With emphasis on physical practices this week, do you back off a little bit with the verbal stuff?"I think you have to ride them pretty hard, but I think some guys already get it. Are you talking about getting them to play physical? I think you have to ride them pretty hard. I don't think you have to ride them to be condescending and demeaning, but you have to keep a foot on them and press them, and press them hard. You can't accept anything but riding them hard; not accepting the little things that you might not ride them as hard about because you figure – ah, let it go. I think you have to make sure to identify the little things because the little things are part of the problem."
Can confidence only come with success?"You gain some confidence in practice when the tempo of practice shows rewards. You do gain confidence in practice. I think what ends up happening, because we haven't played very well, I think part of my job when you're dealing with the psyche of the players and coaches is making sure that confidence doesn't get shattered. It's easy at this point right there for people to be questioning themselves when things aren't going well. Being out there at practice really helps because now you have camaraderie. It's not what everyone else is saying; it's just us. Because the tempo of practice has been so high, I think a lot of positives have come out of it with very few bumps and bruises."
Do you worry about a turnover in the first quarter and the players saying, "Oh, here we go again"?"I worried about it last week too and the first play of the game, the ball went 10 yards over our head. That's the first play of the game, the first rattle out of the box. Do I worry about it, yes, but there are things you can do to work on ball possession which is one of the things we've been doing this week. I'd say one of the fundamental and technical things we've been working on is taking care of the football no matter what position you're in, including quarterback."
If you're able to score early, how will that help the confidence and get the monkey off your backs?"I think it's going to help a lot of people. It doesn't just help the offense's confidence. It helps the defense because I think what happens sometimes, the defense starts pressing. In other words, the defense tries to make plays that maybe they're not capable of making because the offense isn't producing. I think there definitely is a chemistry that happens there, and I think if you can go ahead and get on the scoreboard a couple of times early in the game, I think part of it from the offense might be relief. But for the defense, it might say, okay, we can just play football and not try to do more than just doing our job."
How can you ride the team hard without eroding their confidence?"There comes a time when you back off, but we just haven't reached that spot yet."
You struggled against the run. What has been the biggest problem?"It's been a combination of things, and it has been different things in different games. In one game, it's bounce-out runs. The next game was inside runs with missed tackles. In the last game, it was schemed runs. So there are different areas of concerns in different games on different runs. All three of those come down to when we talk about those core elements and things you need to do. It's controlling the line of scrimmage."
How have you worked on these issues during this week's training camp?"Not to be sarcastic, but it's been much, much, much more physical than any set of practices we've had since we've been here."
Are there any younger guys you can push a little harder now?"Well, yes, but you're also at the point where you have to make ‘em or break ‘em. One of two things has to happen, either they are going to get better or they are going to go by the wayside and you're going to put somebody else in there because at this point, you don't have time to stand pat. Everyone across the board has to get better. Everybody. The best players have to get better and the worst players have to get better. They have to accept the fact that part of their responsibility is to go along for the ride to get better at what they do."
Did you reach that mid-point in practice today where you started to back off on the physicality?"About halfway through practice, we flipped the switch - and it wasn't where it wasn't physical - it might have been two-thirds of the way through practice because we did have to start putting elements of Michigan State into play because you can't really do it in one day and tomorrow would have been trying to do everything in one day."
Have you emphasized ball control this week more than other weeks of practice?"You do it more and you do it live. There's a big difference in doing it when you're not tackling them than when you are tackling them. When you try to simulate certain things in practice but you are not taking them to the ground, it's a little different than when you are taking them to the ground. And you can work on stripping live and holding onto the football. So the fact that we have been going full-contact here for two and a half days, it makes a difference."
With all the contact this week, are you seeing some wear on the guys?"There are a couple guys with bumps and bruises. Basically when you play at that type of tempo, there are going to be some bumps and bruises; there are going to be some."
Is Kuntz (Pat) all right?"He's shot every three plays (laughing). He goes off and you think you're going to put him in the morgue and about two minutes later, he's back out there and he's fine. As a matter of fact, yesterday I think I made that exact comment to him in practice because you hear him, ‘Ow, ooh, ah,' you know. But that's the life of a nose tackle."
Is that what you were talking about to him today at practice?"No, actually, we were talking about Wales at the time, to be honest with you (laughing). Not the animal, whales. We were talking about whether Wales was a country or part of Great Britain. That's really what we were talking about to be honest with you (laughing)."
This fourth year group is small. What kind of leadership are you getting from them?"Other than Mo Crum who has become a much more vocal player - Mo Crum by nature is really a quiet guy, but he has really accepted this captaincy and run with it. He has become much more vocal and, to be honest with you, one of the more vocal guys on the defense. But most of those guys are quiet by nature; that whole group. So usually when you're quiet by nature, your leadership doesn't come from talking about it, it usually comes from high effort - I would say most of those guys are trying to do by example rather than being a vocal presence on the field or off the field."
Do you see a high effort from these guys?"The ones that are on this team want to be on the field and want to be part of the answer and not part of the problem. They don't want to be perceived as the reason why we are struggling at this point. They want to be part of the answer."
Is Sam Young a leader now that he is in his second year?"I think when Sully (John Sullivan) is not in the huddle, I hear more vocal than when Sully is in the huddle. Usually only one lineman does most of the talking and Sully is such a domineering-type personality, and with the most experience, everyone just kind of listens to him and goes with the flow. I do notice him being more vocal when Sully is not in the huddle."
Where do you see him in his development at this point?"He's got a lot more upside to reach. I think the arrow has been pointing up since he has gotten here, and I think he is growing into his body. You see a guy that big and you say, ‘How can he grow into his body?' He's 20 pounds heavier and next year he might be 20 pounds heavier than what he is this year. He is a big man and I think every year that he is here, he will continue that upward trend."
How significant was it flipping him from one side to the other side at this point in the season?"I think it is significant, but I think it is something he can handle or else we wouldn't have made the flip. In fact, this week he looks so much more natural than he did last week."
What is his demeanor like? Is he hard on himself?"No, I think Latina is pretty hard on all those guys. They don't have time to worry about being hard on themselves because long before they get hard on themselves, they get ridden pretty hard."
What would you like to see out of the defense this week?"I think I would like to see what I am seeing in practice. I want to see that show up on Saturday because I like what I'm seeing in practice. But now it's got to carry over to the game."
How important is it to get off to a fast start and do you see them being fragile if something bad happens?"I won't answer the second part, but I will tell you every week I go over the top 10 things we need to do to win and the number two on the list was fast start. I'm thinking right along with you, I think it would be advantageous to everyone's psyche - the players, the coaches, and the fans - if good things happen early in the game."
Are they aware that no one has scored on Michigan State in the first quarter?"We haven't scored in the first quarter in any of our games; so they are aware of that. I think they're more worried about what we have done than what Michigan State has done."
Have you showed them the tape of last year's Michigan State game?"We haven't watched one bit of Michigan State. We have been watching us. We are in the transition state right now. What we did do, we put in Michigan State first and second down scouting report and game plan today to finish up the last third of practice. Tomorrow will be a lot more mental day than a physical day because we have a lot of elements of the game plan that normally would be installed by this time that we had to compensate and give up to try and change the temperament of the team."
Do you ever talk to Bill Belichick about the difference between Cleveland and New England? Were there big changes? Were there no changes?"There were significant changes between the two but that conversation is private. I can't pass on what he said to me. Yeah, we talked about the differences from Cleveland to New England. That's a private conversation, and it's going to stay private."
Given some of the problems with the offense, do you have to be more precise or more creative with your play-calling?"I think that has been part of the problem this year. I try to be so creative that you don't get good at anything. Like that core I was referring to, we have to get back to there first. Before I worry about creativity, we have to get good at something."
With practice being changed this week, does that hurt the preparation of the game plan for this next game?"There is a tradeoff. Trust me; I weighed exactly what you are talking about. I weighed the pros and cons. It isn't like the coaching staff isn't on track with the installation like we normally do; it just hasn't been presented to them on the same time frame or time scale. It will be given to them later. But I had to weigh the pros and cons and, trust me, it was a tough decision when you say, ‘When will we give this stuff to them?' Until you change the attitude of how you're going to play, really, that second part I felt was less significant. You have to change the attitude of how you play first."
Is there anything you have seen or done the last few days that indicate you will be able to move the ball in terms of rushing on Saturday?"All I can say is we have been much more physical at the line of scrimmage. That's as far as I can go. We have been much more physical at the line of scrimmage. We're just going to have to find out on Saturday."
Do you think the Demetrius Jones situation will have a negative effect on recruiting in the Chicago area?"Corwin Brown is my answer to your question. I have one of the most renowned people in Chicago public league. Anything that anybody wants to know, I have one of the greatest resources going; one of the most respected people to come out of Chicago publicly. I don't think we'll have any problems with the Chicago publicly."