BIG 12 MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 18, 2005
BO CARTER: We appreciate everyone being with us for the fourth annual Big 12 Spring Football teleconference. Just a quick programming note. Coach Bob Stoops is traveling by commercial aircraft and at 10:10 central today we may have to flip-flop him with Coach Mike Leach, depending on how coach's flight arrival time is in Tucson. It's our distinct pleasure to welcome in Mark Mangino of Kansas. A spirited spring game for you last week. Well get your assessment of spring training and open it up for media questions. Coach Mangino of Kansas.
COACH MANGINO: Thank you, Bo. We've had a very productive spring here. Finished it off with a beautiful day of great weather in Lawrence with our blue and white spring scrimmage. I feel we've made progress in every area of our team. We still have areas that we need to work on, there's no question about that. I feel pretty good, first of all, with our defensive unit as a whole. I feel like we're sharp, showing a lot of speed on the defensive side of the ball that perhaps we didn't have in the past. One of our goals this spring was to develop some depth on defense, and certainly we are deeper than any time we've been here in terms of the front seven. We have some quality players that we will be able to rotate in and out. We feel pretty good about that. That's something that we felt was very important for our ballclub. On the offensive side of the ball, we made some big plays in the pass game. Our quarterbacks are seeing things pretty well. Just got to continue to be more consistent with them and continue to make good decisions. We have competition here with Jason Swanson and Adam Barmann. That will continue into the fall. Our wide receivers, even though we have some new young kids, we felt we had a chance to be pretty good there. We've had some big-play guys with Brian Murph, a junior college transfer from Butler had a big day, seven catches for 110 yards. Mark Simmons, veteran guy, had six catches for us. Marcus Herford had three. We had a bunch of other guys with catches. We feel the wide receiver core has a chance to be pretty good. Offensive line is coming along. We just got to get that group to gel and get that chemistry that's important with those five linemen. The running backs, we didn't get a chance to see our No. 1 runningback very long. Clark Green went down with an injury in the first series. He'll be fine. Nothing real serious. So we were kind of in a situation we had to play our two and three tailbacks the entire scrimmage, one on the blue team, one on the white team. They got more snaps than they'd like. It's not the way we would do it. We feel like with Clark healthy, the young kids coming around, we'll be okay in the running game as well. We leave spring feeling really good. It's a good send-off into August.
BO CARTER: We'll take questions now from the media.
Q. No clue who is going to win the north. Can you handicap your team's chances there?
COACH MANGINO: It's hard to tell. Don't count us out, let me tell you that.
Q. Are you at all disappointed or concerned with the uncertainty at quarterback or is that a good thing, the competition?
COACH MANGINO: I think it's a good thing. I think the competition is elevating the level of play for both young guys. I'd say right now there's a little bit of a handicap because on the offensive line, not one guy is playing a position that he played last year. We have some new faces. They have to deal with that issue a little bit. Some young receivers that are learning, but they're going to be really good. Under those conditions, I think they're faring well.
Q. Did you hope to have a little bit better feel for the quarterback thing coming out of spring or did you kind of assume this is the way it was going to be heading into the summer?
COACH MANGINO: Well, I was hoping somebody would pull way ahead and hoping that nobody would fall behind. I was hoping it would be competition elevating the play that somebody would pull ahead in the spring, but that has not happened. I'm not alarmed by that at all. I think it's good for our ballclub because it keeps those kids sharp. But we'll see what August brings. Certainly I anticipate as we get closer there will be a clear-cut No. 1.
Q. Looking around the conference, your schedule coming up for the fall, looks like not a lot of teams are looking at non-conference challenges this year. I see a lot of home games against mid-major teams. Do you feel like coaches maybe have got a new philosophy as far as maybe steering away from those intersectional games we all grew up on as being good for college football to have games that they can play at home and serve as money-makers for their athletic department?
COACH MANGINO: Well, I think it would only be fair for me to speak for Kansas and what we're doing to be quite honest with you. I don't know if that is a trend or that the motivations are for that trend. Here at Kansas, we're trying to get our program up on its feet and running. We feel like as we look at that Big 12 schedule, there's no day off. We feel like the competition in the Big 12 is plenty for us. We'd like to play some teams that are good football teams. You got to show up and play well. We have found out in college football, any given Saturday, anybody can beat anyone. So our philosophy is that when we look at the Big 12 Conference schedule, we see our opponents, we think we've got plenty of good football right there so we don't feel like we need to bring in any Top 25 teams for non-conference games
Q. Do you think that philosophy is permeating more across the country now?
COACH MANGINO: It's possible. As you look at some schedules, people are doing that. But I've heard a coach one time say: They don't remember in December who you played in September.
Q. Talk about Marcus Herford's switch from a quarterback to receiver, how he adapted to the position change this spring.
COACH MANGINO: Well, he's a great kid. He just wants to get on the field and play. He's still learning that position. He's only been at it for about three weeks. He's learning all the little nuances, how to be a good rout runner, understand leverage, good ball skills, catching the football, getting up field, blocking in the run game. He's learning. But there's no doubt that he will be a good receiver for us. There's no question about it. We just have to keep encouraging him and working with him and he'll be fine.
Q. Was he someone you had to find a way to get on the field to take advantage of his talent?
COACH MANGINO: Absolutely. He's just such a talented young guy. When it comes to raw talent, one of the most talented kids on our ballclub. We just have to get him out on the field. Wide receiver was the window of opportunity right now. He wanted to do it. He's really working at it.
Q. There's five or six schools that went into spring with quarterback competition, trying to find that quarterback. You mentioned you were hoping somebody would take a big lead. If that doesn't happen, isn't competition going on through the summer kind of the best thing or certainly the thing that's going around these days, let that thing play out even further?
COACH MANGINO: Oh, sure. I think the competition is healthy. Sometimes you're in programs -- I have coached in programs a little bit where at times we had really talented guys and maybe perhaps nobody behind them. They win the job by default just because there's nobody talented enough to compete with them. I've always found you have to motivate some of those kids. Our situation here with the quarterback competition is that you don't have to put a fire under them to motivate them. They are motivated to win the job and they're doing everything they can to improve themselves and improve our offense. Competition at positions, they're healthy for a program, they truly are, especially somebody like us that's working to get on their feet and get rolling.
Q. Looks like the 12-game season is going to happen. I guess Grant said his organization, your organization, really wasn't for it. I wanted to find out from individual coaches what you think of the 12-game season.
COACH MANGINO: Well, I think there's positives and negatives. The 12-game season obviously is a longer season for student athletes. It's more preparation, another game to prepare for. I always believe that we have to let these kids be students and earn their degree and give them time to work at it. That's one of the negatives that I see with it. The positives are there's some programs, that extra game is going to help you get better, it's another day to compete and lift your program up and give you another chance to play against somebody else rather than practice against yourself. There's pro and con. I'm meeting today with a member of our administration about scheduling issues and we're going to discuss these things. There's good and bad in both. For me personally, my personal opinion is that an 11-game season is fine with me, but if you play 12, at Kansas, we can always use games to get better.
BO CARTER: Coach Mangino, it's always great to have you on, we appreciate you taking time out of a busy spring schedule. Wish you guys good luck and good travels in the off-season.
COACH MANGINO: Thank you.
BO CARTER: See you soon. At this point we welcome in Coach Mike Leach of Texas Tech, he has been kind enough to join us earlier than his appointed time. Coach, first we'll get your thoughts about your spring game last Saturday. Great story in ESPN Magazine last week. Your evaluation of the 2005 Red Rider spring football.
COACH LEACH: I thought spring ball went really well. I thought we executed well. We've got some older guys around on defense which I think has helped us. I mean, just overall I thought a good effort by players. It's a great time to see who is emerging, just kind of get a preview of what to look for in the fall. But there's always changes there, too. We have our last practice today, looking forward to that.
BO CARTER: We'll take media questions for Coach Mike Leach of Texas Tech.
Q. Any of your quarterbacks have an inside track, do you think?
COACH LEACH: I think that's difficult to say. I think coming out of spring, I think Cody Hodges looked good, but there's several months between now and the season. We'll look back at how everybody is doing when we get to that point. I thought he played well in the spring game and thought he did well throughout spring.
Q. It appears that the BCS is going to have the coaches reveal their final vote. Do you think that's a good idea?
COACH LEACH: Yeah. I mean, I don't know why you wouldn't. I've never voted. You're kind of asking the wrong guy on that. But I wouldn't have a problem showing my voting. Although I'll say this, in the middle of the season, I'm not going to devote all this time to sitting there balancing and voting and all that business.
Q. I was wondering if you would discuss the defensive improvement your team has made over the last year or so and how much that has impacted the overall improvement of your team and your program.
COACH LEACH: Well, as we get into the season, we'll have a better idea of that. But I think for one thing I feel like we're better just because we're older. I mean, the same group, most of them started as freshmen, then they all started as sophomores, now we're going to be juniors with some game experience. I think that will help us. Don't have some big yardstick and all that, the big picture, universal impact, things of that nature. If we play well, we win some games. I'm sure that they're a significant part of that. I thought they were in the bowl game, too. I thought they played well in the bowl game.
Q. The bowl win over California, how much could you tell maybe a change in attitude through the off-season and then into the start of spring with your squad, maybe even a little more eagerness coming off a win like that?
COACH LEACH: Yeah, I get asked that a certain amount. I think there's some of that. It's hard for me to gauge. But I think it creates a level of eagerness and optimism as you go into the off-season. Hard for me to measure what. We're excited about that game and excited about what we can do to improve on it. I think we need to hold that thought and carry it all the way into the season.
Q. You had your spring game on Saturday. I can remember a lot of coaches back in the day would always hold one practice after the spring game. Not too many people are doing that any more. Talk about what you use that practice you've got today for.
COACH LEACH: Well, you make sure that they don't start smelling the barn before you finish the journey there so that you get good work in the spring game. Then the other thing is it allows you to have a meeting and watch the spring game. Usually when practice concludes, you're not able to watch the game. We'll watch the spring game with the players today and then make corrections. We'll watch the spring game, hopefully have a good practice after that.
Q. Looks like they're going to approve a 12th regular-season game. If that happens, what would you think if the Big 12 didn't have a championship game?
COACH LEACH: Well, I've always thought that the Big 12, that everybody should be the same on that championship game. Either all conferences have championship games or no conferences have championship games. I've always thought it was a little out of whack, like you roll along, the Big 12 has a championship game and the PAC-10 doesn't. The wear and tear of a game, the exposure to a level of competition that could affect your standing, I've never thought it was fair that some conferences have championship games and some didn't. Regardless of what's decided, I think it should be the same for anybody involved in the BCS.
Q. Would you be in favor of having one division in the whole league instead of north/south?
COACH LEACH: In the Big 12?
COACH LEACH: I don't know. I haven't given it enough thought to give you a very smart answer. I mean, you probably weren't going to get a very sharp answer out of me to begin with, but this one would be even worse because I haven't really even thought of it, you know.
Q. Did you make a conscious effort to tone down your non-conference schedule from previous years?
COACH LEACH: Well, given the fact that we've done things like add Ohio State, add Mississippi, add NC State, then New Mexico here one year, four straight bowl games, three on the road, yeah, we wanted to tone it down a little bit from what it's been. One thing about home games, we've got a pretty good product and all that stuff going. You know, done all kinds of renovations on the stadium, so we need to use it, need to have people at our place, let our fans watch and play. So the biggest emphasis was to have home games.
Q. Do you see a lot of other schools around the country with that same philosophy, maybe fewer schools are willing to take chances against bowl teams, taking fewer non-conference chances?
COACH LEACH: Honestly, Tech, we're about the last team in the conference to start doing some level of that. Everybody else has been doing it for quite a while.
Q. Do you think with that 12th game, it might change, or do you think we'll see more schedules like we have right now?
COACH LEACH: I don't know. I think schedules kind of come and go. The 12th game, I'm kind of excited about the 12th game. I've never had any problem whatsoever with 12 games.
BO CARTER: Coach Leach, on behalf of the Big 12, want to thank you so much for flip-flopping with Coach Stoops. We want to wish you guys a good practice today and good luck in the off-season. Good to see you in Dallas a few weeks ago.
COACH LEACH: I appreciate it. You, too. Thanks so much.
BO CARTER: Thanks for being with us. Have a good off-season, too. Every Big 12 team after Saturday will have played its spring game with the exception of three teams. Baylor and Colorado have spring scrimmages Saturday, and Kansas State will be playing its last among Big 12 members on Saturday, April 30th. Nine of the Big 12 teams have completed their public scrimmages or football jamborees in the case of Texas. Again, Baylor and Colorado will be competing, contesting theirs, Saturday with K State going on the 30th of April. The Big 12 football media day, as many of you saw in the memo, will be July 19th through 21st in Houston at the JW Marriott. For media attending please contact the Big 12, we'll have more information about scheduling for that. Arrival time would be good by noon on Tuesday and we should have everyone finished up by 12:30 or 1:00 on Thursday the 21st for travel schedules for media attending. We'll be getting extensive details on that in the next month or so. It's our pleasure to welcome in for the first time Big 12 Spring Football teleconference Coach Mike Gundy. Congratulations on your fairly new appointment. We'll get your thoughts about how spring training went.
COACH GUNDY: Good to be here. Thank you.
BO CARTER: We'll just get your thoughts about how you thought spring training went, then we'll have a few media questions for you.
COACH GUNDY: I was pleased with spring ball. The first 10 practices or so were not like a head coach would want it to be because we have new systems on both sides of the ball. We hired Larry Fedora from Florida. We're running that style of attack on offense. Vance Bedford is our defensive coordinator. He came down from the Chicago Bears. He's implementing a 4-3 defense that they ran up there. There was new terminology, a lot of learning that was taking place. But as the spring progressed, our players began to pick up the systems and got more comfortable, started to react more than think. We stayed healthy. We're in the process of trying to develop young quarterbacks. They got better the last three or four practices. We moved a couple of our safeties, we were in a three-safety defense last year, we moved some of those safeties down to an outside linebacker spot. Jamar Ransom and Grant Jones, it's been a good adjustment for us and for them. I think it's made us a better defense. One thing that I was somewhat concerned about at the end of spring was our ability to stop the run. As the spring progressed, our offense ran the ball a little bit better on our defense than I would have wanted. Either we developed a couple decent runningbacks, which may be true, or we need to get better at stopping the run. Overall our players played with great effort. We had an enthusiastic practice. We ended up with a spring scrimmage and had about eight thousand or 10 thousand fans, which is a pretty good-sized crowd for us in the spring there at Oklahoma State. There's a lot of enthusiasm in the program, so it went well.
BO CARTER: We'll take media questions for Coach Mike Gundy of OSU.
Q. How would you have felt as a player about a 12th game? How do you feel about one now as a coach?
COACH GUNDY: Well, I'm for the 12th game. As a player, I always felt like there weren't enough games. I enjoyed the opportunity to play on Saturday. I think most of these college players enjoy being out there. They feel like they're in the entertainment business on Saturdays. There's only so many opportunities a year. I think the additional game will be good. Look forward to it.
Q. A week has passed since the end of spring ball. Do you have a better feel of how the quarterbacks and runningbacks are shaking out after reviewing it with the staff? Just your general thought on how the offense progressed from March 5th through early April.
COACH GUNDY: Well, we talked a little bit at the end of the spring scrimmage. Since then, we've been able to evaluate some tape. As I mentioned early in the spring, we were concerned about the runningback position. I feel confident now, even more confident than after the spring scrimmage a couple weeks ago, that Julius Crosslin and Michael Hamilton are going to give us the ability to run the ball in the Big 12 next year. Greg Gold was playing runningback for us the last couple years. We're probably going to move him to wide receiver. The guy that may have been the most impressive from an improvement standpoint was Calvin Roberts, has come a long way. Between those three guys, I feel pretty comfortable about that position.
Q. The quarterbacks?
COACH GUNDY: Well, our quarterbacks is exactly the same way as I thought after spring ball. In coaching the position for so long, I have a better opportunity to watch practice and get a feel for them. I wanted to wait until I've seen the tape. Donovan Woods is a guy that has shown a lot of presence and understands the offense to a certain extent or enough to run the show out there. Bobby is doing a good job of learning, but he's not as far along. He lacks experience. Al Pena played his best game in the final spring scrimmage. We're going to go into two-a-day camp, those two guys are going to battle it out. Al is going to get the reps at the three. We discussed that with Al. He said he's going to continue to practice hard. If he gets his opportunity, he'll go in there and take advantage of it.
Q. Do you feel more comfortable now that the kids are absorbing Larry's scheme?
COACH GUNDY: Well, I think they were absorbing it all along. I just think because it's so complex at times with the signal system and the spread offense and what we're doing, it just takes more time. Then when you try to get all that accomplished in a number of scrimmages in the spring drills, at times it can be a little bit much for them. I am confident, yes, that they're learning. I think the quarterbacks will spend time in the off-season on their own and take it upon themselves to make sure they have a better feel for what we're trying to do when we start camp in August.
Q. Is Donovan the clear-cut number one going into two-a-days?
COACH GUNDY: In starting tow-a-days, when we have our first scrimmage, he'll be the No. 1 quarterback. We don't have a clear-cut favorite to start the first game yet. We would like to name a starter for the first game a couple weeks out. That would be our preference at this time. I don't know if we'll be able to do that or not. I'm not so sure we might not play more than one quarterback in the first game. There's not that much of a separation between any of them to name them at this particular time.
BO CARTER: Coach Gundy, thank you so much for joining us from the road. We appreciate your time and want to wish you guys good luck. We look forward to getting together with you this fall.
COACH GUNDY: Thank you. Have a good day.
BO CARTER: Now it's our pleasure to welcome in Coach Bill Snyder, the winningest coach in K State history. We'll get your overall evaluation of how things have been going in the early going. Welcome in Coach Bill Snyder of Kansas State.
COACH SNYDER: Thank you. We've gone through approximately a little over half of our spring drills and our players were taking approximately a week break and our coaches are on the road recruiting. Players are back involved in the out-of-season program. Up to this point in time I think probably, my speculation is probably 75, 80% of the practice time we've had up to this point in time has been somewhat rewarding and improvement has been made I think in general across the board. I would say the other 20%, the latter stages before we took the break, really wasn't the quality of work that we had hoped for. We've made some headway in some areas and certainly have an awful lot of work ahead of us when we get back and get started up again prior to the spring game. Hopefully those practices will be productive and some of the issues that we're dealing with can be resolved a little bit, at least a little more clearly in our eyes, by the time we finish spring practice.
BO CARTER: Thank you, Coach Snyder. We'll take media questions.
Q. In your experience, when you have a coaching staff change, particularly at the coordinator level, does it take a while for the staff to kind of gel almost maybe like an offensive line or a team to get to know each other a little bit? When you have a transition like that, is there an adjustment period?
COACH SNYDER: Well, I think that's probably relatively accurate. I've seen it both ways. Probably more the way you described it than the other way. But we've had -- I can only speak to my own experiences here and other staffs where I've been. I think sometimes, the fit is - what would we say - perfect, and consequently it's as though you didn't skip a beat. But I think more often, yes, it takes some time to adjust on either/or collectively with the staff that you have in place, any individual that would come in and be new to the staff. I've seen it work both ways, but a little more like you indicate.
Q. That transition, is it just to some extent like on a personal level, particularly when somebody comes in from the outside, is it just getting to know them? Obviously, I would think the football is all pretty much the same. Is it kind of understanding where everybody is coming from and like having a new kid in class?
COACH SNYDER: Once again, it kind of depends. Sometimes you bring somebody onto your staff who is very familiar with other coaches on your staff, who have had some experiences together at another school. This profession I think is extremely tight. Virtually everybody is familiar with everyone else, I think, for the most part. That's not a hundred percent true. I think it's very much like that. I think sometimes, as you say, football is football. There's always that talk about terminology. If you keep a system in place as it is, there's an adjustment in regards to how things are identified, both for a new coach as well as for nuances that a new coach might bring to a system or a scheme that takes adjustment with the other coaches that have been on the staff for a while.
Q. Top priorities. I know this is a vague question. As you went in and got halfway to go, when you come off your break, what were your top priorities offensively and defensively going into this?
COACH SNYDER: Well, I think going in we needed to identify some young people that would step up and provide some leadership both on the offensive side and the defensive side and collectively from a team standpoint as well as special teams. I thought we had to find out exactly where we were with the new personnel and try to -- you can't necessarily replace players like Darren Sproles, et cetera, but who is going to fit into that spot. We wanted to hopefully create an environment in which the competition by position was elevated so that it would help the improvement of virtually all the players that would be in a competitive situation with each position. We have a very young offensive line. The development of our offensive line was important to try to elevate the play of virtually every position across the board. There were some other priorities, but I think that's enough for a phone call anyway.
Q. You've been in this business for a long time. Did you ever think you'd see coordinator salaries go as high as they have across the country in the last couple of years?
COACH SNYDER: Well, I tell you what, I never thought I would see a head coach's salary get as high as they have. So the answer is no, I didn't anticipate that. It really is somewhat surprising that there is so much money involved in collegiate athletics. That probably I think maybe sends a message that it's a little bit more than the amateur game that at least a lot of us grew up with. It's changed considerably in that respect.
Q. Speaking of changing, what was your salary the last year that you were on Coach Fry's staff before you became the head coach?
COACH SNYDER: That's a good question. I don't know if I can remember exactly. It may have been in the vicinity of $60,000, somewhere along those lines.
Q. So considering that now coordinators are out making a quarter of a million dollars at some schools, do you think that speaks to maybe more demands from head coaches because the coach might be paying that kind of money to a coordinator, they're going to demand more from them?
COACH SNYDER: I think it's part of society. A gallon of milk costs a whole lot more than it did when I was at Iowa, as well. Everything has gone up. Salary is just a part of it, whether it's in football or otherwise. I agree with what you say. I think that probably allows greater expectations to be placed. But I guess I kind of temper that statement as well because we're in a profession, there's just a tremendous amount of great expectations placed on coaches regardless of what their titles might be. I think it's always been that way. I think coaches are highly competitive and very prideful of their performance. I think all of that goes hand-in-hand. Whether it's the pressure placed internally by the individual themselves or by the salary that they receive, I'm not sure which is greater. I think certainly both exist.
Q. Could I get an assessment of your quarterback picture at this point in the spring. How is Dylan Meier's recovery coming?
COACH SNYDER: Dylan's recovery is coming along just fine. He's not able to do a great deal in practice at least. We're not allowing him to do a great deal. It has been competitive between Allen Webb and Allen Evridge up to this point in time. Allen Webb I think has put some separation between the two. What we're looking for right now is greater consistency out of him. Just about the time he starts to really step out in front, then he backs off a little bit and Allen Evridge closes the gap a little. It's still somewhat competitive at this point in time, about 60% of our practice time having passed.
BO CARTER: Coach Snyder, we appreciate your time and want to wish you guys continued good luck when you come back from the break for your April 30th spring practice ending.
COACH SNYDER: Thank you.
BO CARTER: It's our pleasure now to welcome in Coach Gary Pinkel of Missouri. Coach, after last Saturday's spring scrimmage, we'll get your evaluation of spring practice and your thoughts as you move into the off-season.
COACH PINKEL: Good morning. We finished our spring drills last Saturday. Felt like we had a good spring. Felt that we've answered some of our questions. Certainly there's some things we have to get taken care of in the fall. I thought overall it was a good spring. What's going to be important for us is to continue to obviously work hard and have a good summer, which is the next phase of our preparation. We'll get back at it in August.
BO CARTER: We'll take questions for Coach Pinkel.
Q. Could you talk about what those issues were that you got resolved in the spring.
COACH PINKEL: Well, I think what we do is we look at some personnel issues at a lot of different places, on our team, we have graduating seniors or players that have left the program, what have you. We need to make sure those spots are filled in through our whole football team. For the most part I think we've filled in most of the areas that we need taken care of. We certainly have some things on the offensive line, although I think we're better off there. I feel good that thus far we're okay. But a couple spots there need to be sorted out, a couple spots on our defensive line. Overall, I think, you know, it was a good spring in that regard.
Q. Did you have any questions scheme-wise offensively or defensively that you wanted or execution-wise, something that you wanted to see better in each unit?
COACH PINKEL: Our special teams are something we worked very hard on. We always work hard at it. Just been really frustrated we haven't made the progress we need to make. We worked extra hard on that this spring, harder than we've ever worked. Defensively I think there's a few new things we did. There's always scheme things you can find a way to make yourself better. We made some significant changes on offense, merging with what we did a year ago in the past with some new things. Not proficient at it enough right now, but certainly we expect at two-a-days to be ready for next spring.
Q. It appears the 12th regular season game is going to be a reality. Your thoughts on whether or not you're in favor of that. Secondly, it also appears like perhaps the final coaches poll might be revealed in the new BCS formula. Your thoughts on that.
COACH PINKEL: As far as the 12 games is concerned, I think it was just inevitable. It's a dollar issue. It's interesting, we took a poll with our players and asked them about it. About 85%, 90% of our players wanted to play a 12th game. I thought that was kind of interesting. It's certainly just a dollar issue. That's not the dollar issue for football necessarily but for athletic departments. As far as the other -- as far as the poll is concerned, I voted on the poll several years off and on. I voted you do not reveal it. I take it very seriously when I put my name on that. I have taken it very seriously when I made my votes on late Saturday nights. But I will not vote if the names are published because I just think it should be private. I think it could be used in an adverse way. That's just the way I feel.
Q. By my count you guys are the only team in the Big 12 that are going to be facing two bowl teams from last year in your non-conference schedule. What is your philosophy on scheduling as far as looks like you have one of the tougher non-conference schedules not only in the Big 12 but maybe in the country?
COACH PINKEL: Well, I think what you try to do is you just try to get a schedule -- we also know our Big 12 schedule, being in the great league we're in, it's certainly very difficult schedules we all have. I just think you want balance in your non-conference schedules. The schedules are made up two, three, four, five years ago. Sometimes you don't know from one year to the next if they're going to be bowl teams or not. But we're playing some good teams, and that's okay. We need those kind of challenges.
Q. I know you played a game on Thursday night last year, a non-conference game, for television purposes. Would you steer away from those kind of games in the future, non-conference, or do you feel the exposure for your program might outweigh that?
COACH PINKEL: I think it depends on who you're talking to. I think some teams, as we build our program, exposure is certainly important to us. We would look at that. We would look at who our opponent would be the next week, the week prior to, make an evaluation on all those issues. But I think then you'd have to decide if it works well for you. I don't think it's just a cut and dry you would or you wouldn't. I think there's several variables that would make you -- you have to analyze to make the right decision for your program.
Q. When you answered earlier about revealing the vote, even if it was just the final poll, revealing the results of your voting, would that make a difference to you?
COACH PINKEL: Well, I just -- yeah, I'm just not going to vote. I just think it can be used against you. Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion. Everybody else can vote, I have no problem with that. I've been doing it for many years. I don't know why all of a sudden this is a big issue. I think the coaches poll, voting is very important, that we're a part of it. I think the coaches do a great job with it. But I just -- you know, I think it's personal when you make a vote. That's the way I feel.
Q. Since you're a poll guy, what was your feeling when the AP decided it didn't want to be part of the BCS or did you have a feeling about that?
COACH PINKEL: I've got enough things to be concerned about (laughter).
Q. Heard an interesting comment on a spring special with Texas A&M coach, Dennis Franchione. He was talking about how you get a special quarterback, you only have him for a short period of time. As a coach, your responsibility is to get the most out of them. He talked about in spring a major emphasis for them was to do the things to get the most mileage out of Reggie McNeal. He's a senior. You have a situation with a special guy in Brad Smith. How much do you think about this is Brad's last year, we have to ride his abilities and get the most out of him as well as develop him to the max before he leaves the University of Missouri?
COACH PINKEL: Well, I've always felt that way. He started as a freshman, as we all know. I think when you're young, his first year, we're very sensitive and cautious of what we would allow him to do or not do. The next two years, like we do with anybody, any weakness we think a player has, any area we think he needs improved, we will coach him and fundamentally try to make him better in everything that he does. I don't feel any different this year than I have any year. I think we always want to do that. That's what our responsibility is.
BO CARTER: Coach Pinkel, we want to thank you for joining us. We want to wish good luck and good travels in the off-season.
COACH PINKEL: Thank you.
BO CARTER: We'll talk to you soon. Welcome Coach Bob Stoops of Oklahoma. We appreciate you taking time out of a heavy travel schedule today. Coach, we'll first get your evaluation and assessment of spring ball after last Saturday's scrimmage game.
COACH STOOPS: We were overall really pleased with the way spring ball went. I felt like we really gained some experience. We took a great number of snaps, when you look at our practices, you look at the mini scrimmages we had, then the major scrimmages that we had. We really made a lot of progress. We still have a ways to go, but I like the attitude. The players have really worked hard and have pushed theirselves. Though we've got some new guys in some spots, I feel strong that we've got the talent and ability to still be able to be awfully good. Most of those guys really through the spring really stepped up and showed that. It's always tough to evaluate in the spring because you're watching such a large number of players. When you get into game weeks and day, there are only a certain number that are going to play on offense and defense and make the difference. But still feel good about where we came. I like the way the quarterbacks worked. They gained experience. They still need snaps. But that's why you love those game-type environments where they're learning. I felt they'll learn from the spring game. Anyway, just feel good about the way they progressed as a group, too.
BO CARTER: Thanks, Coach Stoops. We'll take media questions for Coach Stoops.
Q. I think I know how you feel about the 12th game, but could you talk about that and maybe the hypocrisy of student-athlete welfare when you're asked for a 12th game, championship game, national championship game in the second week of January.
COACH STOOPS: That would also go, if you're talking about hypocrisy, everybody that's calling for a playoff as well. I'm all for it provided we can drop the Big 12 championship game. In the BCS formula, not everyone is on equal playing field. I'd be all for it if we were able to drop the Big 12 championship game. Then there are other possibilities I think that need to be talked about. I know our conference will, whether we jumble our conference and get rid of north and south and let us play nine Big 12 games, three non-conference, crown our champion like the PAC-10 and Big-10 do as an idea. Those kind of things I think will be discussed. But I'd be for a 12th game as long as we can get rid of the championship game.
Q. What do you think of likelihood of going to one 12-team league?
COACH STOOPS: I don't know. I think that's something our conference will really discuss. It might just improve the general overall general welfare, there isn't a north and south, everybody is all together. I see a lot of good in it, I would think. I'm only seeing one side. That's something I think we all need to discuss and go through. That will happen in our Big 12 meetings I think this year and as we progress through. If not, if they insist on keeping a championship game, the regular season should stand for something and maybe the highest ranked team gets to host it. There's a lot that needs to happen. An extra game I think, dropping the championship game, would be good.
Q. Instant replay is going to kick in next fall. Could you comment on the impact of it. Are you for coaches being able to initiate challenges?
COACH STOOPS: I like the way the Big-10 did it. I like the idea of instant replay. Everything is really televised any more and you can see so much. I think the way the Big-10 did it was perfect, where it's not up to the coaches, just that there's somebody in the box. I think that way it can be more efficient and timely. There's somebody up there that's already seen it. He can say, "Wait a second, let's take a quick look at that. That needs to be overturned." Anyway, I think the Big-10 is really on to something. From what I understand from their coaches as they went through the season, it got better as it went. I'd like to see us do it like they did it and just leave it up to an official in the booth.
Q. You have never backed away from a tough non-conference game on the road. You have UCLA this year. I know you played Alabama on the road a couple years ago. What do you feel like your program benefits by taking your team out on the road before conference play starts?
COACH STOOPS: Well, it's just that, it's a big challenge. I think the players get excited about the challenge of it when you're going on the road against a really good team. I think on top of that, let's face it, you're not going to get a really good game at home without going there, as well. A little bit of it is give and take. If they're going to come to you, you've got to go to them. We have big games with UCLA and Alabama here. They're not going to come here unless we reciprocate and go there. It's just part also of being able to give our fans at home some early exciting games, too
Q. Few schools around the country are willing to take those challenges. Those really good non-conference games are disappearing. Why are you guys willing to go out and do something like that?
COACH STOOPS: I think, let's face it, the last couple three years, the BCS formula with the strength of schedule, I know they've weakened that strength of schedule, but it still matters. For us, the biggest reason was that. We wanted to make sure that our strength of schedule warranted a chance to play in the national championship. In the last few years, that's how it's worked out. I think by devaluing the strength of schedule, I think it hurts all the early non-conference games because I think there would be more of them if that strength of schedule component remained strong like it was really a few years ago.
Q. Do you think now that games like those might disappear from the landscape?
COACH STOOPS: I don't know if they'll disappear because it still matters, it's still a factor. But the incentive isn't quite as strong as it was a few years ago to play them. I think it's exciting for fans and for people to be in those games. I know our players get excited to be in those games early.
Q. Considering the north division was 0-16 against the south, other than Baylor last year, do you think anybody from the north would vote to have everything in one division?
COACH STOOPS: There's advantages if you are. There's quite a bit of recruiting done down south, too. Now it gives you more of a presence there. We're all in the same -- sometimes when you're in the north and south, it's almost like we're in two separate leagues. I'm not saying we are, but sometimes you can get a feel that way. I don't know. I think they would. I think there's advantages to both. Maybe they wouldn't. I don't know. Again, I'm looking at it from my perspective. But I think it's worth talking about anyway.
Q. Would you have preferred to come out of spring with a definitive No. 1 quarterback?
COACH STOOPS: It doesn't matter. Yeah, shoot, it would be great to have Jason White back for the seventh year where you got a guy with so much experience. But, hey, that happens. It's going to happen a few years from now. Just like a few years ago with Jason White and Nate Hibble. It's not a problem. It's natural in college football, guys graduate and new ones come up. Heck, it's natural in the NFL any more. Guys move around. We got a lot of time. We don't play here until September. There's a lot of work still to be done in the summer and leading up to the year. Heck, we get 29 practices before we even play a game once we get back in the fall. Whoever it is, we'll narrow it down. I know we got to watch how we ration out snaps, how we get guys ready. But we'll make some decisions as we get into the summer here.
BO CARTER: Coach Stoops, thank you again so much for joining us during a busy travel schedule. Wish you good luck and safe travels.
COACH STOOPS: Thank you.
BO CARTER: It's our pleasure now to welcome in Coach Guy Morriss of Baylor. Your spring game is Saturday, but we'll get an overall evaluation of how you think things have gone so far.
COACH MORRISS: Thank you. We think it's gone fairly well. As we routinely do, we open up all positions to competition. That's gone well. We finally feel a little more comfortable that we've got enough depth we can actually go out and have a scrimmage, a true scrimmage. We've done some of that this spring. We've had a couple injuries we wish we could have avoided, but I guess that's part of the deal when you decide to scrimmage. Overall, I think both sides of the football have gotten better. We're excited about this last week of practice and the spring game coming up Saturday.
BO CARTER: Thank you, Coach Morriss. We'll take media questions for Coach Morriss of Baylor.
Q. How disappointing was it for Terrance Parks, the injury? Could you kind of assess the quarterback situation there now?
COACH MORRISS: Well, we went from good depth to one standing right now at this particular point. Terrance hit his hand on a helmet Saturday, broke his index finger on the right hand, throwing hand, and also tore a ligament. I have not talked with the training staff, or medical staff, this morning yet as to the extent of it. They told me Saturday he definitely will require surgery for the repair of the ligament. Probably an eight-week healing process. That will put him back on schedule I think to start throwing sometime in July. Shawn Bell is the only healthy quarterback we've got now that has got any playing experience at all. We have the Szymanski kid coming in in the fall. As you know, it's a tough position to get a freshman ready to play. Dane King left us over the Christmas holidays, and Chris (inaudible) has also quit school and gone back home to do whatever he's doing there. We're kind of in a pickle right now. We're out looking for a junior college quarterback to see if we can't get here and give us a little depth.
Q. How is Shawn Bell progressing?
COACH MORRISS: Shawn is having a good spring. He's maturing as a quarterback. He's very comfortable in the system and with Coach Pease. Shawn is the kind of kid that he's not going to do anything that will hurt you really. Very smart, very heads-up type player. He's the son of a head coach over at China Spring which doesn't hurt him at all. He's got some savvy about him you really like. I think his arm strength has gotten a little better since he's been in the weight room this winter. That, of course, helps. That would be his one shortcoming. You'd like to see him be a little bit faster, a little bit taller and have a little bit better arm. Like I say, he can get it done for you.
Q. How was Terrance coming along before he got hurt? Do you think he'll be able to get back to that level?
COACH MORRISS: I don't know if he'll ever get back or not. I guess the depends on what they find when they get in there and when they get corrected. He was coming along very nicely. First scrimmage we had, I mean he lit it up. I think he threw for 327, 347 yards, really moved the club well. He is probably not to the point where Shawn is mentally, but where he makes up for that is with his athleticism and his arm strength. He makes plays that you just can't coach because he is such a great athlete. He was starting to come into his own a little bit. I think he felt very comfortable back there. The couple games that he got to play in last year certainly helped. We were feeling pretty good about our depth situation, those kind of things. At any given time, lightning strikes.
Q. In reading some of the reports out of your spring practice, sounds like you've been pleased by the offensive line and how they've gotten together during the course of the spring. Considering that Blalock and McDonald both haven't been there, does that even make you that much more excited about what they've done with some of the younger guys stepping up?
COACH MORRISS: Yeah, you got Blalock out, McDonald has been out, in the study hall for most of the spring. Nick Pace is back in the lineup. He's trying to knock off about a year's worth of rust. When those three guys are in the lineup at full speed, we're a pretty good offensive line. We've made some progress as far as strength gains go over the course of the winter, which is helpful. We've had two or three of our guys drop some weight, which we have been working on since we got here, which has helped overall with their performance as well. It's a position where right now we feel like we've got eight or nine people that can play. That's the most depth we've had since we've been here. That position is rounding out pretty nice. If we don't get anybody hurt, should be in good shape for next fall.
Q. Is it fair to say your offensive line has progressed better this spring than they have any time since you've been there?
COACH MORRISS: Yes, that's very true. We've changed a few thoughts about thinking. I tried to get them involved in it a little bit more. I think that's helped some. I think it's just generally they're starting to understand, you know, what we're requiring of our offensive linemen here. We do have a little bit of depth. That makes people get better in a hurry, the competition and knowing that you can't ever get comfortable.
Q. Your recruiting class this year was really good, probably the best class that you had brought in since you came in as head coach. Is part of the process in spring knowing what freshmen may be might be able to impact a squad, looking at those positions, saying we're pretty good there, we may not need to use that freshman, or we know now this guy has got to get ready to play day one? Do you evaluate some of your positions in regards to your recruiting class?
COACH MORRISS: Definitely, yeah. That's all part of the overall big picture. A classic example is we went from having really good depth at the quarterback position to now we're down to one guy, one healthy quarterback. First priority I guess when we start recruiting, get out next week, as a matter of fact, will be to go find a quarterback. But at the same time Blake Szymanski now, his value obviously goes through the roof, so to speak. We would like to have redshirted him. Unless we find a juco kid, unless Terrance comes through this surgery, is back to a hundred percent, he's going to have to figure in the mix. You're always thinking ahead. Like you said, we got good depth at this particular position, let's go ahead and we can pretty much commit to redshirting an incoming freshman next fall at this particular time of the year.
Q. How have you looked at wide receiver? You have a young man coming in that could be a major impact in that area.
COACH MORRISS: He's the kind of kid, I don't know that we're in a position we can afford to keep him off the field or not. Our receivers are doing a pretty good job, we've been pleased with them so far. He's a special kid. For us, we may have to go ahead and make the commitment to playing him. We'll know more actually once he gets here obviously, how quick can he learn the techniques and the rout tree, that kind of stuff.
BO CARTER: Coach Morriss, thank you again so much for joining us. I want to wish Terrance Parks a quick recovery, wish you guys a great spring game.
COACH MORRISS: Appreciate it. Thank you.
BO CARTER: Now it's our pleasure to bring in one of four Big 12 coaches who won their bowl games, still undefeated in 2005, Coach Dan McCarney of Iowa State. Coach, first get your evaluation of spring practice after last week's spring game and your thoughts about the off-season.
COACH McCARNEY: Great to be with you. It's been a while. I appreciate the opportunity to get back for a few minutes. We did finish our spring on Saturday. It was a very competitive spring game. We put ones and fours against twos and threes. We spot the twos and threes 21 points, then shorten the quarters a little bit, shorten the halftime, see if those number ones can rally, come from behind. I think you get a few more game-like situations and hopefully a lot of urgency because they start out down three touchdowns. We got a lot of good work in, end up with a goal line stand. Ones came from behind to win the game. It was a fitting finish to a very productive spring. We lost Kyle Van Winkle, he did break a collarbone on the right side, which was his throwing arm side. We fully anticipate him being ready to go in August. All in all a good spring. I thought we -- the guys that did play and help us have some success last year improved. Some of the guys that played real well for us last year I thought were some of the ones that led the improvement of football team this spring. You always like to see that. There were some new faces and new guys that I think will have a chance to impact our team, too. But I'm real proud of the team and staff. I think we got a lot done. Got a lot of work to do between now and 20 weeks from this past Saturday night when we open the season.
BO CARTER: Thanks, Coach McCarney. We'll take questions from the media.
Q. Just wanted to see if you could overall break down offensive, defense, special teams, comments on those three areas coming out of the spring.
COACH McCARNEY: I won't get into a long dissertation here. Offensively, we were better than we were at any time last spring. We lost four starters there on offense and some real valuable guys. But there's no question led by Bret Meyer's improvement, we're better offensively than we were last March and April when we finished spring practices. We still got work to do. We've still got some depth issues we got to bring along. Two of the most dynamic players we have didn't play this spring, didn't play very much. Blythe was out with the ACL injury, all Big 12 guy as a freshman, Scott Stephenson, transfer from Minnesota that sat out last year, had shoulder surgery. Without question, he's one of the most physical offensive linemen that we have. With the thought of those guys getting back in the mix with we get started in August, along with the work ethic, the improvement of the guys we have on offense, I think we should be better. We were not great offense statistically last year, but we were good enough to have a winning season and win a bowl game. We're building on that. Defensively we lost some tremendous guys there, four starters including Ellis Hobbs who is the best leader I've had in my career here at Iowa State. There's a good nucleus of guys we know we can win with in the Big 12 coming back. A few other guys have surfaced that look like they've got a chance to be some pretty good success stories for us, too. We were real good with turnovers last year. We had a lot of scores on defense. We were much improved rush defense. I'm hoping we can continue to build on that. I really like the chemistry of our defense, the personality that's there. There are some new leaders emerging with the graduation of Ellis Hobbs. Kicking game was horrendous Saturday. It's been pretty solid all spring long. None of the kickers did a good job in the spring game. We're much better than we showed Saturday. We got more time put into coverage and blocking and all those things this spring. We met more, put more time in on the practice field. Hopefully it will show this fall. We definitely improved in the kicking game this past season. We need to continue that improvement in 2005.
Q. I know Stephenson was not out there on the offensive line. In the offensive and defensive lines, how do you feel -- I'm sure you had a lot of competition between the two groups, how did that come out in the spring?
COACH McCARNEY: The neat thing about it, the way we do our spring game, that's the first time the whole spring that one offense and one defense is on the same team. They're going against each other in the previous 14 practices. We put them together one time in the spring game. I thought there was a lot of progress made there. Stephenson is a guy that really he's one of the most physical guys we have. We're going to put him at center. He did practice some this spring. The doctors let him get into individual work and some inside drills, but kept him out of the all of scrimmage things because of the shoulder surgery he had. He showed us enough. He elevates the play of our offensive line, our offense, and especially the interior of our defense when he's in the lineup because he's going to be a real fine player. We to have two starters we have to replace up front. Defensively I thought leaders Curvey and Moore picked off from where they loft off in the bowl championship game. Played real well in that game. Played real well all spring. We got to keep coming along to continue to build the depth. But I think our offensive and defensive lines by September 3rd got a chance to be pretty salty.
Q. How important was it the way you finished last season, winning the bowl game after the heartbreak against Missouri? How did that attitude carry over into the off-season program and throughout spring practice?
COACH McCARNEY: Definitely carried over. Like all bowl coaching staffs know, it shortens the winter, shortens the break between bowl practices and spring ball. That's the way you want it. You sure don't want it the way we had it the year before. I tell you, where we noticed the retention the most was the very first day we went out to spring practice, how much carryover there was, because there was a short break. We'd like to keep it that way every year. I think we did make some real strides, there's no doubt about it. We sure are a ways away from the top of the mountain. But we're making strides, we're climbing it. I think these kids saw even though a lot of people had us down and out after the Colorado game, we end up rallying, winning five of our last six. Some real positive things they should be real proud of and yet hopefully build on for the future.
Q. There's been a bit of talk about scrapping the divisional structure of the Big 12, lumping everybody together in one group. Do you think anybody in the north would vote for that?
COACH McCARNEY: That's a good question. I didn't know there was any discussion. You know, I'd be willing to sure think about it and talk about it. It's probably something that will come up at the meetings that come up when we get together in Colorado in May. Haven't put a lot of thought into it. I've been here since the day the Big 12 was formed. I know there's people and there's both sides of it that it's worked in the Big-10 without it, you don't need divisional, those kind of things. I'd have to hear some real good reasons why because I'm kind of a creature of habit. This is what we've done, this is what we've known. It has been real competitive. But you don't play every team every year, obviously. We're in that rotation every two years. But it's sure something that I'm sure that will come up and we'll talk about it, along with 12-game schedules, all those other things that are out there.
Q. What is your feeling about the 12-game schedule? Are you for it or against it?
COACH McCARNEY: I'm for it, I really am. I don't know about other places and schools and -- everybody has a different situation. Obviously anything we can do to get another home game here at Iowa State, help our situation financially and budget-wise, get another opportunity to play in front of our fans, we're all for it. We have been in some 12-game seasons, even 13-game seasons, the year we played Florida State in the Eddie Robinson Classic. We've been through it. We've been through a number of seasons, even though the 12th game might have been a bowl game or pre-season kick-off game. I think if you handle it right, it can be a real positive, and I would definitely support it.
BO CARTER: Coach McCarney, we appreciate you taking time after the end of spring training to do a great evaluation. Hope to see you in the off-season. Good luck and safe travels.
COACH McCARNEY: Thanks a lot. Look forward to being with you next season.
BO CARTER: Of our remaining coaches, Texas finished its spring game the earliest with Texas Spring Jamboree April 2nd. Coach Franchione finished up April 9th. Colorado and Coach Gary Barnett still have their spring game to go Saturday. Nebraska finished up last Saturday before 63,416 fans, which to date is the largest attendance at a Big 12 spring game or spring scrimmage to close out practices. It's our pleasure to welcome in Coach Mack Brown of the 2005 Rose Bowl championship Texas team. Coach, thanks for joining us for our spring call. We'll get first your assessment, I know it's been two weeks, but your thoughts about the end of spring practice and plans maybe for the off-season.
COACH BROWN: We're doing good. We have a university golf tournament that's a fund-raiser for our men's and women's golf teams today. We have all of our lettermen back, a lot of them back, that are on the Pro Tour. It's a good day out at the golf course. We felt like we had a good spring. The two biggest things we needed to correct, we got to try to replace the tailback. Obviously you look at what Cedric Benson has done for us over the last four years, we won't replace him. We'll have to do some different things offensively and look at different ways to find the right tailback, then figure out what pass difficulty he can handle the best. Secondly is looking at what you do with Derrick Johnson. Derrick is one of the great players in college football for the last four years as well. We're concerned about runningback right now because of the inexperience there. We're also concerned about backup quarterback on offense because Chance played that role for a number of years. We're also concerned about the linebacker, our inexperience there. Other than that, we felt like we had a good spring.
BO CARTER: Thanks, Coach Brown. We'll take media questions for Coach Mack Brown.
Q. Could you tell me what your thoughts are on going to a 12-game schedule on a permanent basis.
COACH BROWN: Well, college football in general is a little bit confusing right now. Should we go to a 12th game, should we have a plus one, should we have a playoff system out of eight -- the last eight or ten teams. It's just a little bit confusing right now to see which model would be the best. What I'd like to see is more people pull up different models and say, if we have a 12th game, this is what changes in the BCS. If we have the playoffs, if we're playing a 12th game and then a championship game, then a bowl game, you're playing 14 games anyway, so why worry about the amount of time that a young man spends outside the classroom or over his holidays in sports if you're not going to go ahead and have a playoff. I don't know. I'm not really sure right now. I know that a lot of our kids were concerned about it. Obviously it's a financial issue more than anything else.
Q. Should the 12 games go hand-in-hand with the five and five with your scholarships?
COACH BROWN: I really think it should because of numbers of scholarships. I've been a person who has really been for five years of eligibility for a long time.
Q. There's a lot of talk in the revamped BCS formula, coaches poll ballots will be revealed on the final one. I was curious about your thoughts on that. Would you still want to vote if that was the case?
COACH BROWN: Well, I haven't really decided. I said at first that I wouldn't because it would be so political here. If it's a distraction for our team at any time or our university, it wouldn't be fair to the kids or to the other coaches on the staff. And it wouldn't be about the Cal vote like last year, it wouldn't be about anything other than the Big 12. If we voted some of our rivals in a position where we thought they were fair, but they weren't, where the fan base thought they were, it might really put us in a very difficult position. That's the decision I'll have to make if the coaches vote to have a final vote.
Q. Your game against Ohio State coming up during the non-conference part of the schedule is the kind of game that most college football teams don't play any more. What is your thought about playing that game? Why don't we see those kind of games as much as we used to?
COACH BROWN: We're not seeing them because strength of schedule is not as important as it used to be. Why play them? We fill up at home, Ohio State fills up at home. If you play again, you're more likely to win, it helps you in the BCS. You make more money playing at home than you do going on the road. A game at Ohio State and Texas is a TV game anyway. That's why you're not seeing the great rivalries now or the great intersectional meetings like we used to have.
Q. As your standpoint of being kind of a purist in college football, obviously nobody plays that any more for understandable reasons. Is something missing by the fans not being able to see those great games?
COACH BROWN: I think they are. I think by nature what we've done with the BCS and making it if you're not in the BCS you're unsuccessful, I think we've hurt college football in some ways on the front end with scheduling.
Q. Was it a little boring for you this spring to know who your starting quarterback was?
COACH BROWN: Well, not really. Obviously, what you're concerned about when there is only one with experience is who the backup guy is.
Q. Is there somebody leading that derby right now?
COACH BROWN: Right now Matt Nordgren is the only other scholarship quarterback on our campus. Obviously he would be the guy. He's played very little. We are bringing in a freshman, Colt (inaudible). We got to decide, do you try to play him, or redshirt him. We will only have three scholarship quarterbacks in the fall. I'd much rather have a controversy over having four really good ones.
Q. The other two positions, how did you like the tailbacks? What did you think coming out of spring with that position, as well as trying to find that marquee linebacker to replace Johnson?
COACH BROWN: Could you repeat the question?
Q. The two positions that are critical, what you thought of the tailbacks and linebacker.
COACH BROWN: Well, obviously what we have back is Harris, who played really well for us. He had a great Rose Bowl game. Eric Hall has some experience. Other than that, we don't have any experience at linebacker. Young was not in school this spring, he's our other experience at runningback. Ramonce Taylor didn't play there much. We're really really inexperienced at both positions and I'm concerned about both.
Q. Did anybody at tailback catch your eye?
COACH BROWN: We'll, Ramonce did some good things. He's got the great speed. He's just so different than Cedric because Cedric was so physical. Then Chris (inaudible), a receiver we moved over there. We're really thin at runningback and somebody is going to have to answer those questions this fall.
Q. There's been some talk about doing away with the north division and south division in the Big 12, making it all a unified 12-team division, like the case in baseball and basketball. What is your thought on that?
COACH BROWN: I'd really like to see something like that. I'd like to see the two best team -- first I'd like to see us do away with the championship game if we're going to add a 12th game, then we're going to obviously play a 13th one if you're good enough. Secondly, if we keep the championship game, I'd love to see a situation where the best two teams play at the end.
Q. Specifically on the unifying of the conference into 12-team conference, what do you think the benefits of being able to do that would be?
COACH BROWN: The only benefit I see right now is in a situation where you've got a 10-win team, an 11-win team, at the end of the year they'd get to play to see who the true champion was. There's been some years where the south wasn't as strong, some years where the north wasn't as strong, and then our championship game doesn't have the luster that it might have if we just played the two best teams.
BO CARTER: Thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate your time. Wish you good luck and safe travels and a good off-season.
COACH BROWN: Thank you. Now it's our pleasure to welcome in Coach Dennis Franchione. Coach, you just finished your game on April 9th, but we'll get your evaluation of spring practice and throw it open to media questions.
COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, this was by far the best of our springs, my third one. We have eight starters back on both sides I guess depending on how you look at it. We've got some guys that have played a good bit, coming off a little better year. With Reggie McNeal returning, Jaxson Appel, some key people, that certainly is a help. Our young players learn quickly when they see the old players be able to do it, the older players with experience. We got a lot accomplished. We had some guys that we held out with injury, Jami Hightower being one. For the most part I thought it was an excellent spring and we felt good about what we accomplished in 15 days. We'll look forward now to the fall.
BO CARTER: We'll take media questions for Coach Franchione now.
Q. Would you comment on your offensive line. I know you held Jami out. You were kind of experimenting. Do you see that as a problem at all by not having that cohesiveness that you'd like in an offensive line in the spring?
COACH FRANCHIONE: I really don't. We use spring as a time to move people around and experiment and find out where they're best at and where the five best guys are. That was very profitable for us last spring when Geoff Hangartner and Chris Yoder got a lot of reps. Jami being the veteran as he is, I know he'll bounce back fine, let our young players such as Yemi Babalola get a lot of reps and a lot of work against good people with the first team at times. As a result of that, I think we get Jami back, Corey Clark fits right in at one tackle right now, and I think within the first week to 10 days of two-a-days, we'll solidify who is where and go forward, much like we did last year.
Q. On the other side of the ball, would you discuss your defensive line and the progress you thought they made during the spring.
COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, if there was any group that controlled the spring, it was the defensive line. When they had their good days, they controlled the line of scrimmage and made it very difficult for the offense to move the football because of their play. They make our linebackers into better players. They were certainly a force. We fortunately have some depth there, too.
Q. Speaking of the defensive line, you lose Mike Montgomery, your sack leader. Is Chris Harrington still the guy that will plug that hole? Also the continued progress of your sophomores now, Jason Jack and Red Bryant.
COACH FRANCHIONE: Chris Harrington would be our starter at that position was we finish spring. Mike certainly had a great year for us. We'll miss Mike. I don't think there's any doubt that next week he does very well in the NFL draft, which is the indication from a lot of people. But Chris had a good spring, is going to be a good solid players there. Red Bryant had an excellent spring. I think he took a step forward and got better. Jason Jack, much the same way. Those guys, even though they're going to be redshirt sophomores, they're veterans because of the amount of time they played. That was good. Then we got guys like Cyril Obiozor and Chris Smith and Will Morrisey who are the redshirt freshman, this was a big spring for them. Then Michael Bennett, a true freshman that made some steps for us, too. Those guys are going to be exciting to watch as we go forward.
Q. Do you feel like that group, you said they really controlled the line of scrimmage in the spring when they were on, do you feel like that group needs to be kind of the leadership group with so many young guys and new guys filling positions in the defensive (inaudible) linebacker not being as deep as it could be in a few years?
COACH FRANCHIONE: I can barely hear you. I think you asked about the D line taking a leadership position.
Q. Do they need to be the group that is the veteran group?
COACH FRANCHIONE: I think they are and did and will. Obviously, when you got Jaxson Appel back there, you've got another leader in the secondary. I think everybody recognizes Archie McDaniel on our team as a leader. The guy that probably -- if I picked the three top springs by defensive players, I'd pick Johnny Jolly, Jaxson Appel and Justin Warren. Justin Warren really had a sideline-to-sideline type spring. He's got good speed. He played the best I've seen him play. He really had a purpose and a goal that he set and worked really hard to achieve it.
Q. Across the nation coordinators and assistant coaches' salaries have gone up over the last three or four years. Could you talk about this trend. Do you think it's good for college football?
COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, you're right, I think assistant coaches and their salaries have been recognized as growing more in the last couple three years. I think they're very deserving. They're very pivotal parts of what gets done here. I've often said sometimes a head coach gets more credit and more blame than he deserves. Those guys are certainly pivotal in the success of a program. I think it's well-deserving that they're being recognized that way. It's a society or trend that's happened as of late. We all feel fortunate for all of that. America is a great place to live. But I do believe there are so many excellent ones that they can make a difference around the nation. When you have one, you want to pay him well enough to keep him. When you lose one, you're going to have to pay a little more to get one.
Q. Do you see the demand to ratchet it up for the really, really good ones? It's kind of a buyer's market out there.
COACH FRANCHIONE: It is. I think you're a little right. When one of them does decide to move, you're going to have to heighten your investment generally. You're seeing more two- and three-year contracts for assistant coaches than ever before. This has not been the most stable profession obviously. It does give some of those guys some stability that I think is pivotal in their decision-making process.
Q. There's been talk on the teleconference about grouping the Big 12 into the one Big 12 team division rather than north and south. What are your thoughts on that?
COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, I've had some thoughts along those ways. I hadn't thought necessarily of saying let's group it into one 12-team division as much as maybe take three teams from the north and three times from the south and maybe every few years go east/west as a change-up. Obviously when you have two divisions, it goes in cycles. The unfortunate thing you can have is the two best teams may be in the same division. You're trying to pitch your championship game obviously with the two best ones. That's why this talk probably comes up from time to time. I think it might -- we might be a little cutting edge if we kind of stepped out there and say that we're going to try this for a four-year cycle, two years like this, maybe east/west, then go back to two years north/south. I know we worry about rivalries and some traditional games, but now that the Big 12 has been together a number of years, more of that has probably made diminished and grown in other areas which might make looking at something like this a little more feasible.
Q. Is the reason for east/west being intriguing because of your background at the SEC?
COACH FRANCHIONE: Right. That's kind of where I thought about that. We were east/west in that division. The rotation of it has been something I thought about, you know, like instead of always the same six teams together, take three from one, three from the other, make east and west, whatever it may be. But to kind of add some variety to the divisional setup.
Q. If you had the one division, what would you think of the top two teams hosting the championship game?
COACH FRANCHIONE: I hadn't given that any thought. That would be a real home-field advantage right there for that top team. I don't know what the implications would be in turnaround of ticket sales and things like that. I think it would probably work out fine. It would probably be something that the team that survived and was at the top of the television deserved as being able to accomplish that.
BO CARTER: Coach Fran, we appreciate you taking time. I want to wish you guys good luck and safe travels.
COACH FRANCHIONE: Thank you.
BO CARTER: Coach Barnett is unable to be on the call this afternoon. Our apologies for not being able to get Coach Barnett on the call today. We should have Coach Bill Callahan in just about a minute. It's our pleasure now to welcome in Coach Bill Callahan of Nebraska. We heard you had a 63,416 turnout at the spring game the other day. Your thoughts about how spring went for the Huskers and thoughts maybe about the off-season and your evaluation.
COACH CALLAHAN: It was a great day for Nebraska football to have 63,415 fans come out and support the Huskers was greatly appreciated by our staff, players and fans. I don't know where in the country you can have people support their team like we do here in Nebraska. Like the saying goes: There is no place like Nebraska. It was great to have our fans support us. We achieved many of our goals and objectives that we set out this spring. We felt we accomplished that. Saturday's experience was just an invaluable experience in a lot of ways. We had a game-like environment and conditions that you normally don't get prior to your first game. It was great to see many of our newcomers get acclimated and adjusted to a game-like setting and execute under pressure as well.
BO CARTER: We'll take media questions for Coach Callahan of Nebraska.
Q. Can you retrace your steps just on when the decision was made late last season to go after another quarterback, maybe where Zac fit in initially when you started evaluating guys?
COACH CALLAHAN: I want to say we as a staff, as we were going through the evaluation process, going through each position, I felt that we needed more competition. I think as you retrace your quotes on where we were at in the process, I think it was towards the latter part of the season. When, I can't recall to be exact to my knowledge. I know we were evaluating the process of trying to get another quarterback in here to compete just like we were trying to get other positions in here to compete and to give competition to each position.
Q. Where did Zac fit in when you get your initial list? Were they mostly JC guys at that point?
COACH CALLAHAN: Well, no. We were recruiting everybody at that point. As you know, we had received a commitment from Harrison. We continued to evaluate everybody.
Q. There's been some talk on the teleconference earlier, particularly from some of the south division schools, about unifying the Big 12 into one 12-team division, doing away with the six-team north and south. What do you feel about that?
COACH CALLAHAN: Well, it's really not up to me to say. Our athletic directors have a huge say in that. I wasn't here at the onset or the creation of the conference when it was split into a division. It's hard for me to even begin to comment on that. I know a little bit of the history of it. Currently, the way it stands right now, I'm real pleased with the format, the setting, the way it is.
Q. Do you think it might be easier for people to go along with this if the top two teams in a 12-team division ended up playing for the championship rather than the way it is now where you might have one division with a much worse record than a team in another division getting the playoff berth in front of them?
COACH CALLAHAN: Well, I'd have to think about that, just trying to get familiarized with the initial format, trying to capture the Big 12 North. I think it goes in cycles really. Some teams are stronger, some years some conferences and divisions are weaker. I look at the NFL as my only experience of divisional play and conference play. I know that some divisions are stronger other years than not. Sometimes that can get blown out of proportion. Just trying to relate it to what I'm accustomed to in the National Football League. I don't have a great history here in the Big 12, so the only thing I can equate it to is the National Football League. Some years conferences are up and conferences are down, divisions are up and divisions are down. I think it's cyclical. I think it all balances out in the end.
Q. For those of us that didn't get to see much of the spring, can you talk more about Zac Taylor? Is he the starter going into fall camp?
COACH CALLAHAN: Very haven't named a starter yet. I'd be more than happy to talk about Zac, what he's accomplished this spring. We're really pleased with his performance Saturday. He came in here and completed 20 of 27 plays. He did an awesome job, just in terms of managing the offense, producing 357 yards, three touchdowns. I was really impressed. I was really impressed. But I still come away and look at Zac as still being -- needing more work and needing more things to work on. Obviously, he would be in agreement with that. But I'm pleased with where we're at. He's making strides, he's beginning to create separation at the position. When we get into the fall, we've got some other people coming in that will be competing along with Zac. It will be a matter for Zac to hang on to where he's had -- where he's located right now in the depth chart.
Q. Did he adjust faster than you thought he might?
COACH CALLAHAN: The thing that impressed me in the recruiting process about Zac when I visited with him at Butler was he was a very intense individual, a very intelligent individual, and I knew that he had a good grasp of what they were doing there in their own offensive system because I had the opportunity to sit down and go through their system and their ways of play calling and the way that they managed their game at Butler. There were a lot of similarities. I knew coming in that he would adjust. I thought that he would do the things that we wanted him to do rather quickly. It was a matter of how fast he could execute and keep his execution level up in terms of all the volume that was going in. As he began to learn the system and as he got more familiarized during spring ball, his passing percentage went up a little bit more, a little bit further. He started to make the plays because he was a little more comfortable with the reads and he understood the progressions better than what he knew when he first arrived here. His progress was really quick. When you've got a smart guy and you've got preparation, it normally equates to a lot of good production.
Q. What is Joe Dailey's status? Will he stay at quarterback, transfer?
COACH CALLAHAN: We'll have an opportunity to sit down with all our players this week and have our exit interviews with our players prior to their departure after their finals. They'll be taking finals here in two weeks. Our coaches will be out on the road recruiting. Joe was still in the mix of the quarterback competition. I've stated that from day one. Towards the end of spring ball, even as of Saturday's press conference, I mentioned to the media that Joe remains in competition for the quarterback position. We haven't given up on Joe at all.
Q. What is the next step for the coaching staff, especially in terms of setting that post-spring depth chart? Were there any injuries that came out of the game on Saturday?
COACH CALLAHAN: Very minor. Kurt Mann is going to go in and get some -- have some cleanup work done on his knee. I believe he goes in tomorrow. Then, of course, Danny Erickson had a slight bruise on his clavicle. Nothing serious I hope. They're still looking at the x-rays. That hasn't been finalized yet, though. I think Lydon Murtha was the only major one that really came out of spring nicked up. I think he's going to have to have his shoulder done here next week. Aside from that, we came out of it pretty healthy. It's unfortunate to see a guy like Murtha go in for surgery at this point because his rehabilitation is going to put him a little bit behind. That will hurt us somewhat. But we're hopeful that we can get him back by the end of September and hopefully we can get him back on the field by October.
Q. Did he hurt that shoulder in the ballgame or in the moped accident?
COACH CALLAHAN: No, it had nothing to do with the moped accident. I think this was something that was ongoing. He had some difficulty with it during the course of the spring. I think it just got more aggravated as we continued to go through spring football.
Q. Anybody in particular that you'll look to in that backup spot at tackle that will need to step up in his absence?
COACH CALLAHAN: There will be a lot of guys. We're counting on Pasteur to come in and give us some depth as well as Jordan. We're looking for those two young players to step up and help us in that respect. Of course, Chris Patrick has taken a lot of reps at right tackle this spring as he prepares and gets better during the course of the summer. I'm sure he'll have the ability to step in and help us as well.
Q. Will you release a depth chart?
COACH CALLAHAN: Probably not. We'll probably wait till August, till we get into training camp before we release one.
Q. With the success Taylor had this spring, the way those younger guys developed, where does Harrison Beck fall into that pre-season quarterback camp? Have you talked about where you're going to put him at in that race?
COACH CALLAHAN: He'll come in and compete. We'll try to equalize the reps like we have here in the spring, try to get a good look at Harrison, try to get him acclimated as fast as we can. We'll try to plug him into the system and watch him carefully, prepare him methodically, really spend a lot of individual time getting him to know the system and the reads, things of that nature. But Harrison is a unique individual. Here is a guy that during spring break, where most kids are relaxing and going to different places on vacation, he comes up to Nebraska for a vacation, sits here and watches spring ball throughout the entire week, sits in on every meeting. I can't say enough good things about what preparation means to a guy like Harrison Beck. I'm sure he'll take full advantage of every rep he gets when he does come into training camp. We're going to be smart about the rotation when we get into training camp. We'll evaluate and assess where Harrison is at throughout the process of training camp. That's why we practice.
Q. With your freshmen, obviously you want your returning players to spend most of the summer in Lincoln and have plans for them with the strength and conditioning program. When do you like to see the freshmen? Open invitation for them to come whenever they want?
COACH CALLAHAN: We encourage our freshmen to come and to be a part of our team so that they can get adjusted with their teammates. I think it's important twofold, one, that they get an opportunity to get on campus and get into the day-to-day just of what's going on, get a feel for the university, what is recommended of them in terms of workout programs, their studies. Now, as you know, the NCAA has passed the freshman rule where they can now go to school on scholarship in the summer. We'll have a few guys doing that. I think it's just a real positive to get into the mix of conditioning so that when they do get to training camp, there is no shock. A lot of these young players, when they first arrived at campus, without the opportunity of being in a situation of conditioning on campus with players, they normally arrive and they get into the flow and they start questioning and doubting themselves. This way when they do arrive on campus earlier, work out with the team, it gives them a better sense of confidence as they acclimate into pads and start and begin training camp in August.
Q. Do you go into the off-season thinking you're going to have Matt Herian and Brandon Jackson when camp starts? Is that too early to say?
COACH CALLAHAN: I think it's a little bit premature because they're still going through the rehabilitation process. Our training staff gives us target dates where they anticipate they'll be ready. We play it by ear. Sometimes an individual's rehabilitation gets accelerated. Sometimes they have some setbacks. That's really a flexible timetable. I'm going to reserve comment on when these guys will be available. Like I've mentioned before, I'm optimistic from what I hear about what I see, and when I talk to the players as well. That is something we'll get more information to you as soon as we get more information.
Q. There's no concern that Matt's is longer term?
COACH CALLAHAN: I don't think so. No, not at all. Not from all indications. I feel that his second surgery was a real positive. Let's hope that things work out well for Matt and we can get him back on the field by August and ready for our opener.
BO CARTER: Coach Callahan, it's always a pleasure to be with you. Thank you. Wish you good luck and safe travels in the off-season. We look forward to seeing you very soon.
COACH CALLAHAN: Thank you very much.
BO CARTER: Note that July 19th through 21st will be Big 12 media days at the JW Marriott in Houston. Again, we'll have more information out on that as the time draws nearer. Much appreciation.
End of FastScripts...