Big Ten teleconference: Ron Zook

Illinois football coach discussed the matchup with Wisconsin and his team's rebuilding process

Audio file 1 (4:22) -

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Opening statement:

"Obviously back at it on Saturday. Jump out of the frying pan into the fire. I think Wisconsin's an excellent football team coming here. And obviously it's another great challenge for our football team. For the most part we are very very healthy. We just have to continue making the progress you want to see out of a first-year program."

It seems like in the past you just want to line up and stop Wisconsin's run, but now John Stocco seems to be doing pretty well, you've got Brandon Williams. But can you talk about that added dimension Wisconsin has on offense?

"Well, you really, you got to try to… make a team one-dimensional. But they've kind of made it where it's awfully tough to do. They can run the ball extremely well. Now they are throwing the ball extremely well and spreading you out to do it. They are talented. Their skill positions are guys that are all big-play capabilities — every time they touch the football they can take it the distance. So it presents a lot of problems for you defensively.

"They are mixing-matching the personnel. So, defensively you continuously have to be aware what's in the game."

… Wisconsin, they've given up some points this year. That Northwestern game was pretty wild, Minnesota they gave up 34… Is there anything you see on their defense that can be exploited?

"Well, they're young… They've got two freshmen corners out there. And they've had a lot of injury problems on defense... any time you are playing with younger people that's a little bit harder to maintain what you want to maintain. But they've got enough core guys in there. The teams that have scored points on them are pretty good offenses as well."

On Michael Robinson:

"Well, you know people told me that getting ready for him. I've seen him throw some bad passes but I'd also seen him throw some… on-the-money passes. I think the thing that they are doing with him is exactly what he does best. They are not asking him to do too much. They are just letting him use his God-given ability. He's got a great supporting cast. He's relaxed. He gets better every week.

"I think it's a tribute to their coaching staff. I thought that there was chance they might come in here a little on the flat side coming off of two big-big games… The one-second loss to Michigan. Shoot, they come in here and they were on fire. That's a team that's one second away from being undefeated. They can run it, they can throw it.

"I didn't play them last year, but I guess the fact that last year they had him playing two different things. Now, he's settled in to just being a quarterback. He knows the offense. They know what he can do best and they put him in those situations."

Their linebackers… Did one impress you maybe more than the others?

"They were just an awfully, awfully good defensive football team.

"I think when you talk about defenses in the Big Ten Conference, them and Ohio State are the two premier defenses right now. They were good last year and they were better this year.

"They snuff you out, those front four guys… It's unbelievable how fast they are.

"We had a pro scout in here… He kind of let it slip. He said, ‘Man, Penn State is really talented on defense'…. They are a talented defensive football team."

Audio file 2 (6:12) -

Ron do you believe things get worse before they get better. Is what you are going through now kind of a necessary part of the rebuilding process?

"I believe that's true. I think you always got to hit rock bottom before you start coming up. You just wonder where rock-bottom is and if we're there yet. I hope so. And you go back and you look at programs. For example, Wisconsin. When Barry (Alvarez) came in there he won one game his first year. And now look what has happened. It's just continual improvement. Like I told our team, ‘If things were good, I wouldn't be here.' And one part of me is, I'm excited that I have this opportunity and it's tough right now. But you stay the course, you continue to make improvement, which we are. Even though at times it doesn't look like it.

"The problem with the Big Ten Conference right now: As we're getting better, we're in the meat of the schedule and we are playing some awfully, awfully good football teams. It's hard to see improvement where there is some improvement."

What kind of matchup problems does Brian Calhoun present as a receiver out of the backfield. In some ways is that even more of a concern than him as a runner in terms of matchups?

"You better know where he's at all the time, whether it be running the football or as a receiver. I think the fact that Colorado wanted to move him to wide receiver because of what kind of receiving skills he had. And all you got to do is watch him when he's got… the ball in his hands. He makes things happen.

"Very, very talented guy. You better know where he's at all the time. It does present matchups with your defense. You can't put somebody — I don't know if we've got anybody on our team that can cover him. But you've got to really be careful with the matchup process."

On coaches showing less personality with the media than in the past:

"…. I think the game of football has changed. With the information that's out there, with the Internet, with all the sources that are there. There's more pressure to win. There's more on the line. Before, for example… officials, sometimes the calls don't go the way you want them to go and that's just part of the game, and you accept that and you go on. But now a call here or a called fumble there or a little thing has a big-big effect on a lot of families, a lot of money… So I think it's just an added pressure in the sport right now."

… Does the money build a wall between coaches and fans regarding ticket prices and salaries?

"Well, you hope not because it's the fan's game. We just have the honor and the privilege to be able to coach it, to be able to do something that you love to do. You hope that that's not the case. I just really believe that… there is so much information out there and…. The negative light usually is the one that gets spun the fastest. It just kind of spreads like wildfire. And what happens a lot of times is particularly these fans are so passionate and love their program so much, and they get frustrated because they can't do anything about it. They want answers. They want to see results… It just adds to the pressure and to what's going on out there."

On looking into giving starting quarterback Tim Brasic more rest using backup Chris Pazan:

"Well, the one thing that we felt like in the beginning. Obviously we waited a long time to decide who was going to be the starter. And the big thing overall was just the guy that we felt like would take care of the ball the best and not turn the ball over… Give us the best opportunity to win.

"What happened this past Saturday with Tim was… something that a young guys is going to go through occasionally. It just happened to be against an awfully good football team who was playing extremely well.

"I think that got a little bit exaggerated with what was going on.

"We put Chris in there and as you go back and you evaluate the game and watch the tape and kind of just exactly what happened, and sit down and talk with Tim. He wants to do well as bad as anybody. He's going to continue to improve and get better. He is a first-year player and…. There's a lot of pressure, particularly when you are on national television to play well and be the way you're supposed to be.

"But Timmy… He had a great night last night (in practice). I think he knows that… and it's not that he's losing his job, but if he needs a little rest, if he needs to regain his composure, regain his thoughts, then we can put Chris in there and carry on with the offense."

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