THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Coach Kliff Kingsbury from Texas Tech. We’re going straight to questions.
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Actually, I have one opening statement. I’m not sure why we had the Justin Bieber playing for my walk-up song, but we’ll move forward.
Q. Kliff, Lincoln says he’s going to continue to run the offense, call the plays, coordinate all that kind of stuff. You’ve done that in the past. How difficult is that for a head coach? What kind of adjustments have you had to make over the years? At what point does it become too big for a guy to do both roles?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: That’s a great question. There’s obviously been coaches throughout the country that have had success calling it, either offensively or defensively. There’s guys that have had success that don’t call it. I think he’s just got to find that happy medium. I’m going into year five and still, I think, searching for that, how to be successful in all those other aspects of being a head coach and still be the best play-caller I can be.
I don’t know. You may be more deficient in some areas if you’re trying to put that much emphasis on the offense, and that’s something he’ll just have to figure out as he goes along. But he has a tremendous offensive mind. He’s done a great job going into his third year with Baker. I don’t think it would probably be smart for him to hand it over to anybody else at this point with the relationship they have. So he’ll continue to call the plays and kind of adjust from there.
Q. Kliff, it’s the start of your fifth year now. I wonder if you could describe some of the changes that you’ve seen in your coaching over the course of your tenure there, and how are you different than you might have been when you started off?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: That’s a great question. I think you just adjust each and every year to your personnel, to your coaching staff. Time management is something that I feel like I’ve gotten better at. And then trying to be more involved in all aspects of the program. Not just saying, hey, we’re going to outscore everybody. We’re going to have a great quarterback. We’re going to score a bunch of points. But having an impact on special teams, strength and conditioning, defense, recruiting.
I think, as you go, you learn that you better be involved in all those things.
Q. A lot’s been said about the much maligned defense at Texas Tech. How big for you is getting a guy like Dakota Allen back?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: He’s been huge. Dakota is a guy who made a mistake after his freshman year and went to junior college and paid the price and did everything right, earned his way back, and was a tremendous player for us his freshman year. We expect him to pick right back up where he left off. He’s a leader for us already in our locker room. He can tell those young guys about the mistake he made, about what he went through, about how good they have it. He’s made an immediate impact off the field, and I’m hoping that his presence on the field is felt that way as well.
Q. Just cutting right to it, Kliff, why has the defense been so bad, and how are you going to fix it?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I think a number of things. As a head coach, it falls on me, no question. I think middle of year two we made a change where we kind of had to start over, and Coach Gibbs came in. It wasn’t the greatest situation, no question, and he’s still working through that.
I think going into year three, we have the same defensive coordinator for the first time at Texas Tech in a long time. He’s been able to bring in players that fit his scheme. He’s been able to bring in coaches that he’s comfortable with. So I expect to see us be improved.
I like what I saw this spring. We played a lot of young players on defense last year, and I’m hoping those snaps pay dividends going into this year.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Cameron Batson. It sounds like he’s going to graduate at the end of this summer cum laude. Can you just talk about off the field for him how he’s managed that, but then when you expect out of him on the field this fall.
KLIFF KINGSBURY: He’s been phenomenal. He’s what you want in your program. There was a question in the media today about which player on your team could you see being your former boss, and he would be it. He was valedictorian of his high school. Like you said, he’s going to graduate in, I think, 3 1/2 years with honors; tremendous, tremendous young man. One of the toughest kids we have on our team and one of the fastest kids. I think he is the fastest player we have on our team.
I expect him to have a great year. He’ll be starting inside this season. He’ll be our starting punt returner as well, going into year four of our system. He’s been a real leader, and like I said, he’s what you want in your program.
Q. Followup to Mr. Bowles’ question. You’re a fine coach. It’s a great conference, great school, all world offense. I figure there may be 5,000 seniors who start on defense in Texas a year. You recruit from other states. Why can’t you get 10, 15, or 20 who can hold your opponents to 30 points or less a game?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: That’s a great question. I wish I had the answer (laughter). Like I said, that’s something we work on. We haven’t been good enough defensively, and we’ll continue to try and recruit the right players and develop them and get better.
Q. You got a ringing endorsement from Kirby Hocutt after last season, but when looking at the record the past couple of years in conference, how does the pressure this year feel any different or more than in previous seasons?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I think it comes with the territory. Obviously, we know what’s at stake. We know we have to be much improved. But that’s part of the job. I think that everybody but the four that make the playoff every year are basically on the hot seat in college football. You’re coaching for your job every year, and we know that.
I don’t feel any more pressure than I ever have. I always expect to win and give Texas Tech what it deserves and their fans and their alumni and that university. So to me, we’re moving forward and have tried to improve all our processes, but as far as added pressure, it’s not something we try to dwell upon.
Q. Obviously, Pat Mahomes, large shoes to fill. What have you seen from Nic and the other quarterbacks this spring and summer?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: You don’t replace somebody with that type of talent, obviously, but Nic is a fifth year senior going into his fourth year in our system, knows it inside and out. Really got a ton of reps with our ones last year. There was a four or five-week stretch that Pat didn’t practice during the week, where he hurt his shoulder, and Nic got all those reps. He got some good meaningful time in the games last year and played really well, and this spring, he had a tremendous spring. With this supporting cast around him, we expect him to play at a high level. He’s a tough young man, hardest worker on our team, studies the game inside and out. Was at Iowa, learned a pro style at Iowa; came to Tech, learned our offense. He’s a bright kid, and like I said, I expect him to play at a very high level. I expect him to be very competitive.
Our team loves him because not many players in this day and age would stick around to their senior year to get their time, and he did. That carries a lot of weight with our program.
Q. Coach, the uncertainty following last season can kind of open up the doors for some negative recruiting, things like that. What would you tell a kid that has an offer from Texas Tech but is kind of uncertain about the coaching situation?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: That’s a great question. Obviously, that can be used. Players want to know you’re going to be there. We kind of explain the college football landscape, that coaches come and go. Come to a university because you love what it’s about and you can see yourself there whether the head coach is there or not. That’s why we said it. We have no plans of going anywhere and not being there and we’re working towards that, but, yeah, select a university that you love because coaches come and go.
Q. What’s it going to take to replace a guy like Patrick Mahomes, who’s headed to the NFL? And what are your thoughts on McLane Carter who came in from Tyler Junior College and also Jett Duffey?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: We have to have more of a group effort. We were not very good up front last year as far as running the football and protecting the quarterback. We kept bringing back a senior running back, three senior starting wide receivers and a junior starting wide receiver, so we have experience and skill that’s really going to help Nic, and they’ve got to step their game up.
I think all of us at times just sat there and watched some of the things that Pat could do, and we need to be focused on playing.
With McLane, he’s a guy that we evaluated hard in high school. Went to junior college, gained a lot of weight, really had a nice stay at Tyler. Came in this spring and was learning our system. He’s gotten bigger, faster, stronger, and really has a good skill set for what we do offensively. Excited to work with him. He’s got a ways to go, but we’ll get with him in camp and see how he develops.
Q. Kliff, with the continued expansion — or evolution in acceleration of offense, do you think it’s feasible that some team is going to score 100 points in a game sometime soon? What, if anything, would that mean for college football?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I don’t think so. I don’t think any coach is going to take it there. I think they’d find a way to not get in the end zone at that point. I would hope so. But, yeah, there’s been some 70s, 80s come up, but I don’t think you’re going to see a coach try to get to 100.
Q. Pat was going to get drafted early, but I’m just wondering, if you see that there’s an advantage for him to be drafted by the Chiefs with Andy Reid?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I do. I mean, he’s unquestionably one of the best quarterback developers that league’s ever seen, and to see how much they wanted Pat, to jump up 17 spots to get him, I knew early on in our season that they loved him because one of our former coaches now works there for the Chiefs. So they had been on Pat the entire time. And then to have an established quarterback who, by all accounts, is a tremendously hard worker, good guy in Alex Smith to learn from. To me, it’s an ideal situation.
Pat’s only 21 years old. He picked up quarterback basically his junior year in high school. So the sky’s the limit on the right situation, and luckily, in my opinion, he landed in the perfect situation.
Q. Kliff, what advice did you give Lincoln, if any, as a head coach who took a job in this conference at a young age?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I have not given him any because we play them, but if I did, it would probably just don’t try to get it all done in one day. It can seem overwhelming, particularly when you’re trying to have so much input in the offense and coaching quarterbacks. So focus on what you can get done that day and then move on to the next.
Q. Kliff, nobody probably wants Texas Tech to win more than you do given your history there. What’s been the most frustrating thing over the last two or three seasons for you?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Just not being able to get over that hump for your players, for our student body, for our alumni. You just want it for them because we have incredible support, we have incredible fans. We have had really good teams, and we’ve just kind of hovered, and we’ve got to get over it somehow. So that’s been the toughest thing, having our opportunities to get past it and not taking advantage of it.
Q. Last week we found out the news that Scott Frantz, the offensive lineman at K-State, had come out. This has been the second time there’s been a player that’s come out to his team, went a whole year in that situation, and seemingly gone pretty well. Is there something to be said about just the place that gay athletes may have in college football today?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I just think there’s an open-mindedness in 2017 among our young people. They’ve grown up around that, and you got to applaud that young man. He’s a tremendous player, first and foremost, and then to have that type of strength to come out in front of his teammates and the support they showed them and the way it’s been handled is phenomenal.
Yeah, I just think our young people are very open-minded. It’s not so foreign to them as it may have been in the past. So I applaud everybody involved in that situation at Kansas State.
Q. I’m curious, the Big 12 collectively has the youngest age for head coaches, I think at 46 years. Big picture question: What do you think this youth movement with coaches can do to reboot the league?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: That’s a great question. I think you lose somebody like Coach Stoops, it’s hard to replace, but there’s some really bright offensive minds that have joined us, and Coach Campbell, Coach Herman, obviously, and Lincoln. I think it’s going to be fun to watch as everybody grows as a head coach and in this league continues to get better. I think that youth movement is going to be exciting, and I think you’re going to see exciting styles of football continue to flourish in the Big 12.