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October 27, 2014

Kerry Coombs

Q.  Tyvis has made some big plays in the secondary, big turnovers, going back to the Michigan game and then of course the interception at Penn State.  Urban talked about how important it is for defensive players to play the ball the right way and how you guys had some drops.  Talk about Tyvis's growth as a playmaker and how he's impacted your defense from a play making standpoint.
KERRY COOMBS:  Yeah, I think Tyvis is playing with great confidence.  I think that confidence comes from study, from ‑‑ Tyvis is a very diligent worker in the film room, on the practice field, spends a lot of extra time.  I think that gives you an incredible advantage on the field, in a game when it's played that‑‑ you haven't played the other team, but if you've played them in your mind, you've seen them on film, you have an anticipation of what's coming.  And he plays with very, very great energy and effort, and I think that puts him in places to make plays.
I thought that interception Saturday night was spectacular, coming across the field, running in front of the receiver, laying out, and making that play.  I thought‑‑ and that's just typical of what Tyvis is doing right now.

Q.  How have you seen his evolution as a playmaker?  Obviously he's been somebody that you've included and the team has relied on since he's been a freshman.
KERRY COOMBS:  Well, you've got to remember he spent a year as a red shirt.  He got here early, and Tyvis's growth is directly related to his maturity, his growth as a man and as he begins to take on more and more, and he's a leader right now on the defense, he's a leader in the back end and as he begins and continues to take on more of that role, it just enhances everybody around him.  I've noticed, and I think we all have in Tyvis, tremendous leaps and strides in this season, knowing that he's coming in, he's going to be a starter, none of that‑‑ there's a difference when you're fighting to get a job and when you have a job, and he's got a job, so he can take another step I think in his development that way.

Q.  Coach Meyer was talking about how well the defense played at Penn State except for that last drive in regulation.

Q.  Was there anything on that last drive that stood out to you?  There was a penalty, but what stood out?
KERRY COOMBS:  There was a couple of penalties.  There was a 19‑play drive for 77 yards.  There were things I think we'd love to as players and coaches go back and do differently.  I think you have a mindset based on the amount of time left in the half‑‑ or left in the game what you're trying to accomplish, make sure there aren't big plays, and then we had the quarterback sneaks and those kind of things that extended the drive, a couple of missed tackles, a couple of missed opportunities, a couple of balls that we didn't catch that we would like to have back.
I don't know that we would do anything differently.  I think our kids rose to the occasion.  I know that sounds odd because they caught us, but they only caught us; they didn't go ahead of us.  We walked out of there with another chance to play and line up and play in overtime, and I think that that was important, as well.
It was a momentum shifter.  I think our team was back on our heels a little bit there in that last drive, and that's a tough place to play and a tough situation to be in.

Q.  Teams have defensive backs with a dropped interception do push‑ups as kind of punishment on the practice field.  Do you guys do anything similar to that?  Do you have to take penalties if you do it in the game?
KERRY COOMBS:  We don't do penalties for doing it in the game.  We talk about it.  There's not a kid in the world that goes out there with the intention of dropping a ball.  I think we all understand that.  At the same time, we call them MOBPs, missed opportunity to make a big play, and we made those, and so that's extra time on the jogs, it's extra time in functional work, catching balls, turning around and having to see it suddenly.  There's some things obviously that we're going to work on today that are going to be beneficial to that for all of our guys, but we do have things that we do with them when we drop them in practice, and to be honest with you, we've caught the ball extremely well in practice this year.  It's something that will be a continued area of emphasis for us this week.

Q.  Is there an amount of time or a number of balls on the jugs per drop or anything like that?
KERRY COOMBS:  No, what I would say to you is that what we would like for all of our players is to adopt a mindset of being a pro, and what a pro does is he works on the things that he's deficient in.  You always enhance your strengths but you try to work on the things that you're deficient in, so I think our guys know that.  They will spend a lot of time, and it's time on their own, that they're going to go out there and they're going to get some work done.
The biggest thing is you can't stand in front of the jugs machine and catch the ball like this.  It's not functional.  You've got to get a scout team quarterback to throw you the ball, a punter to throw you the ball.  You've got to go at the jugs side to side, you've got to catch the ball in different arenas, because the ones that we did not catch were not ones where the guy said here's the ball.  It's turning around, see the ball and grab it, and that's the functional part of it.

Q.  Illinois has gone from when Wes Lunt was quarterback throwing about 61 percent of the time to 37 percent since.  Early season tape, how valuable is that, and how much have they changed?
KERRY COOMBS:  Well, they're different.  They're running the ball more, obviously.  You just articulated that for us, but the kid is a‑‑ this kid is a dynamic runner, but you can't not cover guys, and they still have the passing game and the same attack that they've had in the past, so they're going to get guys down the field.
I think it actually expanded their offense rather than shrunk it.  So I think for us we've got to defend‑‑ it's not that you throw out the early tape, you've got to defend the things that they've put on film, but there's got to be a greater emphasis for what they're doing right now.

Q.  Do you think that kind of the near‑death experience Saturday will really pay off?
KERRY COOMBS:  Near‑death?  That's a little strong.  A little strong.  Do I think what about it?

Q.  How much do you think that'll benefit you‑‑
KERRY COOMBS:  I will say this:  That was a great character win.  That was a great character win.  You're not supposed to win in that situation.  You get caught from behind in an environment like that and then go behind in overtime going into their student section.  You are not supposed to win that game.  The only way you win that game is if the men on your team are men of incredible character and resilience, and they are, and that was a fantastic finish.  Do I think it makes a difference this week?  I don't know.
I think this:  You can look every guy in that locker room in the eye and say you have proved something to yourself and your teammates about the kind of man you are, now let's go enhance that this week.  Let's take that energy, let's take how we finished that game, and let's let it carry us forward.
So yeah, I think it can be a great benefit.  Fix the things that allowed us to get caught, but let's not forget, we were in a tough, tough environment, and we came out on top.

Q.  Special teams question:  How valuable is Cameron Johnson?
KERRY COOMBS:  Well, I'm going to be honest with you.  It's not just Cameron, but Cameron is remarkable.  I've got him down for 19 punts now, and think 12 of the 19 have been on the 11‑yard line in, which is a ridiculous number.  It's a function of who we are as a football team.  It's the plan to win.  We are not going to hesitate to punt when the ball is there at the midfield, 45‑, 40‑yard line to pin them down.  We've kept great track of where we are.  We're No.1 in the country in field position differential, offensively and defensively, and that is a huge factor for us.
We talk about it every week as an entire team, and everybody is responsible.  The offense is responsible for getting a couple 1st downs, the defense is responsible for three‑and‑outs.  We're all responsible for ball security because those make a factor in field position, and then our units, our coverage units, our kickoff and punt team have to get down the field and hold the other team down inside the areas where we want them to be.  Our returners have to pop the ball out.  We've been doing much better in those phases of the game.  And then you have to have your specialists perform.  Your long snapper has got to be great, your punter has got to be great, and your kicker has got to be great, and Cameron Johnson right now, I don't know that there can be anybody better in the country at doing what he does.
Practice on Thursday is an amazing thing because we ask him to drop that ball on the 8‑yard line, and I cannot tell you how many times that ball hits the 8‑yard line when he's working that drill.  It's like telling a guy to take his pitching wedge out there and put it in a hole, and he just keeps doing it.  So he's very, very valuable.

Q.  How much does Illinois's win over Minnesota on Saturday help you guys to get your players to focus on Illinois?
KERRY COOMBS:  I'll be honest with you; to me that's a non‑factor.  We didn't play well last year when we were there.  They know that, defensively.  I think that they're a very, very capable football team.  Our guys are going to see that on film.
So I don't know that that win or loss‑‑ we have great respect for them and their coaches, and I know that our players do, so I think our kids will be focused.  It's 8:00, it's in the Shoe, we're going to come out with our feet not touching the ground on Saturday night.

Q.  Their quarterback, what stands out about him?  Obviously he's had to step it up.
KERRY COOMBS:  He's making plays.  He's a playmaker.  Whether he's running the ball, distributing the ball to a variety of receivers, reading the option game, he is a playmaker, and I think he's got great momentum right now, and so that's‑‑ to me that's what stands out.  Last week you would say, well, that kid is a big, tall gunslinger.  He's got a strong arm.  This guy is a playmaker.

Q.  Doran Grant the other day had a Batman tee shirt on and we asked him who's your Robin, and he named you.
KERRY COOMBS:  Oh, he did, did he?

Q.  My point is if you see him‑‑
KERRY COOMBS:  Let me have a little conversation with Doran today.  I'm his Robin?

Q.  I thought you were the alpha, but anyway‑‑
KERRY COOMBS:  He's the Joker.  We're going to have an issue.

Q.  Has he blossomed as a personality?  What have you seen different about him?
KERRY COOMBS:  Doran, I love Doran Grant.  I know you know that already, but Doran is a very funny guy.  He does impressions and impersonations, and he never does them around because he knows I'm going to rip him.  But he's got a great sense of humor.  I think the thing that I appreciate most about Doran is the way that he is able to lead in a very firm manner, and that is‑‑ that's refreshing to see because in today's society, pure leadership is not something I don't think that's valued a great deal.
We're watching film this morning, and I'm having a conversation with one of the other secondary players in the room about a particular technique, and he's kind of mumbling around and he's not really articulating the answer very well, and Doran says, come on, man, it's this and it's this, with firmness.  Now, Doran can go in the locker room and yuk it up and hug them up and be that guy, but when it's time to go, he can look those guys in the eyes like a laser right now, and the way he's playing and the way he's leading is making a real difference in the back end.  He's the only experienced guy back there.  He's the only senior.  He's a lot of only things, and we need him to do that, and he's doing it, and I think that's because of the stuff that Coach Meyer has spent so much time on with him and others in a leadership capacity.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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