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“Thanks for coming out. We had a really, really good practice yesterday. Really liked the speed, tempo that we practiced with. Liked the execution from an offense and defensive standpoint. When you look at mistakes or missed assignments or whatever, had very minimal of those. Competed really well with each other, and I thought it was a good day. Now we have to come back and have a [good] back-to-back [practice].”
Taylor Lewan said you had an unusually high number of mistakes (23) on offense. What do you attribute that to?
“Yeah. And I don’t know if it was quite 23. There was a number of them from different guys and different plays. Some of that is you look at how much you’re doing. Maybe you have too much in, maybe they don’t undersatnd it well enough, but for a lot of it, we’re playing at night, you get a little extra time with walkthroughs. I think it always comes down to your focus on every play. When you don’t do that you’re not going to play as well.”
What are the characteristics of a great road team? Is there a process to young guys learning to play on the road?
“I’ll answer the second part first. I do think there is a little bit of a process or experiencing traveling on the road, the intensity of the travel, the business-likeness that you want to travel with. I think there’s some of that. Hopefully we are learning at a faster pace. I think good teams on the road, normally and you’ve got to take care of the football. You need to make sure that as you’re taking care of the football, that you’re running the football, which can help you a little bit, and it takes a little bit out of the home crowd. If you want to say home team advantage, because people don’t like seeing offenses just [getting] first down after first down. And defensively, don’t give up big plays, because if you give up big plays, then you really get the crowd involved.”
Is there something to playing on the road that makes you more vulnerable to turnovers?
“Shouldn’t be. The field’s the same width and length. 11 guys on each side of the ball. From my perspective, no. I’ve not really been a skill position player since seventh grade, but I don’t think so.”
Why do you think you’ve had so many problems holding onto the ball?
“Well, I wish I had the answer because the coaching is the same on both sides of the ball. We haven’t haven’t gotten many takeaways either, and that part of it is something that we’ve coached the same way just like ball security and decision-making. We’ve coached that the same way. I don’t know if I have a clear-cut answer for you. You always have to go back to the basics and back to what is important. The emphasis that you put on all the little things are what really matters. ”
Is there more emphasis on that on the road?
“I think so. I think any time, because of trying to run the ball or what you want to do more of -- can do for some degree, but staying on schedule is important from an offensive standpoint. Manageable second and third downs are always a good thing.”
A lot of people talked about the defensive effort at Notre Dame. Have you turned a corner or is it too early to say that?
“Probably too quick to say that … better. I think we played stouter up front. One of the biggest things is we were controlling the line of scrimmage and getting of the block -- there’s a difference -- and making some plays. Quinton really played his best game he’s played at Michigan in a lot of ways if you watch the tape.”
Have you done anything in practice to emphasize pressuring the quarterback?
“Uh, yeah. A little bit. I mean, not anything -- if you’re just talking defensively, we always have third down drills and first down drills and all that kind of stuff. You’re being aggressive whichever one it might be.”
Roundtree said route timing was still the biggest point of emphasis for the receivers. Is it natural that that’s still an issue? Should it be better?
“Well, I’m going to hope it’ll be better. But I think that’s always a part of it. The timing of the routes, the adjustments that you make on the fly are a big part of it because of coverage.”
Borges said during the bye he reviewed all of the offensive playcalling in road games. Do you do that on defense?
“Well Greg goes through and he has a self-scout that we all look at and what calls you’re making on first downs. Again you’ve got to be careful of that because you see so many different offenses and what people might do, so it’s going to be a little different what you’re calling against Alabama on first down, and obviously Air Force was different all together, but different from what you’d call against UMass because of the offense.”
Can you learn a lot from doing that?
“Well you do. I think you always pick up something. If you pick up one thing, that’s important, whether it’s on third and three to six, you’ve been a pressure team or you’ve played coverage or is it zone blitz or zero blitz, all those things are a part of it.”
Did Nathan Brink practice this week?
“No. No no no.”
Is he done for the season?
“There’s no new reports. ”
The BTN aired a special about the ’97 team last night. Having worked with that group, is there anything about the experience that informs the way you recruit and build your defense now?
“Hm. I’ve never thought about it. So probably not.”
Roundtree said he’s feeling as healthy as he’s felt since his knee injury. Have you seen a difference in practice?
“I think the one thing about Roy -- Is he maybe stronger? He might be. He would know that, I wouldn’t know that -- his leadership, and that’s really been since day one as a junior, that’s one reason that he’s in the jersey he’s in is because of that. He’s been a guy who you can count on any time whether it be on special teams, whether it be when a team run whatever it might be. Roy’s leadership and his commitment to his teammates, those are things that stick out to me.”
Roundtree said Borges moved him around the field a little bit last game to put him in better positions. Is that something you did consciously to get him more involved?
What kinds of strides has Courtney Avery made as a nickel corner?
“Well we haven’t played as much nickel to be honest with you right yet. UMass probably was the most we’ve played. I think he’s gotten better since the first of the year when you look at fundamentals, leverage, and the ball techniques. All the aspects that go hand in hand with it.”
That might show up a little more against Purdue.
How important is the nickel going to be?
“He’s one of 11. They’re all important. Doesn’t matter if you’re a nickelback or a nose tackle. All of them are important.”
How would you rate your safety play going into the Big Ten season?
“I think Thomas and Jordan have been pretty good. I think those two and Marvin has come a long way. He hasn’t played much safety, but the kick game is a part of it. Jarrod Wilson is a guy that has a really bright future. And Josh has played a little more. Furman. He’s doing some good things.”
Are the freshmen over the hump yet?
“No. I think that wall’s coming. I think the good thing was getting them home for 36 hours -- a lot of them -- because they’re from Ohio or Michigan. I think that helps a little bit.”
When does the wall occur?
“Oh boy. Game nine? 10?”
Is there anything you’ve seen that we’re not seeing about this team that makes you think they can challenge for the Big Ten championship?
“Yeah. I’m with them every day, which -- how they’ve come to work. I’ll tell you guys if I don’t think they came to work the way they needed to come to work. I like that. I think the guys in leadership positions and some of the guys who have played a lot of football have a lot of pride. We went back to the basics a couple weeks ago -- not that we left the basics -- but a little more competition within each other and those kinds of things, and it’s helped us. ”
What does getting back to basics mean?
“Well, more competition things where [if] you lose, you run. ‘Cause there’s consequences for winning and losing.”
When did you install that?
“I’ve done that everywhere I’ve been … We re-emphasized it. We didn’t do as much of that in fall camp as we normally would, and part of that was the running back position, how much time the freshmen missed because of finishing up classes and all that -- there’s a lot of different stuff, but we’ll never do that again. I’ll tell you that.
How much do you weigh …
“How much do I weigh!? That’s personal.”
How much do you weigh attitude vs. talent?
“Every day. Attitude is more important than talent. Much more important.”
Al talked a lot about the importance of getting Fitz going. How has he looked in practice?
“Good. He’s been more downhill in my opinion. Getting him vertically is what we need to do and what he needs to do. It’s blocking the point a little better. It’s sticking your foot in the ground as a back and not seeing a ghost. Know where you want to go with it and be physical. Come out the other end of it.”
What’s taking him so long to get to this point?
“Well I don’t know if we’ve blocked it real well to be honest with you. He missed a cut yesterday in full line drill and Jake hit him right underneath the chin. The first thing he said when you got up -- ‘cause he got up and he finished, because we finish everything we do. He ran 35 yards down the field, and I’m usually in the back kind of, and first thing he said was, ‘That’s my fault. I missed a cut.’ That’s encouraging on both parts.”
Are you in the back running the 35 yards?
“Maybe. Maybe not. You’re asking me how much I weigh, I’m not going to tell you my exercise schedule. My goodness. I appreciate everyone else not asking me about my weight.”
What position did you play in seventh grade?
“Seventh grade I was a tailback and a cornerback.”