“Who’s kicking us off? No questions? Okay, great!”
Thoughts on Michigan State’s defense?
“They’re very good. They’re very good. They’re very fundamentally sound. They know exactly their assignments. They know where they’re vulnerable because they’ve run the same defense, or very similar defense, for so many years.
“I remember playing them in 2009 when I was at Minnesota, and looking back at that there’s so many similarities in regards to what they’re doing. Fun to see. Fun for the challenge, but they’re awfully good. They’re awfully good.”
Jake [Rudock] was kind of reticent to take any label: game manager, whatever type quarterback. How would you describe him and his style as a quarterback?
“Yeah, I don’t- I’m not a big fan, I guess, of that particular title. I think it does not give them the same credit. Sometimes you kind of lose that type of credit on that, but I don’t know. I think he does a very good job.
“He’s a good leader. He has been completing a lot of passes. He’s been smart with the football. He’s done a lot of things you would expect someone that’s a fifth-year player to do: be able to bounce back from a three-interception game opening night and play five games and throw three combined since then I think, and one of them was kind of a fluky play. So, I think he’s mature. I think he can make all the throws. I think he can make all the reads and just continue to lead our football team.”
Is Michigan State’s defensive line the best you’re going to face this year?
“Well, I don’t know. They’re good. They’re really good. I don’t know about the best or not the best. I feel like we’ve gone against some really, really good ones.
“I thought Utah’s defensive line was really, really good. I thought last week they created a lot of challenges for a lot of teams. I thought Maryland has a really good defensive line, so I don’t know. There are a lot of good defensive lines.
“Obviously this is a good football team we’re playing. We know that. It’s going to be a great challenge for our guys.”
[After THE JUMP: A great Steve Spurrier story]
What specifically are some of the similarities you saw in Michigan State’s defense over the years?
“They play similar fronts and coverages. Coach Dantonio has kind of- it seems like he’s kept the system the same when coach Narduzzi left. Very similar in what they do. They’re a quarters team. They mix in some other coverages. Play a four-down front, and then mix in some odd at times. But they’re just, they’re very good at what they do. They have an identity. It’s very clear. They’ve won a lot of games with that defense and a lot of teams have tried to replicate that defense.”
Does that make it easier or give you an edge in preparing if you can look at a game from last year or, like you said, six years ago when you were at Minnesota?
“Well, I don’t know. You look at the games they’ve played this year because you’re looking at the players they have. It’s a totally different team. But you just look at their defense and what they’ve had to defend, and they’ve defended it all.
“I think really they have a great edge there. They’ve probably seen every possible run and every possible route combination and been able to find ways to defend all of them, so they obviously have a great advantage of being in the same system for so many years.”
We’ve seen so many different formations and all different kinds of things you guys have thrown out there. Is part of the intent to just throw so many ideas and looks at people that it’s hard for them to know what’s coming?
“I think for us what our philosophy has always been on offense is we’re very gameplan specific. We’re going to try to come up with the best possible formations for the team we’re playing, and with that whatever concepts that go along with those formations. So, we have had a lot of different personnel groupings and formations and concepts, and that’s going to be our identity. We’re going to be somebody that’s going to find ways the best we can to put our guys in the best possible position to succeed, and with that comes a variety of formations.”
Are those lessons learned from you guys being in the NFL?
“I don’t know, I kind of think that everyone’s always done that in terms of our group, so there’s nothing really too rare. In terms of what we’ve done when we were at different places and then been together, we’ve kind of all seen it the same way that you want to put your guys- find the formations that give us the best possible opportunity to move the ball against the defense.”
How have the players been adjusting to that? Jake Butt said he loves having all that in the arsenal, but it does require a lot of focus during the week.
“Yeah, it does. It does. I think that makes it great. I remember coach Gruden came out and talked about it years ago: you can walk into a huddle and just say a couple words, or you can walk into a huddle and rip out a long play call and really what it does is it challenges your guys to go home at night and make sure football’s always on their mind.
“And it makes sure the quarterback has instant credibility when he walks into the huddle and they spit out a nice long one. Makes it look like they’re preparing extra hard, and then on the same token football never leaves their mind when they never think they’ve arrived.
“I think that’s so important, that our guys need to understand that it just can’t be a 20-hour week [thing] in terms of with us. It’s got to be when they get home they’ve got to look at it and they’ve got to prepare, and that’s the best chance to succeed.”
Jim said Monday that Jake doesn’t get rattled. He said he hasn’t seen him panic or anything like that. What have you noticed from him, especially with week one probably not being the debut he wanted and then these past five weeks being fairly steady?
“Yeah, I mean, he does. He has great poise and he’s under control. He doesn’t really worry about much at all. Like, I grew up and my first head coach I ever worked with was Steve Spurrier, so I’ve seen guys coach quarterbacks really hard and be very difficult on them.
“No matter how hard or how difficult I am with him it does not bother him. It really doesn’t. He just handles it extremely well, bounces right back. And even the Utah game, no matter what happened. First drive of the game, we drove all the way down and then we ended up throwing an interception. Doesn’t phase him. I think it’s his maturity. I think he’s done it now for three years as a starter in the Big Ten and he’s just a smart, mature guy.”
Jim also said on his show Monday night that he does try to say things to rattle Jake during practice. Do you do that as well, and what kind of things?
“Well, I think we’re constantly on a quest for perfection and a quest for excellence, so every single play you’re coaching these guys. I mean, every play that’s kind of how we do it. It’s not always perfect in practice. It’s not always perfect in games, so we’re constantly correcting and teaching and telling him and asking him and challenging him and wondering why.
“I think the most important thing is you’ve got to be able to answer why. ‘Why’d you throw it there? What’d you see?’ You have to have an answer. If you have an answer, we can help. If you don’t have an answer, then it’s a matter of you just predetermined the decision, and that’s what we always try to avoid.”
And he always has an answer?
“No, no. We try to avoid the predetermined decision and we try to help him. If he doesn’t have an answer or says, ‘I just kind of thought…’ that’s really when you can get after him and help him get to that point that in the game he always has a reason why.”
Is there a different intensity in the building this week?
“No. Not that I’ve noticed. We kind of don’t- I don’t know, there’s always an intensity in this building. There’s a determination to win every game and play as hard as we possibly can. I haven’t seen much of a difference because of the fact that that would kind of go against our whole philosophy.
“Our philosophy is every week is the most important week, and every game is the most important game. We don’t want to prepare harder this week than we did last week because then we didn’t give 100% last week. But what we do want to do is get better this week than we did last week, and we think that comes from repetition.”
I don’t know how much live one-on-one stuff you guys do, but with everything that’s being made of the defense is there a residual benefit going against such a high quality defense?
“Yeah, I think that’s a great question. Yes, there is. When you practice against it you do one-on-ones: you do wide receivers against defensive backs, you do O-line versus D-line, you do live periods of team one versus their starting defense and all of that helps. All of that makes you better.
“We’re going against a great defense every day, and it challenges our wide receivers to continue to compete. I think our receivers play better because of that, and you’re playing against a lot of man coverage so you’re really going one-on-one a lot, and that has been a huge benefit for us on how good our defense is and how well they’re playing.”
Your thoughts on Spurrier?
“Oh, well, sad because of the fact that every single Saturday for the last 15 years the first score I’d check other than the one that I was coaching in was his, so it’s going to be a little different. In that regard, I really believe I owe my career to him. With that being said, the idea that he’s no longer coaching is…good for him if he’s happy and if that’s really what he wanted to do, and that is definitely what he wanted to do was to walk away at this point in time. I just think he had an amazing career. He’s one of the best ever to coach the game, and I just will make sure I keep all the film so I can keep watching all the stuff that he’s done.”
Do you have a favorite Spurrier story? Seems like a lot of good ones out there this week.
“Oh man, there are some good- there are some great ones, that’s for sure! I really think the one thing I’ll never forget is that he was one his way to my wedding, and he was going over the Delaware Memorial bridge and kind of ended up in Pennsylvania rather than New Jersey and he called and asked me for directions and I had no idea where he was. Then he called back and asked for directions and I had no idea where he was, and he was just lost.
“Then he called and I said, ‘Well, let me give the phone to my dad.’ I gave the phone to my dad and my dad goes, ‘I think you should pull over to a gas station, ask for a map, and look at that’ and he said, ‘Finally, someone smart in your family!’ I’ll just never forget that that was his reaction.
“I guess I probably could have done that earlier. He’s just…he’s just such an amazing guy, and the idea that he came to my wedding was awesome to begin with. We have fond memories and owe the world to him.”
Joe Kerridge: What does he bring to the offense? Obviously he had a big play last week.
“Yeah, he had a big play. He brings a ton to the offense. Obviously he’s a team captain, so his leadership. He just had a couple weeks of being injured, so he just missed out. Fullback’s a huge part of our offense, as all of you guys know. So, he’s in the game a lot and right now rotating reps. But his toughness, his work ethic, his character, his leadership, his ability to catch, run, block- kind of multi-dimensional in that regard, so there’s great value with him.”