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November 11, 2014

Tracy Claeys

Q.  Tracy, that game against Iowa, is that about as good as you've seen your defense play from beginning to end?
COACH CLAEYS:¬† You know, they played well.¬† I still‑‑ we played pretty good the last two games last year against two very good running football teams, so you know, I mean it was a good game for us, don't get me wrong.
But that's kind of the expectation around here.  We'd like to play that way.

Q.¬† Did you do anything‑‑ did you feel like you schemed any differently?

Q.  Or is that just everybody just locking in, just not making any mistakes?
COACH CLAEYS:  Yeah.  We didn't change a whole lot of anything really.  They're two back, downhill, and it's who executes the best, and we happened to stop the run, and after the first series, we played well on third down, and anytime you play well on third down and the offense has the success they had, you limit how many snaps they take.
I said before, the best defense is still standing on the boundary watching the offense.  It's hard to give up any points that way.  I thought our kids when they did get on the field, though, executed very well.

Q.  Coach Kill said as much as he enjoyed the Saturday game, he didn't have a whole lot of time to enjoy it after watching the Ohio State game later that night.  Did you feel pretty much the same that night?
COACH CLAEYS:  You know, I don't watch other BIG TEN games.  We spend so damn much time watching film of them.  I go home at night, I like to watch other conference games and be a fan of college football, and so you know, I don't watch other conference games.
So I have that rule, no matter what, till midnight, and so I enjoyed it and got up the next morning and then you go to work on the next opponent.¬† So they're a very good football team.¬† And it'll be a challenge again, you know, I mean they're playing as good as anybody is playing right now.¬† I think they continue to get better on offense and defense since the first of the season, and so‑‑ but anytime you have a chance to still be playing for the divisional championship in your division and you get to November, then it's more of an excitement than it is worrying about who you're playing.

Q.  They converted 51 percent on third downs.  Is that going to be a key this week?
COACH CLAEYS:  Yeah.  I think every week, you know, I say that, I know it gets boring when you're saying that, but don't give up the big plays.  Play well on third down, you should get to the fourth quarter and have an opportunity to win the football game.  Then at fourth quarter you gotta make plays.

Q.  They were going third down and crazy and that got shut out.
COACH CLAEYS:  Yeah, you know, they caught a ball on Eric, I think.  They caught one or two balls on Eric, and one was a bad call on my part with 3rd and 3.  I didn't do a very good job on the 3rd and 3 one.
And the same thing is that, you know, you get ‑‑ those first two drives you get what they work on all week long that they think is going to work against you or they change the scheme, and you try to find a way to survive those first couple of drives, and we haven't been very good at that, and that's my job, so hopefully we can play better out of the gate and get off the field on the third down.
But I thought we played with a lot more energy, and not one time did a kid get discouraged by it.  I just told them, you know, I'm in the box, I just told the coach on the headphones, just make sure they can't run the thing, keep stopping the run and we'll be just fine.  And we were able to do that, execute on that day.

Q.  Everett Williams didn't have a ton of big offers.  Obviously the way he moves, it couldn't have been his speed.  Do you have any theory on how he kind of fell through the cracks recruiting wise?
COACH CLAEYS:  You know, everybody has their own evaluations.  People get tired of hearing this is that, you know, Coach Poore is the one who found Everett.  I flew down and watched him practice, you know, in the spring.  I liked the way he practiced, and so we offered him.
And the side note to that, the day I went and watched him practice down there, it was about‑‑ it was in May.¬† It was about‑‑ was it May, I think?¬† And it was about 30 degrees and windy, and so I was the only coach out there.¬† Nobody else‑‑ another coach I was with went earlier in the day to the school, and he said, I can come back on another day when it's warmer.¬† And I couldn't, you know, since I flew down there.
You know, it's the same old thing, we just go off of our own live evaluations and feel like the kid's got the strength and the speed to play and plays well, then we're going to offer him.  And there's a handful of kids.  There's quite a few of them out there like Everett that don't get as high of praise, and you just gotta be willing to put in the time and the effort to find them.

Q.  Coach Kill said he thought J.T. Barrett has been passing better than Braxton Miller was.  What has been your impression of the job he's done for them?
COACH CLAEYS:  Again, on my side, I haven't seen them when Braxton Miller played as far as breaking them down.  This is the first time we've had the opportunity to play them.
I just know that right now they're throwing the ball‑‑ they're very efficient at it. ¬†They really are.
The other problem that they present is that if you miss a tackle on them, they can get it over with, you know.¬† So that's‑‑ you know, they spread you out, they got very good athletes, get you in space.¬† It'll all come down to not only the third downs, but how well we tackle.¬† They're going to throw some short balls, and we gotta get the ball on the ground.

Q.  Saturday is senior day.  What have guys like Cameron Botticelli and Cedric Thompson, how critical to what you guys have done in the evolution of this defense the last four years?
COACH CLAEYS:¬† Those kids‑‑ coach has said before we talked about winning the Kentucky Derby with a mule.¬† And you know, to play good on defense, you gotta get players, and those kids have gotten here, they've developed, they've been working extremely hard.¬† They take great pride in it.¬† When we first got here, nobody expected that, you know, and so we owe everything as a staff to them, to buy into the philosophy and believe that you can actually win football games by stopping people rather than out scoring them.
And so to all those seniors, I mean it's‑‑ and they come here at a time we weren't very good.¬† Let's face it.¬† And so they had to believe in what we were doing, and they did, and for that we'll always be loyal to them and what they've done at the University of Minnesota.

Q.  Some of those critical third downs there in the second brought Murray off the edge with some pressure.  Is that just you being aggressive or your confidence in him to make the plays?
COACH CLAEYS:  The funny thing about that is on Eric Murray is that I have more confidence in Cedric Thompson to make that tackle, because when Eric comes, then Cedric Thompson on the one, third and nine, it made him throw the ball sooner.  You don't make that tackle, there's no help over there and that play scores, you know.
Eric, we've always kind of done that.  Like I said before, is that everybody goes, well, how many times are you going to blitz during the game.  Whatever it takes to get the ball out quick, you know, and so after the first series, we thought, okay, now, you like to find out what teams' checks are when you blitz them and that.
So usually we do that one of the first or second series just to see what their checks are going to be, but it helps to bring an athlete.¬† There's no question he can run, and it helps to blitz somebody that's 190‑some pounds, so when they get there they got a chance to do some damage if they do hit somebody.

Q.¬† Jerry said that Ohio State's receivers are just about as fast as TCU's.¬† Having already played some high‑caliber guys, is there anything you can take away from that game to prepare for Ohio State?
COACH CLAEYS:  I believe in our guys.  I thought we covered TCU pretty good.  And you never know speed until you actually play them.  I know Ohio State's guys can run.  We played TCU's, but as far as comparing them, I'll have a better idea once we're done.  I just know we have enough defensive backs I believe that can run.  I believe we can cover people.
My thing is and what we preach to the kids is not only covering them but when they catch them is not giving up yards after the catch.  That'll be a huge factor in what happens on Saturday.

Q.  Still playing with a lot of confidence.  One on one.  Are they really motivated?
COACH CLAEYS:  They're pretty motivated.  That's what I say, Eric wasn't very happy with himself, you know, after the first drive, Eric Murray.  Reminded my a lot of the Nebraska game last year.  He gave up a couple of catches to Kenny Bell early on and said, coach, it won't happen again.
The other thing to that is we go into that, again, by watching film, you can tell how kids can run but you don't know how fast they are, and I always tell the DBs, on that first series, let's don't be stupid and just give up one over the top right away.  Let's make sure speed wise where we're at and how to play them.  So everybody gets a little bit more comfortable defensively with the speed of the game as it goes on as compared to just coming out of the gates.
So again, part of that is probably my fault by telling those guys anytime we start a game we're out there on an island, we give them a little bit of space till we know exactly how fast they are.  And I'm not one that believes in you can take somebody who's slower and press up and play man and stop him.  I don't buy that.  You better have better horses to do that.

Q.  They ran the ball the last two years against you guys.  Control the line on Saturday?
COACH CLAEYS:  I think the linebackers hit the fullback better.  We went more downhill.  We didn't stretch as much.  Last year Iowa was the first team we played like that.  Damien Wilson hadn't played against a team like that.
So there's a lot of variables in there, and so you know, we're still fortunate that during spring ball and fall camp that our offense does some two‑back stuff, and we ask them to do a couple of those plays during spring camp and fall that they don't necessarily run here, but Iowa does, so we could get some work on fitting those plays.
All that goes into just being better prepared or experience playing against it, you know.

Q.  Richardson was effective earlier in the year.  You could see how good he could be, but did you wonder at all how he would do once he got against these gigantic BIG TEN lines?
COACH CLAEYS:¬† No, because I'm not worried about height.¬† If you look at the way the kid's built, he's a rock, you know, and he's explosive.¬† So if you have the size and the strength he has‑‑ the only reason that kid is not playing at the so‑called helmet schools is because of his height.¬† I mean he can play anywhere in the country, anywhere in the country.
So we give him a hard time he's not going to bat down a lot of balls, you know, but besides that he can stop any run gap and he's pretty good at rushing the passer, too.  He had a lot of sacks in high school.
Again, we're very fortunate to have Steve and for him to want to be here at the University of Minnesota.

Q.  You mentioned just as a fan, but watching other teams around the country.  Can you put into perspective maybe how good Ohio's State's offense is, how it might compare with the best ones in the country?
COACH CLAEYS:¬† I think I told somebody this the other day, is that I really haven't watched them until I'd done this tape.¬† And the only thing I know is at one time‑‑ that's not true.¬† I watched them play a little bit against Illinois.¬† That's where I got the stat is I heard that for four games in a row, they'd had over, I think, 400 yards offense and 40 points or 500 yards, whatever it was.¬† They were the first Ohio State offense to ever do that.
Well, when you do things that is being done for the first time ever at Ohio State, I think that speaks huge as to how good you are on offense.  So I think they're very good.
I told somebody before, I think they've been‑‑ their rankings are‑‑ it's been unfair to them, because they're starting with a new quarterback.¬† I don't care how good you are when you start with a new quarterback.¬† At the beginning of the season you're not going to be as good, and that happened in August after they lost Braxton after they already started practicing.¬† So what they've done offensively to grow and get better and improve they've just been continuing to do it all year and playing against anybody, and it will be a tremendous challenge.

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