Dec. 14, 2009
Head Coach Ron Zook's Opening Statement:
"Friday was probably the toughest day in my coaching career, but it was something that was obviously necessary for us to have the University of Illinois football program move forward. This is an exciting day for our football program. I want you all to have an opportunity to meet a terrific offensive mind, offensive coordinator and offensive coach. All he does is get it done. I think you'll see why we're excited about where we are right now at the University of Illinois. One more time, I'd like to reiterate what I said at the banquet on Saturday. I'd like to thank our senior class. Those guys came here when it wasn't the popular thing to do. Not only did they help us get to the Rose Bowl, but they laid a foundation here that's going to help this program move forward. I can't thank them enough again for what they've done for us in terms of not only the foundation, but the recruiting as well. They're going to be very missed. During the last two seasons, we haven't accomplished the things that we need to accomplish. And it's my job to re-gain the confidence in this program and those who might have lost confidence in us. We have to earn it. I understand that. In this case, we have to re-earn it, because I think two years ago, everybody thought the program was on the rise and I think it was and it is. I think that the fact that you're going to have an opportunity to meet this guy that I'm getting ready to introduce to you, really kind of shows you what people really think of our program out there and that's the exciting thing about where we are right now and the direction we're going."
Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino's Opening Statement:
"I'm really happy to be here. I can't say how excited I am. I want to thank Coach Zook and Ron Guenther for bringing me here. Over the weekend in talking to them, they told me all the great things about the community, the school, what a great atmosphere it is and I just can't tell you how excited I am to be here and to go out and recruit great student-athletes to come here and go win a Rose Bowl and get to the national championship. I really did a lot of research into the program, looked into the talent and I'm just very excited. I think there's nothing but improvement to be made and great, great things that we can do on the offensive side of the ball. I've been here all morning watching the talent and I'm very excited. It starts with the running back position. I'm sorry I don't have all the names down exactly, but No. 5 (Mikel LeShoure) can really play. He's really exciting to me. I think up front we've got three guys returning that are good football players at the receiver position. There's some younger players that I think we can really bring along, I got to meet with some of them already today. There's definitely the talent there to be exciting and do a lot of different things offensively. I think one of the things that everything starts with, that we believe in, is what we call F.T.S. That stands for 'feed the studs.' We're going to get our best players in the position to go make plays. We're going to be very multiple on offense, by formations, by personnel groups, put the pressure on the defense, bring in different personnel groups, lineup in both two back, one back, and two tight end sets. We're going to make them defend the whole field. The biggest thing is we're going to run the ball when we want to run it and throw the ball when we want to throw it and make them defend us and really put them on the defensive. I think the biggest thing when you talk about it is that everyday we go out there, we have to have a great attitude. When we go out to practice, we all have to take care of our own attitude. And if we go out there with a great attitude and we work hard and we prepare and perform with high energy, then that gives you confidence. If we have a great practice all week long then we're going to go into the game with confidence and when you do that, you execute. And that's really what offensive football is all about. You have to have all 11 guys do their job. One of our mottos a lot of times is a fist. Sometimes on defense, a couple of guys can do this or that and if the defensive end sacks the quarterback, you've got a good play. But on offense, it takes all 11 guys doing their job. They're protecting the quarterback. It's not just the offensive line. The offensive line has to do what it has to do, but also the tight end and the running back have to know who they're check-releasing off of, who they have to pick up, the receivers have to run their route exactly at the right depth, at the exact right time the quarterback has to go through his progression and get the ball out of his hand on time and know when to change the protections. And that's one of the things we're going to take great pride in here, is defeating the blitz. I think that's one of the biggest things in winning in football right now. You've got to defeat pressure. And when they try to pressure, we're going to say 'bring it on.' We want to see pressure and we're going to go get big plays. So that's something we believe in and we're going to run the ball to win in the fourth quarter and keep the defense standing on the sideline and just punish safeties. I really like watching our running backs. We've got a bunch of good running backs and we're going to hit it up in there and when they come up to hit us, bam we're going to hit them. By the fourth quarter, what happens is those safeties take bad angles and don't want to hit you anymore. That's when you go for the big plays and get touchdowns. I just can't say enough how much I appreciate Coach Guenther and Coach Zook bringing me in here and I promise you I'm going to work harder than anyone else and do everything I can to go get us a championship. I'm really excited to be here."
On what he's seen from the returning quarterbacks:
"The tapes I watched so far today, I didn't get to the games where they played yet. But one of things we take pride in is that we can develop quarterbacks and receivers. I think when you can see some running backs that run the ball really well and some linemen that are good, I have great trust in myself and the staff that we'll develop quarterbacks and receivers and do a great job."
On his conversation with Arrelious Benn:
"I talked to him this morning. I had a good conversation with him. That's just one of those things he's got to look in to and see where things are. I actually just talked to him about the offense and told him what a great player he is and really just sat around and showed him some of the techniques that I've believed in and how we did things. It was more of just a get-to-know each other. He's a great kid and I'd love to get to coach him and we've just got to see what happens."
On the hiring process:
"It all happened fast. Probably since I was at Louisville, I've looked at Illinois and studied Illinois and known everything about it. I've followed Coach Zook since he was the defensive coordinator for the Saints. When he was the defensive coordinator there, they used to go scrimmage the Jaguars when my brother was there and he used to tell me great things about him. So I've followed his career forever. It's just something that, you look for things that are out there in your career and it's something my dad used to tell me a long time ago. There's some things you've got to step out and have courage and go after and to be the best sometimes you've just got to go out and go get it. So that's something I looked at and looked in to and was lucky enough to get it and I'm happy to be here. "
On leaving his brother, Bobby, who is the head coach at Arkansas:
"It's hard. It's something you don't want to happen. He's as good an offensive mind that there probably is in football at any level. I've learned everything that I could from him. We have a great relationship and we coached well together. I not only coached for him, but I played for him when I was in college, so that's definitely something that's hard. He wants me to be the best and go well, so I think both of us are just happy and excited and we'll move on. Maybe we'll play each other for the national championship. It would be great."
On the biggest influences in his career:
"In my career, it would start with my dad. My dad is in the NAIA Hall of Fame. He was a coach at Carroll College. John L. Smith, I coached for him for many years. He's a huge influence. And my brother is the third. Those would be the top three. Scott Lenahan, I worked under him for many years. Jeff Bower, I worked for at Southern Miss, he's a great recruiter, great organizer. Those would probably be the top guys that had a big influence on me."
On whether he prefers choosing a running back by committee, as opposed to finding the one guy to lead the team:
"When we were very successful at Louisville and kind of at Arkansas the same way, is that you can have two to three guys and it might not be your main guy that goes and gets a 1,000 yards, but in this day and age I think you need two to three to keep it fresh. Like I mentioned earlier, you usually play two safeties, so if you can make the safeties not tackle well, you can move the football. A lot of times when we're studying defenses, that's one of the first things we always talk about: How well do their safeties tackle? When their safeties come up to tackle our backs and we can keep them fresh and you've got two or three that just keep hammering them, then they don't want to tackle anymore. I like to have a couple backs that can really run and keep them fresh, so then in the fourth quarter, you have one that's fresh and he goes in there and breaks tackles and makes long runs and that's how you win games. You've got to run the ball in the fourth quarter."
On what type of quarterback he looks for in recruiting:
"There's definitely guys you look for in recruiting, but I think your offense adapts to your quarterback. I think everything starts with your quarterback and what he does best and what he can handle and that's where you start. We definitely have a base offense that we're going to try to run, but it can change a little bit yearly by who your quarterback is. At Louisville, we had a kid named Stefan LeFors that was probably one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He was a little lefty that could run around and quick release and make things happen. And then Brian Brohm came in, who was your true drop-back pro-type quarterback and it was still the same offense, but there was definitely different ways to use the two of them"
On taking another offensive coordinator position:
"The biggest thing that's different is that Coach Zook is a defensive coach and special teams, that's his specialty and my brother was offense. I still did all the coordinating and we still called the game together and everything, but he had the final say on everything. I just wanted to step out and now I'll have the final say on most things. Obviously, the head coach still has the final say on everything, but just your basic things and we've done a lot of great things together and it was just time to go step out on my own. This is a great opportunity, great university, community and went to the Rose Bowl a couple years ago. It just seemed like the perfect fit."
On whether he'll be in the booth or on the field for games:
"That's something we'll have to look in to. I think I'll be on the field, but that's not set in stone yet."
On if his contract is multi-year:
"Yes, it is."
On if he had been to the University of Illinois previously:
"Yes, I have. In 1998 I was coaching at Louisville and we came up and played here and also was on staff when Illinois played at Louisville in 1999."
On where he coached at Arkansas:
"I was in the booth. Most of the time under John L. Smith, either my brother, coach Lenahan or myself called the plays. There were times where I was upstairs and times where I was downstairs. I think it really just comes down to, you've got your whole offensive staff, you know what you're looking for, you usually have someone up in the booth who's watching the secondary, talking about the passing game, someone who's watching the front and then kind of what everyone does best is how you decide it. If you feel you need to be hands on, sometimes it can even be a yearly thing, how your players are, whether you need to be more hands on with them or just be upstairs. As an offensive staff, we're going to game plan everything together as a whole group. That's something I believe in, always have, five minds are better than one. We're going to do everything together. A lot of it will be scripted going into the game and we're all going to talk about different things as the game goes on and get to the best plays. I'm just really excited to get together with the guys and go do it."
On what position groups he'll be coaching:
"I'm going to coach the receivers. I've always coached both the quarterbacks and receivers in my past and also the running backs. But I feel like with my personality, I can get my personality across to the whole offense, because I'm kind of a fiery, run around guy, get guys excited, let's get them ready to play. With our offense, the wideouts play really well because we're going to move the ball. Now a lot of times still, as the week goes on, Thursday, Friday, Saturday there's still be a lot of times we'll be together with the quarterbacks and receivers. And then obviously, you and the quarterback still have to be thinking everything together, one on one. But technique-wise and personnel-wise and day-to-day, I'm going to be with the receivers."
On how long it will take the players to transition to a new offense:
"I think we can get it done by the end of spring, going into two-a-days. That's something we'll work hard on in our offseason through spring ball and come into two-a-days and be ready to go. It really depends on your talent and what your quarterback can handle and what your offensive line can handle and then you go from there."
On what moving to the Big Ten will do for him:
"I'm just excited. Being here, it's a great atmosphere. I think it will be really good for me."
On if he considers his offense a pro-style offense:
"I think so. If I had to watch a pro team and say what it's similar to, I would say the Giants. My brother worked with Tom Coughlin at Jacksonville for three years and even before he went there, we were all one back, when I was with John L. at Idaho and Utah State and Louisville the first two times in '98 and '99. And then we kind of took a lot of the things he did with the Jaguars and everything we kind of do with our running back offense and kind of brought it together. So it's kind of a combination of the two. The tight end is really involved. A guy that started for us at Louisville, Gary Barnidge, tarts for the Carolina Panthers now, Ronnie Ghent, played for the Bengals and the Saints, D.J. Williams, our tight end at Arkansas. A year ago, he led the country in catches for tight ends. This year, a lot of younger receivers started playing better so he didn't have quite as many, but he was pretty involved."
On where he does most of his recruiting from:
"I would say I probably recruit in Northern Florida more than anywhere else. But I've recruited in the Atlanta area, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. At Louisville, I recruited near Ohio."
On what he tried to sell to Arrelious Benn during their meeting:
"I tried to sell everything I could. I just tried to sell him on the F.T.S. to be honest with you. I tried to sell that we're going to get you the football, but we've got to see where we're at and if it's not there then he can come back and lead the country in catches. I showed him a list of all the receivers I've coached and what their stats were and how many catches they had and how many yards they had and what happened with Roddy White? When I went to Atlanta and what a great year he had and turned his career around. I did everything in my power to sell him, but it'll still be something he'll have to look at and see what's best for himself."
On how involved he'll be in the hiring process:
"I think I'll have some input on it and express some guys I think are really good. Obviously, it'll be up to Coach Zook and Ron Guenther to decide who we get."