Every singe practice had its own set of objectives and goals. The number one thing was to establish a tempo and a mentality of how we are going to practice--fast-paced, upbeat, guys giving great effort. There has been an emphasis on the installation. There are so many things we are trying to get installed. We are challenging the players from a mental standpoint and how much they can absorb in a short amount of time. Every single practice there have been different coverages, different fronts, different runs, different pass protections.
As we got into pads, today being the first day, we kind of segued into the idea of a physical nature. Let's find out. We want to be a physical football team that can be strong against the run. We want to be able to run the football. We want to be able to draw a line in the sand and have a tough, physical team. Most of the drills today were highly competitive.
I think this football team has made great strides in this first week. We have a long, long way to go, but the kids are willing. They are working very hard at that part of it. It has been absolutely outstanding.
Tell me about the competitiveness you mentioned, especially in the Oklahoma Drill.
Two things with that drill. We told the players when you do the Oklahoma Drills--or anytime you do any one-on-one competitive thing--it's just like a play in the game. There is a winner and a loser every single play. There is a winner and loser every single game, and it is effort, it's toughness, it's tenacity, it's learning to fight, it's learning to get in the trenches and not surrender, to keep pushing yourself. A big thing with our coaching staff is we always talk about finishing plays: 'Finish plays, finish plays,' on a run, a catch, a run after the catch for running backs and receivers, getting into the end zone and just trying to teach that toughness and competitiveness.
You mentioned the offensive line as a strength earlier in the week. What have you seen, specific plays or abilities, that confirms that?
I love their tenacity. They are learning all the techniques right now. They are such willing workers. They just get in the huddle, break the huddle, go to the line of scrimmage determined to make that play work. They give great effort, they are tough, they are pretty good athletes, surprisingly, as big as some of these guys are--310, 315, 320 [pounds]. They are pretty good on their feet, they have good quickness, and I have been very pleased with them.
Collectively, as a group they have stood out in some respects because there have been so many of them that have played well. There is a lot of good position competition.
I have talked to about a half-dozen players about the off-season program. They have all talked about the emphasis on speed, running, and getting better. Tell me about that.
That is a hallmark of football teams that I've been associated with, going all the way back to Oklahoma State, Miami, and Dallas. If we had to we would absolutely sacrifice a little bit of size, a little bit of strength, to be fast. We want to be the fastest football team on the field. Certainly, there is an element of the speed aspect that relates to the game, but there is also an element of the speed aspect of being in condition and being able to run because of the tempo that we practice.
We are running probably 25-30 more plays per practice than a lot of teams just because we are snapping the ball every 30-40 seconds, in and out of the huddle, guys are running, and I think that kind of pressure--the best analogy is when basketball teams that play up-tempo, fast-break basketball, you are trying to put the pressure on the other team to crack and to break because they can't keep up with your conditioning. That's a real hallmark, hopefully, of these football teams to come.
Was there a coach or a system when you got started at Oklahoma State that bred that philosophy?
I would give Jimmy Johnson the credit for it from the standpoint that Jimmy's background and my background--both having played at the University of Arkansas--and Jimmy having coached under Frank Broyles. Arkansas notoriously and traditionally never, ever had the marquee premier athletes that maybe Texas got or some of the others like Nebraska and some of those teams, but they would consistently and almost always beat some of those teams. It bore from the fact that they were going faster, tougher, and quicker.
If you look, historically, Jimmy was a player there on the national championship team in 1964, guys like Terry Donnan and Lloyd Phillips, who was a great player for the [Chicago] Bears, they were always undersized, but they could run like deer. When we went to Oklahoma State we found ourselves in a similar situation. We didn't' have the same athletes that Oklahoma and Nebraska had, but trying to find a way to beat the Texas A&Ms and Nebraskas, and those teams [required that philosophy]. Certainly, when we got to Miami, you have a chance to recruit a lot of really talented players, and now you can go and recruit your speed. That is what we are going to do here.
What do you know about your team now that you didn't know prior to the first practice?
They love football, they love to be coached, they are very eager and willing workers. I think that there is the possibility at some selected positions where there may be some depth. I'm a big proponent of playing lots of guys on game day. I'd love to be able to play eight or nine defensive linemen in every game. I'd love to be able to play seven, eight, nine, offensive linemen, three or four tight ends. We just have to find out if we have enough depth and enough position competition to create legitimate opportunities for those guys to play.