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TEXAS TECH FOOTBALL

August 8, 2012
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



Looking forward to getting back to the game field after the end of last season. It's the only way you can make up for what happened. But we're looking forward to it.

We've had a good spring, good off-season recruiting. Two good recruiting classes back to back.

The big thing I'm excited about is we get a little closer defensively. We haven't had enough depth to compete in this league with all the high-powered offenses we've seen over the last couple of years.

You need around 30 players that can go day in, day out and play in this league, and we've been about half that. But we've pretty much doubled our talent on that side of the ball. We've taken some junior college players. Most of the guys that played last year are back with us, and I think they're going to help.

We have Art Kaufman, our new defensive coordinator, along with John Lovett, defensive back coach, and Fred Tate, one of our defensive line coach, with Robert Prunty. They'll be running our defense. Art's a guy that worked for me for four or five years at Ole Miss back in the late '90s. He's very experienced. Understands how to run defenses and how to recruit for a defense. So we're excited about his being at the helm of our defense, because that's where we lack.

Last year we tried to hide our defense a little bit with a running game. We wanted to run the ball a little bit more, along with Seth Doege, first-year quarterback, we were off and running. We were playing well. Seth was having a very good year. We're 5-2 midseason. Had a big win in Norman. We lose a running back, and that threw the ball in Seth's court, throwing the ball pretty much every down, and then we were on the field a lot more defensively.

So things kind of went out of control for us after that. But we have some young defensive guys that we're excited about, some young offensive guys.

I know we'll be much better, but we've got to continue to be more consistent than we have in the past.

Could you talk about Art Kaufman and how much of an impact you can realistically expect him to make with your defense in his first season, what your thoughts on that? The big change that we're probably going to have in this league since the emergence of West Virginia and then you've got TCU, you've got Texas that's changed their offense, there's going to be a dramatic change each week in terms of what type of offense that you play.

So you've got to have somebody that understands how to adapt to different offenses, how to make changes in terms of your personnel on defense and that only comes from experience.

And Art's been there. We went through a lot of the same scenarios while we were at Ole Miss together. He did the same thing in the ACC the last few years of seeing different teams in that league each week.

I think it's a big factor of having an experienced coordinator being able to make those changes week in, week out, personnel, move people around, how to do those things in terms of giving yourself a chance for success. You're still going to have to score a lot of points no matter what.

You're going to give up points in this league. This is a points league. I mean, we scored close to 40points a game last year and won five games.

So West Virginia coming in and TCU coming in with a lot of great offensive talent. The defensive coordinators are going to earn their money and earn everything they get every week with the changes they have to make.

Where is Eric Stephens at in his status? He's much better. I'd say he's probably 80percent. Eric is our running back last year that he was off and having a great season. We were hoping to have a thousand-yard season out of him. And he was looking very good.

And we get into the Texas A&M game, and it was devastating. It wasn't just a knee injury, it was a leg injury. Total replacement. It was one of those that you hate to even think about. But he's gone through now eight or nine months of hard rehab after his surgery.

They actually waited a month before they operated on his knee because it was so bad, just to let the swelling go down, just to let everything connect back together that would connect back together, which wasn't much, and then go in and work on it. Our doctors did a great job.

And he's been in the training room relentlessly for the last seven or eight months. He started running about five or six weeks ago in terms of making cuts, changing directions.

He has to wear a knee brace as we speak. The thing that we'll do with him is they've told us he will practice at the beginning of two-a-days. We won't obviously have any contact with him, but he'll go full speed and routes and running the ball.

We'll keep players off of him. But sooner or later he's going to have to have contact. We have three nonconference games early. We hope to get him in some if not all of those games to get his confidence back, because that's what you need when you have an injury like that.

You can think about that as a lot of other positions, you have that kind of injury, you're not going to have contact on every snap, but if you're the running back and running the football, you're going to get hit high, low, from the side, from the front, from the back, and you've got to build that confidence back that that knee's there, whether it's – and that knee's probably stronger than the other one right now, but that player has to learn and build that confidence back.

So hopefully he'll be back. And DeAndre Washington. We lost our backup running back also pretty – the same type of injury, not quite as bad, and both of them are recovering pretty good at the time.

Tommy, coming from the SEC as far as defensive philosophy, do you feel like the first two years you got too consumed by going against spread offenses so regularly that it got away from being as physical as you wanted to be and had to be in the SEC? No, not really. We got consumed, but not having enough depth over there to play in this league. I mean, we had to move linebackers to defensive line the first year, and those defensive linemen graduated and we're looking around playing true freshmen and probably didn't take enough junior college guys.

But I don't want to do it that way. We want to take a few junior college players and build it with high school kids.

Last year I redshirted a defensive lineman. We just said, hey, we're going to do it. We're going to bite the bullet. He's going to be a great player. His name is Branden Jackson. Left a redshirt on him, didn't play him, and it's going to help us in the long run.

The thing that we had to do and knew we had to do when we got here is build our depth up, build our talent level up, get three deep at almost every position, because you win with depth in college football.

You don't have to have great players, but you better have good players that when somebody gets hurt, the next guy that goes in can replace him and your dropoff is not that drastic. And it was drastic for us. Last year mid-season we were moving wide receivers to corner, not as backups, but as starters. You can't do that. You can't do that in college football. We just did not have the numbers.

So now we're getting to the point where we don't have to do that. We've got more depth. We've got more talent. We've doubled our talent, so to speak, in the last couple of years on defense. We're going to be fine offensively. We need to have a little bit of luck keeping guys healthy.

But you can't winbig games – the big game we won last year against Oklahoma, we played over our heads. We were able to knock some plays down. We played well on third down. A lot of young guys. A lot of guys that learned a lot from that game. We weren't able to duplicate that defensive effort the rest of the year the next five games.

So for us to go to another level is not going to be on offense. It's going to be on defense. And so that's been a huge part of our recruiting and our efforts in my first two years of being here, getting our defense to that level no matter what kind of offense that we're playing.

Coach, can you tell us the status now for preseason practice for Jace Amaro and Kenny Williams and the same thing with Darrin Moore? In the next couple of weeks, the way you need to do it is these are three guys that had some off-field problems. I let it go through the system pretty much. We find out exactly what they did and what they find out about them, and then we'll go from there.

Jace and Kenny's has been a little bit longer. I think that's about wrapped up. Darrin Moore, we'll have to wait and see, probably a week or so more in that situation. But right now they're kind of in limbo.

Off-the-field problems, you're going to have some. You have to deal with them, no matter whether they're starters or backups or whatever, and then you go from there. And that's what we'll do.

Coach, could you talk about the physical size of your defensive front seven? And that's probably not the biggest front seven in college football right now. Is there any concern with that possibly being an issue at all? Yeah, we are not that big. We've gotten bigger. That happens in the weight room. Some guys need to lose weight when you get them. Some guys need to gain weight. Some guys need to gain strength.

The area we were lacking a lot at last year was people ran the football right at us. And we were a non-factor with our front four.

This year our two starting defensive tackles will be around 290. One backup that will be about 310, which is much better than in the past. We're moving defensive end Leon Mackey inside, who played last year about 260. Now he's close to 280, 285.

That's one area in this conference that you play so many plays, they're big, they get winded, and you have to have a lot of depth. We're striving to get three deep at each position on the defensive line. The last couple of years we haven't been close to that.

So we're getting closer. We're getting closer to the talent level from all three starters, the mid-guys, the second-team guys and the third-team guys. We've got a couple of freshmen. One freshman that we're bringing in, Anthony Smith, he came in a couple of weeks ago, second summer session, about 325. He needs to lose a few pounds. But he's more of what you need to find. Defensive linemen are the hardest to find in the country.

The teams that win usually bring defensive players in that are linebackers or defensive ends and make defensive tackles out of them.

Jay Ratliff, he was a starter here in Dallas for the Cowboys who probably weighs about 310, he was a 225-pound tight end for me at Auburn.

So you got to try to project what they're going to be when you sign them and then put weight on them, that are good athletes, and make defensive linemen. Very few players come out of high school, very few come out of high school that are defensive linemen that stay defensive linemen in college. Most of the time those guys move to the offensive line, because they're a little bit more athletic.

Those that have defensive linemen have a much better chance having success and consistency than the ones that don't. And we're striving to get there. We're not there yet.

You talked about the increased depth. And you've losta – a couple of games last year you lost on special teams, I thought, with A&M, a blocked field goal, and a couple of big punt returns – or kick returns at K-State. How does that affect special teams with increased depth? You have to bite the bullet and get your starters out of the game on some special teams. You can't just keep leaving them out there because they get so many reps.

As I said last year, Texas A&M game, we ran 119 plays on offense in one game. That's two games in any other conference, most every other conference. Normally you have about 70 snaps, 65 snaps.

And so last year we had to play some guys that probably weren't ready to play on special teams, but you can't leave your same guys out there play in and play out.

This year with more depth we'll be better, we'll have better kickoff coverage teams. We gave up a couple of kickoffs for a touchdown last year that really set us back. As you said, we had field goals blocked with backup offensive linemen in the game that were true freshmen that needed to be over there watching instead of playing.

But we're growing up. We're getting a little more depth. We're getting to a position now where we're a little bit more selective on who plays, and normally it won't be a first-year guy. It's going to be a guy that's been out there and done that and learned the hard way sometimes and gotten good experience.

What's Alex Torres's status for practice with his comeback from his knee? Alex Torres was off to a great season last year. We were down to – really he was our most productive wide receiver. Had two big catches and touchdowns versus Oklahoma, and then had a couple more good games. And then at the Missouri game on the turf they had up there, which was not conducive really to being safe, we lost him and two other guys to knee injuries.

But Alex is – he's recuperated. He still has a little limp in his run. I noticed that the other day. Has a brace on. He probably has one of the better set of hands than any receiver I've ever been around. He's very competitive. He'll be ready to go. Whether he's going to be 100percent, probably not at the beginning. But he's been cutting and running, probably a little bit longer than the other guys with knee injuries. I think we had eight knee surgeries last year, and he's probably in the middle of the pack of being able to be closer to 100percent than some of the other guys are.

For you personally, how hard was last season for you in light of – are you feeling more pressure to win games now? Every year you put pressure on yourself. We're starting to now get more depth, play with our recruits. Seemed like I just got here yesterday.

But this is a fun sport. Sometimes you make it tougher than what it is. A lot of times some of the other teams have something to say about how good you are.

We're making progress. That's what I look for as a head coach, are we making progress in recruiting, are we getting our guys. We recruited a lot better in the last two years than I dreamed we ever would. When I got there, I had people tell me how you can't recruit, it's hard, it's too far away from everybody, that's the reason you're short now when you go in on defense, you can't get linemen.

But we've overcome that. We've bucked all odds in terms of recruiting. Your coaches have to be great salesmen. The guys that we've gotten to campus, we've had a chance to recruit against. We've recruited against most of the top teams supposedly in the nation from coast to coast. We've got guys on the team from Los Angeles all the way to Pittsburgh to Florida.

Most of our team we want to take from this state, from the Metroplex, from the Houston area, from west Texas. But for us to have success or anybody to have conference and national success, you've got to go nationwide now. And so it takes a while.

Just being here a couple of years, everybody said: You're on the hot seat. I'd like to coach a few of these guys I recruited. So hopefully we can get this thing going a little bit better each year. We're not there yet. I'll be the first to tell you but we're much closer than we were three years ago.

What are your expectations for Michael Brewer this year and how you want to use him? Mike Brewer is a young man dedicated to playing quarterback. He's had the ability now to sit behind Seth Doege one year as a redshirt. We weren't going to put him in the game last year. This year he'll be the true backup fighting for playing time.

Mike's very athletic. He's different than Seth Doege. He's got a good arm. Probably not as strong as Seth, but he can run. He loves to run the ball. He has had a lot of success, winning two or three championships at Lake Travis. His dad and his grandfather played college football. And he loves it.

He's one of those type of guys you can tell, when he steps in the huddle, the players listen to him because he means business. And this will be a big year for him. He probably won't get a lot of playing time in terms of starts, but we're going to try to build a package for him so he can start learning for next year. Get him in as many games as we can. Put him in situations where if we need a guy that's athletic to run play action, run the ball, he might be a guy we do that with.

But he's got a great future in front of him. He's got four years left, and he seems like to me he's like he's 21, 22years old, because he came from a great program at Lake Travis that had success. You can't teach that. You've got to acquire that from a successful team, and he has been very successful in football since he's been playing.

Talk about your depth at the skilled positions, running back and wide receiver. Running back of course we've got Eric back, DeAndre Washington back, both coming off knee injuries. And he we went out signed a kid by the name of SaDale Foster from a junior college, LA, Riverside, and we're excited about him. He had a great spring practice. He's a short thick kid that runs hard inside and outside, and he's got great hands, which you need to be as a running back for us at Texas Tech because as much as we throw it.

Kenny Williams we took the redshirt off last year which we hated to do that, but at the end of the year we were down to him. And he played pretty well for a young 18-year-old that made some good runs. But he's put on about ten pounds. Much stronger. He's a different type of runner. We've got some good inside/outside runners, but he's more of an inside guy that has more bulk to him.

And then at the receiver I think one of the better players that might be in the country for the next few years is going to be Jace Amaro, 6'6", 260-pound tight end that's got great hands for us. Just a phenomenal athlete that played last year true freshman. He's from San Antonio, and everybody wanted him. He's one of those type of guys that will make us much better because of his presence as an inside receiver, a guy that can block for the run and also run after he catches the ball.

And, of course, Bradley Marquez, I think that he could be a guy that really turns it on this year. He made some plays for us last year. He's got a lot of speed and quickness playing inside receiver. Right now he's playing for the New York Mets in baseball. Last two months. I don't know how well he's doing. I'm just hoping he shows back up after those easy times.

But he's ready to come back and go to work. He'll start with us in the first of August. I think he's a guy that can help make us special.

We've got a lot of skilled guys that we've recruited last year. We've added ten guys that can play major college football at the skill positions on the outside and inside receiver positions.

Seth will have a little easier time this year. He's going to have a tougher time picking out receivers because he'll have more of them. But I think it's going to be a good problem that he's looking forward to having.


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