Feb. 25, 2010
Spring press conference
Opening statement: We've had a really good run the last two years. We got into a position after the National Championship Game in 2006 where we felt like we had the chance, Colt (McCoy) got hurt and we didn't finish the season well. We came back and did beat Iowa and got back on track. And then the next year was a year where we started poorly, we got better during the season and kind of fizzled in the end, came back and fought hard to beat Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. We did not feel like those two years were years where we knew every time we walked out there that we were going to win the football game. The last two years, even though our team was underrated to start the year two years ago, it's a team that became a team with enough confidence that every time we lined up we thought we could win. This year's team, it would have been a disappointment if we didn't win because there's still some disappointment for our kids and our coaches that 13-1 is not what you want when you have a chance to win all the games.
Since the National Championship Game we've gone right back to work. It's really an interesting time when you have to change leadership because new guys have to step up. It's a chance for some veterans who haven't played to play or some young ones to get a new spot, so spring practice is really an interesting time for all the players. It's new hope, it's a new team, even for a guy like myself or our staff you have to start like it's your first day at Texas and you have to reinvent your team because each team's a little bit different. You never understand what your chemistry is going to be like and you never understand who your leaders are, and you're constantly trying to teach them and build them, but you're really not sure who and what they are. You always try to tweak who you are to your personnel.
Sometimes you don't know who that is coming into spring. Garrett (Gilbert) will be different than Colt. Colt was very different than Vince Young. One of the interesting, fun things this spring will be to see what changes we're going to make because Colt became a guy who was as good as anybody in the country's ever been at throwing and completing passes, and we couldn't get away from that because he was so good. If you're going to complete seven-plus passes out of 10, it's hard not to use him as your weapon.
This is the second year in a row now we haven't had a staff change. The good of that is the continuity because of only losing two games over the last two years; the negative is you'd like to have some new ideas. That's what the change would be as you look at it. We're currently looking across the country at a lot of different people. We bring in pro guys. We go to different places, people come to visit us. For instance, the Boise State offensive staff is here this morning and they're going to stay through Friday. We've got great respect for Chris Petersen and what they've done on both sides of the ball, so we're constantly trying to share new ideas with them. Our staffs visit with people a lot. One of the negatives about starting this early in spring is you don't have a lot of time to get new ideas. The positive is our guys are still positive about getting back because they just got out of bowl practice and they're ready to go.
They've had great offseason work. We've worked every morning Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 6 (a.m.) since they got back in the middle of January. Nobody's been late, they've been very competitive. They have competed with each other at the highest level. We're having a lot of competitive games in their offseason program, and we're marking down who wins every time. We're not only marking who wins the match if it's tug-of-war or wrestling or whatever it is, but we're giving points to that side of the ball and then the side that loses has to carry the trays for the other one at lunch and the side that wins gets milkshakes, unless you're a lineman.
There are a lot of new faces in the spring and it's fun for them to have their chance. Maybe a guy that's been here three years and hasn't had a chance in his mind has a chance. On the negative side of that, there are much fewer players. A fourth of your team is not here for next fall, and now that we're all playing freshmen, it really hurts you. You don't have as much depth in the spring. We've told the older guys, "Get your spot this spring or we're going to look at other guys in the fall. Don't come in August and say you want your chance. You've got your chance right now." We should have a very physical spring because we've got so many young guys that need to play that haven't played very much. When you've got an older team, like last year's offense, some of those guys didn't need to hit a lot. I learned something from Steve Spurrier a long time ago. He said, "The older guys don't need to hit much because they've been playing three, four, five years. The younger guys need to hit a lot because they haven't tackled much and they've got to get used to the speed of the game and being physical." You've only got so many great snaps out of your seniors, so if they've done everything right every time they play, be smart with them. You don't have to have them out there looking good every scrimmage and let some other guy step up and earn his stripes.
Leadership is always something that concerns you. Last year I was really concerned at this time about our defensive leadership. It happened. The coaches did a great job of making it step up. You look at (Roddrick) Muckelroy and Sergio Kindle and Lamarr Houston and Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon really stepped up. Those guys became great leaders on our defense. Our offense had leaders built in coming back with Quan (Cosby) gone. You had Jordan (Shipley) and you had Colt, you had (Adam) Ulatoski, you had Chris Hall and Charlie Tanner. You had some older guys there that you felt like knew what they were doing. Now what we do every time we meet is we put an asterisk by the guys that we feel like are leaders or the guys that should be leaders. We put a different color asterisk by the ones we feel like are concerns, and if they're a leader and they haven't bought in, it could be a very negative situation. If one of your best leaders doesn't like you as a coach, your philosophy or your team can hurt your team more than anything else.
When you're thin in the spring and you're looking at young guys, we're doing more cross-training than ever before. It's something that Dick Tomey brought us. He always said you should sign a guy that can play 11 spots. The more spots the guy can play, if he can't play the one you thought he could, he has other opportunities. With quarterbacks it's more difficult. Garrett's going to play quarterback. He's not going to play any other spot. If you get a defensive end that maybe can play tight end, outside linebacker, both of the defensive end spots, it really helps us when we look at that.
Marquise Goodwin will be in track alone. That was our agreement with him coming out of high school. He will not participate in spring practice. We think he has a chance to get to the Olympics. He is really, really special at what he does. It was obvious to us that he didn't work out all summer with football, he didn't catch a ball until he got here and he looked real good real fast for us. He is an outstanding player for our future. He's done everything right, he's becoming a leader on our team, he had outstanding grades and we think he can do the same for track that he did for football this year. We'd like for him to be one of the best track stars in the country for our track team.
In spring you can get by with some guys like Eryon Barnett, who is free to practice but he is not going to be able to have full contact so we'll put him in a green jersey. He can do everything, but he will not have contact. He will be in position to have contact. You've just got to be careful with his shoulder that he doesn't get knocked down or fall down. Usually the kids handle that pretty well because it gives him a chance to be out there. Blaine Irby's situation has simply has not changed. He is in a position where he will miss spring and they'll continue to monitor him, but he will not be out there this spring. Ian Harris, like we had said before, Ian is a young man that got a medical and he will no longer play football.
We look at the depth chart. This isn't in writing because these are just ways that we line them up based on how competitive they've been in the offseason. At X you'll have Malcolm Williams and Greg Timmons. The tight end would be Greg Smith and Ahmard Howard. You've got Trey Graham and you've got Barrett Matthews that's going to play H-back and tight end. Instead of just using a fullback we'll have some two-back concepts with a quarterback under the center. The H-back will be our fullback. Barrett Matthews is in that group. You're also looking at Dominique Jones, he will not play defensive end this spring. He's moving over to H-back-fullback-tight end and he will be fun for us to watch. At the same time, we're taking all of our big backs that are tailbacks, and they'll continue to be tailbacks, but they also will cross-train at the H-back position. Cody Johnson is a guy that will play tailback, but he will also play H-back. He's played some fullback for us. You start looking at Chris Whaley, he's a guy that will play tailback but he's 250, 260 pounds. He can play H-back as well as that group. That'll be really interesting to watch and see how these things tie together.
Even though 45 percent of the NFL now is in the shotgun, we do feel like that we want to keep our shotgun runs, but limit them and not have a package where the zone-read was huge for Garrett because it never was great for Colt. He did it in some games but it was great for Vince. We also found out that more of our explosive plays under the last two years have been with the quarterback under the center, the percentage of explosive plays has been better. We'll move our backs around some. We will have our quarterback under the center more. We'll use more play-action pass with our running game, but we also do not want to get in a position where we throw out our passing game. It has been so good. We'll still have our three and four wideouts. We will still try to go up-tempo and no huddle, so there will not be changes from those standpoints. We just want to run the ball more and run the ball better. In 2005, we averaged 250 yards rushing and 250 yards passing. That's what we would like to do every game. You'd like to be 50-50 and then if there are too many around the line of scrimmage you'd like to be able to throw it 60 percent and if they're giving you the run you'd like to be able to run it 60 percent. That's what we're working back towards.
Without getting into all the depth chart, James Kirkendoll would be starting at wide receiver, Britt Mitchell at right tackle, Michael Huey at right guard, David Snow at center, Tray Allen at left guard, Kyle Hix at left tackle, John Chiles at flanker. The sub-B position is the one that James Kirkendoll is playing. You'd have Tre Newton lining up at tailback. He'd be backed up by Fozzy (Whittaker) and by Cody and Vondrell (McGee). We do think that Vondrell may have some new life, and Cody, with more downhill runs because that is what they were used to in high school.
Mason Walters will not participate this spring. We really need to do a great job of looking at those young linemen because we lose four of the five offensive linemen for next year. This backup offensive line and the ones we're signing this year and next year will be key as far as stepping up and trying to continue the offensive line with older guys. We also said that the goal for spring is to get our running game fixed and get our backs aligned because it will be a different running game, identify the starters, who can step up the most and help us this year. All of our coaches go in different rooms and they take the guys on their side of the ball and they actually write down who they feel like the most important player on offense or defense is. They have a point system and the guy with the most points, they give to me the list and then I can go back over it and see who I feel like my opinion would be. We match up and see who the coaches trust the most, and we tell the players that and then basically show them some of that.
Defensively, you've got (Alex) Okfaor and Eddie Jones at the Buck, you've got the three-technique (Calvin) Howell and (Tyrell) Higgins, you've got the nose guard Kheeston Randall and Derek Johnson, Sam Acho and (Tevin) Mims at the other end, Dravannti Johnson and (Patrick) Nkwopara at (strongside linebacker), (Dustin) Earnest and Tariq Allen at (middle linebacker), Keenan Robinson and Ryan Roberson at (weakside linebacker) and Jared Norton will be limited at the first of spring as well. That's why he's not listed in this group. Christian Scott at safety, he and (Kenny) Vaccaro and (Ben) Wells will alternate at safety along with Blake. Curtis Brown and A.J. Williams will be at the left corner, they'll alternate, and Chykie Brown and A.J. White, the young freshman, will be at the other corner. Eryon Barnett will be involved, but again, because he is limited with how much he can hit, he will not be listed in the two-deep to start with.
Defensively, we felt like we need to do a better job in the red zone. That's a thing we did really well two years ago and we didn't do near as well this year. We want to continue and be a big-play defense, score on defense and force the turnovers that we did this year. For whatever reason, it was so much better than last year. We need to do a better job defensively of defending two-back running teams and we feel like the fact that we will have a two-back running game now will really help our defense in the fact that they have to line up and stop it every day as well.
On the kicking game: In the kicking game, you're starting over in a lot of areas. You lose your snapper, nobody ever knows the snapper's name unless he messes one up, so nobody knew Will Harvey's name and that was really good because Will snapped every ballgame for his four years at Texas. You've got two or three young guys that will be snapping. We try to get them work in the ballgames, but you never get them as much work as you want too. You've got to come up with a new holder, Jordan [Shipley]'s held every ball for about the last four years, and then you've got to come up with a punt returner because you lost both Earl [Thomas] and Jordan, both of your top punt returners. You've got to go back and look at kickoff returns because D.J. Monroe is on that (injured) list, he's limited with a hamstring, so we really need four to six guys on kickoff returns because those guys get hurt some.
We will look early at Justin Tucker taking Hunter Lawrence's place as our kicker because he gets it up really high and it's one of the things, like in the Nebraska game, we liked so much about Hunter, is his ball jumped up and it was very, very hard to block. The one that got blocked against Colorado was very, very poor protection; it had nothing to do with Hunter. Then you look at John Gold and Justin Tucker in the punting area and then we signed the young man, Will Russ, who can do both of them. Right now, you would like to see Justin kick field goals and kickoff, and you would like to see John be able to handle more of the punting duties, so you could take some of that pressure off of Justin. We're looking at trying to figure out what scheme would be best for the two punters. John's got a great leg, so we're going to try to use protection that we haven't used before that's halfway between the rugby punt and the regular punt. We'll slide protection so we can go right or left because it's something that's easier to protect. The one that was blocked this year was a personnel problem, it wasn't a protection problem, and we feel like that it's something that we'll look at this spring to see what we can do as well. We also, like everybody else in America, need to continue to look at kickoff coverage, it's just hard to do and put us in a bind. I think Alabama was 117th in kickoff coverage, so the team that won the National Championship was 117th and the next team is mad at every kickoff because we don't cover like we want to so it's a hard thing and we've got to continue to look at that.
We've also want to do a better job of dropping the ball inside the 10-[yard-line]. We're playing better defense, we need to play better field position and we feel like that's something that Justin and John Gold should work on a lot because we've gone for fourth down so many times in that 35 to 40-yard area when we cross the 50-[yard-line], we do feel like we can back some people up.
On incoming freshman kicker/punter Will Russ: He does all three [kicking phases], it's the reason we signed him. We felt like there's a chance we could redshirt Hunter and play Ryan [Bailey] and then all of a sudden Hunter had a great start and we were too deep. Then we started looking around. We had numbers and we looked and had about five kickers we followed all year and this was the one that we felt like had a chance to do all three, and by losing John next year, and Justin can do it all, but our experience has been just to worry about [depth]. I think Greg Johnson pulled up in Nebraska and Richmond McGee ended up having a pulled hamstring.
Whether it's right or not, the best one to ever do it was Ray Guy in many people's minds. Ray is a friend, and I always ask him, "Why did you kick off," and I guess he kicked off and punted with the Raiders, but never did field goals. He said they did not want him to do three phases, they just felt like he would be too down over time. You can do two; you can't do three. Since John's a great punter, I'm not worried about him. He'll be fine. I tried to sleep one night and envisioned in the Rice game Justin spraining his ankle and I was asked to kick a field goal. It wasn't good and that's one of those dreams that's a bad dream. I guess it would be called a nightmare, but I did kick in high school. I woke up scared and broke out in a sweat.
On running an I-formation: You're going to have two backs, so it depends on what you call it. People in college football now our calling a fullback B, that's what they call it. If you put him up to the line, they call him H. So whatever you call him, we'll have two backs in the backfield and we'll have a back deep. Not all the time, there was a time around here we were all gripping about the I-[formation], so let's call it multiple.
On the offensive line: I'm really excited about this group because they've played quite a bit in a backup role. David Snow started at center last year at Kansas and did a great job, two years ago, and we feel like David's a better center than guard. He's just more consistent there. Michael Huey got so much better this year and overcame injuries to do that. Tray Allen's a young guy that moved around to try to help us because we were so thin on the defensive line, but Tray is so athletic, we think he's ready to go. He really improved at the end of the year. Most of these guys weren't redshirted, which really hurts them. We wonder why they seem to be a little behind sometimes, but that year is really important for offensive lineman and we weren't able to do that with this class. I thought Britt Mitchell was one of the best blocking tight ends I had ever seen at Kilgore [High School], and I'm excited to watch him and of course Kyle [Hix] is really good, so when you're looking at those guys, they should be really good. This is the first chance that two of those guys have had, Tray and Britt for sure, and the other guys need to step it up as well. I expect us to be good, I think the fact that we're lining up with our tailback deeper, our quarterback under the line of scrimmage some going forward should help the offensive lineman, and part of that responsibility is on the backs. We've told our backs we'd like to separate. When you have four backs, you'd like to have one, and then another, but right now, all four can play and all four are about the same. They're all four doing a good job, but none of them have just jumped out and taken over and been the backs that we're used to around here. Jackie Sherrill told me one time after we beat them in the Cotton Bowl, he walked over and said, "You've ruined yourself for the rest of your life." I said, "What do you mean?" and he said, "You'll be looking for Ricky Williams the rest of your life and you'll never find him." Then you find Selvin [Young], you find Cedric Benson, you find Jamaal [Charles]. We've had pretty good backs, but he is right, our expectations around here of that back is really important to us.
On Boise State's offense: I've watched them for the last few years. I've not been happy with our trick plays innovation. I want to have more fun with the offense. It's hard to have trick plays when you run a spread. [The ball has] to be thrown back and forth, you don't have flow as much, so it is a different game, and I understand that. I think Chris Petersen and Boise have done one of the best jobs of having fun with plays, and kids like it and people like it, and I like it, so I want us to have more innovation in those type plays, and they've been able to run a lot of offense. They can run it, they can throw it, they line up in the I-[formation], they line up in the spread and they've done a good job with all those things. I liked what Oregon State did this year. I've watched them with a quarterback that got in the backfield, so you just start looking across the country. We feel like you can learn more on defense from pro teams because pro defenses are so far ahead of the college defenses in my estimation, because they're running a lot of pressure schemes and they have to disguise so well because pro quarterbacks are so good at what they do. Offensively, the pro offenses are very similar. You don't see that many different thoughts. Colleges, each year you look at what you feel like can be best and there's some similarities in the two. They're doing things more like we did them in the late 90s and early 2000s.
On Mason Walters' injury: They think he'll be fine and he's a big man. That injury, without getting me in trouble, Derek Lokey had it David Thomas had it with the Patriots, so it's not a career-ending injury, but it's something that needs to get fixed. We're also excited that Mason had a full spring last year where he struggled some. He had all fall and played two or three games, so he got a lot of football that we think will help him get back faster than if he had been a freshman that didn't get any of that work, so he knows what to do. He would have been rotating some as a starter.
On Garrett Gilbert's championship game experience translating to leadership: I think if he was fragile, it would have really hurt him, but he's very confident. He's a young man with a 4.0 [GPA] and played for a dad with a very successful college and pro career, so he gets it. He'll see that game to motivate himself and make himself better. He thought he turned the ball over instead of talking about being a freshman. A lot of people think how cool just to be in that game, but he was disappointed (in his play). He thought we had a chance to win, and he put it all back on him, and I've seen absolutely nothing since the game to make me feel like he'll take a step back and lose confidence and all of that. On the second part of that, if he had not played in that game and had not played well in that game like he did to get us back in it, I think the team probably would not have known what they had going into spring. Now they know this guy can be good. He's big. He's strong. He's confident. We hope he gets back in that stage, but he'll never be on a bigger one, especially with a lack of experience that he had.
On the volume of playing the back-up quarterback in light of Colt McCoy's injury: We constantly look at the injury. It's a hard one and goes a whole gamut. Number one, Colt wants to win the Heisman. You have got to keep your offense out there. We pulled Vince [Young] out during most third quarters and played somebody else. We were so far ahead in most third quarters that we had to pull him out to keep [the score] out of the 60s and 70s. If you look at sportsmanship at all, we tried to put Garrett in last year when we could and we ran the entire offense. That's what we tried to do. We did a better job of that last year than we have ever done and it probably gave us a chance when he came into the game because he knew what to do. Playing a second-team quarterback all the time is tougher with media and fans because they start choosing sides. You have got to know who you are. You can stick one in some, but we felt like last year was Colt's year and was his turn and we didn't want to put Garrett in the third series because we felt like it might distract from who Colt was. Colt admittedly tried too hard earlier in the season, so that would have made it worse. We felt like we did it last year like we should have and we will probably continue to do that. Garrett will be the leader going into the spring and they will be able to compete with him.
The biggest question right now is "Does Sherrod [Harris] step up and take the second (spot)?" And then you have got to have a third one out of the two freshmen. If one of the freshmen steps up above Sherrod and competes with Garrett, then you redshirt the other freshman. There will be a lot of question marks about our quarterbacks, and I really think that we have the best group of quarterbacks that we have had on campus at one time because we've had trouble keeping one. If you go back through our scenarios - with Jevan (Snead), he comes, and he leaves. G.J. (Kinne) comes and leaves. They're both starters and doing a great job at other programs. Ryan Perrilloux cost us a guy. John Brantley costs us a guy. We've been so fortunate that we have got great quarterbacks, and I do think that Greg [Davis] is one of the best quarterback teachers in the country because now they are all playing in the NFL or will be. We've also been fortunate enough that they haven't been hurt. I feel like this is true, and we've gotten by with this the last couple of years, I told the staff after the game that you should never have a game at Texas depend on the performance of one player or the health of one player. That happened to us at Kansas State a few years ago and I thought it carried over to the A&M game when Colt hurt his shoulder, and it happened to us the other night (in the National Championship). That's why we have got to get back and be able to win with another quarterback in the game, or if the quarterback that is in the game is not playing as well as we would like to see, by doing some other things with our offense.
On the uncertainty of a wide receiver: I like the fact that there (are proven guys who aren't in spring practice), and I think Marquise [Goodwin] is proven. On the biggest stage, he didn't blink. He thought he was playing a high school championship game out there in Pasadena. He had a smile on his face, bounced around when he caught that screen. I thought he looked really fast. I'm not worried about him. He will be in shape. He's smart and he will come back ready to play in the fall. We know what he can do. By him not being there, it lets DeSean Hales and Brock Fitzhenry and this group of guys that have been waiting have their turn play. John Chiles got so much better last year, but it is time for John to be a receiver now. He's not a quarterback moved to receiver anymore; he's a receiver. Malcolm [Williams] wishes that he had a couple of balls back in the National Championship game. James [Kirkendoll] was a little more inconsistent. He made some great plays for us last year, but he was disappointed in a couple of his games. We wouldn't know what they could do if all of these guys were out there all the time. Jordan Shipley missing spring last year obviously didn't hurt him. We don't even remember that he missed it. But it forced us to look at some guys that we might not have looked at if some of the others were there. I think that is a good thing.
On expanding the running game: We are playing better defense, so that gives us the ability to be more patient. It is hard to criticize your offense when you are scoring 42 points or more each game, and we have scored between 39 and 50 points since we have been here. Those things are good. We do not want to go back and score 24. "Oh boy, we are running better. We've lost eight games, but we are proud of our running game. It's gotten better." We do not want that to happen. With Colt, we just went to spread passing offense, and then we just quit running it. I was furious at the Colorado game that we walked out of there against a defense, which had not played great, and we could not make a third-and-two. That is what we have to get back to. We have to get back to having more balance. What we did was great, and we were probably a healthy quarterback away from winning the National Championship, so how would we question what our offensive coaches did? They did what they needed to do to win all of the games because Colt is a very special player. He is so accurate, and he is so smart, and he still used his feet, so he became a lot of our running game. Now we have to figure out if Garrett is the guy or one of these young guys steps up, but what do they do best, and try to build it around them. We have to get more confidence back in our running game. One of the things that I look at is the history of this school. This school was built on running the ball, playing man-to-man defense, stoning everybody, and having a great kicking game. It gets tough for our fans sometimes, and I understand, when we throw it and do not run it because that is not what they were raised with. One of the tougher things for us because of the Mike Leach, the Vince Young, all of the spread offenses is that now all of the high schools are in spread. It is harder to find the big back. It is harder to find the tight end. It is harder to find the fullback. It is not just that we have changed; it is that the world out there is changing. When you see the Miami Dolphins running the wildcat, you know things are changing, and people are looking at different things. What we have to do is go back and still score the same number of points we are scoring, but I would like to see us be more physical and take more control of the game, not force the quarterback to make great throws, have perfect protection the whole game, and then play some field position. If the defense can continue to knock balls loose and intercept balls like they did this year, then it helps put your offense in shorter fields.
On whether he feels good about the team's ability to turn the page after the bowl game:
Kids turn the page faster than coaches. I am going to try and do it Friday in the morning. Texas fans, in my estimation when we got here in 1998, would have left the Rose Bowl at halftime. If we were down 24-6, they would have been griping, throwing things at me and us, and leaving. They stood and fought and chanted, so we have changed our fan base. Our fan base thinks that we are going to win every week, and we have gone from 35-7 down to win. We have gone from 38-14 down to win. They are afraid to leave. They are afraid that if they get mad and leave, that they're posting less on the Internet at halftime because they cannot get that off, and we can all go back and find that we all ought to be fired, and then they are out there celebrating, hugging us at the bus when we get home. It is a hard thing to figure all of that out in a two-hour period, but as for our kids, if you go back and look, in 2004 we beat Michigan. In 2005, we win the National Championship. In 2006, we win one of the last two games, and we are in the conference championship with a possible place to go play for the National Championship. Colt gets hurt at Kansas State, and we do not finish well. In 2007, I did not like it. I do not know what happened there, but I just did not like the way that we played all of the time. It was a 10-win season and had some great games, but I just did not like it. We had to come from behind to beat Oklahoma State down 35-14 starting the fourth quarter. We had to come from behind to beat Nebraska. There [were just too many times] that it was like we played with entitlement and played with an arrogance. Instead of enjoying the game and playing and competing like they did against Arizona State. Then, arguably, the next year we should have been playing for the conference and national championship, and then this year we play for a national championship. I think that the mentality of this program right now is that regardless of who is playing, it is our responsibility to go back and not be arrogant and do our goals - to win the opener, win the Big 12 South, win the Big 12 Championship, and win the bowl game. If you ask the large majority of our players, especially the old ones, every one of them would still expect their goal to be in the National Championship Game again this year and not talk about rebuilding and how young we are. I think that is the mentality they will start with tomorrow.
On the new NCAA rules restricting coaches-in-waiting: I think, personally, that it is a very, very poor rule. First of all, I do not think that they should allow coaches to make decisions and change the rule that changes the abilities of a guy like Will to do his defensive coordinator's job. What they are doing is not affecting what would happen to him as a head coach, it is affecting what would happen to him as a defensive coordinator. He cannot go out as a defensive coordinator, under this rule, and evaluate players in person, which we have to , we have to be able to watch kids practice in the spring. Will and Greg both do that; they are both great evaluators, but not if they cannot see them practice. Secondly, when the rule came out, he was sitting in the parking lot outside of a high school that he had already been in as an assistant coach. We get the email, and to show you how our guys go by the rules, Will sat in the car, and they called the coach and said we cannot come in. We have nine coaches go out for four weeks in the spring, and he would not be able to go out [under the rule], so it also puts more pressure to stretch the staff. It is a much bigger factor to limit what his abilities are to do his job as defensive coordinator as it is about future head coach. It is not doing anything for him as a future head coach that he could not do as a defensive coordinator. That is where the rule I think is wrong. He is not a head coach.
On how much patience they will have for Gilbert to get up to speed: I do not think any of us are patient. Texas ruins your patience. It so bad now that a guy walks out there, we watch him, and if he does not look great in the first practice, and we are saying, "Oh gosh, I do not know if he is as good as we thought," and we have to remember - he has not eaten his first meal yet, he has not gone to his first class, so let's give him at least three days before we decide he can't ever play. We have had so many great freshmen come in and do things - the Marquise Goodwin's ruin the rest of them. Everybody expects them to do what Marquise did. I think that we will expect Garrett to be full speed the day that he gets out there. He has been around here a long time. He has been in camps and watched this offense. He was at every spring practice last year, even though he could not practice. He works himself to death; he has the same workout as Colt. We expect him to be really good and really good next year.
On the things at the top of the list for spring practice: That is simple. The first thing would be to run the ball better out of the fullback, h-back and develop a play-action pass off of all of your best runs because to me that is what the best teams do, and we got away from play-action last year for sure because we were a drop back team. Secondly, on defense, learn to stop the run better in a two-back situation. Our league does not have very many of them, but if you go back to the two biggest games that we have played in the last two years, both of them were two-back I teams - Ohio State and Alabama. For us to continue to be in the national picture and win the National Championship, we are going to play a team, most likely, that may have two backs and run it back down your throat. That philosophy hurts you as a team. We are leading the nation in rush defense, but have not played any two-back teams that run the ball downhill, so we give up over 200 yards rushing against Alabama and Ohio State the last two years. Will and I have talked about that a lot and that is key for us. Everybody talks about Garrett's last fumble with 6:50 left; if our defense can hold Alabama, make them punt and we get it at the 40, we are a field goal away from overtime at worst. So we were not happy that they took the ball and drove it down the field. We did not do as good of a job last year for the first time in a long time on short yardage offensively. That is a key for this spring. It will be a more physical spring. We have younger guys who are going to have to step up and prove some things. Likewise, we did not get the numbers that we wanted in the red zone.
On the departure of defensive playmakers: Last year, we did not know how good Sergio was going to be. Everybody was wondering if he could beat Orakpo. Muckelroy had been good, but he had not been great. Nobody had even heard of Earl Thomas. Earl did okay as a freshman. It is one of the amazing things about this place, and that is why I love these kids. There are some out there right now that we do not have any idea how they are going to play. Everyone griped about Lamarr Houston that he is soft and did not play all of the time, and he ended up being the leader on our team. There are days that I would have stood out there and griped too, but there is that night that we had an open practice, and I did not know whether to be sick about the offense or excited about Lamarr, but he knocked everyone down. That is when we knew how good he could be, and he grew into that. So the Kheeston Randalls need to grow up, the Alex Okafors need to grow up. We are so excited about Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson. Those two guys just look - they were not even the same guys last year, so they are fun to watch. I am excited about watching Kenny Vaccaro. I think that he may be real good. With Nolan Brewster out this spring, it gives Kenny more time to be seen. New guys step up here. People have asked me how we win every year, because not many people do that. We have recruited good kids, who are two-deep, and somebody has the pride to take somebody's place when somebody leaves. I think that is why we have done it. We have had awful injuries in 2006 and 2007. We did not even have to talk about them. We did not even have to bring them up because it is just not an issue. It helps team morale and depth. Guys just get better when they get to play in every game. I think that the fun thing about this place is watching Britt Mitchell. It is his turn. Tray Allen, there has been a lot written - time to pay for it, and I really think he will. It is harder to be a second or third-teamer here because you get more criticism, and you do not get the praise when you step up. It is really a powerful place. This team will be more like the 2008 team because there are a lot of great kids, who are good players that have not played yet, so they are going to have to step up. The expectations will be lower, but they are going to have fun. I can just watch them work in the offseason and see that they are going to be a team that likes to play.