Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
Blake Countess, Jake Ryan, Jehu Chesson
Blake, earlier this season I remember talking to you about the secondary being a strength. Are you guys still confident that the talent’s there? I mean, you guys have given up some big plays now and then. Are you still as confident in the secondary as you were four or five weeks ago?
BC: “Oh, no doubt about it. We’re a group that’s growing just like the rest of the team and we definitely have the talent to do it. It’s just about getting better every week and proving it, but absolutely. My confidence in my secondary has not wavered at all.”
Coach Hoke has been taking a lot of heat, obviously. What do you guys talk about in the locker room? Do you guys rally around him a little bit at this point?
JR: “Yeah, I mean, we’re just trying to stick together as a team. You know, we can’t let last week affect us. We’ve got to hold our heads up and move on. It’s Big Ten season.”
[Ed. Totally inaudible, sorry]
JR: “You can’t listen to that. You know, you can’t be affected by that. You just have to block it out and, you know, these people don’t know what we’ve done behind the scenes. They don’t know what we’ve done in Schembechler Hall, but we’re just going to keep taking those necessary steps forward that we need to take to improve every single day.”
Does it tick you off, though? When you read the tweets or…
JR: “You can’t- I don’t go on the message boards and read all that stuff. You can’t do that. That’s just people’s opinions.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Coach, can you talk about the tempo of the offense? Is it where you want it to be at this point?
“Obviously we’d like it to play a little faster. Right now our focus is playing right. Execution. We’ll worry about tempo later, and I think like we’ve said before we want to control the tempo of the game on offense, whether that’s to slow the game down or speed the game up.”
Doug, Brady said he’ll have a decision tomorrow on the starting quarterback. What’s going into that decision?
“Well, I think there’s a lot that goes into the decision of who plays quarterback and both guys have done an outstanding job of preparing and practicing and competing. It’s what we’ve talked about all along at every position on our team; we want to have competition and we want to compete and challenge every day.”
Whichever one is in there, I assume the turnover message has to be reinforced.
“Definitely. I mean, you start from base premise of what we talked about fro day one that we continue to talk about every day and until we get it right we’re going to continue to struggle. It’s the turnover margin. You can’t win football games when you lose it. It’s the one telling statistic in all of football over time. You lose the turnover margin week in and week out and you’re going to struggle to have a good football team.”
Doug, I guess at this point not knowing who the quarterback’s going to be what positives do you see? What could you do differently if Shane Morris were your starter?
“Well, I don’t know that you say you start all over and change your offense. No. You do the things that play to Shane’s strengths and Shane’s obviously a talented guy. Got a lot of arm strength. He is a young player like a lot of our players and learning, and Devin does- they both are similar in a lot of their style. Both you can see can make plays with their feet. Both have really good arms, and we feel really good about either one of those guys.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
“Hello, everybody. I almost didn’t make it today. I was kind of busy over there trying to get ready for this next one. Somebody had to tell me to come but it’s good to see everybody. Go ahead.”
Greg, the run defense remains a strength. I know that the secondary needs some work, though. Overall, what’s your assessment of your defense through four games?
“I don’t look at four games. I always look at the last game. We didn’t win. There’s a point when you become- and that’s our goal, to become a great defense, is you do whatever you have to to win. You do whatever you have to. And that in a lot of places means don’t even let them get in the end zone in any way. Am I proud of these guys? I’ve told you from day one I really like these guys. I mean, I like how they work. I like what they bring to the meeting room every day. I like what they bring to the practice field. I like how they compete. Do we do it perfect all the time [and] have we? No. And do we have to keep working to do that? Yes. Until we do whatever we possibly have to do to get the win then we haven’t totally reached the mark.”
Coach, I’ll have you comment on a couple of things. One, the breakthrough on producing a score on defense, but then the drive that they had coming out of the second half.
“Getting the score, that’s a guy playing hard in practice every day. That’s a guy doing the things [he needs to]. That’s a guy improving, Willie Henry. That was a guy making a play that he had to make a play and we’ve talked about him, too, [and] what he’s done since the day he got here. His improvement. Becoming mature, practice habits, all that and that’s great to see that happen for him. Same thing for Frank [Clark]. That sack he got was a big league sack. Those things happen because you work hard and you practice hard.
“Coming out in the second half at half time…they got us on two plays that were corrected immediately after that happened. It’s a shame that I didn’t see it quicker. It’s a shame that I didn’t do something after the first time to eliminate- it was the exact same play that scored a touchdown on it and that’s where maybe I need to see that quicker from what happened and stop that one touchdown and, again, that’s my job. But they adjusted then and that’s how they got there. That’s what happened after [the] half.”
Jake Ryan had a career-high 13 tackles. He has an unorthodox way of doing things sometimes but gets the job done. Talk about the essence of Jake Ryan as a defensive force.
“Well, Jake and Joe [Bolden]. I’ll put them together. Your linebackers in this defense have got to make a lot of plays because you’re getting very good play out of the front in front of them. When the front demands double teams and when the front does what they’ve been doing then there are so many times when a linebacker, if he does what he’s supposed to do with his footwork, with his keys, with his recognition, is there with nobody blocking him. Now make the tackle. And their effort, Joe and Jake, their effort, their toughness, their playing what I consider linebacker, that’s been good and we’ve got to keep getting better.”
But Jake in particular. I touched on his unorthodox manner sometimes in getting the job done. Can you talk about him in particular?
“I don’t know what unorthodox is. To me, it’s when the ball carrier has the football and you tackle him, you’re playing linebacker. Sometimes they’re not picture-perfect tackles. Sometimes you may not be perfect with your footwork, stepping down and all of a sudden coming back. Jake’s been unorthodox since the day he got here. You know, that’s Jake and that’s why I love him but I can’t say it enough: Joe being in there with him, Joe doing what he’s doing- I mean, I don’t know what you had him for tackles but I had him the same way with pretty close. And we’ve just got to keep them both doing what they’re doing and it’s the front that’s helping them do that.”
[After THE JUMP: playing euchre, wrestling Hoke, and other tales of a 30-year friendship]
News bullets and other items:
The team’s goal is to win the Big Ten, but you probably knew that already
The starting quarterback will be determined tomorrow
Some of the criteria for who will start: efficiency, competing, challenging, completions in practice, and leadership
Don’t expect the quarterbacks to platoon
The problems on offense are not the same as last year, as this is a new system
Read the whole thing if you’re into Brady Hoke’s made-up words
“Number one, thanks for coming out. [We] start Big Ten play this week and that's something that we've always fixed on is the Big Ten championship. I think getting started is important. It's a new opportunity. As far as last week we did some good things and didn't do some things as well as we need to and those are things that from a coaching standpoint we always need to do a better job in our coaching of it and in our execution that we need to have. There's some positives and we want to repeat those positives to the guys. Yesterday we did a good job staff-wise in the clarity of the mistakes and fixing those mistakes and [I] like that. Like how they came to work. Like how our team has competed and challenged every time they go out. Like how they've done a nice job with the leadership within the program and how they have gone about the work and I've said that before. Questions?"
Brady, you’ve talked about the leadership that you believe exists in your team. Has that leadership group given you any feedback on how to improve the results of the offense this season?
“No. I don't think that's what they're all about. I think they're all about is how the attitude of the team is and their attitude has been great. I think the way they've gone about and treated each other has been great and we just need to keep that up and keep working hard.”
Brady, you guys reviewed the tape. Do you guys know who your quarterback is today?
“No. We will make a decision tomorrow.”
What did you guys do yesterday? Did you split reps or…
“We'll make a decision tomorrow.”
After watching film how did Devin look and how did Shane look?
“Well, I think they both had some really good things and then they did some things not so good. I think if you're looking for was there one guy who played better than the other no, I don't think so. I think they both know what they need to do better and they will, and I think they both competed and made some good decisions also.”
Brady, not necessarily just about the quarterback but partly about that: 2-2 start and the offense has looked not good. How do you stay the course? How do you not make some major shuffling right now?
“Well, I'm not saying we’re not, right? Tuesday we'll make some decisions. Or we'll let you know the decisions, let's put it that way.”
I mean, could it be beyond quarterback and [include] other personnel?
“I think you look at everybody. You look internally and then you look at everybody and see what combination of whoever in that starting 11 give you the best chance to win. Maybe it's a different personnel group. Maybe it's more two tight ends, three tight ends. You know, as Jake [Butt] gets healthier he'll be more a part of the offense but we'll see how that goes.”
[After THE JUMP: special teams issues, offensive issues, quarterback issues, other issue-y issues]
News bullets and other items:
Hoke thinks ball security is their biggest issue
The starting quarterback against Minnesota will be determined during the week via competing and challenging
Jourdan Lewis’ cross-field rundown that saved a touchdown was compared to a similar play Woody Hankins made in 1996 against Ohio State. The coaches show the team the Hankins play every season.
“Obviously very disappointed with the outcome of the game. I thought our kids came out very ready to play. I thought that they demonstrated that the first drive down the field and I think the defense, what they did early in the football game, was indicative of how they prepared, how they practiced, and how they got ready to play the game.
“I think obviously you have a punt return against you for a touchdown. Anything in the kicking game is momentum and we had some momentum and then we give up the touchdown on the punt return, which is very disappointing.
“You look at, from a standpoint of taking care of the football- you know, and we’ve talked a lot about that. Probably more than I would’ve liked to or you would like to talk about it but that’s one thing we’ve got to do a better job of and that’s constantly coached and we talk about it and sometimes those things happen and we’ve got to make sure we’re going back to work, working hard on it and we can’t have that happen through the Big Ten season.
“We talked as a team afterwards about what we need to do and I reminded them of the 1998 team, which was a team that went to Notre Dame- I was part of that team- and lost and then lost here at home against Syracuse and then went off and won the Big Ten or a part of the Big Ten championship. Those goals, our goals, are all out there. And I do believe we have a team that can do that. Now, you can’t play the way we did today and do that. We realize that. But we’ve got a bunch of guys in that locker room who every day work their tails off and are supportive and believe in each other.”
Brady, after a game like this when you pulled your quarterback and the score was what it was what do you see and why do you believe you can contend in the Big Ten this year?
“Yeah, and that’s a great question but I think the one thing I have that you don’t is I’m with this group of young men every day, these kids. I know how they go to work. There’s some things we did very well today. We did some things not as well as we needed to. And we’ve got to improve on that. We’ve got to go back to work. It starts with me as the head football coach. It starts with the assistants [and] everyone who’s in Schembechler Hall. We’ve got to do a better job for those kids.”
The incident on the sidelines with you and Greg Mattison right before or right after the penalty, was that a little loss of control there? What was that?
“Well, I’ve known Greg since 1984 and I can guarantee you that that wasn’t the first time two competitive men have had a- I wouldn’t even call it an argument.”
“Did I finish that? Sounded like it. Discussion. You ought to see us play euchre. We really have discussions.”
[More after THE JUMP]
News bullets and other items:
Ty Isaac’s appeal was unsuccessful, which means he has three years of eligibility beginning next fall
He currently is able to participate on the scout team
“Thanks for coming. It was good to get back on the field on Tuesday. Those practices, it was very physical. Had a great effort. It was another day for us to go out and compete and challenge with each other and prepare for a very good Utah team. It’s going to be great playing at home. You know, that always gets your players and coaches and everybody else, it gets them excited in the support that we’ve had, and we’re looking for that on Saturday.
“We’re not going to talk about injuries and I might as well bring that out now. And some of that is because you can say something about something and then you’re wrong. Everybody heals a little differently, and the other thing is for our kids. I want to make sure we’re doing a good job protecting them.”
Coach, what would you consider some of the biggest keys to beating Utah?
“Well, I think number one I think they’re third in the county in points scored. I mean, they’re explosive offensively. Good skill players. The two backs are kind of interchangeable in there. For the style of offense I think they really do a nice job of seeing holes. Travis Wilson has done a tremendous job when look nationally where he’s at. He’s second in pass efficiency. Gets the ball out of his hands pretty quickly.
“From the defensive side, I think they’re, depending on how they calculate it NCAA-wise, first in sacks and first in tackles for loss. Knowing Kyle [Whittingham] and Dave Christensen from [my] Mountain West time they both like to be aggressive defensively and then also on the offensive side of the ball.
“So for us, number one, we’ve got to improve. We’ve got to keep getting better every day we go on the field. I think from a defensive perspective keeping the ball inside and in front of the defense, making sure on those money downs, those third downs, [that] we can get off the field. Offensively, got to keep the sticks, got to be able to run the football, and also when you take shots you’ve got to execute.”
As someone who’s a guru in defensive line performance, is their defensive line- is it scheme? Is it the individual players that they’re so productive?
“Yeah, you know, Nate Orchard is one guy they’re using in a lot of different ways. As an outside linebacker, sometimes as a defensive end. I think from his athleticism that he has, he can cause you problems and then obviously he’s a playmaker for them so they’re putting him in some positions to make plays. I think up front they’ve got a quickness to them, and that’s something that can give you some problems. They spike a three-technique into an A gap, which is a coach’s nightmare but if you’re quick enough can be effective.”
[After THE JUMP: lots of tempo talk]