AT&T COTTON BOWL CLASSIC MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 20, 2012Richmond High School
CHARLIE FISS: Welcome, everyone, to our media teleconference. This is our first opportunity to publicly showcase our two head coaches and we're excited about the opportunity.
Those who are participating on today's teleconference are Rick Baker, president and CEO of the AT&T Cotton Bowl, head coach Kevin Sumlin from Texas A&M University, the representative from the Southeastern Conference and the designated visiting team this year, and head football coach Bob Stoops from the University of Oklahoma, the representative from the Big 12 Conference and the designated home team.
Right now we will call on Rick first for you to welcome our two coaches before we move on to questions from the media.
RICK BAKER: Coach Sumlin, Coach Stoops, welcome, and thank you for being here today. Obviously everyone here at the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic is completely excited about this matchup, two outstanding programs, both 10?2. Texas A&M with the great success they've had in their first season in the SEC, and Oklahoma again champions, co?champions, of the Big 12 Conference. The eighth time in the last 14 years for the Sooners. Obviously it's a terrific matchup, certainly one of the best of the bowl season.
This game is going to be great for the City of Arlington and all of North Texas. I've been at the Cotton Bowl over 20 years now, and this was by far the toughest ticket that we've had in all of the years that I've been here.
It looks like it's projecting somewhere that we'll have a crowd of somewhere between 85,000 and 90,000, which would make it the second highest?attended game in our 77?year history. Obviously a lot of excitement to this matchup and this game.
It's the first time the Aggies and the Sooners have ever faced one another in a bowl game. For the Aggies, it's the 13th time they've played in the Cotton Bowl. For Oklahoma, it's just their second appearance, with their last one coming after the 2001 season in the 2002 Cotton Bowl.
A lot of story lines, two great programs, two terrific coaches, and we're certainly looking forward to a great week here in North Texas.
Thanks, guys. Thank you, coaches. Charlie, I'll turn it back to you.
CHARLIE FISS: Thank you, Rick.
We'll poll the media now for questions.
Q. I'd like to ask both coaches about the familiarity between the two since you guys coached together, will that help you in the preparation?
COACH SUMLIN: I don't know how much that is. When I was there, that was five years ago. We talk a lot about other things outside of football. But I don't know that that makes a huge difference in this game.
I think you go through a season, and after 12 games you are who you are. There will be some wrinkles, but we haven't watched much Oklahoma video over the course of the last five years up until really the last couple weeks. I don't think that plays a huge role in a game like this.
COACH STOOPS: I agree totally. Plus you have the entire season to evaluate, so you get familiarity by watching all the tape, which we both do. I think you get familiar with anyone you're playing by watching so much tape.
Q. Going back to that familiarity, what stuck out to you about Kevin?
COACH STOOPS: I've known Kevin for a long time. Incredibly bright in everything that he does. Relates well with his players. Excellent recruiter. All the things you want.
Kevin was great here, and he's doing a great job there.
Q. What did you expect when he left the program?
COACH STOOPS: I expected him to do well for all the reasons I just said. I knew he'd hire quality people, which none of us do it alone, and he's done that with an excellent staff.
COACH SUMLIN: That's my new agent right there (laughter).
Q. Coach Stoops, how much did the 2002 game at Texas A&M influence your hiring of Kevin there at Oklahoma?
COACH STOOPS: I had great respect for Kevin before he was the O?coordinator there when they beat us. Heck, Kevin and I used to run around South Florida together recruiting when he was at Purdue, I was at K?State. We were chasing the same kids all the time.
But, again, I've known what a quality coach Kevin was before then. But at that time I liked the fact he was familiar with the conference, too. That more than anything.
Q. Do you have maybe a single favorite or two memories of Kevin's time there with you in Norman?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, but I can't speak about it to the media on the line (laughter).
Q. Any for a family paper?
COACH STOOPS: I think sharing the championships that we won together. We had a lot of good quality wins and championships together that we all, with our wives and kids, we always made sure we enjoyed 'em.
Q. Kevin, I wanted to ask you a little bit about Johnny. Everybody got to see him play and see his personality on the field, but it wasn't until after the regular season that people got to talk to him. Is everybody getting to see the true Johnny now on and off the field?
COACH SUMLIN: I think everything that's happened to him over the last couple, three weeks, for really a kid who just turned 20 during that period, I think might have been the night we were in Orlando, it's pretty obvious that at this point he's handled it very well just from a media standpoint.
I think our people here, Alan Cannon in particular has done a great job with handling all of his media opportunities, not stretching him too thin.
Just getting back from the Leno show the other night, he got back in here the other day, he just said, Hey, coach, I'm ready to play some football. He's through with all that. Fortunately we're out of school now. He can get back to just being with his teammates and practicing.
Just talking with him yesterday, he looks excited to just be off the circuit, be back in the huddle calling plays.
Q. With all the success he's had, being a freshman, is there a time that you will or have you had a conversation with him about, Hey, we're just getting started? I don't know where his mindset is, but he knows this is just the beginning.
COACH SUMLIN: We had that conversation the other day. It's different for different people at different times. He is a freshman. It is the beginning. People are asking, What are you going to do now?
With success, there comes other things. I think we've got a lot of the things in place here to help him, which really helped him through the process originally, and we've got a lot of things in place that are going to continue to help him handle a lot of these things.
I think what you can tell doing some of the media, some of the spots that he was in, either in New York or L.A. or whenever, I think you can see he's pretty mature for a 20?year?old.
We're going to help him through the process. But, like I said, shoot, he's happy to be back here in the building, sitting in meetings, watching video.
Q. Kevin, your time at OU, when you look back at that, what sticks out the most about it to you?
COACH SUMLIN: I think it's kind of like Bob said, I was fortunate to come into a situation after the national championship, really compete for a couple more, be a part of some great, great teams with some great coaches, be involved in some great football games.
I think the biggest thing that I got out of the experience in five years was the culture that Bob had created, the winning culture, how to do things, how things were done at Oklahoma.
That's not easy to do. That's something that obviously changed, was brought back when he got there, and has continued. It's something that over the course of those five years, if there's one big impact, I'd say that's probably the biggest thing that I got out of that five years.
Q. When you talk about how to run a program, how to create that culture, what is the biggest thing you learned from Bob that you've applied to your own program that maybe you didn't know before you got there?
COACH SUMLIN: I don't think there's any one thing. I think there's a million ways to skin a cat. But there are a number of things. There's not one thing you can pinpoint.
I think how you approach things daily, the consistency, the honesty with kids in your program, the trust level that you create, the expectations that you create, it's very obvious that those things are probably the biggest things.
But it's not one single thing that I took from that. I try to take as much as possible. I wish we could have taken some of the players, but we couldn't do that (laughter).
There's so many things that go into that, it's hard to just describe one thing.
Q. Is there a game or a moment that sticks out to you that when you think back to your time at OU you are always going to remember fondly?
COACH SUMLIN: There's a bunch of great wins, a bunch of great games. The Big 12 championship game in Kansas City against Nebraska, that was a great moment. A lot of great wins.
I think the culture that he created, not only for the team, but as he said, for our families, because our families, our wives are still close. It's a complete family culture.
As I said, it's not just one single experience in five years; there's a bunch of things that go into a great experience like I had at Oklahoma.
Q. Bob, I was wondering if you could describe the unique challenges in preparing for Johnny Manziel and anybody you can compare him to that you had to prepare for in the past?
COACH STOOPS: Unique in that he's the leading rusher. It makes it really difficult. He throws the ball so well, throws it so well on the run. But he's one of those guys, maybe sometimes the worst thing you can do is cover everybody because there he goes. He just has a great knack, an instinct for avoiding pressure and creating plays.
You face other quarterbacks who can run pretty well, but I don't know to the degree to run and pass like he's been able to do.
Q. How hard is that to approximate in practice?
COACH STOOPS: It's really hard. It's difficult. We've got a young quarterback that's really a quality guy that's got excellent feet, Trevor Knight, young guy for us, doing a nice job and working hard at it. We tell him, Make sure you're pulling the ball down and running around about every other time. We have to get used to handling coverage when they scramble and trying to keep him in.
Q. Kevin, could you talk about particular problems with losing Kliff at this time as you prepare for the Cotton Bowl and if you've designated somebody to be the play?caller in the game?
COACH SUMLIN: We're not going to depart from what we do at this point of the year. I talked earlier last week about not being in a hurry to hire anybody. We have an offensive staff that understands what we're doing, made some adjustments. David Beaty is going to be moving to working with the quarterbacks. Clarence McKinney has been with us for five years, so has B.J. Anderson, our offensive line coach. It's really been kind of a team effort anyway.
But David moving with the quarterbacks, dealing with that, really a group effort. But Clarence McKinney will be calling the plays for this game.
Q. Johnny said one of the things that worked so well for him this year was to drop back and figure it out, sort of like high school, in that he really wanted to work more within the offense for the coming years. He has had great success doing it his way, but do you think that will make the team better if he plays more within the offense?
COACH SUMLIN: I think he got better doing that this year. Certainly from week one to week 12, there's a big difference in his ability to go through his progression ? probably not as much as we would like, but there was an attempt to do that. He did get better over the course of the year.
The dramatic improvements at that position can come in the off?season when he's able to not only study the opponent but study himself, see where his weaknesses are, see how to get better. He understands that.
Yeah, I mean, I think he's improved this year. It's kind of hard to get a whole lot better here before January 4th. I think he understands where he needs to get to and where he wants to be. That's a positive trait of his because he's always looking to get better.
Q. The offensive line must be frustrated with not knowing where he is, right, blocking for him, all of a sudden they turn around and he's gone. Is that something they talk about a little bit?
COACH SUMLIN: Actually, it makes it easier on them. He's probably avoided more sacks than anything and helped out the offensive line.
I know Luke made a big joke about that in Orlando, not knowing where he is. But those guys appreciate him. I think what he does, he gives our team an opportunity to keep playing and not quit ? not just the offensive line, but the whole team.
The play is alive as long as he's running around, so you better keep playing.
Q. Coach Stoops, it looked like for a while you might go to a BCS bowl. Any disappointment about not going to a bowl like that? What is the pulse of your team and community right now about playing in the Cotton Bowl?
COACH STOOPS: I think the initial day or two when that all happens, everybody has that reaction to a degree. But it didn't last long, I don't believe. We sold our tickets the first day they went on sale.
I know our team understands the quality, what great people are operating the Cotton Bowl, what a great game it is. Then the great respect for what Texas A&M has done this year. We realize what a good game it is. We realize that the whole public out there is anticipating the game.
Everybody here is fired up about it.
Q. You also had a lot of experience with these long layoffs. I don't know if it varies from team to team, but with having a veteran quarterback, does it help?
COACH STOOPS: Everybody manages it the best they can. You feel you get the number of practices and the work that you really need, then you give them a little break for Christmas, then you meet up back down there and get back at it.
Everybody has to manage it. So you just do it the best you can.
CHARLIE FISS: Thank you for all your good work today and we will say good?bye to our head coaches and let them go back to their preparations for the game.
Coach Sumlin, Coach Stoops, we really appreciate you being with us today and look forward to seeing you in a couple weeks.
COACH STOOPS: Thanks, Charlie and Rick. Appreciate it. Kevin, I will talk to you.
COACH SUMLIN: Thank you, Bob. Merry Christmas. Thank you, Charlie and Rick.