How many programs, pro or college, have shown interest in you during this time off?
(Smiles, snorts) Several. But I said a year ago that we had some calls. If we keep winning, that's probably going to happen.
I'll go back to what I said after the Wisconsin game, I hope people can see a couple of things. First of all, this is a good job. It's a good job in football. It's a good job on the personal end of it. And people also forget that we've got 15 years invested here now. In our adults lives, we haven't lived anywhere as long as Iowa. That factors in. People lose sight of that sometimes.
This has become a real past time now, this coaching projection stuff and all of that. It's like recruiting. It's a big deal. They're making good livings doing it. There's a definite fan interest, so, hey, soup of the day, throw it out there.
But if you do the research...ultimately for me to walk into a team meeting to say I'm going somewhere else I'd need a pretty compelling reason. That's kind of how I look at it right now.
I'm not saying that there would never be that reason, but I don't know what that would be right this second. It's been a pretty easy year for me that way.
Are you one of the coaches that Miami talked to either directly or indirectly?
I don't know. I'm not answering that. Are you kidding me? (laughs) What are you...?
Again, people have called. They haven't called me. Nobody has contacted me directly, which is how people do things. We've had very little conversation with not just those people but with anybody. I think we charted our course here a month ago (with the contract extension). So, we're ready to go.
Have you had calls from people asking your advice on other coaching vacancies?
Yeah. I've had some of that. If you have friends that are involved, most definitely. That's easy. I like doing that. That's happy talk.
Has the worm kind of turned on the recruiting front?
We're probably farther ahead than we've ever been at this point. The reception has been very, very positive. We're not getting everybody we want, but thus far we're really pleased with the way that it's going.
We have to finish strong right now. We have a ways to go. There's still a couple of key guys to get to hopefully jump on board, but we're really happy with the way that it's going so far.
How many will you take?
We'll be in the low 20s. I'm not sure exactly the number yet. There are a couple of key positions that we're really after.
Is Blake Larsen done? Has he talked to you?
It's still up in the air right now.
But he will graduate early?
He still has class work to take after this spring. So...
How are you and Nick alike and how are you different?
He's a lot smarter. I'll start with that one. And that's pretty accurate.
We're totally different personalities probably. But there's a mutual respect. There sure is from my end for what he's done.
And when I went into Cleveland, it didn't take long to figure out we had a pretty good defensive unit there. They were extremely well coached. I'm sure Bill has had some influence on him, and he's probably had some influence in Bill. They still visit occasionally about football.
He's an excellent football coach. I don't know if we're a lot alike or a lot different. But we both like football. And he's a pretty good football coach.
How much did Bill shape your football career?
First of all, my mentor was Joe Moore for life. And the three head coaches I've worked for, I got pretty lucky.
The one thing that I've learned is that you've got to do it within your personality. But you learn from everybody around.
Bill was good in an awful lot of ways. There were a lot of things that he did very, very well. It's kind of come to light now.
The fact that you know Nick so well, does that give you an edge in knowing what he's calling defensively?
(laughs) No. What we're seeing on tape now, it's not like what we saw in preseason camp in '93, '94. He's expanded his package. The college game is a little bit different because of the hash marks and things like that.
The thing again that's similar is that everybody's on same page. They're very sound fundamentally. They play hard. They make it tough on you to put a game plan together.
How would you describe your relationship with him?
I'd say friendly, cordial.
Have you been in contact over the years or not?
Yeah. We've talked occasionally; maybe annually, something like that.
When you get into coaching, everybody is going their different ways. I know he's been extremely busy. I've been busy. I'm not a big phone person anyway. I used to talk to Joe a couple of times a week, but outside of that there's not anybody on my phone list that I really talk to an awful lot.
But the one thing when you're friends with people, too, and it's probably true in all professions, even if you haven't talked to a guy in 10 months it's just like yesterday when you talk. Again, there's not only a professional respect but a personal respect there.
What do you guys do on Christmas Day?
Practice. Ho Ho Ho. (laughter)
The players will have an opportunity to go to church the night before if they choose, and the same thing that morning. We start things a little bit later.
We have a practice that day. We did it last year, and we did it at the Alamo Bowl. And this is the one time we'll not only have a team dinner but everybody in the (bowl) party, athletic department, will have a dinner together in the hotel. We did that last year, and it worked out really nicely.
The wives do little candy bags for the players and also for the staff's kids. It's just a nice deal.
Do the players get their watches?
Yup. They get their watches. It's a nice little deal, and they all scram. It's like a family dinner. As soon as we're done, everybody leaves.
So, you don't draw names?
(Laughs) No. We don't draw names.
Have you tweaked anything in your bowl preparation this year compared to last year?
Not significantly. And what we did last year was pretty much what we did for San Antonio.
The Orange Bowl, we tried to let everybody go home for 4 days or 3 days, whatever it was. We really had mixed reviews on that. I surveyed everyone on that, players and coaches.
Our conclusion, based on our geography, it was better for us to stay together and work our way through. But as much as anything, it was just the mental approach the team took. It was a learning experience. It was the first time we were in a BCS game. We had guys off to different all-star events and all-American dinners, which is something you want your players to do, but it was new territory for us and we didn't handle it very well. I didn't do a good job of keeping my fingers on things and keeping a pulse.
We lost our focus. If you go back to the first half of the USC game, we did an awful lot of things there that weren't representative of the kind of football team we were the last seven, eight weeks of that season. That part was tough.
Again, it just gets back to focus and really doing the detail things right. That's really what we're trying to emphasize right now. Our guys are going to have to watch film. We're going to be at our absolute best to have a chance to win this football game. Hopefully that will be enough to keep everybody's focus where it needs to be.
All that being said, we still want to enjoy the bowl game. We're not Bah Humbugging it. But it's real important that everybody understands that this is when it's time to relax and this is when it's time to practice and take it from there.
We want our guys to enjoy Orlando. There's an awful lot to do. We'll try to get that done at the front part of the trip, though.