Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript
Sept. 27, 2011
COACH FICKELL: Probably should start off by saying obviously last week was exciting. I think the one thing our guys enjoyed as much as I did is having students back on campus. A few more things for them to do, to be focused on. But to have that little bit more of the emotions that I think we maybe don't see before school starts, I think that's a big boost to our guys, a big boost to us.
Obviously the way we played is a boost, but it's nice to have that behind you. Really want to thank them. Hopefully they continue to do the same things and get better each and every week.
We can open it up for questions.
Q. Evaluate how you thought Braxton played.
The ball wasn't coming out of his hands as well as he would have liked or anybody else would have liked. He settled down. Took some shots. Still got up and continued to compete. I think that's the number one important thing we saw from him, his demeanor, how he competed.
Q. (No microphone.)
Q. (No microphone.)
Again, we stay focused on getting better. I think you knew that when this thing started off. No matter what the situation was, it was going to be a grind. This is going to be a grind. That's how you get better.
Q. I know it's small subset of games, but Michigan State leads the Big Ten in defense. Is this the biggest test you faced so far from your offense?
Michigan State is probably as good up front as we've seen. They're going to definitely get on your guys outside. They're going to put pressure on you, whether it's four, five, six men. I think we understand that. How we handle it will be the key.
Q. (No microphone.)
A lot of what you watch, I don't know how you can get a whole lot more aggressive. They're going to bring, like I said, four, five, six most of the time. Sometimes more if they can.
Will they be more aggressive? It's a good chance. I think knowing the situation, what their mentality is, I wouldn't expect anything else.
Q. Can you comment on the adversity they went through with Coach Dantonio?
Q. (No microphone.)
Q. Missed tackles was something you talked about after the Toledo and Miami game. Was that something you felt the defense made progress with against Colorado?
We know we have to get better at it. The ones we missed, there were two, three, four guys right there afterwards.
Q. Was that the focus last week in practice?
Q. Can you talk about the selection of Jordan Hall. Suspended for a couple games. What does it mean you would select him as a game captain this week?
We understand we learn from our mistakes, but we're not going to throw guys away. That's kind of the reason we wanted to have the game captains the whole season, so we could make sure we could bring everybody to be part of this team no matter what their situation. They learn from it, grow from it, have the right attitude, they continue to get better. This team loves them. They'll always be able to be in a position they can get better.
In some situations like this, hey, we're excited to have him. The past is the past and we learned from it.
Q. Looking at video over the last two weeks, what has Christian Bryant brought to the defense playing more and more? What have you seen out of him?
Q. What are you seeing out of Devin Smith? Making a lot of plays. Do you see him becoming more a part of the offense as the season goes along?
Devin can make plays. He's a guy that can get on top of you, have some speed. Obviously good balls were thrown to him and he made the plays.
We need that. We know people are going to pack it in on us with a lot of run stuff. We need the wide receivers out there to have the ability to make plays, especially when people are going to get up on them.
Q. Coach Dantonio, coordinator here earlier on staff, anything you picked up on from him? Anything you gleaned from his experience as a coach?
Q. You have had conversations after you got the job?
Q. A couple of freshmen linebackers, Ryan Shazier is playing good. Also Curtis Grant, where does he fit in right now?
As far as Curtis Grant, Curtis is picking it up a little bit more. He hasn't been as big of a special teams guy as we need. But the next couple weeks, I think he's going to have a lot more opportunities, maybe playing some Sam this week a well as in the future.
Q. Why would Curtis have more opportunities at the Sam this week? What do you see there at that position that that would be the case?
Q. Your time with Coach Dantonio, what do you think it will be like this week coaching against him? Do you think it will be similar to what it was like for Coach Dantonio when he coached against Coach Tressel?
Q. Braxton, are you a little concerned he ran 17 times? Was that a little bit of nerves or was that part of the game plan?
What's the perfect number? I don't know. Staying healthy, knowing when to take off, when to get down, when to go to the extra yardage, those are things you have to learn.
Q. What is the update on Nathan Williams and Corey Brown? Will they be available this week?
Q. Curtis Grant, is there such a thing as a guy coming in with a mentality of a middle linebacker, maybe he has to grow into other roles? Is that one of his situations?
Q. Luke, I know obviously this day and age, you want to win every game. Does the mentality change at all with the start of Big Ten play?
We kind of talk about that all through the pre season, in camp, what we've got scheduled ahead of time so when we do get into that season, you don't have to look ahead week to week. We knew what this month is going to be about.
That's the fun of it. That's the beauty of it. I know they're excited. I know we're all excited.
Q. Obviously you guys are focused on this week's game against Michigan State. At what point do you start to get Mike Adams back in the game plan? How do you balance that?
I can just tell you they've done a great job of what we've asked them to do.
Q. Jordan Hall, what do you see what we don't see as far as what makes him special as a player?
Q. What does Braxton bring to the package? Are you clearly defined with what your offense is right now?
Q. I know you really can't prepare for trick plays. Last year Michigan State pulled off one with the Little Giants play. How do you prepare for the possibility of something like that coming down the road?
The hard part about those kinds of things, you can't sit there and try and wait for them all game. If you're waiting for it all game, you're probably missing 90% of what's happening. You have to be aware and be able to react to the things that you see.
Q. Jordan Hall again, did you ever have any concern, see anything, with things that happened with Terrelle, was it difficult for Jordan?
Q. (Question regarding Kirk Cousins.)
But I think the biggest thing is he just has command of the offense. He has some weapons that they can do a lot of different things. They can run the football well. They can get out and spread the field and throw the football well, but that's because they have a quarterback that can handle those different situations.
Is he a guy that's flashy, going to run all over the place? No. But he's going to control the offense, get the ball where it's supposed to go, going to read the coverages, read the defense, get them out of things he needs to get out of. That's what every team is looking for, a field commander like that.
Q. Michigan State has 25 players from Ohio on its roster. Is there a lot of competition recruiting?
Recruiting is always one of those things it's not a perfect science. What they think of somebody and what we think of somebody might be two different things. Who knows. You don't really know what's deep inside that person a lot of times, inside that heart. There are a few that are obvious. They do a great job in the state of Ohio. We battle with them all the time.
Q. (Question regarding emotion in this game.)
Again, it's a Big Ten game. I think that's the most important thing. It's the start of the Big Ten season. Whether there's little side things or stories or not, I'm sure there are every week. But it's still about Michigan State and Ohio State.
Q. You touched on this when you were talking about Braxton carrying the ball. He's got that special ability. Is there a line that you have to find with turning that loose? How much of a difficult process is that to not take away what makes him special but at the same time understand what the season needs?
But you know what, I'd rather have that guy that's a competitor when you're worried about playing a pickup basketball game because you know he only does things at one speed. When he gets out there, he's going to be competitive. Obviously we're going to have to try to help him through those things, coach him through those things. I'd rather have it that way than a guy the other way.
Q. Both are important for an offense, but which is more important to the importance of an offense, minimizing risk or maximizing opportunity?
You got a plan, you have to stick with it.
Q. With the Big Ten season coming up, do you need to up the risk/reward ratio?
Q. Braxton mentioned pre season he was trying to catch up as far as the playbook goes. How has he progressed with that?
I think he's done a good job. He's going to continue to do a good job. It's on us to make sure we can only put the things in his hands that we think he can handle. How much that is, we'll continue to do.
Q. Are you curious at all about the game in Madison on Saturday night? Are you curious about the Nebraska/Wisconsin game?
Thank you very much.
Q. What does it mean to you to be a captain? You've obviously been through a lot this year. You had two great games. Now to be named a captain, does it resonate? Are you appreciative of what it means?
Q. Just your thoughts on Michigan State. Obviously the bar will be raised now that the Big Ten is here.
We'll need a good week of practice.
Q. How did you kind of approach the weeks that you couldn't play? How did you deal with that and keep your edge?
I'm taking the rest of these games as if it's my last game.
Q. Does it make you more determined when you do get to play?
Q. How has it changed to you? Do you sit in your room at night, don't go anywhere anymore? How has it changed your approach to fans, et cetera?
Q. Probably the most surprising elements to people who hadn't seen you take the ball as a tailback was the way you finish runs. For a player of maybe a smaller stature, you tend to finish with the pile moving forward in your advantage. Talk about that mentality as a runningback of trying to move the pile forward, keep your legs driving through the finish of a run.
Q. Talk a little bit about your special teams play, just what goes through your head. Obviously you're trying to hit a home run every time you're out there.
Q. The two games you were out, what did you actually do while the games were being played?
Q. Where were you?
Q. What's that experience like?
Q. Do you scream at the TV? Do you feel like a fan?
Q. Did you have anything to eat, get a pizza?
Q. Michigan State statistically is the best defense in the Big Ten. What have you seen of them? What are your challenges?
Q. Back on watching the game. A lot of basketball coaches go up and down the sideline almost as if they want to get every rebound. Were you breaking tackles on your sofa or anything like that?
But Carlos and Rod, they did a good job of running the ball. We won it. We won. So that's all that matters really.
Q. Coach Fickell praised your competitiveness. He says you've handled everything he's asked you to handle. How does it feel to have that kind of support from your coach?
Q. When people watch replays of some of the plays at Miami, even last week, do you ever watch those ground level plays, do you marvel at the guts it takes to be a runningback? What is it about that that you got used to early in your life about the getting hit part?
Back to the runningback position, I respect any runningback because you get hit by at least three people plus the ground every time you carry the ball. They have my respect.
Q. When you get a kickoff, what are you looking at? Some guys have a knack for returning kicks, some run into the pile. What is going through your head when the ball comes down?
Q. Michigan State won 11 games last year, had to play without their coach for part of the season because of health issues. Is that anything you think about, something you can build on, they went through some adversity also last year?
Q. Was there a little transition period when you actually did return to practice and could play in games?
Q. In practice, was there like an acceptance that now you're really a full fledged member of the team and are available to play on Saturday, felt like you were more part of anything?
Q. Based on that, is there a transition that also has to take place with the guys that sat out the first five games? Do they have to be blended in with everybody, there's a mental barrier they have to break down?
Q. What do you think of Braxton in the huddle and under center?