News bullets and other items:
The team’s goal is to win the Big Ten, but you probably knew that already
The starting quarterback will be determined tomorrow
Some of the criteria for who will start: efficiency, competing, challenging, completions in practice, and leadership
Don’t expect the quarterbacks to platoon
The problems on offense are not the same as last year, as this is a new system
Read the whole thing if you’re into Brady Hoke’s made-up words
“Number one, thanks for coming out. [We] start Big Ten play this week and that's something that we've always fixed on is the Big Ten championship. I think getting started is important. It's a new opportunity. As far as last week we did some good things and didn't do some things as well as we need to and those are things that from a coaching standpoint we always need to do a better job in our coaching of it and in our execution that we need to have. There's some positives and we want to repeat those positives to the guys. Yesterday we did a good job staff-wise in the clarity of the mistakes and fixing those mistakes and [I] like that. Like how they came to work. Like how our team has competed and challenged every time they go out. Like how they've done a nice job with the leadership within the program and how they have gone about the work and I've said that before. Questions?"
Brady, you’ve talked about the leadership that you believe exists in your team. Has that leadership group given you any feedback on how to improve the results of the offense this season?
“No. I don't think that's what they're all about. I think they're all about is how the attitude of the team is and their attitude has been great. I think the way they've gone about and treated each other has been great and we just need to keep that up and keep working hard.”
Brady, you guys reviewed the tape. Do you guys know who your quarterback is today?
“No. We will make a decision tomorrow.”
What did you guys do yesterday? Did you split reps or…
“We'll make a decision tomorrow.”
After watching film how did Devin look and how did Shane look?
“Well, I think they both had some really good things and then they did some things not so good. I think if you're looking for was there one guy who played better than the other no, I don't think so. I think they both know what they need to do better and they will, and I think they both competed and made some good decisions also.”
Brady, not necessarily just about the quarterback but partly about that: 2-2 start and the offense has looked not good. How do you stay the course? How do you not make some major shuffling right now?
“Well, I'm not saying we’re not, right? Tuesday we'll make some decisions. Or we'll let you know the decisions, let's put it that way.”
I mean, could it be beyond quarterback and [include] other personnel?
“I think you look at everybody. You look internally and then you look at everybody and see what combination of whoever in that starting 11 give you the best chance to win. Maybe it's a different personnel group. Maybe it's more two tight ends, three tight ends. You know, as Jake [Butt] gets healthier he'll be more a part of the offense but we'll see how that goes.”
[After THE JUMP: special teams issues, offensive issues, quarterback issues, other issue-y issues]
Brady, just to hop on that a little bit have you had any type of discussion with Darrell Funk and Doug Nussmeier as far as the offensive line? Are you guys really looking hard at that as far as changing personnel, making changes?
“No, not there. Have I had discussions with all of them? Yeah, that's what we do all Sunday until about 11 o'clock last night.”
But nothing specific, [like] ‘We need to swap this guy for this guy’?
What are the criteria you’re using for the QB decision?
“Efficiency. That's part of it. We talk, and you've heard it way too many times and you're going to keep hearing it, about competing and challenging. Who comes out of the week with the best practices and who gives us the best chance to go in and win the football game.”
Specifically, are you charting the number of yards in practice or completions or…
“Well, it's more completions and then there's the leadership end of it to. Who commands the offense and they both have done a really good job all year with that. I don't expect any of that to change from that standpoint.”
Is a platoon a possibility?
“I think we'd rather not. That's not been in our discussions.”
Coach, in terms of punting Will’s obviously hit the ball a lot better than he has maybe in recent days. Has anything been identified there in terms of his mechanics, and the second part of that is are there safeguards from the sidelines? I know you’ve got a couple of guys on the field counting the number of guys out there on the punt but are there safeguards from the sidelines in case they miss?
“Yeah, let's take that first because that's on me. The miscommunication or whatever happened there, that's got to be on me and do we need to count? Yes. We need to count and we need to count on the field and off the field so yes. Will has struggled a little bit. He's a better punter than what he has shown. He had two snaps that he had to go down for. He had one pooch kick that was perfect that Jehu downed at the 2 yard line but we've got to do a better job placement of the ball and we've got to do a better job with our hang time.”
Brady, your team is 10-for-10 in the red zone but didn’t get a chance to make it to the red zone against Utah and Notre Dame…
“Right. That's a problem.”
Where is the breakdown? What do you have to do to rectify that?
“Well, I think we never had a rhythm. We come out with 12 plays, have a great drive, defense does it's job, we kick a field goal, we get points. Come out the next drive and on first and 10 we get a holding that makes it first and 20. Later in the game we have a procedure penalty, okay? I think we had eight negative plays total. Four of them were sacks, two of them were penalties, and two of them were tackles for loss on runs and anytime you get a negative like that, that's not – you get yourself out of the sticks a little bit. We were 9 of 19 on third downs. Look at third and 12-plus, we are not near as good as we are third and 6 to 8 so not hurting yourself and having a rhythm in your offense that you need to continue with and those are things that we work on, they’re working on, they’re mindful of and they’re competing with it every day.”
What do you do to establish rhythm?
“You get first downs. You move the chains. You don't take penalties. You don't have turnovers.”
Brady, I don’t know if you every get a chance to step back and look at the big picture of things because you’re so focused on the here-and-now, but from the outside it certainly appears like the program is in a bit of a crisis state right now at 2-2. Do you feel that at all and does that affect some decisions you make now?
“No. It won't affect the course that we want to go. I can tell you that. This whole getting into coaching and coaching for those 115 kids and the mentorship and the things we want to do to help kids, that's where it starts. The frustration level people may have, don't think those kids have the same frustration. Don't think that's part of it. But what they do have is they have a great believe in each other. They have a great belief in the program. They come out and compete and challenge each other every day and this will be a good football team.”
Do you personally feel like it’s at a bit of a crisis state?
Did you think you’d be further along in your fifth year- in your fourth year, sorry, than where your program is?
“Well, I don't know. I never judge anything like that. Who thought we'd go to the Sugar Bowl in the first year? Did you?”
“No. And the point is we’re building a program with a great foundation and that's important from the academic side to the athletic side. That is important, the foundation that we have. We’re a little older on defense, right? We've got some older guys who have played a lot of football. On offense we've got one scholarship senior starting on the offense, and if he wasn’t the starter then we’d have two guys, two juniors and everybody else is a redshirt freshman or a sophomore.”
In the eight losses in the last twelve games, in seven of those losses you guys have trailed at halftime by like a combined fifty-some odd points. Is there anything that you’ve kind of noted or seen in terms of being able to start faster or jump out to better first half performances?
“Yeah, you always want to start fast. They started fast Saturday. Did they put it in the end zone? No. Did we put it in the end zone? No, we didn’t and obviously that’s the goal. Rachel brought up the red zone. Agree 100%. We’re good in the red zone, but we’ve got to get there.”
Coach, talk about the run defense through four games and how confident you are that’s going to be able to slow Minnesota. That’s one of their strengths.
“Yeah, that is a great strength for them and that’s going to be a heck of a challenge. I think from the run defense side of it [we] gave up 2.2 yards per rush the other day, 168 yards total in the last three football games, which hasn’t been done since 2006. I think the physicalness, you know, Willie Henry makes a great play on a pass play but he makes five other great plays just taking on blocks and being somebody that’s hard to move out of there and Ryan Glasgow the same. I think the front seven’s been playing well. I think the two linebackers are very active. I think Jake [Ryan] has a knack for making football plays and it’s called instinct and so the front seven’s been good. I thought Jourdan Lewis and Blake Countess- talk about two guys who tackled guys and that’s what you want from corners, especially on five-yard stops. Get them on the ground [and] play the next play.”
The tempo of the offense has been comparatively slower. Is that where you want it to be, and do you have a set number of plays that you go into a game thinking this is how many plays we want?
“No, we don’t do that. We’re not, as you know, trying to get 80 plays or 90 plays. That’s not us. We want efficiency in what we’re doing. We want to move the sticks. Time of possession is way overrated to some degree, okay? To some degree, but our biggest problem right now is that we need to take care of the football. You talk about rhythm, you talk about those kind of things, penalties and not taking care of the football, that will throw your rhythm off as an offense.”
Brady, you said earlier this will be a good football team. Why do you say that?
“Because I know how hard they work and what they do every day. I know that they believe.”
And when will this be a good football team?
“Saturday. I think we need it to be a good football team [Saturday}, don’t you?
I would assume, yeah.
Brady, you talked on Saturday night about the little things adding up and the pattern of all those little things developing. Do you have to change the way you address those little things to try to avoid that-
“I don’t know what you mean by developing. We out-yardaged Utah and all that kind of stuff. They didn’t have any running [game]. I think there are little things every week. It could be one guy not targeting the defensive end well enough. That’s a little thing that we’ve got to do a better job of. Either us from a coaching standpoint or a techniques and fundamentals standpoint.”
So I guess the question was do you change the way that you coach those things or you address those things, the small problems?
“Yeah, I think you’re always coaching the technique and fundamentals. I don’t think it’s ever- no one’s ever played a perfect game with those techniques and fundamentals. I think you always continue to stress those things, emphasize those things so I think we’re doing that.”
As the noise about the future of the program and the state of the program heightens outside the locker room, how do you keep players from getting too much pressure from that or from hearing that kind of noise?
“Well, obviously with social media and everything else, and bloggers and things like that it’s out there, but it’s what you choose in what you believe. And we’ve got great belief in our locker room.”
What do you think the mentality of Devin Gardner’s going to be like? The whole season you’ve said it’s his team, now it’s apparently up for grabs. How is he going to handle that?
“He’s a leader, and leadership is hard at times but he’ll handle it like a leader does, whatever happens. He’s as resilient as any young man you could be around because of what people put out there.”
Brady, there’s a lot to improve but as far as can you guys at least hang your hat on knowing that the defense is stopping the run well? The defense has shown some promise there. Is that something at least you guys can have positive takeaways-
“Yeah, but it’s not good enough. You know, if they don’t score they can’t win. I learned that a long time ago, so we’ve got to play better defense so they don’t score.”
Does it make you more comfortable at least knowing you can rely on your defense to an extent?
“I don’t know if you every have a comfort. I’m very optimistic and positive about both sides of the ball.”
Wondering how involved you are in the offense maybe before Utah and if you’re getting more involved now after some struggles.
“I meet with Doug twice a week. We go over the plan. I’ll be with him at 10:30 tonight for an hour talking about what we want to do and how we want to do it. I’ll do the same thing later in the week. Once on Tuesday, once on Wednesday and on Thursday. So I’m going to be doing the same thing I’ve been doing. He’s a heck of a football coach. He’s a damn good football coach.”
Brady, Doug has come in the last couple of weeks saying that Shane has had very good practices. Do you feel comfortable where he is? He’s only started one game, obviously the bowl game. Do you feel comfortable with where he is?
“I think Shane had a real good fall camp and I think it’s continued. When I sit up here and say there’s competition, there truly has been competition the whole time and yeah, do we feel comfortable? Do we feel confident? No question about it.”
Would there be any consideration for Doug moving up to the press box or do you like him on the field?
“I like him on the field. I think the way he coaches and the hands-onness that he has- he gets good information. If he didn’t get good information up there from the guys who are on there I’d probably say, ‘Hey Doug, you need to get up there so you can see it.’ But I think with what he has done- [it] has been really positive to the growth of this program.”
In terms of Devin’s struggles, when you go through the tape do you see more mechanical problems? Do you see more decision-making problems?
“It’s all not him, number one. There was tipped balls in both games, the last two, that- one from a defensive perspective, one from an offensive perspective. Maybe if we get two hands on it it’s not tipped. There’s different things. There’s different things. Guys getting pushed back into him a little bit. Not very often, but it’s happened, so the ball doesn’t come off right. Has he made perfect decisions? No, and he wants to, and he will.
At any point with some of the struggles do you feel like he’s trying to do too much? That’s been the conversation with him for a long time.
“I think it’s much better. I really do. I think that part of it is better.”
Can you talk about how the guys in the back are making checks and how well they’re doing in the absence of Jarrod Wilson?
“I think you would have to believe that based on the last two weeks they’re doing a nice job. I think based off of watching the tape and looking at grades and seeing their efficiency, very happy with how Blake has gone about his business. Jourdan, obviously. Jeremy Clark’s made some plays and having Delano is important and hopefully Jarrod sometime, we’ll see.”
[Inaudible, but I think it was about communication in the secondary]
“Yeah, I don’t think we had any issues back there. I know we didn’t have any issues.”
In your mind are the issues on offense the same as they were, say, last November or are they different, and is that frustrating if they are the same?
“They’re not the same at all. They’re not the same for the simple fact that it’s a new system. Everything’s a little bit new to it but I don’t see it being the same.”
Is it a fundamental issue? You’ve mentioned play-killers, holding-
“I didn’t mention play-killers.”
Well, I mean, if a guy holds and a drive gets knocked off kilter-
“I think we’re third in the country or seventh in the country in penalties. In a good way.”
So you like the discipline?
“Yeah, I think we’ve been pretty good. Sometimes you’re going to hold a guy, and you could probably call a hold on every play.”