War Games: Illinois at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- War games returns with the best commentary and analysis leading into kickoff, directly from the source.

Rutgers coach Chris Ash – “I really like Tyreek [Williams'] future. I think he's got a chance to be an outstanding linebacker for us. Talking to the recruiting experts, you look at Tyreek in his star ranking and the list of offers that the kid had coming out of high school, he's one of the best freshmen we brought in here. And I give our staff a lot of credit for the evaluation of what they made in Tyreek. I don't know. What did you have him ranked? You don't want to answer that one?”

Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann – “We've got to get more consistent on run defense. We've got to get more consistent on open-field tackling. I think most generally, our tackling is pretty good except for open-field situations. We had a couple of misses there. Those are things we've got to get cleaned up. They threw some balls down the field against guys that had tight coverage and they just had guys that made good throws and catches. Sometimes you've got to give credit where credit is due. That has to be taken with a grain of salt. Overall, I just think our level of consistency has got to get better.”

Junior quarterback Chris Laviano – “Obviously it's not the ideal situation [to be benched] but it's cool to help out my fellow quarterbacks and also kind of see from the sidelines. When you've played college football for as long as I have so far, the mental part of the game is pretty cool. You get to watch from the sidelines and relay it.”

Freshman running back Trey Sneed – “I've said this since the beginning of the season, I just want to learn. With every day, I feel myself getting more comfortable. It's just reps and getting used to the speed of the game and I'm definitely able to see my progression from the beginning of the season.

Senior wide receiver Andre Patton – “You don't want people's spirits to be down because we still have another game this weekend. That's what we need to come out and prepare for. As long as our preparation is right and everyone's spirits are right, we're going 100 miles an hour, then it's going to pay off Saturday.”

Rutgers offensive line coach AJ Blazek – “A lot of it was in the blitz pictures, starting with us recognizing and communicating all the way across the line. One guy gets it and the other guy didn’t or doesn’t, some guys just get cut loose. The other one is you go out and get smacked in the mouth a couple of plays. You got to fight through that. That’s where I got to do a good job keeping the guys’ pads down and finishing, but it starts at the line of scrimmage. If you get popped once, you got to fight through that and push back.”

Defensive Back Ross Douglas – “At safety, you see the whole entire field. You got to be more communicative with the corners and all that, but I already know. I feel like I’m a smart football player, so that’s just a adapting for playing through so much depth and just taking better angles.”

Junior quarterback Zach Allen – “I think we know what we’re doing — we just have to do it better. … The plays, we know everything that’s going on. We just have to execute it better. We know what to call when they do certain coverages, certain checks — we just have to do it better.”

Sophomore left tackle Zack Heeman – “There can’t be any gray area in terms of what we’re trying to run, in terms of who we’re working to on the linebacker combos. But yeah, it’s got to be a point of emphasis when we’re on the line of scrimmage and more and more decisive. And when we’re making our calls, we need to make sure all five guys hear it and everyone knows it.”

Sophomore offensive lineman Marcus Applefield – “It’s definitely collective — to the tackles making their calls, guards and centers making their inside calls but then all of us echoing it. It’s all collective, and offensive line’s one of the only positions where we have one mouth.”

Senior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton, team captain – “We put ourselves in this position. Now it’s time to dig ourselves out. That’s what we’ve got to go to work and do.”

Senior center Derrick Nelson. Team captain – “College football is tougher than it looks — no matter where you are. I don’t care if you’re DI-AA, DII, DIII — college football is tougher than it looks and it really puts you in the face of adversity. And once you’re in the face of adversity, you realize who exactly you are as a person and whether you need to reevaluate your life. And here I am — and I think I’ve done pretty good with that.”

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