Spike Dykes Talks About UTEP
August 30, 1998
LUBBOCK, Texas - "I think when you open with a team like UTEP, you better be careful. They finished strong last year. They beat Brigham Young. They had a good record at the end of the season. They played well. I think what happens, if you are not careful, is the we have opened with some top-five teams in the past so people say that UTEP should be a lot easier. It is not. The way colllege football is, you are only as good as your last game. You better play every Saturday or you are going to get beat. I think it is obvious, already, the way it has started out this year. It is going to be a dog-eat-dog and the team that plas the best is going to win. There is so much parity out there. Certainly, there is not any question about the talent at UTEP. Charlie Bailey has done a great job with that program. He has brought it up every year. This year they have a big, strong quarterback named John Rayborn. He has done a nice job for them. We know a lot about John. We recruited him out of high school. He is from Arlington. He is 6-3, 225 and, really, a heck of a football player. They have a big offensive line. They have good receivers. Defensively, they are very, very aggressive. They are all over the field. Their defensive coordinator was the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals a couple of years ago. He has really been a great coach everywhere he has ever been. This is going to be a tough contest for us. We are going to have to play well to win.
"I think our players have done a really good job during two-a-days. You never know until you play. We have covered a lot of ground. Hopefully, we have covered it adequately. We have a lot of new guys that will be playing and starting for the first time. There are some big shoes they will have to fill. If they do a good job, then I think we will be alright. We are excited about getting the season started. We are looking forward to it and, hopefully, we will get started on the right foot.
"Brant Landry has injured his shoulder a little big. He is from Austin Weslake and he has done a good job. He did not player here last year. He is in the process of really making some progress. I think he is going to be a good football player for us. He came out when he first got here, then he took some time off to concentrate on academics. Coach (Dean) Campbell recruited him out of Westlake. We knew a lot about him. He was a great high school football player. He just laied out a year. Michael Wilborn is a junior college transfer. He is from Olton. He went to Navarro Junior College and had sort of a two-fold career. He played linebacker last year. The year before he was a running back. He is about a 235-pound guy. He has just completed his work in the last week so he has really had very few workouts. I really believe he will give us some depth at fullback. He is a little more mature. He is aggressive and he has good speed. We are expecting a lot out of him.
"It has been a pretty good two-a-days. We had very few weather problems. The heat was such that we were able to get all of our practices in without a lot of exhaustion. When it is so hot and humid, you just can't practice. I think we are in pretty good shape. We've got some airs of concern, just like anybody does when they play their first ballgame. You won't know until you play the game. I feel pretty good about everything. I feel like the places where we are a little shy will be ready by Saturday.
"Tim Baker is a much-improved football player from a year ago. He really worked hard this summer. He is a little more hale and hearty than he has been and he should exceed expectations. Ricky Williams has increased his size and strength and he has such great work ethic. It has been a little big surprising about how much he has improved because he was already a pretty darn good player a year ago. John Norman has really jumped-in and grasped what we were doing defensively from the starters position. He had to replace a guy like Dane Johnson that started so long. I think his grasp of everything has exceeded my expectations some. I think Rob (Peters') ability to step right in and replace Zebbie Lethridge and really not fall off that much has been a real pleasant surprise. There are a lot of things that are important to playing quarterback on the college level. The one thing there is no substitute for is experience. We just don't have a lot of experience at that position. Both of our tackles defensively, Cody Patton and Kris Kocurek, have really grown-up a lot in the last year. They are a lot better than I thought they'd be at this time.
"We are looking forward to our first game against UTEP. I hope people come out to watch us play Saturday. It really is important to our players to have a good crowd."
Spike Dykes - Monday Press Conference
The start of the season is always great fun. It's what you work for. It's what you go through two-a-days for and when it gets here you're very excited. I think this team is more excited about this start than we've been for a real long time. All the NCAA stuff is behind us and no one is asking questions about it which is fantastic.
This team has responded well. They did well in the spring, they've done everything we've asked of them. Really a lot of spirit on the team...good leadership, awareness, and a catchy amount of excitement from the group.
When you start with a team like UTEP you look at past records. It's easy to start with team's like Tennessee . When you start with a team like UTEP you might get caught looking ahead. They were a team that improved as the year went on. Charlie Bailey has done a great job down there. Every year game they get better. Even the games they lost were close. Probably the most significant thing was their victory over BYU. They have a lot of things going for them. They have a great quarterback, their backs are good, their line is huge, and their defense pursues the football well. They also have a lot of speed at linebacker and secondary. They have no apparent weaknesses; it will be a dog fight.
The good thing about our team is we have no injuries. David Simmonds is well and in good shape, even though he can't play. We did not tackle in scrimmage. We had a lot of drills that we did tackle.
The defense is distinctly ahead of the offense right now anchored by Montae Reagor. There is tremendous enthusiasm on defense. Despite losing some great players, we have good replacements stepping. We feel they will be more than adequate. On offense, I think Rob will respond like he has in the spring and two-a-days; very positive. Rob Haddon has continued to persevere and has improved everyday in practice. Curtis Lowrey and Erik Carruth have both worked hard to get into the starting lineup.
I think we'll be in good shape. This team will be exciting to watch. A lot of speed on defense; probably the fastest we've had here. A lot of size and athleticism up front on offense. The tight ends are probably the best I've had here at Tech. Jaret Greaser is returning from a broken leg against Nebraska. He's done well in practice, but we'll have to see how he does when he gets in the game. Hopefully, he'll be able to step in and do well. Brian Roberson has punted well and Jeremy Hernandez has been solid. They have shown tremendous improvement from last year. Robert Haddon has done well deep snapping.
We're excited about playing on Saturday. When you lose your last game, it's a long time to next year. These guys have been wanting to get that out of their system.
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