Frank Solich's Opening Statement
First of all, I want to let you know that there really is at this point no update on Thunder Collins. On our end of it, we would like to get the matter cleared up as quickly as possible. We have been pushing to get that done, and we hope that in a very short period of time we will be able to clear some issues up and move forward. Certainly for the team?s sake, and Thunder?s sake, all of this needs to be handled as quickly and efficiently as possible, and we?re working to do that.
As far as the game is concerned, we are looking forward to our third football game.
They have some outstanding individuals. I think they feel they are a much improved football team on their season record of 4-7 last year. I?m sure they are very confident about the fact that they can piece things together and play a great football game. We will get their best shot, as usually is the case.
On Thunder Collins
He practiced yesterday and will practice today, but did not practice with the first team yesterday. Other than that, I don?t want to go into any details. At this point in time, I?m not certain if he will play this Saturday.
On Spreading the Carries Around the Offense
We would like to spread it around a little bit. The fact that we have been faced with a defensive philosophy that pressures us and puts a lot of guys in the box indicates two things: one, that you?ll probably run a little more option that you normally would, and two if you throw the ball and are getting pressured, you?re either going to get sacked, or throw the ball away or you?re going to scramble. In the first two games of 72 plays and 70 plays that were in those games, we initiated 22 passes in each of those. But, of course 22 balls did not get thrown. When it doesn?t get thrown it means the ball winds up in the quarterback?s hands, and that?s what happened in the ball game. Jammal, certainly when you look at the number of touches he?s had, and the fact that the ball is in his arms so much, has been carrying a heavy load. We?d like to distribute that load a little bit, but we?ll see how that all plays out. It gets determined a little bit by what defenses are doing to you and how they?re operating. But, the idea is to try and make sure the ball gets spread around and we try to utilize everyone?s talent on offense as much as possible.
On Dahrran Diedrick
I don?t know that anyone has shown a great deal of explosiveness, and that?s not really coming back on the backs. I think there?s a lot involved. Anytime you have a young offensive line, and a young quarterback in your playing team, that understand than, you?re going to get a much different approach than what you would if you had an experienced quarterback and if you had an experienced line. They are going to test those guys. And the way you test them is by bringing pressure. And by putting a number of guys in the box. And we have faced an awful lot of that in the first two games. I will continue to face it to some degree. But, I imagine that as the season plays out, and we continue to improve, and I think we did improve from game one to game two in some areas, then generally speaking they will eventually stop testing and start to play as an offensive football team and what they can do best to stop us from moving the ball.
There are combinations of things. One, if you want to still try and run the ball, unless you want to throw 72 passes a game, if you want to run the ball game then you try and design some plays where your quarterback is a runner in the game. And you can do that with an option game, try to get on the flanks very quickly to where the backside numbers aren?t a factor for the guys in the back. Also try to use the quarterback as a runner, out of a one back set, you?re one back that?s back there with him as a blocker that helps you number wise because generally in an offensive quarterback you are either handing off or pitching the ball back and it?s not a factor in it. So you?re really working with 10 guys against what they are putting in the box. There are also ways to combat it with motion, shift, cracks. We are doing a little bit of all of that. We?ll continue to do a little bit of all of that, and try to combat it with a short passing game, also can combat it with some deep throws on just quick take off patterns and three step, drop type routes can be a factor on it. So there are a number of ways to attack it. But, when you do attack it, you have to make things work, or if they?re not working the pressure keeps coming.
On Special Teams Against
We did not start like a ball of fire last year offensively, and we did lead the Big 12 Conference at the end of the year in terms of total offense. So, eventually we were able to generate offense as we went through the year. I think you see a lot of teams struggling from an offensive standpoint early in the season. And really teams, if you look around the conference, look around the country, teams that have really experienced players coming back at a number of positions. And yet, you look at total yardage, you look at point production and those kind of things, and it?s difficult. If you?re facing a good defensive team, you?re going to have difficulties just dealing with consistency play after play, moving the ball the way you want to move, putting the kind of points you want to put on the board. The good thing about it is, the defensive is playing well although they will be tested. If you look at the schedule here of the upcoming games, we?re talking about experienced quarterbacks that we will be dealing with. If you look at the offenses we were playing the first two games, and you?re talking about both those offenses dealing with inexperienced quarterbacks, so those teams struggled a little bit with putting points on the board and moving the ball with any kind of consistency. If you look at it from that angle, we?re hoping that each game we get better and that we?re able to find ways to move the football. We were able to do that last year, to put points on the board, we were able to that the past several years, and if we can get that going, and continue to play great special teams football and to have ourselves a really good defensive football team, then you have a chance to get something done in this conference. But, if you?re an offensive team that struggles some, and you?re defense is playing well and your special teams is playing well, if you have two of three, you still have a chance in football games. When you have one of the three you?re in trouble. Ideally everybody wants to go three for three on that end of it. Where we?re exactly at defensively we will see as we approach some of these upcoming games. We need to maintain the level that we?ve been playing at as far as special teams is concerned. If we can do that, throughout the course of the season, that will give us a big boost in terms of trying to get things done.
On the Offensive Line, what has been impressive
The effort, the aggressiveness of the line, the receivers the back, the quarterback, I think they?re an aggressive group. If we weren?t an aggressive group, we would have struggled much more than we did in the first two ball games. That phase of it has been very good. That?s the thing that?s encouraging. That?s the thing that makes you feel like if you have a football team that has good movement, they?re aggressive, that you?re going to have a chance to get a few things done offensively. But, you?ve got to understand that not only our offense but offenses in this conference will be facing some outstanding defensive football teams. And you?re not going to just run up and down the field on people. You need to find ways to move the ball, throw the ball, make some big plays and put some points on the board.
On the upcoming
We don?t need a blowout, I don?t expect it will be a blowout if you look at how they played last year in the games they lost. They were very much into the games at halftime and into the fourth quarter. One game they lost because of a celebration in an overtime game, that was a tough loss for them I?m sure. They?ve got a fairly experienced team coming back. These guys are used to battling. They?re used to playing good football, and they?re used to being in games. And they?re coming here, without question if you read between the lines, from what is being said, they?re coming here to play great football. They?re not so worried about
On the Offensive Theory (Consider Shift to More Passing?)
I didn?t buy into it when we hadn?t won a national championship with Tom Osborne and the staff that we had. I didn?t buy into it when we won three national championships with this style of offense. I certainly haven?t bought into the last two-three years when we led our conference two years ago in point production last year in total offense. The idea I feel, is to move the ball, control the ball, put points on the board. Generally speaking we?ve been able to do that with our style of offensive play. People might not like the way we?re doing it. They may not like the idea that there?s not as much flash involved as what some teams have, but we have been a very productive football team from the offensive standpoint. We hope to continue to be productive as the year goes on.
On DeJuan?s performance compared to other players of other years
It?s got to rank at the top. Certainly there have been other great performances and you can go back as running backs coach I?ve had a lot of great players. That performance matches the great performances of the guys over the years that have just had great games here. He did it in so many ways. He almost blocked a field goal in the game, other than the punt returns he was very valuable to us on special teams. He was doubled as a bullet in covering punts, but he was able to beat those in most cases and disrupt their returns. So you start to look at all the little things that most people probably didn?t see in terms of what he got accomplished beyond the two interceptions and beyond the punt returns, and you see that he had a really great game overall.
On kicking away from DeJuan Groce
It means you?re getting something done if they start kicking away from him. That?s probably a good thing. You?d like to see the ball in his hands, but it?s not easy to just say run a kick away from a guy. You have to be a punter that has great control, and you have to angle the punt a little bit more, and that means you?re a little more vulnerable when you?re angling to kick it out of bounds or to punt blocks. And we do have a team that can block punts. So that mixture is probably good for us and hopefully will play out well. He?ll still get touches on punt returns.
On Jammal?s health.
It will be kind of like Eric, he was able to handle the load we threw on him. I think Jammal will be able to handle the load that we throw his way. He wants the type of responsibility. The thing that we?d like to do is take a little bit of the load off of him. There?s no question there. We?d like to distribute the ball as much as possible in terms of moving the football. But, we will do whatever it takes to move the football if that means continually moving him or get a mixture in there, we?ll do what it takes.
On the 2002 Special Teams Compared to National Championship Teams
It?s been as good as we?ve had for two ball games. We need to go beyond that. We?ve returned two punts, blocked three, at least in the last game there was a deflection, and then we had one that did not stop the ball from going past the line of scrimmage but it did cause it to be a poor kick and cause us to have really good field position. These two games, three times you got your hand on a ball that was being punted in terms of blocking it. Two punt returns, you don?t get too much better than that. But it?s still got to happen. It?s got to happen every week. You can?t rely on what you did last week or in the first two ball games, you have to make it happen every week. If you?re the kind of team that will make it happen every week it will be a big advantage.
I can?t see anything that just jumps out at us in terms of an alarm going off because we are a ways away from what we thought we would be. We?re about where we thought we would be. We need to continue to progress, you certainly can?t sit still and be the same team today that we?re going to be tomorrow or the next day after that. We need to continue to improve day after day in order to face the caliber of competition that we?re going to be facing.
On Special Teams
We?ve had years where we have had very good special teams play from the start to the finish, but I don?t know that there?s been a team that?s gotten off to a better start than what this has gotten off to special teams wise. I think they?re a very confident group. They were that when we first started the season. We worked very hard on special teams and there were good signs leading up to the opening game that maybe we could get something done in the special teams area that developed in the second game just continued to set off the first game. And now hopefully they?ll continue to feed off those first two games in terms of how they played special teams wise and we?ll continue to have what we want there.
On the Coaching
You can coach all you want, if you don?t have the right guys there trying to block punts or the right guys returning the punts or the right guys that are really dropping back and forming the walls and getting the guys blocked to give the punt return guys a chance. If you don?t have the right guys there you can coach it all you want, and you can think you have a pretty good special teams team but it will only be as good as the talent allows.
On Cory Ross
The chances that he?s had he?s shown very well. He?s shown ability to make people miss and accelerate and seems to get things accomplished immediately once he gets the ball in his hands. So we like what we?ve seen up to this point of Cory. We?re glad that he?s going to be able to practice today, he?s coming off of a slight ankle injury, so he?s right back into the mix of it.
On the 250th Sellout
We do base some of our recruiting on the fact that we have such great fan support. That fan support is here at home games and at away games. People care, generally speaking, about the football that is played here and the players that play here. And that?s always a plus when it comes to recruiting. It?s always a plus when it comes to lining up and playing ball against an opponent. Certainly it?s the home-field advantage and our crowd has given us that game after game. They?re all part of the great tradition of
On the Sellouts that Started in 1962, (when Solich was a freshman)
Well, actually I didn?t give it much thought. You just line up to play the game and hope people show up to watch it. There came a point in time where you didn?t have to worry about that. When Bob came here and started to win and the stadium started to fill up, it just came with such regularity that you just anticipated that it was going to continue happen. But, it just doesn?t automatically happen around the country. Teams with great programs, winning programs, aren?t necessarily filling their stadiums and getting the support we get, and we recognize that.