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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE


December 17, 2013


Dave Warner


Q.  Coach, earlier Coach Dantonio was complimenting his whole staff, and I asked him to reflect on the start of the season and what had you to go through with the musical quarterbacks.  Can you reflect on how hard that was for you with different personnel groupings, different quarterbacks?  Were there three play charts?  How crazy a time was that?
DAVE WARNER:¬† First of all, it seems like a long, long time ago.¬† But it was very difficult for a lot of reasons.¬† First of all, it was difficult on our offense trying to settle in on who that guy was going to be.¬† Who they were looking at in the huddle each and every play, and then trying to get quality reps in practice because we were‑‑ I mean, we were uncertain.¬† We were torn who the best guy was in the long run.¬† To Coach D's credit, he stuck by his guns and we weren't going to rush into anything.¬† We took our time.¬† Through a lot of people's‑‑ lot of people didn't agree with it, but we took our time.
But through all of that, again, you're trying to rotate three guys in at quarterback in practice.  Trying to give them the reps that they're going to need to go out and execute on Saturday.  That was the most difficult part about it.
It was tough on them.  It was tough on the quarterbacks and tough on our offense, because those guys weren't getting the reps probably that they needed to perform with their highest on Saturday.  So that was the most difficult thing about it going through the whole experience.

Q.  (No microphone) your first time as play caller in over 20 years?
DAVE WARNER:  Yeah, there were some difficult times there.  But as far as play calling and game planning, our game planning didn't change.  Or the in fact that if Tyler O'Connor or Connor Cook were in there we had a little bit more flexibility in some quarterback run game.  But it's not like there was a big difference in the play chart that I had in front of me on game day.  It was just a matter of who was the guy in there and what we were doing good at the time and trying to dial up those plays.

Q.  Along those lines, how necessary was the arc that the season took?  When you think back to the Notre Dame game where the offense was sort of in between where it was and where it became?  How important and necessary was that game and everything that happened in developing this team?
DAVE WARNER:  Well, hopefully it was necessary.  Hopefully we went through it for a reason.  I think as you look back where we started the beginning of the season, even if you go all the way back to the spring, we're hoping all along, going all the way back to spring that one of those quarterbacks is going to grab ahold of it, take charge.  We felt like we gave all those quarterbacks equal opportunities through it all.  Obviously there was a point in time where Damion Terry was in the mix.
So we gave everybody the opportunity.  For whatever reason, no one sort of jumped out in front of the other guy and took the bull by the horns and said this is my job.  I'm going to take it and run with it.
It was difficult.  You get through the Notre Dame game, and Connor Cook sort of took over there and played well.  We obviously made a change right or wrong at the end of the football game there.
I guess the Notre Dame game was probably the point where after that game we said Connor's the guy, even though he went through the Notre Dame game as sort of being the guy, and we pulled him at the end.  But after it was all said and done, we said we're going to go to war with him and let him be the man.

Q.  Looking at the Ohio State game, some of those big chunk plays and consistent drives strung together, looking back to Western Michigan and a couple first downs seemed like a prayer.  Are you surprised at the level you guys are able to get to now?  I know you talked about early in the season we need to become competent.  But now it's a level where the offense is a strength to certain degrees.
DAVE WARNER:  I'm not surprised we've gotten to this point.  This is what we were striving for all along.  Our players have been resilient through it all and kept the confidence.  I knew we'd get there.  I think Coach Dantonio knew we'd get there.  We said all along when we sort of settled in and guys started making plays at whatever position it is, whether it be running back, quarterback or wide receiver, the play making positions.  When guys start making plays, things will snowball for us, and they sort of did.
I'm not sure snowball is the best.  But we started make plays.  Guys got more confident across the board.  Our receivers became more confident.  Our quarterback, running backs, everybody just got more confidence in our ability to make plays and score points and we got to the point where we are now today.
I made the comment to them yesterday though, and I said it every week all the way through, don't be satisfied because you look at the film, you look at that film and the championship game, we still could have been so much better.  That is the thing we're going to keep striving for.  We're not going to be satisfied until we get to the point where we're clicking on all cylinders.

Q.  You're facing an experienced, composed, intelligent defense.  What does any quarterback, in this specific case Connor, consistently need to remind himself when he's facing a defense that's been on this stage and is so composed, intelligent and experienced?
DAVE WARNER:  Connor just needs to do what he does and not try to go above that, I guess.  I mean, Stanford is a defense, as you said, they're experienced.  They're an attack defense.  They're very complicated.  I think Connor needs to have confidence in those around him protecting him in the pass game first and foremost because they're going to put some heat on you in the pass game, and they're good at it.  Again, from different, complicated defensive fronts.  He needs to handle those and, again, be confident in the protection around him.  Be able to execute the pass game I think is probably the big thing.

Q.  The first three games we were all talking about receivers dropping passes.  Then you decided O'Connor.  They stopped dropping passes.  The offensive line seemed to get better.  Jeremy Langford seemed to get better.  I'm just wondering what kind of settling effect making that decision to stick with the quarterback had on the whole offense.  It's not just coincidence, is it?
DAVE WARNER:  Probably not.  I think certainly again when you have the same guys stepping in the huddle all the time, I think there is a familiarity.  There are guys that sort of say, here it is.  Okay, it's time now.  I think that's sort of what happened.
As we all remember, it wasn't like all of a sudden we started clicking.  I mean, it was still a growth when Connor became the guy.  It was still a growth of receivers making all the plays, as many as they made.  It was still a case of Jeremy Langford really getting going.  So it was a process still, but I'm sure settling in at that quarterback position helped.  But there are a lot of other factors as far as guys making plays, and that is sort of where we got the confidence going from there.  But I'm sure that's part of it.

Q.  Can you address the job and growth that Tony Lippett and Bennie Fowler have shown over the course of this season?  And from where they were at at the end of last year to now, what's their mentality changed to become such productive forces in the pass game?
DAVE WARNER:  I guess I can begin by saying I think those two guys coming to where they are now, if you can point to a couple guys, they're a big part of it.  Because they've stepped up and become more confident.  I think Connor has become more confident in them.  I don't know.  You can say Connor's looking for them more in the pass game now.  But you can see by the receptions they've had over the course of the Big Ten season that the ball has been thrown their way a lot.  So just from a confidence factor, even from my standpoint in play calling I think there is a confidence factor in those guys.
You look at where they were last year and how the season started, and that wasn't the case.  To their credit, those guys were basically benched early in the year.  Not that they were written off, but to their credit, they didn't hang their heads.  They didn't pout.  They didn't throw in the towel.  They put their best foot forward and kept pushing ahead, and as things started happening good for them that gradually became more and more for both those guys.  I think as our offense saw that, I think that was a big part of everybody as an offensive unit gaining confidence in what we're doing offensively.

Q.  In terms of young players you're going to get to look at, who are you looking forward to seeing in what roles here in these bowl practices?
DAVE WARNER:  Guys that have not played?

Q.  Yeah.
DAVE WARNER:  Yeah, it's going to be hard to see those guys in a few practices.  Offensive lines need to sort of grow in and learn the offense and so forth.  Now I'm sure Mark Staten will be able to work with them and get a feel athletically.
I think obviously, Damion Terry is a guy with a lot of reps.  As he learns the offense, we're anxious to see what he does.  We'll try to give him some work there.  Gerald Holmes is a guy at running back who I've told Coach Dantonio all season long, he's going to be a player.  So we're anxious to look at him.  Those are the guys that stand out right now for us.
DeAnthony Arnett is another guy.  Let me throw that out too.  Sort of put him on the back burner because he got hurt and was getting limited reps early in the year because we had a good crew there.  I've heard nothing but positive, good reports about him on the scout field stepping up.  He looks better.  He's putting on weight.  So I'm anxious to see what the future holds for him also because we all know what we expected of him when he showed up here.  So I'm excited to see him in the future.

Q.  Last time we talked to Delton Williams he was still talking about defensive reps.  Where's he at?  Will he stay on offense moving forward or get looks on defense at some point?
DAVE WARNER:  I think that a little bit depends on how some of our other running backs develop.  It depends on what our needs are going to be on defense.  There are a lot of factors that go into it.  But I'll say I'm very happy with Delton Williams and what he's done this year.  Wish we could have gotten him in there more.  But he's shown he has the ability to be a Big Ten football player as a running back.  Whether he stays there or goes to defense, we don't know that.  But we're happy he's with us.  He's going to help us win football games in the future.

Q.  Follow up, you were talking about Stanford in there and the complexity of their fronts.  Is it like none other team that you've played this season?  What do they do in their secondary?
DAVE WARNER:¬† No, it's not unlike anything we haven't seen.¬† But they do a little bit of everything.¬† They do a little bit of what everybody's done.¬† It's not like this is their base front.¬† They've got variations of many different fronts. ¬†Again, a lot of nickel packages.¬† On the back end they're a little bit more of a pro‑style secondary, and they're going to play deep safeties.¬† You know, they are going to fire zone, zone blitz a little bit, a fair amount, and pump backers through there.
But the complexity, I guess, just comes from how many different fronts they play and where they move guys, because they have guys playing all over the place.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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