Big 12 Football Media Day Notes: More Texas

For most UT students, summer is the time to relax, enjoy all of the wonderful warm weather activities in the Austin area, and perhaps take a class or two during the short summer sessions. Of course, <B>Chris</B> <B>Simms</B> and <B>Roy</B> <B>Williams</B> and <B>B.J. Johnson</B> aren't exactly your average college students.

Those three plus a host of other Longhorns, spent their summer in voluntary workouts with Maddog, playing a little seven-on-seven, or holed up in a dark film room poring over every single play from last fall.

Last Friday in Dallas, Simms said he spent time "every day this whole summer" with offensive coordinator (and QB coach) Greg Davis watching film from last season. The Horns' junior QB also hooked up with his sophomore receivers just about every day for some toss and catch, often in seven-on-seven games.

Simms said his drive to improve in several areas fueled his summer film study and his practice field work. Those areas? "Decision-making and getting the ball out of my hand quickly, not taking sacks and just making the right decisions," Simms said.

I asked the Texas QB how the sophomore receivers looked to him during their seven-on-seven games. "They've matured a lot," Simms said. "The receiving corps is an unbelievable corps of receivers. They're out there every night for seven-on-seven. I don't have to call them, they call me to make sure I'm going to be out there which is the first time that's ever happened in my life. It's a great group to be around."

Simms said the Holiday Bowl disappointment has fueled both him and the wideouts. "(It's been a) big driving point for us," he said, "getting that killer instinct and learning how to finish off teams."

Along with many of the current standouts, a projected future star also showed up during some seven-on-seven play. "(Cedric Benson) was out there a few times and he looked really good," Simms said. "He's fast, he's very explosive and I'm excited about seeing him play. . . . He looks like he has the tools and he's going to have to because we have a lot of good (backs) on the team already who are ready to play."

Simms adeptly and openly answered quite a few other questions in Dallas, many of which follow, along with some Q&A with D.D. Lewis after a few opening comments by Mack Brown:

Mack on D.D. -- He's an emotional leader on our football team, he's an outstanding player and we think he still has his best year in him. We think he can be one of the great linebackers in America this year.

Mack on Simms -- We went through the two-quarterback system last year. We didn't play very well early in the season and usually if you're not playing well somebody's got to find something to talk about and the quarterback seemed to be the discussion. So at midseason we ended up changing our routine of having Chris start and having Major come in . . . Chris' performance in the last three and half games gave him an opportunity to start in the spring. He did a great job in the spring so when we start on August 9th, Chris will be the starting quarterback. We still feel like we have the best quarterback situation in the country because Chris has now proven that he can win and Major has already proven he can win so we have two of the best players at that position in the country. I think one of the things I didn't realize last year, at North Carolina both guys had played enough to win when we were playing Mike Thomas and Jason Stanicek and Oscar Davenport and Chris Keldorf. Last year, Chris hadn't played very much at the first of the season so he was a work in progress and gaining experience on the run and that's a very difficult thing to do but Chris has turned into a great leader for us.

Chris on reaction to the Heisman hype: "I'd have to say I was a bit surprised. I don't feel like I've proven myself throughout the country. I believe in myself but at the same time, there's a lot of other players out there that I think are a lot more deserving than I am. Guys such as Ken Dorsey, who had one loss last year, Damien Anderson at Northwestern, Ken Simonton from Oregon State, even Joey Harrington from Oregon, they're all great players who have proven themselves for more than one year in college football. Am I happy that people think I'm going to be good? Yeah, that's great, but at the same time I've got to prove myself first."

D.D. on the loss of the guys in the middle: "We lost two great players in Casey and Shaun but this year we have five senior linebackers who really have to step up and fill the void. I'm going to go and lead the defense as best as I can. The best thing is we have a lot more seniors on our defense than last year and the maturity level has increased over the spring and during the summer."

Chris on how he will approach this season differently from last season: "The last three games of the year last year really gave me a lot of confidence going into this year. Last year, I was a more up in the air about my abilities and what was going to happen. I was excited and felt like I could play at a high level but I hadn't gone out there and done it yet and this year I feel like that pressure is off. I've got three games under my belt and I'm looking to improve week in and week out."

Chris on being prepared for his experience so far at Texas: "Nothing could have prepared me for it. Even with the life I was brought up in with my dad, it's still a whole lot different when it's you going through it. I got to watch my dad do it, but when it's you put in the situation, it's a lot different but at the same time it's the reason I choose a school like The University of Texas so I could be in a situation where we're highly publicized and have the possibility of having a great team."

D.D. on OU's success and the pressure that puts on UT: "What Oklahoma did last year was very good for their team. They played outstanding football but we can't really look at them, we've got to focus on ourselves and make sure we take care of our responsibilities and team goals, make sure we go out there every Saturday to play and practice hard every day."

Chris on OU's success and the pressure that puts on UT: "Oklahoma was great for the conference. It helps me to justify me belief that the Big 12 is the best conference in the country. Sometimes I have a hard time selling that to my friends up in the northeast. Last year finally proved to the whole country that we have a great conference. Our biggest thing is to worry about us. We want to take each game one game at a time and get over that three game hump where we've let three games slip away.

"I think we would want to be there just as badly if Oklahoma hadn't won the national championship last year. It just sets up for a more exciting game the first weekend in October."

Chris on the pressure of having a proven QB like Major Applewhite as his back-up: "There is that pressure there but there's going to be that competition there wherever you go. I believe when it's all said and done it's going to make me a better player, a better person and a better worker. I could have gone to a lot of other schools where I may not be in the situation that I'm in right now but I wanted to come to a school that's got the best players in the country and I'll be competing day in and day out. That's what I got and I'm happy with it. I'm going to continue to compete and play as hard as I can."

Chris on the team: "I think we're very talented. How talented remains to be seen. The big thing is not our talent level. We've got to go out there and do it week in and week out throughout the year. People expect a lot out of us. Last year we were a young team and people expected a lot out of us right out of the gate and throughout the year. This year, we have another year under our belt for guys like myself and Roy and B.J. and the guys in my class, we'll be the older veterans now."

D.D. on what could derail this season: "Execution. Some plays that we got wrong here and there and if we can get those plays back, we'll be able to win those three games that we need to complete our season. The whole thing is doing what the coaches tell us to do because they know what it takes to win. If we do that I have a good feeling that we're gonna have a great year."

More from Simms:

"At the quarterback position, you need the quarterback to feel comfortable and as a quarterback you need to be comfortable that your team believes in you as the leader of the team. You've also got to feel that the coaches are confident in you and at the same time, when you get to play in the game and be successful, if brings confidence to you to where you feel like, Hey, I can go out there on a drive, make plays and score. Look at a guy like Brett Favre, when he gets hot he's on fire and at the same time, you slow him down and it takes him a while. Once he gets that one play he's ready to go again and that's all I needed last year I felt like at times, just one play to get me going. At Kansas, I felt like I got to play a full game and I got going and then the A&M game, same thing. We were a little stagnant in the first half, we had a few opportunities, but in the second half we got it going."

Thoughts on the expectations: "Last year, it was a little harder to believe (the top five rankings). We were young and inexperienced. This year, there are not a whole lot of excuses. Barring injuries, we should be a pretty good team and we expect it, the fans expect it, (the media) expects it. If we go out there and play the way we're capable of playing we should be pretty good. Whether we deserve to be No. 1, that's a whole different story. Do we deserve to be up there in the top 10, that's conceivable to me as a college football fan."

Top 10 teams talk about winning the national title, are you guys talking about winning the national title? "It's a goal of ours without question. The Rose Bowl would be the place to be at the end of the year but the thing we realize is it's a long process, it's a lot of games in a tough conference, and the thing we have to deal with in this conference is the Big 12 Championship Game where we've got another game added on."

On his decision to come to Texas, with an incumbent QB, rather than Tennessee: "My father was very timid about me being in this situation with a quarterback controversy. With him going through it, he didn't want me to do it. But at the same time, I just couldn't go to Tennessee and feel like I had to sit out a year and do nothing. It did not sound right to me. The other thing was, every time I talked to my friends about my recruiting visits I was always bragging about Texas and what they had there and the guys they had on the team and meeting Ricky and I finally realized, if I'm always talking about Texas why am I not going to Texas. The Cotton Bowl that year actually opened my eyes up all over again. Coach Brewster called me a few days afterwards and I was like, Don't stop calling me, and he was like, Alright buddy! It was over from there."

Did I ever expect to come to The University of Texas? "If you'd asked me that my junior year in high school I would have said, No way I'd ever be at The University of Texas. I went on my visit here thinking I'm going to go because I've heard so much about it and I want to see what it's like. I really fell in love with it. My dad didn't expect it and he was shocked but he respected my decision. He really tried to let me make the decision, which I didn't always want. There were times where I was like, Dad, I need your help here. You've got to step in and tell me what to do. It all worked out for the better in the end."

What's it like living in a world where a .750 winning percentage isn't good enough? "It's actually pretty cool. You can't dislike that and that's the reason I came to a school like this, to be a part of that. Our fans, our coaches, we as players, we don't want to be 9-3. That's good year for a lot of schools and it's a good year for us but it's not where we want to be and where we expect to be especially with the talent we have now. We're ready for this year and hopefully we can improve."

Does this controversy have to go away one way of the other for you guys to do what you want to do? "Well, I would like for it to go away for sure. We need to focus on our team and the teams we're playing each week instead of two guys on the team battling it out for a position. Like I said last year, we had guys battling for positions all over the field last year but they just liked to talk about ours and that's understandable but for us to move on as a team we need to move on from this situation."

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