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PURDUE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 6, 2012
Q. ¬†I guess as you look at Iowa in particular, they've got a pair of linebackers who are pretty stout, Hitchens and Morris.¬† Can you talk about them, the kind of defense Iowa presents, the physicality of it and just the problems it presents?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, they're always very tough on defense, and the same is the same this season.¬† They're, I think, rated in the top 40 in the country in regards to total defense.¬† I could be off a little bit.¬† But they're right around the upper third, if you will, of Division I football, and I think maybe 29th in scoring defense.¬† So they have good numbers.¬† They play very physical.
They're similar to what they have been in the past where they don't do a whole lot.¬† They can bring pressure or they can bring line movement and create some mayhem across the line of scrimmage, but for the most part they hang their hat on the lineup and their base fronts and coverages and playing hard and hanging their hat on out‑executing their opponent.¬† But they're very physical across the line of scrimmage like they have been.
Their linebackers are very good players.¬† They're very skilled in the secondary.¬† I think their corners are really good players.¬† I really think like Micah Hyde is one of the top players at his position.¬† He's got good size and good physicality and really competes on the field, sticks close to the wide receivers.¬† So I think they're very strong defensively.¬† You can see it on film, and I think their numbers indicate that, as well.
Q.¬† And then the quarterback Vandenberg has been solid.¬† What kind of threat does he present?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, he's an experienced quarterback.¬† I believe he led the Big Ten in total passing yards last season ‑ if he wasn't the passing leader he was right up there‑ and usually does very well from an efficiency standpoint.
At times the quarterback can play as well as those around him allow him to, and they've gone through some key injuries throughout the course of the season.¬† They've had a rash of injuries at the running back position.¬† They've had some linemen that they've lost throughout the course of the season.¬† So their offense has tried to rebuild and regain their consistency and their rhythm kind of like ours has in some ways, but he's a very good quarterback.¬† He threw for a ton of yardage last year, makes good decisions with the football, an experienced player, and a guy that can certainly play well on any given Saturday and make a difference in the ballgame from a passing standpoint.
Q.¬† From your team's standpoint I know dropped passes was an issue last week and has been a little bit during the course of the season.¬† At this point is it just a matter of concentrating and doing extra drills, or how does that get addressed so that doesn't become a problem the rest of the way?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, we'll have to go out there and obviously work hard and practice at pitching and catching.¬† I think our potential as a passing offense has increased during the latter part of the season.¬† Even though we had some big hits on the quarterback this past Saturday we do have some linemen that have improved from a pass protection standpoint, and that's encouraging when you have a talented passer like a Robert Marve behind the center.
Our receivers have to do a better job of being more detailed in their route running.¬† You have to defeat coverages and get yourself in position to be open and provide some room for yourself, and sometimes that can increase your odds of catching the football.
And then again, concentration and focus, but there were several times throughout the course of the ballgame this past Saturday where Robert threw a pass and it was in the vicinity of the receiver and it could have been a catchable ball, because at times our protection wasn't as strong or as stout as we needed to be; Robert still went on the run and having to avoid some pressure, and a lot of times that makes the passes tougher to catch.¬† So we have to do a better job from a pass protection standpoint.
I think Robert will put the ball on the money and obviously has a very talented arm, but our receivers have to do a better job of defeating the coverages and being sure‑handed when the ball comes their way.
Q.¬† You mentioned obviously Robert took a pounding.¬† Did he hold up okay or how is he from a health standpoint?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Good.¬† He's a tough guy.
Q.¬† Just talk a little bit about the running game.¬† What are some of the things you guys can do to get the running game going again?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, sticking with it is really important.¬† Sometimes you can go into a ballgame with a great run game plan in mind and you'll call your run game a couple times and if it doesn't manufacture something right away you can be apt to back off of it a little bit.¬† We'll stick with the run game some.
When you get behind, and that's happened to us some the last couple of weeks is we got behind at some point in time in the ballgame where running the football becomes less of an option in regards to catching up, so I think being able to be two‑dimensional on offense, manufacture a good passing game, to be able to protect the quarterback and get open to pitch and catch some will make a difference to our running game, and being ahead or being right there in the ballgame allows you to just stick with your game plan and hang your hat a little bit more on the running game.
I think our running game, even though the numbers may not indicate it last weekend, I think our running game has improved some.¬† We've made some attempts to run the ball downhill a little bit more, even against some very formidable defensive fronts.¬† We did a good job of running the ball and manufacturing a run game against Ohio State, and even though we didn't score near enough points against Minnesota, we still rushed the football for over 200 yards two weeks ago against Minnesota, which is a very stout defensive front.
So I think we've done some things in the run game the latter part of the season that makes me think we can go out there and manufacture a run game that can help us win, but at the same time we have to be able to pass the football or to be able to open the run game up in some ways for our football team.
Q.¬† Kind of taking off on that, did you feel like the game on Saturday, you had that big run early that put you in position to score, did you feel like after that you did get away from the run a little bit too much in your game plan while the game was still there?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, maybe a little bit, but when you get dropped passes on key drives with great field position, then you get behind the sticks in some ways.¬† If we had manufactured the catches that were thrown and we were moving the sticks and we were in rhythm, that does a lot for your run game; when it's 2nd and long and 3rd and long, that's a struggle for your run game.¬† So the way the game unfolded I think early on in the drives that we had in the ballgame, it kind of steered us away from trying to go out and manufacture a strong run game Saturday.
I was pleased with the way we started the game Saturday.¬† Our guys came back last week and really practiced hard, and you could tell that they were hungry to win and they were focused on playing well, and then we started the game off fast.¬† We returned a kick to midfield and scored on the opening drive and our defense went out and shut them down and we got good field position three or four times early in the first half, and the score was close, but we didn't manufacture some catches on some drives, and that put their offense back out on the field, and if you do that too many times against our defense, then the points can start to stack up.
Again, disappointed with the play on Saturday, but there were some good things early in the ballgame, and I still think we're improving in some ways.¬† We started off as a talented, strong, confident, sure football team early in the season, and we've had some injuries and stubbed our toe along the way with some ugly losses and slipped some.¬† But I still think that we practiced hard last week and showed up ready to play and did some good things on Saturday.
Q.¬† Is there any concern at all that just because I think one thing that's not so much that you lost but unfortunately for you all the losses have been kind of lopsided other than the Ohio State game since Big Ten play started, is there any concern that maybe just the talent level on this team, and this is nothing against your kids personally, but just maybe the talent level on this team was not near what you and some other people thought before the season?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, I think our talent level is what it is.¬† When you play against the very top teams in the league, the teams that have the most success and are in position to maybe do really well from a recruiting standpoint, you're always going to be challenged from a talent standpoint.¬† At any point in time a very talented Purdue football team may or may not be as talented as a very talented Ohio State football team, a very talented Purdue football team may or may not be as talented as a very talented Michigan or very talented Wisconsin or Penn State football team, and that's who we've been playing as of late.
I think a lot of it has to do with where we're at from a physicality standpoint as a football team.¬† We've had a lot of guys that have been banged up, and their level of performance has dropped off.
I think Ryan Russell is a great defensive end, and I think when the season started off, he may have been one of the best defensive ends in the Big Ten potentially and how his performance was earlier in the season against Notre Dame and against the games earlier in the season.¬† He's had some injuries, and he has sucked it up and played injured on Saturdays, and we appreciate that effort, but he hasn't been as effective as he was earlier in the season.
The same is true with Bruce Gaston and the same is true with Kawann Short and the same is true with Ricardo Allen, and Jos√© Ross has been out of the equation and Raheem Mostert has been out of the equation, and those are our very best players.
I think from a talent standpoint, you're darned right, it is a challenge when you're going up against the very talented Ohio States and Penn States and Michigans and Wisconsins.¬† But I think we have a very talented football team.¬† We've had some injuries and we've been banged up and that's reduced our effectiveness some, but we've had some ugly losses, and that's tough as far as your momentum goes for your team and your season.
So there's been some struggles, and they have been a result of injuries and not performing as well and losing some confidence as a football team.¬† But again, I credit our football team for going out and practicing hard and believing they can win and starting the game off this past weekend with the belief that they could win a key ballgame against another great opponent.
Q.¬† Do you ever second‑guess yourself looking back, and I think obviously he would have helped you, but there were some issues on the Dwayne Beckford situation back at the beginning of the year because it was obvious you were really depending on him and then you lose him the first week?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Do I have any reservation how we handled Dwayne Beckford?
Q.¬† Just second‑guessing just because it was obvious you were depending on him, and needless to say if he would have stayed out of trouble he could have helped you immensely.
DANNY HOPE:¬† The problem was his decision making.¬† I don't have any reservations how I handled Dwayne Beckford in supporting him and trying to do everything we could to get him in position to graduate from college and be a productive member of society and to be a member of our football team.¬† We did all we could to help Dwayne Beckford, so I don't have any reservations about any of the decisions or matters regarding Dwayne Beckford.¬† But absolutely, if he was eligible and in good standing and healthy, he would be an asset to our football team.¬† He was our leading tackler last year, so it certainly was a lost when we lost Dwayne Beckford, but we lost Dwayne Beckford based on his decisions, not mine.
Q.¬† And I assume from your comments earlier when asked about Marve and how tough he is, can we assume from that that he is starting on Saturday?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Yes.
Q.¬† How is O.J. Ross doing?¬† Is there a chance of getting him back this week?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Yeah, there is, to my surprise, because when we had a meeting on Saturday with the medical staff, we thought he might still be a couple weeks out.¬† Any time you're dealing with a turf toe, they're very, very tricky.¬† It doesn't take much to set it back.¬† But he came out on Sunday and in the light practice zipped around some and was way ahead of where we thought he was.¬† As long as he can walk on it today and hold up today then there's a chance he'll be back to help us play this Saturday.¬† I'm hoping so because he's a fast player and a good player and we need some help right now at the receiver position.
I'm optimistic, but again, he could go out there and practice today on that turf toe and set it back.¬† So we'll have to manage it and see.¬† But I'm encouraged way more than I was a couple days ago by O.J. Ross and his weekend.
Q.¬† You drafted a bunch of offensive linemen this year.¬† Anybody sort of standing out that you think might be able to contribute on that line pretty early in their career?
DANNY HOPE:¬† I think all of those guys will be competing to get in the lineup next year.¬† Certainly all of them will compete to be in the two‑deep lineup.¬† We have some offensive linemen that will be coming back.¬† Really our offensive line is probably a year away from an experience standpoint.
Kevin Pamphile will be an entirely different player than he was this year.¬† I think the light is coming on for him.¬† Justin Kitchens was very apprehensive early in the season coming off of that shoulder surgery and he's regained some confidence with his shoulder right now.¬† Kugler is just now starting to emerge as a starter.¬† So I think that we're still a year away in some ways from some of our top athletes on the offensive line being able to play at their very best, or a repeat performance if you will.¬† But I think that whole group of freshmen offensive linemen are very, very talented, and all those guys could compete for a spot somewhere in the two‑deep and some of those guys could compete for a starting position next year.
It would be hard to earmark any one specific guy.¬† I really like J.J. Prince.¬† I think he's one of the best technicians I've been around in regards to a young offensive linemen, but he comes from one of the very best high school football programs in the nation.¬† Southlake Carroll I believe is ranked in the top two athletic departments in the United States, and their football team is a big part of that.¬† They have facilities that excel ours in some areas, and he probably had three offensive line coaches in high school.¬† He's an outstanding technician.
Jordan Roos you would think would be a guy that could fit in the equation awfully quick because he's over 300 pounds and benches over 450 pounds as a freshman and could be a really good in‑the‑box player at the guard position where physicality is a key and size is a key and he is big and he is physical.
Cameron Cermin is a guy that has good height and very good athleticism.¬† He shows some toughness out on the field.¬† He already has a good body.¬† He looks like he's a couple years ahead development‑wise.
So all of those guys, every one of those guys has a redeeming quality.¬† I think what allowed them to compete, not only maybe to be in the two deep but maybe compete somewhere along that offensive line as a starter, very good class, outstanding class.
Q.¬† Last couple weeks you've had to deal with some frustrated fans I would imagine, some of them calling into your radio show.
DANNY HOPE:¬† Fans and friends, yes, absolutely.
Q.¬† How do you deal with that, whether it be on the radio show or someone on the street or whatever?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, you know, again, I love football and love to‑‑ I've got 10 years at Purdue as a coach.¬† Since they built the indoor facility I've gotten probably six or seven.¬† I've lost count.¬† It could be this year the count could even go up.¬† I'm not going to let a disgruntled fan or any one person take my spirit away or take away from what it is that we're here to do, and that's to coach football and have fun and to win.
Obviously the fans have a reason to be disappointed.¬† We're very, very disappointed.¬† But I don't let someone that demonstrates themselves in a small way set me back a whole lot, if you will.¬† I certainly wouldn't let someone that has small character take my happiness away.¬† I assure you that.¬† It wouldn't be worth it.¬† It's beneath me.¬† I've always had as my philosophy as a player and a coach ever since I first put on a football uniform, that as long as I did the very best that I could, I don't have to look at the result and look back and second‑guess my effort.¬† I'm going to be fine with me, and most of the time we're going to be very, very successful as a result of it.
I always set our goals and aspirations very, very high, maybe too high, but if you're willing to pay the price, then you don't have to be afraid to set your goals high.¬† If you will pay the price, you're going to be successful and land on your feet and good things are going to happen somehow and some way.¬† Those people are beneath costing me my happiness as a football coach.
Q.¬† Is that the similar message you try and give your players, too, because they've dealt with some criticism or Twitter or Facebook?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, we try to direct them away from that, not to spend time on that, not to focus on that.¬† It's hard to because it kind of chases you around a little bit.¬† You guys know that.¬† You're some of the fuel to the fire in some ways.
But you know, again, they have families that get on the message boards and there's some tough things that are said at times.¬† They are young people, and a lot of the people that are judgmental of the players are people that never really have enough substance to come close to accomplishing near what they have in their collegiate or athletic lives.¬† That's kind of the message we give them.¬† What we want to focus on is winning and having a successful season and being winners, and it's hard to focus on that if you're focusing on losers that are looking in.
Q.¬† How is Raheem Mostert?¬† Is he going to be back this week?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Doubtful.¬† But he's young and really healthy.¬† I think it shouldn't take him long to bounce back, but I think when he does bounce back he'll come out and be a force again.¬† I wish he was available this weekend because he could certainly make a difference, but he's doubtful.
Q.¬† And Brandon Taylor is another guy that didn't play last week.¬† What do you think about him this week?
DANNY HOPE:¬† He's doubtful, and that's disappointing because we've banged up on the defensive line.¬† Last week when we were playing against Penn State, their best defensive linemen, their nose guard, an exceptional player, No.47, he's not the biggest guy in the league but I think he's one of the best defensive linemen in the league, he got injured and couldn't come back in the ballgame, and then their backup defensive lineman came in, and he was a really good player.
Right now Kawann can play the nose guard position for us, and he's a very, very good player.¬† He's been injured some and not quite as effective, but we don't have the No.2 guy to bring in behind him who would be Brandon Taylor who's an awfully good player.¬† Brandon not being in position to compete this Saturday does take something away from what we have across the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball, no question about it.
Q.¬† He's still dealing with the ankle, right?
DANNY HOPE:¬† It's a high ankle sprain, and they're a little bit different and a little bit trickier.¬† It's hard to get your support back.¬† But he's doubtful.¬† I don't believe he'll be ready this weekend.¬† I'm hoping maybe he'll come in tomorrow and it'll all go away, but I don't think that's going to happen.¬† It hasn't yet.
Q.¬† Will Dolapo be available?
DANNY HOPE:¬† I think so.¬† I think so.
Q.¬† Kurt Freytag is a guy that got some snaps on offense last week and it looked exclusively like he came in to block and kind of help the protection.¬† Why did you decide to do that and what do you like about him in that role?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, he has a knack for it.¬† When we came here in '97, we had Eric Haddad.¬† He didn't carry the football a whole lot, he was a very heralded recruit out of I believe the Cleveland area out of high school, but we had Kendall Matthews and then Big Ed was here, they're very good running backs, as well.¬† So Eric didn't get the carries that Mathews or Watson got, but he was the guys that was our best pass protector, and he had a knack for it.¬† He had a big body, number one, so he could hold up against the linebackers and the defensive ends, and then sometimes things don't work out the way you planned up front.¬† You've got guys that are assigned to block guys and then they blitz and they twist and they walk up and they come from everywhere.¬† You block the ones that you can, and having a running back in the backfield that can adjust and pick up the one that you don't get, even though that may not be his man, is really important to pass protection, and Kurt has a knack for that.¬† He's tough, got a little bit of size to him so he can step up and take them on and hold his ground on the line of scrimmage.¬† He also has I'll refer to it as a knack to be the searchlight in the backfield and pick up whatever it is that the offensive line misses.
Q.¬† Does he do a pretty good job there?
DANNY HOPE:¬† He does very well.¬† He was an outstanding player in high school I thought.¬† He was just a tweener what position he would play at this level.¬† We thought he was going to be a tight end but he's not a whole lot taller than I am, that's not a very tall tight end in the Big Ten.¬† We looked at him as a running back and he wasn't as fast as our halfbacks, and at the time we had not employed a fullback much in our offense.¬† So he walked on at Purdue and then he got injured I think his first or second year, had a knee injury and was out for a whole season.
So this is his first season coming back after a knee injury, and I think he's done very, very well.¬† He's an outstanding football player.
We didn't know what position he fit in on our football team and a lot of other teams probably felt the same way because he was looked over some in the recruiting process, but we always loved him as a player and he always wanted to be here at Purdue, so it's worked out well for both sides.
Q.¬† Is he an option going forward if you do need some more protection?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Absolutely.¬† He's very good at it.¬† Sometimes you have different types of blitzes, you have man blitzes and you have zone blitzes and sometimes the zone blitzes are harder to identify prior to the snap, and you can occupy your offensive linemen with the guys that are supposed to block that have their hands on the ground, they can pop out of there into coverages and they can bring other people from the perimeter, and having someone back there to back those guys up and cover their butts some is a big deal, and he has that knack.¬† And that's really, really important.¬† Ralph has that knack.¬† He has a knack for drawing a beat on the right guy and throwing his face in and getting up on him and holding his ground even thought he's smaller, and Kurt Freytag has that knack, as well.
Q.¬† You had mentioned effort again.¬† You had said at the beginning of the year that as long as these guys go out there and play hard, that's what we're looking for the most.¬† Are the results on the field a little surprising because you've said multiple guys you think these guys are playing hard?
DANNY HOPE:¬† It is surprising, surprising and baffling in some ways, but again, I think it's a combination of a lot of things, and a lot of it might be poor management on my part, what they can handle and what I think they can handle might not be the same thing at times.¬† But we started the season with a lot of energy and a lot of belief that we could have one heck of a year, a very confident and sure and healthy football team, and then we played very well early in the season.¬† Not only did we beat the teams we were supposed to beat, we beat them like we were supposed to beat them like a hungry championship football team does.¬† We played Notre Dame right to the wire and then we get into a huge game against Michigan, and even though the score was lopsided, we really weren't as far away from making the plays or making it a ballgame.
But you lose and you lose ugly and then the fans turn on you in some ways and then doubt creeps in it a little bit and maybe a guy doesn't play as well and then a few guys get injured and pretty soon you're not as good as you should be or as good as you were.
It's hard to kind of hold all that together.¬† And then the competition picks up and you get more guys injured and you lose some more and things become tough around you.
Again, the guys are showing up and working hard, the fact that we came out last week, we practiced really well on Tuesday and had to back off on Wednesday as a result of them trying to kill each other out there on Tuesday to get ready to play the ballgame.¬† So that's a good sign.¬† They weren't out there sucking their thumbs or feeling sorry for themselves.
But I think at times we're pressed to win.¬† We are.¬† We are pressed to win.¬† We're hungry to win, and the expectations are high, and sometimes you can be too pressed to win.¬† There's a real difference between intensity and‑‑ intense and tense.¬† I like the intensity part of football.¬† That's why I got into it originally.¬† I enjoy the violence part of it and the hitting part of it and what the game is all about, and I think our players do, too, but sometimes I think intensity and tense, they can be misconstrued or manufacture themselves in different ways in your football team, and I think that has slowed our performance down some.
We may be tense more than intense at times, the pressure of wanting to win and wanting to exceed and wanting to meet our expectation levels.¬† But again, I don't apologize for trying to be the best.¬† I think it would be beneath us if we did.
Q.¬† You talked about you think the team lacks confidence, but they're practicing well.
DANNY HOPE:¬† I think we've lost some confidence.¬† There's a big difference.
Q.¬† But is it a matter of getting that big play in a game to maybe get that confidence back or something that has to happen during the course of a game because you are practicing well, so that confidence is there during the week, but is it as simple as getting that spark in the game or having that one person step up?
DANNY HOPE:¬† It could be, and I think the way the game started the other day, because Penn State had outscored their opponents 69 to 0 in the first quarter, so for us to come out of the first quarter in good shape or to be in good shape for the bulk of the first quarter was huge for our football team.¬† We didn't try to bang that drum too hard in case they got ahead 14‑0 in the first quarter.¬† We didn't want to talk them into it, but again, if we could start fast that would be a good sign for our football team.
But any one little thing sometimes can really impact a team or a season, and that's unfortunate in some ways because sometimes you can't be in control of everything that happens.¬† But you go back to the Ohio State game, a game that we were I think a 19‑ or 20‑point underdog and we go up there and lay it on the line and play like we played and in the end we don't get it done.¬† If we had gotten the first down, we were out there on offense; if we would have stopped them, we were out there on defense and won that ballgame, and that may have escalated our confidence at a point in time of the season that could have really impacted our team.¬† Maybe so.
It didn't happen, and so you can't loosen your grip, but it is tough when things‑‑ when you work hard and you believe and you lay it on the line and things don't go your way.¬† It can be tough to continue your momentum or not to lose some level or degree of confidence.
Maybe a big play like you say this weekend or a big win would fuel our souls and help to reestablish a higher degree of confidence in our football team.¬† But I think going out there and working hard and laying it on the line and them showing up ready to play and making the commitment is what we can ask for them right now.
From our standpoint, we're going to coach them hard and believe in them.¬† That's where we're at.¬† That's what we're going to do right now.
Q.¬† In your grand scheme of offense, would you like to see more downfield passing?¬† I know there's some limitations with this year's team, but in your big picture of offense, would you like to see more vertical passing?
DANNY HOPE:¬† I'd like to see more vertical passing gain.¬† There's some defensive coverages that we're seeing now that can change your concepts or your thoughts.¬† You're seeing a lot more cover four, which is a lot different from an attack standpoint.¬† That's what a lot of teams are running so that changes some of the vertical operation that you might have in your game plan from week to week.¬† We have a quarterback that can throw it.¬† That's for sure.¬† He's a very, very talented passer.¬† And I think our offensive line is developing and improving, but we'd have to be able to protect the quarterback with a lot more success on a more consistent basis to be a real down‑the‑field threat down after down after down.¬† We're going to have to take our shots downfield so we can do some things protection‑wise to manufacture some security across the line of scrimmage for Robert, and we have to do that, and we have done that some in the last two or three ballgames.¬† But sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you.¬† A lot of times that's underneath and intermediate routes.
Q.¬† Iowa is usually Iowa when it comes to the physical part of the game.¬† How physical are they this year or can you even tell on film compared to maybe some of these other Big Ten films you play?
DANNY HOPE:¬† You can tell on film.¬† Watch them because they're playing against other Big Ten teams that we've played.¬† They're kind of like us in some ways where early in the season where they were healthy and had numbers and they were confident, they were fresher and they were a very good football team potentially even though they had a couple tough losses.¬† They lost early in the season to I think Central Michigan and then lost to Iowa State, an in‑state rivalry like that, and they were still able to bounce back and have a big win against Michigan State, who's a very good football team.
But they've had some injuries at their running back position, they've had some injuries on the offensive line, so they're still a tough, hard‑nosed football team but they're trying to patch up some areas football team like we are, as well.¬† They've lost their last three ballgames, I believe, the last three Big Ten ballgames, and that's tough.¬† They lost a tough game at home against Penn State, so maybe lost a little bit of momentum as a football team as well as we have, but at a certain point in time in the season.
But looking at them from the beginning of the season to where they are now, they look big and physical and fast and good like they always have.¬† They'll be a real challenge for our football team this Saturday.
Q.¬† How has Sean Robinson been able to hold on to that starting linebacker?
DANNY HOPE:¬† He gives you a great effort and is into it and has been reliable on and off the field.¬† Will Lucas is a good player, wasn't playing as well as we would like for him to have played, wasn't as reliable on and off the field, and Sean Robinson has held onto that spot and continued to improve.¬† Will played quite a bit in the game the other day, and they'll probably play probably an even amount of reps, but Sean has really worked hard and been able to hang on to it.¬† Give credit to him.
Q.¬† Does your offensive staff script its first X number of plays that they've been able to perhaps find something on film early on that you've been able to score on your first drive the last four games?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Most offensive staffs do.
Q.¬† Do you kind of chalk that up, just the success you've had on the first drives the last four games, do you chalk that up to you guys‑‑
DANNY HOPE:¬† Well, I chalk it up to execution and game planning, so obviously we spend a lot of time breaking down the film and looking for tendencies and how a team is going to line up against certain formations and certain groupings.¬† Again, any time you call a play, you call that play for a reason based on what you think the defense is going to be in on that down and distance and who they're going to have on the field against the personnel that you have on the field.
A lot of times when we call a play, you can hear the response from everybody on the headset, all right, that's the look we wanted.¬† So sometimes before the ball is snapped we can have some idea that the play stands a really good chance to be successful or not, and often times they have to execute their assignments and alignments whether it's the look that we wanted or not. ¬†That's a big part of football.
We have to do that more in practice, I think.¬† I think sometimes we spend so much time trying to get them in the position that we think that they're going to be in that we don't adjust to the things that they weren't expecting to see, so we have to keep them off balance maybe a little bit more on Tuesdays.
But I think our coaches scouting the opponents and lining up in groupings and formations and the defense on it gave us what we thought we were going to see and it's allowed us to manufacture our drives early in the ballgame.
Q.¬† Now that you've had some time to look back, can you assess now how Robert played on Saturday?
DANNY HOPE:¬† I thought he played pretty good.¬† Again, a lot of times at the quarterback position you go as those around you go.¬† And the offensive line had some struggles.¬† At times they gave him protection, and then when he got the ball out of his hand at times, the receivers, they dropped the ball.¬† So his numbers weren't all that impressive.¬† But I thought he showed great courage and a great will to win, and I thought he competed.
He still made some errors like everyone else did.¬† Any time you make an error at the quarterback position, at times it can be maybe glaring, and sometimes we hold a quarterback to a different regard than we do our other players.¬† The quarterback makes a mistake, and we seem to be less forgiving in some ways as coaches and as a fan base.¬† He didn't play the perfect game, he went out there and made some mistakes, but I thought he fought his butt off and gave us all he had and showed unbelievable courage and was a warrior on the field and threw the ball the best he could with people chasing him and hanging on him.
I was pleased with his effort and the way that he played the game.¬† He could still polish up his performance from a management standpoint and he could still play better than what he did Saturday.¬† But I thought he gave it all he had.
Q.¬† Aside from the injuries, because that's really the primary thing that you talked about, but aside from the injuries, what needs to change if you can pinpoint one or two things to get things back on track?
DANNY HOPE:¬† Some success.¬† Yes, some successful plays, successful drives.¬† Again, I think our football team came out on Saturday ready to play and wanting to win, and then things don't go your way, then you get behind.¬† And when you get behind by two or three scores, sometimes it can be tough.
So success, that'll keep us in the ballgames, execution.¬† We call it DYJ, doing your job.¬† We've got guys that are trying like hell but not getting the job done.¬† Guys are really working hard in practice and focusing in practice and studying his plays and then he gets on the field and he does everything right except for a thing or two, and the next thing you know it manufactures a huge play.¬† Every drive that Penn State scored on this past Saturday there was a big play involved in that drive, and big plays are a result of someone not doing their job.¬† Sometimes it can be the other team really executing well, but most of the time a big play is the result of someone not getting the job done from a technical standpoint or an assignment standpoint.
So we have to do our job better and have some success.¬† And I think that would be huge for our football team right now.
Q.¬† Rob Henry had five catches, 54 yards last week.¬† How is he doing as a receiver?¬† What is he doing well?
DANNY HOPE:¬† I think he's doing everything well for the little bit of time that he's been back and healthy.¬† We wanted to utilize Rob a lot more in the offense early in the season.¬† I think he's one of our better athletes, and he's a big, skilled athlete.¬† A lot of our great skilled athletes are a little bit smaller size‑wise.¬† Rob is about 6'2" and about 208 pounds, maybe he's taller than 6'2", and very, very fast, super high‑character guy and one of our better leaders and really accountable and very, very smart, has a good football IQ.¬† He brings all of those things to the field, and he makes plays.¬† So he's catching the ball well, he's fighting them on the perimeter as a blocker, we'll put him in the backfield some to manufacture some runs for him right out of the backfield, and he's been physical and he's finished runs and he's big and fast and seems to have a knack as a ball carrier.¬† And then we've utilized him some behind the center as a quarterback.
He's doing everything well right now, I think.¬† Every position that we're putting him in to be successful at, he's been successful at.¬† I've been very, very pleased with Rob, and he's healthy now.¬† He's much more confident.¬† Early in the season he had swelling and wasn't as confident as we put him in a game or two and you could just tell that he wasn't 100 percent sure yet about where he was at from a health standpoint.¬† But I think he's 100 percent sure now.
Q.¬† A lot of coaches in a lot of different sports including football, when a team is going well they like to keep them kind of in perspective; in other words, they'll kind of humble them a little bit, their philosophy.¬† When a team is in a slump they try to pick their spirits up.¬† Have you and your staff made an extra effort to emphasize, hey, we've got to make sure we keep their spirits up?
DANNY HOPE:¬† I think that's important, but again, I think open and direct dialogue is really good.¬† We have our opportunities.¬† I'm not real big on ripping them on the sidelines on game day for a lot of reasons.¬† I think game day should be a reward, and if we're not successful, then our performance on game day, I'm the one that ought to be ripped.¬† I'm the one that trained them.¬† But we have our moments where we have to put the cards on the table and have open and direct dialogue, and we try to spell out for our team exactly where it's at.
We try not to coddle them right now.¬† We don't need them feeling sorry for themselves.¬† They need to man up and get ready to get it on and guys have to suck it up and play injured.¬† Again, we call it like it is and put the cards on the table.¬† Disappointed in their level of play, and they are, too, and you have to identify those things and address them or else you can't correct them.
But again, we believe in them.¬† We're going to coach them hard and coach them good and get them ready to play the ballgame, and we believe in them, and there's still everything in the world left to play for.¬† There's still a lot of positives around our camp even though it hasn't gone as well as we would have liked for it to, there's still everything in the world to play for and we're going to pull together and get it done as a team.
Q.¬† I asked you kind of to paraphrase after the game Saturday the confidence level of your players, and you said you thought they went into the game confident, they practiced confident.¬† Just strictly on Tuesday, what you saw from them on Saturday, I don't know if you saw any of them this morning.¬† Did their confidence level and body language seem good to you?
DANNY HOPE:¬† We'll find out today in practice, but I'd be very surprised if they didn't come out and practice hard.¬† We have several guys that are banged up, and we have a plan to try to get those guys ready without setting them back some from a physical standpoint.¬† We have a plan to get those that are healthy that can help us win ready, as well.¬† Once you get back to work and you get focused on what you have to do in order to win the ballgame, then everybody gets back to business and we'll tell a lot more about our team then.¬† But I'd be surprised if they didn't come back out ready to work hard and ready to win the ballgame. ¬†This is a very good football game against a very good football team and a challenge for our team, and we don't have a whole lot of time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.¬† We've got to get ready to go.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports