Albert, how do you rate your season so far as the stats maybe not where they were a year ago?
I would say just being steady and doing what the coaches are asking me to do; nothing spectacular. But Like you said, the team is 3-0. That‘s what we‘re more concerned about right now. This time last year, we were 2-1. You would gladly trade in some numbers for some Ws. I‘m just doing whatever I‘m called on to do.
There‘s a little bit of that, "What‘s wrong with Albert?" going around. Are you feeling fine?
I‘m feeling fine. I‘m hearing that also. All I can do is just go back to the film room and see what I did differently last year. What I‘ve noticed is that we‘ve just been playing completely different defenses. I tell you, when teams stack up like that, it does make a big difference. You don‘t like to make excuses, but it‘s difficult to get things started when guys have that extra man in the box every time. But we‘re 3-0 right now. At this time last year, we‘d lost to Iowa State and I got player of the game. If you asked me if I‘d rather trade that in for a win, definitely. We‘re as god as we can be right now, and that‘s all I really have to say about that.
Is is frustrating the way that defenses are stacking the box?
I‘ be lying if I said it didn‘t get frustrating at times, but you have to realize that that‘s something you‘re going to have to be faced with. We‘re going to have to find a way to run against it, regardless. We'll find ways to pick it up. And if teams want to sit back and let Drew do that to them all the time, we're fine with that also. There are screen passes. You saw some little dump offs to the backs. That's just as good as running the ball. We'll take that.
It‘s been said that the way to beat a good zone blocking team is penetration and pursuit. DO you feel like penetration has been a problem when you get to the line?
I mean, you hit it on the nose with penetration and all that, but it hasn‘t been a problem. It‘s just been the way that teams have been setting up. What I notice when I‘m out there is that they‘ll go hard one way and our read as a back is to go another and they have two or three guys sitting over there waiting for you. It‘s just teams playing smart D. It‘s as simple as that. It‘s not the penetration. It‘s that teams are putting a focus on it. They‘re going to make us open things up with the pass, which we have. We believe in the Big Ten Conference that things are going to get more true. That‘s just the way they are. You can say that Big Ten teams are stubborn in their own ways. Teams want to stick to what they do. We‘ll see how things go. You know, 3-0, I can‘t be upset about that at all.
Is that a matter of preparation, then?
The preparation is there. It‘s just that there are only so many people you can block on a particular play. We‘re prepared to go in every game like you saw towards the end of last game we got the run game started a little. It‘s just a matter of teams doing different things. We‘re picking it up. It‘s just that as backs by the time we get started and running, there‘s somebody in your face in a tight area. It‘s not like it‘s difficult to shake one man off. But when you have this much room to shake them off, you‘re not really getting anywhere. We‘ll see how things go with spreading things out. As long as we keep winning, there are no complaints here.
Drew mentioned that you‘d like to see more spread. Things opened up for your running game in the third and fourth quarters when you were in the slot. Would you like to see more spread?
It‘s definitely something players would like, loosening up defenses. We‘ll just see what the plan is. I didn‘t get into the game plan yet. We didn‘t practice yet. But I‘m sure we‘re going to spread things out because that‘s how we ran best later in the game.
What‘s going on at running back? It‘s hard to catch a flow as to what they plan is for using you guys.
I wish we knew. None of us have really gotten into a rhythm, maybe. It‘s all the situation of the game. When you see all those backs back there, it‘s what the game calls for. The pass was working. The little dump offs were working. The run wasn‘t. So, why do it. It‘s just being smart. You saw at the end of the game, things did start to come together. You can‘t really just pin anything on it. Coaches have a tremendous game plan every week. It‘s just the way the ball is falling right now. You guys aw last year, it‘s not like the run game was that tremendous in the first three games anyway. We picked it up in the Big Ten. That starts this week.
Albert, can you compare yourself to any NFL back?
First, I need to start doing a little better before I start comparing myself to anybody in the NFL. But my favorite player has always been Marshall Faulk. I admired how he caught the ball. And I like Curtis Martin‘s game. As you guys saw last year, it‘s silent yardage. It‘s not loud, but you know the job is getting done.
Would the three running backs rather go into a game and know what‘s going to happen?
We do have something like that. We have a good idea of what we‘re doing. Coaches tell me when Damian is going in. I pretty much know when he‘s going in. We know when Shonn is going in because we have a package where you guys see, Shonn is in the backfield and I‘m in the slot. Me and Damian are never on the field at the same time. You get an idea what it‘s going to be like. It‘s just depending on how things go. If I need a little breather here or there, like after I had that one called back, I know I have a good back-up in Damian. Instead of going back there and not being 100 percent, why not tell coach to put Damian in, which he did? He got us into field goal position. It‘s nice to know a set rotation. But it‘s just all abut how the game goes. Certain packages, guys are more experienced with, whether it‘s two-minute drill, I run that. You just have to take your opportunity and run with it.
When did they put in the package with you in the slot?
It might have been Minnesota last year, but we didn‘t run it against them. For bowl preparation we did. We might have even done it a few times in the bowl game against Florida. But definitely bowl preparation last year, we went heavy. We did it a lot. This year we actually us it a lot. We didn‘t the opportunity last year. We didn‘t get an opportunity to use it a lot last year. We definitely run that two-back set a whole lot.
Do you feel like that‘s something that allows you to show your versatility a little bit?
Oh yeah, like you see, teams like to stack the box. It‘s just real good to get it to the back quick and let him hit the corner and try to pick up some quick yardage. It‘s just another way to get the ball. It‘s not necessarily all about carries. It‘s more touches and being able to make the plays.
Does it also play into the strengths of your team? You have three running backs capable of seeing the field and some inexperience at wide receiver.
It definitely takes some of the pressure off of the young receivers. As you see, those guys grew up pretty fast. It was good for the team. But it‘s definitely a good option to have because those guys don‘t have that much game experience, especially as we get into the Big Ten and the games definitely get a lot bigger. It's just nice to have some backs that can go in and takes some slack off those receivers. As you see, we had some guys that decided not to play anymore and go elsewhere and Calvin go down. You can see where the wide receiver spot was hit hard.
You said you‘re going to see true defenses in the Big Ten. Are you saying that the first three games you saw defenses that you haven‘t seen on film before or junk things?
Definitely. You could see it with Iowa State. But it‘s just playing smart football. We have young receivers. So, why not, if you‘re a defense, try to challenge them? Like you saw, Dominique, broke out. That‘s all for the better of the team. If you‘re going to put eight men in the box that means you respect the run game. The job is done right there. We just have to get the yards, now. But teams respect it. If they dare to take that eighth man out of the box, they know what‘s going to happen. They respect the run game even though the numbers aren't there.
Do you see the Big Ten season as a new season?
Oh yeah, everybody‘s goal is to be Big Ten champs. Whether a team has had a tremendous start or a rocky start, it‘s fresh. And everybody knows winning this conference means there are high implications for doing that. It‘s just fair game right now. It‘s an 0-0 season. The non-conference is out the window. It‘s time to get it on.
Exactly. We didn‘t overlook Syracuse. We knew what we were getting into. It was everybody on the outside that marked it as an easy win. I was just thinking about that before we came in here. Illinois is going to be in the same boat. Iowa is coming into town. Everybody is going to be pumped. Like you said, they lost to Syracuse last week, but it‘s a new season for everyone. They‘re trying to start off 1-0 just like we are.