Sunday, January 2nd, 2011


Head Coach Mike Sherman
Opening remarks:
“Myself, the coaches and the players are very excited about having the opportunity to play in the prestigious 75th Cotton Bowl Classic.  We’re really looking forward to our matchup.  We have an extremely well-coached and talented opponent in LSU, but our players have practiced hard in preparation for this game and are looking forward to the ball game.  Everything we heard previous to coming up here about the Cotton Bowl Classic and the first-class attitude they have towards everything that applies to us has been fulfilled and I’m sure it will continue that way.  Our players are just in awe and everything being thrown at them with the hospitality and the things they’re able to do.  As I’ve explained to the players, this is still a business trip for us but part of that business—after we’re done with the meetings, after we’re done with the practices—is for them to relax and get closer to their teammates and enhance our chemistry further than it already is.  There are two components here, the business part and the relaxation part.  The business part has been going very well.  The meetings have been very attentive, the practices have been very crisp, so we’re looking forward to continuing that effort throughout the course of the week.”

On LB Michael Hodges success this season:
“I think the defense plays to his strengths.  He’s an excellent blitzer.  When he blitzes, he cuts to the fat, he takes air out of the defense and is skinny through the hole.  Part of it is that he came off major knee surgery last year and when we did get him out on the field, he was never 100 percent.   Fitting into our scheme, understanding our scheme, as well as being 100 percent healthy, and being in a scheme that highlights what he does, he’s a pressure guy—not that he can’t cover, not that he doesn’t cover, he does—I think one of his strengths is knowing the small windows and how to cut the fat on blitzes and be able to get through there.”

On DL Von Miller’s last game of his college career in Dallas:
“He’s been pretty much himself throughout the course of our practices.  He’s always a little bit loosy goosy and we have to wrap him up a bit at times, but he’s been practicing hard and is very focused on what we have to do, but at the same time, as I tighten the team up, he loosens them up.  It’s a good complement to have.”

On Miller’s performance on the field:
“LSU knows this because they’ve had great players, and still have great players there, those players can not only make plays while they’re there, but teach the younger guys how to play the game.  This year, more than ever, Von has stepped it up and has played as consistent football has he’s played since I’ve been here.   Play after play after play, even with injury, he’s been able to not only make the plays we’ve asked him to make, but to demonstrate to the other guys how it’s done.  Those guys may not have his talent, but his effort to the ball, they can certainly can learn that from him.  He’s been a huge contributor, obviously, when offenses have to worry about where he’s at and how to contain him.  He changes the tempo of the game and disrupts their rhythm.   I told him before the season began, ‘You won’t have the same stats you had a year ago.  You’re not going to get that because people know who you are and they’re going to know where you are and they’re going to make it harder on you.  But you can still play better. ‘  He didn’t really quite understand what I meant, but he has, he’s played better without the stats he had last year.  He’s occupied some people, he’s forced quarterback hurries that don’t count as sacks, and he’s affected the game.  He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”

On Building block, G Patrick Lewis:
“Patrick, from East Saint John, Louisiana, has really been a foundation of us trying to build the offensive line.  When I first came to A&M, I earmarked the offensive line.  Any championship team I’ve ever been on always had good offensive and defensive lines.  In addressing those issues, Patrick came in as a freshman, Larry Dougherty was his high school coach, everybody in Louisiana knows Larry.  He came out of a very good program, was fundamentally very sound for a high school kid coming into a major college program, and he started as a freshman.  He’s had his ups and downs his freshman year, but he’s started for us and he’s been the foundation of our group as we’ve molded it together trying to get it to the point where it is now, and hopefully will continue to improve.  He’s been invaluable.  He plays hurt, he’s smart, plays hard.  We’re excited about him, he’s got a bright future.”

Injury update—DL Tony Jerod-Eddie, WR Ryan Swope:
“Tony Jerod-Eddie, coming off the foot surgery, did a little bit out there today.  Change of direction wasn’t what he needs to be game time, but we still have the rest of the week, he’ll continue to practice on it.  Swope as well, came down catching a ball last week in practice and had a foot sprain and he did some things out there today.  In my experiences with Ryan, he’s been good when we have him practicing, but he’s been able to play, so I don’t think he necessarily needs to practice.  We’ll probably get him out there part of tomorrow and the next day.”

Challenge to prepare for LSU offense with uncertainty of  RB Stevan Ridley:
“I don’t think they change their personality because the quarterback in the read option is a major staple for RB Alfred Blue.  They’re good backs.  I’m sure they’re a lot like us, we lost RB Christine Michael and we had a guy to step up.  They have guys to step up.  Taking nothing away from Ridley and his 14 touchdowns, he’s had a phenomenal season, but they’re offensive line is good, they block well for those guys.  I’m sure they’ll have somebody ready to go if that happens.”

Coaching Brett Favre and his not playing final two games of his career:
“Of all things that he’s done in football, I think that is probably what he’s most proud of, that streak.   When you think about it, it’s a phenomenal streak to have.  It will be odd turning on that game today and not seeing him out there.”

Rush defenses in the bowl games this year:
“I haven’t necessarily noticed that a whole lot, I know in some teams that have pretty good run defenses that didn’t step-up.  I’ve noticed that some teams maybe haven’t been as hungry as they have been.  When I watch the bowl games, I write down things that happen in the ball games, like: last second rally play to kill the clock, make sure the field goal team doesn’t run out there, which happened once this past weekend; the penalties that happen on the sidelines; the late hits on quarterback; the illegal formations.  As I go through and watch bowl games and see the mistakes that are made, I make a list and I share it with these guys to make sure.  ‘Hey listen, we can’t do this, we can’t do this.’  The longer your out of the game, the more susceptible you are to making those types of mistakes.  That’s why we had officials at practice today and officials at practice the last week, to make sure we’re playing pretty clean and we’re still making some errors we have to clean up but I think it’s put an emphasis on playing it clean.  From the run defenses perspective, I don’t know if there’s anything to that.  I do know that tackling is always an issue, when you don’t tackle live.  When you get into these practices, you don’t want to get anybody hurt, you want to get better, but you don’t necessarily have live tackling drills in full-speed scrimmages everyday like you do in the spring, possibly.  We have tackled and we’ve worked on tackling circuits throughout the course of these drills, so hopefully we won’t be suspect to that.  LSU is a pretty good run offense, we’re going to have to wrap up.”

Statement game to elevate program:
“We’ve talked about it.  We talk about our opponent a lot, particularly LSU being such a worthy opponent.  We put the tape on and they see the athletes, they see how these guys play and they’re very well-coached.  They know the challenges we have out there.  It’s something we’re excited about.  We’re excited about the opportunity to play the 75th Cotton Bowl Classic against this team who’s really relatively close in proximity to our campus and was one of our top rivals for years outside our conference.  This will be the 50th time we’ll play them.  How often does that happen in a bowl game?  They’re excited about being on a national stage and being able to have this opportunity.”

How was today’s practice?
“It was good.  We’ve practiced about four days per week, and then we’d take a couple days and go four days per week.  We’re in a normal game-week scenario.  This will be equivalent of a Monday practice for us and we had full pads on and scrimmaged against each other like we do at the beginning and the end of practice.  They were very focused, very business-like about what they were doing on the field, everybody was pretty focused on what had to get done today.”

On OL Matt Allen transferring from LSU:
“We were fortunate, Matt is a Texas high school football player that went to LSU and was actually there for the national championship season, if I’m not mistaken.  I believe he had a situation that he wanted to get back closer to home.  He got his release and asked us if we’d be interested.  I looked at his high school tapes, he’s very athletic, a tough kid, and we gave him that shot.  We were in a position where we didn’t have a bigger man lineman.  I was reluctant to take a transfer at that point, but, having come from LSU’s program, having won a national championship, I figured that would only be a plus that he had been in that environment.  We took a shot at him and he’s done a nice job for us.  He stayed healthy throughout the season,   always healthy last year, and has really been a leader on our offensive line.”

On WR Seth Gardner:
“Seth’s done a nice job in practice giving us a good look.  He has great hands and I think he’s going to be a good receiver.  I think this is going to be a great opportunity for us.  He’s actually eligible to play in the game.  He’s been working hard, he’s done a good job.  He catches the ball very well, he’s going to learn a little more about how we run routes and whatnot, but he has a chance to play sometime.  I don’t know if it will be this week, but he has a chance to play.”

Offensive transitions:
“The obvious changes start up front.  Our offensive line has been through transition and then we end up with the two starting tackles as true freshmen.  Our starting tight end is a true freshman.  It doesn’t happen very often in this day and age.  Not only are they starting, but they’re doing a nice job for us.  That’s one transition we had.  We lost RB Christine Michael, RB Cyrus Gray started while Christine was healthy, then Christine got hurt, Cyrus continued in that role.  He’s really stepped it up and been a workhorse and has gotten a lot of snaps, so that transition was a little more seamless.  The quarterback transition was a challenge.  We had our record-setting quarterback in Jerrod Johnson playing for us.  We were into it six games and were 3-3 at the time.  I thought against Oklahoma State, with exception of the turnovers, he played extremely well and threw the ball very well.  Then we came home and played Missouri, there’s a team we didn’t play very well, certainly us losing that game wasn’t a reflection of Jerrod Johnson, it was a reflection of all our players and all our coaches not doing what we needed to do to win that football game.  Plus Missouri played very well.  I felt at that point we needed a change.  We gave QB Ryan Tannehill an opportunity to play in the next game against Kansas and start the subsequent ballgame against Texas Tech and he had a record-setting game that day and we stayed that way.  As far as complementing each other, as quarterbacks g, in this system, you want to stay with your guy.   As he gets reps in the game, I think quarterbacks… there are so many mechanics in the ballgame, so many things he’s in charge of, that it’s hard to get two guys ready.  In our situation with Tannehill and Jerrod Johnson, they’re very similar I don’t feel the need for both of them to play.  So we stayed with Tannehill.  Jerrod Johnson has done a great job at helping him from the sidelines and being very supportive.  I’ve never been more proud of a young man handling adversity as he had to handle when I sat him down at the Texas Tech game and how he responded.  It tells you the type of people you are in that situation.  He’s responded very positively, he’s been very supportive of Ryan the whole way through and I look at him like a coach out there.  I’ll ask him ‘What did you see while he’s out there on the sidelines and he’ll tell me.”

How Swope and WR Jeff Fuller complement each other:
“I don’t know if they complement each other necessarily.  They both have different roles.  Swope is an inside receiver that has different responsibilities more so zone coverages, where you have to find those windows.  Your outside receivers versus man, you take your shots outside a lot of times.  I don’t know that they necessarily complement each other, they both have different roles in the offense.”

ILB Michael Hodges
On Working for New Orleans Saints:
“I spent every summer in New Orleans and I got to do minicamp with the Saints at Millsaps College before their 2008 season.  I was with PR and media.  I wrote a blog every day for the New Orleans Saints website.  Every morning I’d get up and they’d have two guys for me to interview.”

OLB Sean Porter
On the LSU rushing offense:
“They have very athletic backs, big tight ends and a big line.  They’re and SEC power football team.”

RB Cyrus Gray
Facing LSU in Dallas:
“There’s a few of us guys from the Dallas area back home.  This is my third time to play at Cowboys Stadium.  It’s going to be very exciting, we’ve got a great opponent with LSU, they’re preparing well and we’re going to prepare well, also.”

Respect for A&M:
“I think we are [getting the respect A&M deserves].  The way our team has been this year, we’re trying to demand more respect.  I think that will continue as we progress.”

Playing at the Cotton Bowl in front of family:
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve never had the chance to play at a bowl game here at home and now we’ve got fans and all your family here.  It’s going to be a great environment and very exciting.  I know it’s going to go down as one of the best bowls at A&M and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

QB Ryan Tannehill
Third time to play in Cowboys Stadium a charm?
“I hope so.  We’re excited about our opportunity on Friday.  The stadium is big, the whole atmosphere is very exciting, and it’s amazing every time you come in here.  We’re definitely excited about Friday.”

FS Trent Hunter
Settling into the Cotton Bowl:
“They put us in a great hotel here, the Gaylord Texan.  It’s the biggest hotel I’ve ever seen, it’s like a town inside of a town.  I’m settling in very nice.  There are a lot of good people around, a lot of Aggies in that hotel.”