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Friday, February 5, 2010
Tech's Tuberville: 'It's been a whirlwind'

By Richard Durrett

DALLAS -- New Texas Tech football coach Tommy Tuberville's barnstorming tour stopped in Dallas after an earlier gathering in Houston on Thursday, and he chatted with about 700 Red Raiders fans at the Hilton Anatole.

Most Tech supporters wanted to see what the new coach was like and hear about the recruiting class that Tuberville and his staff put together on very short notice.

Before the dinner, Tuberville talked with a few members of the media. Here are some of the questions and answers from that session:

Tommy Tuberville
Tommy Tuberville says he will stick with Tech's wide-open passing offense.
Q: Talk about your overall approach to the 2010 season.

Normally you spend three years preparing for recruiting classes, and we spent three weeks. It's been a whirlwind, but everyone has worked hard. The thing that Tech has done is they've created a niche in recruiting going from the East to West Coast to recruit because they have been one of the best offensive teams in the country. You go mostly in Texas, but find the best you can in those areas no matter where they are from.

It's been interesting. But now that recruiting is over, we survived. That's one way you can put it. We went after a lot of players they weren't recruiting in a short period of time, and I think they did a great job of getting some of those players to Lubbock. We held on to a lot of guys like Scotty Young, the quarterback from Denton. We had 18 on defense and seven on offense. We needed speed defensively. Overall, it was a very good class. Some of these players will have to play next year and play well for us to have a chance.

Offensively, I've been real impressed with how the players have taken to them. Will they accept a coaching staff that will run an offense that is similar to what they do? They will.

On the defensive side, we're going to make drastic changes. We lost our strength coach, and I hired one the next day. That's one of the most important hires you can have. He instills discipline on your team and work ethic.

We'll have a good football team, but only as good as our defense. I think we have a chance. I've been impressed with the support we've gotten from the administration.

Q: You mentioned drastic changes on defense. Talk about those.

We're going from a four-man front to a three-man front. We'll be non-predictable. I coached four-man fronts most of my life, but with the offenses now, especially in the Big 12 with everyone throwing it all the time, you have to give them some different looks. You can't line up and be predictable. We're going to play a lot of man coverage and we'll be aggressive with wide receivers. We'll play some zone. We'll mix it up and attack the ball. By doing that, you have to have speed. That was our motto in this year's recruiting class: defensive linemen and defensive backs that can run.

Q: What's the better conference: Big 12 or SEC?

The best conference in the country is the SEC on defense and the Big 12 on offense. That's a good political way to put it. All you have to do is look at the stats. You have to play defense to win championships. You look at who has won the national championship the last few years, it's out of the SEC. The Big 12 has made strides on defense with Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. We'll light up the scoreboard, but we'll play defense. We'll be a lot more sound. I've coached defense almost all my life. It will be a pro-style defense.

Q: What do you think about a quarterback battle between Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield?

I've been bringing each player in and talking to them about their life and getting to know them personally. Quarterbacks are always different, especially when you have a competition. I told them, "We have no preconceived notions. The best will play." The quarterback has to be the leader of the team. Everyone looks up to them. They have to be held a little more accountable in terms of leadership. I want them to be vocal and be a coach on the field. Both have a chance to do that. Competition brings championships.

Q: Does it need to be one guy?

We'll have one quarterback. I'm not a believer in alternating guys. But you need a starting quarterback. You need one where everyone looks at this guy as the guy and one that will win games for us.

Q: Talk about how you will adjust to an offense like this one, which is different from other places you've coached.

I like exciting offenses. I like scoring points. All my life, though, I've been around teams that were run-oriented first: 60 percent and throwing it 40 percent. But this is the wave of the future. It helps recruiting. That's one thing Tech has on the rest of the teams in the country. If we can get the defense to the same level, we'll have something going for us. I'm looking forward to it. It's a little bit more difficult to practice against and to make a team more physical against on defense. We'll invent some ways in practice to help the defense. We'll still be fast-paced, keep teams on their heels. We do want to run the ball sometimes.

Q: How important is getting your staff out in the state and grabbing kids here in-state?

That's our first priority. We'll have guys that aren't coaches on the field, but will go to clinics and shake hands on behalf of Tech. The coaches are getting ready to start a month-long tour to introduce ourselves. We can't survive without recruiting Texas as well. They'll know us. We'll be in every high school. We'll be relentless. The most important part of recruiting is evaluating a player and deciding if he can play and what position he'll play. Does he have the will to play? There'll be a certain percentage that gets guys and they don't get better. We'll be a blue-collar team. You have to have a big heart. This is a hard sport to play. We'll spend a lot of time in Texas. Each year, a majority of our team will come from this state.

Q: Do you like playing Texas early in the year?

We looked at it when I was at Auburn. I'd much rather have played LSU early than later. You catch both teams healthier. With us right now, with the depth, it's better for us. Maybe a little later, but early in the season it gets your players involved pretty quick. You'll find out pretty quick how good you are. It's a great game for the fans early, too.

Q: Talk about stepping into a messy situation and how you handled it.

When I went to Ole Miss, they had the second-worst probation to SMU. I went to Auburn after a coach quit in the middle of the year. You have to go and sell yourself and take a little at a time. If you're going in, usually it's not a good situation. This was just bad timing. It happened closer to the end of the recruiting period. I had not experienced that. We were behind. It's all worked out great. Our coaches did a good job in recruiting and our players are excited about the future.

Q: Do you have more potential to win immediately?

Yes. You never know, but with the offense, you've got a very good chance. Some way, somehow, we've got to find a way to cut down on the amount of points the other team is scoring. We'll have a little bit of a surprise element as we get into this conference and what we do defensively.

Richard Durrett covers colleges for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.