Louisiana Tech Football Press Conference Transcript
Feb. 10, 2014
"I know we had the chance to talk a lot in detail about the last couple months in recruiting and what has been going on in the program. We talked about addressing the positions and the staff and moving forward on Monday. Before I get into Coach Diaz, I just wanted to talk about the other two positions that have opened, with Jeff Koonz leaving to go to Cincinnati and finding out on Thursday that Stan Eggen was going to leave to take a position at Iowa State. I have great respect for both coaches. I am very grateful for what they did for us this year and the jobs they did on the field and the transition they gave us in our year of transition."
"With those positions available, we said that we would wait with the safety position until after recruiting and with Stan's job just becoming open on Thursday with the defensive line we are moving forward with that and hopefully by the end of the week we will have another announcement to make with both positions. Now that recruiting is over you can pretty much dedicate your time into filling both of those vacancies.
"We are here today to talk a little bit about the defensive coordinator [position]that [opened] when Kim Dameron left to take a head coaching job a couple weeks ago. As soon as the position came open, you always hate to lose a coach that, but the first thing you have to do is figure out how to get better. We have to figure out who is out there, who would be a great candidate to be a defensive coordinator?"
"I put together an A-list of coaches I felt we had a chance to attract here. There were two coaches on that list and I had the opportunity sit down and talk with Coach Diaz at the [AFCA] convention. We had a chance to sit down and visit there. I have always been a huge follower of his since he was at Florida State, which is also where I coached. Then he went to N.C. State with Coach Amato and then with Rick Stockstill at Middle Tennessee, he was one of my dear friends in this business and having a chance to visit with him. Then seeing his rise to Mississippi State and then to Texas, I have just always had great respect for him. I feel very fortunate we were able to attract him to Louisiana Tech. I am really excited about the future; I am excited about the experience that he brings. I am excited about the knowledge he brings, the leadership that he brings. Overall, I think he is going to be a huge asset to the defense and to the staff. I am really looking forward to working with him."
"Thank you all for being here today. I want to thank coach Holtz and his wife, Jennifer, for giving me the opportunity to come here. I want to thank Tommy McClelland and President Guice for the opportunity to be the defensive coordinator here at Louisiana Tech; it is something I am very excited about. One of the things that is hard is that I wish we could start today. I wish we could practice today and play this Saturday, but we are not quite there yet. I am just fired up for the chance to get with these kids and continue the development of this program and have the ability to play championship defense."
Finding Replacements for Two Openings:
"I think we [Coach Holtz and I] are on the same page. I will say the interest is overwhelming from all over, in terms of people that want to come and coach here and with that being said, I am very confident that we will have some outstanding people to add to our staff."
What made this job attractive?
"There were many different things. One was the opportunity to work with Skip. He mentioned that we had some connections through the years. As you are getting around the profession, you start to meet different people. There are certain guys where you say `I would like the opportunity to work for this guy.' I think you win with good people that are properly led. I think the opportunity to be in his program with what he has rolling here is a big part of it."
"Secondly, this is the greatest institution to sell. You can find players that want to come here and we are in a great recruiting area. Obviously I have been on both sides of this state and the high school football in this state is second to none. The opportunity to be able to coach these kids, you can find great defensive football players with in a four hour drive of our campus and that is the key to this entire deal, you have to find those guys that can go out there and play. Those are the guys that deserve all the credit, it is fun to coach them but those are the guys that make the plays in the game. We have the opportunity to get some great players on this campus."
You had offers to be a position coach, how important was it for you to remain a defensive coordinator?
"It was very important. I had opportunities from conferences coast to coast to go and do different jobs, but I love being a defensive coordinator. I enjoy it. I enjoy everything about it. To me, the real buzz is when you get 11 guys that stop thinking about themselves and become a servant to the overall defense. Then all of a sudden, it is like you are playing with more than 11. It creates a buzz and the guys start making plays and you start playing fast. That really is the most exciting thing for me. When you take a group of guys, they unite in a common goal because we do not call where the play goes. We do not get to decide if it is going to be a handoff or pass, we do know who is going to get the opportunity to make a play before the play begins, but if everyone decides they are just going to do their job to the best of their ability, it is amazing how the game rewards you. When guys see that and they act like they love playing together, that is a big thing to me. You want guys to act like it is 11 brothers out there on the field that cannot be divided in any way shape or form, that is my juice. So, the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator was a big deal to me."
On winter workouts:
"At any program, when people start talking about the defensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator at most programs is the strength coach. I like what Coach [Kurt] Hester has already installed here in terms of work ethic, ability to strain, ability to strain and those types of things. We only get them for 15 days in the spring and then 29 days before we start coaching in games in August. The strength coach is with them every day. You have to have toughness and you have to have accountability to have any type of chance to be good on defense. There is not a scheme that can be invented to overcome a lack of toughness or a group of kids that do no exhibit accountability towards one another. Where does that come from? That comes from your strength program. Coach Hester has already done a great job with that. I can see that in the kids with the way that they work."
"I have had a chance to watch all the film already from last year, not in terms of analyzing anything schematically, but just in seeing who we have returning. I am very excited about the potential we have on defense going forward. I think we have some players that have a chance to be very good and our entire mentality is that we want to play championship defense. We want to be the defense than can win us a C-USA championship. That is our sole focus; we just want to be champions."
On biggest lesson learned at Texas:
"It is hard to say there is one. I think there are many things you learn every year as a coach. I will say that, I am going back to the idea of accountability and toughness, it is those two things. It is accountability, toughness and trust. Trust really comes from the first two. You cannot play a great defense without trust. The right defensive end has to trust the left defensive end to do his job and maintain his leverage. If I start believing that he will not do that, then I am going to start doing something that I am not supposed to do. Your trust comes from the amount of accountability you have in your program and the way that you exhibit toughness in your program. Both accountability and toughness are trainable attributes. Those are things that can be worked on every day, no different than reading a book or riding a bicycle. Those are things than can be developed. To be a part of a program where those things are exalted and lifted up in terms of things we have to have to be successful that is what I am excited about."
"We are going to have an instant impact on defense. It is not going to be me; it is going to be these kids. I think at times we get into a habit of talking a little too much about the coaches and the credit will go to the players and that is my goal. I want my guys to have the opportunity to continue the upward trend in terms of getting this defense where we want it. The only way I gauge it, is by the number under the win column. To me, that is how you determine how well you play defense."
"Defense determines whether you win the game, offense determines by how many. That to me is what this game is all about. Our whole goal is getting the players to understand that. The worst thing we can do is pat ourselves on the back saying `Look what we have done defensively, look how much better we are,' when we are a 4-8 team. That is not our goal. Our goal will be to reset and say anything other than a championship standard is really just not what the support of this university deserves. That is where our standard is, it is all about winning the conference championship."
Did LSU try to contact you?
"It is probably the 18th or 19th job I have had so far this silly season. It is what happens this time a year. Your name gets put with all types of people and all it takes is one guy to have three names to put on one of the scoop sites. It means as much as all those other 19 that popped up before. I have had a lot of job offers over the last 9 weeks but it is silly season, you know what it is all about."
What position groups stood out the most to you?
"I think to have any type of success, it all starts upfront. I think there are some guys up front that we feel like can use. The easiest thing to do in football is run in a straight line up the field. Starting at the defensive tackle position I think we have some guys there that can cause some excitement, in terms of our ability to be sound there. I think if we continue our progress on the defensive line that will be the foundation of our success. On defense you have to stop the run and limit big plays."
"When you look at some the things the kids did in the secondary last year without a lot of experience, but you see man coverage skills and I look at what we have and I see it. I saw that we can get close to wide receivers and try to deny the ball and take some things away. Those would be the spots I see. Up front, the first thing you look at is, are we going to get knocked off the ball. The video evidence at this point says no, we will not get knocked off the ball."
On if he has a chip on his shoulder on how his tenure at Texas ended:
"You could say that, but I do not know that that is not the way we all are in this profession. Unless you are the guy that held up the shiny crystal ball trophy, just about everybody in this country has got something left to prove. I think that is part of the competitor in you. In this profession to survive you have got to be the ultimate competitor, whether it is myself or anyone other guys on the staff. It is not about me and this is the thing. You do not want to act like it matters more to me than it matters to this player or this other coach. We are all competitors and we are all going to give everything we have to compete to keep pushing this rock up the hill."
How quickly did talks with Skip develop?
"Like Skip mentioned, we spoke at the convention. I would say it all wrapped up in probably a six-day period, from first contact until my feet were on the ground here in Ruston. I had to look around the place and talk with the family. Since I have been here, everyone I have come in contact with in Ruston has been outstanding. My family wishes they could move here tomorrow. We are really just excited to get going."
On if he has a concern on depth at linebacker:
"The one thing we will do this spring is just find football players. That sounds like Coach Talk 101, but it is true. I am not a good enough coach to not play our 11 best players. If our 11 best players means we are going to play three defensive tackles and an end or two linebackers and three safeties or vice versa. It does not matter; I can call them whatever on the board. There are going to be two A-gaps, two B-gaps, and two C-gaps and if they put a tight end on the ground there is going to be a D-gap. In every defense we have, we have to have somebody's nose in one of those gaps. What jersey number they were and how tall they are is really of little consequence to me. I want the players to understand that too. Just because you played this position last year does not mean that is where you are going to play. We are going to find a way to get 11 guys that will run to the football and that when they get there they are in a bad mood when they arrive."
On the challenging games to start the season:
"Getting to start off at Oklahoma will be a great challenge for our guys. Playing Auburn at Auburn, which is an offense that I have gone up against and that will be great for our guys but as a competitor, that is what you want to do. You want to challenge yourself in the most hostile environments. Those are great games to test our guys and that is part of the reason we want guys to come to school here. They want to run out of that tunnel and not blink. That being said, they hang up banners in your stadium for winning the conference and that is something not a lot of people can do year in and year out. There are only so many in the country. Those are the games that will define you. As alumni those guys will come back later on in their career and they will be able to look up at that banner. You do not put up a banner that says we beat this team."
"When I was at Middle Tennessee we had some big type of wins against `BCS' teams. There is not a banner up in the stadium that says we beat that team back-to-back years, but you want it to say that we won our conference. Everyone in our league knows who we are. Everyone in our league knows they have to beat us. We have a championship game and we have to go play everybody on our side, get to our championship game and win it.
"I always tell defensive players that at most schools when you look at numbers hung up around a stadium, they usually belong to offensive guys. So, the way you hang your number up, is you hang a year up. The saying goes `defense wins championships.' What that means, is that is our number. We can hang a 2014 up in the stadium and that is something that can last forever."
Did you talk to Coach Stockstill at Middle Tennessee prior to taking LA Tech job?
"He and I talked, like Coach Holtz said we go way back, and that meant a lot to me. I think a lot of Coach Stockstill. I really enjoyed my four years there, not just in terms of coaching. You have to remember they call us football coaches but really we only coach 12-13 times a year and however many practices we have. There are a lot of other days in the year where we do a lot of other things, other than coach football, whether it is recruiting or other types of stuff. The guy that sets the tone for the entire building that is the guy who my wife and three sons, I am putting their wellbeing in his hands. When you start to look around to find a new landing spot, you have to make sure the guy you are putting your families hands in, is somebody hat you trust. That is why the opportunity to work for Skip was really number one on the list."
On his impression of Louisiana Tech:
"What you sense here is that this is a place that has an expectation of winning. There is a history and tradition, even when I just go to basketball games. There is a pride that surrounds the school, in terms of what we represent for the area and you get it and you feel it. Every day I am here, you feel it more and more."
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