Tuesday Media Luncheon, Oct. 4
Transcript courtesy of Matt Simon
Q: When you measure the progress of your team and the program in your three years, are you comfortable with the progress, or in the last couple of weeks has it maybe taken a step back?
Dennis Franchione: I don't know for sure. I think we're still finding out about ourselves. We're certainly not where we want to be yet.
I think we're a lot like several teams in the league right now. We're a continual work in progress. We've got some inexperience in spots that shows up from time to time. We've got some inconsistency in spots that shows up from time to time. When we get going on all cylinders, or on most of them, we can be formidable. We're capable of making some big plays on offense.
We've driven the ball at times. I think were improved in the kicking game. Defensively, we got a little bit better last week, but we're not where we want to be yet by any means.
Q: Despite everything else, you're 3-1. But what do you say to those who follow the Aggies and college football that expect that A&M is supposed to beat Baylor and Texas State by wide margins and aren't satisfied with just a win?
DF: I don't know if there is anything I can say to satisfy them. You have to understand, in college football today, a win is a win — and if the style points aren't good enough, then they aren't good enough. Our goal is one more point and to find a way and at the end of the game to have a ‘W'.
Guys, we'd like to run away and have a nice 4th quarter, where we sub a lot of guys, but there's not much difference in teams today, and there's not much difference in anybody in the Big 12. There may be one or two teams that are playing awfully well right now obviously, but I look at a lot of the teams in our conference right now and there's a pretty fine line that separates all of us. We haven't separated ourselves from them, and I don't know that anybody else has separated themselves.
Injuries, experience, who you play, where you play them — all are critical. Just like this week going to Colorado, there's nothing easy about this game. It's a tough challenge. Homecoming, great kickers and punters, a great setting, it's going to be much like going to Clemson to play. It won't be anything but a tough football game. It's going to be a hard-fought game to have a chance to win.
Q: We've been talking about the option a lot today. Is it labeled as a high-risk, high-reward type of play?
DF: I don't think so. If I thought that way I don't think I would have it that involved in our offense. We've got a screen or two that I call high-risk, high-reward. We call it ‘feast or famine,' because it's either really good or it's 2nd-and-10 after you run it.
Our option plays, I know if I brought the stats in here, the efficiency of them would be pretty good. I don't remember a turnover we've had due to that aspect of our game this year. It's not always going to be 15 or 20 yards every snap, but over the haul it's been pretty solid for us."
Q: Having the talent of a guy like Reggie (McNeal) back there must be a large part of running it.
DF: It is. You want the ball in Reggie's hands and this is a way that Reggie, in addition to throwing it and the other things he does, it's another way you're relying on his decision making and his ability to make things happen.
Another reason why we want to do this is because Reggie's a guy that's a catalyst in this offense. He'd be that no matter what we're doing. We're just making sure he has the ability to have the ball to make plays for us."
Q: How would you describe your offense right now? It looks a little different than what we saw last year.
DF: It's spread. It is different (than last year). We've adopted more of the Utah or Florida concept of their spread into our spread offense. We've added some wrinkles that are unique to us. We're still throwing the ball at the rate we were, and we're throwing it fairly well. We're still I think relying on pretty much most of the same concepts that we had before, with some additions here and there.
Q: Todd Pegram has been accurate at about 40 yards and in. At what point do you get in a situation where you have Layne (Neumann) come on and Todd come off?
DF: It kind of varies from game to game, with the weather and wind circumstances. Coach Tommerdahl will generally let me know before kickoff what he feels Todd's range is and when we'd need to think about Layne at a point in time.
Q: When you take in the success Colorado's had and their record this year, would a win over Colorado answer a lot of the questions about this team, or maybe see it being a springboard? Is it more important than just the next game on the schedule?
DF: You know, I can't say that. I think next week against Oklahoma State is going to be a challenge. To go to Manhattan the next week is going to be a challenge. Iowa State coming in the next week is going to be a challenge.
I hope there is a game that's a momentum builder for us. All these teams are so close together. There's not a lot that separates them.
I personally, in my own mind, felt that Colorado would defend their (Big 12) North championship this year. I thought they had most returnees, a senior quarterback, an outstanding kicker, an outstanding punter. So I think we're playing a very good football team.
Each team's got their issues right now, much like us. Each team has strengths. The line that separates winning and losing in the Big 12 is pretty thin."
Q: At Alabama, you got several really good SEC road wins. What do you remember about what made a team be able to go into those kinds of environments and do well?
DF: The first criteria is to take good players. The second is to take them and coach them well. Then I think the big thing is are you prepared to handle the environment that you have to play in? You need to maintain your focus, play as a team, support each other, play with enthusiasm together and not let the external things that you don't have in your support on the road affect you.
I think we did a marvelous job of that at Clemson. We didn't quite come up with the ‘W' but our guys never gave in to the circumstances of playing in a tough environment. They stayed focused, believed, and fought hard all the way to end. They did all the things except make one more play that they needed to do to be in that position, and it's going to have to be that way week in and week out.
Q: Do you think this road game is going to come at a good time for you, with nice weather, no pressures of playing at home and so forth?
DF: I'd always rather play at home. I hope what you're saying is correct. I haven't given a lot of thought to that yet. Again, I think this team knows that one of their challenges to having a good season is going to be being able to manage this road schedule with some wins. This is the second opportunity, and we've got three more tough ones after this. There aren't any of them that's going to be easy. This has just as much challenge to it as the other ones. Hopefully the fact we played on the road at Clemson and then came home and played three has given us the ability to go and meet the challenge that this one is going to require.
Q: The linebackers, particularly in this game, how key are they?
DF: I think that since the Clemson game, this is the next big test for those guys. We've been more in the spread type stuff the last few weeks and this is going to be a little bit different than that I think. It'll be a much more physical challenge and a game where the linebackers are going to have to step up and make big plays, and the defensive line is going to have a big impact too.
Q: Given the history of the linebacker position at this school, has it been difficult to recruit linebackers? Are you comfortable with the guys you brought in and the ones waiting in the wings?
DF: I think it has been difficult to recruit at that position for us since I've been here, just a little bit. Justin Warren's certainly done well. I'm not trying to be negative about any of our guys, I don't mean that. But I think for years and years, the predominant offense in Texas high school football was the wing-T. If there was one thing you could always find in this great state, it was linebackers and tailbacks. Now, the predominant offense in this state is the spread. Now, you can find receivers and quarterbacks very well. I don't know if we've turned out as many great tailbacks as we used to back in those days. I think linebacker is a position that maybe some of those guys that would have been linebackers have ended up defensive ends to rush the passer, or safeties maybe. It just seems like it's been an unusual trend I think in that regard.