Carr Speaks to the Press

Lloyd Carr spoke to the media in his weekly Monday press conference. He provided review of the Minnesota game, and a preview for this weekend's matchup with Wisconsin.

Opening statement:

"I thought we played very hard with very good intensity and thought it was a well-deserved victory. When I look at the Big Ten statistics, the things that I like are that we are second in turnover margin, which is a substantial increase from where we were ago. We are first in third-down conversions, which I think is one of the critical issues in football, second in scoring in the Big Ten and we lead the Big Ten in touchdowns scored rushing. That tells me that we are able to rush the football when it is really the most important. Adam Finley is also second in the Big Ten in punting. At this stage of the season, I think statistics in terms of Big Ten statistics are a little more revealing than they are when you are factoring in the non-conference schedule.

"Wisconsin a year ago in my judgment dominated us offensively, and they have a very strong front four. Offensively the strength of their team is that they return their entire starting offensive line and they are very big and physical. Probably first-round draft choices there in the Johnson boys (Al and Ben), and of course (Brooks) Bollinger is a tremendous football player that has won more games than any other quarterback in Wisconsin history. (Anthony) Davis is as good as any running back in the country."

On offensive lineman Adam Stenavich starting this Saturday:

"Courtney Morgan played his best game on Saturday. I thought our offensive line did a tremendous job protecting the quarterback and that was a concern heading into the game. Adam had a good week of practice and was really better than what I expected him to be at that stage. I think he is very close to being where he was, but he has missed some practice time, conditioning, and all those things."

On where B.J. Askew ranks among fullbacks he has coached:

"We have had a lot of great fullbacks. Aaron Shea was a great fullback here. When you have a fullback that can catch the football, protect the passer, and run inside. B.J. has the added dimension that he can move back and he is a tremendous inside runner that was shown by him making some cuts on Saturday. He was very effective on the draw play and in catching screens. We are doing some things with him to try and take advantage of what he can do for our football team. I think he is a great football player, and the thing that I tried to convince him last year after the bowl game is that I don't think that he is a great tailback, but I think he is a great football player. He is a very good tailback and has had a remarkable year."

On Julius Curry's and Ernest Shazor's health:

"Julius is day to day because he did not practice last week and I haven't seen any updates on him yet this week. We had three or four guys on that trip that practiced very little, and normally we don't take those guys because I don't want guys standing around watching that can't play. We did take some guys because there is a period in there where every hour counts. We were inside last Thursday because of the rain and we have the best turf in our facility, but Ernest got a turf toe. He was better at game time, and hopefully he will be ready to go this week. I don't think that it is real serious, but there is nothing more painful than a turf toe."

On the development of Joey Sarantos:

"We have had several guys that have really stepped up when the opportunities have presented themselves, and Joe Sarantos is one of those guys. He has done a tremendous job on special teams, and when Zach (Kaufman) got hurt, we put him in there. He is very athletic and can really run. Joey is tough and doesn't have the experience yet, but he just goes out and plays. He doesn't overanalyze things like a lot of young players do."

On Larry Stevens' contributions to this team:

"Larry Stevens is just one of those guys that plays hard every down, can run, and plays with a lot of enthusiasm and effort. He is not your prototypical defensive lineman, but he is so athletic and tough. He is really coming on."

On the seniors stepping up:

"I think that they have done a tremendous job. Leadership is one of those things that there are many different definitions, but as a football player you are looking for a guy that is a team-oriented individual who performs to the best of his ability. I think that we have a lot of seniors doing that right now and I am extremely happy. Ronald Bellamy has matured unbelievably and is playing like we always hoped he would. You look at B.J. Askew, who a year ago was up and down. (Bennie) Joppru is in there, and I wouldn't trade Victor Hobson for any linebacker in this country. He has had a tremendous year and has really led this team. Shawn Lazarus has also had a really good year. He plays in there where you really don't notice him a lot, but he is playing hard. We have a lot of those guys that are playing well and within the team they are guys that stand for the right thing."

On Jon Shaw adjusting to being asked to contribute more:

"Jon Shaw is a fourth-year player. He is very smart and nobody has ever worked harder. His attitude and effort have always been tremendous and he has also done a great job in the classroom by being an excellent student. In terms of competitive abilities, there were guys with more talent, but sometimes when a guy gets an opportunity he performs at a high level because of his character. He is just a guy that has been willing to do anything that his coaches have asked him to do and has never complained. He is upbeat and always enthusiastic, and when he got his opportunity because of some injuries, he makes one of the two or three biggest plays in that game. He also made some great plays in the Michigan State game. That is what is so satisfying to see a guy that has waited his turn and never complained, and it is attributed to his great attitude. That is what Jon Shaw is."

On Courtney Morgan's progression:

"Courtney is another guy that is an extremely good athlete that has great feet and is very tough. He is another one of those guys that when he came here that I asked what is his dedication and commitment. He was too heavy and not strong enough but was a guy in our camp that had wonderful athletic ability. In looking back on it, he is at the right position, which helps him. He played very well, and hopefully he will continue to do that."

On the players knowing not to look past Wisconsin:

"It is one of those things as far as educating a team, but you shouldn't have waited until now to do it. It is a part of your fabric and how you do things. You can't control anything today except your effort and your attitude. To the extent that you can get a group of people to concentrate on the immediate goal because there are always distractions whether things are going well or poorly, and you better understand that. If you can get everybody on the same page or at least close to it, then to that extent, you have a better opportunity of being successful."

On the chance of players looking ahead to Ohio State:

"No. I think that they know better. I think that Barry Alvarez is a great football coach and has built that program on guys that are tough and team-oriented and plays great defense. They have lost couple of heartbreaking games, and I think that the loss of Lee Evans kept Wisconsin from being a great football team along with some other injuries. So I have tremendous respect for what they represent and what they have accomplished. I think that there is not a guy on our football team that isn't smart enough to realize that Wisconsin is a good football team."

On the play of defensive lineman Grant Bowman:

"I think Grant Bowman is having an exceptional year and has been extremely productive. He is one of those guys that is easy to look past because physically he doesn't have the stature, but he has got a great heart and is tough. He is having a great year."

On the offense finishing off this season better than last year:

"I think that we have made some strides and are starting to play with a lot of confidence. We are able to spread the ball around as a team, and because we have had some success we are starting to gain some confidence. I don't think there is any question about that. You have to start with John Navarre because he is the guy that has to make those decisions in the passing game and at the line of scrimmage. When you are able to execute, you gain confidence and we have done that. We are at the finish and are striving to finish off this season strongly."

On where Bennie Joppru ranks among tight ends he has coached:

"We have had a lot of good tight ends. If you take everything that Bennie Joppru is doing because he is doing a tremendous job blocking and has taken pride in it. There are a lot of plays this season where he has knocked the linebacker or defensive back down. He is playing with great effort and enthusiasm. I wouldn't trade Joppru for anybody."

On how injuries have affected the defense:

"Defensively, we're not where we had hoped to be. I think a lot of that has to do with injuries. That's why I give those kids credit who have stepped in there. Carl Diggs had his best game of his career against Minnesota. I thought he was outstanding. When you take veteran guys out then you're not going to play with the same cohesiveness. We're healthier in the front than we've been all season long. If we can get Ernest Shazor and Cato June back then we have a chance. I think our corners are playing very well. Jeremy LeSueur has been tremendous and done a great job on the kickoff return team. We just have to go into this game and get better. I think that's the key. You're always trying to get better. We can get better in every phase of the game."

On the defensive line's pressure on the quarterback:

"I think Shantee Orr is not back to where he was. Hopefully, he will be this week. A lot of times it's just a matter of a couple of days. Alain Kashama missed the (Minnesota) game because of an injury suffered in the Michigan State game. I think that we are playing very well up front, yet I always temper any assessment of where we are with what is in front of us. Certainly, from a defensive standpoint, we haven't faced a better line and we haven't faced a better back (in Wisconsin). Brooks Bollinger is a tremendous quarterback and leader. We have to measure ourselves again this week."

On the potential of wide receiver Jermaine Gonzales:

"I think he's going to be a fine receiver. His hands are as good as anybody's on our team. Last week in practice he made three remarkable catches. I always tell our players that it's no surprise to a coach in most instances when a guy goes in and plays well. Inevitably, it means that he has practiced well. Jermaine struggled the first four or five games because he had a lot to learn. He's settled in and I think he's gaining confidence and certainly we've gained a lot of confidence in his ability to go in there and play in the game."

On Gonzales' decision to switch from quarterback to wide receiver:

"I think he wrestled with it. He's like a lot of guys -- he had aspirations of being a great quarterback. I think long term this will be a great decision for Jermaine because he's going to get better and better."

On the depth of the receiving corps and its flexibility:

"I don't remember ever having this much depth, a guy knows that if he practices well he's going to get some opportunities. When you have people who have to compete to play I think it makes them better. Obviously, it creates a situation on your team where you don't have to rely on one guy. The nature of this game is that if you have to rely on one guy that sooner or later it will catch up with you. Depth gives you some flexibility, which is a great thing to have."

On there being any tangible reasons for this team being better prepared in the stretch than last year:

"I think the truth will be in how we finish. I don't like to look back but I like where we are based on the way we've played recently and based on what I see in a lot of different parts of our team. There are some things that we're not doing very well. We're still too inconsistent kicking field goals and we didn't do a good job handling punts last week. That was a strength of our team and we're not getting production there. There are a lot of things that we need to do better but I do think that if we can maintain the intensity, aggressiveness and will it takes to finish something then I think we have a chance."

On the punt return game:

"I'm not satisfied. First of all, he's (Markus Curry) a young player. We practice putting him on the 10-yard line and in the emotion of the game you make mistakes. He's looking up at the ball and you're thinking about catching the football and the next thing you know you've drifted and you only have to drift three or four steps and then he knew immediately he had made a misjudgment. The one that probably bothered me more was the one earlier when he felt he should have gone and caught the ball and he didn't and the ball rolled 15 yards. The one thing I know about Markus is he can catch the football and he can do something with it when he catches it. We just have to work hard this week because we do have to get better there. Jermaine Gonzales has been back there working hard and Ronald Bellamy has been practicing back there as well."

On out-of-state players facing friends and former high school teammates:

"Almost every game in the Big Ten Conference you're going to have kids who are playing against guys they grew up with and playing against teams from their home state. Bennie Joppru (from Minnesota) was ecstatic because he always wants to be able to go home and say he won and as a senior he beat Minnesota in the last game against them. That's the bragging rights thing. If you don't win you never hear the end of it."

On the improved turnover margin by the offense:

"That turnover ratio is as much responsible to what we've done defensively as offensively. If you look at the Big Ten statistics, in Big Ten competition John Navarre has thrown one interception. His ratio is 12 touchdowns to one interception. The turnover that Chris Perry had was our first fumble on offense. The turnover margin is a team deal because defensively we've caused a lot of turnovers. We had three interceptions against Minnesota. There was a fumble in there that we got that shouldn't have been blown dead. Defensively, what I like about that statistic is that you can't be great unless both sides of the ball are doing the things that are necessary. I think that there are a lot of other things on offense that have improved."

On getting running back David Underwood into the game against Minnesota:

"It was good to give him an opportunity to play and David had his best week of practice last week. He's struggled some and I always tell him that I very seldom have a sophomore tailback and I think there's more ups and downs in the sophomore year than any other year. If you're playing a lot, inevitably you're going to have some downs because the season and the pressure wears on you. If you're not playing you're unhappy, which many times you're not ready to handle that. What you want is a guy to keep working and know his opportunity is going to come and when it does he'll be prepared. It's a battle and a fight constantly in terms of maintaining concentration and confidence when you aren't playing a lot. David had a good week of practice and every time you get to play I think it helps you."

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