Aug. 27, 2008
On designing coverages for Saturday's game and the physicality of the secondary: One of the things that Will (Muschamp) is continuing to build with our team is multiple looks on defense. Usually, young guys can play bump-and-run, man-to-man better than they can play zone. The key to Duane (Akina) and Will this weekend will be the great mix of man and zone and not having it be confusing because Chykie (Brown) and (Ryan) Palmer and Curtis (Brown) are really physical players, and Deon (Beasley) has gotten much more physical as you look, and all those safeties will really hit you.
On Florida Atlantic's defense: Their strength is they've got eight seniors, and those guys have played a lot of football. There's a 320-pound defensive tackle up front that's a great run stopper that will really get on you. They do a great job teaching again, I've been really impressed with their fundamental skills. They free those linebackers. The linebackers are all seniors that have been around a long time, and I think the one I mentioned, 56 (Frantz Joseph) is about four or five tackles away from breaking the all-time tackling record in the Sun Belt. Secondary guys are guys that are really good athletes, but they don't put them in a lot of difficult positions. They let them play their position, but they're not asking them to bump and play man all over the field. They make you be good, they make you do what you're doing well and you can't be sloppy and you can't turn it over or you'll get beat.
On the "or's" in the depth chart: It might mean that both those guys are ready to start and we just haven't picked one yet. Either/Or gets confusing to some people, us it's a really good thing. If you're negative you can say, 'Boy neither one of them are ready to play.' Obviously, the two young receivers playing at the sub B spot haven't played very much. On the other side, maybe they're both really good and maybe they're competing and have a chance to get out there, but we won't know until they play. It's hard to separate sometimes in practice because going against your own guys, and especially this time of the week, they know the defense, there's not as much hitting as you get down toward game time, so it's hard to separate. Some guys will step up at game time. Some people had said that Malcolm Williams had hit a wall, he really didn't. He dropped a pass, and our standard's really high. He's played really well, and Brandon Collins is playing well too.
On whether "or" is a positive or negative and the importance of depth: I really think it's a great positive. The ones that don't have any are either lying to you or they don't have any depth. What we have done here is we've won a lot of games because we've had really good depth, and we've got great morale on our team. That's what Either/Or does, it gives two guys a chance to play. It gives two guys a chance to start. Obviously, one of them will walk out there when the game starts. We've always told our team that the only team that starts is either the kickoff return team or the kickoff return team. Everybody else goes in, but one of those two groups starts the game and there are no other starters because we're going to rotate. We've really worked hard here for 10 years to have two-deep, and I think that's the key. That's the reason we've been able to win 10 games with so many injuries the last two years, is because we really sell depth.
On what Coach Akina has done to simply the secondary: Right now what he's done is we've done right and left safety to further simply, and especially because Florida Atlantic has a lot of motion, a lot of shifting, and it will be interesting to see how the 40-second clock affects them because they've been a pro, multiple formation outfit for many years. What Duane's done a really good job of is right now he's taken the corners and said you be a corner, and taken the safeties and he's playing them right and left to make sure they have it simplified for them.
On the punting and kicking situation: That's still a problem. What we've done, we ran out and kicked a field goal right at the end of practice today. We're trying to stretch them, and we're trying to make sure we put them in as many pressure situations just to see. We've charted every kick for the 20-something practices and every punt. We will probably take that into pregame because Justin (Tucker) is new, we obviously don't have any game stuff on him, but Hunter (Lawrence) has been successful as a kicker in games, and Ryan (Bailey) has been successful as a kicker in games, both those guys are doing well, and really none of the guys have punted. Trevor (Gerland) has punted very little, John (Gold) hasn't punted and Justin hasn't punted. The punting is probably more up for grabs than the kicking, those two are really competing for kicking, and all three of them kicking off.
On if any kick blockers have emerged: That's hard to know in practice. We've really worked hard on punt block. We've gone back and Duane has been so aggressive with punt block and punt return, and the same thing with extra point and field goal. The leaping rule has made it harder to have a Brian Robison because you can't leap on your team and sometimes he was jumping all over them a few years ago. It's kind of like sacking the quarterback, there's fewer sacks now because the rules have changed. We probably won't know until game time who the punt blocker is going to be. We've got about three or four candidates that we like. Those guys can slip the blocks and go through. We've had some punts that have been blocked in practice because guys have been really been good at it. That's one of the things we're excited to see, who pops out on Saturday.
On DeSean Hales, D.J. Monroe, Dan Buckner and the benefit of freshmen enrolling early: They've both done well. DeSean's had a slight pull that he had from track in the spring that's lingered on him some. D.J.'s coming on well. Again, you don't know until game starts. It's easy to sit here and talk about what you're going to do on Wednesday. It really changes when that ball get snaps and you see those eyes and see who's responding and who's not. That's why we'll know a whole lot more and you'll know a whole lot more about this team on Saturday night than we do right now. We think we know, but we still don't know, especially freshmen. Dan Buckner is a much better player right now than he was this spring because things are happening easier for him. They were so quick in the spring, and we thought Dan was struggling, and we think in looking back he was just thinking about everything new and everything quicker. Now Dan's playing really well. We are seeing that coming in the spring is really helpful for those freshmen because they're not freshmen. They've been through an offseason program, they've been through a summer workout, they've been through 7-on-7 and they've been through spring practice. They're further ahead by being here early.
On if the staff wants John Chiles to throw during games: Very definitely. We are using John as a quarterback and he's throwing every day. We want him to throw during a game. We want him to be a dual-threat. We said going into the summer that we want Colt (McCoy) to run it better and more, in the offense, not just scrambling, and we said we want John to throw it more and better. That's the case with both of them.
On the stadium expansion: I think it's going to be great. I really do. The natural fact that it's closed will make it much more loud. It was last year just with half those stands, but I think people will be excited when they get in there and see it, too. A lot of the older Texas fans are telling me they've never dreamed they'd see a stadium this nice for them, and it's true. We'll have 98,000 fans walk here and say, 'Wow, this is what we've wanted.' We've always had a good stadium, this is a great stadium. It's one of the best in the country and I'm proud of it after just 10 years, so I'm sure they'll be really proud. I think that will make them be more excited, and obviously we have to do our job.
On Vince Young's jersey retirement: Vince is a wonderful story. He's a wonderful story coming from Houston where he played for the semifinals to the state championship. We all knew there was a special athlete there. Then there were always question marks about should he be a receiver, should he be a free safety, would he ever play quarterback in college, would he ever make it? We were talking today as a staff about kids hitting a wall. He had hit a wall in his second year with Missouri out here where he completed four passes and threw three interceptions. Most of the people walking out of that stadium said he'd never play, he'll never play quarterback, they should move him now.
Here's a guy that made 50 million dollars, a first round draft choice, won a National Championship, two Rose Bowls, and was an All-Pro in his first year. He's one course from graduating; even though Tennessee didn't want him to come back, he came back anyway to try to graduate. Now he's coming back and having a foundation dinner on Friday night and he is giving that money to charity here in town. That will be a very proud moment for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons when he walks in that stadium on Saturday. It's a message to kids that you can be criticized, and it can not work early, and if you'll keep working and keep being strong and keep being tough that you can overcome it and that you can quiet the naysayers if you do it right.
At the same time, as we talk about discussions about retired jerseys, I don't think anybody's ever deserved to have a jersey retired more than Vince Young with what he accomplished at this school. He really put us back on the modern map, and there were some people that thought we'd never win a national championship. Now because of he and the guys he played with, we have a chance to win another one.