Aug. 3, 2013
HEAD COACH Tony Levine
"I appreciate everybody being here today. I speak for myself, our staff, our football student athletes and everybody within our program when I say that today could not get here fast enough and more importantly with last night and this evening being our first practice.
"A couple of things as I get started personnel wise I just want to make everybody aware of. For the most part everybody is aware of who is in our program, the newcomers that we signed last February and certainly the months following national singing day. Just a couple of things in terms of who is going to be here and who is not here yet, first of all sophomore linebacker Trevon Randle, he is still a part of our program. He will practice all season, but I have made the decision he will not play in games this year. He will have two years of eligibility remaining. 2014 will be his junior year, he would have been a sophomore this year. He is still a part of our program, he has got some things that we need to work through, that he is taking care of. When school starts he will be back and practicing all season long.
"A couple of guys who we signed in February are not here yet and won't be practicing tonight, there are four of them and they are junior college young men. I think everyone needs to understand that this is national and something that has happened here before, I certainly want to address it. Junior college transfers have different requirements to meet than high school seniors. We have a couple of guys finishing up classes and to name them, Kent London is here, he is getting his physical today and I expect will be cleared for practice Monday or Tuesday of next week. When you talk about getting a physical, they have to get blood work back and test results returned before our medical staff will clear them to participate.
"William Jackson will be here tomorrow. He has already gotten his physical and is finished with classes along with London and could practice as early as tomorrow night.
"Marcus Dillard will be here tomorrow. He needs to get a physical but he is done with classes. Once he is cleared he will be out on the field as well. I expect that to be early to mid-week next week. Markeith Ambles, the fourth and final one, is finishing up classes right now. We expect him to be here in two weeks. That is the run down. We have two high school men that we signed in February who will start their careers at junior college, Emerald Faletuipapai and Zach White.
"We are excited about today. I have done a lot of talking over the last few months, and quite frankly I'm ready to get out on our new practice fields and get going. There is a lot of excitement right now around our program with the new facilities, certainly with the stadium, with the new practice fields and with the schedule we have in front of us. Right now we are focused on the University of Houston and getting better one day at a time. We've got a group of men right now, student athletes and coaching staff, that are excited about this season. We feel like we have something to prove and we are going to take it one day at a time. It's going to be a tremendous challenge. Our focus for the next two weeks is again improvement for the program, improvement for individuals. We are going to focus our attention more specifically on Southern in our first game."
On the American Athletic Conference Media day
"The welcome mat was great. It was quite a bit different. There was a tremendous amount of national media there. The stage is much bigger. The event that they put on, the national media that was there was something that our program has not seen in the past. We talk about it all the time here, this is a BCS conference and the champion will play in a BCS bowl game. Certainly the implication moving forward is getting into the playoff system. It's definitely, and again no offense to the conference we were in, but it's a step in the right direction and a step up."
On what the coaching staff will be looking for at quarterback
"I've talked about this at different times publicly at length over the last couple of weeks, and it's something that is going to be accelerated. We are going to make a decision in two weeks as to who our starter is for the season. We've talked to those guys and they know that they're being evaluated on everything. We certainly will chart their completions, their interceptions, their percentages at practice, their decision making at practice, but they are being evaluated in their leadership, in how they stretch when they get out on the field, in everything they do over the next few weeks. We've got five young men who are extremely talented. Some have more experience than others. They all come from different backgrounds in terms of whether they're a junior college, local, or freshmen so everybody is in the mix. Everybody is going to have an opportunity. Some guys have showed us who have been in our program what they are capable of doing. We've got a detailed plan as a staff, and that's at the top of our list in the next few weeks."
On whether college experience gives an edge in the quarterback competition
"We have three quarterbacks, Billy Cosh, John O'Korn and Greg Ward who we have not coached yet. We think we know what we got out of them since we extended scholarships to them. We saw something in the recruiting process that made us want them to be a part of our program, but until we get on the field with them tonight, get in meetings, get to coaching them and see how they progress and pick things up it's hard to comment on those newcomers this early. Everybody has the opportunity to take that position starting today. Experience certainly gives an advantage with knowing what to do offensively with hand signals and checks and changing the play and things like that. However, everyone has a clean slate and we're going to see how they operate starting this afternoon."
On what RS Junior QB David Piland needs to show to earn starting spot
"David had a great spring. We had 15 spring practices and Piland got a lot of reps as did (Bram) Kohlhausen and they both had great springs, David in particular. I like the spring he had, but we're not out there with them during the summer. He is going to be a redshirt junior this year and we'll see where he is tonight. I know where he was last April when he threw four touchdowns in the spring game. We'll see how much he has improved with his own work during the summer."
On identifying explosive running backs during preseason
"When you talk about the running back position I think everyone saw what Ryan Jackson is capable of doing in our final game last season when he went for over 100 yards. He's a home run hitter. Kenneth Farrow is another one, they have different styles, but he is a guy we can look at count on to get the ball into the end zones. On the perimeter we've got some guys who have gained some weight, gone through our offseason program, been in spring ball and have made adjustments, moving Deontay Greenberry to inside and Larry McDuffey outside. Daniel Spencer has done a great job this summer as far as getting off of an injury and working hard. We've got A-Rod (Andrew Rodriguez) back so we've got some guys. We have Xavier Maxwell who came in last year as a junior college transfer and started on the outside. We have some explosive players. It takes me back to when I was in Rhode Island at conference media day where I was telling the national media `Here are some names that you need to write down. If you don't know them today, you'll know them by Christmas.'"
On Houston's social media platform for student-athletes
"We talk to our team all the time about it. What everybody has to understand is that when I had hair we didn't have Twitter, so it's something that is relatively new. It's the way the world is working right now, they way young people socialize, interact and connect. The way our recruits communicate with each other. Talking now is texting, Twitter and Facebook. That's what young people do today. We educate our guys. We had a meeting last night about how to be responsible with social media. What's more important than controversial tweets are our 14 seniors who will be looking for a job in the next six-to-12 months. What employers are doing now is getting online and looking up your Facebook page and Twitter account. Before they make an offer to a prospective employee they're looking at what you are posting. We educate our guys making sure they make good decisions. I am on Twitter and I've posted maybe 300 times in two years and what I will do is type it out and have four people read it before I hit the tweet button to make sure how it will be interpreted. It's very important, it's a different day and age so we educate our players on that."
On the injured players from last season
"Shane Ros will miss the whole season. He was injured the final week of spring practice. He never redshirted so he will redshirt this season and be a senior in 2014. He'll be out for the entire year. Austin Potter hurt his knee in the spring. He will not play this season. Andrew Hogan hurt his knee unfortunately also in the final play of our spring game. He will be out for the season. Going back to who was injured at the end of last season, Daniel Spencer is back.(Andrew Rodriguez is back."
On where the focus is in practice picking it back up from the spring
"What we have talked about in terms of our progression as we start this evening are a couple of things, and over the course of the year you basically a week to prepare for each opponent. We have four weeks right now to prepare for our first opponent. The first two weeks of August training camp are going to be about Houston. We are going to make major evaluations on both sides of the football, get better on both sides of the football and in the kicking game, then we will set our sights on Southern and our game plan for them. I was very pleased at where we were at the end of the spring. I think there is going to be a tremendous amount of carry over into our meetings and practice."
On when the starting placekicker will be named
"The timetable on that will be about the same as with quarterback. With every position, we've told all the newcomers that they have two weeks to show us that you can play this season or you're going to be heading toward a redshirt. In the recruiting process one of the questions asked is about early playing time. We have a track record of playing right around 10 true freshmen every year. Then we see if they are physically and mentally ready to play. If they are, we will put them on the field. We're not going to put a young man out there if he's not ready."
On staying with the fast-paced style of offense this season
"It's a little bit of our brand, it's our style, we feel like we can recruit those type of skill guys to come here, be explosive and get them the ball in space. The trend right now in college football and even in the National Football League is no huddle, up-tempo, spreading people out and it's probably a bad era right now to be a defensive coordinator. There are a couple of leagues that still use what we call 21 personnel with two backs and a tight end and a huddle-up where they pound the football. There will be a couple of teams who do that in the American Athletic Conference as well. That's been our brand and something we have been tremendously successful with."
On how the Houston defense is affected by practicing against an up-tempo offense
"I have definitely seen it affect our defense, to me in a negative way, since I have been here for six years. We made some changes with the spring that we feel really helped us and we are going to continue this fall. There is a lot of things that go into play in creating a great defense, getting turnovers, tackling, but a lot of it is effort and having 11 guys go full speed to the ball carrier every play. When you practice what we do offensively every day, defensively you can get into bad habits because you want your guys to give a great effort, but after every play the offense is ready to snap the ball again and the defense is trying to hustle back or get coached up. It's something we have certainly worked on and pointed out. We are working on helping our defense and helping our program overall."
On the importance of Richie Leone to special teams and how much he has grown
"I saw his mother yesterday at our family luncheon of almost 500 people saying goodbye to their young men for the next couple of weeks. It seems like during the recruiting process I personally recruited him. I flew into Atlanta and drove up to Roswell, Georgia six times in December and January. That seems like it was just yesterday and now it's his senior year. I may be biased, but he is the best punter in the United States. When you talking about changing field position and helping our team and defense, he is a tremendous weapon for us. He is as excited about the new stadium as anybody because he won't be playing in it. He will be in Reliant playing indoors and not have to worry about a lot of wind his senior year. He's had a great career. He came in as a true freshman and did a great job right from the start and we will certainly be sad to see him leave."
On how the new rules will affect the team
"I've said this a couple of times, there's still a lot of people nationally that don't know about these rules. It's really two things tackling with the crown and targeting. I'm not going to go into detail about those rules right now. I have in the past, but it's going to result in the player being ejected. What we'll be doing starting Monday when we put shoulder pads on is practice for those two rules. It's intolerable to have a player called for that and sequentially ejected. We've got to make sure our players are taught. We're going to have a rules meeting as a team tomorrow night to make sure they understand the rules. We're going to show them videos and certainly answer any questions. We have a full crew of officials from the American Athletic Conference coming down in two weeks to work three of our practices. They're going to officiate our second scrimmage. You're going to see nationally, I think, a large number of players get called for this and become ejected from the game, but it's something we're going to coach very hard and make sure our guys understand so we can use proper technique by the time the first game rolls around."
On sophomore safety Trevon Stewart
"That's what great about the recruiting process and getting all these new players on campus. You are, as a coach, not 100 percent sure about them until you start practice. Trevon Stewart was a high school defensive back, running back and returner. He was committed for a while, really excited about our program, got here and we started him at corner. It seemed like after every practice in August I would report to the media that Stewart had another interception at practice. It seems like the first eight or 10 practices last season he always had an interception. We said that this guy was going to find a way onto the field somehow. From corner we tried him at nickel and kind of moved him inside and next thing you know we gave him a new home and moved him to safety. Four months later he is a Freshman All-American. Initially people were excited about him because he was on twitter and social media and is very excited about our program but didn't necessarily know what to expect. Then a few months later he is a little bit of a household name after his freshman year."
On strengths of the team
"I haven't sat at my desk and said `What are the strength areas of our team?' However the two that come to mind when you ask me that question, while we had 25 seniors in last year's graduating class, I like the guys we have back and the development they've made from last season until now. I like what they've done in the weight room, I like what they've done in the classroom, I like how they've matured off the field, and how they've thrown. The other thing that comes in mind, quite frankly, is the leadership that these young men are showing. It's something I feel like we lacked last year and it's something since January I've seen tremendous growth in. There are some tremendous leaders in our senior class, but there are also some juniors and even sophomores that have stepped up and taken on that kind of leadership. "
On concerns of the team
"In terms of some things we're concerned with us at this point. Right now there's nothing but excitement for me, for our staff, for everybody in our program. If there are some personal things we have to change, we will certainly address it. At this point, I'm going to set out all plays this evening and make changes if we have to move forward."
On challenges with new conference
"Some challenges come with the new league. I think it's a great schedule, I think it's a challenging schedule, and I think it's certainly different for everybody in our program and even our fan base. Seeing some of these teams on our schedule, seeing some of these teams we'll have to fly up to and face is something that's exciting. It's certainly helped in a number of ways. The exposure it's given us and will give us is priceless. It's helped in recruiting. The schedule is going to be a challenge. It's one we're going to be up for and one we're definitely looking forward to."
On playing in different stadiums for home games
"I think it's going to have a tremendous effect on our ticket manager. Going into Reliant Stadium, one of the nicest NFL stadiums in the nation, our players are excited about it. Our kids were excited to play where the Dynamo play. If you haven't been to a Dynamo game, you need to go. It's a beautiful stadium and certainly a great event to see. We'll play Cincinnati at Rice as well. Again, for what we have to go for one season to have a new stadium on campus in 2014, it's a small price to pay and I don't anticipate it effecting us at all."
Sophomore Receiver Deontay Greenberry
On how the season is going so far
"It's going pretty good. We are just going out there doing a lot of work."
On last year's season, expectations and accomplishments
"No, I didn't meet my personal expectations. I wanted to try to get 1,000 yards last year, but it didn't happen."
On familiarity with offense and experience
"Including the kind of switch we did, I now play inside receiver, and it got easier and I get the ball a lot more. I'm pretty excited about this year."
On personal goals and team goals this season
"We want to try to win conference. We have a history of winning conference every time we enter a new conference. For me, as you know I am a candidate for the Biletnikoff Award, and I would like to try to get that award."
On entering a new conference and getting more exposure for program
"To me it's just going out there and playing football. That's really what I focus on doing."
On moving to inside receiver
"I moved to inside receiver. I have a bigger responsibility on the inside blocking for our running backs."
On the quarterback position battle
"We get reps with all the quarterbacks. Right now, as you said, it is a battle, but I am just trying to focus on my blocking."
On improving on blocking for the first year
"I got a lot better blocking last year, but I played outside receiver. So it was different and I was blocking smaller guys. I did get better last year."
On new things to work on and adjust to this year
"Working on my out routes and getting lower and cutting. I do a lot more cutting."
On the new conference
"It's just going out there playing football for me. It's going to be 11 guys every Saturday, so we are going to go out there and have fun. "
Senior kicker Richie Leone
On the importance of his role on the team
"I want to be a weapon every time I am on the field, set the defense up to defend the long field and make every kick that I get the opportunity to hit. If I can do that and create a long field we should be successful."
On toughness of coffin corner kicking
"It's a lot of fun, it's challenging, but it's something that we as specialists enjoy working on. It does involve a little bit of luck, just have to hope it goes your way. "
On his first year without Matt Hogan
"It had definitely been different without Matt, but we have a couple of new guys and they are hard workers. We still stay in touch."
On duties as kicker and punter
"It's going to be more fun, I won't have to sit on the sidelines as much. I will be more involved in the game. I am really looking forward to that challenge. I am taking it one day at a time. I have been working on it a lot this summers. I kicked in high school also; which a lot of people forget about. But I'm looking forward to it."
On NFL dreams
"Yes, I definitely have NFL dreams; it has been my goal since I was a little kid. Being from Atlanta and coming here was a big jump. I want to go somewhere else, another big city."
On playing at Reliant Stadium this year
"It's sweet. I can't wait to play at Reliant. When we played there last year it was a lot of fun. I am looking forward to that."
On what team he looks forward to playing
"There are so many good teams that we are playing like Louisville and Cincinnati. They are all tough programs. It's going to be a challenge but we are focused on Southern right now."
Sophomore DB Trevon Stewart
On starting the new season
"I've been waiting on this since spring football. I'm really ready and the seniors are ready too."
On reflecting on last year's performance
"I talk about it with my teammates and when I came in I told them I wanted to start but I never thought it was going to be like the way it was. I just worked hard and do what I had to do. But it's crazy now to see that I was just a freshman getting my gear and then I became a Freshman All-American. Now hopefully I can do everything over again and have another All-American year."
On building on last year's performance
"I pretty much blocked out last season. I was over with it, I just worked harder than I did last year on the field and off the field, getting smarter as a player, learning the game more so it could be easier to me and Coach Gibbs. I've been working harder than I did last year so hopefully everything pays off."
On building on last year's performance
"My first two games I played at nickel and then in the third game I just came in there and they said you are going to start at safety for us against UCLA in the Rose Bowl. I got kind of nervous but I was like if I want to be a big-time player I've got to play in big-time games. It is football and I just did it like I learned in the film room and with the game plan."
On new defensive coordinator David Gibbs
"I love Coach Gibbs, not just the coach but the person. Last year he came in and gave a positive vibe to the assistant coaches and to the players. Everybody is in a good mood wants to learn and everybody is always in the film room. He is a great coach and he teaches stuff that I don't even know, stuff that I would never think to think about in football. Coach Gibbs is a great coach."
On new defensive coordinator David Gibbs
"It's been different but it's been easier because he David Gibbs) taught me not only how to play the position but different ways, different things to look at, understand if he calls cover there, why he is calling cover three and what to look for in an offense. Coach Gibbs is a great coach and he helps you out a lot."
On showing better performance than last year
"We, the whole team not just the defense, we all have something to prove. 5-7 is not what we were looking for but you know we have been working hard since the spring we haven't taken a day off, offense and defense and Coach Gibbs him and the captains and all other coaches who follow behind him and we follow behind the coaches. It's going to be a good ride this fall."
On being a leader on the team
"Even all the way through high school I have always felt like a leader and I come here and last year I was vocal but not really as much but now that I'm a sophomore I just feel like I got to talk but I don't want to plays to go by where I didn't say too much and if it's a bad play I can say stuff to keep people going. I'm going to be a good captain this year and be vocal."
Sophomore RB Kenneth Farrow
On last season
"We know what happened last year and we know what we got to do to correct but all of that has been done already and we're just looking forward to getting on the field and playing."
On playing in new stadiums
"I think it's just going to be fun to get out there. We've been through summer training and we haven't been in pads in a while and I think everyone is just excited wherever we're playing."
On taking over at running back
"I'm ready; I mean I was ready when I got here. I think last year at the times that I got in a couple of good things happened here and there. I'm more excited about being able to go back there with guys like Ryan Jackson, fast guys. I think we are going to complement each other real well and I think we are going to do a lot of good things in the backfield."
On sophomore running back Ryan Jackson
"He is a home run guy. We have both worked on what we need to do and we worked on our weaknesses and try to get better at every aspect of the game. It's definitely going to show and it's something the believers are going to have to prepare for."
On the American Athletic Conference
"It's going to be exciting. It's a new challenge. There's a lot of stuff going on here and it's good we just have to take advantage and it's going to be fun to go out there and show people what we can do."
On working with Ryan Jackson in the backfield
"It will be a change in style to keep the defense off balance. Staying fresh and alternating in-and-out, I think we're going to be able to make a huge impact on the offense." On what to expect from the backfield this season "I don't think there will be any drop-off. I'm excited what we can do in the backfield." On adding weight since spring workouts "I am feeling the best I have felt since I've been here. I feel a lot faster than last year. I feel like I'm really getting back to the old me."
Offensive Coordinator Doug Meacham
On the transition to Houston making decisions
"At OSU (Oklahoma State) I was involved in three different situations that are similar to this one. When Dana (Holgorsen) came in we changed the style of offense we were running. This spring the new guys are going to get reps, and it'll be the best that we can manage it. There's going to be opportunities for several guys to get reps, and we'll see how it goes. I can't predict what's going to happen, I'm just going to watch and evaluate. There's a guy or two that has an advantage because he's been here, and knows the system. The new guys we have to understand are going to make mental mistakes because of the speed, and how we do things offensively. We have to judge their ability, and see what they can do long term. For the first week to ten days these guys will be evaluated individually."
On the quarterback situation
I'm looking for guys with mental twitch that can handle the speed of the communication, and the speed of the offense. That is going to be huge for me. There's a lot put on the ability to throw a pass, but for us the ability to play the position is very important. Being a quarterback and what does that mean? It's a guy that can get you in and out of the right place and guy who can communicate to the backs, the line, and the receivers. We're looking for a guy who can make nice quick decisions. There are guys here now that have been in the system that have shown the capability of doing that. So for us it'll be finding out what the new guys can do for us as far as leadership is concerned. Based on film they can throw the football, otherwise they wouldn't be here."
On how reps will be handed out with each quarterback
"Well it'll be as equal as we can without taking away from guys that need the reps. At the same time we have to give the other guys the opportunity to show what they can do."
Defensive Coordinator David Gibbs
On the recent defensive rule changes going into effect this season
"I'm not sure how it's going to be coached. We're in the middle of trying to come up with drills, which I'm sure the other coaches are trying to do across the country. You don't really know how the referees are going to call it. You can ask the referees, and they don't even know how they're going to call it.
"So assuming the first couple of weeks every time somebody gets hit there is going to be a flag, and it's going to be reviewed. The problem is going to be if they're wrong you're still going to get a 15-yard penalty.
"It's all for the safety of the game so you just have to accept it. When I was younger I probably would have been sitting up here saying it was ridiculous and stupid, but it's the way the game is played. You have to adjust. The players have to adjust to it. Is it going to be pretty? Probably not. Are there going to be games that are won or lost because somebody gets ejected? Probably, but that's part of football and part of the way the game is played now."
On the key to the defensive play this year
"Gaining some confidence. Down through the history, Houston hasn't played very good defense. The key for us is to build on what we started in the spring, have good two-a-day practices and start with Southern and play some decent defense and build some confidence as we go."
On if the defensive play from last year has an effect on this year's team "I don't think so. I say kids can't make decisions but they also don't listen. They don't listen to when people beat them up, and when their confidence is shaken. So they don't remember last year. They don't remember that they aren't supposed to be very good on defense. That works to our advantage. The key is you have to go out there and play good on that first Friday and play good on Saturdays. That's the bottom line."
On what sophomore safety Trevon Steward means to the team
"It's important. It's important that Trevon was a freshman All-American, but the reason he did make so many tackles might be because the defense. Any time your safety makes that many plays is because the ball is getting into the secondary. The problem for me is I'm a secondary coach by nature so I look at Trevon on film, and he's probably sitting in the locker room right now thinking "I'm not very good" because I just beat him up all the time because I see how much better he could be. I think Trevon will play better this year than he did last year. That might not equal the number of tackles or interceptions but he's a good football player."