Nov. 12, 2013
Tulsa, Oklahoma -
"On the East Carolina game, I really thought our guys battled. That's important at this time of the season. When things haven't gone your way, you've got to find ways to keep guys in the fight. We were in the fight."
"It's interesting to look at the dichotomy of our team. You've got Shawn Jackson, who's now the (program's) all-time sack leader and a four-year starter. Trey Watts - another senior having a banner year. Ja'Terian Douglas had a fabulous kickoff return (at East Carolina). I was just thinking of the double aspect of three seniors playing extremely well, and then you've got Will Barrow, a freshman safety, who continues to find himself in the right place with interceptions and fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Keevan Lucas - another freshman. And then Dane Evans. Those are a lot of freshmen playing, but those three kind of stood out to me. I thought of the irony of the three seniors who are playing so well, and then the three freshmen. Hopefully, we'll look up four years from now, and they have will have had the same kind of careers - or maybe excelled beyond what these other three (seniors) have done."
What has Dane Evans brought, and what would like to see from him over the next three games?
"I love the energy he brings. I think he's a really savvy football player. I think he has a big-time arm. What I'd like to see out of him is a little more calm, which is ironic because one of the things I love about him is his energy. I tell him often, `Take a deep breath, man. Slow your mind down a little bit.' I think that as he plays, he'll see more and more of what's going on (with the) defense, and he'll be able to adapt. There's a lot I like."
On Shawn Jackson:
"Shawn will always be very special to me because I can always claim that I was involved in recruiting him and trying to sell him to (former TU coach Todd Graham), who eventually certainly bought in. Shawn was (on the fringe) of recruitable players. He didn't fit the mold in terms of size, speed, height, weight. You don't go out to McLain High School and find gobs of Division I players right now. He has consistently overachieved in every aspect. He was a young man, to hear him tell it, who struggled to make his grades. His grades were fine, but I think he had to work at it. From the very first summer class he took here, he found a way to survive and thrive, and he'll get his degree here. He's going to be a great citizen, a great father, and, by the way, is a great football player."
More on Shawn Jackson:
"We go out on Sundays for conditioning, he's in a sweatshirt or T-shirt, and he looks like a 50-year-old man running around out there. And yet, man, when the lights go on and the whistle blows, he is a cat daddy. He's a great tackler, but does he have NFL speed? "(NFL scouts) are going to draft like we recruit. You've got to fit in a peg. You've got to find a place willing to look at him and go, `You know, I think we'll give him a shot.' If he gets a shot, I think you'll be amazed at how much he plays."
During recruiting, did you envision Jackson solely as a linebacker?
"Not really. I just thought he was a football player. I thought he could be an H-back - a receiver. A fatter Charles Clay, for lack of a better term. I also thought there would be an opportunity for him to be a Wildcat quarterback. How do you turn down football players? This guy could play the game. He came in and wound up having a gray-shirt year, but I remember through the first four or five practices, he was never knocked off his feet. He didn't miss a tackle for eight or 10 tackles. He was just out here learning our system and trying to play football."
On Thursday's home game against Marshall:
"Marshall is a very good football team. They've been very good on offense for the last couple of years. Rakeem Cato clearly is an outstanding quarterback. Cato, I believe, was the offensive player of the year in our conference, and deservedly so. He's got a group of really good receivers, but especially Tommy Shuler. He's got 65 catches. He just finds a way to get around the ball and get open."
On Marshall's defense:
"They may be a little more aggressive than I remember from a year ago. They're doing a lot more corner blitzes and safety blitzes. I would expect to continue to see that since we're playing a freshman quarterback."
On the short week:
"This is not our first Thursday game, but this is our first one in a short week. Marshall is dealing with the same thing. Both of us are dealing with the same issues. I think it's especially tough when you're playing a really good football team, to have to game-plan everything they do. We had a great practice (on Monday morning). As efficient as we've had all year long."
Going with Dane Evans as the starting QB: Is it circumstantial - possibly related mostly to Cody Green's lingering knee problem - or had you arrived at a point where you wanted to see what Evans can do?
"All of it fits together. Cody is not 100 percent healthy. Where he is health-wise, it didn't seem to make sense to continue to push that issue. It's more than a health issue, but the health issue is legitimate."
With the anniversary of the 1970 Marshall plane crash, what do you remember about that?
"I was a junior high football player, thinking about that and watching the drama that unfolded. When we traveled to Marshall a few years ago, we went by the monument (positioned near the site of crash near Huntington, W. Va.). It was a little more meaningful for our players, putting all of that together with the movie (the `We Are Marshall' film). I just remember it was just incredibly shocking that two football teams crashed. It was a horrible thing to comprehend."
When you consider preseason expectations and then you get wiped out with suspension and injuries, has this season been your most difficult experience as a coach?
"Probably, yeah. This is really tough, in terms of where our expectations were and where reality and expectations met. It still doesn't compare to having cancer or losing a parent or something like that. I think perspective is always important. But in terms of coaching, this is a tough year."
As difficult of a season it is, do you ever get a respite from the disappointment and stress of a losing season?
"Having been a part of our staff in 2009, when we took a step backwards - it was really rough to go backwards. One of the things you realize when you do is that you've got to cherish wins. Bad wins - there's no such things. You've got to really enjoy those moments."
Steve Kragthorpe had one down season. Todd Graham had one down season and then bounced back, and now you've had a losing season?
"If you coach long enough, you're going in cycles. Just talk to anyone who's been in the business. You're going to have the cycles. The uniqueness of our situation is the extreme high (of 2012) to the extreme low. That's probably the most stunning thing to most people. In our profession, there's a cliché that says, `You're either humble or humbled.' If you're not a member of the first group, you'll soon be a member of the second."