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Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

HEAD COACHES NEWS CONFERENCE - MIKE SHERMAN

HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN

Opening Statement:
“It’s certainly an honor to be here representing Texas A&M in the 75th AT&T Cotton Bowl. I think it’s a unique matchup in the sense that this will be the 50th time that LSU and Texas A&M have matched up against each other. There aren’t many times in bowl games where you’re reconnected with an old rival and certainly our proximity to each other enhances that. We’re excited about this football game. It’s been a great week. The AT&T Cotton Bowl has been just phenomenal in their hospitality, over the top even. I keep telling the players that we can’t get too soft with all of these activities and things that we’re doing. We still have business to do Friday night. I think they get that part of it. Every event has been just a phenomenal experience for our kids. I would have to say our visit to the hospital yesterday was an experience that many of our players will remember for the rest of their lives. To be able to connect with some kids who are battling just to live their lives and parents as well. There were a number of heart surgeries yesterday that we were privy to. We visited with a bunch of young people over there. What a tremendous staff at the Children’s Medical Center. We just had a phenomenal visit over there. Lawrey’s last night was great as usual. I don’t think our players ever have a bad meal there anyway. It was certainly over the top. Every event that we have attended, the AT&T Cotton Bowl has gone out of their way to make sure this is the greatest experience these kids could have. I told them earlier in the week that many of them may not get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, but this is really a Super Bowl environment. Having had a chance to coach in one at one time, it’s very similar. The celebrity status that our players feel and the different activities they attend is akin to a Super Bowl week. This is our Super Bowl. We’re playing a great rival in LSU. They’re a team that was maybe two or three wins away from playing in a national championship. We recognize their talent on the field. I recognize their coaching and their scheme from my video study. I’m looking forward to this game. Our players are very excited about playing. I think you get to a point in time of the week where they’re just ready to play. They can only eat so many cookies and have ice cream and have different activities. It’s time to play the game. They’re itching to get on the field on Friday night and show you all what they got.”

On realignment talk last summer and Texas A&M possibly moving to the SEC…
“When that talk was going on I had my hands full. I’ve been asked that question numerous times. I’m not trying to evade answering it, but I really didn’t get involved in that very much. The president did call me over to his house and we talked a little bit about our program and what we needed to do and where we were, but other than that I left that up to Bill Byrne and the president and the board of regents. I had too much on my plate to get our team ready for this season. So I never really thought about it or had an opinion about it. Whatever the university decided to do, I was for. We decided to stay in the Big 12 and keep the Big 12 together. You got to get your team ready. Whatever the powers-that-be tell you to do that’s what you have to do. We were just trying to get ready for our first ball game. Kind of an evasive answer on the Big 12 and the SEC, but I really didn’t get that involved in it.”
On how playing in the 75th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic will affect recruiting…
“LSU has an established recruiting base in Texas. I think they’ve done a very good job of recruiting this state. Since I came on board at Texas A&M, I thought there was a lack of talent on our team from the Metroplex area. We’ve addressed that. We have numerous players on our team from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I think exposure, being on TV this week and the Cotton Bowl enhances it a little bit. The bottom line with recruiting is what your product is and the personal touch you have with recruits and how you connect with those recruits. I think we have a great product in Texas A&M, whether it’s in the Dallas area, or Houston, or San Antonio or West Texas or anywhere in the country. We have an excellent staff of recruiters. We talk the talk and walk the walk with them and tell them how important it is to get an education from Texas A&M, as well as being able to play on Kyle Field. I don’t know if the one game is definitely a game that’s going to enhance it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt it.”

On Texas A&M’s advantage having played in Cowboys Stadium multiple times…
“They’ve been in the locker room, they’ve been on the field. I think that the fact that the Cotton Bowl committee made the decision to practice in Cowboys Stadium has given both teams familiarity with the stadium. The jumbotron is on when you get in there, so they kind of lose touch of that. You know where the clock is. It’s a big stadium, so trying to find the play clock and the game clock and so forth and so on. The fact that we’re able to practice in there really enhances for both teams the familiarity that they’ll have out there on game day. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s an advantage, particularly because both teams have practiced there all week long.”

On the possibility of renewing the LSU-Texas A&M series in the future…
“That is something that I’ve thought about because LSU is so close to us and we do have a previous relationship with LSU. We’ve had some great games with the LSU Tigers. Obviously our commitment to the Big 12 and our current schedule and the way it is going to be laid out with playing each other and adding Arkansas, and then you add in the SEC schedule and who LSU plays, I don’t envision this happening at this point. But maybe down the road it’s a possibility. Certainly a boarder rivalry like LSU is something to consider.”

On LT Luke Joeckel’s impact this season…
“He’s a young man that came in the spring. We knew he’d be a great player, but you never know how soon they’re going to be able to mature. He went through spring and I put him in at starting left tackle right from the get go because I just believed he would be our best option at that time. For the first six ball games, he had some ups and downs but fought through them. Then he just started to grow up and mature and really became a strength and a staple for our offensive line. Our other true freshman, LT Jake Matthews, on the other side wasn’t able to come to spring ball so it took him a little longer to teach him the offense. But when he was able to get in there, he’s done a very good job for us. We have those two guys back for another three years. We’re excited about it. They’re two book ends and they’re big kids, they’re athletic, they work hard, they’re smart and they’re tough football players. They’re both going to have great days ahead at Texas A&M and down the road.”

On LB Coach Dat Nguyen…
“He brings a quiet intensity to our program. He’s not a loud vocal guy, but he’s an embodiment of intensity. When you watch his players play they play that way. Certainly when he speaks to those linebackers - his familiarity with playing that position and what he’s had to overcome and the adversity he’s had in his life - they certainly embrace their coach and play with the intensity that he would play with.”

On QB Ryan Tannehill’s preparations…
“Every game is an important game. Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, Baylor – they were important games – so his preparation for those games was over the top as it is for this ball game. Every game matters. If we didn’t take the right mentality in those games, we wouldn’t be here today. Nothing changes necessarily because it’s a bowl game. You have more time. You sometimes can be at a disadvantage because you start doing the same thing over and over again you can get a little stale. So you try to put ourselves in position. I’ve tried to challenge him by putting our team in positions to be in situations in practice, game-like situations, to make them rehearse the game as much as possible. We haven’t played a game in six weeks, so I think when you’re playing a bowl game this late it’s so important to remember that you’re practicing to play a game, not practicing to practice. We’ve had officials out there for the past few weeks watching our kids to make sure we’re doing things right and we don’t get overly penalized in the course of the game. We’re always in situations in practice to make them think or react to that moment in the game – whether it’s the last four minutes of the game, the last two minutes of the game, the fourth quarter, how we’re going to start the game, the last five plays of the game, whatever it is - we’re challenging Ryan and the offense and the defense to respond to that situation. They’re ready to play now. We’ve run out of situations where we’re just ready to play the game.”

On facing a team with two quarterbacks…
“We haven’t seen a lot of that necessarily. Jarrett Lee is a good quarterback. Jordan Jefferson has demonstrated what he can do with his arm and his feet. They’re a little bit different, but as far as their concepts are concerned, their passing concepts, they don’t change a whole lot from one to the other.”

On RB Steven Ridley being cleared to play…
“As far as the running back concern, we anticipated him to play from the beginning. We really didn’t change a whole lot that way. We expected him to play. I think Michael Ford and Alfred Blue are good running backs. We know them from recruiting and know that they’re quality. You’re not going to change your scheme because of the running backs. The running backs fit their scheme. Those offensive linemen have been blocking a certain scheme so those backs fit that scheme. Nothing changes from that standpoint.”

On LSU’s special teams…
“They’re the best special teams team I’ve seen on film since I’ve been in college. The biggest concern I’ve said to our team the first time we met was field position, field position, field position. This team is very talented in their special teams. CB Patrick Peterson is very talented. He is one of the premier return guys in the country and we’re very aware of that. How do you handle that? Even when people have had good coverage on him, he’s been able to break free and make good decisions on where to run the football. I really believe this game will come down to special teams in the sense that field position will be dictated by how well they do against us and how well we do against them. They have a great scheme and excellent players and speed on their special teams and they play hard. We’re very much aware that one of the strengths of their team is special teams and the field position that they produce, as well as their kickers.”

On if momentum can carry over from one season to the next…
“I think every season is independent of the previous season. The chemistry changes, all of our seniors are gone. We have to develop new leaders on the team. We were 6-7 last year, did that carry over to this year? If you win it should carry over and if you lose it should carry over and I don’t believe it either way. I believe each season is independent of the previous one and each group that comes in that year has to start from scratch and has to try to prove themselves all over again. I don’t think there’s a huge carry over that way. I do believe that when you’re building a program and your culture is created, there’s a belief in your system and how you do things in the off season, in the spring, in the fall and so forth. There’s a belief in that culture, but as for the actual games, the players have to start from scratch again as well as the coaches.”

On preparations for LSU’s dual quarterback scheme…
“We’re going to do what we do from the defensive standpoint regardless of what quarterback is in there. When QB Jordan Jefferson is in there they do a fair amount of read option and do some things with running the ball. They both can throw the ball and they both can run read options. It’s not like you can totally negate one part of their offense. We’re just going to do what we do and hopefully that will work.”

On the long break between the end of the regular season and the bowl game…
“By the time we get done with the preparation, we had 19 practices which is more than in spring football. There’s been quite a lay off. If you ask every coach and player on our staff, you would have loved to have played the next week because I do think in the context of a season you can have momentum. We felt like we had some momentum at the end of the season. I think in this environment and the bowl environment, I think the length off between the last game and the bowl game, you kind of have to relight the fire again and get it going. Fortunately for us, we’re playing a great opponent. We have watched a lot of tape on LSU and we know what’s going to show up there Friday night. Our kids are really excited about that challenge. I’m sure that will be enough fire for us to get going and play this game with a lot of passion and energy.”

On working alongside LSU’s TE Coach Steve Ensminger…
“I was a line coach and Steve was a coordinator. Steve’s a very bright coach. He was a great game planner and a great game caller. I thought he was an excellent quarterbacks coach. He was hard on those quarterbacks and very demanding. I thought he brought the best in the quarterbacks. I was impressed with him as a football coach.”

On DE Tony Jerod-Eddie…
“Tony Jerod-Eddie has made just about as much improvement this year as just about anybody on defense. He’s an important element on our defensive line. I think our defensive line has really been the mainstay of our defense. Their consistency from week to week has been phenomenal. Tony Jerod-Eddie is a big part of that. If we were playing an earlier bowl game, he wouldn’t have had the surgery. He would have played with the injury. As it was, our doctors felt like we could get him ready to play. He’s going to play. How many snaps he’s going to play we have to monitor that, but he’s very instrumental in our defense.”

On Aggies in Louisiana…
“We have a fair amount of Aggies in the Cajun State with the oil industry and having a university with a great petroleum engineering program. When I first came on board, I circled our instate area and I put Louisiana in that instate area because I feel like the culture and the people in Louisiana and Texas are very similar. I feel like our school is a good place for kids in Louisiana. They’re family oriented kids with good values. I feel like they’re the type of kids that we want to recruit to Texas A&M.”

On LSU WR Russell Shepard…
“We recruited him and thought we had a shot at him and then LSU was able to get him early. I thought he was one of the best players I’ve seen on tape in my short time as head coach of Texas A&M. He’s an athletic and talented young man and has great length and speed and toughness. He can run after the catch, he can make the big catch. LSU has some big-time tall receivers. They have some big, long kids at receiver and he’s one of them. He’s an extremely talented athlete and I think he has a phenomenal future ahead of him.”

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