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August 26, 2014

Darrell Hazell

THE MODERATOR:  Coach will make an opening statement and then we'll go to questions.
COACH HAZELL:¬† Obviously we're anxious to get started on Saturday.¬† I know our guys are fired up.¬† We'll finish our last preparation days Tuesday, Wednesday, a little bit on Thursday, then we'll have a brief walk‑through on Friday, then we'll get over to the hotel and get our minds right and ready to go start the season off the right way.
We're excited.  I'm excited.  The players are excited.  It's time to start playing again.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead with questions.

Q.  Talk a little bit about the Western Michigan offense, Terrell, in particular the wide receivers and quarterback.
COACH HAZELL:  Those guys are good players.  I think they've done a nice job last year even through their struggles of trying to find a way to get him the ball.
I think the quarterback does a good job of moving around.  He's not a big run guy, but moves around, slides in the pocket, finds open guys.
He was pretty efficient I felt towards the back end of the season.  You could watch his progress continually get better and better as the year went on last year.
They're going to come ready to compete, that's for sure.

Q.  Defensively they had some problems last year.  What do you like about them defensively?
COACH HAZELL:¬† I think the thing they do defensively is they bring a lot of pressure.¬† They're going to hang their hats on bringing five‑man pressures, keep one guy in the middle of the field, try not to let it over the top of their heads.
They feel pretty good about their corners on the side.¬† They like to play a lot of man‑to‑man coverage.¬† Their front, they're always moving.¬† Whether they're angling, slanting or stunting, they're always going to keep the front on the move.

Q.  From your team's perspective, what do you need to see from the Kugler and the offensive line?
COACH HAZELL:  I don't think Kugler needs to do anything more than he's done for the last four or five weeks practicing.  He's done an excellent job.  He is the quarterback of our offensive line.  He makes all the offensive line calls.  He's playing so much more physical.  He's put on 15 solid pounds.  He's playing with greater balance.
I love the way he's playing right now.  I really love his communication skills and his leadership skills.

Q.  You told us on Media Day when we asked you about the two freshmen defenders, Robinson and Bentley, you said it's your job to get them ready to play.  One is listed as a starter, I'm sure the other will play.  Their progress in camp, sometimes it's dangerous throwing kids right in there, but they obviously have proven something to you.
COACH HAZELL:  Absolutely.  You take a look at Ja'Whaun Bentley, the production is on the film.  You come in every night and evaluate players, how well they're adapting and adjusting to your defensive scheme.  He's done an unbelievable job of learning for a young guy.  Really studies the game.  But he's also that physical presence that can add to that linebacker corps.
The thing I like about Gelen, he is so strong.  When he gets engaged with somebody, they go flying.  He's not always on points yet because he's still learning the system.  But he's a very, very physically strong guy when he knocks up with someone.

Q.  In any sport you got to be good on defense to win.  Last year there were some games that you gave up an awful lot of points and yards.  What have you seen in camp that leads you to believe this year this defense can be much better?
COACH HAZELL:  First of all, you're tired of talking about last year.  This is a whole different football team.  But we're a much better defense right now than we were at any particular time last year.  I mean, I think Ryan Russell has done an unbelievable job of his leadership inside as a defensive lineman and across the defense.
But they're running to the ball better, they're more physical, more gap sound.  You go right down the list, check off things.  We're better in the back end.  They're playing so hungry right now.
If they can continue to do that, we can put pressure on the quarterback, we'll be a very, very good defense this year.

Q.  You've been pretty light the last few days.  Has that helped some of your nicked up guys like Phillips, Howard, Cermin.
COACH HAZELL:  Cermin will be back today.  Howard will be back today.  Jalani is going to be back today.  We have to be smart with them because they're still coming off those injuries.  The most important thing is to get your A players into the game.
Being able to take off, having a light practice Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday was off, other than lifting.  I saw Jimmy Herman get on the elevator the other day, he said, Coach, my legs feel great.  That was the goal.

Q.  Knock on wood, you made it through the month without anything major happening.  Anything in particular you feel like you did to prevent injury?
COACH HAZELL:  We went into camp, I told the coaches, It's your responsibility to govern how much pounding your group gets.  I can control it in the group settings, our team settings, but you have to be able to control it in your individual periods.
I felt our staff did a good job of watching how much they beat each other up but still getting the work in, trying to keep them as fresh as you can but still getting the work in.  It's that fine balance that you're always looking for to make sure you're getting better but you're not leaving them on the practice field.

Q.  You moved Cermin to left tackle in the third or fourth day.  I get the impression you liked what you saw there early.  What was it about moving him back there again that made you feel comfortable?
COACH HAZELL:  I really like him in the run game.  I think he's got the physical presence in the run game.  He's really starting to work well with Jason King over there in terms of combination blocks, the communication that you need to have.  Obviously we're going to do some things in the pass game.
You see his growth.  He just keeps getting better and better and more confident.  I saw him again this morning.  He's ready to go.

Q.  What freshmen do you think will play for you on Saturday?
COACH HAZELL:  If I had to guess, I think you're probably going to see five guys.  Gelen and Ja'Whaun on defense, I think you'll see Greg Phillips, Trae Hart and possibly our center, our backup center, Larry.  Those three guys are probably the three guys you'll see, five total.

Q.  With receivers, you wanted the top six on the depth chart, you only listed four.  Do you feel you got a good top six now?
COACH HAZELL:  I think we've got six or seven maybe.  We should have listed probably six guys with B.J. at the Z.  You'll see Danny at the H.  You'll see Yancey at the X backed up by Phillips.  You'll see Trae Hart.  We'll probably slide Danny back outside to get Trae in and let him run there.  But you'll also see Miles and maybe Monteroso, yeah.  You won't see Posey this week.

Q.  Why?
COACH HAZELL:  Violation of team policy.  He'll be out for this week.

Q.  How far along does Monteroso need to come?
COACH HAZELL:  The only thing you worry with Monteroso is he has not practiced a whole lot.  How much practice can you get in in two days to get him ready to play?
We'll have to gauge him on Thursday and see where he is.

Q.  With Phillips and Hart, were those two guys you identified before camp as guys that would help you, or once you started camp you saw they had the possibility of contributing?
COACH HAZELL:  I think we identified Greg coming out of the summer.  Not so much Trae.  But Trae is extremely smooth.  He's got great hands, great quickness.  He plays so under control.  I mean, to me he's vaulted up the depth chart for us.

Q.  How will it work Saturday with Landon Feichter?  Does he come out and warm up?  Does he have to go hide somewhere?
COACH HAZELL:  I still need clarification on that.  That question was addressed to me at our staff meeting.  Does he have to stay in the locker room for the first half?  I said, Let me check with our compliance guy.  I'm not sure.
But wherever he is, watch out, he'll be pacing.  He's ready to go.  He's so excited to get back on the field.

Q.  You limited the tackling in camp.  A couple scrimmages where you let them fly around.  Any concerns that you didn't tackle enough?  How do you think this team is going to wrap up players on Saturday?
COACH HAZELL:  That's always the key to winning football games, you have to be able to tackle.
We tackled as much as we had to, I think.  You have to go out, keep your head up on Saturdays, got to get 'em on the ground.  That's the number one goal for the defense.

Q.  What do you want to see Saturday?
COACH HAZELL:  I want to see our team come out with a lot of confidence, with a lot of energy, an execution level that's off the charts.  I really do.  I want to see few mental mistakes.  I don't want to see any of that stuff.  We've tightened the game plan down so we can execute at a high level.  That's what I want to see us do.

Q.  You mentioned that Western Michigan likes to bring some pressure.  Danny Etling has been honest that a lot of that pressure, those sacks he took, were his fault.  How have you seen him work?
COACH HAZELL:  It's a state of mind for Danny.  He understands that.  He realizes that he hung on to the ball a little bit too long last year.  He's corrected that.
I have all the confidence in the world that he'll take care of the ball, one, but also that he knows a great play might be a throw‑away when he feels a little bit of pressure.
He's done a great job of studying the game and studying himself.  He's going to have a phenomenal day on Saturday.

Q.  How do you think Gabe Holmes matured since you've been here?
COACH HAZELL:  There was a transformation that happened with him probably back in December, January when he was struggling.  He was on the fringe.  Coach Parker did an unbelievable job of really taking him under his wing and said, These are the things you need to do if you'd like to be successful.
To Gabe's credit, he worked every single day in making sure that he was eligible, put in the extra hours.  So he's grown up quite a bit in the last nine months.

Q.  Why is he important to have on the field?
COACH HAZELL:  He's one of the best, in my opinion.  He could be one of the best tight ends in the country.  He's 6'6", 260 pounds.  He can run, he can transition.  He catches it.  He's got to prove it on the field for us, and I know he will.  He's ready to go.

Q.  Because you have so many options on tight end, I know John calls the plays, isn't it an interesting challenge offensively?
COACH HAZELL:¬† We're going to limit our personnel groupings to probably three, which is two tight end sets, four‑wideout sets, three‑wideout sets with a tight end.¬† Those are probably or three main personnel groupings we'll concentrate on.¬† We think all three of those could be pretty exciting.

Q.  How have you seen in the first three weeks of camp the running game be better because you've spread the field out a little bit?
COACH HAZELL:  You get so many people out of the box.  I think that's the number one thing.  When you have those two backs, Raheem and Akeem, you can spread the defense, make them tackle in space.  Those guys are hard to get down on the ground if you have to tackle them in space.
Naturally guys fall off of people when you have a lot of people in the box.  Naturally sometimes guys fall off of people or there's always an extra hat in the box that you can't account for.  You get them out of the box, watch out.

Q.  Frankie playing safety now, does that change what you're doing defensively at all?  Are you doing different things schematically because he's there?
COACH HAZELL:  You've seen practice, but we haven't changed our thought process.  We're still playing whatever we're going to play back there.
Back safety in our scheme is a lot like a corner that's playing on the inside.¬† You're going to draw a lot of man‑to‑man coverage, those types of things.
The thing you like about Frankie, he's so poised in there, he communicates so well, he's got a lot of battle experience, which you like to have.

Q.  What uniforms are you guys wearing?
COACH HAZELL:  Oh, I can't remember.  Went through the whole season, all 12 of them, can't remember what we're wearing.  Won't be anything crazy.  It will be a pretty standard uniform for us.

Q.  Jason Tretter was listed as the backup left guard.  How much did he play left guard in camp?
COACH HAZELL:  A little bit.  He's moved around from position to position.  You like the growth of Tretter.  He's done a nice job.  He's a little nasty, which you like.  He's a little bit more athletic than you think he is.  That's what you like about him.

Q.  What do you expect from Western Michigan?  What team do you expect to see Saturday?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Like I said earlier, they're going to be a pressure team.¬† They're going to come out and run a lot of five‑man pressures early.¬† How long they do it will be based on whether or not they get hurt in those five‑man pressures defensively.
Offensively they're similar schematically to what we are right now.  I mean, you watch them, they run a lot of zone read stuff.  They're very similar to us schematically.

Q.  Do you feel like you have an offense pretty well designed to beat pressure with a lot of the short passing stuff?
COACH HAZELL:  We do.  We really do.  Not only the short passing things, but also in the run game.  Run game can also beat blitzes.

Q.  What do you expect from Zach Terrell?  Can you break him down for us a little bit?
COACH HAZELL:  Sure.  He's a guy, you know, you watch his progression over last year's season, he got better and better.  I think they like to keep him on the move whenever they can.  But he lets the ball out of his hands.  That's pretty evident.  They're playing some young linemen.  I'm sure that's still going to be the case.  He does not want to hold on to the football.

Q.  Corey Davis, too, is a pretty big weapon for them as a wide receiver guy.  What do you like about him?
COACH HAZELL:  He might be their best player offensively.  He's a guy that runs good routes.  He catches the ball around people.  He plays outside of his body.  He's a tough kid.  He plays with a lot of confidence.  You can see it on film.  He plays with a tremendous amount of confidence.

Q.¬† Anytime you go into an opener, you don't know what to expect because of the off‑season.¬† When it's a situation like this one, new staff last year, you would assume a lot of what didn't work for them last year perhaps sticks a little more this year, do you really not know what to expect?
COACH HAZELL:  Obviously you're going into your second year, wherever you are in the country, you're going to be better.  Your kids are going to be better.  They understand what your expectations are, so they're going to be a better football team.  But you're right, you go into the opening game, you don't know what to expect.
We think schematically we got a pretty good beat on them.

Q.  Austin Logan I imagine would start.  What have been your impressions of him on the last three weeks?
COACH HAZELL:  He's a kid that's grown up for us.  We needed him to do that.  I think this might be the best thing for Austin Logan in the long run in terms of having this experience, this confidence behind him, to be able to start the game and be out there.
But he brings a physical presence.  That's probably his biggest strength.  But he also is in the film room every single morning when I come in there studying and trying to learn.  He'll do a good job for us, I really believe that.

Q.  After having a chance to look at the kick scrimmage, do you have any idea who your field goal kicker will be yet?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, not yet.  Hopefully we can make that decision here in the next day or so.  But it's a close race right now.

Q.  You generally have chosen one guy when you've had these competitions.  That's the approach you're probably taking here or could you do something different?
COACH HAZELL:¬† A lot of times when you have two kickers kick for you, it's because you have a long‑range guy and a short‑range guy.¬† That's not the case in this situation.
Both of them have good legs.  There's some things that we need to work out with both of them.

Q.  MacDougall will kickoff for you?
COACH HAZELL:  He will, yes.

Q.  Do you like what you've gotten from him as a kickoff guy?
COACH HAZELL:  We do.  Funny, we were in the kick scrimmage, maybe it was a kick practice, and he kicks it down to the two or three yard line.  Coach Williams goes over to him and says, Can you kick it in the end zone?
He goes, Yeah, I can kick it in the end zone.
Why didn't you?
I was just trying to get some hang time.
Next time he kicks it seven yards deep.  He's got a good leg.  He'll be a good weapon for you.  If you can start teams on the 25 yard line, that's a good thing for our defense.

Q.  After two straight days of practice, however it was, two off days, do you expect the guys to come back refreshed and recharged, ready to go for game week?
COACH HAZELL:  They're so hungry right now.  I know they were in the weight room yesterday.  They're so ready to go.
You always like to get them away so they miss it for a couple days.  But they're ready.  They're ready to be back.

Q.  Talk about the fan base, your expectations from them week one, the excitement level around the program.
COACH HAZELL:  I think the fans are going to fall in love with this football team.  If they don't already love them right now, which so many do, we've had such great fans, we have such great fans, they're going to fall in love with this team because of the way they're going to play.  The talent level has risen.  They're going to play with more passion.  They'll be more physical.  What you expect, respect for the game.  They're going to really enjoy watching us play this year.

Q.  Not only for the team but everybody involved, how important is it to show that early on?
COACH HAZELL:  I think that's huge.  I think it's huge that we come out on Saturday and play extremely well because once we do, it will be fun.

Q.  Would you compare this Western Michigan team to anyone?
COACH HAZELL:  Not necessarily.  I'm not comparing them to anyone but themselves.  They're going to come out and play hard.  Their coach, who I've worked with for a year, I know him very well.  He's going to have a lot of energy.  They're going to cheer everything.  We're going to have to obviously exceed their intensity level.
As long as we're doing the things we need to do, you like your chances.

Q.  In all three phases of the game, what are you hoping to see out of your team in the early going?
COACH HAZELL:  You got to come out and play with great speed.  You play with great speed, great execution.  We do have good team speed on both sides of the ball.  Then you're off and running.

Q.¬† Danny Etling, his first season‑opening start, your expectations for him?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, he's going to run the offense, there's no doubt.  He's going to run the offense.  He knows it.  He's studied it.  The biggest thing for Danny is to obviously take care of the football.
But he's going to find all his play‑makers.¬† He's going to be one step ahead.¬† He'll play a great game for us on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR:  Coach, thank you for your time.

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