Tracking Mack: Aug. 20
Aug. 20, 2008
Opening statement: We're nine days and some hours from game time. A lot of guys haven't played in the stadium. Some of them haven't been this close to game time in the stadium. They're fighting for jobs, but also we wanted to show them exactly what routine we would have on game day, so we had pregame meal at 2:00 for a 6:00 game. Guys got in the dressing room, walked to the north end of the stadium and walked in like they will walk in on the 30th, had the exact pregame warm-up that they'll have with their music. I had them look at the entrance with the smoke and such, go back in and come back out and come on the field. We then went through probably 30 or 40 minutes of situations, some of them Florida Atlantic. We have enough respect for them and feel like they throw it well enough, and that's concern for us that we need to start working on them a little early because we didn't play well in the opener last year and it's really important to us that we play better this year in the opener. Also, it let the guys continue to get the feel of the stadium. The stadium's just unbelievable. I think our people will be so proud when they walk in the stadium on the 30th for the first time and see 98,000 people there, and it's going to be loud. It's something that Texas people have wanted for a long time, something that they'll be really, really proud of.
On what effect the changes to the stadium will have: We feel like it will change wind, for one thing, it will block some of the wind out and the gust won't be as much, especially up high. We think it will make a huge difference with the noise in the stadium. Last year it was louder. If you stand at the 10-yard line and look up, it is straight up, it's really intimidating. We hope our fans embrace it like we know they will and make it a real, real difficult place to play now because of the noise.
On the state of the team: I saw a lot of guys competing for jobs. They worked really, really hard, they're tired. We've worn them out, and we've got to be smart here to make sure that we pull all of this in and head back toward game time now because it's still practice mode. They haven't even had a test yet, they're still studying. It's like they've got their tutors, their coach, and their building up to it, but now it's time to play and put it out there and find out who we are. Everybody talks about who they are in preseason, nobody really knows unless you've got 20 (starters) back from last year or something, and you still don't know how they're going to react, but you at least have seen them before. A lot of these we haven't seen on the field. We will finalize our game plan on Monday. We will finalize our depth chart on Monday and then we'll just move forward. We'll go back and practice tomorrow at 3:30. We felt like tonight was significant because it was the time of the game, 6:00, and then 3:30 is really the time that we'll play Arkansas, so we're allowing that to be part of the day that they understand. We've been out there late some and we've told them that's the time we'll be out there for El Paso, so those are the games we know. We felt like we got a lot done today. It's really hard to tell on the inside guys until you watch film. You can tell skill guys.
What we've really got is Quan (Cosby) and Jordan (Shipley) are doing a great job. They've had a tremendous camp. We're still looking for the other guy, and we've got to do it because we like to play with three wide receivers a lot. There's guys fighting for that position and we're not there yet. Greg Smith has been a really good move to tight end because he's 295 pounds, he can move his feet, he made a nice catch tonight, and he can block. So he's done a good job. Blaine (Irby) continues to get better. We've played Ahmard Howard there some after Josh (Marshall) got hurt, he made a nice catch tonight. We're trying to cross-train again and get depth, that's really important to us. Sherrod (Harris) and John (Chiles) took a lot of plays tonight, so we're still trying to make sure that those two guys are ready to play if we need them to play. We're still trying to get some separation at the back position. That's important to us. Offensive lines are pretty well set. Secondary's still fighting to figure out what to do. It looks like we'll have a redshirt freshman or true freshman or two in the secondary, and that's unusual for us, but it's what it's going to be and the guys playing a great passing team in the first ball game with great skill will have their hands full, so that's what we've got to do a lot of work on. Linebackers have been impressive, the front's been impressive. Roy Miller's been a great player for us, Lamarr Houston's come so far since the spring, we're really, really pleased with his progress and we like what we see with him. Aaron Lewis has done a good job playing end and tackle. Henry Melton's come on. We're getting some depth up there with guys that haven't played a lot up front. We feel like we've got some fast guys up front that can move and try to rush the passer, and that's what we've been trying to do. All of our work has been one against one and two against two. You would say we don't have a depth chart. It's whoever won that day. We've got the guys out there that we feel like (have played well), but we've changed guys every day. We've moved them up and moved them down; even tonight we put some of the guys who might be projected starters with the second team to see how they react because we're trying to get a reaction out of everybody to see how they do.
On Christian Scott: He's so physical and he's a big safety. He's got long arms. He was a guy who played receiver and quarterback, running back and defensive back at (Dallas) Skyline. He's really aggressive. He made a huge hit today on a flat pass. He knocked a guy out. We feel like he's got a chance to be a really good player.
On the challenge that Florida Atlantic will give the young safeties: It's hard to test them like they're going to be tested with that noise and with a bunch that's as good at throwing the ball as Florida Atlantic. We're probably really lucky that we're going to have to be ready to play in the opening game, and we're going to have to play well because they're going to throw the ball. In watching the film, their quarterback's a great player, he's not a good player, and their skill guys are really good, and they've got an older group of offensive linemen, so they'll move the ball against anybody they play this year. That's why those safeties are going to have to come out being good, they're going to have to play older than they are.
On the depth chart and having depth: We're trying to find 22, and right now we don't have that. I'd say we're looking more at 14, 15 right now. One of the keys to our success has been depth. We don't have as many great players as everybody acts like we do. In my opinion of watching us for 10 years, we have a lot of really good players that play hard and play well. Because of that, the devastating number of injuries we've had the past two years has not kept us from having a chance, a lot of teams would have been 5-6, and that's what we've sold our guys on. We'd like to play two-deep, but we're not going to play two-deep unless you've earned that right, we're not going to have two out there just because you need to be out there.
On the positions still up for grabs on the offense: I'd say that obviously there's a wide receiver position, we've got guys competing at tight end, there's guys competing for some of those spots on the offensive line even though some of them are pretty settled, the fullback job's still unsettled, the tailback job's still unsettled.
On the team in camp: Well right now, they've done everything we've asked. It's been a great camp. We haven't had kids late, we haven't had anybody miss, they've got after each other, they've competed, they've been positive. And obviously now you start deciding who's going to play more, and that's a tough thing for the morale of your team because you're splitting your team some. You'll decide who travels the first of next week, so that's a very difficult thing for some that wanted to travel. You'll start talking about redshirting. So these are all family things that get very difficult for kids to handle. But what we've got to be careful of with this team, we've worked them so hard, and they've done everything we've asked them to do. We've got to make sure that we don't work them too hard going into the opening game.
On if there is one big area of concern on the team: I think youth at safety. With a passing team coming in and a great quarterback, the (Florida Atlantic quarterback) is really good. I didn't know how good he was until I watched some this spring, but we've really studied him the last 10 days. He'll be as good a thrower as we've seen in here for a long time. He's really good.
On comparing the team's talent level to past seasons: Well, we were old in '05. We had all juniors and seniors. And then even in '06, we had a bunch of seniors, and now we don't. So they're really good players, some of them great players, but we don't have an older football team. Usually you do around here, we just don't right now.
On the team's speed: We're a fast team. The people that are saying we don't have enough speed, that's not true. Quan [Cosby] is better than a 4.5, Jordan Shipley was 4.4 in camp, Vondrell McGee ran 4.3 in camp, those guys are all real fast. I'm not saying we don't have good players, I'm just saying they're not all Ricky Williams and they're not all Roy Williams, not everybody is a Shaun Rogers and a Casey Hampton, and everybody thinks we've got 44 of those. We don't. They're the best of the best, and that's why they're still playing. We have got really good players, and what we've got to do is make sure the chemistry is right, make sure as coaches we put them in the right places and give the guys an opportunity to feature what they do best. There's a lot of lost sleep at night right now making sure we do that because that's what the good coaches do. That's our job.
On the learning process among the young secondary: What we do as a philosophy is dump everything on them, then they hit a wall, and then we try to work back and figure out what they can handle. I was different in that philosophy 15 years ago, I thought you slowly build. Then to me, over time, it's one of the things you were talking about change, I think you ought to find out what they can do, and then when they hit the wall, you can start rebuilding them, and that's what we try to do now with two-a-days. The younger ones hit walls faster than the older ones, and we need to know that because if a guy is going to hit a wall in the third quarter and he's going to give in because he's exhausted, we need to find that out in two-a-days. So you press them in two-a-days to find out who they really are when the pressure's on. You're hard on them in two-a-days because they need to be coached hard, and if they can't handle that in two-a-days, they sure can't handle it in front of 100,000 people.
On any separation in the kicking game: No, there's not, that's the problem right now, and it's a good problem. All the guys are kicking it and punting it still real well, and we're even going back further now trying to get some separation. I look up and Trevor Gerland has been punting well. John Gold had a great punt tonight, and Justin Tucker came in and had a great punt. So we've got more quality guys at the kicker and punter position than we've had since we've been here. All of them could do it, and again you have to be fair and try to separate.
On the competition for the third wide receiver position: There's a group. I think that's what happens with young guys, they hit that wall. You start thinking this is the guy, and then all of a sudden he drops ball for two days, then he misses this block, then he does that. So somebody out of that pack needs to come up and help Jordan and Quan, because they're a known.
On the separation among the running backs: Greg [Davis] and I will sit down with the offensive staff this week and we'll really go back, like we'll do with the defense, we'll go back and figure out who we think we are after all the scrimmages and all the plays. Who we need to feature, where does John [Chiles] play in the package now after watching for 20 practices? Then we go back and see who do we need to be as a team? Greg and I and Will [Muschamp] have met a lot this weekend just talking about what the offense needs to do to help the defense and vice versa. Then starting Monday, obviously we'll start saying, here's who we are right now. We didn't even know who we were until about the fifth game last year on offense because we just weren't consistent, and we're ahead of that now because of the offensive line. Hopefully, we'll be able to make some of those answers early next week and start polishing, because on game week, you know who you are and you try to polish it and make sure that it shows up on Saturday like you planned.
On the schedule for the rest of the week: We will practice this Friday morning, and it'll be about an hour and a half. It'll be a review of everything, a review of camp. A review of all kicking teams, it'll be a lot of the things that we do on a Thursday practice before the game on Saturday, because we want the young guys to have gone through everything that they will go through next week before they start. Next week is so weird because school starts on Wednesday, so that's different for them. Then you have a 3:30 practice and you're talking about the game, and they're talking about class, did you get lost, they asked me to read seven books in the first week, so it's always really a strange week. All the students are coming back and these poor kids are worn out because they've been working for three weeks, and all the students are pumped about the game.
On how early they will begin preparing for Florida Atlantic: We started Monday. They've got our attention. We feel like it's going to be a test for us because our concerns have been our pass defense over the last two years, and that's what they do best. I haven't gone back and studied it, but this will be as a good an opening day opponent as we've had.
On the new rule regarding the "horse collar" tackle: I think it's really important. It's going to be hard to call if it's on the side of the shoulder, but I think unless it's jerked down, they won't call it, from what I could tell tonight. The other rule that they're really going to enforce is leading with the head to an unprotected player. It's basically "spearing," but also if it's an unprotected receiver diving, he's trying to dive and get a ball and somebody comes in and hits him face-to-face, they can actually eject you from the game.
On the eradication of the incidental facemask penalty: There's been kids that just barely grazed a little bit and they gave you a five-yard penalty that was a killer. I thought the one that was jerked in the national championship game, they gave us five, I thought it was 15 there. So now, if it's a facemask, it's 15. To me, if you're not endangering the kid, then let it go.