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September 11, 2012

Jerry Kill

JERRY KILL:  I appreciate everybody coming out today, and we're looking forward.  I haven't been inside here.  I heard it's a beautiful day, good, warm day, looking forward to getting out to practice and building on Saturday and improving our football team.  With that, I'll take any questions.

Q.  How good is Western Michigan?
JERRY KILL:¬† Western Michigan is the type of Western Michigan team that we played against where I've been before.¬† They're a top‑tier team in the MAC Conference.¬† Offensively under Coach Cubit, they've always been tremendous, throwing the ball for over 300 yards a game, a football team that's going to be aggressive, attack you and stretch you on the perimeters and do a great job.¬† He's a great play caller, and we have a great deal of respect for him.
Defensively they've changed a little bit.¬† They've gone to a 3‑4, and that's a whole different deal which we haven't seen here through the first two ballgames and really haven't seen it a whole lot.¬† So that will be a challenge for us offensively.
Good football team like he always has.  He's been consistent, and they've won a lot of games there and been to a lot of Bowl games.  We certainly will have to continue to improve.

Q.  You've been doing this a long time.  How different is the atmosphere in the building Sunday and Monday after a win as opposed to after a loss?
JERRY KILL:¬† Well, I think there's always‑‑ I know with the players, when they come in on Sunday, you get a win, you can watch the film and they'll tell you they probably felt like last two weeks with us they feel like, darn, these coaches think we didn't do anything right, but it gives you a chance to be pretty critical and get after them and tell them what they need to do, and they don't take it personal.¬† I don't know, the coaching seems to be better because their morale is better.¬† When you don't win and get after them, they feel like they get beat down a little bit.
There's no question that morale, and they see the film, and they're also smart enough to say we've got to get a lot better here.
It's really good to work through all the way back to the spring.  I think they're starting to understand where we're at and what you have to do.  I think they understand we have no room for error because we've still got a lot of work to do.
But certainly the atmosphere is always better when you win.¬† I've been‑‑ fortunately been a part of doing a lot of winning and then also the misfortune when you take programs over being 1 and 10 and then 4 and 8 at trying to ‑‑ that's a difficult process.¬† It's difficult on everybody.
I think the biggest thing that you have to do as a coach, and your coaches, which we've been through, is stay consistent no matter you win or lose.  You just stay the same, and you can't get too far up and you can't get too far down.  I think the kids reflect how you act sometimes.
But certainly have a lot less problems than we had a year ago at this time and distractions, getting people to go to study hall, class, tutoring, all those kind of things, certainly success helps you a little bit there.  I don't think there's anybody that could say different.

Q.  How much different has the pass rush made the first two games here?
JERRY KILL:¬† Well, I think that we have‑‑ you know, the more pressure you can put on a quarterback, the more uncomfortable they're going to get.¬† We never let anybody get comfortable last Saturday.¬† I worry about this because Coach Cubit is a smart coach.¬† That ball is going to come out in a hurry on Saturday, so I mean, he's going to get the ball out.¬† They're a quick three, quick five.¬† He's played us, so he's got a good cue on what he needs to do to get that ball out.
So far we've been able to get good pressure even without bringing somebody, which is always good.
But I think we're playing, we're rolling eight or nine guys out there right now, and got fresh bodies.  We red shirted a couple kids last year, we're playing a true freshman, actually two freshmen, and then we've got some guys that have been here that really spent time in the weight room, bought into what Coach Klein was selling, and athletically they've improved themselves.
D.L. has improved his athleticism, Ra'Shede has certainly learned to play defensive tackle, and his best years are way ahead of him.  He's still learning, but he's continued to get better, and athletically he's gifted, a gifted young man.  Roland Johnson coming in, junior college, a part of a junior college that's won all the time.  He's used to that.  So I think as a group they're playing well at this time, but they still have a lot of work to do, and we'll need that pressure this week and actually over the next two weeks.  I mean, we'll find out.  That's for sure.
Scheme wise, people will try to neutralize that a little bit, and that's getting the ball out from a quarterback standpoint.

Q.  The corners, two weeks in here, how would you critique the way they've played?
JERRY KILL:  Well, again, because we're having to play some of the teams that we're playing, that's the thing about being a defensive coordinator in this day and age in college football is so much different I think if you called up Monte Kiffin and visited with them at USC, the NFL, you see so many things.  But college football you'll see five wides, then you see option, then you see power football.  So it's difficult.
We've played some teams that are throwing around‑‑ we'll play Western Michigan who will run it some, but they like throwing the ball, so those guys are getting some playing time in nickel and dime.¬† I think they've done very well.
We've felt like we needed to get better at corner from a week ago at UNLV, and the guys, Troy and Michael Carter both got a lot better.  They had a good ballgame on Saturday.  And then you throw the other kids in there, and we feel like that group is certainly improved, and it's critical they continue to play well with what we do, and we've got to continue to be able to rush the passer.

Q.  Did it take Troy another game do you think after coming back, having not played corner all that much, but coming in he had a couple mental mistakes against UNLV and to have a better game?
JERRY KILL:  I think he'll get better as the weeks go on.  The kid hasn't really played corner very much and missed a whole year a year ago.  You can't miss a whole year of football and then come back and pick up where you left off.  Not very many.  You get a guy like Adrian Peterson who's a complete freak of nature who can do some of the things he can do, but not many of those are around.

Q.  About getting better, it seemed on both sides of the ball, the starters have been doing that.  It looks like it's going to be the third game in a row with those kids up there.
JERRY KILL:  Well, really with what we do, we talk about the team part of it.  If you certainly have somebody that leaps out there way ahead, somebody that you need to carry it 35 times a game or whatever and play, we certainly do that.  But we have a lot of people that are very similar, so if you've got people similar and you play different situations, why not play them, and they'll play faster.  Your morale stays better.  There's a lot of good things to that.
Right now we're still learning about our team.  It's a very young football team.
Our deal is that we have to‑‑ we played two games, that's great and everything like that, but we've got to get ready for Saturday, and we have to be better than we were last week.
We got better from UNLV, sure, but now we've got to continue to get better.  That's how we're going to have to be because we're still, in my opinion from watching film, evaluating where we're at, we have a long, long way to go, and our kids understand that.
It all starts today, and the work we get in and the preparation for Western Michigan.

Q.  When you play a team like New Hampshire, nothing against New Hampshire but they're a smaller program, are you able to get an accurate read on the development of your own players?
JERRY KILL:  Yeah, I think you do because from an assignment standpoint, coaching is coaching.  There's some teams, like I guess the best way to do it is Alabama is right now, in college football, a unique program right now.  Do I like playing Alabama?  No, that's different with the type of person.  But I think we have to, in our program where we're at right now, we've got to look at technique, fundamentals, execution, what we're doing within our system.
If you physically get whipped, there's nothing you can do about that.  You play somebody and they physically whip you, then you'd better get stronger and faster to be able to play the game.  But when you mentally, for instance, drop a snap from a quarterback or you jump offsides or you drop a ball or you line up wrong or you blow a coverage, then you beat yourselves, and that's what you can't live with as a coach.
So those are things that we're concentrating on right now.¬† We cut down our penalties from the first week to the second week, but we still had‑‑ we stopped ourselves offensively, they didn't stop us on Saturday.¬† We made some bonehead mistakes that you can't make to be a football team.
And again, we have no room for error.  We have to play really, really good, clean football to have a chance to be successful with anybody on our schedule.  That's just the way it is right now.

Q.  What does the rule say regarding red shirting for a true freshman?  How much in terms of minutes or whatever?
JERRY KILL:¬† You can't play them.¬† Not one play.¬† Uh‑uh, no.¬† With Harbison it's different because he didn't play enough games, and he's medically disqualified, so then you can get that year back.¬† That's different.¬† But if a kid starts and plays, then you don't get to red shirt him.¬† So it's a critical decision when you do what you do in the red shirting situation.

Q.  Where are you right now with your freshmen that haven't played?
JERRY KILL:¬† That haven't played?¬† We're going to try to keep a red shirt on them as much as we can.¬† I know a lot of people that‑‑ we're trying to build a program.¬† We've got three offensive linemen that are very talented young people.¬† Two of them are 6'8" and 300 pounds.¬† And yeah, can we step them out there and play them right now, yeah, but they're not going to be as strong and physical as we need them to be.¬† If we red shirt them over the next three or four years they're going to be very strong and talented people.¬† We can afford to do that right now with where we're at up front.¬† We can't do that at some other positions.¬† There's a lot of discussions in there.¬† I can't tell you an exact science, but we've been able to do it where we've been before, move the program forward but also red shirt people to build a foundation of a program.
If you look at us in the secondary, we lost seven, eight players that played for us a year ago, and we didn't have anybody‑‑ I mean, it was empty classes, so we had to do a couple things in the junior college world where we got lucky on a true freshman, we were fortunate recruiting Derrick Wells worked out.¬† So we had some things in there that we had to do maybe differently than I'd like to, but that's what we had to do because of the empty classes that we had that we're trying to fill up.
So it's kind of a balancing act right now, and I count on the board trying to red shirt maybe 24 kids.  That's pretty good.  But can we do that?  We'll see.  Injuries control a lot of that.

Q.  All of them freshmen?
JERRY KILL:¬† Uh‑huh, yeah, I think that's right.
I think, again, we're trying to‑‑ it's hard because there's pressure to‑‑ you win, let's get going here, but at the same time, we've got to build the thing up for us to have the physical bodies and the depth to really be a really good football team.¬† So it's a hard match to do sometimes.
Sometimes we've made great decisions.  We made great decisions at Southern Illinois and were able to move the program forward.  Northern, probably wish I had a couple of those back that we played and wish I would have red shirted them and so forth.  It's not easy decisions, that's for sure.  But you've always got to think, you've got to shut everything else out.  Number one, you've got to think of what's best for the kid, and the other thing is what's best for the program down the road.

Q.  When you sit down to watch game film for the first time after a game, are you ever surprised by what you see in terms of things happening not the way you thought from the sideline?
JERRY KILL:  Oh, yeah, it's different.  My coaching career, early in my coaching career, I was in the box.  That's the best place to be, calling plays, being in the box, it's a whole different thing than being on the field.  You're on the field and you can't see the other side.  It's just different.
You get a pretty good feel, but like I come in and watch the game, and I'll watch it probably a couple times before I get into my comments, before I go visit with our coaching staff and try to evaluate things.  But there's always things you find out, you think one youngster when you get interviewed right after the game that you thought played pretty well, and then you watch the film, and you go, he looked good on these particular plays, but in the big scheme of things, we just made this person miss or we had a better athlete in this situation, and if the athlete would have been better we'd have been in trouble.
There's nothing‑‑ as we say in here, when I meet with the team, and I'll put those clips up, you can't hide from the video.¬† You get that little red pointer, and you go, hey, what's this, explain this to me, and you teach them.¬† This is not what we're looking for.
Again, we've got 17‑ to 22‑year‑old kids, and there's definitely a lot of mental mistakes and things that we need to clean up.

Q.  How is Shortell holding up?  He was roadblocked by gray and he's got the hotshot freshman coming up behind him.
JERRY KILL:  He's done pretty good.  I think that he's got a good attitude.  I think, again, everybody wants to play.  I'll be in my office, hey, Coach, what do I need to do to play.  It never bothers me about that.  You want them to want to play.  The ones you worry about is the ones that don't want to play.
But I think he understands exactly where he's at and what he needs to do, and competition is very healthy, I think, if you treat it that way.¬† You're never going to satisfy everybody when you're coaching or anything of that nature, but I've been pleased‑‑ I was really pleased with his performance when he came in the other day.¬† He was sharp, and he ran the team well, threw the ball well.¬† That was actually encouraging because it allows us some flexibility down the road a little bit.¬† I was pleased with his play, and he's had a good attitude, very good.

Q.¬† Flexibility meaning might use him in‑‑
JERRY KILL:  Flexibility not talking about the rest of our kids and what we're doing with the quarterback situation.

Q.  It was almost four to one run to pass in this game.  Understanding that was kind of specific to New Hampshire, what would you consider to be the ideal split between run and pass?
JERRY KILL:¬† I think you always try to balance it out as much as you can but it's according to who you play and what you do, and we did exactly what we needed to do to play against New Hampshire.¬† Could we have thrown it eight or nine, ten more times, possibly, but at the same time didn't want a no‑huddle team to get on a roll, wanted to try to control the football a little bit, and we seemed to be moving the ball fairly well when we didn't make a mistake or two.
But I think you always try to have as much balance in your offense as you possibly can.  You want to keep people off balance.
The one thing we did a little bit more, if you watch the one MarQueis went the distance, there's a lot of plays where MarQueis will come up, look at the secondary, and there's a lot more to playing quarterback, no different than the NFL, walks up, if we have a certain coverage he's going to throw the bubble screen.  If the bubble screen is not there we're running another play, and on the particular play he scores we're running option football.  The end had been taking him away, the end kind of squeezed, took the dive, MarQueis pulled it, tackled, peels up on the outside backer and hits his head on the goal post.
But there's about three options in that play that he could have done one way or the other, and if he doesn't make the right decision, then it's not a very good football play.  That's why we always talk about the quarterback being so critical.  There's a lot of decision making.  Those guys can't afford to be in double digits in mistakes.  They've got to be under digits in mistakes, and then you've got a chance to be pretty good.
That's not only in our league but in the next league up.

Q.¬† What kind of production do you expect out of Brandon Green?¬† Seems like he's been a non‑factor.
JERRY KILL:¬† Well, again, we have some good receivers, good, young receivers.¬† Brandon is older.¬† Brandon has had some knee problems.¬† He had knee problems‑‑ he's had them for a year and a half.¬† He's fought through them.¬† He's a great kid, love his work ethic, but he's been slowed down about it, no question about it.¬† Rep wise we've been careful about what we were doing, we were careful during camp and we'll see how things go.
We don't sit there, hey, try to force feed the ball to somebody.  We try to take what the defense gives us.  Again, we're playing some young kids in there.  That's really been a surprise to our football team.  I think our productivity, we've been able to get behind people, we've been able to do some things there.
We'll get a test this week because we're going to play a 3‑4, we're going to go against cover one, we're going to get press coverage, we're going to get people in your face.¬† It's a different deal.¬† So we'll see how we react to that.¬† It'll be a good challenge for our receivers and what they're going to see.

Q.¬† Do you feel that any receiver has kind of established himself as a go‑to guy on this team?
JERRY KILL:¬† Well, again, I think we've got some good kids and we're going to throw to the open guy.¬† Now, if you get cover one, like we will this week and so forth, and you can get a mismatch ‑‑ a game is about mismatches and you try to get a mismatch on somebody.¬† I'm not going to tell you who we're going to try to mismatch this week, but we'll try to get somebody on a lesser defender and try to take advantage of that if we can.
But so much of our offense is built off of the run and the play action passing game, and you take what they give you.

Q.  How has Barker played?
JERRY KILL:¬† I think he's done a good job. ¬†I don't think there's‑‑ give the kid credit; he's battled through injuries and so forth.¬† I think there's a time during camp I said‑‑ he wanted to play.¬† I said, you've got to stay healthy.¬† Durability and reliability, got to be there every day, and he worked through some things, and it's about productivity.¬† The first two games he's had some production, there's no question about that.¬† He's caught the ball well, he's returned punts well.
That's a big thing on our football team right now for us to be successful, we've got to control field position, and our punter punted it into the wind, and we had 42 net average, which is very good into the wind, and we also had a very good job of catching the punts and returning, which we weren't very good the week before and haven't been very good since I've been here.  So to me those were big improvements because that's what I call hidden yards, and we picked up a lot of yards in the punt game and the punt return game, which is important.  It's a lot easier to score on a shorter field.

Q.  Have you settled on Christian Eldred now?
JERRY KILL:  Christian is our punter now, yes.

Q.  Talk about how he ended up here.
JERRY KILL:¬† Well, it's a situation where you'd have to‑‑ Coach Sawvel recruited him.¬† There was a guy in Australia, if you watched LSU play, they had an Australian punter, there's a guy that works over there with rugby punters and so forth and just through emailing and searching, and Coach Sawvel knew we needed some help in that area.¬† I was informed by several people in the media that my job was on the line if we didn't find a punter, so I tried to get some help from our staff and they helped me out, and we got Christian here.
Now, he's punted in one game and punted very well.¬† We'll see how it goes throughout the season.¬† But he certainly did a good job on Saturday, and we hope for him to continue that, because it was big‑‑ to me that was a big thing coming out of the game and catching punts.
Sometimes as coaches and fans, we don't look at that hidden yardage.  You don't look at all that hidden yardage in there that you lose.  I think we lost on the first game, we lost about 55 yards in the punt game with the ball rolling and things of that nature.  So that's why Barker's play was pretty good.  He made good decisions.  When the ball was kicked inside the 10, he'd make a fair catch, the ball went out of the end zone.  Fundamental things that you have to do to be successful.  Again, we have no room for error, so those things are important.
I'd just tell you I appreciate everybody being here, and I will say that I was very‑‑ I get asked all the time, it's a good time to tell you, that I'm very appreciative of the support that we had in the stadium and the students and so forth.¬† It was a good atmosphere.¬† Everything I heard, it went good, and so we hope to continue to build off that because that certainly helps the program, helps enthusiasm, and more people, more juice in the stadium, better the players play.¬† It is what it is.
Thank you very much.

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