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September 23, 2014

Jerry Kill

COACH KILL:  The big thing is right now we're in preparation for a big game on Saturday.  Been working on that, spending a lot of time on the Wolverines.  That's kind of where we're at right now as we speak.
With that, any questions that certainly I can answer.

Q.  What do you think about your team's ability to win down there Saturday?
COACH KILL:  Well, I mean, that's our job.  That's our job.  I can't speak for the past and traditions and so forth.  We haven't done it since I've been here.  So it's our job to go down there and win games like it is every week.
Our preparation and things, I think our kids are excited about it, focused in on it.  So we're looking forward to it.

Q.  13 takeaways already for you guys.  What has been the key?  Do you think it's something that could be a season‑long deal for you?
COACH KILL:  I think our kids are feeling good about what they're doing.  Again, I think we've had great secondary play.  You're going to have a few guys get beat here and there, that's part of the secondary.  But we've been real active there.
Got real good linebacker play right now.  We've been playing a lot of nickel and dime, those kind of things, because of who we're playing, et cetera.
I just think the kids are moving around well, they're confident.  Again, pressure allows you to get some of those turnovers.  I think everybody in football right now is trying to put pressure on people, create turnovers.  I think we've done a good job at that at this time.  That will be important as we go down the stretch here as we enter the Big Ten.

Q.  Are you optimistic Mitch will be able to play Saturday?
COACH KILL:  He hasn't done anything.  I wish I had the answer.  We'll go out to practice and practice the ones that are healthy and go to work.
Marcus Jones, broke his hand and he won't be available.  That's one that happened on Saturday.  Epping came out of it better than he did last week.  That's positive news.  That's kind of where we're at with recent situations.  But Marcus is out, for sure.

Q.  You don't expect Mitch to practice this week?
COACH KILL:  No, I didn't say that.  I said we hadn't done anything to this point in time.  Again, I'm controlled by our training staff, where we're at right now, so forth.  We'll have to see throughout the week.
He's got turf toe.  Had an MRI, all that stuff, on top of what he's had before.  We'll see how he progresses, see what happens.
I certainly won't count him out, but I won't know till the week goes.  Kind of like Zac Epping, last week he really didn't do much until Thursday and moved around much better.  When you have a high ankle sprain, sometimes that takes place, it takes three or four days for that thing to settle down a little bit.
He moved around and played good.

Q.  What about Maxx?
COACH KILL:  Right now I think he's questionable.  He won't practice today.

Q.  On Saturday you moved a lot of guys in and out on the offensive line.  Do you think maybe that's something you'll continue to do, rotate people in?
COACH KILL:  I think with situations, again, with injuries that we've had, the people that we lost, with Jonah and Ben, I think that's a good combination right now with Ben Lauer, where they're playing 35, 40 plays, working a guy in there to continue to get experience, making sure we play full speed, so forth.
We did some things at guard also, again, just trying to get maximum effort.  If we need to do that to get maximum effort, make us better, that's what we'll do.
Last week it went pretty well.  A lot of that has to do with how things are going in the game.  But we went in with a plan to do that, certainly with Jonah and Ben, then with Foster and Isaac.

Q.  What is the challenge of preparing not knowing who the quarterback is?
COACH KILL:  We have to prepare for Devin Gardner.  That's what they've been doing, that's what they've done.  I think we went through this two years ago, somewhere along the lines we didn't know who was going to play, we played them at home.  He played.
I think it's one of those things we have to prepare what we see on film.  It's hard to prepare for a ghost.  Their offensive scheme is not going to change any.  The only thing is if they started the other young man, he's going to be playing wide receiver.  That's another dynamic wide receiver.  But they got plenty of good wide receivers, too.
I think the preparation, we prepare for Devin.  If he moved to receiver Funchess, those people, makes it more dynamic.  They have more receivers just besides Funchess.
It's hard to know what they're going to do.  You have to prepare what you've seen on film, so forth.  But, again, the offensive scheme is going to be similar.  That's what we have to do.  Hard deal sometimes.

Q.  Do you worry about the big X on Cobb's back?
COACH KILL:  They're going to come up, try to stop the run.  There's no question that we have to be able to throw the ball and throw it well.  We threw it 29 times against TCU.  Our production, our execution, wasn't as good as it needed to be.
I think as we go into the Big Ten schedule, it's no different than it was a year ago, we want to run the ball.  We were able to hit play‑action passes, things of that nature.  Then towards the end of the year we struggled with that a little bit.
I think anybody knows as we go into this thing, we got to do a better job of executing what we're doing in the passing game.  I know a lot of people question Saturday.  I understand that.  We were averaging six and a half yards a carry.  What they're playing on defense...
We did what it takes to win a game.  We certainly prepare to throw the ball as much as we can in the situations that dictate it.  But we're smart enough to know we're going to have to do some good things in the throwing game to be able to win on Saturday and also not turn it over when you do it.  So there's a twofold thing there.
It still goes back to turnovers.  We can't turn the ball over two times and beat Michigan.  You can't give things to people, certainly when you're on the road, so...

Q.  Big edge in weight on the defensive line against San Jose.  How about Michigan?  Have they got big horses up in front?
COACH KILL:  Michigan hasn't changed.  Number one defense in the Big Ten, one of the top in the country.  Defensive they're better than they were a year ago by far.  They're good in the secondary, helped themselves in the secondary.  They're aggressive up front, big and strong, like Michigan's always been.  Mattison is a very good defensive coordinator.  There's not a lot of changes in the offensive line.  Michigan has looked like Michigan for a long time.  Doesn't look any different whatsoever.

Q.  Strength versus strength, your running game against their run defense?
COACH KILL:  Yeah, and again, I don't think there's any question the ingredients for us to win is you've got to be all around the ball.  Again, in that preparation, so forth, we're going to have to do a good job of throwing it, keeping them off balance and more than we have, like TCU, but you have to do it and do it well and execute it.

Q.  What do you think of Berkley and Kirkwood and Williams?
COACH KILL:  When you get a back that's hot, I always say you got a horse, you ride it.  He's been doing well.  A lot of that has to do with the game, what dictates the game, so forth.
Berkley, there's no question, he's had a knock‑down shoulder.  We've been careful with it for a lot of reasons.  We start Big Ten play, we'll need all those backs in the situation we're in in the Big Ten schedule, certainly ours.
With that being said, if David Cobb is getting five, six yards a pop.  He gets better as the game goes on anyway.  That's his style.  But using Berkley and some people like that to add to that, certainly with the speed and so forth, feel much better about it than we did last week.
We try to be smart also with him, try to get some people healed up.  We can't afford any more injuries at all.  We had some guys that we were careful with, and we've been careful with him.  We gave him enough to see if he was doing better than he was last week.  I think he feels good going into this game.  That's kind of the answer to that, so...

Q.  Any update on Alex Keith?  With all these guys that are iffy, you have the bye week after Michigan, does that factor into any of your decisions?
COACH KILL:  We always do what's best for the athlete.  If we're told they can play, we're going to play them if they're 100%.  They can't be 92%.  They've got to be 100% because they're not effective.
Alex Keith, we anticipate him doing some stuff in practice today for the first time in almost three and a half weeks.  We'll know a lot more about his progression as the week goes on.
Do I count him out of playing this week?  No.  But, again, as far as running, cutting, all that, it took Michael, he's right now back to playing well.  It takes a while when you don't do anything.  Getting comfortable, certainly with a knee injury.  Even though you're 100%, mentally it takes a while to get the feel, get back in the game.
I don't know if anybody has had knee surgery or anything like that, but that's a difficult thing to be able to play with, get back into it.
Certainly we're encouraged by him practicing, seeing where he's at at this particular time.

Q.  Edwards, do you think he gave you more?
COACH KILL:  Gave us a lot in the first game, then got a knock‑down shoulder, then we've been careful.  He can give us a lot.  We're 3‑1.  We go into the Big Ten schedule.  There's some things, we get people healed up, we can do.  We have to get people healed up.  He's one of them.
We need him.  We need everybody right now to be healthy.  We're not going to have everybody healthy, but I would like to get some of them healthy, including Maxx Williams.

Q.  Characterize the rivalry with Michigan, a special place to play.
COACH KILL:  I got asked that question about the divisional, if it changes.  College football is a great game.  This is a tremendous tradition.  You're going to the Big House.  It's the first Big Ten game.  You're playing for the little brown jug.  I mean, that's what college football is about.  Nationally televised, the rich history of the game.
I think for our kids, anybody that participates in something like that, you get a unique experience.  I think it's great for our kids.  It's great for our state.  It's great for college football.

Q.  Did you talk with your players about the history of the trophy, all that?
COACH KILL:  Oh, yeah.  We do that early in camp, and certainly today.  When we get done, go out to practice, Mike who played in that, Dom is here, been part of that, played.  It's always good to me as a player that's played here, the tradition, and doing it is certainly somebody that can share it.
That's on our practice schedule right now, that will be a big part of the end of practice today.  Certainly I'll have a little bit to say about it before we practice.  There's no question older guys understand.  Those young freshmen, all the ones we're playing, certainly when you recruit them you talk about it, but still they really don't understand completely because they're young.  We make sure we do that.
They won't realize anything until they walk out on the field, then those freshmen will go, Okay, this is a big deal here.  But we'll educate 'em.

Q.  Is it that stunning when you're walking out of the tunnel?
COACH KILL:  I think if you love college football and you followed it for a lot of years, you know all the way back to the great history Michigan has, the Big House, it's talked about, so forth.  You're actually running out of that tunnel, you get to be a part of it.  If you don't have some chills running up your spine when that happens, you can't get ready to play when that happens, so forth...
You have to do things different when you're on the road from cadence, just little things you got to do different.  Playing in places like that will make you do that.
I think the mystique, those kind of things, it doesn't get any better for college football.

Q.  The bye day is on Yom Kippur, most sacred holiday of the Hebrew race.  A lot of Hebrews praying for you.
COACH KILL:  I need all the prayers I can get.  My wife will tell you that (laughter).  After 31 years, she's been praying every day and it still hasn't worked.  But we'll take all those prayers we can get.
You guys take care.

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