Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez Verbatim

Coach Barry Alvarez talks about the Lee Evans decision, Michigan State, moves in the linebacking corps and much more in his weekly address to the media.

First let me say, Lee (Evans), this past week, with consultation with his doctors on Friday, decided that it's in his best interest not to play this season. We'll continue as a staff and football team to support him and consult him in any way we possibly can. Before you ask me any questions, I really don't feel comfortable talking about the specifics of the knee. All I know is the doctors told me they just felt that it needed rest and continued rehab. But more than anything else, rest. That he had full strength after two months, but he needed rest right now. And then they'd make a decision at a further date what he'll do. As far as what he'll do, let me ask your cooperation on this. He has plenty of time to make decisions on what his future plans will be. When he makes that decision, then we'll make him available to all of you. With that I'd be glad to answer any questions for you.

Have you spoken to Lee, and if so, what was his reaction?

Alvarez: I have spoken to him. Lee has been outstanding throughout this whole process. Quite frankly, he talked to me earlier in the week and said he was ready to play. I think he was probably, obviously disappointed, yet he understood that in the long haul, it is in his best interest to just wait a little bit longer. Just let it heal up a little bit better.

Is this is a blow to the team, or had you counted on not having him the rest of the year?

Alvarez: No, I felt all along, we've prepared without Lee as you know. When and if he would have come back, it would have been a bonus. To say it's a blow…we'll just continue to prepare and play as we have.

Which doctor made this recommendation?

Alvarez: There were two, Ben Graf, the team physician, and Dr. Shelbourne.

Are you going to push him in any direction in terms of next year?

Alvarez: No, I'm not going to push him. I'll gather any information that he wants, but Lee and his folks will sit back, they will take a look at things. As I said, there is no hurry right now. The important thing is for him to get his knee where he feels very comfortable with it and he responds the way he wants.

Is there anything known about whether he needs more surgery?

Alvarez: No.

How about Brooks Bollinger. How is he?

Alvarez: He's doing fine. I anticipate that he'll be available mid-week.

Michigan State might be considered the disappointment of the Big Ten this season. As you look at the film, have you noticed any particular problems that have accounted for that?

Alvarez: They play…offensively, they have so many weapons and we've seen them first-hand. Everybody knows about (Charles) Rogers. We saw him put a show on here a year ago. And I've always been very impressed with (Jeff) Smoker as a quarterback. Same type of offensive line, big running back, they've done a lot of good things on offense. You watch them on film and you see good players and a good team. You know, I have my own problems. I don't know about what's going on over there, other than I know I have a lot of respect for them.

Jim Sorgi has said in the past that he's put too much pressure on himself when he has to start. Will you sit down and talk to him about that?

Alvarez: If I felt like I had to address it. I really never thought of that. I just expect him to go out and play like he did the other day. I thought he did a nice job. He actually banged his hand up. He was having a hard time on the touchdown pass. He hit his hand and was having a hard time gripping the ball but still competed, and has played very well for us. If that would happen, if he would get the start, just the fact that you brought it up and will probably write about it, I'll probably mention it.

He brought it up this spring. That's why I raised the question.

Alvarez: But you repeated it. That's why I'll have to address it.

Did Iowa provide a blueprint on how to handle Rogers, with how physical they were with him?

Alvarez: You know the score is not indicative of that game. The game surprised me, in watching the tape, there was an interception for a touchdown, I believe there was a kick return for a touchdown. There were a couple of turnovers with good field position. That score wasn't indicative of the game. They changed up their coverage and what they did with Rogers. I don't know if our personnel matches up, that we can do what they did.

It seems like being physical was a big problem for you last year. Are you a little more capable of doing that this season?

Alvarez: Well yeah, I'd tell you this. There aren't many guys that will jump out there and play him man-for-man, and we probably did a poor job by not giving Scott (Starks) more help. We were playing man coverage, or man free, and the free safety couldn't get over there to help him. To put him out there 1-on-1 all day with no help behind probably wasn't fair to him. So we're going to make sure we try to give him more help, or give whoever's covering him a little more help whenever we can. Or play more zone.

Was Lee Evans' injury different than other injuries in how many people were involved with such a complex decision from week-to-week on whether he should play?

Alvarez: Not really. Except he's more high-profile. But even with Broderick (Williams) last year, it was a combination of making a decision with Broderick and the doctors saying he's ready. The players a lot of times say they're ready, and the doctors have their measurements of strength and swelling, and their reaction to workouts and that type thing. They're the ones that eventually have to give them a release before they play. So it's a combination of the two. And quite frankly, I thought we were very close. A month ago, I thought he was close to playing, because I saw him in practice. I saw what he did in practice, yet I think we all were just prepared that he wouldn't play. If he did, it was going to be a bonus. Because he knew what we were doing and had executed. So I can't say that it was any different. You always go home at night hoping that he will play and he'll be himself, but you never really knew for sure.

Did three losses in the Big Ten have any impact on the decision?

Alvarez: No. That had nothing to do with it. It wasn't his decision, it wasn't my decision. It was a doctor's decision.

At 0-3 in the Big Ten, how do you get the confidence back?

Alvarez: What I try to do with these guys is you build on the positives. We probably played our best football game Saturday. Now none of us are happy that we lost. None of us are happy with a moral victory, but we played a complete football game. When you take a look at it, the difference in the game was they didn't beat themselves. They didn't have any turnovers. They made some plays down the stretch when we didn't. They hit a 74-yard punt. All three phases. They hit a 3rd-and-7, they make 45 yards. We have a chance to make the play on that and don't. We have the ball on the 28-yard line, have the ball in our hands on the five and don't make a play and underthrow by inches for a touchdown. Those are chances where they made some plays, and we had chances. It sounds real simple, but I you don't beat yourself, don't have any turnovers, which they didn't have…we wanted that game. The game was played like we wanted that game to be played. Go to the fourth quarter, have a chance to win in the fourth quarter, and then you have to make plays in the fourth quarter against one of the better teams in the country. Now the guys have to know they can compete with them. Now it's taking that next step. When you play against a team like that, this is how you have to beat them. But you can compete with them. And there are a lot of young guys out there playing. No one's happy. I want to re-emphasize that. No one's happy with the fact we played well. The bottom line is you want to try to win the football game. But I don't think there's anybody losing confidence.

Is there any reason you haven't been able to close out games?

Alvarez: I don't think that's true.

Well the last two weeks.

Alvarez: I have to give the other team credit. I don't know why. We've closed out some. We've won games on defense by making plays on defense, and we've won some by driving from behind already this year. So to say why haven't we been able to close them out. We have been able to close them out. We haven't been able to recently and hopefully we can correct that.

You mentioned that 74-yard punt by Ohio State. R.J. Morse seemed to be able to boot the ball further earlier this year. Is he focusing too much now on finesse?

Alvarez: I can't answer that. I don't know.

Is middle linebacker the position that's best suited for Alex Lewis in the long run, or did you just need immediate help at that spot?

Alvarez: No, I think it's two-fold. We do need, because of where Jeff (Mack) is right now, not knowing where Jeff is right now, it's important that he go there. And secondly, I think it's a better position for him.

Was some of that the way he's struggled in pass coverage?

Alvarez: Yeah, he's never had to do any of that before. Every week we go out and see some new formations and things that you haven't practiced so you have to be able to make adjustments on the field. There will be less adjusting, more just reacting to what he sees at that position. I, quite frankly, and so does (Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove) feels that will be a better position for him.

Is Jeff's problem a nerve problem? A stinger?

Alvarez: A stinger is a nerve. I've got one myself. It's the exact same thing, tingling at the end of the thumb. So he has a long time to look forward to that.

Is Michigan State better than people are crediting them for?

Alvarez: I know one thing. I know I have a lot of respect for Michigan State, and their football team is probably talented enough to beat anyone on a given day. I think they were one of the favorites going into the season this year. I think they have probably al little more experience coming back than we do. I don't know. I think we're a capable team. We'll see. It should be a good football game.

Do you think the expectations for you team were a little too high for your team three weeks ago?

Alvarez: Well I don't know. I know what our expectations were. I don't know what anybody else's were. As I said before, I thought at the break, we were about where we needed to be. We happened to hit a buzzsaw, a good Penn State team, and didn't play particularly well on defense, couldn't close that game out. I don't know what anybody else's expectations.

Did Broderick Williams seem to just figure it out this week?

Alvarez: Broderick played well in that game. He was fired up and played aggressive. I thought he made a big step. That's a good football team that he played, and you've got to come off a 300-plus lineman to make a play against what everyone considers one of the better backs in the country. So I thought Broderick just really grew up in that game.

How about Lamarr Watkins?

Alvarez: He's been playing pretty well. I probably could have been playing him a little bit more. But I really like the way he played. Lamarr mixed it up. I think he had nine tackles. He makes a great play on the ball, he gets his hand on the football and they still catch the tip when they were backed up that one time. But you talk about a true freshman walking in and not being starry-eyed, and turning it loose. The one thing I did have to tell him now is, he's coming downhill on (Maurice Clarett), you don't want to tackle him high. You want to go down and take his legs out from under him. But I tell you, he mixed it up well. He did a great job at drop. I really like what I saw. And I think he really has a bright future.

Do you have the same feeling for you linebacking corps as a whole?

Alvarez: I think it's really a good group. I wish (Mark) Zalewski could have played. We decided to redshirt him because of a hamstring (injury). I think he showed a lot of promise. He would have been in the mix. He was going to be on all special teams, he was going to be a backup, and he was going to be playing a lot. Elliot Goode has played very well. I think physically, both of those guys are special. I think Elliot is under a 4.5, and Zalewski is at least a 4.6 and they're both big kids. We haven't had that combination of size and speed before. And we haven't seen Reggie Cribbs yet. Reggie really hasn't practiced yet. But I think it's a pretty good group.

What's been the biggest transition for Broderick from tailback?

Alvarez: Just so many things happen in there. If you've never played in there, you get blocked from every angle. If you play drop linebacker, you only have to watch people from one way. You only see things from one way. When you're lined up at linebacker, there are bullets flying all around, people blocking you from every which way, you've got to react to the run, they play fake and you're expected to be back in coverage, you've got to make the calls. There's just so much action going on. You've got to understand the game and if you've never played there it can be overwhelming. But I just think the more he plays it and the more reps he gets, the more comfortable he gets. He has a lot of ability and his speed helps him in there.

What are the odds of Lee Evans playing for you again?

Alvarez: I said, I only would speculate that. He's got a lot of time to think about it. We'll just help him and try to support him any way we possibly can. I don't know what the odds are.

Would he have to declare himself for the NFL Draft?

Alvarez: I think he would since he has a year of eligibility left.

Is he still going to help the other receivers along?

Alvarez: You know what? I'm glad you asked that. He's done a tremendous job in helping develop those younger receivers, being there all the time for them, during a game, in practice, and he will continue to work with them. Because he's really an important part of our football team, as a leader as well as helping those guys along. And thanks for asking that. He's been awesome that way.

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