Last weekend was brutal. Our chickens finally came home to roost with our defensive play, and it left many of us questioning what the fix is, and whether or not it can come this year. We also got to see our quarterback leave the game after injury again, only to come back out and continue to put on a show. Unfortunately he couldn't walk away with a W. Here is a recap of the question and answers from this weeks press conference.
Coach Sumlin was short and to the point regarding player statuses this week, not going into any real detail. Here is the outlook on the ability for some starters to get in there and play against Vanderbilt:
Johnny Manziel: Sumlin said one word. "Hopeful." So say we all.
If you missed it today, there were reports that came out about Johnny being in a sling, but that it wasn't serious. No clarification was given as the press reporters sniffed around for an answer.
If Johnny can't go, it would appear that Matt Joeckel would be the starter, but no definitive answer was given by either Coaches Sumlin or McKinney. From McKinney's standpoint:
"Matt's been in our offense two years and we feel like he can operate it. Kenny's really talented and when he's out there he can make plays as well."
Jarvis Harrison: Again, one word, "Probable."
Brandon Williams: For some reason, someone decided to ask about Brandon Williams today. Coach Sumlin said that "He is fine", but didn't address anything regarding playing time. McKinney was later asked about this, and responded with the right answer. Between Tra Carson, Trey Williams, and Ben Malena, it's hard to find touches for someone as talented as Brandon Williams. I'm not sure who asked, because I assume they are alluding to the idea that he could do better behind an O-line that got tossed around for most of the Auburn game, but that was a little ridiculous.
The debate this week has been centered on the performance of the offense. We all know the defense got ripped, but it's fair to ask whether or not the offense that only scored one TD on 4 red zone trips, did it's job. I'm glad that Sumlin was asked a question around these lines today, because the truth is, the answer doesn't matter since one side of the ball can't win while the other loses. Sumlin on scoring 40 points and losing, something that has only happened 5 times in history at Texas A&M (twice this year):
"One more point than the opponent should be enough to win the game, regardless of the situation. Our offense understands that. Our job is to win or lose as a football team. If you're deficient in one area, you understand that as a coach. You try to get that area better, but your goal is to win the game no matter what."
One of the more interesting question and answers today was about Johnny seemingly running the ball more this year on designed plays, but yet we see him hesitate to run off of the scramble and opt for a pass. This was something that I didn't see as much of against Auburn, but it seemed that in our first few games, it was something that had been coached. Coach McKinney's quote today makes it seem that most of the decisions on running with the ball before it looks like the play has developed, and sitting back behind to pass more off the scramble, are all coming from Johnny:
"Our plan from day one is never to stop Johnny from doing the things he's done to be successful. He sits in the pocket more this year than he did last year because he understands the offense a bit better. The plan was never not to run him more. The plan was for him to run the offense and, when he gets through his reads and doesn't like what he sees, he has the ability to make plays with his feet."
The talk surrounding the fan base this week regarding the fan coaching of the defense has been divided around a few areas, and Snyder provided some answers.
Are we playing the right guys?
"We do. We've got what we have and that's what we're going to go with. It's a matter of game reps, playing together, communicating together and those kind of things."
Giving up 4th Quarter points:
"I don't have the answer to that question. We gave up 21 fourth-quarter points again. Are we getting worn down? That's something we're talking about as a defensive staff. That's not been our MO. Typically we start really fast and our guys are out at halftime and it's the younger guys playing. It hasn't been like that this year."
The quote above really starts playing into the argument about defenders who spend all of their games and practices under a coach that runs a spread system vs. a coach that runs pro-style.
On Defending the Modern Offense:
"You should win a game if you score 40 points, period. I understand the game has changed. It's hard to be a DC these days. But that's what the challenge is about. We tell our kids, 'Yeah, offenses are putting up big points,' but I know this too - once we get where we want to be, with guys coming off the field and talking to me and adjusting, there are things we can do aggressively. They might still put up 40, but we create big plays. We just can't quite do that right now."
Bend but don't break.
The answer to solving most of the defensive issues is of course depth. Sumlin was asked about building depth on the defensive side, and really alluded to the bare cupboard effect after a coaching change, and also came away with the quote of the day:
"When a change is made, usually you don't walk into a situation that's perfect. You understand that and you need to have a plan in place for what deficiencies are there ... As a coach you try to get the best out of everyone. There are no more five-year plans. The guys with five-year plans usually don't make it to year three."