I'm honored to represent Indiana University at this prestigious couple days.
It was with mixed emotions that I drove into the city last night, though, because I was here just a short time ago to pay respects to Coach Walker. In fact, driving into the city last night, I called his brother Rob.
But I know Coach Walker would want us to all move on, and we'll do that. I'm going to be a part of his legacy for sure.
I was excited to be in the Big Ten and at Indiana University last year, but the reality is, the more I get to know the people that run the university, from our president, Dr. Adam Herbert, our Athletic Director, Rick Greenspan – great people who are doing everything they can to help me make Indiana football as good as it can be.
I'm very encouraged…the people you meet, the books you read – one of the books I read was a book called Good and Great, by Jim Collins. They call about the Stockdale Paradox. That you should never lose hope. You should never lose hope, but if you're going to be successful, if you're going to become great, you'll also need to face the cold, hard realities of what it is that you do face, your circumstances, your situations. I think we've done that, I think we'll continue to do that.
The model for the winter at IU was if you can run, then you can play. I've sit in the back of the room and listened to every other coach that's been up here, and I've studied the dynamics of this group, interesting to watch you people work. I'm impressed you're still here. I thought there might be only three of us in the room by the time we got to me. But I know Lloyd (Carr) is coming after me, so that's probably part of the reason.
I understand! I know what sells papers and stories.
But anyway. If you can run, you can play. That was our theme. And obviously, the other side of that is if you can't run, you're going to be standing next to me watching. But we'll be a much faster team, we'll be a young football team. The term redshirt may not be used at IU this year. I'm not saying…I tell the young guys coming in, we're going to play you soon. Not too soon, but soon.
In fact, I know we were talking about some rule changes. I have a proposal, that I still think is viable to allow freshmen to play a part of that first year and still have four years. I think for a lot of reasons, that would be advantageous.
But we are looking forward to it. Our freshmen report Saturday, and we start practice next Monday. There is an excitement around the state, the Hoosier Nation, there is an enthusiasm.
I've told the groups I've been able to talk to, I thanked them for their patience, because they're more patient with me than I am with me.
I think this year has a chance to allow us to take that next step. We have seven home games, and our goal is to play 13. Some people complain about playing 12, I want to play 13. In fact, I want to keep playing, let's play 15. Let's keep playing. We practice all the time, let's keep playing as long as we can. I'm a proponent of 12 games, and this year for sure, I'm a proponent of 13 games.
Thank you for what you do not only for us in Bloomington, but what you do for this league. It's a great league. I've always respected the league. I've been an IU fan and a Big Ten fan, and now to be a part of it is a special treat for me.
Questions? If you don't have any, I have some for you, so just in case, I'm prepared.
Coach, has the James Hardy situation been destructive, and can you comment on his playing status as of now?
It's on-going, and something I'm very aware of. I'm talked to James at length about it. He's a member of the team, he's been working out this summer. I'm hopeful it will be resolved in a positive manner.
That's one of the things as a coach – the people you meet, the books you read – and I read a long time ago, the things people worry about 80 percent will never happen, 10 percent you can't control. The other 10 percent is all you should worry about.
How many hours are there in a week? Are there any math majors in here? One hundred and sixty eight, that's correct. How many hours do we as football coaches get with our players during the season? Twenty. What percentage of the time is that? Twelve percent.
So as a football coach, one of the things that you always, the ten percent you can control, you try to do a great job with the 12 percent of the time you have is, educating your players, teaching your players those life lessons. You don't want anything bad to happen and for your players to be involved in anything, but obviously it's a problem right now throughout our country, throughout Division I athletics.
We're constantly educating our guys. We want this to be a life lesson. I'm confident it will be a life lesson for James, but I'm also hopeful he'll be with us once we start playing.
Coach Hep, when you evaluate your recruiting from a year ago as a rookie coach to your second year, do you have some idea of the progress you've made?
I had said…that was my first time taking over a program not really knowing any of the players. I knew that whole first year would be a learning process, evaluating our players.
As coaches, I don't think we necessarily did a great job because we didn't know our players. Maybe asking our players to do some things they couldn't do. That's why I said we are light years ahead of where we were a year ago at this time, simply because of the knowledge we have of our players, and the trust we've been able to develop and build. You can't put trust on like a new helmet, buckle it up. It's something you have to build, that's so important, so the players, when you tell them something, they have confidence. Trust and confidence go hand in hand.
We think we've had two good classes. We think we backed up that first class, which we redshirted 19 of 22, we think we backed it up with another quality recruiting class that we think will meet our needs.
We may have some young offensive linemen – to me, the most important, hardest position to play is offensive line. We think we recruited well at that position, but they are just out of high school.
I think the advantage we have is our line coach, Bobby Johnson, played as a true freshman at Miami University. So he's been there, he knows how difficult it is, but he's also very aware you can do it if you're talented enough.
We try to model ourselves, we played Iowa three years, and Coach Ferentz has done a great job, that offensive line that we played against, Robert Gallery's junior year, that might have been the best offensive line I've ever seen. We tried to recruit those same type of players – big, tall, athletic linemen. If you can run you can play at that position also.
Last year, I thought the best offensive line in the Big Ten was Minnesota, and they weren't gigantic. They were, if memory serves me correctly, 6-5, 295. But they were athletic. When your center pulls and leads, that's pretty good, that's where we're going to be at IU. It starts up front for sure.
Can you tell us about your tailback situation and how important that is going to be to the success of your offense?
I think it's again to my advantage that I was a high school coach for eight years, because I'm coaching guys that just a couple of years ago were in high school. I told some of our staff that if some of you guys never coached high school this is your chance, this year. We're coaching young guys. But it's a very talented group that we redshirted.
It was hard for us to. We had two good senior running backs, so at running back it wasn't as difficult. But it's an impressive young group. Demetrius McCray out of Florida, Justin Carrington out of Virginia, Bryan Payton out of Ft. Wayne – they haven't played in a game, but they were very impressive on the scout field last year and they had a good spring.
It's an inexperienced position, but I've always thought as a coach that's a talent position you can play early on. We're going to hand them the football, and tell them not to get tackled. If they can do that, that's good for us. The hardest part of being a running back is learning to pass protect so that will be a challenge for them, but we think we have some talent there for sure.
At the high school level you're starting to see kids specializing in one sport instead of playing three sports. Is that something you look for, how many sports do they play?
It's one of the first questions I ask. What other sports do they play when we're recruiting someone. Track times aren't football times. As Coach Mason said, we want our guys to play fast, and track guys sometimes aren't good football players, but we use that. I like our big linemen that we're recruiting, that they played basketball. I like that. I like 6-7, 265 pound, 275 pound guys that played basketball, because it shows their athleticism, and that's important.
I played sports. I know it's one of those things, you can't tell high school coaches what to do, but I sure think it helps guys get recruited. I'm a great recruiter for the baseball team. At Miami our best baseball player was a football player, and one of the best baseball players at IU this year was Andrew Means, who's going to be one of our redshirt freshmen receivers that we're excited about. We redshirted a group of receivers that will give us quality depth.
That's been one of my mantras for years. Quality depth. We need quality depth. We need quality depth when I was at Miami so we can go and compete against Big Ten teams. We need quality depth at IU so we can compete against Big Ten teams and play 13.
Blake (Powers) had a lot of ups and downs last year. In a league that's so deep at quarterback this year, what kind of things are you expecting from him this year?
Blake has had a good off-season. You don't talk about it, you don't complain about it, but he wasn't 100 percent after about midway through the season. For most of the Big Ten, he had some bumps and bruises. He played, he's a tough guy, but he's going to be one of the guys for sure – in the spring it was obvious the light went on with him and the understanding what we were trying to do.
And the second part of that, the coaching staff did a much better job. Like I said before, I think we asked not only Blake, but some other guys, that they weren't ready to do. I'm not saying they aren't equipped to do it and they won't eventually do it, because the offense we had in '03 at Miami was 43 points per game, 35 rushing, 35 passing touchdowns, when we get to the bowl game, that's still the offense we want to get to. But it's going to take patience. That's why I have to be more patient with me and the players.
I think I've learned that. I think this has been an interesting off-season. I tell the players, if you have been around a number of years and you haven't learned anything, they haven't been paying attention. Well, I paid attention this winter. So, I've learned a lot, I'll be a better coach, I'll be more patient. But in some ways, I'll be more demanding, and I think those two go hand in hand. I think it would be remiss of me as a coach to not be more demanding.
I know what they can do and what they can't do, and we're going to get it done. I'm excited, I'm fired up. I can't wait! I can't wait! Next Monday! Yeah! I get to coach football again! Yes!
Hoeppner Big Ten Kickoff Verbatim
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