July 23, 2008
Baylor head coach Art Briles attended the Big 12 Football Media Day in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday morning.
A transcript of Coach Briles' press conference follows:
PETER IRWIN: We're now joined by Coach Art Briles from Baylor University. Welcome to the Big 12 and welcome to Media Day. Please identify your players that you brought with you and then make an opening comment or two.
Art Briles: Appreciate it. I know you guys are ready, and young women are ready to get on. I'm sure you've all been here a few days, heard and seen it all day. I won't be anything different, I promise you.
Jason Smith, offensive tackle, is here with us. Jason is going to have a great year, great player. A lot of upside, gotta live up to the upside. Thomas White, one of our inside receivers, may play him a little outside. Kid from the Dallas area. Fifth year senior. You know, big, strong, physical. Once again, got to play to potential. They're on the right track mentally. And then Vinnie Rhodes. Vincent Rhodes, defensive tackle, inside guy. Played quite a bit last two or three years. Good tough kid, and gotta be strong hope for us on the defensive line.
As far as Baylor, you know, if I walked through the room and 11 other head coaches from the Big 12 walked through the room, there probably wouldn't be a whole lot of people pointing at me saying, There goes Baylor football. So that's what we're out to change.
When people talk about Baylor, we want them to take notice and to listen. It's easy lip service. It's something we've got to prove on the field. What we have to do is change the image of Baylor football. That's our objective. That's our goal and the first way to start it is with respect, which is what we're going to try to take care of beginning this fall.
PETER IRWIN: Thank you for your comments. Questions.
Q. You've had great success every level that you've coached in football. As you look at what you've got at Baylor, what do you see as your biggest challenge? I understand your philosophy there about changing the image and getting some respect for Baylor. What's your biggest challenge in that regard?
Art Briles: That's a good question. I appreciate you not mentioning the other things. The biggest challenge, without a doubt, is I feel like when people haven't had a lot of success, a lot of times they're scared of success. And so what we can't be, we can't be a university that's scared to be successful. Because you always view it as somebody else as being able to do something you can't do. That's not the case. You gotta get up on the same playing field. You gotta feel the benefits of a successful season and feeling good about yourself.
So the biggest challenge, I think, is making sure that the mind set equals the physical preparation, which is what we're in the middle of right now with our physical preparation. We've got to make sure our minds equal where our bodies are.
Q. Since it will be asked, talk about the quarterback situation. And how far into camp would you go without naming a starter?
Art Briles: Two good questions. You know, the quarterback situation is it's a healthy advantage, the way I look at it. We've got four guys that can play. I mean, Robert's started the last three years, took his high school to the state championship games. Jeremy Sanders, five year starter, three years in high school, two years of JC. Kirby Freeman, the MVP of the bowl game in Miami two years ago, and then Blake Szymanski throws for 2800 yards last year.
So we've got some guys that can play. To me that's a benefit. What we have to do is find the person or the people that mesh the best with our other players. To me, the quarterback is like maybe a point guard in basketball, make everyone around you look better. We've got to find the guy that makes us look better.
As far as distance into camp when we decide, I'm not going to put a timetable on it, because if I do that, then I have to live by it, stick to it. Because I grew up you don't shake hands; you say what you're going to do.
So we'll play it out and see what happens.
Q. Just curious, when you took over U of H, it was the same kind of thing, didn't have a lot of success. What can you take from that experience and use it here at Baylor with a team that hasn't had a lot of success in the last decade?
Art Briles: That's a good question. That's probably the reason why I'm at Baylor. Probably the reason why I went to Houston and the reason I went to Stephenville High School. They hadn't been to the playoffs. Houston, we won the first undisputed conference championship there in 26 years. And then you look at the same situation at Baylor. I like to walk down paths nobody else wants to walk down.
To me, with our recruits, with our coaches, with our fans, I want pioneers. I want people that are not afraid to step out there and go. It's easy to walk down a path that's clear and pristine and you know it's just perfect. Our path's not that way.
What we have to have is people that want to make it that way. To me, that's an inspiring part of the job. And being in the Big 12, arguably the best conference in America, you're playing against some of the best players in the nation. If you're gonna be the best, you've got to play the best. So all those things kind of intrigue me being there.
What's going to help us turn it around? Turn the lip service around, we've got to get on the field, we've got to do some things on the football field to give our fans a reason to stay excited.
Q. Curious about whether or not is it more of a mental change that has to be made at Baylor, attitude change as opposed to a physical change?
Art Briles: I think it's everything. And the mental change is an easy thing to say. Of course, it all starts mentally. The thing about college football there is a lot of parity. I won't name the eight or 10 teams, but there's eight or 10 teams in America that could probably walk out every Saturday and win 95 percent of the football games. The other 110 after that, there's quite a bit of parity in those 110.
So what we have to do is make sure that when we show up that we show up that we're at the best we can be. Now, that all starts mentally. Then you've got to equate it into physical production on the football field, which is a point that we're trying to get to.
If you don't believe you're going to succeed, then you're going to have a hard time doing that. We've got to make sure that our players believe that we've got to give them a reason to believe. We can operate on faith and hope for a little while but it has to turn into reality at some stages of the game. What we've got to do is notch a couple of victories that make people look at the paper twice and say: That happened? So we've got to do something that's unexpected then you earn a little credibility and then you get respect and then you have an opportunity to get bowl level and win the championship.
Q. Could you maybe talk about the need to develop depth in both the offensive and defensive lines?
Art Briles: Toughest position in college football, toughest position to have depth across the table. What you've got to do you have to have four years in a row of solid recruiting classes to have any depth. And those guys have to stay eligible and they've got to stay healthy and then you can build something up. It's the toughest position to get in my opinion in college football.
When we talk about recruiting the first place we start is O line and D line. That's where we start every year and that's what we look for. First of all, it's the toughest guys in the locker room and they're the base of your football team as far as personality.
So I want big, strong, tough guys around me that have a great mental toughness about them, and those guys are hard to find. Honestly, in the state of Texas, legitimately, I would say there's 15 to 18 legitimate, bona fide DI O line and D line guys every year. I would just say it's hard to be that good that early.
Q. A lot of people are saying that turning Baylor is almost an impossible task. Does that excite you with the idea of being able to change an awful lot of doubters in the country?
Art Briles: Yeah, it does. Stupidly it does. If 18 people say no, I'm looking for the one that says yes. That does inspire me. Is that stupid, dumb, and ignorant? Probably, but it's also motivational and inspiring and intriguing at the same time.
So, yeah, that's what I love about it and that's what our players should love about it and what our fans should love about it. Because why do something that everybody else has been doing. Jump on that bicycle nobody else wants and ride it. Next thing somebody else may want it. So we're always looking for ways to set ourselves apart and be different and kind of be trend setters. This is a great opportunity for us as a football program.
Q. Looking at your non-conference schedule, you're the only Big 12 team that plays three BCS conference teams plus two nationally ranked teams before conference, what's your philosophy in this scheduling non-conference?
Art Briles: The Baylor people want to be first in something, so we're first in the toughest schedule in the Big 12. So we're jumping out there already as a number one.
You know, of course the schedule was made up before I got there. And philosophy on schedule, I mean, just a bunch of different ways to look at it. And it depends on where your program is. I mean, right now we just if they say we're playing, we're playing. And we're going to go out there and play hard and we're going to expect to win.
But I think over the years with the Big 12 and the tough games that you have in the Big 12, you gotta make sure you have great opportunity to win in non-conference. I don't think that's earth shattering to anybody.
Q. In deciding to take the Baylor job, I was curious who in the coaching fraternity you talked to and how many people told you not to take it?
Art Briles: Didn't talk to anybody. My daughter told me not to take it. That's the only one. My oldest daughter and she wouldn't want me saying that. She's just saying, Why would you do that, Dad? And I said why not. But I'm a little bit different in that in that when my mentors are either deceased or not in the coaching profession.
So that would be the stronghold that I would listen to. But there's something we all that's called instinct. And that's kind of what I rely on a lot of times. I felt like if I talked to I a lot of people, it's like deciding whether to take a job or not, which is what we're talking about here. But any job force, everybody is saying, What are you doing? How can I tell somebody else what's best for them? You know what I'm saying. That's kind of the way I felt about this.
Q. Art, you'll always have to go against the Texases and the Oklahomas and the A&Ms. Coming in you were able to bring in a quarterback with you. Obvious answer is that you win and the kids will come. But how did you sell Baylor to these kids when things haven't gone as well?
Art Briles: That's a great question, because right now we have to sell faith, hope and adventure. That's what we've got to sell. Like I mentioned a while ago, being the pioneer, I try to challenge people to have confidence in themselves. It's easy to go some other places and grab ahold of the shirttail. I want guys grabbing ahold of some of our players.
And what we have to sell is the location. It's centrally located, the private school atmosphere, 16 1 student/professor ratio and number one graduation rate in the Big 12. We can sell those things. Eventually at the end of the day we have to be able to sale a productive football team on the field.
Q. Coach, you said something about you need to win so that people go how did that happen or did that happen. How important is the first four games there?
Art Briles: Right now, my math skills give it a one, so my focus is just on the first game. I think I'd be doing a disservice if I sat up here and said we have to win that football game to have a productive season and make things happen the way we want them to happen.
I mean, we're going to have to play well, because in our backyard we come down our ramp, we've got our fans in the stands, it's on national TV. We need to be a productive football team that night. Just so happens we're playing a very good football team, Wake Forest, won 20 games in the last few years. Probably would have won more if the quarterback had been healthy the first three games last year when they lost two out of those three.
We just have to jump on Johnny when we should have jumped on Jim, but we're going to have to beat up on Johnny this time.
PETER IRWIN: Thank you, Coach.