What are some of the assets you need defensively to stop Purdue?"I think one of the things you'd better do is keep everything in front of you. When you have dynamic players on the inside positions - meaning the slot, tight end, and back - before you even get to the quarterback, if you let them get anything cheap - like bubble screens that a lot of people use, especially with (Dorien) Bryant - something that is a short potential gainer can turn into a long gainer. So you have to make sure that they nickel and dime it and you don't give them chunks."
Why don't more schools run their style of offense?"I think there are a lot of schools that play spread-type offense. This offense happens to be a lot more in vogue nationally, but just not as much in the Midwest."
Is there anything you would have done differently in the August training camp now that you have gone back to training camp these past two weeks?"The only thing I can think that we are doing more now than what we did before, we are actually tackling more. Maybe go live more but the Catch 22 you're in when you're going through training camp and you're going two-a-day, one-a-day, two-a-day, one-a-day for the long grind, you could start losing them in a hurry physically. You can start losing guys physically if you go live too many times."
Is that something you might incorporate in the next season's camp?"I would have to think about that next year. All that I do know is doing this in practice has helped our physicality. So it is something I would definitely have to entertain."
With this type of offense, are there more on-the-fly type reads by the secondary?"As a matter of fact, they don't try to trick you. They just release four or five guys out there and you'd better try and cover them. If you're just worrying about covering them, they're going to hand the ball off and try to gash you inside. I don't think they're trying to base the offense off of trickery, with the exception of a couple of options that they run which are tough. As far as the passing game, it's just spread you out and get the ball into their hands. This quarterback gets the ball out in a hurry and when he does, you have to be tackling a guy in space."
Comparing Purdue's opponents and your opponents so far this season, does that give you a slight feel of an advantage?"Normally, you would say that if we had played better. You say them being 4-0 and us being 0-4, it still is what it is. If we had played four tight ballgames and each game had shown significant progress, I would say the answer to that would be definitely yes. But I would say right now, the jury is still out."
Could you talk about Raeshon McNeil's development?"He probably has more on him than any of our DB's, to be honest with you, because he plays corner, in the slot, and he also plays safety in the dime. He's had more put on him than just about anyone there, and he's shown that he's versatile enough to play outside on the corner, play inside on the slot, and when we want to get extra coverage guys in there, actually plays deep as a safety as well."
Is that versatility a mentality thing?"He has shown the ability to play those three spots. What that has allowed us to do, is allowed us to take Zibby (Tom Zbikowski) and drop him down and get him in underneath coverage. Everyone has seen David Bruton's range already, but that allows us to drop Zibby down and get another guy with that type of range back there in the secondary."
What are David Bruton's attributes that makes him such a valuable player?"Well, the fact that he can run really fast for a guy that's 210 pounds. You saw that interception the other day. That is not just an okay play, that's a guy having great range and not only taking the proper angle to the ball but just being able to get from the middle of the field all the way to the fade ball up the sidelines. There aren't that many people who have the speed to cover that much ground."
How long has it taken him and the defense to get comfortable with the different packages?"We have played a lot of post-safety coverages. Whether you are playing cover three or whether you are playing man with the safety in the middle of the field, we have played a lot of post-safety coverages. It's just that last week we played more and more of it. That's where that really came up more."
Robert Hughes has made big strides. What are the little things that you want to see him improve upon?"It really goes back to the same question about Kerry and Brian. Robert has a lot of athletic ability for a guy that is 235 pounds. He's got good wheels, he's got good vision, he's tough, he has good hands, but the thing is when you have to think about what you are doing, it's different than when you just turn it loose. As we have gone through from training camp on, you start to see him get better and better and better. A lot of it has to do with pre-snap read, having a good idea where he thinks the ball will end up based off the front. I think he has become a much, much better player."
Is that more with him than the physical aspect?"He's always run physically for us, but sometimes doesn't run where you are supposed to run. A team lines up in a certain front and there's an area based off a front, you usually have an area where the ball is going to if it's an inside run. Usually, but if someone is inexperienced, if they are used to like when they were in high school they just hand you the ball and turn you loose. It's not like it is designed to go to one spot. It's like you go find an opening and get us a bunch of yards. He has become a much better running back at understanding where the ball is supposed to go."
When I first saw Hughes, he looked like he was 27 years old. What was your first impression when you first saw him?"I thought he was a big muchacho for a running back (laughing). I didn't have guys like the Bus and things like that when I was coaching, but I did have Cory Dillon and I did have Antwan Smith so I did have a couple of 230 and change guys that I have dealt with in my career. Usually, they end up being big, good, durable backs. The fact that he has those other talents that we talked about gives him the opportunity to be something special."
Coach Haywood mentioned that the running back rotation is set before the game begins. Are there minuses and pluses to that?"Obviously, like in the last couple of years, Darius was in there all the time, carrying the ball all the time. And he was the guy and everyone else was the backups and that's the way it was. The way this has evolved this year, and you don't know how this is going to go, these guys have all settled into roles and that's just been evolving over the last few weeks. When everyone knows the role and accepts the role and is involved in the game plan, no one is stagnant knowing they are just going to be sitting on the sidelines the whole game."
Is that a common thing?"I can't say that I have been involved with coaching this many backs that have all played in the game. One year when I was coaching with the Giants, I had O.J. Anderson and Rodney Hampton and David Megget and Louis Tillman and they were all halfbacks. So one would play on third down, one was the lead guy, one was the change-of-pace guy, and the other guy was a core special-teams player who was a backup. So really, it's not that dissimilar from that situation. Game-by-game, they all know they have a role in the game."
Does Jimmy Clausen have the green light to change plays at the line of scrimmage?"He doesn't have the freedom like Brady had for example. But we have plays where he can go from one side to the other side, but it's usually with a little help from 78."
When will he get more responsibility to do this?"I think it will be through this year. For example, eight games from now it will be greatly increased from where it is now. It is greatly increased from where it was three weeks ago. You do it as they can handle it. I'd like to do a whole bunch more of it, but you have to do what they can handle. So as they can handle it, you do more."
Is there where he needs to grow the most?"To run this offense, without a doubt. The sooner he can handle more, the more we can do. That's not an excuse, it's just reality. You can't ask him to do something he is not capable of doing. He'll get there and he is growing quick."
Will your game plan be more to run the ball to keep Purdue's offense off the field?"Do you want the game plan (laughing)? The game plan is to try to score some touchdowns because they have some fire power. That's the game plan. You tell me how we can score them and that's what I'm calling. I couldn't, obviously, tell you, but I can tell you, yes, we are going to run the football. Last week what we established is that we have to start with a core and in one week only score a couple of times. Then all of a sudden we finally have something going and throw that out. We're not going to do that; 14 might not get it done. I think we might have to get a few more than that."
Is Justin Brown ready to go this week?"I don't know if he is iffy or whether it's closer to game day for me to see that. He doesn't look full speed but he looks a heck of a lot better than he did anytime last week. I think there are a number of guys, even some of these younger guys, that could see, depending upon Justin's health, could see a lot more playing time in the game."
Are these younger guys we haven't seen?"No, they're some young guys you may not have seen play."
Are you inclined to give Derrell Hand a second shot at it?"Oh yeah, I mean Hand is involved in the game plan. I didn't cut him (laughing)."
You're probably going to rotate a little bit, but who are these guys?"You're going to have to, with four guys, pressure the quarterback. You're going to have to, because if you bring more than that, with as quick as he throws the ball, we can't go into this game thinking we're going to blitz 50 times. We go back to that pick your poison. I think you have to put some pressure on him in the game, but I think you're going to see a bunch of guys playing in the game."
What's the word on Dan Wenger?"Optimistically, it maybe looks like UCLA. He's not going to be a go this week. He's out there running around now. I'm saying optimistically but that may or may not be the case. That's what he's shooting for right now."
You're playing a lot more guys this year. Is that part of your evolution as a coach?"We're trying to build some underlying talent right here that is moving up the ranks that's got playing experience. I think the more guys you can involve, the better off in the long term; the better off you're going to be."
Is this something you learned during the off-season?"I think it was more that the drop off in talent from the first guys to the second guys in the last couple of years was great with a few exceptions. You mentioned Trevor Laws; Trevor is clearly our best defensive lineman. But in a lot of other cases, the drop off from the first guy to the second guy is not that significant; so you play them all."
Will Andrew Nuss be able to help on the offense this year?"We moved him over a couple weeks ago and started working him on offense."
Could you comment on the recent situation where a coach criticized a journalist during a press conference? What do you consider as being acceptable and not acceptable in a situation like that?"Being objective on that situation, I'm sure all the coaches in America would side with the coaches and most of the journalists would side with the journalist. I'm saying, as a dad, that would bother me. Let me take myself out of the coach and journalist role, as a dad, that would bother me. I was talking to a couple of the media guys here the other day and I can tell you my kid is going over to St Joe's. Four weeks we have lost a game and in four weeks, not one kid in the school has said one thing to him about us losing the game. Now to me, that is a great thing as a parent to know that your kid is not going through any type of a beating. So in that situation, I'm not there and I don't know all the facts. I know all the coaches of America go, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,' and the journalists of America go, ‘No, no, no.' But in reality, as a dad, that would really bother me, as a dad."
Is the confidence level of the players up this week?"I think that they believe they can win the game. I don't know if anyone else believes that, but I think the players believe they can win the game. If the players don't believe they can win the game, you have no chance. Players will always say, ‘Yeah, yeah, we're going to win,' but I truly believe that the players believe they can win the game."
Did they not feel that way last week?"But I don't know that last week because last week I was so into trying to redo our thinking. That's what I was doing last week. Hey, I was trying to win. Don't get me wrong. But I was trying to change the mentality to become a tougher football team and start to create a niche or core that we could grow from. Which I think we did, and now we will see where we go from there."