July 25, 2011

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An Interview With: MISSOURI COACH Gary Pinkel

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. Coach, opening comments.

COACH PINKEL: Good morning. Nice to see you all. Every time I come to this every year, it's kind of my my personality kind of changes. On the way back on the airplane, you think the season's here and the intensity level cranks up.

And I think, like every coach in the country, every program in the country, everybody's excited about their season. You do so much preparation from January 19th when we get back after our bowl game up until our players were working all summer and into August and our preparation, two a days, you put so much sacrifice and time into those 12 games, the regular season games that you're going to play.

And our players worked hard. And that's really the work ethic that I see is kind of how I evaluate where we're at. And we're excited about getting going.


Q. Gary, you've had a long run of really successful quarterbacks since you've been at Missouri. And you have another one from the Dallas area, it looks like, in James Franklin. Could you just talk about what impressed you about him in the spring and what your expectations are for him going forward?

COACH PINKEL: James was the backup last year behind Blaine Gabbert, and we had a chance to get some playing time. And I think that's really a plus for us, number one. James, he's a really good athlete, about 6'3", 225. People ask me to compare him to Brad Smith. Brad Smith is a leaner type athlete and probably an extreme athlete, where when you look at James, James has got great movement.

I think he can extend the play. I think he can also do damage with his feet, not only in the passing game but the running game. We really haven't had that since we had Brad Smith.

But got a good arm. Throws the ball well. He's got a good touch. He's got a lot going for him. And I'm excited for him. We all know transition of quarterback as we've done with Brad Smith or we've done with Chase Daniel or Blaine Gabbert, transition is something you have to deal with. We have a plan in place about how we do it, and hopefully it will go well.

Q. Obviously James is such a different guy than Blaine and Chase were, kind of emotionally. How does that affect the way that you have to coach him, especially as a first year starter?

COACH PINKEL: I think one comparison, I don't like to compare players because it's not fair, but personality wise James and Brad Smith are a lot alike. They're not rah rah guys, especially being young players. What they are, the greatest leadership that you can do as a player is to play well. That's the first thing, most important thing: You gotta play well.

And, secondly, you mature as a young quarterback in your leadership. And I think he's doing fine there. I think he's working hard at that. But the most important thing he can do is play well. And I think he's the team's embraced him, and I think the thing with James, you have to understand, too, is we have nine returning starters around him than a year ago. Most experienced players I've ever had around a new quarterback since I've been a head football coach.

And I think that lends itself well. So my suggestion would be can those nine players play at a higher level than they've ever played before.

So that's what I'm concerned with, can those four offensive linemen receivers, running backs, tight ends, can all those guys play up their game to a different level. If they can do that, James Franklin is going to be fine. And that's kind of the approach I have, certainly with the transition of this quarterback.

The other thing with quarterbacks, what you find out what they do best now as young players, and the ability to be able to run the football, takes pressure off quarterbacks, even in a spread offense like we have and different ways to do that.

Q. Gary, the success of quarterbacks you've had, is that starting to say something about the Missouri system and the tradition at quarterback, to where not saying you can throw anybody in there, but whoever goes in there is successful a little bit like what Leach had going at Tech and what Stoops has going at Oklahoma?

COACH PINKEL: You like to think of the consistency. It's a great place to be fortunate to have good players. I think it kind of lends itself. I coached at Washington, I think I coached five NFL quarterbacks the 12 years I was there.

And so in Toledo we've been fortunate to have a lot of good quarterbacks, and I think maybe it's a little bit of evaluation, but David Yost, our quarterback coach, he does an excellent job.

As you all know, in our business, if you can have some consistency of impact player at that position, that's good. Might coach a little bit longer.

Q. Can you just update us on Sheldon Richardson and what we might expect in the next week or so out of him?

A. He's finishing a class. He finishes his class up this week. We expect to see him in practice reporting day.

Q. Gary, a lot of talk obviously about the Longhorn Network. I know it's in the hands now of the ADs, presidents, the Big 12 office. But when you were first hearing about the plans for that network and all the things that they were doing about televising high school games, televising the second conference game on the network, what was your reaction when you first heard it?

COACH PINKEL: First of all, I have no control over that. It's a lack of common sense there to think that the network, the university network can coach or have high school games on their network. To me there's no common sense there.

So, anyway, I have enough trouble coaching football. I'll leave that to some other people to make those decisions.

Q. How do you see the pass rush moving forward this year with guys like Madison and Smith? They certainly led the way last year for defense that performed really well. COACH PINKEL: Well, I think that's we're very fortunate to have some depth there. Aldon Smith, seventh player picked in the Draft with the 49ers. And that's certainly a loss, but I think also that's probably one of our strongest positions depth wise on our team. Jacquies Smith, All Conference player a year ago, and Brad Madison you look at Brad Madison, we recruited as an offensive lineman and he ends up being All Conference Defensive End. You go speak at clinics about stuff like that of the.

It's really amazing how he's done and how he's worked. And we have a lot of other returning starters on the defensive line tackles, ends, we have a lot of good players coming back.

So we all know well if you're good up front, it gives you a chance to be a good defense or good up front offensive chance to be good on offense.

So we have a lot of players back. Can we play at a different level and do well there, we'll see.

Q. Gary, obviously we're going to be seeing a different look in the Big 12 with the round robin schedule, no title game. How do you think that's going to affect the conference? Do you think we'll see more of the rivalries between the former North and South Division schools that maybe we didn't see in the past because you only played two out of every four years?

COACH PINKEL: I think it's going to be really good. We add another play nine games in the round robin, every team. A lot of good football teams. A lot of competition. This year, in particular, as you look at the returning starters, the number of teams that have a lot of good players coming back, I think this year at least it's going to be as strong as it's ever been.

I think as the league, as it's evolved to ten teams, I think the league will be as strong or stronger nationally each and every year, and the competition every week you better bring it. You better bring everything you've got every week. That's a challenge that you have, because this is a really, really good conference.

Q. The three quarterbacks you've had all sort of look different, and look to sort of play differently as well. Do you coach them all the same to fit that style, or do you sort of tweak things here and there so they can thrive individually?

COACH PINKEL: I think have you to adapt. And that's what we do. I think we can do that within our offense. Again, Dave Yost, our quarterback coach, he does an excellent job with that. But finding out, first of all, what that guy does best and what you can do to highlight his skills, and then I think when you do it that way, I think you lend itself to get a consistent performance.

Then what you do, you try as they mature and as they develop, you add a little bit more here and there.

But all the guys we brought in are guys we feel we can run our offense, but we adapt to each one of the individual skills they have to bring out the best in them.

Q. Gary, with no Big 12 North Division title to shoot for, how does that affect how you prepare and build a team over the course of the season as it is now? And, secondarily, who replaces Nebraska, in your mind?

COACH PINKEL: Well, I think I don't think it's any different. The dynamics change a little bit. Your goal is to win a Big 12 North championship before because you can't get in the championship game unless you do it.

That's the way it was at that time. And now it's just to win a Big 12 championship and understand each and every week, you know, how important it is to play your best, in November to still be in the hunt. You want to be in the hunt. You have a chance to win it at that time. And I think it's every bit as challenging or more than what it's been in the past. And bottom line of the team, you just understand the dynamics have changed a little bit in terms of that.

And who is going to replace Nebraska? I don't know. We're fortunate the last eight of the ten years I've been in here, we had a pretty good run with them back and forth. Hopefully we'll continue to improve. There's a lot of great teams in this league.

Q. I guess the issue of full cost of attendance is going to be settled on the administrative level. But have you found in your experience as a head coach that there's a real need for additional funding for players, for athletes?

COACH PINKEL: I think everybody wants to give your players more money. There's no question about that. I think how realistic is it? We don't want college football to become professionals, give them paychecks. The tax implications.

All the different things that could happen, you have to analyze. But if you give one football player a stipend, or what have you, and you're going to do it to every student athlete, the 5 , 6 , 700 student athletes that you have at your school are all going to get the same, number one.

Number two is the revenue sports pay for a good portion of all the other it's not like the money is not being utilized.

I just don't know how realistic it is. I think it sounds great. Sure I'd love to give all my players more money. But to realistically make it work, I don't back when I played, it's no different, you want to win a championship.

But what you did you got your college education. And you had a great experience of playing. You had a chance to play in the NFL if you're a great player. And that's never changed. And that's to me kind of what college football is all about.

Q. Couple months ago it looked like James Franklin was still going to have a competition with Tyler Gabbert during fall camp. That changed, obviously. Do you think he could have still benefited from a situation like that, or are you okay going in like you are with him?

COACH PINKEL: With me that's the way it presents itself. I don't go back and look at that in any way. It's competition. It doesn't matter. Tyler left for his personal reasons and we wish him well. We just go on. I think the big thing now is certainly he's kind of embracing that spot. I think the team around him understands he's going to be the starter.

And you look at the positives that that brings to it, and then you deal with that and go that direction.


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