Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin opened up the 2012 SEC Media Days event and met with the press corps. Here is an edited transcript of the question-and-answer session Tuesday afternoon.
Question: Can you comment on your QB situation?
Answer (Sumlin): I’ve been through this before at UH with two QB's. I want to name a starter two weeks before the first game if not sooner. The fact that we’ve done this before, I’m comfortable with the timing and selection process. I’m comfortable with the athleticism and abilities of his QB's.
Q: Do you need to make adjustments to your offense to play in the SEC?
A: Yeah, get bigger and faster. But I really don’t think we need to change what we do. We've been able to adapt to our personnel whether I was at Houston or where-ever. People say we're a pass-happy team and if you look at our statistics and ratios, we do a good job of running the ball. We'll know where we are compared to the SEC in February, but we are comfortable with how we do things regardless of the competition. We took a little ole' UH team and went into Starkville and won.
Q: How important is to open up SEC against Florida? Is the end of college kickoff on the horizon?
A: Our most important game is our first against Louisiana Tech. Sonny does a great job there. It's at night and it will be a great environment. I know our fans are extremely excited to play Florida in that first SEC game. Just look at ticket sales and you can see that. It's a big deal for them. For us, the first game is the biggest game and that’s our focus now. I'm not a fan of eliminating kickoff. Fans like it and there is an art to it.
Q: With so many young QB's, is it tough for development?
A: Sometimes the older guys will reject your new philosophy and style. In our case, we knew all of these QB's because we recruited them. We talked to them on the phone immediately after taking the job and I was comfortable with them and they were comfortable with me and Coach Kingsbury. It's easier to mold younger players I think.
Q: What is your approach to out-of-state recruiting?
A: Recruiting - We have an emphasis in the state of Texas, but being in the SEC has increased our footprint especially moving east to Louisiana and Mississippi. Looking at our recruiting over last 5-6 months, we've gotten more interest and visits from guys that wouldn't look at us if we were not in the SEC. It's hard to quantify that because I wasn't here last year, but the SEC certainly hasn't hurt us. Texas will be our focus, but to be the team we want to be, we need some prowess in national recruiting.
Q: What are your thoughts about LSU being the possible last game and the rivalry as a whole?
A: I don't have any say in scheduling being the new guy. From a proximity standpoint, it is a big factor in recruiting. They are in Texas recruiting and we're in Louisiana. As we get better, I think people will look forward to that game more and more. We will create a lot of rivalries in the SEC, but the proximity could make it a rivalry game.
Q: What is your assessment of the SEC West?
A: It's a pretty damn hard league. That's my assessment. The combination of size and speed is what sticks out. I've been a part of some very fast teams in recent years, and our speed level at A&M is pretty good. I think the combination of speed and size along with the depth up-front,..that is what sticks out with the SEC. Best coaches in the league as well. It doesn't get any better than that.
Q: Assess your defense. Can it be an SEC-caliber defense?
A: Difficult to say at this point. Last year, we led the country in sacks but were #105 in pass defense. We must be more consistent on defense. We must develop depth along our front. Some freshmen are going to play there. Our starting linebackers are SEC caliber linebackers size and speedwise. J-Stew is a 245-250 pound presence at Mike. We are going to have to recruit to the 4-3, and it will force us to play a lot of freshman but that will help us down the road.
Q: Status of Christine Michael?
A: He was ready to go in the spring but we wanted to be cautious and get him through the spring healthy. We'll monitor him in the fall, but to me I think he's 100%. He's at 223 lbs. right now and that's a good weight for him. Not much swelling or anything so he'll be fine.
Q: What are your realistic expectations this season?
A: My realistic expectations are to win. People think I don’t know what I'm getting into, but we were going to the SEC when I took the job. We must continue to recruit at a high level and we have everything in place at A&M to do that. I’m a coach. I'm not a forecaster. I can't say where we will be in terms of wins. We can't be worried about our SEC schedule. We have to worry about us and fixing the things that need fixed and go from there.
Q: What are some perceptions or myths about Texas A&M?
A: I don't know. I wish the perception was that we are damn good in football. There are some things you hear in recruiting, but then when the guys come here for visits they say it's a lot different than they thought. We've got a huge tradition with our student body. We have the largest student body attendance of anywhere in the country...30,000 students are at every game. You can't showcase that to recruits when they come for a visit in the summer. There are positives and negatives at every school. But as a coach, what sets A&M apart are the 50,000 students and the 20,000 former students going out into the marketplace every year getting great jobs. Game day experience is second to none. It gives me an opportunity to recruit the best players. We have a game day atmosphere and a venue that fits right in with the SEC.
Q: How do you respond to what Les Miles said "A&M and Missouri better strap it up"?
A: I think he says that to everybody. He's got a good football team. I don;t see that as a derogatory comment. He's coached at OSU and now at LSU. He knows the difference and the physical nature of this league. It's a fair statement.
Q: West Virginia racked up 545 Yards against LSU last year under Dana Holgerson who worked for you. Does that give you an indication of what you can do under your offense?
A: There were a lot of turnovers in that game. I don’t think you can look just at the yardage and make any conclusions. It's still about scoring points, and scoring more points than your opponent. There are a lot of similarities in what we do and what West Virginia does, but that game came down to turnovers like just about every game does.
Q: What has been the difference you've seen in the offseason with S&C coach Larry Jackson?
A: I can't see those workouts. Larry Jackson has been with me since I was at Oklahoma and he understands what I want to get done. He's an Aggie and this is personal for him and our players get that. The demands he has put in since the spring will pay off in the fall. We don’t have a conditioning test at the end of summer and Coach Jackson has never had one. He told me, "If you get out there in practice and those players are not where they need to be then you fire me." We've been together a long time so there's no better resume' than that. Our teams have always been in excellent condition for what we want to do offensively. He had some challenges along those lines when we first got to Oklahoma getting them ready for some big games and he did that. He was excited to get to A&M to work with guys like Luke Joeckel who walk in the door at 280-290 and try to develop those guys. I'll know more during two-a-days, but seeing those guys and seeing their new bodies I'm proud how they've conducted themselves. They are taking pride in what they do this summer.
Q: What are your thoughts of the Arkansas series moving to home-and-home and do you see it moving back to Cowboy Stadium in the future?
A: That's another question that's out of my hands. When it was an SEC-Big 12 game, that was fine. Now that it's a conference game and a divisional game, I think most players would like to play those games at home. I would rather it be a home-and-home deal but that's not my call. As a coach, that really doesn't matter.
Q: Have you met w/ AD Eric Hyman?
A: I'm excited about him coming to A&M. IF you look at his success at his last two stops at USC and TCU, that's the direction you like to see for us at Texas A&M. You gotta guy like Eric Hyman who has a proven track record, but this administration desperately needed somebody not only with SEC experience, but experience in winning in the SEC. We’ve had some conversations about the direction of our program. I think we hit a home run with hiring him.