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January 4, 2007

Jim Heacock

Malcolm Jenkins

Brandon Mitchell


Q. Jim, when you look at this Florida offense, concerns and -- any concerns coming off what happened in Michigan with the number of points, yardage, all that?
COACH HEACOCK: We are concerned ourselves from the Michigan game. We felt like we had a couple of breakdowns and gave up some big plays, a few more big plays we had than in the course of the year. I think those are things we are trying to correct ourselves and focus in on. We talk about Florida and obviously a lot of things concern you. They do a lot of different things.
They are very multiple, as you know. And a lot of receivers, a lot of good athletes. They got a senior group down the middle. Their seniors -- their center is a senior. Their quarterback is a senior. Their tailback is a senior and two wide receivers are seniors. So they have an experienced group out there. Obviously Leak is playing well. As he played better over the course of the last couple years, they have become more multiple in their offense and it gives you a lot of problems in trying to stop everything.

Q. The big play, do you think that's the main concern that you have to eliminate? They talked about if they are to have any success, they have to hit the big play?
COACH HEACOCK: Well, as we went through the year, we kind of looked at each game and after each game we try to identify what our situation is and where we can get better and try to make some improvement. After the Michigan game, I think that's the area we zeroed in on, it is not that we didn't zero in on it all year. We felt like to be successful we have got to not give up big plays and we have to execute and carry out our assignments and responsibilities and do a good job with that. To say that that's a one-game thing we are trying to correct, I wouldn't say that. We did it all year long and that was a real emphasis we put on our defense, that we will make absolute certain that we put great effort in not giving up the big play.
They have had a lot of big plays this year. You look at the stats and the number of big plays, run and pass they have had this year has been impressive.

Q. Jim, can you talk about Chris Leak and what concerns you mostly about their offense?
COACH HEACOCK: I think like I said, it is not like you have to stop the run or you have to stop the pass or you have to -- there is any one area. I don't know. I guess probably the thing that concerns you about the offense is the multiplicity and the number of things they can do and the ways they get their receivers the football. They have a lot of different schemes that they use.
Chris Leak, you know, right now is playing, I'm sure, as well as he has, he is making good decisions right now. He is moving the football team. Looks like he is getting the right play called. I mean, it just looks like he is a senior quarterback that's doing what they are asking him to do and probably has mastered the offense to a point where they feel comfortable that they can do a lot of different things with him.

Q. For Jim and for Malcolm. You guys lost nine starters coming into this season. How would you compare last year's defense to this year's?
MALCOLM JENKINS: This year, you know, like you said, we lost a lot of people last year. So we all were pretty much starting off fresh. I think this year, we are so young that we are all very coachable. We pay attention to everything the coaches say and try to do everything that they want us to do.
I think this year, you know, we are hungry and we are more coachable than we were last year. Last year we had a lot of veterans. So it is only so much we can coach them. They already know everything. They did everything they wanted to do.
This year, I think we have a lot of young guys who are starting for the first time and rotate a lot of people early and I think we are all just doing a good job of trying to do everything the coaches ask of us.

Q. For Brandon and Malcolm, given some of the things that happen in the Michigan game, I know you guys weren't happy with some of those things. How anxious are you to get back on the horse to play another game?
COACH HEACOCK: We won that game, right (smiling)?
BRANDON MITCHELL: For me, as a senior, you want to be remembered for your last game, you know. And the game we played against Michigan, obviously we weren't very happy with our performance as far as giving up big plays and probably more passing yards than we really wanted to. This game, we just kind of want to get back to the fundamentals and do the little things that got us here and made us have a successful season. I think that's what we have been placing the big emphasis on throughout Bowl practice.
MALCOLM JENKINS: I mean, you know, we won the game, that's the main thing. But we didn't perform like we wanted to. And I think we lost some respect that we had been trying to gain all year. And, I mean, basically back to what it was in the beginning of year anyway. Nobody really thought we could, you know, come as far as we did. So for us, it is just coming about and being as good as your last game. This is our last game, so, you know, all they are going to remember from here on out is how we play this weekend -- or Monday.

Q. This is for the players. Guy Tressel yesterday talked about the fact that Florida is the fastest team you all will have faced this year. Considering the emphasis on speed that Florida has in their offense, you guys as defensive backs would probably be the most pressed in that situation. How have you looked forward to this challenge and maybe hearing all that talk about speed, has that been a little bit of a rallying point for the guys in practice?
BRANDON MITCHELL: I want to say I wouldn't consider it a rallying point. I think their speed does create problems and I know in practice we have been constantly talking about keeping them inside of us and in front of us. And I think that goes along with giving up big plays. We know that we have to be ready for their speed and very prepared for it. But we go against fast guys every day in practice.
I think we look at the practice reps and try to look at those and consider them game reps so we get used to the game speed.
MALCOLM JENKINS: Yeah, I mean, he pretty much covered it. We go against Ted Ginn, Tony Gonzalez -- Anthony Gonzalez and Ray Small every day in practice I think we get a good sense of their speed. I am pretty sure it is going to be a lot faster come game time.
But I think we get good quality reps in practice and it is definitely something we are paying attention to on film. We see it and hear it all the time.
I think we will be ready for it.

Q. For the players, they are known for their playmakers at receiver. Have you guys seen a group of receivers or played a group of receivers that are like them and what's your overall impression of the kind of guys they have on the outside there?
BRANDON MITCHELL: Well, I think they are unique because they play four or five guys at receiver. And any one of those guys, you know, not necessarily left open but when given the ball in the open space, whether it is a 10-yard pass or 380-yard bomb, they can turn those into big plays. I think that's really unique because, you know, usually you have to stop maybe one big-play guy or two big-play guys.
With this team, they spread the ball out so evenly that you know you have to be, I guess, on your Ps and Qs for every day and you have to stay focused for every possession because you know at any time if there is a lack in focus, they can break home.
MALCOLM JENKINS: I think they are doing a good job of getting their playmakers the ball in different ways. They have different ways of getting Dallas Baker the ball and as far as everybody else, they have different packages and sometimes they use screens, sometimes they use D balls and things like that.
They do a good job of spreading the ball around. I think it is something we definitely have to focus on this weekend and try to stop.

Q. Coach, Florida's offense is unconventional and multiple. How hard has it been to replicate their offense with your scout team?
COACH HEACOCK: Well, that's probably been the most difficult thing we have had to do. Here again, we talk about how much they do, the different things they do and I think like Malcolm alluded to, I think we have done a lot going against our offense because I think we get a pretty good look with our receivers and probably the best look we can get is with them.
Back home and first few days out here we spent a lot of time going against -- ones against ones or good against good just to get -- trying to simulate the speed we will be seeing. When we go with the scout team, it is a little bit more difficult. Not only simulating the speed but they do a lot of misdirection plays, a lot of option, a lot of reverse, a lot of trick plays and that's what's really hard to simulate and make it look good.
In order for that to happen, you have to block the front. That's been a little bit difficult. I think as we have gone, luckily we have had more than a week to prepare. We have been preparing for some time. We have a chance to get the scout team to run those things and give us a decent look.

Q. Brandon, Malcolm, there is a perception that teams from Florida or the West Coast have all the speed. Is there an advantage -- does either team have an advantage speed-wise?
BRANDON MITCHELL: I think that perception just goes along with wherever you are from you may think those players the best. Even if you look at this game, most people from the Midwest think Ohio State is the greatest team ever and we are going to kill them.
As most people from the South -- me being from Atlanta, when I went home all I heard, "Florida is going to beat you all. You probably won't score a point." I think it is a regional bias. Everybody thinks they have the best players. I think that's what it is. I don't think the players feed too much into it. We know our own abilities. I don't think that really factors much into how we think.
MALCOLM JENKINS: I just feel, like he said, different people have different opinions. I guess we won't know who is faster as a team until we play on Monday.

Q. You mentioned their offense and all the exotic stuff they do. What's the key for you defensively when facing a team like that?
COACH HEACOCK: Probably any Bowl game, execution. I think we have to execute. We have to carry out responsibilities and we talk about 11 guys doing their job and I think it is going to be important that we are disciplined and do what we do and like any other game, the team that tackles and gets off blocks and does all the fundamental things is probably really the key.

Q. Jim, as a defensive guy, you went down to Florida in the spring and checked things out. What did you guys gain out of that visit and are you going to open it up to them at all this week?
COACH HEACOCK: I don't think we will open it up to them (laughter). Some of our staff went down and visited with them and that happens a lot during spring practice, before or after. We travel around the country and meet with other teams and get some ideas, share ideas.
It just so happened that Florida is where our defensive staff went down and visited with them. They had a chance to practice down there. I think they saw the speed and the athleticism and the types of players they had and obviously the organization.
But, you know, that's probably overrated a little bit in what you really learn. You go down there and share ideas and maybe out of all those ideas you may try to tweak your defense just a little bit and use something they use or they might use something -- I mean, our defensive coaches shared with them what we do as well as them sharing with us what they do. So it was an exchange of ideas, and I think it is probably overrated, really, in what the advantage anybody got out of that.

Q. Coach, four years ago one of the keys to your guys' victory over Miami was the front four being able to get pressure and stop the run. How important is that going to be against Florida to be able to get the front four to get a pass rush without maybe having to blitz some?
COACH HEACOCK: I don't think there is any question. Of course, I've -- when you always coach the defensive line for all your life, you kind of get a little bit biased and think that they are really important.
I really do think that most football games comes down to the trenches and the battle in the trenches and who is controlling the line of scrimmage. Shoot, I think it is very important. I think it is critical that our defensive front plays well and I think it is important that they are able to get pressure and at least control part of the line of scrimmage.
If you don't do that, if you can't control the line of scrimmage, whichever team that can't is probably in trouble.

Q. Jim, you have Ohio ties and Urban does as well. Can you talk about your relationship with Urban?
COACH HEACOCK: Actually was the head coach at Illinois State when Urban was a graduate assistant at Ohio State. I had a part-time job opening. I know Urban was just getting out in the coaching field and I had a part-time opening and hired Urban so he was kind of like a part-time coach for me. And he stayed with me until Earl Bruce got the job at Colorado State and he went with Earl as a full-time coach.
I know Urban pretty well and not surprised at all with his success and where he is at right now.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

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