"Hello, good afternoon. It is a beautiful day. It is a pleasure to be back, a blessing to be back quite honestly. In this profession whenever you can hang around more than 18 months it is a big deal, and it is something that I never take for granted. I am not trying to be funny either. I have never taken for granted the honor it is to be involved in this profession at this great university. I am very thrilled and happy to be here. Sunday's game, you have a whole summer to hype it up, and I think there is a lot of advanced magnitude to it because of the stadium, the bridge, the river, I-35. Everything is a reality. It is not hope, a vapor, a vision; it is real. We all get to witness it. We all get to be a part of it. We all need to be thankful. What I need to do as a coach, and what we need to do as a football team is understand that we have a job to do. Our job is to take care of the people that cared enough to make all of this happen. We all are intentionally focused on winning a football game against a very good SMU team."
On playing in the front of the crowd:
"I think they are extremely anxious. We had the two scrimmages over there already, but it is hard to talk about what is going to happen over there on Sunday because there are so many unknowns. How many boats are going to be in the water? How many people will be on the bridge? How many people will be mingling outside of the stadium? The stadium, the atmosphere that is going to be inside; everything that is involved is all unknown to everybody. The known is that we have to play really good football to win the game, and our job is to win the game. That is where we are putting all of our focus because quite honestly we have a bad taste in our mouth from last January. It has been a long six months, and what we are trying to do is to take a wrong and make it right in 2014."
On the how the team has progressed to this point:
"You know it is hard to tell, that is the thing about it. Anytime you go against yourself through spring ball, through fall camp, there is nothing to relate it to. In the NFL you have preseason games, in high school you have scrimmages, and in college you play. It is show time. It is really hard to tell. I feel like I have a good feel on where we are strong at, where we are going to be good. What we are going to be able to do, but we will see Sunday. We have good vibes heading into the game."
On the importance of getting after SMU's new quarterback:
"He played a little bit last year, and did a good job. It is not like it is the first time he as ever jogged out on the field. They have a good idea what he brings to the table. He is very poised, very accurate with the football. You are asking about the pressure deal that is no different with any QB. It doesn't matter if you are Peyton Manning or first-time out guy, you have to get your feet comfortable and you have to get in rhythm. We will see how that unfolds because that is a two way street. I am sure they will have schemes to where they are going to try to pressure up our guy too."
On Big 12 quality depth on defense:
"Once again time will tell. We think we feel really good on what is going to be out there. We know we feel good on what is going to be out there, what they are going to do. It is just like Bryce. Last year we were sitting in here thinking the same thing: What is Bryce going to do? There is one thing, two or three things money can't buy, and one of those things is experience. You can have all the money in the world, but if you have not done anything it doesn't matter. You can't buy it. You have to live it, taste it, and feel it. That is what these guys are going to have to do defensively. Once these guys get out there and make a play, and gain some confidence and feel the crowd and feel the energy. All of a sudden you elevate up. Once you get talent excited, then you have a chance to be pretty dynamic. That is why I feel good about our football team because I know it is going to be an outstanding environment. It is going to be live, and it is going to be happening. It is going to be a lot of action. It is our job as a University to make the most exciting stadium in America on game day. Our guys have to feed off of that because we have guys when you put them on the field, and there is some energy, there can be a different step, a different level. I have been around for a long time and I know how fast looks when it is excited."
On having a returning quarterback:
"It is funny that you ask that because I was talking about it earlier this morning in a meeting. It is only the second time in seven years that we have had a returning quarterback start a season. So it is a big deal. A huge deal. It just doesn't happen very often. Not only here, but everywhere. It is a great comfort, especially when the guy is good. A lot of times they are back because of necessity, but this guy is back because he is good, and it is the best thing for him and for us. That is what the difference is. We are excited about what he brings to the table from all facets, not just play but also everything else."
On all three true freshmen playing:
"Pretty sure all three of those are going to play. Chance (Waz) is real steady, real dependable, athletic, a guy that fits the need for us back there at the safety position. KD (Cannon) and Davion (Hall) are both really talented guys that have the ability to maybe get on the field Sunday. We will see how it all unfolds. There is always the possibility that other guys could get involved. What we don't want to do is play guys four plays a game, and lose his year. So if we are going to play a guy we have to play him."
On the experience of the building a winning program:
"There are all different types of breeding, and winning breeds winning. That is something that is always out there. If you guys, your University, your football program thinks it's going to win and feels like it's supposed to win, and feels like it's going to win; you have a good chance to win. That is just the way it is. I was actually watching a Jimmy Connors tennis deal last night on the U.S. Open. I didn't know the guy they were talking to, but he had Connors down 5-2, and he had never beaten Conners. 5-2 with the serve and had never beaten him. He said that he kept hearing this voice in the back of his mind saying, `If I can just finish this out I am going to beat him. It is going to be my first time to beat him. I am finally going to beat him.' He never really did believe that he was going to win. Consequently, he ended up getting beat 7-6 in the last match. To answer your question, it makes a huge difference where the program is to have success on the field. That is why you see traditions that last over decades, not over two or three years. That is where we are trying to establish ourselves as a program - a year-in and year-out dominant, respected football team."
On the atmosphere and the home field advantage in the new stadium:
"Quite honestly, we have had as good as an atmosphere as you would want to have. It is like I was talking to someone earlier just a few minutes ago. I have to be careful when I just sit around with idle seconds, or you get to thinking about what it is going to be like, and all of sudden your heart starts to beat a little faster and you start to get fired up. I think without doubt it is going to be phenomenal. I think it is going to be hard for anybody in the United States of America to mimic what he have going on. When you talk about the whole atmosphere of the stadium, with the bridge, the river, I-35, and the campus in the background, with the lagoon and the boat slips. I just don't think it can be mimicked. We got what we got, so we need to be the best at it. If you can run a 10.31, run it every time, do not run a 10.42 two times. If you can be the best then be the best every time that you step out there. That is what we need to do as a university, as a fan base and as a team. They gave us the best, and now we need to take full advantage and responsibility of it."
On being ranked in the top 10:
"The best part about it is, and all of that is nice the respect and the first time in 50 years, but the best part is you start high you finish high. Last year we started outside the top 25 got all the way up to No. 3 in America. Now you have to do some things. You have to go 9-0, and you have to be a hot football team to get there. If we mess around and go 9-0 this year we will be number one. You start high you finish high. This year it is important because we are not just fighting with the conference to get to a BCS game. We are fighting with a mentality of what is the image of that football program on the national level with some people on the committee. Right now we have a good image. We are anywhere from eight to 12. I do not know I have not looked at all of them. We are right where we need to be. We need to take care of our business."
On this time this year compared to last year:
"Well, I'm older. Probably a lot worse looking. For me, it's all about experience. Last year, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know, going into week one, what they were looking for, what they were going to do. And now I know. So I expect big things from myself from a standpoint of just knowing what to expect now and having that experience."
On how Baylor has changed during his time here:
"It has changed tremendously since I've been here. It was always just talks, never really action about [the new stadium]. So just to see where we were freshman year, not only as a program but the community and the support from everybody, to where we are now makes us strive to be the best, to put out for you guys. So I think being a part of a program where everyone is around you and everyone is supporting you just makes it that much better."
On playing in the new stadium:
"I'm extremely excited and so, so blessed to be a part of this opportunity for us. There's been a lot of past, present and future bears that have all put in work to get to this point, so to be the quarterback of the 2014 bears to open a new stadium is huge for me. So I think that it's a privilege for all of us, but it's one that is humbling too, one that we need to make sure we go out and not make it bigger than it is. We need to make sure that we have a purpose and a reason for it, not just to open up presents, but to wear what we open up. So I think speaking on behalf of all the guys, we are extremely excited to open that thing up for you guys. The word is "palace" and we want to protect that palace with everything that we got and put a team out there that's just as great as what we're playing in."
On the offensive line:
"They really don't get enough credit. They're unbelievable. My two tackles, Spencer Drango and Troy Baker, are about as consistent as they can be. Very intelligent players, which is what I like. You know, they're not just brawlers, but they're smart brawlers. Guards like Desmine (Hilliard) and Blake (Muir) and LaQuan (McGowan) or whoever has that left guard spot, they've done an unbelievable job of just rotating. And Kyle Fuller has been great all camp. I've loved what he's done. The cool part about it is that you can just tell how much chemistry they have together. We've really rotated a bunch of people in and out and they've just done a great job against, to me, what's one of the best front sevens I've ever seen. With Shawn (Oakman) and Jamal (Palmer) and Bryce (Hager), they're unbelievable. And so, to go up against the best every day makes us better. So I couldn't be happier to go up against them and see those guys put in the work they have and contribute and produce like they have."
On being just the second quarterback to return during Briles' time at Baylor:
"I'm excited personally. That was one of the reasons that I came back. I want to be the best to ever play here and I think that anytime you can get as much knowledge and experience, everything helps. I'm feeling really confident right now with what I'm doing personally, with the feel of the offense and the guys that we have out there and the coaches especially. They instill it in you. I'm extremely excited to be a part of it again. It's a blessing to be where I am and I'm ready to go."
On how important the Heisman trophy is to him:
"Well, I think it's good for Baylor. Any time we're in the national spotlight, I think that's great for us. Personally, I don't think about it. It's out of my control. Who I am today, the player I am today, the teammate I am today--that's all that I worry about. I don't worry about things down the road. Like I said last year, the play on the field is going to take care of itself. I just want to be the best teammate I can be. So is it important for me to win? Heck yeah, I would love to see my name on that trophy. But at the end of the day, what's most important for me is a Big 12 ring and a national championship ring. If I can get those, I'm a happy camper."
On whether the stadium attention has been a distraction:
"No, not at all. It goes back to there's a reason and a purpose that we're getting that. We've got a stadium because of what we've done in the past, and I don't think it's changed our mentality at all. We want to defend it. We want to attack in there and defend that palace. So again, the stadium is a great privilege, but there's a reason that we got it and there's a reason that we're in it. And it's to play football. It's still 53 and a half yards wide and 120 yards long, so we want to make sure that what we play on that field is Baylor football. That's the reason we're there."
On the student tickets selling out so quickly and what the student support means to him:
"I was actually with one of the students here that tried to get a ticket. I think it was at 5:11, and the servers were already down and had been down. I'm not an IT guy, but I think that means there were a lot of people trying to get tickets. So that's huge for us. It's a true testament to the hype and the support that we've gotten over the last couple of years. Now, it's at an all-time high and again, it's a blessing to be a part of. We want to put out for you guys. We want to show out for you guys. So that is motivation in itself for us to do well."
On SMU's defense:
"They're extremely well-coached. They've got a lot of good players. I think it's easy to overlook things, especially with all the distractions we've got going on, but this is about playing football and we have to make sure that we're on our game. Last time I checked our last game, we lost. So we want to make sure, and I want to make sure, that that doesn't happen again. Especially to these guys that I'm out there playing with. So it's motivation for me to make sure that all my t's are crossed and I've dotted the i's. And again, they're doing extremely well. They've got a lot of good players and a good scheme, but I have no doubt that Coach Briles and his staff will have us prepared, and Coach Bennett on the defensive side. We're ready. The players are ready, so we're just ready to get back to football."
On how much pressure he feels to do well this season:
"The thing about expectations is that I think you feel pressure when your expectations are lower than other people's. My expectations for myself are a lot higher than what everybody else says about me. So in that sense, I don't feel pressure because I'm ahead of time with what I want to do and what I want to achieve this year. So there is a lot of hype and that's good for Baylor and that's good for myself, but at the end of the day, I know what I want to achieve and what I want to get to. And they're higher than what you guys have, so sorry. But no, I'm not worried about that at all."
On handling the buildup to the first game:
"It's almost here. It still kind of feels like it's weeks away. I wish it was tomorrow, but I'm definitely excited for Sunday. I think we're handling it well. Everyone's been excited since we finished playing last year. To get in the stadium early to scrimmage has definitely helped us out for next week."
On going in the stadium the first time:
"The first time we went over there the scrimmage probably could've gone a little better just because everyone was so surprised at how big and how nice it really was. I think it exceeded everyone's expectations and we were kind of trying to scrimmage at the same time we were trying to check the field out."
On being ready for SMU:
"I feel like we've done everything we need to, now it's just focusing on SMU and learning as much as we can about them and making sure we are prepared for them on Sunday."
On being a starter:
"It means a lot. I'm excited to get out there and show the defenses what we're ready to do in this new year. It's a new season and I'm ready to get out there and prove myself."
On the test of waiting until now to start:
"It was a long wait. I've been here for a while and it's been a long time since I've been out there playing. But it's been well worth it."
On whether he had enough snaps last year to be ready for this first game:
"Yes, I had plenty. I think our defense had probably the most reps of any defense in the country, the second team. And I got to step in some games for the players out there, so I think I have many reps."
On what's different about him this year:
"Knowledge. I've learned so much from being behind the linebackers last year. They taught me so much and just the offseason and this spring, I learned a ton. A lot of knowledge. Coach always says that knowledge is power, and you can definitely tell that I've learned a lot since last year."
On stepping up this year on defense:
"Everyone knows what those guys were capable of and the standard that they set last year. Everybody watched those guys play and those guys were play makers out there. Now we don't want to take any steps back out there from where they were last year. Instead we want to take a step forward."
On SMU's top receiver from last year and what he sees from him:
"He is really good. They like to get him the ball a lot. He had over a 100 catches last year, so we just have to keep an eye on him because he is one of their key players. We just have to take care of our responsibilities."
On the defense's mentality:
"We want to shut everybody out-- not just their best player but their whole team. If their best player doesn't do anything we don't want their second best player to do anything either."
On if he ever imagined the stadium turning out the way it did:
"Honestly, I wish I could say that I could, but I am certainly not upset by it."
On what he thinks the atmosphere will be like on Sunday:
"I know there is going to be a lot of Baylor fans. This is going to be huge--the first game in a new stadium. I know people who are coming in town just to tailgate, because they can't even get a ticket, but they don't care. That shows you how far we have come."
On his mindset:
"Our focus is to be 1-0 after the 31st. Coming into a new stadium and a new season, we are very excited and we want to start it off right."
On being in a new stadium:
"We had Floyd Casey and now we have a new home, so we have to protect that home. Coming into that first game we are going to protect our home. We are going to start fast and be physical, and we plan on doing whatever else that entails."
On his dad being a football coach/growing up around football:
"You learn a lot from being around it and you learn from the inside what they expect, what they're looking for and obviously with a coach as your dad you're going to work pretty hard. He's going to challenge you. My dad did a great job. He wasn't overbearing or anything like that but he always pushed me and I wanted to be the best I could be. It's been a really great advantage for me to always have him around."
On preparing differently for special teams as opposed to starting nickelback:
"It's different. On special teams you're not quite expected to know the whole defense. You're supposed to as a backup, but it's not quite the same obviously. As a starter you're expected to know every inside and out of every play call and when you make that call, what you've got to do. It's a little different and they put a little more responsibility on you. It's just something that you've got to take the responsibility head on and do it. I'm looking forward to that."
On being prepared for the new role:
"I will be prepared. We've still got a week left and Coach Bennett always says we're preparing all the way up to that very first snap, so I'm in a good place right now and I will be in an even better place on Sunday."