Nov. 8, 2011
The following is a transcript of Tuesday's weekly press conference with University of Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill.
COACH KILL: Glad to see everybody today. Right now we're in hard preparation for the University of Wisconsin, which is a big challenge for us, just like last week. (We've been) behind closed doors, working very hard to work on a game plan to give us an opportunity. So that's kind of where we're at. So any questions, I'll certainly take them.
Q. How about this quarterback for Wisconsin, transferring over and all that stuff?
COACH KILL: It's a great pick up for the University of Wisconsin because that is the difference, I think, in their whole football team. You take a young man that's played in the Major Leagues, played baseball. You look at Oklahoma State, their success. I think he's 26, 27 years old. They've been through a lot of things. You can tell when they interview the young man how mature he is. He's just a different he and plays on a different level than anybody else in college football. So he's special, no question about that.
Q. What is your relationship with I just want to follow up, would you have tried to pursue that kid at that age?
COACH KILL: Oh, yeah. If you got the opportunity, you bet. I've coached we had a tight end that was coaching high school football now that played for us that played baseball in the Major Leagues. Was 26 years old, came back out, got his degree, and actually played tight end for us at Southern Illinois.
You don't run into that very often, but every once in a while you will. They go through that minor league system, and it's, hey, let me go another angle. He's still got decisions to make, is my understanding, that he could do a lot of different things. I know one thing, their running back, and they've got a lot of great players, but that guy right there has been the difference for the University of Wisconsin, no question.
Q. What is your relationship with Coach Bielema? How far back does it go, and what has changed?
COACH KILL: It hasn't changed. I knew him. We spoke you'd have to ask him. I don't know how many years ago it was, but he was at K State when I was somewhere. I don't know where I was at. But we traveled around on the Glazier Clinic Tours together and spoke all over the country, from the east coast to the west coast. Lot of times we'd travel and be speaking at the same time or ate lunch or whatever. Got to know each other through that.
That's coaching. Through my ten years, we played them at Northern Illinois, so it's been a good relationship. He's a heck of a football coach. I don't think there is any question about that. He's a great defensive football coach. Worked under Bill Snyder, so Coach Snyder has helped me out also.
In coaching, you've got a lot of good relationships because we take enough heat outside that the rest of the world, you better stick together somewhere along the line. So I have a good relationship with Coach. We had a function together raising money for cancer this summer.
Q. I think he mentioned when you took the job that he used to recommend some players at Illinois?
COACH KILL: Oh, he didn't recommend nobody. What's he talking about (laughing)? We'd recruit them and he'd steal them from us because it's the University of Wisconsin.
You talk coaching all the time. You pick up the phone and recruit them right now, and we're all recruiting and comparing notes and assistants on the road together. Then go eat lunch together and talk about different things.
I know we've called him on recruits and say, hey, what do you think of this kid? What are you guys going to do with him and so forth when we're at Northern Illinois, and you just do that in coaching. That's part of it. We did that here when Coach Brewster's here and so forth, so that's part of it.
Q. MarQueis seems to be a different quarterback than he was at the beginning of the season. Is that a light bulb moment for him or is it just a gradual process?
COACH KILL: I think it's a gradual process because he hadn't played for four or five years. I think the setback is when he got hurt. He didn't play at the University of Michigan. He took, I think, six reps and then we put him in at Purdue.
So those two weeks maybe cost us a little bit in his process. But he's been able to rebound off that. I think the second half for Nebraska it's like anything else, if you're a golfer and you struggle, but then you hit some great shots and all of a sudden you start believing you can do it, and all of a sudden you're playing pretty good.
I think he's made some plays and had some success. Once you have success, you build on that, and before long confidence is a great thing, whether it's a basketball Michael Jordan he went out there and knew he was going to make the shot. Maybe he didn't make it, but he thought he was going to. So confidence is a good thing. I think he's playing with some confidence over the last couple weeks.
Hopefully that will continue. Plus we've had some people around him make a few plays, and that helps also. It's a team thing. Offensive line wise, even though we've had a different group start each week, they have been able to hang in there and allow him to do some things also.
In all the years Coach Limegrover's been with me, this may be his best coaching job, because not very many people can have a different offensive line every week and have some continuity. We're playing, kids are playing hard, we don't always play as smart as we need to or as well as he'd like or I'd like. They are playing hard and giving MarQueis a chance to do some things.
Q. How do you get more consistency in your punting game?
COACH KILL: I guess hire you and you can come out and coach the punters. I don't know. I'm just teasing you. We just keep working at it. We've been consistent and had some inconsistencies, but that's my fault.
We net punted 38. Our net punt was 38 or 39 a week ago, and we beat Iowa. It was 35 or something like that this past week. They were on the short field, and we got on the long field. But I'm not going to blame the punter.
I will say we didn't snap the ball very well. Once you move a punter around, sometimes that affects him. So there was a lot to do that, protection et cetera. I take responsibility for that. But we'll certainly we know that's something that all teams have to address from week to week.
We all like to have consistency in every phase of the game, but we got beaten in the kicking game last Saturday, and we don't like that. We take great pride in it. So we'll just go back to work.
Any time you have a problem, you can lay around and whine about it, or you go back to work. We just go back to work, because that's what we've been doing for 29 years. You know what's right. You've got to get things corrected and emphasize, and overemphasize maybe and get it better. But we'll certainly we certainly know that game's going to be that part of the game will be essential in this game also because you can't put Wisconsin on a short field. You just can't.
Michigan State was on the short field and we were on the long field, and we still had a chance to win the game. If we had been on the short field, we would have won the game, no question about that. The week before against Iowa we were able to make Iowa go 70 and 80 yards. You can't give an offensive football team the ball on the 40 yard line. So you're absolutely correct.
Q. Their quarterback and tailback made a lot of plays, but talk about those linemen on Wisconsin?
COACH KILL: They've just got a good football team. There are no weaknesses on that football team. They're two plays away from being the top two or three in the country, maybe the top team in the country. Just two shots away. So their running back is special. He's special, no question about that. He's special, quarterback's special. The receivers are special.
They can't be special unless you're good up front. And every football team that ever wins has got to be good up front on the offensive and defensive line. So they've begun good up front for a long time. They've got two seniors that are playing very well on the right side. That's who they are. They're a good football team, we understand that.
Q. Do you have an idea what this football rivalry means to the fans and in the locker room?
COACH KILL: I don't think there's any question I know about the rivalry. There's a rivalry. My motor's been running. We got beat on Saturday, and it's very hard. But Saturday night I'm watching a couple ballgames late, and Sunday we're back to work.
So I know it means a ton to our fans. I know it means a ton to our players and the state of Minnesota, and shoot, our coaches are competitive too. We're right here on the border. We understand recruiting and all that stuff.
So I tell you that to down play it or something like that, no. It's dang important to us. We understand that. But we also understand who we're playing, we know how good a football team we have, and we're going to have to play our guts out just like we did last week. Got to play hard. There is no room for error. That's all we can ask at the end of the day.
Our kids are disappointed in the loss, there is no question about that. But I will say our kids played as hard as they could play on Saturday, we just didn't win the game. We ran out of time so to speak.
Q. Are your receivers better than you thought?
COACH KILL: I think that MarQueis is doing a better job of getting the ball out of his hands and getting it to them. Again, I think it's a concept thing right now. I think everybody if MarQueis doesn't have more time, he's not going to complete anything.
I think early in the year he had a lot of people in his face. We've changed some things. We're doing some things different up front on the offensive line. We've had to change some of the things that we're used to doing for a long time. Not going to share all those things because I don't want everybody to know.
But we've had to do some increment things to allow us to be successful and give him some more time, and do some different things on what his progressions are and so forth. But it's helped him, our receivers and our offensive line. So I think it's a combination of many things.
But Tufts has stepped up, and I think he's really playing well. It hurt when he went out of the game on Saturday and the last drive. It really hurt our football team because he can go vertical and do some things. He's done well. He gets injured and Ge'Shun comes in, and the kid that we've been waiting on makes a good play. So I just think kids are learning right now. Unfortunately, we're learning playing games, but a lot of them haven't played a bunch of football. So I think some kids are getting better. But we'll see if they can continue to do that over the next three weeks mentally because it ain't going to get any easier.
Q. You've been able to call a wider variety of plays the last couple of weeks?
COACH KILL: Not really. It's more about execution. I think we get into, oh, you're doing some different things or whatever. I think we're just doing some things to where he's executing better, and that's along with what the kids are doing offensively.
We played a very, very good defensive football team. I will tell you our offensive guys did a heck of a job. I told them this is the goal we ought to set. They worked hard, and I think we took advantage of some of the things that they do defensively.
They played hard, press corners, so we did some things that maybe counteract what they did with their corners. So I think the guys put a great game plan together, and I think the offensive kids executed well.
But it all starts at that position. It doesn't matter what level it is, it starts at that position, and he's playing well right now he'll continue to make progress as long as the other guys do their jobs also.
Q. Talk about the play of Jacobs?
COACH KILL: You know, he got better. He got better. Our two defensive tackles we pick linemen of the week and so forth, and him and Kirksey were our defensive linemen of the week, and they got better. Kirksey played pretty consistent all year.
Anthony's had trouble with his footwork and technique, and I challenged him a little bit pretty hard. So I'm very proud of him. I told him in front of our whole team. Inside we played about as well as we played all year. That was a big thing in the game.
Q. Talk did you challenge him after the Iowa game?
COACH KILL: I challenged him all year. That's my job. I challenge everybody. I do it in different ways, everybody's different, so I treat everybody differently, not the same, but fairly.
Q. Is there anything you did differently preparing for the run game of Michigan State than you did with Iowa?
COACH KILL: No, I mean, again, you try to get, when you're preparing for the run, you've got to get more people in the box than they've got, but you've got to be able to defend the pass, and that hurt us. We got caught looking in the back field and they hit a big play.
When somebody's big, strong, physical, and they're going to run the football, you watch it in the NFL, you watch it in college, you've got to get more in the box. You watch LSU and Alabama, they've got eight of them up there, sometimes nine, and they're going to get them up there as tight as they can get and play press coverage. You play dang good defense if you do that.
Right now we're trying to get as many people in the box as we can, but we've still got to be able to hold up in the secondary. So it's not an easy thing. Plus you have to be able to tackle well. You can't miss tackles.
Q. You have a placekicker, but do you have another punter or two that can come to the front like your placekicker has come to the front?
COACH KILL: We'll be all right. We'll be all right. I'm not going to talk about kids. The kicking game, the younger has done a good job stepping in, and we'll be all right at punter.
Q. Do you see Jordan staying at that spot even when Chris is healthy?
COACH KILL: We'll see how that works out. Right now he's on the injury report with something. Like I said, you better coach them all, because they're all on the injury report at one time or the other.
We need depth on our football team. We'll take as much depth as we can get. If we've got two great kickers, that's a great problem. We have two great quarterbacks, we have three of them, then we're getting better. We don't have a lot of depth right now, so we better coach them all.
Q. Last year's game included the infamous two point conversion at the end. Is that something that you brought up this week?
COACH KILL: I don't know enough about it. It's like I get asked all kinds of questions. I only worry about what Coach Kill can control and what we're doing football wise. I think our kids were here. They know about it. They've heard enough about it.
My job is when the game starts, kids are just going to play. The best team's going to win at the end of the day.
Will I use any motivation I can get to get our team ready to play? You bet. That's my job. By the end of the day, best team usually wins. The team with the best players and who plays best on that day is going to win. We need to make sure we put ourselves in position.
For me, right now, I'm more worried about us playing hard, physical, tackling well, understanding leverage, understanding angles, making sure we don't peak in the back field. Making sure we can sustain a block, making sure we give our quarterback an opportunity to get the ball off. Make sure we're able to stay on the field.
The critical thing in this game, we have to stay on the field. We snapped it 72 times on Saturday at Michigan State. Snapped it 61 or 62, that was big in that game. Both teams have about 400 yards of offense.
You look at the game, and it was even all the way down. Then at the end of the day you look, and you look at the field position, and a couple of critical plays, I mean, a couple of big plays. They had five big plays and three of them shouldn't have happened, so it's hard to win.
Unless you're LSU, they blow two assignments and their guy can run across the field and still make the damn play. They've got pretty good skill guys there.
Q. Crawford-Tufts okay for this week?
COACH KILL: We hope so. He's going to practice today. He's got a quadriceps, got hit with the helmet in a quadriceps, and those things tighten up on you. But the best thing is to go out there, go to work, and see if we can get him loosened up.
We'll see how he does in practice. We've got a few of them like that, but we know a lot more today once we run him around. So hopefully we can get him loosened up because he is important to what we do because he can stretch the field vertically.
Q. In light of the Penn State situation, does that create a greater sensitivity or awareness to be aware of what can be going on in the program?
COACH KILL: I just got asked that. I can't really comment. They compared Coach Dantonio's illness to me, and, hey, I've been locked into what's going on with Wisconsin. Am I aware of the thing that's going on at Penn State? Yeah. I don't know the exact details and those kind of things.
I think as a head coach, I haven't been Joepa. I can't touch that. The guy's an I con. I've been Jerry Kill, and I've come up in a different way than Coach Paterno has in the fact that I've coached high school. I've carried bags out. I've been a Division II coach. I've been on staffs with five people, so I knew everything that was going on.
I can tell you as the thing gets larger, and bigger and to tell you that I know every single thing that's going on in Gophers athletics with every individual, I couldn't do that. I think the bigger the operation, the more you do.
Do I know what our coaches do and those kind of things? I've been with them a long time. So I'm not there, and I can't judge. If I have a problem on our staff or we have a situation, I'm going to take care of it. No different than I am with the player. I've done it all my life.
I've had to make some hard calls in my life, but I've always felt like they were right ones.
Q. The New York Times is reporting a little while ago that it's over for him in the next week or so. I don't know that for a fact, but that's what they're saying. This could bring him down.
COACH KILL: Yeah, and that would be sad. Again, I don't know all the details of the situation. I know the allegations and those kind of things with the assistant coach.
I know personally how I feel about it if it's all true. But I'm not going to tell that to everybody else. That is my personal opinion, and I think everybody knows what my opinion probably would be.
But the tough thing is, again, it all goes back to this. My personal life is pretty much out there all the time with the media, the social networking and all the things. As coaches, we get paid a hell of a lot of money, and we have a huge responsibility. We're certainly role models.
You look at our society, our society takes the coaching out of t and we've got a lot of problems. My dad told me a long time ago, he said this world is getting messed up. He said I worry about you and your livelihood. You bet your fathers have said the same thing.
So it keeps spinning, and now it's leaked into the coaching, and the teaching and all those kind of things. Sooner or later, I told you all a long time ago when I took the job, kids aren't the problem, grown ups are. That's the bottom line.
Including me, I'm a parent. I've got two daughters that are too soft. They've had it too easy. I didn't have it easy. So until we get back to the basics of life like we were, we're still going to spend on those programs. That's just my belief.
Just like our football team, I get asked about the punter or the kicker, whatever it is. Hell, it ain't their fault, it's my fault. I'm the grown up. I'm the one coaching them and teaching them. I need to take the responsibility. We get the grown ups straightened out, and we'll be all right.
Q. The rules over the last few years have gotten so strict on players demonstrating after touchdowns and after sacks and all of that. Is it hard to teach the kids to kind of be under control when they do something successful?
COACH KILL: I think that, yeah, football is an emotional game. It's a very emotional game. Defense makes good play and gives some high fives and celebrates, I think it's all part of the game, okay.
At the same time, I'm a little bit old school in that one of the best players that's ever played this game grew up about 30 minutes from where I was raised and I just happen to know him, Barry Sanders. And Barry Sanders always said I said you never celebrate too much, Barry. He said, well, I'm used to being in there.
So if you're used to being in there, you hand the ball to the official and move on. Why should you have to celebrate too much? I'm in there quite a bit.
I think sometimes you understand the rules. You know what the rules are. You can't spike the football and do that. Again, that's my fault. Evidently I'm not getting that across. That's lack of discipline. I've been talking about that.
Yeah, you can be emotional, but you've got to control your emotions, and the great players control their emotions.
I look at Jerry Rice. He controlled his emotions for a lot of years. When they make the rules, you've got to follow them whether you like them or not. Do I agree with everything that the rules are and so forth? No. But they are what they are, so we follow them. We didn't follow them on that play, and it should have been a penalty.
Q. On the celebration penalty, is 15 yards too much? Would you rather see less?
COACH KILL: I wish there wasn't no penalty. It cost us a big situation in the game. It got into field position and you trade scores. Shouldn't have happened though. Again, the rule is that once you get in the end zone, it's judgmental on the official.
But it's hard to see on film, but he spiked the football. It's a penalty. Wish I had told you it wasn't. But is it too harsh? I don't know. We have a committee that makes those rules, and we follow them. We've got a whole lot of the officials it's getting tougher and tougher and tougher on them. Not only do they officiate, but they've got other jobs, then we keep adding rules. You can't cut on this play. If this guy goes in motion over here, you can't cut. If he's lined up here, you can't cut.
We've got more rules and regulations just like the NFL. What's head to head and things of that nature, the quarterbacks going down, somebody goes like that, sometimes it's called, sometimes it's not.
So you have to worry about what you can control. We all understand what a celebration penalty is. They've all been told. They've all been shown video, and we've had the officials come in and do all those kind of things. But, again, the game of football is emotional. And sometimes young people make mistakes. We certainly corrected it, and we'll move on.