Sumlin Pre-Bowl Press Conference
Head coach Kevin Sumlin addressed the media Wednesday as the Aggies continued preparations for the AT&T Cotton Bowl on January 4.
Full audio is available through the link to the right. Video is available above.
On what he looks for in an Offensive Coordinator
"I think it started years ago when I decided not to be the play caller when I got to Houston, and what we were going to do offensively in really sitting down and talking with [Houston Offensive Coordinator] Dana [Holgorsen] about his philosophy and where it came from after leaving the Fiesta Bowl and watching Rich Rod run the fastest tempo offense I'd seen to that date. We basically said we wanted to incorporate more running game into what Dana was used to and to do it as fast as humanly possible. It involved adding motion and some play-action stuff. So now, people have been around that system and that have been around our system understand what we're doing, understand the terminology, understand how we implement the offense and what the basis of it is. Where we are right now - I think we've got a talented offensive staff. Kliff [Kingsbury] did a great job when he was here and when he was at Houston. David Beaty is really the newest addition to our staff but having been a coordinator before, he understands that. Clarence McKinney and BJ Anderson really did a lot during the year - most of the run game prep and personnel things for the game plan. David and Kliff and Klint Kubiak actually did a lot with the passing game. I think Kliff did a great job of organization during that time and the action during the game. Our guys have been around it. As I said today, David and Clarence are really spearheading this deal, but BJ has always been the run game guy as the line coach and the pass protection, sets the protection. So we work together the same way. Right now our guys are doing well, with David moving over and being in the quarterback room and Klint Kubiak, really right now, who has done a really fine job has been coaching the inside receivers the whole year with David on the outside. Now he's got more flexibility with the receiver core and has done a fine job the whole year. We're not in a hurry to hire another coach. We're not going to change what we're doing before January 4th, so anybody we brought in here from the outside would have to learn what we're doing. To have us learn what they're doing by January 4th just doesn't make sense to me."
"I think everybody is giving us a hard time. There was a big joke on Twitter today that I had hired Houston Nutt as our recruiting coordinator. With the number of signees - what people are figuring out finally is that we've got a number of mid-year signees and a number of spots that are open. We've got some high school guys that are going to graduate early and enroll, which the SEC rule is 25. As opposed to popular opinion, I do know the rules and we're not going to over-sign the 25 in February. When we got here, we only signed 18 or 19 guys in the two or three weeks we had to recruit a year ago. I opted not to go chasing ghosts and signing guys that I didn't know anything about. We stayed underneath our scholarship numbers a year ago. So we had somewhere around eight-to-nine scholarships that we could count back and obviously we're utilizing those as of today. I think a couple of guys are mailing things. I could comment on the guys who are in. The high school guys I can't talk about that are graduating early because they have not signed a [National Letter of Intent]. The junior college guys - you guys know who they are. They're impact guys for us in positions of need. The reason that we were able to go out and recruit them from all over the country - whether it was San Francisco, Arizona Western, you name it, Fork Union, that's east-to-west coast - is because I think our brand has grown. I think guys understand where we're headed as a program. We go out particularly from a junior college player or a prep school guy, we're looking to fill a hole. Those guys understand that and that's why the quality of those guys to come into our program, we need that. I said 'We need to upgrade our talent level and we need to upgrade the profile of our team', and I think the mid-year guys bring that to the table and it gives them an advantage to come in here and compete in the spring and to go through Larry Jackson's whole workout and through spring practice. Those guys are trying to get on the field next year."
On what he saw in Clarence McKinney as the Cotton Bowl play caller
"I don't think it was anything I saw specifically. I've seen it for five years. I've been around him for five years and you guys know me - we do a lot of things internally because of the familiarity of what we do. There are a lot of things that go into decisions like that and like I said, we're not going to change what we're doing up until we play on January 4th, so anybody who came in here would have to learn what we're doing anyway. Like I said, there are a lot of moving parts offensively. Continuity, I think, was important for our players, number one with terminology and for our quarterback, just for everybody in the success level that we have and the confidence level we have in what we're doing, there's no real need to change. With where we are with David moving into the quarterback room and spending more time there, with Clarence being involved in the offense over the last five years, understanding it, communicating it during the game with Kliff the whole time, he understands it. And BJ's got his hands full trying to block everybody. Everybody has got a role and the way we're set up right now with personnel, signaling, Clarence up in the booth at that time talking to Kliff about the run game, it's just a natural progression."
On a long break before the bowl game
"You worry about that a little bit. We try to keep it fun. I use this approach: we have a lot of practices for not very long. Today we were out there for an hour. But we've probably had more workouts than we've had in the past just because we've got some moving parts and I've had to utilize this for really a second spring ball for the young guys. And it was a reward for the older guys to try to get them healthy. What you try to do is to get them healthy - the old guys, particularly us going 12 weeks without a bye. Try to get them healthy, keep them excited and implement your game plan. You can implement your game plan too early. People get bored. Believe it or not, there are a lot of practices, nothing going on, guys have got their minds on Christmas and going home, seeing their family. When you get to the bowl site, that's when guys start getting excited. But it's about how you handle your preparation before you get to the bowl site. Fortunately for us, with everything that happened, I'm happy we're playing on the fourth. I know how tired I was from flying around Orlando, New York and all of these other places. We had players all over the place. Those four days actually help us, I think, with a number of our players who are involved in awards ceremonies and different things. Shoot, our quarterback just got back from Leno yesterday, so those four days help us I think."
On what he learned from Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops
"There are more than a couple of things. You spend five years in a program like that - there are more than just a couple of things. I said earlier today in the teleconference that the winning culture, the culture that Bob has created at Oklahoma is something that you have to be inside of to see and understand and feel how it works. In a situation where things weren't going very well, for him to walk in the door and embrace the old with Coach Switzer getting him close to the program, former players, really creating a culture of 'We're going to win and we're going to win right now', getting to the national championship in a couple of years. There are a lot of things that go into that. It's not just one or two things. It's how you do things on a daily basis and the expectation level that you have with players, with the program, with your coaches, how you treat people and in the manner in which you do it - keeping families involved, caring about people. Like I said, it was a unique situation for me and one that obviously affects how I do things here. I know a lot of people come here and say we do things a lot alike and I wouldn't doubt that. I take that as a compliment because I don't know how many 10-win seasons he's had in 14 years. It's hard to believe it's been 14 years. That's a pretty good run. The national championship, I was there - we played for two, lost a couple of them. That is a tremendous experience for me, not just for me but for my family too, because of the atmosphere he created not just amongst the players and the coaches, but the coaches' families."
On playing younger athletes during bowl practice
"We've done that. The last two weekends we practiced Friday-Saturday, so we had four practices. Then when we came back we practiced Monday-Tuesday. So we've had a total of six of those types of practices where we did nothing but really work the young guys. Those guys responded well. We had some seven-on-seven type deals in between. But really the individual and those last six practices have been strictly for our younger players - maintenance work for our older players, but I'm really trying to develop our young offensive linemen. I'm figuring out who our D-Linemen are in our program. They're going to have a chance to play. And really working with our guys like Ed Pope who really has had a great year and was the Scout Team Player of the Year. Guys like that. Really getting them involved, one just to see the speed of the game and making sure that, 'Alright now this is our offense. We're not running Missouri's or Alabama's. You're Ed Pope this week. You're not TJ Moe or whoever you've been every other week.' So it's a reward for those guys. It's good for our players to see that. It's good for them to practice that way. That's why I think you see a lot of good teams keep getting better because we'll have a couple of practices like that when we get to Dallas. We're actually coming back and practicing the 27th and 28th and then leaving and going up there so we'll have a couple more of those young-guy practices."
On playing against a friend and mentor
"It's kind of funny - we were in New York for the National Football Foundation because RC [Slocum] was going in and we get to see each other every year in New York. We snuck off somewhere and we were sitting there in this restaurant and people walk by and look and do a double-take because they couldn't believe we were sitting there talking. It's one of those deals where at first when they told me, I said 'Aw..' but then after a while you're OK with it. It didn't take long. We've got a lot of admiration and respect for Oklahoma and how they do things. I've got a lot of admiration and respect for Bob, not only Bob but there are a number of guys there that I worked with five years ago and who I'm really good friends with. You never really like in this profession playing really good friends because it's awkward at first, and then you try to beat the hell out of each other. That's just how it works. When you sit back and look at this game, besides really the National Championship game, as far as exciting matchups for bowl games I'd put ours up there with anybody. I think you add everything up - the time slot, the venue, I think today they said what, 90,000 people? And by the way I do not have any more tickets. That was my PSA for the day for all of my new relatives that I have right now that are calling up, and my old friends. Coaching at both schools you know a lot more people that you think. But my point is that this game, when you look at the whole bowl matchup deal, I think that this is one of the most exciting games there is. And once you look at it that way, from a traditional standpoint, from two 10-win teams, the venue, the time slot, you can't help but be excited about this game. It's going to be a great atmosphere at this football game."
On what he's seen from Oklahoma
"A lot. I think you could hear today from the teleconference that at this point in the year, you are who you are. I think Bob said it - you've got all 12 games on everybody so you're able to pick apart a lot of different things and analyze people from injuries to tendencies to different things like that. This team is another talented, explosive team offensively. You look at the perimeter, the addition of the now-two transfer wideouts. You look at what they have done as the season unfolded. Those guys are impact guys. [Quarterback] Landry [Jones] has found the ability to get the ball to them. Another big offensive line. Defensively their back end is as good as anybody's. They've got some guys back there that can cover, they've got some guys that can run and tackle. And because of that, that allows them to be able to play a number of schemes back there, primarily when you have those kinds of guys you can play man-to-man. They've got the guys in the back end to do that."
On how difficult it is to balance between coach and dad
"It's hard. What, you heard I was in some little town last night watching my daughter play basketball? I was in Thorndale last night. I snuck in there to get to see her play basketball last night for the first time this year. I've been gone and they're in the middle of basketball season at the new high school, so I jumped in the car and drove an hour and 15 minutes or whatever it is to Thorndale and got to see a whole half of basketball last night which was pretty cool. It's hard. It's hard. My wife does a great job. She's been around it a bunch. The recruiting part of it she's been around and it's like the old adage, the other part about New York and those things is that means that you're winning and that comes with the territory. It's not my wife's first rodeo. She understands it. As the kids get older - particularly my girls who are in high school - it becomes a little bit tougher. We communicate. I get to take them to school and talk to them all the time. The last few weeks have been a little bit more difficult. As I told these guys right here, it's kind of like pro football right now. School's out, we work out in the morning, we've got practice at 2 o'clock, we've got meetings from 12-2. Then they're having dinner, then they're back out. Without school being here and some other things, I don't have as many things to do administratively. And I think that has allowed me to be more involved in football and obviously more involved with my family."
On players going to the NFL Draft
"We've been through this a bunch. We've actually had an advisory session here the other day with our seniors and also with the three juniors you're talking about. My role is to provide them with as much factual information as I can get my hands on. Not stuff you read on, now don't take this wrong, not stuff you read in the paper or read on ESPN, but actual factual information that will be presented by the NFL. We've sent those requests in to the NFL - what the situation would be for insurance policies if they decided to stay, present everything that's out there. I've told all three of them, 'It's my job to present you with as much information as I can get my hands on for you and your family, and then if you want my opinion I will tell you.' I've been up-and-down both ways. At Oklahoma this was an every-year deal, between Mark Clayton who played himself higher into the first round and decided to come back and Tommie Harris - it was time to go, Adrian Peterson - time to go. Other guys played themselves from low first-round picks or the television projection was not the projection that you got back from the NFL, so guys played themselves solidly into certain positions. Those discussions are ongoing at this point and what we're doing is providing the families and these guys with as much information as possible and I think that's our role. And as I've said before, what that means to have that discussion as a junior means that you're playing at an extremely high level and that means that you have really helped us thus far and now the decision is 'What do I need to do?' There is the college experience, the collegiate experience factor involved because from here on out, it becomes a job. It's work. There are a lot of other factors involved. You look at a guy like Barrett Jones and it looks like to me he's having a pretty good time going back and trying to win another one. There's a guy that I pretty much spent three-or-four days with in New York and Houston and all over the place. It's worked out for him and he's been a great spokesman not only for Alabama, but for college football. Obviously he's got an opportunity great experience here - have a great experience this year and cap it off with an even better one."
On John David Crow and Johnny Manziel getting to bond in New York
"It was really a neat deal, as the phrase is around here. There are a lot of schools that don't have a Heisman Trophy. My alma mater has probably finished second more than any other school in the country at Purdue. We had a bunch of guys finish second and we didn't have one. But for us to have two is a huge deal and to have two guys and to have them alive and to able to sit there and shake hands. You stand back in that room and there are a lot of Heisman Trophy guys in the Green Room at the gala. But when you sit back and you see those two guys talking, it's really a neat situation to see those guys talking and know that those are two guys that in any given time in history were the best at what they did for a year in college football. It's a conversation that obviously I didn't need to be in, but to see them talking was really neat."
On Thomas Johnson
"Thomas came in today and he has withdrawn from school. He withdrew actually a month-or-so ago. That's an ongoing process right now. I think he's trying to decide where he is, if he's coming back, if he comes back next semester or takes the year off, or if he's going to transfer. In my conversations with him, that's where he is and we're just trying to figure out what his next step is going to be. We're going to support him in any of those three. That's his decision and like I said, he's with his family and he's trying to figure it out."
On how difficult the situation with Thomas Johnson has been
"It's been difficult. You look back this year, somebody asked me, 'Have you had a chance to take all of this in?' If you think about everything that happened this year from the beginning, to the game being postponed, to the Florida game and how that game ended up and just the big letdown, and Sean Porter going nuts in the locker room after we lost that game, and just the complete meltdown, and for these guys to come back because of the frustration of that game and play 12 straight weeks without a bye and Thomas Johnson and the nation-wide search right after the Alabama game, which you're concerned about him and then the next question I get is 'Are you concerned about a letdown this week?', that's the last thing on my mind. Yeah, it is but we're we're looking for a kid. There are just a number of things that happened and I think it gets back to leadership on this football team and how the seniors really bought in to what we were trying to get done. Week after week after week, they continued to play at an extremely high level, regardless of the things that were around them. That says a lot about the core of this team. To go on the road, shoot it was every week. We didn't play at home for a month-and-a-half. This team, even though we weren't perfect, accomplished a lot. I think they're very, very proud of that. You look back and before that Missouri game I put up 118 and 11 and I said, 'You guys know what that means?' I said, 'We have played football here, I think, 118 years and there have been 11 teams that won 10 games. And now this team has a chance to be a single digit team as one of the teams who has won 11 games. In the course of history, this group of guys will be remembered forever as the team that took us into the SEC but they'll also be one of the best teams that ever played here."
On Johnny Manziel being glad to put the media tour behind him
"No he didn't say that - what he said was that he was tired of all of this other stuff, with Leno. He didn't say anything about putting Megan Fox behind him. Yeah. He's good. That comes with it. Like I said, we talked in New York at the gala that Monday night and both of us didn't look good. We were both tired. Like I said that comes with it. But like I said I think playing on the 4th is really kind of a blessing for us based on all of the running around we've been doing. Really getting back and this being a dead week, this gave us a complete week of just practicing football - no school, no nothing before we let guys go - we let them go Saturday for Christmas break. It's really kind of neat because nobody is here but us. For him to get back yesterday and say 'Hey, you know what, I'm tired of that. I need to get out there and start practicing.' It's been pretty spirited. But, yeah I was happy to hear that. All of those things are fun but he realizes what got him there. He loves to play the game and our guys are excited he was back yesterday, and he was even more excited today as we moved on. Today was really the first of some Oklahoma stuff. On the national stage, yeah, he did well. Everybody was worried that he couldn't speak English or had some other issues but that wasn't the case. I know I got beat up on it but looking back, I would do the same thing and unfortunately I will do the same thing next year with whoever that's going to be just because I owe it to them. I think it worked out the way it did and didn't have any hindrance on his national prominence. I think it allowed him to play probably as well as he played - yeah I probably did shield him a little bit all year - but I think it was able to keep him focused. It's hard to do, that week-in, week-out, I don't care how old you are. You're a senior playing on the big stage every week in the SEC and people are talking about you every week. The pressure builds every week with that. Obviously, as I said earlier in the year, no moment is too big for him and I think he showed that in how he is able to articulate his feelings through all of the awards shows."
On how a win over OU would help recruiting
"I don't know that that's going to be a big deal. I think it's a big deal for our current program. It's going to be a heck of a game no matter what. I think both programs have shown - Oklahoma over time has shown that they are a strong program and kids recognize that - I think what we have shown in one year in the SEC is that not only do we belong and that we can compete, but that we can win. From that standpoint, I think kids see that more than one single win. I think people make a lot out of one game when it comes to recruiting. Very few guys that I have recruited have ever gone in and told their dad, 'You know what, Dad, I'm going to go to whoever wins this game tonight.' That doesn't really happen that much, but what does happen is over time you build your brand. Oklahoma has done a great job of that over time and we're trying to catch up quickly. I think that us being in the SEC and having a strong year has built our brand very, very quickly. Either way, like I said, it gets back to playing meaningful games. This team, as I said earlier, has done that in putting us in a position to do that in the SEC. That's what brings you to January 4th and playing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl and that's why that game becomes meaningful because of the atmosphere - because everything that's there and it's still going to be a great venue and a great game."