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November 20, 2012

Jerry Kill

COACH KILL:  I appreciate everybody being here this afternoon, or early afternoon, and you know, we're looking forward to our seniors have gone through a lot of things over the last four and some five years, and we're excited about the game on Saturday.  I think it's a very important game for us in a lot of ways, but more importantly for them.
And you know, I know we've talked to them about it, and they're looking forward to getting back there on the field.  We got some not so healthy bodies.  We gotta find a way to get a little bit healthy, and we're going to do a few things different in practice, and hopefully our kids will respond.  But we're excited about getting back to work, and go from there.  So any questions that I can answer.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit more about when you say you're going to do some different things in practice?
COACH KILL:  I think the biggest thing is we've gotta make sure when we play on Saturday ‑‑ I felt for the first time going to Lincoln, we got a young football team, we got a team that's beat up pretty good, and I thought we played ‑‑ you know, when you look at some of your good players, and I'm not going to mention any names because I don't think that's fair to those kids, but you look at some kids that have played pretty darn well for you and they look a step or two slow, and I see some fatigue factors in there, in my opinion, as I watch film.  And so what we've gotta make sure is I've always said you can't tackle very well and you can't block very well unless you got fresh legs and moving.  And I think anybody in the country you start to wear down as the weeks go by, and you gotta be careful.
So I felt like as a head coach I always take responsibilities for wins and losses, and I think our team was fatigued going into Lincoln a little bit through the long stretch we've had.  So we've gotta make sure they've got their legs and their feet and psychologically, so we'll look at practice and make it a little bit shorter, more crisp, be careful on the physicality and the contact of what we do and make sure they feel good on Saturday.

Q.  Can you talk about injuries including Roland Johnson and what his status is?
COACH KILL:  Roland has got a leg injury and he's out.  He's got an ACL injury.  Going to get an MRI and he got hurt in the walk through.  So that tells you how stuff a situation you have.  You get hurt in walk‑through, tear a knee up in walk‑through it's not a good day, not a good week.  We have about 21 on the injured list right now, but hopefully we'll get some of that cut down before the week is over and I'll talk about that more on Thursday.  I don't have it all in front of me.  You ask me about a specific player, I'll be able to tell you.

Q.  Talk about the fatigue going against Bell.
COACH KILL:  It's very important.  You hit him at the line of scrimmage, he's so big he falls forward for three yards.  I think he's carried it 26 times in the first half.  I think the next back's only had 15 carries.  So he's going to get the ball.
And if you're beat up or not fresh legged against him, it's going to be a long day.  So that's one of the big issues.  We gotta make sure that our guys are feeling good, and we're going to have to be ready for a physical football game.  That's who they are.  They're physical on defense.  They're physical on offense.  A lot of people say they've had ‑‑ this is an important game because it gets them bowl eligible.  But they haven't slipped any.  They've just been in a heck of a lot of close games and played a lot of good people.  They're still Michigan State.
Then when you get up there and you load up on the run that's when they play action pass you and catch you.  That's their game, similar to Wisconsin, I mean what they do and how they play.  Very similar.  Defensively, you know, Coach has been ‑‑ I've known their defensive coordinator a long time and they'll bring the zone pressures, and they had 9‑11 of them back from last year, so they're good on defense.  So we got our work cut out for us.  I know as a coach staff we're excited about the opportunity to get back out there and play.

Q.  The passing game is obviously very important to you.  Are you figuring out a way to get that on track?
COACH KILL:  I think the biggest thing with ‑‑ offensively a period after coming off Lincoln and not playing very well, we've got some beat up guys up front.  We got young receivers.  At one time in the most game we were playing three or four freshmen, wide receiver freshmen, tailback freshmen, quarterback.  So I think the more they play the better they're going to get and I think we just gotta keep doing what we're doing and get better at it.
We threw the ball, had some balls drop and then when we had some good depth, we fell behind them.  I just think we gotta keep working at it.  That's what we're doing this week.  And having the opportunity to be in a bowl game, you get those younger kids even more repetition to get better.
So it's not an issue about getting after anybody.  I just think we gotta continue to do what we're doing, and as young players you'll get better the more reps you get at it.

Q.  Are you expecting to add Lenkiewicz on the line this week?
COACH KILL:  Lenkiewicz is questionable, and Ed Olson will practice today.  But Lenkiewicz will not practice today and is questionable.  He's got a knee, too.

Q.  Their run defense is particularly good.  How do you see being able to attack that?
COACH KILL:  Last year we played ‑‑ we moved the ball last year against them at Michigan State.  And I think you have to ‑‑ you just gotta do a good job up front.  You gotta get a body on a body and you gotta make good reads at quarterback and you gotta be able to make some plays.
Even you look back on the game on Saturday, we had chances to make plays.  We had guys open.  We had shots.  We just didn't make plays, and I think against Michigan State is the same scenario.  They're not going to come out and try to trick you on defense or do anything different than what we've done.  That's why they're good.  They're good at what they do.  You know what they're going to do, but you have to execute and our big deal whether it's running the ball or throwing the ball we gotta do a good job of executing.  And physically we're going to have to play very hard, and I think our kids understand.
There's no room for error.  I said that all last year, and through some of the injuries we've had there's really no room for error.  We've gotta fight our tail end off.  But our kids have done that.  They have done that.  They really have.  I have no complaints.  I think they've played hard all year.  I think we're getting everything we can get out of them.
I think the only thing as a coach when you watch the film and you have to evaluate it and you look early and you look now and you look where you're at and you see the speed of the game, and you see some wear and tear, then you gotta figure out how to get those legs back a little bit.  So that's what we gotta do.

Q.  Would you have liked to see them win last week so they would have come in this week already‑‑
COACH KILL:  I think a good team, and he's a good coach.  I don't think it's going to make a difference.  I think each week it's important.  It's hard to win.  It's hard to win a football game.  So you know, I think every game is important to every coach and every team.
Now, the mentality of the team coming in and all those kind of things, that's a hard one to ‑‑ like I said last week, I wish I had a microchip in every helmet to see what's going on in their ‑‑ sometimes to make sure they're ready and what they're thinking.  I think one way or the other Michigan State is going to come in and play good, and we're in a situation where they need the game to get to a bowl game.  So you know they're going to get their best.
But it ain't going to be any different ‑‑ any tougher than it was Saturday when you got Coach Osborne running the team out of the tunnel and they got 29 seniors, I believe, I'd say they were pretty fired up at Lincoln.  We got their best on Saturday.  It wasn't like we didn't get their best.  And I think Michigan State, we'll get their best.

Q.  Beal and Marcus Jones?
COACH KILL:  Brendan Beal is out.  And he's going to get an MRI today on the knee.  For that kid, I mean it's ‑‑ I mean my prayers and thoughts.  I hope everything goes right, but he's been through so much.  But he's going to get an MRI today and I'll be able to tell you this afternoon, I think.  But it is a knee.  And then Marcus Jones is a knee, too, but not as seriously.  I don't know if Marcus will be ready, but it's not as serious as, I don't think as Brendan's right now.

Q.  Have you spoken with Brendan about that injury?  What did you say to him?
COACH KILL:  I think that knee ‑‑ you share that when you talk to Brendan is fine.  I talked with him after the game.  I sat down and we sat there, and I put my arm around him, and we talked when people left the locker room, we just sat in there and visited.  And I shared, I said Jiminy Christmas, I feel bad for you.  I said, I wish I could give you my knee, but mine aren't any good either.
We just talked and visited and tried to, I don't know, comfort each other or whatever you want to say.  But I mean it's hard to see.  I've been through some adversity in my life.  So we just shared things when you go through a lot of adversity what you gotta do, you know.  And I actually talked to him just a little bit ago.  So it's tough, but he's a persistent young man, and we hope for the best.  That's all we can do.

Q.  You're coming to the end of your second regular season here.  Has it been about what you expected coming in, anticipated in these two years?
COACH KILL:  Yeah.  I think I look back at where I've been and through 30 years of coaching and what I've done and come into different programs.  I think it's exactly pretty much the same.  I mean I think we're in the same place, going through the same situations, same good things, same problems.  Pretty much the same, you know.  Same as Southern Illinois and what we went through at Northern and so forth.  And nothing's ever ‑‑ you go like this when you're building something.
But you know, liked to have had another win or two in there, you know.  But didn't work out, but we still got games to play.  So that's an exciting thing.  I think the only thing that's different, I've never coached in my 30 years, we have been fortunate ‑‑ when we went to Northern Illinois we inherited a team that the reason they'd struggled the year before we got there, they had 23 guys that didn't go through spring ball when I got there.  So we had problems injury wise.  And that's the only unique thing about this, never had this many injuries in a season.  And that's why I give the kids so much credit, even with all that happening, we've been able to keep pushing forward.  So that's been ‑‑ that's a credit to the kids and the coaches.

Q.  Are you on track with what you'd hoped you'd be after two seasons like this?
COACH KILL:  I'm never satisfied hardly.  I think we pushed hard.  I think everybody worked to get from administration to the coaches to everybody trying to get the program where everybody would like to have it.  Certainly we worked hard to do that.  I think the kids have worked hard.  And you know, we're pretty much in the same place we were at those other places at this point in time.
You know, as far as recruiting went well.  We're able to redshirt.  It's hard, certainly in these situations we're in.  But we've been able to redshirt a large group of people.  You know, and our younger players have proved out to be pretty good.  I'm excited about how good they're going to be.  So you know, and then we got a chance at our second true recruiting class.
So again, we really ‑‑ and we've been through transitions with administrations and so forth.  We've been through a lot, you know, really in the two years I've been here.  It's been through a lot.  But I think that's ‑‑ when you take over anything, whether it's a business or a football program, and you're reestablishing what you want to do and where you want to go, it's part of it.  And you're going to go ‑‑ not everybody's going to agree with you, and you're going to go through a lot of different times and different emotions, but you just gotta stay in there and keep pushing forward.
And I think Coach Novak had it up on his deal before I got there, the ones that stay will be rewarded, and that's kind of the way ‑‑ you gotta go through some tough times to get to the good times, and just like ‑‑ I mean it's the way life is.
But I mean we're ‑‑ as far as recruiting and program and academically, weight room wise, moving forward in those areas, we certainly have done that.  But again, we still gotta get stronger.  I wish we didn't have to play so many younger players, but hopefully our day will come when we run 29 seniors out there.
And I talked to Bo before the game.  He's great to visit with.  And his big key and his big talk there, he goes, coach, I'm telling you, how we've done it here and how I got it back on track is he said because of what we've done with walk‑on players is that they ‑‑ we have 150 players, somewhere like that on the roster.  And we're not in a situation we can do that.  But that's how they've been doing it for years there.  At one time it was 180.  But they build their program with numbers.  You say how can they get 29 seniors?  That's how they do it.  And they don't turn anybody away.  But that's why they're where they're at.
We played there, and we had a lot of people that went to the game and a lot of donors, a lot of fans, and our players for the first time, I think sometimes you can call that an education.  We got an education.  Now, whether that's good or bad, it wasn't the greatest education you want to take on Saturday, but we damn sure got an education of where we need to go and what we need to do.

Q.  Is your evaluation in recruiting for next year for the 2013 class, does that evaluation change a little bit after you've been through a fall and the team's played 11 games or does that change a little bit what positions maybe you're looking to fill in in that next class?
COACH KILL:  I think we've been real careful in recruiting what we're doing because of that, and I don't think it's changed a lot.
But I look at Rodrick, you know, our tailback, Rodrick Williams is that, you know, the type of kid he is, toughness ‑‑ we've gotten to find out a lot about our younger kids, and I think you kind of get a feel for ‑‑ as you keep going through, what you need.  That's why you don't want to jump out too quick.  There's a lot of good players out there right now.  And I feel good about that part of where we're at and who we're visiting with and what we need to do.
Now, you gotta get them in the boat.  You gotta get them on signing date and so forth.  But I feel good about ‑‑ we are so youthful, and then I think we gotta do a good job of what we get.  And as you play, you play Nebraska and Michigan, you kind of get an idea.  I like the way our big kids, our young big kids look.  Right now some of the red shirts, certainly those two big tackles we have in Isaac Hayes, that's what Nebraska, the way they looked, that's what you're looking for.  And then we redshirt them and build them in the weight room and get them bigger and stronger.  Then you don't go through all the health situations you go through.
I give it to our kids up front.  They're playing their guts out.  I mean they really are.  They've really done a good job.  It's just sometimes you get worn down as you're leaning on a guy that's been a fifth year senior or fourth year senior or redshirt junior or whatever.  And athletics at that age and certainly football, the older you get and more mature you get, somewhere between 19, 20 to that 27 going into the NFL, that's when you're playing your best football and you're the strongest as a young person in the game.

Q.  You talk about you've been here two years.  There was a legendary coach who retired yesterday.  Do you see yourself coaching until you're 86 years old?
COACH KILL:  I won't get the opportunity to if we don't win more games.  I mean I understand that.  I would tell you what you see there with John, what is it, Frank Sinatra, he did it his way.  I got a tremendous amount of respect for the man.  Anybody that can coach the game as long as he has, the way he's done it is incredible.  Nobody else has done it.  And doesn't matter where you do it at.  Doesn't matter what level.  Football is football.  I've said that all along.
And he's done a great job, and you know, he gets ‑‑ you won't ever hear of that again.  I just ‑‑ I say all records are made to be broken.  That ain't happening again.  I'm just telling you that's not going to happen.  It won't happen in my lifetime.  Not the way it is in coaching.  You just don't get ‑‑ I mean you look at the guy at Auburn, his job's on the line, he won the national championship three years ago.  It just don't happen, unless you're going to win 12 or 13 and that's what that guy's done every year.
He's a funny man.  I got a chance, I was at the national convention, I don't know how long ago it was 10 or 11 years ago.  And that was 10, 11 years ago.  And I was fortunate enough to get an honor and he got an honor also.  He got up and spoke and they asked him about retirement at that time.  He goes, I don't know what I'd do if I retired and I don't think I'll ever retire.  He says there's only two things I don't like about the game.  I don't get to control injuries and officials.  And he said, everybody started laughing.  And that was the end of his speech.  It wasn't, thank you.  That was his speech.  Sat down.  And John sat down.  And that was it.
I've been fortunate to meet a lot of people.  I think the two most unique people I've ever met, and I was fortunate to get award at one I'd say John and Eddie Robinson are probably two tremendously unique people and special people.  And I was fortunate enough to meet both of them in my lifetime.  So pretty neat deal.

Q.  Did you or will you discuss with the team the A.J. Barker departure?
COACH KILL:  I don't think ‑‑ you know, I wasn't going to answer any questions on that.  That's why we did all that stuff.  But I respect everybody in here.  You know, we ‑‑ as a football team and those kind of things, our kids have come up, Mike Rollison, Grant and those guys, hey, coach.  I said, no.  Don't get into all that stuff because I said we're moving forward.  I said you don't have to ‑‑ you know coach.  You know who I am.  They've been great.  All those seniors, they want to concentrate on playing and playing football and concentrate on the guys that are here.  And it's a great group of kids.  And they've been great to me.  And I think that's where we ‑‑ again, players leave programs.  And things happen.  And I said publicly, I feel bad about it.  And I really do.
But I'm responsible for 115 kids and I gotta put the focus on those kids that are here.  I owe it to those kids that want to be here and gone through it.  There's a lot of them that have gone through a whole lot, so that's where my focus is going to be.
And I think that ‑‑ I think our kids ‑‑ like I said, I know our kids ‑‑ when I tell them how we're going to practice, No. 1, they're going to be excited.  Because a change of pace is always good.  And then No. 2, you know, playing this game Thanksgiving, their families are going to get to be here.  We have the banquet.  So a lot of the kids' families, some of the families that hadn't got opportunities to see their kids play, they're going to be here.  So I really look for those kids to step up and really play hard.  So that's what we're going to focus in on.

Q.  Were you ever amazed at guys who stick it out four years and don't hardly ever get on the field?
COACH KILL:  You know what, though, it's just like anything.  There's always ‑‑ every day there's a negative and positive in our world.  And you know, I'd say yesterday I got some unique Emails from kids that had never played.  They say, hey, coach, thanks for ‑‑ I kind of go, now, wait a minute.  This kid hadn't played three plays for me and he's thanking me.  But I think it's being part of a team.
And you know, we had a person that came in, I mentioned his name, he came in and spoke to us.  He's an author of a book and he talked about his time here at the U.  And he said he wasn't a star player, but just being on the team.  And I think there's something to be said for that.  And being a part of something and being around a group of guys.  What you miss, Darrell's played, and I'm looking at him, is that I think the biggest thing you miss when you walk away from the game of football, it's not so much the football.  It's the locker room.  It's the companionship, the stories, your friends.  You have to grow up, you know, after it.
And so I think people like to be a part of something.  And a lot of people don't get to.  It's like people get a chance to join fraternities.  People get a chance to join the choir.  They get a chance to be in drama and so forth.  Some kids just want the opportunity to be a part of a football program.  I would tell you this, from my standpoint, if I'd had the opportunity to be able to put a uniform on at Minnesota, where I came from, it would have been a big deal.  Even if I played one play, or two.  It would have been a big opportunity and a big deal to me, because I love the game and love being around the game.  Anything else?  All right.  Thank you.

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