Any Given Saturday
UT without Vince, A&Ms bounce back, Techs offense and why the BCS is a joke.
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The winningest football coach in Texas A&M history
The winningest football coach in Texas Tech history
Hollister: I know this is impolite, given that I’ve got an A&M guy and a Tech guy on the line, but let’s begin with the University of Texas. The big question on the table, obviously, is, Can the Longhorns repeat as national champions, especially now that Vince Young has a nice new job in Tennessee?
Dykes: You know, being number one is extremely, extremely difficult. Staying number one is even harder, because now you’ve got a bulls-eye on your back. And Texas has a tough non-conference schedule. I mean, they play Ohio State, which is already picked as one of the top ten teams in the country, and in the top five in most cases. Ill say this: They’ve certainly got a great nucleus, and having a little luck, like having a ball hit the goalpost and go in rather than out, and keeping everybody well—those things are all factored into winning a national championship. So I would say it would be extremely hard to repeat, but dont count’em out.
Hollister: But they have lost a key component of that nucleus in Young and will be relying on two freshmen to fill his shoes. As coaches, what advice do you have for those young guys?
Dykes: First of all, play within your abilities and dont try to be Vince Young. The best thing you can do is put that name out of your mind.
Slocum: One of the outstanding things that Coach [Mack] Brown and Coach [Greg] Davis have done over the years is utilize their talents. They’ve done a great job as a staff of taking their players and giving them things that they can do and be successful with. Like Spike says, if the players themselves don’t come in with the illusion that they have to be Vince Young, I’ve got great confidence that those coaches will give them something they can be successful with.
Hollister: What do you tell those fans, though, who are brutal and impatient and quick to call for somebody’s head?
Dykes: I was coaching at Tech when Mack got the head job at Texas, and in his announcement I remember him saying that UT would never be successful until it won a national championship. Pressure in football—it goes with the territory. And most of it is self-imposed. So to begin with, I dont think they’re going to be bad very often, if ever, because they do have great coaches and they have adapted.
Hollister: Speaking of pressure, the coach on the hot seat this year is in College Station. What needs to happen at Kyle Field for things to turn around for Dennis Franchione?
Dykes: That’s another one of those jobs—the better the job, the more pressure there is. It’s hard to be a consistent contender year after year after year, and if you’re not, well, that’s the nature of the beast in college athletics today. I think coaching is like the guillotine. You just hope the blade doesn’t get you.
Hollister: What do you think of A&M, Coach Slocum?
Slocum: I’m like everybody else this time of year: I always think were going to be good. So if I had to say, I’d say A&M is probably going to be a very competitive team. I saw them play at the end of last year. They played Oklahoma in a pretty competitive ball game, and they played Texas—they were playing against the national championship team—and that was pretty much an even ball game. I think you can even make the argument that with just a play or two, A&M could have won that game. And they’ve got most of those players coming back, including their quarterback, so I’d have to be very optimistic about their chances this season.
Hollister: Do you think the defense will be back to the A&M defenses of old?
Slocum: I don’t know enough about it. I know they’ve changed schemes. And I know from coaching that there is an adjustment period that you go through. Often you have to recruit to a scheme over time for it to be effective. The other side of that is, anytime you do something new, theres a little bit of excitement and enthusiasm that comes with the change. And of course, as you go through the year, after the first game or two, that kind of goes and it’s what you do week after week. I think confidence—you cant give that to somebody. You really have to earn that on the field. And it remains to be seen if they’ll do that this year.
Hollister: Let’s talk about Tech. They’re arguably one of the most exciting offenses in all of college football, but Coach Mike Leach and company dont always seem to get the respect they deserve.
Dykes: Mike is an innovator; he does things differently. I’d hate to be playing them on Saturday. Every time they tee it up, they have a chance to win, and I dont care who they’re playing.
Slocum: I talk to college coaches from time to time, and there’s not anybody jumping up and down wanting to play Texas Tech. There have been some long nights spent by coaches trying to figure out how to slow their offense down. Some of the worst days of my life were spent in Lubbock. They’re doing it in a different way now, but in terms of being difficult to beat if you check their record against A&M and Texas, this hasn’t just started here in the past couple of years. It’s been going on for quite some time.
Hollister: What about the BCS? They’ve instituted some changes, but will we still be scratching our heads at the end of the season?
Dykes: Oh, the BCS is a joke. You know, in every sport in every college in the United States, there is a national champion and not a mythical national champion except Division I college football. Why in the world they won’t go have a playoff—nobody can answer that. I dont think Albert Einstein could give the reason why.
Hollister: What are y’all looking forward to this season?
Dykes: Well, on my calendar, I’m going to watch somebody every Friday night, and I’m going to watch somebody every Saturday, because I just like to watch football games.
Slocum: And I think you watch them a little differently when you’re not actively coaching. When youre coaching, normally you spend a whole lot of time watching teams that you’re going to play somewhere down the season, and you’re always looking in terms of what youre going to have to do to try to beat them, and I think now I can watch two teams play and I just appreciate the football part of it. I see what each team’s trying to do and appreciate the level of coaching and the level of play. And if I get up and go get a Coke and some popcorn and I miss a play, I’ll be okay.