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October 9, 2017

Chris Ash

Piscataway, New Jersey

CHRIS ASH: As usual, thanks for coming. Really appreciate you guys coming and reporting on our program. Had a bye week, obviously, this last week. It couldn't have come at a better time. Much needed rest and recovery for a lot of players. We needed some time to continue to develop our fundamentals, work with some of our younger players and get them some more reps and continue to develop them and to help them continue to grow and improve in what we're doing.

We spent a lot of time as a staff going back through and doing a self-scout study on ourselves. We do it each week, but never enough time to do it during the season and we use that bye week to go back through and really take a hard look at all three phases and look at what we've done well, what we haven't done well, and try to identify the reasons for that. Spent this off week -- spent a lot of time trying to get better at some things we've had issues with in the first five weeks.

Really, the bye week was kind of a spring ball approach, and just trying to get better at some of the basic things of football: Blocking, tackling, ball security, execution, things like that. I thought it was a productive week. Obviously, at the beginning of the week, it was tough after the game that we had against Ohio State, but I thought Thursday's practice that we had last week was one of the better ones we've had all year, so I was really fired up about that and excited about moving forward after that type of a practice.

Injury update, Jawuan -- excuse me, Janarion Grant has been cleared. He will play this weekend. Kiy Hester who was taken out of the Ohio State game is also cleared and he'll be able to play this weekend. Jonah Jackson is out. He had surgery on the Sunday after the Ohio State game. Not sure yet how long he'll be out. It's probably a minimum two to three weeks, it could be longer. It could be four to five, but depends on the healing process.

Saquan Hampton was also removed after the third play of the game against Ohio State and will be out. We're not sure yet on the length of his injury yet. But he'll be out definitely for a few weeks if not for the whole season. We're just not sure on that one yet. But that's an injury update.

Just position switch, most of you guys know we moved Rashad Blunt over from wide receiver to DB during the Ohio State week. We've also moved Jawuan Harris over to defensive back this last week. We're going to see if he can help us there. Obviously we've got depth issues in the secondary, and Jawuan's an individual that's got the talent and ability to potentially help us, if needed, at that position.

This week we're playing Illinois. Another Big Ten opponent going on the road, which is always a challenge. They played Iowa this last week and they switched quarterbacks and it looked like offensively they received a spark and moved the ball fairly well against a good Iowa defense. But it's another great opportunity and another challenge for us to go on the road and play another Big Ten opponent. Coming out of the bye week, I feel like we're in pretty good shape mentally and physically right now other than a couple spots. But I like where we're at and excited to get back and play again. So with that, I'll go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q. Where are you at at quarterback? Kyle Bolin, are you anticipating starting him?
CHRIS ASH: Like I said before, we opened the quarterback position up during the bye week. There has not been a final decision yet on whether Kyle will continue to start. Kyle's still in the mix. A lot of it is not necessarily about the quarterback, it's about the surrounding pieces. We've got to play better on the O-line. We've got to play better at receiver. We've got to be able to run the ball better, protect the quarterback better. If we can't do those things, we have to take a look at what we can do and who we're doing it with to try to spark our offense and be able to move the ball and score some points. But we have not made a final decision yet on who our starting quarterback will be.

Q. Do you anticipate that could go all week?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, I mean, we'll decide it at some point sooner than that. We may not tell you that until kickoff, but we'll see how it goes. We'll see how you guys are.

Q. We'll keep asking?
CHRIS ASH: I know you will. I know you will. There are very few things I can count on in life, and that's one of them I can count on.

Q. You're moving Jay Harris and you're moving Rashad Blunt. But receiver isn't exactly a position you've got a ton of depth either?
CHRIS ASH: More than we have at DB.

Q. So what happens there?
CHRIS ASH: We play who we've got. The guys that have been playing will continue to play. We'll just keep trying to get them better.

Q. At quarterback, are you looking at three guys right there now or two?
CHRIS ASH: Same three guys that have been playing or have been in the mix. I mean, Gio hasn't necessarily been playing. He's gotten some reps, but he's been in the mix since day one. All three of those guys got a lot of reps this last week, and all three of those guys will get some reps this week in practice. Obviously all three have different skillsets. So, again, like I mentioned, the number one thing that will probably be the deciding factor are the pieces around the quarterback and the support cast. We've got to get better at O-line. We've got to get better at wide receiver, and how much better we can get will probably determine who is going to be the quarterback.

Q. Talk about being out on the O-line, is it still Maietti and Marcus, is there a possible shake-up?
CHRIS ASH: That's who it is.

Q. Are you looking at anybody else?
CHRIS ASH: We've got nobody else. Those are the guys we've got.

Q. What are your thoughts on Kamaal through the early season?
CHRIS ASH: Kamaal's doing a nice job. He's gotten better, considerably better from where he was last year. He didn't start until middle of the season last year. I love Kamaal. He doesn't say anything. He shows up and works hard every day. Does he have to get better? Absolutely. We've got to continue to coach him and he's got to continue to learn the game. But I've been very pleased with his improvement that he's made.

Is he a finished product yet, no. But he's got a great attitude every day. He works exceptionally hard every day. He's going to keep getting better every week because of it.

Q. Back in the preseason camp when quarterback competition was open, you wanted to have a guy picked by a certain time. Why is it different this week? Is it you're further into this thing?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, we never had a set date when we were going to pick a quarterback. Any coach's desire would be the sooner, the better. But there is no, hey, we've got to name him by Tuesday and just rush to it or name him by Thursday. Whenever we feel that somebody has shown us that they can be the spark and move our football team the way we need to consistently, then we'll make that decision.

But we won't rush it. Obviously, we'll do it sometime before next Saturday. But we've got to make sure we're going about it the right way and we give everybody a fair opportunity, and we assess everything equally and take a look at who actually can be the spark that we need back there at quarterback.

Q. With Saquon out, do you expect to move K.J. Gray as a full-time starter or rotate more guys in there?
CHRIS ASH: We don't have more guys. K.J.'s the one that went in, and K.J. the one that will be in. We don't have any depth. We've got to play who we've got.

Q. One of the things about Illinois is their starting ten true freshmen. Obviously you're playing a lot of true freshmen but they're not starting. Is there a point where you play a true freshman just to -- excuse me, will you start a true freshman just to start a youth movement or will you always play the best guy?
CHRIS ASH: We're going to always do what's in the best interest of our program right now. We're always -- every day we're working to the future. You go out and watch our practices at the end of every practice we're doing developmental practices. What we'll do each week is do what's in the best interest of our program at that particular moment. I get why some people do what they do, and everyone's got their own decisions to make and do things their own way. For me, we've got players that have been in the program a long time that work their tail off, and it's not fair to say, hey, we're going to go a different direction if that's the best player. That's what I believe, and that's what we'll do.

If a true freshman is ready to play and he's the best player, we'll play him. We've got no problem doing that at all. But just to do it just to do it, he's got to be the best guy.

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