TEXAS A&M FOOTBALL WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE
Monday, September 12, 2011 – Bright Complex – College Station, Texas
HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN
How productive was the off week?
“I thought it was pretty productive. Because we played Sunday we gained an extra day on the other side, so I took away one of the days of the bye week that I normally wouldn’t have. We practiced Tuesday in pads, Wednesday morning, Wednesday afternoon and we had a situational scrimmage on Thursday. We were able to practice a number of situations last Thursday. Most of our coaches were out recruiting on that day so basically it was myself and Coach DeRutyer. I thought we had a good week. The kids were very engaged. You always worry about them being bored, but they weren’t at all. It seemed like they were into it.
Is Tony Jerod-Eddie a guy you’re counting on for leadership on defense?
“I thought Tony came out his first year and really had a strong freshman campaign, my first year. I thought he was one of the highlights of our defense. Then his sophomore year, not so much. Last year he made some progress and this year I’m really counting on him to be a staple on our defense, to be our ‘enforcer’ so to speak, to give us a sense of toughness within that front 7. We have some new people playing there, so he’s someone who has played a lot of football for us. I’m really counting on his leadership ability to step forward. I think he’s done a really good job of that. He’s grown up a lot since he’s been here. He has matured and has embraced that responsibility of being a leader on defense. Trent Hunter was voted a captain but Tony easily could have been as well. He has the respect of all his peers and he has taken that and run with it.”
Do you have to do anything special to keep the team’s attention on Idaho with everything that’s ahead?
“No. We really and truly are focused on this ballgame and we’ll stay focused on this game. When we go out there and play, I hope we play to the very, very best of our abilities at all times. Our players know well enough from watching college football, that certain things happen on Saturdays, and in the NFL certain things happen on Sundays, that everyone has a chance to win every game. You had better be prepared and ready to go. We will treat this game absolutely no differently than any other game on our schedule, as we should. You watch their tape, their coaching staff has been together there for 5 years. Coach (Robb) Akey has been there for 5 years, Coach (Steve) Axman (offensive coordinator) I’ve known for years, he’s a great coach. Coach Criner, the defensive coordinator, is a great coach. They have good players. They have about 6 kids from Texas. They have a freshman, (NT Karel) Kearney from Austin, who played at Connally, I wish we had him. A kid named (Michael) Cosgrove, another defensive lineman, that’s pretty good. (Ryan) Bass, their running back, is a good solid running back. (Brian) Reader, their quarterback, is a good quarterback. So trust me, they have some good players. We better have our chin straps buckled and ready to go against these guys.”
You preach from Game 1 to Game 2 there has to be the biggest improvement…have you seen that so far? How important is this stretch?
“I think we’ll have a better feel for that when we play the game. We made a lot of mistakes that, from the outside, may have been swept under the carpet simply because we won the game by a fair amount of points. We had two extra points blocked. We didn’t get off blocks well in the first half and we didn’t tackle well. We had a substitution penalty and points taken off the board in my mind, where we had to kick a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown. There are a lot of things we have to correct from the first ball game to this ball game and we’ve addressed those. Fortunately, when you win you can be hard on them about those things, as we have been. I am hopeful we do make strides but we won’t really know until we play the game.”
Is it strange to have the bye week in Week 2?
“It’s not that strange, because each year is an entity in itself. Every season people ask me about the schedule, and it is what it is. You just adapt to what you have in front of you. I look at our schedule and I adjust my life to that schedule. I don’t worry about things I can’t control. If I could draw it up better, I’d like the bye week in the middle, but it wasn’t, and that’s just the way it is. My life in the NFL I guess has taught me that however your schedule comes out, that’s what you do. There’s no sense crying about, that’s just the way it is. It’s the same thing here. This is our bye week, we didn’t play this week, and we don’t have one the rest of the year. That’s our schedule. I adapt myself before the season that that’s just the way it is and it’s just reality.”
Is the play with Stephen Campbell’s interception and Terrence Frederick’s coverage just a perfect example of fanatical effort?
“I think so. It’s a great example of fanatical effort by our team. I wish from a defensive perspective we could have put that in the end zone. That would have been an exclamation point to a great play. It was a great play anyways to get it down where he got it, but I would have loved to see him score on that play. There was a lot of fanatical effort on that play, the rush, the blocking of it and so forth after the catch. But yes, I would say that’s a prime example.”
Can you give an update on the status of Michael Lamothe and your opinion on how Tommy Dorman played?
“Michael is coming off a concussion, and we go to the Nth degree--as does everyone in this day and age--to make sure he’s okay. We will keep him out of contact this week and then evaluate him to the latter part of the week. Mike has been a blessing for us. He gives you everything he has. He’s not best athlete on the field but you wouldn’t know it, because he goes so hard all the time. He’s so intelligent and doesn’t make mistakes. I think he’s making strides but we’ll be very careful this week with him and see where we are on Thursday or Friday. Tommy Dorman stepped in and did a fine job. He made some blocks a couple times where he ended up on the ground, but overall he did a decent job for us.”
On the challenges of playing 11 straight games with no break…
“The college schedule to me is like ‘that’ in comparison what I’m used to. I think physically it will play out. I worry about us physically more than mentally for our players, because we have to have some luck on our side. If you can’t go through 12 ball games mentally in college football…I think that’s the biggest difference in the National Football League, the mental and physical strain of going through 20-something games, that mental and physical strain is enormous. It’s twice college. You ought to be able to get through 12 football games in college and then time off for a bowl game. Now physically, where we are 6 weeks from now I have no idea. In some regards the bye week helped us get some guys ready for this game. Who knows how it’s going to play out.”
How has the bye week been for Jeff Fuller’s health? Is he back healthy?
“I think so. I hope he is. In his mind it’s a thing that he just has to get over. He’s very cautious with it because the ramifications are he has to sit out some ballgames. So he’s been very careful and we’ve been very careful. It should have helped him. The rest definitely has helped him.”
At quarterback, in hindsight, would you liked to have seen Jameill Showers play?
He was scheduled to go in. I think SMU had a little less than 4 minutes left on the clock on their final possession, but they used the entire clock and we didn’t get that opportunity. Tom Rossley asked me about that, and we had just put the ball on the ground on an exchange, and I said, ‘No, we’re rusty. He needs work and we need work. We don’t play for 2 weeks. I want these guys to get the work in the game.’ Would I have liked him to play? Yes, but I consciously made the decision to leave Ryan in the ball game with an idea that Showers would be able to go in in that last possession, which we didn’t end up having. So I misjudged the clock and their time of occupation of the ball.”
Talk about Patrick Lewis’ progression since he got to A&M and his transition to center…
“Big Pat is a special guy. When he leaves here it will be an emotional day for me. He played for a high school coach in Louisiana who I’m very good friends with. He swore by this guy. Pat played every position on the offensive line in high school and he’s beloved over there. He’s a legend. He’s a smart kid. I wouldn’t say he was highly recruited coming out of high school. And we got him, I think he started his fifth game with us and hasn’t looked back since. He’s made a lot of progress. He’s a good student in school and one of our best recruiters. I can’t say enough about him. He keeps getting better as a football player. I think moving him to center has been very good for us. Because of his mass, if we’re playing a big nose guard, he can handle those guys. He’s very powerful. He’s made great strides since he’s been here. I’d take 12 of those guys if I could find 12 Pat Lewises.”
How would you evaluate Caleb Russell’s play and will Damontre Moore be back Saturday?
“Damontre will be back this Saturday, as of today. I assume that will be the case. I thought Caleb played a little tentative at times. He didn’t cut it loose like he’s capable of doing. I think he’ll just keep getting better. It was the first time he’s started a ball game in his career. He did some good things, but he will just keep getting better and better.”
So the addition of Moore will be huge for your depth?
“I think so. We’ve been relying a lot on these freshmen, Shaun Ward, Brandon Alexander and Tyrell Taylor. So Damontre’s experience will help us.”
Talk about Brian Reader, the Idaho quarterback, and some of the offensive challenges they will bring…
“They have a good offense. They do a great job. I know the offensive coordinator, Coach Steve Axman. I think he was at UCLA before I got there. He’s a renowned offensive coordinator and has had great success in his career. The staff has been together for a while. I think Reader has 6 touchdowns and 1 interception. He makes good decisions and fits their scheme very well. The receiver (Armauni) named Johnson who is a go-to guy for them and has done a real nice job. They do a good job of protecting him with the offensive line. They have a very good running back in (Ryan) Bass, so they can throw it or run it. They have a good scheme.”
Talk about Idaho defensively…
“We’ve been going against a 3-4 front all camp, and a 3-4 versus SMU. This is more a 4-3 scheme. They do play some odd fronts on passing downs. They like to match up with their corners on your receivers and like to bump outside. They will play some zone. They’ve got a defensive lineman, (Michael) Cosgrove, that’s very, very good. They also have the kid (Karel Kearney) from Connally in Austin. They have 6 kids from Texas on their team and all are in some capacity first or second team, that’s what it looks like to me. They all contribute. Their defensive coordinator is from Washington State, I remember when he was back there. They will also play some man and do different things. They have a good press package, they’ll bring the backers and what not. They’ll challenge us.”
Is Ryan Epperson still the starting punter?
“Right now I would say he’s still our starting punter. We’re taking that week to week. We had plans in the other game to punt both guys (Kaser), but Ryan did a good job and we just kept it the way it was. But yes, Ryan is still our starting punter.”
You talked about trying to find some possible options at nose guard to build depth. Has anyone emerged during the bye week?
“We moved Ben Compton from third-team center for us. To make a trade like that with the defense they have to assure me he will be somewhere in the mix. We got Compton a lot of work at nose guard this week. He’s a 310-pound kid, he can run and he’s athletic. He doesn’t know the position just yet but this past week was a great time for us to develop him and bring him along. He’s definitely going to play this year and we’ll get him some work.”
Do you have plans for any more true freshmen to get into the game?
“I had a list of the four guys who played last week, and I have a ‘B’ list of guys that may play this week, but I don’t want to say someone will play and then they don’t. Compton may be added to that list, and (Drew) Kaser may be added to that list. It’s something we really look at. I look at Shep Klinke, and I feel terrible because last year I thought he’d play a lot more than he did. Nate Askew, I thought he’d play a lot more than he did. I played them, and they didn’t get the reps in games that I thought they were going to get, so they didn’t play a whole lot and they lost that year of eligibility. So we’re very, very careful on that.”
On the two PATs that were blocked, was that just a case of a freak athlete on defense?
“I tell you what, he did it again this week. That’s an amazing thing. I’ve got to give the kid credit, he has a knack for doing it, but I don’t think we were very good at what we were doing either. I don’t know if anyone else would have done what he did, his height and length were certainly a challenge. He could have a career…I know they have NFL long snappers, but I’ve never heard of a guy that all he does is block extra points and field goals. I think it would be a heck of a deal. I would definitely recommend that someone hire him for that, because he definitely has a knack for it.”
Is Coryell Judie getting healthier?
“I think so. Coming off shoulder surgery he’s just had so much weakness and he hasn’t been able to lift a lot of weights. So each week he’s just getting stronger and stronger. Each week he’s stronger than the last week. As we go I think he’ll just get his strength back.”
Dustin Harris didn’t get to play offense last Saturday…
“He didn’t, did he? That may happen at some point this year. It’s hard to put him in for a game like that in front of other guys who have been working at that position. This morning in practice he caught a touchdown pass, and we’ll keep working with him.”
You wanted to be conservative against SMU with their defense, but with what Idaho does will you be able to open it up a little bit?
“We’ll see how the game goes. Each game you have certain goals about how you play the game and what you’ll attack their defense with. When you start the first ball game you really don’t know where you are as a football team. There are certain things you want to emphasize. Turnovers are great equalizer. Those types of things can really kill you. My goal was to have zero turnovers in that ball game and it ended up that way.”
Is Saturday a little more important because you start conference play the following week?
“It’s important because it’s the next ball game. That’s just the way I look at it. It’s very, very important to me. We won’t look it any other way but the next ball game. I don’t care who we’re playing, we’re playing to be very best we can be. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Oklahoma, Nebraska, Idaho, Texas, SMU, Baylor…you try to be very best you can be every single week. That’s your measuring stick.”
Were the windy conditions a factor in catching punts last Saturday?
“I don’t think that was a factor. It might have been but I don’t think it was a major factor. It started the game pretty swirling but then settled down. I don’t think it necessarily had an effect on the kicking game way I thought it was going to. It wasn’t that brutal. We have to be sure-handed on those.”
Will Dustin Harris get his chance at that?
“We work with both of those guys. I want to see a guy that’s focused and every punt he catches in practice is a game punt. I want players practicing like they are playing the game. When Tiger Woods goes to the driving range, every shot is him teeing off at The Open. I want our players to have the same analogy. Every punt in practice is to win the game. I need to see guys not nonchalant about it and take it extremely seriously. Because I take it extremely seriously.”
ASST. HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TIM DeRUYTER
How did the inside linebackers grade out against SMU?
“They did play a little bit better in the second half, but it’s a position in flux right now. Garrick Williams is a returning starter, and we expect him to play better than he did, but he’ll start. The other position we have open competition. We’ll probably be playing four linebackers at those positions this week and see where we are at right there.”
Does it hurt or help to lose Kyle Mangan to offense?
“I don’t know that it hurts us except from an experience standpoint. Kyle has played some snaps for us, but offensively they needed an H-back. He’s good athlete. He’s played fullback before. From an experience standpoint yes (it will hurt), but he hasn’t seized that position at linebacker. We’re trying to get our best 22 on the field and that’s what we’ll do.”
Is 5 ½ sacks for a 3-4 defense an unusually high number?
“A little bit unusual, yeah. We did some things scheme-wise that accentuated those guys’ ability to make plays. But I also think we have a veteran group up front. Eddie Brown had a good game up front. Tony (Jerod-Eddie) played well, he probably should have had 4 sacks. Coach Williams is doing a great job with that front. Those guys have to be bell cows for us up front because we are thin at the linebacker position experience-wise. We have to have our front guys toe the line little more than we’d like them to.”
On the looks you’ll see out of the Idaho offense and if it’s similar to a team you’ll see…
“They have more snaps out of 1-back and 1-tight end. They will do a lot of 2-tight end stuff , but they’re about 50/50 out of 2 tight ends. There are many more snaps this year out of 1-tight end than last year. They’re a traditional west-coast offense, with looks out of multiple groupings. Oklahoma would be someone similar, they do it a little bit. I haven’t seen enough of Texas, other than on TV. They’ll maybe do some stuff out of 2 tight ends.”
Is Idaho a team that can help you prepare for a Big 12 team?
“There are so many different offenses in this league it’s hard to say, but anytime you play against a west-coast off that gives you multiple groupings, like our offense, gets you ready for the season. Getting a chance to play against that obviously prepares you for the rest of the year, not a particular team necessarily.”
On Idaho’s personnel…
“The quarterback did a good job last week. In his first game he played okay, but he really came on in the last game. No. 2 is 6-4 and is a good-looking receiver. He looks like Jeff. He’s long. The quarterback likes to find him.”
On Caleb Russell being hesitant...
“I think he was a little bit. I don’t think he showed what he showed in the spring and the fall. I think the anticipation of the season, and knowing he would start, and wearing #12, maybe that all made him hyperventilate a little bit. With Damontre (Moore) out he probably played a little more snaps than we wanted him to. So I think that will help this week.”
Do you guys wish the conference realignment issue would have been settled last week?
“To be honest with you, it really doesn’t distract us at all. The players don’t talk about it. The coaches don’t talk about it, even though it was a topic in the news last week. For our seniors it has absolutely no relevance. They aren’t playing next year. For younger guys it doesn’t matter this year. We don’t have to worry about it for 12 months. It really doesn’t matter to us. All we care about is Idaho and where we can go in this season. Also where we can improve from last game because we have a lot of things to improve on.”
QB RYAN TANNEHILL (Sr., Big Spring, Texas)
On the Idaho defense…
“I watched a little tape last week, watched their game against Bowling Green. They mix it up a little bit. They play several different coverages and are not afraid to come after you. We’re looking forward to some matchups that they’re willing to give. They are an aggressive defense, and when a defense is not afraid to come after you it gives you some 1-on-1 matchups. I think we have good receivers. Whenever you have talented receivers like we do, it gives them a chance for some 1-on-1 matchups.”
On the possibility of overlooking Idaho…
“We’re not overlooking Idaho one bit. They are a good team. They had a tough loss to start the season and came back and got a big win. I think they will come in on a high and expect to upset us. We realize that and we definitely don’t want to overlook them. They will give us their best fight and we have to be ready for it.”
With conference play looming in Week 3, is there even more of a sense of urgency this week?
“You definitely want to improve each week. Heading into conference play you want to be running at a high level. Our goal is to win the Big 12 and we know we have to be playing well. I thought we got off to a good start last week and we have to continue to build on that this week.”
On Coach Sherman praising his performance vs SMU…
“It definitely felt good. He sent me a text after the game. That really meant a lot that he thought I did well. There’s definitely stuff I have to work on. I saw things on the tape I wish I’d done better. I have to focus on those things this week.”
On the offense running “conservatively” and still scoring 46 points…
“I think that’s a testament to the offensive line and the running backs and the fact they established the line of scrimmage early. We were able to run the ball. We definitely established the run first and that opened up the pass for us.”
On the fact that there are no more off weeks for the rest of the season…
“It is what it is. It’s going to be a long stretch but I think we can use that to our advantage. If we can get on a streak and start winning games it can play to our benefit.”
On the games that Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael had against SMU…
“That was really big. We knew thru camp that Cyrus would be Cyrus. We knew he would run hard and play well and he did that. He came in and did a great job for us. We were really excited to get C-Mike back in a game and it was great to see the excitement on his face when he got in the end zone for the first time. It’s definitely a blessing to have both those guys back there. It’s going to give defenses some trouble.”
On all the weapons he can go to as a quarterback…
“It’s not a bad situation, I can tell you that much. It’s really a blessing. The offensive line is great. The receivers are great. The running backs are great. And that makes my job easy. I can go out there and have fun. I don’t have to over-create and make stuff happen that’s not there. We can just go out there and make plays.”
DL TONY JEROD-EDDIE (Sr., DeSoto, Texas)
On things the defensive front worked on after watching the SMU film…
“Playing on the other side of the ball, changing the line of scrimmage. As everyone knows, we didn’t play the run quite as well as we’d have liked to. We worked on fundamentals, hands, eyes and feet, creating a new line of scrimmage and playing in the backfield. (Personally) I didn’t play as well as it might have looked. I could have played a lot better.”
On the Idaho offense…
“I know they line up in lot of two tight end, two running back looks. We definitely have to stop the run. I’m pretty sure we’ll see some of those draws, since we didn’t do well against them last week versus SMU. I’m looking forward to the game. I think they will try and test us, and we’ll see if we can correct mistakes from last week.”
On the added importance of the Idaho game with conference play looming next week…
“Coach Sherman always tells us that great teams make the most improvement from Game 1 to Game 2. He’s looking for a lot of improvement and a great game in all facets, offensively, defensively and special teams.”
Will you watch the Denver game (and Von Miller) tonight?
“Oh yeah. I sent him a text this morning. I’m looking forward to him playing his first NFL game. I think he’ll do pretty well.”
On the success of the defensive line, getting 5 ½ sacks in the SMU win…
“We had a lot of help from the secondary. He wanted to throw a lot of balls but he couldn’t, because they were in the right spot. He had to hold it longer than he wanted to and we were able to get off of blocks and make plays.”
DB TERRENCE FREDERICK (Sr., Katy, Texas)
On keeping focus on Idaho with Oklahoma State looming next week…
“They are our main focus. We will game plan for them. We know they will throw the ball, but we also had a couple of busts in the SMU game where some draws got out of hand. We know they may try that.”
On the relationship between the defensive front and the secondary…
“We definitely have a good secondary and a good front. We do our job and they do their job. We made some great plays, but we have to give the credit to them. If they are not getting that push, we are not able to make the plays we make.”
On the team’s focus in the bye week…
“We didn’t work a lot towards Idaho. We mainly fixed our mistakes from the SMU game, got in shells a few times and just banged around with each other just to keep the feel of football.”
On the secondary as a group…
“We just compete with each other. We push each other every day in practice. We want to be the best for each other. We have four that start but another six or seven that rotate in. That’s good to have at that position. We just feed off each other and enjoy being around each other.”
DB TRENT HUNTER (Sr., Katy, Texas)
On the defensive line giving the secondary credit for their sack numbers vs SMU…
“Without a doubt, everything starts up front on both sides of ball. If you don’t have a front 7 on defense it doesn’t matter what you do in the secondary, you won’t be successful. For our guys up front to have the game they did, it makes things so much easier on the secondary. That’s what our defense is based on, everyone doing their jobs. They went over the top this week.”
On looking at 11 straight weeks of football…
“It’s exciting, it really is. It’s bittersweet, because right now we’re just ready to go. We had a little taste of a game day. For us to barely scratch the surface and then have another off week, that is the bitter part of it. But 11 straight weeks of football…I just can’t wait.”
“I haven’t really gotten an in-depth look at them. They’re not your typical Big 12 offense. They don’t spread you out as much. They line up two tight ends sometimes, and they have a pretty good quarterback. Their running back might be the best player from what I’ve seen so far. They have good skill guys that can make big plays.”
Do you think they will come in thinking you guys may be looking ahead?
“I think a lot of teams we play may be like that. The media, you guys, are waiting for the Oklahoma State game, the OU game, and games that are hyped up. I think teams will use that as fuel. We’ve done a good job staying grounded.”