opponent press conference
What? Is this "feature" still a thing? Yeah, it's still a thing when I have time for it. I admit, I had time last week, but Purdue frustratingly doesn't publish a transcript. I really didn't feel like listening to the audio of the entire presser. Seriously, what's up with that? The previous weeks I was just really busy and didn't get around to doing it. I've got a little time now as I relax while watching Michigan handle Bowling Green (woo basketball empty Crisler Arena!!!).
So this week, we have that big meat-head Bret Bielema and his meaty Badgers (did that just sound really wrong? At least I didn't call them yummy). Anyway, here's the link to the presser, for those who wanna read the thing over. Surprisingly, Bielema is NOT monosyllabic. Whodathunkit.
Holy crap, his intro was long. Spent a lot of time talking about how they played so many guys (11 on DL alone!). He mentions a few players specifically, like JJ Watt (who we know is very good), Aaron Henry (pick six), James White (Fr, RB), and David Gilreath. Now to the substance...
On gameplanning against Michigan...
- Michigan offensive philosophy very different than under Carr. Now have "a little bit more multiple" (I think he's referring to offensive formations?), but really clicking right now.
- Denard and Tate present different challenges (seems like they're preparing to see both). Mentions that Denard is a special runner and has "a live arm," but also that "he's had some picks, some bad decisions." Because of his running ability, gets secondary and linebackers in iso coverages.
- Tate is "savvy" and "shifty." Suggests that you know what you get with Denard, but Tate is more of an improviser, making "a lot of in-play game adjustments and decisions."
- Comparing DR and TF, he says: "They’re not the same, but there are some different play calls, but they don’t get in different sets or different philosophy, and I think they expect them both to know the plan, move them forward." (Yeah, that's just a wonderfully ridiculous sentence. Quick thinking, coach.)
- Talks about Michigan having had 5 TO's Saturday and that their "guys are aware of it." Stresses ball security on their side. Sounds like he thinks there is some opportunity to force a few TO's, what with the TO and Denard "bad decisions" comments.
- They'll use a combination of WR's and RB's on the scout team to play DR. Similar to what they did when playing ohio state (pryor).
On the game/rivalry...
- First time back to Big House since 2008, when UW lost. Have to learn from positives/negatives, but it's a different team with different leaders.
- Mentions that the road loss against michigan state was big and that they took a lot from it, taking confidence from that into the game this Saturday.
On their own team, personnel, other random stuff...
- Doesn't believe John Clay will be at full strength, but feels good about the rotation they have with Montee Ball and James White. Get good rhythm with those two and bring in a 3rd when needed.
- On UW averaging almost 40ppg, really lauds OC Paul Chryst. Says he and the other coaches have done a great job of ingraining the offense, particularly when you see the 3rd stringers coming in and having success against IU.
- Talks about how momentum in road games is huge, particularly for the road team to withstand swings in momentum to the home team. This will be a challenge against UM.
- Someone actually asked him why he thought the computer polls didn't seem to like Wisco as much as the human voters (really?). He basically said, "I dunno, but it'd be neat to find out." Then speculates that maybe it's due to computers looking at W/L and maybe not scoring margin. (So yeah, that's actually pretty close. Except for Billingsley. That guy's just an idiot. I still have no idea how his "computer poll" is in the BCS formula).
So what did we learn? That the media asks a lot of stupid superficial questions. GO BLUE! Beat Bucky!
It's a big week for Michigan. We've got the msu game Saturday and that means another episode of Other People's Pressers, this time featuring Mark Dantonio. Given the relatively short presser he gave, we have BONUS player presser coverage! Included are some kid named Greg Jones (does a decent impression of that foosball player, Bobby Boucher) and Kirk Cousins (a kid who is said to be able to throw the foosball pretty good here and there)
On with Dantonio...
On the rivalry, the game, and his health:
- He's not missing it. It's too big, too special of a rivalry. Excited that both are 5-0.
- Expects it to be a close game ("throw out the records") and hard-fought.
- Expects to be in the press box for the game.
- Hasn't done much beyond watching film. Doesn't want to rush back and consequently sacrifice his long-term health. (good call, coach)
- This is a big series for him since he's been a part of it since 1995, when he was hired onto Saban's staff at MSU. Played Michigan every year since then (at MSU and OSU) except for 3 years when he was at Cincy.
- Mentions that this game is important for recruiting the in-state younger guys (9th, 10th graders) by getting them excited about the winning team, in addition to having overall season success.
- Avoided a trap question from one reporter about how "the momentum in this rivalry has shifted toward Michigan State's side." Just responds that "you're only as good as your last game." No "little brother" type comments this time.
On the gameplan:
- Tony Lippett (WR, Fr), who apparently also played QB in HS. Very quick, good burst.
- Says the have to swarm the D to the point of attack, get guys to the ball.
- Need to tackle well, because Denard makes people miss and "can go the distance" if they do. Can also pass well and get you there, so big challenge.
- Trusts coordinators Treadwell and Narduzzi implicitly to prepare and lead the team.
Now to Greg Jones...
On defending Michigan:
- As for Denard, says that "the best thing you can do is try to corner him, try to give him a tight space to run with and contain him, go after it when he tries to throw the ball."
- Asked if they're expecting to spy him with one or more guys, says that they'll try a few different looks, but that they "haven't put in a game plan or anything yet at all."
- Must be very disciplined with him. Otherwise - "Guys get tired of chasing. He just busts one out. Stride for stride, he's very, very fast, extremely fast."
- Says it's risky for a QB to basically act like a RB, e.g. heading to the sideline and cutting back in, rather than acting like a QB and just stepping out or sliding. Says Denard is "tough" and "brave."
- Have to be more disciplined and "more smarter" in pursuit.
On the rivalry:
- Not really a hate thing, but more of a strong desire to win.
- Mentioned that the "bow down" thing was big for the team. Gave them a lot of confidence and said that Dantonio was the kind of guy they wanted to play for.
Punter Aaron Bates is up next. Really not much to say, other than that he mentions that Keyshawn Martin is a dangerous return man, that the best strategy is to hang it up high and kick to the sideline.
Next we have LB Eric Gordon...
- Beat ND 3 times, want to do it to Michigan, too. Want to win it for Dantonio.
- It will be a hostile environment, with most of the 110k+ against MSU. Need to prepare the freshman for that.
- Mentions that Denard is a unique player, but they need to stick to their game, which is "getting downhill" and not getting "back on [their] heels"
- Need to fill gaps in the middle and expect the safeties/corners to support on the outside in order to contain Denard. Excited to be the first to slow him down.
- Always will be some trash-talking, but Dantonio teaches them to avoid that stuff, to talk with their pads.
Kirk Cousins is our penultimate player...
- Doesn't care that it's been 43 years since MSU beat UM 3 times in a row, or about trying to outshine Denard. Just wants to win this game.
- Moved to Holland, MI in 7th grade and learned about the rivalry. First exposure was Smoker/Duckett beating UM (blech). Wants kids to talk about MSU Monday morning at school.
- Doesn't fall for the "Michigan's weak defense" question. Talks up UM's talent, LBs 8 (Mouton) and 45 (Ezeh), and the nose tackle (Martin).
- Confident coming off the Wisconsin game, especially because of the way their D stopped Wisconsin's OL and running game.
- The rivalry is big. Mentioned that even night janitors are talking it up to him and hoping for a win.
- Against a guy like Denard, need to control the clock (TOP), run the ball, keep the ball out of their hands. Stick to our gameplan, strengths (same ol' same ol', basically).
Senior CB Chris L. Rucker is the last guy. They actually made it a point to include his middle initial - L, if you were wondering (Ed: They have a junior CB named Chris D. Rucker - no relation).
- Denard is fast, good arm, makes it a challenge (starting to get repetitive, folks).
- Nobody really compares to him as far as opponents he's faced (ok, that's a little different, i guess).
- The WRs are a good group, so it'll be a challenge for the MSU secondary. The UM WRs "can make big plays, make plays in space, make big catches."
And that's all, folks. It got a little repetitive with the same Q's and A's about the rivalry and Denard, frankly, so I got a little lazy with the last few. Also, it's late and I should get to sleep. GO BLUE!
For this week's installment of opponents' press conferences, we have Bill Lynch, head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers. I personally think they make a better vacuum than a football team (I have a Hoosier Wind Tunnel which sees basement duty), but the Big Ten being what it is, our boys in blue take to the field against these guys Saturday, so here we go with Other People's Pressers!
(P.S. a friend of mine sold Kirby vacs in college for a week, but got sick of it when he kept getting lost on his way to prospective buyers' homes - oh, if only we had GPS back in the mid-late 90's.)
On Michigan's Offense:
- "Denard Robinson is scary good. Then the way the other two kids came in and played it shows the depth that they have. "
- Credit to RR and how the team has really bought into his offensive philosophy with the success UM is having. Says we have a great scheme with the right players, execute well, good depth (esp. at QB), and are well-coached.
- On Denard, every team (on film) has tried to do something different to stop him and none of them have succeeded. IU has to stay within their system (on D) and try to stop M's offense.
- On whether having had Kellen Lewis helps gameplan against Denard: "One of the unique things with Denard is that in so many situations, he's the lead runner. The tailback or the other back is really the blocking back. And that is what makes it difficult because the quarterback in many cases is the unaccounted for guy. And now you have to account for him as well as everybody else... That's why it is very difficult to defend their offense."
- Have to play the gaps well in order to have a chance at defending Michigan's offense: "The biggest thing is that you have to be very gap-sound. If you get a guy out of a gap they will gash you. "
- On Michigan having outscored its opponents 56-10 in the first quarter - "They're explosive. " Talks about being confident and matching UM's speed/intensity early.
On Michigan's Defense:
- Mentions that 3-3-stack or 3-5-stack is similar to the D employed when RR was at WVU. Key is that LBs show a lot of movement and attack from different positions/angles. Need to be aware of where the LBs are lining up.
- Michigan's defense will have to decide how to stop IU's offense, just as IU has to gameplan for M's offense. In-game adjustments also important.
- UM has "good pass rushers and they have a blitzing type scheme where they can bring people from a lot of different directions."
On individual players:
- Tandon Doss: Didn't put up big numbers last week, but great job blocking downfield. Also very versatile, able to play any position.
- Ben Chappell: Needs to keep up his level of play and execution. Preparation is key and feels like Chappell is well-prepared.
On team execution:
- "...it is very important that we go back and work on fundamentals. So often, history tells me that when you get into creating new schemes in a week, and you play poorly because you are thinking too much instead of just playing. That's why you must trust the system, and it goes back to great fundamental play."
- Mentions that they need to block and tackle better, and spending a lot of time on this.
- On tackling, says players sometimes too focused on making the big hits rather than wrapping up - again going back to stressing fundamentals.
- On turnovers, can have a huge impact. Sounds like he is stressing ball protection on offense, as he cites the Colts winning 26 straight games (really?) without a turnover (really really??)
- Special teams did a good job, especially on kick returns. Did a good job fielding kicks (us too, please!)
On the gameplan against Michigan:
- On defense, gap discipline, if they don't maintain gap discipline, will get gashed by RB or QB.
- On offense, need to have good run-pass balance in order to take pressure off Chappell.
- Can't try to change up what they do on offense as a reaction to Michigan's offense (I guess I'm assuming he thinks UM will score some points), but must stick to their playbook and execute to be successful.
- On defense, need to create turnovers, which they haven't done the last 2 weeks.
- "We're a little different than we were a year ago. We were a sellout blitz team, where we played zero-coverage behind it, where there was no help. We were sending as many as we could and still have each receiver accounted for, so it was a little more of a high-risk blitz than we're running right now."
Other game-related notes:
- Health - says team is healthy, shouldn't be a problem there. No mention of any specific injuries.
- "It's the first conference game and they're all important. The one we have in front of us is always the most important and that will be the approach we're going to be taking. I'm sure our players expect that when they come in here this afternoon."
- Confident in this team. "This team has been an easy team to coach, in that they come to work every day."
- The level of play and intensity has to go up now that they're in conference play. His players understand that.
So I missed last week because I was really busy. So I've picked up the baton this week and am resuming Other People's Pressers. Dave Clawson is the guy for Bowling Green and here are a few notes I took based on the audio (what? no transcripts??) of his 25 min presser. There is also audio of questions to LB Eugene "Champ" Fells and Bryan Wright, but I haven't had time to listen to those.
On our personnel:
- He coached in FCS at Richmond for several years and the closest analogue to Denard is Armanti Edwards. Richmond played Appy St in the FCS semifinals in 2006 and lost. Said Armanti Edwards "had a very good day" against them. (Incidentally, UMass coach said something similar in reference to Edwards when they played in the 2007 semifinals - the year of The Horror).
- Denard is strong for his size, quick, fast, makes impressive throws. Has great arm strength, makes nfl throws, and is accurate
- They have a kid (backup QB Caleb Watkins) "being Denard" in practice, but that it's "hard to duplicate the speed of what they’re doing" because DR is so fast. Mentioned that he heard DR ran something like a 4.32 40 in HS and that he's the fastest player on the UM team.
- Defensively, Mike Martin is a big strong guy, and UM has a big DL, averaging something like 290lbs.
- LBs can run, which is a challenge.
On our schemes:
- W/r/t our offense, it's like defending 2 back run game out of 1 back set. A lot of run-pass dilemmas due to ability to run QB. This will be a big challenge defensively for BGSU.
- On our defense, UM struggled defensively last week, but looking at the UConn and ND tapes, solid efforts. If they limit the big plays against ND, it's a blowout.
On their personnel:
- They're very young. Their starting QB (Schilz) is out this week, maybe next. #2 spot has been up for grabs, so both guys there (Aaron Pankratz and Trent Hurley) are pretty similar. All the QB's are young and inexperienced (per roster, all are FR or SO) and whoever starts will be starting for the first time.
- OL is also very inexperienced, which contributed to the injury to Schilz.
- RB Willie Geter is "probably the toughest 5-8 175lb back in the country." Last week vs. Marshall, was able to turn 2-3 yd losses into 2-3 yd gains (reminiscent of Mike Hart in that regard). They knew it was rock (ie, run), but couldn't stop Geter. Doesn't understand why he's not talked about as one of the top RBs in the conference.
- Kamar Jordan is now out of the bag, leading country in receptions. Not surprised that he's breaking out. Expects "cloud or hard corner coverage, safety invert coverage if they try to double him." Can anyone tell me what this means?
- Feel good about the other WRs as well. Lot of good players at that position.
- On Bryan Wright, haven't really talked to him about schemes and plays, they have the tape for all that from last year and this year. It's on the coaches to prep the team, not Bryan Wright to provide information. Did say that he asked about noise, atmosphere, wind, stadium, and if there were better ways to do things at BGSU based on his experience with both LC and RR.
- Said that Bryan Wright spoke very highly of both LC and RR, nothing but praise for both coaches. Reflects very well on Bryan Wright as a person and on the Michigan coaches (sidenote: Wright ended up going to BGSU because his graduate degree program - hospitality management - is not offered at UM).
On the game in general:
- Clawson has "told players they have an opportunity to do something very special for team, program, university."
- "After big loss, need to get refocused. Same after big win. Many new players this year, so need a lot more effort to stay level, not get too high or too low. Didn’t practice well yesterday with enough focus. A win doesn’t mean a great week. Players can get too high. " (I quoted it, but it's not really verbatim - just didn't feel like retyping)
- On Mizzou game last year, they were up 14 at one point, but lost the game. Said he didn't know if they truly believed they could win. It's 4 quarters. There were missed opportunities in the 1st Q that could've won them the game, just as in the 4th when they let it slip away.
- They get excited about playing in front of any crowd, even the 20k home field. But "how often do they get to play live in front of 110k people in the largest stadium in the country?" They don’t play Michigan again. Once in a lifetime opportunity, kids need to be ready to take advantage of it. If they’re not excited about it, nothing will wake them up.
- In reference to the UMass "little house on the prairie" remark, said that if the reporter knows how to control 110 kids, he's all ears (these are the jokes, people). Philosophy is that they need to enjoy themselves. This is a unique opportunity for them. If they're not having fun, they're not getting better. Obviously need to put in very hard work, but need to make sure they enjoy it, too.
Down with OPP - not what you might think - I'm going for Other People's Pressers... Get it? Do ya?? If I have the time, I'll try to do this for all the upcoming opponent press conferences during game week. I mean, I've already come up with a snazzy name for it and everything. No sense in wasting it now! I'm going to try to go by theme, not necessarily following the questions in chronological order, fyi.
These are my key takeaways from the Brian Kelly press conference on Wednesday, Sept 8. For your reference, the full transcript can be found here:
On Denard Robinson:
Althought Marve was athletic, very different from Denard (duh). "They're setting up the run obviously for him. You're running quarterback iso," and that "He's going to be the focal point of the running game."
He makes mention of the "zone read" in a couple of spots. Apparently, Purdue pulled Marve at one point for another guy (I think a WR who played some QB in HS, although don't know who) in order to run a read option.
Oh, when they ran the read option. Oh, very similar. Yeah, there are some similarities to that scheme. Obviously we didn't handle that very well. So we'll clearly spend a little more time on that. But there are some similarities to the read that Purdue went to when they brought the other quarterback in.
Has a couple of guys on the scout team they're looking at to play the role of Denard in practices, but that "[he doesn'nt] know that you ever can prepare for Denard Robinson at the same speed that he plays."
On their defense:
On defending the Michigan defense, particularly with the schemes and style of play, he says the foundation is always going to be getting the "assignment correct when you play a team that has certainly some of the instruments of options within its package." He also say that, "you wouldn't think blitzing would be the first call of duty when you play a team like this."
On the defensive capabilities and schemes, he says they "needed to play a structure of defense that pulls together all of the basics of good defense. That is containing the football, gap integrity, great tackling." I immediately wondered what that says about the philosophy or coaching compared to the prior regime, and he actually responds to a question about this later on:
I don't know what they did or didn't do last year. I didn't spend much time analyzing. I didn't know what we wanted to do. And certainly one of our goals defensively is to minimize big plays. So call structure, all of those things are talked about from day one back before we got here in December. That is clearly the message.
Then he again mentions "Good fundamentals." Just sayin'.
On adjusting to Purdue's switch to the read option look, suggested they were a little caught off guard the first time, but that they adjusted "the next series and we were prepared for anything if they went into that as an offense."
Mentioned that they only gave up one play over 20 yards all day - a 23 yd TD.
On their offense:
He has some weird 88%/12% metric he uses to measure on-field success. I guess it's a little higher target than your typical 80/20 rule? Anyway, I don't really get it, but he calls out penalties and ball security as the two biggest things he looks at.
I generally focus on those two things from an offensive standpoint. If we hit those two, we're generally in a position to do some good things. To me it's as important as anything offense.
On time of possession, he said he played an up-tempo, outscore-your-opponents style at Cincy, although not because he likes that style. Look for them to be more "traditional" in terms of the tempo at which their offense operates.
I don't like to play that way, but it was the way we needed to play. I would certainly like to play the game and manage the game in a more textbook fashion, if you will. And that is relative to the time of possession and keeping your defense off the field, and making sure they operate in the long field.
Other random notes:
On the rivalry: "I've never prepared football teams in a manner that we focus on a particular rivalry. But this is all eggs in one basket. I try to keep a steady enthusiastic to approach to every game. ... I respect the history and tradition of it. But what I really used was our guys, letting them know that this team's going to be ready for you. Same thing with Michigan, same thing with Purdue, and every team that we're going to play with that rivalry so they have historical respect that and we're going to focus on ourselves.
On injuries: "Shembo, (Darius) Fleming, fine. No issues there. Had some cramping. Slaughter, we were concerned after the game of the quote unquote high ankle sprain. Found out that wasn't the case. He's been in rehab the past 48 hours, we'll take him out of the walking boot and get him moving today. Some precursors to really an evaluation would be very minimal swelling and emotion. Positive signs I'm not ready to say he's going to be 100% for Saturday, but some of the signs point toward someone who is making good progress. That is it for injuries."
On his relationship with RR: "We also have the same financial advisor, so that probably makes us really close friends. Rich and I know each other, and I have respect rich for the work that he's done. We don't get a chance to see each other in the off season. We've both got young families that we're chasing around. But I know rich very well, and obviously we have some friends in Butch Jones as well."
On recruits visiting for the game: "I think it's important, there is no question. Winning helps it. There is no question about that. The experience at Notre Dame, getting a chance to be around a game day atmosphere is the most important thing for these young men that are going to be making arguably the biggest decision of their lives. So, yes, we are holding a recruiting weekend. We think that the experience of game day for them is really very important in the process."
Every time I do one of these (MSU, PSU), we lose. But we're talking Illinois here. Seriously. And wait, didn't I also do plucky DSU? I don't remember. But it matters not because Coach (still) Redacted has done a press conference thingy and I'm here to distill all the tasty bits into, um, tasty bits...
- Starting TE Michael Hoomanawanui didn't practice yesterday and is day to day. Stats not terribly impressive, though, with only 8 receptions for 84 yards and no TD (largely a function of their QB situation, though).
- RS Soph OL Tyler Sands had a hip flexor, but practiced and seemed good to go. Improved in the last couple of games, but tough matchup facing Graham.
- S Donsay Hardeman had the stomach flu, but should be back for Sunday. Had apparently suffered a minor neck injury against Indiana, but that must not be bothering him. True frosh DB Terry Hawthorne may see some time. He took his first defensive snaps against Indiana and was on special teams in all games.
- Would prefer to have just one QB, but understands that sometimes it must be done, and some have success with it. Didn't say who will start, but said Charest and Williams will both definitely play.
- Williams and Charest bring something different to the table, so more for the defense to gameplan against. McGee and Williams were fairly similar, so not much variation in terms of defensive gameplanning.
- Impressed with Charest's poise and leadership, particularly in keeping his eyes downfield and not scrambling too soon.
- Biggest drawback to 2 QB system is timing issues with the offense.
- Williams has handled the QB situation well. Mainly, he just wants to win. It's mostly a confidence issue before, but he's done it before and is capable of doing it again.
On the RB rotation:
- True soph RB Mikel LeShoure looks to be the primary guy, with the most carries (44) and most rushing yards (285) of the RB's (Juice Williams leads the team in rushing yards with 395). He was suspended for one game earlier (against PSU), but has done what he needs to do to stay on the field.
On the Michigan game:
- Big game for Illinois, an opportunity to get back on track.
- Michigan's offense is good, leading the league in scoring and yards, and with an experienced OL. A big mindset and attitude shift from last year.
- Similar to Illinois defensively with similar fronts/formations.
- "Brandon Graham is the real deal." (that's verbatim, kids)
My take: they seem a lot like a less-talented version of Michigan, honestly. Our QB's are probably a slight upgrade over theirs, or at least equal. Our RB situation has been equally unstable, but we just have better talent there. His comment that our defenses being similar is also true from the perspective of having little experience and depth in the secondary, and being like a sieve, in general (how bitterly ironic you are, Coach Redacted). Hopefully, the talent advantage shows up on the field of play Saturday.