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Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Texas A&M Aggies Offensive News Conference (Transcripts)

HEAD COACH KEVIN SUMLIN:

On running back Ben Malena playing so many roles on team: “I think it says a lot about him as a person, as a leader as a leader by example. People could not understand early in the year while he was playing and some others weren’t. It is kind of like the quarterback race, it wasn’t because the other guys were bad players, and he just outplayed them. He has been critical to what we have been trying to do as a coaching staff by rewarding players who do it all the time. I don’t know there is another guy in the country that has had the production he has had at running back and then winds up on kickoff return, is a point guy really directing traffic, protector on punt (team) that directs all the protections and runs down the field on kickoff coverage. This guy is crazy. You would think a guy like him would like to return punts, but he wants to get out there and block. I’m extremely appreciative of his efforts.”

On decision for Coach Sumlin to attend offensive press conference and coaching roles for game: “We have a lot going on. We have a lot of moving parts. Anything like this, we have a system in place. Clarence McKinney (running backs coach), David Beaty (wide receivers coach) and B.J. Anderson (offensive line coach) understand what is going on. Clarence is the play caller for this game. I think there is a lot involved with that. Obviously we have some meetings that have to take place. Anytime they are with you guys (media) that is 45 more minutes that they could be getting better. I thought I would just come out here today.”

On what he wants his stamp to be on this program: “We need to get back to the national stage. That is where we need to be. I wouldn’t have come to Texas A&M if I didn’t think that was possible. You look at today, I think the players would tell you, the amazing stat is that I talk all the time about perception versus reality. There is a lot of criticism about our place and some of it is true and some of it is not. I think all of our players, you try to find a way to motivate guys. The last game of the year against Missouri wasn’t about we haven’t beat Missouri in the last three years, which was a big deal. It was more about the fact that there were only 11 teams in the 117 years to win 10 games at A&M. And there have been three teams in 117 teams to win 11 games. So criticism warranted or not, those are the facts. So these guys understand that they have the opportunity to win 11 games which is a big deal. And by the standards of the team we are playing it is completely different. That is why we are different points in our program and we are trying to get to that point. I think we have the resources, the support and a lot of different things in place.

On whether Texas A&M is back on the national stage: “That is something you have to deal with every year. One year does not a program make. We made some real strides this year I think in order to do that. So because of that I think it has helped us from a recruiting standpoint. I think it has helped us, without a doubt, from an exposure standpoint. Without a doubt, it has helped us. To get back on the national stage, you have to be able to sustain a program. One of the reasons I came to Texas A&M was because of that. I think you have to have the right couple or three things to do that. It is hard to get. Obviously Oklahoma has been able to do that for the last 14 years. We are in the early stages of that, but I think a year like this there is no way that could hurt you, particularly from a recruiting standpoint. We have to increase the profile of our team, size wise and we have to increase our talent level if that is where we want to be.”

WR RYAN SWOPE

On what it is like for his teammates with handling the attention Johnny Manziel is getting: “I think it is really cool. You don’t see that every day, a Heisman Trophy winner on your football team. We are absorbing it. We have a goal here and we can’t get sidetracked. Our ultimate goal is to win this football game. The award is great for Johnny, but I know Johnny to well, he is not going to get caught up with this. He knows what is at stake for us to win a bowl game.”

On as a senior what it would mean to get a win on Friday: “It would be huge. I was talking to Sean Porter, Steven Terrell and the seniors that we have been so close, Patrick Lewis all those guys, Spencer Nealy, we were talking about how fast it goes by. We are such a tight knit group of guys and we just really had a special group this year. I think it really showed just the chemistry of the football team. There is so much character on this football team. It was a group of seniors that are hungry to win. It is going to be very emotional after the game. I will miss seeing all those guys after playing four years with them. We are going to miss that, but we really want to come out and perform at a really high level on Friday.”

On maturation of the offense throughout the season: “I think that there was a comfort zone we had to get in. Once Johnny (Manziel) got in that comfort zone, once we got comfortable with that offense it is a deadly offense. You just have to practice hard. It is one of those offenses that is very exciting and once it starts rolling it is really hard to stop. It is fun to be a part of and I can’t wait to play a Big 12 school and see how we do.”

WR UZOMA NWACHUKWU

On how coaching staff’s approach of not talking about the past, helped team move past previous years’ disappointments: “It did a whole lot. One of the things Coach Sumlin always says is that this is a new season, this is a new team. After every game, he would be like we want to be 1-0 at the end of the week. He doesn’t like to dwell on anything. Everything is new for him.”   

On how Johnny Manziel’s ability to run the ball helps wide receivers: “It is pretty cool, because when you have a guy that can run around like Johnny (Manziel) can and win the Heisman Trophy and things like that. People have to look at the way he runs the ball, defensive backs have to worry about him running the ball. They aren’t worried about receivers running routes. It puts them in a bind and it eases off a little pressure for us and hopefully we can make plays off of that.”
     
On how you know as a receiver when Manziel is taking off running with the ball: “There is a distinct look in his eye that we kind of know, he is going to run this one. He is going to try to make a play with his feet. Ryan (Swope) and I definitely go try to look for people (to block). We always try to take account of who has the best hit or who is being more aggressive and things like that. We compete on that.”

OT LUKE JOECKEL

On change with Coach Clarence McKinney calling offensive plays: “I think it feels about the same. I’m just and offensive lineman. I go out there I run block, I pass block. There are different things in both of those. We have been moving the ball well in practice. Losing Kliff (Kingsbury) was big. He was such a great offensive coordinator for us. He is a great coach. He is definitely a cool guy to follow and I enjoyed having him with us. I’m glad he is at (Texas) Tech. It is great for him. It is such a great opportunity. With my Dad being a Texas Tech grad, he is definitely excited about that. I think it is about the same. Coach McKinney has done a great job. I think we will be just fine in the Cotton Bowl.”

On how team reacted to disappointment of Florida loss: “It definitely was a disappointing loss, losing to Florida. We were so close and we just couldn’t finish in the second half. We saw so many great things that game because we really didn’t know what our identity would be, what type of team we were going to be. I think it was good for us to play a good team in Florida that first game to see we could compete with a team like that and that type of defense and offense too. I think we gained a lot of comfort even though we lost it.”

On whether ever been part of a team with so many unknowns entering season … new league, new coach, new quarterback: “I have not. I think last year we had so many high expectations for our team and things didn’t work out. We couldn’t finish games in the second half. This year was totally different. We had no expectations for us and I believe we overachieved a little bit. We had a redshirt freshman winning the Heisman (Trophy) which is crazy. He deserves it. We have a pretty good offensive line that came together. I think that was the only part we knew we could be at going into the season. We had four or five guys who had significant playing time as starters all coming back. I think we got better every single game as an offensive line.”

On perhaps being overlooked as Outland Trophy winner because of Heisman winner being on same team: “That is all right with me. Growing up in an offensive lineman family my entire life, I definitely have lived behind in the background my whole life and I am OK with that. That is part of being an offensive lineman. Winning the Outland (Trophy) was just an amazing opportunity. But I think the four other guys on the offensive line deserve as much as I did. What helped me win it was being a part of such a great offensive line at Texas A&M and blocking for such a great quarterback like Johnny (Manziel).”

RB BEN MALENA

On how he prepares for all the different roles he plays on the team (offense, special teams): “It is kind of fun actually. I’m here in my hometown enjoying it all, but at the same time getting prepared for the task at hand. It is (extra work), but it is something I take pride in. It is something that you have to pay attention to with me playing all the special teams I have to learn my alignment and my assignment not just on the offensive side of the ball, but on special teams. Sometimes it gets kind of tough studying and preparing for it, but once I get it all down I am able to go out there and help my team.”

On what winning the Cotton Bowl would mean: “Only three teams have won 11 games (at A&M). It would be great to be team number four. First year in the SEC, Heisman Trophy winner, Outland Trophy winner, four All-Americans, this could be one of the best years A&M has ever had.”

On how running backs: “I think we have had great production out of all three of our running backs. All three of our running backs are playing at a high level right now. It was kind of shaky when the year started, but we just bought into it. The offensive line got better, we got better with our technique, with our assignments, with where our eyes are supposed to be and the running game really took off.”

QB JOHNNY MANZIEL

On what jumps out to you on film when you look at Oklahoma: “They are athletic in how they fly around and fly to the ball. The athletes they have on their field they stick out just like that. As soon as you turn on the film, you see how fast they are and how athletic they are and how they jump off the page.”

On a teammate who has made the biggest strides this season: “(Center) Patrick Lewis is a guy that sticks out for me. People don’t realize how much the center, how much that really makes the motor go in our offense. For Pat, he has really quickened things up and tried to move at a completely difference pace than what we were at the beginning of the year. I feel like that is something that helped us in the Alabama game and all the games toward the end of the season. We really got things rolling as fast as possible and everybody really got adjusted to the tempo.”

On when you felt like you had a full grasp of the offense: “Arkansas was a big week for us. Everything that we kind of wanted to do, we had our game plan and things we wanted to do with check, check, check and went down it and did everything we really wanted to do. That is not saying anything bad about Arkansas we just really just executed what we wanted to do. At that point, making some checks that we did and doing some stuff it really started to open up.”

On what he has done with his Heisman Trophy: “I haven’t seen mine (Heisman Trophy) actually since I got back to College Station. It has kind of been on its own tour. It is at the school. I will probably keep it at my parents’ house for now. I live in a college neighborhood right by the stadium. So I don’t know. I would have some friends over and people would be trying to play ‘Hide the Heisman Trophy in the back yard.’ We will see.”

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