|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
July 17, 2013
KEVIN TRAINOR: We're now joined by the head coach of Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin.
COACH SUMLIN: Kind of interesting, last year I was the first guy up. Our first year in the SEC, first time being here in Birmingham, first time being at the Media Days. I was fortunate enough to follow Mike Slive. Kind of indicative of the whole deal last year. We didn't know what we were getting into walking in this room, seeing the number of people, the interest was kind of staggering.
I think this year it's kind of funny I'm following Steve Shaw. He went over a little bit, which was good. I was going to ask him to stay here and officiate this whole session this morning with you guys, but he declined (smiling).
It's a great time to be at Texas A&M. People ask me all the time what about expectations. There's a lot of expectations on our program. For us, that's a good thing. I think you want to be a part of a situation where you have some relevancy in your own league, you have some relevancy in some conversations across the country. We work very, very hard at that. As a coach, that's really where you want to be.
But to get back to my original point, right now Texas A&M, the excitement level is really, really high. That's a good thing. What we have had to do with our football team is separate ourselves from our fans, not from a closeness standpoint, but from a reality standpoint.
It's great for our former students, for our fans, for our community to be excited about this football season, to be excited about being in the SEC, to be excited about our schedule next year.
But as a team, we have to hit the reset button. We signed 31 new players, 31 guys over the course of the last year, that are really going to come in. Many of them are going to have to help us this season be successful as true freshmen. That's quite a large number when you have 85 guys on scholarship.
The deduction from that is, are we where we need to be from a depth standpoint. If we were, we wouldn't have had to sign 31 guys. A bunch of young guys that are talented. But, you know, we'll work through that during two‑a‑days.
The other thing, maybe the most important part for our fans, something that we're very, very appreciative of, because of that excitement, because of the momentum that we have coming off of last season, we have a tremendous amount of support in our program. That momentum has translated into positive things in recruiting those 31 young men to come to our campus, which was a highly‑rated recruiting class. It's translated to where we are right now in terms of this year's recruiting class, some of the recruiting classes down the road, a number of young men that have committed to us.
It's also translated into more applications at Texas A&M, a rise in applications at our university, a rise in donations. For example, a lot of people have talked about where we are facility‑wise. That momentum has translated into different projects. The Davis Player Development Center, our new weight room, which is completed since the time we got there, the R.C. Slocum Nutrition Center, which will be done in a couple months, the Lohman Lobby expansion to our building. That's a $5 million project, which will be done in the next three or four months. You add all those up, the new player development center was about $9 million, lobby expansion $5 million, nutrition center, $12 million, you add all that up. That's donor funded. We haven't borrowed a dime for that.
That talks about the commitment from our former students, from our administration to help us be successful. And we're very, very appreciative of that. You add to that the news that we've okayed the $450 million stadium renovation to create the finest football facility in America, moving to 102,000 fans. All that is a product of, as I said, the momentum and the enthusiasm coming off of last year. That's why that's a good thing.
For our football team this year, as I said, we've got a bunch of new guys. We have some holes we have to fill. We lost some good players from last year. But that's a great thing about college football: the difference I see between college football and pro football, you're able to hang on to a core of players to the next level, rotate around those.
College football, your team is changing every year. In many cases a lot of your better players leave early. So you have to have a plan for that.
We have our offensive line that we've rotated some guys in there, able to get through spring football with what I think is a solidified starting five. We've created a little more depth there. We're not ready to get that, you guys will probably have some questions about that.
We've got to find a couple more players on the perimeter to help Mike Evans, who had an outstanding season last year, a guy who really played one year of high school football, was a basketball guy. I look for him to continue to get better.
Our back field has been talked about, from a quarterback position, all the way to Ben Malena who had an outstanding year last year, in addition to Tra Carson, a transfer from Oregon, and Brandon Williams, a transfer from Oklahoma, which gives us some depth at runningback that we need.
I think a different wrinkle that we're able to utilize a little bit in the spring was the addition of Cam Clear at the tight end position, 270‑pound tight end who's got excellent hands and excellent range, mobility, hand‑eye.
Big physical guy with Nehemiah Hicks.
We have some new guys, but we have to see how these guys fit in.
Defensively we went through the spring. We didn't have three of the starting front seven, did not go to spring due to surgery or injury. You know me, I'm a glass‑half‑full guy. What that did was give us the opportunity to get some of these young guys involved, get them in the mix early, really give them more reps through the two‑deep.
Our secondary has a lot of moving parts. We have a bunch of capable guys. We have more depth back there, more experience, but the key will be to get those guys in the right place.
From our standpoint, from my standpoint, as I said, just like the other 13 coaches, the 42 players, I think everybody that gets up here, the word 'excited', the word 'excitement' is going to come out of about everybody's mouth.
But for us, obviously I think there's a reason for us to be excited about football this season and to get back to work. And for our coaches and for myself who took a small break, came back off of a vacation, had our first staff meeting Tuesday morning, we're ready to get back at it again and glad to be back here in Birmingham.
KEVIN TRAINOR: We'll take questions for Coach Sumlin.
Q. Your quarterback, how do you feel he has represented you guys both on and off the field?
COACH SUMLIN: Well, I think obviously on the field he has done an exceptional job. The nation spoke. The writers spoke. The Heisman Trophy people spoke. Different awards spoke about on the field.
I think off the field, there's no question that he's made some mistakes. I think today will be a great experience for him, a great experience for a lot of people because he has made some mistakes.
We've had discussions about that. The way we view things. It's like having kids, there's a lot of people in here that are parents. Our discipline policy, the things that we do, how we handle things are in‑house. By no means are we perfect with how we do things.
Is our system perfect? No. Is he perfect? No. I think he has done some things that he's not very proud of, has made some poor decisions. He's made some good decisions. Unfortunately, the poor decisions are the ones that are really publicized.
It's a growing process. It's a learning process. But to answer your question, can he be better in that area? Certainly. That's something that we're working at.
Q. Were you involved when the future home‑and‑home series versus Oregon and Southern California were canceled? Are you in favor of that decision?
COACH SUMLIN: No, I was not involved. As you know, scheduling is done way in advance ‑ sometimes four, five, six, seven years in advance.
I think for everybody, it just stands to reason, let me give you how things really work. You don't just come in and cancel a game.
We have a lot of factors involved in scheduling. When you change leagues, number one, that schedule that you have from the previous league is set to play those games.
When you change leagues, many times the number of non‑conference games may change. The weeks that you play may change. You have to scramble to get opponents. We had to scramble to get opponents last year because of the conference change. We've had to scramble to get opponents this year and for next season.
The schedule debate for some people, whether it's eight or nine games, for a lot of people that's the discussion. For us, we pay very, very close attention to that because it affects not only our schedule in conference, but affects our non‑conference schedule because of the weeks we play.
Does that make sense?
So from that standpoint, you know, the decision that was made was based upon not just opponent, but was made based on making room for what's coming down the road, the way I understand it, from a league standpoint, when those games will be played, to have some flexibility to do that.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the departure of Kliff Kingsbury. How will that affect you coaching personally? Were you caught off guard due to his age and experience?
COACH SUMLIN: No. You've got to remember, in my five years of being a head coach, this is going on my sixth year, I'm very, very fortunate to have a number of head coaches come out of our program. Dana Holgorsen was there with us at Houston when Kliff got there. Tony Levine is the head coach at Houston. Kliff had an opportunity to leave last year to become a head coach. Brian Polian is the head coach at Nevada.
Of all the things we've been able to accomplish over the last five, six years, I think I'm really, really proud of that. I think we've developed a culture and a mindset and really helped guys become head coaches.
I don't see Kliff any different. I think he's a very, very talented, talented individual. He's a guy that understands the game of football, understands the politics of the position.
He's going to learn and grow, just like every young head coach, just like I am still. Going in my sixth year, I'm a young head coach. We talk all the time about, you know, the things that are important. Joe Tiller told me a long time ago, he said, Kevin, I just want you to know it's not the things, when you're an assistant coach, that you learn from a head coach to do; it's the mistakes you see him make, trying to eliminate those from how you do things and don't make the same mistake twice.
Lord knows, I told Kliff that a long time ago. Kind of bugged me because he was writing stuff I was saying all the time. I've made a lot of mistakes. He's been able to talk a bunch of times to me about things that happened. There's no handbook for this job. Things come up that you don't realize come up that are outside of football. Obviously your ability to handle them is really based on your style and experiences.
Again, back to your question. Were we caught off guard? No. We were involved in the conversation. I was involved in the conversation with Kirby Hocutt, who is a great friend. Was actually at Oklahoma when I was an assistant coach, the athletic director at Texas Tech. I think Kliff is going to do an outstanding job. He understands the culture in Lubbock. He played there and won there.
He's excited to be there. I look for him to do a really, really good job there at Texas Tech.
Q. What do you tell your team about dealing with all the hype and attention that comes with having a guy like Johnny Manziel on your team?
COACH SUMLIN: When you're talking about hype and attention, we don't tell them anything any different than we've told them even before the Cotton Bowl. The way you handle those things, and it gets back to my opening statement, it's great for our fans. It's great for our community. It's great for everybody to have excitement.
I think as a coach, it's important for you to be consistent. As a coach, it's important for you to set the tone and not ride the wave up and down.
When I stood here last year, the thought process, the feeling, the vibe that we got was very, very different than it is today. Trust me, we had an expectation in‑house that we didn't talk about publicly. We had an expectation for our players individually. We had an expectation for our program that was probably very, very different than most people had. To be able to express that to your team and create that kind of culture was important.
I don't see it ever being about one player. I think certainly in many instances you have a player who is a catalyst for a lot of good things. But when you talk about hype, expectation, all those types of things, you're talking about a complete team. So you're really dealing with the expectation level of your program.
Q. I guess Johnny hasn't tweeted in more than a month. Did you have anything to do with that decision? How do you think the perception of him has changed because of social media?
COACH SUMLIN: To answer your first question, we have discussions all the time. People ask me, Do you talk to him? You need to talk to him. We have discussions all the time about things. That's part of a learning and growing process.
Just like I said, everybody's got a different style. Just like parenting. You know, what we talked about after that, obviously there was some discussion. But I think your point is correct. After that, it's been, what was that, June 15th, something like that, that last tweet was out. Hasn't done that recently.
What was your second question?
Q. The whole social media aspect.
COACH SUMLIN: The whole social media aspect is different. I get a lot of questions from a lot of guys here. It's a different time. It's a different day and age. The ability to deal with social media, it's instant. The professionals in this room that do a great job of reporting the story, to be able to talk about it intelligently, to be able to do some things.
Unfortunately, you've got some people, if they take a picture, if they tweet individually, that person, it becomes as newsworthy as anybody who is in this room.
That's something that young people need to continue to understand, whether they're in college, whether they're at the pro level, whether they're in high school. I think that has been a learning process, the ability to be able to distinguish those things.
Different people get things at different times. I think that, you know, obviously the discussion after the last tweet, you know, he hadn't been on there ever since then. He hasn't been on there for the last month. Obviously, there was something to that discussion.
Q. Bill Polian said last night the worst thing that could have happened was a freshman like Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman because it created him as a celebrity quarterback. How do you respond to that?
COACH SUMLIN: You know, I don't know that's the worst thing that could happen. It might be the worst thing to some other people. It was a good thing for me and Texas A&M (smiling). Just like everything else, that's all relative.
When we got to New York last year, the conversation was about could he or would he win the Heisman. Really, the conversation that I got the last two days was really based on not only would he win, but could he win because he was a freshman, which was kind of interesting to me.
So, you know, to Bill's point, that's his opinion. There are different criteria for the Heisman. If I took a poll in this room, I bet I'd get maybe 10 different criteria for what the Heisman Trophy really is, who it's given to, most outstanding player, most outstanding player on one team, most outstanding player on a winning team. There's all different kinds of criteria.
Because of that, regardless of what happened, he won the award.
The biggest comment should have been, All right, what now? Obviously there's some growing pains that come after that. Because of the stature of the Heisman Trophy winner, because of the scrutiny, because of the imagery that you have, there's some things that go along with that.
Has he handled that perfectly? No. You know, I think that's all a learning experience, a growing experience, because, quite frankly, it's something that nobody's ever been through at that age.
Q. Obviously Johnny had a great year on the field. How does a guy improve after winning the Heisman? How do you see him improving? How have you seen him improve since last season?
COACH SUMLIN: It's interesting you say that. I've been really fortunate to be around a lot of great players as an assistant coach, and some guys who have won some really prestigious awards as underclassmen. Jason White came back at Oklahoma as a junior to his senior year. Casey Keenum coming off of an injury. Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees. A bunch of guys who between a really good year, a great year, how do you deal with those guys?
We've been consistent with that. We sit down, talk about not only your strengths as a player, but your weaknesses as a player. What you try to do is work on your weaknesses, try to develop a real, real feel for the game.
In Johnny's case, as a young player, his challenge, number one, was and still is to get a much better feel for our overall package and to think like a coach on the field, to be able to anticipate and see the game for what it really is.
People have heard me say a bunch. The idea from game 1 to game 12, 13 last year, through the spring and this summer, was to move him from an athlete that's playing quarterback to a quarterback that's an athlete. By that, I mean to develop his overall game.
I think it was evident last year that he was very, very different games 5, 6 through 12, 13, than he was through game 1 through 5, 6. That was indicative of him as a quarterback, as a team, of us understanding each other.
The more that he can continue to do that, the quicker we're going to be able to involve these young players in our scheme and him be able to help and really mold our offense to what we can do instead of it taking four, five, six weeks to really get a feel for what's happening.
Does that make sense?
Q. You talked about him late in the season. What did you see that you didn't see early in the season? More intelligent on choosing when to run? Do you see him doing less of that this year to preserve taking hits? What do you see as far as his running element? That's a worry with a lot of athletic quarterbacks, injury.
COACH SUMLIN: Sure, there's always that worry. We've had them all. I started coaching at Washington State from Drew Bledsoe, 6'6", 245. You worry about him just staying in there, a guy hitting him in the back. You worry about your quarterback getting hurt all the time. You can't do that as a coach.
What you try to do is create a scheme that gives your particular quarterback, gives your guys, a chance to be successful, whether it's a non‑mobile quarterback, whether it's a guy that can move around.
As I said, I think it was a learning process for both of us to try to play to the strengths of our team, not just one guy, but the strengths of our football team.
There's no question, you look at us the last half of the year, there were more designed runs towards the latter part of the year, more play‑action type situations, different sets. That's a comfort level with our players, the style of our players, the style of the support system around him, the outside perimeter guys who started to come on.
Much like our fans, when he took off running early in the season, everybody stood there and watched him. As they figured out, Hey, this guy can still throw the football, maybe if we block somebody, he'll score, those guys got involved in some different things.
To answer your question, are we going to change who is fundamentally? No. Are we going to try to develop him as an overall quarterback? Yes. The ability to go through his reads, the ability to see the presentation of the defense quicker comes with experience, comes with knowledge.
But certainly there's no question in his development as a passer, really aided our success later on in the year.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Coach Sumlin, thank you for your time.
COACH SUMLIN: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports