Aug 26, 2013
Head Coach David Bailiff
What a great day. It’s the week before the first game, rolling right out on Saturday against Texas A&M. The universities haven’t played since 1995 and we’re really looking forward to it. They’re a top-10 team in every poll you look at, and we think we’re going to be a pretty good football team. So we’re excited to go up there and play one of the best in the country this year and see what we can do. Our players have worked hard and we’re excited about this season. The players are excited about the game and we really believe we’re going to be a top team in Conference USA this season and we’re thrilled to be going there.
It’s a great measuring stick for what kind of team we’re going to have. But you do put on that video from last season and what you see at Texas A&M is a team that I think will compete for a national championship. They are that talented on both sides of the football, they’re very athletic at every position and Kevin [Sumlin] has done a fabulous job of getting everybody in the right position and they play hard and have a lot of momentum coming in from last season. We’re the same way; we’re a good Conference USA team, we won five in a row and have a lot of players back. We look forward to getting there for kickoff.
One thing going into this game though is we do have some players out. (Linebacker) Cam Nwosu is going to be out. He hasn’t been cleared after his knee surgery. Receiver Dennis Parks is doubtful with his shoulder and (cornerback) Phillip Gaines violated a team rule, so he’s not going to play on Saturday. Other than that bit of news, we’re thrilled and can’t wait for kickoff.
On the benefit of familiarity with head coach Kevin Sumlin:
Nothing, there’s nothing. You look at the type of athlete he has now and they’ve changed enough that there’s really not a lot of carry-over other than I know they’ll be a well-disciplined team that plays hard. I know that’s what Kevin’s teams always do.
On preparing for 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel:
What we have to is we have to worry about Rice and make sure that we get better offensively, defensively and special teams. We know going into this game what the odds are and these games, as much as it is about winning, it’s about improving and we want to make sure we get that type of improvement. We want to compete for a Conference USA championship.
On senior quarterback Taylor McHargue’s development over five years:
He’s a different player. It’s amazing too, that he can actually somewhat grow a beard now. Five years ago, he tried and it wasn’t successful. But it means he’s matured in his role as a team leader. He was a good player last year and you look at what he’s done in the spring and you look at his leadership now and he transcends both sides of the football. He’s got four stars on his shoulders because he truly is an inspirational leader to us by his play and his actions. There’s something special about a fifth-year guy at that position. You can’t deceive him anymore like with a high safety or a low safety. He’s done enough reps now that he can read teams’ demeanors, and as a general rule, he’s learned to control his emotions where you don’t know when he’s really high or too low. He’s already thinking about what’s next I’m really proud of Taylor McHargue and what he’s done for this football team.
On personnel changes for the opener:
We’ll probably start Darrion Pollard and we’re comfortable there too with three or four good young corners. Anthony Canady has played amazingly as well as J.T. Blasingame so we’ll get those questions answered. I’m confident now where we’ll still play well out there. Phillip is out for one game. We have high expectations here, especially for our captains. He’s going to travel with us but that’s a decision understands. Michael Kutzler will start for Nwosu.
On the program’s mindset heading into the season:
I think in programs you always want to build momentum. When you build momentum it’s amazing and it’s also part of the chemistry that a football team possesses. When you have momentum and that chemistry and that love, a lot of your problems just get knocked out of your way. I think we have a football team now that has tremendous chemistry and that really plays for each other and lives for each other, they’re pretty selfless. I’m proud of that. Since the first day I got here, I’ve had the belief that we’re building a program at Rice and we’re doing it the right way and with great young men. I’ve never been distracted or deterred from what the vision is and I think when you see Taylor up here, he can speak on the same thing. We’re proud of these young men and we’re proud of what we’re building. One of the things we have to do is become consistent in what we do. You look at 2008 and we won 10 games, but in ’09 we won two. I think we have the talent in this program now to stay out of those big dip years and I think consistency is something we need to work on year in and year out. I think we can do that now.
On having a large senior class after last season’s small senior group:
We have 19 fifth-year seniors and 23 on the football team. It’s one of the reasons we have great leadership on this team and it’s one of the reasons we went ahead and elected captains, just to try to get some separations. Those 19 players have invested a lot into this university and this football program and they’re the ones that you sit down and set goals for this football program and they’re all in. I know with this bunch of seniors we’re not going to have trouble in the locker room. We’re not going to have trouble because they’re self-policing. We just finished camp where the senior class wouldn’t let this team have a bad day. They kept them focused, kept them energized and along those same lines we have the entire coaching staff back and there’s continuity throughout the program. That not only helps you on the field but helps you in recruiting and in the classroom because the coaches know what the expectations are. You hope to have a year like that with all the coaches back and so many seniors. It gives you excitement. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have. It was McHargue that said we have to play every game like we’re 2-6, because that’s what we came out with last year. But we came out with momentum where we knew we had a belief that even at 2-6 we were a good football team. We dug deep and found a way to do it. That’s the way we need to play this entire season.