“It’s always an absolutely exciting time of the year when you are in camp. It’s been a very unique start to camp this year because we were still in summer school. So we were practicing really early in the morning and then getting the guys out of there where they could make class on time. I really have enjoyed this football team. They have gone to work. They are an older bunch. There’s been great chemistry, there’s great effort and a lot of enthusiasm. The new coaches have really worked in well. More of the players are able to get in (the Patterson Center) and get in extra film and work. There’s just a sense of enthusiasm with this football team and this coaching staff. We want to get back to our winning ways. I think we’re going to do that this year.
“We had Aeneas Williams come and talk to the team and I think he said it best. Freshmen and sophomores are like wet cement. They start to cure when they’re juniors and they’re hardened when they are seniors. We have a good bunch of seniors. We have juniors in the lineup. So, we are mature and looking forward to it.
We have a challenging schedule, but we also have a great schedule. I would guess that our trip to Australia is probably the longest road trip in the history of the world and we have the shortest road trip in the history of the world. We’re going to Australia to play Stanford and then we load up the bus to play the University of Houston. It’s two different road trips and two different logistical problems. But our guys have done well getting it figured out.
“The first five days of camp have been incredible. The retention that these young men have and the job our strength staff did this summer; they are in great shape. We’re motoring through the days, motoring through the practice. We have extremely high expectations.
“Justin Bickham, a freshman who missed last season is now back. You read the starters, but we actually have a whole lot of guys who played and got a lot of game experience that aren’t listed. I think we’re going to have a great season and I’m excited about it”
On if he talked to other schools on how to prepare for the Australia trip:
“I have. Cal went last year, so I’ve been on the phone with Sonny Dykes to find out some of the mistakes that they made so that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes. We know to get our guys compression pants. We have a walk and stretch schedule on the airplane because of the length of the trip. Initially, we were going to put our guys on per diem. Coach Dykes said that’s a bad idea because it’s European portions and they won’t get enough calories. So we know that we need to have buffets at the hotel. His first day at practice the field was 100 meters. They had to restripe it in yards. All the people at Rice who have been working to make sure the field is right, that the travel is right. This is going to be an incredible opportunity for this football team. Not only to go play a football game. But, we’ve teamed up with the University of Sydney. We’re going to spend a day with them after practice talking about the Australian educational system and how we do it at Rice. We’ll share a nice dinner with their President and (David Leebron). It’s going to be a great day.
“When Joe Karlgaard first asked me about moving the game to Australia, you think, God, it’s going to be 125 degrees which is a home field advantage. But then you get to thinking that it will be an incredible experience for these young men, not just to go play a football game but to go to a different continent, a difference culture. With what they are going to learn when they are there, it’s worth moving a home game to do that.”
On the team’s depth:
“You can start at the offensive line. The last four games (last year), we had our five guys who are back. We were pretty good offensively those last four games. But, along the way too, we get Kenny Thompson back, who is a senior this year and missed last season with a shoulder (injury). You’ve got Joseph Dill who started a game last year as a freshman. So, you get some guys that have played before that weren’t here (last year). You look at receiver last year, Lance Wright didn’t play (and) he’s back. Aaron Cephus didn’t play. He was a true freshman last year and he’s a big-play guy. He’s ready to go. At all positions, there are guys like that who have playing experience. For instance, Sam Stewart averaged 6.2 yards per carry last year but he really only played in four full games. We’ve got to stay healthy like every football team in the country tries to do. We practice smart. The strength staff does everything right. People get banged up in football but we think we have some depth that will be able to step up where we don’t have a big drop off if something happens.”
On what it means to have Houston back on the schedule:
“I think it’s great. I don’t know how it got off our schedule. Next year, we open the season with them. I think it should be a season-opening game every year. I think the Bayou Bucket, as a traveling trophy, is just incredible to have in your locker room. The proximity of the two universities. The fact that our team knows almost everybody on Houston’s team. They’ve gone to school together. They’ve gone to camps together. I think it’s great for both universities. I think it’s great for the city of Houston. I’m excited that they are back on the schedule.”
On the coaching staff changes:
“With Brian Stewart; he’s just so detailed in everything that he does. He leaves absolutely nothing to chance. I see him work with coaches so everybody is on the same page and uses the same vocabulary on every drill. He’s a player magnet. You go by his office and there’s always players in there and they are not just talking football. They’re talking about life skills. I’m really excited that he’s joined the staff. With a new coordinator, there is new energy.
“With Scott Vestal, I’ve never seen a guy with that much energy. I sat through a meeting with him and I wished I could have filmed it. I don’t know how he wasn’t exhausted. He’s been doing great. Wesley Beschorner, our new quarterbacks coach, is the same way. Excited and knowledgeable. He played the position. I’ve liked everything we’ve done. It’s time for some change and the players have responded with a new source of energy.”
On how crucial the first month of the season is:
“The best news is, and this is talking to Sonny Dykes also, he tried to go right back to work. He said his team was so exhausted from the return trip. We know that we’ll give them the first couple of days off to recover. But, then we get on an airplane and go play a conference game. UTEP at home is always a good football team. We need to get off fast and we need to get off on the right foot.”
On how the players are balancing the Australia trip with starting the academic trip:
“We’re taking Julie Griswold with us, our academic advisor. This is Rice University. They are going to keep up in the classroom. The professors are working with us. They are giving the players the materials that they need to work on and we’ll give them time while we’re (in Australia) to work on it.”