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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 27, 2011
COACH CLAEYS: You know, as far as I've had a chance to visit with Rebecca and the family, they feel very comfortable with what's going on. There's not a lot to update there. It's gone well, so I don't know a time line, as nobody does. Don't want to put one on it, but they're very pleased with the way things are going in the situation and the things they're in.
Q. When was the visit?
COACH CLAEYS: Today, today. Yep, so very pleased with what's going on there and the situation. So there's really not a lot new there to report. Anything will come through the athletic department. So with that, we're ready to get rolling towards Michigan and move on.
Q. Is anything different?
COACH CLAEYS: No, like I said, the medications a little bit different. That situation. It's really like coach said last week, that's what it comes down to is trying to regulate medication, so that's the only difference.
Before he's always what medication he was on, he's on. As he said, they wanted to try a new one, and they're just working on getting that regulated.
Q. What is the situation as far as injuries? Last week you had your linebacker, where does that stand? Any personnel switches?
COACH CLAEYS: There's no personnel switches that I'm aware of this week that we're going to move. Everybody right now that was available for last week's game is available this week as of today, so there is nothing big. Each week, as you go along, everybody gets banged up a little bit and a little bit sore. But there is nothing there that we anticipate injury-wise.
Everybody will be available, unless they get hurt this week in practice, which I hope doesn't happen.
Q. What is the update on Edwards?
COACH CLAEYS: He had a good week last week in practice. We'll try to get him a few snaps this week in the game now that he's had two weeks and gave him a lot of practice at it.
But when we did that, we figured it would take a couple of weeks of practice, and probably for him to get a bunch of reps we're looking at next week's game.
But with two weeks practice, he should be able to help us a little bit with what's going on. Definitely by the Purdue game I look forward to him getting some reps.
Q. If Coach Kill is going to Ann Arbor, will you guys be observing or do you think he'll be coaching and taking charge?
COACH CLAEYS: If he's there, he's coaching, all right.
Q. If he doesn't go, will you come down from the box?
COACH CLAEYS: No, sir. I wouldn't do that. The reason is I don't want to change everybody. If I go down to the field, then somebody's got to come up to the box who isn't used to it. I like to have my Diet Coke and sit down with my papers in front of me and try to think one play ahead.
So I still with the communication and head phones nowadays, I can talk to everybody on the boundary and that type of deal, so that's not an issue.
I just think it's the wrong thing to do for me to go down on the field and change what everybody else is doing. I don't want to disrupt that way. So the smoothest thing is we'll keep it going the way it is.
Q. How hard is it to prepare diagrams?
COACH CLAEYS: It's tough. The thing of it is it's easy you just put two guys on him. Well, then you've got to deal with the running back and some of the passing game. You know, if anybody's watched film, he's made several people miss with one person on him.
So the key will be if we do miss him is that we force him back to where we have help. If he makes three or four of them miss like everybody else, then that's why he's a special player the way he is.
There is no question we have to try to contain him, but at the same time you can't let somebody else go off and have a career day on you. In this last game they did some option with him for the first time against San Diego State. Now you have to deal with that aspect of it too.
They've done a nice job of adjusting as the seasons went on. They're packaged to what he does well. And he throws the deep ball to where receivers have caught it, and their kids have gone up and caught the ball on the deep ball a little bit. He's a special player, and that's quite a challenge for us.
Q. Have you guys been to that stadium?
COACH CLAEYS: I've been there. I haven't been there for game day. I know Coach Limegrover has. But we used to do football camps at Pioneer High School across the street.
COACH LIMEGROVER: I'm 1-0 there, just for the record. I'm 1-0 there as a coach.
Q. There is nothing like this stadium and what goes on with that Michigan band and everything else.
COACH CLAEYS: It's quite an experience.
Q. You played there 1-0 when?
COACH LIMEGROVER: When I was a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 1995.
Q. With your quarterbacks, I assume you had to do what did you Saturday night rotating them in that much?
COACH LIMEGROVER: Yeah, well, what happened was when we got to a situation there are some things that the guys have divided themselves out a little bit that they're doing much better.
Max is doing some things as we go through the week in practice much better in certain areas than MarQueis. So as you guys know, as we've talked about a couple weeks ago, Coach Kill's talked about, are it is a learning process. So what's happened is there are some things that we've been able to learn about both guys.
Yeah, you don't want to necessarily go in the middle of a series and change somebody. We were looking to how are we going to win this football game and what was going to give us the best chance on that upcoming play?
What we're doing is looking at it more package-wise and saying, okay, here's what we really, really think that MarQueis does well and what we think Max does well. Then there is that area in the middle that really either one of them can do and starting to look at it that way.
We had every intention of playing Max on Saturday, and we had determined we were going to play them and from there we just felt like as with anything, you go with the hot hands. You know, like a streak shooter in basketball, if a guy's got the hot hand, you go.
Q. You want your quarterback to get in a rhythm. How do they do it when they're constantly shuffling in and out?
COACH LIMEGROVER: I think the bigger issue is we've worked so much on rhythm and tempo in practice with the whole group that one thing is it isn't as though we taught the first group out there and MarQueis takes eight plays then the second group goes out for two or three and Max is there.
It will be in the middle of a practice session against the defense, and Coach Z will turn to Max and go get in there for a couple. We understand that is kind of the world we're living in right now. One of those guys isn't doing everything that you want every time, and you do have two pieces that do things -- both guys do things pretty well.
We're actually practicing that way and feel like the kids have really responded to that and haven't skipped a beat.
Q. So MarQueis is still the starter?
COACH LIMEGROVER: Yes, yes. And that will continue on until we feel like Max gets to a point where he does a significant number of things better than MarQueis. But MarQueis is a special kid. There are things he does that we really love about him.
It's kind of interesting. We started this thing out talking about Denard Robinson. You never want to compare directly two people. But I think some of the things that Denard Robinson went through last year, even though he had a great year, I think that's what MarQueis is learning and going through this year being out there. Every time he takes a snap, something new is happening and he's learning.
So I think he's just maybe a year behind a guy like Denard Robinson from an experience or from a playing standpoint.
COACH LIMEGROVER: MarQueis? As with anything, if you're committed to taking away something you're going to find a way to do it. Like Coach Claeys said, if you put two people on somebody, you're going to open up areas in other areas.
Fortunately, we got the running game going a little bit with both Bennett and Kirkwood, at or around or over 70 yards. We'd like them both to be higher, but that's one of the things we base our offense on. If you're going to take away one facet, we've got to make sure that we exploit you in other areas. That's what we're working towards.
We're not where we want to be yet, but if they're going to commit to putting a lot of people outside, they were trying to keep everything contained inside. So rather than MarQueis holding on to the ball the whole time, we were able to get to the backs quick, and that's why those guys had pretty good days. It was take what they give you, basically.
Q. But your passing game, he's not a great passer, MarQueis?
COACH LIMEGROVER: Yeah, and they did a good job of doing some things to take away what he feels comfortable with, and that's why we wanted to get Max in there.
Max is a pretty good runner, so obviously you lose something when you have a guy like Max come in instead of MarQueis. The run game part of it is not a complete divide down the middle. One guy can't throw it all, one guy can't run it all, and that's where that middle area comes in that we continue to work on to make sure that, hey, whoever is in, this is that group of plays that we feel a chance to be successful.
Q. Are you working with MarQueis on his mechanics and things like that as far as his progression as a passer?
COACH LIMEGROVER: Oh, all the time. That is a big part of practice. If there's one thing that we're stressing all three sides of the football is fundamentals and developing good habits day-in and day-out. Probably this time of the year we do more individual time work time with our kids than a lot of people do. A lot of people get to the third way point, halfway point of the season and say, okay, we're going to go out, do some team and install new things and get off the field.
We still make sure we have time in there at all positions to continue to work on the fundamentals.
Q. Your penalties in that game were very crucial?
COACH LIMEGROVER: Yep, and we're continuing to address that. That's an area where, in no uncertain terms, that we're letting the kids know on both sides of the ball that that's unacceptable. I think they got the message hopefully loud and clear on Sunday. We're going to keep delivering that same message.
Because, you're right, there were some key situations that we made a tough situation even tougher or made a situation that was doable into one that the percentage is lowered tremendously.
Q. Can you speak to the progression from the corners of the safeties?
COACH CLAEYS: From the last game there wasn't any progression much. The biggest difference we do is we didn't tackle as well in the secondary as we had in the past. You know, the coverage-wise, I thought we played better coverage-wise. Just so happens the first two drives, the penalties as we were talking about, we get called for hands in the face twice, and those two series are over. They're punting the ball and getting the ball back and trying to build on a 7-point lead.
The tough part was we just didn't tackle as well in the secondary as we had been.
Q. If you had to be in charge and you would have to have a coach on the field designated to deal with referees and the like there, who would that be? Do you practice how that would work at all?
COACH CLAEYS: Not really. Matt sits right next to me, so as far as declining the penalty, accepting the penalty, that's no big deal. If we get in four-down territory, it's easier. I can tell him, hey, take two downs here on third down so he knows ahead of time.
Officially Coach Miller would be the one if there's something that come ups with the officials administratively-wise. But if they're on offense, Coach Reeves would handle it on the sidelines. If Coach Miller, when the defense is over, they'll talk to the kids, when the offense is over they'll talk to the kids and Coach Miller would handle it.
But the officials would have a specific technical thing, then Coach Miller, if it comes to stopping the game and all that type of stuff. Obviously, we're in direct contact with him. So it's very minimal, it really is.
It would be a bigger distraction if I went to the boundary and said somebody else go up to the box who is not used to going up there. I think it would be very minimal.
Q. Is it a lot more for you to keep on your mind as the game is going on?
COACH CLAEYS: No, not really. Because most of the decisions on time clock and all that is made when the offense has the ball. It really is. I just, after being through it in the past, it hasn't been that big of a distraction to come up when it's been there.
I mean, the coach has been to the game the one time at Indiana State when he was there. But he stayed off the head phones and said, hey, I'm going to let you handle it. So me and Matt, we worked well together, and so -- but he was there on the boundary and for halftime if something were to come up.
Q. There was a case he was in the press box at one game and he wasn't supposed to be there.
COACH CLAEYS: Yeah, one time.
Q. What happened that game? How did you communicate with him?
COACH CLAEYS: He actually sat right between us (laughing). So, yeah, we did. We had communication with him really good.
Q. Do you think this will hurt your recruiting?
COACH CLAEYS: I don't think so at all. We made them aware of it, and he's very involved with recruiting. Like I said, he was on the phone with them himself, and they know the situation and what it's about.
Q. Do you have to reassure the players this week because they've got to practice? I'm sure there's some uncertainty in their minds about his status.
COACH CLAEYS: There is a little bit, but when he got back last week, he told them what was going on. Just as he told you he was having some trouble getting his medication regulated. He told the kids that and didn't know what was going to happen. So as long as you eliminate that unknown, the kids will be fine with it.
What they were going to do, so everybody knows, it helps limit the distraction for Michigan. Everybody comes out to practice and pre- practice and all that, but as soon as we start to stretch, we'll go ahead and close it down. I just want to minimize distractions while the coach is gone in these couple of days and facing Michigan. That is the really the only thing is trying to take care of distractions.
But the kids have been fine. Are they concerned? Sure they're concerned. We're all concerned. These are friends of ours. That's the whole thing that can comes down to. You just don't want to see that happen with somebody you know well and are friends. That's why there are some people in the country that are glad when the head coach is in the office, but that's not us.
We're a tight family. We all get along, and don't like the situation. But we understand it, and we'll do our job. I am not worried about kids being prepared and playing well. We'll make sure we get that done.
Q. How about your offensive line?
COACH LIMEGROVER: We're making improvements. We're not where we need to be. That's something those guys are aware of. It's just a matter of -- probably one of the positions that might be toughest when you have a transition, it's tough with a different coaching style all the way around on the offensive line as far as what we want from those kids as opposed to what they were asked to do in the past. Not better or worse, just different.
I think we're getting closer. Each week I can see it in practice, and I think it's starting to come over into the ballgame a little bit, especially in the run game, still have some work to do protection-wise. That's a 24/7 type of thing. It's always got to be on your mind as a coach. Those guys got to understand how important it is to protect that passer.
Q. For young players out of high school, like The National Football league, (Indiscernible) is that the same thing for the offensive lineman?
COACH LIMEGROVER: Very much. So it's a huge jump from high school to college as far as the technique and what needs to be done. You're pretty special if you can get that done pretty early in your career.
The tough thing is we do have a lot of young guys who are really making great strides, but just that gap to get to where they need to be. There aren't enough hours in the day. I wish we would have had another spring ball and extra month of fall camp to get that process sped up.
But the older kids that we have have caught on pretty well. Now that group of younger guys, it's an everyday process of learning.
I tell them every day, have a game plan when we go to practice to improve, and they bought into that and I think we're improving. It's just not as fast as myself or coach kill or anybody wants, and that is the frustrating part.
COACH CLAEYS: I'd like to add a little bit. It gets a little frustrating for everybody and it's the same way with the secondary. We practice against each other in the fall, and we practice against each other in the spring.
But we all have our beliefs on both sides of the ball, and that's what you're working against all the time. Now every week you're changing, you're playing somebody else who has different beliefs and different things. It's the same way in the secondary. It's hard those adjustments from splits, to formations, to motions that maybe our offense doesn't run those things and those kids have to get adjusted.
That first year, those adjustments, up front because of the different fronts and stunts that we don't do, then the same thing from the secondary from the different motions and plays that you go against. The more you're in a system, the more those kids know them naturally.
It's frustrating, but it's part of being new and part of the system. I will say our kids have been hungry. They've listened, and they're trying to learn those adjustments as we go. But it's not easy for them either.
Q. Was that the right read or did you need to go somewhere else with it?
COACH LIMEGROVER: It was the right read. He needs to make that decision a little bit quicker and not give that guy a chance to rally back to it. He was the first one. I mean, he searched out Coach Z right away and said got to get it there sooner, and he knew.
That kind of sums up kind of the growing pains right now not just with him but with a lot of those kids. We're getting to the point where they know and now it's a matter of doing.
The terrible thing or the sad thing was that it happened. But the silver lining in the cloud was that kid didn't stand there dismayed that it happened. He said as soon as he said -- he said as soon as I let that ball go, he told coach, I knew I made the biggest mistake I made in a long time. I felt it, and I knew I didn't get it there quick enough.
Does that help you at the end of the day as far as wanting to go down and win a game? It's tuff tough, but at the same time, a kid learned a valuable lesson there, and he knows he can't make that type of decision again.
Q. It sounds more like you guys have talked about preparing the event when Coach Kill is not there. It just sounds more like now you're accepting that's probably a reality this weekend?
COACH CLAEYS: Just the opposite. I just said I expect him to be there. We've done this every time. Even when he was gone last time. We tell the kids we're going to prepare like he's not going to be here. I think you have to always prepare for the worst, but I expect the best.
I'll be shocked if he's not there, okay. Just telling you, okay. The best chance like the Missouri State one, and I got a phone call and he showed up at the game. Yeah, I totally expect him to be there. But I don't want it to be where the kids, if he's not, they have to -- we have to prepare like he's not going to be, but I expect him to be there.
Q. During practice you make announcements, do you give the team a pep talk afterwards like Coach Kill would?
COACH CLAEYS: We just talk about doing the right things. The less distractions, since we're one person short, the less distractions we have to deal with to prepare for the game and get ready to go.
I don't want to have to make decisions that I don't have to. So that's mainly, you know, hey, keep the routine. Do what you're supposed to academically, do what you're supposed to, this and that. Lot of rah-rah stuff now, no, not really.
It's all about preparing. I think until kids understand the fact it doesn't matter who you play, every week you have to be able to go through a process to prepare yourself to be successful. Doesn't matter who you play. That's a hard lesson to learn. Once you get good, you do that. Whether you're playing Michigan or North Dakota State, those kids show up, and they go through the routine and prepare every week to be successful when they come out of the gate. It's all a learning process.
But I'm not -- right now it's not about a rah-rah situation. It's all about learning what you're supposed to do and give it your best. We've had good effort in practice with that. So I totally anticipate that to keep going.
Q. That would be pretty tough morale-wise to lose at home and have to go into the toughest place in the conference in Michigan?
COACH CLAEYS: I guess it's how you look at it. I don't even look at it that way. I know we're going to go play against a lot of people. But in between the lines, it's the same game and you have to execute. It doesn't matter if you go out on a little field out in the country. You've got to lineup and be able to execute. No matter what the situation is, it's still football, and that's what we'll preach to the kids. It's still football, do your job, and lineup and play, and let's see what happens.
If you let all the fans -- that is the stuff they can't let distract them, and that's our challenge as coached. That's why we like to keep each week as normal as you can. Doesn't matter who you play; you do your job to prepare yourself. Show up on Saturday, play hard, and have fun, and hopefully things will go your way.
But you've got to get rid of the distractions, and we won't be good here until we learn to eliminate not worrying about the distractions and worrying about what goes on the football field.
Q. Does Brady Hoke have a style? What kind of coach would you describe him as?
COACH CLAEYS: Brady? You can see his defensive philosophy. He believes in great defense. They ran a little different offense when he was at Ball State. I never watched him play at San Diego State, so I can't tell you.
But Brady's like a lot of good coaches. I think he adapts. He has his beliefs, but offensively he does what fits his personnel best.
You could see the first year they were doing some things that really I think they found out didn't fit what they were doing so they made some changes. That's really the key in my part to all coaching to find out what kids do best and put them no those situations.
But special teams and everything, you can tell they want to be able to run the football, play good defense. So he has more of a defensive mentality to him than some of the offensive coaches.
COACH LIMEGROVER: Not really. I think it's the development overall. It's kind of the combination of we have worked hard at running the football. That was a big emphasis point last week. There are teams that are going to do things to take away your quarterback run.
I don't know if MarQueis will get 150 yards every game. But the good thing was like I said, they decided what they wanted to take away, so then we worked at making sure that we took advantage of what -- you can't take it all away unless you're a great, great defense.
So running between the tackles with both of those guys, him and Kirkwood, that was something that we could keep coming back to and we did right up until we had to throw the football to try to go down and tie the game.
You'd like to continue with that, and the key is figuring out as quickly as possible what have they decided they're not going to let you do and try to expose them in another area. That was a by product, DeJuan and Darnell was a byproduct of what they were trying to do to MarQueis.
Q. In the game, if you decide to go a different direction quarterback or running back, and say Kill's is not heavily involved, is that Tracy's call or is that your call?
COACH CLAEYS: I just tell Matt and them when Coach isn't here, they've worked with Coach a long time, and stick with your old philosophy. Stick with the players you believe give you the best opportunity to be successful. But that's Matt and his staff's call as far as who plays on offense and what.
Q. How's Josh? Is he getting better?
COACH LIMEGROVER: He is, he is. The tough thing is with the concussion issue is making sure that a kid feels really, really good, and that's a huge emphasis. So want to make sure that he feels real good about it and what he's able to do before you try to push him into things. But he's progressing and he's around here all the time and he's hungry. So he wants to get out there.
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