Opening statement: A really good couple of days. I think our kids have responded to the short week admirably. We had a walkthrough on Sunday, so Sunday was a little bit different, and then we had to turn around and basically have a Tuesday practice on Monday. Took the pads off of them today because of how hard they’ve practiced all year. I think that they’ve earned that, there’s no fear of us losing our physicality in two days. I think that we’ve handled the unique schedule pretty well, Gary Johnson and Jamari Chisholm had to miss practice yesterday because of classes, but had an opportunity to make those up with their coaches. It’s been a unique couple of days but it’s been a couple that I think our guys have embraced. Collin Johnson and Davante Davis both were sick today with over 100-degree fever, so neither of them practiced. Josh Thompson did have his non-contact practice today, so preliminary reports are that he got through it well, but we won’t know until the doctor examines him today here shortly.
On the effect of not practicing with pads Tuesday: The intensity level of practice does not change around here when we take the pads off, it doesn’t turn into a three-quarter speed practice. It is a full-speed practice, we’re just saving the banging for Friday.
On if the players see the importance of getting to a bowl game: Every time I mention it, I get positive non-verbal feedback from guys in terms of intense looks, nods. I think that there is a genuine understanding that, yes, “Have we improved over the last couple of years?” They’re ready, certainly, but this is a really, really big step for us too.
On what the team’s seniors have meant to him: The world, especially the two that you mentioned (Naashon Hughes and Poona Ford), the two captains. These are guys that have been through so much and those two guys you mentioned, Poona and Naashon, are the two guys that, in that locker room in Morgantown, West Virginia, that you couldn’t wipe the smile off of Poona’s face. These guys were excited to qualify for the postseason for the first time meaningfully in their career. I think what they did was, when you have a senior class that for the most part buys in early and leads the way, that’s unique when you come in and turn things upside down. They’re used to doing things a certain way and we’ve been blessed in both places that I’ve been. The same was true at Houston, those seniors embraced our new ways of doing things, and the same thing here. A bunch of those guys, Lorenzo (Joe) and Dorian (Leonard) came to mind as two guys that have really led the way for some of those younger guys.
On the importance of fear as motivation: I think it’s important. I’ve always said that the two things that are the greatest motivating factor in life are love and fear. To me, love wins every time. I think when there’s a healthy fear of that failure, that can motivate you. I think that the fear of failure needs to manifest itself in preparation and not in the execution. You’ve got to prepare so hard because you are fearful of failure. Then when it comes to kickoff, then you’ve got to be confident in your preparation so that you feel like failure is not an option.
On scout team/redshirt guys who have developed well: All of them, I’m sure I’m going to leave some out. I spend most of the time with the offense, but (Kobe Boyce) has given our offense a heck of a look all year. Montrel Estell has, Marqez Bimage, even though he’s not redshirting, does a heck of a job on the scout team. On the other side of the ball, Reese Leitao, Jordan Pouncey, Sam Cosmi, I’m sure I’m leaving guys out here and there, but those are the ones that come to mind that have a really bright future here.
On Sam Cosmi: The non-travel guys, the scout team guys have an extra lift every week. They can devote a lot more time to physical development, especially in the weight room and nutrition and all of that. He’s gained 20 pounds I think since he’s gotten here. He gets to go against Charles Omenihu, Malcolm Roach, Chris Nelson, and Breckyn Hager every day. That’s going to make you better.
On fear to make mistakes earlier on in the season: There’s no doubt that early in this season, there was apprehension, and evaluation, and hesitation. Not because of laziness, not because of defiance. They didn’t quite yet know how to translate the fear of failure into their game week preparation, but then let it all go and be confident when the ball is kicked off.
On senior day: I think it’s pretty standard most places. The team will be on the sideline, the seniors will be in the tunnel, they’ll shake Mike Perrin’s hand, jog out to the 35, give me a nice big hug, take a picture, jog to the 50 and be with their parents, and once we’re all done they’ll jog to the sideline to play a game.
On the Texas walk-ons’ sideline activities: I think it’s great. This is fun. These guys, especially our Cobra Strike unit kickoff team, we take a lot of pride in that team. We’re not perfect by any stretch. We’ve had our ups and downs, but that team is our way of, we talk about all this, spreading our culture, and running down the field and hitting somebody as hard as you can, and making sure the opposition kind of knows what kind of game is going to be played. And so I think it’s important for the rest of the sideline to make sure that we cheer them on, that we get excited for them, and kind of help the fans get excited for them. They’ve taken it and run with it and I think it’s cool.
On Terrell Cuney at guard: Good. There’s not much difference, other than the ball’s between your legs, I think, between guard and center. I think a lot of the job description is similar when you start playing an odd front with a zero nose, I think that becomes a little bit different when you’ve got a guy that’s over the top of you all game long at center. But I think most of those guys are interchangeable. They’ve all, if you think about it, Zach (Shackelford), Jake (McMillon), and Terrell have all played guard and center in their careers, so they’re pretty interchangeable.
On Texas Tech’s defensive front versus West Virginia’s: Similar in the front in terms of it’s going to be a three man front most of the time. Much different in the coverage because, again, the three-three stack is kind of its own animal. They’re unique, don’t get me wrong, their coverages are different than what we’re used to, but rather than a fifth DB like what West Virginia plays for most of the game, they’re going to play with a true outside linebacker much like we do in our odd front.
On Texas Tech’s quarterback: Lights out. And that system too, he’s perfect for it. He’s accurate, he gets the ball out. You can tell he knows what he’s doing in that system. Again, I don’t know what he ranks right now. I know at one point a couple weeks ago, four out of the five top passers in the country were in the Big 12. I’m not sure where he’s at know but I’m sure it’s probably still in the top ten. He’s really, really good.
On imposing its will early against Texas Tech: I think it’s important every week. I think you saw that in Morgantown. What you can do to a team’s, to both teams’, psyche when you play well early, and then you see it when we threw the pick six. That place woke up, we woke them up, and that was our own doing. So we understand that we want to be able to control momentum and in order to do that you’ve got to start fast and we’ve done a pretty good job of that in the past few weeks.
On favorite Thanksgiving foods or traditions: I haven’t had a normal Thanksgiving in 20 years. No, my favorite food is definitely my grandmother’s homemade raviolis, from her and her sisters and sister-in-law. They actually make their own dough and hand-pinch each ravioli, upwards of like 500 little raviolis, and that was kind of a staple along with turkey and all the traditional stuff growing up Italian. That was something we looked forward to.