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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 6, 2012
COACH KILL: I appreciate everybody's attendance, and I'm sorry the pizza was late. We apologize for that. Maybe that's due to ‑‑ maybe that's why we didn't make a play or two at Michigan. We're just a little bit behind, so we're going to have to get caught up.
But we have put our focus since Sunday, we had a good meeting on Sunday and reviewed the film and talked to our players. And you know, we got three games left that are very important for our progress and our program and where we're headed.
You know, we've seen some things in the Michigan game that were very good and a lot of times we were in positions to make plays and make big plays. And we just didn't do it quite like we did the week before. We made them, and in the Michigan game we just didn't make them. So we gotta go back to work today and work very hard and get ready to go play the Illini. So with that I'll open it up for questions.
Q. How is the health of some of the injured players?
COACH KILL: Well, I think that's always the first question. You know, A.J. Barker will not practice, and I really question whether he'll play or not. So that seems to be a little bit more of an issue than I think they thought at the beginning.
I'm hoping that Eddie Olson is available. We're going to practice him a little bit today. We're going to be in full pads and see how he moves with that, but I think the biggest question mark for us from an offensive standpoint would be A.J.
Derrick Wells, I was excited that, you know, is going to be able to practice today, which is good for us. And but other than that, with what we've had in the past, A.J. is the biggest concern, and I just don't ‑‑ unless some ‑‑ a miracle takes place, so to speak, I don't look for him to be able to play on Saturday.
Q. How satisfied are you with the production you're getting from your receivers, minus A.J.?
COACH KILL: I think that we've done some good things. I mean we got a young group of players, except for MarQueis, and MarQueis is ‑‑ you know, he's never spent ‑‑ I just seen him walk by. He's learning, just like anything, when he played receiver here, he played quarterback. So he never has really had a chance to work at receiver techniques and things like that. You know, people up there are pressing him and things like that, learning how to get off press coverage. You know, playing wide receiver is not something you just go out and play. I mean it's a difficult deal. And so you know, as he told Coach Poore, I think it was on Sunday, he goes, man, I don't know. This is all new to me.
So I think we still have a lot of young players, including him, learning some of those type of things. But I think we've done some good things, you know, and then we've had some struggles, but I think you're going to have that with a younger group of players. But their attitude is good, and we've been able to get behind people. There's no question about that, but we gotta do a better job of getting off press coverage. There's no question about that.
Q. The team this week as if this is almost like a playoff game?
COACH KILL: I don't think I look at it that way. I think we got three games left, and we're going to Illinois to play, but I think all three games are critical. Now, this is critical because it's the next game on our schedule and opportunity and those kind of things and I know Nebraska and Michigan State. And it's not like ‑‑ and several of you are right that pointed out to me is that it wasn't like University of Michigan just came in and whipped our tail. I mean we had opportunities in the game and we didn't take advantage of them. So we left an opportunity to win a game out there. You know, if we'd made a few more plays than they did.
So I think as coaches, as I told our kids, hey, our expectations is we want to keep moving this thing forward. Yeah, it's a critical game for us, there's no question about that. But I think the next three games are critical for our program.
Q. Would you consider that the next step of development of the program, take advantage of those opportunities?
COACH KILL: Very much so. I've said all along, sometimes when you first take a program over, they're usually open because there's a reason for it. There's a struggle there. And your first year is you're just not very good. The second and third year and you hope you can move it quickly, is that you win some games, but then you're close in a lot of games that you don't win because you're not quite good enough to get over that hump, and I'd like to see us be able to get over that hump a little bit.
You know, if I didn't see ‑‑ you know, I watched the film against University of Michigan in the last two weeks, we've gotten better. I mean we've got a little better up front, and I see some progress being made. So I thought we took a jump at the end of the year last year, down the last three‑game stretch, so to speak. I'd like to see us keep moving forward with it.
I know our kids, that's a good thing, they can watch the film and understand where we're at and where we need to go. But we just gotta keep ‑‑ you look at football, you look at the NFL. You look at college football. You know, you gotta have players make plays. You gotta make a play, and we just gotta ‑‑ you know, the ball kind of went our way two weeks ago, and this time we just didn't have some things go our way, and then we couldn't make a play.
So I think our kids will bounce back. I'm anxious to see ‑‑ every week they've come to Tuesday's practice and you're always as a coach going, boy, I hope mentally they're all right. You know, I hope mentally they're hanging in here, and every week they've responded very well. So I anticipate a good response. We'll see here this afternoon.
COACH KILL: Well, they're athletic. I said a year ago, they take the field, I got some good looking kids now. They're good looking up front and great defensive ends and they run well, and an active quarterback, which we've seen ‑‑ you're going to see in the Big 10 right now, and a guy that's mobile. And we've gotta do a good job of being able to ‑‑ we did some great things against Michigan rushing the passer, but we didn't contain all the time, you know, and sometimes we were in position and he just flat beat us.
But we gotta keep rush lanes and keep the quarterback inside the pocket and not let him get outside and run around and be able to make a play. And he's that type of youngster that can do that and he runs the ball very well. So any time you have an athletic quarterback, you gotta spend a lot of time on discipline, pass rush lanes and things of that nature.
Q. Coach, three or four games this week had controversial pass interference calls. You had one that you clearly didn't like. You said you were going to be at advisory board for the coaches association and the rules committee. Are there tweaks that you'd like to make on pass interference?
COACH KILL: Yeah. You know what, and certainly, you know, I gotta be a little bit careful in all those. I think the toughest thing is it's a judgment call. It's a tough call. I mean in fairness to the officials it's no different than officiating basketball and you get in the Final 4, all of a sudden they really let you play and early in the season they call a touch foul. So I just think that's part of the game, you know.
It is, you know, you can blame them up, but it's part of the game is that it is the officials and the judgments on those calls, and I don't know if you can ever ‑‑ you know, we've got replays make in the game three and a half, four years anyway. So I just think that's part of the game and as a coach you've gotta coach within the rules and teach them the best you can. And sometimes those things work out in your favor. Sometimes they don't. I think that's part of the game.
I wish I had an answer for that, but I really don't because it's such a judgmental call. And it may be ‑‑ the only thing you can look at there possibly is look at what the NFL is doing and how much contact you can have in certain areas and things of that nature. And maybe that's something. It'll be interesting when we go to the convention and sit down with your peer coaches and the people and see how those things work, because there's several things that come up every year. So it'll be interesting.
Q. When you protest a call like you did Saturday, are you looking for a benefit from that or are you just pointing out what you saw there?
COACH KILL: Well, I think probably, I mean I probably ‑‑ I'd like to think that I'm ‑‑ I respect officials and I've got a great relationship with people in the business, and I think it's just like anything. Probably I needed to spend more time probably coaching at that period of time than taking my frustrations out on the call, to be honest with you. I mean it's not going to change the call. But probably just relieving some frustration, whether I was right or wrong, and probably needed to spend more time worrying about what I could control instead of what I couldn't. So I guess you can put that as not good coaching on my part.
You know, I think we all have gut reactions to situations, and I think it was just a reaction and so forth. But the official handled it very well, and I eventually handled it better. And got back to coaching. So I think that's, again, part of it sometimes.
Q. When Rodrick Williams showed up here at campus, is he a guy that you immediately saw could help you this year?
COACH KILL: Well, we knew with a lot of the kids that we recruited, we definitely knew Rodrick had some talent. When he showed up he was about 215, 218. Now I think he's 238. So he's kind of grown through the summer, and I always worried about, and I'd say this with Rodrick was what his maturity was going to be, with school, all the things that comes with it; is he going to be ready for that. So we just didn't immediately do it.
Plus he'd gotten hurt a little bit in camp and missed two or three practices in there, and the learning curve, you know. So that happened a little bit with some kids. So then you go, well, that gives you a reason, you know, to not use them. And then as the season went on, he kept ‑‑ again, we were practicing a lot of kids right now because we have a young team, and he kept getting better and better. And he's got a little pop to him. I think when you see him run, when he hits you, there's something different about ‑‑ I mean he just knocks you backwards.
So we felt like we needed to go ahead with some of the things we got planned in recruiting and so forth and let's move him forward. But it wasn't right off the bat we were going to play him. Like I said he's gotten stronger and quicker as he's been here. I look for him to be an awfully good football player as long as he stays on track with everything he's supposed to do.
Q. How about Derrick Wells? Did you expect that?
COACH KILL: You know, when a young man comes in you don't know that much about him. I couldn't say I expected it because I just didn't know. But he's worked real hard. Unfortunately, so I can clear that up, I knew I was missing something. He's another one that got hurt on Saturday, and he's questionable. He hurt a hamstring.
But as far as ‑‑ you know what, everywhere I've been there's been somebody that has walked on or something's happened and they emerge. You know, there's always surprises and things of that nature. But his dad and mother were great athletes, and so I think that he had some blood line there, you know, and so forth. And he's worked hard. And he can really run, you know, but he's still, again, maturing in the program, but been pleased. He's made some plays for us and he's a great kid, great student, so it's good to see a young man like that have success.
Q. Is Fruechte the guy you see filling in A.J.'s role, being the guy that goes on the slant, go routes, goes down the sideline?
COACH KILL: I think we have to, we talked about it before, you know, in this morning's meeting a little bit, is that, you know, a guy that we need to get going is Devin Tufts a little bit because of his speed. He's had some hamstrings and problems in the middle of the year and so forth. But we need to get Tufts and him going, and I think there's no question about that.
But I think, you know, Isaac's a young man that missed that game and has come back off of a concussion situation, and we need to get him going. I don't think there's any question about that. I think him and Tufts both, they're both long and can run. But we have a whole group of them that we gotta keep working with them, but I'd like to see those guys step up a little bit. I think it's important for us.
Q. Now that you've looked at the film, coach, what do you think kind of happened with your offense after the first quarter in the game against Michigan?
COACH KILL: I think we moved the ball throughout the game. It's just we didn't make a play. I mean, you know. I've said that all along. I don't know what else I can really say. We got behind some people. We missed on some throws. We missed on a couple of critical situations, you know, on third downs, and you gotta convert those things. A dropped ball here and there or just making a play. It really wasn't a thing.
Actually, you know, against the University of Michigan has been very stiff on defense all year, certainly in the red zone. And I said all along, instead of ‑‑ we're kicking ‑‑ going back to that, kicking field goals is not going to beat Michigan. We kicked the two field goals and faked the one. But the point being is those ‑‑ you've turn those into touchdowns in the red zone. If anything, when we get inside the red zone, we gotta step up and make a play. You throw a ball out there, you gotta jump up and catch it or when you run the ball, you gotta be able to stick a foot in the ground, make a couple people miss.
It's like University of Nebraska, they throw a guy in coverage and the guy catches the ball, everybody says, man, that's a great throw, great read. Well, that's a great play. Good players, you know, I think you try to put your kids in the best situation you can and then you gotta make a play. And what we need to improve in as coaches and what I need to continue to do is try to find ways to put our kids in the best situation to make those plays, and that's something we can improve on certainly.
Q. Coach, what's changed about D.L. Wilhite this year that has gotten him into the backfield?
COACH KILL: I think probably maturity more than anything. You know, learning the game and focusing in. Having the same coach, all those kind of things. I think that's probably helped most of our kids that have been here. They've got the same group of people that they're working with. And we still got so much room to improve, you know, because again, it takes a while to ‑‑ you know, you hear the same coach, the same system, the same things over and over.
You look at guys in the NFL that play for years that still have ‑‑ you'll see a breakdown in coverage. You go how can that happen, you know. So I think it just is maturity in the position and having the same coach and the same system has probably helped him as much as anything. And his attitude. He's worked hard.
Q. Have some injuries kind of hurt the production of a lot of your linebackers this year, do you think?
COACH KILL: Well, I think that's part of it. You play on defense, you play linebacker, that's part of that position. You're going to be banged up, and it's a physical position.
But you know, I thought our play on Saturday was much better than the week before. And I thought we did some good things on Saturday. I think we still gotta be more physical at the point of attack and maybe take a better angle here and there and so forth. But I thought our play was better against Michigan than it was Purdue, frankly, at that position.
Q. You have players that have switched like Lamonte Edwards and James Manuel that have a lot of ability. Does it take them just a little longer?
COACH KILL: Yeah, it takes time. I think again, those kids are going to continue to get better. James plays hard, had a chance for a big sack in the game, and the quarterback sidestepped him and he over ran it, and that just comes with playing that position, you know, again. That's the tough thing in a transition with new coaches and so forth is that if you can keep the same coaching staff and the same core people and they're learning the same things and they get used to it and they're at the same position, you just get better at it. It doesn't matter what it is.
And none of these kids have been ‑‑ certainly guys that have moved over like James or Lamonte moved from down, is that they haven't played in the heat of the battle in that position. So that's why I think our coaching staff, our players, we're excited about our program because we got so many young people that are learning some tough lessons right now, difficult situations, but they've got good attitudes about it and they come back to work and try to improve those things. And the more experience you have, the more you play at a certain position, you know, the better you get.
And I think that's the tough thing through these kids, in fairness, and even MarQueis is that you learn so many ‑‑ sometimes you do so many things you don't get good at specifics. And sometimes I think that we get ourselves caught up in that.
You know, I'm the one that moved both those kids, and I think it's helped them. It's going to help them in the future and it helped us, made them more productive players. But it takes some time and you have to have some patience in that, and they do.
Q. Can you talk about the adjustments the wide receivers have to make when the corners press the way Michigan did?
COACH KILL: Well, I think again, I mean you can ‑‑ there's a lot of things that, you know, goes into playing corner and on and off the ball and what your philosophy is and those kind of things. And if you've got corners that are strong enough physically to do it, you see us do it with certain people. If you can go up and play press corner, you know, you cut down the limit of what the route system can be, because you know, it makes you get into ‑‑ you know, unless you're a big five‑step, seven‑step drop team, which we can't be right now with our young offensive line. You're making them run a fade or a slant and maybe a stop route. But a good press corner hard run a stop route.
So I think it's one of those things where you've gotta be able to have quick hands and you gotta knock hands down, get their hands off so they can't hold you and get vertical and push, and you gotta be strong. You gotta be physically strong.
But technically you gotta be good and there's ways to beat press corner, but you know, we've got NFL guys out here all summer long trying to ‑‑ they work on all those things all summer long, just what we're talking about and it's a lot of fundamentals and technique. It's a very technical position.
Q. How concerned are you about the penalties on the special teams the past couple weeks or are just a certain number of them inevitable?
COACH KILL: No. You never accept penalties, but I didn't feel like in the situations we've had, I think our kids have played pretty good, played pretty hard. So I mean I don't say I feel ‑‑ I never want a team with a ton of penalties, but you do want an aggressive team, and I felt like we had one on kickoff return, and I felt it was a pretty good play. And it was called and I respect the call and so forth, but I mean from a standpoint I can't say, hey, don't hustle.
So I don't feel ‑‑ you know, in the kicking game, you know, we had great kickoff coverage. We pinned them in. I think we had net 41 yards to their 26. We did some things field position that we hadn't been doing. We really did.
But we didn't make some plays. We had opportunity, even on the onside kick, we had all 11 of them inside the hash, and we've been kicking that for a month and a half and gotten it every day in practice but we didn't get it on game day.
Q. When you look at your system offensively and what you like to do, can you talk a little bit about sort of ideally what prerequisites you'd look for in a running back and recruiting running backs, what you're looking for that?
COACH KILL: Gotta make a play. That's about as simple as you can put it. You get players that make plays. I mean that's what makes ‑‑ in any skill position, whether it's receiver, back, you know, quarterback from Northern Illinois right now, he can make a play. Guys that make a play. Sometimes you can't teach them everything. Sometimes they gotta have some instincts and they gotta be ‑‑ it's like, you know, let's give Gardner his due. I mean he sprints out one way and gets pressure, goes back the other way. Or you know, throws it and makes a play.
And sometimes great players make awful good football coaches. You know, through my years I couldn't say that I'm a great coach. All the people that's claimed they're a great coach and won a lot of games, there's none of those coaches are going to win any games without great players. Good players make great coaches. Those people that have won the Super Bowls, they've had great players. The years we have been successful, when you're sitting there at the schools I've been before, we got a bunch of them playing in the NFL from those teams, been very successful. So good players make good coaches.
Sometimes coaches say, well, you draw this scheme up and we did this and we did that. The coach ain't ever played a day in his life, as far as on game day. Players do.
Now, they gotta be put in positions to be successful and that's your job as a coach, but when you're recruiting, you're looking for a guy that's got ball skills and got loose hips and gotta burst through the hole and got great vision at running back, things of that nature.
Q. How many division one players in high school right now do you think are available to the University of Minnesota from a recruiting standpoint?
COACH KILL: I think quite a few. I think there's quite a few. I mean I think we've got some great opportunities right now, and I'd like to think a lot of that has to do with through being 30 years of coaching has helped, and connections not only in our state but other states throughout the country we've been in, but there's a lot of players available right now. And they change their minds quite often, you know, during this period of time. So having some success is important.
I think us playing some young players helps because they say, hey, those coaches are not afraid to step out there and play some kids early. Again, I think what we have done in the past helps us a little bit. And kids ‑‑ you know, it's amazing with players, facilities, all those kind of things come into effect.
But right now with the amount of scholarships that we're working with, there's a lot of good players available out there. And there's a lot of them that get overlooked, too, you know, that you have to visually see and so forth. But I don't want to ever use ‑‑ in our class that we brought in, we've got some awful good players. We just gotta continue to do that and you know, you look at the players that have been through here, the Tyrone Carters and the Barbers and you just keep going on and on. There's players out there.
I think we just gotta make sure we do a good job of ‑‑ you gotta work harder here right now in the recruiting process, because again, we don't get a chance to select. We have to recruit. And so we have to spend a lot of time doing it. We really do. We have to work at it very hard.
But I think there's plenty of them out there available. Now, we've gotta get them here, and that's hour job, but there's a lot of good players out there.
Q. How much pride do you and your staff take in what's going on at NIU this year?
COACH KILL: Well, you know, it's great for us is that a large amount of those kids, you know, we recruited, the majority of them. So we're a part of it. But first of all, I'm very proud of Coach Doeren. Coach Doeren has done a great job of coming in and made the transition easy for those kids, and he's done an outstanding job. And I think the offensive coordinator that used to be here when Coach Brewster was first hired. Somebody help me.
Yeah. Has done a great job there, offensively with what they're doing. But take great pride in it. We love Southern Illinois. A lot of good things happen. That's what I call building a program. We leave Northern Illinois. And I wish ‑‑ I would tell you that Jordan Lynch was a special kid when we recruited him. We knew that.
And only reason we had the opportunity to get Jordan Lynch, talking about players, is Frank Lindsay is a guy I've known for a long time, he called me up. He coached Donovan McNabb. They're a split offense. So every question on Jordan Lynch was, can he throw the ball. Frank doesn't throw. They run option football.
And he says, you've known me for a lot of years; he can throw the ball, I'm telling you. He said, I'm trying to help you here. This guy can go play a lot of places, but they're not going to take him because they don't know if he can throw the football good enough for them. Just trust me. So I trusted him, and that's been a good decision for Northern Illinois because he's an awful good player.
And he's a good enough athlete I think he can start in safety at the NFL. I mean he's a 210‑pound guy that's low four, five. So he's a great player and a great kid, great family. So we're certainly proud of that, but we gotta focus in on what we're doing here. Get it done here.
Q. How about Tim Beckman? Your memories of coaching against him.
COACH KILL: We coached against each other. And you know, there's a lot ‑‑ seems like even all through the history there's been a lot of coaches come from the MAC to the Big 10, and he's another one that has. And got a great deal of respect.
We hooked it up pretty good. Toledo is pretty good, both Toledo and Northern Illinois are both pretty darn good. He did a good job there and coached good athletes and disciplined program and so forth. So got a lot of respect. But we're excited about going down to play.
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