Kevin Sumlin spoke to the media Wednesday at Pac-12 Media Day for the first time since the spring.
Here is what the Arizona Wildcats’ coach had to say about a variety of topics including Khalil Tate, recruiting, mandatory injury reports, and more.
Q. What is the advantage that Arizona brings that you can sell? What is the advantage there?
Sumlin: “We’ve got a great university. Just a fabulous campus. I think as people get to know more and more about what our campus looks like, what our brand of football is like, what our administration is about with President Robbins and Dave Heeke is our athletic director, there is a vision there, a vision that they communicated clearly to me that they want to win and compete for championships in all sports, including football.
“In a lot of places you get that, but we’ve always started on an indoor practice facility, and going through a bunch of stadium renovations right now. So, you know, I’ve done this long enough to know that in certain places they’ll tell you that before you get there. As a football coach, you learn what the word “rendering” means, because that’s up there for two years. Park a bulldozer out there for two years and wait for the money to come in. But we’ve already started.
“I think that shows their commitment, and that’s what you want. You want to have a chance to compete on a level playing field with the other people in your conference, and our administration has given us that.”
Q. Then even the SEC and now Pac-12, what have you noticed in terms of how quickly the landscape changes? How fast things are going for younger and younger trending -- what is your take on the whole organization?
Sumlin: “Well, it’s been really that recruiting landscape hasn’t really changed in the state of Texas. I mean, it was early. It was that way for a long time. So the evaluation process has been moved up because, basically, the ability to evaluate official visit and sign guys earlier has moved the evaluation piece up.
“It’s just the natural order of things. You move things up six months, and you have to evaluate this guy six months earlier, and it puts him as a sophomore. So that’s where it is. I think that calendar is still evolving. We’ve probably had, I don’t know, seven or eight, six or seven official visits back in June, which is the first year for that.
“So that calendar is different. I think it’s one that everybody has to adapt to, but you’re going to have to because of the early signing date.”
Q. Wanted to ask you about the opener at BYU. Kind of an interesting game there, trying to bounce back. Looks like they’re changing some things. Brought a new coordinator in. The challenge in this first game, it’s for them too because they’re up against you guys
How do you prepare when you know things are going to be different the other way, the challenge of that first game?
Sumlin: “I mean, that’s all the time. We go through this every year. Whether it’s coordinators, whether it’s new teams, whether it’s most of the time you are playing an out-of-conference opponent the first game of the year of some sort. There’s usually new coordinators, you have different things that you go through tape, you go through video. You look at different scenarios. But, you know, I think more than anything else, early in the year if you watch a lot of games, particularly early in the year, more games are lost than won.
“By that, I mean you have to take care of yourself, right, and eliminate penalties. Eliminate turnovers and miss cues, and give yourself a chance. You don’t have to be perfect, but there is a big sign on our building that says it’s about us. It’s not an arrogant thing. It’s about, hey, we worry about us, because the opponents are going to change every week. Let’s make sure that what we’re doing is as sound as it can be, and we’re doing it at the best of our ability and eliminating the types of things that can give games away. That’s really important early in the year.”
Q. Do you feel a difference in expectations being at a Pac-12 school as opposed to the SEC?
Sumlin: People have asked me that just about wherever I’ve been. I think my expectation is to win. It sounds kind of harsh, but I have to take care of everybody’s expectations I understand what the consequences are, believe me. I set the bar high for our program, I set the bar high for our players. That’s the way I’ve always done things. No matter what that was. As an assistant coach, as a coordinator, as a head coach.
“So, you know, the only pressure that you have is what you put on yourself. Our players understand that too.”
Q. What is the biggest difference that you’ve noticed so far with Khalil versus the other quarterbacks you’ve coached in the past?
Sumlin: “He’s really fast, how’s that? No, he’s a guy that’s really explosive. I think that what he’s moving towards, as we were talking about, and we talked about in the spring is. Moving from being an athlete that is a quarterback, to being a quarterback that’s an athlete. If that makes sense. How do you do that? And that called studying the game. Becoming a student of the game. Working and becoming a leader and accepting those roles. When you’re the back-up quarterback, you know, it’s really kind of a cool position because you’ve really got nothing to lose when you go in. You don’t get yanked. You just go back to where you were, right?
“So there is a little different pressure when you’re a starter, and it comes with the things that are expected of you. Not just on the field, but off the field and on the sideline. So that growth is taking place because, you know, as great as his numbers are, he’s really a young player and hasn’t played a lot. So there is still a lot of room for improvement for him. I think he understands that and is working hard in wanting to be a great quarterback.”
Q. When you were looking at this job or maybe when you got it, what were your feelings about having a quarterback like Khalil to work with?
Sumlin: “It didn’t hurt, let’s put it that way. It really wasn’t -- I’ll just tell you this. It was more -- it was less about players than it was about the administration. I thought the division, like I said earlier, the division of Dr. Robbins and Dave Heeke, was outstanding in its championship vision and their ability to articulate that with what they were looking for in a football program. As a coach it matched the philosophy that I had, and it was a great opportunity.
“I had been out, I’d seen it before. We had shared ideas with Rich. So visually I kind of understood the place. It was just the right fit at the right time. So, like I said, it was more about our administration than it was about one player.”
Q. Southern Arizona has typically belonged to the University of Arizona, and Central Arizona has been fighting off everybody coming in. You were one of those guys coming in and getting players. Now you’re at Arizona. Is that going to be something you try to expand in Wildcat country to the rest of the state?
Sumlin: “We’d like to recruit the whole state. So, you know, that’s where we are. I think high school football has continued to improve in the state. There’s a lot of new high schools, lot of people moving there, great coaching. We’ve had some success at other places and with Arizona high school football players. Because of those relationships that we already had, we’re hoping to expand on those and get those guys to Tucson.”
Q. Have there been any key positions you can identify at this moment that will help you guys?
Sumlin: “I don’t know. We’re a work in progress. You’ve got 15 practices in the spring. It’s really kind of hard to know who you are. You’ve got the 28 or 29 days here coming up that’s going to define what we are. So that question, you know, I think we’ll be able to answer that a little bit better here in the next couple three weeks.”
Q. Do you support mandatory injury reports?
Sumlin: “You know me, I’ve never been one to put one out. So I think you know where I stand on that. I tell you what, it’s kind of a catch-22. If you’ve got the mandatory injury report, it’s different, I understand it, at the professional level. But there’s also in some situations in some schools with FERPA and things that are different in a collegiate environment than they are in the professional environment, that may or may not be legal to disclose those types of things.
“So I think the jury is still out on that. I think there’s some legal ramifications either way. You know, whatever happens, we’re going to abide by it. But I’ve never disclosed injury information in ten years of being head coach.”