Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Head Coaches News Conference - Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel - Transcripts

Opening Statement

“Just to mention some of the things that Mike said, too, I would say thanks to AT&T, thanks to the Cotton Bowl, second to none as far as hospitality.  And, you know, just everybody has been great.  The City of Dallas, everywhere we've gone, we've been treated with respect and kindness.  It is just a great situation that you have here.  And you do all the right things from our standpoint.  And our players have had a great time.
“I'd also like to thank the people at AT&T Stadium.  We practice there every day, and they just were great in helping us.  And what a great facility that is. We're excited.  This is the time.  We want to have a good time.  We got here.  I think we did.  There was no question about it.  The families, the players, that's what bowls are about.  But it's just -- it's time to play.  You know, it's game week.  Game day will be around the corner here, and we all feel it as coaches, players. 
And we're playing a great football team.  Mike's done a great job, known him for years.  And we're excited about getting going.”

Coach Pinkel, you've had success in both conferences.  Can you, from a coach's standpoint, tell the difference between the two conferences as far as competitive level and athletes and style of play?
“That's probably the first time ever anybody has ever asked me that question.  (laughter) Kidding aside, we played in the Big 12 and it is a great league.  The SEC is a great league.  The only comment I ever made was we had great teams in both leagues.  In my opinion, there was more great teams.  We have 14 teams now in our league, and that was it.  They have got great coaches.  The great teams are great teams regardless of what league they're in.  So the Big 12 is a great conference; so is the SEC.”

Just on preparation this week, how do you balance having fun and focusing on what you need to do Friday?
“Well, I think what we always do is we talk to our players before we go and we kind of explain to them I really do want to have fun.  I think that's important. But, you know, when we wake up and -- we have meetings, kick meetings.  We review in practice and meetings prior to practice, position meetings.  And then when we're on that football field, we want to see 100 percent focus. And you can do both.

“But there's no question about it.  It's entirely different in preparation than normal game week throughout the season, but that's what we look for.

“If we feel a player is not focused where he should be, then we work to get it corrected.  And I think both can work.  Certainly, this would be our seventh day here or very close to.  And I think now it's the point, too, that the players are real, real excited about getting going also.”

Coach Pinkel, two-phase or two-part question.  You have Josh Henson on your staff, and he coached and played with Mike at Oklahoma State -- or Mike coached him and they coached together.  How important was he -- because of his experience at LSU previously, did he help much with the cross into the SEC?  And then talk about his first year as offensive coordinator.

“Well, first of all, when we did go into the SEC and him being at LSU in the past, it really did help us.  We also had Pat Washington on our staff who also coached at Tennessee and Kentucky and so those -- having the experience of those guys, especially the personnel on some of the teams and certainly kind of the philosophies, attitudes, stadiums that we were going to go into, never been before, those kind of things transition-wise, he's done a great job.  Done a phenomenal job.  Very pleased with him.

“And, you know, he was -- Josh is the kind of guy that probably when he takes his lovely wife out, he's probably -- to dinner, he's probably drawing plays when he's talking to her.  He's just really into football.  He is a very bright guy.  He's very talented.  He is a great communicator.  He communicates with people really well.  It was a real good fit for us.  He has done an exceptional job.”

Besides the game, what will be your favorite Cotton Bowl memory?  Any fun or funny stories you can share with us?
“I would agree with that.  That was kind of great for us without question.  You try to describe the AT&T Stadium to somebody, you can't get on the phone and explain.  You can send pictures.  You can't explain it to them.  And the event that the game was, was really unique and great.

“The other thing for me, family and all the coaches and all their kids, the hospitality room and the hospitality, they really -- our families give up a lot, us coaching. And to treat them as first-class and do all the little things right so they have a great week is really, really important to me as head coach.  And my six grandkids are here and seventh one on the way.  So next bowl I will have another one.  Just to be around all my family and everything in a great place like this, it's been a great time.”

As far as the next 36 hours, what will this be like for your team as far as specific steps of preparation and also explain why you decided not to walk through this afternoon?
“We do our own walk-throughs, okay?  We have been in the stadium.  We're practicing in the stadium.  We've been in there every day.  Even in our day off, we went to the game.

“For us, this is -- this will be a Friday for us, and we're just going to lock in and go.  Everything's exactly the same, once we get away from the banquet.  And we lock right in just as we normally do in a normal game.  So look forward to -- I think players are also looking forward to getting locked in to play their best game.”

Coach Pinkel, can you just look back at the long-term boost that this win gave your team back after the '07 season?  And do you think a similar lift is possible here with a win here?  What are you trying to look for long-term here?
“I don't know.  You play against a great football -- when I found out we were playing Oklahoma State, we are an 11-2 team, 10-2 team playing each other.  I thought the Cotton Bowl got two great football teams.

“I think you -- obviously you want to win.  That's what we're ultimately here for. I think 2007 it was important for us.  It was kind of us getting going.  Since that time, you know, this is the fourth time in the last seven years we've had double-digit wins.  And so we -- I think we got a pretty good boost out of it.  It is all about consistency.  It is about recruiting, developing players, and the consistency of winning and trying to win at a high level. We'll continue to do that.  But this is -- just the showcase of this game, the Cotton Bowl and the respect it has nationally, I think it's a real plus just from that standpoint.”

This bowl game and bowl games in general, how important is it recruiting-wise?  I know both of your squads have Texas players on it.  So how important is it for this game in the North Texas area for recruiting?
“We have 32 players from Texas on our team.  I think when we got there years ago, I think we had probably eight or nine or 10.  So we made a decision, because obviously Missouri -- the state of Missouri is most important, but to go to a populous state like the State of Texas that plays great high school football and go out and develop relationships and so on and so forth.  I think games throughout the season are important.  I think the more games you win, the bigger the impact it has on recruiting.  I would agree with that.  But this is -- every time you play, it will help you in recruiting hopefully.”

Can we expect to see Maty Mauk get some time in tomorrow night?
“We'll make that decision today.  We're thinking about playing him, but we'll make that decision later this afternoon.”

Can you just talk about your Texas-born players and what this game means for them to be playing here?
“Well, I think they always like coming back here, you know.  And, you know, they told their Texas stories to all of our players when we got here.  So all the players are doing their analysis of the State of Texas.  They have a great time back and forth as they battle.  And they also do that with the professional games here, too.
But there's no question about it.  We have had a lot of high school coaches from the area into our practices.  And our players and their families in the State of Texas, I think it's great and they're excited about being here.”

Coach Pinkel, a follow-up to that question.  Over the years, how have you been able to recruit and develop defensive linemen, primarily pass rushers, from guys that maybe weren't as highly recruited as others?
“Well, you know, we have a recruiting evaluation.  We have a system that we use.  And we don't count stars in our system.  Never comes up in our evaluation.  We just do what we do.  We look for speed and athleticism, look for competitiveness.  Many, many things we look for. And I think we've been fortunate to just make some good decisions on some kids and to develop them.  We pride ourselves in player development.  You know, academically we do, too, socially, but certainly as football players and athletes. You know, we sell that in recruiting, "Mizzou made."  You come to us, we will make you the best you can be.  And certainly everybody does a great job at that.  But that's something we work hard at.  And we've been very fortunate to have a lot of good defensive linemen.  So I hope it continues.”

Coach Pinkel, James Franklin, one of your Texas boys, has gone through some adversities, some injuries in his career.  But when he's been healthy, he's played very well for you.  Just talk about James' perseverance and what he has meant to your program.

“He is a really class-act young man and a very talented player.  His sophomore year, starts and plays well.  MVP in our bowl game against North Carolina.  Expect him to have a great junior year. And has more injuries in one year than I had in all the previous years combined one quarterback.  I think he got a total of five games if you add it all together.  And so it was very, very difficult for him.

“I think he grew remarkably from that.  You know, adversity -- we always grow from adversity.  And I think he also -- he became a little mentally tougher.  I think it gave him a little bit more drive, I think, and determination.  He is a great competitor.  He is a very competitive guy.
I'm just so proud of him.  The first six games he's playing as well as anybody in the country at the time, and then we lose him for a stretch of four, and we get him back.  So he's really a heck of a player and very proud of him and all he's been through.”

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