Opening statement: Good day today. Really good week, actually, of preparation. The weather obviously cooperated on Tuesday as well as today. Finally feels like fall here in Austin, Texas which is a good thing. The guys had great amount of energy. I thought their focus was good. Really proud of the way that this team comes to work every day regardless of outcome the previous Saturday. Win or lose, this team has shown up every Tuesday ready to work and get better. Proud of that, excited for the game.
On the team mindset facing Kansas while holding a 4-5 record: I honestly, and I credit our coaching staff and strength coaches and everybody in our program, I’m not sure if you asked our kids what our record was they would know. That’s a good thing. We talked very briefly on Sunday and I laid out big picture to them, and then that’s really the last time we’re going to talk big picture. The big picture is our four losses are against No. 5, No. 6, No. 11, and No. 15 after 10 weeks in the College Football Playoff poll. We’ve played with and against some really, really good football teams. We’ve got an opportunity to go 1-0 this week against a Kansas team that can run the football. A Kansas team that I believe they are fourth in the country in red zone defense with some really hard playing guys up front on defense. They understand that if they want to send these seniors out the right way, this is the first step in heading to a bowl game.
On if Sam Ehlinger has been cleared: Yep. The inner ear thing was good. Tuesday was a normal quarterback practice for him. Then Wednesday, because we didn’t want the first contact for him to be on Saturday in a game, we kind of thudded him up. During special teams period, we had a couple scout team guys thud him up and he went through that swimmingly and is fully cleared. Shackelford is fine. Toneil is good to go.
On if Ehlinger got first team reps today: He’s gotten a few each day. Not as many as Shane, but I think he’ll be ready to go if we need him to.
On if he would consider playing both during the game: We’re going to start Shane. I don’t think that’s a big secret. We’ve talked about running him in maybe on a series and kind of giving him a script. We haven’t finalized that. We have some time to do that tomorrow. We have thrown that idea around.
On Denzel Okafor and what he wants to see from him: He got dinged up in the Baylor game and missed a lot of reps in practice the Tuesday after Baylor. I think he came out, I actually complimented Coach Warehime after we watched the film Tuesday this week in practice, had as good of an energy level at practice as I’ve seen from him. The biggest thing for him is a consistent intensity. He’s growing into that day by day. I think he’s making progress in that area.
On how he holds it together so roster doesn’t get into ‘here we go again': That was the reason for the brief synopsis of the big picture. We’re headed into the fourth quarter of the season, the last three games, and they’re all winnable games. They’re all losable games, certainly, too. We’ve got to play our best. I think when you have that hope and that confidence in what you’re capable of, that was the biggest thing. I was really worried that we’d have a group of guys walking around all week kind of ‘woe is me,’ and they didn’t. They responded to our team meeting on Sunday. It’s been a very upbeat week in practice. I think they know what’s out there to be had still.
On addressing the Holton Hill situation with the team: Next man up. They understand. They’re disappointed but that’s not anything anybody is going to dwell on.
On if he’s chosen between Davante Davis and Josh Thompson: I think both will play. That’s the one advantage of playing corner. You can rotate those guys a little bit and then kind of see who’s playing really well or if both of them are playing equal, continue to play them both. Obviously, with Davante’s experience I would think he would jog out for the first rep in the game, first series in the game. Josh has really come along in terms of progress made throughout the course of a season. That’s a true freshman that really embraced getting better, embraced his opportunities on special teams, and has worked his way into being a guy that we think we can count on in that role, too.
On what he wants to see from his offense: Confidence. I told them today our best is good enough. I’ve said that before that I’ve been a part of teams that when you go on the road you need to win the turnover battle 8-0 just to win the game 9-7. This isn’t one of those teams. This is a team that if we play our best, it doesn’t matter what the opponent does. We’re good enough to win. Get out of your own way, take some deep breaths, and execute the way that you do in practice. Jog out there with your chest puffed out and your head held high. Also, we talked about handling adversity. We might have to punt in this game once or twice. They might make a play, but that doesn’t mean the sky is falling either. There’s a lot of plays throughout a football game, a lot of series, a lot of drives. We’ve got to maintain that confidence through some adversity, too.
On where Jerrod Heard practiced this week: With the receivers, but he’s got a little quarterback package as well.
On kicker: To be honest with you, it has been (Mitchell) Becker most of the kicks through practice, but I’m also going to chart him pregame, too. I think it’s a whole different animal when you’ve got fans in the seats and a real live opponent across from you, too. To say that I know right now, I don’t. We’ll chart them in pregame and see how they do.
On who his go-to leader on offense is: They’re hurt. I would have told you Andrew Beck and Connor Williams. I think probably the one guy whose voice carries the most weight right now is Patrick Vahe just off the top of my head. Kyle Porter is more quiet and reserved, but I think he’s like E.F. Hutton, when he talks, people listen. Those two guys kind of stick out right now.
On how he keeps the team realistic and prevents team from possibly getting down on themselves against Kansas: Constant education. Again, it’s one thing to talk about it. It’s another thing to do it. The last few weeks I’ve taken the job of amateur psychologist very seriously with the offensive guys. It’s challenging because trust me, nobody in that room doesn’t want to play well. We also need to understand realistically we are a definite work in progress. We’re going to make a few mistakes in this game. We’re not going to play perfect. Nobody has ever played perfect. Like I said, if they make us punt, if they make a play, if we miss a block, if we drop a ball, we’ve got to get back on that horse and saddle up because we’re good enough if we can play with consistency to overcome those things.
On how he would describe the leadership he’s gotten from Buechele: Growing. It’s tough to lead when you’re on the bench, which he was for an extended period of time and has been back out there for a couple of weeks. I think he’s finding his sea legs a little bit when it comes to that. Doing a better job. I heard him more today, which was good, than I had in the past couple of weeks. A work in progress, but headed in the right direction.