Dawson Holds First News Conference at UK

Jan. 14, 2015



Opening Statement ...
"I am excited about this place, obviously. I grew up in the South in Baton Rouge (Louisiana) and want to beat those guys over there next time we play them in a few years, no doubt. Had an opportunity to play them at West Virginia my first year and almost beat them, so excited to be in this league. When this deal came up weeks ago when Coach (Mark) Stoops contacted me and I got contacted by a guy that I knew that in a roundabout way was really close to Coach Stoops. He asked me if I would be interested in this job and I am extremely interested. It took about two or three days for me and Coach Stoops to sit down and it went fast. I was excited for it to go fast. It has been great. The process has been great. Sitting down with Mr. Barnhart (Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart) when we got here and let him give me the overview of the facility upgrade and things they are doing here just increased my excitement even more. Awesome place, I have known about it for obviously my lifetime growing up in SEC country. I am excited to get to know you guys and our players a little more. I haven't been around those guys a lot. I am really excited to be here."

On published stories on working with Hal Mumme at Southeastern Louisiana ...
"All of it (was accurate). When I took the job there, being in coaching as long as I have now, there were some red flags. My Dad played there. So anytime you have somebody affiliated with the university close like that there is a red flag. But I had Coach (Dana) Holgorsen on my side too because I played for him. He was talking to Hal on the other end and I don't think Hal matched it up necessarily at the beginning. He did give me some jobs that were questionable. I love the guy to death and I could never repay him for some things he has done along the way for me. He did at the beginning, he made it tough, but I think he should. You have to earn your stripes and have to earn your place. You need to go through things like that. It makes you more appreciative when you get to places like this."

On if he talked to Hal about the Kentucky job before he accepted it ...
"I talked to him afterwards. It went so fast, to be honest with you, from my moment of talking to Coach Stoops and him flying in and the process went really fast and we wanted to keep it on the down-low for those first couple of days. After the fact, I talked to him. I really was talking to him more and thanking him for the nice things he said about me because there were some bad things he could have said about me too. I was really appreciative. I talked to him after the fact, not before the fact."

On his coaching philosophy and how it has changed ...
"The game has changed. The blueprint of the offense really hasn't if you want to be completely honest. Are there some things we are doing different now that we didn't do before, yes, but the blueprint of the offense and the mentality is still the same. We want to attack. Defenses have changed over the years. They are a lot more athletic and a lot more physical and the players are getting bigger and stronger. I think even if you talked to Coach Mumme about it, he would tell you the game has changed. With that being said, I think our ability to get physical. We made a concerted effort at West Virginia this past year to get physical and be able to run the ball more efficient, not that we are sitting there adding 100 more runs plays into the offense. We still have those run plays, it is simply the fact that we are calling it a little more and turning and handing it off a little more. It is simply that we are allowing those offensive linemen to be more physical and leverage on leverage stuff. It is weird because it is probably as efficient as we have been throwing the football is when we made a concerted effort to be more physical in the run game. You can be better throwing it if you run it a little better. It has evolved. Offensive football is going to continue to evolve, that is just the way it is."

On how much he was involved in play calling at West Virginia ...
"This is the way it went down there. I have been asked that question quite a number of times. The preparation through the week is extremely important and game planning. When we got to games, Coach Holgorsen was the head coach and he was the final wherewithal in every decision we made. My job was this, between every drive when he clicked back on offense I needed to have a plan for him. I would lay out a plan and say, `Look, this is the information that we are getting. This is the way we need to attack.' Before every play I would give him a suggestion. I have been around Dana for a long time. There are times he went somewhere else. The percentages of those times were 85% to 10-15%. I would say that 85-90% of the time we were on the exact same page. He needed suggestions because as a head coach he was pulled a bunch of different directions throughout the course of the week or course of the game. My communication with the quarterback after ever series was important and then my communication with the two guys I had working to the right and left of me up in the box, because they were charting the plays and the coverages and what we were doing tendency-wise. When he clicked back over after every defensive possession I would have it laid out to him how we would want to attack the defense that particular drive. After every play, I would lay out a plan for him. That was (our) relationship there. Whether good, bad or indifferent I don't know what the answer would be. I would say the six years prior to that it was all me, every year before West Virginia. But at West Virginia that four-year window that was our relationship."

On how important it was to get sole play calling responsibility at Kentucky ...
"Extremely important. It was why I took the job. Working with Coach Stoops, being a defensive head coach, the dynamics of me and his relationship are going to be different than the dynamic of me and Coach Holgorsen's relationship. Being back on the field, I wasn't in the press box really until West Virginia. Being back on the field and having that flow of the game was extremely important to me and really the reason why I took it."

On how to develop quarterbacks ...
"I think you have to keep it simple enough because those guys are programmed the same way throughout the course of the year. There is a tipping point in offense and defense. Everybody tries to figure out exactly where they tipping point is where you are doing too much stuff. Anytime you are doing too much stuff and your brain gets cluttered with too much information that is when you become an average football player. I truly believe that having pre-snap and post-snap thought processes that are consistent with the blueprint of the offense, it really goes hand-in-hand week-to-week. And having things that change the window dressing and everything of the offense kind of makes it looks more complicated to the outside eye. But keeping their program consistent is extremely important that way their thought process is on point every time and they can clear conscious decisions, good, bad or indifferent. The biggest problem playing quarterback is indecisiveness. Not making the wrong decision, I want you to make a decision, we can live with the results and move on to the next play."

On the "Air Raid" offense and how much fans will see ...
"You are going to see the evolution of the Air Raid that I am doing now. I would have to sit down with you and get your side of it. There are times throughout the course of the years where we are throwing the ball 80-90% of the time. In my opinion, if you want quarterbacks staying on their feet and staying healthy, good luck with that in today's football. Those d-linemen are rushing pretty fast. We are going to do some things that keep defenses honest and keep them off-balance. The biggest deal and what I talk about the evolution, the term Air Raid gets thrown around a lot. It is kind of like 15 years ago when the 49ers were talking West Coast Offense and everybody was talking about West Coast Offense. But that term got watered down to where it was hard to even tell what it was. I kind of think the air raid offense has gotten to that point. What really is it and what was it? Football evolves to the point where you are trying to attack a defense to where it is in today's game. When you are trying to do that you better be physical to the point to where the problems we had through the course of the years where we were just making a concerted effort to throw it the majority of the time was when you are going to grind out a win at the end of the game, good luck doing that. You better be able to sit there and get pad on pad with a stacked box and grind out a couple first downs to run the clock out when you are up by six or seven points. I am going to say the blueprint is probably very similar. There are going to be times where if we feel good about the pass rush it might look extremely similar. And there are going to be times if we don't feel good about the pass rush it might not look similar. I don't know if that answers your question or not."

On how much film from 2014 he has seen of Kentucky ...
"Not a lot at this point. I have been on campus just a few days. I am going back out today. I haven't got an opportunity to evaluate the current players at all. I want to keep an open mind about all of them. Everybody is going to have a chance to compete and obviously experience is extremely important. Upperclassmen typically play better than lowerclassmen guys because they have had more experience. We are going to be wide open with that and I am going to have a clear mind. Whenever recruiting ends, I am going to sit down and watch some things because there is going to be a lot of carryover with terminology carryover and the way we do things. I will have a plan for that when we get done here in a couple/three weeks or so."

On his first meeting with Stoops and what sold him about Kentucky ...
"On the phone, he was really gauging my interest. The first conversation we had was are you really interested in this job. I said yes. I am 100% interested. Obviously, there are some things we need to talk about. That conversation, we had a couple phone conversations that were my philosophy and stuff like that. It's like a lot of these questions being asked today about what you are going to do offensively. I think one thing he was excited about was that we were physical and had the ability to be physical. That evolution fired him up and whenever we sat down in person the first time, which was probably two and a half hour sit down, I don't know if it was a lot of strictly Xs and Os, but it was a lot of philosophy things about how I meet with the quarterbacks, how I lay out a plan weekly for the quarterbacks, my overall approach to the whole unit, which I think is a little bit different as far as my mentality and how you motivate players and get those players to buy in. And just overall things like that. How you going to control that side of the ball and how you are going to get them to buy into you and buy into the system? There were some Xs and Os being talked about throughout the course of the deal, but we left there and I think in a day or two it was a done deal. We both felt good about it after that sit down."

On his recruiting areas ...
"I don't know where I am going to be recruiting here. The first part of your question, I have recruited across the board from Texas to Louisiana to Mississippi Junior Colleges to Florida. When I was with West Virginia it was more with Ohio and we still dipped down to a couple Mississippi Community Colleges. There is a lot of carryover between my last job and this job from recruiting areas. Not saying we beat you guys a whole lot, but there was a lot of crossover. I don't know what I am going to do here, but I am going to spot recruit at the beginning. I have to get to know these players and I have to get to know this class and next year's class. It will probably be a lot more spot recruiting with position coaches already in place. As far as specific areas, I haven't had those conversations with Coach Stoops and the recruiting coordinator yet."

On how much Coach Stoops expressed wanting to run the ball ...
"He didn't strictly tell me we better be able to run the ball, but in his questioning to me and the way we went from two years ago to this year with our philosophy at West Virginia, put it this way, it fired him up. Having the ability to be physical at West Virginia, everybody loves seeing the ball in the air, there is no doubt about it. But the one thing I love more than doing that is seeing a W on the scoreboard at the end of the game. I think if we get those Ws on the scoreboard it won't matter really how we got to that point. The blueprint of the deal has stayed consistent in our offense just the emphasis on certain things has changed a little bit."

On if he had a relationship with members of the UK coaching staff ...
"I've known Tommy Mainord for a long time. Great guy. So the other guys I just knew who they were. I didn't necessarily have a relationship with them. Jimmy Brumbaugh, I've known for five or six, or seven years. In the coaching profession you typically know people, who they are. Specific relationships with them are few and far between. But I did have a couple on the staff that I was fairly close with."

On his style of motivating student-athletes ...
"You have to have an overall level of having fun. That is a term that gets thrown around a lot. My dad is a motivational speaker, so he has done a lot of speaking throughout the course of his life. So I learned an approach to it to try and get you to play a little higher than you think you can play. You have to have a good mixture of loving them up and tearing them down. The same thing I said a while ago about the tipping point of doing too much on offense. I think it's the same way when motivating players, everybody is different. Everybody is motivated differently. I wasn't the kind of guy that got extremely motivated by you beating me down every time. I was the kind of kid that if you told me what to do I was going to do it as hard as I could do it. And you are going to have 10 percent of guys over there that need to be highly motivated kids that you need to stay on their tail. Then you are going to be a percentage of them that are going to do their job regardless. Pinpointing which one of those kids are what is extremely important. You can't motivate everybody the same exact way. Figure out where their button is and push it."

On what he learned during his time at West Virginia ...
"Aside from the scheme, if you look at what I was doing prior to West Virginia, we fine-tuned weekly game plans as well as anything I've been around. His mental approach to that and the structure and layout of getting to the final game plan build was as good as I've been around. The weekly layout there, and what we got to, not saying we were there in year one, but we evolved in two ways, we did a good job with that and we did a good job of cutting things out rather than adding them in. Our overall package was extremely small at the end and you have more vision in every area. You don't necessarily have to have a lot, you need to figure out what you are good at and do it."

On if he has met with any players yet ...
"In passing yesterday, when I got to the complex, we had a team meeting. And so in passing I was getting introduced, you can imagine how many players are walking by. It is going to be the same thing with you guys. I am not great at faces and names for a little while. I try hard. It is going to take me a little while there. There are obviously some guys who I know exactly who they are. But there are some guys that are going to take me a while. I am going to work hard at that. Same way in this room."

On if he thinks UK can be successful in the best conference in college football ...
"I think I can be successful anywhere. Maybe I am naïve to the point but I've taken over a couple of programs that didn't win any games a year before and we were close to winning national championships at both those programs. When I look at our kids, I see a bunch of kids look the part. I don't know how they play on the field. But I am watching them in the team meeting room walking down and introducing themselves to me. My job is getting those guys to buy in. If you buy in wholeheartedly as a group then you can accomplish anything. Last time I checked everybody can put 11 players on the field. It's not like we didn't play anybody in our league over the last four years, we did. I think you can be successful anywhere if you do it the right way."

On developing a practice plan and game plan ...
"You lay out a practice plan and you stick with it. The problem that a lot of coaches make is you change too much. Our overall ways of practicing and laying it out has been consistent over the years and that is one thing that has been consistent on offense from the last 15 years is the way we practice and the way we install. I think you have to program kids a certain way and hold them accountable to it."

On the recruiting the last two years against Kentucky ...
"I have watched those guys recruit the last two years, obviously social media is huge and they're good with social media and the way they target these kids is off the chart. I do think that it is going to continue with those guys. They have built a base and foundation for this program that's going to continue to improve and continue to get better playing on the field."

On the relationship with Neal Brown and what he told him ...
" I didn't talk to him about the players. I do know Neal, I have known him for many years. We're kind of from the same umbrella and so I didn't talk to him about the players. He was one of the first guys I talked to after having the conversation with coach Stoops for the first time. He was one of the two guys I talked to, he was kind of under the radar. I just talked to him about the place and he said you're going to love it, he said it's off the charts. He talked about the foundation they set. In year one they had to manipulate some things. He said as the years go I think you will be able to do whatever you want there. I think the recruiting will improve with those guys as well. I talked to him more about the people than the players and I'm excited about the opportunity. Everything with Coach Stoops and they have things going in the right direction."

On the quarterback position battle among other positions...
"Oh yeah, we're going to compete. You're going to have to earn your stripes. We're going to give those guys an opportunity to compete just like I've done everywhere else and whoever is the most efficient guy is going to play. That position is just like any other position."

On the last three months for him...
"I've got a two month old closer to three month old (child). When I was single it was a lot easier to travel. Being married now with a little one, the life for her (the wife) has been tough. We played in our bowl game, the moment we got home from the game we flew into Pittsburgh and it was probably 10:30-11:00 and then we had to make sure we had insurance starting January 1 because we have the little one and we have to find a house. We got everything done in about 4 hours. I promise you this, the whole family will be here a couple of days after signing day and we'll be ready to go. I'm not messing around."