This is Part 2 of Indiana coach Kevin Wilson's weekly press conference with Wilson's answers to questions from the IU media looking back at Missouri, talking about the bye week last week and looking ahead to Saturday's game with Penn State.
(You said that you went back and you looked at what you liked and didn't like over the first four games. What were the things that you liked and didn't like?)
WILSON: Well, again, for example, we got to keep working on our third downs. We're doing okay, but conversions, when we're stopping drives, getting off the field, continuing drives on offense, we're about 50 percent there. We've got to be a little bit better than that. That's a decent number.
The games that we've shown that we've had run game and balance, same thing defensively. The games that we played a little bit better run defense, we've made the team a little bit more one dimensional; the games we've struggled, it's been our inability to run and stop the run. And then with that our opponents have been able to have kind of their way with us.
We talked a lot. We played four games, and we've spotted a touchdown each game that's a non-defensive touchdown. So we're basically starting the game down seven points the way we're playing. We talked a lot, worked a lot on not just ball security, because there haven't been fumbles. We had one off the kickoff and we had a punt block. But just taking care of the ball, center/quarterback exchange, short yardages. You saw that last night if you saw the Patriots and the Falcons game. You know, best players in the world, the game's on the line, no short yardage plays. We have a couple center/quarterback exchanges, you kind of keep working on those things.
What I think we've gotten consistently is that our kids have given us great effort. I think we have great attitude with our guys. And we're looking to make sure we put our young guys defensively in places where they know what to do and they can attack. Offensively we keep finding a way to have some balance and take care of the ball.
(Does Penn State remind you of anyone you've played this year?)
WILSON: They'll be Missouri was talented, but they'll be as talented. It's a young quarterback versus a veteran. Maybe not as much running quarterback as they did, but different scheme where they're going to throw it to some nice players in space and they complement it with the running game, so maybe a different style running attack, but they have similar balance on offense. And, again, they're very stout and strong defensively. A little different than Missouri, but talented like that. And, again, to me it looks like it's year two, so you can't say it's a typical Coach O'Brien team because you've only seen a year and three games of that or four games of that. But his teams have his background has always been to play solid on offense, and Penn State has always been solid and strong on D.
They're a complete team. We'll need to have, again, a very solid performance. If we're one dimensional, we will struggle. If we turn the ball over minus three, we're going to struggle if we don't have the kick play. Again, they're going to stress us to play a complete game, but that's the nature of the Big Ten and it will be backed up the following week and the week and the weeks to come. Every team has different strength levels of O and D and skill guys and maturity, but we're getting into Big Ten play, so it's going to be a good team and a good challenge for us.
(Receivers like Robinson's sort of build and frame, just those big tall guys have been a problem for your defense the last couple years. Is that maybe where that position is just going now? It feels like the value placed on a 6'3", 6'4" wide receiver with those kind of physical tools is maybe more than it was five, 10 years ago.)
WILSON: Well, and, again, I haven't necessarily stood beside him. I don't know if I would call him a big guy. Not that he's small. I think he's a solid size guy. I wouldn't consider him a 6'4" big guy. He's got great leaps and great speed and very dynamic, his ability to adjust on the ball and make plays in space and all that.
But I think the thing you're saying, I think there's different types of players. And, for example, they've got a nice balance at running back where they've got a big back that's 240 pounds that gets behind his pads. The next two guys come in and play physical, but it's a nice change of speed and small guys. I think you've got that at receiver.
I know in our recruiting efforts we don't want everyone to be big. We don't want everyone to be small. There's a little diversity that you're looking for. And really they're two tight ends are actually their big receivers. Jessie James, 18, and 87, maybe is their best catch receiver, are almost like the big Ted Bolser who's almost like a big receiver, per se, playing tight end.
That's where the real hype that you're talking about is like. And I think with Lewis, No. 7, and Robinson, 8, they got some nice size, but they got some good speed outside, which is what you like. You be careful you don't get too many big guys because you lose a little quickness. There's a balance I think that everyone's looking for in their receiving corps, and I think they got it. That's why I think they're so dynamic across the board. They've got a nice little collage of what they put out. I think we have the same kind of thing that we put out there for our guys. They're all kind of unique and a little different in the matchups.
( Can you talk about just trying to be consistent in run defense. Is there a trend to when you guys are struggling versus the run, is there a common theme for why you struggle?)
WILSON: My opinion, we've looked very hard just conceptually to make sure that what we're doing, our kids understand our calls, our alignments and where to go and how to play the structure of the defense right. I don't think we've played structurally sound and as clean as we need to. And I think, again, you go through and you got some young guys and you want to do some things to, quote, take advantage or sometimes maybe even disguise what you can't do. If you're not careful, you over scheme.
And so to me we've had significant amount of miscommunication, misalignment, and we're not as sound as we need to be, versus we're getting totally blocked all the time. We got guys not hitting right gaps and guys trying to make plays. Hey, I want to make this tackle and I peek inside and I get hooked, or same time I'm supposed to go outside and keep the run turned in, I'm peeking inside trying to make the play. Our thing defensively, and we've put a fair amount of time and some energy into it this week, is to make sure we're getting lined up a lot cleaner and giving our guys a chance to know what they're doing and being a little bit more aggressive in what we're doing.
(You mentioned Hackenberg a little bit earlier. After coaching Tre and Nate as they were freshmen quarterbacks playing quite a bit, where does Hackenberg kind of compare to Nate last year, to Tre two years ago, in terms of freshman playing quite a bit at quarterback?)
WILSON: Well, it's hard to answer truly because I just watched their tape, but he is very talented, one; he's very well coached, two; and then he's playing in a package where they're going to play the game and their rhythm to get him in rhythm.
Whether it be what they're doing to temper your rush, run the football, have the balance, take the shots they need to, throw the high percentage plays, it's a part of him being very, very good, very well coached, but putting the pieces together. And in their package and with the players they do it with, they're a very well rounded, very solid offensive football team. They're very good. And he does a nice job managing all that as a young man.
Young players force it, and I think they've taught him how to manage and take what's there. And he's not been very greedy or unsure with the ball. He's been pretty smart with what he's done. That's a little bit of coach as an offensive coach, you watch teams all the time and you watch defenses getting ready. Well, you like to watch certain offenses, and I've always we visited those guys when he and Josh McDaniels were up at the Patriots, just to you know, you want to watch Tom Brady and you always watch those guys. So you always watch good offenses, and he's always been a part of good offenses.
I remember, shoot, I want to say Coach was at Duke years ago and I went back home and went by Duke and NC State and he was over there at the time, so always respected Bill. Again, a lot of it is just a part of he's really good within a very good package and he's well coached.
(It feels like I guess they haven't asked him to do too much this year at quarterback position. Is it something where maybe can you get him into maybe spots where you can challenge him to have to make a deep throw or have to make a really critical decision like that? Feels like they've been good in their wins especially maybe keeping those more tense situations off his plate, Hackenberg.)
WILSON: And that's a product of how they play as a team. Their defense has done well and they've kept the other team off the scoreboard. They played the games in their terms. Can we do that? That's always a challenge of any week, getting someone where you're making guys make stressful plays. And you want to stress out a quarterback in an offensive line. You don't want to stress yours out. There's certain positions you want to attack, and it's your ability as a coach. And that's a part of their package. They do a good job of getting themselves in rhythm and playing on their terms. And that's why they're very, very successful. And then they throw it to some quality players.
Now, I'm not sitting there, but to sit here and say he's not doing a lot I don't know is fair. If you sit there and look, I think there's a fair amount where he's getting them in the right place or here comes the pressure and you see him making the proper hot throws. Hey, I've got something, I've got something working here, here comes a problem, here's my answer over here, and you see him doing that. Again, he's a very mature from afar when I watch, you just look at body language, he's a very mature kid that doesn't appear to get rattled. And I think there will be more and more on him as he comes, but as a young he's not sitting there reading at the third grade level of quarterback play. He's at a very high level for a young guy. And I think open day week they'll probably advance and even put more on his plate. But it looks like he adjusts plays, he adjusts protections, he knows huts in a good way. And, again, he's a quality, good young player. Very good.
(When you talk about guys peeking in the back field or taking a look somewhere where they shouldn't, how much of that is because they're not quite sure that the guy next to them is going to be making the play so they're trying to overcompensate?)
WILSON: A little bit a great point, and not always right, but is right a lot. And so by, you know the word is called "eye discipline." You put your eyes where they're supposed to, and you need to be in your gap, you need your eyes where you're supposed to. And there's things guys are doing to say, hey, if it's a run, where's my run? If it's a pass, am I relating to No. 1, 2, 3? Am I a hook curl player? Am I a flat player? Am I a deep player? Am I a run fit player? And, again, that's what to me we have tried to this week correct. Not mistakes we've made, but just make corrections on where we're supposed to be, playing your gap, playing the structure, and your eyes are a part of the structure because your eyes tell you to run or pass fits in the back seven that you're supposed to do.
(You talked about balance at running back. What's it mean to them to have a group of tailbacks healthy?)
COACH WILSON: Their third back Lynch is about the same as Belton. So, to me, I don't care who you're playing or what you're trying to do offensively, if you can get your run game going to, quote, have balance. To me it's not the 50/50 deal or the yards per carry or equal calls, you're productive in the run game and then you can protect and you're productive in the pass game. And you saw an offense a week ago with a little bit more of a quarterback run throughout and spread, but it was predicated on trying to have balance. They're very much the same kind of team.
And it will be a we will need to you got to take care of Hackenberg. You've got maybe the premier receiver in the league, couple quality tight ends, a young kid at receiver they like, but you've got to do everything you can to play much better run defense to give us a chance this week. And we've got to find a way to run the ball. Those are going to be challenges. That's why we worked all spring preseason to evolve there. We're still evolving there. And it will be a challenge against their front to run the ball, be a challenge to stop their run, but we're going to have to have the success. And we've not only talked about it, we've worked at it, we've identified how we want to approach it, and we'll see what tries we've made here in 14 days from last time to this one.
( How much maybe that running game needs to be persistence and being willing to just run it, take three yards, run it again, take three yards, that sort of thing, just in terms of maybe going more to the run game just as a force of habit?)
WILSON: It's what you want. And, again, you've got to stay but sometimes we're doing those running games, maybe those little play actions are off of it and those high percentage throws, and sometimes those can become a little bit of our run game, and those need to be pretty consistent. If we're spitting the ball outside because it's a loaded box or a run pass combo, you've got to execute the pass part of that to keep the run game going. Because if you don't occupy the perimeter part of that run game with the way we complement with passing, they can continue to load the box and just put numbers on you.
And then if that's the case, then you start dropping back. And that's what happened last week. Then all of a sudden they start teeing off on your front and your quarterback's not throwing in rhythm because the protection is breaking down. It's a little bit of persistence, but it's also execution and getting this line to continue to grow a little bit, and we've got to get a lot better there.
(On Allen Robinson)
WILSON: You know, he's a well, again, from afar, it looks like he's a tremendous competitor and he likes to play and wants the ball. Don't know that unless you got him every day, looking at him. But from afar, when you look at, that's the opinion you get. His skill set is very, very good. A basketball guy that I think understands space. I think was a very talented basketball player in high school, so I think his feel of space and leverage and how to work and how to make some acrobatic plays even though I don't think he's maybe the biggest receiver, he does have some substance so he can make competitive plays. He's a quality complete football player receiver. There might be faster guys, there might be bigger guys, but when he puts it all together, he's one of the better receivers in the country.
(Back on injuries. You said everybody else is probable. Does that mean Bernard Taylor is good to go?)
WILSON: He's practiced. And, again, same time, I think Jake Reed has played pretty good too, so it's a little bit of competition there. And got Alex Todd back in there playing last game and all those guys kind of came out of it okay, but we're going to keep bringing some of those young D lines. It's a little bit of some of the guys who've came in and played well. Right now I don't think Jake Reed has played poorly. He's a very young, talented guy. I felt coming out of two a days he was as good as Bernard. It will kind of just be based on Bernard's practice play.
Again, we'll need a good week of practice. Very good challenge, good team, but looking forward to a great opportunity against a good opponent this week.
(You talked about in order to have confidence you have to win; you have to win in order to gain confidence. Going into a game like this, Indiana has never beaten Penn State, does that feel like that is something the team just has to overcome? To be able to break through, you're going to have to win a game like this?)
WILSON: Yeah, and we talked about it because we knew that point was going to be made. To me, whether you've won in the past this team has never beaten this team and it's this team, and so we talk about this team. The dynamics are different every year. We're not bringing all the teams back and playing one in a row and all that deal. This is the only time this team will have a chance to play this game. And so we talked a lot more about it, again, wherever we were at 2 2, what we needed to concentrate on. I believe our young men have given us I think I mean, my deal is I look at some seniors that I've got a lot of respect for, that as coaching as young players, we need those guys to lead us, but then we need to go out and play at a pretty high level for those guys, because their sense of urgency is great.
This is our one time to play this game. This is our one chance for Penn State. Then it will be the next game, our one chance. And just because you've done the past good or bad doesn't ensure it, doesn't guarantee it. Our team is better. We do need to we're getting ready to play different but similar to the game we just played. When you're playing in this league, you're going to play good teams. And your talent level is where it is and you've worked it to that point. You have developed it through the offseason to this point.
We went out this past week coming off a loss and did not really kill our guys. We coached our guys like a winning team and the things we think they needed to do to improve to win. Because I think our guys had the attitude that we want, they're working like we want, and that we as coaches got to put them in good position. And that's how we approached this week, and that's how we're approaching this game. It's not about something we've never done; it's taking advantage of these days to go out at 12:00 and go 60 minutes against a good team and do our best and see what it does. And that's how we're approaching it.
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