What is Minnesota doing to get all of these turnovers?
KF: I don't know if I can give you one answer. They're playing aggressively. They just seem to be in the right place and the right time when the ball comes out, too. They've forced a lot of things, fumbles and interceptions. But fumbles occur all of the time. Usually you have to be hustling. Sometimes you're lucky when you fall on them, but a lot of times it's because guys hustle.
What would you consider the most impressive thing about the defense this year? You haven‘t given up a lot of big plays.
A big part of playing good defense from out standpoint is not giving up big plays. Its starts there. And you have to play well in the red zone. That‘s kind of where it starts. If you can create turnovers on top of it, that‘s a bonus. But to me it‘s all about not giving up the big play and keeping them out of the end zone when you get down there.
Can you kind of summarize, I mean Norm‘s body of work here is…
It‘s been pretty consistent with a lot of moving parts, player wise.
How has he done it?
I got lucky. We hired a pretty good guy. Norm is a stellar person, just a wealth of knowledge and experience in all regards, not just football. But when it comes to football, he gives you the aw shucks and stuff like that, but he‘s pretty sharp. He‘s really sharp. That helps.
What‘s an example of that? People say that you don‘t do a lot.
Yeah, we don't do a lot, but somehow there are things going on behind the scenes. The best analogy I can give you is (a former Buccaneers assistant coach), who was with them for one year when they won the Super Bowl, always wondered from the outside what made Tampa Bay successful defensively. It looked pretty simple from the outside. He said that the thing he learned was that the players there understood what the system was. The coaches knew how to coach the system and make adjustments. As a result of that, it worked.
Norm would be the first guy to tell you that the other guys do a great job, too. We've got a good staff and guys work hard. Most importantly, the players have been extremely receptive. They've worked hard.
Has freeing him up from position responsibilities maybe opened him up?
It changes your perspective. You have more time to look at some bigger picture things. He‘s got a little more time now to grab a guy here or there that doesn‘t necessarily play the position he was coaching.
It's kind of like your kids at home. When your neighbor says something they listen a lot better than when their mom and dad say something. It's a chance to be an outside voice with some guys.
Selfishly, I'm just hoping that this will increase his longevity as a coach. We'll see if he can get to 81 or 82. That would be a great thing.
You‘re in favor of an early signing day?
Yes, I am. The main reason that a lot of players have committed. It's an opportunity for everybody to express that it's either a commitment or it's sort of a commitment. It allows us to better know the landscape. I say us. I mean anybody in college. You better know the landscape of how committed a player is.
The other things is that it allows you less time to recruit those kids that have already committed. You can maybe look at other players or talk to players at home. It just makes more sense.
It should cut down on traveling, but it won't because then everybody is going to transition to the next year's class. I know that. That's the reality of it all.
Another thing is for the prospects after they sign they're not going to be getting phone calls from school A, B, and C. To me, of I was a prospect, I would love it. If I knew where I wanted to go to school, I'd sign the papers in December and now everybody quit bugging me.
December would be the best time?
You would do it right around the junior college signing day, usually it's the first Wednesday after the contact period shuts down. As a prospect, it would give you a chance to say here is where I'm going now leave me alone. The best part is that they don't have to. There's no pressure. If you want to do it, now you can make it official. It's over. That's a good thing.
If a kid has committed (verbally), do you honor the commitment?
It just depends on the commitment. Again, there are degrees of commitments. It's not unheard of for a player to commit to somewhere and then encourage other people to keep talking with him. That happens a lot.
So, again, this gives a prospect an opportunity to really make his commitment solid. It lets the recruiting schools know that it is a solid commitment or it's a semi-commitment kind of deal.
Do you think that it‘s something that will be here in five years?
I hope it's here in five months. That might be optimistic. Again, it's just common sense, which is why it will probably take five years.
Would you be in favor of letting a player out of the letter if the coach leaves?
I would be OK with that. If they wanted to put a clause in there, that's fine. To me, that's understandable and that's logical, too. So, that won't pass.
Do you guys hit the road then after Thanksgiving?
Yeah, we'll have a three-week block coming up here. Yeah.
You have a defensive line full of playmakers, but a guy that‘s been hard to miss the last few weeks is Broderick Binns. Can you just talk about his contributions?
Yeah, Broderick is gaining ground. It's fun to watch. He's a young player. He's a guy that we would have called a developmental player a year ago. Not the biggest guy, but he's real active. He's got a real knack. He plays with great technique.
As I've said before, we're not the biggest defensive line as a group. We have a couple of guys that are big. But we're relatively small compared to the rest of the conference. Broderick probably fits that. He's got a knack. He's a hard worker. He's a smart player and he's got good ability. You can see him gaining a little confidence with each week, which is what you want.
I know you‘re not into forecasting. But you lose two of the faces of the defense. Is he a possibility to move inside next year?
We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. But obviously we're losing two stalwart players. Those are guys that have played four years. That's eight years of production and leadership there. We're going to have to figure something out. But we feel god about the group that we've got. They've really done a nice job.
When you were talking before about not talking about bowls or about Shonn, you were referencing today. Is that right?
Once we get through Saturday. And on Shonn's topic, there's nothing to talk about until we talk. So, there's nothing to talk about.
But after the game, that‘s all there is going to be to talk about, bowls.
That's fine. I'm OK with that. And they might talk about the game a little, too. Hopefully it's a positive. We've got some work to do.
The all-Big Ten teams will come out next week. Is there anybody you‘d like to promote?
We've got a lot of players that have played really well. But I'm thinking a little higher here than Big Ten with King and Shonn. Those two to me are no-brainers. But that's one person's opinion.
It's going to be a little tougher with Mitch because it's hard to put measurements on the weight that he plays, the impact that he's had on our football team. But anybody that watches closely realizes that.
Shonn is a little bit easier. If you just look at the numbers, you basically have to be not knowledgeable about football. If this guy's not an all-American, an all-everything, I don't know what it takes. Bu I haven't had much experience in that regard, so I don't know. I'm sure I'm missing something. But he's just played so well.
How can you guys help that in terms of promotion?
He's already done the work. Obviously, we've got to finish strong this week. If we want to help him, winning another game won't hurt him at all. But again, I don't know how else you would judge it. Running backs are a little bit easier. If you look at numbers, those are so impressive. I haven't looked at the national numbers. I don't know how the other guys compare. But I doubt anybody has the kind of numbers he has and consistency. I'd throw that in there. Then, if you watch his tape, now you're really getting impressed. That's a lot more impressive than the numbers for my money. He's already done a heck of a job.
Do you feel you guys need to promote that?
I think they have. Phil has already done that with those players. That's what sports information guys do. We did a nice job with Brad and other players. I'm sure the same thing will happen here.
Have you guys learned that process more year to year?
I think the first big one was Brad. That was like "whoa." And obviously things were different then and when Chuck Long was in the race in '85. I'm not saying that we're suggesting that. But they give running back trophies, too. I would think he'd be a prime consideration for that one.
Did you see any signs in the spring that something like this might happen with Shonn?
No. Not in the spring. The one thing I'd say and I said this to someone on the teleconference. With the way that he played special teams is the way that he's playing running back. You guys remember him covering kickoffs and just blowing guys up. It's hard to miss him. And he runs with that same determination, with that same toughness. To me, he's just transformed that to his running back position. Outside of his off-of-the-field demeanor, the determination and the toughness he runs with to me is what distinguishes him from other guys I've seen.
I think he‘s 106 yards from breaking the all-time single season rushing record at Iowa. How would that kind of cap off this whole season?
The thing that I would add to that is if you do a breakdown of games, game by game, that's impressive. I don't even know what he had in the first game. 106 on how many carries, 10 or 12? If you look at those things and consider what he's done in Big Ten competition. That to me says it all. His lowest yards per carry, but his most impressive game was Penn State because those holes closed fast. I walked off the field thinking Royster had like 5.0 a carry and 150 yards. And when I looked at the stats, it was the other way around. That was pretty impressive. That's a good defensive unit.
What did you think Shonn was capable of?
I didn't know. I just knew he'd be a good player. I would have predicted that. I would have predicted he would be very good. But he's moved beyond very good. He's moved well beyond that. That's great. That's fun to see.
It's kind of the Brad Banks story, you know, first year starting. Here we are in November and this guy is playing as well as anybody in the country at his position. I think you could make that same argument with Brad. Palmer wasn't bad either. You wouldn't mind losing that if you were drawing for one of them.
Did the layoff in 2002 hurt Brad‘s chances and could it hurt Shonn?
I don't know. I haven't thought much about the Heisman stuff. That sounds like it's all quarterbacks, and rightfully so. And Crabtree, he's played well. I just know that with running backs, Shonn has played well. That's all.
He ran for 100 yards in his first game here. How did he handle being the backup to those guys?
He's been the same guy. And Albert led the conference in rushing that year, ahead of Barber and Maroney. Those guys can run the ball. I saw a little of Barber the other night. Holy smokes. Man, is he tough.
What was the questions? Oh, we had a pretty good guy in Albert toting the mail there and doing a pretty good job.