football Edit

Part 2 of Mack Browns thoughts from B12 Media Days

Here is another round of nuggets/thoughts from Mack Brown about the Big 12, Thanksgiving night, the Texas D, JUCO recruiting, Jalen Overstreet, Johnathan Gray, the Wild Formation, UT's kicker, Charlie Weis, rules changes and, what else?, the quarterbacks …
You ran it 65 percent of time last year and passed it 35 percent. Can you survive on those kind of stats again?
We would have been able to survive it last year if we would have stayed healthy. But I don't want to do that. I want us to be 55 percent run, 45 percent pass or 50-50. And to do that, we're going to have to trust our quarterbacks and receivers and do a better job with it early.
You go back and look, John Harris got hurt. Jaxon Shipley got hurt. Quarterbacks were running in and out. It wasn't conducive to a consistent passing game last year. I did know we needed to win some games. We didn't need to work on passing games on Saturday and get our butts kicked.
I thought if we could have run the ball well enough that the passing game would have come, especially after running it so well against Oklahoma State, Kansas and Texas Tech. But the next week, we got hurt (at Missouri) and didn't play as well.
I'd like to be who we were with Ricky Williams (in 1998). In 2004, we were second in rushing averaging 302 yards per game, and 106th in passing going into the Michigan game and were able to win the Rose Bowl. I'd rather not do that, because the next year was when we were really balanced and Vince (Young) stepped up, and we were throwing the ball much better.
I'd rather us be balanced so we can beat everybody, not just the team we have better talent than.
When I really started feeling it was when we were playing Colorado the year we played Alabama for the national championship. It was a closer game than it should have been because we had a lot better team. But we didn't make a third-and-4 throwing the ball and didn't make a third-and-2 throwing the ball. I walked out of there sick and said if you can't run the ball to make 2 yards or 3 yards to make a first down in college football, then you're losing it and heading in the wrong direction.
What are the expectations for Johnathan Gray?
He's a very talented player. He's obviously the National Gatorade Player of the Year. But he's going to step it up against better competition. We haven't seen him. The question for a young running back - and he's been hit a bunch, he's real fast and great in space - the question will be the blocking.
People say, 'Well, don't have him block when he goes in there.' But if you check, he's going to have to block. I think what we'll do is work hard on the blocking and see where that puts him early in the game.
How much better can the defense be this year?
The question will not be ability. We'll be really talented. We'll be as talented as we were last year. The question will be the senior leadership down the middle. You lose Kheeston Randall on the line. So who will be the guy to step up? Is it Alex Okafor or Jackson Jeffcoat to handle the front?
The guys should be more comfortable with Bo Davis in year two. You lose Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho that played a whole lot of football for us, and they kind of held the thing together for us. So is Steve Edmond going to be that guy? Is it going to be Jordan Hicks? Who in the middle? Because you need a leadership catalyst in the middle to stir them up and stop the momentum.
And then you lose Blake Gideon, who played 50-something games at safety. So will Adrian Phillips, Mykkele Thompson, Josh Turner, who will take the other spot along with Kenny Vaccaro? Being in the same system for two years will help us. We are as or more talented than we were last year. We just need to play as well. And last year's bunch played with a little swagger.
They gave up too many big plays early in the year, but by the end of the season, they did a better job against the run. Hopefully, that will carry over.
Can you talk about having two junior college players come in and possibly help right away?
Stacy Searels and Bo Davis, coming from the SEC, had relationships with their coaches. Bo had recruited Brandon at Alabama and had a great relationship with him.
Both of the young men have done well in school. So it's worked really well. They're both going to be significant players in the fall. Because of their relationships with their position coaches, Bo and Stacy have been on them hard. Bennie (Wylie) has been on them hard. I'm excited about watching them next week, because they weren't in great shape when they got here. Now, with a full summer, I'm eager to see the progress.
I'm excited also that we've hired a full-time nutritionist. I think that will make a huge difference for us. The kids were telling me they've been texting her for help with what to eat and how to eat. She especially helps guys like Donald (Hawkins) and Brandon (Moore) who didn't have great training tables. They seem to be in better shape and ready to go.
How have Bo Davis and Stacy Searels helped with the toughness of this football team?
They are both tough. LSU, when they won the national championship had five linemen who were drafted, and they can run the football well. Alabama is great at stopping the run.
But the SEC is a running and stop the run league. That's what they are. So bringing them I thought sent the message to our team and to our league, we were going to be more like that. And I think it's working.
What makes this group of running backs you've got so good?
Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are powerful. And when you look at the great backs, like Ricky Williams, Earl Campbell and Roosevelt Leaks, they could make yards in the fourth quarter when everyone else was tired.
These guys can do that. Even Johnathan Gray's a 210-pound guy, which people wouldn't think. Joe Bergeron was up to 241 this spring, and Malcolm's around 220. So they're loaded. If you pound them throughout the game, they have a chance to beat the defense down in the end.
What is it about Jordan Hicks that makes you think he can be a leader of the defense?
Jordan is smart. He's confident. He gets it. He's stronger. You can see that by looking at him. He's stronger than he's ever been. He just needs to stay healthy.
But the players have all seen him make athletic play after athletic play. I think he can be a real leader, especially with the two seniors gone. It was hard for him to step up and lead last year when you've got Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, who are two strong personalities out there.
Could Jalen Overstreet be the answer in the Wild Formation?
I think we have to look at that. The Wild Formation is something we have to make a hard decision on early because Fozzy was perfect. It doesn't work unless Bryan Harsin feels the chemistry with the guy and feels good calling plays for him.
So is Johnathan Gray the guy? Is Daje Johnson a guy? Or could it be a guy like Jalen Overstreet? I've never seen Jalen practice. So I just really don't know how to answer that.
What made Fozzy so good in the Wild Formation?
He was so natural with his patience and his timing. So I think there's a lot more to that position than just being fast or being a guy who can throw.
After Fozzy got hurt, we didn't run it well. It didn't work. And it was funny that Fozzy would start to the left and find the crease over the right side and go over there where nobody was there. It worked for him. So we have to look at it. We probably wouldn't run it unless we could find a guy like Fozzy.
Do you start to recruit a different kind of quarterback as your offense changes to more of a power running game?
No. We're looking for a guy who can win. You have to take the best ones. If you get locked into a kind and then one year you have four who really aren't your kind, then you get into trouble. We've also liked to recruit the best quarterback we can get and then make the system fit him.
When you watched the BCS national title game last year did you see a formula for success there?
If you go back and look at Alabama for the last few years, even when they played us for the national title, there wasn't a lot of talk about the quarterback. I think McElroy was 4-of-12 in our ballgame, and they won. They won the national championship. But they had two backs over 100 yards. They didn't give up many yards and forced turnovers.
I don't want to be a team without a quarterback, and I don't want to be a running football team. What I want is enough good players around the quarterback that he doesn't have to make every play, every week to win the game.
I want us to be balanced enough to throw play-action pass and get explosive plays to loosen it up so we can run. If you go back to 2005, we averaged 250 yards rushing and 250 yards passing and 50 points. That's what you want - true balance. That's what Bryan Harsin did at Boise. They averaged 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing for three straight years.
How important are the reps this summer for David Ash?
I think it's very important for David and Case because if you remember, Case probably got some reps last summer. But he only got 9 plays as a freshman. And everything I'm hearing is Case isn't giving up and is in better shape. He's bigger and stronger and apparently really fighting this summer. So it sounds like he's had a great summer. I think this thing is a lot closer than people think.
You all never ask me about Case. You always throw David (Ash) out there because you've already made your decision. But I think you're wrong. I think you need to wait and see, because from what I'm hearing, I think it's a battle. I don't think it's a done deal.
Is Case more capable of making plays off schedule?
I think it's fair to say we don't know what Case is yet. Last year, he made plays with his feet at Texas A&M. He hung in there on a night when we didn't play great.
But he didn't get us beat. And then we had the turnovers at Baylor. If you look at David, I thought he managed the game really well against Cal. So I think both of them are relatively unknown at quarterbacks with it all still ahead of them. So it will be fun to watch them.
Can you compare and contrast the quarterbacks?
They're both young and inexperienced, and what we need is a guy who can manage the game and protect the ball. David is a stronger, better runner than Case.
Case is quick and can make people miss him. Case is really good throwing the ball on the move. Both are tough and both have won in high school, so I think both are potentially good players.
Downfield accuracy, some of it was the receivers' fault, but is that something the quarterbacks have been working on?
Marquise Goodwin wasn't out there. Miles Onyegbule wasn't out there this summer. Bryant Jackson wasn't out there because he had the cracked foot. So we're still not getting the full complement of the guys.
But that means Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Cayleb Jones got more of the snaps. And then Jaxon Shipley is healthy. Mike Davis is better and got his confidence back.
D.J. Grant is apparently running well and looking good. So I think it's a matter of getting the timing down. And last year, at this time, we were trying to figure out who we were, and now we know.
But you're not worried about mechanical flaws with either one?
No. They'll be fine. And Case had never lifted. And I think, just listening to Bennie, he's worked really hard in the weight room to get stronger. And the kids are saying, 'You won't recognize his physique.' So that should make him be able to throw the ball downfield better as well.
Is Nick Jordan the leader to kick field goals for you right now?
I don't know. That will be something to watch. You've got Nick Rose, Nick Jordan, Ben Pruitt and Will Russ, who isn't the field goal guy but could in a pinch. And I haven't been able to see them. So I don't know.
But we're going into the season with an unproven field goal guy, period. With Alex King being there, we will have some experience to work with at punter. We don't have an experienced snapper. I'm thinking the kickoffs will be fine, because they've got great legs. But are they going to make field goals inside the 40-yard-line. And that's something we'll have to wait and see.
We've been pretty spoiled there. We've been really good. So that will be interesting to see. I think we'll be OK there, and that's something you can work on over the summer.
Is there a leader for deep snapper?
There's not. But Nate Boyer was the guy when we left. There's a freshman coming in who can deep snap. Caleb Bluiett is deep snapping. So that's another question that will have to be answered in camp.
How has Twitter and social media made your job more difficult in terms of what your players are saying?
It's made it different. I notice it. But we've got people monitoring it to make sure our kids aren't being vulgar and aren't talking about race, guns, sex or women. That cuts out a lot of the songs they like.
Bill Powers made an interesting comment to me. He said if we want them to grow up as students, and the students have a right to be on Twitter, then why not the football players?
We monitor it to try to help them. But we do not tell them what to put on it. If they put something on it that's very inappropriate, you all usually see it before we do. We tell them to get it off and call their parents. We do have the right to take it away, but we'd rather not. We'd rather they learn how to use it, because it's here.
By the time they have children, who knows? I think we're already moving from Facebook to Twitter. The coaches are trying to get me on Twitter, so I got on this summer. One mistake, and it's across the world. You can make a whole state mad in about 13 seconds.
Before, you had to work pretty hard to make a whole state mad, and you can do it fast now.
Big 12 teams made defenses smaller to compete with the spread. Does that give a team like you guys that uses a lot of two-tight and runs the ball a schematic advantage? …
I think it does. You go back to the Ohio State game in the Fiesta Bowl (in 2008) we couldn't stop either back. You go back to the Alabama game and we couldn't stop their backs.
I really feel like when you run the ball, your defense will stop the run better. But I think we will also be able to force people to take the run on. And if you're a team that throws it all the time, it's very difficult to do that.
We were able to beat Tech some by keeping the ball. It was very successful for us because they didn't work on double teams and isolation plays in practice. So we were able to keep the ball away from them, and that was our best defense.
Can you comment on the following rules changes?
A player of the receiving team who is in position to receive the ball has the same kick-catch and fair-catch protection whether the ball is kicked directly off the tee or is immediately driven to the ground, strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of the ball kicked directly off the tee.
I don't understand the reason we did the onside kick. I guess it's to keep people from running into each other. But now they are going to rolley-poley and squib and run into each other more, I think, than having guys jump up to catch it.
The kickoff will at the 35-yard-line (unless relocated by a penalty). The free kick following a safety will remain at the 20-yard-line.
I do understand the kickoff rule. I thought that was a mistake when we put it in. We've had much more concussions, in my opinion, because there were a lot more kickoff returns and it was more fun and a bigger part of the game. But if you have kids running into each other at top speed from 40 yards apart, you're going to have concussions. It's a huge factor. I think that's why they backed off of that one.
The halo rule on kick catch interference shall read as … "Before the receiver touches the ball, if a member of the kicking team enters the area defined by the width of the receiver's shoulders and extending one yard of him, it is a foul." … The PENALTY will be receiving team's ball, first down, 15 yards from the spot of the foul.
I don't like at all the halo rule. I don't like the fact that if a guy is catching a ball and then steps up close to a defender, within a yard and a half of him, and that defender is suddenly in the halo that it's 15 yards.
But if I come and knock his head off it's a 15-yard penalty? If we're going to do that, go back to the 5-yard rule. Don't change the game and change field position because an official wasn't sure with the movement of a punt returner how close he was to the defender.
I think many coaches have asked for a 5-yard penalty for an incidental infraction and a 15-yard penalty for a flagrant infraction, but we've gotten nowhere so far.
If during the down a player's helmet comes completely off, other than as the direct result of a foul by an opponent, the player must leave the game for the next down. The game clock will stop at the end of the down. When the helmet coming off is the only reason for stopping the clock the following conditions apply:
1 - With one minute or more remaining in either half the game clock will stop and will start on the referee's signal. The play clock will be set at 25 seconds if the player is on offense and at 40 seconds if the player is on defense.
2 - If there is less than one minute in the half the game clock will stop and the opponent has the option of a 10-second runoff. The play clock will be set at 25 seconds and the game clock will start on the referee's signal. If a timeout is available the 10-second runoff may be avoided by use of the timeout.
B ? If the ball carrier's helmet comes off the ball is dead (Rule 4-1-3-q). If it is a player other than the ball carrier the ball remains alive, but he must not continue to participate in the play beyond the immediate action in which he is engaged. Prolonged participation is a personal foul. Such a player by definition is a player obviously out of the play (Rule 9-1-12-B). PENALTY- 15 yards. Fouls by Team B include an automatic first down.
C ? A player who intentionally removes his helmet during the down commits a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. PENALTY ? 15 yards. Fouls by Team B include an automatic first down.
I have no clue what we're going to tell a kid after working for 365 days to go and compete and hit that quarterback and then if he runs somewhere.
I think they've put the officials and our kids in a horrible position. I'd rather if the helmet is off, blow the whistle, kill the play and let's move on. I don't know what to tell our guys yet. And I've had two meetings about the rule. And I still can't tell you what to tell them.
What are your thoughts on the additions of TCU and WVU?
I think the league will be stronger than ever. Our fans will be excited to have TCU in the league, because that's what they grew up with. Gary (Patterson) has done a tremendous job. They won their league last year and have been in the BCS mix here of late.
You look at West Virginia, and I got sick watching them against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. I thought, 'Why are we bringing this bunch in?' Because they looked great. My gosh. They have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. They won their league. They're a BCS team.
I think we're back, full speed ahead. We have great strength as a league right now. I think we'll be a national player.
I really think that's why the Big 12 and SEC matched up for that championship game because I think it sends the message that we're going to have two of the best teams at the end of the year.
What are your thoughts on playing TCU on Thanksgiving night this year?
I would like to play Thanksgiving night. Period. And the league could decide who it would be. But this year, that is the week that TCU will be there. I'm not sure of all the things that have to happen, but I really hope for our state and for our fans that we get to play that game on Thanksgiving night. I really enjoy that night and that game.
I don't care (about the opponent), and if I did care, they wouldn't ask me. But I want to play on Thanksgiving in Austin. I think it's been fun. It's been traditional. It's something our players enjoy. They can go home and have Thanksgiving on either Friday or Saturday and be back for Sunday meetings. For us at the end of the year, it's a great break for us to have the long weekend.
SEC is such a line of scrimmage league and you took both line coaches from the SEC, was that a conscious decision?
Yes. It was a conscious decision to go with two proven coaches who I knew. I wanted us to get better on both lines of scrimmage. We want to be in the playoff at the end of the season, and the ones at the end are usually running it and stopping the run.
When we got to that point, we were able to outscore USC. But when Colt got hurt, we couldn't do that against Alabama. We need to be better from top to bottom at every position and be a more sound, physical football team where we can win on days where we're not pretty on offense.
We've been pretty on offense and scored a lot of points. And it's been easy. We want to go back and pound people and beating people at the line of scrimmage and still win those fourth-quarter games.
You're a longtime friend of Charlie Weis. Your thoughts on him being back at Kansas?
I'm happy for Charlie that he's back as a head coach because he really wanted to be, and it didn't finish for him like he wanted at Notre Dame. Charlie is very honest, very direct. He's got integrity and is going to go by the rules. He's a good guy who does things right.
He's already got his quarterback from Notre Dame (Dayne Crist) who's experienced and knows Charlie's system. So he's really ahead of the game because he's got an experienced guy who knows who he is and what he wants to do.
So I think he'll be a factor immediately.
Charlie Weis goes to KU, does it change the way you look at a program like that?
You go back and look at our league across the board, there used to be teams you could beat and you didn't have to play great to win. There were some you had to play really well. But it wasn't every week.
People talk about the SEC being good every week. There's not going to be a weak team in the Big 12 anymore. Tommy is going to get Tech back where he wants them. Charlie is going to get Kansas there.
Art already has Baylor going. Mike has Oklahoma State going, and Bill Snyder has K-State back. And we've added two really good teams, so I think the league is stronger than ever. I would challenge anyone to give me better teams that you have to play top to bottom than this league right now when you talk top to bottom.
What are the plans for Caleb Bluiett and Greg Daniels at tight end?
Right now , we're going to put both Greg Daniels and Caleb Bluiett at tight end because we've got to get that position fixed.
Has Texas lost some of its swagger the past two years?
I think we did the year after the national title game. I don't think we did last year. I thought they fought their way back.
Our players came up with the motto RISE. The S in Rise stands for swagger in their minds. The coaches say, 'The S stands for sacrifice and we'll see if you get your swagger back.'
I really feel good about this team right now and where we're headed. We've got the obvious questions. I think the biggest ones are: How do we separate the quarterbacks and who plays?
We've got to get more consistency at the receiver position. We've got to find a kicker. And we've got some experience questions, but other than that, I think we're pretty talented at every spot and we'll have a chance to get back to where we need to be.
Are you at the scholarship limit?
Paden Kelley left so you've got some room.
Can you talk about the offensive line?
We'll be better than we were last year and Donald Hawkins helps that. But you take a guy like Thomas Ashcraft, it's time for him to play. He's really doing well. He had a real good spring. Luke Poehlmann should be back, one year after the knee surgery, to being a good player for us.
Sedrick Flowers should be totally well and ready to turn it loose. Garrett Porter has been around a long time. He should be playing some for us.
I think we can get to two deep in the offensive line, and we need to be there.
What do you think about WR Marcus Johnson?
We thought he could help us with explosive plays. He's quick, he's powerful. He's a gym rat. He works his tail off. The kids have been really impressed with him. So we're hoping he can play early.
What have you done to improve your offensive linemen evaluation in recruiting?
We've gone back and talked to pro scouts across the country and have really sat down with Stacy and redone every evaluation to make sure we are all on the same page.
We sat there for hours and said exactly what do you want and why and what are the most important things, and I think he's getting the right guys. I think we're getting better at that position.
SEC is such a line of scrimmage league and you took both line coaches from the SEC, was that a conscious decision?
Yes. It was a conscious decision to go with two proven coaches who I knew. I wanted us to get better on both lines of scrimmage. We want to be in the playoff at the end of the season, and the ones at the end are usually running it and stopping the run.
When we got to that point, we were able to outscore USC. But when Colt got hurt, we couldn't do that against Alabama. We need to be better from top to bottom at every position and be a more sound, physical football team where we can win on days where we're not pretty on offense.
We've been pretty on offense and scored a lot of points. And it's been easy. We want to go back and pound people and beating people at the line of scrimmage and still win those fourth-quarter games.