I also think that it's interesting that someone asked Tuberville about JUCO defensive players after mentioning it on Saturday. My premise being that the difference in player from what I saw on Saturday night (LSU vs. Alabama) was entirely different than what I saw on Saturday morning (TTU vs. UT). I was talking to my brother-in-law yesterday and he said that he had the same sort of "ah-ha" moment when he watched both the games.
For me, I'm not trying to give the coaching staff an alibi, my comments after the game on Saturday were more or less what I was thinking and when I watched both games, it just seemed so big in terms of a talent gap. There's no doubt that the coaching is most likely having a huge impact about on the defense in general, but I keep going back to my thought about what's realistic, which is that I don't think that the coaching is really going to change for the rest of this year and next year at the very least. It's becoming readily apparent that the coaching is on a downward spiral due to the fact that there are more losses on the ledger than fans would like. The wins and losses are the bottom line.
I still think that the talent on the field looks pitiful and it probably has something to do with the coaching and the players themselves, life usually isn't about absolutes and I don't think it is this time.
HEAD COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE
I don't know where to start so I'll start with the fairly mundane. Tuberville is asked about tackling:
You can work on it. You can work on technique and fundamentals. A lot of times when you play an aggressive game like that -- that's a different type of team that we've played. Our guys were trying to make the tackles, they overpursued, didn't break down, left their feet. But it is -- there's a lot to coaching tackling but there's a lot of athletic ability to it, too. The better tacklers I've been around before you didn't have to teach them anything, because usually it's about body control, and don't leave your feet. We try to teach our players don't leave your feet. Once you leave your feet, you lose all your power. The running back's still running, he's on his feet. You leave your feet, you get run over like a couple times we did on Saturday. You have to keep the power in your legs. That's where the most strength in your body is. But, again, we didn't tackle very well. We didn't wrap up at times, but there's a lot of coaching to it, but there's also a lot of natural ability to it also.
Seems like this is an important concept, this idea of tackling. Tuberville is asked (I think) about his thoughts on the defense in general this year:
I thought a lot better about this defense. We're a better defense than we were last year at this point. We're playing teams that are a lot better than were last year, the teams we're going against. There's no doubt the team we played last week is head and heels above what they were. And on down the line. But we get into the Texas State game and we're feeling good about, we've got a little more depth, we've got a little more size on the defensive line. I think we've got a little bit more experience. And Texas State runs up and down the field on us, a team that we should beat. And I knew right then that we were going to have problems. And then we played well at New Mexico after the open date. And then we played a Nevada team that quite honestly beat us everywhere but the scoreboard, other than our offense on the last, what, two or three drives, we were able to score that. So we're 5 and 4.
We're disappointed. But to some degree, if you go back and look at some of the games, we're behind 21-0 against Kansas. You know, there's a correlation there. We're not very good on defense. But we've got guys practicing hard. And you asked me about the 4-2-5. We run every defense in the world this fall. We base it out of the 4-2-5, run an eight-man front, seven-man fronts, we do everything we can to put our guys in good positions, just sometimes we're looking for that fumble or we're looking for the interception or we're looking for a break or a penalty. But it just seems like we can't get that break. But it's going to happen. As we tell our players, sooner or later it's going to happen. And you just gotta keep plugging. Can't lose your confidence.
You've got to go practice hard, that's where you get better at you don't get better in the game. Our guys have busted their tails. And I tell them: You can be disappointed but don't be discouraged. There's a huge, huge difference. They're all disappointed. I know our fans are disappointed. A lot of them are mad and all that. But, hey, no sense in getting mad. You can be disappointed but don't get discouraged. This group will get better.
Tuberville is trying to stay positive, like no one's business, but the cracks are starting to show and he's being brutally honest about how his defense isn't any good, evidenced by the fact that a FCS team whipped your rear on the ground. These are cracks because I think he's telling us exactly what he's telling Glasgow: your job is to make sure that players tackle and you need to force turnovers.
Tuberville then just starts talking about JUCO's, which I can't tell if he was asked about it or if he just started talking about it. Either way, DTN is flattered:
I made a decision when we got here that we weren't going to be a junior college team. We're going to take two or three -- not going to take 10, 15 of them, and we would have been better. But two years we would have been right back where are at. We're going to build this thing with high school kids that will be here four, five years. We're going to redshirt them. I could probably have played four or five, six other guys on defense that could have helped us. You can't do that. You have to redshirt as many as you can. We're here for the long haul. We're not in here for the short haul. We knew we were going to struggle this year. This is a tough year. The 2008/2009 recruiting class, we had less than half of them still here. So we're playing with mostly young guys. So I'm disappointed but I'm not discouraged because these kids are, they're playing hard. They're competing; and we probably won a couple of games we shouldn't have. And the games that we've lost, it's disappointing that obviously the Kansas State and the A&M game were very disappointing because at that point we were playing on a lot of confidence.
First of all, Tuberville shouldn't talk about players from previous recruiting classes and the attrition that takes place in just about every recruiting class. No matter the year, it's pretty standard to think that half of your recruiting class won't qualify, won't make the grades or won't stick with the program. A 50% attrition rate isn't abnormal after it's all said and done. I would also add that although it's a different sport, what Pat Knight tried to do with JUCO's never panned out because you just don't have the players available for that long. Still, I am discouraged by the fact that if we know that the coaching won't change (I'm assuming that all of the coaches will be back) and the talent except for some seniors will also be back, then I have serious doubts that it will be better next year.
And to Tuberville's point, the 2008 class was bad and it would have been bad even if Leach was here. There were 8 defensive players in that class, 4 of those were JUCO's (Jarrell Routt never made an impact; McKinner Dixon made an impact for a year; Broderick Marshall never made it on campus and Brandon Sesay made an impact for a year). High schoolers Joey Fowler and Ryan Haliburton never made an impact and the only defender that has done anything is Cody Davis. These player left when Leach was the coach.
The 2009 class and the fact that players aren't here anymore is due a little to Leach and a more to Tuberville. Yahshua Williams, Brandon Mahoney, Will Ford, Pearlie Graves and Myles Wade all left under Tuberville while Romario Cathey and James Scott either left under Leach or didn't qualify. Of the 15 defensive commits, that's seven players that didn't stick, which isn't shocking and you'd like to see a lower attrition rate, but if Tuberville has anyone to blame about the lack of players he's got to look in the mirror for a good part of it. I don't know the reasons why these players left, there were rumblings that some of them were problems, but I really don't know. I don't think that Graves and Wade were "problem" players and those two players would be making a difference right now.
More after the jump.
More from Tuberville on the JUCO's:
When we looked at it we knew the situation we were in. We went out. We had to find some defensive linemen. And we signed, what, two junior college defensive linemen. The rest are high school guys. We'll do that. This year we're signing all high school defensive linemen. Some will probably have to play next year, the ones that we have committed. But it's a process. Again, we could probably go out again and there's some teams that I know, some in our conference that go sign 10, 15, 18 JUCO guys. And I just don't think this program can be a program that can get enough high school players to have a solid program every year. And so that's the direction we decided to go. And once we get to a level, we want to stay there. We don't want to be up and down. And that's going to take a little bit longer to get to that point. But I think that once you get those high school guys in here that's grown up in the system, they react a lot better in certain situations.
Good high school players is better for a program long term.
Finally, Tuberville is asked about James and the fact that Oklahoma St. is Senior Day. I know that some (most) of you won't like his comments about being a team leader, but for me, I'm glad that this chapter is almost over (the chapter where James is playing). I don't think that the James' family will receive much sympathy on Saturday and am expecting unpleasant things:
I think -- and I hope our fans are sympathetic to all of our seniors. Not just one or two groups. But I would think it's been a hard time not just for Adam but for his family over the last few years. And so as I said, I've been proud of Adam. He's grown up. He's matured. He's been one of the best leaders that we've had on this team, not just this year but also last year. So hopefully it will be a great day for, again, not just for the players but also all the families, because it's tough. When you set in the stands and watch your kids play in a tough sport like this, which is very physical and then go through the ups and downs what college players go through, it's awful tough on parents. It's awfully tough. So hopefully we'll have a great Senior Day.
QB SETH DOEGE
There's a lot to get to this week, lots of stuff. A couple of interesting things, for some reason, for the 4th or 5th straight week (I'm honestly losing track) some reporter asked QB Seth Doege about TE Adam James. Again, I want to emphasize that there has been a reporter, unidentified, that continues to ask Doege about James and Doege really doesn't have a choice, but to answer. Well, I guess he doesn't have to answer, but I don't think that Doege isn't the kind of guy that isn't going to answer a question. This is if anyone is keeping track. Also, Carona is also asked about James, so if you want to read those comments, go on over to the transcript.
This is interesting, there seems to have been yet another player-only meeting:
Q. Talk about Saturday, arguing, is there any of that?
SETH DOEGE: No, not that I know of. I felt like we had a good Sunday meeting. We addressed some things just like we always do. And then it's the matter of fact of going out and putting those issues into play and getting them right, getting them correct and understanding what it takes to win football games and what it's going to take to win these next three.
Doege is frustrated, but staying positive:
Q. Is it all the more frustrating knowing how well you guys can play, the struggles?
SETH DOEGE: That's the most frustrating part. We're the same team that beat Oklahoma. And offensively and defensively. And the thing is for some reason these last two weeks we haven't been that same team. And I don't know if we're pressing or if we're not paying attention to the little details that we did against Oklahoma that helped us win that game. It's just one of those things we need to figure out. We need to go back to that and play that way. And I feel like if we play that way we're going to be a very hard team to beat. And it's just one of those things, we need to figure it out. And I think we will. And I think we'll have a great week of practice and I think we'll put on a good showing this weekend.
And here's the question about James and was followed up with two additional questions:
Q. I know you talk a lot about it but could you talk about Adam James?
SETH DOEGE: I think he's deserved the success he's had. He works hard. He's been a big vocal leader for this team. He's really changed his ways and turned things around. He's playing well. So he's going to, it's going to be a special time for him. And I think the crowd should applaud him for everything he's been through.
Q. When you say things he's been through?
SETH DOEGE: He's just playing a lot better, you know what I mean? I think he's got more confidence in himself. He's confident in his team. His whole mentality is better as a football player, just going out there and making plays.
Q. Are you worried about (inaudible)?
SETH DOEGE: I don't think so. I think he's been through a lot. I don't think much could faze him at this point.
K DONNIE CARONA
I'm as surprised as anyone, but I couldn't be happier that Carona is experiencing success this year. Carona has made 75% of his field goals this year (12 of 16) and had it not been for Carona the past few weeks, the scoreboard would look even worse. Carona talks about this being his last game as a senior:
Yeah, I mean, it's real special to me. It's been a long career. Started really slow. And I'm thankful for what I've been able to do this year and for kind of the second opportunity. It's special for all the seniors. And for everyone on the team, kind of being the last home game, wanting to show the fans how we can play, show them how we played in OU and bring it to the Jones, because it's our house. And I'm excited for it.
To end on a high note, I'm happy for Carona and happy that he's had success this year. Carona also talks about the kick he'll remember 30 years from now:
One of my big kicks, I think, probably doesn't stand out, but I guess the Texas game in '08. I was having a really tough year. And I still had far field goals and I had the opportunity to come in make a kick and I think it meant a lot to the game and helped the team out. It was real big still, keep you going forward, because I had to kickoff to keep my confidence going. And that was a really big kick, and all the kicks this year have been really good. I've enjoyed being out there being able to help the team out whenever they need me.