“First I’d like to, if I could, just send out our prayers and thoughts and sympathies to Terry Glenn’s family. Just heard of the unfortunate passing of Terry Glenn and wish to let his family know and all of the Ohio State community and friends and teammates of Terry and his family that they’re in our thoughts.”
Brandon’s status today?
“He’ll be coming in shortly. Was seen yesterday and we’ll see where he’s at today.”
Is he in concussion protocol?
If Brandon can’t go, what’s Wilton’s status going to be?
“Wilton practiced last week and was not cleared for contact last week. He’ll be evaluated by the doctors again this week to see if he would be cleared for contact.”
If John O’Korn is your guy, can you talk about where he is relative to his first oppoprtunities earlier in the season and how he’s progressed?
“Yeah, John has remained diligent every single week. Preparation and the game plan and always sitting on a spring ready to play.”
Can you just talk about Ohio State and what you’ve seen out of them this year?
“Yeah, really, really talented team. Very well coached. Really good players. Right now going through the schemes, the matchups, the preparation for the ballgame on Saturday but really, really strong, physical football team. Fast team. Really good at the skill positions. Tackle well. Play really good up front. They rotate their defensive line. I know they think very highly of them and I can see why. Yeah, can’t say enough good things. Really good team.”
[After THE JUMP: stages of the concussion protocol, another injury update, and Harbaugh’s first memories of The Game]
Last game of the regular season and obviously the rivalry: do you find in this game, do you see things out of players, your players, you haven’t seen before? Does something else come out in this game that you almost don’t see in the rest of the season as far as effort and emotion and all that stuff?
“Yeah, it’s the crescendo of the regular season, it’s the final game. There’s players on both sides who’ve been through this game before or are maybe playing their last game. Some playing it for the second or third time, some playing for their very first time. It’s their opportunity—it’s our team’s opportunity to put that exclamation point on the season.”
I watched Chris Evans coach some kids in flag football yesterday. Your thoughts on a student-athlete with as much on his plate as Chris has giving back in that way in a real genuine fashion?
“Yeah, been very impressed with Chris in his coaching and his commitment to coaching because he’s been so dedicated towards coaching youngsters and his time, his energy, his talent. I think there’s been a piece or two done on him. I think earlier in the year someone on ESPN, where they followed Chris around—it’s not just that one time when the cameras were around. Chris is very dedicated to coaching and working with youngsters. I applaud his effort because it’s the dedication he has toward it.”
Do you remember when you first understood the magnitude of this rivalry and what it meant? Was it when you moved here as a kid?
“Yeah, definitely. The first time I was at the game was 1973. It was a 10-10 tied. Yeah, then and then afterwards, really understood that was the biggest game of the year. That was between the two teams arguably the biggest rivalry in college football. Arguably one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. Came to understand that as a youngster.
“Then even more so when I actually played in the game. First couple I didn’t. I was on the team and learned about it then really understood it once I played in the game and you understand it afterwards, what it means to play in that game, what it meant, why you’re playing that game, what it meant, five, ten, fifteen, twenty years afterward. You understand it the more experience you have with it and the longer that time goes on, you even understand it more.”
With Don Brown as the defensive coordinator, what is it about his makeup, his personality, that even as a 62-year-old he’s able to connect with 18-to-22-year-olds and lead a defense to be one of the top performers in the country?
“I think players, coaches, we all understand the drive, the passion that Don Brown has for the game of football, for coaching football, for competition. The players understand how hard he works and how much passion he has to make them better football players. We on the team understand just how good he is at it and how driven he is. It’s about the competition, it’s about the game, and he’s a tremendous motivator because you’re showered with the virtues he has every day. He has a love and passion for what he does.”
It’s not your favorite topic so I apologize in advance but it seems like the habit of everything you do or say turning into a headline or a bigger story has gone away a little bit this year. Have you noted that? Have you done anything to kind of consciously stay lower on the radar over the past several months?
“No. Probably asked me this question before. Wasn’t consciously doing anything to be on the radar. Just coaching the football team.”
Sure. Not saying you were doing anything to get on the radar—
“No, wasn’t doing anything to get on the radar then and not doing anything now, to directly answer your question, to stay off the radar. Just coaching the football team. That’s always been my goal.”
Your thoughts on Jordan Kovacs as a first-time coach? What are your impressions of him this year?
“Really good. Outstanding. He’s going to be a tremendous coach. He’s already really good. Been able to take his playing experience, ability he has as a leader, to be a good learner once again to understand the ways of coaching and understand the ways of our team. He’s already becoming an asset to our team and in future years, we’d very much like him to stay. Next year, plan to be a graduate assistant. He’s growing and already become an asset ad we believe he’ll be really good as the years progress.”
How late in the week can you go with Brandon in terms of if he gets cleared on Friday, will he be able to play without practicing?
“Um… so there’s stages. If you want to know exactly what the stages are, [inaudible] symptom free. If that happens today then he has to go to a day where he has exertion, where he does cardio and then lifting to be able to work up a sweat, exert yourself, and then see are the symptoms there the next day? Then once that occurs and you come back that next day and there’s no symptoms, then he’d be allowed to practice without contact. That could happen as early as Wednesday, could happen as early as Thursday. Each is different—each case is different.
“Totally go by the doctors, the tests, and, you know, Chris Evans had a concussion in a ballgame and then played the next week. Lavert had a concussion and did not play the next week. It’s a matter of what the level is and what the doctors, neurosurgeons… I think that’s right. Neurologists would be the better word. It’s in their hands.”
Where is Lavert in that process now?
“Lavert was cleared to participate, yeah. Yesterday.”
This season has obviously been a unique one, I wonder what you’ve learned with how this year has been—and I know it’s not over yet—but what you’ve learned and what things about this year have been especially unique in your mind this season that’s new or any different?
“Well, it’s been a team that’s been progressing. I really like our team. Love the way they work, love the way they compete, love the effort that they give, and I really love seeing the progress being made.”
Do you think they’re close to bubbling over here?
“Yeah, yeah. As I said, I feel like our team’s improved each week and has already shown that they can play to the level with anybody in the country.”
MGoQuestion: How much does it benefit your defense for some of those guys to have prepared for a quarterback like JT Barrett multiple times, and how much does it alter that when Ohio State’s brought in a new coordinator in Kevin Wilson?
“Yeah, we’re gonna look at all the tape. We’ll look at all the games this year. That’s another benefit for both teams; when you’re playing the last game, there’s a season-long amount of film to study and prepare for. But yeah, we’ll go back, too. We’ll go back to last year and the year before.”
Mike McCray has been your captain all year. What has he meant to this team; how has he fulfilled that role (what you thought); and with this game, have you found in your experience that the Ohio guys take it a little more in focus or is it a bigger game for them?
“Um, you know, Mike has been a really good captain. He’s been a true leader both on the field [and] off the field. He’s been a stud, and there’s been not a lot of seniors that have been out there playing. He’s been one and he’s been a great example for our entire team. Shows up every practice, every ballgame, and he’s tough, so yeah, he’s been an outstanding leader for our football team.
“I don’t know about the other part. I don’t know. It’s like possibly—”
Even as a player—
“Possibly somebody notices that. Having played in it, having coached in the game, don’t know. I don’t know that somebody else was taking it more serious than I was because they grew up their entire life in the state of Michigan or the state of Ohio. Of course, I grew up in both places. Grew up some in Ohio and some in Michigan. I don’t know-I don’t think there was another level that another person could have been taking it more seriously than I was personally.”
Has Cesar Ruiz locked down the right guard spot and did you think the offensive line took a step back Saturday as opposed to what it had done?
“No, locked down… not saying that. He’s playing very well. He’s doing a very good job. He’s playing at a starter level. Of course, Mike Onwenu was, too, and we’ll see where Mike’s at this week.
“So that’ll be—when a guy’s coming back off of an injury, it’s one thing to be cleared from the doctors and then what percentage do they come back at? Are they 100%? Are they 90%? Are they 80%? Are they better than the person that has been playing that position, so in this case Mike’s got to come back and really be back to full strength because Cesar’s playing really well.”
Urban Meyer today said that they didn’t just start their Michigan film study this week but it’s been going on all year. How about you? Do you do the same? Do you approach the Ohio State game the same? Are you studying them every week?
“Yeah, we’re—as we said, there’s a lot of tape to study. This year, offseason.”
Back to the offensive line, when you go back and watch it over again, can you diagnose why—was there one thing or was it multiple things—why are there so many pressures and what do you do to fix some of those errors?
“Yeah, we definitely got beat on some pick-stunts. Some we picked up, some we didn’t. We’ll address that and work on it and get better at it.”
With Brandon, that was the first time he really faced a defense at that level. With him standing in, what did you see from him? We saw him step into some throws and delivered. I know he obviously left the game, but what’s your overall impression of how he handled himself in an environment like that? You’ve played in spots like that before. How do you think he acquitted himself?
“Very well. I thought Brandon played very well. That’s not his first time of standing in there and making a courage play. He’s done that in probably every single game he’s played in where he’s made that kind of throw. Tough to simulate. You’re standing in the pocket, see a receiver and oncoming rusher, and to be able to stand in the pocket and make that throw, it’s a courage play, so he’s got that.
“You hate to see any player get hurt, and that’s how we feel now. There’s some football to it. That is football, and hope to have him back quick. And we want to protect him. We want to protect whatever quarterback is out there and it’s on us to get that done.”