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BIG TEN CONFERENCE MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 12, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Fitzgerald. Coach, thanks for joining us. We'll take questions from the media.
Q. How is Dan Persa looking this spring?
COACH FITZGERALD: He's not. He's not participating in spring right now from the standpoint of on the field. Danny is far ahead of schedule on his rehab. He'll be clear, full go, ready for this fall.
Q. Want to check in and see how your quarterbacks have been looking in the last week or so.
COACH FITZGERALD: They've been doing well. It's a process. All three guys are getting a ton of reps with Dan being out. I like all three. It's hard to get three enough reps. But at the end of the day all three are doing good things. All three are doing enough things. Glad we have two more practice opportunities to work with them.
They've all grown, gotten better, and I think we're at a good position at the quarterback spot not only for next year but for the future.
Q. Anybody on defense impress you the last couple weeks?
COACH FITZGERALD: I like the way a lot of our young players have played throughout spring practice. I think two in particular that jumped out to me probably the most that are under the radar and nobody knows about are two redshirt freshmen, Ibraheim Campbell at safety and Colin Ellis at linebacker. Both young men have had good springs improving and making plays.
But that whole group, that whole redshirt freshmen class on defense to me is going to be I think a really solid group for us.
Obviously they'll have roles this year, but as the their careers move forward, do the right thing, buy into all they can, they've got a chance to be I think a very impressive group.
Q. How do you see the reps going at quarterback? Split it up evenly thirds?
COACH FITZGERALD: We'll do it the same way we've done it the previous Saturday scrimmages. We'll break it up into thirds, give the guys equal opportunities to go out there and execute what we're asking them to do. They're all doing a better job leading, taking over that responsibility as the quarterback, not only for the offense, but also for the program. So all three will get equal number of reps.
Q. At runningback, are you seeing any separation with any guys or all the guys moving along the same pace?
COACH FITZGERALD: I think Mike Trumpy has had a good spring. He's been consistent, he's been physical, doing all that. We're still protecting his wrist just for precautionary reasons. I've been very pleased with the spring he's had. I think Adonis has done some good things also. Jacob has been out. He got back into practice today. Timmy is a tough guy. I like the spring that Tyris Jones has had not only at runningback but also in a hybrid superback role. He's doing a lot of good things back there. The guys are working hard.
Q. When do you expect Dan to rejoin the team? Is he able to throw at all?
COACH FITZGERALD: He's throwing on the side during prepractice warmup, doing some different things in his rehab.
I could probably answer that question, I should have gotten prepared better for today's teleconference expecting questions like that.
We're going to have myself and our athletic training staff, we sit down the week after spring ball, really project out, crystal ball a little bit to expect the day he'll be clear to full.
I'm assuming no later than June 1st, he'll be clear to go through our summer workouts in June and July, be full ready to go in August.
I don't want to put that kind of expectation on him either. Anytime you have an injury like that, I know from personal experience, you take it day to day as you rehab and everything, see how it responds. So far so good. Like I said, the reports back, he's ahead of schedule. His attitude has been great. I'm really proud of the job he's done. To have a Heisman Trophy candidate come back as a quarterback for us is something that gives me a little bit of extra sleep at night.
Q. You're returning the leading wide receiver in yardage last year, Jeremy Ebert. Talk about how he has progressed since last year.
COACH FITZGERALD: I prefer not to so nobody will cover him. But since you asked, I guess I have to answer the question.
Jeremy has just been really consistent since he came off his hip injury a couple years ago. Played for us as a true freshman. He's a great route runner. He's a physical receiver, can play inside and outside. I think the thing I like the most about Jeremy is his work ethic and his commitment to being the best he can. Initially in his career, he flirted with the weight room. Now he's embraced it with the strength and conditioning. I'm anticipating a great year from him.
Q. How difficult is it to kind of strike a balance with a quarterback like Dan, trying to protect him, but also let him do his thing? How do you strike that balance between protecting a guy and not taking away his running ability?
COACH FITZGERALD: Part of that is on Dan. I think he'll be the first to say, he's listening in right now, getting ready to talk to you, but I think he learned some valuable lessons last year early that in this league. It's fine for him to move around, for him to scrabble, for us to run, but he's got to get down at times and do a better job of managing himself.
He took some unnecessary hits especially early last year that he didn't need to take. None of those led to what happened with him. But it's a long season with this league being broken into two different divisions. It's going to be a meat grinder. You've got to find a way to win and move on, kind of take that NCAA bracket mentality: win a game and move on, not dwell on it, not have lingering injuries throughout the year.
I think he's learned a lot. I think we do strike a great balance. Mick and our offensive staff do a great job of taking care of our players through formations and plays, playing to our strengths. One of Danny's strengths is how to use his feet and athleticism. If we can continue to do that as one of his strengths, then we will.
Q. Let me ask about the receivers.
COACH FITZGERALD: Two guys that have jumped out to me at wide receiver, number one, has been Charles. I think he's a little over 30 receptions in his career. He's been a physical special teams player for us, very unselfish. Young man from the Chicago Public League here. He's just really done a nice job on the field. Off the field, he's going to graduate here. Rasheed Ward, follow in Corbin Bryant's footsteps that have been here from the Chicago Public League.
If I would say there was an offensive MVP for spring today it would be him. Right there behind him would be Mike Jensen. Walked onto our program, initially was a DB, has moved over to wide receiver. Just learning how to control his body and run routes better, improving his hands every day. The one thing about Michael is he's a very physical player, very unselfish, very solid special teams player beyond being just a young man who catches the ball.
Q. Who would be your defensive MVP today?
COACH FITZGERALD: I'm looking more from an improvement standpoint. Our most improved player, still has a long way to go to reach his potential, but a guy to me that's really improved, would be Niko Mafuli. The guy that's been the most consistent throughout the entire spring would probably be Jeravin Matthews or Tyler Scott.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, best of luck the rest of the spring.
COACH FITZGERALD: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Dan Persa. Dan, thanks for joining us.
DAN PERSA: No problem.
THE MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about spring practice and your rehab and we'll jump into questions from the media.
DAN PERSA: Yeah, obviously I'm not taking part in any contact in the spring. Tactical days I've been working on my drops, kind of throwing, hanging out. But the rehab is going really well. Past couple weeks I think I've turned the corner in my rehab.
I feel like when I'm running I feel a lot better. It's still sore, but it's not the type of sore it was in the past, the previous couple months, sharp pains. Now it's kind of sore, like muscular sore, that comes with building muscle.
I'm happy where I'm at right now. Tomorrow will be five months after my surgery. Hopefully I have a next strong month after that and I'll be back to where I want to be.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Dan. Let's go to questions from the media.
Q. Dan, are you running yet or still kind of working your way up on the treadmill?
DAN PERSA: No, I've been running. I started running the day after I talked to you. I don't know how long it's been. Four, five, six weeks.
Q. So what is the next milestone for you? Is it just getting that full clearance or is there a goal of how long you want to be able to run or do anything where you feel like you're close to being back?
DAN PERSA: Yeah, the next thing I'm going to try doing is agility work. That's probably going to take place the next couple weeks. Hopefully by the middle of May, end of May, I'll be able to full go.
Q. Dan, is there any doubt in your mind you'll be ready for the start of the season?
DAN PERSA: No, not at all. I mean, like I said, I plan to be at the latest ready probably the end of May. Hopefully I'll be able to play a game by then. Having three or four more months is really going to be extremely helpful getting me back to where I was at my peak performance last year.
Q. What has been the progression or advances in rehab that's allowed you to come back faster?
DAN PERSA: I think one of the things that helped me was obviously getting the surgery that night. By getting the surgery that night, I didn't allow the muscle to retract or swell in my leg. I had the surgery done about three hours after it happened. I kept it elevated right away. After a week, I got the stitches out and started moving it immediately to kind of prevent some of the scar tissue from building up.
I think getting in the pool, swimming around, running with a vest keeping me afloat loosened it up. I think in the past, you would be immobilized six, eight weeks. That would build up a lot of scar tissue. After that, they would have to start over moving it again and that would really slow them down.
Q. Did you end up talking to any other athletes who have also ruptured their Achilles?
DAN PERSA: Yeah, actually (indiscernible), I talked to him on the phone the night after surgery.
Q. Anybody more about rehab, anybody lately?
DAN PERSA: A little bit. I mean, I got various opinions from him and different people that I talked to. Even my doctor said it varies from person to person when you actually start feeling good. Some people it happens in four months, some five, some all the way up to eight. I think I'm on the lower end of that.
I've obviously heard that the rehab is strenuous. I found that out pretty quickly. I mean, again, I like where I'm at. I'm looking forward to the next couple months.
Q. Coach said you took some unnecessary hits early in the season and you'll probably try to avoid them next year.
DAN PERSA: I was definitely told to take care of my body. I didn't really understand. I knew people were a lot bigger in this league than in high school or any other place, but I always thought of myself as a strong kid. I never was injured, never had any problems.
Once I started getting hit after the first couple games, I don't feel very good, I don't feel a hundred percent. As the season went on, I think it wore on me a little bit. I started taking care of my body, trying to avoid hits.
Q. How much did you want to make sure you didn't let the arm stray, at least trying to throw a football, muscle memory?
DAN PERSA: Right. I think the biggest thing I didn't want to do was rush back into throwing because using your legs and throwing is very important. I felt like if I rushed back in, tried to overcompensate my arm, because my Achilles, I think I would mess up my motion. I really started throwing probably a couple months ago when I could stand on my feet and push off my toe. I've been throwing since about mid February.
Q. Dan, what is it like for you at practices when you're interacting with your teammates? What kind of role are you taking on?
DAN PERSA: Yeah, I think it's kind of like more of a player/coach. I want to get them hyped up and ready to go for practice. It definitely is different seeing things when you're on the field versus off the field. You see things a lot clearer. The things that are a lot more noticeable that you might not be able to see when you're heat of the moment. I help guys out, give them quick tips, observations I see on the field, trying to help them.
Q. When you get back on the field, do you think there's going to be any hesitation to take off and run or do you expect to have the same kind of game style with the ball in your hand?
DAN PERSA: Yeah, I think at first maybe, like maybe at practice. After I prove to myself I can do it, I don't think there will be any hesitation. I think I'll have the confidence and muscle memory back. I think it will just come with time.
Q. You were referred to as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Is that cool with you?
DAN PERSA: That's pretty cool. Obviously it's a pretty prestigious award. To be even mentioned for that is a high honor.
But at the end of the day, it's kind of out of my control. I'm more focused on what I can control with my teammates this year.
Q. Is there a specific skill or two that you're working on, that you want to work on this summer, or are you doing some general spit and polish?
DAN PERSA: Yeah, I think there's always work to be done. I think going over the film from last year, footwork on some of the stuff, some of the routes, getting the ball out a little quicker, things like that. Too many sacks last year. Focusing on getting my hand on the ball a little bit quicker and knowing when to throw it away, stuff like that.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, appreciate it. Best of luck the rest of spring.
DAN PERSA: All right. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports