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September 30, 2014

Darrell Hazell

COACH HAZELL:  A quick recap from last Saturday's game, as I shared with the team on Sunday, I'll share with you.  I said anytime you can play good defense, which we did, and anytime you can play good special teams, which we did other than those three plays, the two kickoffs and the one missed field goal, I said you're going to be in every contest that you're playing in.  You're going to have those games where you're up 7 or down 7 late in the game, but late in the third quarter, early in the fourth quarter, and we're going to have to have somebody step up and make a play.
I think that's the step that we need to take as a football program, and we're going to move some people around here today, and we just try to identify as many guys that are making plays for us.  Obviously, on offense, guys are consistently making plays, and Akeem Hunt is the other guy that's consistently making plays.  But when you're getting two, three, and four‑yard chunks, it's hard.  I think it's hard for play callers to have to do that the length of the field.  So we need more big plays.  Eight play, ten play, offensive plays to help us continue on third down, because that's where we really struggled on Saturday, our third down conversions.  We're just not getting enough plays.  We had 55 total offensive plays so that's one of the areas we need to improve vastly in.
As we look forward, playing a good Illinois football team.  Their two losses came to Washington and Nebraska, two good football teams and they're much improved.  It's going to be a great contest for us.  I think mostly football teams just studied the film, and the campaign on Saturday having a great challenge.  (Indiscernible).

Q.  One of the keys is where do you see the quarterback situation?
COACH HAZELL:  The quarterback situation obviously we struggled, obviously, on Saturday.  We admitted it.  We see the film.  We see some of the things that he has to do better.  He's just one of many positions on offense, the quarterback.  We didn't do as well as we had been doing on the offensive line, and we dropped a ball or two that could have helped him.  But that's a situation that we'll look at again this week.  You don't want to keep revisiting that situation.  But that's a situation where we're saying, we've got to be productive in every single situation or every single position on offense, and that is one of the positions that we'll take a look at again this week and see how it unfolds.

Q.  (Indiscernible) Mostert, didn't play the last game.  What do you need to see from him?  Did he learn a lesson, or what do you need to see from him?
COACH HAZELL:  We're going to put Raheem back into the fold.  We had a long staff meeting and talked about personnel yesterday a little longer than usual.  Probably just talking about offense for people.  He's one of the guys that we talked about getting back into the flow and getting his speed back on the field.  He's got to produce more.  That is one of the parts of the equation that we need to see more out of him, and that will help us being able to put him and the team back on the field at the same time, and that will be part of the equation as well.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH HAZELL:  I think so.  I think No. 12 is going to be the guy they go with is what it sounds like.  They missed him last week against Nebraska, but just watching him again just a few minutes ago, he's a good player and he can make the throws that he needs to make.  So we're anticipating him being underneath center on Saturday.

Q.  You mentioned you might move some people around.  Who?
COACH HAZELL:  One of the people we said had explosive power with the ball in his hands is B.J. Knauf.  He's not getting a whole lot of reps.  One of the things we talked about doing is sliding Danny, and the three wide receiver sets, sliding Danny to the inside at the H position.  Putting B.J. back outside at the Z position because we know that he can make plays when the ball is in his hands.  We need to be able to do that.  He's got to help himself out and help us out in terms of being more consistent and all of the things that we need him to do.
Also, up‑frontwise, I didn't cover some of the offensive line things.  Kugler we have him as probable for Saturday.  He had a hip strain, glute strain.  We're going to practice like we're not going to have him this week, which means someone will be playing at the center position.  We'll start David Hedelin regardless whether we have him or not at the left tackle position, and then we'll figure out who our right tackle is, whether it's Cermin or Prince based on this week's performance.

Q.  Who decides who plays?  You mentioned the personnel meeting where they're 15 minutes long.  Do the position coaches say, hey, this is what I'm seeing?  I recommend that Monserez doesn't get any snaps last week or he does get long balls?  How does that work?
COACH HAZELL:  We talked about it on Thursday extensively.  Obviously, I said how are you going to play your people and then we'll chime in, coordinators will chime in and that's how we make the final decision on who needs to play, who deserves to play, who is going to help us win the football game?

Q.  What did you see in Raheem that he went from a guy that you looked at could be a good play maker for you guys and wanting to get 20 touches a game to a guy that didn't play at all last week?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, obviously putting the ball on the ground doesn't help the football team.  But the other things, you've got to get him to play a little lower when he has the ball in his hands so he has those hidden yard that's we're looking for.

Q.  Is he the same confident guy that he was in the beginning of the year?
COACH HAZELL:  I think so.  I think he's got to get back into the flow and get some of those big runs that he needs to have to help his confidence.  But I don't see a guy that's lacking confidence right now.

Q.  It seemed the offensive line struggled a little bit this last week.  Is that just something that you need to work more on?
COACH HAZELL:  That's a great observation.  We did struggle on the twist.  Some of those sacks were on twists, and those were pretty simplistic twists to pick up.  It's just two‑man twist games and we need to do a better job of sitting on the same level to be able to pass those twists off.  When we get off on level, one guy's on one level, the other guy's on a different level, then you can't exchange the twist.  That is some of the things that we have to work on as an offensive line group.

Q.  Is it a communication thing?
COACH HAZELL:  Absolutely.  You're going to constantly talk, hey, here comes the twist based on the alignment of the defenders.  When you see it, you've got to make it physical, you've got to physically bump the guy off but you've got to communicate the bump as the twist is happening.

Q.  I read a quote yesterday that Illinois tried 18 different blitzes against Nebraska.  I think some of that was run blitzing to try to throw their run game.  But is that a concern at all if we're wondering if Danny is still overthinking, if you have a team that can show that many different looks?
COACH HAZELL:  No, I don't think so.  I think what we have to do regardless of whether they blitz 18 or 48 times is we've got to help our offensive line out with some different types of protection.  We talked extensively about how do we eliminate some of those sacks and really take the stress off of one, the offensive line, and two, the quarterback.  And that falls in our lap as a coaching staff, not so much the players.

Q.  How do you fix the offense?  Does it feel like it needs to be fixed?
COACH HAZELL:  Oh, there are certainly things that need to be fixed, and we have to be a better third down football team.  That's what it really comes down to.  That's what we talked about getting more guys on the field.  Right before the half, we have a 3rd and 6 and we throw away an underneath out‑cut to Posey, and there is nobody there.  You're going to run it for 25 yards down the sideline, and that is part of the execution.  We have to be able to execute better in those situations, but there are certain things that we can fix.  Obviously there are certain things that we have to fix.

Q.  Before the season we talked about seniors needing to play kind of career type seasons for you guys on defense especially.  It seems that you've gotten that from guys like Landon and Sean?
COACH HAZELL:  I tell you what, those guys have done a great job on that side of the ball flying around and really just leaving it out on the field.  You can see them straining.  I thought that was the first time since we've been here that you can see almost everybody straining to make their plays on defense.  We need to get that on the other side of the ball as well.  That's one of the things we talked about.  Who are those guys on offense that are going to make those strained plays?

Q.  Specifically with Shawn Wood, what kind of year do you think he's having?
COACH HAZELL:  Shawn?  I think he's playing phenomenal.  He's playing downhill.  He's the quarterback to that defense.  He gets them lined up and he's playing physical.  He missed one or two tackles last week, but he's really playing at a high level right now.

Q.  Is the play calling thus far a result of the quarterback play?
COACH HAZELL:  I didn't understand your question.

Q.  Is the play calling of the quarterback play?
COACH HAZELL:  I don't see anything wrong with the play calling.  I went back, watched the film, and there were things that are to be had that we're not getting, so I don't have any issues with the play calling?

Q.  How are the duties going to be split between quarterbacks this week?
COACH HAZELL:  We won't let you know until the end of the week.  We'll practice this week and figure it out.

Q.  Where does Raheem stand in the offense at this point?
COACH HAZELL:  Like I just said, we're going to get him back into the flow and try to figure out what he can give us this Saturday.

Q.  (Indiscernible) depth chart?
COACH HAZELL:  They're probably slashed at the number two position or the number two spot at the tailback position.

Q.  If you could break down how the offense?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, Dylan and I worked together at Rutgers, and the offense is very similar to back then.  We obviously we played against him at Western Michigan.  He was the head coach at Western Michigan.  He likes to spread the field.  He likes to run zone and draw.  He really likes to throw the ball.  He does a great job, I think, in terms of figuring out man and zone and calling routes accordingly.  So if you're in man coverage, he's got a lot of pick routes and crossing routes and those things.  If you're in zone coverage he's got a whole different package that he's signaling in to the quarterback.  I think he does a really good job of running the offense.

Q.  There's been a lot of zone read stuff with whoever they've had at quarterback.  Is it the same with Lunt or is it more of a dropback deal?  Is this the most dropback oriented offense you've seen this season?
COACH HAZELL:  Definitely not a zone read team that we're seeing.  It's a zone team and a read team, and not a zone read team.  He's more of a drop back passer.  He wants to be in the pocket.  He does not like to be pushed outside the pocket.

Q.  (Indiscernible) struggled against the run.  What do you have to do to take advantage of the match‑up?
COACH HAZELL:  I think the big thing is, without saying too much, and we have to grade our double teams at the point of attack, and they do some things defensively that do allow you to do some things.  But if we stay on combination blocks and see ourselves up to the second level, we'll have a chance to run the football.  We've got to break tackles.  There are going to be opportunities to hit big plays if we can break some of those tackles.

Q.  Seems like they're pretty big coming off the edge on defense.  Basically they've got the multiple pressures they'll bring.  How big a concern is that in your game planning?
COACH HAZELL:  It's more third‑down stuff.  They will extend the run blitz on first down every once in a while to get you off schedule.  But, again, it comes down to if we can get some guys out of the box and be able to zone to the people we have to zone to, we'll have a chance to run the football, which we need to do.

Q.  On Saturday, you talked about soul searching and what goes into that to be effective in soul searching?
COACH HAZELL:  I think when I make a statement like that of soul searching, I think I'm saying let's look at ourselves and figure out what we can all do better from the head coach down to the last guy on the roster.  What are those things that we can improve upon to make ourselves better as a football team?

Q.  Do you feel like they're taking that seriously?
COACH HAZELL:  Oh, absolutely.  We came back Sunday.  Obviously, it's always a sting when you lose, but they understand.  That's what you love about this football team.  They understand if you give them factual information and tell them this is where we have to improve, they get it.  It's genuine.  It's sincere, and that's why you go back to work and you work hard.  You don't look for excuses, you look for solutions.  That's kind of our motto.

Q.  As you look for solutions and you sit back and evaluate, at least at the surface do the answers seem simple to you?
COACH HAZELL:  They are simple, but they're not simple.  I mean, you can see the areas of improvement, but we still have to take those steps.  We have to be able to make those plays on third down offensively.  There are a couple of third and very longs defensively where we have to get off the field.  We can see that, but you still have to do it.  It's a physical component you must overcome.

Q.  In the wake of some of the things going on in Michigan, do you guys have anybody assigned to watching players?
COACH HAZELL:  It's funny because that came across my desk today about what happened with the concussion deal.  But I wasn't even thinking along those lines.  What I was thinking along the lines of, I watched the game on Saturday night.  I saw them all unfold, and I tried to play it out, how I played that situation.  I didn't know about his head either when I read the article this morning.  I didn't know it was his head.  I thought it was his ankle.
I said I would have played this out.  We had a long staff meeting about this this morning.  So the starting quarterback gets knocked out.  The back‑up comes in.  His helmet comes off.  The third guy, which I don't know if he's a red‑shirt or not a red‑shirt, they can't find his helmet.  He put on three helmets.  So they finally put the other quarterback back in.  Now in our situation say Danny Etling's the starter, Danny gets knocked out and it's a concussion, and Appleby comes in, loses his helmet, what do you do now?  You don't put Blough in for a play.  Right?  So we talked about that extensively.  So we're going to bring up Bilal Marshall to take some of those snaps to handle that situation so we can get Appleby back in the game if that's the situation.  But you have to think through all those scenarios, and it's got to be a quick decision.
But they're scrambling on the sideline because their third‑‑ again, I don't know if the third quarterback is a red‑shirt guy, just a walk‑on, I don't know all the details.  But those are situations that happen throughout the course of the game.

Q.  How do you keep track of who can and can't go back into games?
COACH HAZELL:  The doctors.  We're constantly in communication from‑‑ not the doctors, the trainer comes over and says he cannot go back in the game.  Every time somebody comes off the field, he lets me know.

Q.  How tough is it for you to see some of the things unfold from the sidelines?
COACH HAZELL:  Some of the things?

Q.  Like what happened up at Michigan over the weekend.
COACH HAZELL:  Lot of times it's pretty clear.  Most of the time it's pretty clear, but sometimes things like that happen.  Again, I didn't know it was his head.  I thought it was his ankle.  I don't know.  I'm not there on that staff, so I'm not sure what the Michigan coaches saw or didn't see.  There is a lot going on the sideline.  You've got to make adjustments.

Q.  Is sometimes the sideline the worst place to be when you're trying to view things like that?
COACH HAZELL:  Not necessarily the worst place to be.  But there are a lot of things on the sideline that you can't see.  You can't see how things develop as you can from the sky.  But there's got to be a lot of communication that happens throughout the course of the game.

Q.  Where would you be right now without Frankie Williams production and what he's done?
COACH HAZELL:  He's been amazing.  I don't know how you get the 60 production points, but you talk about his interceptions, his two big hits on the quarterbacks, his punt returns, his energy.  He got into the offensive huddle at one point in time in the fourth quarter when the game was 17‑10 and he was trying to juice the offense up.  But just his emotion and passion that he plays through the game, he's pretty special right now.

Q.  Would you send him out there on offense?
COACH HAZELL:  That's not what he was trying to do.  He was trying to pump up his troops, and he realizes that we all work together.

Q.  I know you didn't recruit him.  You inherited him here, but does he seem like the type of guy that just has a knack for plays?
COACH HAZELL:  There is no question.  This guy can do that.  There are guys that just simply make plays, but there are also guys that just leave it all out on the field.  He's one of those guys that just plays with his heart outside his jersey.

Q.  Do you anticipate this week, based on what you're facing with Illinois which was a little different from Iowa, but will five defensive backs this week?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, we'll be in more nickel as well as quarterback just based on their personnel groupings.  They'll be out in 10 personnel, lot of 11 personnel, and we'll match personnel with those guys on a little bit less this week.

Q.  Their freshmen receivers are having a good year right now.  What kind of challenge does he present to you?
COACH HAZELL:  He's a great kid.  He was up in my office this off‑season.  He's a really good player.  Quick, tough, that's probably his biggest element.  He's a tough player, and he's made a lot of plays for them.

Q.  I guess with (Indiscernible) why does he fit the mold as your back‑up center and your confidence in him if he has to go on Saturday?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, he played a lot there in the spring time as a reserve guy.  We got him ready.  He's probably the furthest along at this point in time.  Now, with that being said, if Kugler does not make the trip, we'll play Barron.  We'll pull the shirt off of Barron if we have to.  We've talked about that extensively as well.

Q.  You mentioned in the opening about getting more play makers and trying to find bigger plays.  Would you go deep down into the roster as far as anymore true freshmen that you might look at playing to get more production in some certain areas?
COACH HAZELL:  None that haven't played already.  Like, for example, a Trae Hart is a guy that we've talked about.  Here's a guy that's pretty dynamic with the ball in his hands.  We wouldn't pull off the shirt of anyone else on our team right now, but he's a guy that we think we feel confident that he can could be a guy that makes more plays for us.

Q.  You mentioned the right tackle earlier, and being Prince or Sherman, depending on Kugler, I guess.  Do you feel like you need in general better, more consistent play at that position than what you've had recently?
COACH HAZELL:  Both the tackle positions we need better consistent play.  That was one of our issues from the other day.  The pocket kept getting collapsed back into the cornerback's lap where he couldn't slide up into the pocket.  Lot of times you don't see that, but that's what was happening.  We were getting collapsed, and they whiffed and the pocket was being compromised.

Q.  To follow up on an earlier question, because I'm not sure I completely understood the question and didn't understand your answer.  You don't want to tell us now about what your plan is with the quarterbacks at this point?
COACH HAZELL:  That is correct.

Q.  Just wanted to make sure.  Your punt coverage team, why has it been so good?
COACH HAZELL:  It's been amazing.  To think I don't know how many times we've punted the ball the other day, nine times or so, and to have zero return yards is incredible.  To drop four out of the nine punts inside the 15 for no return yards.  It's about the snap.  It's about the punt placement, and it's about great sniper play.  Those are the three elements of great punt coverage.
We've been right on the snap.  Might not seem significant to you, but if the punter doesn't have to wiggle at all, he can get off a nice, easy punt, relaxed and be able to drive it where he needs to drive it.  We've had unbelievable sniper play.  Those guys can't block them out there.  We've done some things to stack their alignments and things, but it's about pure speed and effort.
It's kind of funny because a couple times on Saturday, their catch signal went almost right as we kicked the ball, which that doesn't happen.  I don't know if it's the anticipation of guys getting down there so fast, but that's a good thing right now for us.

Q.  I'm not a punt expert, but it seems to me that Meadows' hang time is pretty good; is that accurate?
COACH HAZELL:  Very accurate.  His hang time and placement has been impeccable.  I think he was off a couple times the other day with placement, but the snipers were down so fast, it didn't hurt us.

Q.  Just wanted to follow up regarding the quarterback.  Are you looking to see anything this week from those two or have you made the decision and you're just not going to announce it?
COACH HAZELL:  There is no decision yet.  We'll watch and see how practice unfolds and they'll both take one reps, and we'll see how it unfolds.  You know they can do it, we've just got to do it.

Q.  Specifically, what are you looking for this week out of those two?
COACH HAZELL:  We'll know when we see it.

Q.  Last week you talked about Iowa and their style of play really didn't fit.  Ryan Russell making huge stacks in plays.  Is this match‑up better for him in that respect?
COACH HAZELL:  This will be a great Ryan Russell week for us because of that.  Last week we knew they were going to run the football, and he wasn't going to have a whole bunch of opportunities to get pass rushes one‑on‑one with the tackles.  But this week, as much as they throw the ball, as much as they drop back, Ryan's going to have some chances to get on the quarterback and I'm confident he'll do a great job of that.

Q.  You talked about two guys on offense that have made a lot of plays, Akeem, and have been helping B.J. outside and Danny inside.  How does that affect Danny moving forward being on the inside more?
COACH HAZELL:  He'll be inside on the three receiver sets.  He'll be outside on the two receiver sets, so he'll play in both locations, but you're right.  That was one of the things.  We didn't want to limit his productivity by being an inside receiver.  We talked about that yesterday, but I'm very confident he'll be able to do the things we need him to do as the inside guy.

Q.  This team in general, talk about the margin for error with this team at this moment?
COACH HAZELL:  Our team?

Q.  Yeah.  There were a couple of empty drives last Saturday against Iowa where I'm sure you would have loved to have gotten some points and you didn't.  Just the margin of error right now?
COACH HAZELL:  Way too many empty drives.  I think we had the ball from the minus 40 to the goal line perhaps eight times.  Obviously, he didn't come away with enough points.  But it's about getting in rhythm, and we have to find some rhythm offensively.  Whether it's from the running game or whether it's from the passing game, whether it's from clawing and scratching to find those third down conversions so you can get more plays called, so you can call some of those exotic plays that you have on the game plan.  You can't even call those exotic plays that you have because you can't get enough plays.  You're so concerned about getting this next first down.
We have to find some rhythm, and it's about the players finding rhythm, and making some of those plays and getting the right people in the right places.  We're constantly working to make sure that gets accomplished.

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