An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. When you took over as coordinator this year, what paid off more, your experience or the experience of the guys you inherited on the defense?
TOM HAYES: Certainly our players did a fabulous job for our defensive team. We had a lot of senior leadership, as you know. They stayed steady and consistent. That's what I'm so proud of them for, is how consistent they were through the entire 12?game schedule.
So that being said, the transition for me, I mean, I've been in this role many times, it's not my first time, so it was easy. Bill made it easy.
Our players, we were lucky for the most part, stayed healthy. They got it done.
Q. Was there any hesitation on your part when Bill approached you about doing it?
TOM HAYES: None, none. No, like I said, I'm very familiar with it and I'm comfortable doing it. I've got a lot of experience, so I rely on that a great deal. I should. I need to. I need to.
Q. Can you go through anything you maybe tweaked with the defense as opposed to last year? Were you careful?
TOM HAYES: When I came here last year, we did some things. I certainly brought in a different perspective, and we did some things that I was used to doing. We all collectively work at that as a staff. A lot of those things continue.
Were there major changes? Not really, but there were subtle changes. Maybe in how we called the game, that might have been different. But there's only so many ways you can play.
We're not a big pressure team. We didn't become one this year either, but we were effective when we pressured. That's important, to be effective. It's not how much you do it, you need to be efficient when you do.
Q. Oregon offensive coordinator was in here and he said K State defense was one that doesn't change a lot of things schematically, kind of does what it does, does it well. Is that an accurate characterization?
TOM HAYES: Yeah, it's probably pretty accurate because one of the things philosophically that we believe in is being fundamental, lining up well, not beating yourself, if you will. That's really what it comes down to. Align properly, read the right key.
Defense, as you all know, is about beating blocks, getting to the ball, tackling. Hopefully we did that pretty well for the entire year.
So we're not into a bunch of different schemes. I don't believe in that ? never have. We're going to line up well and we're going to do what we do. Our players need to have a good fundamental base underneath them. Our guys have worked hard at that.
Q. Are you happy with how you came out of the Baylor loss?
TOM HAYES: Absolutely. With Texas coming up, the way they recruit, Mack is a great friend of mine, he's done a good job for a long period of time at Texas. It was one where we had to reexamine ourselves, just go back to what we know and improve from one game to the next, Baylor to Texas, if you will. We had a couple weeks to do it, which helped I think, certainly.
Q. In terms of what you do, how good was it to have a linebacker in the middle like Arthur?
TOM HAYES: I said at the team banquet what I'll miss most about Arthur's play, I'll miss Arthur, period. As a person, he's a tremendous young man.
But you watch the tape, and everybody's blocked on your defense, including him, but he gets unblocked fairly quickly. The ball is skirting around the wide part of the field, and here comes Arthur like a blur and makes the play. You go, How did he do that? That's just what he does.
He has an innate instinct, if you will, a burst of speed that very few linebackers have. When he sees it, he goes and get it.
Q. The Oregon players and coaches have mentioned going into this game about how well you guys tackle in space. Has that been a strength for you guys. It probably has to be.
TOM HAYES: Based on watching Oregon's film, they're going to find out if we do or not (laughter). They're going to try us, I know that much.
Yeah, again, this mode of offense is throughout the Big 12. There's not revolutionary here. Everybody does the same things. They throw it out there, they want you to tackle a wideout or catches the ball for no gain or goes the distance. You can't miss tackles in space.
We work at that hard. We get practice against our own team in practice every day, doing some of those same things with fast receivers that we have and runningbacks and so forth.
So in the Big 12 Conference, you get plenty of work at that, which I think that helps you.
Q. Bill mentioned during the season, too, about being good at keeping plays in front of you.
TOM HAYES: Philosophically, that's who we are. That's where my background is. If you just don't give up big, explosive plays, you play the run well, because as a defensive coordinator, how do you call defenses if they're running the ball? The answer is, You don't. I can't go to anything if they're running the ball. We can't let that happen. That happened one time this year.
For the most part our players did such an outstanding job of run defense, That includes all 11 players. If the safety gets cracked, the corner has to go tackle. It's not just those guys up front, it's everybody. It's not just the front seven against the run or the DBs against the pass. You know the whole story.
Those things are philosophically what we talk about a lot. But we are committed to stopping the run, making sure we don't give up big plays behind us if we can do it. Some people were able to get some, but there are a lot of throws in front of us.
The other opportunity you have when you do that, you have the opportunity to take the ball away, interceptions. For two years, we've been able to do a pretty good job at that, at least in the interception category, and fumbles as well. I don't know what other turnover numbers were, but 32 or 33 for the year.
Q. When you have a wild card like Mariota at quarterback, how much more difficult does that make it?
TOM HAYES: It makes it very difficult because he's an element that not everybody has. Make him run the zone read, all that good stuff. This guy is 6?4 and he's big. He's a special player. He's young. All he's going to do is keep getting better and better and better for the University of Oregon. We just don't want him to get better against us (smiling).
Q. How excited are you to compete against Oregon with the athletes they have?
TOM HAYES: I've said it's a great challenge this entire time. They have huge numbers. Basically only one team stopped them the entire year, and that was Stanford. It's a challenge. We need to meet the challenge if we have any wishes for a victory. That's what we need to do.
Q. Would it almost validate you more to get a big win in a BCS bowl game against an offense like Oregon?
TOM HAYES: Well, I think it would. It can't do anything but help you, and it certainly wouldn't hurt you.
Again, we don't necessarily think that way. I'm so funneled into one thing, that's the defense. Coach Snyder has the whole grand picture, the global view as he calls it. On defense, we got a job to do, and we need to do our job well.
We don't just win by playing defense, we win by playing offense, defense, and special teams. We're going to need to play well as a team to get after Oregon.
Q. Are there some parallels to what Stanford did to Oregon that you can draw on?
TOM HAYES: There are. Stanford is somewhat similar to us, in that they're not a big pressure team. Doesn't mean they don't do it, but they don't rely on it. They line up well, defeat blocks, tackle well in space, keep the big plays in front of them. They did a nice job of doing that this year. That's why they have the record they have.
I hope we can play as well as they did.
Q. When you became the coordinator, did Bill have a blueprint to follow or a framework? Stop the run first?
TOM HAYES: The great part about coach is that he has a blueprint for the entire program. He has a feeling how he wants us to play on defense. He wants us to feed blocks and tackle well. That's a basic fundamental. If you get out of that mode, you start slipping in that area, he's going to remind you, and that's what he should do.
But, no, he gives us on defense and offense and special teams our job and we get the chance to go do it. Like I said, if we're off base, he's going to remind us about that.
Q. He's recognized as an offensive guru.
TOM HAYES: You can't be an offensive guru, as you say, unless you know what the other team's doing. You have to understand both sides of the ball, which obviously he has a great understanding, so...
Q. The Baylor game. What they continue to do, what they did to UCLA, they've obviously come to a whole different point from where they were at the beginning of the year.
TOM HAYES: It was a strange deal because we were watching Baylor, say, against West Virginia. That was one that comes to my mind. There's a couple others. Baylor defensively was struggling, I mean really struggling. They've really come up in that area. Why? Maybe they got players back from health problems. I don't know the story. All I know is the last half of the season, they were a different football team. They're playing better. I didn't see the game against UCLA, but people have told me. They got after 'em pretty good, so...
They're a good football team with a lot of skill on offense, as much as anybody in the country.
Q. Baylor is certainly playing top?level football right now.
TOM HAYES: The very next week they went against either Texas Tech or Oklahoma State, those two in a row, but Baylor put 700 on both of those defenses. They put 700 yards on them after they played us.
It isn't like it was a fluke. They're good. Like I said, they're exceptionally skilled on offense, exceptionally skilled.
Q. Talk about what Arthur has meant to this program since he came back.
TOM HAYES: It's amazing. I got here two years ago, so did Arthur, a transfer student. He started playing two years ago, let's put it that way.
He's a tremendous leader by example. He's not a real vocal guy. In fact, he's really too quiet. I get on him about that, in a good way. I tease him. That's what he would tell you.
Arthur Brown is day in, day out, when the coaches aren't looking, that's when the team gets better. If your leadership is good, that's where he helps our team. Every time they were working in the weight room, went out in the summer with the offense messing around, he's out there. He's going as fast as he can go all the time.
Everybody else looks around and says, If it's good enough for Arthur, it's good enough for me.
Q. Have you talked to him about coming back here?
TOM HAYES: I didn't delve into that with him. I know there was some of that issue. Part of it was being away from his home base and his family. A lot of things go into a transfer. I'm just glad he did it (laughter).
Q. He's a pretty good football player.
TOM HAYES: He's better than pretty good. He's a real player.
Q. NFL kind of linebacker?
TOM HAYES: Oh, yeah. He's got to go in there and understand it's a different game because as big of a jump it is from high school to college, it is to college to pro football. It's 32 teams. There's 1800 players in the United States that play in that league out of 315 million people. It's the best against the best every Sunday. He'll find that out.