Well, we finished up today and from an injury standpoint, I don't think Kraig Urbik will be able to go, Gabe might be able to help us out in certain situations and really that's the only thing from an injury standpoint.
What about P.J.?
P.J. practiced today. He did limited amount on Wednesday and had a full practice today. Mario Goins will be a game-time decision. He is still having some issues with a concussion that he had. Niles (Brinkley) will definitely get the start and hopefully, Mario will be able to play.
Did you get Blake (Sorensen) back?
He is not back. He might play on some special teams. We just want to protect him but he's still having some issues.
Is Maurice Moore going to play?
Maurice is not going to play. He didn't play last few weeks. He aggravated an inner muscle in his thigh. The process is that we are going to sit him this week and all the way through Tuesday next week. Then he should be able to go.
Paul Chryst said the wide receivers are young but some of the alignment problems and he isn't going to cut them slack anymore. Some of them have been coming on but are you looking for them to step up?
Well you know, just the little things. I really like the way Isaac Anderson has handled himself since camp and he continued to move. He's a guy who is in his third year in the program. One of his alignment issues was the seventh time when we ran the exact same formation. The first six he lined up right, the seventh one was wrong. It's critical and that's the part we tried to stress to our guys now. From an offensive point of view, just limit the number of things they have to know and what they need to do because I just felt we weren't getting where we needed to. So we really scaled back on that stuff.
Al Toon popped up to practice today and I just told him whatever you got going, let's keep encouraging him because Nick in the past two weeks has made a huge step in my opinion from the way he's approaching everything.
Have you been tempted in the past two weeks to play Jake Bscherer? Have you left that up to him?
It was an idea that I had two years ago. I thought it would be beneficial for him a year ago to redshirt but he really wanted to play. As things kind of evolved during fall camp, the development we had, he kind of new. When Gabe went down that week, we had a discussion that it might not be the best situation, but if another tackle goes down, he's in the game.
You said you went back to basics this week. How much were fundamentals?
So much going back to basics was trying to condense what we were doing from an offensive point of view in particular. Defensively, because of what Illinois does, Illinois gets a lot of big plays when people aren't lined up. You watch the film, there's play after play where guys are running free because guys don't get lined up. That naturally happens in this game. From an offensive standpoint, I might have said back to basics but it really was condensing down. There is a huge emphasize on sustaining blocks, catching the football and holding onto the football.
One encouraging sign that I told our guys last night, from an offensive point of view, we had a huge emphasis on personal, being able to get on and off the field, and ball security, just hanging onto the football. Two positives out of last week's game, there were no personnel issues from an offensive point of view and there were no balls on the ground – no fumbles or anything that was stripped out. That was a positive step in the right direction.
Tony Megna is a name we keep hearing with him being twice scout mvp. Can you talk about the strides he's made not just on scout team, but on special teams?
There's a whole trio of guys - Andrew Lukasko, Adam Hampton and Tony Megna. They're all attached to the hip because they are all about the same size and look alike. In my special teams unit, they are always there because they just want their opportunity. I had given Luskako a couple reps and when Blake went down a week ago with a hamstring, I needed a guy to plug into his role in every area other than personal protector. Tony was a guy that I could grab. He wasn't a No.1 or No.2 on any of the special teams so we pop him in. In the three units he played, he did OK in kickoff coverage, did very well in punt return and we moved in to a different position in kickoff return because where he was at wasn't his spot.
Is it safe to assume you would like to see the punter you had the first two weeks?
(laughing) Yeah, I would like to see the numbers. The last few days have been real windy and its effect on the kicking game that we are going to have to prepare for. Saturday seems like the weather could be similar to what we're having now (wind and drizzle). The kicking game in particular, that can have a huge factor on a guys head, especially young guys. So yeah, I would like to see him get back to the numbers in particular. He's got a powerful leg. He's just got to get in between the ears.
He said the Penn State game, he kind of peaked and the last game he gave an extra effort to keep the head down. From one extreme to the other was it?
Well that and his drop. He had a little issue with his drop and not to get overly critical, he knows the mechanics. I really like the way he focused in as the game went on. On Tuesday's practice, we had eight punts on Tuesday and the first one was so-so and the third one was great. We don't have two warm-ups on Saturday.
I think you've won the toss five times and taken the ball every time. Are you trying to send a message there?
You're close. Ohio State was the only one that they won the toss and took the ball. It is something that I have picked up on and as long as we have a good return game. We haven't had the numbers the last couple of weeks and what not but at the beginning of the year, we did. It's something we want to do – be the aggressor in all those games. Nothing is hopefully going to change this week either.
Do you really drink 20 cups of coffee everyday?
(laughing) I do drink a lot of coffee and you know what? I love coffee. It sounds funny. I built myself and the greatest thing I put in it, I have a little coffee maker in my bedroom that I don't have to leave my bedroom. I make it first thing in the morning. (Chicago Tribune columnist Teddy Greenstein) asked me about my mood, as a head coach of a team that has lost four games, you can't look down, you can't be beat down and let your players see you in that mode. You got beat and that's what they were trying to catch me at I guess.
Are you wired because of the caffeine?
You know what? I just like coffee. Some of the times, I just drink decaf and my strength coach and trainers are always on me to hydrate. So I try to go a bottle of water and a cup of coffee.
Twenty just seemed really high …
Well, I bet you I do throughout the day. You know who is an addict? Kirk at Iowa. I never used to drink coffee past noon. Now I drink it until late.