One of the best things about today, it is our starting point for the season, but we had a chance to sit down with David Ash and Trey Hopkins and Jackson Jeffcoat and Adrian Phillips last night, and the NCAA doesn't allow us to ask who was at workouts this summer, but you can have casual conversation. You will hear from our guys today that, with 19 of 22 starters back, we'll have more experience. We'll have more depth. The leadership is much better than it's been over the past couple of years because the guys are older.
They understand that nine's not what we want to win at Texas, and they're very excited to get started. All 15 freshmen are at school, or the one junior college player, Desmond Harrison, that came in the second session of summer school, and also the guys have been impressed by the freshmen.
Q. Coach, seems like every four years you have a solid team. '05, '09, those two went to the national championship game in the Rose Bowl. 19 are returning starters. And do you feel like David Ash with lead this team like Vince Young and Colt McCoy did?
COACH BROWN: Vince and Colt won a lot of football games. Vince was 30-2, and Colt was like 45-7 or 45-9 or something. That's our load, but that's our expectation for David. David has grown up. He's learned a whole lot.
There were times last year that he played like Colt and he played like Vince and looked as good as anybody in the country, and then there were others times where he struggled some.
But we think we've got better players around him now. We should be better in the offensive line. He is much more confident than at any time.
I thought his comeback in the Alamo Bowl really, really helped him with our team, with his confidence, and I think it helps him nationally, and I think he'll have a big year.
Q. How difficult is it getting the ball to your three running backs? And are they -- they're still with you, so I guess they're satisfied with their role. Any changes in that? There's just so many plays, obviously.
COACH BROWN: Yes, we're really excited about the three running backs, Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown, and Johnathan Gray, and it's been very unfortunate that the three have not been healthy at one time very much of any of the past two seasons.
So Johnathan was healthy throughout the year last year, but Malcolm missed six, seven ball games. Joe has been hurt on and off. So we're hoping that we can keep them healthy.
We will be an up-tempo offense this year. We're planning on getting more plays. And we feel like we've got plenty of plays and plenty of balls that we can get to them.
But more than anything else, they haven't stayed healthy. We need to be healthier as a team, and we feel like that that should happen with an older team and it should happen because we've got more depth, and the same should be true at running back.
All three players are quality players. We just need them healthy. They've been great about being team guys and wanting to win.
Q. Mack, you're going to the up-tempo offense. Two-part question. One, the effect on the offense, and David especially, but also the effect on the defense being able to see the up-tempo offense in practice.
COACH BROWN: First, we think that David is ready to go up tempo now with the offense. He's in command. He's very confident. He knows what we want. We didn't change the names of the plays. We didn't change the plays as such when major took over, and we've gone up tempo. But Major and Darrell Wyatt still have the same things in place. We're just going at a much faster tempo. We want to go even faster than we did this spring.
We think David's ready to do that. We're a faster team. We're an older team. We should be a mature offense. Two years ago our offense wasn't very good. Last year at times they were really good. But we want to be more balanced. That's the difference with up tempo than when we had Colt McCoy. We didn't run the ball very well, and we want to continue to run the ball and be balanced in this offense.
Secondly, I think that changing to the up tempo will help our defense more than it will our offense. Obviously, we were laughing last night, if you're three and out with up tempo, you're out real fast. So it gets your defense back on the field. So you have to be good at it to make third and fourth downs and keep the ball moving.
Last year I saw, during the season in our league, defenses having trouble getting defensive calls in the game because nobody was substituting and the ball was being snapped so quickly. I also saw that players were getting very tired across our league on defense, big guys were having trouble rushing the passer, they were having trouble getting out of the game because people weren't substituting, and we felt like it was a real disadvantage to our defense that they didn't get to see tempo at any time during practice.
They handled it much better this spring because they saw it every day. We feel like going to the up-tempo offense will probably be a bigger help to our defense than it will our offense.
Q. What gives you confidence that the defense will be better this year than last year, considering who left to go to the pros? And how big a role does Jackson Jeffcoat play into that confidence?
COACH BROWN: We lost two really good players that will be in the NFL this year, first-round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor, who was a really good player and both were team leaders on defense. We played very poorly in a five-game stretch at midseason, and then we improved at the end of the year and got much better. In the bowl game, we were dominating the second half.
So just about everybody's back. You've got to replace the two key leaders, but we've got more older guys back than we had. Adrian Phillips and Jackson Jeffcoat are here today. Our defensive staff, I feel like, has a lot better feel of defending the tempo offense now than they did this time last year because the -- I don't think I've ever seen better offenses than we had in this league last year. It was a speed league, and people were putting up big numbers.
We've got to change who we are across the league defensively. You're just trying to keep them from scoring more points than you're getting and avoid some turnovers and keep them out of the end zone.
What Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks give us are two older guys that are very, very talented and need to stay on the field. Both of them have been hurt over the last two years, and they have been a focal point of our leadership. They've had great summers. They're both in great shape. You'll see Jackson in here, I'm sure, at some point today, and he looks great. Both of his pecs now are well, and he's charted to have a great fall.
Sorry, we also thought the continuity of keeping the same staff on defense, because we had a great defense two years ago -- we had the number one run stopping defense in the league. They didn't just get stupid. So we played poorly last year, and we were much better at the end of the year. So I thought it was a real advantage to keep things in place and grow and move forward than have the distraction of bringing an entirely new group in.
Q. Mack, you've switched your offense around a little bit, more of a typical Big 12-type style. Last couple of years, admittedly, more of an SEC-type style. How much difference is there between the two styles of play in those leagues? And your decision in the past to try to be more SEC, this year to be more Big 12 style, how is that related at all to the interaction between these two conferences?
COACH BROWN: I've never really said I want to be SEC-like. I think people said that because we wanted to run the ball better, and the SEC is a league that runs the ball really well. The Big 12 has been known for passing.
But if you look at the running yards in this league last year, people are putting up points and yards at a very high level. What we thought is that with Colt, when he got hurt in the national championship game against Alabama in '09, they had two backs rush for 100 yards, and we couldn't run the ball. When we were playing a freshman quarterback, it had us at a true disadvantage in a championship game.
Our key at that time was to go back and run the ball better, and that hasn't changed. So we want to be in the trend of the up tempo. We had 68 plays per game last year. I think Oregon had maybe 82. Marshall, I think, had in the 90s. So we'd like to have in the 80s, if we could, in number of plays per game.
But I also feel like we've got to stay balanced. We don't want to be a pass every time team offense. We want to be a balanced offense. So on a windy day, on a day where a quarterback may be off or he's hurt some, we can run the ball, and we were able to do that with Vince. We were not able to do that successfully with Colt at the end. We thought we got to be a softer offense at that time, and that's all we're trying to get back. We're trying to be balanced.
I do think that the offenses in the Big 12 are the most difficult to defend in the country, and we've studied it very, very hard, and I think we have the best offensive teams in America in this league. I think -- and you can check it -- we had four of the five fastest guys in the combine last year in the Big 12.
Q. Mack, is having an experienced quarterback like David even more of a luxury than ever before in a league that is seeing a lot of turnover at quarterback this year?
COACH BROWN: Yes, we're a quarterback-driven league, and if you just look at the last ten years, this league has been known for the best quarterbacks in the country and the best passers and the best offenses.
So the fact that we've struggled at quarterback for two years on and off is a true fact that we've struggled as a team some because he touches it every time. He and the center are the only two guys that touch it every time, and the center gets rid of it fast.
So when you think about the importance of that player at all levels of our game, it is really, really key, and that's why we're so excited to have David with experience, with maturity, with confidence not only in himself but in his team. He's leading the team much better, and they believe in him right now.
Sitting here the last two years, I haven't been able to say that.
Q. Mack, can you describe the decision to bring Bob Shipley in to assist in recruiting and whether or not the fact that his sons played for you had anything to do with that?
COACH BROWN: Yes, as president of the American Football Coaches Association this year, I've been very involved with Coach Teaff and the American Football Coaches Association board, in looking at rules, potential rules changes, and size of staff is one that has been very discussed because Alabama has had so much success, and their staff has been bigger than any of the other staffs in college football.
So there was a thought at the board level of the American Football Coaches Association that, for the first time, along with the NCAA, maybe there should be a cap or a number to make it more fair across the board.
What we did is we were looking at ways to improve our staff. So we brought in a recruiting coordinator from Alabama named Patrick Suddes, and he's done a tremendous job for us. We also felt like we needed a stronger field with this many -- 27 million people, we have so many high schools in this state. We needed a better touch with high school relations and our high school clinic because it had dropped off some, and we want our camps and our clinics to say strong because they're very, very important.
He has such a great reputation in this state, plus he has a son that was very successful for us in Jordan that's with the Jaguars, and another son playing for us right now.
So we thought it would be easy for him to tell parents that I trust this staff, I trust this university, and I gave this university my two sons, and it's worked for me, and it would work for you.
And at the same time, he's a great evaluator, so he's also evaluating high school prospects for us. So he's been very involved with our camps, our clinics, our campus relations, and evaluation of high school prospects.
Q. One national magazine has you all picked fourth in the nation. The Big 12 preseason poll from writers and broadcasters had you fourth in the conference. Which one do you think has more merit?
COACH BROWN: I really like the first guy better. I don't know about his merit, but I like it better.
Who knows? You know, I do think that we have the most balanced league in the country right now, top to bottom. You look at Kansas struggled some this year, but they nearly beat us. They nearly beat everybody they played in Lawrence. They had some great games. Charlie is doing a tremendous job, and Kansas will be back soon, in my opinion. Everybody else can beat anybody else in the league on a given day, and that's not happening across the country.
You saw in the SEC there's seven that beat -- the top seven beat the bottom seven 30-0, and that's not happening in our league. Our league is very challenging. At one point, there were two or three teams that were better than everybody else, and that's not the case anymore. Everybody is pretty good.
When you look at us being voted fourth, I thought what we saw is the numbers are all really, really close, and people are confused on who they think may win this conference championship, and that's a compliment to our league.
Q. Can you speak to Duke Thomas' athletic ability and how you hope to utilize him this season? There's been talk about playing both ways. Why do you think he can do that?
COACH BROWN: Duke Thomas is a very bright young man. He's a redshirt freshman for us. He'll be a redshirt sophomore this fall. He was a receiver quarterback in high school at Copperas Cove. He's playing corner for us. He's got a chance to get in the mix to play corner or nickelback. But we're also thin at wide receiver, so we put him over for a week in the spring game. At the end of spring, he did very, very well.
We're going to get him involved in kick returns. He's bright. He's athletic. He's in great shape. He's confident, and he may be a guy we can utilize both ways.
We've got to be really, really smart with our heat early and not wear him out and make sure that he can -- he's probably a defensive player that will help us some on offense as we look at it.
Q. Mack, I'm paraphrasing, I think, but I believe you said because of the tempo of the offenses that the defenses in the league kind of have to change identity or tactics or something along those lines. Apart from being just very good at what you do, is there something you have to do very well just to discourage and slow them down?
COACH BROWN: I don't think I said what you just said, but you were kind of unparaphrasing. I've learned it's not what I say, it's what you hear, which is a difficult thing for a coach when I've got a thousand of you sitting in here.
What I do think is that last year our defense was at a disadvantage in this league because we had trouble preparing for tempo by not seeing it every day in practice. There's no doubt, after last year, that the offenses in this league were ahead of the defenses in this league because there were unbelievable numbers being put up.
When you're happy to win a game 56-50, things have changed. I mean, it's just a different deal. You walk out mad at your defense or happy with your offense. You walk out happy you won, and that's it, or you lose a game 48-45.
So we felt like it was very, very important for us to make sure our defensive coaches and our players got to practice every day against what they were trying to prepare for on Saturday because, if you haven't seen the tempo offense on a regular basis, it's a very difficult thing to do, and I do think something that's really changed. Oklahoma did it in '08, and they had the best offense in the country.
But you go back and look at it, when you can do the tempo offense without substituting and the defensive -- and you can do it at a very fast pace with a 40-second clock now, the defensive coaches are having difficulty getting defensive calls in, and kids are standing there getting tired some with their hands on their hips, and people are snapping the ball. They're feeding off of it.
It happened with us and Oregon State at the end of the game. There were two kids trying to get off the field that didn't get off in time, and it was a five-yard penalty for delay of game because they were trying to get off and they were tired.
So you have to look at who your pass rushers are. You have to look at are you playing nickel, dime? Can you play with three linebackers on a regular basis in this league? We're looking at running the ball against smaller defenses if you've got nickel and dime in the game, and people are really good in this league at what they're doing on offense.
And at the same time, you're looking at having to be two deep on defense, in my estimation, and really on offense as well because of the speed of this game. You're not taking breaks. I hope that explains it better, but that's what I saw.
I remember in our Oklahoma game in '08, Will Muschamp was calling our defense in the first quarter, and the kids were looking at their wristbands, and the ball was being snapped, and they're running 20 yards, and they're still looking at the wristbands. Will and I decided, let's throw out all the calls, play base defense, and let's play because we're standing around looking.
So it really limits the package you can use. It limits the calls that you can have, and you need older, more mature players, to get those calls and execute those calls, or in many cases, you have to make adjustments now from the bench during the week that your older players can put you in the right defenses at the right time because you don't have time to call them.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports