60 minutes of unnecessary tenderness
“Michigan State week. Here we go.”
How has Michigan State’s offense improved?
“They seem like they throw the ball much better. I mean, this is a good football team. And it seems like their offensive line is blocking a lot more cohesively, and they’re very physical. This will be a tremendous challenge for us.”
Lots of big plays over the last couple games ...
“Yeah, the big plays obviously everybody sees the secondary guys, but it’s never all on them. I think on any one of those, if you hit the quarterback or sack the quarterback, maybe that doesn’t happen. That’s something that has to be eliminated. You can’t have a successful defense if that keeps happening. I said it before. A lot of times there were guys in position to make plays and just didn’t make the play. But it’s never one group. It’s never one person. It’s always a team deal, and we together as a defensive team have got to eliminate that.”
You talk about being in position to make that play. How do you teach them to make that next step?
“Those kinds of situations come up in practice, and I think you have to, as a coach, emphasize that you must compete on every single play until the whistle or until you’ve made the play. Sometimes I think that practice is practice, and you can’t allow that to happen. You have to, when you’re younger, and a guy is just starting to play, you’ve got to emphasize on every second that clock is going and you have to compete harder than you’ve ever competed until that play is over.”
Does it give your guys extra motivation when playing a team that has a defense that’s so highly ranked?
“That’s a great question. You’re right on. I think if you’re a Michigan defensive player, you want to be considered the best. Michigan State has done a tremendous job on defense. So now we get a chance – let’s see who is. Let’s see where we are. You always want to play the best. You always want to be the best. It goes from game to game. That’s why this next game coming up is a chance for our defensive players to be where we say they want to be.”
How important is communication on the road?
“You have to definitely over-coach that in a game like this. You have to make sure that any check or any adjustment that happens on that field has to be communicated louder and more emphatically more than ever. You’re right on. Games like this come down to communication. You have to have everybody on the same page when you’re playing these kinds of games. We’ve really stressed that in the couple of practices that we’ve had, and we continue to stress it.”
Will Jake Ryan be getting more snaps?
“Jake to me is 100 percent. Jake has practiced very hard. We’re full strength [at the SAM].”
Will you cut him loose a bit because it’s the State game?
“Well I don’t think it’s just because of that game, because we would never put a game ahead of a player, but I think the time table and the communication with the trainers and the doctors and him tend to believe that he gets more and more.”
Overall, where do you think your linebackers are with regard to where you want them to be?
“Well I think everybody in this defense has to improve. The thing that happens sometimes with linebackers is they get isolated if a defensive lineman doesn’t play as good as he can. And if they’re not playing as good as they can, they get isolated because they see the ball breaking a little more than usual. I think the situation is everybody on our defense, we all have to step up.”
Importance of stopping the run?
“Yeah. We’ve worked very hard on it. In some situations – the Indiana game is a different situation. You’re spread out all over, and you’re playing some defenses to try and take away some things. But all in all, it comes down to we didn’t play the technique we had to stop those runs. It wasn’t anything to do with the schematics or pace or anything like that. It was we had to play better technique across the board there.”
They’re a downhill power team, though.
“They have the ability to get the ball outside. They’ll run it inside. They have a very good running attack.”
MGoQuestion: In a game like this, how do balance rotating guys up front to keep them fresh with keeping guys in there that might give you a better chance to win those matchups?
“Well, it comes down to, at this point in the season and after this many games, you now have to decide, okay, we should be able to go a little more than you usually would. And so you may not have equal rotation. You may have rotation, or you may have guys subbing in and out, but it may not be at the pace that you did against a hurry-hurry offense like Indiana or some of these early games. That will be evaluated this week, to see how many snaps a guy will play.”
How’s James Ross’s development?
“James Ross is developing. He’s a young player. He’s developing. I’m sure he would say he would like to be developing at a faster rate. Sometimes there’s health reason also where some guys get nicked up, and if you’re not a mature older player, sometimes that plays a bigger toll on some guys more than others. James Ross is going to be a great linebacker. He’s going to be a great linebacker here.”
Will you show clips of Michigan State’s defense to motivate your defense?
“Oh no. No. You see in the course of scouting and evaluating other teams, you get a chance to see that, but no.”
What do you like about this week in practice?
“There’s a great amount of enthusiasm. There’s a great amount of emotion because this is a huge, huge game. Again, because of how we played last game, it adds more to our defense. It’s time that if we’re going to step up, let’s go. I think our players feel the same way.”
Have you been pleased?
“Very pleased. They came out the first time we started practice for Michigan State. I’ve been very pleased with the intensity, the physicality, attention to detail, and that’s even early. So now we’ve got our regular week right now, so I expect it to be better and better.”
Do you like the boos better than the cheers in a road game?
“Honestly, I’ve never heard the cheers or heard the boos. I really haven’t. I think as a player, you may have, but I think these guys all know what’s at stake. I think they all know what they have to do, and if somebody for some reason feels that’s not what they think is good, and they boo – [our players] have a lot more accountability to Michigan and their teammates than anyone else sitting in the stands.”
What do you like about this rivalry?
“This rivalry, I love it. It’s two teams that put it all out on the line. It’s two teams that feel very proud of their programs. There’s not a lot of gimmicks. It’s a lot more of a physical football game even though there’s all the different things you can do to get cheap ones and all that, but it’s a physical, physical football game, and I love that.”
How important is discipline?
“It’s always important. When a team wants to establish a running game, and any great offense can run the football. Let’s be honest. You as a defense, it’s always been the case, you can’t have a great defense unless you can stop the run. Our guys understand that. We have to do a great job.”
You said you’ll know more about your defense after this game, but what’s your sense right now? Where is this defense?
“I think our defensive guys feel the same way I do in that we have the ability, we have it there. We have to do it. We have to do it for 60 minutes. I think it’s kind of like a test. This is one, okay. Enough’s enough. You can say all you want about the other games, but it’s all on the line now. Let’s go play. I really believe our players, defensively, feel the exact same way.”
You have more interceptions through seven games than you did all last year. What’s the reason for that?
“You know my feeling on stats. Sometimes when you get more interceptions, it means they’re throwing a lot more against you. I like the stats – how many interceptions did you get that you should have gotten? Statistics, I don’t even look at them. It doesn’t matter to me. All that matters to me is this defense, this team playing at the level that we’re supposed to play at. That’s what our goal is going to be all week, and that’s what we’ve worked to do.”
How big will it be for either of these defenses to force more turnovers?
“That’s the other part of the equation: you only play great defense when you force turnovers. You don’t see many defenses that have a lot of success or are very strong defenses if they’re not getting the ball back for their offense. That’s always one of our huge objectives, is to get the ball back for our offense. Our guys have done that. The numbers are as good as it should be, and we’ve done that at a better rate. Every game down the stretch, turnovers are just huge, and we have to keep working to get them.”
Importance of winning on third down?
“That’s another statistic that is usually a huge statistic because third downs, you have to get off the field and let your offense go. Sometimes it doesn’t hold true. Penn State, we were three out of 16. We can always play better. Third down is really big, because of a lot of reason. One, you get the ball back for your offense. Two, you’re not on the field, you’re not getting worn down, you’re not playing longer than you should play. So third down will be very very big again.”