COACH WILSON: Good to see you. Thanks for being here. Starting out actually meeting with you guys in the media before we were working with the guys. Little different in summer workouts this year. So 105 guys today. First thing I'd like to talk about is in general, we actually have, in my opinion, some significant quality parts of our program aren't here with the 105 rule. We had 120-plus kids here all summer, pushing 130 working out. Some of those guys are coming into year two, maybe some year three, and they're great practice players and good role guys and some are walk-ons.
So it's almost kind of difficult when you've got a guy that's out there every day, not just summer, all spring, all winter, and been with you a year or two. So we've gotten deeper not just in recruiting, but program depth and our walk-ons. So we'll probably be 125 strong when school reports, but right now 105, that's just by NCAA rule. Right now we've got 105 guys that are all healthy. We have actually a loophole where a guy who is coming off surgery and couldn't practice. He could be here for two-a-days for medical purposes, but couldn't be in the meetings, couldn't coach him. You couldn't have him watch practice, but you could rehab him and have another practice player take his spot. We have no one in that capacity as we're starting right now.
So we have 105 guys here, and I want to recognize a few guys not here. We did put out and it didn't make the wire some things, Chris Smith, a freshman that came in right when summer started. He said he wanted to maybe get a little closer to home. We talked about it, and that's what he felt was best, leaving in good standing. He's a freshman guy. We encouraged him to stay, but wanted to move on. And one of our recruits came up a little short on the academic side, and is going to have to look at an alternative route of JC in Jermaine Connors.
Want to talk about staff updates with the guys, have some guys we have working with us in support roles. Number one, we made a few changes last year with a couple of profile positions, very confident and comfortable with the way those guys are working and working together, working with them recruiting through spring and through winter. So really like the full-time kind of big deals that happened last year as we move Coach Patton to offense and brought in some defensive guys. Kasey Teegardin on the radar for you guys is now working up in Valpo, has some ties in our state, was a full-time coach up there and is coming in as a GA, took Chris Shula's place. Chris took a job at John Carroll as D-coordinator there. As a matter of fact, his grandfather played at John Caroll, it's actually Shula Stadium, so he's calling defensive calls there. But Kasey's coming in. As a matter of fact, I think I want to say his fiancee, I don't want to misstate, but I know his significant girl is actually one of our high school coaches, head coach at Ben Davis, so it's kind of a coaching family. So we're bringing in Brian Lepak. Ryan Stanchek, our GA who is awesome, great player, great young coach, got a chance to go full-time at Alcorn State, kind of what I did starting out in my day.
You've done your GA time, looking for a full-time gig. You want it. We're bringing in Brian. Brian played for us at Oklahoma. He actually just finished and took the bar exam on Wednesday this past week, and now he's figured out that he'd rather be a coach than a lawyer. I don't blame him. He won't make as much money, but he'll have more fun. He'll be working with us, played for us at Oklahoma. He was a walk-on. I think he started his career, TCU, Tulsa, and Colorado State. I recruited him, and he went to Colorado State, didn't like it. Transferred in, walked on, earned a scholarship and played for Coach Patton.
So we'll have a good-- even though it's a new deal, a guy that knows our system, knows how we coach and likes our language. So we have Brian Lepak as our offensive GA. Ryan McInerney new with us in the fall, helped recruiting. Officially starting in July. We hired Courtney Messingham, who is the offensive coordinator the last couple years at Ohio State. So an older guy, veteran guy, who transitioned there. He was in between jobs, and off-the-field guy helping with the offense and recruiting and what he does there.
In the recruiting world we have Jeff Simms who has been here. Came back to leave our position in the recruiting world, then with Ferguson who has done some recruiting for us, went back to the high school ranks. And very excited about the guy we brought in, Cody Rager who comes in two years with the Dolphins as a scout. One year in-house, one year on the road where he's going to every college in the Pac-12 last year, the Western United States, the Mountain West, the eval guys have a great eye for talent. Prior to that, had three years down in Alabama and they're the first school in the recruiting world that came up with a personnel department of guys, how to contact and evaluate guys. So really excited with Jeff and Cody.
Lastly, as a good one, Coach Mark Hill has been here forever and does a lot with our guys behind the scenes and is going to continue to do some things, but is going to get pulled into some administrative roles with some more for football and ticket sales and marketing and other things working with alumni and our coaches. (No audio). We hired a guy to complement him on our academic side and our player welfare side off the filed and that guy's name is Mike Pechac who over the last couple years has been at Bowling Green, but before that played at Mt. Union in Ohio.
So just some updates on those guys and what's going on as we said, ready for preseason. We were very comfortable with winter, like what we saw in spring ball and practiced. Let's talk about a little about summer. If you had a chance to talk to Mark Hill, talk with our players. As coaches, the new rules allowed us to be in workouts as we chose to be. We still had some summer vacation time and there are certain things we have player practices and kids start throwing balls, and we can't be there.
But you can go into the weight room or watch a team run, watch a team workout, and you could see a guy coming off an injury, engage, he's moving well, in shape. You could see a guy maybe struggling coming off injury. So, one, I say this without hesitation because I've had a chance to see not every workout but a lot. It's been our best summer. It's not even close. Because we're more mature, we're more talented, and we're just a higher, better team.
Each year we've gotten stronger in what we're doing, and we've been able to attack it, and I think that will lead in the preseason because we're at a different point in preseason as we start.
Conditioning, I know we talked about getting stronger in the winter but made a lot of strength gains in the winter. Now that it's summer time there is more running. Our running work from year one and year two, first time they did it they did 30 of those hills. There's no way first couple years we could run that many. We have a thing called tempo run where in tempo offenses and defenses you have quick recovery, run, quick recovery, run, and we had 32, 60s one day. There is no way year one or two the team could have that stamina or mental maturity or physical capabilities of that. That's just part of your program when you're making gains. You're making physical gains in strength, you're making them in conditioning, making them mentally. So a lot further along there.
In the weight room, just to show the games we made, we now have 15, 400-pound bench pressers. We have eight on the offensive line right now. Led by Nate Hoff our defensive linemen at 495. Jason Spriggs, a 455, Tevin Coleman benches 405. He has a physical presence. I think we'll be a stronger, more complete back. Nick Mangieri and Darius Latham came in at plus 40's and 55 in benches over the summer. Shane Wynn and his best and David Cooper not close to seniors that you want to see make stuff, but had significant gains in his upper body strength that you want. To show where we started, in six and a half weeks our freshmen reported in day two did a bench press at 325. Six and a half weeks later they improved as a group by 63 reps in six and a half weeks. Some of those guys, a guy like (Indiscernible) goes from 22 to 24. 24 is a lot for a high school kid. Or Wes Martin goes from 26 to 29, pretty good for a high school guy. Then you have guys like Coray Keel who did 2 and did 8 six weeks later. That is a great jump for a young receiver. J-Shun Harris, showing up at 160 pounds, and reps 225 ten times, not bad for a small receiver. Again, lot of gains in the weight room.
Again, with new rules, had a chance to see what's going on, so you know who is ready. Also know we didn't have a chance to participate in practice with them. But we were allowed several opportunities of 30 minutes, we did it two times a week, 30 minutes. You're allowed two hours of meeting time. We only used an hour. To me with the guys on instant relations, today's not the first day of practice; today's the first day of getting to wear helmets and throw the ball. We couldn't do that. But other than that, we're showing up at a good mode.
And last thing I'll say before questions, is I think we're just at a different point going into this last preparation time. Winter, spring, summer, now preseason where I just think preseason is at a different point. We have to be tough. We have to stay healthy. We have to get our physicalness going. We have a lot of strides we have to make.
Q. This program this week much closer to where you wanted it to be ever?
COACH WILSON: I want it to be better than it is. But I think more than anything basically what it is is I like my guys. So when you like the team, it's easy to talk about it. When you go to practice there is a smile on your face. When you go to work, it's going to be tough. But we know those guys go up there and conquer every day like we do. They have the physical capabilities to go conquer two-a-days and now let's start competing and see if we can conquer the opponents on Saturday.
To me, as much as anything, I've got a great feel for our players, starting with the old guys, whether it be a guy like Shane, Timmy Bennett, Coop, Bob Richardson and those guys, and it's as talented a freshman group, and it's maybe the best group of kids collectively that the young class is. So a lot of returns, but a lot of young talent.
To me, it's kind of ready to roll. You're excited about the potential and capabilities. We're set up in a position where it's going to be a hard challenge, physical schedule, and we're going to have a lot of fun and success.
Q. You said if what you saw in the spring is any indication, you expect it to be significantly improved on defense. Can you elaborate on that a bit? What did you see in the spring that led you to think that?
COACH WILSON: One, you have so many young guys that have played that are back. I think once you've played, it's easier to have a better off-season and better spring ball, especially when you didn't play well. So you have all those freshmen in the front seven with the linebackers and D-linemen that had to play. You have ten guys back on D, a lot of guys that had a lot of reps. We were a little thin with a couple minor injuries with Antonio Allen, not being full tilt, Mark Murphy not being full tilt. So you felt a little thin in a lot of places. With those guys back and the freshmen coming in, to me, you have a little more experience than we've had or ever had.
But what we've really got is more depth, and depth at competition. The offensive guys have been competing to see. I think we've had seven or eight guys that started as O-linemen. We've had several quarterbacks fighting to get on the field. Several running backs fighting to get on the field. Several quality receivers that played well enough to earn the ball and get the ball. We haven't had that on defense. It's been easier to get out there. So many guys back in competition. The challenge will be guys embracing the competition and embracing the battle. Young guys being mature enough to step into the fray and let's go play, and old guys not getting into that entitlement role that it's my time. You better come ready and keep getting better.
So I saw it every day. I saw a team that had a vibe and a bounce. I think as much as anything, not schematics or schemes or anything in coaching, I just think it's where the kids are. We've just recruited harder and tried to develop. It's still not close to where it ought to be. I didn't say it's what we want. We have a long way to go to what we needed to get to as a team.
Q. You talked about Antonio. Where is he now? It seemed Coach Knorr said even though he missed the spring and being able to hit full contact, just maybe earning a spot with the ones, where is he heading into fall camp?
COACH WILSON: I would think again, and to me I said this the other day to the team. I think Tevin Coleman is a higher rated player where you would say Nate Sudfeld appears to be the guy. But when you're a team that has significantly or continually won, all jobs are open. If someone said that I'm the guy, that's the wrong mindset because that again leads to where you're not on point, you're not on edge, constantly improving and improving at your best. From a physical standpoint, Antonio's going to be fine. I believe from a mental standpoint. But what I'm going to anoint any player here or you're in line and it's automatically your job. I told the team a couple years ago Tevin Coleman came in and basically beat out a very good player, a guy that set a bunch of records. He's almost on the list of all time bests at the school, and has a great opportunity to make a pro team for one of the better organizations in pro football, and he did nothing wrong. I wouldn't mind if somebody wanted to beat out Tevin Coleman, I'd be happy as can be with that because I think he's a great player and someone else is doing pretty good.
So competition is what we want, and what Coach Knorr's alluding to. It will be interesting to see. He's physically right, he's had zero limitations through summer. He'll have zero in preseason, and now it's time for him to go out and perform and do his job.
Q. How do you see the tight end position? Do you see that position being used any differently with different guys?
COACH WILSON: Well, that's a good question. There isn't one quality player. I want to mention all those guys we have Mitch with the Colts. Ewold with the Broncos and Redskins, we've got Hughes down with the Texans and Stephen up with the Patriots. So, I want to wish all those guys the best (No Microphone) and those guys go chasing their dreams. So we want all those guys to stay healthy and make those teams and make some money, and we get those Sunday updates from you guys on how the Hoosiers did because we forward that to recruits how they're doing well and making some money.
Ted, again, very talented passing game. Became a very solid player in the blocking game, that's why he was drafted. There are several bodies that are physically every bit as capable as Ted. Jordan Fuchs potentially maybe even a better receiver than Ted and a better skillset, really can run and pick and catch with the basketball background. But when you look at those guys by the end of the week or whenever you get those practice opportunities, when you look at that group, you're going to see five or six guys at 6'5", 250. They're all very mobile. I think we've got Danny Friend, Mike Cooper who is doing very well. A transfer from Arizona who came here a year ago is doing awesome. Those guys are pushing 255, 260. That is a little more of your bigger bodied guy. A guy we don't talk about much, Sean Damaska, another basketball player pushing 6'6", 6'7", he came in at 215. He's pushing 250. One guy we don't talk about, Anthony Corsaro has come in our most limited guy through summer because he's coming off a foot break from last spring that's gotten him where he's ready to practice and it will slow him back in this his summer. Antonio got everything this summer. Corsaro' summer was limited. He was second team last year, and right now he might be out on the outside looking in. He's done nothing wrong except he has an injury. So I like the inexperience, and there is always going to be tight end, and maybe we'll get some more big steps for the run game action and short yardage situations.
Q. What about kicker? How do you see that shaking out?
COACH WILSON: Very similar to the question we just answered there with the tight end. We have one of the more consistent football players I've been around. What you guys saw here every day, you have an off-season, in-season, in the locker room, on the practice field, we've got it on game day. (No Microphone) I think he's got them all or most of them. Talent is very, very consistent.
We'll start of preseason camp Aaron Del Grasso and Lee tied. And his leg is probably stronger than the leg that just walked out of here, but will it be as consistent? So he'll have the ability as far as range and the ability with depth. We have Griffin Oakes who is a second year walk-on player, and kind of competing there, and we brought in (Indiscernible) Lights who is a freshman from Nolensville who has a very, very large leg. So we have some competition.
We'll see a guy-- I've always been impressed even a year ago, Aaron had the bigger leg, but Mitch is going to make every kick. We'll see if he can handle that, because it's one thing in practice, it's one thing to go to the driving range, as Mr. (Indiscernible) likes to do. I grew up on a course that didn't have the driving range, so I used to go to the first tee and tee it up and start playing. I think they make great competition, I like those guys as punters, and Matt Dooley, the return game is going to be fine with Shane and our offensive skill guys.
Some of the freshmen if they get in the mix are great returners in high school. I think our return game will be okay. I think it's a key deal. But a quality player, we have some talent and we have the players so we'll see how that evolves. As we go through this year and years to come, because that is four years of a quality player that's hard to replace.
Q. Kevin, what do you want or need to see out of this defense this year to be successful?
COACH WILSON: Well, I had a question a week or so ago about what person or guy or what could impact it could be, it's a collective group. So it's going to start with Coach Knorr and his coaches. They accept what they accept. Going through our first walk through, they are significantly louder than I've ever heard a defense since I've been here. Communication is what you need. You need to get the call and get lined up. Again, a confident person speaks up. Mike's son is a high school freshman, and I know first day of junior high, they'll probably walk around real quiet first day of school and they're unsure of things. When you're unsure as a player, you're quiet. A confident player speaks up. So it starts with those guys, and as much as anything, physically, we'll be a lot better.
It's more to get in the mindset, attitude, effort, and consistently going out. A year ago in the five games we won, I could be wrong here, but I think mathematically if we gave up 106 or 107 yards a game rushing in the five games we won. It was well over 300 in the seven games we lost. So there were some good performances last year defensively that that I'd take right now, we'll take our chances. If it's good enough, I'll take it right now. But we did consistently do it from day to day and week to week. When you're a very good player, very good on the side of the ball, very good team. Consistency is the deal. We just talked about it with our kicker. Talked about it with the balls are leaving out. So when you replace guys, you're looking for consistency, and that's what we're looking for there.
There is going to be enough talent in good programs and good teams every day in practice, every week they're going to show up. We'll see if they can get that.
Q. With the non-conference schedule as challenging (No Microphone). In an ideal world is that too strong a challenge or too tough a challenge or would you like an SEC team in the non-conference?
COACH WILSON: Well, first of all, it is what it is. Sometimes they're done so far in advance and if you want to make changes, you have significant dollars and buyouts and things like that. I'd like to get as much as anything, seven home tilts, and this would be my fourth year and three of those years you're home for six. When I was in Ohio, we had 11 and five home and six on the road. Once in a while we had six. Most of the Big Ten schools went seven, some of them went eight. Last year we had eight. It was awesome. I wish it was 7-5 last year, and 7-5 this year is what you want. I think it's what you want going forward.
In this new mode, we go to nine conference games, one year you have five games and next year you have four. If you don't have all of your non-conference games at home, I think it's great for the restaurants, hotels, the community. I mean home for those eight games last year economically we made as much money as we had because there were more people coming to games et cetera, and so who we play is as critical to me as a Big Ten school. You want to try to get to seven. That's been our plan since we've been here. Moving forward we're positioning ourselves to consistently be there. It's not easy because there are not a lot of options.
I know the administration is working as we communicate things what are your choices. You can say you want to play X team and you didn't miss North Texas. You have two conference championships teams in Bowling Green and North Texas and the Missouri placement Conference championship. Right now scheduling teams of 18 to 19. (Indiscernible) we're only scheduling 20, and 21. That's seven years. So a team could have a high peak, a low peak, it is what it is. I'd like to be a little more of taking advantage of being at home, in a home environment, staying in our place, not traveling. I think that's more critical than who we're playing.
At the same time, when you're playing in the Big Ten East, there are not going to be patsy's, so you better get used to playing. You can say they get you ready or doesn't get you ready. At the end of the day, if you didn't want to play a hard schedule, you shouldn't have chosen Indiana as a Big Ten East recruit. So embrace the challenge, and embrace the opportunity.
Q. In what areas have you seen Nate progress the most?
COACH WILSON: I think as much as anything coming from a year ago I think understanding as well as he could play or the offense could play how we're talking about things where you're short and not take that as a personal or a negative, but realize as well as you've played, you're trying to be a better manager and minimize the negatives. So as much as you think, our first meeting today was a very great quarterback in the quarterback position. He's had no dealings with outside opinions because whether it be you as the media or family, parents, girlfriends, best friends, pals, high school coaches. You're not at every practice, you're not at every meeting. You don't know the workouts, whatever. That comes from Bill Parcells' Ten Commandments.
Commandment number one, don't listen to outside opinions. We recognize all the great things you've done. You made a comment last year, he and the offense sometimes do some good things, we'd try to push them more. Like golly, I'm playing good. No, we're just pushing you to be the best you can. I think he made a comment, that I can understand that and handle that more because in the end you want me to be as good as I can be. Like I said, for a couple years now to be really good as a program, we've got to have the dynamic play at quarterback.
He's played very well. I think he can be one of the better players in this league. We need to take care of that ball in the end zone and manage the team at a high level, and I think he's ready to do that. All right, guys. Let's have a great year. We'll see y'all.