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September 2, 2014

Jerry Kill

COACH KILL:  Well, last week, able to start off with a win.  Certainly as you go back and look at film, there's lots of room for improvement.  So that's kind of where we spent last week.
The one thing about playing on Thursday night is you got a chance to really spend more time on the film.  You get an extra day of practice, an extra day of preparation, an extra day to spend with the kids.
School starts today.  Anytime you start school, it's not like professional football, it's a little bit different, getting the guys' mindset at practice today.  That's the biggest job we got, making sure we got coming off of an early morning getting up, make sure we have a good practice today.
With that, any questions.

Q.  What can you tell us about the defensive line injuries.
COACH KILL:  I'm not going to comment on that too much.  I always give an injury report.  However, it looks like pretty for sure that Scott Ekpe is done for the season.  That's a major blow.
But with that, the other two, they're not lost for the season and we'll see how this week progresses with them.  That's where we're at with those injuries.  We'll see how the week goes.
Tough deal for Scott.  You never know about that kid.  Great kid.  He'll work hard.  But that's where we're at with that.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH KILL:  Yeah, he'll play this week.

Q.  Do you take that group aside on Sunday and say, This is big for you guys, everybody needs to do their part, with all these injuries?
COACH KILL:  Well, I think we've done that.  I think they know.  I don't think we have to tell them to step up.  That's why we rep so many guys and so forth.
We're no different than the Wisconsin situation, losing two defensive linemen in a particular game.  We lost three in that particular game.  A couple fairly early.  Our guys that went in there stepped up and played well.
It's just part of the game.  If you're a football player and a coach, it's part of it.  Got to be lucky sometimes.  Not so lucky on the first game.  Hopefully we'll stay healthy the rest of the year.

Q.  Did you give any thought to moving Carol back to defensive tackle?
COACH KILL:  Yeah, we moved him back.

Q.  With Steven Richardson, can you assess his first game, and moving forward?
COACH KILL:  Well, I think as you know, since we've been here, we played eight defensive linemen.  His role increased on Thursday night, and always has.  Will it increase more?  Besides how we decide to substitute in that situation.  But he played very well.
As a true freshman going in and playing like he did, he did a great job, a great job.  Certainly gained some confidence from his first game.
When you're a freshman, you always play better your second game.  We played a lot of freshmen.  It's a good experience for them.  They'll keep learning and keep working to get ready for the Big Ten Conference.

Q.  Mitch, talk about his progression moving forward.
COACH KILL:  He'll be fine.  I thought he settled down in the second half.  It's one of those things where I think sometimes we forget, this is really his first start as a starting quarterback without somebody getting injured.  When you're the guy, it's a lot different.
He'll play.  He'll get better each week.  I always refer to Michigan State' quarterback last year.  They had quarterback controversy.  They struggled early in the year.  Then he just kept getting better and better.
As a coach, you stay focused, you keep him focused, as well as your football team.  We know what Mitch can do, and our players just through practice, you got to continue to play in games and get used to the fast motions and so forth.  We got to continue to get better on offense, which we will.

Q.  You mentioned wanting to get K.J. involved in the passing game more.  Do you see that as a big key on Saturday?
COACH KILL:  There's several players that need touches.  Certainly Berkley Edwards because he can get it over with in a hurry, and David, as well as Donovahn Jones.  Donovahn is a year older.  I think he showed his burst of speed, what he had.  Maxx Williams.  Then K.J.  We'll have Wolitarsky back.
There are some guys, they will help this process come along because great receivers certainly help a quarterback.  Donovahn reached down back behind him and went the distance.  Those are things that we need to continue to do.
Life is about confidence.  It doesn't matter who it is.  David Cobb is the best example last year.  Wasn't even starting in the first game.  Couple injuries.  He got better and better.  All of a sudden he has a couple good games.  The rest is history.
I think once you gain some confidence...  It certainly helped Berkley.  Comes to practice, got a little bit different swagger to him.  The secondary players, we were talking about it yesterday on the TV show with Mike, you can kind of tell when people go out to warmup who has a little strut to them and feel confident about things.  Our secondary feels confident.
You kind of pick the players if you think about it that have the confidence right now, ones that will get it as we move forward.

Q.  Besides confidence what do you look for that will tell you Mitch has gone to the next level?
COACH KILL:  Well, I think a lot of it is just keep moving forward.  We played one football game.  Just keep moving forward with the offense, continue to get better.
I judge quarterbacks if they can move the chains and win.  Got to keep winning, moving chains.  I've seen a lot of fantastic quarterbacks do everything, but they don't win.  I think winning is a big part of that.  His progression there.
I look forward, just like I think our whole coaching staff does, to Saturday afternoon, and continue to get our football team better.

Q.  You mentioned how Eastern Illinois was bringing the kitchen sink early on.  Do you expect that because you're breaking in a relatively new starter at quarterback?
COACH KILL:  No, you're going to get eight, nine in the box and things.  But when I say that, there's no question they blitzed some, but they played zone coverage behind it a lot.  Part of the deal was when you play a first opponent, you have no idea because of the coaching change, when you say 'move around on defense and bring people,' it's a totally different thing than you worked on.
From an offensive line standpoint, you miss some blitz checks.  As a runningback you miss some blitz checks.  Get pressure on the quarterback and so forth.
I just think, again, we won the game.  Offensively we started to settle down in the second half.  Like I said, it's all about repetition and playing.  You can practice all you want, but you got to play in games and keep getting better.

Q.  How much of that tide turning in that game was players settling in compared to adjustments you made?
COACH KILL:  I think a little bit of both.  But blocked punt, any time you play good in special teams, block a punt, I mean, that changes a whole game.  Kicker kicking it out of the end zone all the time, have to start from the 25, that's pretty good.  Punter being able to punt the ball, change field position, that's the biggest offensive play in football.  I think the kicking game settled in.
It's just like anything, we went to running the zone scheme, picking up stuff, be able to get some creases, make some throws.  As I said, as the game moves on, you get better, keep working.

Q.  Do you like the idea of Thursday night games starting a little bit earlier than some programs, maybe more eyeballs on you, then you have more time to get ready?
COACH KILL:  Trying to get me in trouble all the time (smiling).  I got administration up there.
I think things have changed a little bit because our school, where it starts, when summer school ends, we lose practices in there.  We didn't have two‑a‑day practices, it took eight days to get there.  That makes it more difficult.
If you move it to Saturday, you get more time.  But that's all switched as our school switches.
Then the other thing is not being in Minnesota, then being here, with all the things that are going on, I think that's a question to ask the fans.  I've certainly asked a few people.  You got high school teams playing and so forth.  That makes it difficult.
Now, from the other hand, you know you're playing on Thursday night, getting all the publicity, and that's a good thing.
You have to look at both of them, make the best decision.  The fans are the most important thing we have, the fans.  It's about the fans, the kids, the state of Minnesota.  If it's to move on Saturday, then I think we need to do that.
The other concern is being able to get all your practices in before the first game.  That's a big concern.

Q.  What do you make of playing that early as a concept?
COACH KILL:  31 years of coaching, we start a lot different.  I've seen a whole lot of changes.
What's happened, keeps getting moved up earlier.  You got baseball going on, then football, NFL, so forth.  I think football's gotten huge.  In the process, we're playing more games.  Now you got the playoffs, and still people are wanting to have an eight‑team playoff.  You do that, then you're extending the season even farther.
I feel like you got to be careful.  So to answer your question, it's different.  It's not going to change.

(Audio interruption.)

Q.  Do you think Drew Wolitarsky will be back for sure?  Any update on Jeff Jones?
COACH KILL:  Yeah, as far as Drew is concerned, he will play.  As far as Jeff goes, I mean, I think he's happy and excited.  First day of school.  You know, seen him this morning.  Hopefully he'll be practicing in the spring.  There's certain things that I won't mention, how the NCAA works and all that.  But cautiously optimistic to see how that works out.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH KILL:  The thing about defensively right now, that just is different, I think about where we were, where we were starting, where we're at now.  Our secondary, we played a lot of five, six defensive backs and linebackers.  That first group can really run, really run.  Damien and De'Vondre can really run.  They're long.  Measured by the NFL scouts, measured by how long his arms are.  When you have length, you can keep people from blocking you and you tackle better.
No question with those guys.  And we're playing seven no‑huddle teams, so you got to be able to run.

Q.  Have you talked to Marquise?
COACH KILL:  I haven't had a chance to because I didn't want to bother him because he's already gone to work.  That's a quick transition.  I will get ahold of him today.  I'm excited for him.  He's a great kid.  I can remember walking in my first meeting, he was standing out there waiting on me.  But he was waiting to play quarterback (laughter).
But he's very athletic.  The reason he's there is Coach Turner.  He had him in Cleveland.  All that verbiage, all that stuff you have to learn, he knows it.  I'm rooting for him, there's no question about that.
Thank you.  Appreciate it very much.

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