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November 10, 2014

Chris Ash

Q.  I'm sure you've watched Minnesota tapes at this point.
COACH ASH:  I have.

Q.  What do you see about them on film?
COACH ASH:¬† To start, they're a well‑coached offense.¬† They're a physical offense.¬† I think Coach Kill has done a great job with that program.¬† Watching the program develop over the last four years he's been there, he's done an outstanding job.¬† He's got an offensive line that's physical and backs that run hard.
He's got several tight ends that do a great job of blocking at the point of attack.  And they've got a nice scheme to keep you guessing some misdirection.  And they have power downhill and stuff.  A lot of challenges as we go forward and face Minnesota.

Q.  One of the leading teams in the nation in terms of yards per completion.  Is that a result of the effectiveness of play action, or is there something else at play there?
COACH ASH:¬† Well, yeah, they do such a good job of running the football right now, you've got to devote more defenders to stop the run.¬† And it isolates your backs in one‑on‑one situations.
And they've done a great job exploiting that.  Taken deep shots in certain personnel groupings over the top and connected with them.  Obviously that increases your average per completion when you're able to do that. So they've done a good job with that to complement the run game.
When you look at Cobb, their running back, what stands out about him?  He seems to be one of the more spectacular runners in the country right now.  What jumps out at you about him?
COACH ASH:  Starts with their offensive line, they're doing a great job blocking up front for him.  He's a hard runner.  When he gets that ball, he's a downhill runner.
They run a nice A, get power, not looking to bounce looking to run downhill.  He's a hard runner and he gets the yards.  He keeps his legs driving all the time.  He's a load.  He's a challenge.  And he fits well with their scheme.
The other thing Saturday night, like Urban talked about this a little while ago, maybe you all didn't relax maybe, but you had a preview situation or whatever went on.  What are the things you all learned from that fourth quarter, do you think, that will help you?
COACH ASH:  Well, anytime you get into that situation, the thing that you continue actually try to stress to your team, you've got to finish.  Especially when you're facing a good opponent.
I thought we played an okay game through the first three quarters, started off a little slow.¬† Settled down the second and third quarter.¬† Played decent really until about the 12‑minute mark of the fourth quarter when we were up 42‑24.¬† We gave up two touchdowns there in the last 12 minutes.¬† They weren't pretty either.
I was really disappointed how we finished that game.  That's something we've got to continue to build on.  It's happened a little bit to us before in the previous games, more so with some of the backups when we put them in.  We weren't able to finish the games the way we wanted to come out on a positive note.
We have to learn to do that.¬† We got kind of comfortable on defense because we were up 42‑24, 12 minutes to go.¬† We had a couple of take‑away opportunities in one of those drives, that if we maybe got a fumble or interception we had an opportunity to get it might have changed things.¬† But bottom line we didn't finish the game that way we wanted and very disappointed and upset about that.

Q.¬† Eli Apple, I don't think he started the game, he was on the stationary bike.¬† But he came in‑‑ actually seemed to lift the defense.¬† What do you see about him that's different from five to six weeks ago?¬† Do you see confidence?¬† What do you see about Eli?
COACH ASH:  I see a kid who continues to mature, confidence continues to grow.  Saturday night was a great challenge for Eli, great opportunity for us to see how he was going to respond.
He did not practice at all last week.  Did not take one rep at practice.  And leading up to the game, even on Saturday morning, we weren't sure if Eli was going to be able to play or not.
So we made the decision to start Gareon Conley, went through the first couple of drives there.  It got to a point, we said Eli, You've got to go.  And Eli said, I'm ready.  He went in there, he played.  And he didn't play his best football at the end of the game.  Gave up a touchdown in the fourth quarter that was disappointing.
But throughout the course of the game, from when he went in to that point, he made some plays, both in the run game and in the pass game.
Great opportunity for us to show or for Eli to show us where he's come from and excited about his future, because of that.  I mean, he showed some grit, some determination, some guts, some toughness that honestly we didn't know Eli had.

Q.¬† Fourth down play, were you‑‑
COACH ASH:  Absolutely.  They'd run that same play on us earlier in the game.  They got caught for holding.  Eli was the first time.  Tyvis Powell wasn't quite where he needed to be.
We got it fixed on the sideline.  Came back, did it on a fourth down.  We fit it the right way.  And Eli was at the point, setting the edge.  Actually made a great play.
But Eli showed a lot of character in that game, again, because he hadn't practiced all week.  And there were some things that he could have done better, we'd like to have him do better in the game, but a lot of it had to be contributed to just a lack of practice time throughout the week.

Q.  You were brought in to install that aggressive defense.  You guys had eight pass breakups on Saturday.  Is that what pretty close to what you wanted to see and implement what is defense?
COACH ASH:  That's always part of it.  At the end of the day, you want to play well enough to win the game, and we were able to do that.  Disappointed with the total number of yards that they got at the end.  But some of the pass breakups specifically in the first half that we were getting, we were playing some pretty tight man to man with some pressure and we weren't necessarily getting there with pressure but we were playing tight with our coverage and we got some PBUs, would have liked to have a couple of takeaways in there.
But at the end of the day disappointed with how we finished the game.  But I thought throughout the course of the game, especially in the second and third quarter, we were playing pretty good pass defense, tight coverage, got our hands on balls, making them throw in the tight windows.  That's what we want to be able to do consistently.  We just didn't do it for four quarters.

Q.  Disappointed with the run defense?
COACH ASH:  Absolutely.  I'm sure Coach probably hit on it.  We played well enough to win the game.  But we didn't play up to Ohio State standards Saturday night.
And we're not measuring ourselves on what others do.  We're measuring ourselves on what we do.  And Saturday we didn't play up to our full potential defensively for four quarters.
We had spurts and moments that we played well enough there in the second and third quarter, like I said, but we have to play better.  If we want to win at a high level and compete for championships, we have to play great defense.  That's both run and pass defense.  And Saturday night we didn't play well on offense and defense.  And we've gotta do a better job.

Q.  How does Minnesota utilize its tight ends, in particular Max Williams, No. 88?
COACH ASH:¬† Well, he's a traveling‑‑ he's a guy that motions around.¬† They put him as a wing a lot of times.¬† He motions around.¬† Lead blocker at the point of attack.¬† A guy that gets down on a lot of play actions, whether it's verticals or wheel routes to get behind the coverage.
He can get matched up on corners.¬† He's got a little size advantage on some smaller DBs, goes up and makes nice plays down the field.¬† But he's a good all‑around player.¬† Good blocker at the point of attack.¬† Like I said, can get down the field, stretch you vertically in the play action pass game and go up and jump make some catches in the air on some smaller DBs.¬† So he's a handful.

Q.¬† Coach Meyer was in here, said he watches the film and kind of sees‑‑ can see what the buy‑in is on the film, how guys support each other and react to each other.¬† He said he was pleased with how that's coming along.¬† Obviously as a coach that's what you want but to have it, what does it open up for you, what does it help you to do as a coach?
COACH ASH:¬† If you don't have the buy‑in, the belief in what you're doing and belief in each other, you don't have a foundation to do anything, to be honest with you.
And that's the thing that we do have here, we talk about it, defensively we weren't happy with the performance and production on Saturday night.  But it all starts with these kids believing in what we're doing.  They've bought into what we're doing.  Give great effort and studied the game.  When you have that, you have a chance to be successful and you can get problems corrected when you have that.
It's when they don't have belief, they start pointing fingers and start complaining and start blaming others, then you've got a real issue.  We do not have that on this football team in any phase, offense, defense or special teams.  When you have that, it's a special group to coach.

Q.¬† With Minnesota, it's kind of a no‑frills offense.¬† Like they're going to run, line up and run the football. ¬†Do you guys stress, do you guys go back to some of the basic fundamentals of forming up and tackling this week and stress that more so in practice this week because of the nature of the offense?
COACH ASH:  Not necessarily tackling, because tackling is such a big emphasis for us to begin with.  If you're going to be any good on defense, whether it's pass game or run game, you've got to be good at tackling.
I think so far this year we've been pretty good at our tackling.  That's because of the emphasis that we put on it.  What we really have to get back to is emphasizing the fundamentals of run fits.  We have to be in the right spot.
We've got to be more explosive with our block destruction to be able to get off blocks and make tackles.¬† Those are some of the things we did not do a good enough job on Saturday against Michigan State that we've gotta do a better job against Minnesota's run game.¬† Fit and run is the right way, being more violent with our hands, getting off blocks and get more guys to the point of attack.¬† If something is wrong it doesn't turn into a 10‑, 15‑yard gain.¬† It's a 3‑, 4‑, 5‑yard gain.¬† And you can get them down.¬† That's where we've got to be better.

Q.  Which defensive player has improved the most since the beginning of the season?
COACH ASH:  It's probably hard to point out one individual because collectively I think the whole unit has really improved.  Some of the younger players have probably made more strides and more improvement just because their ceiling is so high and they're started so low.
We've already talked about Eli Apple as one individual.¬† But there's been several individuals on the whole team, units.¬† D‑line has improved.¬† We've got to continue to find some depth.¬† Some of the linebackers improved.¬† DBs.
I don't like to point out any individual because I'll leave somebody out, but collectively there's been a lot of improvement.  Again, a long way to go.  We're not playing at a championship level right now on defense like we want to be.  But there has been a lot of steady individual improvement.

Q.  A unit that's improved the most, like Coach Meyer talks about offensively the offensive line improved the most, a unit that's improved the most?
COACH ASH:  The two units are probably the least experienced would be the linebackers and the secondary that have both continued to grow.
But collectively even some of the older more veteran guys up front have shown a lot of improvement.  Joey Bosa from last year to this year showing a lot of improvement.  Michael Bennett continues to show improvement.
Some of the backup D linemen, Rashad Frazier showed tons of improvement so far this year.  All three positions I think we've had steady improvement.  There's not one area that's drastically improved from where we were last spring or last season to where we're at right now.  I think there's been steady improvement by all areas.

Q.  Can you tell us what's going on with Armani Reeves and will he play this week?
COACH ASH:  That I can't comment on.  I'm not sure about that.

Q.¬† In the preseason there was all this talk about Michael Bennett being an all‑American All‑Big Ten player.¬† Now those things are usually based on statistics.¬† And he doesn't pile up any of them.¬† What does he do‑‑ what is he doing that would still make him a player of that caliber for your defense?
COACH ASH:  Well, sometimes for those interior defensive linemen that get statistics, it's kind of hard because they're spending a lot of time getting double teamed.
For him right now, for us, he does provide double teams inside to make cleaner pictures in the run game for the linebackers.  He does get after the quarterback and may not get the sacks but he's in the face of the quarterback.  He's a guy that the offensive line or offensive coordinator from an opponent always has to account for.
And when you put Joey Bosa in there, they've got two guys that they really have to worry about that are explosive players.¬† They have play‑making ability.¬† They're disruptive.
And Michael Bennett, although he may not have the stats that Joey Bosa has, he's done an outstanding job for us being disruptive in both the run game and pass game so far this year.

Q.¬† Would you still put him up there as an All‑Big Ten performer?
COACH ASH:  From what I've seen from other teams on defense, absolutely.

Q.  Bosa, did Bosa feel a little frustrated on Saturday night?  What did you see out of him, because obviously they seemed to game plan for him pretty well?
COACH ASH:  To be honest with you, I don't know if they game planned for this him or not.  I'll give their offensive line a lot of credit.  They played a very well, very good game Saturday night both in the run game and pass game.
They protected the quarterback well.  That's really what they've done a good job of all year.  They've only given up five sacks.
And we were able to get them one time on Saturday night.  But we knew that was going to be a challenge, not necessarily just because of their offensive line but because of their offensive system.  They get rid of the ball quick.  They don't have the quarterback back there holding the ball, allowing pressure to get there very often.
It's a credit to what they do schematically and a credit to their offensive line that they were able to control our pass rush throughout the night.
Even when we blitzed, we had trouble getting there.  We did force some quicker throws.  But Joey was frustrated.  He's a highly competitive guy that wants to get production, wants to make a difference.

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