Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, Jake Butt, and Chris Wormley
For the Ohio guys especially, is this the biggest game you’ve ever played in your career to date?
CW: “I think so. It’s #2 versus #3. It’s for a Big Ten championship berth. Big game.”
JB: “I second that.”
EM: “I’m not from Ohio.”
Pretty well documented the struggles the program’s had against OSU in the past 10 or 12 years. How important is it for you guys to end that and get Michigan [?]?
JB: “It’s not as important to win this game for what’s been going on in the past, what’s been going on the past 11, 12 years. Really, we just need to win this game for what we have in front of us right now, and that’s all we’re focused on is we have an unbelievable opportunity to go on the road and compete against a really good team. Everything’s on the line right now. Our whole entire season’s on the line, so we need to win the game for that reason.”
I have a similar question: to be a great rivalry both teams have to win, and that hasn’t happened. How much do you guys need to win not only for yourselves but knowing Michigan has lost 11 out of 12?
KK: “Again, I don’t think you can focus that much on the past, especially when it’s this type of game coming up. It’ll be a big game. We’re definitely going to put in the work this week to prepare ourselves for it. I can’t wait to go out there and just play with all the guys. It’ll be the last time we play together as a team in a regular season game against Ohio State, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
[Guy identifies himself as being from a Columbus newspaper] The Jim Harbaugh we see, that we just saw about five minutes ago, would you guys know that side? How is that different from the Jim Harbaugh you see?
CW: “Compared to what you guys see?
EM: “Michigan reporters only.”
KK: “Yeah, no comment.”
EM: “I’m sorry, I’m just kidding. I think he’s probably very similar to what you guys see. He’s as real as they come. The media kind of paints a bad picture of him sometimes because of his antics like going after referees and stuff like that, but he’ll fight to the death for his players. He’s a player’s coach in that aspect and he’s somebody that you’d run through a wall for, but he’s pretty similar to what you see. In everyday life, that’s who he is.”
[Hit THE JUMP for a good Jabrill story and a lot on the personalities of great coaches]
Jake, you’re a Pickerington guy. There are many others in this game—Taco, also Pat Elflein on the Ohio State side. What is it about Pickerington that puts so many guys in this rivalry
JB: “Um, shoot, I don’t know. In my class, the class above us, the class below us, we got a lot of really good athletes and I think it kind of helped us growing up because we could push each other. We were always pushing each other and competing against one another, so I guess that played a factor in how we got to this level.”
Chris, your crew has the task of containing or trying to contain JT Barrett. Can you talk about that challenge?
CW: “Yeah, he’s a good player. The last couple years we’ve played him he’s put some numbers up against us, but we’ve faced a lot of similar offenses. Rutgers, I think their—one of their coaches was one of the old coaches at Ohio State, is their head coach or offensive coordinator, one of the two. So, we’ve seen a lot of similar offenses this season with the spread, the different option plays they have, different quarterback runs and things like that, so we’ve been preparing all year. Obviously they have different athletes and things like that, but it’s gonna be a game where we’re going to have to shut down a few players and we’re ready for that task.”
Jake, I know last year you talked a lot about the ‘06 game and watching it at your friend’s house and the excitement that created. I know both teams aren’t undefeated, but is there that same kind of excitement now that the Big Ten East might be on the line?
JB: “Absolutely. That game was #1 versus #2 and both teams—I know a lot of people wanted to see a rematch in the national championship. I know even if you weren’t an Ohio State or Michigan fan, you were tuning in to watch that game. I think that’ll be pretty similar this week, #2 versus #3, really everything on the line for both teams. It’s an absolute must-win game, so it’s gonna be a great atmosphere. Everybody’s going to be tuning in to watch this, and we’re excited to play in this game.”
Chris, you talked about the defense and playing some similar offenses this year. How has Don Brown made you better prepared or how does his philosophy make you better prepared to defend their offense this year?
CW: “He’s an aggressive coach. That makes us more of an aggressive defense with the type of calls he has, the type of schemes that he has each and every week, gameplans and things like that. We’ve done very well all year and we’re going to continue to keep playing well and that’s what we’re going to use this week is resting on what we’ve done and continuing to play as hard as we can every single play and have Coach Brown call up some good plays and be ready for that.”
Can you guys talk about Jabrill Peppers and maybe a play or thing he’s done in a game or practice that has most impressed you with his physical ability, and having him on your team in a game where often a star has to shine, thoughts on having him on your side?
JB: “There was one situation last spring ball during our four-hour practices when Coach Harbaugh first got here where we were all beat up, exhausted after a four-hour practice, and it was like the middle of spring ball, so it was when it was really starting to hit us, and we were in a full padded practice. It was bout the three-hour mark and Jabrill like returned a punt during a return drill, returned it like 40 yards and then when he was jogging back to go return another one he did like a cartwheel-back handspring-backflip-360 in full pads. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t even believe he just did that.’
“But it’s great having an athlete on your side. It’s great. He can change the game on defense, special teams, on offense. He’s a big spark for our team and we’re happy to have him.”
Kyle and Erik, your coach does a good job every week of saying every game is a championship game and everything else. Is that kind of hard to deal with this week, and have you seen anything different this week as he’s been through Michigan-Ohio State games; does that little veneer chip away a little bit because of the size of this game?
KK: “I mean, coming into this week with this kind of game, everyone knows what kind of game it is. It really doesn’t have to be said. He’s going to approach it the same way. We haven’t really had a chance to get to meetings yet; that’s still to come today. I’m sure he’s going to attack it the same way he does every single week and the same way we do every single week and that’s with a championship mentality and a work mindset. Work comes first, so we’ve got to put in the work first and everything else will take care of itself.”
The Ohio press asked if Coach Harbaugh was crazy as a fox. What would your description of Coach Urban Meyer be?
EM: “Wowww, this is how we get in trouble.”
KK: “Yeah, I ain’t saying nothin’.”
EM: “In my mind he’s a great guy, great coach.”
KK: “Yeah, great guy.”
EM: “Calm as can be.”
KK: “Heard nothing but good things.”
CW: “I think with all the great coaches, you’ve got to be wired a little differently. A lot of the great ones do things differently, and I’m sure Coach Meyer does and has done things differently. He’s been a successful coach. Like Coach Harbaugh does things differently, I’m sure he does things differently.”
JB: “Yeah, he’s been successful. That’d be the first way to describe him is he’s had success everywhere he’s been and you respect that. With that you’ve got to prepare a little bit harder each week. I don’t really know him personally as a guy or anything, but I just know he’s successful.”
You guys have all kind of mentioned working hard. How do you find the balance between putting in the right work and containing your emotions? I imagine you’re pretty fired up for this one.
EM: “I think Coach Harbaugh does a great job of that, cut down reps a little bit in practice and a lot more mental at this point in the season. He sets hours and the time we can be in the building and all that stuff, so it’s all up to him and I think everyone has a good trust in him.”
What’s the journey been like for you guys the last couple years after difficult times with the old coach and then here you are 10-1 with a lot on the line this weekend?
KK: “It’s been fun. I mean honestly, it’s been fun. The facts are that there were the downs and now we’re in the ups. Just being with these guys up here, a bunch of guys on the team, it’s been fun, to be honest.”
KK: “A lot of things. A lot of things. I mean, Coach is one. Our mindset’s one. It’s a whole culmination of things. There’s not one set thing that really changed things or turned it around, but yeah, culmination of things.”
With De’Veon, did you see something—did he just flip a switch at some point? When he got the big run, did you see a change in De’Veon at that stage or was it before that?
EM: “De’Veon runs so hard every play that kind of our mindset is there’s going to be a couple runs where they’re going to stop us, we’ll have two- or three-yard gains, four-yard gains, but he keeps on running so hard throughout the game that eventually those three-yard gains are going to turn into six-yard gains, the six-yard gains are going to turn into breakaway touchdowns and stuff like that. It doesn’t matter what point of the game it is, whether it’s the first quarter or the fourth quarter, he runs so hard that I’m sure defenders probably get sick of tackling him. I mean it was his last game [at home], he’s a senior, but he’s an animal.”
KK: “He’s a stud. He’s a stud.”
You started to smirk when asked about crazy like a fox referring to Jim. Is that how [he is]? Is he crazy like a fox?
CW: “I’ve never even heard expression, ‘like a fox.’”
KK: “I don’t even know what that is.”
Is he just crazy?
CW: “I don’t know about crazy. He’s different. He just does things different. I think when you’re a top coach you set yourself apart from the average ones, and when you’re not average and you’re above average you do things differently than everyone else. That’s just my take on it.”
KK: “I think usually the most successful people have something off about them that sets them apart from other people, so I think Coach Harbaugh’s a really good example of that.”
Your quarterback situation is somewhat seemingly in flux this week. How do you guys deal with that in practice this week wondering who will be under center?
KK: “It’s not really something you can worry about. You’re going to block just as hard for one guy as you are the next, so it’s not really something you can control