Dec. 18, 2008
Opening statement: We started practice after the banquet on Friday night, on Saturday morning. We had a lot of recruits in that were committed to us, and that gave them an opportunity to see practice. Practice was upbeat and it was good. We were in pads this year, where last year, we were in shorts. We came back and had a recruiting day on Sunday and worked hard Monday to get all of the game plans finalized for Ohio State. We went back to work on Tuesday. So, we've practiced on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Again, they have all been very physical. We've had inside drills, scrimmages and a lot of real tough contact. It's been something that the guys have really enjoyed and are excited about. We will take off tomorrow for the guys to have a chance to rest. They are all through with finals at this point. We will resume our practice schedule on Saturday morning, and we'll practice on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning. We'll get really good work here before we let them go home around noon on the 23rd. The guys are excited. It helped a little yesterday that the Fiesta Bowl people came in and talked to the players some at practice. They could see the enthusiasm that the kids have. So, we've moved on and we're excited about the challenge of Ohio State and the Fiesta Bowl.
All of Jordan Shipley's paperwork has been done for his appeal, and it has been sent to the NCAA. Like you, we'll just be waiting for an answer, and it will be when they process it. But, he would like to come back for his sixth year, if the NCAA will approve his appeal.
On the differences between Ohio State of this year and in the past two years: There's not a lot of difference, but the biggest difference is probably their experience at quarterback. [Todd] Boeckman is an older quarterback that is a drop-back passer, and he is completing 64 percent of his passes, and Terrelle Pryor is the big, strong athlete that was the number one quarterback in the country. He can make plays with his feet and his arm, and he is a really good player as well. They had Beanie Wells when they were here [in Austin], but they didn't have him when we were in Columbus [Ohio]. He is as good of a running back as I've ever seen when he is healthy. It's a shame we didn't get to see USC and Ohio State with Beanie Wells healthy. He's 242 pounds and he runs in the 4.3's. He is a game changer.
Defensively, they are in the top of about every category in the country. They've just been dominating. [Michael] Jenkins and [James] Laurinaitis are two All-Americans, one at corner and one at linebacker, and they always play great defense. They'll be tough against the run, like they always are, and then they've got really good pass rushers. As it is typical to a Big Ten team, they are huge. They've played in more BCS games than any other school in America. I think they've been in six-of-the-last seven BCS games and this is their fourth trip to the Fiesta Bowl. They've played in the last two National Championship games. So, they are experienced, they are older and they're a team that has not gotten the credit this year that they deserve, because they had a late loss to Penn State at home and a tough game on the road at USC. They're one of the best teams in the country and it'll excite our guys.
On if expects to see both Boeckman and Pryor play at QB: Jim Tressel is a friend of mine, and I think he is a great coach. I do not think he is conservative. He does what he does best with his material. He came in here a few years ago and had Troy Smith and was no backs the whole time with Beanie Wells back there. They threw it every time and caught us off guard and we didn't respond to it very well. It's amazing what kind of perceptions get labeled to people when you lose two National Championship games. Some people think you aren't being successful as a coach, but the rest of us would just like to get there. He deserves all the credit in the world.
I don't know if they will play both quarterbacks or not. It looks like Terrelle is their guy for the future. He's a guy that has improved so much. From the Michigan game to the bowl game, they will get so much work for Terrelle, that it will be like a spring practice for him. He didn't get a lot of work in the preseason and he didn't even start until after the USC game, so he'll just grow by leaps and bounds. But, they run the ball so well that it sets up their play-action pass. They're probably doing with him a lot like what we did with Vince [Young] early. They'll establish the run, make you commit the people and then they've got 15 different receivers that have caught balls. They've all got speed, so they can get the ball to those guys on the outside.
On the concern of playing a smash mouth team unlike the teams in the Big 12: We're really concerned. We have great stats against the run, but not many people lined up and tried to run the ball against us. I think OU was probably one of the best rushing teams that we've faced, and they did not make many yards. I think it was 47 yards or something like that. Not many teams lined up and tried to run it. [Texas] A&M did, but then they got behind and got away from it. I think that's one of the biggest questions and one of the fun match-ups to watch in this game. That's between their offensive line, Beanie Wells and Terrelle as compared to our defensive font, who's been really stout against the run. But, this is just a different type of team than what we have played.
On if he sees the same kind of intensity in practice like he did last year leading up to the bowl game: We really are. This team has been so much fun. I can't imagine a more fun team or a more resilient team. Spike Dykes was out at practice today and he told the kids after practice that they have been so much fun to watch. Every week, they just play. They just keep their mouths shut and play, are not selfish and they enjoy football and each other. He said that it's been as much fun to watch this team as any that he can remember. They've been that way to coach and they've gone right back to work. It's good that we had two weeks off after the A&M game for them to reflect back on the season, get their minds back ready to go and get excited about Ohio State.
On James Laurinaitis: James Laurinaitis to Ohio State is like Tommy Nobis for us. He can run, but he has a physical presence at any time when you're out there on offense. You have to know where he is at all times. He is very physical, he's very tough and he can run. He loves football and he's passionate with what he does. He's kind of the heart and spirit of their team. Colt [McCoy] sat in front of him down at Orlando at the ESPN Awards, and he said he kept tapping him on his shoulder and talking to him to try to distract him. He said that Coach Tressel told him to just let Colt know that he is around. I think I can text Jim and tell him that Colt is fully aware that he is around. Brian [Orakpo] was with him at a lot of the awards as well. It's funny, because they are classy young men and they are fun, and our guys have enjoyed being around the Ohio State players that have been at the awards banquets as well.
On Brian Orakpo and the awards he has won: Brian has been unbelievable. He's been such a great representative and continues to be for our school. He graduated on Saturday night, and then he gets awarded the Nagurski, the Hendricks and the Lombardi awards in the next four days, which is just amazing. I do think at Texas that we sometimes take those things for granted, and we shouldn't, because he is a consensus All-American, and in many outlets, he is the Defensive Player of the Year in college football. He needs to get all that due recognition from us as well as nationally.
On how important team chemistry is during off periods: I don't think this team has gotten the credit for the talent that they have. Everybody talks about the running backs, and just because Ricky Williams may not be out there, it doesn't mean that four or five of those running backs aren't really good players. It's the same thing at receiver. They talk about Jordan [Shipley] and Quan [Cosby] being short. They look tall to me every Saturday because they play tall. This football team has been that way. I thought Duane Akina did a masterful job, maybe his best effort, with the young defensive backs. But for whatever reason, since the bowl game, this team has had the chemistry that everybody in America would want to have. What Spike Dykes said this morning is true. They've been a joy to coach and they've been fun. When they lost at Texas Tech, they came right back and fought and competed again. I promised them that if they keep their mouths shut and moved forward that I'd stand up for them, and that's what I did after the A&M game. They understood that was what I was doing, I moved forward with it and at the same time, they moved forward right after they learned where they'd be. They're excited about this game and they're excited about Ohio State. This bunch likes Texas, they like each other and they like football, and that's why they have been so much fun. You can't produce chemistry and you can't produce leadership. You're in a position where you can't just whip it up. You say, "Who are your leaders?" There are so many leaders on this team. It's been really fun to watch them. I've really had to do very little, because if somebody is messing something up, I would say, "Colt, get that handled for me, we're not going to do that," and he would just say, "gotcha," and it's done. That's the reason why this team has been so much fun.
On the things they have been doing to prepare for the Fiesta Bowl: We've been as physical as we've ever been in practice to prepare for this game. At the same time, we've gone one against one every day, because we want to match the speed of the game and the physical part of the game. We've lined up and have just been after each other. We've had what we call the "Longhorn Drill," where it's a three-on-three with a back behind them. You put the dummies at a certain width and you get 10 yards and three times to score. The running back has the ball, he just holds it and he runs straight ahead. The impact of the offensive and defensive line has been incredible.