Barry when you talk about repairing the kick coverage on Saturday, how do you begin to go about that? Will it be a combination of personnel and scheme?
"Well, the first thing you do Mike is take a look and see where the breakdown was and if there was a misunderstanding or whether it was personnel and then make decisions accordingly. And in this case, we made some mistakes in decisions on what you're going to do on the run and I think there might have been a misunderstanding with one of the kids as far as what his responsibility was. So, it's a combination but after reviewing it, I don't think there is any question whether we can repair it."
Barry, regarding your offensive line you talked about the personality (Donovan) Raiola brings, but when a linemen or two come up to you and say, ‘Coach, put the ball in our hands.' How often has that happened to you in the past and do you take that as a sign you like that when they come to you like that?
"Anytime a player comes with something and anytime if there is a timeout in a crucial situation, umm, I will ask the quarterback what he likes. I will ask a receiver what he likes. I want to hear from them because they are out in the mix. We have a feel from looking up above. We have a feel from watching. Yet they're right there and so I like to hear - I like their input. Raiola's was really after the fact. You know, it was after the pick when he came in and said, ‘You know coach, we wanted to run one more power.' And I like to hear that because I just… then I know he's got confidence and the offensive line has confidence in what they are doing. But to answer your question, that means a lot to me and I hold that as very important information and information you want to know and then use. You don't want to ask ‘What do you like?' and then they say ‘I don't know—whatever you want.' I would prefer somebody say this is what I like."
Barry, how do you and your staff go about choosing who is on the special teams units? I mean, it is a mix of starters and reserves right now but how do you chose that?
"Well, we watch—that's an evaluation of every day. Sunday we sat in there and we talked. I just threw it out – is there someone who brought the depth out- special teams depth and the entire board of everybody on the team. And is there someone that is not involved in special teams that should be? Is there someone that we need to take a look at? Unfortunately at this time of year your game planning, it is not like you are having tryouts. So we throw that around as a staff and you know everybody has their group of players that they work with everyday in drills. They know who can move and who can do the things that we are looking for in special teams and they'll bring them forward and in this case we'll take a look at a few people."
Does Illinois passing attack look every bit as prolific as it has been these past two years?
"It does. We know (Illinois quarterback Jon) Beutjer—what type of player he is. We saw that first hand. And I think if you look at the second half if I am not mistaken, I think they had 399 yards in offense the second half of the game. Now that is unbelievable. They didn't have—I think they were in double digits in the first half, but that just shows you how explosive they are and how dangerous they are."
Barry, what specifically about the passing attack makes it difficult? I know last year there were some problems with height differentials with their receivers and your DBs, but I look at their distribution and it looks like they throw the wide receivers, full backs, tailbacks, tight ends. Is that what makes it difficult to defend?
"Yeah. You really can't focus on one person. They give you a number of different formations, a number of different motions. You know they're going to spread the field. The backs will catch the ball. So it's a very multiple and versatile offense and they do spread it around."
Last week you said one of the first things you would tell your team was to not pay attention to North Carolina's record in an effort to make sure they were focused on that game. With Illinois coming in at 1-3, is that something you have mention again this week, or because it is Big Ten, because it is Illinois and they know them you don't have to?
"I think our players respect the fact that it is a Big Ten game and they respect Illinois. The majority of our team is from this area, they know players on that team and they know they've lost some very difficult games. I mean last week is a prime example. The Houston game is a prime example. UCLA - a 6-3 game at UCLA. You know, all three of those games they very easily could be sitting here with no losses. So, our guys are smart enough. I don't think I have to mention that. That this is a good football team coming and we will have to play very well."
"Well, just the fact that they have experience as starters and have seen the scheme before because the scheme really is basically the same. But their quarterback started against us last year too and was probably a little more effective. But I think that's about it, just the fact that they've seen the scheme, they've played there, they've seen the speed of the game and have done it."
Barry, (Illinois head coach) Ron Turner on a teleconference today talked about needing to get a better pass rush out of their front four needing to better aggressively and he talked about their blitz package. They like to do a lot of things defensively and attack you. What are some of the things they do that have given you guys trouble in the past and where do they try to put the most pressure on with their blitz?
"Well, their blitz is going to come from all over. The one thing is they challenge your receivers because they are going to play… most of the time when they come they are going to play press man with it, so your receivers have to beat a defensive back and press coverage. And they are coming from the corners, they are coming with the linebackers, they are going to get you four strong and four weak. And they are good blitzers, so I mean it is just accounting for them and accounting for people that you don't see coming out of a blitz. They are not going to tip it off. So, you have to make a decision quickly and a lot of people have to recognize the blitz and the receiver has to beat the defensive back but in the same respect if you do then you have a chance to hit a home run also."
It didn't look like you played a lot of nickel in the last game. Was that because of the changes when Brett (Bell) got hurt late in the week? And then when you did it looked like Levonne (Rowan) was in the slot position. You've had safeties like (Robert) Brooks and (Joe) Stellmacher there in the past. Optimally, would you like a cornerback; to get three corner backs on the field in that nickel?
"You know we didn't change that because we had our nickel set and didn't know that Brett wasn't playing until Thursday. And that is very unsettling when all of a sudden you know, I didn't want to change Levonne and move him again. We thought it would be better to put Chuckie Cowans at corner and play. Start him at nickel and just work with him and leave everyone else as they were rather than having two new people in the position. So that is why we made that decision. It doesn't make any difference to me who is where. Whether you have another corner on the field, you put your next best defensive back and the most cases it's the next best cover guy because he'll normally be on the slot receiver."
Through the non-conference part of your schedule here to start the season here you've had some highs and lows. How good of a handle do you feel you have on your team and what kind of team you can be going into the conference season?
"I think we have, still I believe we have very good potential. We did a lot of good things in this last game on both sides of the ball. We made very few mental errors during the game. I thought we were very physical. Going back and watching that game there was a lot of contact in the game. I thought we were particularly physical. We do things well in all areas, we have just got some loose ends. You know offensively we are very close. Defensively, you take that last play away and it is a 200 and some yard game. You know, yet we gave up some big plays – just some minor things that we can correct. So, we are not where we need to be. I have a pretty good idea of where we can get but we have to clean some things up. We have to get better. And I feel the same way after watching the films as I did after watching the game. We are not where we need to be, yet we have potential to be a good football team."
Barry you said last week that Levonne (Rowan) had played pretty well in his first start except that maybe he didn't finish at the end of plays. Did he make the strides you had hoped for in his first start to second start?
"He did. He really played well in this game. The one throw across the field wasn't his play. He is supposed to be a helper on that and we got tangled up—the other safety got tangled up – you know, just overreacted to a run fake, but to have Levonne contest that throw was pretty good. But all in all I thought he played well. I wasn't crazy about him running over the punt returner when they had roughed our guy, but he played well and I'll tell you what - he is the type of young man, he is very competitive, he has make-up speed. He is a state champion sprinter. He's got size. I think he'll continue to get better and better."
Barry, back to the blitz a little bit with Illinois. It didn't look like North Carolina blitzed as much as UNLV had. Is that still an area of concern based on what UNLV's defense was able to do against you?
"Well I just think that was an unusual situation. You know, Jim wasn't having a sharp day. He was having a hard time with the ball and his releases. You have to answer the blitz. If you throw a foul balls against the blitz, you can have a receiver beat someone, if you throw a foul ball you haven't answered the blitz. Then you get a little reluctant to throw the ball and you hold it too long, you are going to get sacked. And they didn't blitz as much. They did blitz, not as much as UNLV did, but I think they chose that they wanted to double Lee (Evans) as much as they could and so there are certain things, there are so many things you can do if they double him up."
It seems like your pass-rush has been good, maybe as consistent as it has been all year. I think last year there was 22 total sacks. A lot hasn't been said about that. Do you need that number to go up to be the defense you want it to be? How important is that?
"This past week we actually had a few more sacks than I had anticipated because that kid (North Carolina quarterback Darian Durant) is really hard to get to. I talked about that last week. Because he's at 10 yards and then he's very mobile and hard for you to get a grasp on. So we were trying to get our ends up the field and really use our bigger guys inside in case he flushed - and doing some twisting in there to change things up, but primarily using our ends. So I did think we got some pretty good pressure. I think as we go along if we turn those guys loose, turn those four loose, we can get a good pass rush. We'll have to as we move through the season. I think as our defensive backs, as Levonne (Rowan) comes on, and that type of thing, that we can be a good blitzing team too."
Coach, do you anticipate your backfield to be healthy for Saturday?
"I don't know on Anthony (Davis) yet. I'm hoping. They keep telling me he's improving every day. I don't know where we are. I'm looking forward to it. I think a growing strain doesn't last very long so you anticipate that Dwayne (Smith) would be healthy."
Barry, when you look back at your teams at one Rose Bowl, what qualities did those teams have that maybe your last few that have struggled in Big Ten play have? Can you put a finger on that?
"All three of them had better players than the last two teams."
During those years, didn't you talk about how—I think coach (Lou) Holtz and you talked about having five great players.
"To really be an outstanding team you don't a whole team of great players. I've felt, and I've said that if you have five great ones and no negatives on your team then you have a chance to be a great team."
Do you have five great ones now, do you think?
"I never judge that until the end of the year. I've gone through the year and didn't realize that a guy was a great player until the season was over. I didn't realize Mark Tauscher was as great as he was until the season was over. The guys can get lost in the shuffle just by doing their job and you don't worry about them, but you don't think about them as being great until you sit back and take a look at the whole picture and see what they have accomplished. I think we have some guys that could certainly fit into that category, but we have to make sure that there aren't any negatives. Those are the guys that could get you beat. Those are the important things."
Is a win a win once you get into the Big Ten season or are there teams that you should have more dominating victories over than others? Or do you look at it all as just a win?
"A win is a win anytime. I know everyone likes to win perfect. In a society of instant gratification, everybody likes for their team to get up 21 points, kickback in the stands, and have fun for four quarters. Well that doesn't happen very often anymore. So as a coach you want to win the game, you want to play well, so when it's over you just want to win. But you want to play with some type of consistency. If you want to be a good team you have to have consistency also."
Barry, when you broke down the tape of the North Carolina game, what did you think of Booker Stanley's overall game, not just his running ability, and what's the ceiling for him at least for this year? What he can contribute?
"Well I thought it was a pretty good start and I think it was something we maybe all kind of overlooked a little bit. Booker was the third tailback. He had played the first two games and I don't know if he carried the ball in the first two games. He played on special teams. He had a chance to play some in the UNLV game. Yet all of sudden it's put in his hands and we want to establish a running game and he's the one that has to do it. His first extended playing time to play as hard as he did and as effective as he did make yardage after contact and just play solid—not have any breakdowns and block well and pass protection, do all those things right. That's pretty special for a third team guy to do that. So, you expect him to get better with repetitions. That's just common sense. I just think he has a chance to be a very good player and it's nice to have someone else that you can rely upon."
Coach, I'm curious about your take on Maurice Clarett, it looks like his legal team may pose a challenge to NFL rule to allow a player to go into the NFL before his three years after high school. How do you feel about a high school guy bypassing college or skipping out of college early?
"I've never seen one. I've been around a long time and I've never seen a high school player that could go straight to the NFL. It's hard enough to come to the NCAA as an 18-year-old or a 19-year-old, be physical enough and have the maturity enough mentally to handle the change. And to go to the next level where it's that much faster, I've never seen anyone even close to that. Someone that has played one year of college football - I think there are issues, I think there is a reason why that rule is in place. Do I think that it's right if there is somebody that is capable of doing that and that's the way they want to make their livelihood? I don't think it's anyone's right to prohibit them from working and having a livelihood. I just don't know how many are ready."
I can't remember if you've made this comparison before, but does Booker (Stanley) remind you of Brent Moss a little bit?
"You know what, he's faster than Brent, he's much bigger than Brent was as a redshirt freshman, and he's further along than Brent was during his first year of playing. They do have somewhat of a similar style. They're both jump cutters and guys that can run tough and get some tough yardage. You know, I never thought of that before but there are some similarities."
I know you probably didn't spend a whole lot of time watching it but the MAC had a great weekend and Northern (Illinois) goes down and beats Alabama at Alabama. When you see that, are you at all surprised or have you seen enough of that league to say that it can happen at any time?
"You're wrong Mike, I did see a lot of that. I mean that's what I do. When a game is over I have one of those deals where I watch them all. I watched that Northern (Illinois) game. I was fired up for them. I happen to respect Joe Novak and what he has done there and I have a lot of respect for his kids and how they have played…so I watched that game. I watched a little bit of the Kansas State game - more keeping up with that game…and you know, it doesn't surprise me at all that it happens every week. It just so happens that Northern (Illinois) plays more of our brand of football then some of the other ones. Some of the other ones can throw it and play pretty decent defense and they have done it every year - they've done it forever and there's just more of them now and there's more and more parity. You get a couple of guys injured or you get a couple of bad recruiting classes and then you have a team that's a senior dominated team like Northern (Illinois) and they'll match up with anyone."