Mack Brown fall press conference: August 18
We are excited about starting the season. We realize that we've got the program that won the National Championship last year, but our current team is starting over. When you think about the spring that we've had, it's been fun. We've got a lot of momentum from the national championship in recruiting and facilities. We've already sold 72,000 season tickets and it's been a wonderful spring, but it's also a situation where we're starting a new year. Last year's program won the national championship, this team hasn't done anything yet. That's what this team has got to understand.
I did talk to coach Gene Stallings, and he said something to me that was really helpful. When he talked about the time when he won the national championship with Alabama, there is so much pressure from people talking about repeating the next year. When you realize that this team is starting over and hasn't even defined itself yet, this team does not have the right to be number one. It's because they haven't done anything. Preseason polls, we know, are subjective and we really don't know who should be number one because we don't even know how good our team is going to be. At the same time, this team has the opportunity to continue to improve. All we can ask them is to be the best team they can be. That's the pressure they have on themselves and we have on ourselves as coaches. We have a theme each year. Last year's was 'Take dead aim,' which was a little risqué but it was about focus, it was about not drifting and getting off into things that are not under your control. This year, we felt like, in the same light, you just "Do what you can do." If you just do your best and don't try to do more than that, then we'll be just fine. We just need to improve as a team. One of the dangers you have with a team like this is that they starting trying to do more than they can do. If you get out of your box and start trying to run somebody else's position or know too much or worry too much about the end result other than what you're trying to accomplish each week, then you obviously will not be successful.
We've talked about preseason rankings. It's fun to be up near the top. Really being in the Top 10 is what matters. In fact, number one and number two - starting the season - before last year had never finished number one and number two. It happened with USC and us and it is so unique. Normally it changes throughout the year. We're excited that people think we can be good. We think our program has established that thought throughout the last few years. The offseason program is fun and starts defining who you are as a team. Then you come through spring and you come to summer. In two-a-days, you're checking condition, you're trying to reestablish leadership and chemistry, which changes in college football more than in the NFL. You have to redefine who you are and what you feature on offense and defense and in the kicking game. You have to try to figure out what you can improve over last year - even though we did win a lot of games.
We practiced at 11 a.m. today for about an hour and a half because that will be our game time for North Texas. At 11:30 today, it was 112 degrees heat index. It was really good for our players, because they understood they've worked so hard during the summer that they are in good shape and that they can handle the heat. At the same time, we really have to be careful about overheating and cramps and not getting them so washed out and tired that they can practice the next day. We have to manage the heat here. We've practiced a lot at 7 p.m., and in a lot of cases, it's been hotter at 7 p.m. than it has been at 11 a.m. because of that afternoon heat. That [time] will be the same as our second game with our Ohio State.
We feel like it's really important for us to know who's in condition, and if they're not in condition, we can continue to work them so they can get into better shape. But when I was playing, they sent you a piece of paper that said 'work out' and now, these guys stay in the summer and they all work out. So conditioning is different than it used to be. They have to maintain where they used to try to have to get us into shape.
The other thing that you're doing is that you are trying to figure out whom to feature. We lost some yards on our feet with Vince [Young] on explosive plays. We still want to be the same type of offense. We'll run the same type of plays. We'll just feature different things to try to get the explosives that we lost in some cases with Vince. Brett Farve's been back for 15 years, our team changes just about ever single year and it would have been a different team if Vince would have come back because we still would have had to make some differences, but without him, there are more differences.
We do feel like we can force more turnovers, put more pressure on the quarterback. We do feel like we can protect the ball better. We are trying to figure out what plays we feature, but we will have the same offense and the same thoughts. We will continue to improve our kicking game. Tomorrow will be like a preseason NFL game. Since it is open to the public, it will be about establishing depth. The positive is the young players will have the pressure of the media and the fans around them. It will feel a lot like a football game. The negative is a lot of people will sit. We will do things we did last year; we will not do anything tomorrow that we have not shown on film, because the opponents for the first five games will have broken down all those films and know where we are.
We are excited about the quarterbacks. It is new and fresh and different. It will be fun to watch them. This is what college coaching is all about. It's taking what you have available and making it work. That is the difference between the college and the pro game.
We looked it up today; Major Applewhite in his first year at quarterback won eight of his first ten games. Chris Simms won five of the first seven that he started, and Vince and Chance Mock, the first year that they both started won 10-of-13. I talked to a writer today that told me Matt Leinart won eleven in the first year he played and that he had never been in a game before he went to Auburn, and I did remind Gene Chizik that he saw him look really good at the opening game at Auburn and Gene did not think that was funny.
It's Fan Appreciation Day immediately after the scrimmage. We expect a great crowd. Our players and coaches have gotten together because of the heat. We will have seniors and starters do Fan Appreciation Day and hopefully we can move the lines a little bit more quickly than we have in the past because it has lasted from eleven to seven and that is just too much.
We're excited about the scrimmage tomorrow. We can't wait for the season to start. Our guys really are working very hard to redefine themselves and are not talking about last year.
On the length of the scrimmage: The scrimmage Wednesday was about 85 plays and last year's scrimmage was in the 70s, and this one will probably be the same. We are not sure what we will do in all the phases tomorrow; I have to figure that out tonight.
On whether he will do ones on ones: I don't know if we will. We do it everyday, so it is really not as important as when we didn't have enough depth. I have got to really decide two things tonight. Who will play against who, and how will the quarterbacks play, because even if it is the one defense against the two offense there is not as much protection. So that is a more difficult thing, and you would like to get your kicking game as worked on as much as you can, but this will be the most tired your team will be in preseason. The more we get closer to 9:00 (a.m.), the hotter it gets. The other day at 9:00 the heat index was 102. So we have to be smart with what we do. We moved the scrimmage back to beat the heat a little bit, because they are tired and to help our fans get out of the heat a little bit quicker.
On the management of the players: What we would like to do first is make sure it doesn't get into individualism. We don't want people choosing sides and we don't want the fans having pep rallies pulling for one guy, we want to make sure we do a better job pulling for the team. With Vince and Chance [Mock], that was more the attitude of the fans and everybody, it was what do we need to do to win the game. If you have an established quarterback like Vince back it is not even mentioned. Since we don't have one that has played, obviously everybody is anxious to see how they play, and we are too. They have practiced well. The number one thing is to make sure it is about the team and not one guy.
Secondly, we need to make sure that the way they produce will determine the amount of time they play. If they are scoring touchdowns and they are moving the ball, they will stay in the game. If they are not, they will come out. Someone said that puts undue pressure on them and they will look to the sideline, but the quarterback at Texas has plenty of pressure. If we don't win, I get pulled out too. That is the way life is here. We feel like with a young one, if he isn't playing well, we pull him out, it is an advantage for him to be able to take a deep breath and watch a little bit before he goes back in.
On how the quarterbacks have held up so far: They have worked really hard, they have gotten along. You are going to make some bad plays, and when they make them, they move on, and that is really important. Vince threw interceptions early in the game sometimes. I remember telling Vince let's go out an hour early and throw your two interceptions in pregame and let's get it out of the way. We understand that these guys are young and talented and they are good. They are throwing the ball well. We also have better players around them, possibly than any better time here. We have a better support cast around the field than we had for any of the other three or four quarterbacks who were the same age.
On what was learned from previous quarterback situations: I said two years ago that I wouldn't do anything different and we probably have without even knowing it. I didn't realize that it would be that big. Our job is always to focus on what we think is the best for us to win the game and that got bigger than wining the game, it became about personalities and we didn't want to do that again. I don't remember Chance and Vince being that way, but maybe I just didn't pay attention to it. Major's injuries had more to do with it than more people thought, and we didn't talk about that. They both were good players and competitive. Our team right now is so excited about the win streak that this program is on and what we are doing nationally that it would be really selfish for a young person to talk about themselves instead of about this team.
On how long it will take for one of the quarterbacks to step up and distance himself as a leader: I am hoping that both of them play like they practice and they move in and we just win. The truth is we probably won't know until you do, because it is really hard to find that out during practice. Even in a scrimmage, it is scripted. You don't hit them. You can change momentum in scrimmage easier as a young guy than you can in a game. You won't know how they will respond to being the quarterback until they go out there and play the position. Because of that, it is really difficult for us to have a plan yet of exactly what we want to do because what we are dealing with other than practice.
On his confidence in using both quarterbacks throughout the entire season: Really and truly our thought has always been to play the guy who gives us the best chance to win the game. You can go back to a golfer -- some days he is hitting the ball well and some days not. If you are playing well at quarterback and everything is going well, why change? We did that some last year with Selvin [Young] and Jamaal [Charles]. If one of them is moving the ball, leave them in. If we need change, we have not been afraid of change here. I took Vince out at Washington State early in third quarter and had a chance to win the game and we didn't. Maybe if we had left Vince in, we could have won. We took Vince out at Texas Tech and put Chance in and we won. Vince got hurt and we put Chance in and we won. If you go back and you look at times where both have played or one has taken care of the other one, Major got hurt at Texas Tech and Chris came in to help us win, and then he had to play the next week. We do believe that you have to have two quarterbacks to have a chance to win. Regardless on how it works early, we want to make sure that both are excited about playing and they both raise team morale, and our players have done a better job of not choosing sides and we have probably done a better job of making sure that they let us coach and they stay out of it. That is probably another thing we have learned since 1999.
On his excitement of this season: The thing that you love about coaching is taking an unknown and helping it become known. Right now, we are still trying to figure out who we are on offense. If Vince had come back, we would have known. We'd be looking for a play or two different off what was successful. Now, we're the same stuff, but totally new. Now we just have to figure out what to feature - and that's what keeps you up tonight. It keeps you excited and there would have been a tendency to be more complacent if Vince had come back because we'd have been worried about him getting hurt. Right now, we're worried about how to move the ball. That's a challenge for college football coaches, and it's really a fun challenge. It's exciting, and it's what keeps your motor running.
On how's the defensive line looked: The two ends have played a lot and they're really motivated and playing well. We're really pleased with Aaron Lewis and Brian Orakpo. Those two guys can go in right now and play. We've got four ends that can line up and play, and we're looking at some freshmen and other guys there. We've got more depth at end than we've had since we've been here. The inside guys -- Roy Miller and Derek Lokey, we all know about Frank Okam. Then you have Tully Jansen and Thomas Marshall that can play. Tully is well for the first time in a year and a half and he has taken over the snapping, so we've got to be really smart about the number of snaps that he gets, because the value of the snapper is greater than the value of a defensive lineman because of the value of his snaps. We've been very lucky there with Cullen Loeffler and Nick Schroeder, we've had good snaps. We're also excited about Ben Alexander. He's played really well for us and we are planning on him playing. He'll play in the first game.
On how they're going to replace David Thomas: We've learned that you cannot replace Roy Williams, Ricky Williams and Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers, and David Thomas fits into that category for us because he was just such a valuable asset. We've said so many times this spring and this fall that David knew where the chains were on 3rd-and-4. He's going to get four and a half; he's going get five. So we've told our tight ends that they need to know where those chains are. We also feel like Neale Tweedie, it's his turn. He's blocking really well, he's playing hard, and he's learned a lot. Jermichael Finely is a real talent. He can run, he can catch and he just needs to play because he was redshirted last year. What we've learned is, we do not replace people here. It's just another opportunity for someone else to step up.
On the offensive line: We had the best offensive line last year that I've ever been around. Those guys were so good. You basically had seven starters. Mike Garcia and Tony Hills could walk in and there was no drop-off. They had played so much together also well. It was fun to watch them together as juniors when we ran the ball so well and went play-action. Then, in their senior year, the pass protection was so good that Vince got touched very few times.