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October 14, 2014

Jerry Kill

COACH KILL:  I think over the last two weeks, we played some good football teams.  But they execute very well.  They have kind of a tough demeanor to them.  Then they got two dynamic backs that are scary.  Because if they break the crease, it's over with.  I mean, they've got one that runs the 100 meters, he's a track athlete, just one of those guys that can get over.  They got it over against Michigan State.  I think we all know how good Michigan State' defense is.
Then from a defensive standpoint, their secondary does a great job playing a lot of man coverage.  They've locked up everybody they've seen.  That allows them to play more games up front.  That's the one thing I've noticed as the season's gone, they've gotten more and more confident what they're doing on the defensive side.  I think that's a lot to do with their secondary.
They've changed quarterbacks, and their quarterback is a dual threat where he can run the ball as well as throw it, so that's given them a couple more options.
So it's a football team that we got to do a good job and we got to have great preparation this week.  I anticipate us doing that.  Kids were getting focused on Sunday.  We had good film review.  We look forward to Tuesday to seeing if we're the same as we've been the last six weeks, good focus and concentration.  I'm sure they will.
With that I'll take any questions.

Q.  How does your team handle success, when you're successful and winning?
COACH KILL:  I don't think we've had a lot through here at this point in time.  Through my years of experience, we don't change anything.  We just do what we do.  I think the more consistent you are as a coach with your demeanor whether you lose or win, you point out when you win the things that weren't so good and that can get you beat, and when you lose you point out those things why you lost, then you move on.
It's a teaching process.  It's no different being in the classroom preparing for a big test.  Sometimes you are successful and sometimes you fail.  Either one of them, there's a learning experience from it.
We've been consistent since we've been here.  I think if the kids see you get way up here, they get nervous.  If they see you get way down here, they lose confidence.  I think you just have to be consistent in your approach.

Q.¬† Was there more play‑action than you normally do?
COACH KILL:¬† We like to be a play‑action team.¬† That's been our background throughout the years.¬† Again, I think it's a situation where the confidence level as you go and prepare, and we know we're going to have to continue to throw the ball better, and we're certainly doing that, taking increments to do that.¬† Mitch threw some balls on Saturday, the timing was good, he got it out.¬† He made some tremendous throws.
We will continue to throw the play‑action pass.¬† I think it's important.¬† Keeps people off balance.¬† Everybody getting to the line of scrimmage, it will help us run the ball better when you can do that.¬† So we'll continue to make progress and work on that.
But throwing the football loosens that secondary up and then allows you to run the ball.  So we need to do that.

Q.  Is that about as well as you've seen Mitch run those plays?
COACH KILL:  Again, he's a young quarterback.  I think over the last two games, the biggest thing about Mitch, he's relaxed.  Went out and played.  Had a smile on his face, went and played.  I think early in the year he was pressing, then he got hurt, went through some things.  I think he's feeling good, feeling better.  I always say, if you feel good, you play good.  I think he's feeling better about what he's doing and more comfortable.

Q.  Has Mitch improved his passing since training camp?
COACH KILL:  Well, he threw it a lot during training camp, no question about that.  I think people got to understand in throwing the football, we recruited him, he threw the football, that's why we recruited him, had a lot of success.  It's different at college.  I would tell you the biggest thing I think quarterbacks get judged a lot of times, they say, Man, bad day throwing the ball, didn't do very well.  The number one thing in throwing the football is the people up front protecting it.
If he's got a chance to step into his throws, has time to step in there and throw it, he's going to be accurate.  The kid can throw the football.  If you're throwing off the back foot all the time, got pressure in your face, continue to get hit, that happened at TCU, I don't care who they are, they get uncomfortable.  If you can get a quarterback uncomfortable, that's a good thing.
That's the same thing we try to do.  We try to get those Qs uncomfortable, get nervous in that pocket.  That's why we pressure people.  If they get back there and they get comfortable, get in a rhythm, it's going to be a long day.
Some of the things you try to do play‑action wise, things of that nature, you're able to have a better opportunity to protect the quarterback, stay out of third‑and‑long.¬† Most important thing to do is stay out‑of‑third‑and‑long.¬† If you get in third‑and‑long, defensive tackles gear up, know you're going to throw the football.¬† You say, We can run draw.¬† They twist up front, take the draw away from you.¬† If you stay out of third‑and‑long, you can throw the football better.

Q.  He put pressure on himself early.  At any point did you say, Relax?
COACH KILL:  I think every coach on our staff did, including defensive coaches.  Our defensive coaches, when he was a true freshman, he worked with the work team, got our teams ready to play.  I don't know about midway through that, I know Coach Claeys and guys like that said, That guy, he's going to be good, he's going to give them a run for their money.  He's tough.  He'll sit in there.  He throws the ball and so forth.
The defensive coaches have a lot of respect for Mitch, too.  I know coach said, Hey, play like you were on the work team, man.  Just relax, go play.  I think every coach did.  I think sometimes as a player, you just got to get comfortable.  Also through that period of time, he's battling MCL and turf toe.
I really think that it's just a lot of people that were in the room that got confidence in him just said, Hey, go have fun.
He did a good job.  A good example, he threw a pick on Saturday.  Kid made a good play and so forth.  I think three weeks ago, it would have ate him alive.  Didn't do nothing to him.  Came back, threw a post corner.  I think that to me was really important, it really was.
But we're halfway through the season.  We got a whole lot more to do.  As our whole team progresses, I think Mitch will.  But we have a lot of work to do.

Q.  As soon as you got this job, did you tell your fellows to go get some defensive backs that could run?
COACH KILL:  Yeah, we did.  We said we were going to build our team on defense.  First thing in priority was to go get defensive players.
Everybody has a different philosophy.¬† I had a question just asked me about, you know, no‑huddle and scoring, winning 50.¬† There's a lot of ways to win a game.¬† We felt like coming in, we needed to improve the defense, felt like you had a chance to win championships if you played good defense.
When we recruited, that was our first focus.  We were going to get good on defense, then we'd move to offense.  So that was our philosophy.  We were fortunate, a lot of those kids playing secondary, we were the only ones recruiting several of them.  But we had them in camp.  We got a chance to see them.
Eric Murray was a wide receiver from Milwaukee.¬† We got him into camp.¬† Jimmy Zebrowski had a tie‑in with the high school coach.¬† We watched him.¬† Man, this guy can run, athletic.¬† We felt like these are the kind of kids we got to get.¬† We got to do a good job in the weight room and got to do a good job coaching them.¬† That's what we try to do.
I think if you look at the teams that are winning championships, they all still play defense.  I mean, I really do.

Q.  How important is it to you and your philosophy to redshirt a quarterback like you did with Mitch?
COACH KILL:  Well, I'd like to redshirt a lot of people, to be honest.  Back in the day you could redshirt people, build your team.  You got the depth and so forth.
I think it's important to redshirt a quarterback, if you can.¬† I think it's important that you redshirt a runningback, if you can.¬† That gets your program where you're recycling all the time.¬† When we're playing nine or 10 freshmen, we're redshirting at this point in time three receivers that are very talented, actually four, linebacker, three or four offensive linemen.¬† We did pull a redshirt off Conner.¬† So that hurts you depth‑wise.
But we have to do it.  We had an empty class.  We got to make up for it.  We're doing what we can.  But you'd like to redshirt them all because it gives them a chance to mature in the classroom.  If we had redshirted David.  So now I just opened up a can of worms.  People are going to write, Boy, he's a dummy, and they're right.  Had to do what we had to do, right?  You look back at it, you go, Didn't redshirt Jimmie Ward either, so...

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH KILL:  I don't know (laughter).  Flip's got a lot of pull.  He's got a lot of pull.  He wants that suite, he deserves it.  My wife pulls all the strings in my house, so I don't know.  But good for him.

Q.¬† In the off‑season you probably had a picture of how good your defense could be this year.¬† What has surprised you or pleased you the most about how they've gone out and played?
COACH KILL:  Well, I think, number one, losing Scott Ekpe, we don't have a lot of depth, I don't think we felt some of the guys that have stepped in that are young would be doing pretty well right now.  They still make mistakes, but they're doing pretty well.  I think we felt so good about our secondary, we needed Damien Wilson to take the next step.  De'Vondre we needed to take the next step.  Jack Lynn works his tail end off, but I didn't realize that he took a huge jump from one year to the next.  But that's hard work.  Made himself more athletic, flexibility and so forth.
I think we thought we had a chance to do some good things.  But we had to have some players move forward.
Again, when you gain a little confidence, you get better.  We're evaluating over a half year, so to speak, done pretty good.  You know, there's still a lot of work to be done.  But I think, again, that's a group that's gained confidence.  Our secondary's playing very well.
Even on Saturday, I mean, kid played well.  Their quarterback played well.  But we made him earn it.  Only scored 17 points.  That's the way you got to look at it.  Any time in college football you can hold somebody to 17 points offensively you better be good enough to score more than 17 or special teams.

Q.  What did you notice about Jalen last year?  You didn't throw him right in the fire.  You played him a little bit on special teams, gave him some chances.
COACH KILL:  Well, speed.  He had great speed.  He could play offense, too.  We recruited him, he could play tailback, inside receiver.  Again, we're going to put some of those guys that can do special things in the secondary.
His speed, he's a physical kid.¬† Shoot, I think he was up to 210 now.¬† He's a big, strong corner.¬† Just his speed.¬† You take an athlete like that, he loves football, three‑quarters of this thing, you got to love football, or all of it actually.¬† He loves playing the game of football.¬† Good athlete.

Q.  You got three of these 11 a.m. games now.  How do you feel about that starting time?
COACH KILL:  It's one of those things where we're controlled by the TV network.  We understand that.  It's one of those situations where I think for our fans, I get all kinds of emails, Why are we playing at 11:00?  What's going on, coach?  Get that changed.
I can't change that.  That's part of TV stuff.  But for a coach and kids, hey, wake up and get going.  You play, then you're done in the afternoon.  Then you be with your recruits.  As a coach, you got more chance to get going for the next one.
You can look at it a lot of different ways.  But for our fans I think it's tough, get up and tailgate at 6:30 in the morning.  The atmosphere, them getting there to the game is a little bit challenging for our fans.  I feel bad for our fans.  There's a lot of people that got night games.  People like that.
I'd say the only big concern I have, not for us so to speak, but for our fans.  That's why I tell the administration they need to start letting them come in Thursday night and enjoy life (laughter).
But it is what it is.  You just go play.

Q.  Would you change it if you had a preference?
COACH KILL:  I think for fans you'd have to help me, I'd say 2:30, that's one.  A lot of people like night games because they get all afternoon to get cranked up, morning and afternoon.  They like night games.  Night games, you're on TV, a lot of people watching night games.  They like that.
I'm all in it for the fans, what's ever best for the fans.  You also have to understand TV, the money involved, the money our university gets.  You just go play.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH KILL:  No doubt.  We need to continue.  We've tried to force feed that ball a little bit to him and want to.  Of course, coverages dictate that a little bit.  But, yeah, we got to continue to find ways to get the ball in his hand because he's a productive player.  He's a good blocker.  He's good.  He's a really good player.
Thank you.  Appreciate it.

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