I know you are busy with recruiting and everything that goes on with that this time of year, but is this the month where you also start to do some of the self-scouting to try and figure out how to get this program to the next level? What are the next couple of weeks like for you and your staff?
Bowden: Self-scouting really doesn't come until after signing day. Really right now the full attention goes on recruiting. The key is holding on to the guys you got and adding a few more. We are in a dead period right now. We've got our big recruiting weekend coming up here on Jan. 12, 13 14. After that weekend we can go back on the road. We can do some texting. You can only talk to the players once per week. I texted a lot yesterday as a matter of fact. This Friday we have a staff meeting just to kind of get our ideas on recruiting and see where we are on some players. Then we have a team meeting next Tuesday where the players come in and get ready for school. That gives you a little bit of an idea of what the next 10 days or so is like.
You started this season 7-1 and then you ended up at 8-5. What do you tell your team at this point headed into the offseason?
Bowden: The last three years we really finished strong. We didn't open strong but we finished strong. This year was the opposite. We opened strong but did not finish strong. Last year we were a one-point loss against Georgia Tech from at least winning the division. This year it was a one-point loss to Boston College and to Maryland. Again, we just have to go back to work and let the players know that we are close. Don't have to re-invent the wheel. The team will work hard in the weight room and with off-season conditioning. We brought in a couple of freshmen last year that had an impact ... guys like Sapp, Cumbie, C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford and Crezdon Butler. There are others, but some of the impact some of these true freshmen had on our team last year, if we can bring in a few more guys of that quality and caliber, we can make up that one point and get to the championship game. As our players watch some of these bowl games (BCS) like I have and our staff has, that's the objective. That's the goal. That's where we want to go and we haven't gotten there yet. I'll talk to the team about working hard and tell them how close they are. Remind him how close they are. It doesn't take a whole bunch more to get where we want to go but it's going to take more.
Talk a little bit about your industry for a second. You see Mike Shula win 10 games last year and win only six this year and get fired at Alabama. Glenn Mason gets fired after doing a good job at Minnesota. Everybody is on the hot seat these days it seems like.
Bowden: It is. The salaries are pretty high. Expectations are high and there is less patience. We can talk about the discipline in a program and graduation rates but it comes down to wins and losses. A lot of schools, football is the major revenue producer so there are high expectations in regards to wins and losses back to back. I was surprised about Glenn Mason. They hadn't been to a bowl game in seven years before he got there and now they've been in one in seven of the last 10.
It seemed like it really wasn't just one thing that cost you this year. It seemed more like a bunch of tiny things that eventually just wore this team down. Is it difficult in your shoes
Bowden: You are always going to pick out one or two things. Nobody plays a perfect game. When you lose close games, it's easy to pick those things out. Like B.C. A kickoff return. A missed extra point. A missed tackle. Same thing with Maryland. We didn't get red zone points. That's not all bad because at least you can nail it down. When you are losing a bunch of games by 20 or 30 points then you've got a bunch of problems and it's hard to put your hand on those problems. Do we need to improve? Do we need to fine tune things? Yes.
It seems like you'll also have more players enrolling in January this year, including one highly touted quarterback. How much can those players help your team?
Bowden: I think we'll have four or five coming in January. There's no doubt that getting that spring under their belt helps. Look at Jacoby Ford. The last two years, and this being the third year, having talented players coming in January is a definite advantage for them. It gives them a mental advantage.
Knowing that you had so many close losses this year and looking at how things ended in the bowl game, was this season disappointing from a personal perspective?
Bowden: I think that's the frustrating part. Or disappointing part if that's the word you want to use when you get that close. When you talk to the team you surely want to highlight the positives because the negatives will be highlighted enough in the media, through speculation and through internet chat rooms and things like that. But as you meet with the team, here you are again one point away from a division championship. Whatever we elevated last year, we've got to elevate it to another level. You look at your BC loss, your South Carolina loss, your Maryland loss. You need a little bit of fine-tuning. There's a frustrating part no doubt. To start 7-1 and not finish strong down the stretch. That's kind of been our forte the last couple of years. I think the encouraging thing is that we are close enough now and talented enough and the staff is strong enough that after putting two eight win seasons back to back that we are showing more consistency. We'll talk about those things. Yeah we are going to have to address the disappointments of an 8-5 season, but we are very very close to being a lot more successful.
Q&A with Tommy Bowden
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