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August 23, 2014

Jerry Kill

THE MODERATOR:  We will get started with an opening statement from Coach Kill, and then we will take questions.
COACH KILL:  Well, it's an exciting time in college football.  You know you're basically a week out in our case, Thursday night, opening up and everybody is excited to see how their players are going to perform and where they're at in this stage.
Certainly we're no different.  Right now we've got practice here and start meetings here in about 30 minutes, and our focus is to get better today and not look ahead at anything, and our kids have done a pretty good job so far.  With that any questions?

Q.  Jerry, if you were an opposing coach looking at your offense now, what would make it feel tougher to defend?  Is it the Berkeley factor, multi tight ends?
COACH KILL:  I can't answer that really because I haven't thought about that too much, I've been worried about the other guy, trying to figure out what they're going to do.  But hopefully we're able to give a lot of people a lot of looks but I think it comes down to personnel, more than anything.  It's no different than playing defense.  You have to get everybody fitted in the right place, and sooner or later you've got to defeat somebody's block and make a play.  Offensively, you know, people are going to match up and do a good thing and sooner or later you've just got to make a play, and I feel like we have to see but we got some kids making some plays right now, and I think it really comes down to that.
I think everybody looks at personnel when you go play somebody, it's the personnel factor, more than anything and, again, multiple tight ends, different things, but really look at your personnel and say, hey, can we match up with this or not, so hopefully our match‑ups are good match‑ups throughout the season.

Q.  I know you guys have a couple of guys banged up through the grind of camp.  About a week out from the game, are you feeling good where you are healthwise?
COACH KILL:  I think anybody is banged up when they come out of camp, and you're going to have some nicks and bruises, and we lost Duke, and that was a critical loss for us and we lost one of our freshman.  Camp is a struggle for anybody, but we're out of camp now and to one practice, and feel like hopefully everybody heals up and is ready to go.  We'll see.

Q.  Jerry, how do you feel about the position of wide receiver?
COACH KILL:  Feel good about it.  I think kids have worked hard.  I mean, the kids that were here last year are a year older, so they are going to be a year and understand things more.  We feel good about the progression.  We still have some young guys that have come into camp and have done some great things, but they gotta learn what to do, so we'll be slow with them until they understand what we're doing, but we certainly won't give up on them at this point in time to red shirt them at this point in time.  Couple of them we may, but a couple of them we may stay with a while to see how they develop.

Q.  I know you put Jonah slotted in to where Ben was when he went down.  Are you at a point that even in Lauer does get healthy before the game is it Jonah's spot to lose, because of the competition you have at tackle?
COACH KILL:  I'm not going to get into that too much.  Ben Lauer is our starting tackle, and we'll see how he comes along, and Josh Campion was our starting right tackle.  But, again, we will see how things progress with Ben and where he's at.  The progress of this week, the offensive line, we're going to put our best five out of there, and we're not going to punish Ben because he got hurt, but I would tell you we're going to need depth at those positions, where we're at and, you know, we played left tackle.  We played ‑‑ toward the end of the season we played two people and looked more like a defense, and we'll probably play 7 or 8 kids up front, I think we have to, as we go, but we will have to see.
We will see how they handle it this week getting into game week and see how it goes throughout the game.  We're not going to announce anything like that until, you know ‑‑ we feel like they're all going to play, those particular guys, those three young men.  We'll just see how healthy they are at the end of the day.

Q.  When you talk about playing 7 or 8, is that because you have to assume some guys will get dinged up, or you think it's important to really give other guys a look?
COACH KILL:  I think right now it has nothing to do with‑‑ you certainly want to stay healthy, but it's not about getting dinged up, it's according to the amount of plays you're playing.  First snaps, if you're playing a game with 50 you don't worry about it.  If you're winning and playing 70 or 80 like you should, in the season we have, schedule we have, you know, early in the year, you're not‑‑ you can always say you're in great shape, but you never know until you get into playing a game.  It's totally different.  So I think we got to be able to take a look at that and see how it runs the course.

Q.  Jerry Gibson is a guy, you talked about how you moved him around, did he get to a point where you feel like he's ready to go right away or are you going to be working on him in other positions?
COACH KILL:  I don't think any freshman is ready to go right away; they would be unique freshmen if they were.  You can throw some of them out there and see what happens, you know, early.  We haven't made that decision yet, he's certainly going to be working with us this particular week, but just to say he's going to run out there and play today, I don't think that we would do that at this point in time.  We will see how he's progressing.
I haven't talked to all those kids at this point in time, visit with some of our freshmen exactly where we're at and right now I have not done that at this point, we will here in the next few days.
Again, we got some work to do, and we will see how that comes out, but he has played a lot of places and he's‑‑ our young people are dead‑legged.  They got a lot of repetitions through camp, and they're dead‑legged, and more important than anything we gotta get our legs back, so that's more important to me than anything.  Then you can really, truly evaluate somebody.  But we got a big learning curve when you come in, on both sides of the ball, but he's got a chance because he's a smart kid, I will say that.

Q.  If the opportunity presents itself, would you like to play another quarterback to get him experience?  You have a couple of red shirt freshmen behind Mitch.
COACH KILL:  I haven't thought about it that far, I really haven't.  More important to keep the one that's number one being healthy.  Beyond that, if something ‑‑ we need to give him a break or something of that nature, and we've done that before, but right now our plans are, Mitch Leidner is the only one we're thinking about.  And right now we're getting the other ones ready to play, if needed.

Q.  Has anybody separated himself behind Mitch?
COACH KILL:  There is no question, Chris Streveler is our number two quarterback; there is no question about that.

Q.  You talked about personnel on the offense.  How do you assess this personnel compared to your teams here and‑‑
COACH KILL:  Here?  I think that, you know, we're certainly deeper at tight end.  We're deep at backs.  We got different kinds backs.  Receiverwise we got small, jitter bug‑type guys, and then we got some guys with length. 
As we recruit we try to get a little bit deeper, I don't know if you're ever "deep" and you try to red shirt kids to build depth, and we haven't been able to that, so it's a hard deal right now, how much you red shirt, how much you don't.  Kids want to play immediately, so it's a different world.
As far as personnelwise, I just think we're able to do‑‑ to be able to do different things from each week but really stay in the same thing we're doing, but we can certainly do some things formationalwise with different people.

Q.  Do you feel like you saw more big plays in camp?  There was a day we caught up with you after a scrimmage and there had been a couple of‑‑ seemed like there was a pretty good buzz about the offense that day.  Do you feel like over the course of the month you saw more?
COACH KILL:  Yeah, I think, you know, we've seen‑‑ I've seen big plays and passes but you gotta do 'em in the game.  I think we got guys that can make big plays but they got to make 'em in the game; we made 'em in practice.  Defense made some big plays, too, on both sides of the ball.
I think for us to be successful we will have to have big plays in all three areas.  You know, we got some big play potential, you know, in the kicking games.  We gotta be able to‑‑ we gotta have some big plays in all three areas if we're going to be successful and we have the capabilities of doing that in all three areas.

Q.  Do you think your defensively line is better than last year?
COACH KILL:  They gotta play first.  Everybody wants to know if we're better, they gotta play first.  Yes, we got a chance to be very good and so forth, but you still gotta play, gotta stay healthy.  We're also playing a couple of young guys in there, Steve Richardson is going to be in that rotation.  It will be the first time he's played college football.  Stelter, had a heck of a camp, gonna get an opportunity to play as a freshman and so forth, and it's a lot how they ‑‑ again, as the season goes, we will get better, but we will have some young ones in there, but I think we got potential to be very good.
We expect to be very good, we really do, but we'll find out opening game, because of the personnel we're going to play.

Q.  Mitch was saying that Donovan is a guy who he's seen a good progression even from spring ball.  Is that what the coaches are saying?  Did you guys see a lot from him this camp?
COACH KILL:  He had a good camp.  He had a good camp, I think it's it is best he's been playing.  He hit the wall ‑‑ let's see, what day is it?

Q.  Saturday.
COACH KILL:  Saturday.  It would have been Thursday he hit the wall a little bit, and you're going to towards the end of camp, and we gotta get his legs back.  He's had a good camp, no question about that.  I think Mitch has got some confidence in him, but I have to tell you, the guy that's had the best camp is KJ Maye, without a doubt.  There is some chemistry involved there with Donovan, and Drew Wolitarsky, Isaac.  There is some chemistry there.  They've thrown a heck of a lot of footballs, so they've worked hard at it.

Q.  Jerry can you talk about Eastern Illinois, the challenge, where your main challenges are going to come from?
COACH KILL:  On both sides of the ball.  From an offensive standpoint, Little is going to play at the next level, without a doubt.  Tremendous running back.  Return guy.  They got two quarterbacks.  We know about Manley.  He threw for about 300 yards here my first year, from New Mexico State, and then Whitlow, we recruited, or tried to recruit, went down there, had to try to get him and wasn't able to get that done.  He went to ‑‑ I think, committed to Arkansas State and then went to Kentucky, and look at his Kentucky stats, he started ten games and was impressive in that, so they're quarterback deal is a real issue.
You got one that throws it a bunch and one that can run it and throw it; he transferred there because he wanted to play quarterback, so athletically, very gifted.  That's an issue.  And receiverwise, Adam Drake is a heck of a receiver, they got a great receiving core, they go fast huddle, we're going to see seven games of it and this is going to be a‑‑ this will be the opening of it.  The guys are going no huddle and do it, but their personnel is good and they got veteran coaches, but their personnel is very, very good.
And defensively, that's where the head coach lies and they're a 4‑2‑5 defense, but I'm not sure they're going to be a 4‑2‑5 defense because of some of the things that you do, and he's run a lot of "Okie" stuff up front, and it's like preparing for ghosts sometimes, but you don't know, but their defensive personnel.  They have a big defensive tackle, No. 97, Dino Fanti, I think that is how they pronounce it, very active tackle, and a transfer from Ole Miss, kid named Standifer that played at Ole Miss.  They got some returning, I think 6 out of 11, on defense; 7 out of 11 on offense, from a team that was in the Top 4 in the country and won AA, new coaching staff that we prepared for four different‑‑ this will be the fourth different coaching staff on opening game, I think that we faced except‑‑ yeah, I believe that's right or close to it.
So this is a team that, you know, we lined up here I think in my first or second year, played North Dakota State, it's a different style of team, but that's the kind of athletes we're going to get.
It will be‑‑ we certainly need to focus on Eastern Illinois, and more importantly we need to focus on what we can control and that's us.  We need to make sure our kids are ready to play and ready to play each down, every snap, every play.

Q.  How do you prepare for that when they have a new coaching staff come in and you don't see as much stuff on film.  All this staff is a different staff from last year that you have on film.
COACH KILL:  You have to go back.  Coach was at LA Tech, you go back to where their coaches were from, and you do the best you can but as a new coach it's like coming here, sometime you look at your personnel, and you gotta do things differently so that's the issue, but you try to go back through the archives and sometimes‑‑ I know two or three of them, and you kinda go, I know they used to do this.
They got a veteran coaching staff; he's done a great job of hiring people.  Guys that have coached a lot of places, head coach from Grambling, Markuson has been at the highest level.  We know him, hell of a football coach, offensive line‑‑ you know, they're going to be well coached, they're going to have them ready to play and when they come here, it's bowl game, period.  It's a bowl game, been there.  We gotta make sure we get our guys focused.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach. 

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