Aug. 13, 2010
Opening statement: I like the attitude, the energy and the confidence of the bunch. It’s a team that’s having fun and it’s also a team that’s really working hard with the freshmen. Don’t think I’ve ever seen an older group that’s reached out to the young ones as much as this bunch has. I think they respect the fact that the young bunch is talented and they’re smart and they’re working so hard and they know that some of those guys will really help our football team this year.
It’s fun to have open practices and see the excitement and the cheers and the things that we had for the last two nights, and at the same time, it’s very similar to game conditions at the same time we play Wyoming, so we felt like a lot that was good. What we‘ll have to go back and continue to evaluate is if it’s worth it, because we would have been indoors some of the last two days. There’s a lot of talk about the kids, a lot of fans that come that aren’t Texas fans to see them and most people that I’ve talked to across the country are closing all practices, so that’s something we’ll have to continue to evaluate for future open practices and see.
We’re still trying to find 26-27 guys on each side of the ball and in the kicking game that we feel like can step up and play. You look at three or four different things that are issues in preseason camp. Number one, who can play and not just starters, but who can play and develop your depth? Number two, you want to be fundamentally sound but you also are constantly looking at schemes that you feel like fit your talent so when you get some young guys that come in and it may change some of the thoughts and Will [Muschamp] and Greg [Davis] do a tremendous job of working together and evaluating what each other is doing. The staff will ask, like Bobby Kennedy will constantly ask, "Duane [Akina], who do you think my best guys are?" and vice versa. They’ll talk about, "Does this motion hurt your coverage more?" So they’re doing a great job of working together and trying to figure out what schemes fit. I’m not worried about the schemes as much as fundamentals. You’ve got to stay sound and not get too many plays in, too many defenses in that you can’t coach the kids.
We’re still looking really hard at kicking game personnel. As hot as it is and in our league and in this part of the country, you’ve got to be careful that a lot of your starters that are on special teams don’t get cramps or don’t get so tired during a game if there’s a lot of kick plays that they can’t continue to play, so you’ve always got to look at two-deep and sometimes three-deep in the kicking game.
Emphasis continues to be on the running game, the backs and the offensive line. The offensive line and the running game are at a tremendous disadvantage during practice. You can’t cut the defensive lineman in practice. We don’t want to hurt our own guys, so in many cases, they can’t even cut off, they have to just stick their head in front of a guy. A lot of times you’ll see penetration in a scrimmage like last night or a ‘thud’ practice and he would have been cut, he wouldn’t even be in the backfield, so it’s hard for those offensive linemen and then you have to cut enough dummies. When you get in the game, that’s the first time they’ve really had live work where they can turn it loose and do that, so they’re at a tremendous disadvantage, but we’ve got to continue to work on depth there too because we lose three or four of these guys for next year and losing Tray Allen for the moment has forced us into looking at a lot of other young guys. The two freshmen are playing right in the middle of the mix, Dom[inic] Espinosa and Trey Hopkins are doing really well and we’re proud of both of them and they’ll have a chance to play this year.
Defensive line depth is always a concern. Our defense has enough schemes that we can play a 3-4 or we can move people around, but you still don’t want to be limited with the big guys inside so we’ve got to continue to look at that. Calvin Howell has done a good job, but we’ve got to get the other guys to come on and the quarterback depth is an issue. Garrett [Gilbert]’s playing really well, we’re proud of him, he’s grown up, he’s showing leadership, he’s helping the two younger quarterbacks, which shows his confidence and how secure he is in his place, but one of those two young quarterbacks has to step up. They’re both talented, they’re both going to be good players, but we’ll have to separate them in the next three weeks.
There are already 40,000-plus tickets sold at Reliant. We want it to be sold out so we’re really, really pushing that game. Rice fans will buy their tickets, but there are enough Texas fans in Houston that we want it sold out. We want it to be like the (Big 12) Championship game a few years ago and they think it’s headed that way.
There was an article yesterday, or today, about coach [Nick] Saban talking about a group of us have met and had a conference call with a number of different people on agent issues and that is true. We’re constantly trying to educate our players, our parents and the high school coaches about the agents that don’t go through the proper training and the agents that don’t go by the rules and that this time there are some great ideas out there and we’ll continue to work on it. Temporarily, we’re going to stay exactly like we are, we’re not going to change what we’re doing, but we’re looking at possibilities to change the rules in the long run as coaches, working with the NFL, working with the NFL Players Association and the American Football Coaches Association, to make the agent rules more defined and try to make it more like the NCAA recruiting rules, so there’s a possibility that you couldn’t have contact with an agent except for certain times of the year. There are possibilities that maybe the player gets punishment in the NFL if he breaks the agent rules while he’s in college because it punishes the NFL as well as the young man. Right now, the young man gets punished, the agent can get punished if he’s caught and the university gets punished, but the NFL does not get punished so we’re looking at all the possibilities that might help alleviate some of the problems with the agents that aren’t going through all the proper controls and rules.
On RBs Fozzy Whittaker and Tre' Newton: We felt like coming out of spring into the fall that Fozzy and Tre' would be the two guys that would line up to start with. It changes, really, on a day-to-day basis, but we’ve really been pleased with both of those guys. We want to continue to work them and you don’t want to wear a back out in two-a-days because they run so much, or a receiver wear down to a point that they could get hurt, so we’re monitoring how many plays they have and take. They’ve got to get their work down. It’s the hardest thing about preseason camp – how hard do you push a guy? You've got to make sure he’s in shape, you need to get him hit, he needs to hit, you don’t want to get him hurt and you don’t want to have him too tired when you play Rice, so the whole thing’s a balance. How much do you stay out in the sun? How much do you get inside? How much do they run? How much do your kickers kick and your punters punt? The whole thing is trying to get guys ready for the opening game, but we’re pleased with both of those guys. They can catch, they can run, they’re smart, they both have tremendous grades, Fozzy’s already graduated. The one that has made the biggest jump is Cody Johnson. He’s come back and lost four or five percent body fat this summer. He’s still the same weight, he’s 251 pounds, but he’s in great shape and he hasn’t been in that type of shape before, so we feel like those three guys right now are the guys that will continue to work towards game time.
On WR Mike Davis: Yes, we’re looking at a lot of freshmen in key roles and what you want to do, Marquise Goodwin is limited because he’s got a slight pull, Curtis Brown is limited because he’s got a slight pull, Barrett Matthews is limited because he’s got a slight pull, Chris Whaley’s limited because he’s got sore knees, it’s a coaches nightmare. With Marquise [Goodwin] out last night in the team stuff, that gave Mike a chance to get out and work with some of the ones and see how he handled the pressure, see how he handled the best defensive backs that we’ve got on the field and trying to push some of those freshmen into roles where they can play in the opening ballgame. We always try to do some ones against twos and twos against ones, get the younger ones to go against Sam Acho on the offensive line because they can get lulled to sleep thinking they’re doing pretty good and then Acho runs by them three times and they say, ‘Woo,’ and we say that’s who you’re going to play against when you get in the real world, so we try to mix it up enough that they get the best competition we have and they also go against some guys that they can compete with.
On separation between the freshman quarterbacks: Not yet, I think it’s too early. It’s funny, the problem with young ones is they’re inconsistent, and as a team, we’re trying to get more consistent. What we feel is right now they are getting every other snap, which is good. There will be a day where we’ll hold Garrett out of an entire practice probably to save his arm a little bit and get him some rest one day and let them compete with the ones. They’re handling the snaps much better than they did in the spring because they were both shotgun guys that are up under the center more, but we do feel like they both are talented, they’re both really good. The one that we will need to play this year is the one that manages the game the best. Will he keep from turning the ball over? Can he handle the huddle? Can he handle the dynamics of leadership, maybe even more than the most talented one?
On the freshman quarterbacks being overwhelmed: I think they were totally overwhelmed in the spring, but I see a totally different attitude. They know where to throw it now and when they don’t, they know what they did wrong. They’re handling the pressure better. I think when Sherrod [Harris] made his decision not to come back and play this fall, that snapped them into reality really quickly that one of us will be playing against Rice so we better go to work, so I like their attitude right now.
On the defense being one of his deepest: I do think this could be our best defense. We need to stay healthy at defensive tackle, we’ve got to grow up and mature at defensive tackle, and then we’ve got to stay healthy even though you got enough big ends that most of the time we can move somebody in there. You’re talking about Sam being 260-something, Alex Okafor is 260-something, so you’ve got some big guys in there that are tall and quick and can play if we do not get the development out of the young defensive tackles that we need, so we’re okay regardless. What we do feel is that our secondary can all run, they can all cover, we can disguise, we’re really two-deep in the secondary. Our young linebackers are really talented. You start looking at Dravannti [Johnson]’s come on so fast and then Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho can run, so they’re all very talented and our ends can rush the passer. We should be really, really good on defense. One of the great things right now about our practices, when you’re going the best ones against the best ones, they’re seeing as good a defense on offense as they’ll see all year.
On the young defensive tackles: Ashton Dorsey has made some progress and we feel like he has a chance. The other two guys are taking steps and they’re in the mix. Kyle Kriegel has done some good things, but I would say right now that Kheeston [Randall] and Calvin are ahead of everybody else and everybody else is trying to get in that mix of two deep.
On the running backs understanding the offensive line not being able to block full speed: They really do understand. We have to tell them and that’s why you just don’t take shots at kids if you get one held up. You’d like to thud him, but not knock him out because sometimes there will be a blitzing linebacker you’d cut as a back and you can’t cut him and also it’s tough for the offensive linemen. We give them five points for pancaking a defensive lineman so you want to knock them on the ground, but then you’re telling everybody to stay up. It gets really confusing in practice and you try to practice like the NFL and all colleges do this, but it’s a very, very difficult thing. Pass rushers, "Rush the quarterback, and stay out of the way, don’t get in the cylinder, don’t hit the quarterback." Offensive lineman, "Move the line of scrimmage but don’t knock them on the ground." It’s all confusing and that’s why practicing is so difficult and it’s easier to practice with older guys. We split practices up because you’d like the young ones to get used to playing against the young ones before they have to mix with the older guys. Somebody asked me last night the hardest thing about being a head coach during preseason camp, the hardest thing is you go home mad at somebody every night because somebody loses every play you’re responsible for and you want your offense to feel good about themselves but you want them to have to earn it, you want your defense to feel good about themselves. So when James Kirkendoll beats Chykie Brown, you run and hug James, you get on Chykie, but you tell Chykie to keep his head up and you tell James to do it again, so it’s a constant turmoil of who you brag on and who you stay on.
On redshirting freshmen: Right now we’re not talking about redshirting anybody. It will definitely be midseason before we talk about it. You get scared to death of injuries and at Texas we can’t allow an injury to keep us from being successful, so we’ve told all the guys to be prepared to play and some areas that we’re fine, I looked up last year and the eighth game of the year we were thin in the kicking game because we had some guys that were hurt and ankles and shoulders and not out for the year, but missed three weeks, and then all of a sudden you can’t even cover a kickoff. So, we feel like now with the numbers in college football, and the fact that if they’re playing well after their junior year, they very well might go ahead and go to the NFL, so you might as well not redshirt anybody until after the seventh ballgame and it looks like you’re going to be okay and they’re not going to play.
On the offensive line being in good shape: I think when you’re going forward you look [slimmer], but I think we’re in good shape, I really do. We lost Chris Hall, [Adam] Ulatoski and Charlie Tanner and none of them were heavy, so I think we’re in good shape. A couple of the young linemen on defense came in a little heavy so they’re working themselves down, they’re running every day after practice, but I really think the offensive linemen like lining up and double teaming and coming off and we’ve run the ball 60 percent of the time probably in practice so far, a lot of it up under the center, and the backs and the linemen are getting used to coming off. When you back up all the time, it’s harder to go forward, when you’re going forward all the time, we’ll have to work hard on pass protection, but we’re giving these guys a better chance to run the ball than we have the past couple of years.
On Mason Walters: Number one, we wanted to make sure his foot was okay, I mean he’s had absolutely no problems and we check the weights of our players every day after practice and he’s at 297. When he got hurt he was probably 315, so losing weight has probably taken some pressure off that foot and we’ve got to remember he’s missed a complete year. He played in two or three games last year, but he’s been away, not even at practice, so every day he gets better. As bad as it was that Tray got hurt, it’s forcing Mason to play a lot more and get himself prepared to play in the fall and hopefully we’ll have Tray back for the first game or the second game.
On the best lineman so far: I think it’s been inconsistent, but you have to think that David Snow, Michael Huey and Kyle Hix have played the most so they’re the most consistent throughout an entire practice. It was funny the other day, I got really mad at Michael Huey because he got run over by Emmanuel Acho and then what you do is you go in and you watch film and the split wasn’t big enough. Kyle Hix had too tight a split and stepped on his foot so Michael had one foot in the ground and he was trying to back up so he was leaning backwards and then Acho ran right over him and it was really Kyle’s fault instead of Michael’s fault. So here I am chewing Michael out and the split was too tight, so that’s why you have to go watch film and see what happens. We’ve got to make sure, because sometimes they move too tight. We’ve got to keep split integrity and keep our splits wide enough that we open up some running lanes.
On finding a holder in the kicking game: We have not and we lost Sherrod as our holder and we’ve got three of four guys we’re working really, really hard with. I’m really impressed with John Gold and Justin Tucker and we’ve got to be careful not to let them over kick and over punt and get tired because Justin was kicking it six, eight yards deep in the end zone yesterday into the wind and I haven’t seen that before so I wanted to send him home and not see him again until the Rice game, tell him that whatever he did this summer, go do it but stay away from us. And John Gold’s punting well, but holder is an issue and we’re really looking hard at it. Neither quarterback held in high school. We’re trying to get both of them involved but neither one of them has ever done it and you go down to kick like Nebraska last year, you want to make sure a guy has done it and it’s something that he can do. John Gold’s done it a lot, Cade McCrary did it at Lake Travis and he’s doing it some and Brock Fitzhenry was a quarterback and he’s doing it some, James Kirkendoll is doing it a little bit, so we’re really looking hard at finding a holder but we do not have one today.
On John Chiles: At one point he said he was 222 pounds and he’s 205 now, so that alone, plus a lot of body fat that he’s reduced, and his confidence as far as being a receiver is totally different than at any time before, so I think he feels like right now he’s a true receiver and has changed his mentality. That’s why we would not consider putting him back at quarterback. He finally made the switch.
On Blake Gideon: I think he wasn’t highly recruited because he had a bad back and he wasn’t sure at one point that he would even be able to play his senior year, so it probably took him out of the recruiting mix a little bit. So that’s a little skewed because he was such a good player in high school, but he’s a leader, he’s tough, he’s smart, he has tremendous respect from the other players and he knows the defensive back schemes like coach Akina. He can tell you what everybody does on every play, and he’s tough. He was up to 210, he’s so strong, and he’s lost a little weight now, which is good. These kids have gotten smart enough, they gain their weight in the summer, but it’s muscle mass, and then they lose some with the water weight and get down to 205, but he’s playing tremendously well and he’ll be as good as any safety in the country.
On recruiting quarterbacks and gauging their ability to handle playing quarterback at Texas: Just like with Vince [Young], just like Colt [McCoy] and just like with Garrett, they won and they were productive in high school. You look at Garrett, he was a four-point student at Lake Travis, he’s a guy that won two state championships, was the national player of the year, so we knew he wouldn’t be intimidated at the stuff that’s thrown at the quarterback at Texas. He also is a guy that expected to be here, so he’s not going to get arrogant, he’s not going to let it get to big for him because this is what he planned on doing since the eighth grade or seventh grade when he started thinking about this. I think it helps Garrett that his dad played in the NFL and Garrett walked around and watched and listened and watched his dad and he knows all the celebrities and not much impresses Garrett. That’s kind of the way Garrett’s personality is. You can’t ask him much that gets him riled up. ‘Are you worried about this defense?’ ‘No, they've got some good players but we’ll be fine.’ It’s like we said at Big 12 media day, ‘What do you think of the receivers?’ ‘They’re all good.’ ‘Well could you tell me which one’s better?’ ‘No, they’re all good.’ ‘Well I’m not asking about your buddies, it’s confidential, could you please tell me who looked the best?’ ‘I really think, coach, they’re all pretty good, they all can run, you all do a great job recruiting.’ You’re not going to get much out of him when you start doing it, but he’s very hard on himself but he also can let things go quickly. He’ll make a mistake and he’ll tell you why he made it and Greg will scream and throw his hat and he’ll go back and act like it’s the next play and I think that’s a credit to his dad and the way he was raised. I also think it’s a real positive for him. He had two coaches and three or four offensive coordinators I think at Lake Travis and how many guys can win a state championship back-to-back with two different head coaches and two different schemes? I mean that doesn’t happen very often.