going to do to win the game. We are still headed in that direction, and I want us to get there.