On replacing cornerback Holton Hill: I’m excited for a couple of guys that we’re going to work in there. Davante Davis being one, and Josh Thompson. They’re in a battle right now. Josh is a little bit youthful but we’re going to put them both out there. The job is open. Go win it. We’ll know a little bit more tomorrow. Obviously, I like to get through the whole week. Thursday is kind of the last of the physical preparation. We’re just going to move forward. The good thing about that is all of the guys that were in that second group, they’re coached the same way as the first group. The demands are one in the same. In my opinion, it’s the next guy up.
On how to replace the defensive MVP-like production: Like I said, excited for Davante and Josh to fill the role up. Kris (Boyd) understands that Kris has got to up his game, too. Like I said beforehand, I’m excited about the guys stepping up because we train that way. We tell the guys it can happen any moment, so be prepared to go in.
On if he’s talked to Holton Hill: I have, but like I said before and I don’t want to be rude in this situation with it, Davante Davis, Josh Thompson, let’s get them ready. Let’s get them ready to play. Like I said beforehand, I have every confidence in both of those kids. I just can’t tell you who it’s going to be because I want them to finish the week out. I want to be fair to both kids.
On if the dime personnel is altered: It won’t do anything to that part of it. Just plug-n-play, and roll on, because both of those kids are not starters in that unit.
On Antwuan Davis’ performance: Good. I was excited. The leadership qualities that (P.J. Locke) has and the play experience that he has, but we’ve been impressed with Antwuan since fall camp. He’s a physical guy. He made a couple physical plays in the game. There’s some things he’s not great at in comparison to P.J. I get that part of it, but he has a lot of experience, he really, really cares, and he understands football. I thought throwing him in, TCU, away, let’s see how he responds. I was really happy with the way he played.
On making sure the defense is ready to play Kansas: Put on last year’s tape. It’s not like they’re coming into this game thinking like “we can’t beat them.” They already beat us. They beat us with the same guys. I wasn’t here, but I watched that game and you could feel the emotion from that game. If you’re one of our kids and you go out on that field thinking that you’re just going to roll your helmet out there and that, “We’re Texas” and we’re just going to beat you, you’re ridiculous. We try our best to not bring up the past because we’re not the same team we were last year, especially defensively. We’re not that. If you think we’re going to walk out there and just say ‘hey, we’re here, this is what we are.’ They’re smart enough to understand that. We don’t have to do that to them. All I look for, in my opinion, whether or not someone is going to lay an egg or play well is practice. That’s all I go by and we had a really good Tuesday practice followed by today. I’m really happy with our mindset and focus. Just keep pressing forward. You have five opportunities to practice, counting walkthroughs. All Saturday is just a percentage of how well you practiced. That’s it. Let’s say the play 75 plays because they go with a little bit of pace. It’s six seconds a play. I don’t know what that is, eight and a half, nine minutes of doing something? They’re either prepared or they’re not prepared. It’s what they do in practice. It’s not going to be anything that goes into it. I don’t know what the preparation is, I don’t even care what the preparation was last year heading into that game. I know this, when you don’t show up, it’s normally because you haven’t practiced well. The last two days, I’ve been happy with the way we’ve practiced, especially yesterday. Yesterday was kind of like ‘it’s Kansas,’ everybody is saying this stuff with it, now go out there and practice. They did it the right way.
On switching to dime after early struggles: I came into it thinking they were going to run the football. You go back and forth before the game and you say to yourself ‘these guys want to run the football. Kind of shorten the game. Play their defense. Don’t do anything ridiculous in the pass game, try to get turnovers.’ That’s how I thought, so we came out with our nickel group with (Naashon Hughes) being a little bit bigger, the guys up front are a little bit bigger. It sorted out that way, then for whatever reason they got some success on us. In my opinion, they shouldn’t have any success running the football against our biggest guys that were out there. We kind of rotated in a little bit, settled in. In hindsight in that game, should have probably stayed in one personnel grouping and settled the kids in. We get awfully anxious for whatever reason. Oklahoma, you come out the first series and we had two 15-yard penalties over nonsense. It’s me learning our kids a little bit more, especially on the road, to just settle them in. Take a deep breath. Relax, you guys are fine. You don’t have to do anything outside of what we’re teaching you, and I’ll do a better job that way. But to answer your question, we started off in nickel because I personally thought they were going to try to stuff the ball down our face knowing we were a little bit lighter in the ‘Lightning’ package.
On dime package’s ability to stop the run: I am. The guys up front, the Hagers, we’ve started rolling Poona in there a little bit more, they’re doing an unbelievable job, they are. Like we talked about a couple of other guys, they’re showing up and they’re running to the football. We’ll hone in exactly on what we want to get accomplished and we’ll keep rolling from there.
On their red-zone and third-down defense: I like where we’re at 3rd down wise. I think we can be better in the tight red-zone. I don’t like rushing touchdowns. That’s me, personally. We tell our kids ‘listen, if they throw a fade ball and Kris whiffs or whatever, I’m good. But to let somebody run the football, there’s no worse feeling because then we’re all soft and we all look at each other. That’s the thing we have to get better at, the rushing part of it. But to see some of the goal-line stands that we’ve had, going back to SC and going back to last week, that shows me a little bit of grit, more grit than I’ve seen around here in a long time. Our kids are taking pride in that but I think we can be better there. The third down stuff, we’re in the top ten in the country right now which is good, but we’ve got to create more explosive plays. That’s the one thing that on Sunday we wanted personally. We had a turnover circuit, because if you look at us and study us, the games that we’ve won and the games we’ve been really successful in is when we’ve got the football. It set up the offense or we got the ball and scored. We’ve got to get back into that mindset. I think we kind of filtered away with all this scheme. It’s like ‘hey listen, try to strip the ball second guy in. Let’s get pick-sixes. Let’s get sacks. Let’s create fumbles. Let’s start doing that.’ That was the biggest thing outside of emphasizing tight red zone that we worked on this week.
On keeping buy in despite having things like runny breakfasts and crimson groups and not winning: Great question, because like anything in life you start to question it a little bit, and there’s been none of it. Herman brought it up today, we just had flex and stretch, and Herman’s on those guys if they don’t finish two-plus at the line or if they’re not doing things the right way he’ll call them back. We’ve had no call backs in like two weeks. That tells us a little something about the mentality. I think at the end of the day, those kids can see it, they can smell it, they know it’s there, and now we’ve just got to finish and go grab it. If we’re losing games 52-10, there’s going to be guys that are going to be like ‘this is ridiculous.’ But when you’re so close to something and you know it’s there, try to keep pushing through it and you know it’s right. The way that we explain things is about discipline. We do this not just to do it, we’re doing it because it trains you mind to be disciplined. When the game’s on the line and there’s a critical play and you’ve got to make a check in the heat of the battle, you’ve actually trained your mind to be accountable. I think our kids understand that because we do a good job of explaining it that way.
On if he believes his unit can carry the team for three more games: I don’t think it’s about that. We don’t even talk that way. Like I said beforehand, we talked to the kids on Sunday. I told them elite is up here. I’ve been on those things. I’ve been on elite, talking about go out on the field and it’s like you make one call and stay out of their way. We’re not that. We’re not. My point being we go out and we try to be as dominant as we can. It’s not an O, D thing. It’s not that. It’s strictly us trying to get collectively better at each spot. Breckyn Hager, I want you to be the best defensive end in the country. That’s you’re goal. Collectively, if Malik Jefferson is trying to do that, pull everybody together and work for each other. Malik knows he will not be the best linebacker in the country unless Poona Ford is the best nose guard in the country. To get them to think about it that way, will that help us? Yes, absolutely. Is that going to make us play guys really well and, what you say, ‘carry?’ Maybe. I stay away from that stuff. It’s not about that. It’s really not about that. It’s like trying to get everybody to be great at what they’re supposed to be. There is a part of that that’s individual, but if I go into a defensive staff room I can’t be the best unless Craig (Naivar), Jason (Washington), and Oscar (Giles) are the best. I want guys to think that way so at some point we can get to that level. We’re not at that level right now but we’re working our tails off to try to get there.
On guarding against early struggles: To me, it’s probably simplify a little bit more in the beginning of games and just calm them down. I don’t know exactly. I think from my standpoint, that’s probably the easiest way to calm somebody down. It’s almost like you’re scripting the game for them in the beginning. It’s not a lot of thinking. They can react, because it is a little bit different. The more explosive the offense are, the more discrepancy from scout team looks. Sometimes you get into it and you see a receiver on the scout team that maybe can’t take the top off a route, then all of a sudden I go out the very first play and it’s like ‘oh my goodness, look at the difference in the speed.’ I probably have to do a better job of simplifying the beginning of games so these guys can make every check, can lock myself in so there’s no thinking. Let’s get accustomed to what’s going on out here.
On what Davante Davis needs to do to get on the field: I think it’s fundamentals and techniques. That’s it. To me, he’s got the talent, you see how tall he is. He’s long. He’s very similar to the two other guys. To me, it’s just lock-in, and focus himself in. That’s it. Those guys will have like five to seven techniques that they run the whole game. If he can master those things, and that’s with Jason. Jason has been working with him the whole time the second that he does something a little bit outside the fundamental or technique, he’s on him. That’s the only way you learn, you trust those things and you apply it to the game.
On where the offense needs to improve and where it has improved: Obviously we need to continue to get better. We’re still not playing consistent enough football, mistake free football at times. We’re our own worst enemy right now if you watch the game closely, when you evaluate it on film. It’s just too many mistakes. We just have to continue to keep working. It’s a young team in progress. It’s an ever-changing lineup. That’s the cards we’ve been dealt and we have to continue to keep grinding and working. I love the guys that play. We’re excited about the future and the things that a bunch of those young guys are doing. As a coaching staff, we have to just continue to try to do the best job and continue to grind and work to give them the best chance to have success.
On what he can do to help the offensive line out: We’ve tried some different things in terms of different blocking concepts and schemes. We’ve tried different types of pass combinations and routes. Again, there’s improvement. It’s just inconsistent. All of a sudden we rattle off a big play and there’s a big play and there’s a penalty and it’s a game changer. You go from first and 10 on the 40 to second and 23 from the 19. That’s a huge swing when you’re down 10 points. In an offense like ours right now, we’re fighting for every yard. We’re fighting for every yard. I can’t get into too much detail, obviously, because we’re continuing to work on that. We think we might have a plan this week to help them, but can’t disclose that obviously.
On if using max protect limits what he is able to do: You’ve got to win on the outsides when you’re doing that because you have three guys going out and they’re covering with everybody else. It’s just kind of what it is. Again, we’ve put our brains together. There’s a lot of smart guys in that room, and we’ve come up with what we think is a couple things that will help us. We’re going to continue to try to do that and find the right thing and get some of these guys back that are injured.
On if he can move the pocket with his current OL: In theory, it’s not a bad idea. People try to do it. You notice how you don’t see a lot of people doing that in college football because you can’t expose your quarterback to scrapping linebackers and coverage can dictate. If they are clouding the field, you don’t have a guy waiting for you. That’s some of the stuff you see in certain… like we’re going to throw the ball. It’s third down. We’re seeing that coverage. You don’t really want to go into that because, yeah, the quarterback might have time, but he’s going to throw the ball into a guy who’s covered based on the coverage. There’s a lot of factors that go into game planning, because you want to attack a team. You want to look at a team and say “here’s where they are weak, let’s get to them.” Then you say “okay, with our personnel, how do we do that? How do we attack a team?” Sometimes you have to make that decision and say “heck with it, we’re going to do it anyways and roll the dice and hope we can do it.” Or you say “no, no, no, we’re not going to do that. We can’t do that because we’re going to expose ourselves or a weakness that we have, and we’re not going to give our kids a better chance to win.” Even though that is a good play against that defense, we can’t do that because we’re not going to be able to execute it based on maybe where we’re at at the time or who we’re asking to do it at that time.
On lack of draw plays: We had a couple last game. We lost nine yards on the first one and I think eight on the second one.
On throwing to Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey even if they appear covered: We did in the game. I was happy Shane did that. You have to be able to do that at times and take those chances and have that confidence. I didn’t think we did it enough. I wish we had done it a little bit more because I think Dorian (Leonard) and those guys, they’ll go get the ball. We need to do that a little bit more.
On keeping the team confident despite struggles: I think it’s two-fold. I think when you watch the film, and you sit down… the naked eye watching the game and then sitting down watching the film, I think they see it. They look at it like “if I would’ve made that block” or “if I had just caught that pass.” We throw a swing pass and the guy is four yards out of bounds. I know he’s going to run 15 yards. We’re going to be on the 20 yard line, first and goal. We’re going to be in great shape, but he’s three yards out of bounds with nobody around him. I don’t think there is a doubt factor when it comes to that. When you ask them ask them what happened, they are like “I don’t know coach.” They are so eager to try and do well, sometimes they are trying so hard, they are trying too hard. So we’re trying to not press, but we are pressing, we know that. It’s hard not to. They see it, I think. I think the other thing is I think that they realize we are really young. They see it. They look out and one minute this guy is playing and the next minute this guy is playing. The next minute Shane is at quarterback, and the next minute Sam is at quarterback. They kind of see the revolving door. It’s hard to have any consistency when that’s happening. I think that was the first game that we started the same offensive line two games in a row all year this past game. I think guys understand that. Most people do. They see that.
On if Jerrod Heard is working at QB: Not really. A little bit, but not as much.
On if he expects to have both quarterbacks: Yep
On if he expects to have Toneil Carter this week: Yes
On Denzel Okafor: He’s just a young pup. He’s going to be a really, really good player. He’s gotten a lot better and he’s improved. You also have a senior in Nickelson. I think they’re splitting some time and they’re getting a chance to play a little bit.
On if after all the attempts there’s anything else he can do to fix the offense: It’s a good thing and a bad thing. Sometimes you can second guess yourself and look back and say “let’s just keep grinding and doing what we’re doing.” We’re trying to lay a foundation. I know you hear it from Coach Herman and a lot of people don’t understand, but it’s true. We’re trying to lay a foundation. The offense that we’re going to run is going to be the offense. We don’t want to be a makeshift, gadget, here today gone tomorrow, change next year again. These young men have gone through four offensive coordinators in four years. Different offenses, different systems. We don’t want to do that. We’re overcoming injuries. We’re overcoming a lot of youngness. We’re overcoming lack of our system and knowledge. Just different things that are going on right now. But that’s okay in terms of the big picture, because the big picture is they’re getting a lot of experience. I look at Cade Brewer and how well he’s played as a young freshman. Imagine him in two years. The experience that he has, and then when he’s bigger and stronger and blowing dudes off the ball, he’s wrecking havoc, that’s exciting. That’s exciting. Right now, is he the player he’s going to be two years from now? No. You would hope not. From 18 to 22 years old, there’s going to be a change. It’s exciting to see all those guys, the Toneil Carters, the Sams. Danny Young, look at him run the ball. How do you not get excited over that? Derek Kerstetter, well he’s playing offensive line. He’s been one of our most solid guys up front right now. There’s a lot of bright things. Unfortunately, because of where we’re at and the youngness, it stings and there is inconsistency.
On if he’s surprised at the struggle: I think the biggest thing about it is injuries. It’s interesting, one of the most devastating things was pregame at TCU. I looked over and our weight coach had Andrew Beck, Connor Williams, Elijah Rodriguez, Zach Shackelford, Toneil Carter, and Sam Ehlinger working out in their shorts. That was the most frustrating thing, go play that defense with those guys missing.
On keeping buy in despite having things like runny breakfasts and crimson groups and not winning: I don’t see that. We don’t feel that right now. Again, I think the players understand the big picture. The players look, they saw the six guys. It is what it is. They all want to play, too, but they also know that there’s a lot of playing time in Connor Williams and Zach Shackelford that’s not playing, that are really good players. Andrew Beck. You think we could use those guys? Sure, and I think our players know that. I think when they watch the film and they see “if I ran this route at depth, if I blocked this guy, if I threw it to this guy like coach told me to because he was open,” then they’re like “I got you coach.” They see some of that stuff. I don’t sense that palms up, what are we doing, how come we aren’t winning? I think they look at it, see the effort and see the toughness, and know it’s going to come. But it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s just not.
On if Andrew Beck and Elijah Rodriguez come back next year: I don’t know.
On if Shane sometimes expects hits in the pocket: I thought in the game, at times, he did. Yes. I told him that. I felt like he was feeling the rush or looking at the rush a little too much than he should have. Had his eyes up the field a little bit more. We ran one play in particular, I know it’s 123 hitch, throw the ball. He didn’t. He couldn’t tell me why, but when you look at the film you can see his head down as opposed to up. He was trying to see is somebody getting through or not. Can’t do that.
On if he sees confident players or are they losing confidence: The thing that gets frustrating is the “here we go again.” That’s what we’re trying to avoid. Our practices are spirited. They’re upbeat. They listen. They go out, they perform, and they work really hard. We have to be able to do that in the course of the game. There’s going to be trials and tribulations. There’s going to be things that don’t go right. Our problem is a little bit that guys are waiting to make a play. Somebody make a play so we can get excited and get going again. Instead of “coach, I’ll make the play.” At times, we’re missing some of that in the course of the game. Who is that guy? Ask yourself, who’s that guy when you look and you can say “that guy, he makes plays all the time.” Who is it? That’s the thing right now that we keep harping to our guys. “Hey, don’t wait. Go make that play. Go be that guy who makes that play right now.” There are very capable guys that can go out there and do it. Quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, receivers, o-line making big blocks. Whoever it is. I thought in the TCU game when we had that one good drive and had the tempo, went down and felt like things were going. We were moving a little bit, came out second half, couple things didn’t go our way and all of a sudden it was almost like “here we go.” Somebody make a play so we can get excited again. We need to make sure that we’re doing that as coaches and players to get that momentum and get that thing going