Schilling says take it gradually

Senior Offensive Guard talks about approaching the upcoming bowl game gradually. And he talks about the future of the O-line.

Q. Steve, regarding the layoff, you've obviously had a little more experience than some of these guys. What will you tell them about getting ready for this game?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: You know, you just kind of got a long time, so you can't get into Mississippi State too early. We'll watch some film and prepare, but Coach Rodriguez mentioned to us in our meeting last night that the first few practices we're just going to get back to fundamentals and doing those things, almost like when you have a bye week, and then when you get closer to the game, and especially when you get -- obviously when you get on-site, you focus on Mississippi State and you put in your game plan and you go out there to win the game.

Q. How excited are you to be going out in a New Year's Day Bowl game?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: Yeah, really excited. Anywhere we would have gone, I would have been excited. Definitely my senior year just to get back to a Bowl and have this experience my last year and not have that Ohio State game be my last game. It's exciting for me, and I'm glad that our senior class was able to get this program back to a Bowl, and hopefully from years on we can start a new streak.

Q. I think it's over 1,000 days between Bowl appearances. Has it felt that long?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: Yes and no. The Capital One Bowl seems like yesterday sometimes but then it seems like so far away. It was fun, but then when you think about the guys you were playing with and how long ago it felt like you played with those guys, seems like it's been a while, so it's going to be a good feeling to get back on the Bowl site and kind of relive those memories.

Q. It was long enough ago that you were a young player in this program. When you went through those practices for the first time, what did it do for you in terms of your development?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: Yeah, I think it was huge. Towards the end of that year, my freshman year, I was struggling a little bit, and I haven't -- having time off and time to improve on your fundamentals and stuff, I felt like instead of having to go into a long off-season struggling, you get one more chance to kind of redeem yourself, get some confidence back, especially if you can win the game and play well. So it can be huge especially for a young team going forward.

Q. Will time maybe help to regroup mentally, too?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: I think definitely. Time can help heal all wounds, and obviously the last two weeks were tough losses. Having last week off, for guys to rest up, both physically and mentally, and now to kind of get back at it and know you have something better ahead definitely helps.

Q. On Thursday you won the offensive lineman award. You're the first one to win three, three times. Does that mean something to you?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: Yeah, that's a huge honor, definitely. To be rewarded for, I guess, consistent play over three years is an honor. You know, I mean, we had a young team and a young offensive lineman two years ago so there were no seniors and stuff like that. But it's a huge honor. I'm proud of it, and I get to hang those things on my wall the rest of my life. It's huge.

Q. Did you vote for Denard for team MVP?

Q. Was there any question in your mind that he would be MVP?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: No, when they handed out the ballots I just said, do we even really need to vote? Obviously I don't think there was any question in anybody else's mind who was going to win that award.

Q. A lot of talk about how he was worn down physically later in the season. Can you compare where he was at early in the season to where he was at the end?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: Yeah, it's tough. It's like I touched on earlier, my second year, my red-shirt freshman year, and I was fairly worn down at the end of the season, too, playing 12 games, especially a young guy and in a position where he's in where he's getting hit hard every game, especially when he's running the ball so much. It's tough to keep that up. I think him making it through and not having any injury that really kept him out for an extended period of time, though, was good, because he's been through it and he's felt it, and next year it'll feel more natural to him and he'll be able to push through it a little bit more.

Q. Who will be your replacement next year? Or who will be the guys that are pushing really hard in these Bowl practices to try and leave the impression that they can be?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: The guy who's been behind me most of the season has been Ricky Barnum, and he's a guy that got in a few plays in the Ohio State game at tackle. But from my perspective he's more fit at guard, and he's been playing left guard mostly behind me. Then also Elliott Mealer has been playing a lot, and Will Campbell switched over, and I saw huge improvement just in the last few weeks of him finally understanding how to move out of an offensive lineman stance and go, and I think with these 15 practices and spring practice he could really challenge for that spot, too.

Q. Do you guys take any extra motivation out of playing a team from the SEC?
STEPHEN SCHILLING: Not really. I don't know, maybe. If you look at it, I guess, the Big Ten and SEC are regarded as two of the top conferences in the country, so that's huge. And I feel like there's a lot of Big Ten and SEC match-ups out there in Bowl season, so it'll be fun to see how the two conferences compare. Obviously a couple years ago Big Ten was regarded as one of the worst conferences I can remember. People were hating on the Big Ten, and now we've got a lot of teams in the top 25, an opportunity to play a lot of games against the other great conferences and see where we kind of match up nationally. It's an exciting opportunity for our conference.

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