Jim said it was Wilton’s best game last week. After watching film, would you agree with that?
“Yeah. He was like 70% completion, made good decisions all the way across the board, was very accurate. A couple throws or a couple plays probably could have even taken back and gotten some more completions out of it. As we were looking at it, felt like there was some opportunity to even be a little bit better than that; couple more touchdowns. Excited about how he’s progressed and how he played in this game.”
What has helped Wilton really develop his consistency this season?
“He’s a consistent person, and I think it really starts from off the field and moves into the field or onto the field. He’s a guy that really does everything you want him to do. He wakes up about the same time every day. He says he goes to bed about the same time every day. He has a very consistent schedule in what he does. He’s told me weekends haven’t really changed his schedule anymore. He’s kind of programmed his body and himself really starting throughout training camp to be kind of what time he woke up in training camp is still what time he wakes up now. Just lives a very clean, consistent life, and because of that I think it’s parlayed into his football.”
Wilton talked a lot yesterday about avoiding aiming the ball. For us non-quarterbacks out here, what is the difference between aiming the ball and just letting it go, and how can you tell when that’s happening?
“It’s just like baseball. Sometimes you feel like when you’re thinking too much or you’re trying to put it in a certain spot, when you’re thinking and not following through it’s different than, hey, I’m just going to go out there and rip it, so to speak. I’m gonna go out there and I’m confident I can make that throw, I’m confident with where I’m going with the ball, I’m confident I can kind of just be free. And when you aim it is sometimes when you start overthinking, and I think that’s probably what he was thinking about, that it’s more of should I take a little bit off of this or not follow through as much as opposed to just going out there and playing.”
[After THE JUMP: impressions of State’s defense, making adjustments on the fly, and whether the staff scripts plays]
Ben, you guys looked like you worked pretty well together, you and Bredeson. Talk about that transition and how hard or easy it was and what you thought of it.
“I wouldn’t say hard or easy. It was different. Obviously I haven’t played tackle in a few years. Bredeson’s done really well as a freshman. He’s doing really well. Smart kid, knows what’s going on in the film room. I was very happy with his effort and very proud of him. We’ll see what happens. It was a fun transition. I always liked being a tackle, but whatever’s best for the team we’ll do that.”
Chris or Jourdan, you guys win 41-8 but you give up a late touchdown and you give up the long running play. How much does that help your coach Don Brown to be able to get in that film room and say, ‘Okay, here are some things we need to clean up’ and not to get too confident after a big win?
CW: “Yeah, I think we played pretty good as a defense as whole against Rutgers and Wisconsin and Penn State, going back a few weeks. We obviously know we’re a good defense, but at the end of the day there’s always things we can get better at, always things we can improve on as a D-line. And linebackers and secondary, obviously, as a whole. So, we’ll watch film today and see what we can do. Obviously want to stop those long runs, the late touchdown, but like I said, there’s things to get better at.”
Jourdan, Coach reemphasized every game’s a championship game, [and said] we prepare like we do for everybody. Especially for an in-state guy, does it take a conscious effort to control emotion when it’s a rivalry like this?
“I’m not really an overemotional guy. I really just love the game of football and always prepare for every single game like it’s my last. So, that’s what all of us do, especially on the defensive end of the ball. Not saying that Michigan State—not trying to slight them or anything, but it’s just another game, really, on the schedule.”
Ben, what’s this rivalry mean to you as an in-state guy?
“I mean, as everyone knows as a kid I was a hockey player, but when I first got to college and hearing about it from Taylor Lewan and Mike Schofield and Elliott Mealer and what the rivalry meant to them, it just kind of set the standard for what the rivalry is. At the same time, we’ve got to focus on this week just like we do every week. It’s just another obstacle we have to get across that’s going to take us to our end goal, and that’s just to win as many games as we can and be the best that we can and play the best of our game. So, I think as a team we’ve done really good at that this season and I’ve been really proud of the guys and how they handle every game.”
[More after THE JUMP]
If you asked me back in August where Ben Braden would play if he wasn’t at left guard, I probably would have told you tight end because, I mean, trains and things. I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have mentioned left tackle, yet that’s where Braden started on Saturday. He did a nice job in his first game on the outside, and after rewatching the game his smoothness working to the second level stood out. I found a play in one of the highlight videos where Braden flings a DE upfield before taking off and getting into a guy long enough for De’Veon Smith to get at least 10 extra yards, and I figured I’d ask him about it.
It’s hard to tell exactly from the camera angle, but it looked like he got his arm into you and then you were able to use that to push him past you. Is that what happened, and do you want him to make contact so that you can throw him upfield a little bit more?
“On that one I’m just trying to reach and get to him. It’s kind of whoever makes contact first but yeah, once you’re locked up with a guy you kind of feel how he’s moving and move off that. That goes for second level and the D-line as well.”
So there’s not one thing you want him to do so much as just feel the momentum and use it against them?
“Yeah. I mean, it depends on how the play’s designed, but yeah.”
What were you guys doing in the game that made that draw so successful?
“Practiced it a lot during the week. Tried to focus on little things. Like, talk with coach and say ‘What do I need to do to make this as fast as possible?’ It’s something we’ve had in our pocket for a while. Just working and trying to be the best I could during the week on it so when I got to the game it was natural.”
Conversely, what was their line doing that made it effective?
“They were a penetrating defense. We knew they were going to rush up the field and just kind of tried to play off that and use that to our advantage when we can, but you know, just try to prepare for it as best as possible.”
With them using the Tampa-2 as their base, when you released to the second level were you expecting that linebacker to be there, or when you were releasing were you just looking for a white jersey and somebody to hit?
“Well, that one I was kind of expecting him to kind of be in that general area, but it depends on our backfield and what we’re doing,”
What’s the most difficult aspect of blocking on the second level?
“Usually guys are quicker. You know, just trying to keep your feet moving up to the second level and staying on your block and moving your feet through your block once you make contact. A lot of guys like to kind of think about—they’re kind of thinking about it on the way up there and they’ll get there and once they make contact they’ll stop their feet. So, just trying to keep the little things moving once you get up there and practicing that and getting repetition at it so that way you can naturally do it.”
This is outside the scope of one play, but what’s the biggest difference between tackle and guard? Is it footwork or hand placement?
“Footwork’s a little different. Obviously things are on the edge. The speed is definitely different. Guys are defeinitely quick on the inside, but as far as general overall speed, you just see a lot more things that are going on [outside] as opposed to inside, where you’re working with the center or you’re working with a tackle. As a tackle you’re kind of more on an island.”
News bullets and other items:
- Chris Evans was concussed, and it’s too early in the week to tell his status for the game
- Not sure whether Braden at LT and Bredeson at LG will be the starting left side Saturday as Bushell-Beatty is very much in the competition
- You’re doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t read the whole thing for the discussion of where the refs spotted the ball after a play that left Michigan two yards short of the sticks on third down up 41-8; Harbaugh challenged, and the subsequent call was the worst he said he’s ever seen.
After watching the film, how’d that left side of the line hold up with the two Bens?
“Good. Real good. Yeah. Both played two of their best games. Yeah, good in protection, good in the run game, made the right calls.”
Is that something you think you’ll stick with this week probably?
“Yeah, we’ll see. Juwann Bushell-Beatty also is a huge factor.”
Talk about what Wormley gives you both as a leader and as a player. I think it was Chase Winovich who referred to him as ‘papa.’
“Really consummate…consummate…great football character, great human character. Really good leadership skills. Strong and makes well thought-out decisions. He’s equally as good on the football field. Just always been a rock-solid guy you like being around and somebody that you try to emulate his qualities. He’s a thinker and makes good decisions.”
Reading some of the players’ postgame comments from Saturday, they talked about last year how you kind of let the finish of the game sink in a little bit, but since then you guys have gone 11-1 over two seasons. Is that something where that kind of has fueled them since, or this week is it really going to come out in an aggressive form?
“This is a big game for us. Championship type of ballgame. Our preparations will need to be at their best. I don’t know much more to say about it than that. That says it all.”
[We need a rules expert after THE JUMP]
Dymonte Thomas, De’Veon Smith, Wilton Speight
Wilton, a little bit sloppy there in the second half, would you say, and were you a little bit disappointed with that? Not you, but the team.
“Yeah, it starts with me, but yeah, it’s obviously something we need to look at on film and figure out how to not come out with a three-and-out or a turnover here and there and not give the opponent any sense of life. We’ll learn from that and build on that.”
Dymonte, what was going through your mind as you had that interception at the end of the first half?
“First thing that went through my mind is it’s about time. I knew that my teammates—every day they make fun of me: ‘Dymonte, you can’t catch. You don’t have no hands.’ So, after I caught that interception they all said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna let you breathe. I’m gonna let you go. About time you caught it.’ It’s an exciting feeling. I was pretty happy, pretty pumped.”
Dymonte, your team held Illinois without a passing yard in the first half. What was key in doing that, especially against an inexperienced quarterback.
“We just knew we had to bring pressure. He was getting the ball out pretty quick, pretty fast, and we knew that. We just had to tighten up on our coverage and we knew some of the things, their tendencies, on third down they were going to do, short-yardage game. We just made sure that we kept that in perspective and played tight defense and allowed our defensive linemen and linebackers to blitz and create opportunities for us.”
Wilton, I know some of you guys had time off last week, but for you specifically, was there one thing you tried to work on last week or that you wanted to get better at going into the second half here?
“Yeah. So, I watched all of the six games, every snap, and just took a lot of notes on what glaringly needed to be better and also little things. So being able to throw with guys like Grant [Perry], Jehu [Chesson], in our time off—you know, we didn’t have the couple hour practice with pads on and everything but we were still able to go out there like we did this summer and throw certain routes. I just wanted to focus on—I can make every throw, in my opinion, but sometimes I was short on passes or when a guy was open I’d miss him. That’s what I wanted to focus on the second half of the season was eliminating that.”
[More after THE JUMP]
News bullets and other items:
Chris Evans blacked out when he was hit, which Harbaugh noted the doctors said is sometimes better for the brain in the long run, and was feeling better by halftime
Grant Perry and a few others didn’t play because of disciplinary issues
De’Veon Smith got more first-half carries than they planned; the staff liked what they saw and called the same play for him a few times
First half, you’re up huge, did you guys take your foot off the gas or was it something Illinois did to not quite rack it up like you have been?
“Yeah, first of all, I just think our team really played well today. The execution was outstanding both offensively, defensively, special teams. We were just executing well. I was really, really impressed. Those first three drives of the game, and then the entire game-- I thought Wilton Speight might have had one of the best games of his career.
“It was pretty windy out there. It was pretty tough to throw the ball whether we were going into the wind, with the wind, he was throwing the intermediate deep stuff—the 30-yard throws, the 35-yard, 40-yard throws, just on the money—it was impressive. Sometimes it’s never as good as you think until you look at the tape, but I have a feeling that was the best he’s played.”
Hank Aaron was the honorary captain today. What was that like, having him around the team and yourself?
“It was outstanding, Trevor. He’s just such a great man, such a gentleman. His granddaughter, as you know, goes to Michigan, and we’ve become friends through her. I was getting textes last night, I was at a high school game and some of the guys on the team were texting me how great Hank Aaron was. He talked to the team last night. Just A+. Can’t have it better. Got a nice autographed picture that he was gracious enough to sign so I’m gonna hang that in my office. Just being around—you know when you’re around greatness, and he’s one of the all-time greats. Really honored to share a sideline with Hank Aaron today.”
The two Bens on the left side, is that something you worked on during the bye week and you liked what you saw?
“Yeah, we’ve—Ben’s not just in the improvement week. We’ve seen what he can do at left tackle. We’ve seen that over the last 23 months. He’s a very versatile player. Felt like that was our best combination, Ben Braden and Ben Bredeson. Ben Bredeson’s a very ascending player. Thought he had a heck of a good game today. Really, everybody on the offensive line played extremely well today. It was impressive the way they executed.”
[After THE JUMP: the only time Woody Hayes, Malcolm X, and Michael Douglas as D-Fens have been mentioned in the same breath]