Ron Prince Answers Questions on Big 12 Media Day

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The following is Wednesday's transcript from the 2007 Big 12 Football Media Day. Representing Kansas State at the event are head coach Ron Prince, sophomore quarterback Josh Freeman, junior defensive end/linebacker Ian Campbell and senior defensive end Rob Jackson.

CHARLIE FISS: We're ready to begin day three, the final day of Big 12 Media Day. Our lead-off team, Kansas State University Coach Ron Prince. Coach, welcome to San Antonio. Tell us about your team as you prepare for the season.

COACH RON PRINCE: We had a terrific off-season. I am pleased with the overall demeanor of the team and the ambition of the team. Any time you come out of your first season, obviously, we have many more questions than answers still to go. By a long stretch, we didn't feel like we accomplished all of our goals a year ago. We thought we had a nice season. We got into the post-season, did some things of that nature. But we really felt like we had a lot of things we were going to improve on if we were going to take the next step. We hear that cliche often. We felt we did nice things in the kicking game and we wanted to build on that.
We felt it was time to significantly make a move on defense so we can play the kind of games that we like to play on the road that we'll need this year against big-time opponents. And obviously, we all know we can improve in the offensive line.

We think we've got a chance to have a really good season. So we worked on those things from the tactic and strategy standpoint and from a personnel standpoint putting all those things together. But really that's not why you win. You win because you have great chemistry and great leadership and a collective mentality. And that's really what we were trying to put together in the winter and spring. And the players are completing that this summer. So that's really what the off-season has been like. It's been an enjoyable team to be around. The coaching staff, has great camaraderie and we're now ready to get back to the business of actually putting on the equipment and practicing and seeing exactly what kind of team we're going to have for this fall.

CHARLIE FISS: Let's go to questions from the floor.

Q. Having the first year that you had, to take the team to a bowl game is a challenge that you've accomplished. Is that as difficult as sustaining and maintaining or building on an excellence, were they equally challenging? How do you look at it?

COACH RON PRINCE: You know, getting into the postseason is obviously one of the very basic and fundamental goals for any team. We feel that really getting into the post-season, that's got to be the place where you really start, but what you're really trying to do is to figure out how to compete for a championship. And we feel that playing great defense, that's going to be the next step towards that goal. And we felt we did some nice things. It wasn't that we felt that the season was a wash, but some of the most critical moments where we had some opportunities to really take some steps, we felt that we didn't play quite as well in a couple of areas and we really wanted to make those improvements.

I think from a personnel standpoint we were heavy on defense in our class because we had a sense we were coming into a conference that's very good on offense and that was the case. Everybody in this league is very good on offense. Everybody has a receiver that you can't cover one-on-one. Everybody has a terrific quarterback. There's plenty of really good runners and coordinators in this league that are terrific. We felt if we were going to be able to make a dent in the conference we were going to have to play some defense, but that defense was going to be very young with the players we were bringing in. Mostly from the pass-rush standpoint and from a coverage standpoint. The kicking game really held it together for us last year. I think we had -- I believe it was eight special teams touchdowns a year ago. Now that the defense has had time to grow, we are going to have some time to be able to mature and see what we were going to be able to do. We'd like to see them to play defensively, see them contribute in the game the way special teams has, and we all know we've added a lot of offensive players in this past recruiting class and offense is about timing and chemistry.

So these next 28 days, next four weeks, will be really critical to see what our timing looks like going into our first game. We had a plan all along of how we were going to try to put this thing together, and you can't ever make the team worse to make it better. That's probably one of the things that Ron Wolf, the long time Packer GM, in his book "The Packer Way" wrote that. That really stuck with me the first time I ever read it. And there's a lot of coaches that go into a new situation, really try to in some essence tear the team down to build the team back up the way he might like it. I didn't feel that was appropriate for our situation. We needed to get back into the post-season, make sure we validated the support and effort of those seniors and our fans. We're here to build off of that.

Q. Coach, talk about Josh Freeman and the type of improvement you expect from him in his second year?

COACH RON PRINCE: Josh played as a true freshman. Many of the quarterbacks that you hear about with freshman statistics are redshirt freshmen. Very rare is it that a true freshman right out of high school can actually go into playing and playing any kind of sophisticated game at this level.

I really felt that everything that he gave us a year ago was a bonus, that we were going to have to go and play the games in a way that didn't ask him to just go out and win the game for us. We had a series of injuries in the wide receiver core over time throughout the season. And I thought he did a real nice job managing the game for us and I expected him to play like a sophomore, not a fifth-year senior. My expectation is he'll play, manage the game, he'll learn how to do that. Obviously we want to cut down on the turnovers we had over the past year. But if you look at some of the games we had last year, it was fantastic, the plays that he made with his ability. The Oklahoma State game we had two late-game drives. That was as much his talent and instinct and being who he is that allowed him, allowed our team to win that game. And so this is a maturing team. It's a team of young players in some spots and I think what we've tried to do in adding talent to the offensive line, not only adding talent to the wide receiver core, will hopefully allow him to play his very best. I think it's going to take time for the people around him to gel and for their chemistry to work together. But I do expect improvement in that area.

Offensively, overall we had a number of big plays during the year and that was an exciting thing that helped us really to be able to turn. Areas for improvement are to convert on third down, actually getting more first downs, I think, is going to be a big part for us in having the kind of balance you need offensively.

Q. Can you talk about your first impressions of Ian and kind of what makes him who he is and what he is for you guys?

COACH RON PRINCE: We had our meetings in the off-season. I kept asking Coach Latimore about who is this Campbell kid. I had a chance to meet him, be around him a little bit. But really was most in my questions to Coach Latimore, exactly what kind of player is this, what kind of kid is he, what kind of motor does he have. And we went into spring ball watching to see exactly what his talent level would be, and I was absolutely blown away by how he plays the game, from a motor standpoint. I think he went out and demonstrated early that he had the ability to rush the passer, but I think the thing that sustained his effort throughout the year was that if the quarterback wasn't going to throw the ball to his first or second progression, he was going to perhaps outwork the tackle that was working against him.

There was a player that we had that had been at Virginia at one time named Pat Kearney, who has made his career with the (Atlanta) Falcons and now Seattle, with that kind of effort, just sheer turbulence of how he tries to play and that's his approach to practice. He got my attention from there. We put him on scholarship and he never disappointed. He's a tremendous leader. He's a very humble, purposeful young man. But I think he gained enough confidence in himself and his teammates to demonstrate their confidence in him. And I think he's poised to have a nice year again.

It was one of those things where he's a team-first guy, very team-oriented person, and so us being able to have the opportunity to perhaps put him in position to where we can best use his talent was a number one or high priority for us here in the off season.

Q. I read a report, I don't know if it was accurate or not, but you guys were going to visit the Alamodome today; is that correct?

COACH RON PRINCE: When we're finished with the activities here, Kenny (Lannou), our sports information guy, has a place he wants to show us. If we get a chance we'd like to go by and see it. None of the players that are here with us today have played in that facility. And we've made it very clear that as a team our goal is to play in there December 1st. So we'd like to be able to go back and report to the rest of the team on exactly what that facility looks like and some of the sidelines, et cetera.

Q. That kind of answers part B to my question, but you guys were predicted to finish third by the Big 12 media. I was wondering if you could talk about that and the elevation in respect, maybe you guys have earned since last season?

COACH RON PRINCE: Well, I don't know. I think you let the pickers pick and let the players play and you don't get any trophies for how things start out. To be honest with you, a year ago when we came down here it wasn't until I walked up on the stage that (former sports information director) Garry (Bowman) leaned over to me and said, 'By the way, they picked you last.'

I don't really pay much attention to those kinds of things. So I understand everybody's got their opinion and a lot of it is logical. I can imagine why they picked certain teams that they have picked. But that's really of no relevance to us. We don't think that will make any difference during the season. But I respect their opinion. That's fine. But we've got an agenda of our own.


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