March 8, 2013
Head coach Mack Brown
Opening statement: Go back and review the first eight days, it's obvious that we are more talented than we’ve been in the last three years. We have more team speed than we've had the last three years. We're older, have more competition at each position, and better leadership.There's more energy because of all of the above, and I think that was evident for those that came to practice last week.
Got two older quarterbacks that understand it and get it. And one’s a definite starter and that's the first time in three years we've really had that situation at this time of the year. And he's won ten of the last 13 games, so David [Ash] is getting it and playing with a lot of confidence. And we must separate the three younger guys, because we got to figure out who the next guy is going to be behind David and Case [McCoy], because they’ve got the experience.
Tempo has been fun for the coaches on both sides of the ball, but really stresses the guys and makes you be in great condition and makes you have energy when you come to practice because you are running the entire time. We also feel like the offense has been impressive, but what we have got to continue to do is not get so pass-happy like we were with [former QB] Colt [McCoy] and lose our toughness in the running game. And we’re still continuing to work on the same runs that we had last year. But I wasn't excited in a couple of cases yesterday on short yardage and goal line, even though the offense did score, but got stuffed some, as well. It really helps our defense. The defense has learned more about tempo probably than they did all of last year because they actually substituted at times yesterday while tempo was going on with the big guys. So we feel like that it's helping our defense and sending the message to them, that they have to be in great shape to play. And against this type offense day-in, day-out, you will get exposed if you're not. And when you throw your hands on your hips and you get your head down or get down on one knee after a 12-play tempo drive, it shows you that whatever condition you're in is not enough, so eat better, sleep better.
And also, we are taking all of those clips of anyone who looks like they are in less than top condition and showing it to [Assistant Athletics Director for Strength & Conditioning] Jeff Madden and [Assistant Athletics Director for Football Operations] Bennie Wylie, and they will help these guys out through the summer. The staff’s working very well. [Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach] Manny [Diaz] and [co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Major [Applewhite] and [co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach] Darrell [Wyatt] are all working well on the tempo to make sure that they are trying to expose concerns on either side of the ball, and they are really helping each other go through that at that time.
We've had very physical practices. We are continuing to work on our tackling in space, because that's what this league has become. It's very difficult, even to a point that we thudded the young quarterbacks yesterday, and it’s the first time we have ever done that. So they actually had contact on them along with a full scrimmage with everybody else. We felt like it was a very, very physical scrimmage.
Our coaches need to take the average players and make them good, and take the good players and make them great. And that's what we are telling them. If you think your guy is playing good, that's not good enough. He needs to be a great player, if he has that ability. If he's young and not playing well, make him play well. As a coach, that’s your responsibility, and mine, as well.
We have only worked on extra point in field goal and the kicking game the first eight days. We'll beef up the kicking game the last half of spring practice, the last seven days. Nick Rose and Nick Jordan are even. They are both kicking very well. Yesterday is about the first time they missed and each one of them missed a field goal yesterday. Nick Jordan pulled his and Nick Rose pushed his. I think Nick Rose's was into the wind and Nick Jordan's was with it. So we will come back and work heavy on the kicking game leading into the spring game when we return.
You go back and review all your goals for the first eight practices and if you didn't accomplish some of them, you add those to the goals of the second seven and then you reset it. But you also reestablish your depth chart and see which guys have earned the right. We told the guys yesterday after the scrimmage, who’s earned the right after the first eight days, and specifically the scrimmage, to play against the best teams we play next year each week. And if you haven't, you'll get less work the last seven days. And if you haven't done it the next seven, then some freshman is going to step in and take your place when he gets here. And that's just the way it works. We'll continue to create quality depth in the last seven and press the guys to do that.
When we get back the Monday after spring break, the first thing we will do at 6 o'clock in the morning is have an off-season program to make sure that the guys continue to stay in shape while they were on break. They can rest their bodies and mind. But they got to eat right, they got to take care of their body and they got to sleep and they’ve got to do some conditioning, because you can't take ten days off if you're a big guy and come right back and do what you need to do.
From an injury standpoint, [OT] Josh Cochran broke his ankle, [LB] Tevin Jackson has got a sore shoulder they are still checking on. [LB] Jordan Hicks has a slight pulled hamstring, and he's done a lot of stuff - he hasn't done all the work in scrimmages, but he could if we were playing today. And practicing without these guys really has made some other guys step up. We know what those guys can do. Jordan needs to stay healthy. Josh wants to get some more bulk so that will help him with weight. Tevin Jackson was playing really, really well at linebacker and what we are seeing now without [DE] Jackson Jeffcoat and [OT] Trey Hopkins and Josh Cochran for the spring, it's forcing other guys to play in a starting role and developing more depth. You’ve also got Jordan Hicks who we played without most of last year, he’s had a history of some injuries, so if that's going to happen, we need to have other guys be able to play if he gets hurt. So we are forcing ourselves to look at that now. Like I said, Tevin hurt his shoulder the other day, and we should get a report this afternoon. We will let you know when we know whether he will return to practice the rest of spring or not. But all of those guys will be ready for fall. So as much as we’ve hit in the first eight days of spring practice, we haven’t had an injury that will keep someone from being ready to play in the fall or playing in the fall. So we feel like we've been very fortunate there. Questions about the first eight days?
On when he thinks the up-tempo offense will be ready: August 31. When we open. It’s about the games, and you need to be ready to go. I really like it. I'm seeing us like we were with Colt and at the same time, running the ball better. When you look at it, one of the concerning things yesterday, as a head coach, you walk out of a spring scrimmage and you're mad at half the plays. Because if the offense did well, the defense stunk and vice versa, so you can't be happy. So, I'm really happy that the offense did not have a turnover yesterday. I'm really mad that the defense didn't turn something over. So you go into one meeting and brag on them, and you go into the other meeting and jump on them, it’s just the way it is for spring training. But I'm excited with our offense that we're getting the tempo thing, and we’ve got a lot of fast guys on the field getting the ball and that's fun. At one time yesterday, you had [RB/WR] Daje [Johnson], [WR] Mike Davis, [WR] Jaxon Shipley, [RB] Malcolm Brown and [RB] Johnathan Gray on the field and there was a counter-play that ended up giving it to Daje for about 25 yards. But each one of them could have touched it and made something happen with it. So they can all catch screens, they can all run. It's forcing Malcolm and Johnathan to block better, but I'm liking what I'm seeing. The one thing that we felt because we had fast tempo for two hours and when you scrimmage from 3:45 to 5:45 or 6:00 [p.m.], that's a lot of plays with tempo. And at the end of the scrimmage, we discussed this morning, we've got to be in such great condition that in the fourth quarter, tempo is wearing the other team out and we're going even faster. So we can't slowdown, and I thought we slowed down some yesterday. It really pressed the defensive guys, ‘til you’re able to take film clips out of this guy with his head down this guy with his hands on his hips between plays. And it's really significant for the off-season program to show them that you're a ten-play guy right now because you can't play 12 plays in a ballgame because you're out of shape. So it answers a lot of questions for parents, and it answers a lot of questions for the guys because the big guy in the sky don't lie. You got it right there. So you can show them. But I'm really excited about our offense. I think we'll be the best offense since Colt left. And I think that's without question and I'm excited about that.
On the defense’s improvements: Again, it's hard to tell because you had a lot of one against one yesterday, and there was some good plays both ways. We've definitely improved on defense. We are older and more mature in the secondary, and at linebacker. And I would say, we’ve improved a significant amount, and we are still not where we need to be. And we need to continue to be fundamentally sound, and we have got to chase the ball. I do think that we have got two fronts that are probably not much different. So I think our depth right now, across the board in defense, is better than it's been in a long time.
On the running backs: Right now, [running backs coach] Larry [Porter] has been able to take all four of them and use them interchangeably. And I really like Larry Porter. I mean, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience and quality experience to that position. And he is hard on them, now. He is on them every minute of every day. But no, he's making Daje block, just like he's making Joe Bergeron block. He's not giving them a break, and they didn't even blink yesterday. Those four played every snap. We didn't have anybody else in for two and a half hours. So Larry is pushing them and pushing them hard, and I like it.
On if they have been working on the return game this spring: We’re going to do all that the second session. Obviously, with Major going from kickoff return to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks, he’ll be out of the kickoff return. So that will be significant. We’ve put Manny and [assistant head coach/defensive backs coach] Duane [Akina] in charge of kickoff coverage, and we did that about the last five games last year, so they will handle that. Duane and probably [co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach] Darrell [Wyatt] will work on punt blocking and return. Darrell’s going to work with punt with Manny and some other coaches, and probably Darrell Wyatt or Larry Porter are going to have kickoff return. We are working on that mostly through spring break. And we've had really good visits with some consultants on the NFL level about our kicking game and we have had – we’ve broken every phase down to a point even if we return the ball past the 40-yard line on kickoff returns, we scored 86 percent of the time. So it tells you, we get a good kickoff return, we're going to score. So we are breaking each one of those downs, and that's why we didn't do as much in the first session as we did -- as we are going to the second. It's also been good that we had defensive coordinator Everett Withers who played for me at Appalachian and coached for us here in to watch two practices. Because he spoke at our clinic, and he was able to compare some things we are doing and our personnel at Ohio State. By hiring [Director of player personnel]Patrick [Suddes] yesterday, Patrick was able to watch the scrimmage and stand out there and compare some of our personnel to Alabama - none of which we are going to share with you, before you ask. But it's also good to have some outside eyes on what you're doing.
On PK/P Anthony Fera: What we did is we decided since he had not been healthy for a year to keep him out of all field goals for the spring and let him start back in the summer. Because those injuries, like the one to Jordan Hicks - groin, hip flexor - it is so tough on a guy, a soccer-style kicker that he never got well. He kicked the ground at the end of the year, and it just kept coming back and back and back. In consulting our doctors - and you don't know how much of that is mental. Consulting our doctors, we just said, “Let's just pull him out. He punts every day but let's pull him out of all kicking, kickoffs and kicking until summer.” And he'll start back in the summer. We are not discouraged. We are not giving up on him, but we thought we need him well so we can go back and see the guy we saw at Penn State. Yes, he will punt. Today if we were punting, he could punt. And he's punting every day in practice. He is not kicking field goals as of yet. And [PK] Nick Rose has improved his accuracy a whole lot. And he's also got such a strong leg, he can be a factor in this competition with Fera and with Nick Jordan if he’ll continue to grow. But he's done a really good job. And [P] Will Russ is out for spring. So he's not doing anything.
On finding some leaders for next year: It was a huge discussion this morning. Let’s go back and figure out who your leaders are and then start pushing them in those roles. You have to think that up front Jackson Jeffcoat is going to be a leader. Because he's played a lot. He's got to stay healthy. Some of our key players - Malcolm Brown’s got to stay healthy, as a running back. Jordan Hicks’ got to stay healthy. Jackson Jeffcoat’s got to stay healthy. Those guys are guys that need to be out there for us. So Jordan would be the best leader even though the competition between [LB] Dalton Santos and [LB] Steve Edmond has been great because Steve’s been playing much better and Dalton’s all over the place. And Dalton’s the great leader, and Steve’s the quiet guy that's got to come on and we are seeing that happen some. [LB] Peter Jenkins and [LB] Tevin Jackson have really played well in the first part of spring. And Tevin got hurt in a “thud” drill, an inside drill where he barely hit somebody. I mean he just caught it wrong. So he’s not hurt seriously, but still we don’t need him to miss time because he's older now and he's experienced. And then you start looking at the secondary, [CB] Carrington [Byndom] and [S] Adrian Phillips I thought were both very, very physical yesterday in the scrimmage. We are seeing great competition out of [Sheroid] Evans and [Duke] Thomas at corner, and it will be interesting to see as we add coverages here after break, will they be able to play at the same level. But we are having great competition across the board on defense, and that's going to help us.
On leaders on offense: I think you look at starting out, [OG] Mason [Walters] and [OT] Trey Hopkins have been the two leaders up there, and I think they will continue to do that. You start looking at [WR] Jaxon Shipley and [WR] Mike Davis are the older guys. The other guy that's really getting attention is [WR] Kendall Sanders. He had two great plays yesterday and stepped up and he was tough, and he's playing really hard but not as a leader but as a player. David and Case have both really shown good leadership this spring. We would like to see one of those young ones step up and do the same. It's harder when you have older guys there because they are less likely to step in the huddle first. And I think David really feels the most comfortable I've ever seen him feel. He hasn’t thrown an interception throughout spring practice. Yesterday, he made a great play scrambling to his right on a third- down-and-nine and threw down the field a yard behind the line of scrimmage. He also made a fantastic throw down to the one to Mike Davis, that was a key throw. He ran a quarterback draw for a score. He ran on an option play for a 14-yard gain. So we are seeing him use his feet now to make more plays, and I think that helps his confidence. The other thing is all the guys are loving the tempo on both sides of the ball. The defense doesn't like it, but they know it's going to help them. And they are seeing that it's exposing anybody right now instead of in the fall like we got exposed last year. And at the same time, the running backs are loving the tempo which is something you were concerned about when you go to this, but they like it as well. And we scrimmaged without coaches on the field yesterday. Everything was like a ballgame from the sideline. We had Big 12 officials out there, and we made them try to snap the ball between 15 and 18 seconds. So it's really been fun, because it also simulates more of a game-type atmosphere.
On Texas’ offensive linemen in the NFL: I think our offensive line is headed in the right direction. This group we signed this year is the best I've ever seen us sign. You know [Former OT] Kyle Hix got hurt, he's playing for the Patriots. So there's a few guys that have been around that haven’t-- we didn't get to redshirt a lot of these guys and that hurt us. Hurt them because they were a year behind. But I do think in our future we are going to have some. I think we are going to get back to draft choices. I'm really excited about where we are and where we're headed. Just about everybody is back that played last year and took their lumps for the last two years. And at Texas nine wins is lumps. We understand that, so we are excited about having a chance to win every game. And to do that we’ve got to upgrade both lines of scrimmages. And we are also seeing that with the turn in tempo offense in the Big 12, you can't take a big heavy guy, can't run any more in the defensive line. It’s nearly like you’ve got four ends because they all have to run. [DT] Ashton Dorsey I thought played great yesterday. He's so savvy. There was a screen, I think it was to [RB] Malcolm Brown, and [OG] Curtis Riser just sat, and I mean, Ashton stopped and knew it was a screen and ran right out and got it. He made a lot of plays for a loss. So, those are the type guys you got to play with. Everybody you sign now has got to be a guy that can run.