March 27, 2010
Opening statement: We had a really strong scrimmage on Thursday afternoon. We invited our singees, some of our commitments for 2011 and some guys we’re still recruiting to watch practice, and we do it indoors. We felt like, after last year, instead of having a scrimmage, (the recruits) want to watch practice. The spring game is so crazy with all the juniors and sophomores that come. We felt like this would be a great day to have a good practice, review our scrimmage on Thursday but also let each prospect see exactly the guys on our team, how they’re practicing and how the coaches respond and react. It’s a good day. I’ll actually leave here and go eat lunch with that group.
The scrimmage was good. It was long. There were over 100 plays. It was very physical and we felt like we got a lot out of it. We’re still working with our punting game to see what type of protection ties together the best. John Gold has had an outstanding spring punting. We still have Justin Tucker punting, and we would like to have the rugby and the normal punt. I don’t see people doing that across the country so we’re working hard in that area. We also have (Aaron) Williams returning punts right now. He had a great return on Thursday so we feel like we’ve made some progress in that area.
Offensively, Barrett Matthews and Greg Smith are both working as tight ends and H-backs. Our emphasis has been on the running game this fall. We’re not getting away from our passing game. Our guys are still working hard at wide receiver but we feel like that our emphasis needs to be downhill running and being physical, and we feel like our offensive line’s made a lot of progress. Dominique Jones had a really good scrimmage on Thursday, really the first time he’s stepped up as a tight end and we felt good about his progress in that area.
We feel like it was a good move to Michael Huey to left guard so he and Kyle Hix could work together, because they worked together on the right side for so long. That gives us strength and two good players over there, but also similarities because they’ve played together so long and they know exactly what each one is going to do on a call. We’re trying to get Tray Allen and Britt Mitchell to do the same on the right side, and they’re making progress. David Snow, it’s obvious to us he’s a lot better center than he was guard. It’s obvious to us. He played well at center as a freshman, he was up and down last year as a guard but he seems to be back at home at center.
Right now, Sherrod Harris would be the second team quarterback. He’s made progress. The two freshmen have not separated yet. They have not put themselves in a position, and a lot of that’s learning so we feel like that competition will be extended to the fall because the two freshmen still have a lot to learn. Being a freshman quarterback coming in the spring is tough because so much is thrown at you so quickly. Tre' Newton and Fozzy Whittaker would be the two tailbacks to line up today if we were playing. We feel like Chris Whaley is making some progress. Vondrell (McGee)’s doing really well. He would stay in that mix. We lost Cody Johnson over spring break to a hamstring. He was home running. Every time Cody seems to be in that mix he takes a step back. He was able to do some things today for the first time.
Defensively, again you’re working a few more things by scheme on offense now, because there are some changes, than you are on defense. Defense has been mostly about personnel. We feel really good about our secondary. We probably have three starting corners. Chykie (Brown) is better than he’s ever been, Curtis Brown’s playing really well and (Aaron) Williams is a really good football player. You’ve got those guys. With Nolan Brewster out for the spring, Christian Scott has stepped up. Blake Gideon is now playing full speed. If we played today Christian Scott would be the other safety. Duane (Akina) is really excited about Kenny Vaccaro and his progress. He’s learning to play the position and not just knock people out. We’re also excited about Nolan, obviously, we he comes back.
We're still looking for interior depth for our defensive line. Tevin Mims is improving and also Calvin (Howell) is doing a better job. Still today we would start Sam Acho inside and have Eddie Jones and Alex Okafor outside. We do need guys to step up and play the position. That’s important to us. Dravannti Johnson continues to improve. He’s playing an outside linebacker position. He can rush the passer if we need a pass rush group of four rushers. We’re really pleased with Dravannti and we think he’s made a lot of progress.
Justin Tucker has maybe missed one kick, so we haven’t dropped off there. Hunter (Lawrence) was so accurate for us last year. We’re really pleased with Justin. He’s getting the ball up high and fast. He can do the things we need there and that’s why we need to continue to have John Gold help us in the punting game.
The last week of spring will be totally on evaluation now. We have run a trick play every day. We have faked something in the kicking game every day, so we do want to be more innovative like we said we wanted to be. And the kids are liking it on offense and defending it on defense. It’s a lot of fun for them to compete against each other.
We’re cross training a lot of guys, especially the interior defensive linemen, because we’re still thin across the front. We need to force the younger offensive linemen to continue to come on and play. Garrett Porter has been impressive at center, so he’s done a good job. We’re going to have to play those guys. We’re going to have to play some young secondary guys to be able to be ready to step up for the next year. Emmanuel Acho is back out at practice. He is competing now. We feel like that it’s good to have him back and let him get in the mix before the Spring Game. Our Spring Game came up on Easter this year, which is unfortunate in some ways for certain people. But, we felt like it’s really about our kids. We felt like this is the best day for them to have our scrimmage. We moved it back to 4:00 instead of our 1:30 time, so people in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston can get here after church. We hope that we’ll have our best crowd. We’ll have a lot of young guys. We’ll have a good hour, hour and a half scrimmage and it’ll be fun to watch them. If it did inconvenience anybody we apologize for it. We felt like it was between the basketball games. A lot of the pro teams play on Sunday. Basketball teams play on Sunday of Easter. This won’t come up very often. We felt like we couldn’t do it Friday. We couldn’t do it Saturday, because of the Texas Relays. It’s not just the fact that it would take away from the Texas Relays, we tried it a couple years, and then traffic was absolutely horrible. It was impossible for people to get in and out. So, that’s not an option either. We felt like this was the best option, and we’re looking forward to a great day.
On Sam Acho’s position: (He’s) cross training. We’re cross training a bunch of guys. He’s still a defensive end. We’re hoping to find a guy that can start at defensive tackle, because he’s a dominating defensive end. He’s a great pass rusher. When we get to second and third-and-long, it’s not an issue. We’re still not where we need to be at defensive tackle. That’s our problem. We’d rather not have him line up against Ohio State or Alabama in the running game for 75 plays.
On the offensive line’s attitude: It’s better. We’ve helped them by scheme. We’ve helped them that we’re running it more. We feel like that more of the runs are downhill. We were not running an offense that was conducive to a physical running game. That’s just what it is. If we had to do it over, we’d probably do the same thing, because it gave us a chance to win all the games for two years. Right now we feel like that we’d like to get back to where we started. We’d like to get back to more balance where you could win running it or passing it. Last year we could not have won the game just running the ball.
On the young offensive linemen: They’re all getting better. We miss Mason (Walters), but they said they think he’ll be 100 percent for the fall and can start working out this summer. Those guys are all better. They’re all improving. None of them right now have pushed the guy in front of them, and we’d like for them to do that. We still are going to look at playing them all next year. We cannot go through a year with four seniors graduating, basically two years in a row and not have some experience. We have got to push ourselves to get experience in the backup offensive line this year.
On the team’s top receivers: The top four would be Malcolm Williams, John Chiles has moved inside and he is playing really well, so he’s made a tremendous amount of progress, I should have mentioned him (in the opening statement), (James) Kirkendoll, and then he’s not out there but you’d still have Marquise Goodwin. Those would be your four top ones. The next ones that have stepped up would be DeSean Hales and Greg Timmons. Those two have done some good things.
On the running backs: We’ve been all over the place with the running game and running backs the last three years. Since we’ve been all over the place, we feel like that now that we’re repeating runs more than we have, you can really see if a guy is doing a good job or not. There have been guests, some coaches from other schools who have been guests that have come out and watched. It’s funny, they all say, “All your running backs are good. It’s just that not one of them has jumped out, have they?” That’s true. They’re all good. They’d all be playing at different places. They’d all be starting at some place. We just need them to be consistently good.
On including Garrett Gilbert in the new running game philosophy: We will not feature the zone read, but this morning we had a team period, and Garrett (Gilbert) ran it once for 20 yards and a touchdown. So, we think that it’ll probably be better for us than it has in the last couple years because it will not be a feature. People won’t work on it. It’s hurt us some when we hadn’t paid any attention to it. In fact, Nebraska ran it at the end of the game, hadn’t really showed it and they had about an 11 yard run on it. It was one of their bigger runs. It’s something that we’ll continue to run. Garrett may not be as quick as Colt, but he can really run. He’s big and strong. We can still run with him. He’ll still run quarterback draw and do the things we were doing before.
On the backup quarterback situation: This is Sherrod’s chance. He’s had a chance with John Chiles. He had a chance last year with Garrett. He seems to have gotten hurt every time. It hasn’t worked for him. Now he’s working really hard. He’s completing a lot of passes. He’s confident. We’d like to see him do well. If he does well, you can redshirt both of the freshmen and let them separate for next year. If he doesn’t you have to get them to separate. Right now, they’re not separating. We’ve got to do it. They both have some bright spots, but neither one has taken over.
On Sherrod Harris’ confidence: It seems to be (high) for the first time. We’re really pulling for Sherrod and hope he can finish right and do well.
On if he’s spoken with the players coming back for pro day: Yes, in fact they’re all back just about. I’ve seen Sergio (Kindle). I’ve seen Jordan (Shipley), Lamarr (Houston), Ben Alexander. I saw Earl (Thomas). So most of them have been in the office now that they come back and work out here. I’m sure it’s to get familiar with their surroundings. That’ll be a big day for some of them. Some of them didn’t do as much at the combine. What we have our pro day for, is if you didn’t get invited to the combine, it gives you a chance to have your own combine. If you went to the combine and did something you’re not happy with, you get to repeat it. If you did really well at the combine, they probably won’t do it again. That’s my experience with them. Lastly, if you were hurt like Jordan had his pull and Colt didn’t get to participate in the throwing, they have their chance to do it. They’re doing it before 100 head coaches, general managers, scouts, assistants. It’s a tremendous amount of pressure. It’s also at home with our coaches helping them.
On Chris Whaley’s progress at running back: He ran maybe 16 times the other day. We’re trying to see who he is here. The problem, is when you have five, six backs, where do you get the reps? So, Fozzy (Whittaker) and Tre’ (Newton) did very little in the scrimmage the other day. Jeremy (Hills), Vondrell (McGee) and Chris Whaley took most of it. So we saw some progress there. We’re not ready to move him yet, but we also want to see him do it on a consistent basis.
On the team’s difference from last year: They’ve worked really hard. It was funny, 2006 was a funny year because we were following a National Championship team, had a lot of those guys back and a quarterback who had never taken a snap. All of a sudden you look up in ’07, and we had a lot of new guys that hadn’t played very much and had a lot of injuries and it wasn’t a smooth start at all. We won, but it was ugly. Then, they finally got better. Then, they tailed off. Then, they came back and did well in the Arizona State game. The next year, I think is similar to what I feel like this one is starting at in ’08 that we weren't supposed to be very good. They were all trying. They were all really good. They didn’t have the celebrity that the other teams a few years back had. But they fought and became more blue collar. I saw that with last year’s team as well. I’m feeling that with this team even more so than last year’s, because the offense has become more blue collar as well, and not just dependant on Colt and Jordan and Quan (Cosby) to make big plays.
On having something to prove serving as motivation: There are two or three things that really motivate our kids after watching now. The fact that we’ve had the second most 10-win seasons in the history of college football with nine puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them that 10 (wins) is the bottom you can consider. For nine years, not one player on this team has won less than 10 games. They know they have to win 10 games, period. They want to win the south and they want to win the Big 12. We’ve tied for the south and not been able to play for the Big 12, so that’s where the Oklahoma game has become so important. They want to win a bowl game. They want to win the Big 12 Championship then win the bowl game. You would hope that, two years ago that winning the bowl game did not allow a National Championship, it put them in third, but you would hope that the National Championship would be involved in that group. I think this group understands, like ’08 that there’s nothing going to be given to them. A lot of people are going to have question marks, and they’re going to have to work for it.
On Eryon Barnett and A.J. White: Eryon is doing really well. He was so limited with his shoulder at the first of spring. They’re actually turning him loose now. He’s playing and playing well. It’s fun to see him out there. We’re getting a better evaluation than we thought. I think he’ll be able to play in the Spring Game. I don’t know how much they’ll let him play, but right now it looks like they’ll turn him loose. A.J. is doing really well. It’s good that he’s here, because we don’t have the young corners that have the experience that we want. I think he’ll be ahead coming in, because he’s gone against the best receivers every day and competed. He has not backed down at all. We’re really pleased with him.
On Christian Scott’s progress: Christian and Kenny Vaccaro always want to hit you. They just want to knock it out. They don’t want to sit and wait. Duane (Akina) is a good teacher. Both of them may be showing up a little less in the backfield in a flash, but they’re covering better. We really feel good that both of those guys now are not just hitters, but they’re becoming good football players. Kenny is behind obviously. We’re excited about Christian. He’s lost some weight, because you get a little heavy when you don’t play. He’s so excited about playing and we’re really pulling for him.
On if Chris Whaley could potentially move to H-back: We’re not sure, probably. We really want to look at him. Fozzy is going to graduate in June. He’s going to graduate two years early, which is unbelievable how smart he is. Vondrell is a senior. You still haven’t gotten the answers that you want. We’re going to work Chris really hard and make sure that we’re doing the right thing before we consider moving him. I’ve been stubborn about it. If we’re going to run the ball, we’re going to need a number of running backs who can play.
On if Cody Johnson will play in the Spring Game: He did a few things today, and I think he will play in the Spring Game. I saw him walking off the field. I didn’t talk to the trainers, but it didn’t look like he was hurt, and D.J. Monroe is practicing again finally with his pulled hamstring. Today is about the first day he’s done anything. He’s missed so much of spring. He’s gotten behind. Cody did everything for the first seven, then pulled it at home, came back and has not done anything until today.
On senior leadership: I think that’s always a question mark until summer. Leadership is something that we preach to them every day. We’re working them. We’re pushing them. After the scrimmage, they could’ve had a flat practice this morning. They were really good. They got out there. I was proud of them. I think we’re going to like this team.