Monday, December 30th, 2013

Missouri Media Day - Transcripts

Opening Statement
“First of all we are very excited to be here and a part of the 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl. It is a great bowl in a great city. Obviously this facility, AT&T Stadium, is remarkable. I probably can’t do it justice in description. We are excited about being here. Our fans certainly are too. We have had a good week thus far. One of our goals is to certainly have a good time when we are not focusing on the things we need to focus on. We need to focus on our practices and our team meetings. For the most part it has gone well and we are excited to be here.”

On James Franklin and his career
“James came in and played as a true freshman. He is a player that was developing and had his first start in this sophomore year at the start of the year. He had an excellent year that year. He was MVP in our bowl game against North Carolina. He came back and expected his junior year to be typical of our other three quarterbacks, our last three quarterbacks are playing in the NFL. And then he had more injuries, those are all documented. He has had more injuries here than in the 23 years combined I’ve been a head football coach. He battled as well as he could. He didn’t play half a season. And then he came back this year, after a very difficult year, and until he got another injury, in his first six games he was playing as good as any quarterback in the country. He was leading the team. We had a freshman come in for a few games and helped our team. And then James is back in there playing at the high level he played at before. So he is a great kid with great determination. He is just a great player. He has turned into a really outstanding leader for our football team.”

On how surprised he was to see James Franklin come back from injuries and have the success that he has had
“I wasn’t surprised. We all face adversity. No one likes it, but we all go through it. And if you go through it with the right attitude you can learn so much to help yourself. I think that is what he did. He is a little bit mentally tougher. He is a little bit more resilient. He is more determined than he has ever been. He has just battled through them. And I just have great respect for him and I think certainly his teammates do for all he has done.”

On senior leadership of team
“Our senior leadership is always real important. Coming off a very difficult year a year ago, the determination they have expressed and communicated right when we got back in January to our football team was to get back to our winning ways and winning at a high level. And through their leadership, I think it has been outstanding. It has been so important a part of the success we have had this year and certainly visual aids for our younger players and certainly the juniors who will be seniors next year. These seniors made their mark on Mizzou Football. We certainly would like to finish this thing the right way.”

On success of recruiting in Texas
We have 32 players on our roster right now from the state of Texas. Obviously Missouri is our number one state, but we have chosen to place an emphasis here outside the state of Missouri. It is a high-populated area with great high school football so we chose to put a lot of coaches down here and recruit at a high level in Texas. There a lot of people that put people in Florida and people in California, we just felt like this was the best thing to do. I think the best leadership you get, the best communication you get about your program, is when the players that played for you go back in the locker rooms and talk to their coaches and the players they used to play with in high school and say Mizzou is a great place. It took a while to get that going. But after a while, we have recruited some great players out of the state of Texas. A bunch of them are playing in the NFL right now and almost all of them have their degrees, which we are very proud of also. We have great relationships with these coaches down here. And I think we have great relationships because they know we do the right thing for kids. Our APR ranking was best in the SEC and in the top 10 percent in the nation. And certainly we have had four double-digit win seasons the last seven years. So it is appealing to these kids and it has been really important to us.

On Oklahoma State’s ability to force turnovers
I thought we were pretty good in forcing turnovers until I saw the national stats and they are a few slots ahead of us. We are both top 10 in the nation, or top five. They have it going. I think what happens is that when you are really good at turnovers, you are physical, your intention is to go for the ball. You are not just trying to tackle the player, you are trying to get through the ball and rip the ball out. So I think they are very fundamentally sound. And I also think that once you get momentum, all the years I have been doing this, instead of saying I hope we get turnovers this week you have to expect them, I think when those things happen that is important. On the other side of that is your offense holding onto the football. (Clint) Chelf, the quarterback is a great player. He does a good job. Running backs hold on the ball too. They are top-five in the nation in turnover margin, we are pretty good at it too. But they are very impressive and they are also well coached.

On what impresses you about Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf
I think what happens is you really, like I mentioned before, is you have to find out a little bit what you are made of a little bit. And what you see is a guy that is obviously a great competitor. He is very resilient. He has been through the adversities that quarterbacks, at this BCS level we are in, go through. I think you see he is a really good player. He throws the ball well. He extends plays. He can do damage with his feet also. He has good receivers that make great plays. He has a lot of things in place, but he is very well coached and he is playing at a very high level. I am very impressed.

On comparison of SEC and Big 12 and daily grind of competing in both leagues

“I have obviously been asked that question a lot. We didn’t change anything, how we recruit or how we train our student-athletes other than trying to keep our players healthy in the grind you go in. The statement I have always had is the Big 12 has some real good football teams, but the SEC just has more. That is the difference. That is a very honest evaluation of two very good leagues. The SEC is the grind, the venues you play, week in and week out it is challenge. Most people in this league the way they schedule is to really schedule their non-conference games to break up, their philosophy is to break up the SEC schedule. They do it for a reason. The Big 12, I have great respect for them I always have and always will. And certainly we are very proud to be a member of the SEC.”

On how team will balance having fun at a bowl game with maintaining focus as a lead up to game day
“The bowl game itself, with all the things that are going on, you want to have a good time. It is nothing normal about a game week preparation. But it is nothing normal for every team, so everyone is going through the same thing. The teams that can practice the best, get focused and practice your best as the week goes along and get focused to play their best football, is the one that will have the edge. Obviously the two teams do it well then there are things that follow along with that. It is all about being able to focus. We have been a very good team. It doesn’t mean you are going to win all your games, but we have been a very good focused football team. But this is different and we have addressed that with our coaching staff, myself, the leadership of our team, and the positional leaders. This is really a Tuesday for us as far as our preparation in the days and the focus has got to increase and hopefully we will get that done.”

On how Oklahoma State is different now than when you played them last in 2011
“I think with schemes all those things change, offensively you do some different things with personnel, defensive you do. I think what you see with Coach (Mike) Gundy, is that he has continued to build the program. Regardless of the plays you run offensively or defensively, are you fundamental? Are you well coached? Are you disciplined? Do you not beat yourself, with turnovers and penalties? He has developed his program and continues to develop it. I just see a very well coached team with a lot of talent and that is why they are 10-2. That is why they are here.”

On how his father’s influence has helped him

“I think it helps a lot with discipline and showing responsibility and putting what is most important first even when things get a little difficult and things aren’t going your way. I am just really thankful for that because it has really helped me out. Because it helped me out through the tough time I had last year.”

On getting through the adversities of last year and moving on
“One of the biggest things was talking to my Dad and helping me through it and just reminding me that it is not the most important thing in life. At the time, we want to win and we want to be successful and do everything we can, but if we lose a football game or don’t perform well it isn’t going to be an end of the world type of thing and Dad helped remind me day in and day out. That helped maintain a positive attitude and I was a little more comfortable going out there and wasn’t afraid to make any mistakes.”

On Oklahoma State defense
“I know that they run to the ball really well and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. They kind of make you make your own mistakes. They will take chances every now and then, but for the most part they make sure that the offense they are playing has to execute their plays. We need to make sure we do that and take advantage when they give us something.”

“They really work together as a whole. They have some good individual players, but it is more impressive to me is that they work together as a whole and they flow as one defense. They all fly to the ball. They are all making plays. They know their assignments. They don’t make a lot of mistakes.”

On Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert
“I’m not really trying to think about that too much. But he has really good ball skills and he has a lot of good speed too. That is something I have to be cognizant of. Not be afraid, but definitely take some chances.”

On looking back on career and the challenges faced
“I think it has been all right. There were some definitely some goals that I had set that I wanted to get down but didn’t have the opportunity whether it was from being hurt or from a lack of performance. I am pretty excited to finish up my career at the Cotton Bowl, and hopefully a Cotton Bowl win.”

On what it would mean to cap season with Cotton Bowl win

“To end the season with 12 wins it would be really special for this team after last year finishing 5-7. Being 11-2 right now, and going to the Cotton Bowl, winning would be a huge finish for us and for this senior class who got us back on the winning track.”

On what defense has to prove in the Cotton Bowl after SEC Championship Game
“That we are a good team. That we are a good defense. That we helped get us to where we are now had a lot to do with our defense. We are passed the last game and focused on Oklahoma State.”

On Oklahoma State
“They are a good team. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t a good team. They have a good offensive line, they have good backs and the quarterback is pretty good so we are going to have our hands full on Friday.”

On how will bounce back from disappointment of not playing for national championship

“We don’t dwell on losses. We had two of them. We learn from them and move on. You don’t gain success by dwelling on what you have lost. Our job is to look at it, ok I have learned from it and don’t make the same mistakes. That is what we do day in and day out.”

On Oklahoma State and whether they compare to any team you have played
“I don’t want to compare them to anybody because they are totally different team. They are a good ball club. They are pretty athletic and have elusive running backs and the quarterback makes good decisions. They have nice wide receivers.”

On teammate Henry Josey
“Henry Josey is a tremendous athlete, even a better friend, teammate, father and son. Anything you can think of, Henry is that. Despite his injuries, he has worked hard to come back. He is improving everybody. He belongs in that spot even though he is competing with two other great backs we have. It just tells you a lot about that type of guy.”

On quarterback James Franklin coming back from his mid-season injury

“He came back and he finished the season strong. At times, he just feels like he’s a little bit underappreciated and I told him, ‘Your legacy at Mizzou is going to forever live on.’ He’s a true leader. Sometimes you get a guy who walks in the locker room, he immediately has an impact on the whole team. James is that guy. The players watch what they say around James, are very respectful of him. He’s our leader. When he’s pumped up and fired up, the whole team is pumped up and fired up.”

On the progress of his foot healing from injury
“With the adrenaline pumping whenever I run out that tunnel come Friday, I’m sure the foot will be the last worry on my mind.”

How the foot feels
“A lot better. I’m running a lot smoother. I still have on a red jersey for cautionary reasons. I wouldn’t say it’s a hundred percent but definitely 80 percent.”

On Oklahoma State defense

“They play hard. They’ve got coverages a lot different than most. But I feel like that Oklahoma State plays a lot harder than some teams.”

On playing against SEC competition and the confidence it brings to Missouri’s team
“Just showing what we’re capable of doing in the SEC, our offense going against the best. The SEC is one of the best conferences. We’ve just got to show what our offense is capable of doing. I think in the SEC we showed what we’re capable of doing as an offense.”

On his progression in his second season
“It’s just being comfortable really. Looking at last year’s season [I had] that freshman mind, but this year I felt like I came out here and used last year as more of an experience to come out here and play a lot harder and get into the games and play with my teammates.”

On why Missouri’s receivers are so dangerous on the field
“We’re all 6-3 and above. It’s an easy throw for our quarterback to find us down the field. We’re a lot taller than other receivers. It’s going to be like a jump ball. I feel like sometimes we’ll be covered, but our height makes us look uncovered really.”

On Missouri’s motivation

“We’re tired of waiting. I know we’re motivated to play. We’re motivated to just get back out here and win a game coming off that loss [in the SEC championship game]. We want to remember it because we want to go back there but it’s something that we put behind us and we just realize how proud we are of ourselves, how we’ve [done] what most teams probably wouldn’t do in a year.”

On bouncing back after the loss to Auburn
“You can’t be angry about it. I feel like that next day came and it was like guys were already back talking to each other and happy about [the season] and just realizing how far we came as a team. We’ve always moved on to the next thing.”

On whether the team needed a couple of days to recover emotionally after the SEC title game

“We needed a week (laughing). You know, the game itself, we wanted that game so bad. Our offense played well and me being a defensive player, it hurt, because we played well all year. We played bad one game and it was the biggest game of the season. Our offense stood behind us. They didn’t say anything bad about us in the media. It shows their character when they still believe in us. We needed a week off to get our minds right because when we were on our way back to Columbia and we saw that Ohio State lost and saw that Auburn was going to the national championship game, that kind of hurt. But we’re focused on this game now.”

On motivation being rekindled
“The motivation part is we need to get 12 wins. Twelve wins is big for this program. It would be tied for the most wins in Missouri football history. That’s pretty big for us. We need to send the seniors out [with a victory]. We’ve got a bunch of guys from Texas. It’s also a good bowl game. The Cotton Bowl is a great bowl game. This is a BCS-caliber bowl game. We’re happy to be here.”

On playing at AT&T Stadium

“The field is the exact same turf we’ve played on all year. We can’t let what’s around the turf have any sort of dictation on what we’re going to be doing. I think it’s a really big advantage that we get to practice here all week. The first time I walked out here for our first practice it was like a chicken in the rain – I was just like looking up the entire time and Coach is like, ‘Max, stop.’ But it’s so pretty. So we get to spend this week tuning it out and getting used to our surroundings, which in away games we don’t get to do so this is big.”

On Oklahoma State’s defense
“They’re a fundamentally sound team, they’re really good athletes and they play hard. That’s why they made it to this game. Really our success is going to be determined by how well we execute our technique.”

On the team’s last few weeks since the SEC title game
“It’s an interesting kind of transition period from our last game to here because you do want to take advantage of some of the rest but you don’t want to, but you also don’t want to waste opportunities to get better and to train and hone in on your craft. We’ve used it with that balance in mind. We wanted to rest. We wanted to make sure that we shake off the grind that’s been wearing us down.”

On the mental/emotional recovery during that time; there was some heartache after the SEC title game
“There was. But the thing is our postgame process doesn’t change no matter what the outcome of the game was. What you do is you take, as efficiently as you can, what you can in terms of the learning standpoint. You extract the seed of knowledge out of it and you shuck the shell away and you have to do that fast because the negative aspect will start to poison you a little bit if you don’t get rid of that game fast.”

On getting rid of the Auburn loss fast
“The reason why: We had great practice. We did it after wins. After we’d won a game, we didn’t sit there and let the win poison us. Wins can poison just as bad as losses can and sometimes even worse because they don’t hurt. There’s a little bit of solace in having a win. You’re comfortable for three or four days. You have an opponent that might have come off a loss and they’re real hungry to win again. That’s really one of the biggest aspects of our mental process of getting ready for a game is completely removing the last game, having short-term memory.”

On the team’s motivation
“Bowl games have a different energy about them. During game weeks during the regular season, you’re not going to special dinners and luncheons and wearing cool clothes – at least I’m not. This week is a little bit different. There’s this kind of fun, kind of spirited thing everywhere, which is good. We get to reap what we’ve sewn a little bit. But at the same time, I think the general consensus from our team from a mentality standpoint is this is a business trip. They’re putting us up real nice and they’re being real hospitable towards us. But this is a business trip. The only way this week will really be fun is if we win this game.”

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