One-On-One with Van Malone

Van Malone is one of the pivotal pieces to the A&M coaching staff. Websider's Taylor Hamm sat down with Coach Malone for an exclusive interview. They discussed the progression of the A&M secondary, evaluated the freshman, what he looks for in a DB recruit, what its like being a Longhorn coaching for the Aggies, and a look ahead to OU. Read this exclusive transcribed interview in the tailgate!

What is it going to take for this team to play more consistently?

I think that when you plan with young guys, the focus, the attention to detail throughout a game. Sometimes you lose that, but what you got to keep doing as coaches and as players is continuing to drive for perfection. Drive for total focus and concentration throughout a game. That really starts in practice. We had a good practice today and I feel like we are moving toward that goal.

Can you discuss the performance of the secondary overall?

Once again you're dealing with a young group. At the end of the day I think that with the inconsistencies that is exactly what it's been. There is a set of plays where we play really well, and then one play where we don't. And then another set where we play well and then two that we don't. As we move forward, we have to continue to eliminate bad plays. If you watch the NFL, college, high school, people make plays. Offenses make plays, defenses give up plays, people drop coverages. But , you know, it's the goal for defensive coaches and defensive units is to not give those up. At least minimize. That's where we are trying to go. In the secondary, understanding that we have to continue to be more consistent, and I think that's just focus.

Can you talk about the development of sophomores Trent Hunter and Terrance Frederick? Do you think Terrance has all conference potential?

Those people that chose those teams, they do a great job year end and year out. I think he is playing well and as we've gone through the season he is developing into a really good player and a really good leader for us. Once again, he's only a sophomore, and when you start to expect sophomores to do things that you expect seniors to do in terms of consistency, in terms in play in and play out doing exactly the right things, I think you are demanding a little too much. You can demand it but you may not get it every play. As far as Trent, I say the same thing. In my mind, Trent is getting better. As his coach, I expect 100% effort, I expect 100% consistency, but I know I'm not going to get that every play because I realize that Trent started as a true freshman and now he is a sophomore. To make the jump to understand that you got to keep getting better every day, that's what we are trying to pound into them right now. I think he is receptive to it. I think he wants to be the best player he can be. He is a student of the game, he works hard, and he prepares every week. We just got to get him to be more consistent.

What do you think of the development of the freshman Campbell, Terrell, and Valencia? What do you expect from this group in the future?

They are just like Trent was last year. They are getting opportunities that freshman across the country don't get to go out and play in the Big 12 early in your career. Sometimes when that happens, in the case of Trent and Terrance, sometimes the team pays for it because it is a learning process every play.. And sometimes we forget that they are only freshman, they are only sophomores, and some of the things that are going on they haven't seen. Those three guys are good kids, they are really good players, they are fine athletes, and we are happy to have them on our team but you know they are still developing. They run fast, they got good size, and they love football. You can work with those things.

As a coach, how do you keep your players focused through such a roller coaster season?

I think Coach Sherman has done a great job. He has filtered it off to the assistant coaches to get our guys to understand that many of the things that we set out for are still in front of us. We can't go back and take away any of the games that we have played, but we can learn from them. When you have young players, like I said, every play and everyday is a learning experience and wins and losses you learn things. What we want to do, is at the end of the season, be able to say that our guys learned more things we can use into the future than the things that are negative and would not like to use. I think Coach Sherman has also done a great job of grabbing these guys, especially the youngest ones, the freshman, and letting them understand the way they approach preparation, t he way they approach practice is vitally important. Sometimes when you have inconsistent season, you have people scattering. I think Coach Sherman has done a great job keeping this team tight and letting them understand truly, from a player's perspective, what happens in the game. Because the fans, they see one play and they say "hey, so-and-so missed a tackle and that's why we lost." But, there are a lot of plays that happen in the game, so by him doing this, there is accountability throughout our team for where we are right now. And there is accountability throughout offense, defense, and special teams. For us to improve and be able to accomplish some of those goals we set forth at the start of the season, we need to hold everyone accountable.

What do you look for in a DB prospect in recruiting?

One of the things that is really important across the board, is that a guy has really good character. It may be cliché, but it is important because there are times when the season is not going really well, the game is not going well, when the players' role isn't going the right way, if that guy has character we trust that he is going to do the right thing. That's the number one thing. The next thing that we want to know, and this filters off of character, is can we trust him. Is he a guy in the secondary, is he a guy that you can trust, does he take care of his business with school and with the people that he is around? Because when it is 3rd down and the safety makes a check, everybody out there has to trust that this guy knows what he is talking about, he studied and he is right. So, he has to have a certain honor of trust amongst the people he is dealing with in high school because it's going to transfer in do the same thing here. A guy has to have size, good size for the position. There are always disputes as to a kid's size for a position. Take a guy like Ray Mickens and Aaron Glen, those guys were not the biggest or tallest corners to play the game, but they were physical, aggressive, prideful people. So if a guy doesn't have the size you're looking for, he better have those things because he is always going to be an attack point for offenses, especially with the bigger Jeff Fuller type receivers. The next thing he has to do, is he has to have good speed because of the fact that this game is basketball. There is no longer smashmouth football plays and offenses. It is down the field and spread it out and a guy has to have speed to cover the ground. The next thing, as a safety, he has to have range to cover that ground effectively. Gotta have good ball skills. The ball can't beat him up when he's in the air because there are a lot of opportunities for defensive backs to touch the ball. Touching the ball on defense and coming up with it and obtaining it for the offense is a game changing play. So you have to have guys with the ability and the awareness to do that. In my mind you have to have physical players who love the game of football, people who understand that it is a really breaking game, and defensive backs and receivers aren't the biggest guys. So if I get a guy who hits a receiver, or running back, and his mentality is that ‘I'm going to make this guy quit and I'm going to make him not want to play anymore', much like a linebacker, then I feel like I got a special player and I really see that in Stephen Campbell.

Do you think it's weird having a former Longhorn coaching at A&M? How has the transition been for you over the years?

When I was at the University of Texas, I had great pride for Texas A&M. When we played the game, I sat on the sidelines and I watched the defense play. So when I had the opportunity to come here as a defensive coach to one of the programs that is respected and well-known all over the country for defense, I really considered it a great honor. Now, my history and my past at Texas, that aint going anywhere. When I talk to people about it, I feel that I have really been blessed to be able to experience the two greatest universities in the country. I've been able to experience on both sides. Two of the greatest rivals in the country, and I've been on both sides. That's for me, I really consider it a blessing and I take pride in that experience and I take great pride in this experience. When those guys aren't playing us, I want them to have the greatest success. When they play us it's just like when I played. When they play us, it's them versus us. That's just the way I approach it.

What can we expect from OU next week? What will they bring on offense that you are most concerned about?

They are a team that has been up and down a little bit just like we have and they are a very prideful group. Great talent, great ability, and great coaching staff that are going to get those guys fired up. I look at us as Iowa State and them as Texas A&M a couple weeks ago. We are going in to their place, they have kinda been struggling a little bit, and they are going to put everything they can into the basket and bring it. Our guys have to understand that our backs are against the wall as well and we are going up against a very talented team, much like we were playing a couple weeks ago, and nobody is giving us a chance at all to be successful in this game. But that's why you play the game. You play the game to see. Our guys are going to go out there this week and they are going to focus and they are going to forget what has happened so far this season, last week and even weeks before, and they are going to understand that tomorrow and the next day and the next day leading up until Saturday, each one of those days is vitally important to be able to get us to come out with a win on Saturday.

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