Among hordes of credentialed media at the Omni Hotel in Dallas for Big 12 Media Day, Kliff Kingsbury, just 10 years and five months removed from being drafted to the NFL, took the podium and dished on several topics regarding his 2013 Red Raider football team.
Here's the interview, provided by Texas Tech Athletics:
THE MODERATOR: We're going to start now with Coach Kliff Kingsbury from Texas Tech.
Coach, welcome to the league. Your thoughts about the upcoming season, or we can go straight to questions.
COACH KINGSBURY: Fire away with questions.
Q. Can you talk about how excited you are to get back to playing Big 12 defenses as opposed to what you just had. Or just talk on that kind of.
COACH KINGSBURY: Yeah, there's differences in the league, that's for sure. But there's so many great teams. The parity in this league, it's exciting. I think you go in week in and week out, and everybody feels they have a chance to win this league, and it may not be that in that other one I just came from.
There's great offensive minds and great defensive minds as well. So it will be a challenge each and every week.
Q. You made some headlines with some comments you made about the no huddle offense, kind of refuting what Nick Saban and Coach Bielema had to say about it. Can you maybe elaborate more about obviously how you feel about the no huddle? You ran it at Texas Tech. You ran it at Texas A&M. You got Manziel with the Heisman doing it. Kind of what are your thoughts on the whole thing?
COACH KINGSBURY: I think that was really well documented how I feel. The game evolves and changes and you have to play for your strengths. If we think playing in that style gives us an advantage, we're going to do it.
Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and I'm not saying I'm right. But that's just how I feel about it.
Q. When you coach in Lubbock, the wind never stops blowing. I was just curious, arm strength, how important it is throwing the football in that area and that town because it can vary within games sometimes, start to finish. It just seems like, if you don't have a real gun, it really affects the way you play offense.
COACH KINGSBURY: Yeah, I think you look at the numbers that people are throwing for out there under Coach Leach, and even last year they were second in the country in throwing the football. It's more just an attitude. You practice in it each and every day, and you get used to it.
It can psych other teams out. They come to town, and it's blowing 50 miles per hour, and they don't think they can throw it. We do it each and every day. It's more just throwing a tight spiral. Arm strength helps, but if you can keep your ball tight in the wind and be accurate in those circumstances, then you'll be all right.
Q. Kliff, speaking of tight spirals, I wonder if you can analyze how your quarterback is or quarterback race is breaking out at this time.
COACH KINGSBURY: It's been good. We were really pleased with Michael Brewer and Davis Webb's progress in the spring. Those guys kind of separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
We'll get them to fall camp and probably go about two weeks, it varies, before we name a starter and try to get the scrimmage in. See how the seven on seven is going this summer, see how the film is, and just who separates themselves.
We did that last year at Texas A&M and worked out a little bit for us. Hopefully, we have that same success.
Q. Can you speak to what it was like coaching in the SEC and the divide between the SEC and other conferences and what it's going to take for the Big 12 to catch up and other conferences as well.
COACH KINGSBURY: I think anytime you win seven national championships in a row, you're on top. That's hard to dispute that.
Great defenses, great coaches in that league, and I feel the same about the Big 12. I think it's cyclical in a way that in a couple years the Big 12 may be making the same sort of run.
There's great players all over the country. That league was fun to play in, but I'm excited about this new challenge.
Q. Kliff, last season at A&M you had the spread offense, but you also had a really mobile quarterback. Tech traditionally, the last 15 years, you guys have been pretty stationary. Brewer, at least, has got some good feet. Is that something you plan to do with the Tech offense going forward, is keep the spread concepts but have a quarterback who runs around?
COACH KINGSBURY: We're big on having a QB that can extend plays. It doesn't have to mean rushing yards always. In Houston, we had Case Keenum, who had great feet, and he could keep a play alive by getting out of the pocket and finding his receivers downfield.
We definitely want a guy who can move and escape the pocket and keep things really extend the play down the field.
Q. Can you talk about Clayton Nicholas, and I know you just said you like a guy who can use his feet. He's not really known for that. What can he do over the next couple of years to fit himself into your philosophy?
COACH KINGSBURY: Clayton did a good job at the end of the spring picking up the system. I thought he performed really well in the spring game. I think he has one of the strongest arms I've been around.
He's more athletic than you think, and he really has come on strong lately. It will be interesting to see how he does starting fall camp.
Q. Kliff, obviously, you've taken a job at your alma mater where you had great success as a player. What in your mind are some of the biggest challenges with living up to what you did there as a player and then trying to replicate that level of success as a coach going forward?
COACH KINGSBURY: That's a great question. I think, after getting out there, we really started with our team motto, is get better each and every day. The heights Coach Leach took that program, that's hard to repeat. That's something that had never been done out there.
But we're excited about our group. I think last year they were 8 5 and definitely have lots of room for improvement. It's not like we're coming to a program that's broken. We're just coming in trying to put our spin on it.
Q. What would you say to people who overlook or maybe disrespect your running backs or your running game?
COACH KINGSBURY: That's another good question. We have a great group. There's four or five guys that we think can all start at a lot of places in this country. So we've got to find ways to get them the ball.
That's a big part of our offense. Last year we led the league in rushing at Texas A&M. We're going to play to our strengths. If we can run the ball every play, we'll do it.
Q. Kliff, I know you've been on the job a couple of months, and I know you've had other successful jobs in college football, being young. Is it still surreal for you knowing that, here I am 33 years old, and I'm about to be the head coach of my alma mater, a job I'd probably love to be in for a long time? How do you relate to that as you really get to work now?
COACH KINGSBURY: Yeah, you have those moments, but you try not to let it overwhelm you. You just attack each and every day, how can I make this program better today? That's all I've done since I've been there.
The first couple days you get the job, you sit in your office, what do I do next? It's been amazing. The reception we've had for Texas Tech and watching all the fans get back on board and pushing this program in the right direction has been incredible.
Q. How much on defense are you going to emphasize turnover creation? Because that was a serious, serious deficiency last year.
COACH KINGSBURY: That's been point number one. In this league, teams are going to get their yards. With this many great offenses, you've got to be able to take a few away and slow them down in the red zone. And we were last in the Big 12 last year, and I think 117th overall. To win eight games and be ranked in that place is pretty impressive.
So that's been something we've harped on from day one and we continue to emphasize.
Q. Mentioning the turnovers, we saw Oklahoma State in 2011 and K State last year put up crazy numbers. How do you emphasize that? What can you do? Do you take anything away from what they did and how they did it?
COACH KINGSBURY: Yeah, you saw the success they had with teams that ranked high in takeovers. We just emphasize it. We have circuits we do, and in practice they're rewarded for it.
As much as you can keep in their minds, hey, when we have a chance to take the ball over and the ball's in the air, go get it. That's really all we've done.
Q. Mike Leach always liked to talk about just focusing on the next game and didn't really talk about championships a lot. What message do you send your players?
COACH KINGSBURY: We're focused on the next day actually. We try to get better each and every day, whether it's in the weight room or they're studying film on their own. Improve yourself as a player, and let the wins take care of themselves.
I think, by having small goals, that's the way to reach the places we want to be.
Q. Hey, Kliff, have you is it possible to play too quickly, too up tempo on offense? Have you all clocked it and broken it down how fast you can actually go?
COACH KINGSBURY: We haven't scientifically. We don't want to push the pace at times.
I guess for the quarterback is the one you want to worry about the most. You don't want to be a cloudy picture. Sometimes when defenses are still getting set and you're snapping the ball, it makes it tough on them. So you try to minimize their thought process when you are going that fast.
Q. Coach, with being the youngest coach in the league, are there any advantages to being that young? Do you feel like it helps you relate to players or helps you connect on the recruiting trail?
COACH KINGSBURY: I hope so. I think not only age, but being in a place that I played and wasn't too far a move from, I think that helps. It's easy to sell a product when you lived it and you loved it and you're telling the parents and telling the kids. Hopefully, they see that passion.
Q. Kliff, you've kind of been on both sides of this thing. How do you think Texas A&M going to the SEC has affected the recruiting landscape in Texas?
COACH KINGSBURY: Since they won all those games, it's definitely helped. I think that's the deal. Had they went in and went 5 7, you wouldn't have seen the impact that they have.
But Coach Sumlin is a great recruiter, and all the attention they've received and will receive for the year they've had and what Johnny's done. It's definitely helped them, that move into the SEC.
No, it hasn't affected us. I haven't seen anything that has changed what we do at Texas Tech or our recruiting in regards to Texas A&M.
Q. You mentioned about the offense and Texas Tech is known for that, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to defense. How do you shape up your defense compared to the rest of the league? And you mentioned that the grade between the SEC and the Big 12 how far is the gap?
COACH KINGSBURY: On the defensive side, we brought in Matt Wallerstedt, who was the defensive coordinator at Air Force and was at Texas A&M last year when I was there. He's very aggressive, attacking schemes. He's got an experienced group coming back, guys have learned five defenses in five different years.
Still some learning going on there, but excited about our defense. Really pleased with the progress in the spring.
As far as the SEC Big 12 gap, I just think it's a case by case basis. There's great teams there, and there's great teams here. It just depends on the year.
Q. What do you see as the biggest and most relevant difference from in the Big 12 from when you played and coaching now?
COACH KINGSBURY: The parity in the league as far as this year goes. I think when I was playing, you had Nebraska was really good and Colorado was way up there. There were five and six teams probably out in front of everybody else, and now it appears that most of the teams have come back to more of a pack.
I think that's more of a credit to other teams stepping up than anything else.
Q. Coach, with a new quarterback coming in this year, obviously, you had a lot of success at Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel, implementing a new quarterback into the system, does that experience help you going into this year?
COACH KINGSBURY: It does. It does. Having worked with a younger guy last year, first time starter, you learn the good and bad and how much he can handle, how much you can put on him.
Obviously, he was an exceptional case, but it definitely helps dealing with a first time starter last year.
Q. Kliff, how much have you heard from the players with whom you played at Texas Tech and their support of you, and what has that meant to you?
COACH KINGSBURY: It's been incredible. The reception has been really overwhelming from players and fans. It's good to have all those guys back.
I played for Spike Dykes and played for Mike Leach. That's two I mean, I don't know how many years it covers, 25 years of Tech football that I can relate to. So to have all those guys back in the program all pushing the same direction has been great.
Q. You have a couple of defensive backs, Keenon Ward and Dee Paul, true freshmen, who were quarterbacks at their high school and they've converted to DB. Do you feel like being the quarterback that is more of a reflection of how they can understand the game or just they were the best athlete at their school, at the high school level?
COACH KINGSBURY: I think a little of both. I think someone that's done a great job of taking quarterbacks and turning them into defensive players is Gary Patterson. You look at the guys over the years, usually in high school, they're going to put their best skill athlete at quarterback, and then if those guys can make the transition to defense, they usually have a great understanding of the game, very athletic, and have great ball skills.
Q. One more question about the quarterback competition. In just using Johnny Manziel as a reference, obviously, last year at this time, nobody knew that he could do what he did, but we found out what he could do once he got on the field in real games. There is still a part of you, I would think, right now, that there's a competition going on, that you're not sure what these guys are going to do until you actually go out and play a real game.
COACH KINGSBURY: There's no doubt. You don't know how they're going to react when the lights come on. How do they keep plays alive? How do they lead when things are going bad? There's definitely a lot of those elements.
Hopefully, it turns out like it did last year for us and makes it a lot of fun.
Q. Kliff, you guys play Baylor this year in Arlington and have for the last few years. Do you like that as a neutral site game? Would you like to see it continue in the Dallas area?
COACH KINGSBURY: I have not been a part of it yet. The feedback from the players and fans, it's been great atmospheres, been great games. I think it's fun for the players to get to play in that arena, where the Cowboys play, obviously.
I'm excited to be a part of that and see what it's like.
Q. Kliff, can you give us some idea what your schedule has been like since you were hired. I guess, obviously, you talked to a lot of alumni, fan groups, that kind of thing.
COACH KINGSBURY: Yeah, there's been a lot of that, a lot of speaking engagements, a lot of administrative stuff. I've never pretended to have all the answers, and it's been a learn on the job type deal. So you try to get done all you can get done in one day and wake up the next day and do it again.
It's been a great experience thus far, but definitely ready to go to the football side of it.
Q. Kliff, going back to that quarterback evaluation, you said you don't know how the lights come on. How much of that is not letting guys quarterbacks get hit, not having them run. I heard Kevin talk. He didn't know what he had in Johnny Manziel. I assume you're the same way. Nobody gets hit anymore quarterback wise. Is it a case of you really don't know, if the guy's any kind of movement quarterback, you don't know what you've got until you're playing games?
COACH KINGSBURY: To an extent, that's true. Last year Coach Sumlin stands behind the line in practice and has a quick whistle if anybody gets close. He'd shut those plays down that are really Johnny's forte. Until you see him out there extending plays and making things happen on the field, you don't know exactly what you have at that position.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck.