COACH HOLGORSEN: Great to be here in Dallas for the second year in a row here heading into our second year into the Big 12. Probably the biggest difference going into this year as opposed to last year is everything that we dealt with last year is pretty much the opposite this year.
Had a lot of good things coming off a big bowl game and had some star power on offense and all the experience on defense and very inexperienced on defense. It's the exact opposite going into this year.
Nonetheless, it's exciting to be in the Big 12 and just looking forward to getting started here. Tired of vacation. Ready to get back and spend time with our kids to try to get us better ready to head into the second year here in the Big 12.
Q. Dana, I wonder if you could talk about the arrival of Charles Sims, what potentially he could mean to your offense, and just kind of how he materialized on your doorstep to be able to come in and play in your program.
COACH HOLGORSEN: We're extremely fortunate to have his services for one year. He's a great kid. He's a tremendous football player. I was fortunate to be able to be involved with recruiting him when I was at Houston, and I had him for the first year there in 2009. That was probably his best year statistically, what was his first year.
I know he's been nicked up a little bit here the last couple of years. I didn't promise him anything. He knows what I'm all about. He knows how I coach. He knows what our offense is about. So we need some play makers on offense, after losing, I think, 90 percent of our production last year or whatever that crazy number is.
He knew he'd be able to come in and fit in and get an opportunity to play in the Big 12. That was his motive. He loves the University of Houston. He got his degree from there. He'll be a Cougar for life, but he wanted to be able to play in the Big 12 to be able to increase his draft stock, which we'll put him in position to be able to get that done.
Q. We keep hearing about these up-tempo offenses and then the rule changes that will only help these up-tempo offenses. With your coaching history, you mentioned Houston and your time at Texas Tech with Coach Sumlin, Leach, and yourself, do you think you guys have changed the game, and do you think you've changed it for the better?
COACH HOLGORSEN: It depends on who you ask. There's some guys that are going to -- there's some guys that are upset about that, but I know we changed it. My time at Texas Tech was very fortunate to be a longtime friend of Mike Leach. When he got the job at Texas Tech, I was fortunate to be able to come in with him at the very beginning. We did a lot of good things over the course of eight, nine years.
There wasn't a whole lot of teams in the Big 12 that were doing that style of offense at that point in time to whereas now, when you look at it, there's a lot of teams doing that for a reason. It's trickled down to the high school ranks for years and years, going back all the way when Coach Briles was at Stephenville High School, which was a couple of decades ago.
It changed in high school. It's changing coast to coast. It's not just limited to be Big 12. You look all the way across the country, there's a lot of teams that are doing what we're doing offensively, which is the spread or whatever you want to call it. It's catching on across the country. I don't think that's going to change any time soon.
As far as the injury thing goes, I don't have any evidence whatsoever that it's increasing the likelihood of guys being injured more. I don't see that.
And then it has helped with parity in college football. There's a number of other things that have helped with parity in college football. The spread is probably causing a little bit of parity as well.
Q. You sort of just alluded to it, but what is your attitude toward the guys like Nick Saban and Bret Bielema who feel like the injuries are up? Do you think that has legitimacy? And also Mike Gundy here yesterday said that the spread was, to paraphrase from him, basically the biggest influencer of parity in college football in the last decade or so. Would you agree with that?
COACH HOLGORSEN: Yeah, I'd tell him to get over it because it's not going to change. It's going into the NFL, for crying out loud. There's people being hired in the NFL that have the background in college football to be able to create a little bit more parity.
Don't see it changing any time soon. So you'd better learn to adapt to it.
Q. Coach, you talked about Sims already, and you mentioned some of the deficiencies, I guess, on offense in terms of experience. One of the places you do have a lot of depth is at running back. Do you have to be a little more creative when you've got Sims and Buie and Garrison to maybe get those guys in the game and get the ball in their hands? Are you planning on doing anything differently to maximize that potential?
COACH HOLGORSEN: I wouldn't consider them deficiencies. We haven't took a snap yet. Who knows? We might be pretty good on offense. I think we've got to wait and see.
I do feel good about where we're at running back-wise. When you look at Dreamius Smith, one of the more sought-after running backs in the JUCO ranks last year, was with us in spring practice. We talked about Charles. Dustin Garrison was a full-time starter as a true freshman, and Andrew Buie was a guy that had 200 yards against Texas last year. So we've got capable guys, as deep there as we've ever been, that's for certain.
It's probably a little bit more important up front, if you want to establish the run game, you'd better have an O line that's able to get that done, and I think we've got some quality guys up front. Quinton Spain is here with us today. He's a great kid. He's a four-year starter, and he's massive. If we can get other kids to do what he's able to do, I think our run game will be just fine.
Q. I was asking several other head coaches about this, to think back to their very first job as assistant football coach, how much fun you have, how much fun it wasn't, what was your first paycheck, and what were your primary duties.
COACH HOLGORSEN: I would imagine every answer to that question is going to be the same. My first job was Valdosta State. I had as much fun there two, three years as any job I've ever had. There's not a lot of pressure. You're just excited to be in the game. It's one of the greatest professions that's out there.
So you're excited to be in the game. You're learning. You're not making any money. So it's not about that. But you really don't care when you're 22 years old. You get a place to lay your head down, and you get a couple of free meals, and you're happy. It was one of the better jobs that I've had, and I imagine everybody else would say the same thing.
Q. Piggy-backing on that, it seems that head football coaches' salaries have been escalating through the roof, and now there seems to be a bidding war for quality coordinators and top assistants. Do you see a ceiling on that coming any time soon?
COACH HOLGORSEN: No, I really don't. It has -- we had to replace two or three guys this year that moved on for more money or whatever it was.
Yeah, it's changing. I remember that there's been plenty of days where there hasn't been a need for changing assistants because nobody leaves. I think I was on the same staff at Texas Tech for four or five years before it changed. I know Coach Briles has done a tremendous job of retaining his staff.
But it is changing, and those guys see -- I mean, they see the need that some of the other staffs want to do what they're looking at. How are they going to change that? They can't come after me, so they come after the assistants to be able to do what we're doing. I just use me as an example, but there's been plenty of other examples across the country as well.
Q. Dana, you guys lost Geno from last year. He's off to the NFL. Just analyze trying to fill those rather big shoes and get your quarterback and get him up and running before the start of the game.
COACH HOLGORSEN: You're going to lose good players in college football. It happens every single year. Geno is going to be a great pro. We don't try to compare him to anybody on our staff or any of that, but we're in the same situation as, I think, seven or eight other Big 12 schools right now.
The quarterback play in the Big 12 last year was phenomenal, and it's always going to be phenomenal. It's just going to be with newer people. Who are guy is going to be, I don't know. We've got Clint Trickett coming in, who has probably as much experience in the college game as anybody in the Big 12, just because he's been a starter in some big games, he's been around it his whole life. He's a very smart kid, graduated at Florida State in three years, backed up two first-round draft picks at Florida State in three years.
He's been around it his whole life and is a good player. And didn't tell him that he was going to start either. He's got to come in and beat an experienced Paul Millard out, who has taken more reps than anybody on our campus. He's taken 50 percent of the reps for a long, long time in practice. So he knows the offense better than anybody.
And then you've got Ford Childress, who's going to continue to get better and better. He may have more potential than any of the other guys. He's just young, with four years remaining.
I like where we're at with it and look forward to getting there and being able to coach him. I'm not going to put a timetable on it. When one of those guys steps up, we're going to name the starter and move forward with reps.
Q. Dana, with regard to getting your best five skill guys on the field, how much different could that be with year with a guy like Cody, who's not like a tall outside receiver or inside guy, or the wealth of depth you have at running back? Could you see running backs playing slot? Because they are talented but they can only get so many carries.
COACH HOLGORSEN: Yeah, there's a couple of them that I think we'll be able to move around like that, and I think there's a couple of slot receivers that we have that could move around into the backfield as well. So that's a game plan issue.
With a guy like Cody Clay, he may be our best football player on our team. He can be in the backfield. He can line up at tight end. He can line up at slot receiver and do a lot of thing. It's all about personnel groupings, which a lot of defenses are going to try to personnel group us as well as they can, and we've got some guys in the Big 12 defensively that are as good as it as anywhere in the country.
Our job offensively is to try to disguise that, to try to put people in positions they don't think are going to be there and be able to execute our offense regardless of where they line up.
Q. Dana, do you feel that with Stedman and Tavon gone, that other receivers will have to step up, and that will make you guys deeper at the position?
COACH HOLGORSEN: That's accurate. I haven't lost any sleep over Tavon and Stedman moving to the NFL. We don't hold anybody back. That's not the first time we've lost receivers to the NFL and be able to line up next year and execute our offense.
It gets me excited of being able to get out there and face the challenge of being able to take ten strong guys and coach them and be able to develop them.
When I got to West Virginia a couple of years ago, there was a couple of guys that hadn't made a tremendous amount of plays, and we coached them, and we developed them, and we turned into phenomenal football players and will play in the league for a long time.
Q. I was asking you about the rigors of travel on your teams and how punitive was the travel to Austin and then Lubbock the following week. Has the Big 12 helped you there? I know you go to K-State and TCU back to back. Do you feel like it's a pronounced disadvantage?
COACH HOLGORSEN: I've never bought into that. It doesn't bother me one bit. I will never use travel as an excuse for a win or for a loss.
Now, Coach Huggins and Coach Carey and Coach Mazey, our basketball coaches and baseball coaches, they should be complaining about it. When you play two, three games in a week, it's different. When you play one game a week on 12 Saturdays in 14 weeks, it is not that big of a deal. We've got five road games.
The routine of those road games will remain the same regardless if we were going to get on a plane and fly to Syracuse, New York, or fly to Lubbock, Texas, or South Florida or Austin, Texas. It doesn't matter. It's all about routine for us. We're going to get back after the game on Saturday and line up and have the same routine the next week.
COACH HOLGORSEN: Experience. He's been a defensive coordinator for a long time. He's extremely familiar with what we want to do defensively. He's been doing that for quite some time.
Really happy with the transition. Think he's taken it from run with it. One of the advantages he has is he was able to bring in a couple of his own guys that he was comfortable with that have experience in that defense.
So really like our defensive staff right now. The communication has been the biggest probably improvement. Keith's done that before. He's been a DC before. He's got a bunch of experience calling plays in this specific defense we want to run, and I think the results will show.
Q. Dana, the fact that so many teams have quarterback turnover this year, as you mentioned, seven or eight teams, does that create a more wide-open league, a little more uncertainty as you all are heading into the year?
COACH HOLGORSEN: Well, just -- I mean, last year it's a result of the same thing, just with experienced quarterbacks. You had a bunch of guys coming back that had played a lot of football. Any given weekend, somebody was going to win, and somebody was going to lose, and you could never really predict how that was going to work out.
So I think this year is probably the same thing. Big 12 top to bottom is as good a conference as there is in college football. It's as competitive a conference as there is in college football.
Now, some years may not be like it was the last two years. You may have -- depending on who starts and all that next year, you may have two or three really good quarterbacks coming back, and half the other schools are not going to have quarterbacks coming back.
So I think everybody's pretty much in the same boat. Everybody's got the ingredients to win. It's how you develop them, and it's catching some breaks that win you some games.
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