New offensive coordinator Neal Brown met with the media for more than 20 minutes today and discussed coming home, Kentucky’s new offense, quarterbacks, etc.
Here’s a full transcript of Brown’s news conference:
INTRODUCTION: “Thanks for coming. Good to see some familiar faces, some friendly faces. Hopefully they’ll still be friendly in 10 months or so. My wife and I are excited to be back. I’m proud to have this position. It’s been a humbling experience. I wish we had a game this Saturday because the excitement in the Big Blue Nation about football is at an all-time high. I really believe that. This state and this university are special to me. This isn’t just another job for me. This is personal. I grew up a fan of this football program; played here, have a personal investment in that aspect and I’ve been a supporter. Shoot, I’ve been a season ticket holder the last five or six years and I’m excited about this opportunity. This is an opportunity I wanted to do without question. I always dreamed about coming back in the right situation. I believe 100 percent this is the right situation. I’m excited about working with Mitch Barnhart. He’s fully committed to making Kentucky football a winner both on and off the field. He’s done it before and we’re going to do it again. Really excited about working with Coach Stoops. He has a plan and a vision where he wants to take Kentucky football. He’s a high energy guy, a great recruiter, a great defensive mind and we’re going to add the offensive element and be able to accomplish what he wants to get done.”
DID YOU KNOW STOOPS BEFORE AND HOW DID IT COME TO BE THAT BROWN IS BACK AT KENTUCKY: “We kind of knew each other in passing a little bit. In the coaching world, you always cross paths in recruiting and those type of things. I didn’t really have a personal relationship. We had some guys that we were really close to. Guys like Sonny Dykes, who he worked for and obviously, I played for here and had a strong friendship with, those types of things. Really what drew us near is he had coached against this offense. He’d been a defensive coordinator at Arizona with Sonny there calling plays in this offense. He’d followed us. Obviously we played against Bob (Stoops) there at Oklahoma the last three years. He wanted an exciting brand of offense and I think that’s what got us in this situation.”
THERE ARE CHALLENGES AHEAD OF KENTUCKY. WHY DO YOU THINK IT CAN BE TURNED AROUND? “It’s been done. The thing about it is it’s not like (trails off). This program’s had a couple down years, but also, it went through, in recent history, some of its strongest winning. Was it five or six bowl games in a row. Here’s the deal, the SEC is a tough conference. There’s no question. There’s no question. It’s the toughest conference in America. I’m coming from a conference that’s not chopped liver. Week in and week out, it’s tough. If you look at the rankings, it will back that up. But an opportunity to come home with these people, with the fan support that Kentucky’s going to have and turn this thing around. It will be done.”
WHAT ARE THE SPECIFICS THAT HAPPENED TO GET BROWN HOME: “Those two people we talked about. Mitch is fully committed and I think the financial commitment he’s made with the staff shows that. And then with Mark Stoops, a guy that’s proven, a guy I believe in without question. Without question, that I believe in. Those were the two biggest pieces of that puzzle.”
DID STOOPS HAVE TO RECRUIT HIM TO UK: “Not a whole lot. The thing about it is anytime you get presented with situations in this profession, it’s got to be the right situation for your family and I think that was probably as big a deal as anything. He didn’t have to sell me. I’ve been sold on Kentucky football my whole life.”
ON HOW OFFENSE WILL BE COMPARED TO THE AIR RAID: “The base plays that you’re going to see on Saturday afternoons, when Coach Mumme was here, those base plays are the same. Those base plays are really the same that you’re seeing at West Virginia be highly successful. They’re the same plays we used at Texas Tech. Oklahoma State’s using those same plays. Oklahoma’s using those same plays. Those same base plays really haven’t changed since 1997 when Coach Mumme brought those to really big-time college football. Now what we’ve done is, is we’ve made a stronger – I guess we’ve made a more concerted effort to run the football is the best way to put that. We’re playing at a faster pace, and we dress those plays up with motions, with different formations. Those are the things that the fans are going to notice.”
ON IF HE’S THOUGHT ABOUT ALL THREE QUARTERBACKS: “It’s a good problem. It’s really not a (problem). It’s a good situation. We’ve got three guys that can play quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. How we’re going to handle that is, it’s going to be an open competition. I met with those guys, I guess it was Monday of last week, and all three guys (are) good people, very interesting guys, excited about a fresh start. And it’s going to be a fresh start, not only for them, but for all the guys on our whole football team. I’m only controlling the offense, but it’s a fresh start.
“The way we’re going to handle it, it’s going to be an open competition. All three guys will split the reps a third in spring practice, carry that competition through the summer into fall camp and see who the best man is.”
ON IF HE’S LOOKED AT THE RECEIVERS: “You know, not a whole lot. Really been focused more on the recruiting end than the current personnel. During this dead period in recruiting, I’ll probably start peeking at those guys. I think you’ve got to be careful of not watching too much, because it’s a different system, you don’t know what the players, where they were at that point in their career and all those type of things, injuries. So I’ll peek at them just to have an idea, but I’m not going to get carried away watching a whole lot of the last couple years.”
ON HAVING CHAD SCOTT AND JOHN SCHLARMAN RETURN WITH HIM: “Well, they’re coming here with me, but they were sold on Coach Stoops also. They’ve got a strong investment in this program. I think it’s always important when you go into a new situation to have people that are familiar not only with you personally but with what you want to do. And anytime you’re in a little bit of a rebuilding situation, things are happening fast and things need to be done, and those two guys, they know how I want things done. I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time teaching them the offense or teaching them how I want things done. They know what I want done. They can take it and run with it.”
ON PUTTING UK LOGO AGAIN: “It was exciting. I went on my first recruiting trip on Tuesday, and to put on the UK letters and stuff – this is the first time I’ve been back in 12 years. I really haven’t spent much time at all in Lexington. I’ve gone to a basketball game here and there, but really haven’t been in the city, around the university a lot. I’ve followed the program. But when I put that on – this is an easy sell for me. This is a great place to go to school. The fan base is incredible. So it’s a really easy sell for me, and when I put that back on, it felt like home.”
TIM COUCH’S ROLE IN THE PROCESS: “Tim and I have a good relationship. Obviously, we played together. I hope it helped. Obviously when he didn’t return a phone call or two during the search process I had an idea that he may be involved so I kind of left him alone. I think it helped. It never hurts to have one of the best players in school history on your side, that’s for sure.”
HOW MUCH INPUT HE HAD IN THE OFFENSIVE BRAINTRUST THAT HE’S BRINGING BACK (not really sure what this meant, I assume Scott/Schlarman): “Coach Stoops has been around this offense for a long time. If you go back to 1998 when Bob hired Mike Leach that was probably Mark’s introduction to this offense too and that ended up in a national championship in a couple of years for those guys. So when we started talking about this opportunity here at Kentucky he wanted to know, he knew it was important up front for us to have some guys who already knew the system and those were in place.
“Really, it was up to him to make those final hires. I made some suggestions I thought would be good fits here. Obviously with Chad playing here, being recruited here, his wife being a very good basketball – better athlete than him by the way – player here those things helped. John was a great player here, an All-SEC center, from one of the strongest high school programs in the state, a lot of family connections here, not only in his family but his wife’s. Those things were strong considerations for Coach Stoops when he made those hires.”
ON THE TEXAS TECH VIDEO OF HIS OFFENSE/TELLING RECRUITS TO WATCH IT: “The first thing was Texas Tech media relations did a great job of making me look good there. That’s a deal that we used a lot. We self-promoted a lot there and used videos a lot and those types of things. They did a good job, a lot of credit goes to (sp?) Curt Hurd, he’s the one that produced it. We used it at Texas Tech to sell (the program), used it through social media on our Twitter, Facebook and those types of things. Kids really relate to those. It’s one thing to talk about and tell people, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do, and listen to it vocally and show it to them on the board and all that kind of stuff but when they see it with their eyes and here, ‘Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown’ a lot then they can feel the excitement in it.”
HOW COMPLEX IS HIS OFFENSE: “It’s really a simple system. The first three days of spring practice we’ll install the whole system. It’s a system that the quarterbacks will be able to learn in a two to three week period while I’m gone recruiting. They can watch some videos and really have a good idea of what we want to do when I get back.”
WHY DOES IT WORK SO WELL? “I think what it does, the tempo really affects people. The tempo really affects people. The second thing that happens is when you spread the field out, skill people, there is a bigger … and I’m trying to think of how to put this … the skill people are easier to recruit. There’s not a great deal of difference between the No. 1 wide receiver in the country and the No. 25 wide receiver in the country. There is not that much difference at all. We can recruit a lot of good skill people, put them in space and make people tackle in space. I think that’s the No. 1 thing.”
ANY IDEAS OF WIDE RECEIVERS COACH? “That’s a work in progress. Coach Stoops has put a great staff together so far and we need two guys to hire still. It’s really going to be a work in progress. I think we’re going to interview some guys down at the national (coaching) convention, whenever that is. I don’t even know when that is, I’ve been going 100 miles per hour.”
ON MARK STOOPS TELLING HIM TO PURSUE HIS POSSIBLE HEAD COACHING OPPORTUNITIES: “That really told me what kind of guy he was. He said go through the process. When he said, ‘Hey, I’ve been in your shoes … ‘ A lot of times coordinators step into that head coaching position and everything changes, they forget what it was like to be a coordinator. Here is a guy that’s going and getting pulled in a lot of different directions, and when he said that I remember getting off the phone and I told my wife, I said, ‘This is a good guy.’ I said, ‘This is a good person. This is a guy that understand what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis.’ I said, ‘I can work for him. I want to work for him.’ It played a major role, if that answers (your question).”
ON REACTION OF HIS FAMILY AS HE WENT THROUGH THE PROCESS: “They didn’t know a whole lot. (Laughs). They were kind of kept on the outside really. They’re excited. They really are excited. There was a lit bit of hesitation at first — not on my end at all. When you start…My whole family is UK fans. They grew up Kentucky fans. They’ve had a lot of season tickets. They’re UK fans. Whether I’m here or not, they’re UK fans. There’s always a little hesitation from a coaching perspective, because I’ve been gone other places. At Texas Tech, I was 16 hours away. You guys know how the profession is, you created some of the things in the profession, so you all know how it is. There’s a lot of pressure, and that’s the way it should be really. This is a big-dollar business, and there’s a lot of pressure. They were isolated from that when I was away. Now it’s going to be at the front door. Those are things that…When it got serious, those are discussions that I had with my family, my wife’s family, just to make sure they understand. They do. They’re fired up about it.”
ON WHAT ADVICE HE GAVE QUARTERBACKS HEADING INTO THE OFFSEASON: “Let’s get better. That’s simple. I said, ‘Hey, I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time watching what you’ve done before. There’s going to be some fundamental things that are non-negotiable that we’re going to do. You all are going to start on the same level playing field: best man wins.’ I don’t have any ties to any of the three of them. I’m going to coach them like they’re my own, like I recruited them and the whole deal, but the best man is going to play. Then you’ve got to be good teammates. Those are the brief discussions that I had with them. They’re really good kids. All three of them are doing well academically. They’re all three doing what they’re supposed to in the weight room.
“I’ll say this as a whole — and I can only speak on my side of the ball — the first couple things that I always do when you go into a new situation is you want to see if there have been any off-field issues, which they’ve been very, very few, you want to see where the group stands academically. These kids are in great shape academically. I think that’s a strong sentiment to the last coaching staff.
ON WHAT THE RECEPTION HAS BEEN LIKE ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL: “They’re excited. I think anytime you go into a new situation, and you have something to fall back on — we had a lot of success at Texas Tech and at Troy. When you’re talking to skill players in particular, you can talk about how you’re going to get them the ball and you can show them, you can show stats and proven results, that’s going to pop their eyes open. At certain spots, our scholarship numbers are low and the opportunity to play early is going to be here. That’s another thing that perks their ears up.”
ON NOT BEING A HIGHLY RECRUITED PLAYER WHEN HE CAME TO KENTUCKY: “No. I was very average. I better get better players than I was. I can promise you.”
ON IF HE USES HIS EXPERIENCE HERE AS AN EXAMPLE FOR RECRUITS: “What I sell is what hard work and begin prepared — that’s the bigger message that I sell. I tell everybody that I come in contact with: I was a very average player. When I got to the University of Kentucky, I was a very average player. I think average players make really good coaches a lot of time because you’ve got to figure out ways to be successful. I’m not selling them on myself as much.
“When I talk to people, I sell them on our vision, and the No. 1 thing we talk about is our stadium will have 70,000 people in it. It will. There’s a lot of excitement, and our fan base is strong. It’s going to be an exciting brand of football. It’s a young coaching staff that can relate to players. Those are the things that we’re really selling here early in the process.”
IS TEXAS A STATE YOU CAN RECRUIT IN THE FUTURE: “Texas has great football players. I don’t know about it being a ‘home state,’ so to speak for recruiting, but I think we can go in there and pluck a couple players each year.”
WHAT KIND OF INFLUENCE HAS TONY FRANKLIN HAD ON YOUR CAREER? “Well, he gave me a chance at Troy. I was in the I-AA ranks at Delaware and he got the job at Troy and hired me and I’ll always be thankful for that. He’s a guy that had a lot of influence. He helped get me here, was probably the one responsible for getting me here as a player. He’s had as much responsibility as anybody about where I’m at in the coaching ranks so far.”
DO YOU HAVE TO CHANGE A LOT OF THE TYPE OF PLAYER YOU’RE RECRUITING WITH THIS NEW OFFENSE? “Well, they were spread for the first two or three games, to my memory until Max got hurt I think they got a lot of spread principles in there. We’re going to fit our system to the players we’ve got. This is a message I had for our offensive coaches: We have to go get recruits, no question. But our biggest recruiting deal is getting the guys that we have sold on our system and maximizing the guys we have on campus right now. Those are going to be the biggest players for us in the fall.”
HAVE RECRUITS BEEN RECEPTIVE SO FAR? “This was finals week (last week actually was), so I got to meet several of the kids on Monday. We met as a group on Monday and they’re eager. These guys want to be successful. I think a lot of it shows. You watch the last game against Tennessee and those guys played with great effort. It wasn’t a lack of effort. They want to be successful.”
YOU MENTIONED THE RUN GAME EARLIER. CAN YOU DISCUSS HOW IT EVOLVED BECAUSE THE GUY YOU PLAYED FOR HERE DIDN’T LIKE IT THAT MUCH: “That’s true. You’ve got to run the football. I think in this league you definitely have to run the football. You have to keep defenses off balance. We’re not going to be in a position where we can drop back and throw the ball 50 and 60 times because if you look at the top of the draft, there are a lot of defensive linemen coming from the SEC. We’ve got to mix in the run. We’ve been creative with that. We ran the ball very well at the start of last year, until we lost some people at Tech. The other thing it does, it makes it easier on your defense. It keeps your defense off the field, and those things are important.”
YOU MENTIONED GOING 100 MILES AN HOUR, RECRUITING, LEARNING NEW KIDS. HOW DIFFICULT IS THIS AND HOW FAST ARE THINGS MOVING? “Those are things I really haven’t sat down and thought about a whole lot. It’s been a whirlwind. Somebody told me we’re seven days away from Christmas right now. I’m going back to Texas tomorrow so I’ll be reminded very instantly when I get back off the plane. As far as the turnout, it’s hard to say until you go out and work with the guys. This system has been successful everywhere we’ve been. We’ve been able to turn some teams that weren’t very good on offense, turn them around quickly. How quickly it can be done, I don’t know. It will be done. It’s going to take some work though, for sure.”
HOW OFTEN WILL QB GO UNDER CENTER IN THIS OFFENSE? “Well, we really struggled. We had a great quarterback at Texas Tech in the last two years and the most nerve-wracking play I ever had was when we got under center, because he just wasn’t very good at it. The good thing here, all three of these guys spent a lot of time under center last year. Those things, we’ll definitely incorporate that into our system in spring.”
WHAT ARE THE ATTRIBUTES OF A GREAT QUARTERBACK IN THIS SYSTEM? “Off the field things are the number one thing. He has to been a man of character. He has to be a tremendous leader. He’s got to work tremendously hard. Those are the things. Second thing, he has to be a good decision-maker. These are football aspects now. He has to be a good decision-maker. He has to be accurate with the football. Those are the two top priorities. That’s what we’ll instill in these guys, the three guys that are here. From a recruiting standpoint from here on out, those are the top priorities to look for.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE FACILITIES WHEN YOU SAW THEM? “They’re definitely better than when I was a player here. I can tell you that. We have the facilities in place to be successful. There are obviously some things that Mitch probably wants to get done. Those are above my pay grade. I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about it, to be honest with you.”
ON LOSING TWO OF UK’S TOP OFFENSIVE LINEMEN, ALL-AMERICAN GUARD LARRY WARFORD AND THREE-YEAR STARTING CENTER MATT SMITH: “Can we get Larry – can we get him another year? There’s two young guys there (at center) that got some time last year. We’ll also maybe look at moving a guy that snapped a little bit during high school. We’ve had those discussions. I’m really excited about some of the young guys that are on the O-line. I don’t have the numbers right in front of me, but other than those two guys, most of the big guys that played last year are young kids. Darrian Miller’s a great player. I think he can be a tremendous left tackle in this league. The (Jordan) Swindle kid is a guy that I’m really excited about. He played a lot of football as a true freshman. But the center position, we ask him to do a lot also. He makes a lot of calls. We take a lot off the quarterback and put it on the center. So that will be a top priority in the spring.”
ON WHETHER UK WILL LOOK AT A JUNIOR COLLEGE CENTER: “Well, it’s early. It’s hard, because we’re late coming in the process. Recruiting is really different now. It’s an 18- to 24-month relationship-building, and we’re really coming in on the back end. And we’re going to be able to flip some kids for sure (but) it’s hard on junior college kids, because signing day is tomorrow. So we’re really talking about a week to try to get a guy flipped, so we probably won’t go that route.”
ON CHAD SCOTT, RB COACH AT TEXAS TECH AND TROY, NOT HAVING APOSITION YET IN HIS OFFICIAL ANNOUCEMENT: “It’s really going to (depend) on what we do with that last spot. He’s a guy that’s got some versatility. He’s been a running backs coach most of his career. He spent a lot of time with our receivers at Texas Tech also. So we’re just kind of wait and see. We want to hire the best possible guy in that hat last spot on offense.”
ON TRYING TO KEEP TOP IN-STATE TALENT HOME AND HIS SALES PITCH TO THEM: “Come be a hero. You look at the guys that have played well at the University of Kentucky that are home-grown products, they come back here to live – and they have good lives. Some of the guys that have gone on other places, they come back home and the name recognition, the notoriety is not the same. And the other thing is: If you build this football program, if you’re a Tim Couch, you’re an Andre’ Woodson, you’re those type of kids – and those are just quarterbacks; I could go into position players, too – in a place where you have a personal investment, where you grew up a fan, because we all know in here that most kids in this state grow up to be a Kentucky fan, they wear blue from an early age; they wear blue, I was one of them, I can tell you that – if you can do that at the state school, then it’s going to be a special thing. And do it, there’s a good opportunity that you’re going to stay employed for a long time here.”
ON FOLLOWING UK’S SUCCESS FROM AFAR DURING THE FIVE-YEAR BOWL RUN (2006-10): “Oh, I was proud. I was really proud of what they were able to do. My grandfather, who has since passed, I can remember we were celebrating his 90th birthday – we had a bye week at Troy and I was down in Mayfield (Ky.) celebrating. We were having a surprise birthday party that we actually delayed because Kentucky and LSU went in overtime, right? So we actually delayed the start of the party. We had to drive him around a little bit so the people at the house could finish watching the game. So a tremendous amount of excitement and energy. I always kept up with it. I wasn’t here on a daily basis, but I always kept up with it, and that was an exciting time for sure, especially because Jacob Tamme (is from) right there in Danville was playing a big role in that. So I was probably following it closer then than I have the last couple years.”
ON WHETHER HE WAS SURPRISED TO SEE UK GOING TO A BOWL GAME YEAR AFTER YEAR: “No, not surprised at all. Because, again, the fan base is so strong here. Kentucky basketball gets a lot of notoriety, and it should. I’m a big Kentucky basketball fan, as you’re going to see. I’ve been to the Final Fours, all that kind of stuff. But Friday nights in the state are huge. This, deep down, and I try to tell people when I’ve been in Texas and Alabama and those type places, I try to explain to them that high school football is huge in the state of Kentucky. There is a tremendous amount of fans support for our football program, and just football in general in this state. That gives you a chance to build a successful program. Coach Brooks did that. He built on that. That’s something Coach Stoops is going to do also.”