Monday, December 27th, 2004


Head Coach Dennis Franchione

Overview: “It’s great to be here finally. It’s nice to get back to work and practice. We’ve had a good time while we’ve been here a short amount of time. Today was a good workout. We practiced in full pads. We’ll relate this week primarily to a normal week of preparation. Today was kind of a bonus day. We’ve had enough breaks in our practice schedule. It was good to have this day. .. I thought we had a good, spirited workout. The guys, I think, were anxious and excited to be here. They’re grateful for the opportunity to be in the Cotton Bowl and to be in a bowl game in the state of Texas where their families will see them play. I know that that’s a big plus for them. Having had no idea where we were going for so long, when we finally heard we were coming here, they were all excited about it. Many of them said it was a dream come true, growing up in the state of Texas. É I know that they’re excited, and I know we have a tough opponent in Tennessee.”

On if this was what he was hoping for as a coach in his second year at Texas A&M: “It was. We had a tough first year. É This team, I’m really proud of it for what they’ve done. You know, we’re the only school in the nation to play three BCS teams. We played the toughest schedule in the nation. É To get this reward is great. It’s great to be here in our second year.”

On whether this represents the best turnaround in his career from the first season at a school to the second season: “It rates right up there at the top. I haven’t checked and done any comparisons. But I think with the schedule we had to play and the conference that we played in, I’d have to say that it ranks right up there with any of the turnarounds I’ve been a part of.”

On what the impact of going to the Cotton Bowl in his second year will have on the overall program: “It’s a bonus to be here, regardless of what may happen. I think the advantage of being in a New Year’s Day game and being in a state where we recruit so heavily, the exposure it gives us, is evident. If we’re able to win the game, the bonus gets bigger. É We’re a relatively young football team. This will be a good building block for us.”

On what the keys were in going from 4-8 to 7-4: “No. 1, we became a team. We learned how to be a team and play together and play with each other. We put our personal agendas aside and put the team first. The second year is so much easier for the coaching staff and players. We understand their abilities. They understand our expectations. Year two is just much smoother. Every day of year one is like a clean chalkboard. É The redshirt freshmen and the junior college guys made a big impact. They helped everybody get better. And then we did a better job of taking care of the football, of not turning it over and increasing our turnover margin. Our defense made monumental progress from year one to year two without a doubt. Our offense made some, too.”

On the progress of quarterback Reggie McNeal: “Reggie has made a lot of progress. É We put a lot on Reggie early. With the few flashes he showed that freshman year, we expected a lot out of him. Reggie wanted to have a lot expected out of him, too. The surrounding cast has improved. É Reggie has matured and grown with this offense. He’s an intelligent young man. He’s a passer, not a thrower. He’s the catalyst this is built around. É We still don’t have Reggie to where he can go yet. The sky is the limit for him in his remaining collegiate football games. We’re excited that we get to be a part of helping him reach that potential.”

On the number of redshirts and what their potential represents: “We tell all of our freshmen to come to play. If they’re ready to play, we want them to play. We have never wanted to throw somebody out there in the fray before they’re ready. Then, you get into the juggling act of exactly when you’re going to play them. É Fortunately for us, we’ve been able to redshirt a lot of kids the past two years. What it is doing is giving us a chance to build a program. We want to build one that can perpetuate success. This has given us a foundation. These guys are growing with us, they’re getting bigger. They’re getting stronger, they’re getting better as football players. É The impact of last year’s class that redshirted has been dramatic. É We’re building this thing from the bottom up. We’ve had to take a junior college player or two.”

On what changes were made on defense following the opening loss to Utah: “Carl (Torbush) is the master at what he does. Our defensive coaches have done a great job. I knew he would improve the defense. I’ve seen him do it when we were at Alabama from year one to year two. There was dramatic improvement. I knew it would happen here. I know it has not reached the level that we all want it to reach yet, but I knew we would take some steps and make some improvement. É Certainly all of us were disturbed and disappointed on the plane ride home after Utah. But the great thing is that every one of us, coaches and players, went back to practice and believed in each other and got better. I knew they were better than that, and they came back and played that way. And I think that’s a tribute to that defensive staff, especially. They made some changes and kind of reassessed some areas, and the guys responded.”

On the job Coach Phil Fulmer has done at Tennessee: “He’s had a quite extended stay there, which in our profession today is hard to do. And he has just had great success year in and year out. É They’re always well-coached, they always play good defense, they always play physical on offense. They have good athletes, and they’ve got a great coaching staff.”

On what Tennessee does well: “I think their front seven on defense is really good. They’re physical. They put pressure on the quarterback. They defend the run well. É They run the ball well on offense Ð a 1,000-yard tailback and another one close to 1,000 yards. They’re always going to be able to throw the all pretty well. They’ve adjusted to some quarterbacks and done the things they’ve needed to do to get this offense to play the way the need to do it.”

On what it means personally to be in Dallas: “This is one of the bowls I’ve always wanted to coach in. I’m grateful for and excited about the opportunity. I’m most excited for our fans and for our players, just to see their looks and see them in practice today. I know we’ll have a lot of Aggies in the stands for the game. It may not be quite like Kyle Field, but I’ll know we’ll have a great turnout. É For the kind of season we’ve had, it’s really kind of a fitting end for us. It has been a special year in a lot of ways, and this is a special spot.”

QB Reggie McNeal

On being in the Cotton Bowl: “It’s fun, but at the same time it’s business, too. We came up here to win a football game, so that’s what we’ve got to do and get better in practice.”

On impact young players have had on team: “They play a big role in it. Everywhere you look, there are redshirt freshmen. They’re just playing a huge part. They took it on themselves to get better last year when they were redshirts, and it’s paying off for them now.

DB Japhus Brown

On progress of the program: “I hope we work our way up to a conference championship and hopefully a national championship. É You can go back and look at how historic this bowl game is. We’re very appreciative that we were invited to this bowl game, and we just want to enjoy it as much as we can.”

On whether the Texas A&M players expected to make a Jan. 1 bowl coming off a 4-8 season: “We have a little chart we go by and fill in all of our goals. This was one of our goals, to come to a bowl game. Another goal is to win a bowl game. That’s what we’re here to do.”

On what is known about Tennessee: “We know a whole bunch about them. Coach Fran and our coaching staff have played numerous games against them. I think they know what they like to do. We’re going to have a good game plan for them.”

WR L’Tydrick Riley

On what making a Jan. 1 bowl means to the program: “We felt it was possible coming into the season. We set our goals before the season. Getting to the Cotton Bowl is a big game. Everybody knows if you’re playing on Jan. 1, it’s a big game. Tennessee has a good squad. We have a good squad. It’s going to be fun for people to kick back and watch on New Year’s.”