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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 23, 2012
COACH KILL:Â Thanks for everybody coming out.Â I guess for an opening statement, we're looking forward for the opportunity to get better.Â We came back after Saturday's game mad as a staff.Â We had a lot of our players stuck around, watched the film.Â That's the encouraging thing, the kids want to do well.
Working very hard and looking forward to going out to practice and continue preparation and bringing a football team along.Â So we're excited about that.
With that, I'll open it up to any questions.
Q.Â Have you made any decision on whether you would stick with Philip the rest of the season at quarterback?
COACH KILL:Â I think you visited with me on Sunday, I gave you the same answer.Â We wouldn't pull a redshirt off a youngster if we weren't going to play him.
A lot of it has to do right now with MarQueis's situation.Â He won't practice.Â We're having a tough time having him to be 100%.Â We need to get him healed up.
We were put in a tough situation with Max getting dinged up at Northwestern.Â And then through the week, we gave Philip most of the reps.Â Max continued to get reps Wednesday and Thursday, felt didn't want to go this throughout the whole year.Â We took the redshirt off Philip, he played really well.Â We'll probably need both those young men the way things have gone, so he certainly will play.
Q.Â How much of the playbook did you use with Philip?Â Are there things you'd like to add?
COACH KILL:Â We didn't change anything.Â I think right now we're doing anything.Â It's not about the quarterback.Â We had so much injuries up front, the offensive line, we never started the same group.Â Lenkiewicz played his tail end off, but he weighs 270 pounds at offensive tackle, gave everything he had.
Our personnel up front, continuity, I think we have to stay with what our offensive line can execute, what we can do to protect our quarterback, whether it's Philip or Max or whoever is playing.
That's one thing I was pleased with.Â We didn't take a sack on Saturday, didn't have near the minus yardage.Â But a lot of it had to do with what our offensive coaches did, with what we did with protection, what we did to take some hits off the quarterback.
Unfortunately we missed a blitz pickup and Philip got hit pretty good down there in the red zone.Â We took a really good shot.Â That's something you don't want.Â You try to keep the hits off in the passing game as much, and the negative yards.Â That's what really hurt us against Northwestern, the last two games.Â We really did a good job of not having that issue.
But I think a lot of it had to do with what we're trying to do with such a young group of people, maybe not as strong as we want to be right now, and giving them a chance to be successful.
So I think we're on the right track with that.Â Part of that has to do with a young quarterback, too.Â Really Max and Philip are both young quarterbacks, and really MarQueis is somewhat because he hasn't played the position, so...
Q.Â What is Max's health status?
COACH KILL:Â He was capable of playing.Â It's just like anything, you're a head football coach that's been down this thing one time before at Northern Illinois where we had to play four kids in my first year there.Â You don't want to have to be with the situation Max coming out of the game at Northwestern, and you don't want to have to play KJ Maye for five games.Â That's not fair to the senior kids that want to win right now and try to get the bowl game, all those things.Â You don't want to wait that long.
With MarQueis not progressing as fast as I wish he could, that's the decision that was made, and I feel very comfortable with that decision.Â We did the right thing and we move on, so...
Q.Â Big Ten games, teams having the ability with one runningback or two, is it a personnel situation, a scheme things?Â Are things just breaking down from your perspective defensively?
COACH KILL:Â From our defensive side of the ball?
COACH KILL:Â I'm sure you'll have some kids come in.Â When you can come in and you talk to your team on Sunday, how many watched the film already?Â What do you think, men?Â Critical mistake, coach.Â Critical mistake there.
I guess I compare it a little bit to what the University of Miami is going through.Â They have a young football team.Â Played their tail end off at Florida State.Â At the end of it, they get worn down.Â When you're young, those kind of things, you make a few of those critical mistakes, they show up.
With that, Montee Ball, also after I went back and watched film, no matter what anybody wants to say about the University of Wisconsin, Montee Ball is the real deal.Â Third down and long, third down and 11, it wasn't anything but Montee Ball knocked three people back and we didn't tackle him.
Sometimes it wasn't the perfect execution.Â It was Montee Ball and the other young man, they're just pretty good football players, they really are.Â They made some cuts and some creases that make you look pretty bad, they really did.Â So I got to give them some credit, too.
Q.Â Do you expect to get some of your injured players back?
COACH KILL:Â No, we won't.Â Off the top of my head, we had a meeting this morning, and Ed Olson won't be back this week, which is critical for us and the offensive line.Â We will get Tufts back, he'll be cleared to practice, which will be good.Â Derrick Wells will be a question mark.Â He's a tough kid, what he played with.Â He had some work done on his leg yesterday, and hopefully he'll have a chance to play, but it will be later on in the week.
I was trying to think of who else.
I think Roland Johnson has a chance.Â He's been really laid up, but I think he's improving a little bit, which I think is important to us.Â I think that's about it right now.
Tommy has been able to roll up on his toes for the first time.Â He might have been able to give us some time on Saturday.Â Again, it's another one of those 100% things, playing to the capability of when you're healthy.Â But he's better, which is important.
Q.Â When you have all these injuries, lost a few games in a row, what are you telling the group every day to keep them pumped up?
COACH KILL:Â I think, regardless, our kids, we talk to them.Â I think sometimes when there's a struggle, here at Minnesota, you go back‑‑ believe me, I get a flood of information of things, is that when there's frustration for a long period of time, the negativity from the outside coming in, from a coaching staff, when we came in, we set a standard, this is what we're going to do, this is where we're going.Â I think we did that the first year.
The second year, this is pretty much where it goes when you're turning around a program.Â The biggest thing you have to do is communicate with your kids all the time, make sure they stay locked in.Â They've done a good job.Â Probably the best thing I have going for me, there's a young man named Jeff Jones who played for me at Southern Illinois, was part of a turnaround, as he said when he went to class his second year at Southern Illinois, people telling him, Hey, you're never going to win here, why did you come to school here, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.Â So he's heard all that stuff.
Having him in my corner, by my side, he's a few years older than they are, but he's more their age and can help tell the story because he's been through it.Â I can go through a bunch of players that have been through here that have been through it.
I think we've tried to educate our kids as much as we can, where we're at, what we need to do.Â It's just like anything else.Â When things don't go perfect, those kind of things, we're 4‑3 right now, we have a huge game against Purdue, we still have some goals that we can reach.
We got some seniors that have been tremendous through this process that have been through a tremendous amount of coaching change, different philosophies, different things.Â I'm proud of the way they've handled themselves.
Our goal is to try to get them to a bowl game.Â That's what we need to do.Â Our young people know that.
I would tell you that the room and our kids, they're pretty relentless.Â That's the good thing about being young, I guess.Â They're pretty relentless.Â They just want to do well.
Like I said, when you can get off a bus, your kids are watching video, up here getting that extra work in, we didn't have that a year ago.Â So they care.Â They want to do well.
Q.Â What is the status of Kirkwood?
COACH KILL:Â He played Saturday.Â I haven't been told any different.Â He got an ankle or low ankle sprain early in practice.Â But he played on Saturday.Â We didn't limit his reps or anything of that nature on Saturday.Â We played Rodrick Williams a little bit more, but Rodrick is doing a good job.
Q.Â What is the key to getting your run game from your tailbacks going?
COACH KILL:Â I think a lot of that has to do with what Wisconsin does.Â They took away some things.Â Again, running the football, stopping the run, all those kind of things, come with strength and size and physical, all those kind of things.
We certainly want to run the ball.Â My background in coaching is I like running the ball.Â But right now there's some things that physically we're still struggling with a little bit.Â Doesn't mean we can't, but we got to take a look at how.Â We'll continue to do that and continue to get better and getting healthy will help that a little bit.
Q.Â Philip, what would you like to see from him?
COACH KILL:Â Like I said, you go back to Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan, all those teams, the quarterbacks are doing the same thing.
The beauty of the thing, if there's anything, is I don't feel bad if, let's say, Philip runs a couple runs, looks a little bit fatigued.Â I've been doing it long enough, we can put Max in.Â That's not something you worry about.Â We did that at Northern Illinois.Â Evidently that paid off at Northern Illinois because that young man, I don't know what their record is, they lost one game, he's playing his tail off.Â That's probably a good move playing him as a freshman.
Q.Â You would have liked to have the clock start ticking next fall.Â What is the value of having him get this experience as opposed to getting the experience next year?
COACH KILL:Â That's the Jordan Lynch, the kid from Mt.Carmel, played under Frank Lenti, coming to Northern, how much we played him when he was there.Â I think Derrick Wells a little bit is an example of that.
A lot of people question those kind of things.Â But it's better to have somebody right now.Â If we had to do it three games before the end of the year, we wouldn't have done it.Â In this situation, he gets an opportunity to be in those games, be in those situations.
Next year we're going to have a huge amount of players that will be back.Â We'll lose some critical seniors that have been great for our program, but we'll also have a lot of kids back, and we should be stronger.Â You're going to see a year stronger.Â I think that benefits.
Plus I think right now he gives us an opportunity.Â He got himself out of some very difficult plays on Saturday and made some plays with his feet and his arm.Â I think, again, we're going to continue to move our program forward.Â I think him having the opportunity to play will help us be a better football team a year from now.
It's going to be competitive there.Â We have a redshirt freshman quarterback that's still redshirted that's a pretty good player.Â Competition is good at the end of the day.
Q.Â When you talk about piecing together protection for the quarterback because of all your injuries, does the Nelson kid realize what's happening?
COACH KILL:Â He's got the quickest release of the three quarterbacks without a doubt.Â You could see that on Saturday if you watched the game.Â He's got a quick release.
If you took the advantage of what Philip has, the knack he has, when we recruited him, he can get the ball out in a hurry, so fast we didn't have a receiver turned.Â He gets the ball out, which is important.
When I've talked approximate releases, I've talked about Tebow's release, he can throw it without the laces.Â So that's not what we taught him, that's what he was taught by his high school coach and program.
When we recruit quarterbacks, we're looking for that quick release.
Q.Â Do you recall when you first saw him?
COACH KILL:Â Philip?Â No.Â I've been through enough, I couldn't tell you when I first saw him or anything like that.Â I mean, I know as soon as we got the job, we started recruiting him, we got right into the state.
I think that's the thing to this point, each year is different.Â But on the offensive side of the ball anyway, we've got a lot of Minnesota kids right now, which I think is a good thing.
I think when we first got here, talked to the high school coaches, we had two or three quarterbacks.Â We ended up getting the two we wanted to bring in the program.
Whenever we were legally able to talk to him, come on an unofficial visit, you'll probably have to ask him, but not sure.
Q.Â How does it benefit when you play a true freshman in recruiting, can you tell that when you go out and recruiting?Â How do you sell that?
COACH KILL:Â I can't say much about recruiting right now because we got a situation.Â I can't really comment on it.
Kids come to schools for all kinds of different reasons.Â Most really good players are not afraid of competition.Â So I guarantee you, Max is not going to not go to practice today and not get after that.Â Frankly that's what we need and have been lacking in our program, is to have the competition in our program to have guys get better.
As we grow the program, and certainly we've got a lot of football to be played right now, a lot of opportunity to get better, then you go in the off‑season.Â The competition, if we're going to get better, is going to get bigger and better.Â That's what we're looking for.Â It is.Â Right now it's loaded with a bunch of young guys.
I told them all the time, Some of y'all got to separate out a little bit.Â They will when it comes to work ethic, what they do in the summer.Â It's a lot different.Â We have to build a program, build players.Â That's the thing about the NFL, you can turn some things around in the NFL pretty quick because you can get free agents.Â We don't get to do that.Â We kind of have to build them in the program.
Q.Â How is Isaac Fruechte's health?
COACH KILL:Â He'll be back.Â Both him and Tufts had concussions.Â One was released to play, which he was, but then he got the flu on Friday night.Â He had a rough week.Â He didn't play on Saturday, but he will be back.Â Him and Tufts being back will help us.
Q.Â Other players not necessarily taking redshirts off, but other players you'd like to see get more playing time in what's left of the season?
COACH KILL:Â I think we feel good about where we're at.Â The kids, we're redshirting over 20 players.Â This is our first true recruiting class.Â I think we're redshirting over 20 players and we're playing about eight or nine freshmen and they're all playing quite a bit in different roles.
We feel good.Â As things work out, with having some things injured up a little bit, some of them will be asked to do more.Â Lincoln Plsek has played a lot over the last two weeks and played really well.Â The thing about that, you get excited about that, Lincoln is 6'5", 278 pounds.Â He's a true freshman.Â What he's going to be in a couple years is exciting.
I think that's all pretty good right now.
Q.Â You said there's still some of your goals within reach.Â Obviously one of them is a bowl game.Â Are there others?
COACH KILL:Â There's a lot of goals.Â I don't have them in front of me.Â Certainly if you visit with me today, I'd give them.
I think the thing, we came in as a staff with a plan.Â Believe me, I wish I could fix everything in a year and a half, be 10‑0, 12‑1.Â It just doesn't work that way.Â I think our first year we've done a lot of good things to get it where it's at.Â I think we're moving the program forward.Â I think the kids understand that and feel good about it.
The biggest thing that kills you in football is that you have to be able to stay healthy to be successful.Â It don't matter if it's in the NFL or college football.Â With our deal, yeah, we came out 4‑0, but we came out of that thing beat up, then we went right into the Big Ten and have struggled since.
Staying healthy equals success.Â I listened to the coach at Iowa.Â They lost two starting offensive linemen on Saturday.Â What you do is you feel bad for the kids because you have to understand, coach made a great point, these kids 12 months out of the year in this day and age are working their tail ends off for 12 opportunities.Â Boy, you feel bad for those kids.
I feel terrible for MarQueis right now.Â He worked his tail end off, hasn't worked out.Â You know what, that's football.Â That's part of the game.Â That's the tough part of the game, is the health factor and staying healthy, durable, all those kind of things.
When kids get hurt, whether it's season‑ending, where they can't perform to where they want, you just really feel bad for the kids, you really do.
Q.Â What have you seen from Purdue?
COACH KILL:Â You know what, as far as Purdue, what we see from Purdue, coach said at the beginning of the year this is going to be a very, very good football team, his best football team.Â I don't think he's telling anybody not the truth, that's for sure.
I think everybody that watched the game at Ohio State, you just kind of go, I mean, they had that game, toe‑to‑toe to Notre Dame.Â They're a very good football team.
Talking to other people in the Big Ten as we visit back and forth as coaches all the time, I think up front, their front four is tremendous.Â Their two defensive tackles are guys that are going to be drafted.Â I think they're very, very good up front in the defensive line.Â They're very athletic in the secondary.Â They're very skillful.Â We found that out a year ago.Â We played them two years ago at Northern Illinois.Â All those kids were young then, and now they've all grown up.
They've grown up, he's had a plan.Â They've gotten big and stronger.Â They've recruited pretty well.Â They'll be an athletic football team coming in.
We're both in similar situations.Â We both need a win.Â It's going to be, in my opinion, as I told our kids on Saturday, 90% of what you do in life is right here, is mentally.Â Mentally the team I think that prepares through the week, gets themselves ready to go, it's going to be real critical.Â I imagine for both teams it's going to be critical how we get started in the game.
Q.Â You only tried one, but are you seeing how the new rules are going to make on‑side kicks harder for you to pull off?Â That's signature play for you.
COACH KILL:Â A little bit.Â I was disappointed.Â We had the ball on Saturday.Â We executed pretty well.Â The ball squirted out of there and we just didn't get on top of it.
All the rules affect something.Â For instance, I think somebody, I don't know who it was that asked me, their linebacker, who is a heck of a player, Borland came in and hit Philip in the end zone.Â Went down to his knees or whatever.
What they've done to defensive players is they made a rule for the safety of the quarterback, which is good, you can't hit him high.Â Now everybody's going to legs.
I think that's kind of like the on‑side kick.Â You can't hit the high bounce now without them crossing.Â But just what we did the other day, that's just about as dangerous as getting somebody hurt as the high bounce.
I think, again, I'm on the rules committee with AFCA this next year.Â It's interesting to sit in there.Â Bottom line, everything you do rule‑wise is for the safety of the players, as and it should be.Â It should be.Â We're going through all these injuries ourselves, everybody else in the country is.Â See ESPN, all the people that are out, questionable, concussions, all those kind of things.
Every rule we make needs to be towards the safety of the game.Â Sometimes when you make the rule, you don't look at the whole picture of the rule.Â Sometimes things are triggered, you have to go through a season.Â A couple years ago they went away from if you're outside the tackle box, you can't come back in and cut.Â They had to tweak that rule a little bit because after they watched it, they said, Well, maybe we need to make a few adjustments.
I think probably on kickoff, all those things, you'll see some adjustments made in the rules in the off‑season.Â I can't tell you exactly what, but that's part of football.
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