Mack Brown Monday press conference: August 29
General comments: This is a great time of year for football programs across the country. We are all getting to start something we enjoy so much. The guys have worked so hard through spring practice, the off-season and summer to prepare for this Saturday. In our case, it will be before 84,000 people and on Fox Sports Net Television, so it will be a lot of fun for our guys and our fans. It is kind of like Edith Royal said, "The rollercoaster has started again." We are full speed ahead. Our guys will be practicing with someone other than themselves.
This is a fun time. Signing Day is a fun time, spring practice and the Spring Game are a fun time, but this is one of the best times of the year for everyone involved in football. Especially since everyone is undefeated, there is a lot of anxiety out there because no one is really sure how good they are. It is an enjoyable week and a fun week, and some big questions will start being answered on Saturday.
We are playing Louisiana-Lafayette. Rickey Bustle is the head coach. Those who have followed his career know he did a tremendous job for many years as the offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech for Frank Beamer. [Louisiana-Lafayette] has moved the ball and led the Sunbelt Conference in offense last year. Jerry Babb, who is their quarterback, completed about 59 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns last year. They are really innovative and a lot of the time will run a no-huddle offense. They keep you on your feet, give you problems with substitutions and have moved the ball well.
One of the stats that is really telling for [Louisiana-Lafayette] is that they scored 100 of their 242 points last year in the second quarter. In 2003, they scored 107 of their 266 points in the second quarter. This shows that they made some tremendous adjustments after the game started with their no-huddle offense.
They also play a 'stack defense,' 4-3. They have not been a blitzing team, even though in an opening game you have to be prepared for the blitz. Another thing that is telling is that they have had 16 blocked kicks since Rickey took over at Louisiana-Lafayette. They are in a position where they have not gone five games without a blocked kick of some kind. Their punter, last year, dropped 14 punts inside the 20-yard-line. They have also done a great job of playing field position and they have seven starters back on offense.
You go back and look at their history when they played us a number of years ago. They were up 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. So we have used our theme of 'Take Dead Aim' and put it into place to make sure we are focused on the game at hand and try to be the best football team we can be this weekend.
The three areas that are always key and we will continue to talk to our team about are kicking game, turnover ratio, and explosives.
The kicking game is an area that we can improve most on since the end of last year. We have put countless hours into our kicking games, especially kickoff returns and kickoff coverage. Hopefully we will see some improvement in those areas.
Also, we were 32nd in the country in kickoff ratio last year, which is not what we would like to be. We would like to be in the upper-end of the top ten. We feel like we can do a better job at forcing turnovers and a better job of protecting the ball.
Lastly, we feel like we can improve at explosives. In the passing game, we can stretch the field more vertically. That is something we are still not getting done as much as we would like to but we feel like we do have a chance.
Another fun thing for Saturday night, other than being the opener, is that it is a throwback game [in which players will be wearing uniforms from the 1960's]. This gives due credit to all of the ex-players and coaches who have built this tradition into what it is today. This is one of the neatest places, historically, for college football.
Coach [Darrell] Royal, David McWilliams and Tommy Ford will walk out for the honorary coin toss before the game. They were the captains in 1963 when these jerseys were made. Our color changed to a burnt orange from a brighter orange. There will also be a moment honoring [the late] Scott Appleton at that time. We will wear black shoes along with the jerseys and helmets with the Longhorn and the number on Saturday. Then we will go back to our regular uniforms for the rest of the season.
The depth chart has been released. A lot of the guys are still 'either/or' because we are trying to get 11 starters first, but then get to 15 starters and then 22 so we can have a lot more starters available than most of our opponents. Developing depth has been one of the key issues we've had for the season.
On the team's improvements through two-a-days: We are really pleased with [the team's] attitude. It continued to grow after spring practice and through the summer, and has continued to grow throughout summer camp. Preseason, we feel like the chemistry is the best it has been. Obviously, we won't know until we get to a tough spot during the season.
Secondly, we feel our kicking game has upgraded. Richmond McGee will do all phases if things do not change between now and Saturday. He has done them very well. We feel like we have upgraded the personnel and have more depth in our kicking game.
Lastly, the depth of our football team seems better now than at any time. There are still positions that have numbers but do not have experience. But we still feel very good about our depth.
On the biggest questions going into Saturday's game: The biggest concern is the inexperience at running back, specifically with Selvin [Young]. We want to make sure he is well mentally, because he is physically. He still has not put his new game back on the field, per se. Secondly would be the experience at linebacker. When you lose a Derrick Johnson, can those guys hold up back there? Thirdly would be the wide receivers. Have we improved since last year on being able to stretch the field? Lastly, and not because it is insignificant, would be the kicking game. Are we better? Even with the extra time we have put in, will we reap some benefits from that?
On 'proving themselves' in the first game: You can work on everything in scrimmages, but until you are getting tackled by someone you have never met who is in a different colored uniform, it is hard to know how everyone will react. At our school, [the players] are scrutinized and they put up with a lot of things before they have proven themselves. That will be one of the question marks going into the first game: how well will they play under the microscope?
They are good players. We are better than we were at this time last year. We are more experienced. We have more depth and feel like we have the ability to make more plays. Now we have to figure out how people will try to [defend] Vince Young. They may play him differently since the Rose Bowl and we will have to try to see how that unfolds early in the ballgame.
On having two freshman on the depth chart at running back: It is unusual. It puts us in a position where we have not had the depth there [without] Cedric Benson. We feel like both of these young men have a chance to be great. Cedric was in that position when he was a freshman; Selvin was a backup when he was a freshman. These guys need to jump out there and be ready to go on Saturday.
On Richmond McGee performing all three phases of the kicking game: There is not much concern about fatigue. Kris Stockton did a great job at that a number of years ago. We feel like we still have David Pino and Greg Johnson, who are quality kickers and punters, and can step up and help [Richmond]. Richmond is a fifth-year senior, he is older and he has not had any trouble in two-a-days. That is usually when a kicker would get tired and we would have to pull them away from something, if it were going to happen.
On the hurricane situation in Louisiana: Greg Davis' son is at Tulane. Tulane moved their entire operation up to Millsaps College because they play Southern Miss on Friday. May I say that all of the thoughts and prayers from this part of the country are with everyone in that part of the country, whether it is Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana.
I have been in Louisiana enough to know that hurricanes can be devastating to people emotionally and obviously with their houses, families, and lives. It is a very difficult time for people in Louisiana, but it sounds like at this time, Lafayette is not betting the brunt of the storm. They are getting some rain, so we are in hopes that it will not hurt their preparation at all.
Three or four years ago we were playing Tulane when a hurricane came through and we were not sure as of [that] Thursday afternoon whether we would move the game to here or cancel the game. We ended up being able to play. Tulane did not get to practice the entire week and they ended up being really fresh. It was a 14-0 game at halftime and we were really in a fight. I can remember us being so worried about them that week and they were not worried about us at all.
I am sure the young men will want to know that their families are safe. A lot of the [Louisiana-Lafayette] players are from south Louisiana. Beyond that, hopefully they will be ready to focus and be ready to come over here and play.
On learning from the opening game: You hope that you are in some tough situations going in an opening game. You don't want to lose, obviously, as we did at NC State [in 1999]. You hope that you answer some questions during the opening ballgame that will help you down the road. That is why coaches always say that you improve more between the first and second game than any other time of the year because you get questions answered and you start working on things that you felt like were in good shape but weren't handled as well as you would have liked.
We have such a tough schedule this year. That is one of the reasons we used the slogan 'Take Dead Aim.' We felt like it was important for our guys to focus on the moment, whether it is Louisiana-Lafayette or Ohio State, Missouri or Oklahoma, or Colorado instead of Missouri and so forth. People will talk a lot about conference games and four or five games get a lot more talk than others. We are fortunate that the A&M game is after an off-week so we have two weeks to prepare and talk about that game.
We do feel like our guys know that to play the schedule we are playing, and do it well, we need to improve as a team and get better each week. We do not have an opportunity to go out there, stand around and not play well.