Sunday, December 30th, 2012

TEXAS A&M Media Day (Transcripts)


On was there a moment when you took a step back and were just surprised about all the things that happened this season: “As a coach, especially the way our season evolved with so many things happening, number one the first game being postponed and really eliminating our bye week and going 12 straight weeks really was to handle the game that Saturday, deal with it win or lose and then move on to the next game. It probably wasn’t until, I don’t know, even when we were in New York sometime, flying around to these awards shows, I think that is when it kind of hit you that we have accomplished a lot as a team and a lot as individuals. When you are inside it, involved in it week to week, it becomes very, very routine, if you will. It says a lot about this team. To go through what this team went through with the postponement of the first game. To have the first game to be a home game, number one, and to have (College) Gameday there, the atmosphere of the first game to be against Florida. To lose that game in a tough manner and respond into really 12 straight weeks without a bye and play the way they did, I think that is a tribute to our senior leadership, how our guys handled it, our coaching staff and handling it week to week. You don’t have an opportunity to think about things until a break a couple weeks after that.”

Thoughts on being only the second African-American coach to be named the SEC Coach of the Year: “As a matter of fact, I haven’t thought about it. It is a great honor to be the SEC Coach of the Year, number one, with the number of coaches involved in this league. There could have been an argument for a lot of different guys. I think it, particularly from a coach’s standpoint who gets to vote and from the AP standpoint. As it relates to race, I hope we are to the point one day where that question is not asked. What I do, people see me as a coach and not a black coach. The more success we have, the closer we will get to that being a reality.”

On relationship with Bob Stoops and how much he has impacted his coaching career: “Coach Stoops has obviously had a huge influence on my coaching career. We have known each other for a long time. People might be surprised that we played in the same league, he was leaving when I was coming to Purdue. Mike (Stoops) was playing and so was Jay Norvell at Iowa. I was playing at Purdue. Then as we moved in coaching we were actually recruiting South Florida together and recruiting a lot of the same players whether I was at Minnesota or Purdue and he was at Kansas State. We were head to head all the time on the ground down there. Both of us had tough jobs trying to get guys to leave Miami and Fort Lauderdale to go to Manhattan, Kansas and Minneapolis, Minnesota or West Lafayette (Indiana). Over the course of time, we have kept in touch and then he hired me. I spent five years at Oklahoma. It was five great years from a learning standpoint. From a time where it was a difficult situation to play for two national championships and lose, but to get close. One of those teams is one of the best teams I have ever been a part of. Then to go through really what was a rebuilding situation, losing a bunch of draft picks, how you handle that, how you handle adversity. I think we lost the first game in a long time at home against TCU and we bounced that team, that program back to get to the Holiday Bowl and winning and getting the program back on track. You learn a lot during that time. Probably the biggest thing is the daily expectations of players, how you treat players and the expectation level you have for everybody and creating a family atmosphere. I think it is important for wives and kids, but because it is not like that everywhere. They are a part of what you are doing. I think people take that for granted because it affects your wife, your girlfriend and your kids just as much as it affects you. The more you acknowledge and keep them involved I think it keeps the energy level up. Bob (Stoops) does a great job of that and always has. From that standpoint, as I said before, people look at this team (Oklahoma). I can’t tell you how many people have thrown out that this isn’t one of his better teams. What are you talking about? I’m not sure how many 10-win teams he has had. The level of expectations that has been created in the 14 years that he has been there is extremely high. When I get a question like that or an attitude like that, it tells you what kind of program he has created.”

On keeping team together after losses to Florida and LSU and not resorting back to attitude of 2011 team: “There was a long time between those two losses. People act like those losses happened back to back. When we lost the first game, the first thing I did was No. 1 – we never talked about last year, I wasn’t here. Whatever happened a year ago – win, lose or attitude – whatever that was, I wasn’t here. We weren’t playing the same league. We are a different team with different uniforms and different coaches. We eliminated 2011 from what we were talking about. I had a bunch of people ask me about that and we didn’t talk about that.

“The Florida game was not a situation like that. I think people tried to compare it to the year before because we were ahead at halftime and didn’t score in the second half. You look back at that game and we didn’t have enough offense in against a team that was a top 10 football team that was really good. We had a freshman quarterback in his first game, effort was not an issue we just weren’t able to play. It was several weeks before LSU. Those two games (Florida and LSU) were irrelevant (to each other). That is the first game and the halfway point. They didn’t have anything to do with each other. I think in year one if people are going to be critical or ask questions about trying to compare our two losses to the year before, I’ll take that about all the time.”

On whether this offense is the most wide-open and fun offense he has been a part of: “A lot of that I would like to take credit for as a play designer, but we have a quarterback that has the ability to – as Coach Kingsbury or Kliff used to say – would go rogue on us. We can’t take credit for everything. He is a very, very dynamic and special player. I think as the season went on we understood him a little bit better. He understood what we were trying to do a little bit better with moving around and getting him moving. We did design more quarterback run game in the plan, but that is all part of a lot of different things that he has taken advantage of. I haven’t had anybody and I’ve been around a bunch of really good quarterbacks, with his skill set. It is just a different animal. For him to have the freedom to do what he has done in one year, I think says a lot about his improvement and his skill set, but also our ability to adapt to his skill set and try to feature some things that can help us win. I would like to take credit for all that, but he is a different guy. The ability for him to make plays with his legs puts a whole another spin on our offense.”

On how you have handled visiting with Johnny Manziel in managing all the attention that comes with winning the Heisman Trophy: “Sure I have talked to him about it. Winning the Heisman (Trophy) should not be a punishment. It is a unique situation that we have in that we have freshman that has won the highest award given in college football. It has never happened before. It is completely different situation than anybody has ever had. Usually you are looking at a player’s last game, the bowl game he is playing in, or he may play one more year, that’s it. This is a redshirt freshman. The advice that you are giving is day to day advice. It is not career advice. From that standpoint, I think people are watching to see what is going to happen, number one. You have a guy that just turned 20 (years old) in Orlando (College Football Awards show) or in New York and he is a 20-year old kid. You have to be careful about heaping on too much of what the expectations are for a young man. As I said we have to be very, very cognizant of what is going on. I think he understands that. But at the same time, a lot of things that have made him who he is right now, all of sudden you can’t shut that off.”

On season of wide receiver Mike Evans and whether he had expectations for that type of season from Mike back in August: “He is extremely raw. He has tremendous upside. This is a guy that didn’t play very much football period in high school. He was a basketball player. I remember watching him at camp and he didn’t even know what a corner route was, trying to catch the ball over the wrong shoulder. He is really raw. He has a tremendous amount of upside, he continued to get better. He understood what we were trying to do. It wasn’t until midway through fall camp, I really thought – hey we’ve got something here. He is big. He is a little bit stronger than you think he is, a little bit faster than you think he is. Toughness has never been an issue with Mike. He was hurt basically the whole year. He played as well as anybody in our league. I would say probably the last five weeks, he only practiced on Thursday because of injury situations just to get ready. For a freshman to do that and perform the way he performed in games particularly at that position shows a lot about where he was in the mental state during the week, during practice and during the games. I look for him to continue to get better. He is definitely another piece we can build around.”

On the trend of teams playing with interim coaches in bowl games and whether something can be done about that: “I have seen both scenarios. I have been through both scenarios. I got the Houston job and I stayed through the bowl game. Last year, I got this job. I think people think a lot of times coaches leave on their own or take off and just abandon the kids. When I left (University of) Houston to come to Texas A&M that was dual decision with the athletic director and myself. When I met with the team, I wanted to tell them I had accepted the job at Texas A&M, the mutual decision was that it was time to move on with an interim coach. It’s hard to be the coach at one institution and look at your team and coach that team where you are right now.

“I think people look at it different ways. The problem is that timing right now for other institutions is critical. The onus is put on coaches that they can’t move or change jobs, but the jobs are offered to you in December. But also you have a coach fired midway through the season, not for any conduct. There is nothing said about that for the kids. You go in and face the kids for the last five weeks of the season as a fired coach, there are some issues are there because the race to hire the next coach is on. There are a lot of things to blame on the system right now. It puts administrators in a position where they want to be competitive where they want to hire the best coach for their particular situation. It puts coaches in a situation where you get offered a job. I think people would be surprised when those offers are made and they are looked at as leaving, whatever happens, when that happens. Nobody really knows about the coach in that situation. Everybody thinks they know but they really don’t know. I think I’ve heard that before from a coach.

“I don’t know what can be done. I think the NFL has gotten it right with the timing. But the component the NFL does not have is recruiting. Basically if you have a moratorium until after the bowl games and then the (coaching) convention coming up, then there is a dead period. You have coaches coming to work at a different university in mid-January, you have two weeks of recruiting and then that class is done. You are done for the year. So there are a lot more moving parts in college football than in pro football. A lot of things would have to change if you change the way things are done right now.”

On staying focused in long layoff between the last game:
“That is the craziest thing. Since the last game, you have had a month to the bowl game. You have to keep preparing. You have a good team like OU. You have to prepare a month for them. They have a good squad there and plenty of athletes. I’ve been watching film for like a month so I’m ready to go.”

On making the college football awards circuit: “It has been a lot of fun, going to Orlando and doing that kind of stuff. It’s been such a blessing being a part of all that. Winning it (the Outland Trophy) was just such a blessing. Coming from an offensive line family, you have known about the award your entire life. It has been kind of my main goal in college to become and All-American and winning that award is what I wanted to come to (Texas) A&M for. It is such a blessing and such an honor winning that. It has been a great season.”

On notoriety that has been brought to Texas A&M this season: “I can’t believe the season. It has been a fun season. When I was being recruiting to A&M by Sherman and Turner a couple of years ago, they told me you want to come to A&M and bring the spotlight back to A&M. It has been such a blessing doing that. You come to A&M, bringing the spotlight back to A&M and just being a big deal in Texas again. That is why I came to A&M. I’m glad to be here and I’m glad to be able to do what I wanted to do when I came here.”

On as a defensive lineman what makes your teammate Johnny Manziel special to defend: “A lot of things. He has tremendous talent. Some people you can train to be good, but some people are just born with it. That is one of the things, he trains to be good and he was born with it and that makes him a great player. Just all his attributes he can throw, he can run, everything. He is a multi-talented threat.

“It is like that old saying, you come in there with a game plan and to the fight thinking you are going to do this. But once you get hit in the nose all that goes out the window. I think that applies to Johnny (Manziel) a lot. You go in saying you are going to do this and you have the perfect scheme, but he always seems to do something amazing to change your whole thought process.”

On how the Alabama win changed perception of team that struggled in past to close out big games: “We try not to look at the past, but you can’t help but to look at the past when people bring it up. That win was the stepping stone that helped in turning this program around and to show we were as talented as we knew we were the whole time. It has done great things for us, but we try not to just stay on that. Because once you stay on that you get complacent. We soaked it in a little bit and moved on to the task at hand the following week.”

On staying focused with all the accolades and activities of the last month: “I have been enjoying it. I have been enjoying all the stuff that has come with it. I am a big sports fan. All of you know about going to the basketball game and the football game. It is just something that I enjoy. People just didn’t know I went before but I still went but people didn’t care to write about it. I’ve just been enjoying it. We were so busy in New York, the five or six days from Orlando to New York, everyone who traveled with me were just dead. We were going to bed at 2 a.m. and waking up at 7 a.m. It was fun for us to get back and say hey let’s go to a basketball game, let’s do some stuff and do some things in the afternoon. We made time to do it. We are still focused. We are still going to practice, still going to workouts, still watching film, still doing the same stuff as always just enjoying a little bit along the way.”

On Oklahoma defense: “They are very athletic. You look all around (the defense), they sit there and say we are more athletic than you and we can beat you one on one and do some things that can distract you. They don’t do too much that will trick you, but they say this is what we do, this is who we are and this is what we are going to do and they stick with that.”

On whether goodwill that has been built up for A&M this year will be taken away without a win in the Cotton Bowl..i.e. “a great season but..”: “There could always be abut at the end of that regardless. We aren’t too focused about what people say. We have had a great year. A bowl game is a time where you come have fun. You come enjoy all the things they put out. You come have dinner and get to be in Cowboys Stadium. You get to have fun. That is what people don’t get. I try to explain it more and more that football is a game of fun. We are so blessed to be able to play this game and come out here and play. It’s a game and that is all it is. If you enjoy playing it, you might as well make the most of it. It is nothing but fun. It is fun to run around and throw the ball around with some of your best friends.”

On what would mean to end special year with win in Cotton Bowl: “It would mean a lot. We have been talking about finishing strong all year long. It has been our theme, start fast and finish strong. It would mean a lot to finish the season good and come out with 11 wins and be one of the few teams in Texas A&M history to win 11 games in a season.”

On playing 12 games without a break and finally getting a chance to get healthy before bowl game: “That was tough playing without a break. We were really beat up after the season. We finally got our bye week a few weeks ago and so we are back to 100 percent so that will be great.”

On playing in familiar place – Cowboys Stadium: “It is always exciting when we play in Cowboys Stadium. It is a beautiful stadium. It is a nice place to play. It is a great venue. We are excited to play here.”

On maturation of defense this year: “I think we played some good defense this year. We stepped up into the SEC and showed that we could compete in that league where all the hoopla is about defense. I think we did a great job on defense this year. And our explosive offense didn’t hurt anything either. I think the defense really matured a lot since the beginning of the season. We all kind of grew up together and grew with our coaches and everything just meshed well.”

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