January 3, 2009

The final edition of Muschamp 101

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. - All season long, we've been bringing you Muschamp 101 - going inside the construction helmet of Will Muschamp, a place where facemasks are optional and a little blood is welcome.

In the final edition of the 2008 season, we put on our neck roll and go out strong as Coach Boom/Blood talks about making former Longhorn receiver Roy Williams a rich(er) man, his initial reaction to being offered the coach-in-waiting job at Texas, how long he's willing to wait to become head coach at UT and if he thinks his team can get to Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Go get a beer (or coffee) and get comfortable. It's an extended version - but worth reading every word ...

Q: What are your thoughts about Chris Wells?

MUSCHAMP:
Beanie Wells is an outstanding back. The biggest concern you have going into a bowl game is tackling. You've been off an awful long time. But we've practiced well and I'm pleased with our progress. Wells is just a very powerful, one-cut runner, gets vertical quickly, tough, physical. It's hard to simulate tackling a 240-pound back. We've got linebacker Ryan Roberson simulating Beanie. He's not exactly Beanie. He's Little Beanie.

Q: Who has been simulating Terrelle Pryor?

MUSCHAMP:
We've been switching guys back there. It's hard to simulate the athleticism and the speed Pryor brings to the game. But Wells is an outstanding back, and they have a stable of backs. When Dan Herron and Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine come in the game, the are four capable guys. If Beanie Wells would have played in the USC game, it would have been a different ballgame. Beanie is a tremendous challenge for us and represents a great opportunity for our front to play and tackle well. Terrelle Pryor has drawn comparisons to Vince Young, which I think are appropriate because he's a phenomenal athlete. The game is slowing down for him a little bit. He's been completing over 60 percent of his passes, which says a lot about his accuracy in the throwing game. They've done some zone-read concepts where they create some one-on-one matchups for him in the run game, which I think is very smart. He's a glider when he runs and is covering a lot of ground when he's running the football. And he's effortless doing it. He's a tremendous athlete, and we'll obviously see Todd Boeckman as well, and he's won a lot of games for Ohio State.

Q: How much zone read will they run?

MUSCHAMP:
They do a good job of mixing it up to suit their opponent. The biggest thing you've got to have is pass-rush discipline to limit the escape lanes for Pryor. You've got to keep relative contain off the backside because he's liable to take the ball there.

Q: Your young secondary keeps seeing replays of that Texas Tech touchdown by Michael Crabtree. How do you keep them from reliving that moment over and over again?

MUSCHAMP:
Unfortunately, plays like that happen sometimes. You have to be technical about your approach and what happened on the play and that's what we've been. You can't keep reliving the moment as a player in the secondary. You have to have a short-term memory. But seeing it over and over again can be great because you keep learning from your mistake.

Q: Has Blake Gideon suffered from that Texas Tech game in any way?

MUSCHAMP:
He's played really well for us. He's played outstanding. I think coming from a coach's family, he understands the pitfalls from this job. But he's played outstanding for us, especially after that.

Q: What's the report card on Earl Thomas this season?

MUSCHAMP:
He's played very well. Been very pleased with how those guys have progressed through the year and played at a high level through the year. They have high expectations for themselves, and our expectation is to win every game and we failed one time. So I think they've done a good job for us this year.

Q: Anyone in the Big 12 resemble Beanie Wells?

MUSCHAMP:
I don't think so.

Q: Is Ohio State in search of an offense?

MUSCHAMP:
When you have a young quarterback, you're always trying to find his comfort level because it's the coach's most important job to put your kids in situations where they can be successful. It's hard to argue with 10-2.


Q: If you had to say what Ohio State's offense is about right now, what is it?

MUSCHAMP:
You start with the power running game. You've got Beanie Wells and go from there in trying to create one-on-one situations for Terrelle Pryor in the running game, and they have a controlled passing game underneath. But they can go vertical because they have good outside threats in Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline. There will be a new wrinkle in the game, just like we will have.

Q: What did you think when you heard Ohio State might play with both quarterbacks on the field? I asked Mack Brown what he thought about it, and he said Texas tried it and it failed miserably.

MUSCHAMP:
The thing about bowl games is you have a lot of time off, so you can chase ghosts. You have to evaluate what they've done and what they might do. We looked at Ohio State against Texas in 2005 and 2006. So you put together a game plan for what you think you'll see and then adjust during the game.

Q: How many days have you gone ones against ones in practice?

MUSCHAMP:
We had five days of practice before we left for the bowl game where we went good against good. It's the age-old question of how you practice? We practice the young guys by tackling to the ground. And we keep a thud tempo for the ones. With a thud tempo you have to get in position and set your feet to make the tackle. We've had good live work in every practice we've had since the A&M game.

Q: Is it hard to prepare your team for a power running game when that's something you haven't really seen this season?

MUSCHAMP:
We've had a lot of time to prepare based on what they do. More than anything, I don't really worry about scheme. I worry about players. We've got to prepare for a tremendous athlete at quarterback, four power backs and receivers who play well down the field.

Q: Are you recruiting Sergio Kindle to stay another year?

MUSCHAMP:
No. You just present the facts as you it based on the evaluation from the NFL and the people you trust in the NFL, from the general managers to coaches to scouts based on what they perceive his future to be and then make an educated decision from that. And that's a decision he and his father will make.

Q: How many tapes of Ohio State did you watch?

MUSCHAMP:
The whole season and some past games.

Q: Does Pryor remind you of anybody?

MUSCHAMP:
No. 10 from Texas. He's a glider when he runs the ball. He's got excellent top-end speed. Great athlete. Completes a high percentage. He's an excellent player.

Q: How much has your life changed since being named coach-in-waiting?

MUSCHAMP:
None. I have a role within the organization, and my role is defensive coordinator. It's to prepare the defense and preparing our kids for the game. Obviously, I've paid a little more attention to the things on Mack Brown's plate. But my role will not change.

Q: What does that mean to know what your future has in store?

MUSCHAMP:
It's exciting that one day it will happen. It's great that Mack Brown, DeLoss Dodds and Bill Powers had that confidence in me to make that decision. But it's not something that's going to happen tomorrow. I'm the defensive coordinator at Texas. I enjoy my job. I like what I do. When that day comes, I'll look forward to it.

Q: Why do you think more schools are deciding to take the coach-in-waiting approach?

MUSCHAMP:
I can't speak for other schools. In our situation, I'm excited about it. It creates a lot of stability. A lot of times when there's a coaching change, you lose a recruiting year. Nowadays, a lot of coaches have buyouts, so it's not realistic to say, 'We're going to go hire a coach with head coaching experience and then go hire someone you're comfortable with running your program who maybe has been a head coach for 20 years but maybe has a $4 million buyout. Then, you've got to pay $4 million to the other university in addition to paying your new coach and staff. So I think some universities are looking to see if there's someone within the program who can take it over and have some stability.

Q: Does it take some pressure off of you not to be chasing other head coaching jobs?

MUSCHAMP:
Texas is where I want to be. I've had other opportunities and I want to be at Texas. It's a real simple decision to me.

Q: Did it change dynamics in the assistant coaches' room when this happened? Did some of the other coaches treat you different and start sidling up to you a little bit more?

MUSCHAMP:
No. We have a really professional staff, who understand the decision that was made, and Coach Brown was outstanding in discussing why the decision was made in our staff meeting. Those guys have been really professional. Again, there's no timetable set, so there's no reason for the dynamics to change.

Q: Do you feel like Prince Charles waiting to ascend the throne?

MUSCHAMP:
My name is Will.

Q: Who came up to you first and approached you about the idea of succeeding Mack Brown? Was it a shock?

MUSCHAMP:
Coach Brown talked to me about it and asked if that was something I'd be interested in, and I was. I've said it before, Texas is the elite program in the country from a recruiting standpoint, from a resources standpoint. Our administration is phenomenal. That's where you want to be a as a coach, at a place where you have that kind of support and opportunity.

Q: Were you surprised?

MUSCHAMP:
Yeah, I was. I see how passionate and the energy he has in coaching and recruiting and representing the university, so it was kind of a shock for him to even think about not being the head coach at the University of Texas.

Q: Have you seen any kind of benefit from the move?

MUSCHAMP:
From a recruiting standpoint, it provides continuity for the kids. For our current players, they know what we're going to be running on defense for a long time. For the recruits, they know if there's some sort of illness or if something were to happen, there would be continuity in the program. It's tough on the kids to go through change from a scheme standpoint, approach standpoint and from the family atmosphere we have here at Texas. So I think there's a calming effect on all of those things.

Q: Doesn't this close off a lot of opportunity out there for up-and-coming assistant coaches if everyone starts doing this?

MUSCHAMP:
I can't speak for other schools. I think when guys start worrying about the next job, they don't do a good job with the one they've got.

Q: Your wife didn't want to leave Austin.

MUSCHAMP:
No, she didn't. She's moved a lot, and she really likes Austin. It's a great community. It's a capital city, but it has a small-town feel to it, and we're both from small towns. And we've got a great house in a great community, and a lot of friends we've made in a short period of time. She's excited we're here.

Q: Is there any kind of timetable, or are you happy being defensive coordinator for a lot of years?

MUSCHAMP:
I'm happy in the role I'm in, and the rest is up to Coach Brown.

Q: Woody Hayes told Bo Schembechler he was going to replace him at Ohio State, and Woody coached another 17 years. It didn't work out in that case. Are you prepared to wait that long?

MUSCHAMP:
If that's what I've got to wait, that's what I've got to wait.

Q: Did you talk to Jimbo Fisher when this came up. He was with you at LSU and is now the coach-in-waiting at Florida State.

MUSCHAMP:
After it happened, we talked about it. After the decision was made we talked about it. We talk a lot any way. Nothing specific.

Q: Some of your guys are saying they look forward to a smash mouth game after facing all the spread offenses. What about you?

MUSCHAMP:
I think we look forward to playing the best. And Ohio State has been as consistent as any program in the country, and we look forward to the opportunity Monday night.

Q: Do you have a philosophy about bowl games?

MUSCHAMP:
The fun is in winning the bowl game. There's a lot of distractions. John Junker and his staff here at the Fiesta Bowl do a great job of entertaining everyone here in the Valley of the Sun. But the fun is in winning the game, so let's go do that.

Q: There are seniors thinking about moving on, so how do you keep players focused?

MUSCHAMP:
We just tell them to remove the clutter and focus on what we can control, and that's going out and playing well against Ohio State.

Q: There's sort of myth that the Big Ten doesn't have the speed to compete with the Big 12 or the SEC. Is that overblown?

MUSCHAMP:
I think so. I look at the speed Ohio State has at receiver, at running back and at quarterback and I say it's totally overblown.

Q: Heading into the spring, can you talk about what you hope the players pick up in the second year of the defense?

MUSCHAMP:
There's less teaching of scheme and more work on fundamentals and technique at each position, and our kids become our best teachers of the scheme. We kind of adjust from week to week based on what we see, so we have to define each week and each practice based on how we're going to play certain things as far as coverages and fronts. Our older kids are obviously adapting much better. They are starting to understand, 'Well, this is how we did it against such and such.' And they are able to be the best teachers for the other kids. That's what I've seen in the other places I've been.

Q: You've only lost two bowl games as an assistant coach in college and one of them was to Texas in the 2002 season at the 2003 Cotton Bowl. What do you remember about that?

MUSCHAMP: I remember we helped Roy Williams get drafted higher. He had a great game, and Texas just physically pushed us around that game. That was a really good Texas team. Cedric Benson gave us problems that day. But we definitely made some more money for Roy Williams.

Q: How many of Terrelle Pryor's running plays come from broken plays?

MUSCHAMP:
I wouldn't say a lot. I would say most of it is by design.

Q: Ohio State has struggled with the pass rush of Florida and LSU in its last two bowl games. Did you see anything in those games you might be able to take advantage of?

MUSCHAMP:
We've been able to rush the passer well all season. We've been able to do that with four guys rushing. We need to change some things up and be multiple, but we've rushed the passer all season and we look forward to the opportunity to do it again Monday night.

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