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September 8, 2015

Matt Limegrover

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Q. Can we get Campion back?
MATT LIMEGROVER: I hope so, but that's up to the medical staff. He's progressing quite a bit, so we'll wait and see what happens today.

Q. What about Lauer?
MATT LIMEGROVER: Same type of deal. Just kind of going day by day with it, and as they tell me, we plug them in. Today is an important day for both those guys for sure.

Q. How much did it hurt you not to have those guys?
MATT LIMEGROVER: You know, it's two guys that have a lot of starting experience. One of those two was going to be our starting left tackle going into TCU, and to really not have either one of them at 100 percent, it knocks you down. But on the other hand someone had to step up, and I thought Jonah Pirsig did a phenomenal job moving over there and really held down the fort for us. With every adversity you can find a silver lining, and I thought Jonah really did a great job.

Q. Coach talked about Rodney Smith grading out perfect in 46 plays, talked about how unprecedented that was. What stood out to you amongst those 46 as his crowning --
MATT LIMEGROVER: I don't know if there was one thing that necessarily stood out other than the whole body of work. I've said with regards to Rodney, he's the son of a coach. He's been around it his whole life, and you can really see that. I think there's a great amount of pride in Rodney of being a complete player. He doesn't just think of himself as a guy, hey, put me back there, give me the football, let me do my thing. He takes a lot of pride. He gets more aggravated at times when he misses a block in pass protection or if he's a lead blocker on something than he does if he misses a cut. When you have a guy like that at that young age kind of having that awareness, it didn't surprise any of us what he did Thursday night for sure.

Q. From a technical standpoint, what's Jonah doing so well at tackle?
MATT LIMEGROVER: You know what, one of the biggest things is that he really is starting to understand the position. I talked specifically this year -- we always talk about it, but specifically this year with an older group of guys, I said, this is the time when we need to raise our football IQ as an offensive line and understand more the big picture what's going on to make us individually better players, and I think that's something that he's really done very well over the last 18 months or so from the standpoint of a guy that was kind of shy, just taking it all in, kind of trying to figure it all out, to where he's that guy that is going to answer every question I ask, is going to have that extra awareness, is going to do that extra video work to make himself that much better of a player, and then you combine that with his healthy now for a year.

Even last year I had forgotten about it, he was banged up going into the TCU game last year, and it wasn't only until shortly after that that he was fully healthy and able to get on a roll and get going at the right tackle spot. It didn't surprise me he could bump over there without a problem, and he works very hard at his craft and understands he's got a great opportunity beyond here to be able to go and continue to play football and make money with his frame and his athletic ability, and I think all that is starting to really sink in with him, and he's really taking hold.

Q. After you've had a few days to look at the film and study things, how did Mitch play Thursday night?
MATT LIMEGROVER: You know what, like the entire team, he had some ups and downs. I think the important thing was that more than any other time he was proactive in being self-critical. He had already, before we ever got together, he had already watched the film on his own and came in prepared, and it was more of Coach Z said it was more of an interaction rather than a coach talking, player listening in the film session.

Those are all signs of progress, signs of a guy maturing in all areas, and there were some things he wasn't very happy with. One of the big things is that I don't care who it is. If they don't feel comfortable, they're going to struggle at times with footwork and with being able to deliver the ball, and I think once Ben Lauer gives up the sack early that causes the turnover, that's going to play on anybody's mind, and then moving Jonah over there, you know, Jonah did a great job, but in Mitch's mind, he's wondering, okay, we're actually on our third left tackle over there. It's hard to block that out, and I thought he did a good job with that, but occasionally I think that does play into a guy's thinking, and so that's where this week we're going to try and settle that down, and Jonah is going to stay over at left tackle and cinch that thing down.

Q. John is coming in today; just how does he look compared to two years ago when he was at full health before the injuries?
MATT LIMEGROVER: You know what, I think he's not quite -- he'll be the first one to tell you, he's not quite where he was at the time he got hurt. I thought he was playing the best football of his career, but he's pretty close, and I think one of the things that was nice was I was trying to do a rotation. We have him and Joe Bjorklund and those guys are both fifth-year seniors, both have had injury issues throughout, so I'm trying in the beginning of the season to keep those guys fresh. Literally it was a series-by-series rotation with those guys, but John ended up getting about twice as many plays just by the way it worked out. It was kind of an anomaly there. Felt great, doing great, and really is excited about getting more of an expanded role and has talked to me about that. He's a little bit anxious, but we're going to let it go a little bit longer, and as I told him we're going to keep working this thing and see when we get to the Big Ten season and see if there are any other adjustments we need to make. But for what he did and how he played, he was knocking some rust off, and I thought he did a great job with that.

Q. Do you expect to see Rodney's role expanding even more?
MATT LIMEGROVER: I believe so. I thing that he's proven that he can be a three-down back, and that's always what you're looking for is a guy that can tote that rock on 1st and 2nd down and turn around and stay in there and feel very comfortable whether he's staying in and blocking or we're making more of an effort to get our backs out in the pass game a little more, so when that warrants him getting out there and making plays in space in the pass game, and he proved it through that first game, and really he's done that all fall camp. That wasn't a surprise to us what he was able to do Thursday night.

Q. (Inaudible) more of a pass game than Rodney?
MATT LIMEGROVER: Yeah, I believe so. I think there's some things he can do a little bit different, and I think that gives him a little bit of edge in that situation in 3rd downs. It's one of those things where all those guys, they have those unique traits that you like about them, but I think one of Rodney's is just the completeness of what he can bring to you down in and down out.

Q. Do you expect Jeff Jones's role to increase at all? Was there more of an effort to get him in or was it just situational?
MATT LIMEGROVER: You know, Jeff is still learning. I know everybody wants Jeff to be a Heisman finalist right now, but he played a little bit of wide receiver in the spring, and we're doing everything we can to get him caught up, but there just happens to be some guys even in that younger group that have just played that position longer, played it through high school, and so there are times where he does some things that are really good, and then there are times where if he does what he did in practice, if he does that in a game, we're in trouble, and we're trying to eliminate that part of it. We're not trying to rush him in on anything, and believe me, when we feel like he's ready and feel like that's the best guy to have out there in a certain situation, there's no holding back.

Q. How about Brian, first start, all the things that he's had to overcome, how about his story and kind of what he was able to do on Thursday?
MATT LIMEGROVER: You know what, the best thing -- when you have a center who you don't have to talk about, that's a pretty great thing as far as every snap was on the money, he didn't get beat big for a big sack or a big loss of yardage. You know, he went in and did his job, and that's all I asked from him. I said, you don't have to win the Outland Trophy tonight because it was his first start, he's been through so much. I told him just go in there and play and have a little fun and enjoy this because it's been a long time coming, and I really felt like he did that. He graded out well, and like I said, when you can get through a game and you don't notice that center, no holding penalties, no fumbled exchanges, no bad gun snaps, no blow-up plays, that's a good place to start from, so I was very pleased with how he played.

Q. Are they different -- they switched to a 4-3 on defense; how much can you gather that they're different from a year ago, or is it hard to tell from one game?
MATT LIMEGROVER: Well, obviously they're veteran personnel wise and it's now how they get fit in. That's always a challenge early in the season. The one benefit we had with TCU was we knew who they were and where they were going to be for the most part. Now, they're very good at what they do, but this is a little bit more of a challenge putting together the game plan and making sure that you're sound and making sure that you're covering your bases because even though you can kind of look at what the defensive coaches have done in the past and where they've been, every time it's new. When you get with a new coach, that new head coach has a different philosophy on what he wants to do or a different way he wants to do things, even if he's an offensive coach. There's always a little bit of that unknown, so we're trying to make sure that the game plan we have is as sound and secure and safe as it can be against what we potentially are going to see.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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