On the defensive line: "I really feel good about our front seven on defense. They're veterans. I think they have all improved from a year ago. They are much stronger. They are very athletic, probably the fastest group we have had. They can put pressure on the passer and they are physical enough that they can play the running game well. That's probably the area that I feel most comfortable in."
On the physicality of camp and the possibility of injuries: "We have a few bumps and bruises, but I think any of you that watched our practices didn't see very many guys (players) watching. We've been through it before where during camp, along those (side)lines, the line goes down pretty good. I can remember Henry Mason starting with 10 or 11 receivers in some years and be down to three or four then those guys get leg-weary because they are running so many routes. But we didn't have many watch. We had some concussions, which was unusual. An unusual number this year, but for the most part, I thought that particularly for how physical we were, we stayed relatively healthy."
Is there a different approach to starting the season on the road versus a tough opponent than versus a lesser opponent at home: "The only thing that we will do differently is probably tomorrow and the next day, we will use crowd noise in practice. Most of our guys have played on the road. Our veterans understand what you do on the road. I was just making my notes today for my meetings and you know you have to go everything with your players, particularly the ones that are traveling for the first time and talk about your rules on the road, what's expected and so on and so forth. Yet, as I look at this travel squad, the majority of those guys have traveled. So it shouldn't be anything new for them. We will educate them. I'll spend time talking … we have it already in our scouting report … I'll talk to them about the atmosphere there. It will be very similar to a Big Ten atmosphere. The football team will be comparable to a very good Big Ten team. The crowd can really get nasty, so I always like to prepare our guys. I'll get them to the stadium … unlike a lot of places we go, we're going to go a little earlier, so I can take them into the stadium. It's a different surface than what we have. It's the same surface that Illinois has, yet theirs is glued down and they claim it's firm. So I want our guys to try different shoes on Friday."
On the roles of your defensive front: "Darius (Jones) gives you flexibility because of his size and again, his athleticism. He's physical enough to go inside and get you a push. Yet, you put him on the edge and he can bull rush you or he can run around you. Nick Cochart is a program guy. He's a guy that doesn't impress you with his size or anything else, except he's very technically sound. He really understands the game and he's always where he is supposed to be. Joe Monty won't play a lot this year. J. P. (Defensive Line Coach John Palermo) likes to rotate his people. The one thing that I saw in Joe Monty when we watched him, he's a tough guy, he's versatile, in that he could play a number of positions. He could play fullback. He could play tight end. He probably could play linebacker. We are asking him to play a five technique and give us a pass rush on the edge. He's tough enough that he can hold up, and he's physical enough that he could hold up in there. He's a lot like his brother (Pete Monty). He's a tough guy and he's a football player."
On the importance of quarterback Jim Sorgi getting his first win as a starter: "It's important for Sorgi to get a win like it's important for our team to get a win and I have already instructed Jim that if anybody asks him that question to not even respond to it because it is a foolish question."
On similarities between last year's West Virginia team and this year's team: "There are a number of new people that we don't know. I think schematically they will be similar or the same with a few wrinkles. I think the one difference, I think they will have much more confidence in themselves, an idea of who they are and what they are capable of because of how they finished their season. To go on and win nine games after our game and play the schedule that they played, with the difficulty of their schedule, and play as well as they did. They have a lot of weapons. I think they come into our game very confident. They shot themselves in the foot a year ago. They hurt themselves with penalties and things a year ago, yet you could see that they were a good football team. I think they recognize that now."
On sustaining momentum after a bowl game: "I think that changes things. A team can feel pretty good about itself, making that type of a jump, particularly if you win the bowl game. You are treated totally different than you have been in the past. From a three-win team, and your perception as a three-win team as compared to a team that won nine games if they would have won that bowl game. Yes, I think that if you lose a bowl game, it's somewhat humbling. That's what people remember. I still get people, you know we have lost one out of eight, and that's what people talk to me about. That one. So I think that's a little easier, coming off of that. I don't think it is an issue of winning a championship or whatever, but winning nine games sure helps the program."
On Rasheed Marshall: "He reminds me of the good quarterbacks that Clemson had and that Rodriguez and Bowden had at Tulane—the combination guys who could beat you running. That offense really lends itself to the quarterback position running the ball, yet he can hurt you throwing it. I think he's the prototype. He's what you're looking for to run that offense. I thought he was an excellent quarterback coming out of high school. We tried to recruit him coming out of prep school. He really puts a lot of pressure on the defense. You give him four wide, you have to cover them all down. If they go to empty and they take that back out of the backfield, you have to cover him down. Doesn't leave many linebackers left to play a quarterback draw, or if he steps up and runs. So he really puts a lot of pressure on you."
On comfort with spreads: "I think as you watch practice you probably saw everyday, since we use [the spread] and do a number things out of it. I felt that would be a way for us to not only help our offense improve against good speed, but to make our defense more aware and feel comfortable adjusting and playing against a spread offense. We took a fifteen minute period everyday where we ran against it. Because now you have linebackers out in space, and the more you do it, the more comfortable they feel. When you look at our schedule, we're going to see, of the twelve teams, probably at least eight, nine that are going to use it. So you might as well practice at it. It doesn't do you a whole lot of good just to line up and practice against a pro set when everybody you play spreads out. So that was an emphasis for us and I think our guys are more comfortable with it now."
On making the big plays: "I've seen guys do it in games. You only have so many opportunities during a game. You have seven or eight opportunities to make a big play and the teams that make them are the ones that win. You'd like to think that the guys that are veterans and have had success in past will carry that over. But that's why you play the game. There's no given, that its automatically going to happen. The guys have to do it, and when they do then you feel comfortable. But there certainly aren't any guarantees."
On battles on the offensive line: "I have felt pretty good about our offensive line. I think they've been pretty solid. They go against a pretty good outfit everyday. We challenge them everyday, we go ones against ones in pass rush, inside drill, team pass, so it's not like their going against scouts, they're being challenged. We've had some guys that have played in there. Kalvin [Barrett] has played some at both guards, so he gives us a little depth there. Joe Thomas is a kid that just gets better and better and better. As the season goes on I think we'll feel very comfortable playing Joe. Jake Wood has had a good camp. He's made a big jump from spring practice. I can't say that they're challenging to start yet, but I think we feel more comfortable with some of those back-ups. Jason Palermo has gotten much better. We feel better with our back-ups now, than we did this spring."
On Brett [Bell]'s inexperience at cornerback:
"He hasn't started a game at corner, but he's played a lot in two years. I think
that's the way you like to break someone in. Rather than say, Scott Starks, who
as a true freshman had a battlefield promotion against Oregon and played on the
road against Oregon. That's how he got indoctrinated. Here's a kid [Bell] that
who has started at safety, has been on special teams since he was freshman. He's
been in big games and so I think it should be an easy transition. He's always
felt his natural position was corner."