How we doin’?
“Working at it. [/looks at SID] Give me the updates. What do I need to know? What’s my man’s name? No. 1 from our defense, he spilled some—Ambry. See, I didn’t even remember his name, so you know he’s not in the gameplan.”
Is this a double fake kind of thing?
“Alright, here we go.”
Is Brandon cleared for any kind of activity yet?
“He’s progressively getting better. He’s still in the protocol and we’ll know—it’s on an hour-to-hour and day-to-day basis where he stands, but, you know, he seems to be a lot better than what he was after Saturday.”
Is there a cutoff time where if he’s not cleared by a certain point then he won’t play Saturday?
“That’s coach Harbaugh’s decision.”
Any update on Wilton?
“Wilton, he’s been back out on the practice field and he’s looked good. Once again, that’s the head coach’s decision.”
Is it still a red jersey [non-contact] thing for Wilton?
If it is John that has to play on Saturday, how do you feel that he’s—do you feel that he’ll be ready for that challenge?
“Yeah, I think he’ll be ready. It’s not like this is his first time playing. We’ve still got a lot of practice in front of us and it’s important that we go out and we have a few good days of practice and we’ll see where we stand.”
[After THE JUMP: the tea leaves, they are read]
What kind of challenges does that Ohio State defensive front present for you on the offense?
“Yeah, easily one of the best defensive fronts in all of college football. They can rotate as many as eight guys in and affect your quarterback and shed blocks and disrupt your running game. They’re a very good football team.”
You talked a lot about the young players on the radio the other day. Having so many young players and going up against such a highly rated defense, how do you teach guys like Donovan to be able to get off those jams and get through and play up to this big game?
“Well, since day one we’ve worked on the fundamental and technical things that we feel like our players are going to need to do to be successful. But you can’t teach experience, and I think Donovan specifically, he’s accumulated a lot of reps and experience to get to the point where we feel like he’ll go out and make big plays for us against a good opponent.
“You’ve got potentially a young quarterback playing in Brandon, but one thing that I know about Brandon is that he’s one of the smartest football players I’ve ever coached. He’s cerebral. He has a great memory. I would compare his memory to a quarterback that I coached once in Indy. Just a guy that can retain a lot of information and process a lot of information on the fly, so we have players that are tough and smart and even though they’re young they’ll go out and make plays for us.”
You said on the radio that it took a while to adjust to Brandon’s personality or demeanor or whatever. Did that really click for you once he got into a game or was there a moment before that where you started to understand where he comes from?
“Well, I think just the dynamics of the quarterback room and quarterback group, you know, a lot of times when you’re not the guy you sit back and wait and you’re not as assertive, but since he’s had an opportunity to play and be the starter, he’s always into it. He’s an astute listener and he’s a guy that, once again, he’ll remember things that I said back in training camp and that’s really just a testament to how bright and how smart and how cerebral he is.”
Coach Harbaugh mentioned that there are different steps to that concussion protocol. There’s getting cleared the first time, then having to go through cardio and weights and that kind of thing. Has Brandon passed the first half of that and moved onto doing some light activity in practice?
“Yeah, that’s for—coach Harbaugh would have to tell you where he is as far as the protocol. I just… when he’s ready to come out and play, I’ll have him ready to play.”
Heard a lot of the offensive players talk about how it’s been just little things that have held the offense back. What are some of those little things and what can you do to overcome those small hurdles coming into this game?
“A lot of our players have been learning on the job and we’ve made progress, but at times it’s hard to find consistency without continuity. We’ve had attrition, we’ve had guys that have been in and out of the lineup, and unfortunately we’ve had to replace young guys with more young guys so you hit reset in a lot of cases where you go into a game or you go into a situation where it’s the first time. Even though they’ve practiced a lot of the different things we ask them to do, it’s just a different feeling, a different level of speed, and it’s a different environment for them on game day. But we have guys that are extremely talented. Just the more they play, the better that they will play.”
With a lot of these guys, as you said, learning on the job. You just got here in January or February, in the winter; you didn’t have previous relationships with them, didn’t recruit them—how tough has this year been for you?
“It hasn’t been tough at all. These guys are into it. They want to do well, you know. They want to do well. I think the toughest part is having to accept we’re not able to go out all the time and play as consistently as we should, and that’s our job as coaches to continue to develop these guys and teach them and challenge them to go out and do the things that we know that they’re going to have to do to be successful on game day.”
If Brandon and Wilton are both not able to go, would Alex Malzone be your backup quarterback on Saturday?
“Haven’t thought about it yet.”
What do you need to see out of your receivers at this point?
“Just go out and make plays. Make plays with the play and make plays without the ball. It’s important for us as an offense to be efficient on first and second down, so if that’s running the football it’s running the football and the receivers have to get blocks downfield. If it’s throwing the football, they have to win their one-on-one matchups and make plays.”
How has Brandon handled this whole week?
“Um, he is still in the protocol.”
You said Monday night you want to win these next two games and go into the offseason with an established quarterback. If I’m reading between the lines, is that Brandon?
“Only time will tell. Still have a game to play on Saturday and then we’ll see what happens after that.”
I’m asking because John O’Korn, he’s not going to be here, so you were talking about the future going into the offseason—
Is that a problem?
“No problem, just lost track of what you asked me and you saying…”
I was just quoting you from Monday night. You had said—
“I said a lot Monday night.”
You said a lot. You said you wanted a quar—
“You know, that was iced tea. That wasn’t a Jack and Coke. Go ahead.”
Reading between the lines, it can’t be O’Korn because he won’t be here, we don’t know what Wilton’s status is, and I was wondering when you said you want to win these next two games and go into the offseason with an established—
“I was saying that would be ideal, yeah.”
I read it as the only person possible to be that person was Brandon.
“There you go. Alright. Or Wilton. You never know.”
If he’s cleared.
“If he’s cleared, yeah. Or Alex Malzone.”