Wilton Speight and Chris Wormley
Wilton, it seemed like the running game really got going today. Talk about how those guys blocked it up front.
“Yeah, we saw going into the game with the gameplan a big opportunity to slash them in the run game, and the offensive linemen were so happy about that. They came out with the mindset that they were going to beat their guy and win the war in trenches. The running backs saw every hole and helped the passing game out a lot.”
Wilton, we saw more Karan Higdon than we have. What has he been doing to put himself in a position to get that kind of run?
“Well, he came in his freshman camp and then he just got banged up with injuries, and then in the offseason he got mono and then hurt his knee, so he didn’t do spring ball or the entire summer. So, he kind of came into camp not knowing or seeing him for eight months, but he didn’t lose a step. He kept his body in great shape and he’s just a really natural runner that sees the field well.”
When you see your coach going for it on fourth-and-one on the very first drive of the game and wanting to pound it in, what kind of confidence does that give you in what he thinks about the offense?
WS: “Yeah, it’s just cool that he knows that we’ll pick it up. I turned to the sideline after the third down and I do this [rolling motion] and the whole offense is doing the same thing and he kind of gets a grin on his face. I know his mindset is he wants to smash it in for a touchdown too, so it’s cool that we’re all on the same page.”
Chris, six sacks today by the defensive front. You guys really set the tone on that first drive [with] two sacks on that opening drive. Can you just talk about that?
“We knew that Barkley was one of their best if not their best player on the offensive side, so we knew that once we shut down the run we could get to the quarterback with the blitzes and different things that Coach Brown has us do. Those two sacks were huge. Backed them up and set it up for Wilton and the offense to punch it in and score a touchdown and start the game full speed ahead.”
Wilton, mobility-wise today it seems like your awareness around you, you were ducking and dodging. How much from last week or the week before where you were hit a little bit, did you keep that in the back of your mind or where did you make changes this week?
“I didn’t want—that hit I took last week kind of dictated the internal clock I had for the rest of the game, and I didn’t want that to carry over into this game. So, I wanted to hang out in the pocket as long as I could, but when the opportunity was there I knew I needed to make plays with my feet, and I was able to do that.”
[More after THE JUMP]
News bullets and other items:
- Jeremy Clark suffered an apparent ACL injury and is likely out for the season
- Regarding players raising their fists during the national anthem, Harbaugh said he supports his players’ right to speak their minds, and added that the country is a team and that if something isn’t good for someone we talk about it and fix it as a team.
- Karan Higdon getting in early and often was Tyron Wheatley’s suggestion.
Five running backs scored today; five touchdowns from inside the three; over 300 yards rushing today; you had five runs of over 25 yards; can you just talk about the overall run offense effort today, because it looked highly impressive from our end.
“Yeah, I was really impressed with the running backs. All of them contributed in big ways, starting with De’Veon. Again, heck of a game. Broke loose, got the tough yardage. Ty was good again. Very elusive and good. Chris Evans, he had long gains and Karan on the same play got a touchdown. Khalid was good. Thought our line was blocking well. It was a job well done in the running game.”
Just following up on that, the drive where you got the 37-yard run, kicked the draw out, then an incomplete pass and seven straight runs. Talk about what that does when you can just hand off the ball and have success with it.
“I mean, it’s—moving the chains and breaking some big runs is a good way to move the ball. That’s what we want to do is move the ball and put the ball in the end zone and score points. I thought our offense was very effective in doing that today.”
You went for a lot of fourths instead of the long field goals today. Was that just a feel type of thing or you wanted to set the tone?
“Yeah, just especially the one where we were into the wind, felt like the odds were better going with the fourth downs. Seems to be happening more and more these days, so we got into it, experimented a little bit and it worked out. Worked out once.”
On the sideline interference call, do you normally get a warning on that? Did you get an explanation on why you didn’t?
“Yeah. One of our coaches was in the white and bumped into his arm. That’s the rule. Can’t be out there. It’s really tight over there on our sideline. We don’t have a lot of room to operate, so we’ve just got to do a better job of staying back. But guys get excited, especially when the ball’s being run back for a long punt return and people were…gotta know where they’re at. Just gotta stay out of that white lane.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Talk about the line play through three games. Some room for improvement, do you think?
“Yeah, absolutely. There’s always room for improvement. They’ve done a good job and we’ve got to keep on getting better just in pass protection, which is—we’ll do that, and communication. But they’ve done a nice job, and we expect a big game this week.”
Do you see guys still playing too high at times?
“Yeah. You always can improve on the offensive line with pad level. You’ve got to get lower and get your eyes in the right spot and be physical with your hands and move your feet and know where you’re going and communication and targets and that sort of thing still needs improvement. Every day you’ve got to work on that and that’s important.”
Do you still see a rotation with the two Bens at left guard?
“Rotation’s always open. Rotation’s always open.”
Talk about Bredeson’s progression.
“Done a nice job. Really has. He plays, like I mentioned before, quick twitch and smart and can process quickly on his feet. Like all those other freshmen, has done a nice job transitioning there and really improved.”
What did Wilton show you in that game? You take the first game interception and then the big hit and coming back in.
“Wilton’s a true competitor and he’s a tough guy. I think anybody who plays the quarterback position’s got to be a tough guy. You’re gonna take hits you don’t want to happen, we don’t want to happen, but it’s how they respond. I mean, that was a tough hit on him and he bounced up and he led us the rest of the game and took us back from being behind. Just really pleased with what he did. It shows his true character and how important it is, the team to him and him being a competitor and winning every down.”
[After THE JUMP: what’s up with the Morris/O’Korn thing, complimenting large gentlemen plying their trade, and a big compliment for Speight]
The linebackers on Saturday said they were getting sucked up sometimes in play action. On some of those slants, is that one of those cases where they were just a little too aggressive?
“Yeah, I mean, I think so. The bottom line is we want to stop the run first and foremost. That’s just kind of a learning thing, a seeing thing. I think we’re going to get better at that. But yeah, they did, they got sucked up a little bit in trying to stop the run. We’ve got to work on it and get a better feel.”
Talk about the impact of special teams and how it helped turn that thing around Saturday.
“Yeah, special teams is a huge facet of every game and we want to always make an impact. Our team, we talk about attacking and putting the opponent on their heels in all special teams categories. I think we were able to have an impact. It’s funny, because to everyone else it’s like ‘Oh, what tremendous game’ and then to me it’s like we left so much out there. We can get a lot better and make more impact plays on teams, and we’re working at that and working to build off of the game to do some more stuff. Yeah, we felt good and felt that we were able to contribute. That’s all we want to do is get out there and if the team needs a big-time special teams play, we want to be able to make it and switch the momentum.”
With the punt game and the amount of kicks you guys are effecting, are you doing something different schematically or is that just having the right guys in the right places?
“You know, it’s a lot of different things right. What I’m going to say is that the kids have bought in, they’re going hard, they’re understanding it, they love it, they take pride in it, and we’re doing whatever we see to try to effect it. We got a weapon back there, so it’s kind of fun calling that game because you kind of can do some different things and try to figure out what they’re trying to do. And then these guys have really bought into it. It’s cool.”
Jabrill being in the back gives you more options with the other ten guys on the field?
“Oh, absolutely, yeah. I mean, it’s a matter of are they coming with a block, are they coming with a hold up, are they coming with a block and a hold up, are they setting a wall—it’s just different things in different areas of the field what we’re able to do. He makes us more dynamic, I think, as any returner does.”
[After THE JUMP: why teams might still kick to Jabrill, more on the linebackers, fixing field goal issues, and how many plays Jabrill would play if he had his way]
“How’s everything goin’?”
Good. How about yourself?
You look kinda tired.
“Eh, a lot of early mornings.”
Talk about some of the issues that you guys had the last week with the plays in the passing game.
“We gave up two big pass plays. I mean, those are issues. Obviously we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to clean it up. Worked really hard in the run game, obviously, coming off the UCF performance. Maybe too hard. I also attribute, you know, we’re still learning how to play this style of defense.
“The good thing is I think our guys have understood enough concept that we’re able to adjust as the game goes on and play much better in the second, third, and fourth quarter. Really disappointed with a fundamental coverage mistake that we made, and I thought there was a 10-play period during the course of the game where we needed to do a better job of tackling.
“Like I told the kids yesterday, all the mistakes belong to me, so if anybody wants to point the responsibility I don’t want them to have any. It’s right here. That’s the way we handle it, and I just tell them I want you to play as hard and as tough as you can and all your mistakes belong to me.”
The stretch of bad tackling: is that because they’re still learning and just--
“I don’t think so, no. Just think we didn’t do a great job. It was a ten-play segment during the course of the game and there were three missed tackles. You know, we were fortunate because the one that resulted in a 48-yard gain we were able to find a way to get off the field and they missed a field goal on one of those opportunities. Thought we settled down and played really well throughout the second quarter.
“We come out and have the bad play in the third quarter. The disappointing thing there is it’s happened to us coming out of the locker room two games in a row, so we’ve got to pay more attention. And one of our goals is a third-quarter shutout, so that’s a disappointing deal.
“I thought we really settled in. What did we give up, 200 yards in the first quarter and basically 100 yards in the second, third, and fourth. What were they, 0-for-12 on third down against our ones and 1-for-whatever counting fourth down. So there’s some things I’m feeling really good about. The best part of it is we were able to make adjustments moving forward as the game kind of progressed. And we’ve been tested with no-huddle, up tempo.
“I think they were faster than UCF. With all credit to Scott Frost; he’s probably one of the fastest guys in the country. And if you watch our tape, and, you know, you can come up and look at it all you want, we’re lined up ready to go every snap. I think we’ve made significant improvements in terms of our sense of urgency to get line up and get ready to play, we just need to play better during stretches. It’s 41 snaps or 46 in the run game against UCF [and] they have 63 yards.
“Now you come back and you’re looking at your deal here, we give up, what, three pass catches. We give up 100-whatever yards of offense. You must be doing a pretty good job during the course of the rest of the game. We just need to make sure we’re totally clean and as I told ya, understand the concepts. But our mistakes belong to me, not the players.”
[After THE JUMP: Don Brown’s defensive disquisition]
Erik, three QB rotation. There wasn’t any talk of bringing in the fourth on Saturday?
“I think we’re saving that for Big Ten [season].”
You’ve been around a lot, you’ve played a lot of games, you know the guys. What have you noticed relationship-wise with the offensive line and with Wilton?
“The core of this group of offensive linemen were here last year, so it’s just another year of us playing together so you bond over that. Wilton’s been a part of the team for three years, so we’ve all been with him and everything like that so it’s not like we’re just becoming friends now. We’ve been friends and had a relationship for a long time.”
How much has your sense of responsibility escalated?
“Any time you’re a veteran or an older guy on the team you have a bigger responsibility to play big all the time and lead the younger guys. I mean, I think even if you’re Ben Bredeson or you’re me or whatever it is, you still have the same responsibility to play well.”
Mo, your thoughts on how the defense has played through three games, and how hard was it sitting out?
“I think the defense has been doing very well. We’ve put together a lot in a little bit amount of time with Coach Brown. I think there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. There were some mistakes that we made throughout the game that I think are definitely correctable and things that we can avoid going on in the future.”
Talk about the line’s development as a protection group. Is it tough when the quarterback gets hit like Wilton did on Saturday?
“Yeah, you never want to see your quarterback get hit. Our goal going into every week is give up no sacks, so anytime that happens, especially during the game, it’s frustrating, but you’ve kind of got to throw it behind you and move on.”
[After THE JUMP: GOIN’ PIGGIN’]