Oct. 7, 2009
Opening Statement: As we mentioned on Monday, our players asked us to bring awareness to breast cancer this week as it is breast cancer month. We said that we would take it to The University and talk to them about what we could do. The University is not into the charity business. We are not into outside fundraising. It is a sensitive issue because we know that there are so many great causes out there, and everybody would want their cause to be brought before over 100,000 people and national television on a Saturday night in Austin. This, however, was about the players, and the administration allowed us to do this for the players. It is not about The University. It is not about the administration. It is not something that we will do on a week-to-week basis, but when your team asks you to do something for them, with as much as they give to Texas and The University, this was something that we could give back to them.
Here is what we plan to do. It will be only for one game. As I said, it is not about the University, it is about the players and the ladies in their lives that are afflicted by this awful disease. The staff members will be wearing a wristband that is pink on the sideline. Our coaches can wear one if they want to, but staff members outside of the coaches will be. The coaches will be wearing a lapel pin on the sideline. There will be a ribbon like the same one worn to honor the military on the back of our helmets for one week. That way all of our players can have involvement because we did not want to take away from our history, our traditions, or the football game. We thought that was very important. There will be information handed out during the game for the awareness of breast cancer. There will be public address messages during the game on our jumbotron. The players have asked that they can dedicate the game to the lady or ladies in their family or someone close to them who are stricken with this disease. I thought that it was very touching for them, and it was something that they were very passionate about.
This is something I appreciate Bill Powers and DeLoss [Dodds] for allowing us to do. I know that women’s basketball and the NFL have done a great job of reaching out, and even though this is very unique for us in college football, we felt that it was something very important for us to do.
The players only have three home games left, and for our seniors, that is very important, so this game is very important to us. It is our second conference game, and the conference games are obviously important, but all of them are at Texas. When we look at it, we only have Colorado, Central Florida, and Kansas left at home, so we really want to encourage our fans to come out again like they did with Tech and support not only these football players, but also the seniors because we have very few times to watch these great seniors play at home again. We hope that the crowd is electric again like it was for Tech because that is very important to us.
The offensive line has really gained two more starters in that we feel like now Tray Allen and Britt Mitchell can rotate on a regular basis, so we really have seven guys up front that can play, and that was really important to us. We did not have the depth at the start of the season on the offensive line that we have now, and even some of the offensive linemen said that it helped them a lot during the UTEP game with the intense heat to get a break and rotate. Tray and Britt are playing very well.
Jared Norton had his shoulder operated on yesterday. We knew he was out for the year, but I did want to update you on that. Everything came out well, and he should be in great shape to come back and start spring practice and prepare for his senior year.
The only other injury that has not come around since Monday is Kenny Vaccaro. His knee is sore. I thought that he would be able to practice Tuesday and Wednesday, but he is not going to practice today. He will not play on Saturday, and he will not dress. It is probably fitting in that he had his altercation come up yesterday, and he needs to get his personal stuff in order before he would play anyway. I was going to announce this interestingly enough before his incident came up yesterday because I told you that I thought everyone would be ready to play this weekend, and it seems like everyone else will be unless something comes up today or tomorrow. For some reason, his knee has continued to be slow in its progress, so he will not participate. We have handled his situation in-house. We have known about it, and we have moved forward.
The Colorado connection, we do have two players on our team, Lamar Houston and Nolan Brewster, that are really excited about playing their home state, as well as the four staff members, so we have a lot of Colorado ties. This being our second conference game, everybody is excited about it and ready to play. I do think that they are really appreciative of our University and of our coaching staff for doing what they said. When you look at college football teams, these young guys are on scholarships and we lead their team as coaches, but it is their team, and we try our best when they have a request and it’s in the best interest of them, our team, The University, and people around us, we want to try to do what we can to make sure that we step up and try to help them with their message. I was really proud of them. They are learning to give back instead of take. This is something that they are passionate and adamant about, and I am proud to be their football coach.
On the running game: Vondrell [McGee] is finally 100 percent, Tre’ [Newton] is 100 percent, Fozzy [Whittaker] is 100 percent, and Cody [Johnson] has lost his weight, so we are back to really where we think that any of those guys could step up and play at any time. We still have to figure out how we use them in a ballgame. We haven’t had Fozzy healthy over time for a while, so this is good for us. We hit him last week, and he looks quick. In fact, when you put Fozzy out there with D.J., they are both so fast, if you pull their jerseys up a bit that, wearing numbers 26 and 28, it is hard to tell which one is in the game. We are also excited about Cody. I think that he is fighting his way back into the mix, so Major [Applewhite], Greg [Davis], and I really have to try and balance who plays and when during the ball game.
On how to get D.J. Monroe into the game: That is another problem. We are so proud of him on kickoff returns, and he has done a great job, but you cannot just put him in and do things with him because it is a huge tendency. We looked at our tendencies over the first four weeks, and when he is in, you are trying to get it to him, so we are really trying to see where he fits other than just on kickoff returns.
On Colorado: We are so excited about seeing whether the things that we fixed during the open date week will be better during this ballgame. We think that is the start of a very tough four week conference schedule, but at the same time, it is an opportunity for us to see where we have improved. We said that we needed to improve kickoff coverage, and that is a hard one. I look at every film that comes in here, and people are returning kickoffs better than they are covering them. If we can ever find that guy that can consistently kick it out, that’s huge. You go west to the higher altitudes, and they are kicking it out more than they are in this part of the country. That is a hard one and something that you have to continue to look at. We definitely want to continue to be good in kickoff returns, and you figure people are going to start giving us more difficult kicks. They are going to squib. They are going to sky kick. We work really hard to make sure that we can adjust to whatever type of kick we get, and have a chance to keep our same consistency. We said that we want to do a better job with our red zone run game, and we don’t want to have losses. We don’t want to have 2nd-and-10s. That is what we fought here for two years, and we want to make sure that we are better in that area. We feel like we have tied some things together that look really good, and we want to make sure that the Wild Horn is something that is beneficial to us as we get into the meat of our schedule during the next four weeks because we have not used it much, and it has been inconsistent. I think that this is a real test for it on Saturday night to see if it is something that we keep. We feel like this will be the first real test against the run. We said that against UTEP, and the game got out of hand early. They did not try to run the ball very much, and when they did, they made some yards, especially to our split end side. Colorado has three really good running backs. They have a good offensive line. We feel like this will be the first true test because in a game where you are playing a team coming in that’s hungry for a win, you have to expect the unexpected. They can come from anywhere. They may onside kick the first kick. They may have a double reverse pass the first play of the game. Anything can come up like that, but at the same time, they try to run the ball and be very safe in their protections, so that they can keep you away from getting the ball back and forcing turnovers.
On whether they will have Marquise Goodwin back with D.J. Monroe on kickoff returns: We are not sure. We are looking at that right now. We obviously made a mistake on the short kick before, and we are going to have to have guys that make really good decisions back there. We have to make decisions in the running back situation. We are pretty settled at receiver. We think that we are settled with our tight end slot position. Dan [Buckner] and Greg Smith are doing a good job in those two areas. We think we are pretty settled in our offensive line. We have got to get settled at running back. We are proud of our offensive line now that we can substitute like we can on defense because right now we are keeping fresh people on defense better than we are on the offensive line.
On what the defense worked on during the off week: Well you need to look at tendencies, that’s always something that you try to study in the early games, and really and truly, three of the four next opponents are going to try to line up and run the ball against us, so we had a very physical week of I-formation, and being physical, coming down hill and trying to knock people around and that’s something that we feel like we are unsure about who we are now. The stats probably don’t tell the truth to this point, but four weeks from now, we’ll sure know whether we can stop the run or not because we will have our biggest run test over the next four weeks for the season and that was a question mark coming into the season, and we still don’t think we’ve gotten that answered.
On controlling the game: If you can stop the run, you can get your pass rush. When they’re balanced, you can’t get a pass rush and that’s the hard thing. When you can make somebody one-dimensional and get ahead of them, then they have to start getting out of their game plan and throwing the ball and that’s what happened at UTEP and that’s why we were able to get so many sacks. If they can run the ball, they can slow the game down, keep the ball away from you, go for fourth downs, and all of a sudden you look up and you haven’t had the ball and the first half is over. We’ve got to stay upbeat, quick-tempo on offense and continue to try to move the ball like we’re doing. We like what we’ve got there, I think three of the first four games we were in the 80s in plays and we want to continue to do that. We think we’ve found something with the new 40-second clock. Instead of losing plays like most people have, we’ve been able to gain plays and that’s something we’re proud of.
On D.J. Monroe handling squib kicks: I think because [D.J.] was a running back he handles it well, and we’re also looking at squib kicks on turf as well as grass because they’re different. We’re still working hard on our rugby punt to figure out who that is. You’ve got to figure out how to rugby punt from your own end zone where holding can be a factor, where a low ball can be blocked, there’s so many different things with rugby punts and squib kicks. You’d like for your squib kick to get through the second level to the third level and it’s fun for us right now because we’re trying to figure out what’s the toughest thing against our kickoff return and that should help our kickoff coverage. The sky kick right over the wing’s head at the 22-yard line, we haven’t been able to do that yet, but that’s kind of a dead area in there. We’ve really worked on making sure that our returners can all get to that ball because that’s a dangerous thing. [Versus] Oklahoma State a couple of years ago, the ball fell twice and really helped us and we haven’t seen that yet except for the other day when it hit the ground.
On Jordan Shipley being worthy of national awards: I don’t think there’s any doubt [he should be recognized]. You look at what he’s doing for our team right now and what he did last year for our team, and I don’t think there’s any question he should be in the Biletnikoff mix. We make them aware; we can’t make them take him. We get the numbers to the people with those awards every week, we push them, we try to let them understand what we’ve got and he has to be in that mix. We still have to make a decision as we look at it if he should be on some kickoff returns. Every time he touches the ball he has a chance to score and there is a great chance right now for us to score. If you get him and D.J. back there, it’s pretty tough.
On kickoff returns: We’re having discussions every day about things that we feel like give us a chance to score every time we touch the ball, and that’s what we’re trying to do. You’ve got Malcolm [Williams], you’ve got John Chiles, you’ve got Marquise [Goodwin] and you’ve got D.J. right now working every day. Malcolm can also work at the wings because if they’re going to start kicking it really short, Eddie Jones can catch and run, you’ve got Antwan Cobb, you could put Malcolm up there and get a faster guy at the wing and you’ve got Cody Johnson. We want the wings to be really fast now and strong too, so if they catch it at the 30-[yard line], you still want to get to the 45-[yard line] and not have a pop-up take you out of your ability to get good field position.
On defensive backs returning kicks: We felt like that our defensive backs are out there on the field so much and they’re running so much and not touching the ball that we’d rather have guys that are touching the ball all of the time and have good ball security carrying it back. We took A.J. Williams out of it after the first kick because he got hit, and they’re not used to getting hit every time. The receivers, the running backs, they’re used to getting hit all of the time, so it’s something that we feel very strongly about. We’d like to talk to the rules committee in the offseason about penalties on kickoff because if you’re offside, you get five more yards, if you kick it out of bounds, you get it at the 40-[yard line]. The changes that have been made in kickoff return are just huge changes for college football, field position and points. Saturday’s game with Georgia and LSU, a 15-yard penalty on the kickoff changes the entire game. It is a huge change for college football and if people look, everybody’s griping at their kickoff coverage because they have to and it’s hard to do it. My thought would be either make a sportsmanship foul a lesser penalty, have it reviewed or put it on the extra point and it would have affected going for two if it had been on the extra point, but we’re obviously changing games if at the end of the game there is a 15-yard penalty for unsportsman-like or a personal foul and a guys kicking 15 yards back further from where he’s kicking now. I go back to the fear I had with Quan [Cosby]’s penalty at the end of the Ohio State game, Justin Tucker stepped up and had a great kickoff and we had super coverage or it could have put us on a huge short field for a huge advantage for them.
On coaching the players about celebrating: We tell them every week, “Don’t do anything.” It’s sad. It’s an emotional game and the guys are excited to win a game. We preach excitement and motivation all the time and then say, “Stay back, don’t go out there and find somebody (to celebrate with),” and what we constantly preach is celebrate with your teammates and it’s the same thing with a sack. Sacks are so hard to get and if a defensive end gets one and he’s jumping up and down by himself back there in front of everybody, it is obvious that you want your defense to go hug him fast. I think those are things that we’re looking at, the rules that you worry about are the ones that are called inconsistently because they’re judgment calls and they’re so detrimental to the game. Those are the ones that hurt you, and it’s not the official’s fault because they call what they see. The question is do they see what the other guy sees on a regular basis? So we don’t know what to tell the kids other than you can’t do anything, and you want kids to be excited, you want a fun play to be fun, and we’ve taken some of that out.
I was in that committee meeting in 1996 that changed this rule. I was on the rules committee, and what we’re seeing now is not what was proposed at that time, it was about people being rude to fans, it was about vulgar signs, it was about the slash sign, it was about things that none of us were proud of and I think we’ve just gotten a little carried away with it. They say you can [celebrate] if you don’t do it to the other player on the other team and you don’t do it to the fans, so there again, we had one called at Tulane a number of years ago and they called it on Rod Babers for taunting the Tulane crowd. There was no Tulane crowd, we had 30,000 something people there and they had none and Rod was talking to our fans and they gave us a penalty. The guy actually came over and I said, “Look, it’s all orange, there are no green shirts up there,” and the guy said, “You know, you’re right.” I said, “Well it just cost us 15 yards because the guy was exciting his crowd, he wasn’t talking to the other crowd,” but those are hard things because we have a chance to sit back and think about the call and watch it on TV and watch it on film and they’ve got 15 seconds where they have to grab that flag and throw it, so it’s a very difficult thing and that’s why I wish there were hard calls at the end of the game or critical time that could be reviewed. Maybe it’s the last two minutes, they’re supposed to be able to review certain things anyway without asking from the coach, but if they’re reviewing every play, I wish in the last two minutes of the game they could make a decision from the booth that, “Hey, stop the game, that was a holding penalty in the end zone, that’s a safety,” instead of doing it from the field. It changes your life. If we have a game and an official makes a bad call and a critical error at the end of the game and it costs you that game, for what it can cost you, it’s not fair to that official to have to put up with that, it’s not fair to the coaches, the kids or the fans. I mean it just changes everything and I’d like to take that pressure off of a person.
On flashing the ‘Hook ‘em’ sign: You can, as long as you don’t do it to the other team or to the fans, that’s what they’ve told us, that you can. I think it was called on Vince [Young] once and not called on Limas [Sweed] or Roy [Williams]. I think you can do anything that looks like your faith – you can pray, you can take a knee, you can point up, you can look up, all of those things. The rule is really grey, all that it says is that you can’t taunt the other player or the fans of the other team and that’s where it gets grey. If you’re on the road, there are more fans than if you’re at home. I think Vince did it at Kansas State and it was down in the end zone and he did this and their fans were there, so the perception was he did it to them. If he would have done it at the other end, it’s our band. Unless it’s vulgar, unless it’s taunting, I don’t think that’s the purpose of the rule and I think that college football rules have put a tremendous amount of pressure on the officials when we say it’s a judgment call. That’s really hard for them. Call what you see, but what’s one person’s judgment of sportsmanship may be different than another and if I’m in a game where a sportsmanship foul is called and I didn’t think it was but the same thing happens from the other team on my side, am I more likely to call it because the other guy called it?
On asking officials about penalties before the game: They’ll say don’t taunt the other player or the other team. We do not [have a scouting report on officials] and that’s something that we probably need to do, especially out of conference. I thought we were doing better when they got officials to supposedly be all on the same page and it’s still very difficult because you’ve got human beings making human calls on their opinions and opinions are different. Holding is different, pass interference is different, I mean, they all have different opinions. At the end of the year, they do tell you how many crews call holding, how many crews call pass interference and it is different, certain crews call it more than others. It’s really interesting.