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September 18, 2012

Jerry Kill

JERRY KILL:  I appreciate everybody coming in.  I guess opening statement wise, we're looking forward to playing Syracuse and playing here at home again at 7:00, and looking forward to moving our team forward and continuing to try to fix some of the problems we have and then build on the things that we're doing successfully.
With that, I'll take on any questions.

Q.  Talk about playing at 7:00 p.m. as contrasted to 11:00 a.m.?
JERRY KILL:  Well, I think as coaches sometimes you like playing at 11:00 because you don't have to think about everything all during the day and afternoon.  You get up, go to work, you play, you get home and you can get your week started again.
And playing at night, you, as a coach, you get done about 12:00 or 1:00 and you basically go to sleep and you go to work on the next week.¬† So I think as a coach‑‑ as far as the kids and the fans and those kind of things, I think a lot of people like going to a Saturday night game.
Again, from a standpoint, when you have 12 opportunities, the time you play them, when you play them, you don't worry about, you just play good when you play them.

Q.  What's the latest on MarQueis' ankle?
JERRY KILL:  Well, right now, I talked to the trainer, we met this morning, and he said that he was doing better.  You know, it's his ankle and his knee, but there's no structural damage or anything like that.  He got bent over pretty good, so he's going to be sore for a couple days.  I talked to him yesterday, and I said your goal is to try to be a backup on Saturday and be prepared to play.
Now, that's a pretty drastic goal, but you've got to have something to shoot for, so we'll see how it works out.

Q.  Do you think he'll be out at least a couple weeks?
JERRY KILL:¬† You know what, MarQueis, last year he played with turf toe, third degree turf toe in two weeks.¬† You don't ever limit on somebody's healing process and things of that nature.¬† I mean, I can't speculate and talk about it.¬† It's a one‑day‑at‑a‑time venture.¬† The good thing is he doesn't have a broken leg or torn ACL or something of that nature.¬† Speculation is one of those things, we have to prepare that Max is our quarterback going into the game, Phil Nelson is the backup, and we move forward, and if MarQueis is available, that's a good thing, but that's the approach we'll take.

Q.  Are you reluctant because of the red shirt deal to play him?
JERRY KILL:¬† Well, I mean, what do you want me‑‑ we have no choice.¬† We're going to‑‑ I don't know how more to explain about the quarterback position.¬† I can't control injuries or what happens tomorrow or the next day.¬† I can control what we have today.¬† If we're playing tomorrow, Max Shortell is our guy that we're playing, and Philip has to be the backup, and Mitch Leidner has got to be ready to play.¬† There's no avoiding to that.¬† If MarQueis is able to get himself healthy enough to be available, that even benefits us more.¬† You're dealt the cards and you play them.

Q.  What are you seeing in Max that makes you believe that he's better prepared to be a starting quarterback this year than he was a year ago?
JERRY KILL:  Oh, I think the biggest thing is when you're a freshman it's a whole different mindset going in, and I think Max has been through some of those trials and errors as a freshman last year, and his preparation, he came in with the mindset, hey, I'm going to try to be a starter, and he's kept that mindset.  Our quarterbacks and our coach have a great relationship, and he's continued to push forward.  Not only him, we talk a lot about the quarterback position, but a lot of people don't realize we didn't have our starting center last week, either.
We have kind of a motto here, the next man up.  We talked about depth, the way we practice is a little bit different than most people, and right now it's paying off because the next man up has done a pretty good job.  Max stepped in, did a pretty good job, and now we expect him to go in and play well and be ready to go against Syracuse.

Q.  You're going forward as if Zach will start at center?
JERRY KILL:¬† We'll just have to see, again, until we get out to practice.¬† Zach Mottla was available on Saturday for emergency needs if possible, but we'll see how he moves‑‑ we got banged up pretty good, and we've met with‑‑ we'll have some guys out today and throughout the week, hopefully some of them will heal up, but I think any time you play, more so for whatever reason, the more you play on Saturdays the more physical the game is, you get more guys that are dinged up, and the next person has got to be ready to play or they've got to get healed up pretty quickly.
We're going to play the ones that can play full speed and can execute what we're trying to do.¬† We're not going to play a guy at three‑quarter speed or something like that and take a risk.

Q.  Will the playbook change with Max playing?
JERRY KILL:  I think you always play to somebody's strengths and weakness.  I think everybody quarterback has his strengths and weaknesses, even the best ones do, and we'll play to his strengths a little bit, but we don't have to start something all over again.
Up front we do the same things every day we have for the last year and a half.  Coach Limegrover, you could take a tape recorder out there and it's going to be the same thing.  In the backfield it's the same.  But we can do a lot of different things within our system to help fit who you have playing there a little bit.
You know, Max is a guy that a lot of people don't‑‑ Max runs better than you think he does.¬† A lot of people say‑‑ he runs a lot better than you think he does.¬† He's worked hard to get better over the summer, and again, he's just like all our kids that have been here a year under the strength program.¬† He bends better, he moves better than he did a year ago, and that's a thing that's a credit to our strength program.

Q.¬† He moves better, but would you like to see him not dive headfirst into‑‑
JERRY KILL:¬† Again, yeah, you'd like him not to try to run over somebody, but at the same time, if he slides, I've seen them slide and blow their knee out.¬† The bottom line is as a quarterback you try to protect yourself as you possibly can, but in this day and age and in college football or pro football, you just have to‑‑ when you can get out of bounds you've got to be smart.¬† When you're in the middle of the field you're playing, and your instincts take over.¬† You can teach and coach all you want, your instincts are going to take over sometimes.

Q.  Do you think that Max last year as a freshman and now as a sophomore, still with limited experience, does he have more game management skill and poise than a lot of quarterbacks you've been with and coached over the years?
JERRY KILL:¬† I think we've been blessed.¬† I don't get into‑‑ I've been blessed with coaching good quarterbacks.¬† That's why I have the opportunity to be in the room today and coach.¬† I mean, everywhere I've been, we've had good quarterbacks, and they've all made pretty good decisions or I wouldn't be in the room.
I mean, I think he's right along in that type of style of quarterback.

Q.  What did you think of the cohesion with the line up front with the different center in?
JERRY KILL:¬† We've got work to do.¬† We've got work to do up front.¬† I mean, we do.¬† That's something that we'll spend‑‑ I think that we've got to continue‑‑ that's a work in progress, and we'll continue to do that.
Now, we rushed for some good yards and we threw for good yards and we protected the quarterback very well, but our expectations have gone up just like everybody else's, and I think we're going to have to play better than we did a week ago to win and beat Syracuse.  I don't think there's any question about that.  I think all of us know that.

Q.  Talking about the receivers, in preseason you kept bringing up Barker's name as someone that's catching your eye.  You mentioned being healthy, but were there specific of his skills that were jumping out to you?
JERRY KILL:  Well, I think the big thing is A.J., I don't know, you'd have to ask our strength coach, but he can run.  He's got good speed, he's a good athlete, he's been able to catch the ball, but again, I've never really seen him full speed because of all the hamstring trouble.  Once he's gotten healthy, gained some confidence, caught some balls, and he's doing a great job for us, and we need people to step up in that area, and so far that area has played pretty good.
We need to block better.  We don't block very good on the perimeter, and we've got to get a lot better at that.  I think we've caught the ball well, and we've run good routes.  We've got to get off press coverage better, but we're young, so they're all learning.  Most of them haven't played.
They learn every week, and it's a teaching session every week, but hopefully we'll continue to improve.  But we're going to have to do a better job blocking on the perimeter than we did last week.

Q.  Is he close to getting a scholarship?
JERRY KILL:¬† I'm going to tell you what, I'm going to hire you guys‑‑ I get asked that every five minutes.¬† I'll explain with the same thing I've said for the last year and a half:¬† I think my track record speaks for itself.¬† That's the best way I can put it, and I think it speaks very well for itself.
If he continues to do what he has, I can't pull it out of the hat right now, and when there's something available and he continues to do what he's doing right now, then we certainly have rewarded everybody I think in my coaching career.  I think that's about the ninth time I've been asked that question, so that's the ninth answer.

Q.  Syracuse has scored a lot of points in their three games.  What do you see as their strengths?
JERRY KILL:  They're explosive.  They're very explosive.  They've got a receiving corps, athletic skill set.  They're different than a lot of people we'll play even the rest of the year.  They've got very good skill sets and are very gifted at wide receiver and quarterback, and they can go vertical with the football.
It's a different skill set than we've seen, and I mean, it's a great challenge for us in the secondary, there's no question about that.

Q.  How do you think your safeties have come along in just making that position change?
JERRY KILL:¬† Well, I think Derrick Wells is playing as well as any‑‑ it's pretty evident how well he's playing.¬† I think he's done a great job.¬† And then the guy that's made the transition tremendously is Brock Vereen.¬† I think he's another one.¬† Certainly we've used him in different packages but we're asking a lot of him.¬† He's played very well and so has Thompson, so I think all three safeties have been productive and played well, and they're way ahead of schedule of what I thought we would be at that position.¬† That's why we're doing some good things, I think, back in the back end.
Plus then Michael Carter stepped up and played his best game since he's here, and Troy is progressing as he learns more and has done some good things.  We still have some young players behind them.  Shabazz is going to be out probably for another week with his toe situation, but he's a very gifted athlete.  Jeremy Baltazar is playing very quality minutes, played very well at corner, good press corner guy.
All those things are important, but we definitely need Shabazz back.  Hopefully we can get him back before we start the Big Ten Conference.

Q.  Mike Carter said that he felt like teams were targeting him a little bit on Saturday, but he likes it.  Is that what you're seeing, as well?
JERRY KILL:¬† No, not really.¬† I don't think that ‑‑ quarterbacks are going to throw to the open people.¬† I think that people use that in sports all the time, hey, they're going to try to garget this corner and that corner with as many different types of secondary coverage as you're getting and playing man, zone, cover two, it's hard to just go out and say, hey, we're going to force‑feed it to this guy.¬† That's why Randy Moss got frustrated sometimes because sometimes you threw into double coverage with Randy Moss and he'd still make the play.¬† But it's hard to force‑feed a great receiver, it really is.

Q.¬† If MarQueis is not able‑‑ I'm assuming MarQueis won't practice this week?
JERRY KILL:¬† I don't know.¬† Again, I'm no different than you.¬† I think at the time he got bent up pretty good, leg went numb, thought there was a situation where this could be a long time.¬† I don't think as we progress‑‑ he was very sore yesterday, and I think Ed is going to try to move him around a little bit today.¬† I don't know.¬† So I'll be very honest, I'll get to see Ed at practice and certainly ask him, and if he's moving around I'll let you know.¬† I don't know at this point in time, so we'll have to see.¬† I just know yesterday he wasn't going to play anywhere.¬† He was pretty sore.

Q.  Knowing that you don't know what's going to happen during the game, will you have an eventuality in case Max has to come out for just a play or two, gets his bell rung or something?
JERRY KILL:  Yeah, we'll have a plan.  That's probably why I'm dressed up like this and haven't shaved yet, but we'll have a plan.

Q.  What will MarQueis' role be if he's not able to play as far as on the field and during practice?
JERRY KILL:  Same role he's had when he's not in.  I mean, you play quarterback, you play quarterback, injured or not injured.  You see it in the NFL or anywhere, you've got to be in the game.  Your job is to play the game and be in it for the other guy just like he's been in it for you.  Max has been in the last three games, and he talks to MarQueis all the time.  They all talk.  Hey, you're getting cover two, you're rolling down on this, corner is playing tight, think you've got the post.  That's why we call it a team game.
Our guys do a great job of working together, and I think that's kind of a slow change.  As we get better, our kids will learn and understand that it's a we thing, it's not an I thing, and if you work together you help each other out and the results are pretty good.

Q.  Will his reps increase, Mitch Leidner?
JERRY KILL:  Well, you can't rep four quarterbacks or anything like that, but we'll get him over for a couple reps in case something happens.  We've been suiting him up the first three games, and you hope you don't have to go there.  I'd rather not talk about all the things; that makes things happen sometimes.  But he'll get a couple reps in there.  We'll make sure we get them all repped and make sure they're all ready to play the best they can.

Q.  He had the hamstring earlier in camp but he was able to progress from that, and he seems pretty fired up to help out.
JERRY KILL:  Oh, yeah, he's in good shape.

Q.¬† Has Max's play on Saturday or if he plays well in the next game or two, is this an opportunity for him to change your‑‑
JERRY KILL:  Our approach is we're going to worry about playing this game, playing Syracuse, one day at a time.  That's how I've always approached it, and things take care of itself.  We're in a good situation.  If we weren't in a good situation, we wouldn't have won the game on Saturday.  So we're good to go where we're at, and we'll take this week and see what it brings and we'll move forward from there, and the bottom line is we'll do what it takes to win.

Q.¬† Has the 3‑0 record changed the team's approach to practice, especially compared to last year?
JERRY KILL:¬† You know, I get so caught up in the bubble and so forth, you know, I'm sure it has.¬† We'll know more today when we go out to practice.¬† But we've practiced pretty well since we've started this season.¬† But I think at the end of the season last year I think we practiced pretty well and practiced pretty hard, and the attitude was pretty good.¬† I think we've been pretty consistent as coaches here; whether you win or lose, we're going to treat you the same.¬† We're going to‑‑ we get excited about a win and we enjoy it, and you enjoy the moments, but then when you come back to work you go to work.¬† I'm sure deep down enthusiasm and for a young person or anybody, when you have some success it's a lot easier to go to work than when you're not having success.¬† When you're not having success, it's a grind a little bit.¬† When you're having success, it's a little bit less of a grind.¬† But it's still a grind.¬† These kids are getting up in the morning, they've got classes, study hall, long days and so forth.¬† We've got a young football team, a very young football team.¬† So there's life lessons.
I've got a problem every day.¬† I'm just being honest with everybody.¬† There's no perfect programs.¬† I'm going to meet the guy that runs one of them.¬† I've got problems every day.¬† Every player has got a problem, I've got two daughters that have got problems, one has got a broken‑down car.¬† I've got the same problems everybody else has got.¬† We try to approach them the best we can.¬† Take them one day at a time.
One thing I will tell you, I appreciate everybody's coverage and all the support, and appreciate what you do for college football.  Thank you.

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