Sumlin Meets with the Media

Kevin Sumlin

Aug. 30, 2011

On the progress of the defensive front ...
It's hard to gauge where you are as team this early in the year. Obviously we have had more competition and looking at the depth chart there are some players we played last year that are not even on the two deep.

We certainly are a lot bigger and more athletic than we were with the addition of Kelvin King, who is playing an open side. Zeke Riser continues to improve coming off the knee injury and hasn't gotten has many reps as Kelvin but that doesn't mean he is not ready to go; he'll be ready to go Saturday. During the off-season it was a point of importance and also while we were recruiting.

On what gets him the most excited about the start of a season...
Every year is different. No matter what happens the previous year. The great thing about college football is that every team is different. Every year is challenging. College football to me is about tradition, pageantry, and kids playing. You look every year and you're going to have a different team, a different dynamic and a different leader. You're challenged with winning no matter who shows up.

When you look at our team on paper the first thing the jumps out at you is that there are a lot of juniors and seniors. We also have eight guys that will start their first Division I football game on Saturday even though they've been in the program a while or that they came from a Junior College. There are many challenges there as a coach and that's what is exciting. We are only looking to play four true freshmen this season. The preparation and getting our best players on the field is the challenging part and the games are the fun part. The grind part is over with, now it's game week and our guys and coaches are excited.

On how he prepared for the heat...
Its just part of Houston weather. We have had plenty 6 p.m. games, where it's been in the 90's before. We train the same way no matter what. This summer has been particularly warm and there have been some precautions taken. During two-a-days we practiced at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. but since school has started we are on the field around 4:30 p.m. We have been smart on how we've done and I think our guys are OK with it. I told the team y'all aren't the only ones dealing with it. The whole country has been warm this pre-season.



On Coach Hall developing the defensive line...
He has done a great job with them. It's a work in progress. He has come in and really worked with some guys. He creates competition from day one and there have been some changes. We are fortunate to have him and his experiences give us great knowledge. He is demanding but is fair. Our guys understand it and he understands it.

On how he came to hire Coach Stewart and his impression of him...
He brings a lot of energy to our defense. He has really worked at the college game. Defense is about knowing what your doing and your demeanor. He has talked the to guys about who they can really be. Our defense walks around and looks at things differently since he has come in.

We had some growing pains last year. The college game is different from the pro game. The quarterback run game in the NFL is non-existent. We've worked at it and have studied it. I like our chemistry and we'll see where we are.

On what sold him on the 3-4 defense...
A 3-4 makes sense for us. Traditionally I have been a 4-3 guy forever. That's all I have been around. It's hard to get eight-quality defensive lineman out on the field. For us that made sense to get to a 3-4 defense. Everything we do here goes towards winning Conference USA and the West Division. We've got to be able to defend a spread attack team and formation teams. The flexibility of a 3-4 gives you that. It's really helped our flexibility on defense, gives us more blitz looks, added dimension and has helped our special teams.

On the starting offensive line for Saturday...
We've had some great competition. I'm pleased on where we are and we have three new guys there. Those three guys lack experience but have made up for it size and strength. They are going to do nothing but get better and better.

Moving Chris Thompson to center has helped. He is our best offensive lineman. Him being an experienced player is important because our center gets us targeted, sets the tempo, gets to the ball and lets us know what's going on. Having an experienced player at center really helps.

On UCLA not naming a starting quarterback...
They've kept that competition going. Most coaches know who is going play at this point, whether or not they've told the players. He has kept them and the team interested. It keeps us practicing different things. We have to prepare for many schemes.

On what it means to get back on the field...
"It's going to mean a lot; I'll probably know a lot better when I'm there and it's actually happening. I've thought about this for a long time and I've lost a lot of sleep over it. It's been one thought that has probably consumed my mind for the last year now, so it's going to mean a lot to me and I'm really excited to get back out there. It's going to be a dream come true honestly to get back out there in Roberston Stadium in front of all the fans. It's a feeling like no other."

On the weapons he has coming back with him...
"We have an arsenal of weapons I guess you could say. In the backfield there's Charles (Sims), Bryce (Beall) and Mike (Hayes), those guys are great out of the backfield catching the ball and handing it off to them. I think the offensive line is going to do a great job blocking for them as well. There are some young guys as well but this is probably the biggest strongest group of guys we've had in a long time and since I've been here. Also on the outside with Patrick (Edwards) and Tyron Carrier and those guys, I think there will be some new faces that step up and come catch the ball that maybe you haven't heard of yet."

On opening up against UCLA...
"It's a huge deal, opening for anybody. I think the first game of the year is always one of the best atmospheres we have around here. Bringing in a really quality opponent like UCLA that obviously has a lot of tradition, history and even just the name behind it. I think its going to be great for the city of Houston and for our fans."

On is he where he had hoped or expected to be heading into the first game...
"You never really hope you have to do this. You learn things about your body, about how to train as you go along. Honestly over the past few weeks it's the best I've felt. Camp was tough being on my feet practicing twice a day. Those days are tough, those days are a grind, but this past weekend we got our legs back underneath us. This week is the best I've felt in a year. I'm really excited. This is probably the closest to normal I'm going to get as far as legs go, but its pretty much right back were I want to be."

On the possibility of putting too much focus on the opener...
"Maybe by outside people, by media and fans and stuff like that, but we are going to put as much stock into this week as we're going to put into the next week, and the week after that all the way up to Tulsa at the end of the year. This is a non-conference game and we obviously want to win the conference but in college football with the way it's set up I think every week is a playoff. We're going to come out and play just as hard this week as hopefully we're going to play in December."

On how he deals with Heisman talk and passing records...
"You kind of compartmentalize all that stuff, and when you get asked about it for certain different things I guess you think about it then, but really I've had the same approach on that since we started getting mentioned for that stuff. First of all its good publicity for the University. Anything I can do, and obviously that's getting us some national attention, and that's very cool, but at the same time it's not something that I dwell on. It's not something that I think about when I go out to practice everyday. I go out to practice and I'm trying to get myself better, I'm trying to get my team better and I'm trying to win the game on Saturday."

On what it felt like to go into his final camp...
"It was just awesome playing football again. I've been doing the same drills for a long time and a lot of rehab can get monotonous and boring doing the same thing everyday. Honestly I was tired of just doing 7-on-7. I was ready to get some team reps, put the pads on, and start playing football again and it was a blast. It's always pretty tough and demanding on your body physically but at the same time I loved every minute of it because its time I got back that I didn't have before. I was really excited and had a great time."

On if the heat is an advantage...
"It has been hot everywhere, and we know that its been hot around here obviously, but I think we kind of take that as we're proud of where we come from. Let's just deal with it (the heat), that's who we are. We can play in any type of weather. We feel like we can do our stuff whether it's pouring down rain, incredibly hot or cold."

On having Patrick Edwards and Tyron Carrier back, what they have meant to the program... "They're tremendous players first of all and great guys off the field too. I think I've been blessed to play with a lot of really talented players around here and they're right there at the top of the list as some of the most talented players. To be able to throw that many balls to them and not just the ones you guys see but the thousands that we threw in off-season and during the summer when nobody's around. We've been through a lot, and the fact that I can look out there and not even say anything and they know what I'm thinking and they know that I know, and vice versa. That's the chemistry and bond that's priceless."

On differences with new UCLA defensive coordinator...
"Its always tough to predict what's going to happen when somebody new comes in and when they've had a spring and an offseason and a whole fall camp to install different things. At this point its hard to really worry about what they're doing. We really concentrate on what we're doing and getting our assignments right, and no matter what defense is out there we just have to adjust and know what we're doing and trust our offense to make it work. There's nothing really that they could throw at us that we haven't seen before. We feel like we've got really talented players and we have the ability to adapt to whatever they bring at us."

On the team's strengths...
"I think we feel like we've got a lot of things, I may not tell all of them to you right now because we may not want them to know about them. But I think we've got a lot of players in this room that have fought and scratched and bled and poured their heart out to, not only get into the locker room, but to do what they do. I think that says a lot about guys that had to earn everything that they get. That nothing is handed to them, that's what I see when I see the locker room in there. It's a bunch of guys that are willing to do anything, not only for himself, but also to fight hard for the guy next to him and to get up and do it again every play. I trust and respect and count on each player in there just as much as they count on me, so I think that's a special chemistry that we have that I don't think a lot of teams have."

On the difference of opening with UCLA this season...

"It's a big difference because we have our confidence and no one is second guessing themselves or the guy next to him. Everybody knows the game plan and we know what we need to do so we can go out there and execute."

On the defensive line...
"We have a big difference in size from last season. We have a couple 300 pounders and guys weighing in at 320, so with that amount of size you take up more space and obviously that is going to be a key part of it. We are going to have a good rotation going and we'll stay fresh."

On the excitement starting this season...

"I am very excited just to be able to go out there and hit somebody else, that's not my own teammate, not my brothers that I go fight with everyday. It will be extremely exciting."

On the size of the UCLA offensive line...
"UCLA is a big team. Any team that they play they're going to outweigh the defense by a lot. So what it comes down to is going out and taking care of your techniques and just playing the game. We just have to go out and attack."

On his teammates having to work hard...
"It's always good to have guys who have to go out and work hard for everything. We have guys who have never had anything handed to them and that brings out competition, which brings out the best in everybody."

On how has this camp has been...
"We are still growing each day, but one thing that has really surprised me at this point is all the camaraderie this team has and how we have each other's back no matter what. I really noticed at this point how much we gel together. That's one thing that really has taken me by surprise. I knew all the guys were going to gel together but I did not think we would gel as much at this point. "

On how often he expects the team to run the ball...

"When the coaches call our number we're going to make a play. We don't know how much we're going to do it but we know when we get the ball we're going to have a chance to take it the distance."

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