Aggies meet the media prior to Arkansas game

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COLLEGE STATION -- The Texas A&M football team talked to the media at their weekly press conference. The team is preparing for their SEC game Saturday against Arkansas.

HEAD COACH KEVIN SUMLIN
On Trey Williams
“I talked to him about not trying to hit home runs and trying to get first downs. The big transition is how you go from high school football to college football. The number of the carries that you’re going to get during a game – if you carry the ball 27 times you’re going to take those chances because the chance is that the next one could be a home run. We’ve got to get a first down and know the difference on a third down. You want to stick your nose in there and get us a first down and be able to follow that up instead of getting a home run every time. He’s feeling that out. That will come with the adjustment in game speed. I’ve been happy with his progress in protection. He’s gotten better. As a freshman the hardest thing is to learn protections, and his size is big enough to handle it. He’s a tough guy. He understands it. He’s upset that he dropped the kickoff because he still got 30 yards on the return and probably would have scored if he had handled it. Those are the things that he’s working on. We’ve got three good backs and they’re all going to play. We need them all season.”
On Arkansas
“There’s a reason that they’re preseason No. 8. They’ve got a lot of great skill – big offensive linemen, one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Statistically and as a player, Cobi Hamilton put 300 on the board last week so you know he can play. Miles Davis – going back two years ago before the injuries - is as good of running back as you’ll ever see. They’ve got weapons offensively, they’ve got a big, athletic defensive line. Alonzo Highsmith has played a lot of football there as an anchor in the middle. They’ve got some talented guys. I think any time you lose a quarterback of that caliber for a game-and-a-half or whatever, that can throw you off a little bit. They’re coming in here and have a lot to prove. A wounded animal is maybe the most dangerous to deal with. I think it applies. We’ve got a lot to prove, too. This is our second SEC game and we’re at home. After our first one, losing a close one - I think our guys are excited that to get back in here and play somebody in our league.”
On defensive progress
“I think we’ve gotten better on the perimeter, just by numbers alone. The speed of this game is going to pick up dramatically from the last week. SMU had some fast guys. Our tackling against Florida was not as good on the perimeter as it needed to be. I think we went from 11 missed tackles on the secondary to five against SMU, which is a significant drop. This league is a different league in the fact that when the formations get reduced, your corners have to make tackles. They can’t just be cover guys. The physical nature of the secondary becomes a real factor. That’s the transition from the way the secondary was when we got here.”
On quarterback Johnny Manziel carrying
“Thirteen plays a game is kind of significant. If you’re getting 80 plays, that doesn’t sound like so much. I think every quarterback, if you look at the history, has five-to-10 gains. That’s just the nature of the game, so I don’t think that’s outrageous. I think as a coach you watch it differently because you’re critical of everything and you’re trying to get him to understand the big picture. Our guys are coming from when he escapes, what you saw last and where you saw it and the ability to keep your eyes downfield. It’s different for you because you’re on the sideline and you see it live. We don’t take anything for granted, but there are a lot of things that go on during the game that you watch and say ‘That’s a good play’. From our angle a lot of times you can’t see it. You can’t see the intricacies that happen. We miss a lot until we see it on video.”
On the pregame entrance onto Kyle Field
“It’s good. The players love it. I think the fans like it. I get a lot of emails – very positive emails about the entrance, particularly the walk where there are fans and kids where the players can see them again, instead of just the Spirit Walk. I think it has blended a lot of things that are important, when we meet up with the drums and the Corps and the bootline. I talked with the Commandant this morning about how everyone is engaged in the entrance. It’s not just the football team. It’s about our student body and its representatives, between the walk underneath the stadium and the drummers and the Corps. We’re not there to be a part of the flyover or any of the other stuff that happens before the game that’s excitement-building. That’s probably the most exciting part of the deal for our players and the energy that’s created is important. Our players enjoy it and I think that’s important. I think our fans enjoy it too.”

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MARK SNYDER
On impressions from SC State game
“We worried about us right now. We just need to do what we’re doing. Coming out of Saturday’s game, there were some good things and some bad things. We had some issues in the passing game Saturday in second and long situations. It did give us something to go back and get after the guys about yesterday. Thus far, I’ve been pleased. We’re playing pretty good defense. It’s hard to get after people when you’ve got 11 three-and-outs. That’s a good day. We put a lot of emphasis on third down. It’s the key to getting your offense the football. We want to get the offense as many touches as we can and we will get an explosion of points. Getting off the field is very crucial.”

On lineup changes
“You have to be versatile today in football. I don’t think you can line up with just one structure, one personnel package, and be really good. I think you have to teach kids to play some certain positions and get the best people on the field to the best of your ability for that particular one. “

On Arkansas offense
“They’re really good, period. We’ve got a tough challenge. This quarterback has impressed me beyond words. He stands in there and takes a pounding and has a tremendous touch on his footballs. Their tight ends are good and they’ve got two really good runningbacks. We’re schematically a little like Rutgers, so this film is going to be great teaching for our guys. This offense is good. They are going to move the ball on us. We have to play tremendous red zone defense. That’s going to be our challenge.”

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR KLIFF KINGSBURY
On working with a running quarterback
“We did some research this offseason. You’ve got to take advantage of what you’ve got. Something that we pride ourselves on is playing to our personnel. I don’t have a set number [of running plays] but if it’s something that we feel like we can do to win the ballgame, we’re going to do it. We do what we have to do to win.”
On Manziel taking hits
“It’s part of the game. I never count hits. I know how he’s going to play and you’re not going to take that away from his game. We’re going to let him be him, to an extent and see how it shakes out. He lets himself run, we’ll just put it that way. We’re growing together. It’s a young quarterback. The thing I’ve been most impressed with his competitiveness and how he hasn’t back down one game. He’s fearless in the way he attacks every game the same. You can work with that.”
On Trey Williams
“I think protection is big for him. He didn’t do route running in high school and route running is big. I’ve really been pleased with how he’s picked it up so far, not having been here in the spring, just getting here for fall camp. He’s done a good job and worked at it.”
On Arkansas’ defense
“They’re really good up front. I think their front seven is as good as we have faced. Their linebackers all seem like an experienced crew. It’s going to be a challenge. They’re going to force you to do things you don’t want to do. We’re going to have to play really well and take care of the ball. ”

SENIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN JONATHAN STEWART
On upcoming Arkansas game
“This game is huge. Ever since we’ve been here, we’ve never beat Arkansas. We’ve lost to them every single year. It’s huge for this senior class. We want to get our first win. We also want to get our first SEC win and our first SEC win at Kyle Field.”

On importance of this game
“It’s important because of our new conference, new coach and everything like that, but it’s also important because we really need to get kick-started in conference play. Basically all of the rest of the games we will be playing this season are conference games so getting the first conference win is important. Within the team, we want to be respected in the SEC, but we just want to go out and win one game. We aren’t worried about what the rest of the conference thinks about us. We just want to show everybody what we are made of and play our best.”

On preparing for Arkansas
“Every week the key is stopping the run: stopping the run on the first down, stopping the run on second down and getting them to third and long. We’re getting off the field at a remarkable rate. If we can continue with our velocity with stopping them on first and second down, regardless of what personnel they have in the game, and as long as we do what we need to do, we should have control on defense. We have to make sure we prepare as if they are an undefeated team. Just because they have lost three games in a row, it doesn’t mean we can look at them as if they are not a traditional Arkansas team. We have to prepare as if they are a very good team, which they are. If you watch them on film and the score is not there, you might think they would win every game. They are a very good team and we are going to have to prepare as if they are undefeated.”

SENIOR RECEIVER UZOMA NWACHUKWU
On what beating Arkansas would mean for the seniors
“It would mean a lot. Yesterday in practice we told the younger guys what it would mean to get this win. It would mean a lot for this program. It would be great for the team as a whole. It’s one of the things that we want to accomplish this season.”
On playing in their second SEC game of the year
“I think that we’re pretty physical as well. That’s one of the things about the SEC that people were kind of worried about. I think that we proved that we’re physical in practice and we’re physical every day. I think that we’re getting pretty acclimated and hopefully we can keep that going.”
On getting comfortable with the offense and Manziel
“We definitely have seen him in game-like situations - in practice things are kind of choreographed - but you see how he reacts in different situations, when he’s getting aggressed, when he has defenders in his face. I think he’s starting to get the feel of it. We’re starting to get the feel of where we’d like to be.”

SENIOR RECEIVER RYAN SWOPE
On what beating Arkansas would mean for the seniors
“I think it’s one of those games that is real personal since we haven’t beat them in three years. It’s a big game for us. It’s something that we take seriously and that we can take pride in. I can tell you that the seniors are hungry to win. It’s an important game for us. We’ve got to stay focused this week. We’ve just got to be critical about ourselves at practice, do the best that we can do and have a good week.”
On playing at Kyle instead of Cowboys Stadium
“[Cowboys Stadium] is a good stadium, but it’s kind of like a monkey on our backs. It’s a new experience there. I would much rather play at Kyle Field. We have a great atmosphere at home and we’ve got the 12th Man there with us. I’m excited. I know they’ll come out ready and stand the whole game and give us that great support that we need. I think it’s an advantage to have Kyle Field up behind us.”
On playing an SEC team
“In the [Florida] we learned that we’ve just got to stay focused for four quarters. We have to execute offensively for four quarters. We definitely learned a lot about our team in that first game. We have to treat this game like any other game. There’s stuff we need to clean up on. We just need to get better every week and keep improving. If we take care of our mental mistakes and don’t beat ourselves on the field I think we can do some really good things on Saturday. [The SEC] is obviously the best conference in the country. I don’t even think that’s arguable right now. You’ve got to come ready to play every single game. You can’t take a play off, you can’t take a quarter off.”

JUNIOR DEFENSIVE END DAMONTRE MOORE
On game being a challenge for his progress
“It’s always a challenge every week when you’re facing a new opponent. Last week we were talking about consistency and whether I could do it another week. This is our next SEC opponent so it’s going to be a huge challenge and another stepping stone.”
On mindset
“I’m pretty sure their mindset is to come out and make a statement. They’re coming to Kyle Field and they know it’s a tough setting. They are good and have a lot of weapons – their receivers, a really talented quarterback. They just want to come out and make a statement and give us a good welcome to the SEC. We have to make a statement. We want to prove that we’re not just bottom of the barrel, that we can hang around with the other SEC schools.”
On playing at Kyle Field
“I think it’s going to help us tremendously because we’re at home, we’re at Kyle Field and we’ll have the crowd behind us. We’ll have the 12th Man, which you know can get pretty rowdy when it’s getting close. I think it’s going to be a huge advantage for us. When we were in Cowboys Stadium it was a neutral setting.”

SENIOR PUNTER RYAN EPPERSON
On personal performance and improvements
“The stats are definitely great. Whenever I am connecting with the ball it’s traveling pretty well and that’s a great confidence booster. I obviously don’t want to go out there and hit those rollers, so I’m just trying to work on turning over every single ball in the game and eliminating those rolls of the side of my foot. Like I said, whenever I do make good contact I’m getting some pretty good hang time. I’m just trying to force those catches so the recovering team doesn’t have to do much.”

On SEC play
“In the SEC, I think field position is definitely a key factor in winning the game. Some of the best punters reside in the SEC. I’m just trying to help A&M get good field position whenever the offense can’t get a first down. It will definitely help us win some games this season.”

On what set him apart as a punter
“I just try to stay as consistent as I can throughout camp after I’ve been able do most of these camps. A big thing Coach Sumlin and Coach Polian were wanting is coverage punts. They wanted four second hangs and 30+ yards. In the SEC, you don’t want to give the punt returner a chance to return the ball at all. Really, our goal every game is having that average of 39 yards. Every game they are asking for a net of 39 and I was able to give a consistent 40, 45 yard ball with great hang time, which definitely helps out the coverage units and that’s what they like most about my punting.”

JUNIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN LUKE JOECKEL
On improvements in the offense
“Our running game hasn’t been great so far this year. We’re still trying to work some things out. I think we’re getting better every single week with the running game. We’re just kind of working on the small things right now. We’ve been watching film and it’s just small things, a missed step here and a missed step there. They’ve got a different team and we’ve got a different team so we’ll see what happens this year.”

On desire for a win against Arkansas
“I definitely want to get a win. Going up to Arlington, my hometown, and losing is hard. I want to get them this year. They’ve got a great front seven, but we want to win. This is kind of a rivalry game for us in this new conference. We really want to take care of business against Arkansas.”

On Florida game helping against Arkansas
“We can lean a little bit on the 12th Man. Those guys and girls go crazy for us. They keep us in the game and keep the energy level high. Florida’s got a great defense and Arkansas will be very similar to that, so we kind of know what we will face this weekend.”

On atmosphere before Arkansas game
“It’s a little bit different than last week. There’s a lot of excitement around College Station. I think we’re ready. The 12th Man is going to be crazy on Saturday, so it’s going to be a fun one. For us, last year was kind of disappointing but we still thought at the end of the season that we were one of the best teams in the country. Things just didn’t work out for us. We fixed some things we needed to fix and I’m sure Arkansas is thinking the exact same way. They’ve got the talent; you can see that on the field. We’ve got to be ready to play on Saturday.”

SENIOR DUSTIN HARRIS
On breaking A&M and SEC records
“My goal was just to play the game. I go out there every time to just get the ball back to the offense. That’s my main goal. I had no idea about the record until it was posted on the big screen.”

On improvements in game
“Coach came up to me after the SMU game and showed me what I was doing wrong and what I needed to fix. I just took that into this game and just trusted my blockers and teammates even more. My blockers are doing an outstanding job latching on to their guys and sticking with them. They got the job done and we got the job done as a special team.”

On importance of the game against Arkansas
“The seniors are taking it personally. After playing the guys for three years and all three of them slip away, it’s kind of difficult to sit back and swallow it. This game is going to be personal for the seniors, especially going out. We want to go out on a note of success for this game. We’ve got them at home and the 12th Man is going to help us a lot at this game.”




 
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