Dec. 30, 2009
Photo Gallery of McNeill Interviews
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -
The first thing I want to say is how happy we are to be here to play in this great, great Alamo Bowl game. We were very excited when the announcement was made. The staff was very excited. The players were even more excited. We've got some family things going on. There are some things out there that have happened, university things, things between two parties. It's a torn situation because I love both sides. Coach leach had been a great friend and a great boss and Texas Tech has been a great university for me as well so you can imagine how torn that is. But the Alamo Bowl must overrule all this. The players must overrule all this. I'm very honored and proud to be a spokesperson for the football team and for our kids and our staff.
On his reaction to Leach's firing:
We've had practice each day until 12. During the practice session one of the guys came on the field and let me know what had eventually gone down so I found out during practice. It was a tough situation, it's a tough position. When I heard it was a little bit of shock but at the same time in this business you learn that anything can happen. You have to be professional at all times. One of the things I've been blessed with this entire and really since Coach named me defensive coordinator I've had a professional group to work with. The staff has been very professional from second one. All of you in your positions understand how professionalism makes your job easier. Once we heard we went on and had another productive day of practice.
On Adam James status:
Right now he is still under physical rehab so he will not be able to dress for the game. He's been conditioning and walking with other players that are injured but he has not taken any reps so he will not be able to play in the game.
On getting his team prepared to play in the Valero Alamo Bowl:
The first thing is that our core unit of this football team has been solid all year. If you followed our football program we've faced adversity from the beginning of the season even throughout now, which is one of the best times of the season for a football team. So the core of this football season has dealt with adversity. The coaching staff, the major part of the staff I've worked with for seven, eight, nine seasons. Some of them are a bit younger. We've been in tough situations where we lost a tough game here or some things happened here negative or at the same time positive so this core group of players and this staff I've been blessed to be part of ten years has faced a lot of adversity. When you're in a fight you, there's two things, you can either take a punch or you can swing. We make sure we come out swinging. One thing we think we do as well as anyone is pick the flag up. I'm an army brat so when one man goes down this guy's got to pick the flag up. So this staff from day one, when the suspension was announced we had to move on and Coach expects nothing less than that.
On whether he has spoken to Leach:
I have not spoken with Coach. Someone asked me how its been going and I said `it's kind of like 95 miles an hour in a school zone.' My biggest focus has been on the players, making sure the players stay focused. Keeping a cool head when everyone around you is losing there's and at the same time making sure the routine, as close as possible doesn't get off track. Really my whole career has been about making sure I'm dotting the `i's and crossing the `t's. Making sure our players are prepared and making sure our staff is prepared. We've had three up tempo practices. The execution has been really special on all three sides of the ball, offense, defense and special teams. We like the spirit. We told the guys the other day what's in a team comes out of a team, same as a man.
On having to replace his friend in Leach:
It is a tough situation. I think one of the reasons we've been together so long was because we've both been through some situations. I know professionalism must override everything and that comes from experience. I've been at it 29 years now and I've been through a lot of situations, good and bad, success and some failure. I've learned from both. Experience has taught me to prepared for this situation. There wasn't a moment we didn't have to stop and say `okay what's next,' or `why me,' it's `hey, let's go get it done.'
On his interest in becoming Leach's successor as Tech head coach:
I'm very interested in the job. Maybe that's a double yes with some exclamation marks. You journalists know about that, you know, some little dots. I know how to text a little bit. My daughter taught me how to text but yes I'm very interested in becoming Tech's next head coach at Texas Tech.
My whole career, and my dad taught me this when I first got into coaching, every time you step on the field or at one time when I was head basketball coach, on the court, your product is your resume. I've adhered to that my entire time in coaching. The product I put on the field is my resume. At each position I prepared for the next. As an assistant I prepared to be a coordinator and I thought that way and as a coordinator I prepared to be a head coach. I'd be honored to be the next coach at Texas Tech.
On coaching staff's solidarity with Leach:
I wish I could speak for the other members of the coaching staff. A theory I follow is if you give respect, you get respect back. As a coaching staff they know how much I respect them as individuals and as fathers in some cases and husbands in others. I've always respected our staff in the job they do, whether it's on the field or off the field. Recruiting or in the classroom. I'll tell you the conduct of our players in practice and the tempo of our practice, I think professionalism has overruled everything. The solidarity is there to make sure we do our best against a very good football at Michigan State. We know what we're facing there and that's been overlooked. I've spoken to Coach (Mike Dantonio) and he's dealt with some adversity with his ball team is. The biggest thing we've got to do is stay focused at the task at hand.
On player's reaction to Leach's firing:
I sort of have a way of making the sure the kids look me in my eyes, you can probably tell that. That goes back to the respect factor. I broke it to them and I thought it was best that a family member broke it to the next family member. It was tough but at the same time I've got to make sure they understand what has happened and that we pick up the flag and keep going. I've got to go immediately into making we stay focused and that's what is getting lost here is the football game Saturday night. I understand why because of the controversy but at the same time the reason we're in San Antonio one is to enjoy the festivities but the main reason is to play a great football game against a great football team in Michigan State.
On what players said about Leach's firing:
It was kind of `Coach Ruff, what's next?' Being in a leadership role there's no hesitation, the next thing is to get showered and dressed, you've got Sea World coming up at 3:30. We've got a coaches event coming up soon. And they were asking about Shamu. I hope Shame shows up. I promised him they'll be there so ya'll back me up on that. Would you call Sea World and say `Shamu, Coach Ruff needs you.' I know I'm making light of it but that's what I said. I always talk about the schedule for the next day to try and alert them.
On the prospect of fans being upset about Leach's firing:
To our Red Raider Nation. We have the best fan base I've been around in 29 years of coaching, 24 of those on the college level. We've always had a loyal fan base, we've had fans that have supported us. Tough times happen, tough people last. We're a nation of tough people. I have no doubt that Red Raider Nation will step up and keep swinging, just like the football team has done this week.
On the recruiting class:
Well the biggest thing is...it's very important we keep this class together. It will be one of the best classes we have signed if everything goes through. In these situations we will have questions, because they will come to Texas Tech for a number of things. Academic and graduation rate is number one. It's the first priority they have done. The second is for the football team and the winning atmosphere we have created as well as the social environment of Lubbock. It's the second biggest city in the Big 12. We hope to keep it together and keep everyone tight and I am very optimistic this thing will get handled quickly and I am looking forward to being a big part of that.
On how much is the offense going to change:
If it can be faster it will be faster. I know from a defensive point of view what hurts the defense. I love this offense. This is the offense I wanna be a part of. So make that point clear. I love what we have done offensively here. I have prepared to be a head coach my entire time once the coordinator spot was given to me. And this offense is one we will run and keep running. Just like always see how many plays we can run.
On play calling:
I am looking forward to it (play calling). When the first everything happened it was a unique deal. I had to be a part of all three sides of the ball. I have always been a part of the special teams and the defense, but now making sure I have eye balls on all three. It's gone really smooth, just like I knew it would be.
On Adam James:
I have always treated each individual just like I treat you guys in here, individually, not as a group. I'm not a guy who will go along with the crowd or what everybody else thinks I judge a man for what he is and I really believe what's inside a man comes out of a man. For me I treat the players how I treat the players. I don't judge them for whatever. A family is a family.
On gaining the head coaching position:
First what I have to do is make sure my body will work and my time in college football speaks for itself. I hope how I have conducted myself as a full time college coach; the body work speaks for itself. I am prepared mentally and physically and I am very ready for the position.
On becoming coach and if it will change his personality:
No if you know me, I have been this way the whole time. I think you have to be yourself. When it happened Monday, you step back for a minute but I said I'ma do me, I'm gonna do myself. I won't change.
On dealing with Adam James remaining with the team:
Someone asked me have I spoken with Adam. The local guys know I speak with everyone. I'm the guy that can say just about anything to anyone and love them. I spoke with the whole team and let them know to focus on family. The first thing we've tried to do is try to develop a family and things happen in a family. I'm sure we can all attest to that. The stronger your bond in that family, the tougher you hang in bad times. I've said nothing personally to Adam but `hey just hang in there' and to the team to stay focused. I haven't really brought him out individually. I didn't think it was a need to. I felt like the focus should be on the entire team.
On whether he has spoken to Tech administration:
We've been moving pretty fast. We had a recruiting meeting and then I got rushed from my shower to make sure I made it down to see you guys. I haven't had a chance to speak with anyone. I'm sure that will happen in the near future.
On whether Adam James needs assurance that team is behind him:
I grabbed him on the elevator the other night and put an arm around him. I know its got to be tough on him.
I think he realizes this, as well, that we've got to focus on the entire team. But I'm sure he understands where I am with him.
On what he will say to Coach Leach when he sees him:
First, that I love him. You know, we've been through a lot. He gave me my opportunity to come to Tech number one, made special teams coordinator after three years and then in the middle of a season made me defensive coordinator. It took a lot of backbone to do that in the middle of a season to make a change and make me defensive coordinator so that will never be overlooked by me. Then I'd ask him how he's doing and the rest we'll probably keep personal.
On whether Leach deserved to be fired:
I'd rather not respond to that. I think that matter needs to be hired by Coach Leach and his representation and the university. I'd rather leave it there if you don't mind.
On his personal reaction to news:
I didn't know it could happen, but if you happen to be in this business then this is a possibility at all times. So the shock was there, I say shock, you prepare for it but you just have to adjust. In our position, you put the focus back on the players. You make the players understand why we are here in San Antonio and you make sure the coaches understand what our job is. We plan this thing out and dot our I's and cross our T's. We as a staff are preparing for Michigan State. We just have to dive right in and that' is what our staff is doing right now. They are back at the hotel watching film.
On the potential backlash toward Adam:
One of the things we have tried to do is to make sure that we have built the house on rock and not on sand. So when tough things happen, and this is a storm, that we can withstand those winds. I am very confident that our team, our family, our staff will put all focus on the family first and keep our priorities in order. These are our priorities this week. To have great practices, to have great tempo and technique during practices and to make sure we stay focused during football time. All three practices this week the meetings have been smooth and practices have been smooth. The team, the core of the team, who faced adversity throughout the year. And our staff, in my opinion have been as professional as I have been around, and have made the transition this week go a lot smoother. The coaches have taken that and gone along with that and done a great job.
On the fans:
I love our fans at Texas Tech. The community programs that I have been apart of, I know they know how I feel about them. I have done quite a few speaking engagements with our fans and are loyal fans at Texas Tech and they believe in not just who's there, but what's there. I have a lot of confidence in red raider nation. I feel they will unite and back our football team this week, along with our staff. They will rise and make sure Saturday night it's loud and dangerous for our opponents in the Alamo Dome.
On Mark Dantonio and advice:
The coaching family and coaching world is very small, which is very similar to the journalism world. You see each other in different venues. I have followed Mark's career as I think he has followed mine. We have known each other for a bit. So I have a lot of respect for what he has done. He's a defensive guy so I have always watched the things he might have called, or the schemes or strategies he may have used. The first thing we said was "wow!" and he said, "wow back!" We have both had a tough month and he said yep. We had a little embrace and we discussed it. He knows I have great respect for him and his football team and I know he has great respect for me and our football team. It was a respect deal. We told each other to hang in there. He was very supportive, as I was to him.
On the challenge of moving forward and maintaining focus:
I think it will be exciting. I am looking forward to it individually and I think our players are and I think our staff is. I'm looking forward to getting back from here and watch some more ball film. I'm looking forward to the meeting in the morning. Thursday is a big mental day for us. It's a big special teams day. It's as close to game like situations with noise as we can make it. , so it's really a big execution day for us as a team on all three sides of the ball. I'm looking forward to that as well. We have some other events we will attend as a team and then we will go off to a separate hotel and get into some big mental time and film time on Friday. I think the team is excited. Again it goes back to the core of our team. We have been through a lot of adversity and I think our staff has been very professional. They have been ready and willing to do what I have asked and need it done. I appreciate those guys for that.