- Denard is improving slowly.
- Russell Bellomy is suffering from Things and Stuff. Probably. Hoke wouldn't comment. Whatever it is should not be season-ending, however.
- Mario Ojemudia's status is up in the air because he has a Boo Boo.
- Jeremy Gallon is taking it easy with his ankle issue, but should be good to go on Saturday.
- The coaches have talked about bringing in Jack Miller or Joey Burzynski to address some of the interior offensive line issues.
“We all set? I was obviously pleased with the win on the road. Every week is a championship game, and we look at it that way, so going to Minneapolis and winning was important. Did we play our best? No. I don’t think we did. Kicking game and a lot of areas we have to do a better job -- kicking, covering, punting. We had two dumb penalties, the blocks in the back that obviously moves the ball back, puts you in a worse position. Defensively [I] thought we kept ourselves in the game and at the same time, we need to do a better job against the run. Didn’t think we did as well a job against the rush, but that being said, it kept us in the game offensively. We talked afterwards. I thought Devin did a nice job managing the offense. Thought he made some plays, extended some plays, and did a great job in that area. On the one pick, it was one that he’d like back, we’d all like back, but I think he learned from it. Took care of the football and did a nice job.
“This week we play a very good football team in Northwestern. Well coached, and I have a lot of respect for Pat. How he coaches and how his team plays. They have some threats, you know, offensively. Venric Mark is an extremely shifty, quick runner. Does a tremendous job. I think they’re blocking well up front. Defensively, overall as a team they’re plus six in turnover margin, which is a very good number, so from the defensive side, they’ve done a good job. They’ve only thrown three interceptions on the year. That’s with both quarterbacks in -- Colter and Siemian. So they’re doing a nice job managing that part of it. And Tyler Scott on the defensive side is a guy who’s very active. Leads the Big Ten in sacks and forced fumbles. We have our work cut out for us.”
Can you expand on Devin a bit? Did he do things above and beyond what you’ve seen him do in practice? Aside from the interception, what would you like to see him do better?
“Um, you’ve seen him do that in practice before. A lot of the things he did, some of the good things of extending plays out and then being productive with it, finding a place to push up in the pocket, delivering the ball. He’s always been a guy that’s kept his eyes down the field when he is in those situations, and he probably was in more of those than we like because we have to do a better job of protecting. I think that’s one of the things we didn’t do well. There’s some little things when you talk about the ball mechanics and those kind of things we’ve really got to clean up.”
What is Denard’s status this week?
“He practiced. He’ll split some time there, and we’ll just see. He’s, uh, getting healthier.”
You say he’s splitting time -- will that apply in a game situation also?
“No. Practice-wise. That’s the biggest point is to get them both snaps.”
Is it fair to say he’s questionable?
“He’s just improving slowly. He gets better. He gets better yesterday. Practiced yesterday, threw the ball yesterday, ran yesterday. We just want him to be healthy.”
How much does it help knowing that Devin can play quarterback effectively?
“Well I think you always like to have the depth at every position, whether it be quarterback or your nose tackle. Having guys who have done it before and have shown you that they can do it and have done a good job, that’s always a big part of it. I don’t think that position is unique because of getting the ball every time. It makes you feel good that you have a guy that’s been in a game and has started a game.”
When Denard comes back, is Devin back back at wide receiver or do you keep him at quarterback?
“I think we’ll probably take him a little bit at both, but probably more at quarterback than the wideout position.”
Would we see him at receiver in a game?
Are you more comfortable moving Devin back to quarterback because of what you’ve seen from your receivers?
“Uh, you know, that’s a really good question. Probably didn’t have a whole lot to do with making the move. I thought wide receivers -- those guys stepped up last week, which was good to see. I think Roy had the two catches that were significant, the one where it was on a third down. Devin did a nice job stepping up. Roy caught it well with his hands. And then Jeremy, I think, had some plays. Great throw and great double move.”
If Denard is healthy, would you consider playing both Denard and Devin at quarterback in the same game?
“Oh, I don’t know. I think that’s too far down the road. We’ll definitely have a plan for whoever.”
What is Russell’s status, and what is his standing on the depth chart?
“Uh, you know, I’m not going to address his condition.”
We got some production from both Fitz and Rawls. Will you try playing both of them moving forward?
“I think both of them, downhill running and some of the things out of the I-backs -- I thought they both ran hard. I thought both of them saw things well. Playing both of them has kind of been the plan to some degree. We just haven’t executed well enough.”
How are Fitz and Rawls meeting the “expectation for the position” at running back?
“I think they’re both -- and I’ll be honest with you -- I think they both have done a good job when they’ve been in there. I think they both have, when there’s been times where there’s enough space, they both have run hard and run downhill. We may have missed two or three cuts last week, but I like how their attitude is running the football.”
Do you address the fact that you don’t control your destiny in the division?
“We’ve always been a team that I think has worried about us. I don’t know if we’ve been a team that’s looked ahead. I don’t think we can really worry about things we can’t control, and that’s kind of how we approach it.”
Are you concerned about the offensive line at this point?
“Yeah. Yeah. I am. I think we had some protection breakdowns that we can’t have last week -- we can’t have, to some degree. I think us moving the line of scrimmage more … I think we had 155-some rushing, something near that number. How much of that was a scramble? We’d like to get more from our backs running the football. I think those two guys for the most part read things right, ran downhill. We have to do a better job at the point of attack.”
Was Hagerup out of rhythm last game?
“There’s a fundamental that every position has and a technique. I just think he, before the game, because I always check on them and see how they’re doing and go down, and I pretend to coach … I’m not a true punt coach, but he just -- the one he just swung his leg across his body, which he doesn’t do. And the other one, in my estimation, where you set the ball, he had it outside and not down the middle. So it’s a fundamental thing.”
Pass protection has been pretty good this year -- how disappointing was it to see the breakdowns?
“Well yeah. Early on and especially you have a guy starting his first game, you like for him to get his feet on the ground a little bet and get settled. And a couple things you have to give credit to Minnesota. A couple unique blitzes that I can think of that we picked up in the second half. But getting beat one-on-one in a four-man rush is something that goes back to a fundamental and technique of how you want to play the position.”
You called a lot of roll-outs for Devin. Could that be something you might do more with Denard?
“Well we were more under center with Devin, and part of that is the play-action out of the outside stretch or the inside zone or the iso plays, so a lot of those come because of underneath center. We haven’t been underneath as much with Denard in the football game because of the other elements he brings with the read play and the ride and all those things.”
Is that something you might do more in the future beyond this season?
“Oh no question. No question.”
Has it always been the plan that Devin would go back to playing quarterback?
Devin said the designed runs were limited because of the quarterback depth. How much more running could he do if there were more depth?
“Oh he can do all of them if we want him to.”
Would he do more running under ideal circumstances?
“We’ll do whatever it takes for us to win.”
Can you talk about Devin’s growth in his preparation at the position?
“I think playing receiver has helped him immensely because of how receivers practice. They’re running 40 yards every snap, and they’re running back the way Heck coaches. They’re hitting the sled. There’s a maturity that we all go through. I think there’s a mentality that you develop and so I think that’s helped him. And then take routes and coverage reads and all that and couple that with it, has helped him.”
Your defense hasn’t given up a point in the first quarter in the last seven weeks. Is there something about that?
“Why would you say that?”
“I really -- I think they’re well prepared. I think coach Mattison and that staff do an excellent job of preparing them. They do well at halftime on both sides of the ball. That’s one thing -- both sides do a great job of tweaking or adjusting. I don’t know what to attribute it to besides their preparation.”
Keith Heitzman made some plays. Talk about him?
“Yeah it was good to see him make some plays. He’s a young guy who’s kind of learning his way, to be honest with you, and getting some live action is going to do nothing but help him. He’s got the right mentality and the temperament you want in a defensive lineman. He’s going to get bigger, he’s going to get stronger over the next three years. So we’re excited about it.”
Would it be fair to say that the offense on Saturday looked the way it will eventually look starting next year?
“Well it’s more what we’ll feature, let’s put it that way, yeah.”
How often do you practice that kind of offense normally?
“We do a lot against each other, you know, when we go against each other in full on drills. Interior run stuff. We always, which is great about our offense, because they help our defense out for those teams -- the Michigan States -- that want to play with a fullback in the game. Then our offense is diverse enough that you have some of the spread elements to it.”
Who starts at quarterback today?
“Well, whoever comes out there Saturday at 12:01.”
“Today I don’t know yet. I think they’ll both, right now -- if Denard’s healthy, he’ll start.”
When you say he’s improving slowly …
“Slower than he has from the last --“
What is he able to do right now in practice?
“He was able to do everything last night.”
Normal number of reps?
“Yeah, I mean we don’t take a bunch on Sunday.”
It seemed he was taking very few snaps before the game. Is that because he knew he wasn’t going to play?
“That was most of it.”
It wasn’t because it was going to affect his injury?
“No. No. No.”
Is there any concern from the doctors that this could last the rest of the season?
Was there any possibility that he could play if he felt better during warmup?
He was doing some coaching after the interception. Did the tight end run the right route?
Would you want him to run it better?
“You always want him to reduce it a little bit.”
It seems like you sometimes option to the strong side and pull a backside guard. What do you call that play?
“It’s a ride play.”
You call it a ride?
“Yeah, it’s usually the jet ride. The big play that Nebraska ran, they run a lot of it. We’ve run a lot of it. Illinois runs it. It’s kind of the en vogue spread play.”
Have you ever considered blocking it without pulling the guard?
“Well that would be the regular jet then and a little bit of a jet read.”
What’s the balance between Devin extending plays and Devin taking sacks?
“Not to take the sack. That would be the balance. Throw the ball out of bounds.”
Did Jeremy Gallon go last night in practice?
“Yeah. A little bit. He’s just nursing an ankle.”
Is he up in the air?
“No. He’ll be all right.”
What about Mario?
“I think he’s close.”
What’s his issue?
Did he practice last night?
So he’s up in the air?
Will Russell’s issue keep him out the rest of the season?
“I don’t know.”
Jerald Robinson got more time.
“I think with Devin going over, that adds to some depth.”
What has he done to be the guy that steps up?
“I think his knowledge is probably ahead of some of the other guys a little bit, being in the offense, Darboh playing a lot on special teams, not much offensively yet, so I think that’s part of it.”
You’re getting quite a few tackles for loss, but not many sacks…
Are you happy with the penetration you’re getting on defense and pressuring the quarterback?
“I would say this, that we haven’t caused enough negative plays defensively. We haven’t forced enough turnovers from a defensive standpoint because I don’t know what our -- I think in all games we’re minus, and I think in Big Ten games we’re like a plus two maybe. I think that’s what it is. I don’t pore over stats, believe me.”
When will you know about Devin’s extra year? What is the process for that?
“You know what, I’ve always been told the process is after the eligibility, but I don’t know if that’s completely correct. I don’t know. That’s what I’ve been told.”
Does Venric Mark’s emergence at running back change what Northwestern does offensively?
“We have a five game breakdown from this year. And if you put the sixth in, you put us in. There’s some similarities, but I think the way he’s running the football, he’s a real threat because he’s -- he kind of reminds me of Abdullah a little bit. Not the biggest guy in the world, but he can really accelerate.”
In hindsight, would you have given Devin more snaps and put him in against Nebraska?
“Because we did what we did. Made that decision, felt really good about Russell.”
Are you going to consider tweaking the offensive line a little bit?
“Yeah, we’ve talked about that a little bit with Joey and Jack Miller and a couple guys, but I think again, you have to look at where we’re at, because we’ve played well up there in games also. The one thing you can’t do is -- you have to give the other team a little bit of credit. They’re good coaches, and they’re going to have a good plan.”
Have you guys started to explore Devin’s fifth year thing at all?
“We haven’t yet, no. No. There’s a process that you go through. And like I said, I was always told it was at the end of eligibility.”
So you would have no idea whether or not to be optimistic until then?
It’s a long time away, but does that change the way you prepare for next year?
“I think you answered the question. It’s a long time away.”
Patrick Omameh seems to be a pretty cerebral guy. What does he bring to the offensive line?
“Oh, you’re always going to get Patrick’s best from a preparation standpoint to a leadership standpoint. He’s cerebral -- means smart, right? He’s very intelligent. I’ve never been called that, so. But he’s truly what you want when you look at a guy who’s a leader on your football team.”