Kevin Wilson touched on several topics Monday night in his Media Day interview with the media. Here's some of the highlights of that conversation.
I think Urban Meyer said the next three weeks are going to make or break every team in American. He was talking about preseason numbers. Is that just because there's so many more practices concentrated as opposed to the rest of the season, or how do you see that and what do you want to get done in these three weeks?
Well, in our world with the four non conference games at home, and to have the season you want to have, you've got to start fast,'' Wilson said. "So are we good enough to be off base and play at a high level and get the wins you want because of your talent or the match up in the schedule? I don't know, and believe, quote, I don't know what mid season form is. But I do think we need to, quote, start fast, and I think that's one of the exciting things of our schedule.
"We open up with an in state team. We played Indiana State last year so we know them. We know the match up. We know how it went. We've got Navy the next week. We know how it went. We have Bowling Green the next week, and then Missouri. So to me it should excite our players.
"What I think happens is in two-a-days our guys lift and train, but we pop those pads, and when you pop those pads there's a physical presence that no matter what your defense or offense is or your kicking, your team has to have. And when you pop your pads, you've got to re-establish what that is, and it's a snowball that either melts or it gets bigger as it rolls downhill and it gains momentum. And I think if you do things right, you physically get stronger and tougher, and it grows.
"Now, you can't beat your team up, but if you don't lay that foundation of what we're going to stand on and kind of build that, you're not going to have the team, whether you're spread or I, three man front, four man front, blitzing or not blitzing. If you don't have a physical presence, it's hard to be good in college football and it is impossible to be good in this league if you don't have a physical presence.
"That doesn't mean running the ball; the way you make competitive 3rd downs and scoring and game changing plays. So you pop those pads. Now you've got them on and we all get 29 (practices). We all get 29 opportunities, and they're all scrimmages. We've been in two helmets and two shoulder pads, but you're building the attitude. Running good football and playing good defense more than anything else, and that's the two things our program doesn't do good yet. Those things are attitude more than scheme and more than players.
There's a mindset that says how I play D and there's a mindset that says because those two things are physical, combative. You're willing yourself that we're going to do something, and for us to make strides, we're stronger, more mature, but that to me is what the beauty of preseason is about. Also with so many guys coming back you also want to be fresh, so how do you build this toughness and stay fresh?
"As a coach you're always learning. I will say the guy I worked with at Oklahoma was as good as I've ever seen, and I've worked with a lot of coaches, but how to be tough, demanding, but how to keep guys mentally and physically fresh. He had a gift in that deal. He was special. We're trying to see if we can get that as a gift in players, but that was a unique deal. ‘'
You talked about the physical strength of this team. How have you seen that manifest on the field so far without full pads.
"One, I see us playing on our feet a lot more, where guys are strong to stay up because in our world sometimes, and it's a bad deal you stay up, your pad level gets high, your D line gets high, your O line gets high, your backs have to run too high,'' Wilson said. "There's a pad level you've got to play with. Even we're talking about targeting and helmets, still the guy with leverage wins.
"But when you play so low you're following the friendly fire, and it's not the running back that gets tackles. It's getting thrown into a D line, my buddy's knee, my safety, my buddy's knee. So staying on our feet shows me we're a lot stronger because you're not stumble bumming around and falling all over the place, and I'm talking about there's 22 guys flying around running, and you see some guys physical, staying on blocks, getting off blocks and at the end of the play there's 22 guys that look kind of good moving around and staying up.
"We haven't done enough full go yet to say why; I just feel the line of scrimmage. But again, for example, I notice our receivers. I see guys catching the ball near the sidelines and they're strong enough they're staying inbounds because the sideline never misses a tackle. So one of our gigs is you should never run out of bounds when we're practicing unless we're practicing two minute. So when we're practicing, get used to making guys make tackles. So I see guys fighting to do that.
"And again, just in general, I mean, we've played basically the first two years without a 300 pound O lineman. We'll average more than that this year, so we're getting there. And what's exciting is these big guys are getting bigger, and we don't have a senior in the crowd. So we've even got more time. The deal is we're starting at a good place and how far we can go, and no matter how far we go we keep going because there's a lot of growth as we keep moving. The deal is can we keep growing? It's going to be a challenge.
What do you think about playing on Thursday night and are you happy to do it at the beginning of the season rather than having it be disruptive somewhere else in the season?
"Yeah, I'm the person that wanted to play on Thursday because I wanted a few more days to transition to the second game against Navy,'' Wilson said. "It's not slighting Indiana State. They had the ball with a chance to tie or win the game on us last year. But to get ready for that option, it's two more days of preparation, and we do some things. We did a little bit today. We have a segment that we do, but it was really to play. You make more strides from week one to week two, and we're also playing, because I asked really for two things when I got here. I said I need these guys as strength coaches, and when you play an option football team, it's a total waste of what you do defensively. You change philosophy wise everything you do. From a D line perspective to a linebacker's perspective, it doesn't fit. So it's seven days of waste, okay, and those guys, they're awesome.
"So the real deal, we're playing Thursday night. Looked like last year we're playing for a chance to control our destiny and 24,000 people came. So I don't know who's coming anyway. So it wasn't about crowd, it was not slighting Indiana State, it was getting ready to play Navy, and I pushed for that as hard as I could because I thought it was best for our program, and that's not a slight of Indiana State because we saw last year what those guys and Shakir Bell can do. So it wasn't a slight to them, but playing Navy's opener, for this team to be successful, we need to start well and do our best against those teams, and they're going to be a challenge. You saw what Indiana State did last year; we saw Navy, that's a bowl game; Bowling Green is a bowl game, as good a team as has beaten us; and then here comes a Missouri that's a very talented SEC. We need to get those games."Again in doing that, I wanted two more days, and so we'll got through preseason. Then we'll have game week, Indiana State, and what we'll do out of that, we'll have a Saturday Sunday, take Monday off and then a Tuesday Wednesday so it's not like an open date but I'm still in to really change gears. The best thing is not the Thursday night game first or middle of the year. The best deal is we get the option over with earlier because last year I kept having to do it so now, I will say this. We use the option to try to get the offense to understand a little bit of pad level because the way we play, you can play high, so I don't use that as a negative. But I appreciate our administration and the Big Ten Network giving us that opportunity because I think it's in the best interest of our kids and we've still got to go play. There's no guarantees, but that's going to be big for us.
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