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November 4, 2014

Darrell Hazell

COACH HAZELL:  Coming off of a very physical contest against a good Nebraska team, and I thought our guys competed extremely well.  Some of the things that we needed to do well in terms of special teams like on the road, we always talk about superior special teams on the road that really put us in a bind.  Their first three drives started on the plus side of the field.
I thought our defense did a good job on all three of those drives and obviously they came up with points the first one, but continued to get better and we need to continue to get better.  We need to get guys back for Saturday, and play a really good Wisconsin football team.

Q.  You're facing one of the best defenses in the country.  What makes them so good defensively?
COACH HAZELL:¬† They play so hard.¬† They've got two really good marquis players on that defense in my opinion, number 30 and number 7 are really good football players that make good football plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.¬† If you watch the rest of their defense, they play extremely hard.¬† They like to give you the illusion that they're bringing pressure a lot, which they're not but they'll bring one guy off the edge and drop guys.¬† So a lot of times it's a four or five‑man rush.¬† It's not a five or six‑man rush.¬† But I think they do an exceptional job in terms of their effort and their energy, and knowing where they're supposed to be.

Q.  You mentioned you played a physical Nebraska team.  Your defense which played very well against them, now it's going to be facing one of the most physical running attacks.  What is the key to having success against that?
COACH HAZELL:  Our defense or our offense?

Q.  Your defenses, going against one of the best?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Oh, yeah, it all comes down to being able to stop the great back that they have, which is, you know, a monumental task.¬† He's a very good player.¬† What makes him so good in my opinion is he is really, really fast in the hole.¬† He's got really good quickness in the hole, but he's also got the top‑end speed once he hits the edge.¬† He'll run for two yards to three yards, five yards and all of a sudden he'll hit a 70‑yarder.¬† So we can't have them have those big runs.

Q.  What is the status of your wide receivers?  I'm assuming (No microphone) is out?  Where are you after that?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, Danny is out.  So what we'll do is start Yancey at the X position.  We'll have Posey inside at the H, and then we'll put Trae Hart at the Z and being backed up by Myles Norwood.  We'll have Shane Mikesky backing up at the 8th position.

Q.  How do you accelerate their readiness for what they're about to face?
COACH HAZELL:  I'm sorry, I don't understand the question.

Q.  To get these guys, some of them are still a little young.  To get them ready for the physicality and intensity of the game, what do they need to do in practice this week?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, I think we've got to be really smart as a staff this week in practice being as sore as we are and this late in the season.  But you have to get the perfect looks that you need to get.  I think that's the balance that we have to find, but there are a lot of guys that have to grow up pretty quickly.  Guys that have not played a lot for us, like the Trae Harts and those types of guys.  They have to grow up pretty quickly.

Q.  And lastly, how is Frankie doing?  What role do you think Landon Feichter having too?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, Frankie is going to be a day to day situation.  We'll continue to evaluate him and see how his head continues to clear.  Landon's going to be our starting safety.  I thought he did a great job for us last week, and he needs to continue to play at that level or better and help other guys play at that level.

Q.  Pete asked you you're kind of banged up, obviously, at the receiver position with Danny out.  But flipping that, over on the defensive side, you've got some guys banged up too.  You've mentioned Frankie, but you're facing a great running attack, you need all the defensive weapons you can get.  What is the update maybe on some of those guys that are banged up from Nebraska?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Yeah, Ra'Zahn has got a mid‑foot sprain.¬† He'll be a guy that we'll have to monitor this week and see how much we can get out of him.¬† It will be probably a game‑time decision with him.¬† Ryan Russell is pretty good.¬† We thought he was going to be a little worse, but this morning he was pretty good, his ankle.¬† I think, who else?¬† Jalani's okay.¬† He's got a deep side bruise, but it was a little looser today, this morning, so he's coming along.¬† So that's the thing that we have to really be careful about that those guys don't get those injuries banged up again this week.

Q.¬† Because you're facing kind of a smash mouth, in back‑to‑back weeks, sometimes that doesn't happen.¬† But I would think that's essential with another smash mouth?
COACH HAZELL:  Absolutely.  We've got to be, again, what we do in practice this week is so critical today and tomorrow T I think if we could get by tomorrow's practice and come out of it pretty healthy, then we'll be as healthy as you like to be going into this Saturday's game.

Q.  Obviously, your focus is completely on Wisconsin and nothing really beyond that.  But this team has since Iowa has really made marked strides and improvements.  It's still, there are tangible goals out there still to have.  I mean, that would include the last two games, but I know you're not looking past that.  But just for this team to still be in a position to get the four in the league maybe, 6 and 6 overall, possibly a bowl game which Purdue did two years ago by winning out before you got here.  Just talk a little bit about having goals that are still reachable out there?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, I think it really drives our guys.  It really does.  I think they see that.  We don't talk a whole lot about it.  We talk about this next opponent.  But they're intelligent young men as well.  So they understand.  That fuels those guys, especially with those 17 seniors that sit in the front of the room.  They understand they only have two opportunities to play left in the furnace, and that's very important to them, so they're going to make every opportunity count.

Q.  Along those lines, an opportunity to beat a program like Wisconsin's would be a feather in your cap.  It would help you on, I think, many fronts?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, you're looking for that breakout moment.  That's what you're really looking for.  It's not so much a feather in anybody's cap.  We need to have one of those signature moments that really takes us to the next level.  Obviously, you're playing a great Wisconsin team and certainly we'll be looking forward to.

Q.  What is the one thing that makes Melvin Gordon special that you can see from him?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Like I said, I think his quickness in the hole and his top‑end speed are probably what separates him from most other backs.¬† He's a long guy.¬† He's very.¬† You just watch his stride length and his turnover.¬† He's a 6'1" plus guy that really picks them up and puts them down.

Q.  Outside of the great backs they've had, what did they do from a systematic standpoint or philosophical standpoint that they're always so good?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, they trade the tight ends and they run zone.  They run a little bit of power, but they're a zone football team and they're going to run it over and over again from condensed formations, they'll run it from expanded formations.  But they're really good at combination blocks, getting up to the second level and letting the back be patient with it.

Q.  What do you have to worry about with their passing game?  What is your biggest concern there?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Well, it's always you must have the eye discipline in the back end, because they are going to lull you to sleep.¬† How many times they're going to throw it, you don't know.¬† But when they do throw it, you better be in coverage with your corners and safeties.¬† So that's the concern that you have when they play‑action pass you.

Q.  If you could kind of break down their defense for us?  What kind of stuff do they do?  Have they changed their defense from last year a little bit?
COACH HAZELL:  A little bit.  They're playing a little bit of odd front a lot more than they did last year.  But they played that more early in the season.  I think they're going to play, if I had to guess how they're going to play us, they're going to play us in an even front.  They're going to play man free coverage.  They're going to bring one guy on first down, one guy on second down.  They're going to drop the ends out and try to replace those guys so it looks like pressure.  But like I said, it's probably not pressure.

Q.  As far as progression over the season, which guys are impressing you the most?
COACH HAZELL:  Danny is the guy that took some leaps and bounds over the last three or four weeks.  I think Akeem's playing as well as he's ever played and just giving us so much.  The next guy, if you look at our full roster, is Jake Replogle.  He's a guy that's really been productive in the last couple of weeks, and he just continues to get better.

Q.  Any preseason expectation to contrast what's going on?
COACH HAZELL:  Preseason?

Q.  Expectations.
COACH HAZELL:  I don't quite understand the question.

Q.  Were you expecting anything and have they followed through?
COACH HAZELL:  Oh, I got you.  I think the one thing you always ask them to do is get better.  I think as you look from our preseason until now, I think they've made huge strides and we need to continue to make those strides.

Q.  Has Austin particularly progressed?
COACH HAZELL:  He's done a really nice job in the last few weeks.  He's done everything we've asked him to do.  He took care of the ball pretty well last week.  Obviously, he's not perfect.  But he continues to drive the offense and his whole mood in the huddle, his tempo and all those things that you look for out of a quarterback, his leadership skills, he's providing that for us.

Q.  What are the strains of facing topnotch running backs done to your team's psyche?  Helped or hurt?
COACH HAZELL:  I think they get up to play these great running backs we're seeing in the Big Ten.  We've seen a few of them and we'll continue to see them.  I think our defense really thrives on trying to stop those really good players that carry the ball in our league.

Q.  Taylor Richards is a guy you mentioned yesterday.  Would he be good to go today or is he going to be a game time?
COACH HAZELL:  No, we're going to hold him today.  Give him one more day of rest.  He's got a foot sprain that's a little different than Ra'Zahn's, but we're going to rest him one more day.

Q.  After Danny's MRI, is it just an ACL or is there anything else going on with his knee?
COACH HAZELL:  We pushed it back to today at 3:30, so he has not had the MRI yet.

Q.  Just with Akeem, just how durable he's been for you, and did you have any questions that he could hold up with as many carries and as many touches that he's been getting so far?
COACH HAZELL:¬† I think the thing about him that you see week‑in and week‑out is how physical he plays with the ball in his hands.¬† He finishes runs.¬† And that was something that I wasn't so sure we were going to see at the beginning of the season.¬† But he's really proven us to watch him, and watch him really make those huge plays with the ball in his hands against defenders.¬† Just so proud of him and happy for him, and I told him that yesterday, just at his progression, and he's doing everything we're asking him to do.

Q.  But to lean on him as much as you have.  Illinois carries 30 times.  I think Nebraska nearly 30 touches when you combine the rushing and the passing.  I mean, he's not even 200 pounds.  He's probably a 175 wet.  But for him to hold up as well as he has?
COACH HAZELL:  He came out of it pretty sore on Saturday.  Which you expect.  He's pretty much a welt getting on the plane.  But he said to me yesterday in the office that he feels pretty good today.  So we're going to put a red jersey on him.  Make sure he doesn't take any shots during the course of the week, and we'll make sure he's ready for Saturday.

Q.  Do you have to lean on him more now that Anthrop is out?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Well, those were our two providers of huge plays on offense.¬† Those two players.¬† Raheem obviously was the guy‑‑ probably the third guy in that position.¬† But absolutely.¬† We're going to have to make sure he still touches the ball 25 to 30 times a game for us to be successful.

Q.  With the receivers, I guess, why Trae Hart?  Why does he move into that spot?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Because he's the guy that we think has the most pop in terms of being able to hit the big play.¬† He's quick, he's got some speed.¬† He's obviously a young guy that doesn't play as the speed that he should yet because he's still trying to figure it out.¬† But if we can get him the ball enough times or a couple times and he can provide some of that energy and fast‑twitch, that's why you like that guy.

Q.  Has Austin done enough these four games to be your guy the rest of the year regardless of what happens?
COACH HAZELL:  I don't know about regardless, but I think he's done enough for him to be our best quarterback on Saturday, for sure.

Q.  But you're not looking at it beyond that?
COACH HAZELL:  We're trying to beat Wisconsin.  That's all we're trying to do right now.

Q.  Just with Wisconsin's defense.  I know you go back and watch a lot of their games.  At what point did you notice that their defense was starting to assert itself and be what they are today?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Well, see, I always watch it backwards.¬† I always watch the last game first.¬† I don't watch the first game last.¬† So I watch the last game first so I'm not trying to confuse you, but that helps me get into the flow of how they've developed over the last couple weeks.¬† You see‑‑ you watch, and then you go back and I watched the Northwestern game after I watched the other couple of games and see where they fell short a little bit in the Northwestern game.
But they had some personnel that was down a little bit and they made some penalties and Northwestern made a couple plays to keep them off balance.

Q.  Has it been these last two weeks with Rutgers and Maryland where they've come to play defensively?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, I thought the Illinois game they played pretty well.  Even though Illinois put some points on them, I thought they played well in the Illinois game as well.

Q.  You mentioned that you were impressed with Nebraska's defense.  Any similarities between Nebraska and Wisconsin's defense?
COACH HAZELL:¬† There really isn't schemewise.¬† Energywise, absolutely.¬† But the schemes are completely different.¬† Like I said, sometimes they'll start an odd front and move to an even front.¬† And they want to bring pressure where Nebraska could care a less about bringing pressure.¬† They'll handle you with the front four.¬† You're still going to see man‑to‑man coverage on the outside.¬† We're always going to see man‑to‑man coverage until we can show we can beat man‑to‑man, so that's probably the only similarities between the two styles.

Q.  Is Corey Clement, their Corey Clement is a change of pace back for them?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, he's a good player.  I think he had two big runs against Rutgers last week.  Yeah, he's a little shifty, and he's got a little more speed than you think he does, and he's a tough runner.

Q.  I wasn't trying to be the caller on your radio show for Corey Clement.

Q.  You didn't mention Monteroso.  Is he not part of the rotation on Saturday?
COACH HAZELL:  He's potentially part of the rotation.  He's got a little bit of a knee that we have to watch here in the next couple days.  We'll evaluate him today and see how much he can give us.

Q.  Leroy Clark got the start.  What did you think of how he played?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Started off pretty well.¬† I thought he didn't hurt us.¬† Again, they'll get the start this week and we'll start Anthony Brown and the third man off the bench will be Antoine Lewis, and he will be‑‑ he'd have a pair and a spare really at both the corners and safety spot.

Q.  Is Da'Wan Hunt hurt?

Q.  What is his injury?
COACH HAZELL:  It's a lower leg injury that he's trying to get back to.  We probably won't have him until after the bye week.  That's our speculation right now.

Q.  What are you doing differently in terms of a helmet detail or something for this week?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, we're going to wear red, white and blue stripes on our black helmet and we'll have a special flag P.  And on the back of the helmet, it will say "United We Stand".

Q.  Who is going to return punts?
COACH HAZELL:  We're going to have both Landon Feichter, as well as Myles back there.  Not Myles Norwood.

Q.  Was it a goal before the season to be bowl eligible?
COACH HAZELL:  We talk about a lot of goals in the beginning of the season, but that was not one of them.

Q.  Just the fact that you know you have to win out now, and I know we asked you a little bit about that and you're not talking about it.  But do you feel that the guys know there is pressure on them this week or anything?
COACH HAZELL:  No, there's no more pressure than there is any other week that you go into a game.  You prepare as hard as you can for that opponent, and you put yourself in the best position to win the football game.  You don't worry about two weeks from now or three weeks from now.  Those things will take care of themselves if you take care of your first week.

Q.¬† You talked quite a bit about Danny Ezechukwu as he's moved into that role.¬† He had 12 tackles on Saturday.¬† Is he toning it down a little bit or whatever phrase you want to use for him, I guess, not being too‑‑ I don't remember what you called him?

Q.  Yes, that was it.  Thank you.
COACH HAZELL:  He's absolutely done a great job.  He surprised us in the last two weeks of how well he's playing.  We had a discussion on Sunday about a week ago Sunday we talked about is he a guy that you move back to end next year?  We had the same discussion this Sunday.  We said, absolutely not.  He probably will stay at the linebacker position because he's settling in so well at that position.

Q.  What do you like about him there?  Obviously there is quite a bit that you just have to guess what you're doing.  But the physicality is matching too?
COACH HAZELL:¬† He's a 252‑pound guy who can run.¬† He's really starting to become more and more instinctive at his position and he's got such a great motor.¬† He just plays so hard.¬† So you start to combine all those things together, and you're talking about a pretty good linebacker once he starts to figure it out.

Q.¬† I'm sure it depends on what the defense calls, but what are his primary responsibilities generally?¬† Is he a run‑stopping first guy?
COACH HAZELL:  They all have multiple responsibilities.  But you've got to stop the run and play the pass.

Q.  You mentioned Jake Replogle playing his best game last week and playing well.  What is it you think he's done recently to turn it up a notch?
COACH HAZELL:  I think thing I see from Jake now is he's always played with energy.  We've all seen that.  He's always played with great energy, but I think he's starting to understand how to get off blocks.  Helps when his pad level is lower.  Which he's starting to develop some pad level.  But his quickness off the ball and his figuring it out how guys are blocking him has really helped him in the last couple of weeks.

Q.¬† Has that been a pretty natural progression for him considering a few years ago he was a line backer and played outside for you on the line and now he's in at the three‑technique?¬† Just that he's been able to figure out how to do that from a new position this year.
COACH HAZELL:  I think that's the thing that we always forget about how young some of these guys are at the positions that they're at.  It takes a little bit of time to develop some of those techniques, and he's really starting to figure it out.  I think more and more he can play, where he's playing, which he will stay at that position, obviously, the better.  I think he's going to be a fantastic football player when it's all said and done.

Q.  Still think he can get bigger even?
COACH HAZELL:¬† He'll be a giant.¬† He's 200‑and ‑‑ I don't know what he is.¬† But he'll put on 20 to 25 more pounds in the off‑season.¬† He'll be a giant.

Q.  Part of your wide receiver stuff was putting Posey back inside.  What do you like about him there, and do you feel like he can have some similar production to what he had maybe late last year for you?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, I think playing Posey inside was probably to help Trae play better outside as opposed to putting Trae inside.  But Pose has played both inside and outside for us.  I like the way he runs some of our inside routes probably a little better, some of those search routes we're looking at.

Q.  What is the latest on Knauf?  Could he be back after the bye week for you?
COACH HAZELL:  It's still up in the air.  We talked this morning about potentially getting him back for the Northwestern game.  So we're going to see how well his development and healing goes in the next two weeks.

Q.  His return would help a little bit?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, he helps us a lot because he has the pig play capabilities.

Q.  Who would be your next safety right now?
COACH HAZELL:  Robert Gregory would be a third man off the bench.

Q.  It seeps lately he's gotten more second team reps and been that guy who slid in with the first team.  What have you liked as you're seeing more of him here recently?
COACH HAZELL:  It's always the physical part he brings.  You know he's going to strike you.  Sometimes he gets himself out of position, but he can run.  He'll come downhill.  The thing you're always concerned about Robert is he's coming downhill and those guys are running by him in routes.  So you have to make sure he stays in his deep third if he's a deep third player, or his quarters if he's a quarters player.

Q.  With the loss of Anthrop, just how important is it for DeAngelo Yancey to step up his game and take it to another level and what the expectations were for him at the beginning of the year?
COACH HAZELL:¬† We need him to come along and need to be able to have an outlet for the quarterback to go with and go to in all of those single coverages on the back side of our formation.¬† He sits back there on the back side of our formations or four by four formations and one‑on‑one match‑ups, you've got to be able to throw the ball back there to him.¬† We've not been able to do that successfully this whole year.¬† So he needs to step up another level for us.

Q.  What changes need to be made to make it easier for him to make plays, I guess?
COACH HAZELL:¬† I think you have to try to move him around.¬† Maybe put somebody outside of him so it gets the press off of him.¬† But I also think part of it is him being able to make some separation, because that's the life he lives as not ex‑receiver.¬† It's talking about getting your hips down and being able to use your body well enough to create separation, like I said last week, late enough in the route where it's not too early.

Q.  Offensively, we've seen a little bit of it.  But with Anthrop going down and you needing somebody to step up with explosive plays, do you anticipate he and Akeem being on the field more together to generate a spark?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, we have to be able to put those two on the field just a little bit more than we did last week, probably as much as we did a couple weeks ago but you have to bring what we call rabid personnel as well as the clean personnel in the game together to be able to get those two guys on the field.

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