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On his stress levels and what he does to relieve it...Sumlin: "Winning is winning. Stress level in this job is hard to describe. I think a lot of people think what you do on Saturday is about all you do. There's a lot of things that go in. I was listening to Herm Edwards the other day say, 'It's like being in Las Vegas. There's no clock.' There's no, 'Oh, it's five-o'clock, I can go home.' You do the job until you get done what you need to get done for that day, because you owe your team the best plan. That's the way coaching has been.
"Because of that, you lose track of time, and eating habits, and everything like that. I was fortunate to be around a program like Oklahoma, where Bob (Stoops) is extremely conscious of the health situations because of his family — everybody probably knows the story of his dad — so the environment was created. ... We're extremely conscious of it. It's just part of the business, part of the makeup. What's interesting is, when I go talk to young coaches, I write up there, '12 x 3 = 36.' All the hours you put in for recruiting, fundraising, all the other jobs, you're judged on 36 hours of work (each year). That's a pretty stressful situation."
On De'Vante Harris...Sumlin: "Because of the situation early in the year, he started slowly and didn't get a chance to play. I think he's developing as a player. He's got great confidence that gets him into trouble sometimes. He's got to play more consistently. He's got great tools, but he needs to be more consistent in his play. And he's got to approach his strength and conditioning, his weight, to really become a great player. One of the biggest steps from high school to this level, and certainly to play at an even higher level, is to understand that you're gifted to be here. The challenges when you walk on that field in this league, the guy staring across from you is gifted too.
"So what's going to be the difference? How am I going to continue to excel? I have to raise my game in the classroom and physically. For the small guys it's probably the hardest thing. The big guys, they know it. They run into each other all the time. The young guys have always faster and quicker than everybody and they rely on that until they run into somebody and get pushed around. Certainly he's been getting better, but he needs to take the next step — take that step off the field and make sure he's the player he's capable of being. Which is as good a player as there is in this league."
On no off-field headlines concerning Johnny Manziel...Sumlin: "That's just normal, isn't it? What he's doing right now is playing football. From when he got back here until camp started, a lot was made of some things in the offseason and the scrutiny he was under is probably unlike anybody else in the country or ever has been in college football. He's back playing football, he's doing what he likes to do and I had a number of questions today comparing where he is today from where he is last year, and he's obviously better."
On Case Keenum's success and developing two great quarterbacks...Sumlin: "I think Case, obviously — I haven't watched a lot of NFL football — I texted him the other day and said that's probably the first game I've watched from beginning to end. Two things about him, he's confident, he's a leader, he's been around football all his life and you can see that. No situation is too big for him. Sound familiar? I've said that about another guy.
"He handles it well. The biggest thing for him is to be the all-time leading passer in college football history, not be drafted, not dress for a game, be inactive for a year and a half, and then, when they activate you, start. He's had two starts — he hasn't won yet, which he'll tell you is the biggest thing — but he's developed some confidence in his teammates. Along those lines, let me say this.
"As an Aggie and as a friend and a coach, let's wish Gary (Kubiak) well. That was a scary situation at halftime. I haven't heard much today but I believe he's getting out of the hospital this afternoon. Wish him well and hope he gets back as quickly as possible.
"Fortunately we've made good decisions with who's going to play (quarterback), and there were a lot of people involved in that — Kliff Kingsbury, Spav — we've had a lot of talented players and coaches and we've worked through it. I think Case has always had that in him. Most guys that have that, all they need is the platform and the opportunity. And he's getting that right now."
On Mississippi State's size...Sumlin: "They're one of the larger teams we're going to play this year, including Alabama and LSU. What you see out of them as a team is operating one of the better offenses in the league, putting up over 400 yards a game; defensively, a huge defensive line and they can rotate. They've had a lot of guys drafted and they just keep coming back with more. We've got to find guys like that. We're trying to get there, but we don't have the depth they have.
"You look at them offensively, they've got weapons. Dak Prescott, that's a tough situation, our thoughts and prayers are out with the loss of his mother earlier this week. That's a difficult situation, for anyone but particularly for a young man. He's given them a new element, just a big, strong guy that can throw it, runs through people. It'll be interesting to see what happens this weekend. They have an experienced (backup) quarterback and he's ready to go.
"They moved the ball against South Carolina, they just turned it over. That was the difference. Defensively, what was South Carolina, 1-for-11? That's a huge stat for us. They've been one of the better conversion teams in the SEC the last five weeks. It'll be a huge challenge for us. We haven't seen a team the last couple weeks of this physical stature."
On Ben Malena and what he's meant...Sumlin: "Senior Day brings about two things. You've got three groups of guys — walkons who've toiled, some have gotten scholarships, some have stuck around; you have junior college guys who came into a situation, like Derel Walker and Steven Jenkins; and you've got the guys who've been here four or five years. Ben has been around and had some great moments here. He's really been an emotional leader for us, maybe not as much as y'all see during the game but in practice time and things like that. There's a reason he's a captain and plays special teams. He's been a leader by example, but this year it's been a vocal leader.
"For all the seniors, but for him in particular, I can see this being an emotional moment. I said last week, 'It's Senior Day and it'll be the last time we make that walk ... it's also the last time Kyle Field will ever look the way it looks.' It'll be a historic moment for players and fans. After Saturday, Kyle Field will look completely different forever. The ability to play in that game for everybody, coach in that game or be a fan at that game, to me, is a big deal. Jake (Matthews) walked up to me after that and said, 'Coach, I've never thought about it that way. You're going to make me cry.' He didn't look like he was about to cry, but I think it hit him. It's really a historical moment."
On where he wants improvement this month...Sumlin: "Across the board. You need to be improving at this time. We've lost guys for the year from injury and whatnot. What I'm looking for is we've improved some defensively the last two weeks. We're going to see how much we've improved. We get Cedric Ogbuehi back and we'll see if we can pick up and get back to full strength with our starters.
"With the way the schedule sets up, it's the opposite of last year. We went five of six on the road early in the year; this year we played a lot of home games, but after Saturday we've got a bye week and we're on the road at LSU and Missouri to finish up. I don't think I've done that before. The way we finish up is going to be big, but getting our guys back, Alonzo (Williams) on defense and Cedric on offense, it'll be exciting to see."
On getting the ball to Cam Clear more...Sumlin: "We've got one football. We've got one guy with 1,100-something yards. Once he stops doing that, we'll get the ball to him more. We can't get every guy 50 balls. Cam understands that. He's playing well. His time's coming. The way we are offensively and what we're asking him to do as a first-year player, he's doing that. He's blocking well at the point of attack; when we're throwing it to him, he's caught it. He understands where he is and what he's doing in the big scheme of things. We've been in so many spread sets with Malcome and Mike Evans and lately, shoot, Labhart, we have to spread it around. In certain formations he's in the progression — it just doesn't always happen that way."
On talking to underclassmen considering the draft...Sumlin: "Fortunately I've been around it a bunch, either as an assistant coach or a head coach. What we try to do is provide our juniors or third-year players with as much factual information as we can get. We have an NFL analysis that everybody has; fortunately we've got our contacts in the NFL that are able to talk generally about some things. And we sit down with the family and give them all the information, give them advice. Just like last year with Luke (Joeckel), not so much Damontre (Moore) — he had made his decision earlier — with Luke and with Jake, I was able to visit with both their families.
"What I tell the guys is, 'I'll give you all the information. Then, if you ask me, I'll tell you what I think. If you don't ask me, I won't sway you.' Both situations, I told them what I thought."
On whether he does that analysis for every draft-eligible player...Sumlin: "There's some guys that, you're not even playing as a junior, why would I do an analysis? Everybody knows who we're talking about. If people come to me and ask me to do an analysis, we'll do that. We don't do it for everybody."
On Tra Carson...Sumlin: "We'll see. The official diagnosis was a sprained neck, which sounds ... painful. But it was never as bad as we thought. He was never unconscious, he was never without feeling. Those are good signs. He was in a neck brace yesterday, he's improved today, so we'll see. He wants to play, but we'll see where the doctors say he is at the end of the week. He's walking around. He never had to go to the hospital. He looks like he was in a car accident. He's walking around and stiff; a bit like whiplash."
On having an increased pass rush the last two weeks...Sumlin: "It's been extremely important. Shoot, up until two weeks ago against Vandy, we had as many sacks in that game as we had all year. We went in with seven and doubled 'em. We've been able to turn it up a bit. I'll say this too, here's the other issue — early in the year we had guys get loose, but because we were taking some chances we had no contain on the other side. So a quarterback flushes and we're not holding gaps and the quarterback runs up the middle. We've been a lot more sound. It's not just running to the quarterback and getting him, they have a plan too. You need to maintain your gap structure. That's really helped us."
On Malena's biggest moments as a leader...Sumlin: "There's been a bunch of them. From the beginning when he came and talked to me about his role. Every time he wants to talk, he gets to talk. That's not the case with everybody on the team. Halftime at Vanderbilt was probably one of his biggest moments. I was not pleased with how we played and I think I let our team know that when we came in. As coaches we go and make adjustments and with four or five minutes left, I come back and get them up and go.
"When I came back, the guys were already circled up (around Malena) and was reading them the Riot Act. Then he said, 'Let's go.' I said, 'Alright, what he said.' (Laughter.) That was a pretty good moment for him."