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November 2, 2015

Kevin Wilson

Bloomington, Indiana

An interview with:


KEVIN WILSON: Good open date. Some recruiting. It was a good week. Had a good practice last night, and played a very good Iowa team, very, very good.

Q. (Indiscernible) that you were going to go look at some stuff to see if you're predictable maybe on third down? Is there anything on internal reviews?
KEVIN WILSON: We're not particularly very good. Third, and two, three, four, five. Sometimes, like most people, just statistically our third and real, real long is much better, then our third is much more manageable, when you play a team like Iowa that's efficient and very good in the running game, pass combination and all that.

So there are some times we're in decent position not making plays, and that's going to happen some. When's it's (indiscernible) against Michigan State just a couple times, we got some decent coverage and they still make a shot.

But the real deal is we have to improve to me our third and medium short, where we're basically not getting any shots. When I say any, I mean it needs to be a lot more than it is. The offense has a little bit better advantage then, but defensively you can make a tackle and keep a running play for third and three and get it to one or two.

Q. Third down seems to be an issue for you guys. Your percentage I know is lower than what you'd like.
KEVIN WILSON: I think with Jordan early again, we were a lot more than third and manageables. We've gotten a little bit -- with his injury a little bit more pass oriented, which gets you more behind change with long yardage. You've also played statistically -- and this defense here is fourth in the country in run defense and very, very good. But Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State defensively are all extremely high in run defense and good defense.

So you're kind of playing uphill, I think. Not just Jordan. I think the injury of Danny, kind of hurt again, same thing. I think we've kind of lost a little bit of our balance where, again, we've gotten into more third and longs, which to me gets you sledding uphill a little bit.

Q. Talking about Jordan, I know the bye week was probably good for him. Is he better than he's been, I guess, since Ohio State, being able to come through the Michigan State game the way he did and get the week off?
KEVIN WILSON: Yeah, he practiced every day with no setbacks. We were told going into the Michigan State game he should be able to play and not have any issues, and he didn't as far as coming back. And now he practiced on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday last week with the work we did. Lifting, running. Was really good last night in the work we did.

So, he's the best he's been. Now is he as good as before he got hurt? I guess that's judgmental, subjective, his opinion. But he came out of the last game with no setbacks and looked good last night.

Q. Can you talk about what you've seen last night. Is there a little different mental positiveness with the club at this point?
KEVIN WILSON: I think as players for the most part, very impressed with how our group has handled a lot of coming to workdays every day, good or bad. I don't think this team has been a team that's been a roller coaster up and done with energy. I didn't think our game performance -- I thought we were a little stale at Penn State. But other than that, there has not been a lot of visuals of I didn't like the body language or the effort or the attitude and energy.

We did a fair amount of what I -- we'd use the word developmental. Sometimes developmental is Greg Gooch who is learning how to play bandit who is playing linebacker. Maybe it's Brandon Knight that you're playing as a freshman. It's not just how you're red-shirting guys or guys that aren't playing, it's just some of the second team guys need work.

So we did a fair amount of that last week, did some introductory work for the guys that have played a lot. Tried to take a little hitting off of them. Last night we kind of gassed it back up a little bit and kind of really -- wasn't a very long practice, but we were padded up. We were buzzing around, did a lot of work together. Short version of a preseason or spring ball kind of day. Lot of energy.

So, again, like what I saw, and hopefully that will lead into some really strong prep. Now we're kind of back into just Iowa. Last week it was a little bit of everything. Little developmental, little bit of intro of a few opponents, a little bit of get your team fresh mentally, physically.

But I liked last night, was one of the better practices we've had. And I think we're a decent practice team. Want to get us into being a better game team. We'll see if that translates Saturday. But last night was very good.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
KEVIN WILSON: To me, and I think our football guys will tell you just how consistent they play and as a group offense, defense, kicking, put it all together. Last game was an example of it's a 14-0 game, and right before the half they sky punt coffin corner to the three. Played three straight plays of shutdown D. Get a blocked punt that's deflected out to the 19, and they score and four plays later, three plays later. About an eight-, ten-play run of all phases from sky kick and the defense, and the punt return into that. Maryland scores to make it 21-7. They were covering on-side kick. Iowa does. That is the third phase of that game in a kicking unit. It's 24-7, and Maryland's down, ready to score. There is an 80-yard interception return, 80-something on a wide receiver screen.

So you see them contributing in all phases. Running defense, running the ball very, very well. Quarterback's playing at a high level. Got a lot of nice weapons, like the way their offensive lines and tight ends block and complement. Defensively playing really good run defense. Giving up 65, 70 yards a game, fourth in the country. Defensive back leads the country in pick returns. It's a team that's playing really, really good and well-coached as they always are.

Q. You've mentioned some younger players hitting a wall stamina-wise. This bye week, are you seeing guys more fresh to close out the season?
KEVIN WILSON: Well, again, last week if you had played a lot, of course, not a bunch of hitting, but we cranked it back last night with a fair amount. And what contact and work we had hitting had not played a lot. So take a little off your shoulders or off your neck of some of the stuff. We did some lifting, we did several things we do and some stretch and rehab recovery stuff. So we'll see how they feel. But you're going to play two very strong run-oriented teams with play-action pass and two road teams.

So Big Ten football in the month of November is physical football. So we'll see if we've got the toughness and mental maturity to play tougher down the stretch. So hopefully, but we'll see.

Q. How is T.J. Simmons doing with his ankle?
KEVIN WILSON: Talked to him, he said he's okay. You ever ask a question that's not medical? You know? All right. You know, he's okay.

Q. Rashard Fant, I guess you've talked about him, almost a progression for him. He needed to get bigger and stronger and adapt to the size and the speed of the game. Where is the next sort of benchmark for him? I know he's been good against a lot of number ones.
KEVIN WILSON: I think all of those guys, some of the questions have been asked. To me he's still young. First time he's played this much football. In the football world he's still a young guy physically. You tell a kid to me you need to get stronger, and one of the reasons why I don't dislike playing freshmen is when you get out there and realize you're not strong enough, it's easier to motivate them to lift in the winter. Because now they feel that. It's one thing to say that. I'm fast, I can run, I can jump, I can catch a ball, defend a ball, I can run block, whatever, but when you play Tuesday-Wednesday preparation into Saturday games for -- we've already played three months. We started first of August. You've got four weeks of preseason, you've got eight games, you play 12 weeks of football, your body wears down.

So to me Rashard's progression is just physical strength and is him getting bigger and to make more competitive one-on-one 50-50 plays. You're playing in the Big Ten, you're playing big, strong receivers. The ability to get guys on the ground, make some one-on-one tackles better and be more consistent breaking up some competitive plays. There is some length and strength that you need to do that.

Q. (Indiscernible) after Michigan State, has he kind of recovered from that performance, or is this an open competition?
KEVIN WILSON: Well, there's always competition. But to me he still leads the conference in field goal kicking. So he's human, he missed one. Whatever those PATs.

We'll see. We'll make an eye on him, make sure it doesn't become an issue. Right now he's a good kicker that doesn't have a good game. He's got a lot of time being a really good kicker, and so does Aaron. It's not like we're charting everything, but we'll keep it on. We expect him to bounce back. If for some reason, more than anything, you can be human and miss a kick. But just the way you carry yourself, and your confidence level has a lot to do with that. If we question that and need to do something else, we will.

But I do at the same time have a lot of confidence in Aaron. He was our starting kicker a year ago. They're both good. They're both the two best kids in the state when they came out. Aaron started. Aaron had a game that wasn't particularly good. Had bad body language. When we went to Griffin, he kind of took off. The next week he had a couple of good kicks against Missouri, and some nice out-end zone. Had a school record the next, he's done kind of good.

He just came off the first bad deal, so we'll see how he responds. We'll keep an eye on him. I expect him to do well. But I have a lot of confidence in Aaron if we need it. So we'll let it play out. By no means there are no threatening gestures. We expect him to bounce back, have the right body language, make the kicks he can. If he misses one, he'll make the next one.

Q. Is there anything that you're planning to do to honor veterans or anything with Veterans Day coming?
KEVIN WILSON: Yeah, the school, we always kind of do something. We do have -- I think tomorrow Jeff's going to provide an opportunity for you guys to visit with one of our players, Halford, as a Marine, 26-year-old walk-on that's joined us. Actually we were going to have him here today, but he's at the V.A. today getting his ears checked or something. He's had four years and he's still on active call. James is from Mundelein up in Chicagoland. He was a late walk-on. He's a linebacker-type guy that our defense has used as a fullback. So that will be someone tomorrow that we're going to talk a little bit.

We wear that pink deal and everybody thinks the color is cool or something. We make a big deal about the people that go through the ordeal with breast cancer and things, what a team commitment it is to overcome health issues and how much you've got to fight. And it will be the same deal if we're going to represent and do something to honor the military, well, those guys fight on a constant battle and put their lives at risk to give us a chance to live these comfortable lives we live to take for granted.

We make a big deal if we're going to represent something. It's not a cool sticker or a T-shirt or a slogan. But that your play needs -- if you're going to represent someone, you need to play in a way that those people you're representing would be proud of you. So I think we'll have James visit with you guys at the end of yesterday.

First-year guy. As a matter of fact, I asked him last week if he wanted to do something. I think he was a little embarrassed. Just got here and not playing yet. No, this is a little bit more. It's not about you, it's about our team getting ready for Iowa. But if we are going to represent our military and our vets, we've got a guy that's a four-year serviceman on our team. Like to throw him out and just be respectful of what he sacrificed and has given to us and to our country.

So that's an internal thing we'll do. I know the school will do some other things as we get into some game-day prep and whatnot.

Q. Iowa's former quarterback in a couple of weeks, but what has Beathard done for them?
KEVIN WILSON: Hasn't lost. He's 9-0. Football family. His grandfather was the old Redskins GM, I believe, Bobby Beathard, right? So just seems to have a nice presence about him. He's injured a groin, but still moving around pretty good that last game. He's smart. A kid that does have some mobility. Really distributed the ball well. I think they've got a lot of nice pieces on offense. Couple tight end guys. One of them was a kid his dad coached at Oklahoma. I know him real well. But the way they use the tight end group, they're very talented at receiver, several running backs. They've had multiple guys over a hundred yards, couple guys at 200. That goes back to the O-line, which Coach Kirk and his son Brian and the job they do. His son Brian does a heck of a job with the line. So he's back there managing.

I don't know if it's a great group, but they're better together than they are independently. The tight ends complement. And here come the hard-running running backs, and they get one-on-ones. The quarterback gets them in good plays. So you don't win all these games the way they're winning. They're scoring points. They've done a nice job. I've always had a lot of respect for their program and the job that they've done there. This is a good football team.

Q. Talk about Dimitric. He's said he's felt like at times teams have almost targeted him knowing Jason's so established on the other side of the line. Is that accurate in your mind? Have you seen him? You've talked about this, but have you seen him step up to that challenge a little bit?
KEVIN WILSON: Good question. I don't know if they target him as much. You can always flip-flop your ends and play a match-up. Some guys, that's the side they play on sometimes, whether it's an upper-level guy like Joey Bosa and Shilique Calhoun. I think he's played -- he's really played for three years. He started playing two years ago with some of the injuries to Ralston Evans. So as Ralston has had some injuries, Dimitric has had a chance to play. And as he's played, he's matured.

Now, as I say, he and Dan Feeney were awesome last night. They were flying around, feeding off each other. It was great to see. It was a good little vibe.

I don't know if Dimitric is overwhelmingly talented as an O-lineman. But he's very, very big. Very long. He's matured in strength level and, with that, his confidence. I think he feels good about himself and he plays good. So he's been solid. He's a solid player for us right now, and we'll need him to play well these four games.

Q. You said a while back he was a bit of a dude. Is that because he's from Texas?
KEVIN WILSON: I don't know if he's a dude. He's a guy. He's all right. He's good. He's playing well. He's maturing. It's just you want kids to come in and bottom line, if you had asked him, as a matter of fact, I should have pointed like Jake Reed and him out. I said tell me how your role was two years ago or three years ago. Did you really like it? Did you like the way things were going? As a lot of guys will give up or walk out or quit trying, you guys kept coming to work. You kept a good attitude. How's your role now? How much do you like it now? How much fun is it now? Because all they've done is, quote, matured and they've stayed on task and staying. They kept bringing it every day.

That being said, they've just slowly but surely matured, and it's good to see.

Q. Some of the way some of the games ended with Michigan-Michigan State at the time, Notre Dame almost had that long pass. When you approach end of game, fourth down, ten seconds left, you have the lead, do you have a certain philosophy on that? Do you punt, do you throw a long pass, do you just run around? How do you approach that?
KEVIN WILSON: Well, if you win the game, whatever you did was right. If you lose, it was a bad call. So you can skin that cat. We went years ago at Oklahoma and had practice, and Bradford's playing like let's sprint out to the right and throw a Hail Mary pass and see how long it can take in practice. Coach said okay, sounds like a great idea. Well, Sam ran out, went to throw it, when he went to throw it, the ball slipped out of his hand and it was a fumble. It was a practice. And he's like, don't do that. It's like, hey, does it take six seconds, seven seconds, eight seconds? How much time do you have? I mean, you're playing the odds.

I think the one thing -- I think too many football coaches are too conservative. I think they count. I kind of like the thought process of Tiger Woods years ago when he said he always expected his opponent to make the putt. There is another golf analogy for you. I'll just go ahead and tweak that out one more time. But he expects the guy to make it. I hope he misses. He's lining up, okay, it's right edge, here we go. I've got to make my putt.

I think sometimes -- I thought working with Coach Stoops who had a feel from Coach Spurrier, you know, like the one thing I didn't like at the Rutgers game was, well, on third and one, didn't get it. Probably should have gone for it on the third down. No punt, played defense, no, they had all the momentum. Where mathematically you say, if you look at mathematical stats, and I'm not huge on looking at them, but mathematical stats say we punt too much and the odds of getting conversions -- and really what you need are conversions that get the points.

Like I said, I thought early -- go back to that Western Kentucky. Remember the Western Kentucky game where we went for it at the end, and we were up by 10? My thought was -- when you're saying what's your thoughts, my thought was, first of all, Western Kentucky is going to score touchdowns a lot. That's just the type of team they are. Not that your defense is going to play bad. They're going to score touchdowns.

My thought was if we kick a field goal, it goes to 13. So flip over to defense, kick a field goal, it's 13. You're still losing with two touchdowns. I think we need to go to 17, make it a three-score game. So what do you guys think? Go back to offense. Okay, again, if we're sitting here, we can go to 13, because you're not going to lose at 10. A touchdown field goal, you've got overtime. So the only way you're going to lose, if we make it a 13-point game, we assure them of being in four down territory their last two drives. So they're going for it on every fourth down because they're not kicking a field goal. That's all that happened by kicking a field goal.

So in my mind I'm completely convinced there is no doubt. That is the mathematical right decision to do, and we didn't get the play. But that was the right decision to do.

Well, then, a couple weeks later everybody's making a big deal about the Tennessee-Florida game or whichever game it was. Tennessee was up by 13 or something. One of those games they were up. I can't remember.

Q. They were on the 12 and kicked the extra point?
KEVIN WILSON: Yeah, and everybody made a big deal about that one. And I went back to my game where we were up by 10 and said, hey, if we went to 13, I'm thinking we've got to go to 17. Well, if I'm at 13 and they can score two touchdowns to get me to 14, and now they've got a 1-point lead, if there's 30 seconds in the game, Griffin Oakes can get in field goal range pretty easily, because I've seen him kick 60-yarders. But what if they did score their two touchdowns and I needed to come from behind? It's a lot easier to get three points than 7 points with 30 seconds. You can get the return to the 30, 35 maybe, and throw a couple quick passes if you have timeouts, whatever.

So even in my mind I'm like I need to get to 17 so if they don't score touchdowns -- I didn't take into consideration how good my field goal kicker was, and I thought about that the next week. So I said let's play with that one more time even if I make them score two touchdowns because of the leg of Griffin Oakes, mathematically with 30 seconds to go, I'd rather get him, now I've got a chunk of touchdowns. Because if I'm at ten points, I've got a chunk of touchdown with 30 seconds. I don't know how much time's left, if you go through playing that deal out.

So I go back the last two weeks, Rutgers three weeks ago now, I thought at fourth and three, because they had scored so many points, probably should have gone for that. Even though it was on the 30-yard line, because they had so much momentum, I don't know that it mattered because they had all the mojo.

The thing with Coach Stoops and Coach Spurrier, if you don't follow a piece of paper, you get a feel for the flow of the game. Sometimes what are you doing? To me it's the flow of the game. If I'm punting it, it's going to be a one-step punt. We practiced that last night. Hey, catch it one step, get it off. Boom, got to catch it and get it out. So do you punt it, whatever.

We just show the team the Miami-Duke game, the Georgia Tech-Florida State game, and the Michigan-Michigan State game. Again, keep playing.

Q. (Indiscernible) trick-or-treat and Halloween. What did the players think about that? Did you do anything special with that?
KEVIN WILSON: Typically because trick-or-treating can be on a weeknight when coaches sometimes are working. So we just started bringing the kids to the office, have dinner with them. Because we're a morning practice team, you didn't see the players last night because we in practice -- we invited the families to catch 15 minutes of practice. Half of them had decorated themselves up in their appropriate attire. We were able to give them a meal with their dads and all that. Because even though it was open -- like, for example, I left Tuesday recruiting and was gone, and most of those guys were gone. Even though it was an off week, those guys were still working. It was nice to get a little dad time. Nothing with the players.

Q. Asking about the Michigan (indiscernible) this morning --
KEVIN WILSON: What announcement is that?

Q. The broadcast info (indiscernible) for 3:30 kickoff. That will be five out of six Big Ten games for this program that will be on ABC or ESPN, four of those six in a 3:30 slot. What kind of impact has that had, that national exposure?
KEVIN WILSON: We were out recruiting last week. When you say impact, it was kind of exciting going out recruiting. It was a good buzz and vibe with coaches. Seeing people in the hallways -- as a matter of fact, I was getting my shoes shined in Columbus, Ohio, and the guys says, man, that second team quarterback scared me to death. He didn't know who I was. I just had my logo on. I go, really? He said, yeah, that second team kid, man, he got heart. I was worried, dadada. I just kind of played along with him there. Because unfortunately it was raining so much my shoes got all gunked up, and I was actually getting a shoeshine.

But it was a good vibe. It was a good vibe in our recruiting efforts. If you look at our recruiting, we're kind of where we've been the last couple years right now. As far as who we've got, where we're at, and how we're doing. We're battling. We're going to identify the right kind of guys. We'll validate the guys with the grades are good. There is a new grading issue this year when you're going up to a 2.3 with your guys. There will be some semester academic verifications, are all your students doing well? There will be a lot of kids that we have not done early visit recruiting. We'll get a lot of guys this next week and then a lot of kids December, and our January mode.

But I was very encouraged on the road just watching kids practice, listening to their coaches talk, the phone conversations we've had, and I think the more -- now, again, we need victory and we need wins, and we've got a tough opponent this week. There was a point in time I didn't know if we were ever going to get on those networks. It's nice we're getting there, but what this is about, it's about winning and getting Mangieri and Shaw and Sudfeld and Spriggs and those guys some Ws, and we're going to have a good week and go after Iowa as hard as we can. I know they're a great team. But I just like the look in our guys. Like the way they're doing it. And I think we're going to have the best go we can this week and keep moving.

And I'm very encouraged with what I hear when we're dealing with recruits. It's still a battle. Just because they're committed doesn't mean you're going to get them. There is a lot of water to go over the dam, but I think that exposure has helped a bunch. It says a lot for the way those kids have played. We need to get Ws, though. I can guarantee you that.

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