Kevin Wilson talked a little bit about Indiana State and a lot about running back Shakir Bell in his weekly press conference on Friday. It's safe to say that no one on the IU staff has forgotten that Bell ran for 192 yards on 24 carries and scored a 54 yard touchdown run in the opener against Indiana last season.
Here's what Wilson had to say about the Sycamores:
"Indiana State is coming in,'' Wilson said. "Coach Sanford is in his first year and it's always difficult in an opener. You don't know what you've got. New staff, you're not sure what you've got because no matter what they've done it's always independent of what you've got coming in. So he might have been a guy that didn't run the quarterback a lot that runs it a lot. Never played with tight ends, got a couple good tight ends. Defense, we were always a four man front, but we don't have enough linemen, we're in three man. We used to blitz a lot, hey, we can't cover, we're not blitzing. Every team is different first year because every coach you go back, it's one of the hardest games to prepare for. You're looking at this, the special teams guy came from here. The offensive line coordinator came from here. Head coach it's like you're looking at 12 teams. I mean, it's painful for me, and you're watching guys that you're not even, I'm watching some guy we're never even going to see this dude. Who's this No. 52? Shoot, he plays at some school halfway across the country.
"So the game planning is a little bit more you've got to be ready for everything, and you'd better concentrate on yourself and make sure you're ready. So we need to be ready for imbalanced formations. We need to be ready for, like this week our defense put in blitzes and didn't tell the offense they were doing it because the offense had to adjust. Last night we did a couple formations the defense hadn't seen because all of a sudden you're going to have to line up and adjust. We'll probably get the same thing from Navy, because again, in their opener there's always wrinkles that you've got early.''
Wilson had nothing but praise for former Warren Central running back Bell."Their offense is led by a great running back, one of the premier players in the FCS, one of the premier players in college ball,'' Wilson said. "He'll be an NFL player, kid out of our state, was recruited before I got here. He looks to me as good or better than guys we've played with, a Big Ten level back, and that's a credit, again, previously to all their linemen and what they've done in the past. Shakir Bell is a tremendous player. He is basically a Heisman Trophy type player in that division of football, and again, they've previously they've built that program in the last couple years being a top 25 team, played us last year to a seven point game, came in last year to win the game.
"And they'll come in this year to win the game. It'll be an exciting game for their players, brand new coaching staff, a lot of ties to State. It'll be a difficult challenge, and it's a team we're not slighting. Again, we're playing this first game early for preparation for the second game.''
Wilson talked about how the Indiana State game was able to stay on the schedule.
"I called Coach Sanford and said I want to do this, and he said, I want to, too,'' Wilson said. "As a matter of fact, then he called me a week later to talk about a job, a recommendation. He said, did my AD call you about playing this game early, because you make strides from week one to week two, and you get two more practice days with a coaching change and what we're doing, I think it's great for both teams. I hope it'll be great for our fan base. I know that Thursday is not great for everybody's work schedule, but it is Labor Day weekend. Student body, if it's important to you as a fan, no matter what team you're on, you'll be here. It ought to be a great little game for this region, and I say it because moving forward by 2016 we will not be allowed to play them. The new rules, Big Ten is not going to be allowed to play FCS opponents.
"To me it's a great opportunity. For them it's a great opportunity. It's a great opportunity for our fan bases in our region. Again, appreciate your coverage here as media guys and treating both teams with great respect, and again looking forward to a big week, an opening game and a great challenge from a team we've got a lot of respect for. ‘'
Specifically, when talking about Bell here's what Wilson had to say.
"It'll be a great test because he's proven they've always been committed to the run,'' Wilson said. "Those linemen are used to it, so even though it's a coaching change, that's an environment that was used to running the football, and running is more attitude than mindset, than scheming. Stopping the run is the same deal; no matter the coverage, the front, the blocking, the scheme, whatever. There's a mindset that says we're going to run or we're going to stop the run. One, that's going to be a good challenge; and two, to be good moving forward, to be good in this league we've got to play better run defense.
"So it'll be a nice here's where we're at. But no matter where it is when we start we'll need to continue that through the year because I always have said you probably caught onto it, I think you build your toughness through each day, through each week, through the season, and to me when we're talking toughness it's physical plays, running, stopping the run, short yardage offense, short yardage defense, scoring zone. If you play good score zone defense that means they're not running the ball too well. If you can score a lot of points that means you've got a little bit of a run game because those spaces get tighter in those deals.''
Wilson said facing a back like Bell will tell the Hoosiers staff exactly where they are. Having just faced Bell and the Sycamores last year, Indiana will have a quick apples and apples comparison.
"To me it's going to be a great starting point,'' Wilson said. "I don't know if it's a pure indicator. It'll let us know where we're at, and not just in the run game, the whole team. When we go from week one, the things we need to improve on, because we'll have the advantage. There's two advantages going into the second week in our world playing Navy. They don't have a game, we don't know what we're doing. We'll also have an advantage of really showing our kids things we need to improve on, so it's going to be a great starting point with Indiana State.
"And again, whether, if we can win 3-2, we need to get a W, and it needs to be a physical style of play to get a W, and I expect those guys to come in and play a tremendous game, and our whole deal this week now is we've worked very, very hard. You don't get do overs in this. A lot of sports there's double headers, home and homes and tournaments. I showed a clip to our team the other day of a guy's comments, you practice a lot more football than you ever play. So the real deal is not just stopping the run or Shakir Bell, it's us playing as good as game as we can to get this first win because you don't get these games back, and from that we'll have great teaching points to emphasize and grow into week two, three, four, and see where we can take these guys.''
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