Oct. 4, 2011
COACH KILL: I'll make this opening statement real quick, and then I think most of you will have a lot of questions and we'll answer those. I guess my opening statement would be this. I think there is a guy that everybody knows, Murray Warmath would say, "If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education." So he's a guy that's a legend to pretty much tell you how I feel about things. We didn't do very well, and maybe we got an education, we'll see. I'll leave it with the guy that did a heck of a lot for this university and our football program. So we'll start off with that, and I'll answer any questions that you may have.
Q. Coach, who is the starting quarterback this week? COACH KILL: Who is the starting quarterback? Oh, we'll have to see.
Q. Is MarQueis progressing with that injury? COACH KILL: Well, he is. We threw him on Saturday, he threw better because he was standing flat-footed. He wasn't leaning one way or the other, so he threw the ball pretty well, and that in some ways is a progression. It's just going to be if he's able to play full speed. I told our staff, I told our trainers, I told everybody, we can't afford to be playing people that are not full speed where we're at athletically, compared to other people in the Big Ten. We better have somebody out there full speed. So right now going in, Max would be our starting quarterback until MarQueis is completely healthy. If MarQueis is healthy by Saturday, then that could change. But he's going to have to practice full speed and practice and get going. We'll just have to see how is he. He's progressed. There is no question about that. He's progressed. But is it enough to go out and play a game, I just don't know. We'll know a lot more as the week goes.
Q. Is there a thought to maybe running practices a little bit more physical at all right now than you normally would because of some of the issues that you've had with tackling and approaching on the defensive side or does that make sense?
COACH KILL: Let me explain it this way. Back in the old days when I was part of a National Championship and things of that nature, we used to go out full pads and tackle, do all those kind of things and so forth. Our injury list, guys were banged and whatever.
When somebody's bigger, stronger and faster than you, and you're getting it like this and like this (slapping hands together), and then we go out in practice and do the same thing, then you're not going you know what I'm saying? You're beating down a dead horse as my daddy used to say. You're beating a dead dog down as far as you can do it.
Really in some ways you think the opposite. Gary Patterson is a guy that's won a heck of a lot of football games at TCU, is that they were pretty good. When they struggled tackling, they did the direct opposite. When you don't have your shoulders and you don't have your legs, you're not going to tackle very well.
You can go beat the heck out of them all you want. But if you take somebody that's not athletic and gifted, and you just keep beating him, he gets slower. We've gotten slower since we played USC, okay?
If we slow down much more and we can't get we're in a position to make a play and we can't make one, and we keep beating him down and beating him down and beating him down, then it's going to get worse before it gets better.
So there are a lot of psychological things that I've got to figure out. But I don't think going out and going a full scrimmage for 24 periods is probably the answer for our success right now.
I think a guy at Nebraska said it best. I believe it was Frank Solich, who was head coach, is that you recruit them tough. You can't make them tough. You recruit good tacklers, you know. That's all part of the recruiting process.
Now our kids mentally have got to feel good about themselves. They've got to get their legs underneath them. They've got to get their shoulders. They've been beaten down a little bit, and we've got to get them to believe that they can do that.
So however that's going to be approached in practice, which we approached in here behind closed doors when we watched the offense, the defense, and the kicking game with everybody -- staff, every player on our team. We pointed out every mistake and everything that we did.
I think more of our problem right now is you've got to mentally believe you can do some things. I've always said the game of football is played 90% of it is above your (shoulders) right now, and I think that's where we've got the most problems and that's something that we'll have to work through.
I think people have to understand, I don't make excuses for anything. I'm embarrassed and all those kind of things. But the bottom line is that I said all along exactly where we're at. I'm not going to keep repeating it. I've told you all. And a lot of people don't want to believe it, but I've told you exactly where we're at.
At one time we played eight freshmen. Eight freshmen were on the field on the offensive side of the ball, true freshmen and red shirt freshmen.
When you're lined up with somebody that's 265 pounds going against somebody that's 310 pounds, okay. Then you turn around and do that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to them, then they get ready to go play, that's sometimes not the answer.
A different time, a different era, different situation, the next guy behind the next guy by the next guy is a freshman, a walk on. We just don't have the bodies in our program.
Brandon Kirksey, he's an older kid and he's playing pretty hard right now and things like that. If we had ten of him at defensive tackle like that, and you go out and practice the way I'm used to practicing, the way we practiced at Northern Illinois my last year.
But we can't practice like we practiced at Northern Illinois last year. We can't do it here. Do you understand what I mean?
Same thing defensively. We can't do what we did at Northern Illinois last year because we're not gifted enough. Hell, we've got to quit trying to do it, because we can't. Don't ask somebody to do something they can't do. So we've got to do something different.
That doesn't mean a drastic change. But we've got to simplify some things. Then if it just doesn't you know, somebody just runs over the top of you whatever, there ain't nothing you can do about that as a coach. But we're not mentally or physically doing what we need to do right now.
I'm not throwing the kids under the bus, that's our responsibility. We got what we got. So mentally we have to reach them. This is more a mental thing than it is a physical thing.
But you can't change anything physical. Whoever it is runs five flat, runs five flat. If he can't bench he benches 265 pounds and his opponent's benching 330, we can't change that today. That's over time.
The one thing is we can change this, and what you believe in. Can I go do it? Will I go do it? I'm going to play hard. I can tell you what our kids I talked to our kids. I can tell you right now a couple of them, as soon as University of Michigan went boom, boom, boom and scored, I think our kids went `Oh, no, here we go.' That's our MO. So you've got to fight out of that MO.
Some of those younger kids, you know, you throw Tufts out there and Marcus Jones, they haven't been here long enough. They just go play. They don't know the difference. Tufts goes over, catches the ball, gets the heck knocked out of him. He doesn't know.
Some of the older kids have been through some very difficult situations and mentally we just don't have a fight back mentality. Is that the kids' fault? No. It's our program's fault, and right now it's my fault because I'm the head coach.
But I'm trying to change a mentality that's been embedded a little bit, and that's not easy to do. Shoot, we're working at it. I can tell that you.
Lot of people go, "Coach, are you negative? Are you down?" No. It's a challenge. It's a great challenge. I came in Sunday, and we went to work. Hey, this is what we've got to do, man. Here it is. All right?
(Kill drawing on dry-erase board at front of the room)
Now, here we are. We're playing right here. Ball carrier's coming right here, and we've got two guys in here. We talk about leverage. This guy that's lined up in here he's got to fit out here so we can get the ball turned back into this guy. You see, it's pretty easy. But we're not getting those things done. Leverage, basic things. We don't quite understand. We don't have great football knowledge. Part of that has to do with there are a lot of young players out there playing. The other part is some of the older players right now are still learning what to do because some of them have been in four or five different schemes. It's kind of one of those tornados, so to speak, but you just deal with it. I mean, hell, it's life. So we go back today. We worked longer on Sunday as a coaching staff. Coach Kill worked longer than I have, and we've had to go in and tweak some things to make us better and that's including practice. We'll see how it works out. But that's all you can do at the end of the day. You just keep working. When things get bad you either look it in the eye and work hard and don't blame things, or you do what a lot of people do in life. When adversity hits, a lot of people turn to things they shouldn't do. I did tell our players this, if you do that, you won't be here. I'm not going to put up with some of the things that go on. I'm just not going to do it. I think we just keep moving forward. That's all we can do at the end of the day.
Q. Coach, Purdue is very evenly balanced offensively with passing and running. Can you talk about the concept of facing them defensively? COACH KILL: The biggest thing, again, talking about Purdue, offensively they're structured very similar to what Michigan does in the running game. They do a lot of things that make you mentally think. So they've got a lot of little gimmicks and things of that nature. We played Purdue a couple years ago where I was before. So we've got a good idea. Again, right now, it wouldn't matter who we were playing. I'm more concerned about us than I am any of that. They've got a balanced attack. They're a good football team, all those kind of things. But right now we've got to worry about our kids mentally thinking that we've got to do what we need to do to get better. I think that is the biggest challenge we've got. We've got to get them mentally ready to play this game and learn how to do that. So that's what our challenge is.
Q. So in light of that, is that something that you should probably plan to see more often is a lot of players and a lot of young freshmen and sophomores out there? Or is that a product of what the game has turned into? COACH KILL: That's all we have. That's what I said. I get the same questions. That's all we have, guys. Hey, I take the team over, I played the roster we have, and that's all we have. We lost last year Adam Weber graduated. I think there are four offensive linemen that graduated, two of those are on NFL teams. We lost those players and they were replaced by some of the freshmen. We don't have any classes in between there. Look at the roster. It's empty. So what we have if you look at our offensive line, Jimmy Gjere is a red-shirt freshman, okay, Olson's a sophomore which I wish he would have been red-shirted, okay. But he's a sophomore. They're both out. They don't play in the second half. So we put (265) pound left tackle in, and he played as hard as he can play. Did a heck of a job, okay? We played another kid that's playing in there, and shoot, he wasn't even going to be here when I first got here because he wouldn't put on a brown shirt, and he's playing, you know. So that's where we're at. We're playing what we have. I don't know what else you know, that's what we're going to do. That's okay. It's okay. That's what we have. We've got to make them better. Like I told our staff today.
(Kill drawing on dry-erase board)
I went through each kid and said first of all, we need to make sure we're putting the right people out there. Second of all, okay, does this guy play hard? Does this guy play hard? Is football important to him? How does he feel? I didn't even ask him if they were scholarship players or red-shirt players or what year they were. I just want to know who is giving us effort, wants to play hard, and that's who we're going to play. That's all you can do, and then you go recruit and keep working. It's the same thing every place I've ever been. I suppose if this was a great job, I wouldn't be here. That's what I'm saying. They would have had somebody else hired. It's a tough job for tough people and tough times. That's why I look back, when things get tough, I figured I'd go back to a pretty tough guy. I heard Murray's pretty tough. How many people knew Murray? Is he pretty tough?
Q. Very tough. COACH KILL: Well, Coach has to be like Murray. I need to look up to my elders. So I look up to Murray. Tough times are for tough people.
Q. You said all along you're going into this with a realistic expectation and all of that. But even for you the last two weeks kind of a wake up call where this program is at? COACH KILL: I think in some aspects I think the biggest thing is that you can practice against yourself, you can get a little bit of false identity. But I've said all along we're not very disciplined off the field. I'm still getting on kids about going to class. I spend more time babysitting than I do coaching. But you get into practice and getting some strides here, and then you go play North Dakota State, and then you play in the Big House. You see a guy that's playing quarterback, (he runs) 4.5, he breaks out in the secondary, and it's 4.5 against 4.8, that's not good. That's just not good odds. But if you get right angles and right leverage, and you get enough people around it, at least you can control it. That's the embarrassing part. Hey, we can do better than that. That's unacceptable. I've told the kids. I came in here. I said I was embarrassed. I said you should be embarrassed. Our coaching staff should be embarrassed. We're embarrassed. We let the state of Minnesota I mean, that's not how it's supposed to be done. I told in front of our whole team. I said Bud Grant would be ashamed of us. You've got to respect the game and respect the game by playing it hard and playing it the way you're supposed to. I didn't say them. I said us. We're all in it together. We just have I've got a good idea where we're at and what I'm doing. I've been doing it for long time. I know what we need to do and so forth. But in the meantime we've got some kids here that have been through a whole lot. It isn't their fault. They've had head coaches dismissed during the season. Some of them have been under they had another coach, and they've had coordinators, and they've had assistant coaches and different academic people. They've had so much adversity that they don't know. Then when stuff hits, what's going to happen next? That is what our attitude is. I care enough about them that if I had children I've got two daughters, and if they were going through all of that, what am I going to do? Am I going to kick them out the door, or am I going to go in there and try to save them and get them going? I'm going to try to save them and get them going. The ones that want to be saved. But, as my daddy said, you can't lead a horse to water and make them drink. They've got to want to drink and most of them want to drink. Shoot, we just need something good to happen. To have something good happen, you've got to go make something happen. You can't stand there and wait for it to happen. Right now we're kind of in that catch and wait mode. But, again, let's not blame the kids. We're the coaches. That's our job. I've always been able to motivate kids and so forth to play hard. I think that's a little bit of frustration. But I think what happens, I don't think just our kids when stuff hits the fan, you think about normal people and normal life, take football out of it. When things don't go a lot of people's way, what do they do? A lot of them go down to the bar, get drunk, wake up the next day and think it's going to be okay, well it ain't. As a player, when things go bad, what are you going to do? Crawl under a shell and say it's going to happen again or are you going to do something about it? We have to learn to do something about it, coaches included. We've got to make them hang in there. I think somebody said, "Boy, Coach, you need to slow down on the sideline." Well, hell, I ain't got time to slow down. I've got to get these kids going. So, we'll just keep the process. When I was at Southern Illinois and the same old thing when I was at Southern Illinois they talked about, oh, drop the program and this and that. They ain't ever going to get it done. This is happening and that's happening. Now like I said, they've got a brand new stadium and things went pretty well. I just have to tune all that out. I've got to worry about what I was brought here to do, and that is to take care of those kids and make them men. I hope we win along the way here, and I hope we win a bunch more games as the season goes or whatever happens, but my job is to make those kids men. Sooner or later they're going to have to learn how to handle adversity and fight back. For some of them, I've got two and a half months with them. I mentioned Brandon Kirksey, right now he's playing better than he's ever played. You know, Kyle Henderson's giving me everything he's got, but we need some others to pick up what they're doing. Chase Haviland is 5'9", maybe, 185, maybe, walk on player, and we throw him out there. We've got some guys on our team who are better athletically than him and all that kind of stuff. I told that in front of him, so I'm not saying anything negative. And he goes out there and plays. At least I know he's going to get in the right place. I know he's going to give me 100 percent, and if he misses the tackle, he's going to try to do it the right way. So guess what, I told the whole team. I'm messing him around. We're going to play him, because at least he's going to play hard. So that's kind of where we're at. We've just got to get the ones out there that will play hard and after that, that's all we can control. We're all we all want to do better.
Q. Other than wins, how are you determining if your system's working? I know you keep talking about building on concrete. COACH KILL: I think the whole thing, I'm on the insides of this thing, and we have lots of work to do. I don't have a press conference long enough to tell you what needs to take place here. There's a lot, okay? I can tell you there's been an extreme amount of progress, because right now we've got everybody going to class. Yeah, that's pretty good. Being that we had guys that played the whole year last year and some of them didn't go to class, I'd say that's a huge improvement. That's why we're in the mess we're in. Let's don't sugar-coat it. It is what it is. I don't say that's concrete, but we've got guys going to class. And, again, I want to make this perfectly clear. That's not Coach Brewster's fault, now. I mean, there was transition and a lot of things going on. I'm not blaming anybody. I'm just saying the facts are facts. So right now we've got guys going to class, and we're class checking them. I've got guys that are living in the dorms. We go through dorms at night to make sure everybody's doing what they're supposed to do. That is the ground work. That is the stuff nobody else sees. Until we get that stuff straightened out, I can't coming in, you've got 21 guys academically ineligible or whatever it is. I've got to get the ground basis of that because right now it carries on the field. Let me ask you this, right now, why do we have to simplify things why do we have mental mistakes? It's about what our GPA is sometimes, and it is. We play. Concentration level and focus level is not very good. Sometimes ours is not very good in the classroom either. But has it gotten better? Yes, it has. Dan, has it not gotten better? Marc, has it not gotten better? It's gotten better. But those results haven't been seen on the football field yet, okay? That's evident. But now I know why some of those kids struggle. So we've got to find a way to do what? We've got to do some things better, simplify things, et cetera. But there are a lot of things on the inside that have gotten better. I can tell you that. If they said, Coach, you're not our guy today, and we're going to hire Sid to be the coach, and they did that, it's better. It's better. The groundwork's better. But, again, when you're building something and where we're at right now in our program, we have a ways to go. But that's the good thing. For recruiting and everything, (kids) have a great opportunity to come here. Barry Alvarez went through it at Wisconsin. Bo Schembechler did something when he went to the University of Michigan. Look at those two schools. I came home after the game. I could sit around and pout. I got on that dang thing. Boy, after watching film, I watched Wisconsin play Nebraska, all right? You know, it's pretty easy. Well, Wisconsin's averaging 325 pounds across the front line. I think when Barry Alvarez took the job he said he wanted to be like Nebraska. So we all want to be somebody. You set your goals where you need to be, and that's what we need to do. But those people didn't get there overnight. I can tell you that. I don't like to mention everybody else that we play or whatever. But they didn't get there overnight. Coach Alvarez, that guy built it from the ground up. He ran off I believe if you read that book, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, 40 players his first year because they weren't tough enough to play for Barry Alvarez. Don't quote me on that. Read the book. Don't quote me, read the book. But I think it's somewhere along those lines. But the world's different now. We have APR, and we have a lot of other different issues that we have to deal with, so the process is slower. It's not as fast. You just can't do those kind of things. It's a different world, different culture. It can be done, it's just got to be patiently done, and it can't be done in a shortcut way.
Q. At the same time, are fans expectations more immediate now than maybe they were? Can you deal with that where everybody was on board two months ago, and now there is a backlash where they're not seeing the results and they want it now? COACH KILL: I can't do anything about that. I mean, I can't -- all I can control - the fans have been great to me. Let's put it this way. I've got a 20 year old daughter that's at Murray State, Kentucky. All right, she loves her dad more than life. She flies in to surprise me, all right. We go to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she lived about two hours down the road for five years. She comes down after the game. I'm down there, and she knows how I am. She walks over puts her arm around me, "Dad, you doing okay?" And I said, "Hell, no." And she goes, "Gosh darn. It's hard to watch." That's my daughter. "Is it hard for you to watch, Coach?" I go, "Yeah, Tash, it is." "Right where you want to be. You'll get them going. Love you, Dad." End of conversation. It's hard for her to watch. So I mean, hey, what's it going to be like she's been a fan here (for a few months) and I'm her daddy. So is it hard for some of the fans? Heck, yeah. I understand that. They want to blame me or yell at me, I'm okay with it. But I'm doing everything I can. I can't I learned a long time ago -- I can't tackle anymore. I'm too damn old to do that. But I've got to get people in place to do it. But people do have to understand we have what we have, and all I can do is work with it, and we slowly try to change the culture. It's maybe frustrating for fans. It's frustrating for coaches. You're talking about guys that have been successful, and worked hard all their life. But we went through it at Southern. But I never panicked. I never got negative. Just kept pushing along. You want to know something? At the end of the day, when you're trying to change something, you get to find out a lot about people. Who is really in your corner? You find out now. Who really wants to get it done, you find out now. Now you look and say how are you really going to get it done? This is when you find out. Shoot, this is when you find out. What did I tell you in this room about a month ago? I said you find out about people through adversity. When things are really, really bad, how do people handle things? We're fine. I'm getting to find out about our football team. I'm getting to find out about everything. How do you handle it? How do you deal with it? Some people deal with it one way, some people deal with it in the other. With me, you just keep moving ahead. That's how you change. That's the only answer I know. It's worked everywhere else. I welcome you to call anybody that you want to at Southern Illinois or Northern Illinois or wherever. They'll tell you the same thing. Hell, we didn't know about this, but it happened. Let me tell you what, I don't think I can't wave a magical wand and make everything perfect. I call it blind faith. Sooner or later, somebody's got to have blind faith. They've got to believe in somebody. Somebody believed in Barry Alvarez a long time ago when he was 1 10. I'm not saying we're going to be 1 10 either. I'm just saying, they believed in what he was doing. They bought into it. Somebody did. When they bought into it, look what they've got now. That's any program you want to talk about that's successful, there's been blind faith on somebody and what's happening. So you just keep working.
Q. Coach, these three weeks you've given carries to new running backs. Are you still sorting that out now? COACH KILL: I want to see somebody step up and make a play. No, not yet. David Cobb did some good things, but then we had an exchange with the quarterback and all that. But we're trying to find somebody to make a play. They're all capable of making a play, but I want to see somebody make a play. I hear what you're saying, and I trust what you do. Got to make a play. Step up and make a play. They're good kids. Good kids trying hard. Seeing some good things. Kirkwood had a hamstring problem, so he's been hurt too much. He's got to get healthy. He wasn't a hundred percent. So, again, you play somebody we didn't play MarQueis, Stoudermire. You have some kids in there. You can't play half speed in this game certainly against the University of Michigan. He wasn't able to give us a lot. So we went to David Cobb. I thought David made some yards after contact. He did some good things. You know, we've got Devon (Wright) in there a little bit. But he's still learning. Everybody goes `Well, gosh darn, why does this guy make this mistake?' He ain't never played. He (took the ball inside), but he could have gone outside and made a vertical cut. He ain't going to get any better if he don't play. If you give effort, and if you play hard, and if you hustle. I'll give you a great example. When Cobb fumbled the football and made a cut, fumbled the ball, the guy picks it up and runs and goes the distance. You find out who is going to play hard and who is not. I watched Marcus Jones and Tufts, and John Rabe, and three or four other guys. I mean, they were on a dead sprint all the way to the goal line, all the way to the goal line. Then we had three or four dog it. We have no room for error. That's what I call playing hard. But, again, that's what the educational system is by showing everybody on film, offense, defense, kicking game. We showed it all to every kid to let every kid know, don't blame the kicking game, don't blame offense, don't blame defense. Let's all be accountable in here, including me. So I thought the meeting went well. I'm looking forward to how our kids handle practice. But beating somebody up -- all those kind of things ain't the answer right now. We've got to mentally get them back in it, so that's what we need to do. That is a huge challenge for us, but that's what life is all about.
Q. Olson and Gjere able to practice this week? COACH KILL: Olson's got a chance to practice. If he don't practice full speed, he's not practicing. And Jimmy Gjere is questionable right now. He will not practice.
Q. Looked like the receivers got banged up? COACH KILL: They're all practicing today. They practice full speed, they get to play. If they don't, play the next one.
Q. Troy's status? COACH KILL: Troy's status, he'll practice today. He's got to throw it in there. If he doesn't throw it in there, he won't play. If he throws it in there, he'll play. Just because I get my ass kicked, I'm going to still be the same guy. Excuse my language. All right, thanks.
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