SCOTT COLE'S QUICK WRAP:
1. Discuss Joe Tiller's impact on the Big Ten and your relationship with him.
Joe likes Tiller. Joe first met Tiller at an American Football Coaches' Association gathering. Tiller and his wife have also spent time with Joe and Sue on Nike trips.
When he came into the league, he changed the whole attitude of the conference. He's an awfully good coach. He's an outstanding football coach. He's set the bar higher in terms of what Big Ten teams can do offensively. He's had a great influence on this conference.
2. Talk about the challenge of preparing and developing a team without the benefit of an early bye week.
In the old days, there was no bye week, so Joe isn't concerned about that. The only thing that worried Joe about this year's team not having a bye week early on was the fact that other teams like Illinois had a bye before playing Penn State and therefore had a chance to implement some new schemes.
If you're banged up, a bye week is helpful to get players healthy. Most coaches would like an off-week in the middle of the season to rest some kids that might be tired or work with some new people.
3. Austin Scott talked about the challenge of being a backup. What does he have to do to earn more playing time?
He's playing behind a guy who's played very well. Austin has had some injury problems. In the process of recovering, Tony Hunt has had a chance to do some more things and has done well.
Austin's done well. Every time they put him in there, he plays with enthusiasm. He has practiced very well, but he had injuries and Hunt stayed healthy.
4. What would it mean to you to finish out the season with a Big Ten championship?
Joe just can't get into that mindset like the media can. He is worried about Purdue. Period. One game at a time. That's been Joe's life. He has always looked to take care of the little things first and then the big things will take care of themselves.
The only thing he's worried about right now is beating Purdue.
5. Do you feel Dan Connor is back to being the type of football player you expect him to be?
Dan Connor's got a ways to go yet. He's certainly very talented, but he didn't help himself with some of the shenanigans he pulled. Joe isn't sure how good Connor can be because he hasn't had to play game in and game out against physical teams.
6. Talk about the impact Michael Robinson has had on this team.
Michael Robinson has been Penn State's offense. When you consider the young wideouts, an offensive line that came into the year as a question mark, Robinson has been the heart of the football team. He hasn't gotten nearly the notoriety nationally that he deserves. He does it all. Every game, he does the things the team needs in the clutch to win.
Even at Michigan, Robinson put the team in a position to win the game. Michael has done a marvelous job and is a marvelous person. He had to go through a lot switching positions and now that he has had a chance to play quarterback exclusively, he is shining.
7. Talk about the move of A.Q. Shipley to defensive tackle and Jim Shaw to defensive end.
When they moved Shipley to defense, it made sense to move Shaw over to end. They had the luxury of moving Shipley because Pat Weber has played well at center on the scout team.
The coaches have always felt Shipley would be a good defensive player. They needed him there. Shaw could play either inside or outside, so they moved him outside so that Shipley could play inside.
8. What is it you like so much about this group of players?
They're good people. The way they handle themselves, their commitment to what the coaches feel is Penn State football. They can kid around and take Joe's teasing well. The players felt they had something to prove this year and joined with the coaches in getting that done. They're easy to coach and Joe likes to be around them.
9. What has happened to Purdue this season, specifically their defense? Are you surprised that they have struggled?
Joe is surprised by their struggles, but in all fairness, they turned the ball over 5 times last week. You can't do that and win games. They're still a very talented and well-coached team.
Before the season started, Joe felt Purdue would be the best team in the league. He is surprised they have not won more games, but when you look at the tapes, they are making critical mistakes.
Joe thinks that the Boilermakers are a much better team than their record would indicate. They play hard and tough. They come at you all the time. They held Wisconsin to 50 or 60 yards rushing which is very impressive.
The turnovers, some bad luck, and the quarterback situation has all contributed to their struggles. They have a lot of good football players and a good coach.
10. Talk about the decision to move Deon Butler from defense to offense and how much you've seen him improve.
Joe kicked himself last year for not playing Butler because he had done some great things on the scout team. He is a very good athlete. He's not a big kid and not a strong kid, but he's a very skillful athlete and a smart athlete.
The coaches felt the cornerback position would be good this year, so they moved Butler to offense and the rest is history.
11. Is it exciting when a kid like Ethan Kilmer walks on and makes such a contribution to the team?
He's a heck of an athlete. He walked on and Joe saw him running around one day at practice and asked who he was. He didn't play football at Shippensburg. Last year he was going to give up football, but Joe talked him into staying with it.
It's a really good story about a kid who isn't sure where he's going, but he gets an opportunity and takes advantage of it.
12. When you're in the midst of a good year, are you also planning for the future by playing kids like Sean Lee, Devin Fentress and A.Q. Shipley?
Joe will think about the future after the next three games. One game at a time. They need guys like Shipley, Lee and Fentress right now. Joe looked at what the team will have to do against Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State and was not comfortable with the defensive depth.
They put Shipley on the defensive line to make sure the line can handle 80-90 plays a game. Shipley might end up at center again next year for all Joe knows. They have to take care of what is happening right now and worry about next year later.
13. Will Justin King will primarily play offense the rest of the season?
That kind of dovetails with the previous question about Fentress. They put Fentress in there so that they could play King on offense. They've told King to keep his eye on defense, but expect to play offense. The coaches wanted to use King on offense, but also wanted to be prepared in case something happens in the defensive backfield with injuries.
The coaches talked to Fentress about playing and he wanted to do it. He's going to be a good player too.
14. Talk about Tamba Hali as a player and a person.
He's relentless as a football player. He plays and practices that way. He's got a lot of talent at 260 pounds. Joe doesn't know if there are any defensive ends better than Hali.
This hoopla of not pushing guys like Robinson, Hali, Zemaitis and Phillips...they're top notch football players. Not only because of what they do in games but also the way they conduct themselves on the practice field.
Hali's a great player and a great kid. How do you push a kid? That's up to Jeff Nelson. That's not Joe's style. In Joe's eyes, you take a look at the field, see what the product is, and go from there. How many times has he said that Tamba Hali is a heck of a football player? That's all he can do.
Hopefully, people see the intensity he plays with and the impact he has on a football game. Joe thinks that maybe he gives the media and public credit for being smarter than they are. He assumes that people can watch a football game and see how good a player is by the impact they have on the field.
15. Talk about Michael Robinson, Alan Zemaitis and Paul Posluszny as captains.
Joe can't say enough about those players. He has compared Paul to Shane Conlan. He can't give him higher praise than that. Robinson is the same way. He's right there with guys like Kerry Collins, Chuck Fusina and Todd Blackledge.
Having said that, he doesn't want to take anything away from Zemaitis, who is a little different kind of leader. Michael Robinson always has a smile and a handshake for you. He's more outgoing. Paul and Alan are both quiet leaders.
16. How tough is it for a second-teamer to overtake a starter this late in the season?
It's tough, especially when you have a football player as committed as Hunt is. He and Scott are physically equal. There's very little difference in their ability. Hunt has stayed healthy. Scott's got to beat him out, and that's tough to do.
17. Is Purdue in a situation similar to the one Penn State was in when the teams played last year?
Purdue's going to come together. Hopefully, not this Saturday. That's true to a degree, but they probably have more talent on their team than Penn State did last year. Dorien Bryant and Kyle Ingraham are both terrific football players.
They're better than Penn State was at this stage last year because they have a couple of big play guys. Void is ok when he's in there and they have another kid who is pretty good at tailback. They've played really good football and lost some games. They were one or two plays away from beating Wisconsin.
18. Talk about Jeremy Kapinos' development.
He's a good punter and in this day and age, a punter needs to know how to place punts where he wants to put it. He's a good athlete and a good kid, very bright, and he works at it. He's very conscientious about doing a good job.
19. Will Jordan Norwood be at full strength this week?
They could have played Norwood last week, but things went well early, so they didn't need him. He practiced yesterday and looked 100%, so Joe thinks he'll play this weekend.
20. Talk about the job Calvin Lowry has done at safety.
Lowry and Chris Harrell have done a great job at safety. Joe would like to see both of them come up with a few interceptions, but they move them around so much to disguise coverages and help in run support that they haven't been in a position to make as many interceptions as they are capable of.
The entire secondary has done a great job, but having said that, that's the kiss of death. Purdue has some great receivers that could make Joe eat his words.
1. Talk about the challenges Purdue presents with the spread offense.
The team hasn't started watching film on Purdue yet, but he has watched them on television and they will spread PSU out to try and run the ball.
2. What was it like going through an easy game after so many difficult games?
Jay was a lot less sore and had time to relax on Sunday. It was nice.
3. Is it difficult to take things one game at a time when you're only 3 games away from a Big Ten title?
It doesn't get any harder. You just break it down into one-game schedules, and that's how the team is taking it.
4. What was it like to have A.Q. back on the defensive line?
It was great to have him back because Jay and Scott Paxson were able to get a break. They won't have to play 85-90 plays anymore.
1. What was it like to only play one half of football?
It was nice to score points on them, but you still get bumps and bruises. It was nice to see the young guys get a little reward for their hard work in practice.
2. Have you ever had a game like that where everything worked easily?
Penn State got a little lucky, Illinois got a little unlucky. Things just worked out.
3. What made it so tough to run the ball against Purdue last year?
They're a heavy blitz team. They have a great front four, good linebackers, and a big safety who is good in run support. The offense wasn't aware of some things that their defense could do last year and struggled, but hopefully they'll be able to get things done this year.
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