Mack Brown Tuesday press conference: Dec. 18
Opening statement: Practices have been great. We let the guys off for about a week after the Texas A&M game, and they came back and have been very challenging. They have been the toughest practices we've had and we've hit every day. Every practice has been at 6 a.m. because they are finishing finals today. So it's been very tough for them, but I do think it's pulled them closer together and they feel good about themselves. We had a long run after we hit a lot this morning, and we had a good scrimmage with the young ones. We've also scrimmaged the younger ones every day. So it's been good to see them and let them kind of get a head start on spring training. But the guys have responded really well.
We have continued with the attitude that all jobs are open and we're looking very closely at who produces the best in practice. Sometimes you can get away from that if you're not careful, so we're looking at every drill, every scrimmage and inside drill. We're grading as a staff every play, every day and then we're coming back and moving up or down on the depth chart the guy who performs the best from the previous practice. Obviously, if you get banged up a bit or you are late to a meeting, that pushes you down.
We've also have gone back to things we call, "N.O.S." that stands for, "Not Our Standard." If you have a not-our-standard play or action on our football team, then the entire team does up-downs before practice. We've had a couple of guys who have had not-our-standards on the field. It might be a wrong technique, a fumble or it might be not the effort we are looking for. So if one guy messes up, it costs the entire team, so it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the other guys on the team if everybody has to do up-downs because one player messed up.
We will practice again in the morning at 6:00 and then we will turn the guys loose with a short meeting after that. We wish them a happy two or three days at home. They will travel and meet us out there for a dinner in San Diego on the 22nd. On the 23rd, it will be like we are starting a Tuesday practice, so we will have three days of practice before the game.
This team got on a roll after struggling mid-season and won five-in-a-row and did a lot of great things that we tend to forget sometimes when we don't finish like we want to. So we want to get back to the attitude we had in those games. The comeback at A&M was a really strong comeback, but they just got too far behind. We have to start better in this game.
This four-year group of seniors has had the best record in the BCS except for USC. They've lost two more games than USC, won a National Championship and won three bowl games, which is a school record with three consecutive bowl games. If they win a fourth, that's obviously another school record. They're going for our seventh straight 10-win season, which also will be a school record.
Some people have asked about the disappointment about not getting into the BCS. If you're not playing in the national championship, a whole lot depends on who you get to play. We were lucky, because we got a really tough but good draw against Arizona State. They are a BCS team and I think they are a team that probably justifies a playoff again because they were co-champions in the Pac-10 and they played really well and were in the national championship mix at one time. They're very good and they have a lot of speed and they will be coming in excited to be playing against Texas. It's the first time in a long time that they've been able to win 10 games and have a chance to win 11.
It should be a great game and it should be very competitive. Our players really respect what they see, so there won't be anybody with their head down going to the Holiday Bowl. It will be exciting to go out there from what they see in Arizona State.
On if there have been any major changes in the starting lineup: Yes, every day we have been moving people up and down. And we've told them that we are taking this very seriously. We've tried to play so many people that probably sometimes when you play two-deep across the board all the time, somebody might think they are going to get their 30 plays, and if you're not careful, that lets them relax and gets them thinking they are guaranteed their 30. Right now, nobody is guaranteed anything, so they have picked it up again.
On keeping the team engaged in practice: They have always been engaged. They had 10 of the best days of practice before A&M I have ever seen. But, we've gone back and tried to make a point that I would like them to stay engaged through the game.
On how to put pressure on Arizona State's QB: The only two teams that beat him up were Oregon, who was No. 2 in the country at the time they did it, and USC who might have the best defense in the country. They've got a senior football team and they've got five senior offensive linemen back who are very athletic. One of the amazing stats for them is that they have controlled the ball for 35 minutes a game and they are number one in the country in time of possession, and that is what A&M has done to us the past two years. They have the ability with the vertical passing game to get the ball deep as well. You've got to continue to stop the run and then you've got to get more pressure on the quarterback, which we haven't done very well.
On Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson: He's a really good football coach. He grew up in a coaching family and he got into the college part of it when he was really young. He's tough, smart and he's kept the same philosophy for many years. He believes in what he does and he's had a lot of continuity in his coaching staff. Arizona State has done a good job of keeping things in front of them. They are plus-seven in the turnover ration and we are minus-three and that is another difference in where they are right and where we are.
On getting another win in the Holiday Bowl: Well because we've won five of the last six bowls, it would be great to win another one and four straight for the first time in school history. These kids know that and this senior class has won a National Championship, a conference championship and three straight bowl games, two of them being Rose Bowls. This bunch has never lost a Holiday Bowl game, but it would be more important to them to win their fourth straight bowl instead of worrying about what has happened in this bowl before they got here.
On what he has learned anything about the team the past 10 practices: It was a different team throughout the year. Some players played great and some others played great at times, and that shows our inconsistency. Then all of a sudden you get your offense on track and then you lose your two senior captains on the offensive line with Dallas Griffin and Tony Hills. So now we're more settled in our offensive line again than we were when we went to A&M. We know they're not there. In fact, Limas [Sweed], Dallas and Tony will not even be able to come to the game because they're getting their casts off and having their operations, which is really sad for them. But we've gone back and have looked at the past six weeks and we're a lot better than we anticipated. For five weeks, we were on fire on offense and we just played great. We didn't play as well until halftime at A&M for whatever reason. Defensively, we felt like we've had so many injuries that we were just doing too much. Then all of a sudden, you start missing tackles and giving up big plays. If you look at what we did defensively, a lot of the time we played great and then all of a sudden [A&M running back] Michael Goodson gets a 60-yard run on a flare where we got the guy tackled and the guys relaxed and then he goes 65 yards for a touchdown. We've got to play more consistent on defense and try to continue to get takeaways.
On Jamaal Charles: The last five weeks have been phenomenal for him. He is what all of us have wanted him to be and he's already put his name as a legendary player in Texas history, because he'll be one of the great backs to ever play at The University of Texas. He has told us that he's coming back and we always encourage our juniors to check the interest of the NFL, because the good thing about checking is that they will tell you where you are and what you need to work on. So a lot of the guys do that and we encourage every one of them to do it, because if they don't check, then they might hear some agent or friend tell them to go for the draft. But if they check, they might tell you aren't ready and give you some pointers on what to work on. It gives them a better perspective from the league of exactly what is happening. But Jamaal has assured us that he is coming back and I would think that in the preseason he would have to be up for any potential honor for the best running back in the country.
On Jamaal Charles' maturation: He's actually becoming a leader and he's as tough as could be. We've hit him, and we've had him in every drill now because he understands that running north-and-south is where he gets all of his big runs. He's really proud of himself right now. He's healthy and he's tough. He got an ankle sprain against Nebraska, but he got back up and came right back and played the next week without a limp. So he's matured a lot, grown up a lot and he has learned so much from Selvin [Young]. We're proud of Selvin and we'll get to see him play out in San Diego with Tim Crowder and Quentin Jammer, which will be fun for the guys to see them play on a Monday night. I think right now he is playing as good as any running back in the country.
On bowl practice: Usually the problem with bowl games is people put in too much on both sides of the ball. Coaches get off the road recruiting because it is a quiet period now because we can't go out. So you sit there too much and make up too many things. At the same time it's very much like an opening game, because you have not hit somebody else for a month. I think Ohio State had 58 days off last year between their last game and their bowl game and that is very hard to do when you look at that amount of time. So what we will do is we will still go with Coach Royal's theory and make sure we are continuing to improve as a football team. A win obviously helps this team go out as one of the best Texas senior classes ever. It also gives us a jump-start to spring practices that we start in February and it will probably help us get back rated in the top-10 with a win against Arizona State. That is really important now because of the way the BCS is set up.
On the trip out to San Diego: It is a business trip and they understand that. It is all business and it's been business for the past two weeks. We're not disappointed where we are right now. Maybe this team should have won nine of the first 12 that they played, but we always think there is something better we can do and this team has finished well. We want to make sure that they do that in two weeks. It will be hard, but we want to give it our best shot and the guys understand that. We've had a curfew and we've had the toughest practices. The fun part that they've had so far is that they've worked hard and they feel good about what they have accomplished. There hasn't been a lot of playing around.