116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Here are the transcripts for what the coaches said from the podium during Big Ten media days on Wednesday. (I would appreciate some feedback on transcripts. How do you like to receive them? Cut and paste? PDF? Let me know. Thanks.)
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Jerry Kill.
COACH KILL: We're really, really excited at the University of Minnesota and the direction that we're going. It's a great time for us. I think it all started back when we got the opportunity to go to the Bowl game and play Texas Tech, and we had a great experience there and spent a lot of good time with our student-athletes. And our kids handled theirselves well.
And we came up a little short in the game but we played more like we want to play at the University of Minnesota, very physical and hard-nosed football and probably the first time we've been healthy all year.
And I think the kids took the momentum out of the Bowl game, took it on to the off-season, did an outstanding job in the off-season getting bigger, stronger, and faster. And went into spring ball, felt like we had our best spring ball.
We had the largest crowd at our spring scrimmage since Coach Holtz was there. So enthusiasm is great.
And I just think that our kids have come together over the two years.
And we've kind of, as a coaching staff, our coaching staff's been together for a long time. I think we're the longest tenured coaching staff in the country.
Our academic people, our strength program, we've all stayed there over the last two years. That's part of the building blocks or the foundation of our program.
So we're excited about the direction. Our administration has done a great job. We just presented to the Board of Regents a project that's $190million to improve our facilities, and we're moving forward on that. And that's a tremendous thing for our football program.
So the commitment and the direction we're headed at the University of Minnesota is good and we're excited about this season. And I'm looking forward to seeing this team. Each year, each team's different, and this team's approach certainly is different than the past two years.
We got better a year ago, and I look forward to seeing us get better this year. So with that, any questions?
Q. You look around this conference, a lot of teams have uncertainty at quarterback. Can you just talk about how much you think it will help that Philip Nelson had about half a year last year? I know you're still young at quarterback overall, but how much will that help him?
COACH KILL: I think we pulled the redshirt off of Philip in the middle of the year. And he certainly played valuable time for us in the last six ball games and did very well. And it was a great growing process for him.
I think it leads us in to this season where we're not trying to break somebody in. Mitch Leidner, a young man that we also recruited, is a tremendous athlete.
And I kind of compare our quarterback situation a little bit to what we had at Northern Illinois when I took over that program with Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch, and I feel like we're kinda in that area. And also with a young man named Chris Streveler from this area.
So we feel good about our quarterback situation and we feel like that's going to be a strength down the road here.
Q. Coach, could you just-- more importantly than football, how is your health?
COACH KILL: I'm doing great. I appreciate you asking. Things are going great for me. And I've got a great doctor that is a specialist in epilepsy. And I've been doing great, looking forward to the season, and I feel like-- I may not look like it, but I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life, so I'm looking forward to the season.
Q. NCAA is under fire about a lawsuit, obviously the Ed O'bannon lawsuit. Now current players are joining, including two from your team. Have you had any interaction with your players about that? Is that something you're going to stay away from? How do you handle that?
COACH KILL: I've had a little bit of interaction. I'm not-- I get locked in my own little world, and I don't understand all the things that are going on with that case. And right now it's an NCAA issue. And I think each-- we live in a country where everybody's got their rights and so forth. So I think just let the process run its course.
And we've got a lot of things, a lot of discussions in college football right now about a lot of issues. But that's one of them. And it's an NCAA issue, and that's how we're approaching it.
Q. I know it's not this year, but starting next year, I think for the next three seasons, you guys end the season playing Wisconsin. I know how much that rivalry means to you. Just talk about what it would be like to finish the season playing such a long-time rival with Wisconsin.
COACH KILL: I think the great thing about our rivalry with Wisconsin is it's history. And that's what football's all about. And certainly at the end of the year, it's a tremendous game for both schools and it's an exciting time.
The great thing about the Big Ten is all the rivalry games that we have, and we play a lot of Bowl games within our system, so to speak. So it will be exciting time. And what I'm excited about, I think our football team's getting better. That always makes rivalries a lot more important. So that's where we're at with that.
Q. Donnell Kirkwood is here. And just wondering what distinguishes him as a running back and how does that mean to you guys to see him emerge last year?
COACH KILL: I think if you go back through the history of not only where I've coached before but even with the Minnesota Gophers is that we've always had great running backs. And Donnell has certainly emerged with Roderick Williams and big strong physical backs, and that's kind of who we are. And that's who we want to be.
So he's done a great job not only on the field but he's done a great job with leadership with our younger players and has been a part of a group of kids that have really changed the culture and the character in our program.
So I'm very pleased with his efforts and I expect a great year out of Donnell.
Q. I see you have a very interesting out-of-conference schedule this year. You play three West Coast teams. Just wonder how your kids felt about playing games like that this year. And what are your future out-of-conference plans as far as scheduling goes? How do your kids feel about playing interesting games like that? They're pretty out of the ordinary.
COACH KILL: I think if you look at our schedule over the next couple of years, our schedule is very difficult. But we really, as a program right now, where we're at, every game's important to us. We try to get better every day, every week, and we're moving forward with our program. So I think with us right now, schedules and nine games and ten games and out-of-season scheduling is we're going to play who is put in front of us. That's pretty much the way it is.
I'm more worried about our football program and our football team just getting better and playing well and the rest will take care of itself.
Q. Could you talk about Zac Epping and what he's brought to the table, kind of coalescing the offensive line and what the unit might look like this year?
COACH KILL: Talking about Zac Epping. Zac's a young man that, as I look through my coaching career and the successes we've had as a coaching staff, we've had offensive linemen like Zac. And Zac is a hard-nosed, tough, physical young man, brings intensity every day. I used to talk about he's kind of what I am, a hard-hat lunch pail type of guy that's going to come to work every day. And really when I talk about the foundation of our program, it's kids like that. And that's who we want to be.
And that's why I'm so excited about our season coming up is that I think we're a very young team. We'll probably start maybe one or two seniors on offense, maybe three on defense. But it's a team that I don't think they know a whole lot better. And they've worked very hard and we've got a lot of kids like Zac Epping that are very similar.
So we're looking forward to that. And I think that will help us get where we want to go.
Q. I had a question about the facilities at the University of Minnesota. You have a tremendous stadium. We've seen pictures of your locker room there. But how would the practice facilities enhance what you're trying to do with the University of Minnesota's football program?
COACH KILL: I think the biggest thing in where we're at, you know, and where our program wants to go, there's gotta be a commitment at the top, and we certainly have that with President Kaler and our administration, and we just don't want to be average. We want to be the best and as good as we can be.
And right now we've got a beautiful stadium, a great place to play on Saturdays. But we have to improve our practice facilities, strength training, and academic facilities. And we're doing some great things academically; we're just kind of running out of space.
So this is a critical project for us. And I commend Norwood and his team and our president moving it forward. And we're going to-- our plan's to have one of the best indoor facilities all college football, and we don't want to do it halfway.
We're excited about it. It's great to be moving forward and it certainly helps you in the recruiting process and where we want to go with the football program at the University of Minnesota.
Q. What was your take on yesterday's scuttlebutt that the Jadeveon Clowney hit might have been illegal he might have been ejected if that were under the new targeting rule?
COACH KILL: I think the biggest thing, and I think all the coaches and-- I just recently spoke at the State of Alabama. I had a tape of fundamentals and teaching fundamentals. And I think when you have things happen in college football and you have concussions and things of that nature, there's a huge amount of awareness to make sure we teach the fundamentals.
We're all into the safety of the kids and football. We have a great game. It's a game that's physical. We all as coaches have to take our responsibility to make sure that we're teaching the proper fundamentals.
Sometimes things happen. That's part of life and part of anything. But anything we can do to teach it and do a better job for safety is important, because the bottom line is we're in this great profession because of the kids. We want to take care of the players and kids. That's our job as coaches at all times. So that would be my reaction is we've just got to make sure we take care of the kids.
I think college football and all the people around it are doing everything they can. And so I compliment everybody for doing that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Bill O'Brien.
COACH O'BRIEN: Excited to be here. This is my second Big Ten media day. It's always a sign that obviously the season is right around the corner.
And brought three players with us here for these two days. John Urschel is an offensive lineman for us. Malcolm Willis, safety for us. And Glenn Carson, middle linebacker for us. It's great to be with them.
It's good to see the other coaches in the league. I have a lot of respect for all the coaches in this league.
We have some really good coaches, and it's great to meet with them. We had a good meeting with Jim Delany, Commissioner Delany, this morning, and that's always-- it's always good to reconnect with the coaches here.
Really excited about the season. We have a group of kids that have worked extremely hard in the off-season to try to improve their individual skill set and now we have to go out and have a productive training camp, but it's a great group of guys to work with.
Our staff is really excited about it, and I believe our first practice will be August5th. So it's right around the bend and can't wait. So I guess I'll open it up to questions.
Q. What about the prospects of starting a true freshman at actually quarterback in Hackenberg? Would that be --
(Technical difficulties - telephonic disconnection.)
Q. Coach, now that you've had the job for over a year, do you feel that the challenges that have arisen because of the sanctions imposed, are those challenges what you expected?
COACH O'BRIEN: When you go into a job like this, you always have to expect the unexpected, regardless of what has happened in the last year.
Really, I'm here to talk about the 2013 team. You know, a lot of the things that we talked about last year, when I was here, it's water under the bridge. We're in a situation at Penn State right now that is unprecedented, sure. But at the same time I've said this over and over again, our staff, myself, we're thankful for our players.
Our players are tough. They're resilient. They're good kids. They're hardworking. They go to class, and we're looking forward to working with those guys. The rules are what they are. And that's what we play under. And that's what we're going to do. So we're excited about the season, and again just really want to concentrate on the 2013 season.
Q. Ideally, when would you like to decide on who the starting quarterback will be?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think you have to make a decision about halfway through training camp, I really do. I think in order to give that guy, whoever that guy will be, Tyler or Christian, in order to give him enough time to prepare for an excellent Syracuse team that throws a lot at you defensively, you have to give them a couple of weeks to get ready for the first game at the very least, especially a young quarterback.
Probably halfway through, we'll have enough valuation of our practice film and all the different things that go into being the starting quarterback at Penn State, not only on the practice field but in the meeting room, and we'll make a good decision. We'll do what's best for the football team.
Again, it's an exciting time for us. It's not a time we look at as: Woe is me. It's more of a time exactly the opposite of that. We look at the fact that we have a chance to work with two really talented young quarterbacks. So it's an exciting time for us at Penn State and one we're looking forward to when training camp starts.
Q. How do you see the loss of Brad Bars affecting your defense? And has he or will he apply for a medical redshirt?
COACH O'BRIEN: First of all, one thing that we've instilled in our players I believe over the last 19, 20 months that I've been on the job is the phrase: Next man up. We knew when Brad went down there was guys that were in that defensive line room now had to move up because they potentially move up the depth chart. So we've learned that phrase at Penn State. So there's some guys there that need to step up.
Now, as far as Brad Bars is concerned, I was really-- I felt bad for him, because here's a guy that probably hasn't been talked about enough. He's a fantastic student. He's a tough football player. He was not only a defensive end, a candidate for starting job for us at that position, but he was also a really good core special teams player. So next man up on special teams, too.
And more than likely, I don't want to speak for Brad, but I believe that he will come back for a fifth year and rehab the Achilles and he'll be back next year.
So I would want a guy like that back because I believe he's a core type of guy. He's a Penn State guy. He's again just like John Urschel and a lot of the other guys on our football team, he's what a student-athlete really means.
Q. A related question regarding depth. How concerned are you with depth both along the defensive line and at linebacker?
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, again, we're going to have to go into training camp and see how much some of our younger players have improved at those positions. Remember, if you look at linebacker in the spring, we didn't have Ben Kline in the spring. He was out with a shoulder operation. He'll be back for training camp. We're looking forward to seeing him.
He stopped by the office the other day. He's had an excellent summer, looks in great shape, and he's ready to go. So we get him back. Gary Wooten, another guy that we felt was improving during the spring, can he add depth there.
Again, we've got to look at all the different players we have on defense as it relates to the linebacker position, what can a guy like Adrian Amos do? Can he play safety? Can he play corner? Can he play linebacker? Stephen Obeng, can he come down and play some linebacker for us.
I think our staff-- I know our staff led by John Butler has done a really good job of really looking at that and being prepared for all the different scenarios. Defense line-wise certainly Brad Bars not being there, again, gives us a little bit of a problem there depth-wise, but a guy like Evan Schwan, does he step up now, a younger player that maybe hasn't-- obviously he redshirted last year, we don't know a lot about him as a player right now. He's a great kid. He's had a really good, hardworking summer. Is that a candidate to step up and take a Brad Bars type of spot there.
Are we concerned? I don't think we use the word "concerned" too much in our program. We just look for different ways to be able to relate to the different scenarios that may occur.
Q. When you take the field against Syracuse, Scott Shafer is going to be coaching his first game. What challenges do you remember from your first game last year and in what ways can that give you competitive advantage going up against the first-time head coach?
COACH O'BRIEN: I don't know. I don't think too much is said about that. I think that Scott Shafer's an excellent coach. Watching them last year, how they played on defense, I think they're going to have a very good defensive football team back. And then again, watching them on offense, they're going to have a really good offensive football team back.
First-year head coaches, first games, all those different things, everybody's different as to how they handle it. Obviously, if you look at my own situation last year, I certainly could have done a much better job on opening day than I did last year.
So, again, Coach Shafer is a great coach, and he's going to do a fantastic job at Syracuse.
Q. A year ago you came in without experience and there were all the sanctions talk, all that kind of stuff. Just how different is the feeling today compared to a year ago at this time for you?
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, it's certainly different. I mean, last year I think we arrived here the day after obviously the penalties being announced, so I think we're in a better mood this year.
But obviously you're a lot more comfortable with your position as a head football coach after having-- it's only been a year, but you're more comfortable with the players, with the staff, knowing each other, the chemistry, all those different things that go into it.
Again, does that lead to victories? Who knows. We're going to have to go out there and play extremely hard.
It's a very difficult schedule, non-league schedule to start the season, and then obviously a very Big Ten schedule.
We really enjoy coaching our players. We have a lot of good players, tough players, hardworking guys, and we're just really excited about the season.
Q. You said Tyler Ferguson will obviously compete for the starting job. He's not on campus right now, obviously. So what kind of setback is that, him not being a part of the summer workouts? And has he told you yet when he expects to be back on campus?
COACH O'BRIEN: He'll be back. Summer's voluntary. Right? The last time I read the NCAA rule book, summer's voluntary. He's not there. He's at home. He's got some personal things that he's dealing with at home. To me, again, he'll come in. He'll be here for training camp.
What time, what day, all those things, I mean, I don't know. I am sure he'll be in the first team meeting and he'll be ready to compete with Christian for that job.
Q. Have you seen anything different out of Glenn Carson in this past offseason considering that he's a senior leader of those linebackers now that Mauti and Hodges have gone their ways?
COACH O'BRIEN: Glenn is certainly a guy you would describe as high-character guy, very intense, heart and soul type of guy. Glenn's not a real rah-rah guy. Glenn is very serious about his position as the middle linebacker at Penn State. He understands the tradition of linebackers at Penn State and obviously linebacker U.
So he understands that. He was a leader last year. He's a leader right now, and we're looking forward to him having a really good year for us. He, again, is another guy that you would say as it relates to Penn State, he's what being a Penn State football player is all about. He's a good student. He's a tough kid. New Jersey High School state champion wrestler.
He means a lot to our football team, and we're certainly glad he's on our team.
Q. Do you anticipate Kyle Carter and Zach Zwinak to do everything in training camp this year?
COACH O'BRIEN: As far as health? Yes, I do, I anticipate both guys will be back for training camp, Kyle Carter obviously injured his wrist against Nebraska, so he's had a little bit more time to heal. Zach did his in the blue/white game, so he hasn't had as much time. So you'd probably say Kyle a little bit ahead of Zach in that department.
But both guys will be ready during training camp, Kyle right at the beginning, and Zach will participate, but he may not be full contact right away.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Kirk Ferentz.
COACH FERENTZ: Welcome, everybody. Everybody that's been up here so far, we're excited to get started, certainly. And we're enthused about our football team. Last year was obviously very disappointing for all of us, and as soon as the season ended in November, we encouraged our players to turn the page and wanted to get them looking forward and then go back to work, and that's pretty much what we've done. And we try to do that after every season.
I'm enthused again about the way the players have handled each step along the way, and needless to say, eager to get on the field here in a couple of weeks.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. As the Big Ten moves to the nine league schedule many, teams in the conference have scheduled traditional out of marquee games with Iowa being locked in a long-term contract with Iowa State. Would the program be willing to take a year with only six home games to secure a higher level out-of-conference opponent, or would you have to continue to work with having two home games those other slots?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm not sure I caught the last part.
Q. Or would you just work with keeping two home games for the final two out-of-conference spots?
COACH FERENTZ: I don't think there are many teams that are going to give up a chance to have at least seven home games. I can't imagine too many of those.
And then the second part of that is that we're-- I'll speak for myself, but I think we're firmly locked in with Ohio State. That's a very important game, very relevant game to all of us involved, and I can't envision that thing ending in the near future.
Q. Have you thought much about the spearing penalties, how that's going to play out? When do you sort of go through that with your players?
COACH FERENTZ: We first got introduced to some of the talk about it back in a meeting early February as coaches and I think all of us are concerned about any of those types of plays. They're bang, bang, flagrant fouls to anybody in the stands. Anybody can recognize that need to be dealt with, but I think on the plays that are bang, bang, which many of those are, I'm just hoping the officials will use good judgment.
And I know they've talked about video replay being instituted, too, which I think would be really something that needs to be done. It's concerning.
Q. Urban Meyer was in here getting grilled about the disciplinary issues. How do you look at that as the role of a head coach, what you need to do to try to stem that?
COACH FERENTZ: I don't think coaching is a lot different than parenting. My wife and I have raised five children and you're always a parent. So that never ends.
Coaching is the same way. Once the parents, families turn their young people over to you, first time they're living independently, typically, away from home, and a whole different set of circumstances, choices to make.
I think all of us would probably agree the most important thing you can do is try to equip them to making good decisions, try to educate them in terms of some of the challenges that are going to be out there for them, some of the things that they're going to have to contemplate and think about. And then obviously the landscape's changed an awful lot, too, with social media. It's a lot different than it was eight years ago, certainly 18 years ago. So all those things kind of magnify it.
But I think some of the issues, some of the temptations, some of the bad decisions all college students can make, it hasn't changed an awful lot, but the communication with them has.
So as a result of that, athletes have to be very, very aware of it because athletes can't just float unbeknownst to other people, just like coaches can't. They're in a very public eye.
It's an ongoing challenge. But I do certainly think it's a big part of our responsibility as coaches to try to educate and arm our players as best we possibly can to making good decisions. And I think people were doing that 30 years ago. It's just the landscape's changed a little bit.
Q. In recent years, you guys have had a lot of run of bad luck at the tailback position but seems like entering this, you feel pretty confident having at a lot of depth at this position, at least more in recent years. Explain how you feel about that.
COACH FERENTZ: I'm sorry I didn't catch that. My ears must be bad.
Q. How do you feel about the tailback position entering this season having more depth?
COACH FERENTZ: I never feel too good about that position. But we're certainly further ahead than we were last year. Last year at this time, quite frankly, we didn't know if we had a Big Ten running back. And Damon Bullock, I think when he was playing, did an excellent job. I think he's grown a lot in 12 months' time, and we're really excited to see how he performs this year.
Mark Weisman at this time last year, we thought he would be a pretty good fullback. And I'll backtrack. Going into spring a year ago, we weren't sure if he'd block or not. He proved that he could do that. And we kind of stumbled into him as a running back during the course of last year.
So with those two guys alone we feel a lot better about where we're at. Both those players have improved since last fall.
Jordan Canzeri rejoins our team. He's healthy, had a good spring. Got a couple of younger players on our roster. Excited to see how they perform in August and some incoming players, too. We're excited.
All that being said, from experience, it's hard to feel too good or too comfortable about any one position.
Q. A couple of coaches that you previously coached with who are now in the Southeastern Conference expressed concerns about the hurry-up offense and the potential for causing injuries. What are your thoughts about that, and is that a valid concern that they have?
COACH FERENTZ: I don't have a lot of thoughts about it. And I haven't really seen any statistical evidence to say it is leading to injuries. I don't know if you can quantify that or not. I'm sure somebody's working on it.
But needless to say, it's changed the complexion of the game. And it's become very, very popular. So as a result of that, you have to be prepared for that. And whatever your answers may be to slowing things down, either it's rotating more personnel in defensively, somehow trying to slow the game down, the tempo of the game down.
Probably the best answer still is to get off the field in three downs. That's always a good answer, no matter what your opponent runs offensively.
But I know it's a talk item right now. I haven't really given much thought to it.
Q. You went 0-8 in your first season at Iowa, and Tim Beckman went 0-8 in his first season at Illinois. Can you talk maybe not on that situation, but just the patience level or lack thereof, or is there less time to build programs now than there used to be?
COACH FERENTZ: To that question, yeah. The answer there is yes. I think there's certainly less patience at all levels in football right now for anybody. And typically, if you're 0-8, it's going to require patience. You hope you have an administration that understands that process and understands what it is you're trying to get accomplished and then allow you to go do the work you have to do.
I've always felt if you look at things over a five-week-- or excuse me, a five-year window, at any point in a program's tenure, establishment, gives you a little bit of a picture to what's going on. Typically it takes time to rebuild. To rebuild a good foundation, it does. If you're 0-8 it's probably what you're doing. We've been there. We won two games in the conference last year and we've got a lot of work to do obviously, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.