Hawks Talk: Ohio State Pregame

Iowa players met with the media to discuss the upcoming showdown with defending national champion Ohio State. The Hawkeyes could have the services of RB Jermelle Lewis. Read what Lewis had to say about his remarkable return from ACL surgery, Albert Young talks about his comeback, Brian Ferentz discusses a banged up offensive line and the possibility of True FR Mike Jones seeing action in Columbus, plus much more in this premium quotebook for members of The Nation.

JERMELLE LEWIS:

Do you feel like you'll play this week?

I can't really tell right now. It would be great to run in a great atmosphere. It's been a long time coming.

Did you surprise yourself with how quickly you came back?

It's not really a surprise because I worked so hard to get back.

How much do anticipate playing on Saturday?

I don't even know. It's up to the coaches.

In practice, are you running and hitting the holes at full speed?

I feel pretty good with how I've been practicing the past couple of days. The pain in my knee hasn't been bad at all.

Do you feel confident when you cut and plant?

Yes. The confidence is there. I just have to keep practicing and keep getting better.

Have you been hit on that knee to the point where you are confident that it can withstand it?

I've been getting a couple of kicks to the knee here and there. I've been all right.

When did the pain go away?

It depends on what type of exercises I do. As far as the pain, it's been pretty tolerable.

What did you do to make this happen so quick?

The same thing that anybody else would do for rehab of an ACL injury. I did things like trying to get full range of motion. I tried to build up my quad.

Is there a chance you could go back on kicks?

I love returning kicks. That's one of my favorite things to do. If I don't get an opportunity to do it this year, hopefully I'll be able to do it at some time in the future.

When do you think you'll know if you'll play this weekend?

It would have to be gametime. We'll all find out on Saturday if I get to play or not.

Are you planing to go and suit up?

Yeah.

How has this process been on you?

It's been pretty tough. But as long as I can be the vocal leader on the team, be able to speak out and keep everybody going, it really hasn't been that bad.

Did you help Albert through his injury?

When I was on my way back, he had just got hurt. Our projected times were about the same. So, every step of the way we were talking to each other. I was making sure he was all right. He was making sure I was all right.

How did you put the injury out of your mind when you got back on the field?

If you don't give it your all, you're more likely to get hurt again. You have to tell yourself to call all out or nothing. If you can't go all out, you should say something.

Are you encouraged by people telling you you look like your old self?

It's good to hear. Everybody in practice has said that I look good in practice. I've just been trying to get back to where I was before and try to gain a couple of steps.

What was your exact injury?

I had a complete tear of the ACL. But the difference between mine and a lot of others is that they have meniscus problems, bone bruises and a mess of other things in their knee. I just had a complete tear. I didn't have anything else in my knee that was messed up.

How did you hurt it?

I was running a stretch play to the left. The linebacker came out and I was trying to make a move on him. My ankle rolled and my knee twisted at the same time. It just popped.

Could you tell right then that it was something serious?

Yeah. But I was hoping that it was a minor little sprain or something.

Did your leg strength help you?

That really helped out a lot as far as me getting back and me not doing more damage to my knee.

When did you realize you had a shot to come back this year?

Probably when I was doing all of the running during the summer time. My progress every week was real good. I didn't really have any setbacks as far as my rehab went.

Do you worry about hurting yourself for next year?

No. I don't like worrying about getting hurt. If it happens, it happens. That's part of the game. Everybody gets hurt.

What do you expect this weekend?

I just want to be part of a great atmosphere at Ohio State. I hope I play. I want to play. If I don't get a chance to play, I'm not going to stress out or anything like that.

ALBERT YOUNG:

How are you feeling and how close are you to being back?

I'm feeling good right now. Right now, I feel like I'm ready to go. My leg is feeling good. Of course, you have to see how practice goes during the week. But I feel pretty confident right now that I'll be ready to go.

Have you been able to put solid consecutive practices together?

Towards the end of last week I was. The first couple of days there was soreness. It hurt a little more the next day. But, hey, I feel that the endurance in my leg is where it needs to be at to play the rest of the season.

What have been the biggest obstacles in your return?

It's just all a mental thing. You might think that you're going to reinjure yourself when you're not. It's just getting over that mental hump. That's it, just getting through that frustration, that rehab and watching the team play. That's probably where it hurts the most, just knowing you can't be out there helping your team win.

What are your thoughts on taking off the redshirt?

I'm willing to do whatever Coach Ferentz and his staff wants wants to do. I'm willing to redshirt if they want. Of course, I want to play. But they know what's best for me. It's not like I'm giong to be mad if they come to me and say, "Albert, we want you to redshirt." I'll just get in the weightroom and get prepared for next season.

If it takes a few weeks, would you take the redshirt off with two or three games left in the season?

I haven't thought about that far out. But if coach says we need you, I'm ready to go out there and play.

BRIAN FERENTZ:

How healthy are you right now?

Me? I don't know. You'll have to ask Coach Ferentz.

Is there a chance that you might miss this week?

There's a chance that you might miss any week. It depends on what happens in practice this week.

That's kind of coach speak isn't it?

Yeah. You guys know the rules.

There is talk that Mike Jones might make his first appearance. What have you seen of Mike so far?

Mike came on campus early this year in the summer. Any time that a kid like Mike shows up, it becomes pretty apparent early that he's not your average college freshman, 18-year old. I wasn't ready to play at Ohio State when I came here. But he is, without a doubt. Mike is a pretty special player. More importantly, he's got the right mental framework for this. It's tough. It's going to be tough for anyone. I had jitters and nerves before my first start, and that was against a MAC conference team. No disrespect to Miami, but they're not the defending national champions and I wasn't at their place and their place isn't 100+ thousand. It's going to be tough for him just to get over that aspect of it. But with a guy like Mike, if he does play, once he gets out there, it's going to be fine. You're not going to see a significant difference at all.

You're kind of hinting that maybe he is going to play this week. Have we got that right?

I think absolutely there's a chance that he could play this week. It's different than it was two weeks ago and last week. There's a better chance that he'll play this week.

What changed?

There's a lot of things that changed. But it's health issues, without a doubt. And you guys talked about that (with Coach Ferentz) and that's football. That's how football works. You don't get to pick and choose who gets hurt, when they get hurt and how healthy they are. But I think Mike is going to step in if he has to and do a good job.

Do you understand his earlier concerns about taking the redshirt off?

Absolutely. The points where Mike was going to play were late in games, garbage time. I've played in that. It's not the most exciting moments of your life. Mike felt like that was the only chance that he was going to get to play. You get a little experience. You get to work with the ones and twos all year. But how much are you going to really play in a game? Is that worth taking that redshirt off? But to me, Mike is the type of player that, you never want to speak too early, but he's the type of guy that if he doesn't want to be here four years he might not have to be. That's how special of a player he is. I can see where he was coming from, but circumstances are starting to change a little bit. He understands that too.

So you guys haven't had to coax him?

No. You know the coaches always have your best interest in mind. He didn't feel like they were going to make that decision unless it was going to be good for him down the road. I don't think he needed any coaxing or anything like that. He's a team player.

What are his strengths physically?

He's a big kid. He's an impressive looking kid for being 18-years old. He's physically strong. On a physical level, which is rare, he's ready to compete in Big Ten play. That's real rare. If Mike does play this Saturday, I think that's a pretty special accomplishment and worth some recognition in itself. We're not where we were five years ago where we were just throwing guys in. Mike has proved he's ready to play.

Were you guys encouraged by the way Wisconsin ran the ball against Ohio State?

It makes them a little less intimidating to see someone run the ball against them, which no one had been able to do up until then. That gives us some hope that maybe we'll be able to grind out a few yards on the ground. I think we were probably going to try anyway. That's our style.

NATHAN CHANDLER:

Would you guys relaliate in a situation where you got the business at the bottom of a pile up?

Obviously, that the natural response. But it's something that we try as a team to guard against. There's stuff that happens throughout the game that isn't something that we like to happen, but you've got to walk away from those situations and be the smarter person.

Were you surprised that Wisconsin was able to keeps its head?

I thought they did a great job. There was no retaliation during the game. Obviously after the game they were pretty upset about it. It took a lot of composure by their team.

What does Jermelle look like now compared to last year at this time?

I'm not a doctor, but when I see him out there practicing, he looks great. We're excited about getting him back. We're looking forward to having that depth and experience.

Does stuff happen in the piles that goes under the radar?

Yeah, it does. There's always things that happen after the whistle under the pile. You have to learn to not react to it.

Do you feel like you guys were able to recharge last week?

Yeah. We've got our legs back under us. We've got some guys that were nicked up better. Some of the guys that had been out for a while started working back in.

Is it important for this program to beat a team of Ohio State's stature?

We take the approach a game at a time. We've done that throughout the season. But we can look back now and see that this is going to be our biggest game of the season. These are the games that you get excited to play.

What are your impressions of their defense?

They're the biggest defense we've seen. They have a lot of speed over there too. There's a confidence that comes from winning as many games as they have.

With the conservative way that they play, does possession of the ball become an even bigger factor?

One of the things that is going to be the most important this week are turnovers and penalties. As far as our offense is concerned, we have to run a tight ship.

FRED RUSSELL:

Do you feel like you got some nice rest for your legs?

Yeah. I feel recharged. But I was feeling good anyway. I felt good with the offense line. We're gelling together and making the right reads and stuff.

What does Jermelle look like in practice?

He looks real good. He's like the same Jermelle. Jermelle, he's one of a kind. He was squatting over 600 at one point in time. Now, he's back squatting 500. A lot of running backs don't squat near 500 so that must mean that his leg is somewhat near 100 percent.

Is Jermelle a freak coming back from this injury this fast?

Once I knew he tore his ACL, I knew he'd be back a lot faster than a lot of other guys because his legs are so strong. He's squatting dang near what Robert Gallery is squatting.

Did you see him rehabilitate?

No. But at one point in time, he took like two weeks off to take care of some business. I was like, "Man, he's pushing back his comeback." But, he's back.

Do you welcome him back even though he might take some of your carries?

Yeah because I think he can help us a lot on third down and keep things honest. Teams can't just think we're going to pass the ball on third down. When I started watching him in practice more and more and I seen him running with confidence, I just started to feel more relieved. I can finally come out and not feel kind of bad that I'm letting my teammates down, even though Marcus has done a real good job. When I'm feeling somewhat tired now, I can just come out.

Will that free one of you guys up to go back on kickoffs?

You know what? I'm going to start politicking. That's what I was supposed to do. I was listed on the depth chart during the spring. I'm going to see what they say. I'm glad you mentioned that. Next time you talk to coach, mention that to him.

Did Wisconsin's ability to run against Ohio State open you eyes?

I played against Arizona State when they were at the top. Then Michigan State was supposed to have a good run defense. Then Michigan had a good run defense. I got over 100 yards in all three of them, so my confidence can't be any higher than what it is.

Is Ohio State a win that this program needs?

With them being national champs it is. But we're feeling like we're getting back to where we were in the '80s.


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