Coach Zook
Coach Zook Meets With Reporters
Coach Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini will be travelling Thanksgiving afternoon to Cincinnati for Friday's game.

Coach Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini will be travelling Thanksgiving afternoon to Cincinnati for Friday's game.

Nov. 24, 2009

Opening Statement:
"Obviously, this is a great challenge. We are facing a great football team and a well-coached football team. A team that is playing together, playing hard and making a lot of things happen. Our players have showed us in the last two weeks that they are excited about this opportunity. It's a game that everyone is going to be watching with the implications for the BCS, so it draws a lot of attention in that regard. "

On Chris Spielman:
"I'd like to send out our condolences to Chris Spielman. I've known since Chris since he was in high school. He was not only a great player, but a great person. I know his brother and his father. It's just a tough, tough thing. I talked with the ABC people yesterday, and he still plans on being there, which if you know Chris, that is what you would expect. Our prayers go out to him, his family and the loved ones."

On last week's practice:
"Last week was a very good week of practice. I came back and didn't spend a lot of time on Cincinnati but just had good practice. I was really impressed with the attitude they came back with. We came back and just made it like a game week. We started on Sunday and made it like a Monday. I've been very, very impressed, which tells us that these guys are excited to play this football team."

On team injuries:
"Everyone will be out there except Donsay (Hardeman). His neck is still bothering him a little bit, but everyone else should be fine. Juice has practiced all week and last week. "Uh-oh" (Hoomanawanui) looks like the old "Uh-Oh." From that standpoint, we are in pretty good shape.

On Cincinnati's recent success:
"They have obviously done a great job with recruiting. They have hit on some players that wouldn't maybe necessarily have thought were going to turn out the way they have. They have done a great job in coaching , which you can't lose sight of. They have done a great job managing them, coaching them and making plays. I not only knew the situation, I coached at UC. I lived in Cincinnati. I was married in Cincinnati. So I know a little about it from that aspect as well. There's no question, they've done a great job. They've hit on some guys that have really done a super job. Programs tend to go like that. It is hard to stay on top."

On Cincinnati's defense:
"You don't go undefeated and not have a pretty good defense. They've gone with the 3-4, which is a little bit unique. They are not a big pressure team, but they will pressure you. There a lot of things that you have to be prepared for since it is a unique defense. Normally, everyone sees the 3-4 in the third down passing situations. They actually line up in a 3-4 and play a multiple front, multiple coverage. There is a lot of moving around and motion. Like I said, you don't go undefeated without a pretty good defense and special teams."

On high school football in the Cincinnati region:
"It's really good. It's very, very well coached. In fact, if you go back 20 years ago, the big thing was that Ohio State could never get players out of there because Woody Hayes said all the good players are in northern Ohio. Ohio is like any other state in the Big Ten area. There are a lot of good football players and a lot of people. Once again, they have done a great job evaluating and getting them in there."

On the differences in the Cincinnati quarterbacks:
"It's two different mindsets when they are in there. Pike can run the football, but you don't normally see him run. He hasn't kept the football as much, but you still have to be prepared for the run. Pike is in there to throw the football, while Zach (Collaros) is in there to run the football. They can both do both things, but we have to be very aware of who is in the game. Our defense has to understand that you are not going to shut these guys out, so you have to try to contain them to the best of your ability and try not to give up the big plays."

On Juice Williams' status:
"Juice is fine. He practiced last week and practiced all this week. We haven't hit him or anything like that, but he hasn't shown any signs. I think not playing him in the last game turned out to be the right thing to do. He's fine."

On Juice using crutches after the Minnesota game:
"That was more precautionary because of the problems with a high ankle sprain. If you have a break, you put it in a cast and don't mess with it. With a high ankle sprain, you keep trying to get him back so you keep tweaking it. That is kind of what we did with Michael (Hoomanawanui). Hindsight is 20/20, but maybe if we had left Michael out of a couple of games, maybe even the Purdue game, or given him one more week, then maybe he would have been ready sooner."

On the practice schedule with the games after the Big Ten season:
"We are going to miss about six practices compared to a bowl team. I went back to the Rose Bowl season, and we had an extraordinary number of practices. Our players came back here and just practiced. A lot of people thought it was going to be drudgery out there, but these guys have done great. The coaches have done great, and we got a lot of work done. Last week, we didn't spend a lot of time on Cincinnati, but just went against each other just like you would at the beginning of bowl practices. This week has been about Cincinnati. The last two days we went against each other and had a lot of excitement and a lot of energy."

On having games after the announcement of the All-Big Ten team:
"It's never happened, but we never used to be able to play after the Ohio State-Michigan game. The fact that the Big Ten has allowed us to do that lets each team and program make its own decisions. If they'd rather be done by Thanksgiving, then that's they're prerogative. If they'd rather go on and play, then the good thing about the Big Ten is that they've allowed each team to make their own decision. If you look across the country, I think there is still interest in football (after Thanksgiving). I don't think there has been interest in Big Ten football because there is no Big Ten football. But if you go to the other conferences where they still play football then there is a lot of interest. "

On if it is hard to play at this time of year because of the weather:
"I don't think so. They play in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Green Bay, Minnesota, New England. There are only five warm-weather NFL teams, and they go into January. We are fortunate enough that we have turf and an indoor facility. We actually practiced on the grass yesterday, which was great."

On playing the role of spoiler for a BCS team:
"I don't know if we have taken the position that we want to be the spoiler. We understand that it is an opportunity to play a great football team. It's going to be on national television, and I imagine a lot of people will be watching. They understand that it is an opportunity to play an awfully good football team and maybe redeem ourselves a little bit. We have the opportunity to show people that we are much better than what we've played and what our record is. Our guys are excited about it. How many times do you get to play a top-five team? That is what I have been telling the guys."

On the team being together for Thanksgiving:
"It's neat to be together as a team, and tomorrow afternoon we are going to have a team dinner. Then, we are traveling on Thursday, but it is a neat thing. I feel bad for the parents sometimes because they want the opportunity to be with their kids. The way you like to have it when things are going the way they are supposed to be going is that there is a good chance that you will be away from home on New Year's, Christmas and Thanksgiving. That is the kind of thing you'd like to have. It is an opportunity for us all to be together."

On coaching for Cincinnati early in his career impacted him:
"I don't think there is any question that it did. It was my first defensive coordinator job. It was where I was married and where I lived. I've always felt like the University of Cincinnati had an opportunity to be as good of a program as anyone and Coach Kelly and that staff has done a great job. Their players have done a great job, and we are looking forward to playing a well-coached football team."

On using Jacob Charest on Friday:
"Jacob is going to be ready to go as is Eddie. We will see how it plays out. We aren't going in with a plan to play all three of them, but I'm not opposed to playing all three of them. Whatever we have to do to have an opportunity to win the game is what we will do."

On why they scheduled Cincinnati:
"Both programs were in the same situation in terms of need for a game, and they will be coming back to our place. It's just the way it happens. When we scheduled the University of Cincinnati, we didn't think they'd be undefeated and the number five team in the nation, but maybe when they come back, we will be the number five team in the nation and undefeated."

On Derek Dimke kicking:
"Derek got the opportunity and kicked it well. I think Derek gets the first shot, and I don't want to put the pressure on him to make the first kick or he's out. He's done a great job with kicking off, and it is important that he continues to kick off well because (Mardy) Gilyard is not only a great receiver but a great return guy."

On Matt Eller:
"Matt kicked extremely well yesterday. I tried to talk Matt out of playing in the Northwestern game because I felt he needed time off. He came out and was Matt of old yesterday. But I think Derek (Dimke) deserves the opportunity, and he's earned it."