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October 30, 2012

Jerry Kill

COACH KILL:  I appreciate everybody being here this afternoon.  Kind of like always on a Tuesday, since Sunday and Monday we've been working on trying to prepare for the University of Michigan and getting haircuts and things of that nature.
So we've had a busy couple of days.  Looking forward to getting out to practice and working at trying to get ready for a very, very good football team and play much better than we did a year ago.  With that, I'll take on any questions that you may have.

Q.  What is the status of Barker?
COACH KILL:  He won't practice today.  It's a back where the Achilles is.  Of course, he didn't tear it or he wouldn't be walking.  He turned his ankle and it's kind of in a tender place.  We met today with the trainer and our coaching staff.  It's a time thing.  But it's certainly a concern, but hopefully we can know more on Wednesday.  We won't practice today, but maybe that extra day will help the opportunity.
That's what we did with MarQueis last week, and MarQueis played much quicker and faster than he did.  So hopefully for the young man's sake, he's had such a good year, that you hope he's able to play.

Q.  When you looked at the film, did the offensive line play as well as you have seen?
COACH KILL:  It's the best they've played all year, yes.  They played with continuity and communication, and probably the most impressive thing is Jon Christenson, the red shirt freshman.  We were worried about the snaps and those kind of things.  He did a great job of snapping the ball, getting as a red shirt freshman, getting us in the right scheme of what they're doing.
They're a very difficult team to prepare for and executed very well.  So for a red shirt freshman in a game like that, first game at center, where center is not an easy position to play, he really did a good job.
The rest of our guys seemed to play much faster and with some more confidence and so forth.  So certainly in the first half.  But hopefully we can continue to build on that.
But a young group.  I was glad for them.  We played two straight games, which is important, and part of it has to do with a young quarterback.  We haven't had any sacks, so minus yards you've got a chance.  You don't turn it over and you don't have a lot of minus yards, you've got a chance.  Hopefully we can continue that through this week.
Our offensive coaches did a really good job of knowing who we have in young people.  I think we're doing what we can to have a chance to be successful.

Q.  What is your offensive line situation this week?  (Indiscernible)?
COACH KILL:  We really need Eddie to come back, but he won't practice today either.  He's just not quite ready yet.  I was hoping, and I think I made the comment after the game that I was hoping he'd be able to play this week.  Right now I don't think that's going to be the case unless some things happen as the week goes on.  He's still limping around pretty good, and he can't play left tackle in college football or anywhere on a leg that's not real quick, and certainly not against the University of Michigan, so I don't think we'll have him.  We'll see.

Q.  Can you talk about how difficult it is for a true freshman to step into a leader's role like quarterback, and how Nelson has handled that?
COACH KILL:  Well, he's you done a good job.  I think that's evident over the first two games.  But I think his teammates have helped him.  I just think our kids have been pretty grounded through all of this stuff that's happened and so forth.  We've had enough trials and errors in the last year in different situations.
I think that when you're a quarterback, he's won a state championship, been successful, I think that goes along with the position.  So whether you're a freshman or a senior, I've started red shirt freshmen before.  I think it goes along with the position and the maturity.
But, again, it's no different than a guy playing in the NFL.  He's done a great job the first two games and he'll continue to make progress.  But there's nothing like game experience.  So, I just think he's done a good job, but I think when you're a quarterback, you're expected to do that.  That is part of the position.  It's kind of like being the head coach.  You have to make tough decisions, and you have to do certain things to play that position.  You have to be a leader or you're not going to be able to play that position.

Q.  It's one of the toughest pass defenses.  What have you seen on film that makes Michigan's pass defense tough?
COACH KILL:  I think it's the toughest defense we've seen to this point in time.  That's not to disrespect anybody.  It's just the truth.
Coach Mattison who actually coach worked for at Notre Dame that called me and Jay's been with me ever since.  They're a team that brings a lot of zone pressures.  And the reason they're playing well in the secondary is because of coach.  Coach puts them in a good position.  They play a lot of three deep, cover one concepts.  They keep the ball in front of them, don't give up the big play.  They make you earn it.  They try to get you to be overly greedy.  They play great run defense too.  There's not a whole lot.
I mean, I've been in there since Sunday all the way through Sunday and Monday just watching video.  There's not many people moving the ball very successfully against them.  So we'll have our work cut out for us, but look forward to the challenge.

Q.  You have linebackers banged up on Saturday.  Are you worried about that on linebacker this week?
COACH KILL:  We've got four weeks.  We have four weeks here at this time when you've played eight weeks of college football, we're going to have some things.  We have to be careful how long we practice.  And Rallis won't practice today, and hopefully we can get him going full tilt on Wednesday.
Everybody else at the linebacker position will practice today, so that's encouraging and that came out a little bit more optimistic than after the game.  But we've got to continue to improve in all areas.  You've got to practice and improve.  So it's important they get healthy and get ready.

Q.  What do you think Derrick Wells status to be for Saturday?
COACH KILL:  Derrick's?  He's a tough kid.  He can't practice today.  He's got, like I said, he's been stitched up.  When you get stitched up in the thigh here, there is not a lot.  You can get hit and it goes again.  So we'll just have to see.
But Derrick's a tough kid.  He'll try to find a way to play.  That's who he is.  He's one of the tougher kids I've been around, but we'll see.  We're all optimistic that with that situation when you're playing with something like that, it's Tuesday and Wednesdays that are pretty tough on you.  You try to get to Saturday, so to speak.

Q.  Does Robinson have any unique skills that you've seen?
COACH KILL:  There's nobody like him.  You know what I mean?  He's electrifying in college football.  He's worth going to see.  If you haven't seen him play, the public hasn't seen him play, he's worth going to the stadium to see.  He's electrifying.  There are not many people that say they'll challenge Bolt in the 40, you know.  He's that explosive of a kid.  He'll just make you look bad.
He's done a great job with installing the skills, which makes it even more difficult.  They do a good job trying to keep him in the box.  You go back and try to look at the film of Notre Dame.  You look at people that try to defend him, try to keep him in there, try not to let him get the football, but they do a good way of finding ways to create plays in situations for him.
But he's a great football player.  I've got a lot of respect for him.  I really do.  It's one of those things coming from high school, I think Coach Rodriguez didn't care about his size.  He just cared about his athletic ability and they certainly made the right choice.  There is no doubt he's playing.
He'll be practicing today, I promise you.  They won't let the media in to let anybody know, but he'll be practicing.

Q.  How do you simulate what he does?
COACH KILL:¬† I don't think you can.¬† You try, but I don't think you can.¬† That is the hard thing.¬† You can't simulate somebody with that much speed and quickness.¬† He's a low‑‑ just to put it in perspective‑‑ he's a low four‑three guy.¬† There aren't many people like that around.¬† I don't know how fast Percy Harvin is but it's like that.¬† I mean, he gets out of there and it's over.
So you try to do everything you can to simulate it, but you're never going to simulate what he is.  He's like on game day.  You better defensively do everything you can to try to keep the ball out of his hands and keep him boxed in.  Don't give him any running lanes.

Q.  (Indiscernible) will he still quarterback the scout team or will you move someone faster?
COACH KILL:  There is nobody that runs a 4.3.  So we'll do everything we can with different situations and different people.  Mitch can run, but he'll be the first one to tell I don't run 4.3.  It's hard to prepare for.  But everybody in the country has that problem.
I think it's more about your assignments and not giving him running lanes and making sure that you keep him inside the pocket, and you don't want to get out of a pass rush lane because he's going to duck in it.  You're going to have to do some things defensively a little bit different to keep him, you know.
Our defensive guys weren't very happy after last year, nobody was.  So I think we'll work hard to make sure we're prepared to do the best we can.  He's a good player.

Q.  (Indiscernible) an example of players that have changed so much?
COACH KILL:  I think, again, I give Lynn down here.  I think that you have to give Michael the credit for it.  When I came in, I put down there are certain things that we've got to do.  Michael struggled with it.  But he said I want to play.  I want to do what I need to do, and he's done what we've asked him to do.
Tyrone has been part of that, his family and so forth.  But at the end of the day it's your choice as a kid.  I know what I was like when I was 18, 19.  Like I said, my mom's here.  You could ask her.  I was a handful.  It took Dennis Franchione to go, hey, this is the way it is.  Sometimes it takes people longer to grow up and mature.  So he's gone through that.
He's worked hard.  And like you said, he's a great example for people that question anything is that here's a kid that's done what we've asked him to do, and look what his performance level is right now.
So I'm happy for him, and I hope he continues that.¬† Can't forget where he comes from either, so you keep pushing the button, and hopefully he'll continue to play well.¬† His sequence at corner you won't see very often.¬† I've coached for years and never seen back‑to‑back to back plays like that.¬† That was pretty impressive.

Q.  What do you mean, Jerry, you were a handful?
COACH KILL:¬† I think it's when you‑‑ I am who I am.¬† I've always been odd.¬† When you go to school, I'm the only person out of my family, I was the first person to graduate out of college.¬† You get away from home and‑‑ my dad was a hard man.¬† You're home at certain times, you did this.¬† If you didn't, it wasn't, hey, I want to have a little talk with you.¬† He knocked the heck out of you.¬† So when you got away from that scenario and you're on your own, you're a kid.
That's what we forget.  These kids are kids.  Some grow up quickly.  18, 19, some take a little longer.  I call them like an apple on the tree.  It takes some apples longer to turn red than others.  So that's how I put that scenario.
So we talk about Michael Carter, but we've got a whole group of kids that have done a lot of things differently over the past year and a half.  But people don't see that, but we're here every day.  There are a lot of stories within the stories, so to speak.

Q.  The dominance that Michigan's had in this series speaks for itself.  If you look at this game as a signature place where you want to have your team down the road looking at how to turn the tables and play a team that's had such established success as Michigan?
COACH KILL:¬† I think you always look where we're at, where we want to go.¬† I spent before I came here and been here the last year and a half, visiting with the administration.¬† Dealing with Michigan and where they're at and you look at that and say what do we have to do?¬† Where do we go?¬† What do we do?¬† You look from recruiting and how you operate from day‑to‑day.¬† If we want to compete, we haven't done that.
We haven't won a Big Ten title in four or five years.  If we want to do that, we've got to look at those programs and see where you're going and what you're doing.  You look and it's kind of like Oregon how quick they changed that program.  But they made a huge, huge investment.  Oklahoma State changed theirs pretty quickly.
So I think our administration, everybody's looking at you've got to look at your peers.  That's what we want to do is compete for a Big Ten Championship.  That's what our goal is.  So you certainly look at what the University of Michigan or Ohio State, because that's where we want to go.  Doesn't happen overnight.  You have to be persist ant, have a plan and stick to it.

Q.  Can you comment on yesterday's fundraiser and what your thoughts were on it?  If you thought it brought the team closer together?
COACH KILL:  I think all of that has to go to Connor Cosgrove came to me.  I don't know if it was a month ago or so.  We have a lot of different private conversations.  I don't know what he shares with all of you.  That's with him.  But he talked to me, 'Coach, I'm working with young people and I want to do something.  Can I talk to the team about it?"  And I said, you bet.  I support it a hundred percent.  That's why he came in, talked to our team, and it was a great event.
I haven't seen Rollis.  He's been hiding from me, but now he's got the same kind of hairstyle as I've got, so that's a good thing.
But I think it was an event just not just about football.  I think that needs to be clear.  I think it's about a kid like Connor Cosgrove that's gone what he's gone through and the kid that's know him have so much respect for him.  In just a short time they rallied around that kid and did something for a great cause.
As he said, when you have young ladies cut their hair, it's not an easy thing to do.  They look great.  That credit all goes to that kid.  That kid has gone through a lot.  He doesn't say a lot about it, but he's one that's matured at an early age.  You talk about me, Michael and you throw Connor in.
He's matured at an early age because he's had to mature.¬† He has no choice.¬† Going to the hospitals on his own, seeing three, four‑year‑old kids, it's not like we're telling him to do those kind of things.¬† That's what his choices have been.¬† So I think you give that kid all the credit in the world for what he's gone through, what he's going through, and what he'll continuing to through.
I'm very‑‑ his folks, there's not anybody that's not proud of the kid.¬† It's amazing.¬† When all this stuff's going on in the world that we worried about and he comes in and /SPHAOEULZ every day.¬† I think he came out last week, he came out of Kimmo, walks in and has an interview.¬† I think that pretty much sum it's up.

Q.  When he came to you with that idea, could you imagine it would blow up like it did yesterday?  It seemed everyone took part?
COACH KILL:  You know what?  When it comes from a kid and a kid like that, I think it had a chance to be pretty good.  I think he would figure out how it was going to be bigger if he planned it out a year ahead of time.  I think next year it will be an even bigger thing.
So one thing I know about the state of Minnesota and midwest people and those kind of things, it seems any time there is a cause or somebody needs something, I think everybody throws away their pride and all that and comes to help.¬† I've seen that in this state.¬† I think that's what makes the state of Minnesota pretty special.¬† Just happens that we have a student‑athlete that did it yesterday which is pretty neat.¬† But you all report on so many different, tremendous stories like that.¬† You never know what that did for somebody yesterday.
Yeah, they raised money.  That's a great thing.  But just personally seeing that, a little girl, a little boy or something that's going through that says now it's not so bad to have your haircut, or not having any hair.  So pretty neat.  Good thing, good story.

Q.  Can you talk about the most success you've had with the running game since preseason.  How much of that was due to the success of Philip opening up the passing game a little bit?
COACH KILL:¬† I think it had to do a little bit with probably a little bit of everything.¬† I think that certainly helped, you know.¬† But I think with what we're doing and things that we're doing up front helped us a little bit.¬† We played more two‑backs than we've played since we've been here.¬† Rodrick Williams I think has helped that cause, gave him some different looks.
But I think any time that you're building a program and so forth, they had a very good defensive line, but I think our kids up front probably got tired of me saying, hey, we've got to get better, you know.  We've got to move forward.  I think that had a lot to do with it.  But I think, again, it's a team effort.  Any time you get the ball down the field early in the game and take advantage of guys jumping routes.
I know we ran slant and go twice, pump faked the slant.  They'd come down, you'd hit a cut two or three deep balls, and I know as a defensive mentality you're going to go oh, we better get backed off here a little bit.  It's just normal.  You back off a little bit, and maybe that allows you to run the ball.
I think a good mixture is always good, but you still got to be able to run the ball to be successful and to win, certainly in the midwest.

Q.  Was it weird feeling in the second half the big lead that the team almost didn't know how to react to it?
COACH KILL:¬† You know, first of all I knew previously they'd been successful on two on‑side kicks.¬† So you get the lead, and I think what happened was Michael got the pick and everybody got excited and we're up and that hadn't happened since I've been here in my tenure.
I go, oh, you know, these kids are all on the wrong sideline, and we're trying to go hey, listen, get locked in.  I just think we got sloppy for a while.  But at the end we took the ball down and that was good.  I just think the concentration and focus level was not what I'd have liked to have seen as a head coach at that time, but that's part of the process.
Those kids haven't been in that situation.  Next time hopefully they'll handle it a little better.  But as coaches we're going to do our job, and like we said, good first half.  Second half was okay.  But we didn't make these mistakes in the first half; why did we make them in the second half?  And most of it is focus and concentration.  It really is.
You can't explain athletics going on.  You can get people focused in on what they're supposed to do and you can keep them focused in for a certain period of time, which is our job, you've got a chance every weekend at anything you do.  But it's hard to keep that many people locked in.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH KILL:  We are.  I think with the injuries and I look at it as the deal that I can walk out on the field today and we've got a lot of kids red shirted right now that I guess what comes to my mind is a kid like Maxx Williams who continues to grow and get bigger.  We have several kids.  Our future is good.  I think our recruiting and everything is going where we'd like it to go.  We just need to finish strong here and keep improving our football team.
But we've got a lot of kids that were red shirting that are going to be very good football players down the road and be big, physical guys.
Like the young man we're playing right now, the tight end linked completely to the 268 pound tight end that is a true freshman.
I think Maxx Williams weighing 255, and Duke came in at 210, and he's 255.  Those kids are growing as we speak.  So we're looking forward to it.  Got a good future.  We'll move the program forward every day.

Q.  Having the smallest crowd in four years, is that difficult for you this last week?
COACH KILL:  I can only control getting our football team ready.  I've been around this thing long enough.  I've been questioned enough in the last 30 years.  It's not like this is the first go round I've had.  It's like anything, winning solves a lot of problems.  That is the bottom line.
The more you win, if we continue to win, that place will be packed out and we'll have to build on to it.  If you don't win, that's the way it is.  But when you're turning around a program, you have those ups and downs and so forth.  But there are a tremendous amount of people that have stuck by the program.
It's our job.  It's not our fans.  I'm not going to blame anybody.  We've got to put a good product out there.  That's what I was hired to do a year and a half ago, and that's what we'll do.  It's just going to take a little bit of time.  As you win games, there's enough passion in this state, and enough passion in this room.  We start winning games and do it on a daily basis and expect it every week, all of that stuff will come.

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