Aug. 31, 2010
Head coach Ron Zook addressed the media Tuesday in his weekly press conference. Below is the transcript.
I've got some breaking news. To my knowledge, no one has gotten hurt in the last 36 hours, so we're good to go.
Even (strength and conditioning coach) Lou (Hernandez) mentioned it was different in the weight room. I am not sure what that meant, but he liked the attitude of how it was in the weight room. I think everybody is excited. Everybody in the country is. You have been playing and practicing for four weeks and you have been running into each other for four weeks, and now you have an opportunity to run into somebody else.
The excitement about our place right now is that we have a lot of new things. We've got a new quarterback, new coaches, new systems and I think everybody wants to see what that is going to be like. I am as excited as the rest of you. I feel good about the attitude and the way we looked in camp, and now we have to go play and go from there.
On how the special teams look:
It is something we spend a lot of time on. We have our punters and kickers back, and we have two kickers. Derek Dimke will handle our kick-off duties right now and of course Anthony will be the punter. Jack Ramsey and Jarred Fayson will be the punt returners with Troy Pollard having a chance back there if we need him. They have all done extremely well. We have caught more punts and kickoffs than any other year in my coaching career, so we have spent a lot of time on that.
Zak Pedersen, our long snapper, who we put on scholarship at the end of camp this year, has done a great job. We are really proud of him, the way he has come in and handled that spot. Of course, Anthony is still the holder and we've just got to make sure we protect and cover. That will be a big thing, obviously has been a big thing. In the last three years, our first field goal has been blocked every year.
On the injuries:
It is part of the game. If you get on the Internet, everyone is having injuries - in high school, in college, in the National Football League. It is part of it and we talked about that in our first meeting. There are going to be things that happen. It gives someone else an opportunity to get in there and play.
On if he expects Missouri to throw a lot:
I think what they do is what they do. They are going to throw the football. (Blaine) Gabbert is a great quarterback and he has done a great job. He could have won the Heisman if he played every game last year like he did against us, so there is no reason to think that he is not going to come back and have the same year. Everyone talks and looks at the doom and gloom.
On whether he's concerned about having so much inexperience in the secondary:
You've got Tavon Wilson, who started, and I think he has a good chance of being an awfully good player before he leaves here. Travon Bellamy has played an awful lot of football and he has started. Trulon (Henry) is a guy that will probably end up being a starter anyway and he has had a great camp. We have some older guys who are more mature and don't get rattled.
I was looking at our kickoff team (from last year) last night and today, and Justin Green went down and made the first two tackles of the game last year as a true-freshman. I think everybody is going to have new guys someplace and I guess that is just part of the game.
Is Miami Thomas at full strength?
It took Miami about a week-and-a-half before he really felt confident. The second scrimmage we had was when I knew he was coming back. He won't tell you this if you ask him, but I think his first goal was to get through Rantoul. Here is a guy that has had every major joint in his body operated on and I know we talked about it before we got up there. When we came back here and scrimmaged that Saturday, that's when I really felt like he has got it back. He does some things that are natural that you don't coach. As long as he doesn't get to try things that we don't want to do, which you want guys like that, but you have to know when to try them. I think he is going to have a big year for us.
Will Justin Green be ready to play at corner on Saturday?
We are one of the few bigger schools that offered him as a running back and that was because that is what he wanted to play. He had committed to Ohio State as a defensive back and he came to me. I didn't say anything to him; he actually came to me up at Camp Rantoul. I wanted to talk to his mom and dad, and make sure it was all right with them. I don't know what it is. Maybe it is God-given ability. He has got a lot of terminology and things. And obviously the corners don't have as many different techniques as the safeties, for example. They are not going to be involved so much in run support and they can go out there on the edge. He has the God-given ability, he has acceleration, he can run like a deer, he is strong and physical. I am impressed with him.
On freshmen who will play on Saturday:
I think Evan Wilson. Has a good chance but that is not a guarantee. We are going to put the best 11 on the field and it doesn't have to be a tight end for example. You put the best 11 people on the field, but I think he has a chance. I think Darius Millines and Ryan Lankford have a chance, as does Jay Prosch. What you are trying to do with freshman is that you are trying to look at how they are going to be in four or five weeks. They might not be ready right now, but how are they going to be in four or five weeks. The other thing is what is going to happen? With Evan, you could tell when he started going to class. It wasn't just football at that time. I don't think I heard Chip Long say a word to him all of camp and then all of a sudden when he has other things on his plate, it is different. So you have to look at those things as well.
When you look at defense, Brandon Denmark has a pretty good chance of playing. Jonathan Brown has a good chance of playing. I probably won't make that final decision until we are in St. Louis and we meet as a staff on Friday night. I have to see tonight's practice and tomorrow and Thursday as well, and how they are. If you remember Rejus' (Benn) first game, I was worried because it was a night game; but I was worried about Rejus because he was hyperventilating during the day. You don't know how they are going to handle the situation.
On whether Miles Osei is the backup quarterback:
I am not going to sit here and say that he (Osei) will be the back-up quarterback. Nathan (Scheelhaase) is going to be the starting quarterback and hopefully we won't need a back up, and if we do, someone is going to run out there and take a snap.
On moving Tavon Wilson to safety:
I think the biggest thing was communication. Anytime you have a guy who can play more then one position, if you don't have enough players, that is how you get depth. You can stick Tavon on the corner at any time. He is playing with a lot of confidence right now and he is going to get everyone lined up and make the calls back there that he needs to make. That is the biggest reason.
The more experienced players that you have, the better you feel. Particularly those guys that are playing in their first game, there will be a lot of nerves and so forth. But Tavon has just matured as person over the summer. How he handles everything; how he handles life off the field. I went in there the other night about 10 o'clock, and he and about five other defensive backs were in there watching tape and he had them in there. I think that is a good thing. He is taking charge and he is only in third-year player.
On starting the season with a new defense and new offense:
I'm not going to talk for them, but I don't think they're going in thinking we've got a new offense and new defense. What we have to do is just like any new staff going in and we have to do what we feel like our players do the best. And the thing we've done is we keep trying, we know exactly how many times we run every single play, every single defense, everything. Usually those are the things that you're going to be the most confident in. And it's not a lot of new stuff going in. For example, this week in terms of game plan, let's do the things that we've been doing well and our base things and so forth, and then you have to build on it.
Last year when they changed defensive coordinators, we were concerned about what we were going to do, what they were going to do. And they did basically the same thing. I think good football teams are going to do what they do. They're not going to get away from things that have been successful for them.
What is the depth chart in the secondary?
Hopefully we don't get too many more injuries, but Travon Bellamy will battle at the corner, Trulon and Tavon at the safeties, and Justin Green at the corner. You've got Jack Ramsey, you've got Pat Nixon, you've got Miami (Thomas). Trust me, we're not as bad as you guys seem to make it.
On how he expects (Nathan) Scheelhaase to react to his first start Saturday:
Just like he does now. (Sports information director) Kent (Brown) and I were talking about it and the one thing about Nathan: Nathan is human. Even though he sometimes comes across like he's 25 years old and he's got 10 years of experience, he's going to have the same nervousness, butterflies that any first-year starter would have. The one thing about Nathan is he's a very, very intelligent guy and he's going to control it. That's the difference between some guys being able to control it and not being able to control it. He's got a deep confidence in himself and that if something bad happens, he'll keep playing and he's going to learn from it and go on to the next thing. Everyone wants to talk to the quarterback, and if you ask him five minutes before the game "Can we interview you?" he'd say "Yeah" because he's such a great guy. We need to give him the opportunity to focus on his job and not be involved with all the other things, which are important, but still I'm more concerned about him worrying about what he has to do. He's very calm. I'm judging on past experiences. Chris Leak was a true freshman we started him, Juice was a true freshman and we started him. I have a little bit of experience with how they are.
With Hawthorne out, who will be returning kicks?
Move the guys up. Terry would have also been involved with punt returns as well as kickoff returns. We've got Justin Green, we've got Jack Ramsey back returning kicks as well. Troy Pollard back returning kicks. So that's one thing: we're a lot better than we were previous years where we've got guys that can go back and return for us.