Are you disappointed in this season?
Well, we're hurt right now. We have had a wonderful opportunity to finish strong and have a very good year, but we're in that period of time where you do have to change some of your goals and some of your, I guess, expectations for the season, and that's always a hard thing to do ... on everybody. The fact that it's an open date probably gives you a little bit more time to think about it, but we'll get back to work and that'll help us.
When you say expectations, do you mean internal expectations?
Everybody, coaches and players. I don't know what the fans had in my mind, but it wasn't this year anymore than last year or the year before. We kind of set our sights on winning the Southeastern Conference, you know, and we're not out mathematically. It's not likely.
So the fact that you were ranked No. 3 at the beginning of this year as opposed to No. 11 last year doesn't affect the internal expectations coming in?
No. In 2002, we controlled our destiny pretty much the whole way. Even when we lost to Florida, we were still pretty much in control. Last year when we lost to LSU and even when we lost to Florida, there was never a time when we couldn't tie for the conference and more than likely be the team and we always felt like, even after a loss, we felt, if we keep winning we're still going to get to the SEC Championship Game. So there has never been a time in the last three years where we have had to refocus what our goals were, you know. That's the main goal for us is the Southeastern Conference championship, anything above that is kind of gravy. That's why it's tough, when you're pretty certain you're not going to attain the goals you've set out for yourself.
How do you think this team will react?
We're about to find out.
Have there been any surprises for you, whether they be positive or negative?
Not really. You can go back to a lot of my comments in the preseason and mostly what I said was, ‘We have a chance to be a good team if we win the close games.' In our league, it really doesn't matter how good you might be, there's going to be at least a half dozen teams on your schedule that are good enough to beat you if not more, but I felt like we'd be in the fight, we'd be in the race.
Do you feel like you've got a good team?
We've got a good team, period, but to get where you want to go, you have to win the close games. I knew we had a good team, but to be a champion, you have to win the close ones.
Did you think your offense would be more consistent because your skill players are seniors?
I thought they'd do better. I thought we'd be more consistent offensively.
Does it just come down to execution and everyone messing up something along the way or has there been a particular area?
Everybody has kind of taken a turn not playing as good as they could at times. And, you know, you're always going to make mistakes but you hope to be able to overcome them. We weren't always able to do that. At times we were, at times we weren't. We had some bright moments certainly, but there was not a consistent level of execution like I was hoping we could have.
How often do you think about or make contingency plans for if/when (defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder leaves?
A coach could leave at any time from any position so it runs through your head, but I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it. You have to have a plan for if any coach leaves. You have to have a network to find a good replacement, but more times than not, it doesn't have to be done in a weeks time. You have time.
The continuity of your staff has been a big factor for you? Do you feel like, barring something with Coach VanGorder, you're going to be able to keep that?
I hope so. You never know what people are thinking, but I hope we do. That would be my desire, to keep everybody and for everyone to stay.
Have you heard the talk from fans about hiring an offensive coordinator or someone to call plays?
I haven't, but I'm sure it's out there.
Do you ever think about changing your role?
Some day I may. I don't think it's today, though.
Do you think there's anything else that suffers because you're the guy who calls the plays?
I don't know. I hope not. We've got a very good staff and the longer that we've been together, the more everybody understands how we want to do things here. The longer we stay together, the less hands on I have to be in other areas.
That's what it is for right now.
Are you surprised by where you are in our fourth year, to the point where, if you're not in the SEC title game, you're disappointed?
I guess it's good to be in that position. We believe we have a realistic shot every year of competing for it. It's a big prize, and there's a lot of competition for it, a lot of great programs, and we feel like we're one of them.