A&M's Reggie McNeal doing it all

Texas A&M is off to their hottest start since 1998 when they won the Big 12 Championship, and quarterback Reggie McNeal is the driving force behind that success. The junior from Lufkin, TX earned honors this week as the National Offensive Player of Week, as well as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week. McNeal answered questions from the media on Tuesday about his success, as well as the team's hot first half of the season.

Reggie McNeal at Tuesday's press conference:

Having gone though what you went though last year, are you at all surprised at how well you‘ve been playing at this point?:

"Not really. As hard as we work during the off season, it pays off. Everybody worked that much harder this summer so we wouldn‘t have to go through another season like last year. "


Have you noticed any of the players or coaches say something like, "This is pretty good. This is a little bit better than we thought,"?



Are we jumping the gun way too far to start using the word ‘Heisman‘ around you?

"That‘s y‘all‘s call. I‘ve got to go out and play. Regardless, whatever y‘all are saying, ‘Heisman,' or whatever. I‘ve still got to go out and lead the team and play my game, regardless."


How much has Hangartner‘s role really helped you? He seems to really be playing well in that left tackle spot.

"The whole line is playing well. I can sit back in the pocket and just relax and go through all my reads…nobody open…pull it down and run. They give me all the time I need to sit back there and go through all my reads, so they're playing great. And they're getting better each week."


A lot of things have been said about your improvement--physical and maturity. How about being stronger? How important is that? You‘re bigger. You just look like more of a stronger player on the field. How important is that?

"It‘s real important, especially in the Big 12. Each week, it‘s physical. You get hit a lot out there. I'm 205, 206 (pounds). When I was at 195, 198, I probably couldn't take all the beating that I‘m doing -- running and taking licks."


Do you feel like you can do more things now because of that? Can you open up a little more because of that?

"Yeah. I feel like now I can take licks and hop right back up, instead of maybe sometimes getting up slow or hurting. It's paid off for me."


What about your arm strength? Do you notice any difference?

"My arm probably is a little stronger after I had that surgery. My shoulder had been hurting for a while. But yeah, it's gotten stronger since last year, I believe. "


How far can you throw it?

"Flat footed, I can probably throw it about 60, 65 yards just standing there."

That was every bit of it then on that last play of the half (against Oklahoma State).

"Nah, that wasn‘t every bit. I just had to throw that real high, just so they could get down there and get up under it. I just had to throw that one extra high and long, just to give them time to get down there and get their feet set, jump, and try to make the play."

How much does Coach Koenning encourage you to run? I know a lot of times with the quarterback, coaches don‘t want them to run quite as much. But it seems like you have the green light.

"He tells me because he doesn‘t want me forcing the ball, that‘s a big part. ‘Don‘t force the ball. Don‘t throw into traffic.' When you can run and make plays with your feet, why not? So he tells me, each week, if nothing else, ‘We can have the ball in your hands and still be able to throw the ball.' He encourages me to just go out there and make the right decisions."


Do you think defenses are getting frustrated or confused because you guys have so many different weapons and different formations? Do you start to notice other teams during the games getting overwhelmed?

"Yeah. Especially when they start talking to each other bad. That‘s how you know you‘re getting to them. They start trying to take little cheap shots at you. Then you ask them, 'Y'all are getting mad, huh? Y'all are really getting mad!' [laughs] They turn around and they're cussing you out. When you start seeing that, when you get a defense into that, it makes you feel good. Their coaches don't make it any better. They're talking the same way too. You can tell when you're getting up under their skin a little bit."


During the game, is Coach Koenning making the calls from upstairs and going through Coach Fran? Does Coach Fran have to put his stamp of approval on it before it gets to you?

"Yes. I think Coach Fran puts his approval on it before it comes in. I'm going to have to go over there and say a little something to him (Coach Fran) too to try and get him to lean towards certain plays [laughing]." --------------------

When you guys opened up five wides against Oklahoma State, was that a little bit of a surprise? Did you know that was coming?

"Nah, I knew we were going to run it. They just put it in my hands out there on the field. As long as I can take care of it and get us in the right place and make the right decisions, Coach Fran will be happy with it."


Do you go back and look at last year and look at film, and you say, "That‘s not even the same guy."

"I try to stay away from last year as much as possible. Every once in a while I might go back and check a game out that I played from last year, but I don't really do it too much."


In your own mind, do you feel so much better now?

"Yeah. Just the confidence level now. I‘m just more comfortable in the system too. The coaches believe in me, and we believe in the coaches, so that‘s an extra thing too."


What about your offensive line? How good have these guys gotten since that Utah game?

"They‘ve gotten real good, and they continue to get better each week. They're not just settling for what they did last week. They're trying to get better each week. With the improvement, if they keep going the way they're going, there's no telling how far we can go or how good we can be, because it all starts with them."


How would you describe this offense? If someone were to ask you what type of offense you run, what would you say?

"I would ask them, ‘Have you ever seen us play?' That would be the first thing I‘d say [laughter from all]. We can go two tight ends, three backs -- whatever we want to do, really. And we make plays with whatever personnel out there. "


When you start a game as you did last week with five wides, how much fun is that for a group of receivers and a quarterback to know that they have that kind of faith to spread it out like that?

"The first thing they (receivers) talk about is making plays, that‘s the first thing. They catch the ball, make two or three people miss, and go make something happen. They get a couple of 'oooh, ahhhs' from the crowd. Everybody wants to see somebody make plays and make people miss."


When you‘re doing so many different things, how do you keep from stretching yourself too thin? How do you be good at all of it?

"Practice. We touch every base -- everything we do in practice. If it‘s something we‘re going to be running that week, we just practice all week. If we‘re playing with it, we‘re going to practice it. Two tight ends, three backs, five wide, four wide -- we do it all."


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