“Well. This will be an exciting game. We’re really looking forward to going to Penn State. I personally am excited about it. I remember the last time that I was there. We stopped them on a goal line stand. Buster Stanley and Jarrett Irons on a goal line. Orange was the call. I’ll never forget it. It’s a great place to play, and it’s a great place for us to find out where this defense is.”
Do you expect to have Jake Ryan with you?
“Who knows? That’s Brady’s call. I don’t know. He’s obviously been working hard. That’s up to the trainers and Brady.”
How much more can one guy add to the defense?
“He’s very talented. You don’t know. You never know. Just like Blake [Countess] coming back after a full year off, I think Blake would probably tell you that his first ball game or first couple, three games, you don’t ever know. Who knows if he’ll be back or not.”
If Jake comes back and is effective, what do you do with Brennen Beyer?
“Really haven’t thought about it much. We have a group of guys and we rotate so much that if another guy is in the mix, another guy rotates.”
The third down numbers aren’t quite what they were. What can you do to help that?
“Well obviously we need to get better on third down. When you look at it closely, this last ball game was a great example. We’ve had more times it seems like this year than in past years where we were there, we did what we had to do, we thought, to stop them. But somehow the guy gets out of there. For example in the first half, I think they were five for six or six for seven on third down? Five of those were the quarterback scrambling or quarterback sneaking or third and one. Now the third and one part of it, you have to address in early downs. You can’t let them get to third and one. That’s not a great percentage for you to stop them on third down. The quarterback scrambling or the draws, we’ve got to make sure we do a better job of keeping the ball inside and sending it back to another linebacker and not letting it get out to another backer or a corner.”
What have you learned about your defense through five games?
“That they want to be very good. That they come to work every day trying to get better. I think they’re understanding more what their responsibility is to this team. And that is to play your very very very best and not give the offense something that it hasn’t earned. As we move forward in this season, we’ve got to have to make sure that you don’t give them a big play, you don’t give them a third down that they shouldn’t have gotten. Any chance you can get off the field, get off the field. Any chance you can get the football back for our offense, you have to do it. One thing we always talked about is when you go on the road, the defense has to step up. This will be the next big test for this defense. If they want to be a special defense, if they want to keep continue moving in the right direction, now they have to play their A-game. Every guy has to play up to his ability. You don’t have to do anything supernatural. Just play to your ability. Good things will happen.”
The numbers didn’t look so great in the pass rush. Was that indicative of anything?
“No. If you looked at the game, that wasn’t a dropback guy. The quarterback we played in that game, he was running right away. There was so much of quarterback runs on third down, so I don’t look at the numbers. The only thing you look at is when he dropped back, did we pressure him? I think there were a lot of times when we did.”
Against Penn State’s pro style offense, the pass rush is going to be more important, then.
“No question, when a team passes that much. The thing you’ll see is they’ll do a lot of max protecting. They’ll keep the tight end in, they’ll keep the back in. And other times they’ll send everyone out. When we do have four rushers on five blockers, we have to change the math. I mean, as long as they keep working to beat a guy and when you look at the film, if we can win the one-on-ones and not get blocked one-on-one on a pass, you can say we’re heading in the right direction.”
Is it like Notre Dame?
“Yeah, and this team even more. They’ll go from everybody out to keeping both tight ends in the back end and only sending two receivers out. What they give us, we have to be ready to take.”
How does Ondre Pipkins’s absence affect you?
“I think our defensive line is improving a great deal. I think they’re tyring to do a lot of things we’re trying to do. We can always get better. We know that. They probably think after every game that we’re the worst defensive line in America. It’s because we want them to be so good and we see how if they would do some more things better they would be better. Ondre, you know, he was a big part of our defense. Ondre was really coming on. Ondre’s going to be a great football player here. Any time you lose a guy that is really really working like he’s been working and trying to do what he’s doing, that hurts you. But that’s part of football. Ondre will be back.”
MGoQuestion: Is there anything keeping you from being more aggressive in coverage?
“I didn’t know that we weren’t aggressive in coverage. I hope sometime you don’t say, ‘boy, that guy was really tight and he beat you.’ I think the one thing you have to look at is our thing is always keep the ball inside and in front. Always. And yeah, we could get right up on people and it might look really good for four or five plays, and hten all of a sudden you’ll see two fo them when they’re over your head. And then you’ll say, boy, why were you up so aggressive. There’s that fine line when you play really really aggressive. A lot of it is who are you going against? Can this guy really run? Do they like to throw shots? Do they like to get you up on them so they can throw three or four long ones? I guess the biggest thing on defense is points allowed. That’s our bottom line. Our bottom line is I’ve never been a big stat guy. The only stat that matters to me is can we keep them out of the end zone. We’re working real hard to do that. We have to get better. A team can have a lot of yards rushing and we’ll correct it. They can have a lot of yards passing and we’ll correct it. As long as we get points, that’s all I look at.”
From a schematic standpoint, is there anything you need to prepare for with regard to Bill O’Brien’s NFL experience?
“I haven’t played against him before, but he’s a really really good football coach. He understands offense and he does a great job with his guys. He’s going to spread you out, he’s going to try to take shots. If you let him run the football, he’ll run the football on you. He’s from that mold where they’re going to see if they can get mismatches and somehow get a free one. He’s just a good football coach and we have a lot of them that we play against. He’s a good coach.”
Are you able to spend time in practice fixing the rush lane issues with regard to quarterback scrambles, or are you solely dedicated to preparing for Penn State’s dropback passing?
“We did that after the game. That’s what Sunday’s about, is we’ll correct anything on the film and then on the field. And then you put it to rest and move on to the next one. It was very clear what happened, and those young guys, hopefully they learned from that and hopefully next time that won’t happen.”
Has Hackenberg proven that he can stay calm in the pocket?
“He’s a very good quarterback. He’s got a good arm. He seems very intelligent. The thing you always have to be careful about is decide, ‘Hey I’m going to really go after this quarterback,’ and then they max protect and you get what I was talking about. It doesn’t matter if you have four guys dropping if that one guy in that area has time to beat you. You can only cover a guy so long. You have to be careful of putting your secondary in a bad situation if you can help it.”
Are you surprised by how quickly Jake Ryan recovered?
“Jake Ryan, since the day I got here, he’s been a guy that I have the utmost respect for because football, school, being a great person, are all really really important to him. I don’t know if you remember, I said when it happened that if anybody will come back, it’s going to be him. When he comes back, Brady will make that decision. All the work he’s done and all the preparation he’s done and all the extra rehabilitation and everything like that, that’s Jake.”
Have you had a lot of players with a motor like his?
“If you’re lucky enough, you have players like that. You have guys that get it. They understand that, ‘Okay, if I listen to this trainer and I listen to this coach and I do everything this strength coach tells me to do, then I’ll be a pretty good football player.’ A lot of it, too, is having a God-given football ability, which he does. A lot of it is his mental makeup. He has unbelievable pride in wanting to do things right. All those are things that you look for in a player.”
Will communication be an issue for you at Penn State?
“It’s a huge challenge. That’s a huge deal because one, they go at a faster tempo. Second, you have to get the signal from me and everyone out there has to be on the same page. If you don’t and one guy doesn’t, it’s just like we were all talking about, there’s the big play. We have to do a great job of everybody communicating.”
How would you assess the safeties so far?
“I think both guys have improved. Both guys have worked very hard at it. Thomas [Gordon] … and Jarrod [Wilson] has made great gains. The one thing I say to him is you have to tackle better. One missed tackle from that position is like ten missed tackles somewhere else. He knows that. I’m pleased with both of them. They want to become good football players.”
What sorts of problems does Devin Funchess present in practice?
“He’s an exceptional athlete. If you have a guy as tall, as fast, as good of hands as he has – he’s an aggressive kid. He’s a guy that played tight end. He’s been right in the middle of it. You have the total package right there. I mean, he’s a handful to cover now. He’s tough.”
With Blake, has there been a common theme with his interceptions?
“See the ball, catch the ball? Again, if you have 60 plays in the game, if you keep doing your technique and keep trying to get your reads like you’re supposed to and keep doing that, then the next phase is ‘Does the guy throw the ball in that area?’ Blake’s worked extremely hard. Here’s a guy coming off a whole year, and he’s worked extremely hard, and he knows he can be even better.”