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July 17, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We'll start the 2012 SEC Football Media Days with Texas A&M University. We'd like to welcome Coach Kevin Sumlin to Media Days.
COACH SUMLIN: Thank you.
First of all, I'm glad that we're getting started on time. They can't blame it on the new guy that we screwed this thing up. It was important we got started on time.
The other thing is, just like the other 13 guys that will get up here and talk, the word 'excited' is going to come out a bunch. We also at Texas A&M are excited for a lot of different reasons. Obviously our inaugural season in the SEC, our fans, our former students, current students, everybody around the program is excited to get this thing going. Our coaches and players likewise.
For us, it's a special year. As excited as everybody else is in the country to get football season started, I think I can speak for Texas A&M and our coaching staff, in our place we're as excited as anybody to be a part of the SEC, but also for football season to start.
For us coming into this year, it's going to be a real, real special time for our fans. I was just out in the ESPN bus. They said, Do you realize you play the playoff six defending national champions? That's about the fourth time somebody asked me that. We knew that when we took the job. We understand the challenges that are ahead of us. We understand that it's going to be a difficult but exciting year.
I think from our standpoint, from a coach's standpoint, from a player's standpoint, we've got a lot of things to point to to work hard to get to. I think our players have really utilized the spring, have gone through the summer in a great way. I look at the three young men we brought with us today that are going to be leaders for our football team, Sean Porter, Ryan Sope, Luke Joeckel. We got on the plane this morning, Coach Jackson, our strength coach, worked wonders with our team, I said, Hey, I think Coach Jackson is looking for you today.
All three of them said, No, coach, we went with the 5:45 group this morning.
That says a lot about the dedication of the guys that are seniors that are buying into what we're trying to do. The quicker we get that buy‑in from the older players in our program, the quicker we'll be successful.
You'll have a chance to visit with them today and I think you'll get to hear their perspective, which I think is interesting.
With that being said, I guess I'll take a few questions at this point.
Q. Kevin, there's been a buildup for months about joining the SEC. When you walk in a room, see all these people here, considering where you came from, does it make it real?
COACH SUMLIN: This makes it real. I tell you what made it real to me, which is probably quicker than a lot of people, was when we had our first head coaches meeting back in March or February. When you walk into a room with 13 other head coaches in the SEC and Mike Slive, they close that door behind you, it's just you guys in there, that's when you know it's real. For me it's probably been a little bit quicker there with that.
Then walking into this room, first the other day, Alan Cannon giving me the number of media requests, you know what kind of league you're involved in, and the size and scope of football in the SEC.
I think for me it's probably been a little bit different than our fans. The July 1st date was a big date for us to officially move into the league. As I said, you guys probably saw me at the bowl game wearing my SEC patches. We've done that the whole time.
This is just part of it.
Q. I'd like to get your thoughts on starting a season like you are fresh at a new college, but with a quarterback situation that you're going into the year with.
COACH SUMLIN: That's a good question. Fortunately this is my second time through this. People forget, moving into Houston there was really a two‑quarterback system that I inherited with Blake Joseph and Case Keenum, who split time before.
We went through spring football. Basically went through the fall camp. I'm usually pretty comfortable about two weeks away from the first game being able to name the starter.
Having been through this before as a head coach, and really as a coordinator, too, makes it a little bit easier, I'll put it that way. But as a coach, you always feel better when you have a starter that kind of leads your team through spring and goes through the summer and through fall camp.
I will say this: You got to start somewhere. All those guys that become veteran quarterbacks, they had to figure out a place to get started. So we'll work through that.
Fortunately we've got some guys that are competing for it. I feel real good about our athletic ability and our talent level at quarterback. So those guys will compete in two‑a‑days and we'll figure out who that is and name a starter a couple weeks, at the latest, before the Louisiana Tech game.
Q. You obviously have proven to have great offenses from your Oklahoma and Houston days. Do you have to make any adjustments going against the SEC defenses?
COACH SUMLIN: Yeah, we need to be bigger and faster ‑ how is that ‑ against the SEC defenses (smiling)?
I don't know. We'll see. We've been able to adapt to do things, whether we were at Houston, other places I've been, to utilize our personnel. I think we have gotten‑‑ people say we throw the ball all the time. That's fine. I'd like for people to think that. That's not necessarily the truth.
I think if you look at the statistics, you look at our ratio, it's a lot closer to 55/45 than 70/30. Our run‑game percentages and stats have been pretty effective. So being called 'pass happy', that's fine with us, as long as people want to defend the pass all the time.
We've been able to utilize our talent. I think we've been able to develop quarterbacks in what we've tried to do wherever we've been. You know, as I said before to somebody, we'll have a lot better feel for our league in February than we do right now.
Watching video doesn't do it a lot of justice. I see a bunch of people smiling. We took a little team from Houston over to Starkville and won once. So we played some teams in the SEC and have a lot of respect for the talent level. So we'll see where we are offensively.
But certainly we're comfortable with how we do things in the system that we have in place.
Q. Everybody talks about the SEC welcoming you in. But you get to welcome the SEC with the game with Florida. Talk about how important it is to start your season at home. Are we trending towards the end of the college football kickoff? For safety reasons, they're moving it up.
COACH SUMLIN: To answer your question, there's a couple ways. Number one, our most important game is our first game, and that's Louisiana Tech. We're playing in Shreveport, 7:30, 6:30 at night. Anybody who has seen them play a year ago knows that's a good football team. Sonny does a great job.
Last year at Houston, we won on the last play of the game. Mississippi State, Southern Miss, barely got out of there. We have our plate full the first time.
There is no doubt our fans are extremely excited about the home opener against Florida. All you got to do is look at our season ticket sales to gauge where we are as a university and as an athletic program as far as ticket sales and excitement level.
That's going to be a big game for us. For us as a team or as a head coach to have your home opener at Texas A&M be an SEC game is a big deal, there's no doubt about that.
Like I said, for us, the first game is the biggest game.
Your last question about the kickoff, there's been a lot of talk about that, concern about injury. I think moving the kickoff line of scrimmage forward, back, obviously everybody's talked about it. There's been a little bit of movement and discussion about eliminating it.
I, for one, am not a fan of eliminating the kickoff. I think it's something that the fans like. I think it's something that players enjoy. There's an art to it. I'm probably a little bit different than most people since I just came from a place that a guy tied the NCAA record in kickoff returns for touchdowns.
So for me, I don't want to eliminate the kickoff. I like that. It's a play for us. First offensive play for the return team, and a tone‑setter if you're the kickoff team. For me that's been a part of football.
Q. To follow up on the quarterback situation, a lot of your quarterbacks are young, only one is above a junior. Does that make the process difficult? Does that make the development more difficult?
COACH SUMLIN: You know, there's a couple ways to look at it. A lot of times with young quarterbacks, it's a little bit easier, particularly when you come in with a new system. To have, as a new coach coming in, as a fourth‑ or fifth‑year guy starting in a different system, it can be a little bit difficult.
Sometimes they'll reject your coaching, sometimes they've been taught differently. They haven't really come there to play for you, particularly if they've had success, if that makes sense.
In this situation with the younger quarterback, fortunately for us, when we walked into the situation, we knew all those guys. We'd recruited them at Houston. Kliff Kingsbury or myself had visited them or talked to them on the phone. There was a comfort level with us with the quarterbacks and with the quarterbacks with us. That's really where you need to start.
When you get a new coach, you don't know what he's going to run, how it's going to happen, what is going to go on. I think our guys had a comfort level knowing us, knowing what we're about.
For me, looking at the situation with a younger guy, you probably have a little bit better chance to mold him into what you're trying to do and have him grow with you and grow the offense with him, instead of a guy who has been around for four or five years and is used to a certain system.
Q. What is your approach to recruiting out of the state of Texas? What emphasis, if any, are you putting on it? How much do you expect to get from Christine Michael during pre‑season camp, and what do you think he can bring to the offense this fall?
COACH SUMLIN: Those are two real different questions (smiling).
First of all, recruiting. I would say there's no doubt we have a real emphasis in the state of Texas of recruiting. I think our numbers show that right now. We've had success.
But there's no doubt that being in the SEC has increased our footprint nationally, and particularly moving east. Our ability to really move east into Louisiana, Mississippi, I think just looking at our recruiting over the last five or six months, I would say we've probably gotten a few more visits or return phone calls or campus visits from some guys that may or may not have looked at us before we were in the SEC.
I don't know, people ask me all the time, How much has that affected your recruiting, how much has that boosted it? It's hard for me to say because I wasn't here last year. But I do know that our brand at Texas A&M, our history, our tradition, our location, being part of the SEC has not hurt us one bit in recruiting in the state and moving east, and really nationally.
To answer your question, our primary state is always going to be Texas. There's a lot of great players in the state. But in order to be the program we want to be, we're going to have to have a national recruiting prowess. I think we've hired coaches that have that background and understand it. I think our numbers are starting to bear that out.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about Texas A&M and LSU becoming that the last game of the season near Thanksgiving. Then the LSU and Texas A&M rivalry being renewed, your thoughts on that.
COACH SUMLIN: The one thing I've learned is I don't have anything to do with scheduling so far, particularly being the new guy. We'll figure out what's going on.
I think from a proximity standpoint, obviously based on what we just talked about with Edward, as we move into recruiting, you know, Louisiana is a neighboring state. Obviously they're in Texas recruiting, we're in Louisiana recruiting. Hopefully, as we become more competitive on the football field, it becomes one of those games that people look forward to.
Everybody is always looking for a replacement for rivalry games. We're new into this league. You really don't have a set rival, per se. I know we've talked about and discussed the crossover rival will be South Carolina. I've coached in every league maybe but this league. You know, you create your own rivalries and they change.
We'll see. I think just from a proximity standpoint, a neighboring state, the things that go on in recruiting, the people that know each other, certainly that will be an extremely important game and could replace a game as a big‑time rivalry game.
Q. What is your assessment of playing in the SEC West this year, especially with this division producing the last three BCS national championships?
COACH SUMLIN: What's my assessment? It's a pretty damn hard league. How is that? That's my assessment (laughter).
You look at that, you see the talent level. I think the combination, somebody we were just talking about, the main difference that I see is the combination of size and speed.
I've been a part of some pretty fast football teams over the last few years. Our speed level at Texas A&M is pretty good. I think the combination of size and speed, particularly in the west, but in the SEC, is the difference‑maker, and the depth in the front.
You add up those three things ‑ size, speed and depth ‑ over the course of the 12 ballgames, injuries and attrition matter. So, you know, just to answer your question, it's a damn difficult league because of talent, but also because of coaching.
You can argue all you want, but there's some of the best coaches in the country in the SEC. Combine that with big, fast guys, some of the best players in the country, it doesn't get any better than that.
Q. What kind of feel do you have for your team defensively, the kind of defense you can put on the field? Do you think it can be the type of defense that the SEC is known for? If not yet, what will y'all have to do to get to that point?
COACH SUMLIN: It's a great question.
It would be difficult for me to say at this point. We've got a lot of things we've got to overcome. You look at our defense last year, we led the country in sacks, but we were 106th or 108th in pass defense. That's a feast or famine type of defense.
We've got to be more consistent across the board as a football team. Defensively we've got to take some chances, but we can't have that big of a chasm between statistics.
The other thing that we have to do is we've got to develop depth in our front, which we did not have in the spring. We're going to have some young guys play early in our defensive line. Our linebackers, starting linebackers, are SEC‑like linebacker, size and speed‑wise, with Jay‑Stew, 245‑, 250‑pound Mike in there to try to help us out. We're moving from a 3‑4 to a 4‑3, which is a big deal for us schematically.
To answer your question, we've changed the defense, changed the style of defense obviously with a new coordinator, new scheme. We're going to have to recruit to the 4‑3 to what we're trying to do. Unfortunately for us, we're going to have to get some young kids on the field early this year.
But from a depth perspective, I think that's going to help us moving forward down the road, maybe a couple years from now.
Q. Christine Michael, what do you expect to get out of him? What do you expect him to do this fall?
COACH SUMLIN: Christine is a guy who was really ready to go in the spring. About week two or three, I pulled him off the field. He was doing too much, I thought, early. Anybody who watched him play last year knows that he's a big, physical guy. He doesn't have to explain or try to show me how tough he is. I get that.
We wanted to make sure he got through the spring healthy, got through the summer. We'll work through it during fall camp and make sure that he's ready to go physically, that he can take a hit, hang on to the ball.
To me, he's 100%. I was looking at him yesterday, he came through the office, he looks great. I think he's 223 or something like that right now, which is a good weight for him. And the ability for him to really carry that weight over the last five months has been a big deal to him just from the pounding on that knee, being able to run with that weight.
He hasn't had much swelling, so he's gone through all the summer workouts and he's coming along just fine.
Q. Even in the midst of you playing against Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, this is your first year in the SEC. What are your realistic expectations this year?
COACH SUMLIN: What are my realistic expectations this year? My realistic expectations are to win. I said that from day one. Everybody talks to me and acts like I didn't know what I was getting into when I took the job. We had already entered into the SEC under the agreement when I took the job.
I know, having been at Texas A&M 10 years ago, the potential of the university. Now, what we've got to do is we've got to continue to recruit at a high level. I think we have everything in place to do that from a game‑day experience, from facilities that are being built down the road.
But you owe it to your fans, you owe it to your seniors, you owe it to the players in your current program to go out there and put the best product on the field every week and give us an opportunity to be successful.
I'm not a weatherman. I've been on really good teams. I've been on some bad teams. I'm not a guy that goes out and circles games on the schedule before the year happens, whether we've won every game or lost one game or lost them all. It changes.
I'll say this, too. It will depend on how quickly, we talked about it, the buy‑in from those three guys, but the other 85 guys to buy in to what we're doing. The quicker we get that, the quicker we'll have a chance to be successful in playing some of these games.
There's no doubt, when you're facing a bunch of top‑10 football teams, we have a ways to go based on where we were as a program last year and the things to clean up.
We talk to our team all the time about two things. We don't need to worry about our SEC schedule, the teams we're playing, Florida, LSU, Alabama yet. We need to worry about us first. We've got enough things in our own program right now that we got to get fixed before we start worrying about playing those football games.
Q. Are you always this laid back, pretty cool guy?
COACH SUMLIN: Some of you guys have seen me on Saturday. Some of you have been with me in these question‑and‑answer sessions, too. It's summertime and we're undefeated at this point, so you might catch me later with a different attitude (laughter).
Q. What do you think are some perceptions or myths about Texas A&M that maybe you'd like to dispel?
COACH SUMLIN: You know, I don't know. Perceptions or myths? I wish the perception was that we were damn good in football. I don't know.
You get out there, there's some things you hear in recruiting. Obviously the more that we have guys on our campus, the guys that have come to visit us have come around and looked and said, You know what, this is different than I thought.
We have a huge tradition as far as our student body. I focus more on the positives than the negatives. Every school's got nothing tiffs. We have the largest student body at any venue, college football game, in the country. 30,000 students standing, the home of the '12th Man,' one of the loudest places in the country. It's hard to show that to a young man in the off‑season.
For me as a coach, wherever I've coached or been, there have always been negatives to point out. But I think as you start to point out what's positive about your school, what sets you apart, what sets Texas A&M apart, 50,000 students, 20,000 alumni every year, former students that go out in the world, in the marketplace, create jobs for other Aggies, it's a big deal.
The game‑day experience, which ESPN said is second to none in the country, gives you an opportunity to go out as a coach and recruit the best and the brightest in the country. Particularly now that we're in the SEC, I think we've got a venue and a game‑day atmosphere that fits right into our league.
Our fans take pride in it. Our former and current students take pride in it. So do our players. We're looking forward to it.
Q. What did you think of Coach Miles' statement that Texas and Missouri better strap it up?
COACH SUMLIN: Based on the video I watched, he wasn't too far from being right. He's got a pretty good football team. You got two new teams coming in the league.
I don't think that was any kind of derogatory statement at all based on the fact that he was the head coach at Oklahoma State and was in the Big 12 for a number of years. So I think he understands the physical nature of this league. I don't see that as derogatory at all. I think that's a fair statement.
I think he says that to about everybody he plays, as a matter of fact (smiling).
Q. Speaking of LSU, Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia racked up 533 yards of offense LSU, one of the better defenses in the SEC, more, is that a testament to what your offense can do in the SEC?
COACH SUMLIN: You know, Dana, having spent two years with us at Houston, obviously we're pretty close, before he moved on, you know, that was a nice job by West Virginia.
The thing you look at is the turnovers in that game and big plays. Great players on the field make big plays.
The game is not about statistics, how many yards you have. It's about more points than the other guy. Whether you hold 'em to 3, whether you give up 30 and score 31, the idea is to win the game.
There's some things obviously fundamentally and structurally that are similar to what we do, but that game came down to turnovers. Just about every football game I've ever been a part of, that's the case. You turn the ball over like that, as many times as they did, against a good or average football team, you're not going to win.
But from a structural and schematic standpoint, I'm sure LSU has looked at that, too, and they're going to try to shore that up.
For us, that's certainly part of what we do. That's not all of what we do, but that's certainly part of what we do.
Q. You mentioned Coach Jackson. What has he done to get the team ready for the SEC? Have you seen a transformation of the team?
COACH SUMLIN: You know, it's different. As a coach, you can't be a part of the summer workouts. Larry Jackson is a guy that has been with me when I was an assistant coach at Oklahoma, came from Texas A&M, he's been at Houston with me. He understands what we're trying to get done. Former NFL player. Player at Texas A&M.
For him, I think he told them the right thing. It's not a job for him anymore, it's personal. He's an Aggie, he played there. He understands what it takes to play at the next level. I think our players get that.
The demands he's putting on them right now, he's put in the spring, gone through the summer, will pay off.
We don't have a conditioning test at the end. He's never had it since I've been with him. He's basically told me that, number one, you get out there and practice. If our team's not where we need it to be, then you fire me.
There's no better résumé than that.
We've been together a long time. Our teams have been in excellent condition, particularly for what we do offensively. I think the biggest compliment to him is moving from Oklahoma to Houston where we really had to develop some guys physically to play in some big games, play in a lot of big games, he was able to do that.
He was excited to get to Texas A&M and really work with some guys, with Luke Joeckel, guys that walk through the door at 280, 290, 300 pounds.
To answer your question again, I'll know more during two‑a‑days. Just talking with our guys, you can see them taking pride in what they do. Looking at their new bodies, being pretty proud of how they're handling themselves this summer.
Q. The Arkansas/Texas A&M statement has been in Cowboy Stadium the last few years. How do you feel about it moving onto campus or moving back to Cowboy Stadium?
COACH SUMLIN: That's another one of those questions that's out of my hands. How I feel about it really doesn't matter.
College football to me, that's really a two‑part question. When it was a Big 12/SEC game, a neutral field is one deal. Now you have a league game and a division game, so I'm sure that most universities, most guys would want it home and home. For us, I would think that would be the case.
I enjoy playing in Jerry's world as the next guy, but I would rather it be a home‑and‑home deal. Like I said, as a coach, that really doesn't matter. That contract was put together long before I became the head coach at Texas A&M.
Q. Have you met with coach and AD Eric Hyman from South Carolina? If so, how do you think he can help you with that transition?
COACH SUMLIN: There's no doubt. Eric Hyman coming in as our new athletic director, I'm excited about it, I'll be honest with you. You look at his last two stops, what he accomplished, what he did at TCU prior to going to South Carolina, the success of their athletic programs at South Carolina.
For us, for a university, I think it's the direction, as Bill Byrne retired, you're always going to make a change, you're worried about who's coming in. When you have a guy like Eric Hyman who has a proven track record of success, number one, but also brings something to the table that we needed I think desperately in our administration was SEC experience, not only SEC experience, but SEC winning experience in a number of sports.
Whenever you have a guy who comes in in an administration, in a leadership role, who has seen it, knows what it looks like, knows how to put it together, as a coach I couldn't be more excited about it.
We've had a couple conversations. Obviously he's back tidying up some things in Columbia. We've had a couple conversations about the direction of the program, what's going on. Like I said, whenever you have a situation like that, you're always worried. But I think we hit a home run in Eric Hyman.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports