Houston Football Weekly Press Conference Quotes - Rice

    Sept. 17, 2013

     HOUSTON HEAD COACH Tony Levine
    Opening statement
    "A couple of things as we begin. I know it's been over a week, but again, players of the week in our contest against Temple, offensively for the second consecutive game, it was running back Ryan Jackson. Defensively, it was a linebacker, Efrem Oliphant. When spring practice began, he (Oliphant) was third on the depth chart at linebacker. He had a great spring, started to move up. He certainly worked extremely hard this summer and then had a great camp. He was very productive in our scrimmages and ended up starting for us and made a bunch of key plays against Temple. I am very proud of him and what he's accomplished to get to where he is right now. On special teams, Richie Leone with the five field goals and then scout players of the game: offensively, running back Joseph Glenn and defensively, defensive lineman Jamal Baker; on special teams, receiver, Cameron Oliver. One other personnel note, quarterback David Piland is going through our concussion management plan. I spoke with him last night. He's doing much, much better. He'll be over here today. He'll be in meetings, he will not practice this afternoon. I should know more about his status for this weekend at some point tomorrow.

    "Again, just talking about Temple because we did not get together last week for a press conference. It was a big win for our program, it was great to be on an airplane, fly three and a half hours, and come home with a victory the next afternoon. Early in the season, with the make up of our team right now, it was good to get a win in that fashion. With the new conference we're in, with the level of competition and the depth of facing games are going to be much closer. It was good for us to have a game that we had to fight and battle like we did and come out on top. I was proud of our team, proud of our staff and it was a good win to get us to 2-0. This game is the next game on the schedule and because of that it makes it extremely important with our bye last week. We were able to continue our focus on academics, trying to get some guys healthy that have been banged up, and then begin our preparation for Rice.

    "I'm excited about this rivalry. I mentioned this yesterday on the radio show I was on that it's one of two nationally, where both programs reside in the same city. I think that makes it special for that reason. I've been a part of a number of great traditional rivalries, not only as a coach, but also as a player. Minnesota-Wisconsin in my college days, Auburn-Alabama coaching, Louisville-Kentucky coaching, and this is right up there with those three. Again, what makes it unique is the fact that both campuses are only miles apart. Certainly they've got a number of young men in their program that we recruited coming out of high school and there are young men in our program that they recruited. There are young men on both teams that went to high school together, so quite a bit of familiarity. Coach Bailiff and I worked together for three years at what is now Texas State. I consider him a close friend and mentor to me. We don't live too far apart and we stay in close contact. I've liked our preparation to this point. We'll be out there in full pads this afternoon for two hours as we get towards Saturday."

    On focuses during bye-week
    "A couple of things. It's as much time away from here that our student-athletes have had since we started camp the first part of August. We continued to focus on our academics last week, tried to get some guys who have been banged up as healthy as could b, and we did begin preparation for our game against Rice. As a staff we had a couple of coaches, including myself, go on the road recruiting Thursday during the day and go to high school games Thursday night. The vast majority of our staff went out recruiting Friday as well and a couple coaches even on Saturday. It was a very productive week. This week, we will continue our preparation this week for the game on Saturday."

    On playing at Reliant Stadium "Playing at Reliant for our student-athletes and everyone involved in our program is very, very exciting. Last year we just played there one time in the Bayou Bucket against Rice, but this year we have five games there. We've already played one. Our crowd was outstanding in the game there against Southern. Our student section was as good as I've heard it since I've been here. Our young men, to have a chance to play in one of the nicest NFL stadiums, where the Texans play and they watch them every Sunday, they look forward to it. It gives them energy. It probably shouldn't, but it does. Form the moment we arrive at Reliant, the kids are excited to be there and they're ready to go."

    On shuffling at linebacker spot
    "It's a production standpoint. We're making a change there. LB Steven Taylor will start at the other outside linebacker position and LB Derrick Mathews will still play for us on the inside."

    On LB Efrem Oliphant's performance
    "Defensively, I believe it comes down to production and that's guys that make plays, guys that tackle, assist in tackles, have interceptions, cause fumbles. Really, Efrem is a very instinctive player. He's very intelligent. He's a young man that from the very first scrimmage this August, showed up on the video as very productive in his tackling. The assignments, the techniques, and effort; that's something you expect. Then the young man has to go out there and make plays. He did that from the beginning. Going into the season, our mindset was that he would be the backup. Based on his performance, we've moved him up and he's going to become a starter this year."

    On injuries with RB Kenneth Farrow and DE Eric Eiland
    "Kenneth Farrow and Eric Eiland really are two that have injuries that are not season ending at this point. (OL) Ralph (Oragwu) is the one with the leg injury who's out for the year. I'll know more after this evening on both of them, but I'll say at this point they're doubtful for the game Saturday."

    On Coach Bailiff calling the Bayou Bucket trophy one of the ugliest but most gratifying to win
    "You know, he (Bailiff) has called me ugly, but the trophy is. It definitely is. When you look at its history, you can truly throw the records out. Our young men are going to be ready to play and certainly Coach Bailiff and the Rice student-athletes will be ready to play. You look at what's gone on year after year after year. This is a highly competitive game and the celebration that ensues when the game concludes is one you seen in those rivalries. Where the winning team runs over, grabs it and beings to enjoy themselves on the field at the other program's expense. I think it's (the trophy) pretty, but he is certainly entitled to his opinion and it's one that both programs are striving to get at the end of the game."

    On how the Cougars are preparing for Rice's two quarterback system
    "You try to evaluate them to see if there are any tendencies in terms of which quarterback is running a certain scheme, system or plays, which we obviously are doing going into this game. They both are very talented. (Taylor) McHargue obviously has more experience being a senior. (Jackson) Driphus played against us last year. They're both extremely dangerous. When you look at the film, with Driphus you can tell he's got some experience under his belt now and he's not a freshman. He was very talented last year, played extremely hard but you can see the improvement he has made. It's a dangerous combination. Again, it's something we are preparing for. You go into a game defensively and you have to figure out during the course of the game and during the flow of the game what their staff, what their mindset and their plan is in terms of rotating those two."

    On how the bye week has helped freshman QB John O'Korn
    "I've had a number of questions over the last few months in terms of what I thought of our schedule with two bye weeks in the first four games if you will, and I liked how the bye weeks fell because if we were going to play any young guys regardless of position, it gives us an extra week in there of just practice and gives them repetitions. Again, last week David Piland did not practice during the bye week. John O'Korn, Greg Ward and Billy Cosh got the vast majority of the reps. That only is going to help their progress."

    On how impressed he has been with freshman QB John O'Korn
    "Well what I've been impressed with probably more than anything with John has been his poise. A couple of years ago when I was coaching special teams here, and we had to put out a true freshman punter, Richie Leone. As a special teams coach to have an 18-year-old run out there, catch a snap and punt it - I was a little concerned and nervous. He (Leone) showed me that he could handle that as a freshman, and that's what John has done. He has showed me, our staff and his teammates. With the stage last week, having it on TV, actually where he is from with all his friends and family there, it was not too big for him. He went in the game when we were losing, and he didn't play a perfect game, I said that before, but we came back and lead us to victory. He showed tremendous poise and leadership for a guy who has been here a couple of months so that's what I've been impressed with.

    "Again, it's not like we're handcuffing him, if you will, and only giving him a little bit of the offense. He's got to know the offense, Greg Ward has got to know the offense, Billy Cosh has got to know the offense. Our program saw that in 2010 where regardless of whether you're first string or third or fourth, you've got to know what you're doing. He's had to check plays at the line of scrimmage, he's had to go through his progression and make throws with the rush coming in. The speed of the game, and he played a tremendous high school program, but the speed of the game now is so much faster than it was in high school, so he has adapted extremely well. What stands out to me is the poise he's shown being an 18-year-old true freshman."

    On sophomore running backs Ryan Jackson and Justin Hicks
    "Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow are co-starters. Kenneth being doubtful is like losing a starter but you still have Ryan. They are two different type of backs. Kenneth is very fast, he's a bigger back about 215 pounds, Ryan is 185 or 187 but very explosive and fast. When you add Justin Hicks to the list, and I mentioned this last week, that he's paying for school right now. He's a walk-on. He's more compact, I don't know what we listed his height as in there but we probably fudged it a couple of inches. He's done a great job of catching the ball, he had a key catch to move the chains at Temple in the red-zone. He runs the ball extremely well. We've got a group there including Kent Brooks, Randall Hollimon, fullbacks Luke Stice and Tyler McCloskey. We've got a number of guys back there where it's not a one-man show and we keep guys fresh. Certainly Kenneth Farrow is a sophomore captain and that really speaks for itself. We'll miss him if he can't play this weekend but we've got a number of guys I know our staff has complete confidence in and their teammates do as well."

    On the defensive line continuing their success from the first two games
    "The defensive line has been very solid. Coach Logo has done a great job of keeping them fresh and playing a number of guys. Certainly everybody is aware of our starters Joey Mbu who has been very productive, Tomme Mark who has done a nice job, Eric Braswell has done a nice job and is as productive as he's been probably since the bowl game against Penn State in the win against Temple. At our loss of Eric Eiland, Trevor Harris has stepped up and played extremely well.

    "With the second team, I think that coach Logo has done a fantastic job of bringing them along and getting them experience. That's what we've talked about as a staff. We've got some young guys who have not played before and as a staff we've got to put them in the game and let them make mistakes and learn, but they'll continue to improve over the course of the season. B.J. Singleton is a redshirt freshman who has done a great job in his two games so far. He's 6'4", 285 and has made a number of plays as a backup who has been rotating in with Tomme Mark. Tyus Bowser, the true freshman from Tyler, Texas, did a nice job against Temple, had a couple of quarterback hits as well and is only improving every week. That's a good example of the bye week for us last week. Jeremiah Farley, a little bit undersized but plays with a tremendous motor, great leverage, has played a bunch around here as a backup, goes into the Temple game and causes a sack and forces and fumble. Cameron Malveaux another young guy in our program who is 6'6" 255 pounds and is continuing to get better every week and develop.

    "We're playing really eight guys in there right now, with Eric Eiland hopefully coming back soon, and I like where they're at. I don't want to give a letter grade, they can always get better, but they're doing very well at this point."

    On how Rice has changed since last year
    "A couple of things, right now they are a very confident team. You not only sense that but you see that in the way they've been playing. They went to a hostile environment up in College Station for week one and they didn't bat an eye. They expected to be in that game, they expected to win that game and it showed on the video. When you look at their depth chart, I see a bunch of senior, senior, senior and if it doesn't say senior for the most part it says junior. When I looked at their depth chart, there were probably six guys on it that I said to myself `Wow, this guy is still at Rice.' I've been here six years and it seems like he was there when I got here in '08 and he's still playing for them. That's why they're playing so well right now. They are a very veteran football team. You look at their coaching staff and Coach Bailiff did not lose an assistant from last year's team and that's important; continuity is important. The two things that come to mind is there experience both with their staff and their student-athletes and the confidence that they have right now. I want to say they've won about six of their last seven games. They're a confident group right now; that's evident."

    On sophomore offensive lineman Zach Johnson
    "Zach Johnson is in the `Efrem Oliphant mode'. Those are the two guys right now in our program and probably the only two guys who were third string during the spring and today they're starting for us. Like Efrem, Zach has done a great job for us. When you measure, if you will, production as an offensive lineman, they're not catching passes or making tackles so it's a little different, but certainly they're trying to use their technique to keep the defender away from the quarterback when he's throwing the football and block in the run game for the running backs. He's done a great job, he's very athletic for the size he has. He's a 6'6", 300-pound young man and he's continuing to get better week-by-week. He's another guy who has been fun to watch his improvement from the spring, through the summer and through camp in August. He loves to play football; it's extremely important to him. He's doing a fantastic job."

    On building O'Korn's confidence and seeking out learning opportunities in games
    "I'm going to refer back to the statement I made a few minutes ago. I haven't seen a stage that is too big for him. He's not an arrogant young man; he's very humble but he is confident and that shows. In terms of teachable moments, when he had that fumble down on the two yard-line and he was coming off the field, I met him at the sideline and put my hand out and shook his hand and said `That's ok, don't worry about that, we've got a lot of football left and we need you to help us win this football game.' He actually told me in the middle of last week `Coach, I thought you were about to start yelling at me there and that you were pretty upset with me.' That's a moment that's critical in the stage he's at, not that I'm going to be yelling at a bunch of quarterbacks coming off the field but him playing his second collegiate game on the road, on TV, in front of all his family and friends, he's going to make mistakes. He's a young man that we talk about this all the time with; I've made mistakes, you've made mistakes, they're going to make mistakes, let's try not to make the same mistake twice and let's learn from it. He has shown that everyday in practice."

     SOPHOMORE OFFENSIVE LINEMAN  ZACH  JOHNSON
    On his path to becoming a starter on the offensive line "It's been quite a journey. I've just been taking it week by week. I've been watching film on myself every week. I'm going in there and getting extra time in and seeing what I mess up on and trying to learn from my mistakes. I'm just trying to get better and better every week."

    On how he was able to fill in right away
    "You always have to expect to go in when somebody goes down. You have to expect to compete. When he goes down like that you're expected to step up."

    On the leadership and play of freshman quarterback John O'Korn
    "He's actually done a real good job. Since he was a freshman, I don't know how much they expected out of him coming in, but he's really set the bar on his expectations. He's done a really good job. He's a heck of a competitor. He's going to be really good."

    On playing Rice this weekend "It's my first Bayou Bucket. It's a rivalry game and it's a big game. I'm ready for it. It's a new experience. I guess it's just like any other game and that's what I'm going to treat it like. They're a pretty good team this year. They play with good effort and they compete. That's one thing we've noticed about them."

     SENIOR CORNERBACK  ZACH  MCMILLIAN
    On the importance of the bye week
    "It was needed. Whenever you go through a football season those bye weeks allow you to get refreshed and refocused. We use that to build our bodies back up and get the young guys some more reps. It was good."

    On the temple game "It was awesome. If the offense fell short the defense picked it up. When the defense fell short the offense picked it up. It was a complete game as far as helping each other out and playing as a team and as a unit. It showed that hard work pays off in the summer time."

    On the importance of an early conference win
    "It helps us but we realize each week we are 0-0. That's how we try and take the approach. We just want to try and take it week by week and opponent by opponent. It helps the young guys. We had a players only meeting when we first got back to just try to refocus everybody and let them know that we still have a lot to do and a lot to prove."

    On playing his last Bayou Bucket game
    "They look really good this year. They look excellent. The best I've seen since I've played them. We're really going to have to bring a lot of focus to the game. It's a big game for each and every one of us. We know a lot of people on the other team. I know a lot of people on the other team. You're also playing for bragging rights. We're just going to try and go out and execute at a high level."

    On what he has seen from Rice so far
    "They execute so well. They're very smart football players from the offensive line all the way to the receivers. They're smart football players. Their quarterback is probably the best quarterback we've played so far. He's an excellent quarterback. He's able to move in and out of the pocket. He's a big strong guy. They're always well coached. They do a lot of things well that we're going to have to try and contain."

     JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER  DANIEL  SPENCER
    On if he will be playing against anybody he knows in the Rice game
    "I really don't know many people from Rice. We really don't get out much.

    On what it means to play Rice
    "Rice is a rival. They're right across the street. It's a big game for the city. It's a big deal. Coach Levine hasn't really said anything, but it's a big game because it's the next game. That's what we're focusing on."

    On what they need to do to beat Rice
    "We just have to work on our skills to keep on getting better with what we do. That's really all we're going to do."

    On the keys to beating Rice's defense
    "We're going to just take whatever they give us and work on going fast and getting into our tempo."

    On how the play of running backs Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow have helped the passing game
    "It helps us out a whole bunch. Whenever the linebackers start creeping up, we can go right over the top of them."

    On the improvement of sophomore wide receiver Deontay Greenberry
    "He has grown a lot. I'm real proud of him for the way he's been performing. He works hard in practice and all of our workouts. He's doing an outstanding job"


     

     

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