COLLEGE STATION - Coach Sumlin and members of the Texas A&M football team & staff met with the media on Tuesday in the Bright Complex to talk about this week's game against Sam Houston State.
Audio in mp3 format and selected quotes are available below.
Download audio of Tuesday's press conference here:
- Kevin Sumlin (mp3)
- Mark Snyder (mp3)
- Clarence McKinney (mp3)
- Toney Hurd Jr. (mp3)
- Ben Malena (mp3)
- Matt Joeckel (mp3)
Texas A&M Football Weekly Press Conference
HEAD COACH KEVIN SUMLIN
"I thought offensively we did some really good things last week. We got what we expected from our offensive line. One of the positives of the whole game was Mike Matthews. I think he did a great job of being able to get us targeted in his first game. He played extremely well and that was evident in our ability to rush the football effectively. We mixed in a lot of different running backs. Tra Carson is a great addition to this football team. I was really looking forward to seeing him play. Matt Joeckel has separated himself from being Luke's little brother to a guy who has his own identity now. I thought he operated very well. He moved the football and distributed it well. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over. Are we where we want to be defensively? No. We played 16 true freshmen last week, 11 of which were on defense. Those guys played and played with great effort. They weren’t always where they wanted to be, but it was a real learning experience which will pay dividends for us down the road. The kicking game might have been the best kicking performances I've ever seen. Drew Kaser had some huge punts. I joked after the game that we worked on coverage and now you see why. He’s kicking it so far and with some of the returners we’re going to face, we’re going to have to get down there and cover it. I was very pleased there. You evaluate everything after week one and keep it in perspective in moving on to week two. I think we have a real chance as a football team to improve this week. As a team, we focus on getting better this week. One of the good things about playing at home for the first couple of weeks is the familiarity, particularly when you have 16 new guys. Our guys have a good grasp of what we need to do to improve this week.”
On Coach Banks helping the special teams
"We were concerned moving into this season with an inexperienced punter and a kicker who struggled last year. Coach Banks has really helped them technique wise. Taylor is going to continue to get better, coming off sports hernia surgery this summer. He’s really not at 100% yet. The field goal he made was on a high snap which he one-stepped from 40 yards. We didn't want to strain him to much as he’s still getting stronger. We haven’t had him kicking the balls deep on kickoff. I think as the season progresses, he'll continue to get better. We’ve done a good job from a stretching standpoint, but you don’t want to push him too much. He’s starting to feel confidence right now.”
On the team chemistry with the different quarterbacks
"I don't know that it's a different team. All the quarterbacks are different. People ask me to compare quarterbacks from Case Keenum to Drew Brees to Sam Bradford. They’re all different. They all lead differently. They all play differently. Are they successful? Yes. Some guys are 5'11”, some guys are 6'5". Matt is an example of a guy who has waited his turn and toiled away. He earned the right to start ahead of camp. I wanted them to keep competing the entire time. I brought he and Kenny in and explained the process of who was going to start the game tomorrow and explained the process moving forward for the rest of the year. They’re going to be the best competition. They're one play away from playing. It’s in. The plan was for them both to play in the first half; Matt just got in a rhythm and played well. I think he earned the right to keep playing. All those guys in that room are together and that’s what the team’s about. Anyone who watches Johnny knows he plays with a lot of passion and emotion. It's my job to keep that passion and energy going and keeping it positive. That was the discussion we had yesterday, not just with him, but with a lot of players. What you don't want to do is kill that emotion and passion because that’s what separates Johnny from a lot of different players, but what we can do is set him down and say ‘that same emotion and passion can be used positively in this way.’"
On Sam Houston State
"They're well coached. Seeing North Dakota State go in to Kansas State and win last weekend is all you need to see to be prepared. Last year, we had our starters playing in the first half. The backups lost the second half 28-6. When you turn on the tape from the second half, you saw a lot of those guys playing last Saturday. That gets their attention. Willie Fritz is a heck of a coach leading them to back to back championship game appearances. They won't be intimidated coming in here just like they weren’t last year.”
On Ben Malena
"I think what you don't see is the amount of the emotion and passion that Ben Malena plays with. You don't see it from the stands but he's talking constantly. He’s a talker during the game. He plays with emotion. You see that in his play. He's a leader by example, whether he’s running the ball, or covering kicks. He’s on the punt team. He just wants to play. He's a great example to both the younger and older players on this team. He's doing whatever he can to help us win and because of that, he's a great leader."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR CLARENCE McKINNEY
On Brandon Williams returning
"We're excited about Brandon coming back. He's definitely a ball of energy. He’s been harassing us for the last few weeks to play. He's excited and we're excited. We'll definitely get him out there."
On Ben Malena’s improvements
"The biggest improvement with Ben has been his body. He's really worked hard in the weight room to get his body prepared for all the things he’s doing for us, from special teams to offense. From the day we got here and started installing our offense, Ben Malena displayed that he’s a smart football player. He has a high IQ. He’s the one guy who has never written anything down in the film room, but he never messes up when he goes out to practice. He's a smart football player.”
On Johnny Manziel staying in the pocket
"Johnny's being Johnny. He's not the tallest quarterback so he tends to get out of the pocket. He's very effective throwing on the run. Coach Sumlin's done a great job this camp of keeping him in the pocket. Many times (in camp) when he scrambles, Coach Sumlin blows the whistle, trying to make him stay within the pocket. He does a great job whether he's in the pocket or out of the pocket.”
On the game Matt Joeckel had on Saturday
"I think he did great. We didn’t ask him to go out and win the game. He did a great job of managing the game and operating the offense. He displayed that when he's needed, we can depend on him to lead the offense."
On the offensive line’s performance
"The offensive line played great. Mike Matthews really impressed us. There were some things that, from a game plan standpoint, we hadn’t talked about leading up to the game. Early in the game, we had to make an adjustment with him and he just took it and ran with it. He targets it all so he makes it go"
TEXAS A&M DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MARK SNYDER
On freshmen performance
"They all had good things and bad things. You could tell during pregame that there was a little bit of nervousness. You can imagine being 18 and playing in front of all of those people. I thought they played really well. The thing that was most pleasing to me was the emotion they were playing with. They made a play and you saw the emotion. To me, that's what defense is all about. You play with enthusiasm and emotion. I saw that and I told them after the game. You can tell they love to play the game. It was what we expected."
On suspensions before playing Alabama
"The biggest thing is that we are going to be fresh for the game. We will be injury-free and we will be fresh. You think about it, for sure. What maybe hurts now might actually help us in the long run. I know that when they do get back, we are going to have them and they will be healthy. They will be fresh and we are building depth right now for the future and for the rest of the season. What is hurting us right now will help us. We have to live with that.”
On difficulties during Rice game
"David (Bailiff) is a good football coach and Rice is a good football team. They're going to have a chance to win that league with nine returning starters. Like I said last week, fear of the unknown is with our young guys. Rice came out and showed us some things that we hadn't practiced or seen. Not having any veterans groomed, I can’t call a time-out, run out onto the field and say “Hey, they are getting in diamond formation,” or something like that. We had to get adjusted. I will say this about the guys, and it was really good to see: I wasn't excited about the look on their faces in the locker room, at halftime, but they took the initiative, came out and got adjusted. It was really good to see. I think the game is started to slow down for them a bit as the game went on, which was good.”
“We’ve talked at length and that is the world we live in. We’ve told the kids, “That is the rule. Like it or not, those are the rules.” We’ve talked to them about lower their target and moving their arms. Deshazor has the cast on his hand. As you look at him, there is one arm around that looks like it is higher because of the cast. That is a penalty. It is what it is. We are talking about lowering your target and bringing your arms. If you do that, you won’t get that penalty. I’ve played free safety and I told Coach Yates, “It happens so fast.” When you’ve been playing since you were a kid, it’s hard to lower your target. There is a great level of difficulty there. However, those are the rules just like the increased standards and expectations of our players. They are the rules. As players, we are going to have to visualize ourselves going lower. We tell them to go for the sternum. I’m not a guy that is going to tell them to go below the knees. That’s what scares me about this rule. I’m not going to coach our guys to blow somebody’s knees out. That’s somebody’s child. That is an alternative with this rule but we are not going to do that.”
TEXAS A&M SENIOR RUNNING BACK BEN MALENA
On the running back unit
"I think we work well together. The one thing we have in common is our work ethic. All of us go out every day to compete and consider this a competition. Brandon Williams brings an element to this game that you just can’t coach against and that’s speed. Tra Carson is a bigger back and in this league you need a back like that who can get those tough yards. Trey Williams is a very fine player that is really special in the return game. With this group, I think it all starts with me. I think as a unit we work well together.”
On goals during the offseason
"This offseason I tried to improve on every single aspect as a player. I focused on getting stronger, getting faster, getting more prepared mentally for the game. I tried to improve on every single game on leadership, also.”
On Sam Houston State
"You can look at their game last year and realize that they're not a team to mess with. They went to the national championship in their division two years in a row. If you don’t come out, this team will come out and beat you. We know that we have to prepare this week and we have to be ready for them. They have some great players, some former Division I players. They have some great talent. You can’t overlook schools. We have to prepare for them like they're a conference opponent.”
TEXAS A&M SOPHOMORE PUNTER DREW KASER
On Coach Banks
"He's helped tremendously. He gets us right mentally and physically. He’s a great asset for us. He's been through it. It's helped me out having two different special teams’ coaches before, my freshman and sophomore years, and now having Coach Banks. I think it gets me more prepared and helps me out.”
On personal improvements
"What I've worked on is my drop and my steps. I’ve worked the past several years on being consistent. Every offseason I've been getting better. Every season I’ve been getting better. This year I’ve just worked tremendously. I’ve worked with a kicking coach of mine. I’ve worked with Coach Banks a lot. I'm working on flattening my drop and it has really helped me to become more consistent.”
On playing sports growing up
"I didn't start playing football until I was a sophomore in high school. At the end of my sophomore year, I went to camp and I think that was the moment I thought I might actually be good. I've been a soccer player since I was three years old."
TEXAS A&M JUNIOR QUARTERBACK MATT JOECKEL
On starting his first game as quarterback
"I found out on Friday afternoon. I think I was more nervous about finding out if I was starting than I was about actually starting the game. I hoped I was good enough in practice that I would get to start. It was great that I did. When I went out there at the beginning of the game I wasn’t too nervous because I knew I had the support of my team, as well as my brother and family. I knew I just had to do my job and there was enough talent on the field that it didn't take that much out of me to do well as an offense."
On toughest part of game
"It was probably the mental aspect of the game, just being completely focused on the game. I haven't gotten playing time like that in the last few years. As for the physical aspect, it was hot out there but I probably got the most tired after celebrating one of those touchdowns. I thought I was going to drop during one of those touchdown celebrations. The physical part of the game wasn’t too much because I basically just handed the ball off to Ben and Tra. I could see they were getting tired because they were running the heck out of the ball.”
On personal performance
"I thought I had some good throws out there. I thought I did well with just moving the ball and running the offense. We have a great offense here. The coaches have coached everyone well. The scheme is great. I felt like I understood enough following the scheme. I have a few throws that I wish I could take back but at the time, some of them I just wanted to do for my confidence. I wanted to go deep early in the game just to get that over with. There are some plays that I want back and there are some plays that did well. Honestly, there are probably some plays that surprised me.”
TEXAS A&M DEFENSIVE BACK TONEY HURD, JR
On the team’s performance
"We don’t really bother ourselves with off-field issues. Johnny had a great game. Our team put a pretty good showing out despite the mistakes that we had. We had some first-game miscues but I think the team played pretty well.”
On off the field issues
“Coach Sumlin put out a great statement earlier about off the field issues. We’re confident that our coaches can handle it, but for on the field, we can only get better from this point forward.”
On improvements that can be made
"As a team, we have a lot of things we can work on. As a defense, just getting into our gaps and reading our assignments. Things like that are the difference between a big win and a bad loss. It’s easy to watch field after the game and make those adjustments. It’s much harder during the game. As a team, I feel like we’ll get those things fixed and we'll be ready for this coming weekend.”
On what can be learned from playing SHSU last season
"We'll take the film from last year and try and learn from it. I’m sure Sam Houston State will come in with a similar attack. I'm sure Coach Snyder and the coaches will try and build on the game plan from last year and make some adjustments. Up to this point, that’s the film I’ve been watching and taking anything I can get from that game to learn for this one.”