Big 12 Media Days: Texas A&M

DALLAS - A lot of Oklahoma State fans are pointing at the Thursday night contest at Boone Pickens Stadium against Texas A&M on Sept. 30. It is the first conference game and for a team in transition with new players at key positions that will be a huge momentum establishing game for the Cowboys. Guess what? It will be for Texas A&M too.

"I thought we played a good game against Oklahoma State last season," said A&M head coach Mike Sherman on Monday.

"The week before we got beat by Arkansas and I thought we played a lot better but we couldn't get it done in the end and lost by six points, but yes, we expected to win that game and we have to be good enough to come into Stillwater on that Thursday night and beat Oklahoma State. It is a huge game in that it is the Big 12 opener.

"Our players expect to win those games. No disrespect for Oklahoma State because I'm sure they expect to win the game."

Sherman's players agreed, albeit some were very politically correct.

"You know, I think Russell Okung was one of the best players that I went against," said All-Big 12 linebacker and pass rusher Von Miller. "I got better going against Okung and playing against teams like Oklahoma State, but we do need to win games like that."

"Yes, we go into every game expecting to win and that game included," said defensive tackle Lucas Patterson. "This year we really need to be able to go into Stillwater and win. You are exactly right, that is a huge game but in the Big 12 all of them are. It was very disappointing to lose that game last season especially at home at Kyle Field."

Sherman downplays the fact that the Big 12 media is picking his team third behind Oklahoma and Texas. He also downplays that Miller is the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and that quarterback Jerrod Johnson is the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

"I'd rather they be the postseason players of the year," said Sherman. "If I knew that right now then I would feel a little better about it."

One interesting news, Sherman announced that he has hired Troy Walters to coach wide receivers as former Tulsa head coach Steve Kragthrpe resigned suddenly because of family health issues. It is not often this kind of news breaks at media days. Also, losing Kragthorpe is huge for A&M as he had really added to the equation.

"Last week, as we were coming back from coaching school - Tim Cassidy, associate director, and myself are driving back," explained Sherman. "We got word that Steve Kragthorpe had some concern about some family health issues back home, and when we got back to the office, Steve and I talked. When he got back to the office, actually, because he came back a day later, and we sat down and discussed it.

"What I tried to do with Steve was make it so he could go home. I said, take care of your business. Take care of what you have to take care of. And as soon as that's resolved, just come on back. We'll save a spot for you, and we'll move forward that way.

"You know, Steve's an excellent football coach, but, as I said before, an even better person. And didn't want to lose him. He thought about that, talked to his family about that, but he just felt that the situation with his family up in Tulsa warranted his undivided attention, and there was no timetable, and he felt like he had to devote quite a bit of time up there in the ensuing months.

"So from that standpoint, Steve decided that that was in his and his family's best interest. I respect him for it. He made a family decision, a tough decision, but it was what was best for his family, and our thoughts and prayers go out to he and his family.

"From that point, it was a scramble to try to find out, you know, as we kick off this season here in approximately two weeks, to find the best available coach we could find. Obviously, at this late junctureit was very difficult. I had some affiliations with some guys in the National Football League, some guys who are out of work, some guys were in work. We talked among the college and just started brainstorming for the best possible replacement.

"I've always had a lot of respect because I coached against Troy Walters. A local product, he went to A&M Consolidated, always followed his eight-year career in the National Football League, and also followed him when he was at Stanford and he ended up being the Biletnikoff winner."

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