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December 6, 2015

Kevin Wilson

Bloomington, Indiana

COACH WILSON: Yeah, excited about some of the guys with the all conference stuff. We've been out recruiting, which has been I think okay, battling. I think we're just starting with all the changes, commitments, who is committed or not. We got one more active week of recruiting.

Last week with our team coming off Purdue, we had a long run, physical ball, kids played really hard. We took a lot of the veterans, gave them the opportunity to physically get fresh.

We lifted a few days. Went out Friday and Saturday and tied it into our recruiting weekend, then went out this afternoon. Really still giving the seniors, like Mangieri, Shaw and Sudfeld, sweats, standing around, guys that have played a lot, like Jon Crawford as a freshman and Ricky Jones, we tried to overwork those guys. We had a few practices. I love practicing. I like working it. It's young guy work, so it's kind of good.

Like I say, we're in the middle of recruiting. We got another week of that. Do the same thing next week. Then we transition into the final exam week. Then it gets to the game deal.

Appreciate being here. It's great we got these guys to the bowl opportunity and now a chance to go to Pinstripe. I think our administration worked very, very hard with many options. I think at the end of the day with what was presented, with our fan base, the Big Ten ties into the northeast region now with Rutgers and Maryland and Penn State presence. I think it's great for us to be there.

We got strong alumni there. It is over the Christmas holiday. It will probably be a little bit more expensive than some other venues. Chance to play in Yankee Stadium. I wouldn't say I'm the biggest baseball guy ever, but the first time I went to Wrigley Field I almost started crying thinking Lou Gehrig played here or Babe Ruth.

They got a new stadium, I guess, not the same field. But it's kind of neat to play in one of the great cities. It's going to be kind of neat to play in a great venue. I think we'll get some good TV time. Great alumni base. I hope our fans will ride with us and show up in a good way.

Like I say, a chance to play an outstanding team in Duke. I think this is their fourth bowl. I was down at the Peach Bowl two years ago, whatever it's called now, Chick-fil-A, when they were playing Texas A&M. Coach Cutcliffe has done a phenomenal job. We've studied them from afar, the way they've developed their program. I know Coach Cutcliffe from the coordinator days at Tennessee in the '90s. He's a great coach, doing a great job.

It's neat to play a strong team. I know they've got strong East Coast ties. I think it matches up to be a good game and we look forward to the preparation and a chance to keep getting our program better. Excited about that.


Q. When you won the Purdue game, you talked about one of the things you hoped was wherever you went, you got a Power 5 opponent. Do you feel like you got the kind of matchup you were hoping for?
COACH WILSON: Yeah, and those are always hard because you don't control that. Sometimes you're playing teams that cosmetically are going to be very hard to win, but when you do, it doesn't look good, because everybody assumes you're going to. And there are a lot of teams that are at that Power 5 level that are very, very good. Got stuck playing Boise one day in the Fiesta Bowl. Tough matchup.

Any time you're someone in a bowl game, you're playing a good team, playing a winning team. They've got winning traits. It's always going to be good competition.

I think for our chance, to play a team like Duke, good selling brand, Southeast branding, East Coast branding, it's going to draw TV and recruits. You're going to the city.

When I asked the guys on Monday, here are some scenarios, how many of you have been to New York City? I think about 20 of our kids raised their hands. We're going to stay about two blocks off of Central Park at a big location. We're not going on vacation, but it will be nice to get them into one of the great cities of the world and represent a great institution with a great alumni base up there. So it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm really excited to play Duke.

Q. You just got back from recruiting, but does the team strike you as hungry? First bowl win possibly since '91. Have you talked to them?
COACH WILSON: Not yet. We didn't know what was going on. Here is the process of what we're going to try to do to get better this week. Some of you guys, we're going to try to rest you and take advantage of it. Some of you guys need rehab. Some of you guys need some academic work. We had many different avenues of what was going on.

We took each one. Like today I gave the veterans the option of you can practice or not practice, get what you need. Some of the guys wanted to do some work. They felt they were doing too little. Everybody is different. Some guys are beat up more than others.

We went through yesterday. Hey, if we were fortunate enough to land in the Pinstripe, which looked like it was going that way, here is my thought with some bowl scheduling. As veteran players, you like these practice days, here is how we're doing it. We try to keep selling ownership to the team. We're trying to facilitate an environment that the players are getting what they want so they can maximize their development and their experience. That's the gist of this week.

When we come out of exams, we'll get a little bit more into the opponent and the bowl game. Right now it's getting your bodies right. That means young guys are lifting, medical guys in treatment, everybody is hitting the books hard academically. We talk a lot about constant improvement. We want to make sure we continue to try to improve.

Q. What is the key to preparation so you go there fully prepared?
COACH WILSON: Every year, every team, every scenario is going to be different. So what are you trying to get accomplished with your program? You can overdo things. You can under-do things. I have a lot of respect and appreciation and administration for Coach Hoeppner, but I never liked to play 13 because you want to win 13. You want to win the next game.

No disrespect. Don't Twitter that out. Slight me. I love Jane and the whole family. That isn't a slight. You want to win the game. The greatest bowl experience is the victory. It's not the ring. The watch is going to break. I still got my Blue Bonnet Bowl sweater from 1980, first one. I got 'em all. Got every T-shirt, every hat. They sit there and collect dust.

But I can tell you some games. I just mentioned one I didn't like. You remember, to me, the ultimate is the game experience. It's nice to get the reward, but ultimately as a program and competitor, it's about the game. You just want to get prepared to give yourself a chance to go win.

There's always the issues of layoffs. Kicking gets sloppy, turnovers. Some things we've been decent at. You want to stay sharp. You don't want to over-practice your football team. But we need to have a good show and we need to go play well because we want to keep building. Like I say, we're not just happy to be there. It's a great opportunity to keep building and we want to max that out.

Q. Is there a limited number of practices you're allowing?
COACH WILSON: No. We're right now under a 20-hour rule with coaches on the road recruiting. We practiced today for an hour and a half. That's counting stretch, non-padded stuff. Like I say, we had 30 guys not do anything other than kind of stand around and watch.

We'll go through this next week in the lifting mode, a lot of academic work. Got a day or two of Yoga. We always do that, keep them moving. We'll practice next Friday a little bit. We have our banquet next Friday night, kind of an open house deal. Neat event for families. We got banquet next Friday night, ties into recruiting weekend. We have another home basketball game. Those are always great weekends.

Next week is going to be like this week. We'll get the old guys doing more. We gave you a little break, we'll get them back lifting, keeping their body weights and conditioning right.

Exam week, we got to look at the schedule. Those are critical times. I don't know how much that following week. Then we get to that weekend, nice to have exams, Friday the 18th. The 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, the 21st is the Monday of game week. We'll probably practice that weekend kind of good and start traveling Monday or Tuesday. That's not yet been determined. We'll get up there and note some stuff there.

Probably get a lot of development work, a lot of guys getting right, then a lot of preparation at the end of finals and that preparation going up there. We'll have game week, but it will be modified. Just logistics, you got to travel on buses in New York City to practice. It's not easy. Where do you practice? When do you practice? That all leads to your team being fresh or not fresh.

You got to practice hard and smart. There's a lot of dynamics. Now you throw it the largest city in the world. I guess it was. You throw all those dynamics, you got a lot of moving parts there, so...

Q. You have a chance to get some guys back?
COACH WILSON: Yeah, I think so. You got Danny Friend's going out there, Andre Brown. Yeah, we'll see. Some of those guys have been hurt long enough, they could get a medical. Danny Friend can get a medical and go a sixth year. I don't know if guys want to play college football for six years, especially when you're lifting and squatting and running. We'll talk to some of those guys.

There are guys doing more today than they were as we went. Hopefully we can practice and continue to improve our toughness and do the things you need to as a football team, but also not get injured and be as complete as we can. Maybe more complete than we were at the end of the year.

Jordan Howard had a knee scope. We were trying to get through the game. The deal was, we thought we might go through Purdue, then scope him, get him back for the bowl game. Well, when he came to Maryland, we sped it up a week. We'll see what his timeline is. I don't know anything about that. The thought process would be he might could.

At the same time, you know, he's a great player, a lot of things to consider. We'll be smart there.

We have other backs. You guys don't talk about it, but the lines and tight ends block good and helps the running game a lot. The runners are good, but we ran it good. There's a lot of consistency with our group, too. You know what I'm saying? The defense has got to keep getting better. We got to keep moving with the offense and young guy stuff. That's kind of what we're doing.

Q. Long time ago when you built your first staff here, you talked about bringing in guys with experience at programs that regularly won. You talked about how hectic this schedule is going to be, recruiting, finals. How much does it help to have a staff familiar with the bowl process?
COACH WILSON: We're playing a team that's been there several years, used to it. Our guys are recruiting. When they left today, their iPads were booted up. They have video, can start looking at it.

If you can get ready to play on of the top-10 teams in the country in three or four days, in a couple weeks, you think you can get ready to play somebody else. In bowl games sometimes you can over-prep, overdo it, over- practice. We're routine oriented. I liked riding around on a plane last week, figuring, Okay, if we're doing a calendar, what are my lift days, practice days, when are we traveling, and you got bowl events you put in there, kind of nice. A couple years since that happened. A good feeling sitting on that plane and kind of figuring out that schedule again.

Q. How has the reception been on the recruiting trail since you won the last two?
COACH WILSON: Is been good. It was good before. Open date week. We got a number of kids visiting this week. You look who they've been offered by, who they were committed to, who they are committed to. I don't know what commitment means anymore. To me commitment is going to start January 15th. It's going to be a free-for-all.

Right now it's recruiting, but we're giving you guys a chance to fill up all your blog spaces. On the 15th it gets real. That's why we need early signing day, get kids locked in. We've been well-received. Our deal is make sure we have to target, not highlight tapes, but kids that can represent our school the right way, be good students, make it here, and play good football in the Big Ten East.

Q. What conversations have you had with Fred?
COACH WILSON: I have an agent that does that. I haven't discussed. I mean, they'll move with that. We just got to be recruiting, practicing, keep going.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WILSON: Well, I mean, it helps in recruiting that they know you're going to be at a place. That's always something. But it's not my decision. It's the administration's. Like I say, our deal is we keep trying to do everything we can to make the team better every day, whether it be program development, academic development or right now recruiting.

They've shown the last three years they can recruit pretty good. We're having more slightly. Not like we've done anything great. We're having more slightly moderate success. It's a good vibe. We're going to try to keep landing them. We finished every year very, very strong. We start very, very slow. We don't push commitments. We try to build relationships that will last and stick.

Last year I believe we lost two kids that are committed and we signed nine kids that were committed somewhere else. We don't negative recruit, we just keep recruiting and try to build relationships and show the education opportunity, the program opportunity, what we're trying to build. We're going to keep doing that.

This staff will show it will recruit well and we're going to keep doing that. Stability is huge. Winning is huge and stability is huge in what you're trying to get doing.

Q. (Question regarding North Carolina.)
COACH WILSON: That's a good deal because, like I say, I've been fortunate to be at places. It's the same deal. A guy a few years ago took me to a Carolina-Duke basketball game. I'm a Carolina guy. This guy was a huge Duke alumni guy. Took Coach Stoops and myself and the AD, go up into Coach K's office, see the facility. If they won, we were going to get a chance to go in the locker room after the game. Even though I'm a Carolina guy, I'm like, This is cool, I'm all in. I want to go see Coach K and his guys.

I appreciate how great that program is and how great that school is. I have a lot of respect for Duke. What Coach Cutcliffe has done is one of the premiere jobs in the country. It's no accident what he's done. It's going to be a strong, strong test. But I got a lot of respect for their program.

That's to me what rivals are about. You're fortunate to have someone that is very, very good that you respect. They're not going to be our rival like it was when I was at Carolina. Again, I've got a ton of respect for that school that was eight miles away. Pretty neat. Pretty cool. Great place.

Q. The way Duke and Carolina have turned their football programs around (indiscernible)?
COACH WILSON: Yeah, and I never have agreed or disagreed or said. To me if you're a great school, you ought to be great at a lot of things. That's something I always took at Carolina, we were top 10 two years, top 20 the two years I was there. I think we were 37-9 in my time there. We won three bowl games and lost my last bowl game to Florida State. We beat Texas, Arkansas and Texas in bowl games. Playing Lawrence Taylor and dudes, they were guys, it was legit.

You got Michael Jordan and James Worthy walking around. I mean, it was cool time. Davis Love was right there playing golf. Playing golf with Jack Nicklaus, Jr.

To me Carolina was a great place, as is Duke, as is Indiana. Great places ought to attract great people. We got facilities that we should be able to attract enough to be a competitive team. Our recruiting has shown it. I think that's why we were so consistent this year. We've recruited enough bodies that now match up that we're not where we want to be, but we've gotten to where we can play competitive, decent football and we want to keep pushing that to make that more winning football.

I mean, I don't know if I compare other places to this place because I think every place is different. I just always expected and thought that we could be successful. It's a fight. But every day is a fight.

At Oklahoma it was a fight every day. You're fighting every day energy, enthusiasm, organization. You're fighting every day to build a culture. Right now we got a good culture downstairs in that locker room. That's why those kids play pretty good. It's a pretty good culture down there. I got a lot of respect for those kids.

Q. How much has that done for you guys to win a couple at the end?
COACH WILSON: From the bowl opportunity, the energy of that, the recruiting, no doubt. Ultimately for me I get a chance, again, to keep working with some kids and look at some guys I got a lot of respect for that can kind of go out on a positive note.

Like I told those kids a couple weeks back, win, lose or draw, they had an ultimate place in my heart, spirit for what they had done, just the way they continued to embrace our values and come to work every day. So they're coming in now. It's a great group of men.

But it kind of helps recruiting, it's going to help the off-season. I think having a good bowl experience builds on that even more. Ultimately there's some kids that have given so much, just to give them a chance to have a little bit more self-esteem and self-confidence. That's a great group of guys back there.

Q. Whenever we talked about bowl games the last five years, you mentioned it, is young guys getting those extra practices, the ones that maybe aren't going to play this year or redshirting. How much more can they get out of this?
COACH WILSON: It's huge. I mean, we're making recruiting decisions right now based on looking at practice. That comment was made today. Where are you going to week? I'm going to X school. Why? Well, if this guy ain't ready, I need to go get me one of those, whether it be high school or junior college. It gives you an opportunity to build your team, gives you an opportunity to eval your team.

When you have a recruiting weekend and you've got kids at practice, that's lights out. We haven't had that. That's lights out. Shoot, the last couple days, we had the state eighth grade championships for Illinois, Wisconsin, maybe Michigan, Indiana. To have those kids on campus, our team around that, that was kind of cool.

So the young guy practice is valuable. We've been trying to improve without those practices. Our previous last football day, what was last Saturday, the 28th? So now our last football day will be December 26th. That's basically 30 more days without overdoing it of football development. That's huge.

All right. Thanks, guys. Have a good one.

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