"First one of the year, huh? Here we go."
Here we go.
"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
<No pads. Nothing to see after the jump.>
Can you talk about the perception of the Big Ten vs some other leagues?
"All I can say is when I was in the SEC, we had just come off a national championship and we played a team from Ann Arbor named the University of Michigan, and I tried to tell that team that your perception better be very respectful and understand that the Big Ten plays great football, and you know the outcome of that game. The SEC got beaten that game. We got beat. I really believe -- I believe coaches understand, intelligent players understand the Big Ten is a very good conference. What happens to conferences throughout history is they're going to go up and down. there's going to be a run where one conference seems to be doing well, and then the next one comes over. I really look for the Big Ten to really start taking back over again. Of all the places I've been, my respect for the Big Ten is greater now maybe than when I was here 10 years ago."
"Just because I see how hard and how physical and how tough this league is. I mean, you better not in the Big Ten conference go out there and think that you can just walk out there, because you're going to get hit, and it's going to be a very physical league. That's what I've seen in three years here."
What do you see from Jarrod Wilson?
"We've had three installs, and the players seem to really want to embrace learning it. We made a very big goal of our defense to be a smarter defense. To be a defense that you don't make missed assignments, that you make sure that that offense can't look out there and say exactly what you're in. And all those make a player -- to do that a player has to have attention to detail, and Jarrod's done a great job of it. The safety is the guy they read probably more than anybody, but I think a lot of our kids have done that. They've really bought into that, that we are going to be a smarter team, we are going to have perfect alignments and that kind of thing."
Brady talks about body changes. On the defensive side, who do you like?
"You know, I've said it before: our strength coach, I'm going to tell you what now, and I'm not saying this to pump him up. I'm saying, seeing these kids that we had two years ago and seeing them now, it's night and day difference. In fact I just walked through this morning when they do a lift. Our goal is to get stronger during the season so we lift during camp and everything like that. There were 10, 12 defensive linemen lifting weight I never thought they could lift, and they were pumping it out like it was nothing. And when I see the physical changes of a lot of our guys, a lot of them look so much more like a Big Ten football player."
MGoQuestion: How would you compare Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer at this point?
"Both -- again, no pads, and until the pads come out I can't say who's doing what. Both of them are really really working hard. When I mention the things I mentioned, they're two of the leaders in attention to details, they're two of the leaders in running to the football, they're two of the leaders in trying to get their technique right. Right now they're both doing exactly what should be done. There are improvements that have to be made. When we get the pads, then we'll find out more."
How much of your defensive install is complete?
"We put a lot in on the first day, and then every day we'll put in seven or eight defenses, so I would say after three practices, we're probably a quarter to a third in."
MGoQuestion: Blake Countess said there are no longer "field" and "boundary" corners. Now it's just "left" or "right." What went into that decision? Is it because there's no real distinction between the skill sets of your players?
"That and then the other thing is we want both of them to know [both positions] to make your flexibility on your defense better. So if one guy always plays to the boundary and he's your next best guy, if something happens and he has to go to the field, he's lost all those reps. Again, everything we're trying to do with this group, because they do appear to want to learn -- they're like sponges as far as wanting to learn -- we're giving them more. Okay, you're a field corner now, these are the things you have to know. When they were babies, teach them one thing and hope they get that. Now they've been in the program for two or three years, now they say, 'Okay, I got it. This is good.' When that happens, you don't have to just install the defense, you can show them why. You can tell them this is what happens if you don't do it right rather than just taking care of their position. That's part of being a smart defense."
Is there a target date for when you want to get everything in? Like by the end of the first week?
"No. No. No. Our goal is to get everything in by the third week. And then we decide by game plan what works best. Your defensive package is set up to be able to play the season, okay? So going into that first ballgame, you may only have ten defenses, where you've put in who knows how many. But they're on the back burner and they've had a chance to work on them, and there's going to be a great recall to pulling those out."
What did Dymonte Thomas show to carve out an early niche? What do you see in him physically?
"Again, I can't tell physically because we haven't hit with pads. The thing I was really impressed with him was I felt he was going to be a very good blitzer and I felt like he could really run. For an incoming freshman, he really seems to want to be able to play early. Through the ups and downs that attack a guy, he came out to camp just continuing to go up. He's still got a lot to learn. Where he should blitz, why he should blitz at this spot, when he should go, those kinds of things, how his coverage should be, but he's going right with where he was before."
How much is Jake Ryan in your ear about being able to play?
"Jake's been great. Jake's been great. In fact, he was one of the guys I saw in that weight room, and I had to tease him. Of course, I can never be nice to Jake, but I told Jake, 'I'm surprised you're lifting with the big boys. I didn't know you could lift that much.' I mean, Jake Ryan has really gotten stronger. Jake, by the trainer's permission, he's been running, does our walkthroughs with us. It's so interesting. At one point you didn't know if you made a call whether Jake was going to do it right or not. Now Jake is with the group so that he does it and he coaches that position when the other guy's doing it. And that's where he's come in three years."
Have you seen growth from Taco Charlton?
"Taco's gotten stronger. Taco's gotten older. He's a lot more mature now already in one semester of being here. The thing that is a great example is Taco understands the defenses better now. So now if Taco does the technique right, he's not worried anymore about just running. He now can play the position like he's supposed to. Again, it will be very interesting when the pads come on to see how much he's come from being here in that last semester."
Frank Clark's athleticism has been hyped up. Even without pads, have you been able to tell?
"Oh yeah. Well, with no pads on, for example, everything we do is run to the football. You don't tackle. When a guy runs, he might have gotten hit by three or four guys, but he keeps going. Well, he's going 40 yards downfield and you look up and the first thing you see is a 270 pound rush end that used to be 217 pounds when he first got here running with the guy. He's not chasing him, he's getting up there with him and running with him. Frank has tremendous athletic ability."
Is it just a strength gain or is it also maturity?
"Both. Both. He is so much stronger than when ... Frank Clark was a safety-outside linebacker coming out of Glennville at 217 pounds. And now he's a rush for his third year at 274 pounds. Another guy that I've noticed noticeable strength gains -- and there's a lot of them, and I'm going to hate to mention guys -- Mario Ojemudia. He was 225 pounds last year. This year he's 250. I was teasing him about his shirt looking so tight on him. I asked him if it was his little brother's shirt. And all of a sudden he looked like guys you should hope they look like."
How has the verbal dynamic changed without Kovacs?
"Thomas [Gordon] and then gaining Blake back, they're doing the same things. They know they have to. Jarrod Wilson has been in the program now so he understands. I mean, that's part of being smart. If you're a smart defense, it should sound like there's all kinds of guys talking out there all the time. That's what you hear at times out there. And then we have to do it more and more."
Thoughts on Desmond Morgan at the MIKE?
"Des is doing a good job. Des has worked on his body. He looks trim, but he weighs more. And he's very confident. He's played a lot of football here. I know he wants to have a great year. No pads, I've been very pleased with him."
What do you like about him at that position?
"He's so smart. He can make the checks. He's so strong. That allows him to be able to strike a blow. It allows him to be able to punch and get off blocks. That's one thing our linebackers had to work on. Too many times we ran into blockers and didn't disengage, and that's been a big emphasis."