Zook Meets The Press

Coach Ron Zook
Coach Ron Zook

Sept. 4, 2007

Quoting Head Coach Ron Zook...

Opening Statement

"Obviously, this is our first home game. I don't know a football team that is more excited about coming home and coming into the new north end zone. It is going to be exciting for our fans, our students and the band will be there. We're just excited about coming home. We're going to play a good football team and we have to be ready to play four quarters. We have to go out there and become a consistent football team. The last thing to come with a young group of guys is consistency. We probably are where we are right now for that reason. I reiterated, very strongly, to our football team last night that the guys that have been around here for a while need to start playing like they've been around here for a while. We are not going to accept anything but their best. There are certain times when certain sides or certain people are not playing to their ability and that's something that upsets me more than anything else. I think it just comes to that mindset of accepting, and we will not accept anything other than wins. We're here to win football games, period, and we have not done that yet. I feel very strongly and confident that we are on the right track and we are going to get there. We're going to speed the process up if that's possible to do. There's an NFL saying, 'Great players have got to play great and good players have got to play good.' I think that's where we're at. Health-wise, we're in good shape and we came out in good shape on Saturday. Juice got his eye dinged up, but he's fine. He's had as good a practice as he's had all summer and there is no problem there. There's a pretty good chance we're going to get Russ Weil back as well. He ran sprints yesterday and felt pretty good this morning. We have to continue to improve and continue to become a more consistent football team and play the way we're capable of playing. I'm going to start Anthony Santella as the punter, as long as he continues to do what he's capable of doing he'll continue to be the punter. Everybody understands that it's not your birthright to play here you have to earn your position and maintain it. I think that's what they want as players and the fans want as fans. That's what they're going to get."

...on the potential noise factor with students now in the new north stands at Memorial Stadium:

"Yes, we do think about that. But until we get in that position and see, I really thought more about the win than the noise. Although I'm excited about the noise, as I begged the students and the band, we need as much noise as we can possibly get. We need to make Memorial Stadium more like Assembly Hall. That's a tough place to play."

...on the wind conditions at Memorial Stadium:

"Yeah, you don't know what's going to happen with the wind. I've tried to go out there some days when it's windy and it's a little different than it was last year. Those are things that until you play in it, and get in the wind, that you really don't know what's going to happen."

...on the status of DB Travon Bellamy:

"Looks like we're going to get Travon's shoulder fixed. It was something that we wanted to do in December, but he felt like he could fight through it. He went through the whole winter program and the spring, and he doesn't feel like he can now. So we'll probably end up getting it fixed."

...on the expected substitution pattern vs. Western Illinois compared with the pattern used against Missouri:

"Yeah, we talked about that particularly on offense. On offensive line, we played 22 or 23 guys. We need to play more guys on offense and we will. I told our football team last night that just because you're running second team or depth chart doesn't mean you don't have the right to be out there. But I think as a football program, and a football team, we have to play more people on both sides. I went back and looked and we actually played two or three more people than we did last year.

...more on substitutions:

"We didn't and we did not last year the first game either. Players earn the coach's confidence in practice and we talk about substitution of who's going to play. We talk about when they're going in and everything. Actually, we did Friday night. We made the decision that would depend a little bit on the game. We knew who was going in if somebody got tired, and all those rotations, but we didn't make a substitution during the game on the offensive line."

...on how many new freshmen will be playing:

"I think it's safe to say that there will be more freshmen playing. Obviously, Eddie [McGee] is a redshirt freshman, but in terms of true freshmen, I think it's safe to say that there'll be a few more playing."

...on how much playing time Eddie McGee might see in upcoming games:

"No, once again as I said after the game, I was proud of how Eddie played and what he did. I think everybody got an opportunity to see what he knew. He's a very talented young man. He can play quarterback at any level, but obviously he's got to learn to take care of the football and he knows that as well as anybody else. Right now, I think the one thing the game has done for us as a coaching staff is that we know now that we have a backup quarterback. As I told Juice yesterday, this is his team. He's the guy we're going to win with. But God forbid anything happens to him, then we'll get Eddie in there."

...on playing a team this week that's likely to run the ball quite a bit more than Missouri did:

"Well you know that Brit's a guy that I love, my wife loves. I mean everybody loves him, He's a great guy. But Brit's a guy that made a couple of mistakes in the kicking game that he can't make. As one of the guys that's been around here three years, they have to play the way they're supposed to play. As I said, I'm not singling Brit out here at all because Brit is one of my favorite guys. He's a competitor, he's a winner and he started out as a true freshman. But the guys that have been around here three years, they need to play like they've been around here three years. And you know that the greatest thing about Brit is that he will. "

...on what he took away from last Saturday's game against Missouri:

"We gave up five big plays. Five big plays that if you're going to be a big football team that you can't give up. You know we said going into the football game that the one thing we couldn't do was turn the ball over and give up big plays. Now, as I told the football team last night, we have a little bit of leeway for the freshmen and the redshirt freshmen and first year players. That's part of it and that's the rub of the grain. But the guys that have been around here for a while, by golly they're going to play the way we expect them to play. It goes back to this. I told them in the beginning that they're going to play to our expectations, not theirs, and that's what our fans want and that's what this university deserves. That's what we're going to get done. I don't mean to single anybody out, but we're at that point now. We're here to win football games and that's a good football team [Missouri]. I'm not trying to take anything away from Missouri, and I think you'll see that as the year goes on."

...on the cramping that several players experienced during the Missouri game:

"I'm not worried about this week because we really looked at that [cramping] and studied that and got ideas about why we think that happened. We go to Camp Rantoul and we're out there and it's 117-degree heat index and we've never had one guy cramp up. We went back and really evaluated everything we did from Thursday on, and I think we may have found a little bit of the problem. I think early in the year that you're going to see guys cramping up and we know what we have to keep that from happening. There are certain guys where that's going to happen because their body fat is down. There were way too many guys [that cramped up], and the thing that frustrated me is that I didn't see any of their guys [cramping]. It was the same six or seven guys, so I think we'll get that corrected."

...on adjusting the defense against Missouri:

"Good news is the (Missouri) offense is in the same family as our offense. There are some similarities. We've gone against a spread offense all year. They (Missouri) are different. They spread you out a little more. The quarterback is a proven guy. You can tell that he's a winner, a competitor and has unbelievable accuracy. We've had scouts tell us that he reminds them of Drew Brees, which is not necessarily good for us. He is a very experienced player that can really throw the football. They have those two big tight ends that make catches and go up use there body against a smaller DB or even a linebacker. The fact that we've been going against are own offense everyday is going to help us. As much as we can, we want to keep our best 11 players on the field. Antonio Steeles and Britt Miller are two guys, two good players that have played a lot. When we have them on the field, we want them in the positions where they can be most successful."

...on his use of the punters in the opener last weekend:

"First of all, as I go back and look at Saturday, the reason I made a change during the game is that one of the things that Anthony can't do is that he has a tendency to slow down. Alright, well they [Missouri] also have a tendency in the second half. Well you go back and look at the Oklahoma game and the Nebraska game last year and in the second half that's when they're going to try and come after you. Obviously, during the game we talk about how we have to speed it up, you can't sit back. There are certain times when a punter becomes experienced and he knows when he can take time and when he can't. And he [Santella] hasn't proved to me that he has that experience yet, and you know I wanted to get the ball off a little bit faster and he [Santella] worked well last night. When he gets into it, he can get into it. I apologized to all of three of them last week because I felt like I didn't make a decision. Now is that right, wrong or indifferent? I'm not sure. You know some people would say, gosh, you should have let them know. Well, I wanted to. I wanted to let them know two weeks ago, but they wouldn't let me. One day I would be with one with of them it would be great and the next day the next guy would be great and so on. And it's a consistency thing but I've made a decision based on what I've seen and Santella's going to be the guy that's starting. All three of them are going to be dressed and obviously that doesn't mean that we can't make a change. But going in today, when I see him [Santella] at practice, I'm going to say you're the guy. You're the starter. Now keep it."

...on his discovery of punter Anthony Santella:

"You know of course he was in Utah and I saw him kicking. I saw him punting and he wanted to leave. He [Santella] wanted to come back this way. He's from the Chicago area and I think you always have to give a guy a chance. I really believe that you can't have too many guys on a football team and he's a guy that has punted and lost a job out there. But I know he really had some movement. I liked what I saw. I liked his block point. As I watched tape, well you know you get a little concerned about taking kickers that you didn't get a chance to see. I really think it's important that you get a chance to see them and how they catch the football and all those kinds of things and the kind of hands they have. Believe it or not, that's a major thing for a punter because you know they can punt the ball, but if they have trouble catching the football and they bobble it then it slows the process down and those kinds of things. But I'm excited about him, I think; hey he knows he's going in. Let's see what happens."

...on his expectations for this team:

"Well I don't want to shy away from saying that we didn't learn a lot of things from the game and do a lot of good things, we really did. But they understand that we're not satisfied and we need to start expecting to win, planning on winning and understand that it's not going to be an easy thing to win. Sometimes you have to find a way to win and that's what we have to get done."

...on defense lineman Jerry Brown:

"I think everyone knows what I think about Jerry Brown. I mean I think the guy's got a chance to be special. But you know what? If he gets out and contains the guy then he'll get the big play there. You know football is a very fragile thing. Consistency is a problem and it happens with young guys. Does that mean you accept it? Absolutely not. We haven't coached a guy since I've been here like a freshman or a like a redshirt freshman, we've coached them all like they're seniors. Now, you have to have a little patience, but I'm going to tell you right now, my patience gauge is working down towards empty."

...on what he told the team after the Missouri game:

"It is like I told them after the game, we're a good football team. We have a chance to be a good football team. We have to take the next step and get there."

...on Rashard Mendenhall's performance vs. Missouri:

"Rashard had a decent day. He had the bulk of the carries and I think he had 11 carries. But once again, Rashard had a third in one there and he has got to get it. He can't try to bounce outside,. He's got to get it up in there and get it. It gives us the chance at the end of the game to keep going and those are the things that make the difference between a good and a great back. We all know that he has the ability to be a great back. On his behalf, that's the first time he's been a starter and it's been his team and feeling his way. We all want him to be the kind of back that we know he can be and we're going to push him to be that way."

...on the likelihood of Eddie McGee seeing time on the field against Western Illinois:

"We're going into the game Saturday to win the game. Now, whatever that takes to win the game, we're going to do. We're going to attack this thing. In my opinion it's the most important game of my life and their lives, and it is."