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July 15, 2021

Dave Aranda

Arlington, Texas, USA

Baylor Bears

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Dave Aranda from Baylor University. Coach, comments about the upcoming season.

COACH ARANDA: I'm blessed to be here. It's good to see you guys. I wanted to acknowledge how difficult it's been for all of us, but just looking at you guys in the media, how difficult it's been for you this past year, with COVID, and just your want and need to do your job.

And I think about the relationship maybe with me, where it's like who is this guy? We can't talk to this guy. I don't know what this guy's about. I wanted to say that I recognize that. And I appreciate your guys' efforts.

We've got our administrators here. I appreciate them for everything that they've done for me and our team in really hard times -- our doctors and our trainers. Just so much work was put into us and this to get us to this point. And so I acknowledge that and I'm really appreciative of it.

I think the last time you guys had media days, there's a fair amount that has happened -- Name, Image, and Likeness, social injustice, the emergence of mental health, the importance of it. It's part of my daily conversations now. And so I'm blessed to be here. I'm fortunate to represent Baylor.

I'm excited about this team. We have really worked hard to grow as individuals and to be better people. We've really worked hard to connect and to really get to know ourselves. We've talked about, a lot of times there is a representative when you first meet someone that you kind of bring out. And that representative is kind of saying the stuff that maybe he's supposed to -- he thinks you want to hear or maybe things that are the right things to say, avoiding the wrong things to say. And so we really wanted to get past that representative level, get to know who our people are, really work to build a relationship, and then build our players. So, we want to win with character. We believe that better people make better players. And our offseason has been really directed towards that.

On the field, excited about the direction of our offense and the formation of our identity, being a running team and a play-action-pass shot team.

We've got great competition at quarterback. I'm excited to see how that comes out. I think we really worked hard to instill an energy and an edge into our offensive line. I'm excited about our skill players. I think they can come alive when there is a solid run game established.

And then defensively we're really working hard on doing simple better. I feel like if you really focus on the simple, the simple can be sophisticated. And you can really take ownership and take base things to new heights. So, excited to see where that lands.

But appreciate the opportunity to be here with you all. I'll take any questions you have.

Q. As the first season as a coach, there are always challenges. But obviously, last year was different than anything anybody's experienced. As you've had the perspective to look back on it, what were really the challenges for you as a first-year coach dealing with COVID and trying to connect with your team?

COACH ARANDA: I appreciate that question. I think there's a lot that you learn about yourself. A lot that you learn about your team. The focus on mental health, the focus on things outside of football. But doing that, being separated, doing that from a place where you're apart and you can't get close and you can't have that connection, I think those two things are at odds with each other. And so I think that really kind of sums up the time.

And for me the constant effort, really being unyielding in trying to make that connection, I think, is everything. I think it gave us the opportunity, in January, to move forward and to build to where we are right now. But definitely trying. Definitely frustrating. Definitely revealing.

Q. Obviously the quarterback situation maybe could go down to the last week of the preseason. Can you maybe just talk about that battle and what you like about each of the guys?

COACH ARANDA: Appreciate the question. Quarterback-wise, excited for that competition. I think it's been ongoing here, even through this offseason, right, at the end of spring.

So there's been work done individually by both Blake (Shapen) and Gerry (Bohannon) and Jacob (Zeno), really working hard, with Coach Shawn Bell. So I think Shawn's done an outstanding job of really building those guys up, whatever level they're at, meeting them at that level, and then building them up as they go. I think collectively, being real honest and transparent about where things are at and not playing any games with it.

I think for us, as an offense, the ability to build an offense that has a strong identity and can run the ball and play-action pass and have movement passes is really important. But then leaving enough room to where if it's a certain type of quarterback, right, that we can feature that quarterback and make the offense about him. And these are plays that really feature this guy. So to be able to leave that aside for who this quarterback is going to be.

So, I think all of those things are kind of happening right now. I think, you look at Blake, his continued understanding of the offense and the language and just feeling comfortable, his ability to respond when there's adversity and things aren't going right, and to attack that next play with confidence and vigor, I think, is really important for him.

I think with Jacob, it's to increase his accuracy with the long ball and to increase his leadership with the team, his voice and his assertiveness.

I think with Gerry, it's going to be the drop-back pass, the drop-back passing game, the quick-rhythm passing game, things where he has to be able to make reads and go one to two to three and get the ball off on time.

All of those guys, each one has their own individual thing they're working on. But I appreciate them because they fully understand it. They know where they're at. They know what they've got to work on, I think the team is energized by their competition and their ability to pull for each other and their love for one another. We're going to be better for it.

Q. Your first year you didn't have a normal offseason. How different is it going into this fall actually being able to have spring practice and a real fall camp?

COACH ARANDA: It's different. I think the ability to have the side conversations, the ability to have the one-on-ones, to when our players are eating our meals, and for me to step in there and sit down with them and talk about their families, talk about their life, talk about their classes, talk about what they're going through, those times propel the times that you're on the grass, propel the football piece. When you really recognize and see people and give them time to be heard, that makes the football stuff go. And so having the time to do that and the ability to do that has made a big difference.

Q. I noticed from the two-deep that was released, I think you had like ten "ors" on the offensive side. Is that a statement of competition or is that guys not stepping up? And how much did it help to have guys like Grant and Jacob come in to help that offensive line depth?

COACH ARANDA: Appreciate the question. The summer workouts we had, and so seeing the guys, being out there for individual position-specific conditioning and seeing those guys drill on their own, just seeing the numbers of our o-linemen, right, during the fall that was our o-line and d-line combined. That number that was out there. It was, like, 'whoa'.

So that has really led to great competition. And I think that was sorely missed last fall. Sorely missed. And so the ability to push each other to be held accountable by your teammates, I think, really is everything in terms of the on-the-grass part of it.

And I think our two transfers both bring an intelligence, a maturity, a level of effort that is very high, corresponds with their level of care. Very impressed by both.

Q. Terrel Bernard was playing at an All-American level when the injury arose last year. I see he's here with you today, looking resplendent in his green suit. Do you expect him to pick up kind of where he left off last year? How did his rehab go?

COACH ARANDA: Big fan of Terrel. He's got a great heart. His care for others, there's a selflessness about him that our team sees and recognizes. And he pushes people to be better by the way that he goes about his day.

And I'm thankful for Terrel coming back. It was a choice that he made. And we're all better for it. I'm a better coach because of it.

I think Terrel, going into this season, his ability to really understand defensively, to the depth that simple can be sophisticated, I think, is going to be really key for Terrel. There's times where there's games where Terrel had double digits in tackles. And his understanding of the defense, while great and probably the best on our defense, was still at a level, much to be desired.

I think his full understanding of what we're doing and why we're doing it and where his help is, I think the sky's the limit for him.

Q. Last year, into the year, you guys went down to Norman, put in probably your best defensive performance of the season. What did that show you for the foundation you built on defense in year one and how good that unit could be for you guys this year?

COACH ARANDA: Appreciate that. There's a lot of pride on defense. We've got guys on that side of the ball that recognize what great play is and having ownership of that and really work hard to elevate that. And it's personal to them. And so I appreciate that.

And I think it came out that night, particularly. I think per that night, I think one of the things with playing OU, is that they're so multiple. And the game can go in so many different directions. And I think Coach is such an adept play caller. And is this kind of where the game's going? Is he just setting me up here? Is this because this is what's really happening, or is this because this is a ploy to try to get me to move where I don't want to move?

All those things go in your head when you're calling against him. And, so, I think to combat some of that, to be really sound, to be simple, to take great ownership of alignment and technique, I think, is a big ask. But I think that's the way to do it. And we're trying to build off of that game, particularly, just in terms of the base and the structure of the defense.

And then if we can get a fastball, if we take this to a pitching metaphor, if I can get my fastball in the high 90s, right, my change-up or curve is that much better. So, I think doing simple better really came in that game.

Q. When you make an offensive change and a stylistic change, how do you balance both matching what you do well already versus aspiring to kind of what you want?

COACH ARANDA: Appreciate that. I think that the changes are hard. And your question kind of takes me back to that time in December when you had to make the change. And it was just very -- it's a part of this job that I particularly don't like. And it's a part of the job I'm uncomfortable with.

And I just felt like -- I feel like knowing the team, having gone through the season and knowing who the people are behind the players, and knowing kind of the history of our offense and what it's been prior and how things were done prior just gives you great insight in terms of where you want to go.

And I think the wide zone offense, the play-action pass, the shot plays, I think those are all things that allow our guys to take great ownership, play fast, be aggressive. And those are things that we are in need for. And so I hope that answers your question.

Q. You were at LSU, that is known as DBU. But for you, you have a veteran defensive back group coming back. What do you see from guys like JT and Jayden (phonetic), and what do you expect from the younger guys AJ and what you've seen in camp and how they've really stepped up in their role with a full offseason?

COACH ARANDA: Appreciate that. Great flexibility with that group. And a great football IQ, a great care factor. The guys are into football, studying it. Watching some of those LSU greats, making cutups of NFL players that they like. Really honing into spring and our calls and scrimmages and games and what we could have done better and what we can improve on.

Those guys are into football, and I think when you have that and you have an athleticism and a flexibility of someone that can play high, someone that can play man-to-man on slot, someone that can play the half, right, and ball hawk, someone that can blitz off the perimeter, someone that can set edges when there's a run coming your way, I think that gives you a lot of options. And so very excited about our secondary.

I think our young guys bring a real energy and a real level of athleticism that I think can take us even to a higher level. I've got big expectations for our secondary group.

Q. You spend time, of course, in the Big Ten, the SEC, now the Big 12. The perception around the Big 12 not playing defense, a lot of that went out the window last year in traditional and also advanced metrics. What do you think about the defense in this league, where it's been and where it can go, not just on the field but also recruiting some of the guys you've got to play in the SEC now bringing them to this conference?

COACH ARANDA: It's a great question. I see this being a defensive conference. And I look at Coach (Gary) Patterson and what he's done. He's been playing defense in this conference for quite a long time. I look at OU and their success on defense and their commitment to defense.

I look at Iowa State and the work that they did and the courage that they had to be different and to do what fits the league. But I think the league offensively is changing. It's coming from a 10-personnel spread look to more of a 12-personnel, one-back, two-tight end look. There's going to be more one-back, three tight ends. The league is looking more like the Big Ten than the 10-personnel spread sets it used to be.

My friend, Matt, is here today, and I know their offense is probably one of the few that's spread like that.

And so I think the ability for the defense to set edges, to be disruptive in the interior -- if you get a tackle for loss, if you get a sack, if you get any form of a negative play if you're stemming and the offense jumps and any way that the offense has to move back, that percentage or that percentage that that offense has the chance to score goes way down. And so creating negative plays is really where it's at on defense. And I think there's a fair amount of people now that are really interested in getting in the backfield.

I think the answer to that on offense is going to be more, like we talked about, 12-personnel, 13-personnel looks, where you're trying to absorb all of the interior blitzes and stunts and everything, as opposed to doubling certain people and someone is singled. And, nope, he just whiffed on the guy and now it's second-and-15.

So getting it to where it's more wide zone and you're picking stuff up and knocking them off -- and the same with play-action pass. The more you can run the ball, the more you can get play-action pass off of it and hold people accountable as opposed to being spread sets where now there's pressures and stunts coming from different areas.

It's a good question. I think the league has changed. I think it's going to change even more.

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