Mack Brown first spring practice press conference transcript: Feb. 23
Feb. 23, 2012
Opening statement: The offseason program has been good. It's much better than last year. If you think about last year's offseason program, guys really probably didn't do very much from the A&M game until they got here on the 17th of January. So it was a long time off. And then when they got here, they had six new faces, a strength coach that was new, a lot of different position coaches, a faster pace, more energy, more excitement because of some new things that they were establishing. But guys were in pretty poor condition, and it took us a while to get them started. And then [head strength and conditioning coach for football] Bennie [Wylie] had them over the summer and they improved some, but we feel like that we can make a significant jump in the offseason program, and in the strength program now unlike last year, because they understand the level of expectation.
On TE M.J. McFarland: We are hoping we do not have to alternate. [OL] Luke [Poehlmann] will still work some at tight end. [Offensive line coach] Stacy [Searels] does a great job of moving the guys around. So he's just going to look at them at different spots. Luke is going to play tackle and guard and tight end this spring. But we are very, very impressed with what we have seen of M.J. McFarland in the fall as a scout teamer when he was redshirted. He is probably 260 pounds. He had a tremendous grade in the offseason program for his work ethic. So he will be a guy that we need to come on, and we are really excited about watching him today.
On TE M.J. McFarland as a blocker and a receiver: That's what we are hoping. When you take the guys like we have that have been receivers and you change offenses, the biggest transition for David Thomas and Jermichael Finley and all those guys would be able to block. They were not dominating blockers, but they learned to block, and that's what we hope has happened from M.J. last year. The reason he did not play last year was he was not ready to block. He could have run and caught but we are hoping, and we won't see that today because we'll be in shorts, but hopefully by next Tuesday, we'll start seeing him progress. But he's got everything that we want. He just needs to block.
On how grading players holds them accountable: The biggest thing is that it's there, but it's a thing that's hard to measure. And we are trying to give them measurables to show them who on their team is doing the best they can do and who we feel like is not. Had nothing to do with how they did the drill, had nothing to do with the ability. It was their conditioning and their attitude. And at two o'clock, I will walk down and call all the guys that were exceptional and didn't miss one turn.They weren't late. They didn't make any mistakes. I will bring them up in front of the group and let the group see what we are looking for in effort.
On the quarterbacks: The message to those guys is like everyone else, we don't care who is ahea. We need two and we need two really good ones, and both of them have areas they can improve. So we are not going to get into who walks out first at any position today. We are just trying to see what you've got. What we thought is that some gained some credibility from last year. Some gained more credibility in the offseason program and some lost some. Some are gaining credibility off the field with the way they act and their academics, and then some will take a huge step one way or the other in the spring practice session. And so at the end of the spring, we are going to have a grade for all of them, a total grade for who you are and how you've helped our program. To go back to the accountability across the board, not just if you're late to class, we are going to know that. We are going to try to have awards for somebody who did not make any mistakes this spring: didn't miss a class, wasn't late to a meeting, practiced as hard as he could every play regardless of who he is or his abilit. To send a message that that's what we are looking for.
On the passing game: I think because of our losses on defense, we have got more to catch up on defense than people will say because you lost a lot of snaps down the middle. So we have got to do better there. But in the offense, we have got to throw it better. If we can run it for 441 yards and get so we can throw it well, we are going to be really good on offense again. We have got to do that. I go back to 2005, 2004, and I may not be exact, but 305 yards rushing a game and then 106th in passing in the country, and we were still good enough that the play action by the end of the year got us good enough [to] beat Michigan.The next year, we were 250 yards passing, 250 yards rushing and scored 50 points a game, and that's who we want to be. We would like to be so balanced that no one can say, we have got to stop this when you come into a ballgame, and we were not that last year.
On what the quarterbacks learned from the Holiday Bowl: I think the two biggest things were confidence and experience. I mean, to be in a Bowl game, that was his first one. Case had not been in a bowl game because we did not play in one two years ago. And then for David to start slow and to get better during the ballgame and do some good things to help us win at the end, I think that should give us great confidence. And his numbers in the offseason program were really good. So it seemed like that gave him more confidence coming into today.
On what is expected of the quarterbacks: What we would like to see is both those quarterbacks take over the team and lead them and not get into; who is this, who is that, which one is starting, who is good, who is bad. Let's just play and let's be really good. Let's don't have people talking about the quarterback position. Let's have people talking about; we got that fixed, we got two now, we are in great shape, we can move forward. They are both older. They are both mature. They both know each other. It's just totally different from where we were this time last year where we had four and we weren't sure. We know what we've got and now we want it to get better.
On all the quarterbacks getting more repetitions in practice: And when there's four, unless the NCAA gives us more hours, it's going to be really hard to get more reps. I think Connor, by the nature that he is the third one will get reps, where last year [co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Bryan [Harsin] didn't know anything about the older ones. So it was hard to get David some. He didn't even know Garrett [Gilbert], and they didn't know the offense. So we were just in a totally different spot. So I think the reps will take care of themselves now, and then you have to figure out after you watch Connor this spring what does that do with Jalen [Overstreet] in the summer.
On DB Mykkele Thompson: It's a great opportunity for Mykkele, and he's done everything right since he's been here. He's a good student. He's at everything first. He's a joy to coach. Very good in the offseason program. [Defensive backs coach] Duane [Akina] has a philosophy that and we are all in on this - he will play the best four players. So he will look at Sheroid [Evans] at corner and he will look at Josh Turner at safety. He will go across the board and try to figure out who the four best ones are, and then go from there. But some of the hardest workers on our team right now have been the defensive backs, and they have taken some tremendous pride, and we need to get some of the other positions to work up to that level.
On the offense: We would like to be able to run like we were in the two games, obviously, they were running up and down the field because we ran what we wanted. And I love the diversity we have in our running game. We can run option; we can run draw; we can run power; we can run counter. We are where we wanted to be two years ago with rush games, and now we have to get better at it, and we need to stay healthy at running back. We have the running backs now. We have got to stay healthy. Got to stay on the field. Secondly, I would like for us to be able to have a passing game that meets our running game where we can throw it anywhere we want, any time we want and be comfortable with it. So we don't have to worry about throwing it over the middle and we don't have to worry about throwing it on first down. And we can still have our no huddle and we can still have our uptempo and we can still do our play action. But basically, as you're starting a ballgame you like to be physical and use the play action to get yourself started.
On UT’s drug testing policy: Yes, our guys are drug tested so much. We test them at random, and I'm not sure who does the random but 36 guys are tested every time we are tested and they are told right then. The Big 12 has a testing policy and they can come in within a 24 hour, at any time, and you have to do it at six in the morning. And the NCAA has a drug testing policy, and we would have to ask [Associate Athletics Director for Football Operations] Arthur [Johnson], but I believe if you have a positive on the Big 12 or the NCAA, then you have to miss a complete year of competition. And I know it is with the NCAA drug test if it's a positive.
On if someone tests positive for drugs: It's a university policy, which [Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations] John [Bianco] could get for you. I think the first one is counseling. The second one, you can miss a game or two, depending on the coach and the athletic director, and you have to contact the parents. And the third one, you're gone. But John can get you all that. It's a public policy, whatever it is.
On the offensive line: We will play Trey [Hopkins] at guard today. Because that's where he played initially when he got here and what we wanted. So he and Sedrick Flowers will play inside. And you'll look at Luke Poehlmann can play outside. Cameron Hughes can play outside. Paden Kelley can play outside. Donald Hawkins can play outside and Josh Cochran can play outside. So we have got more numbers at tackle now than we had, and you're also bringing a guard and tackle in for the summer. So we feel like those numbers are better right now by far. Garrett Greenlea can play guard or tackle. We'll look at him at both places, and I'm sure I'm missing some guys, but some are just guards and some are just tackles.
On not recruiting a junior college player at quarterback: You can get too many quarterbacks and we thought unless we found somebody that we knew 100% was a whole lot better than what we had, that what you do is you make what was a really confusing position last year more confusing again. We feel like that the guys that we have got and the guys coming in will be good enough, and we wanted to show confidence in them and move forward. I think one of the diseases out there in college football - and if we are not careful, we get into it as coaches - the unknown guys are better than the knowns, and that's really a dangerous thing. Backup quarterback is always the best player until he plays, and then they like that other guy better that was out there before that we forgot and cussed. It's like backup offensive coordinators.
On QB David Ash: Yes, we are so excited of the things I said. Everybody is back in the coaching staff, training staff, strength staff, we didn't lose anybody. And then we are doing the same things. And now, we will be able to progress in those areas a lot faster than we could have last year, because this time last year, we had never lined up, on offense or defense. We didn't have a clue what we were doing. In fact, I was amazed the kids handled it as well as they did, and that goes for David and Case, because neither one really played the year before. David didn't play any, and Case got nine plays. So we just feel like today that David and Case will go out there and run the practice, and Bryan will be helping them, but it's not like last year where he was saying, “No, no, no.” Most of it was,”No, let's do it again.” And today, they should have a great feel. Kids have been doing sevenonseven on their own. The reports we get are they have been doing great. So they are just so much further along. And it starts with the quarterbacks. But the whole team should be further along. And then you've got the receivers have been out there so those guys can argue and say yes. Mike Davis has had a great offseason, for instance. He is back full speed ahead and doing great. I thought he got discouraged some in the fall, but he's really doing everything right. So we are going to be older at wide receiver and more experienced, along with the quarterbacks and that will help a lot, too.
On the Ricky Williams statue: The fact that Earl [Campbell] had won, and he was a Heisman trophy winner, I think Ricky's was coming. And [Athletics Director] DeLoss [Dodds] kind of feels like you should wait until the end of their career instead of doing it early. And I'm sure he didn't know when we started this last spring that Ricky was going to retire this year, but he knew he was at the end of his career, and I think that's more than anything else. But you would have to ask him. And I'm sure it has to go through the letterman's committee and campus committee and those things. But it's obviously something that in football, we were ready for and have been for a long time.
On having a depth chart before the first game: I think we'll wait till fall again, because again, we have got a lot of new players, and now, since we have played 18 freshmen last year, if you get set in something and those freshmen come in and they may very well take some of those jobs again like they did this year. So we like the fact that, yeah, obviously you have to start somebody when you break the huddle today on both sides of the ball. But we like the fact that that doesn't matter, and the kids will know that. And I will meet with them here in a few minutes and tell them that again; that none of you have a job and that all of you are fighting to get it and keep it. And you may have it for a day. That doesn't mean you're going to have it for the next practice or the next week. I've asked the coaches if possible, not to demote a guy during practice, because I don't want a kneejerk reaction. So what we will do is we will all study it, and if they move one, they will have to come and approve it through me. And I want to make sure that the young man knows why he's up and why he's down, and that goes back to the accountability stage as far as everything else we are doing, as well. I don't want them to be able to say, “I've had a bad day.” That gets you beat. And I don't want them to miss a practice because they are hurt. I want them to be well. So if you're getting hurt, why? You're not getting enough sleep. You're not taking care of your body. Why are you hurt? Or, if your guy is hurt all the time, you can't play if you're hurt all the time. So you're going to be a good backup player but if you can't participate in the games, we can't play you. We'll let you play some, but we can't count on you being a star. Stars are tough. Stars practice every day, and stars are the hardest workers on your team. And that's what Vince Young was. That's what Colt McCoy was. That's what Cedric Benson was. Some guys want to be stars, but they have not put enough stuff into it. And around here, because football is so passionate, we love our high school football and we love our guys, sometimes we make guys stars without them having to pay for it. You can be a star against 16 year olds. I want to see a star against 22 year olds.
On grading the players in everything involved with being a student-athlete: I think more than anything else, we do it all the time and you do it in different ways. We just thought that we know everybody now. Last year, we were growing and saying, “This better pick up.” And we don't need to be sensitive anymore. It's time to say, you need to do better. And it's a measurable. We can say, this one did this and you didn't. So you're wondering why you're not playing? Here is one of the reasons. A mom comes and asks; “Here, mom, it's pretty simple, poor, great. Get to great, come see me again.”
On if a “mom” could view the grade: If she asks, with a video. They don't usually stay long in my office and they come and want to sit. I make him sit with me I do. Mom, Dad and son, right there. And I say, “Tell me. Tell me that's a hundred percent. Tell me he's doing great. I just want to know that you think he's doing great, because if you do, he needs to transfer, because he's loafing.” And then they usually chew him out and get out of the office real quick.
On if expectations will be higher this season: The expectations two years ago were to win a National Championship. The expectation last year was to get us back on track. Now the expectation is, everybody knows everybody, we need to do better. We need to go back with the attitude that we are going to win every game, and that's where we are starting.
On WR Miles Onyegbule: We think he can be a 250 [lb] guy because he's grown so much. And he came to us because he saw his brother grow and he knows that is a possibility, and he may be a great tight end before it's over, too. You just don't know.
On if there is a time he might name a starting quarterback before the season: I think I've answered this. Every year except when Vince Young and Colt McCoy were here, you would rather have one that's up for the Heisman, period. But you would really like to have one behind him that's not a big dropoff, and we haven't really had that. We've had the great one. We haven't had help if the great one got hurt. And what we want right now, we are trying to get so a bad performance for an injury doesn't lose us a championship. And it's happened about three or four times around here. So we have gone back now to where we really don't care. We don't want to sit around and whine if it's not Vince Young or Colt McCoy, but we have no excuse not to win regardless of who it is. So we want the two that we have got right now that are older, that know Bryan, that have been around, that he trusts to come on and improve their game, their leadership, their relationship across the board. And be able to handle whatever we've got. If one separates, we want the one that is second to be ready to go in and be able to put him in at any time and not have a dropoff. Because right now, we don't have the experience of a Colt or a Vince Young that we have had.
On what type of quarterbacks they are recruiting: What we are looking at are quarterbacks that we feel like can be great at something. And I like the diversity of this offense enough and the multiplicity that we can do whatever he does best when he's in there.The thing that impressed me so much about what Boise has already done, they can do whatever their quarterback needs to do best, from option to dropback to spread out to it doesn't matter. And I wondered how they did it. And then watching a year, our whole staff has grown with it, and now I feel like that we can do whatever we need to do.
On who might run the “wild” formation: We really don't. We met for two hours this morning, and one of the things on there for questions to get answered this spring is who is that guy. And we have to look at the guys that are here, and then you look at the freshmen that are coming in. But now, we have got at the end of spring, we need to know a guy, two guys, three guys that can do that. Fozzy [Whittaker] was by far our best one, and after he got hurt, we were not as good at it. So we need two guys that can do it. And we need two guys that are really good at it. And when I heard Bryan say, probably two weeks before Fozzy got hurt, “I've never seen anybody do this as good as Fozzy Whittaker.” He's just a natural for it. There's a guy, but we have got to find out who it is. I wouldn't have thought Fozzy would be good at a, quote, quarterback position in a unique offense. So there's somebody. I think you just have to go by trial and error and find that guy.
On if anybody has volunteered to run the “wild” formation: Oh, everybody. They all want to. In fact, Mykkele [Thompson] even came by the other day and said, "Don't tell Coach Akina, but I'll come over and do some." I said, "Well, you've got to tell Coach Akina, he's going to miss you."
On WR John Harris: John is still limited some. He had a setback in his rehabilitation. We think he'll be out here this spring. We really need him out here. We missed him probably as much as anybody in the fall; big, strong, great blocker. So we will have him back in the spring and we will see him. He will not practice today.
On his thoughts on being elected to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame: I am very, very honored, probably never been more honored, and at the same time, I'm honored because it's a great compliment to every player, every staff member, every coach and administrator since '98. And very seldom can all of your players and your coaches get an acclaim like that, and I'm very, very proud of that. I wish they all could go. I do understand enough to know that me sitting there is only going to be a reminder of how many things have been accomplished since '98, and we are all very proud of those. But I would like for everybody to feel good about being involved with that award, not just one guy. I do think I am honored and humbled and nearly embarrassed because it's such a great honor. And when you look at the list of guys getting in this year, it's humbling. When you look at the history of this state and to be a guy from outside this state to come in, it's hard to think about or talk about, so I'm overwhelmed.
On the linebackers: It's wide open, and the only one that has established himself really is Jordan Hicks. The rest of them need to earn it this spring. But Jordan looks great. He's had a tremendous offseason program, and he will stand up downstairs [to be recognized] in a minute. We are really, really proud of him. The rest of them have some work to do.
On DE Cedric Reed and DT Desmond Jackson: Yes, they really need to step up. Desmond did a lot of great things last year. He played in the heat. Ced didn't play as much in the heat. And when the game was really, really on the line, he will have a great opportunity this spring to do that because of Jackson Jeffcoat's injury, and Jackson will be out there. But Cedric is probably 260 [lbs], 265, a tremendous athlete. Just got to get stronger and play with better leverage on the run, but we think he can do that. Desmond is one of those guys that just drives you crazy inside from an offensive standpoint because he's short, and he's so powerful. He's still the strongest defensive lineman on our team and moving him, he's just really hard to block.