Opening statement from Texas football head coach Sarkisian
Short recap of the training camp. Spending Saturday in the simulated game, I think the simulated game was really beneficial for us in that we had a lot of new faces, a lot of new players and just our routine of how we do the warm-ups. pregame, how it works from a substitution point of view. I thought some of the situations we put them in on Saturday were all good for us, so that part went really well. I think it sort of lends itself to a common training camp theme, which I think went well. Obviously some unfortunate injuries after that first scrimmage with (junior wide receiver) Isaiah Neyor and (senior offensive lineman) Junior Angilau. With that, I think our guys really responded and different guys stepped up to fill in those voids. The reality is that injuries happen in football, you never know when they happen and it’s that whole man mentality that needs to be in place at all levels. I think for us everyone wants to know the depth chart and this and that, but the reality is that it’s an important week for us competitively because a lot of guys are going to be playing. It’s the start of the season, it’s going to be hot and we have to make sure that our two depths are solid. So whether it’s one or two guys, the reality is that they’re all going to play and it could happen on special teams, on offense and defense. So the point being that I think the competition has to be there and who’s going to be the first guy to come in, but the reality is multiple guys are going to play in this ball game and they’re going to be needed. We play a team [ULM], coached by Terry Bowden who’s been doing it at a high level for a long time, has been surrounded by great programs, has a really veteran coaching staff, new coordinators, which is obviously difficult when you’re trying to prepare your team. I think our ability to adapt on Saturday night will be critical from a manager’s point of view and then from a player’s point of view, because you’re trying to prepare as much as you can. You want to make sure that you put your players in a position to play fast, play physically hard and do those things. So a big challenge for our defensive side of the ball with a lot of playmakers coming back for these guys. The quarterback (Chandler Rogers) is an electric guy who can do it on the ground, in the air; to good runners, to receivers who can create explosive plays, then defensively the challenge is full of new faces. There are a few returning veterans but plenty of new faces. So we have our work cut out, I think schematically. More importantly, I think this week needs to be about us and us playing our game at a very high level and seeing who is, quite frankly, at the moment. That’s what we have to find out with a lot of new faces.
On the atmosphere of the game week:
When you have a mock game on a Saturday and you try to give the players some time off to recover their legs for the game week, I probably watched more football that weekend than I normally would done, even with game replays and obviously a lot of excitement in the air. I felt that today in the meetings, in the practice; the volume, like I said, kind of increases as the season progresses and the intensity increases, the attention to detail and all those things. In coaching parlance, you’d like to say every day is the same, but the reality is that they know it, the players know it and the coaches know it; You can feel it. So, good start to the week for us and it’s exciting. I tell you this all the time, but I love college football. I love everything he represents. For me, it starts in training camp; that we get back on the grass with the guys. Then school starts and you start to feel a buzz around campus and then I’m in my office working nights and now the band is practicing right here at DKR; all these things start and you can feel the football. Obviously, it started last week and now we have our chance on Saturday night at DKR at seven. I’m pumped for our fans. Anytime you can set a season ticket sales record like we were able to do this year, I think there’s excitement in our locker room. I think there’s a lot of excitement outside of our dressing rooms. I’m just looking forward to the moment. We only get 12 of those shots in the regular season, so we want to make the most of them.
On the freshman quarterback in the red shirt Quinn ewers
I think, in part, it’s just body language, quarterback behavior. I think a lot of it comes down to specific playstyles, right? Some games come more naturally to some guys, some take a minute. I’m trying to navigate through the things that really slowed him down. Those are the things we’ll try to focus on on Saturday and maybe some things he’s not as comfortable with. Maybe we’ll push it back a week, but he seems very comfortable. Quinn isn’t one to wear her emotions on her sleeve. He’s a very smooth and balanced guy, which I like at quarterback. I can feel his confidence; you can almost see it in the determination of their pitches on certain pitches and obviously, the rapport with the guys on the front line. Overall, I think it is well placed. The hardest part for us in training camp for any positional player, especially quarterback, you start practicing 14 and 15 is a lot of setup they try to absorb, and they don’t know what’s called. When you go into game planning it’s very tight and they know it’s very specific about what play calls are coming in and why we’re calling them. So naturally you see a little change in the game week, in the preparation for the game, because the understanding of what is called and what is happening for the week.
On defense cohesion:
I really feel it on defense. I feel like we are one. We don’t play as 11 individuals, but we actually play as one. I think there was very good communication. I think the guys up front kind of started that, we’ve got great leadership there with (senior defensive linemen) Moro (Ojomo), (Keondre) Coburn and (T’Vondre) Sweat, guys who have been there. Then the emergence of (second defensive line) Byron Murphy II and Vernon Broughton. I think it starts there, but it’s kind of registered until the end. (senior defensive) Anthony Cook played a lot of football, yes, he plays a different position, but he played a lot of football. (Senior Defensive Dean) D’Shawn Jameson has played a lot of football. There were some fresh new faces there, obviously with (junior defensive backs) Ryan Watts and Kitan Crawford, etc., etc. But at the end of the day, I really feel them playing as a unit. I think that’s why we fly the ball better. We’re creating more bearings, things that were important to me. I think they’ve taken that to heart and they’re doing it collectively. It’s not just one guy; they all do it together. So this part is exciting for me.
On team culture and what fans can expect:
I like a tight-knit group that can be vulnerable, can be honest, can hold themselves accountable. But still, it’s full of love. We often say it in coaching, it’s not personal, but for me it’s personal because I want the best for our players, and I want them to want it for each other. I think we have done a lot of work in this area. I’m proud that the guys are vulnerable and that they really open up and get to know their teammates and know what things have made them anxious in their lives and what things maybe excite them and push them to go further. I think our culture is at an all time high since I’ve been here. Ultimately, culture is tested when adversity strikes, isn’t it? Can we keep this bond through storms and rough waters? I think we are able to do that. Nobody wants storms to come, but football is a bit like life, it happens and you never know when it’s going to happen. Then how we persevere and how we cross over is really important and it’s a lot easier to cross over when we’re really well connected. We do it for each other and we can take the guy next to us and make sure he gets there too. So that’s what you should see – 100 guys on the court Saturday night together and you should see 11 guys playing together as one, top to bottom. I’m not saying we’re going to be perfect, but that’s how it should look overall when we come out of this football game.