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August 28, 2012

Tommy Tuberville

COACH TUBERVILLE:¬† Well, we're here.¬† Finally back.¬† I think that‑‑ well, I know our players are looking forward to the season.¬† It's kind of another step in the process of trying to build on a football team that can compete for championships.¬† I don't know how close we are.¬† Only time will tell.
I know our players are excited.  We had our senior meeting last night at my house, had our yearly dinner, and I was very impressed with how they talked and how they handled themselves.  I kind of turned the floor over to them, and that makes me feel good about this group and how far they've come and what they've gone through and what they're trying to accomplish.
It's all about attitude.  It's all about determination.  Now the ball's in their court.  We've got a chance.  We've got a chance to make some waves, how big of waves, time will only tell in the next few weeks, in the coming months how far we've come.  But I think that anybody that's seen us practice can tell there is no doubt we've got more weapons.  We've got more depth.
I think the attitude has changed in terms of defense of what we want to do and how we want to do it.  As a head coach, just watching things over the last couple of years from the first group that we've had until this group, the determination of, hey, you know, this is what we want to do and this is how we want to get there, it's all changed.  So it should be a lot of fun.
It wasn't a lot of fun last year, but even though we only won just a few games, I was proud of the team in how they persevered through a lot of hard work and effort and made things better in some ways, all the way through recruiting.  Now it's time to put it out there and see what we have, and we hope we have a lot of fans jump back on board that jumped off board over the course of last year.  That was interesting also, so we'll see what happens come this Saturday.

Q.  What were one or two things that you determined about your defense that you did not know about going into preseason camp?  What were some of the things?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  We had some question marks.  Branden Jackson.  How far has he come?  Has he gained enough weight to play?  Can he play in major college football?  He's got four years left, and I think he's ready to play.  Yet to be determined.
Delvon Simmons, we threw him out there last year.  Should have been watching from the sideline.  He didn't start many games, but he's had a year of lifting weights, running, understanding what's going on.
Cornelius Douglas, a guy we took from offense, put him on defense.  Just watching his progress, I think that's been fun to watch.  Couple of junior college guys, one being Will Smith, what can he do?  We saw what he could do in spring, but I knew he'd have a bigger challenge in the fall just in our preseason camp because he was going to have to learn more of the defense that we were putting in and going up against some pretty good football players on offense for a few weeks.  So there's been a lot of things out there.
Again, the depth.¬† We've been working with guys that haven't played a whole lot that are going to have to play some coming up.¬† But they've got to play as good as our starters.¬† I've told you that all along.¬† If you have a tremendous dropoff from your starters to your back‑ups, it's going to show, and it showed last year.
Hopefully, our top 22 to 25 on defense can be much improved.  I think they have, but, again, they've got to show it when we turn the lights on.  So I think that's the biggest thing we've got to look for with our defense starting this Saturday.

Q.  Because you've had so many junior college guys come in and guys that are maybe more ready to play than high school kids, is there still a question mark from you that you want to see out of a lot of these new guys going in?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  Oh, yeah.  There are a lot of question marks about everybody.  What is going to happen when the chips are down.  How are we going to respond to adversity?  How are we going to respond to success?  You never know.  Every team is different.
Even though you might have all 22 starters back next year, the attitudes of guys change because they grow up.  Some might have other interests.  They might have had a great sophomore year, and I've seen a lot of guys come back.  High expectations and never even got close to where they played the year before.  So that is what makes college football interesting because they change so much from 17 years old to 22 years old, some for the better, some for the worst.  It's a challenge.
We've got a lot of opportunities for guys to show improvement, obviously, from last year on defense.  So I'm anxious to see what happens.

Q.  Staying on the defense, coach, what are some goals that you guys have set for defensive success or team success?
SETH DOEGE:  Well, we hadn't put the amounts together yet, but the big thing is it's stopping the run.  You can't go out and play any kind of defense, any kind of organized defense unless you start there.  I mean, we were dead last last year in the country in the passing league.  So that tells you something.  We just could not stop the run.  Our fundamentals and techniques weren't very good.  We were playing guys that were undersized on the defensive line.  Now we're bigger and stronger, so it's got to start there on defense.
Turnovers, if I think right, and I don't like to go back and look at it too much, but think we only had five interceptions in a passing league.  Is that right?  Not good.  Not good at all.
So we've got to have more interceptions, stop the run, more interceptions, overall more turnovers, and get the ball back for our offense.
Last year in a couple games we couldn't get our offense back on the field, even though we were pretty decent.  We weren't great on the offense.  We were decent.  But we couldn't get the offense back out there in a decent time in terms of giving them a chance to have success.
I think there are a lot of things on defense, but number one has to be stopping the run and forcing more turnovers.  We did give up a lot of big plays, but I think if you stop the run, I think that the big plays are really cut down in a certain number.
As we talked last night, I talked to corners Eugene Neboh and Cornelius Douglas, think they've gotten to the point where they understand you're going to make mistakes in this league in corner.  There is not a corner in this conference that's not going to get burned.
The great thing that I think we understand now is when it happens, you have to forget about it and go to the next play, as all the defensive players do.  You can't live on the past in this conference because big plays are going to happen every week against most every team.  Hopefully, it's a growing process that we understand what we've got to do on defense, and understand what we've got to do if something goes the other way on us.

Q.  How soon do you think you'll be able to tell whether the defense has figuratively turned the corner?
COACH TUBERVILLE:¬† I think it's going to take four or five games.¬† But we'll know more each week.¬† Not knowing a lot about the team that's coming in.¬† We'll have some idea after this game how individuals can play and how we've played in certain situations.¬† But you have to have four or five games under your belt to see how not just your starters play your back‑ups because you're only as good as your back‑ups in college football.
So we've got to get 22 to 25 guys ready to play before we get to the first conference game in about a month.  It sounds like a lot of time, but it's not.  We'll have some guys beat up a little bit, some guys miss plays, miss series, miss games, and hopefully the guys that come in make up for the slack.
The good thing, again, going back, we do have some options in terms of depth.

Q.  How much better do you feel about this team than a year ago?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  Oh, well, I felt good about the team last year.  If you look at our team, we were not bad the first five or six games.  We weren't great.  We didn't have a lot of depth, and in some areas we were struggling.  We had a new quarterback.  First time he played in five years.  So there were a lot of things that were ifs and ands.
We played good at times, but we knew we weren't going to have a lot of consistency just on the fact we didn't have a lot of experience.  But we want to make sure that we learn from last year's experiences, and I think we will.

Q.  What should we expect out of Eric Stephens, what kind of workload?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  We're going to go by feel and see how he feels.  I'd like to run him 30, 40 times, but that's not going to happen.  I think with our open scrimmages, I think most of y'all in here and people, I've seen a couple clips on TV of his run down the field, about 60, 70 yards.  He looked pretty good.  But it's different when you're going against our guys and going against people want to tear your head off, and that's going to happen this Saturday.
But his knee's fine.  It's all mental.  He's probably a little bit overweight, so he does need work.  It's like taking a horse out that hasn't run a whole lot.  You have to get him out there and get him in shape.  You have to do all the running and lifting you want, and it doesn't make a difference until you get him in that game shape, and he'll start that this week.
So to answer your question, if he gets ten, 12 carries, that's probably going to be a lot.  It's been a lot for any running back around here for a while.  You're going to see some carries from him in the next three weeks.

Q.  Can you talk about the change in the kickoff?  They made the change with the yardage to cut down?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  Yeah, we moved it from the 30 to 35.  Our kicker is going to kick it 50% of the time out of the end zone, as most kickers are.  So you're going to see the possession started at about the 25.  They're moving it out to 25 instead of the 20, and that won't make a lot of difference.  But I think they're looking at concussions.
There are some huge hits now on kickoff, and I think that's the main reason they did that.¬† But you might see a few more onside kicks from people because the ball is moved down the field.¬† If you kick an on‑side kick, the ball will be recovered around the 50‑yard line, so you're only giving up 25 yards, if you think about it.¬† You have to be prepared for on‑sidekicks and use that as an option.

Q.  What about lobbing the ball high?  Is that more in play?
COACH TUBERVILLE:¬† If do you that, your aiming point is the 25‑yard line.¬† You know, it's a harder kick than what you think.¬† It's harder to kick that and kick it right than to kick it and try to kick out of the end zone.¬† Now if it goes out of bounds, the ball's going to be at the 40‑yard line, so that's a pretty good penalty.

Q.  Can you talk about a couple of the new wrinkles with the fan experience, the fireworks and all that?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  I heard that driving in this morning.  Heard somebody talk about that on the radio.  I haven't heard about that, but I've been more concerned about crossing that white line.  It's a little thicker than the one in open field and keeping that other team out.  Hoping it's a good experience.
I know it's not a name team that everybody is familiar with.  I know it's labor day weekend, which we always start on that weekend.  Lot of students probably won't be here, but we've sold a lot of season tickets, and you'll see an exciting game hopefully on both sides.
One thing I will say, and I need to say this, we did have an injury.¬† I don't know.¬† I didn't read the papers or hear anybody talk about it, Aaron Fisher is out for the year.¬† He broke his leg last week.¬† We hate that.¬† He was our number one special team¬ís guy and non‑contact.¬† Just running down, stopped and twisted his leg.¬† He's going to be operated on Wednesday.
We had another scare two days ago.  Tony Morales went down on an inside drill.  It's one area we really don't need to lose people is offensive line.  We can't afford that.  Any other place we might have a chance, but that's not one.  He goes down, it didn't look good.  We thought he had blown his knee all the way out.  He's going to be out for two weeks.  Just MCL, not an ACL, no surgery or anything.  It's not good news, but it is good news that he's still going to be able to hopefully get back in a couple of weeks.
So one little part of the bad news there is we need to stay away from the injuries the next few weeks.

Q.  You feel that State has a slight disadvantage preparing for this game coming from a hurricane area?  A lot of those guys are from the Louisiana area and the coaches.
COACH TUBERVILLE:  Yeah, they've got a lot of family there.  That's going to be different for them.  I think they're leaving on Thursday, if I'm not mistaken.  But I grew up in that area, and I know what they're going through.  They're going to get a lot of rain, there is going to be a lot of flooding and a lot of things going on.  Unfortunately, you have that this time of year.
But you'll have some guys that will have their mind on some other things for a few days, anyway, and hopefully everything's fine, and everybody can get everything cleared out, and we can have a good game and they can get back safely.

Q.  Coach, is Kenny your best running back right now?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  Kenny Williams?

Q.  Yeah.
COACH TUBERVILLE:  If I was voting, and I don't get to vote in it, I'll let y'all vote.  If I was starting somebody, and I like Kenny and I like Eric, but I'm going on what I've seen in spring and the scrimmages, I'm a SaDale Foster guy.  I like him.  It's not that I don't like the other guys.  I think Kenny right now is probably the best.
But what SaDale has done in terms of scrimmages and catching the ball and making people miss in open field and he's going to be on a lot of special teams, I like SaDale.  He's been one of my favorites since I saw him last spring running around.  He kind of fits on what we do on offense.  He's a tough little guy that's built like a fire plug.
Now Kenny is probably the bigger upside just because he's bigger and he can run over people and run around.  But SaDale has that experience coming from junior college where he can run back a lot of kicks and punts and made some big plays.
In the future, I would say Kenny has the biggest upside because he's got three years left.  But I'm a SaDale Foster guy.  Anybody can vote on that?  We're going to take a vote in here?  Nobody else likes SaDale.  I told you, my vote doesn't count, does it?

Q.  You talked about injuries.  Do you almost feel like you're due after last year?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  I tell you, I was sick to my stomach after Fish, and then the next day it looks like Morales is going to miss the year.  That is part of it.
But as an assistant, you don't worry about it as much, because if you're coaching defense and the offensive lineman gets hurt, you don't have enough time to think about it.  But I'm trying to keep this whole thing together with 75 guys on scholarship or however many we've got.  Every person counts.  I know what we're getting ready to get into.  And I know what we went through last year.
I'm one of those guys that, hey, you've got to go practice and you've got to be physical.  We can't go out in shoulder pads and helmets and have walk throughs and be any good this year.  We just don't have enough depth, we don't have enough experienced guys that have been there and done that.  So we've got to go out and have contact.
So every day, I say a prayer before I go out, and just grit my teeth when I hear somebody look over at some drill and somebody's laying on the ground.¬† I mean, that's what a head coach goes through, because you're looking at the entire thing, the depth, and it's kind of nerve‑racking.¬† But even if you had a full contingent of people, I've always been that way.¬† You hate for guys to go through what they go through in preparation and go down with an injury and not have a chance to play.

Q.  What is Darrin's status for Saturday?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  Darrin Moore, we'll know this afternoon.  We're sitting down this afternoon about it.

Q.  (No microphone) is huge last year and this year.  In practice, what have you done to eliminate?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  That is the reason I love to bring in officials.  We've brought in officials just for regular practices in the spring and all of our scrimmages.  We've had Big 12 groups here and I tell them to call everything.  If they even look wrong, throw a flag.  Last year we had some penalties that hurt us.
You're going to have penalties.  And this week will be interesting because, as it always is, guys are anxious to play.  The more you talk about them sometimes, the more you have them.
We'll have our talks Thursday night before the game, just me with the team.  The coordinators will do the same thing.  It's just one thing I don't want to do is overload them with a lot of information.  I want to go out and play and have fun and kind of go from there.  Hopefully, we don't get into that rash.

Q.  Coach, you've used the word anxious, Seth used the word anxious.  When you look at this team and compare it to teams of the past, have you seen something there that you haven't seen here before?
D.J. JOHNSON:¬† Oh, yeah.¬† It all goes back to depth.¬† First year we had some good players, we just didn't have a lot of depth, and last year was even worse because we lost some good seniors.¬† This year we've been able to have two good recruiting years back‑to‑back.¬† We've got more depth at crucial positions like defense, pass rushers, defensive back, running back, receivers.¬† Of course we have a lot of receivers.¬† We'll continue to add.¬† We are still in the mode of trying to get to the right numbers.¬† After this year, I think we have 15, 16 seniors.¬† The area that we're really short in is the offensive linemen to have a full contingent of depth there, and we have three seniors graduating.
But this group, I think, could be special.  We've got some game changers on offense.  More than just one or two.  I think we've got some big play guys on defense.  This is not going to be one of the defenses that we're going to go out and say it's going to be three plays and they'll be out every week.  That's not going to happen.  We've got a lot to learn.
The thing that we have added on defense is speed that I think we can create turnovers and make big plays.  We can create 3rd and 10s, 15s, and get the other team off the field, which we weren't able to do last year.

Q.  Is this the best receiving corps you've had in your career?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  Oh, be pretty close.  In my head coaching career, yes.  At Miami, we had some pretty good receivers there, but we've got some pretty good depth here.  I'd love to convince some of these guys to play other positions, but they're pretty special.
But, again, you kind of hold it back.  When we've had four or five games, we can have this same discussion, because they can look good in practice and sometimes they don't show up for games.  They just don't know how to compete or how to be unselfish, because I think that's going to be a big factor for us in this first four or five games is if a guy doesn't catch a ball in a game, how is he going to react?
And we've had that discussion.  But that's almost every position.  How much playing time?  How many times do I get it thrown to me, those type of things.  There is going to be a lot of maturity on this team that will have to come around before we can say this is the greatest group of receivers.  But it's got a very good opportunity to be one of the best I've been around.

Q.  When you were recruiting him, where did you project him playing?  In other words, if you had all your running backs healthy?
COACH TUBERVILLE:  The reason we were recruiting him, and I didn't even bring his film back.  I go out and watch him practice, and watch his film and sat down and talked with him.  I was looking for a guy to possibly be the starter without knowing what was going to happen with Eric and DeAndre.  How is Kenny going to mature.  Where's he going to be?  So I was looking for a guy to come in and be our starter.  We're kind of starting from scratch here.  So that's how we got on him, and talking to his coaches out there.
What impressed me most was his returning of kickoffs and his vision.  Sometimes nobody ever touched him.  He'd see people coming that most people wouldn't see.  I think that's his biggest asset is being able to see the field and being able to run away from tacklers that a lot of people can't see coming.

Q.  What kind of offensive breakdown can we look for, pass or just run?
COACH TUBERVILLE:¬† You know I'd like to be 50‑50.¬† You can't ever tell.¬† They'd like to come in here and say we're going to play a nine‑man front and we end up throwing it 75, 80 times.¬† So pretty much dictated by the team that you're playing and their strengths and weaknesses.
We want people to come in and throw it on us, because we want to stop the run.  That's where we're going to start.  Some people aren't like that.  Some people say, hey, let's see if they'll run it and let's drop eight.  I think people are going to have to find out and we're going to have to find out where we're strongest at in the offense.  I have no clue yet.
I've got my suspicions of where we're going to be, but it might not work out that way.  Here in about two or three weeks, we'll have a lot better idea of what we feel like we can do.  I know one thing that our running game is better because our drills that we do, run versus our defense, have been a lot more crisp.  There's been a lot more contact.  Our offensive line is a lot more physical than they've been.
We've got some pretty good linemen now.  You take one guy in the middle and two on the outside, they've played a lot of football here.  They're good football players, and they just run it, pass block.  So I'm all for them.
So if we can get a good balance each week, I think that is the perfect scenario.¬† If people want to play a nine‑man front and let us throw, we're going to be able to do that.¬† I know we can do that.¬† So I don't know if that would be the good approach to take on us right now, but we've got options and that's what's good about watching this team coming up this week.¬† If we can just execute.
You've got to remember now, offense is execution.  You can say you're going to do this or that, but when you get out there, you have to get it done that's what scares you about the early part of the season.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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