Coach Sumlin, coordinators Jake Spavital and Mark Snyder, and select players met with the media Tuesday at the Lamar preview weekly football press conference inside the Bright Complex.
Quotes from Coach Sumlin and select players are below:
Before we get going, I just want to say we’re missing a person here...Our thoughts and prayers go out to Laurie, and the 12th Man Foundation, and you guys—the members of the media—because of the passing of Homer Jacobs. He’ll be missed. He’s missed now.
Talk about the quality of 12th Man Magazine…
“Exceptional job. Not only as a publication, but as a tool of information for our former students. (It’s) A way to really publicize our athletic programs across the board, not just football. Shoot, I learn stuff out of there all the time. You’re in a large athletic program where we’re spread out a bit, and you get to read about our programs and specifically our student-athletes at Texas A&M. It’s not only an educational tool for former students but it’s also a recruiting tool. It gives an identity to our student-athletes, where they are not only just a number but the background, where they’re from, what our programs are about and the people that work here. 12th Man Magazine does a fantastic job.”
As good as Kenny was Thursday, on film what did you pick out he did really well and what are some things he needs to work on?
“He’s got a lot of things to work on. Eyes were a little bit too much all over the place. He was able to get away with it the other night. He took care of the ball except for a couple of times. The ad-lib shovel pass—it was really loud in the stadium, and he couldn’t exactly hear what I said to him, which is probably good. He threw a bad ball in back of end zone, running to the right and throwing to the left. But those are blatant things that jump out at you and can really, really hurt you particularly in the red zone--which is an emphasis for us to be better. A lot of those things that happened (Thursday), when you have a completion percentage like that…I think we had one ball knocked down and one sack…(that) says a lot about your offensive line and running backs. The number of blitzes they brought after the first series was just about every other snap, of some sort. At least five-man pressure. Everyone has to be on the same page, receivers too. He operated at a high level, but there had to be 10 other people--like we talked about coming into that game—to make it easy on him. I thought our offensive staff and Jake Spavital, had an excellent plan to get him in a rhythm and get the offense in a rhythm. That made it quarterback-friendly, just like we talked about over course of camp, with short throws to get the tempo going and get us feeling comfortable and not taking the ball down the field early until he felt comfortable. As we got across midfield that was the case. He said he’s comfortable now and he’s ready to take the ball down the field early. We’ll see. We’ve got a week of practice, we’ll figure it out.”
You talked last year about an “effort tape”…who are your effort guys this week?
“There were a bunch of them on there. We watch that as a team. What we try and do actually is develop what we want for everyone. As spectator it’s a little different than as a team. Guys play, and the offense comes off the field and they’re worried about what happened that series. The defense comes off the field, and they doesn’t see what’s going on. They might hear the crowd yell or might see the TV copy. I think it’s really important for other players on the team to see the kind of effort that others give, guys giving extra effort, that may or may not have their name called. A lot of that was the receivers on the perimeter blocking. Malcome (Kennedy) caught 14 passes, but he and Speedy (Noil) and Ricky (Seals-Jones) and (Ed) Pope…those guys were really physical on the perimeter. For this offense to go that has to be the case. I think it’s important for people to see that. Sometimes as a d-lineman you think those guys are just pretty boys catching the ball and getting all the glory. And when you see them getting dirty and hitting people and knocking them down, playing without the football, that creates an unselfish attitude. There were a bunch of wide receivers on there, running backs in pass-protect, things like that. Pursuit situations. Although there’s a lot of room for improvement, the biggest difference for us defensively was the number of times we had seven, eight, nine guys with hats to the ball, which we didn’t have last year. (That) was more like 2012 than 2013. As Coach Snyder will say, ‘population to the ball’ situation. You saw that. That’s been an emphasis. You could see a little bit of a difference in that. Those are things that we’re trying to promote and encourage.”
How has Kenny handled all the sudden attention?
“He's been the same to me. Our practice schedule, we set up before (the game)…We didn't get back until one or two in the morning, so we didn't practice Friday. We got back here at one or two in the morning, players have Friday off, coaches come in in the afternoon. We practice and watch the video Saturday. We were in here Saturday morning, practice, and they were out of here by one. We really haven't had a bunch of conversations until Monday. I think the really good thing about it was that we got back late, Friday people talked about it, and everyone was onto the other game Saturday. He is probably just like me and everyone else, we just sat around and watch football all Saturday and Saturday night. In a way for a young guy that deflected a little bit of the attention. We’ll see how he handles it. Everyone will have their opinion if he plays the same way. But I don’t think his demeanor has changed. He was upstairs watching video a few minutes ago, so that hasn’t changed. If anything has changed it’s been his approach. Him traveling last year and being a part of those different environment helped, but his demeanor helps because he’s so calm. Spav said he has zero nerves and that is about right.”
How much are you looking forward to playing the first game in the renovated stadium?
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been in there a couple times and you can tell the difference. With the speakers on there’s a definite echo on the other side that wasn’t there. It’s just different in there now. We’re down lower with the wall. You can see a year from now it will be absolutely ridiculous. We’re down lower from an entry point, and coming right down that tunnel and out the south end zone is neat. It’s a little bit quicker trip. We’ve seen the grass take a lot more in the last week. We won’t get back out there until Thursday. I’m not really complaining about the rain, it’s really helped (the grass) the last couple of days. We’re excited. Fans will be excited. Our guys get energy when they walk out there too. We have a chance to have one of the largest crowds to ever see a game in the state of Texas this weekend. That’s a great opportunity and something our guys will never forget.”
Can you update us on the status of Cameron Clear?
“I don’t know that he will be ready to go this week. We’ll see.”
Do you change your mental approach? Last week you had no chance and now everyone is patting your team on the back now. Does that change what you do?
“No. I still don’t think people think we’re any good. So we’re going to keep going with that.”
What’s it mean to get such a quick impact from true freshmen?
“Like I said beforehand, they have the talent. You worry about how they will react in that atmosphere. We came in and we call it the ‘Julien Obioha effect’. When he got here as a freshman, a guy no one thought would play his freshman year and he has started every game since he been here, he played really well on the practice field. Every time we came in Kyle Field, for whatever reason he lost his mind. We had to start getting back in there with him a bunch. Because of the stadium renovation I was a little worried. We went in there one time and did some things and had some guys lose their minds. Some guys when the environment changes it can affect their play, their demeanor. You heard me a week ago, that’s what we were worried about. Was the atmosphere, the stage going to be too big for them? It’s pretty good when a guy like Armani Watts said that was the best day of his life. We need more guys like that.”
What about the platform that the SEC Network gives your program?
“It’s great. It’s on everywhere in this building I can tell you that. I have learned more about the league than I’ve ever learned before. It’s been fantastic. The exposure is fabulous. I said before, football is a big deal in the SEC but as you start looking at it, really the first game for our University was our soccer program. They were on nationally right off the bat. That’s something that wasn’t going to happen a year or two ago. The exposure not just for us but for all the programs is a big deal. It will open some doors in recruiting from a national exposure standpoint that maybe some of our coaches didn’t have. That’s why we’re excited about it. From this (Lamar) game being televised, which is always great for recruiting/exposure, it helps all our programs and it will continue to do that. That’s why the network is a big deal.”
Were you pleased with the run stopping, particularly up the middle?
“I was really encouraged. We’ve got a ways to go. The rushing numbers were down. As Coach Spurrier said we turned it into a ‘throw it every down’ type of game. The numbers were skewed a little bit, skewed both ways. I’m interested over the next few weeks to see where we will be and how we’ll develop, particularly up front. We’ve got a better feel for guys now. We’ll be able to play a lot more guys because we are at home. There will be some guys play this weekend that we may or may not have had enough confidence in going on the road and playing, but we can stick them in the rotation in a series and see how they handle a series because we are at home and there is not as much to deal with. Over the next couple or three weeks we’ll figure out really who we are defensively.”
What is the status of Jarvis Harrison and Noel Ellis?
“Jarvis I told you had a really tough offseason. He didn’t go to South Carolina and he’s got some things he has to complete to get back in our good graces. When he completes those he will play. Noel Ellis had some health issues this summer. We’re still trying to figure out whether or not we’ll redshirt him this year.”
Is Jarvis suspended?
“I didn’t say that.”
Is he practicing?
With how well Kenny did, at any point Thursday night was he exceeding your expectations?
“Oh yeah. I’d be crazy to stand here and say we knew that was going to happen. I think what it says as close as the competition was and still is…Kyle (Allen) has not backed off, he’s still competing. I think that is good for both of them. It created a sense of urgency during fall camp. The combination of the opponent first and the two of them created a sense of urgency to get better. Just because you say you have two quarterbacks doesn’t mean you don’t have a quarterback. We have two real good ones. They keep pressure on each other to continue to be good.”
Talk about the Lamar quarterback, Caleb Berry, and his performance last week, and how that offense will challenge you…
“I thought it was a great effort. Watching the video they do a lot of different things. It’s going to be a test for us. They put up a bunch of points, spread you out. They’ve got some talented players on the perimeter. I thought their plan was excellent. I’ve known Coach Woodard for a long time. What’s interesting for this game is a lot of our players know each other. A lot of their players are from this area, the golden triangle, and all over the state. They’re anxious to prove that they belong. They’ve got some guys who have transferred from other places, so they’ll be as excited to be in the new stadium as we are. They will be playing with a chip on their shoulder and they do a nice job. We’ve got to continue in my opinion to create a pass rush this week. We’ve got to be able to tackle in space. We’ve got to be able to shore up the inside of our defense when they run it. It will be a good test for us defensively, particularly in spread formations, to see what we will be able to do to contain this quarterback and still be able to rush them.”
Where would you most like to see improvement?
“I’d like to see improvement across the board. That’s the coach in me I guess. We sat down and talked with our players about how we can improve individually and the things you need to be aware of. We talked about the real moving picture of who you are on a play-to-play basis and what you can do to improve. We’re looking for those type of improvements that are tangible. From a stat standpoint there are a couple of things we talk about as a team. We’ve got some goals we look at every week. Those are tangible goals I think we can reach, and we didn’t reach them last week.”
Kenny Hill, Sophomore QB
On playing at the same level as the South Carolina game…
“I just have to keep working hard and go out there next week with the same mindset as I had last week. It’s not about the team we’re playing but it’s about us and how we can get better.”
On being thrust into the national spotlight…
“It’s been crazy. It’s kind of fun, but I’m just trying to live my life. As for the Heisman-stuff that’s surreal. It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid. Watching guys growing up like Reggie Bush and even just a few years ago watching Johnny win it… It’s something I dream of doing one day.”
On the team’s mindset after the season-opening win…
“We know we still have to work hard. We still have that chip on our shoulders. People still feel like we aren’t that good, that beating South Carolina was just a fluke, but I don’t think that’s it at all. We’re trying to prove them wrong.”
Malcome Kennedy, Senior WR
On the game against South Carolina…
“Overall, the team played very well. I was so proud to see us clicking together. I think the nation saw that when our offense, defense, and special teams play well, we can do some great things.”
On Kenny Hill…
“I give him so much credit for starting in a game like that and being able to do so much. Some may say pressure creates defiance; he really sucked it up and used the doubters as motivation. “
Jordan Mastrogiovanni, Sophomore LB
On playing in the new Kyle Field this weekend…
“It’s going to be pretty wild, I’m sure. We’ve had a couple of walk-throughs in there and it’s been pretty surreal. The finished product will have over one hundred thousand seats; I’ve never played in front of a crowd even close to that size, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
On the defense after last week’s win over South Carolina…
“We’re at the level that I expected us to be at. All across the board I think we had a really solid performance. At this point, we just need to touch up a few things and I think we’ll be fine.”
Alonzo Williams, Junior DL
On the run defense changes from last year…
“We all gained weight and got stronger. We had better rotations, some guys were fresher and we played harder”
On what it will be like playing in the renovated Kyle Field…
“It’s going to be great, just the walkthrough that we had a couple weeks ago. It’s going to be louder. It’s going to be harder for the quarterback to make checks and it’s going to be harder for the offensive linemen to hear, with that being said they can make a lot of mistakes. The 12th Man is like no other. They are always louder every game. They’re real loyal fans. I think we have the best crowd ever.”
Garret Gramling, Senior OL
On the running backs performance against South Carolina...
Our running backs were great in that game. They make us look good. They did great finding holes and making plays down there and helping us out in the passing game.
What impressed you the most about your offense...
“I wouldn’t say anybody had a bad game. Our running backs did great and, of course Kenny, had a great game and that’s who everybody’s talking about. We just got to keep it rolling.”