It is always a pleasure to visit with Coach Spradlin and so pleasant to be around someone as positive as this guy, he can really get you fired up about Cougar football. His love for U of H is evident as you will see in this interview. Thanks Coach for being such a great influence and motivator for our team.
JS - Coach, when the new staff checked in three years ago, what was the state of the program in your opinion?
MS - Tough question. If you are totally honest, it looks like you are making excuses. We are all about winning, I can assure you. As an alum, I have kept up with the program. I think there is obviously a lot of great tradition here. The problem is, the tradition we were forced to deal with is the 12 years of bad football prior to us getting here. I mean, 40 wins over a 12-year span is not what you are looking for. That included only two winning seasons of seven wins. Our guys had been through an 0-11. That's real bad for morale.
The most obvious areas of concern were depth, particularly in the offensive and defensive lines. We were very fortunate that first year to escape the injury bug in the o-line. Ideally, you would like to have 18 o-lineman on scholarship in the fall of each year. That way you are playing primarily with juniors and seniors. That first season we got here, there were only nine guys on scholarship, and one was a medical, and three were scholastically already in trouble. Our first season, we did play with three seniors and two sophomores. Just to make my point, next season we have only two seniors and one junior. That is why we are so young. It just takes time, and we are going into only our third year and playing primarily with guys we recruited. Dave and Roy are all that were here. With that being said, we are real fired up about our guys. Next fall we will have 16 on scholarship for the first time. It is beginning to pay off.
JS - How has the program changed over the last three years?
MS - Actually, it has only been two. I would say that the biggest difference is team morale and work ethic. Our guys are great workers. They bust their tails every day. We are real excited about the team chemistry right now. We had a great off season and spring. The summer seems to be going great. Things have also improved drastically academically. Last fall we had the most hours passed since records have been kept, and the highest GPA on the football team in 12 years. Our guys did not like last years outcome, and have dedicated themselves to doing something about it.
JS - In recruiting, what type of challenges do you face selling the program, and what do other schools around the state say about Houston during the recruiting process?
MS - Recruiting right now is a huge challenge. With all the technology, it is just so hard to hide a kid. If we get on a kid, then immediately every one knows it. Right now, we have basically ourselves and what we have done the last two years to sell. While our facilities are OK, remember they are 10 years old. The big trend today is in end zone facilities, and everybody either has one or is in the process of building one. The AAC is great, but it is a multi-sport facility. Our stadium is just not on par with the rest of Texas or the Conference. When I came here the Astrodome was a huge recruiting tool. It has helped playing games in Reliant. It has become a recruiting tool. Remember, the kids we are recruiting have grown up in a different era. They weren't even born when Coach Yeoman coached here, and were only one or two years old when Andre won the Heisman. We still sell all of that, and it is very important. Tradition always is. But we have got to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get it done now. We can't live in the past. We get unbelievable reception around the state from high school coaches. I can assure you they are pulling for us.
JS - Do you feel like being a member of a BCS conference is an effective tool used against us in recruiting? If so, how do you handle that argument?
MS - Honestly, our job is to recruit against our conference. People sell their conferences more than the BCS. Just like when we were in the SWC, they recruited against those schools. We have to be great ambassadors for the school. It is why we have to be creative. Just like our summer camps. We decided to go out across the state. We have to go the extra mile to get our name and ourselves out there to the kids. I can tell you that we get the highly recruited kid on campus a lot of times. I believe our staff and particularly Coach Briles are very high energy. Kids like us. We preach to these kids that every school is going to line up and play on Saturdays, but what goes on in between is what makes you happy. If you like the coaches, the city and the school, you'll have fun.
JS - Where do you see the greatest needs for improvement if we are to be successful in 2005?
MS - Obviously, I think we have to finish. If you look back at some pivotal games over the last two years, we have been in position to knock some guys off and haven't pulled it off. Close is not going to get it. While I think that our offensive line has taken more heat than they deserve, I do believe we have to play better up front. I am convinced we will. I also think we are going to be great defensively. Coach Harris and his staff have busted their tails coming up with a new scheme. Our guys have bought in, and I thought they had a great spring. It just feels more intense. We look fast and quick. I also believe we have a great group of leaders on this years team. Finally, we have got to stay healthy. Particularly in the offensive and defensive line. Just about the time we get a little depth, we lose Byron and Jeff. Doesn't give us much room for much more.
JS - We will have a couple of really highly touted Top 100 offensive lineman checking in this fall. Is there any chance we have another Sir Vincent Rogers in this class?
MS - We are truly excited about this years guys. I have no doubts that all of them will be heavy contributors at some time. Ideally, you hope that you can bring them along.
JS - When ya'll took to the road to do camps around the state, Briles was quoted as saying "we're not gonna pitch a tent, we're building a house". How far away are we from completion of this house?
MS - I don't believe it will ever be "complete." But the foundation has sure been poured. And it ain't on sand, it's solid. Remember, anything that is going to last isn't going to be built on promises and big talk. Big talk without a big stick just doesn't get it done. It takes action. Coach is an action guy. He is extremely intense and passionate. The house is being built on great recruiting, hard work ethic, intensity, and accountability. Now, with that being said, the framework is going up. I think we are beginning to see what can happen. We expect it. But it is a process that takes constant upkeep. Because of all of the years of bad football, people are impatient and have every right to be. Just hang in there. If it's going to last, it has to be done right. It's coming. And it will be here sooner than later.
JS - Coach, you were on the great 1976 team that won the SWC Championship in our inaugural year in the conference. Can you tell us a little about how that team was able to make such an unbelievable turnaround in one season?
MS - I think it had everything to do with work ethic, belief and chemistry. It is what I feel this team has. These guys have a belief in themselves, and in each other. Of course, we were fortunate that year to stay real healthy. We also had several guys step it up. I expect we will see the same thing from our guys this next year.
JS - Danny Davis is one of our all-time favorite QB's in Cougar history. Tell our fans a little about Danny on game day.
MS - Danny was a tremendous leader. He had great charisma and leadership. He was a guy who made you believe it was going to happen. That's why he's a great leader of his church today. Great worker, team guy and friend to all. I really think Kolb has much of the same qualities, particularly his work ethic and confidence in himself and the team.
JS - With the computer communications, good and bad, at an all time high and more information about programs is available on the internet than ever before. What do you see as pros and cons to this new visibility?
MS - It has totally changed everything. The negativity always bothers me. I really don't take it personally, but I just can't help but get upset when people feel the need to attack or talk about one of our guys. I am dumbfounded sometimes when I read a comment from someone who wants to jump in on the bashing, and wasn't even there!! I really try to stay away from it, but we have to read some of it to stay on top of recruiting. I don't even read the paper in season. I found I'm just happier. I don't know if people realize how much recruits read the internet boards. I guess being old school, I liked it better when you could just outwork people. It makes it easy for a guy to sit in his office and get all the info he needs to go out and recruit. I think the negative outweighs the positive. I guess I've always found it gutless that somebody can get on an internet board anonymously and fire away. I know for a fact that several guys who have an axe to grind have gotten on and stirred up the stuff. Guys who have quit, been fired, etc. It has also been shown that people from other schools have gotten on internet boards just to start rumors and hurt recruiting. But, make no mistake, we totally appreciate all of you who do everything to support U of H and our program. I really don't want to offend anyone. I know you mean well, just think before you type!
JS - Tell us a little about Coach Briles and the staff. Also, what is game day like for the Coogs?
MS - Let me tell you, we have a great staff. I mean great. Coach Briles is the best guy you could ever play or work for. There is not a guy on our staff that any of us wouldn't go to war for. I really mean it. I'm telling you, Coach Briles is the most innovative and passionate guy I have ever been around. I'm not sure you guys realize what he did his first year here. We finished 12th in the nation in total offense. It's not a fluke. Don't ever think it is. We've had several DC's who have told us that they have never had more trouble preparing for an offense. Just so you will know, nobody in the country does what we do. Nobody. It is the best. Coach is one of those guys who has the "it" factor. The ability to make you believe in yourself and all of those around you. He makes you "know" that we will be successful. I love this school, and he is the only guy who can get it done here. Not Urban Meyer, not Pete Carroll, not Bob Stoops. Art Briles. And he will.
JS - How do you see the West Division of C-USA shaping up this year?
MS - I can't wait. I think the C-USA realignment is fantastic. I think we will have so much more local and regional interest. I love the Conference championship game. The west should be exciting. If you look at all the programs, you will see all of them are on the rise. Our three crossover games will be tough as well with UCF, Southern Miss and Memphis.
JS - What would you like to say to CoogFans today?
MS - Get on board and don't get left behind. The train is leaving the station and it is going to be a great ride!
Coach, thanks for the interview. We at CoogFans know how hard you guys are working and we appreciate those efforts. Optimism is high among our poster these days, and we wish you guys the best of luck in 2005.