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December 30, 2018

Jimbo Fisher

Landis Durham

Trayveon Williams

Erik McCoy

Jacksonville, Florida

THE MODERATOR: It's our pleasure to introduce the Texas A&M Aggies. We're really excited about having Coach Jimbo Fisher back in Jacksonville.

Mr. Jimbo Fisher.

JIMBO FISHER: Hello, everyone. This year has come winding to an end. Feels like we just started fall practice the other day. Sometimes you think it goes long. When you look back, it goes fast.

Tremendous year. We're very excited to be here. First time Texas A&M has been in a bowl game in Florida since 1957. Florida holds such a tremendous amount of great games. Always great to be here.

Everybody now is looking for a national brand. We want to recruit in Texas and be in Texas much as we can, but you have to go nationally. State of Florida has a bunch of great players. We have quite a few players from our teams from Florida.

Excited for these guys, what they've accomplished, the things we've been through this year. These three, three of our best players. All three guys have been tremendous players for us all year, but tremendous leaders.

Like I say, guys have been in another system before I got here, and to come in and say your junior and senior year that something new is coming in, some guys, you can fight that, you can buck that, these guys didn't. They bought in one thousand percent.

Why the success we had, the demeanor and attitude of our team, their leadership. They're spreading the word, the message we send. The guys did an outstanding job.

We're very excited to be here. Great opponent against NC State. I know NC State very well, know Coach Dave Doeren very well. Heck of a football coach, done a tremendous job wherever he's been. He built NC State. Record back-to-back wins, most wins in two seasons ever.

Dave has done a tremendous job. Will be a great opponent. We'll have to play very well. Looking forward to the opportunity.

When you get to a bowl game, you want to play a great opponent, have to prepare well. We've had practices down there in College Station, back in College Station, here in Jacksonville. We've had a good time when it was time to have a good time, but they've practiced well in practice, gotten better since the end of year.

We're looking forward to the opportunities. It's going to be a great challenge. Hopefully we can finish this season, play a great game.


Q. When you were here with FSU, ready to assume the head coaching job, you had been in the program three years, knew the kids. You had to hit the ground running with this one. Beyond what you just talked about, what else went into making the transition smoother without having had that time period?
JIMBO FISHER: I think the administration. The familiarity with Scott Woodward, the administration. Knowing Scott from previous stops when I was at LSU. He's a personal friend, but a guy who understands things the same way I do. We had the same ambitions and goals, see how we kind of had to direct the program. I think our president and our chancellor both were phenomenal in the vision which we saw for Texas A&M.

One of the things I did know at Florida State was who to go to to get things done. When you go to a new place, who controls this, who does that, who can get that done. You waste time sometimes figuring that out. I didn't have to do that with familiarity.

The kids bought into everything, like I said. Allowed us to hire the staff we wanted. The nuances behind the scenes people don't see, the programs you put in place to develop the kids, all the different ways you try to do it. We're still putting those in place, have to continue to grow. Having the administration there, that was tremendous.

Q. Their ability to protect Finley. He's not a runner, but they protect him.
JIMBO FISHER: I think first of all they got a Remington Award winner at center, All-American guard beside him. I think Finley himself, understands where to go, processes information, how to get the ball out quickly, his feel and accuracy for the game. I played against him the last two years. He's a tremendous, tremendous football player. I have great respect. I think he's going to be a great pro.

I think his knowledge, the offensive line's knowledge, they're very skilled. That's a three-prong thing, protect, quarterback get it out, sometimes there ain't nobody to get it out to. They can run, they're athletic in the secondary. It's an experienced group.

He's experienced, the line is experienced. It's hard to get him. You got to pressure, find ways to do it. They do a great job in all three phases.

Q. Landis, the importance of pressure?
LANDIS DURHAM: Following up with what coach said. They got a good O-line. Not only do they have athletes at receiver, but even the quarterback can throw them open. Seen some real promising looking third downs they converted on. It will be a big deal for us to get some pressure, make some decisions real quickly.

Q. Do you have any concerns about the neutral site venue? Do you think the crowd noise has any factor?
JIMBO FISHER: I think we play in such venues on the road in our league that are tremendous, you deal with that. That's part of playing major college football now. It's not easy, but it's part of it. You just build it in. It's an assumed bad quality when you have to go on the road.

We do play a neutral site game in Dallas, play Arkansas, usually a split crowd. One of the reasons we like that game is for this kind of venue, when you go to a major bowl game, playoff games. The road games in this league make it tough. That part of it is tough, but it's something we deal with all the time.

Q. I know you've only been gone a year, but how many memories does it spark, being back?
JIMBO FISHER: About two hours away. We recruited it heavily. I think of all the players that come out here, the games, the recruiting trips back and forth. The last game right before I became head coach, one of the best memories, I was going to take over, I was in the locker room about an hour and 10 minutes right before the game with coach and our chaplain. We were talking about football, all the way back, the '50s, '60s, '70s. I love remembering things. I remember having that conversation with him. Just amazing.

Of course, when he passed the torch over to me, it was a great moment. You couldn't get passed to any better guy in the world than Coach Bowden. Great memories here.

Q. You can plug people in, but how do you make up for the leadership your seniors provided?
JIMBO FISHER: Landis, Kiki, all those guys, Kingsley, all do a great job. We have quite a few leaders on this team. Still you're not the same. Those guys were starters, leaders on this team.

In sports, you learn to adapt to that because it's part of the culture. If you ever think about it, somebody is always hurt, somebody is out every game you ever play. It's part of the adaptation you have to learn as a coach and a player.

From the first day, like I say, the guys that line up with you the first day, how you feel, it's never the same again till the next year. Guys get banged and bruised all the time. That's part of the culture we live with.

Like I say, it's a hazard as far as you lose good players, but it's also an opportunity. You look at other guys that have an opportunity to step up, prove themselves, take that role.

Q. What is your relationship like with Coach Doeren?
JIMBO FISHER: I think he's done a great job. He's built this thing up. If I'm not mistaken, isn't it the last two years, this will be the best back-to-back years they've had? Dave has done a tremendous job.

Don't spend a lot of time off the field together. Every time I've been around him, I feel like he's a friend, great relationship, we talk. We've had phone conversations off the field about things that go on, players, recruits, different things. I think Dave is a heck of a guy. Very intelligent guy, heck of a football coach. I think he's doing a tremendous job with NC State.

Q. Take us through your motivation for a game like this, what may or may not be your last game, the counterpart is a center who won the Remington and you have a guy going for the single season Texas A&M rusher record?
ERIK McCOY: A pretty good guy. The guy won the Remington. Want to go out there and prove I'm in the same tier of offensive linemen. Trayveon, got to get him to the 170 to get him over the record.

Q. How important is that record?
TRAYVEON WILLIAMS: I couldn't lie and say it's not important. When we first come here as a student-athlete, as a player, you want to set your mark on the program. Most importantly we want to get this win. The last four years, we've been unsuccessful in the bowl games, so definitely we want to get that done, get that done for the seniors, but want to get that win to get the Jimbo era going, start the new direction of this program.

Q. Trayveon, how much better do you think your offense is now than maybe when you started the month of November with the roll you're on now?
TRAYVEON WILLIAMS: I feel definitely we've improved. I think we've shown that on tape. We've become more acclimated to the offense, learning the ins-and-outs. Not going out there thinking, just reacting. The practices we endure, the game situations we're put in, I definitely feel like those or learning moments that we improve on week by week.

I definitely feel like we've had a great bowl prep, bowl preparation. I definitely feel like we're ready to get out there and get a win.

Q. Coach, a lot of good quality quarterbacks in your depth chart. Would you consider taking someone like Connor?
JIMBO FISHER: I think you always evaluate where you're at in your program, where guys can help in different positions. I think that's one of the things how we like to recruit now. I didn't recruit Connor. But he is a tremendous athlete. There's a lot of versatility there. If a young man is open to that.

When I was at Florida State, we moved quite a few guys. Cam moved over from offense to defense. Xavier moved from receiver to corner. All those guys ended up being first round draft picks. We moved a bunch of guys.

I think that's something you have to evaluate as your future goes on, where you evolve as a player. When you recruit athletes that have that versatility, it's always good. Connor is a good athlete. Maybe something we can talk about in the off-season. He does good things at quarterback, too. We'll evaluate that in the off-season and see.

Q. If you would finish the season top 20, where would that put you in your schedule?
JIMBO FISHER: I never had a schedule. What I have is putting things in place, get a foundation for our organization, then start developing that in the right way. I think we're putting a great foundation down for our understanding of what we do.

I don't have a set schedule where you have to be, what you have to be. So many things can go up and down. Years can vary. Texas A&M, the culture we want to build, the way we want to play with physicality, toughness and competitiveness, the detail. From that standpoint, that's how the foundation starts.

I think it's been a tremendously successful year this year. We've won some games and broke some streaks, let a couple get away. More important thing was developing the culture of how we play, the way we think, the way we expect to win at Texas A&M.

If you're in the top 20, that's great. Top 15, top 20. Heck, you want to win the whole thing. This game is an important game in that regard. More importantly it's in regard of how you play, not always your results early in your development of where you're at.

Q. NC State having the top third and fourth down efficiency in the ACC, how do you prepare to stop that?
JIMBO FISHER: They are really good. They get off the field on defense, they convert on offense. They're very good on third down. Their receivers, even when you're covered, you're not covered. He throws you open, throws to holes, gets the ball out.

Their versatility, being able to run the football. They got a back that's ran for a thousand yards, too. They can run the football. Dave always does a great job of mixing man, zone, two man, Tampa, all the blitzes he does. Situational football, red zone, first down, shot, two minutes. All those things are something we try to take a lot of pride in, which we try to work very hard.

That's going to be very hard. Can you get the extra three downs on offense? Big key in this game.

Q. As far as recruiting, with there now being an early signing period, what are your thoughts?
JIMBO FISHER: I'm going to say this. I like this a lot better than last year. I only had two weeks before last year. It's tough on a new coach. I'm not going to lie about that. You have two or three weeks to hang onto a new class. Last year I was saying, Don't sign with nobody, let me come see you in January. This year we're saying, Sign, sign, sign.

It is good for football to have an early signing period. I personally would like to see it at the end of summer. I still think it's best at the end of the summer because the wear and tear it takes on coaches and assistant coaches during the season, even playing, head coaches would know, my guy says, He's signing, doesn't need all the recruiting rhetoric going on there. I do think it's good, not being able to have to go through January, still figuring out what your class is, going through bowl.

People don't understand, bowl preparation and recruiting is one of the hardest times there is because you're trying to put the game plan together, practice all day, recruit at night, fly back the next morning and do it. You do it two, three weeks, it will drain you.

We're recruiting now in so many different places. Used to be, I can remember, you went in spring to figure out the seniors you were committing in the fall. That's hard to believe. We didn't totally know back in the day. Early '90s, you were still going to evaluate your seniors, maybe a little bit of juniors, you saw the juniors, but figure out who you're going to recruit, get to summer camp.

In that time in January for a head coach, I can only go down in December and January. I can't go have contact with the juniors and sophomores, but the outstanding guys that you know you're going to be recruiting, you can at least make a presence in their school, talk to a coach, a counselor, the janitor, the equipment guy, talk to the people around there, find out a little bit.

Before, it was hard for us as a head coach to make a difference in this game as far as your presence out recruiting. I think right now it's important for head coaches, when they come in the building, because before we were having to target where you're visiting that day, the visit you had that night, all those things.

I think in January it does let you promote the game a little bit more, get to some of your lower classman guys that you're recruiting, where you're trying to develop, find out more about them.

The head coach, I don't ever get to see them practice. I can watch a basketball game. I can evaluate them playing a high school basketball game. It was hard for head coaches to do that. I think the early signing period is good. It's tough where it's at, but it's going to stay there for a while.

Q. Can you talk about the schedule that you have played in getting you prepared for the bowl, the fact you played No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson?
LANDIS DURHAM: Well, we've been in some pretty big games last year. We come with the same approach, everybody is trying to do their jobs, all 11 us on the field at the same time, taking care of individual jobs. Every single one of us, we're dependent on the other 10 to do what they got to do so we can have a positive outcome.

Just with games like that, I think it's pretty big for us. We got our hands full of seniors, young guys that are coming back. Up to this point, we're on the same page. This team has done a lot of growing together this past year. I really like where we are right now. I'm feeling really good going into this game.

Q. How much did it help in setting that foundation now that you faced both Clemson and Alabama this season? Next year you have those two and Georgia on the schedule.
JIMBO FISHER: Thanks for reminding me (smiling).

I mean, I think you play in the SEC, you played LSU, Auburn on the road, Mississippi State, one of the best defenses in all of college football. Every game is... Kentucky. You play in the SEC, you do get battle tested. Also the venues you go into. I think that's one of the biggest things about our league is, the home-field advantage you have at College Field, nothing like it. When you go play at Alabama, Auburn, all those venues, it does toughen you up. At least you face guys, have been in situations where you went through that. You have to play every week.

That's the thing about that league, it does test you. Reminds you you can never take a week off, I don't care who you are, what you are. Hopefully we can respond to that and play well this week.

Q. (Question about the national championship game.)
JIMBO FISHER: Lord. It's going to be a great football game. Right now they've obviously been the two best football teams in college football. They've been battle tested on the road. I think it's going to be a heck of a matchup.

The new quarterback that Clemson has, they got the ability to get the ball vertical, make plays down the field. You don't think a big guy at Clemson can run a lot better than you think he can? Alabama is so dynamic, big, it's hard to run the football on them.

You turn around, Alabama on offense, they're just as dynamic. I think the matchup is very, very intriguing because both teams are strong. Right now they're definitely the two best teams in college football this year. I think you're going to get another classic game that comes down to the wire. Kicking game can be a big part of that.

Q. Say they change the signing period to the end of the summer, would you be okay with players if a coaching change happens letting a kid out?
JIMBO FISHER: Yes, I would. You have a one or two week window if a coaching change happens. You have to get the new coach a chance to get to him. Give them one week, get with those guys, see if they want to opt out or not. I would. I can see that most definitely.

People don't realize the strain on assistant coaches, the phone calls and the pounding and the grind it takes to coach during the season, make those calls. It would take off a little bit of pressure. At least you have half that class, focus on the second half, juniors.

But I would be, yes, to answer your question.

Q. Landis, y'all have had a bowl the last few years. What would it be like to end the season with the win?
LANDIS DURHAM: I want one. I've been saying since before we came here, I feel like everybody deserves to experience a bowl win in their college football career. I'm trying to get mine.

Q. Trayveon, what does this bowl experience feel like compared to the other ones?
TRAYVEON WILLIAMS: First most importantly, I want to thank the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl for showing us hospitality leading up to this. We had a lot of fun. Found a great balance. We've been getting a lot of good work in on the field, also we've been having a lot of great fun with that outside of that. We went to Top Golf yesterday, had a lot of fun doing that. We got to go to the Navy boat. It was a lot of fun. We enjoyed that. Then we got to give back and do some community service deals. We're really enjoying it, enjoying this bowl game experience.

Q. You and NC State both faced Clemson earlier this year. What are some of your take-aways?
JIMBO FISHER: I think Clemson played really hot when they played NC State. I think they made some big plays down the field. They established their identity a little bit. I remember the game before when they had field goals two years in a row, play that went down to the two, had a chance to beat Clemson, missed the field goal the other time. This year Clemson happened to be hot and played well.

You can see schematically they do a great job against them. Clemson just made a few plays in that game. They've always played Clemson extremely good because they're physical. I think the first thing you have to do when you play Clemson is be a physical team. They were very physical in those games, always done a great job against that. It was good film to watch, it really was.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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