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VALERO ALAMO BOWL: TEXAS v OREGON STATE


December 27, 2012


Carrington Byndom

Manny Diaz

Quandre Diggs

Desmond Jackson

Alex Okafor

Kenny Vaccaro


SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to welcome Texas Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz.  Could you introduce the players and give an opening statement.
MANNY DIAZ:  Going down the line, we have:  Cornerback Quandre Diggs; cornerback Carrington Byndon; defensive end Alex Okafor; defensive back tackle Desmond Jackson, and safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Just brief opening comments.  We've had a great month of practice.  Everybody always talks about that Bowl practices, normally you split the month up into two.  You have sort of a spring practice where you work on the youth of your football team and then as the game gets closer you move on to game preparation.
I'll say defensively that's been true for us to a point, but I do think since the season has ended, I think we've taken a good hard look at ourselves.  I think we've had a really good month of preparation in terms of not just this game but this defense going forward.
We were not pleased with the way that we played this season.  And everything we did through this past month to me will benefit us on Saturday but also benefit us going forward here on forward.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  Alex, was there an overlap when you guys were at Pflugerville, or JV/Varsity, what do you remember from Storm?
ALEX OKAFOR:  He was on varsity my senior year.  My senior year I played with him, he was our starting running back.  So I know Storm well.

Q.  Surprised he went up to Oregon State?
ALEX OKAFOR:  I am.  I'm surprised he stayed there.  Usually when people leave Texas, they end up coming back the next year.  That's a good thing.  Proud of him.

Q.  Manny, you said you took a good, hard look at yourselves.  Just talk about why you think it got away from you a little bit, in the beginning of the year, what helped turn things around and what you can take away from this year going forward?
MANNY DIAZ:  I think there's 99 reasons we didn't play the way we wanted to play.  Some that were in our control and some that were not in our control.  But we're responsible for all of them.
The bottom line is what I was proud of our defense as the year went on despite the fact we played very poorly especially in the middle part of the season I thought we were resilient.  I thought we hung together and I do think we improved as the year went on.
Sort of the theme, this month, we talked about it over the last three, four, five weeks, the time for resilience is over.¬† We've proven we can take a punch, but that the time for that is over.¬† Now it's time to start moving forward and having‑‑ I think what's important I think the guys understand this is having a higher expectation of the man playing beside you, and higher expectation of yourself and higher expectation of what you demand of the man that plays beside you.
And that's really, like I said, it's a process.  We have to go play a game on Saturday.  I'm sad we can't practice next week, because every day it's a matter of just grinding closer to that goal.

Q.  Manny, there's some talk about maybe Quandre taking Kenny's spot in the nickel position next year.  Is that something you looked into this game or just something for the future in the spring?
MANNY DIAZ:¬† No.¬† To me you would have to come back in the springtime, find out who you've got, where everybody fits in the best positions.¬† I think one thing Coach Akina has been done an unbelievable job is cross‑training all guys for all positions.¬† With the injuries we've had in the back seven of our defense, there's guys up here that know, between nickel and dime and safety and things like that, and because Coach Akina makes a big point of trying‑‑ we don't want just DBs we don't want cover corners, we want complete football players.
So I think all of our guys have a lot of versatility in the ways they can help the football team.

Q.  Manny, obviously injuries are never an excuse, but just what did it mean when you all lost Jordan for the year, how did you all have to compensate for that?
MANNY DIAZ:¬† A little bit like losing ‑‑ I was speaking the front seven.¬† It's like losing the quarterback of your defense.¬† Jordan's a guy that was going to make all the calls.¬† I think Jordan‑‑ it didn't make us‑‑ it didn't hurt us at one spot, I thought it hurt us at three and four spots because with him being out that affected some of the inexperienced guys that were around him.
But I think what we learned this year it's not about losing Jordan Hicks, it's about the preparation level of the guys that had to step up and take his place.¬† I think the lesson for our football team going forward is injuries are going to be part of the game and what it really shined the light on, it shined the light on the preparation of our guys that it shouldn't have put us in a four‑week hole the way that it did.
And coaches we preach it.¬† You never know the year one sprained ankle away from being a starter.¬† But that's really where‑‑ and that again that's ultimately my responsibility as a coach is having our team prepared to handle anybody's absence.

Q.  Kenny, you've been guarding the big receiver on the other team for a while now.  They've got two receivers with thousand yards.  Is one more dangerous than the other?  And do they remind you of West Virginia's pair at all?
KENNY VACCARO:  I think they're really good receivers not just when they're catching the ball but when they're doing the assignments to get guys open.  That's where they earned my respect on films.  They play hard all the time.  We're going to match up where we need to match up.  We're not going to necessarily cover a certain guy.  I think Quandre and Carrington can handle the outside, so I'm just going to do my job and do my assignments.

Q.  Do they remind you of West Virginia?
KENNY VACCARO:  No doubt, they're one of the better pairs we're going to cover this year.

Q.  Kenny, has it hit you yet that this is going to be your last game in the orange and white?
KENNY VACCARO:  I don't think it's hit me yet.  Honestly, I've just been preparing all week.  I think it will when I get out there and start warming up.

Q.¬† Manny, the job search early with Florida International, what was the key for you taking your name out of the hat and how do you find that players at this level, do they see it‑‑ I would assume there's no hurt feelings and that you can pick up where you left off?
MANNY DIAZ:  Well, you don't leave the University of Texas for any position unless it's a perfect situation.  And so that was on one side of the equation.  The second side of the equation you have some pride about yourself.  And there's something that I came here to do.  There's something we started last year and we had a setback this year.
And there's something that every day‑‑ every day when you wake up in the morning you just‑‑ you want to get back at it.¬† And you want to get back to getting these guys playing the type of defense that we're capable of.
So all those things‑‑ there was a little bit of unfinished business here.¬† I think we've got some guys, I think they understand that we have a little bit of chip on our shoulder now.¬† I think we've seen‑‑ I think we've seen both sides of the sort of the equation in the last 12 months.
And that's going to fuel us going forward.

Q.  Alex, midway point of the season one of the lower points you talked about having zero confidence, low confidence in terms of what the defense was doing.  Was confidence an issue this year?  And how did you kind of build that up throughout the year the rest of the way?
ALEX OKAFOR:¬† We had a couple of new guys on the defense that needed to step up.¬† And they progressively got better throughout the season.¬† But I think that was one of the biggest issues at the beginning was we didn't have‑‑ some of the players didn't have confidence.¬† When you don't have that confidence you don't play as fast.
You start thinking too much.  And I think that was the issue at first.

Q.¬† Carrington, we had a question come in‑‑ have you approached this Bowl week any different knowing that next year Kenny's not going to be there and you probably have to step up and have more of a leadership role?
CARRINGTON BYNDON:  Not at all.  Like we said, we're all taking this just one game at a time.  And we're trying to work towards beating Oregon State.  And as next year comes, we'll worry about that.

Q.  Quandre, can you assess the play of their quarterbacks, I guess Vaz is going to be the starter, what are his strengths and weaknesses?
QUANDRE DIGGS:  Really nothing different with either one of the guys running the show.  They're going to run the same offense.  So we just gotta go out, continue to prepare, even with the off day tomorrow, we've just gotta continue to look at film, continue to just look at different tendencies and know these guys because we had a good two or three weeks to prepare for them.
So they have a great team, great offense, and we just gotta go out, do our thing and I feel like it would be a good game for us.

Q.  Manny, what would you say his style is as a quarterback?  I know he's only got one interception this year?
MANNY DIAZ:¬† He's always done a good job of‑‑ I think the thing that stands out about him is that his first start since high school was at Provo Utah against a BYU defense, probably one of the best defenses in the country this year.¬† And he just tore them up.¬† They couldn't stop him.¬† They came out, I think the first drive, they might have threw it four of the first five plays of the game.¬† They obviously had a lot of confidence in him.
And as these guys know, they've got a lot of great weapons.¬† It's a quarterback‑friendly offense because the tight ends catch the balls well, the backs catch the ball well.¬† They have a advanced screen game to help out the quarterbacks.¬† And the two main guys running down the field, also play action stuff.¬† But he came out all guns blazing in that game and that certainly caught everybody's attention.

Q.  Desmond, what's your assessment of Oregon's offensive line, just when you see them on film, what do you notice?
DESMOND JACKSON:  I notice they're a pretty good offensive line.  They can move the ball pretty well.  They're pretty much aggressive just like any other offensive line that we had played this year.  So from a defensive line standpoint, we just gotta go out there and punch them in the mouth.

Q.  Quandre, can you talk about the reps you took at safety and the early part of these practices and what your comfort level would be if they said, hey, can you take over for Kenny there next year?
QUANDRE DIGGS:¬† Pretty much.¬† I'm a team player.¬† So I'll do anything, whatever the coaches‑‑ the coaches need me to play corner, safety, nickel, whatever.¬† I'm fine with it.¬† It was fun.¬† It kind of took me back to some of my high school days playing safety.¬† But I'm not really‑‑ we're not really worried about that right now, playing corner this week.¬† I laid it up to Kenny you know he's going to go out there and make plays.
That's his position.  I'll stick at corner and do what I do, and if it happens to come around next year, maybe we can talk about it then.

Q.  Desmond and Quandre, could you just talk about what you have seen down the stretch and in Bowl practices that give you a good feeling going into next year, that this defense can be better?
QUANDRE DIGGS:  Well, you know, the thing we've been saying, it's changing.  It's changed since that last game of the season.  And just the intensity, the things we do at practice is just a different level that we've been taking it to.  So being the guy that's going to be here next year for sure.  So we know we have to step up.  We know we've gotta get this defense back on track from having a setback this year.  So it's going to be fun.  And you guys stick with us, we're going to bounce back, I can promise you that.
DESMOND JACKSON:  I feel like since it's the end of the season that we have taken a step forward as a program, and I feel like we have put more accountability on the younger guys than ever before.  I feel like most of the guys who probably didn't get a chance to play a lot this year since the end of the season we've been pressing for everybody just to come together, be more of a team, just working as hard as we can to make sure that we make sure we put Texas back on the map.

Q.  Kenny, some of the struggles you've all had this year, has it been a blow to your pride?  Is it something you totally didn't expect?
KENNY VACCARO:  I mean, coming into the season, we had all the high blah, blah, blah.  But I knew before the season that it was ultimately going to be our game play and I mean it's disappointing but it's the cards that I was dealt.
And we just had to grind through it.  It could be worse.  Some guys are sitting at home.

Q.¬† Manny, but anybody can answer this, everybody's talking about the struggles.¬† But certainly an 8‑4 team there's got to be some good things to talk about.¬† What were you proud about about the defense this year?
MANNY DIAZ:  I think like I mentioned before, with all the negativity I thought we were resilient.  I thought the guys focused on getting better.  It's like what Alex said.  Defense is about trust.  And it's really hard to play great defense if you don't have a high level trust of the man next to you.  That's where we had to find our way.
You have to earn that.  You can't just sit there we can't get a secret handshake and learn to trust each other.  It's got to be forged through practice, through workouts, through things like that.  As our guys were improving and through the leadership of guys like Alex and Kenny, we were able to bring our young guys along.
The problem we have when we were doing it, we were going against a run of outstanding offenses middle part of the season.  What happened is everybody else in our conference went ahead and played those offenses as well.  And sort of had their day ruined, too.  We sort of had the perfect storm.  It all kind of happened for us right there in the middle of the year.
But I am proud of the guys being resilient.  But I'm tired of being resilient now.  It's time to be something else.

Q.  Manny, the Oregon State offense as a whole does it remind you of anybody you guys have played this year in particular?
MANNY DIAZ:¬† They're not really built like the offenses that we play against in our conference.¬† Obviously more pro‑style of offense.¬† They have an outstanding coaching staff.¬† A lot of NFL experience.¬† So you're going to see more of that type of game than what we do.
In terms of formations and personnel groups, it's not very different than what we see in practice every day, which I'm sure they'd acknowledge the same thing in terms of going up against our offense.
So a lot of personnel groups.  A lot of multiple tight end formations, a lot of 1, 2, 3, wide receiver sets.  But the element of the quarterback run game and some of those things are removed from what we've had to defend against.

Q.  Question for Manny.  You talk about the linebacker play this season.  You mentioned when Jordan goes down and maybe some guys got caught having to step up and roll, they weren't totally comfortable with, but talk about where that position is and we've seen some flashes from Peter and Tevin, and just assess that situation right now?
MANNY DIAZ:  It's obviously been a work in progress.  But I would say that the room has improved.  I'm very proud of the improvements that they've made actually in the last couple of weeks.  I'm looking forward to them playing well on Saturday night.  But you mentioned Peter Jenkins and Tevin Jackson, those are two guys in the early part of the season were, Peter being brand new and Tevin still being relatively inexperienced, they were just trying to make their name in special teams and being trustworthy in terms of their assignments running down in kickoff coverage, let alone being able to handle playing defense.  But they've really stepped up their attention to detail.
Tevin Jackson played well against Kansas State and look forward to him to improve.  And Peter Jenkins has added a little bit of spunk, which I think these guys would agree.  At linebacker we're young, and we're naturally quiet guys once we lost Jordan.  And Peter brought a little bit of bravado to our bunch and get in some play we can get excited about.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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