Oct. 8, 2013
"I'm going to begin this press conference talking about something that as a coach, and certainly as a father, you hope you never have to discuss and that is the health of one of our student-athletes. Starting quarterback David Piland has been going through our concussion management plan since he was injured in the first half of the game a few weeks ago against Temple. We've had extensive meetings, both he and I and certainly with our medical staff. Over the past few days, our medical staff has advised David Piland to no longer play football. This has not been easy, certainly on David and his family. Moving forward, he is going to definitely continue to be a part of our program, travel with the team, be at meetings, and be at practice. We are going to certainly support him in every way possible. He is a young man that has handled everything throughout his entire career here with class. He is an absolute model student-athlete. He will graduate in December. He is actually only taking one class right now and will earn his degree in three and a half years. He's given everything he's had to our program, to the University of Houston. It's very, very certainly unfortunate that he will not be able to play a sport that he loves any longer. If anyone has any questions regarding David Piland, I will certainly take them at this time."
On David Piland's overall reaction to the news
"This has not been easy on David for a number of reasons. In no specific order, it's an issue medically where, thank goodness, today, at this moment, he feels great. His health right now is outstanding. Certainly it's deceiving in that he feels like he can play, wants to play, he's a competitor, and has invested so much personally, made tremendous life-long friends in his time here in our program, but can no longer play due to the concussion and where he is medically and certainly looking long-term at his health and well-being being at our top priority, so that has not been easy. He's just given everything he's had to our program. To meet with him, talk with him, visit with his family, I know how much he was looking forward to this season. Again, for his career to end like it did just breaks your heart."
On number of David Piland's concussions
"This is not his first. I think it is common knowledge that he suffered one last year in the game against SMU. To put a number on those types of things is hard to do and not always appropriate to speculate, but it's been enough to where our medical staff knows his future and well-being and that he can no longer play."
On protocol following David Piland's last concussion
"Again, all programs certainly have this type of process in place. It's been at the forefront nationally here for the last couple of years. I don't know that every program has the same. We're very, very fortunate and blessed to have some of the top medical staff in the world located in the greater Houston area. David has been examined by multiple physicians, experts in terms of the brain and certainly concussions. There have been a number of meetings between medical staff and there have been a number of meetings between David and our physicians as well and myself. Again, when you're talking about the health of a student-athlete, the health of an individual, regardless of injury, it's something we take extremely serious. We're going to take our time and do our due diligence, if you will, and make sure that we have the student-athletes' health as our top priority. It's taken some time and certain injuries take longer than others to evaluate. We're going to err on the side of caution in terms of taking our time and being thorough. That's why I want to say the Temple game may be four weeks ago off the top of my head, I don't know when exactly it was, but it's taken to this point to get all the information back and for our medical staff to make this determination."
On extent of David Piland's involvement with the team this year
"That's a great question. He's going to be an integral part of our program. He's going to travel with the team; he's going to be in the meetings. The experience he has having played, been in the program, the things he's seen and been a part of, he feels like he can help these other quarterbacks, John (O'Korn), Greg (Ward), Billy (Cosh), Kyle (Postma). He's going to be at meetings, be at practice. Again, he is as much a part of our program and will continue to be as all of our student-athletes. He'll continue to be around on a daily basis. We're going to take him to all the away games. I know David is extremely intelligent, he'll find a number of ways to contribute to our success. "
On how doctors knew this was the right decision for David Piland
"Well, Dr. Walter Lowe is the head of our concussion management team, if you will. Again, a lot of things went into this decision and David met with multiple, multiple experts in this field. A number of things went into this recommendation and being advised to no longer play."
On whether not David Piland is still experiencing symptoms
"He's back attending class, he's been at meetings, and he's been out observing practice. Often times with injuries like this, head injuries, light, noise, even driving can be difficult to do. He and I met in my office this morning and he feels great right now"
On how long David Piland experienced symptoms after his last concussion
"A few weeks."
Opening Statement on Memphis Game
"I'm going to try to do my best to transition into Memphis. Coming off the bye week, we treated last week like we had the first bye in terms of making that week as much like a game week as possible. We gave our student-athletes off on Monday; we practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Our staff went on the road during the day and at night Thursday, all day and night Friday and a few coaches out Saturday as well for recruiting.
"We started our work a little bit last week on Memphis. When you look at this team, I would caution people to look at their record and feel like it is a indicator of the type of team we are playing because it absolutely is not.They took Central Florida, which is an outstanding program and very established, down to the wire, certainly had chances to win the game. On video, it's very apparent that Coach Fuente and his staff are doing a great job. The kids play extremely hard, they've got tremendous athletes and great speed on the perimeter on both sides. One thing that stand out among others is the size of both fronts. Their linebackers, they've got a 260 linebacker starting for them. Their defensive lien is very physical. They're doing a great job.
"Defensively they're giving up less than 19 points a game. When you look at the stats I think it's going to say 19 points but they actually gave up 7 last week on special teams so that's a little bit deceiving, so it's somewhere around 18 points a game and 319 yards per game.
"Offensively, they're very balanced. Paxton Lynch, their redshirt freshman quarterback, is really doing a nice job managing the offense. They're rushing for about 180 yards a game and doing an outstanding job mixing it up and keeping defensives off balance. The one thing that I probably have not heard enough about Memphis right now is their special teams. They're as good a special teams unit as I think we will play all season. They retuned a kickoff for a touchdown with two minutes left in the Central Florida game to tie the game. A holding penalty was called which negated that play but they are outstanding at kickoff return and punt return. Their freshman kicker has not missed a field goal or extra point yet, and they're leading the nation in net-punting at almost 45 yards net punting, and it shows up on video.
"They're extremely well coached. They did not have any assistant coaches leave their staff from last season. You see the continuity and how much they've improved. This will be another great challenge for us. We've got to continue to do what we've done the first four games to be successful in terms of taking care of the football on offense and creating turnovers defensively. This will be a great challenge and I'm glad this is a home game; I'm looking forward to seeing 20,000 people wearing red Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at the Dynamo's BBVA Stadium."
On Eric Eiland's return
"He is, he'll start for us. We'll update that (two-deep) today. We wanted to see him practice Sunday and he did. He'll start for us at rush end."
On this season's successful start
"The first thing that comes to my mind in terms of answering that question, which may surprise some people, I've talked about it a little bit, not probably as much lately, is the leadership that we have right now and had last spring, this past summer and certainly in August going into the season from our student-athletes has been as good as anywhere I've ever coached. Typically around here we've had four captains. A number of our young men received votes, and we ended up with six captains, again two seniors (Zach McMillian, Richie Leone), three juniors (Derrick Mathews, Bryce Redman, Joey Mbu), and Kenneth Farrow who is a sophomore. As you look at those six, being designated captains, you know they are looked upon as leaders but when you look at who else received votes, it's encouraging to know that their are 20 other young men in our program who weren't voted captain, didn't get enough votes to become captain this season, but are looked upon by their teammates as leaders. When you've got that going on in your locker room, when you've got that going on during practice, when you've got that going on during games, which are close games, I think we've experienced two on the road at Temple and UTSA, it's comforting as a coach that you're not always having to get them to play at the highest level because they feel like there is ownership from within and leadership from within they don't want to let teammates down. Offense is encouraging defense and defense is encouraging offense. You can point to a couple of changes in our coaching staff, you can point to maybe how the schedule has worked out with the bye weeks in the beginning, you can look at a number of things that what I just mentioned (leadership) is the first thing that comes to my mind."
On finding ways to win in all three phases of the game
"A couple of things, going back to my answer to Joseph's question, on the sideline during these close games, everybody has been so confident, I'm talking about our student-athletes and certainly our staff as well, but just a feel on the sideline of we're going to win this game, and guys being confident that someone is going to make a play whether it's a turnover defensively. BJ Singleton's blocked field goal in the third quarter two weeks ago, there's that vibe right now of `We're going to get this done.'
"In terms of winning football games, two things: one, these games that we've won have truly been team victories. Our defense has done what they're supposed to do in terms of scoring defense and creating turnovers. Our offense has done what they're supposed to do in terms of taking care of the football, getting first downs and certainly putting points on the board. In special teams we've made more plays and that was a point of emphasis that we talked about at the end of last season. I felt like last year in the kicking game we didn't make any plays, and we had to do that this year. We've blocked three kicks already in four games. Our punt team is doing a tremendous job in terms of field position, I think our kickoff team is covering extremely well. So we've made some plays in the first few games on special teams, so these have been team victories.
"The other part of that which is probably more important to me is taking care of the football. Offensively through four games we've only turned the ball over three times, defensively and special teams we've gotten 14 turnovers. When you look at the number one correlation to winning and losing games, it's turnovers. I was on the radio the other day and they wanted to talk about the defense creating all these turnovers, and my response was, I did talk about the defense, but our offense is also taking care of the ball. If you get five turnovers on defense and turn the ball over six times on offense you're probably in for a long evening. I've been proud of the way the team has played to help us be successful."
On if the news on David Piland will be hard for the younger players
"I think it will. We look at our team if you will, and I hate using that word, as a family. Everyone that sits in this team meeting room, and we have about 125 young men in our program right now, I feel like they are all brothers. To stand up and tell them that one of their brothers can no longer play is not going to be easy for them to hear. I am big on communication and that's something that we certainly addressed and let things out in the open so that they can understand what is going on in our program and be on the same page."
On practice scheme to force turnovers during games
"I heard this phrase a long time ago as a quote, unquote young coach, and that's `You get what you coach.' That has always been to me, you're going to get what you emphasize with your young men. That's something on both sides of the football. We what we call a ball security circuit at the end of every practice on offense and we do a turnover circuit daily on defense. Again, what I've seen in the past, not necessarily here, but in my 18 years of coaching is you can do a turnover circuit for 10 minutes at the beginning of practice, then you starting getting into drills, one-on-one, seven-on-seven, inside run, team, and no one is trying to strip the ball. No one is sprinting to the ball to get the deflected pass. That's not what we're doing. We're going to practice for two hours and that entire time our defense, whether it's going against our number one offense, our number two offense, or our scout team offense, on every down as that running back runs through that line, they're going to wrap him up to improve their tackling. When they get there, one guy has him wrapped up and the next guy in trying to punch the ball out and they're taking pride in that. I've seen a number of times this fall, (DB) Trevon Stewart and (DB) Adrian McDonald walking out to practice and one of them is challenging the other one, if you will, if I can use the word challenge, how he's talking to him, `I'm going to have more interceptions than you.' It becomes a competition in practice and again, I've always believed you're going to play how you practice. If you jog in practice, you're going to jog in a game. If you miss a tackle in practice, you're going to probably miss a tackle in the game. You're seeing that show up as good as it ever has right now on game day."
On QB John O'Korn's progress
"John is getting better everyday. Again, sometimes you certainly make your own luck. He's thrown one interception and he's had a couple throws he'd like to have back. He has really done a great job. He is certainly improving on a daily basis, but managing the game. We feel like we have a lot of offensive weapons around him at running back and at receiver. We're putting on his shoulders right now, if we call a play and he gives us a specific look, this play now becomes a bad play with into that defense, he has to know what Coach Meacham and our offensive staff told him back on Tuesday to change that play to and to get us out of that bad play into a good play. We have to remind ourselves as coaches that he is an 18-year-old true freshman. When he's out there, he doesn't know nearly what David Piland knows about our offense. You look back before that and Case Keenum was here for six years, was 23-years-old when he was playing his final season. Case Keenum red-shirted as a true freshman, John is not. How much of our system does he know right now? Probably 65 percent. We don't feel like we want to give a young man who has been here four months 100% because what people can quickly forget to appreciate is how quickly we go. As the ball carrier is being tackled, our quarterback is looking over to get the signal for the formation and the signal for the next play, he's got to tell all ten guys our there what it is by hand signals and certainly there's some verbal communication that goes along. He has to make sure the running back is on the correct side, whether it's on his right, on his left, or behind him. He has to look at the defense, look at the 40-second clock, make sure everything is set. He likes what he sees and oh, by the way, when the ball is snapped and there's four 22-year-olds trying to run up and tackle him, he has about two and half to three seconds to decide who he's throwing the football to. Then do that all over again. There's a lot that's on his plate. Nationally, this year, there are a couple of true freshmen starting and playing significantly. I know Kliff Kingsbury is at Texas Tech. I know UConn is going to start a true freshman this week. There are some red shirt freshmen this year that are playing extremely well. You hear the media making a big deal with red shirt freshman playing so well, and they've been in the system for a year and offseason, spring practice. For what John and Greg Ward are doing right now is outstanding."
SENIOR DEFENSIVE BACK Zachary McMillian
On the news of David Piland not coming back
"It's difficult. I came in with him. We all came in together, and it's just hard hearing that for any player. You work your whole life to be in the position that you're in right now. So, it's hard to hear that, but I feel like the game has changed so much to where they're trying to protect us for the future and not just right now. It's hard to think about the future as a 21-year old athlete, but he's doing what is best for him. It's just difficult for us as a team and as seniors, because we all came in together. We didn't think it could end like that, and it just lets you know that you need to play every play like it's your last."
On how it effects the team to lose a team leader
"It's difficult. Others have to step up around him. They're doing a good job of that, especially offensively. For us as an offense, it affects us as far as what he does offensively for us as a team and as a unit, but defensively for us it's not as big of an effect. But the offense, for a guy that was with them in the summer at 7-on-7, and who was guiding him and telling him plays, it's going to have a bigger effect, but we have enough key guys in place to help alleviate that problem."
On if his personal injuries cause himself to empathize more with Piland
"Most definitely. You don't wish that on your worst enemy. The brain is something serious. You can't play with your brain. You can play with a hurt ankle, or a hurt knee, but you can't play around with the brain. The brain is for the rest of your life. That's a serious injury."
On if Piland sought out anybody advice from other guys on the team
"I called him to make sure he was ok after I didn't see him for a while. He had to sit in the dark all week long. I started to get a feel when he said he didn't think it was going to end up being what he wanted it to be. I think he'll be ok. He's a bright kid, and he has a lot going for him as it is."
On if concussions are something that players think about while playing
"Me? No. I'm just talking about me personally. You can't be thinking about getting hurt, getting injured in any situation in practice or even in the game. If you do that, you play slow, thinking about stuff, and you end up getting hurt. I was raised where if you felt a little buzz that just meant you were out there playing and hitting hard. That didn't mean you were injured. It's come a long way since I've been in college as far as the science and the adverse effects long term. It's a serious deal, and it needs to be taken seriously."
On Piland still wanting to be a part of the team although he won't be on the field
"That's David. He's a football guy. He's been around football his whole life. I can't blame him for wanting to do that. That's just him being a true leader on this team."
On being undefeated up to this point
"It's good, but we're just working on week-by-week being 1-0 every week. That's all we're concerned with. We're not looking in the past and we're not looking in the future we're just looking at right now just being 1-0."
On finding ways to make plays in all three phases of the game
"It's a testament of our coaches and how they've prepared us. A lot of those plays we wouldn't have made if we had not have been told throughout practice and throughout the week `Hey this is what is going to happen to you.' It might not happen in the first quarter, it might not happen in the second quarter, but it's going to happen to you at some time in this game, and that's our guys just paying attention to coaching and stepping up at the times that they need to step up."
JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER Daniel Spencer
On quarterback David Piland's career ending injury
"My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family for that because that's tragic. He's wanted to do this all his life and having those concussions is a hard thing to deal with. I just pray for him and wish him the best."
On potentially being 5-0
"You want to win every week, so we're going to go out and try to just win the week."
On keeping turnovers to a minimum on offense
"It has to be second nature for you to be able to hold on to the ball. People are always going to try to strip it out, especially in traffic. You have to make sure you have two hands on the ball and just hold on to it."
On the defense's ability to force turnovers
"It has been a big part of our success. When you have the ball, you have the game in your hands. Turnovers are a big transition in the game."
On true freshman quarterback John O'Korn
"He's playing really well. I'm behind him 100 percent and I know the team is behind him 100 percent as well."
On the team making plays on all sides of the ball
"It's great because if the defense is on the field we know they're going to get their job done. If we're on the field the defense knows we're going to get our job done. We have this team bond where we know we're going to get the job done."