Dec. 23, 2011
Senior S Blake Gideon
Why is getting the eighth win so important?
It is very important. We want to finish strong more than just the eighth win. We ended the regular season on a low note. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to up in Waco. Now this is a chance for us to be able to take all the work that we have been accumulating since January and put it to use. Has it been a long road back to a bowl game after not playing in one last year? It really has. I’m not sure anybody outside the program can understand the work that has gone into this since January. All the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this. It has been tough. It has been a hard year for a lot of people and a lot of sacrifices have been made. At the same time, I think we are all going to be better individuals for it. We are a better team for it, and we have developed a closer bond for it. This game is really going to be the conclusion of our story this year.
What are your thoughts on Cal?
They make plays. The quarterback is very confident in his arm and his play-making ability. He knows his receivers trust him, and he spent time with his receivers. The guys on the outside can make plays for them. They have a running game that keeps you off balance. You can’t get too caught up in one phase of the game. They are a solid offensive team, and they can make plays and work it down the field on you. We are going to have to be solid in all phases.
How do you feel that CB Carrington Byndom and CB Quandre Diggs have done this year?
At what point in the season did you not have to protect the corners anymore?
We thought it was funny how all the experts said the corners were going to be suspect this year, and I think that tends to be how things work out. They are obviously one of the strengths this year. The way they played week in and week out in every phase of the game, they stepped up big and made plays that kept us in games. It really came a point toward the end of this year where we didn’t have to protect our corners at all. We could work on other parts of the game and leave those guys out there on an island because they did improve every week. They had short memories, which is the main thing you worry about with young players. Are they going to be too caught up in the emotion and get affected too easily by good or bad plays? I think both of those guys stepped up and made plays.
It was in the middle of the season, maybe Oklahoma State. Those guys are playing their technique so well. There are a lot of times when fans are going to be pointing fingers at guys that are closest to the guy catching the ball, but they don’t understand what coverage we are in or what those guys are being coached. They have gotten better every week. I would say it was around that time those guys were stepping up. They were covering very good receivers and doing their job. We knew at that point that it really wasn’t going to be a stress for us to help the corners.
Could you see back in two-a-days that the corners were going to make an impact this season?
Yes. We knew with Quandre [Diggs] coming in early and going through spring, what kind of player he was going to be. We knew from the first day, the plays he was making against our offense. You see all those things happen and you see young guys develop and you know that it is going to be no different when the lights turn on, on Saturday night. We could see that coming. We knew what kind of player Carrington [Byndom] was and with Adrian [Phillips] coming in and really playing both positions. We knew what kind of player all those guys were. It’s just a matter of time before other people realized.
Looking back, what was it like here last year when the team did not go to a bowl game?
Well this time of year was pretty barren. Everyone was at home. That’s definitely something that we thought about. One of our main motivations in the offseason was that we didn’t want to be home this time of year. Everyone likes going home to their family and all, but whenever you are watching bowl games on TV that you should be playing in, then it’s not a great feeling. That was tough last year and a tough transition period with a lot of people leaving and new guys coming in throughout the offseason. I think we handled it as well as we could have as players and as a coaching staff. We worked together and here we are today. We are trying to get win number eight.
Are you happy with how things have progressed the last 12 months?
Sure. I know that was a very tough spot for everybody. When you go 5-7 at a school like Texas, things have to change, whatever that may be. I know that was a tough spot for Coach [Mack] Brown and everyone that was still here. You are not really sure what direction you are going. I think the new coaches that have come in have done a great job of hitting the ground running and the new freshmen that have come in and been able to play on special teams and on defense, like Quandre. I think everyone has done a great job of putting that behind us and knowing that we start with zero wins and zero losses at the beginning of the year. It is up to us to shape our season how we want it to be.
Who do you see moving into the safety role next season, other than Kenny Vaccaro?
Probably Adrian [Phillips], just because he has been there rotating at corner. There were three corners at the start of the year and then he hurt his shoulder. So that is the only reason we went to two. I think with how smart he is and how quickly he picks up the game, [he will play]. He is physical. He is strong. He is fast, and he does all the little things in the game right. I think they will have a great secondary next year and for the next few years.
How important is eight wins versus seven wins?
Seven-6 sounds a lot worse than 8-5, or to me it does. It is more than getting that eighth win, but we want to get that last one. We want to finish strong and know that all the stuff we have done since January, all of this hard work that we have put in and talking about finishing, that it wasn’t all for naught. [We want to know] there was a reason behind it and we were able finish strong, like we have been preaching this whole time.
How important do you think it is to win this game as a momentum push for next season?
Yes, I can agree with that. There is so much when you are building a team for the next year that rides on how you performed in the last game. Just like last year was tough for us losing that last game to A&M and having to rebound and start over with the situation we were in. I think it is going to be huge for the underclassmen and for the entire program to get this last win here and really slingshot them into a successful year next year.
How differently will you approach this trip with this being your last game?
I don’t think I am going to approach it any differently as far as my preparation. I’ve always taken pride in how I prepare and in being the most prepared on the field. At the same time, we talked about this whenever we went to L.A. to play UCLA at the start of the year, how it was a business trip at the end of the day. We are going to California and there are a lot of sights and sounds, and it’s hard to not get caught up. We are out there for one reason and it’s to beat Cal.
With you being close to Blaine Irby, can you speak a little bit about him not applying for a medical sixth year and ending his career in California?
I don’t know if you could write a story better than that. Just knowing, Blaine from the time I stepped on campus whenever he was going to be the next great tight end, and with all the plays he was making until the injury and his whole process through that to who he is today. I don’t think he has anything left to prove or accomplish. I think it was only right for him to go out in the way that he has the past few games.
Who is going to lead this defense next year?
You always look at experience, and I think guys like Kenny Vaccaro. He is going to be a huge playmaker for them. Jordan Hicks, Alex Okafor and [Jackson] Jeffcoat are probably the main guys, but really anyone who has played and knows what that feeling is like. At the end of the day, the practice field is not the same as whenever you step out in DKR. You need to know what the stresses are and what that feeling is like before you lead. All of those guys are going to be looked at from the start in January, and they are going to be expected to lead.
Being a Texas fan growing up, do you remember pulling for Texas over Cal to get in the Rose Bowl in 2004?
Yes, absolutely. It was huge. I’m probably one of the few guys that does remember that scenario, because I was such a big Texas fan. I remember high-fiving all around the house on selection Sunday whenever Texas did get in. From what I hear, those guys in Berkeley still remember that and it will be interesting to see what they have to say whenever we get out to California. We took it away from them that year, but I’m sure they remember.
How much progress did you see in the second half of the season with guys learning this defense?
It was huge. Just like [LB] Emmanuel [Acho] said, mid-way through is when we got really comfortable in the defense. It’s more than just knowing your responsibility. It’s trust in knowing that everyone around you is getting their job done and knowing what they are doing. Knowing what their coach is coaching them to do. That midway point is when we really got it on defense, and when we were able to fly around full-speed and trust each other. In a sense, I’m mad that I won't be here for another year because I think those guys have really set themselves up to be very successful.
Senior OG/C David Snow
How do you feel about this being your last game?
It’s the end of four years of hard work. I am looking forward to it.
What is your favorite part of the bowl experience?
I have been able to do a lot of cool things. I got to go to the Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl. I have been through the ups and downs and the rebuilding, and it’s really great to be a part of something. This team is going to keep on going. It is just in the re-building years, but once they get clicking it is going to be awesome to see. I can’t wait to say that I actually had a part in that.
Can the running game get back to where they were mid-season with two of the three main tailbacks healthy?
I would say so. That has been our staple this year, and you have to get back to that. We have a lot of them back and healthy, so it is going to be great to see what they can do.
What do you mean when you say that you can see the offense clicking in the future?
Offense is a funny thing. You have to get 11 guys to do exactly what you want them to do and if one guy messes up, the whole play is done. So when you get everyone in sync with what to do, then it becomes natural where you don’t have to think anymore. Everyone plays above what they are capable of doing, and they really just feed off each other. I have been a part of that, and that is what it is going to get to.
How did you have to change what you were doing when you lost all three tailbacks in one week?
You have to persevere. Through that whole thing, we did lose a lot of our leading rushers, but that is no excuse. We have other talented guys that just have to step up. We are still going to do a lot of the things that we do.
Who impresses you among the young guys?
A lot of guys are really good. Dom [Dominic Espinosa] has been really good this year for us. He has been there. Trey Hopkins has been really good at the tackle. It’s going to be nice to see how these young guys go on through this next year and how they all do later on. I will love to come back and see how they are doing.
What are your thoughts on Sedrick Flowers?
Yes, he is an excellent player, too. He is going to step up. He had some injuries early in the year that kept him from doing some stuff, but he is going to turn out to be a great player and a great guard for us.
Is it important for Texas to win an eighth game?
Sure it is. When you don’t go to a bowl game the year before, you better be excited about something. After sitting at home, I am glad we are having this discussion. Last year, I was duck hunting or something, so we are excited about this. We are going back to California and we love it out there, so it is going to be great.
How would you present yourself to a NFL team who was interested in drafting you?
I would say that I show up to practice every day. I have never been late to a meeting in my life might I add, even in high school. I work hard and if something that I’m doing isn’t getting the job done, then I am going to work my [butt] off to fix it. I’m not perfect and I never will be, but I’m close. [laughs]
Junior WR Marquise Goodwin
What is the overall mood of the team heading into this game after ending the season with a loss?
You have to look forward and you can’t worry about the last. That is just like with any play. Whether it is a good or a bad play, you have to look forward and make another play. This is a new game. You can’t look in the past and let them beat us twice. We have to keep our eyes forward and keep pushing.
What are your thoughts on the wide receivers?
We have seemed to lose our wide receiving group, but it has only made us stronger. I know that I’ve gotten in a lot [better] shape and gotten more reps. We just continue to grind and work hard and continue to do what we need to do to help the team win. We have been playing better as a unit in my opinion. All we can do is get better.
With some wide receiver attrition, how has that helped Miles Onyegbule develop?
He has been thrown into the fire. When it is all said and done, when someone goes down or someone is not there, you have to step up and make plays. It is all about making plays, especially at the wide receiver position. You are not a young guy anymore. Earlier you were a freshmen coming in, and after that first game you are not a young guy. You have to step in and make plays just like everyone else. People will say, “He is a young guy, and that is why he didn’t make that play.” But you have to make them at the end of the day.
How did the offense change in games and in practice when you lost your three running backs?
I thought of it, as we do have to throw more. As our tailbacks start to have a few nicks here and there, I do not call them injuries I call them nicks, we have to step up. All the guys in the room have to step up because you never know who is going to be the guy that is going to go down, if anybody goes down. If someone does go down, you have to step up and make plays. That is what it is all about.
Do you ever think about what it would be like if you decided not to come back this year?
Not really. I decided to come back because I knew the receiving corps was kind of low on receivers. I just wanted to be back. I never really sat back and thought what if I wasn’t here, because I am here. I am just trying to make them better and make myself better each day.
How much does it mean to the team identity to finish up with a win?
It is very important. [Head] Coach [Mack] Brown has a good record around here and has made a good name for himself with the Texas Longhorns. It is our job to go out there and practice hard, so we have the opportunity to win. It means a lot to the seniors that we get this last win. It is not all about us. We didn’t exactly get the job done the last couple of games, but this is our last opportunity to lead the seniors out with a “W.” The most we can do is get this eighth win.
Who do you see emerging as the senior leader next season?
The same guys that are here now. I even see younger guys stepping up assuming that role. At some point, we are going to have to have leaders and we are going to have to have followers. At one point, one of the leaders may have to be a follower. That is just how the game goes. It doesn’t have to be a quarterback. It is all about making plays.
Are there any guys in your group who you see improving?
Miles Onyegbule. He had to step up. We lost another one of our wide receivers and he had to step up and assume that role. He is the next guy in line, and now he is thrown in the fire. He has to know what to do just like any other receiver.
How does it feel to get back on the field with the long break since the Baylor game?
It is nice to be back out there. It felt like something was missing with a few days off. Now we are back out there grinding everyday. I’m glad to be out there everyday just trying to bring energy that Fozzy [Whittaker] brought to the field. I am trying to step up and do what I can to help the team win everyday.
What are your feelings about playing a bowl this year?
Words can’t even explain how good it is to have the opportunity to play in a bowl game this year. Not playing in a bowl game last year was miserable. I don’t think anyone can understand. It is an honor to be one of the few teams to get to be able to play in one.
How do you feel about the offense right now?
I feel pretty good about the offense. We have a lot of good things moving forward. All we have to do is minimize our turnovers, and all the receivers have to do is make plays. We need to catch the ball if the quarterback is going to throw it to us. I know I had a dropped ball that could have changed the game, but sometimes it happens. You have to move forward and make a play later on down the road.
What is the competition like in practice?
It is a grind everyday and a fight for your position. I kind of like that you don’t have a guaranteed spot out there. When you don’t have a guaranteed spot, you have to come out and fight everyday. You don’t know if you are going to play or not. You don’t know how many snaps you are going to get. I like that most about it, that you are going to have to continue to fight for your position. Just like if you go to the next level, if you do go to the next level, there is going to be a fight everyday for your position.
How would you rate the receivers as a group for this season?
I think we did pretty well so far. We are young, but that is no excuse. We made plays when we needed to and when we had the opportunity to. We need to continue to get better, and we have been getting better. All we can do is continue to strive for excellence.
Did you expect freshmen WR Jaxon Shipley to have the kind of year that he had?
I did. I expected him to have that kind [of year]. He had a great impact on our offense when he came in. He reminds me of his brother [Cincinnati Bengals WR Jordan Shipley], who I played with my freshmen year. He was a great player. You know his stats and the records that he holds and that he is playing in the NFL now. I can see a lot of qualities in Jaxon from his brother. He has influenced our offense a lot.
How beneficial will it be to the offense to have this break to let your bodies recover?
It is definitely going to give us a boost. I feel my legs sort of under me again and I can run like I need to, along with everyone else. Everyone is moving around good and running fast and strong. We have been getting in the weight room with [Strength and Conditioning Head Coach for Football] Bennie Wylie. We are ready for Cal.
Cal also faced some tough losses this season, do you think they are better than their 7-5 record indicates?
I expect the unexpected. They have the same record as us. They have played teams of the same caliber that we’ve played. They know how to go out there and fight until the end. We have the same record, so it is going to be a dogfight. We are going to be in the ring for four quarters, 60 minutes. The best team is going to win, plain and simple. All we can do is continue to practice hard and work on techniques to get the job done.
What have you seen from Cal’s defense?
They are a really good defense. They are fast with quick guys on the edge. They are going to be ready to play.
Have you noticed the guys playing with more of intensity at practice?
Yes. People have been moving around and [are]excited to play at the University of Texas. Not a lot of people get the opportunity to be here, so we come out there ready to practice everyday trying to get better.
What is the difference between 8-5 and 7-6?
It is a lot different because it is the last game of the season and you don’t want to go out losing on the tail end of the season. If you win on your last game, first of all, it sends your seniors out on a “W”, and second of all, it sets up for a good offseason and the next year and the following season. That is why we have to get the eighth win.
When did you get into football shape?
It is a struggle everyday, but I continue to run hard and work hard every chance I get to step onto the field. It is a struggle for me, breathing out there is tough, but I seem to get it done.
Coming off your best game statistically at Baylor, what is your mindset heading into the bowl game?
This is another opportunity to show what us wide receivers can do. We have a lot of great talent in there, and the University of Texas doesn’t recruit just average people. We showed what we could do last game and moving forward to this game. We need to show the world what we can do.