"In reality, the team that was picked 20th this time last year that was 7-5 the year before and played in the Independence Bowl, won the national championship, so obviously no one knows in preseason how good a team's going to be and I think that's what our players have to grow to understand. It's nice to be considered. On average, we were voted fifth last year in the country and we ended up 12th and we were a couple of plays away from probably being fifth, sixth or seventh. We feel like we're three games away from accomplishing what we need to and that's to win all the games at The University of Texas.
"It's a senior team for the first time since we've been there. We've had a lot of participation in the voluntary workouts this summer, probably the most we've had. There's more excitement and maturity on the team and not only am I really excited about the season but our players are too."
On whether he considers Simms an experienced quarterback now:
"I do consider Chris experienced now. When you play in a game as big as the A&M game and then you play in a bowl game against a great Oregon team that was ranked seventh in the country, and play very well in both, that means you've been in the hot spot, you've met with the media, you've played in front of big crowds and you've played on national TV, so I feel like that's important. From another standpoint, you look at the experience (Chris) has, Major has even more experience and I do think the quarterback position needs more experience than any other position and we're proud to have two guys going into the season that we feel like have a chance to win every game. A lot of people that sat up here yesterday or today or across the country have one quarterback they feel like might have a chance to win, and if he sprains an ankle getting off a bike today, they don't have a season, and we're not in that position. We're in a great position with our quarterback situation. Last year it got to be a distraction and football is the ultimate team game and more people were talking about the quarterback situation than our team and I didn't think that was healthy."
On replacing DTs Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers:
"We have three concerns going into the season. We do not have a tailback who stepped out (in spring) and played as a starter. Kris Stockton did an outstanding job punting and kicking for us so we're new at both of those positions. And third, at the defensive tackle spot, Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers were great players last year. . . . There's no question we're younger at that position than we'd like to be. . . . We've got enough talent there, we just have to stay healthy and we've got to put ourselves in a position to be healthy there. But we're not going to be Shaun and Casey."
Is this year a year that the fans expect you to produce a big year?
"It's an interesting question because I get asked about it a lot. Bill Little told me last night that before the 1991 season, Texas fans thought David McWilliams would win the national championship. And I think the John Mackovic team that went 4-7 was rated No. 11, so this isn't a new scenario at Texas. The good thing is, I wanted to coach at a school where winning was really important. . . . I'll be 50 years old in August and I put enough pressure on myself, our football team puts enough pressure on themselves to win, so we'd like to please our fans, there's no question about that and we are excited that our fans want to win (but) I don't get into the ones that like to gripe. My wife told me when we first got married 10 years ago that if you look at the gripers that are negative people, they probably griped about the meal they had for lunch, they didn't like the last movie they saw, and they're mad at their wife before they get home. So they're just mad at me. I don't worry about those folks. I figure when you're selling 55,000 season tickets and 66 luxury suites and you've sold out 13 straight at home, somebody's happy."
On his best expectations for Cedric Benson:
"I've never coached him on the field. I've spent parts of 48 hours with him. It would be impossible for me to say. . . . It's impossible to project what a freshman is going to do, how they'll respond, will he be homesick, will he sprain an ankle, will he play great. My experience with the great backs we've had, like Natrone Means, as a freshman, he didn't start till midseason. . . . We can't plan on freshmen coming in and starting. As good as some of the freshmen were last year, I think it hurt our progress some at the first of the year. One of the reasons we got better at the end of the year was those guys were growing up."
Thoughts on escalating coaches' salaries:
"I don't know why you would think at some point that I would think it would be too excessive. [laughing] I don't think it could get too excessive if I'm one of the guys involved in the excessiveness. I mentioned earlier about the pressure on coaches today. I've learned as I've gotten older that I have certain job responsibilities and salaries of head coaches is not one of (them). Mine is to make sure that our assistant coaches' salaries are such that if they're doing their job we can keep them. My job is to be responsible for The University of Texas football program. DeLoss (Dodds) and President Faulkner are in charge of my salary and each athletic director and president and board would be in charge of the salaries of the coaches across the country. There's not a guy in here that if a guy walked in and said, I'm giving you a $500,000 raise, that would say, Wait a minute, I'm worried about excessive spending here in the media. So it's really not an issue to me. I do know that if they've got enough money to pay you that much, they've got enough money to pay you off if you don't win. [laughing] I do understand that."
On the Longhorns' receiving corps:
"The receivers this year should be much improved over last year. They're a very talented group. One of the exciting things leading into the season is that Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan (Thomas) are a year older. Kyle Shanahan had a good spring for us. We've got some talented tight ends. . . . Major and Chris throwing to guys that they've thrown to now through a spring practice and a fall should really help us get a quicker start. I've been concerned some about our starts. The first year we got beat by UCLA and Kansas State on the road because they were a whole lot better than we were. If we would have played them again times we would have lost to them eight times. The second year we blew a game to NC State because were thin in our punting game. If we would have faked our last three punts we'd have won the game because they weren't going to score. They had 172 yards total offense but the three blocked punts lost the game. Then last year, we didn't play well on the road at Stanford and if we would have beat Stanford we probably would have been in the Fiesta Bowl even though we lost to Oklahoma. So we're reevaluating some of our early work. We're not sure if freshmen will be involved in major rolls early as they have been. Hopefully, we can let a freshman grow into it instead of throwing him out there."
Is it ridiculous this year, as you said last year, that the Horns are ranked as high as No. 1?
"I think what is ridiculous is for us to put any stock in preseason polls. I think that's a mistake. One example, Alabama was ranked third in the country and went 4-7 and fired their coach, so whoever put them third in the country should be fired. We should throw out their evaluations this year . . . The truth is, we know preseason polls are all built on unknowns. I've said I'd rather be in them than out of them because it helps you get in front of the media, it helps you with your fans in excitement, and at Texas, if we weren't in those polls, they'd be talking about me getting fired. So of the two options, I like being in them. The other thing is, we were picked fifth (last year) and we probably could've ended up seventh with another completion in the Oregon game, so they really ended up closer with us last year than we thought. . . . We're running around in the right neighborhood, we just need to finish better."
Did OU's success ratchet up the pressure on you?
"I don't think so. Regardless of whether Oklahoma would have won the national championship last year or not we'd be in the same place we are. We want to win all the games and at Texas that's not going to change. We've been that way for a long time. In fact, in a positive light, it shows our players and our fans that a team that was 7-5 two years ago can come and win a national championship. It gives hope to a lot of teams that haven't been mentioned for the national championship around the country but it also shows the strength of our league. . . . And I think it's probably healthy for college football. . . ."
How entrenched is Chris as the starting QB?
"Chris is the starting quarterback because he finished the season well and did a great job in spring practice. Every starter on our team is one play away from not being the starter if there's a quality player behind them, and we more than have a quality player in Major Applewhite. On the other hand, some people ask, Well, does that put pressure on Chris. If you can't handle competition at The University of Texas at a position, you sure don't need to be playing quarterback because there's a heckuva lot more pressure from you folks and me and Greg Davis and thousands of the fans, so if a guy can't handle the heat of worrying about another guy, he probably came to the wrong place. I know both of those guys want to win. They're competitive and they'll get after it. We reevaluate our players every day in practice and if a guy on the second team plays better than a guy on the first team, we move the second team guy up. In the morning, if I've got Chris in my office saying I say he's one play away from being benched, that's not what I mean. But he and Major know they have great competition there and I think it's healthy. I wish we had that at every position."
Editor's note: More Texas Notes soon to follow.