Coach Ron Zook held his first weekly press conference of the season Tuesday.
Sept. 1, 2009
"We have a great challenge in front of us. Obviously Missouri is a very good football team, a very well coached football team, and a team who we haven't beaten yet. I think our football team has used this type of a game and obviously the game with Missouri as a motivation for us, not only in the off-season but in camp as well. One thing you can benefit by playing the type of opponent that we're playing in Missouri is that it forces your guys to get ready. This is not going to be a warm-up. This is going to be all out and right from the very beginning. I think it's helped us not only in camp but also in the off-season as well. We're all excited and looking forward to it and it's going to be here before we know it."
On Josh Brent's status:
"Josh is scheduled to play. There's been an awful lot of thought and conversation put into it. Josh will be the first to tell you that he made a very serious mistake. On the same token, Josh did the punishment and he's been nothing but a first-class model citizen. He took the punishment and never complained, never wavered. It was important for him to become a better person and he's shown us that in every regard. He's been nothing but a great person, not only on the field but off the field as well. I think it's something where you make a mistake and you want to get better from it and there's no doubt in my mind that he's gotten better from it."
On Daniel Dufrene's status:
"Daniel is going to practice today. He says he's ready to go. Again, I think it's something that we felt like he was going to go yesterday but he didn't get back. He has a fitted brace for his ankle. On Sunday he was in the whirlpool running around and he said he felt really good. Once you get a weight bearing it makes a little bit of a difference. But he's going to try to go today and I think we'll know more after practice today."
On Dufrene's brace limiting him:
"It's a brace very similar to what Pierre (Thomas) wore, if you remember the brace that Pierre wore. You see a lot of them more and more. It's a custom brace that fits him and it's a really expensive way of taping ankles."
On who will fill in for Dufrene:
"Once again, we've said from the very beginning, I think all four of those guys - now it will be three - but you've got Jason Ford who's had a great camp, Mikel (LeShoure) who's had a great camp, and Troy Pollard has had a great camp. As we've said from the beginning, we really feel like as a coaching staff that we can win with all of them. I felt like from the very beginning that it was going to take all of them. The one thing about the running back position - we'll go back to two years ago with Rashard (Mendenhall). It was the sixth game I believe, before Rashard actually became the guy. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Justin Green has had an unbelievable camp and don't be surprised to see Justin as one of the freshmen that's got a chance to possibly play."
On the freshmen who will potentially play:
"(Traveling) with us as opposed to playing are two different things. I think Justin Green has a chance to play. I think Terry Hawthorne has a chance to play. Michael Buchanan has a chance to play. Hopefully that list is a little bit smaller than it's been since we've been here. The ideal thing is to be able to play, particularly in the first game. How many plays did Corey Liuget play in last year's Missouri game? He played three plays. Just because they're maybe not ready to go Saturday in this type of a game - a big, competitive game - doesn't mean that two or three weeks down the road they will be. I think that's why there's always questions about a kid being redshirted. I don't think you make the decision to redshirt a guy until it's no longer feasible, or in other words you're going to waste a year for him. Corey Lewis last year, it was the fifth game that he started playing and I teased him about it. He said, 'Why did you wait so long?' and it was his 18th birthday on Wednesday and I told him I wanted him to be 18 before he played. Just because they maybe aren't ready Saturday that doesn't mean in a couple weeks they won't be when we've got two games and we have an open date. When we get into the Big Ten schedule we're four weeks into it. That's a lot of football and they're going to continue to get better."
On Terry Hawthorne:
"Right now we've worked Terry on defense the last week and a half. He can play either, he really can, and I was very impressed. We played him on offense up until the last scrimmage at Rantoul and that was actually the first day he was allowed to have live contact. For a guy that wasn't able to have the true live contact, he had a good scrimmage. He dropped the first pass to him and then he did a heck of a job from there on. You always talk about guys who can possibly play other positions and make changes and so forth. With the fact of losing Miami (Thomas), you're one guy down in the secondary there. If any of you watched him in the state championship, he's a very talented guy, he's a tough guy, and he can run. I think we've worked him in where he has a pretty good chance to play."
On Greg Fuller:
"Greg Fuller is another guy who has an opportunity to play. Once again, he's a fullback but he's the one fullback on our roster that whether he plays Saturday or not, it doesn't necessarily mean we won't be in that type of a package, it's just whether he's able to handle that or not. I think you will see Greg Fuller play this year just because of that position."
On Terry Hawthorne's position move being permanent:
"The offensive coaches made me put it in writing that they had the ability to bring him back on offense if we did make that move. I think Terry's a guy that's very talented and I will probably see Terry go back to offense if not this season then next season. I think he's a guy who could possibly play two ways. I tried to get Vontae (Davis) to play both ways. Vontae is one of those guys that ran out of gas- well I shouldn't say ran out of gas but he has hardly any bodyfat and he'd get tired. I thought here's a guy, because he can run and he's tough and you put the ball in his hands and let him do some things. So he is going to have an experience and I think he'll be able to play both ways down the line."
On choosing who to play at running back:
"I think you go with the hot guy. Sometimes a running back needs a few carries to get going. I know this, last year you look at the difference between Mikel (LeShoure) and Jason (Ford) now as compared to last year and they're not the same guys. They both had really good freshmen years and did a great job, but to me they're different backs. I think it comes from a confidence factor and from a maturity factor. They look in the mirror and they look different and they feel good about themselves. They're in great shape and they know what to do. I've said many times, football is a reaction game and the more you do the same thing over and over, the better you're going to be. I said it in the spring with Troy (Pollard), here's a guy who's finally 100 percent. Troy does some things that are pretty special. He's got that little wiggle and he's got great hands out of the backfield. He's got some great things also."
On talking with Josh Brent:
"I have a conversation with Josh daily. Once again that's why I feel like I know him. I know him as a person and I'm not going to say like my own children, but I know Josh extremely well. I think that was important to me and that's why we waited this long. Coach and I had a lot of conversations. This is our program and obviously it's important and we wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing. "
On Brent's reaction to the final word:
"Obviously he was relieved and excited. He was on me last week and wanted to know and I said we'll let you know something next week."
On thoughts of ending the St. Louis series and potentially resuming it at some point:
"I'm worried about Saturday. I remember when Coach (Ron) Guenther talked to me about it a month in my first year here and I said, 'Coach, there's no way I want to play them.' I knew we weren't prepared. They've done a great job and they really are in a reloaded phase. They lost Chase Daniel. But the quarterback they had before him was pretty good player too. That's why we've told our football team, that a lot of their players are guys coming back who have played and who understand this game. When he first talked to me about it the first thing I thought of was the Florida/Georgia game. It's a great environment, it's a neutral site and it's 50-50. I just think it's great for both programs. On the same token, I think we would all like to have eight home games or seven home games or the most home games that you can have. I think the finances and so forth will dictate that a little bit."
On opening the season at home in 2011:
"Can we stick to Saturday? I'm serious, this is a big game, it really is. I think it's an exciting game. Coach (Gary) Pinkel's done a great job. I've played against Coach Pinkel. He was two years older than me. He's done a great job and he did a great job when he was with Toledo. I think their program - I don't think, I know- that obviously he's done a great job."
On the plan for punt returns and kickoffs:
"Right now the way we'll start off is Jarred (Fayson) will be the punt returner, although Jack Ramsey's done a great job as well as Dere Hicks has done a great job. The kickoff returns will be Rejus (Benn) and A.J. Jenkins."
On Jarred Fayson playing again:
"I was teasing him a couple days ago, and of course Jared plays the role of being like Rejus. I remember Rejus' first game and I always tease Rejusabout this. He was hyperventilating and I said I didn't know if this guy could go or not. I think it was the excitement of the game. But he's been there, he's done it and I think that for all of them for the first few minutes and those first few plays, it's an exciting time. Jared's excited, he really is, and he's just looking forward to getting back out there."
On Jarred Fayson staying motivated last year:
"He's such a competitor. He loves to compete. He would get mad at me because with the guys on the show teams - in other words he's a receiver, and I don't want them going up and stealing balls and taking balls and coming down on somebody's ankle and not meaning to - and I said 'Jarred, you can't do that. Next year when you're down on the other field I won't let them go up and have a chance to hurt you.' He loves to compete and he had a good time. He'd get after the defense and really did a great job. He's a little more mature and I'm excited to see him out there myself."
On the kind of camp Jeff Allen had:
"Reggie (Mitchell) and I were talking about this and you think, Jeff came in as a freshman. It's his second year and he's been here since January. He has come light years. I remember we were getting on him about conditioning and so forth, but now he plays like a junior or senior with his leadership, the way he communicates, and his confidence level. He's had a great camp. He's about 310 or 312 but he looks like he's 290 or 285. He's a leader. He's a guy who's really blossomed into a heck of a football player."
On Garrett Edwards' camp success:
"I brought Garrett up in here for the meeting on Monday. Here's a guy that there's many a night where I leave this office and I'm walking out and he's in there watching tape. Usually he'll have Tavon (Wilson) or Travon (Bellamy) or one of them in there with him. He's made the effort to really study and get better. I pointed that out to the football team, it's no secret that guys that work extremely hard and do the things that they have to do, it shows up."
On feeling good where Donsay (Hardeman) is now:
"Yea I do, I really do. Never one time have we not talked about it nor has he ever shown any signs of being any different than he was."
On how Jon Asamoah is feeling:
"Good, he's out there today and of course he makes a big difference when he's out there. He's another guy who's quiet and doesn't say a whole lot but he's an awfully good football player."
"Obviously number one, people talk about how they've lost a lot of their starters but I think if you go back and look at their roster, of the guys that are starting now, a great majority of them have played an awful lot. They have a lot of experience. They have two guys - the linebacker is as good as anybody we'll see all year. Their nosetackle, the same thing, they are just dominate players and game-changing type players. Their secondary, all of them have played against us and a couple of them have for two years. They have a lot of playing experience that way. Defensively they play extremely well. We couldn't run the ball last year, we were able to get some big plays on them but we couldn't run the football against them. They base out of a four-three defense, get into a lot of double eagle and those things. Even though it's a team that has some new starters, we look at them as a veteran football team. Offensively, the guy at the quarterback I think had 43 snaps last year, but I'll go back and talk about when Chase (Daniel) took over. He took over from a quarterback that was an awfully good player and came in as a freshman and caused Illinois havoc. It's kind of been a tradition for the new quarterback to kind of have his way with Illinois. We've talked to our team about that. All of the receivers have played quite a bit against us even thought they're new. The running back is back and he was one of the better running backs we saw last year. Next to the guy at Ohio State and the guy at Iowa, he might have been the next best running back. He can play. He's a big, tough strong guy. I think he had 142 yards against us last year. I'm sure you'll see some differences just because the quarterback situation is a little bit different. The thing I worry about with the quarterback is that he's a big, strong, physical guy. He runs better than you think and our guys have to be able to get him on the ground. Chase was a guy who was not going to run unless he had to. This guy may take off at any moment and those, once again, are the big, mobile quarterbacks are the guys who can strain you defensively. They're a football team that, in our minds, is going to be a lot better than what they're saying or what the people are giving them credit for."
On Missouri dominating the series:
"I can only speak for two games and I think our football team can only speak for two games, and that's all we're talking about is two games. I think if you go back before two years ago, there were a bunch of teams in the Big Ten that we hadn't beaten in a long time and we were fortunate enough to beat. I told our football team that one of the great things about this game is the rivalry. One of the great things about this game is that a lot of our guys weren't born when this rivalry started, so they maybe don't know the history. They do know, the guys that have been there, that it is a bowl-like atmosphere and it is an exciting environment and they'll be juiced up. But they don't go back to the history of it that maybe the fans do."
On how Juice (Williams) is reacting to Sean Weatherspoon's twitter post:
"Well, I'll tell you this about Sean Weatherspoon, if anyone can squeeze the pulp out of Juice, it's him. He is a game-changing player. I think that it's not something the guys talk about. It's a comment he made and it's not something that people are going to talk about. He is a good player, I was asked that question yesterday and I just said I hope he's wrong. I hope he's not able to. He is a great football player."
On Jason Ford's preseason camp and how he will fit in:
"As I mentioned earlier, he's just a different guy from a year ago, and rightfully so. He's a year older, he's a year more mature, a year stronger, bigger, faster, knows the offense. Jason's never been one to carry on a long conversation, but he smiles occasionally now and he's having fun. He's really a tough, physical back. Him and Martez Wilson had some head-on collisions and face-to-face collisions in that camp and they rocked the ground. I think that's the type of back he is. He's a big, strong solid guy, he's got moves and he's had an unbelievable camp. I think he's going to grow into all the things we felt like he would when we recruited him."
On moving (Terry) Hawthorne to the defensive setting:
"Well Terry is a guy who's a very talented skill player. It goes back to the old saying, the farther you are away from the ball, usually the better chance you have to play early. Terry was a guy who was on the offensive side and will probably go back to the offensive side. Up until we lost Miami Thomas at corner, we felt like we wanted to take a look at him and he's kind of jumped out and done a heck of a job over there. It was the second scrimmage before he was even able to have live contact. He's a smart guy, he's football smart, he picks up stuff well. He's a tough guy, he can run and he likes to play the game. He's kind of a gym rat. He's a guy that just spends a lot of time, he wants to learn and get to know the defense. As I mentioned earlier as well, his first live contact was his second scrimmage and he really had a phenomenal scrimmage."
On what he expects Saturday from his team and what they will do to win the game:
"Well I think number one, we can't turn the ball over, which is something we always say but it really became our Achilles heel last year. We can't turn the ball over and we can't give up big plays. We have to stop the run. I think the one thing we didn't do last year was stop the run. It really felt like that was a reason that we weren't able to make it a better game. Our defense has been made aware of that all summer and obviously in camp. But we've got to stop the run. We can't let that running back get going. Washington is a good player, a guy that can beat you. We have to take care of business and take care of the ball on offense."
On the transition with the position coaches:
"I said from the beginning, it's unbelievable how smooth the transition has been. What we've done at all of our scrimmages is we've been hooked up to the headsets for that reason. I don't foresee any issues even Saturday with people thinking it's just a script, but we've really worked and it was game-like. Every time we've done it it's gotten easier and better and those guys, all three of them have been unbelievable the way that they've come in and the transition. As I've said before, two reasons, number one because of the type of people they are. They're great teachers, they're great coaches, they're great people. There have been no issues, really there hasn't."