Jan. 11, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Indiana head football coach Bill Lynch met with members of the media on Friday, Jan. 11, to discuss the 2007 season and start to look ahead to the 2008 campaign.
Head Coach Bill Lynch
"We just got back from our football coaches convention, I got back last night. I haven't really had a chance to talk to you since the bowl game. I think being around a bunch of other football coaches and sharing ideas with them, it is good to get away and reflect on where we are. First, I think the reflection is that we had a good year and we took the steps that we needed to this year. Sometimes, right after the bowl game if it doesn't go the way you had hoped, you lose sight of what all happened over the course of the year. We made some really good progress and I think we took that next step. The next step was obviously having a winning record, going to a bowl game and learning as we go, and we learned a lot with the trip.
"Now we are at that point where we are starting all over again and that is the beauty of college football. Regardless of what happens during the season, when it is over and you start your off-season program, you are at square one. As we start this week with the new semester and losing our seniors, we are starting all over. But I think there is a lot of hope and we have some good young football players that want to get better, and if we can get them better individually over the course of the off-season, then we are going to be a better football team come next August.
"One thing that I feel we have in the program now that is better than it has been since this staff has been here is more competition at a lot of positions. If we can get everybody to compete in the off-season in the weight room and winter conditioning and practice and summer and fall camp, when we line up next year against Western Kentucky we are going to be a better football team because we are going to have better individuals. I thought about that a lot on the plane home from southern California, about the competition at the different positions."
On the impact on the program of having a player leave early for the NFL Draft:
"James (Hardy) did a great deal for this football program over the last couple years with his play on the field and the records that he set. How he grew as a football player and a man as well as being a really good team guy, he showed the younger guys that even if you are a `star player,' his work ethic on the practice field and in spring ball showed them what it takes to be a really good football player.
"Anytime you can have someone from your program go on to the NFL it is good for the program and obviously good for them. But it is good for recruiting and it is motivation for the young guys in the program."
On the conversation with James Hardy on his decision:
"We talked some before the bowl and then we talked after he was done. I think there was probably some motivation from the time he decided to give up basketball. He is ready and he knows what he is getting into. I think he will do really well in his preparation and all that goes into it."
On the type of player he sees Hardy being in the NFL:
"I think you get locked into the level at which you are coaching. So for me to sit here and talk about the players in the NFL, that's not right. I'm around Big Ten football players all the time now. And when you are coaching at a lower division school, you really understand that level but you go watch spring games or practices and think you have an idea of that ... but you become more of an expert at the level you are at.
"With that being said, I think he's got a chance to be a great NFL wide receiver. There is so much in front of him and he has tremendous skills and the more those people are around him, they will recognize those skills that we saw on a daily basis. And I know his motivation to work on the areas that he needs to work on. He is not a guy that thinks he is an end product by any means. And that's why I say his attitude is so good about it and his motivation is so good about it.
"I did go to a Colts game after the season was over I thought about James and I can certainly see James out there doing that. I think he's got a great future, I really do."
On what he would tell NFL scouts about James Hardy off the field:
"I can't speak for them. Just like I wouldn't like someone speaking for us about how we go recruit. We know what we need here at Indiana and what we are doing in recruiting, so I don't like getting into telling someone else how they should do it. But I know how I feel about him and how he has conducted himself and the leadership he has shown over the past year and a half. I see him doing nothing but getting better as a player."
On Marcus Thigpen:
"I really felt like you could see improvement over the last few games. I thought he ran really well against Purdue and in the bowl game. In watching the tape, he made some things and found some creases that weren't there. I think that is one of the fun parts of this job when you can take your personnel and decide what you can do to put them in a position to be even better. Some of it is in the weight room, some is speed development and some of it is quickness. With a guy like Marcus, it is probably getting him in the right spot and doing some things offensively to get the ball in his hands. I guess everybody can get faster, but he is pretty fast. He has been a really good weight room guy. He is one of those guys who, physically, has worked at it pretty hard ... he has become a really good pass blocker and some other things that we knew when he first moved there were going to be challenges for him, but he has done a really good job."
On anyone in particular that could change positions between now and next season:<
"Not really, but there will be. There is a lot that goes into making a move ... as soon as you get off the road recruiting, you sit down as a staff and look at your depth chart and start tweaking a little bit. You get input from a lot of people, but first and foremost, from the player himself.
"When we were sitting here a year ago, we probably didn't see Justin Carrington starting in a bowl game at linebacker. We didn't see Nick Polk starting at safety in a bowl game ... something will come up and we will make some moves."
On whether he would rather have more open scholarships to offer now after making it to a bowl game:
"Not really. I like what we got, I really do. We started recruiting last spring thinking we were going to be a bowl team. It may have shocked a lot of people that we got there, but it didn't shock us. We felt all along that coming out of spring practice we were a better football team and a faster football team ... and we have to keep recruiting because until they sign, we have all seen different things happen. So we are going to keep working at it and not assume anything."
On who he thinks will be the senior leaders on next year's team:
"That is a great question. There are couple notes I wrote down on the plane yesterday and one of them was leadership. I think each football team is different so that's why I said we are starting back at square one again. I don't care what your season was like or what you are doing ... any good football team starts over because if you assume anything, something is going to slow you down.
"Leadership is something that is very important and each football team is different. Leaders will emerge and we have to teach leadership to some. Obviously, the guys that played the most football would be the leaders of your football team. Sometimes there are guys who have not played as much football but through the off-season they emerge as leaders. So by the time we get to fall camp and the players vote on captains we may be surprised.
"We have an interesting group. We have some young guys that have played now. We only have 14 scholarship seniors next year, so it isn't a big senior group. Now the year after that we are starting to get into some big senior groups ... so where that leadership comes from will be interesting."
On anything that he would do differently for the next bowl trip:
"The number one thing that we talked about was that maybe we would have done some more live scrimmaging. We scrimmaged the young guys a lot, but not the older guys. Part of that was that we had some older guys that were a little dinged up coming out of the Purdue game and had played the last three or four games like that. So we didn't want to re-injure guys that were just getting healthy. We thought our practice tempo was good and we liked how we practiced. When we got out to Arizona, I thought the two practices where we were going full speed were good practices.
"But then when we played, we played like it was the opening game and we just happened to be playing a really good football team in the opening game. But then you go to convention and talk to different coaches and find out that everybody does it differently. And the ones that go every year do it differently every year. It is not like they have a formula that they use, they feel where their team is."
On whether the team's goals were met or exceeded:
"The season goals were met, I don't think we surpassed them. For our season goals, we started with the same one that everyone had out there, to play 13. The second thing was to defend `The Rock,' and obviously those were coach Hep's that we carried on. I think we got better but we are not there yet because we lost two Big Ten football games at home. Now we got beat by two pretty good football teams in Penn State and Illinois. We were competitive in those two games, more so than we were in a couple other games during the year. But to be a really, solid good football team, you have to be able to win at home. You have to develop this air about you that when you take the field at home nobody is going to come in and beat you.
"And the last goal was to take things one at a time. We talked that in order to do anything; we were going to have to take things one at a time. That's not a numerical goal, but might have been the most important goal we had and we met that. In the future, we should probably talk about getting to a bowl and winning a bowl game. That wasn't something we talked about all year. But from the time the season got over, we talked about how we wanted to be the champions of the Insight Bowl and not just participants, and we didn't accomplish that."
On how the offensive line will change losing three starters going into next year:
"We will be bigger. We were a little offensive line and we looked at that when we were going through the bowl stuff. If you take all the bowl games and look at their offensive lines, we might have been the smallest offensive line.
"Roger Saffold is going to get bigger, there isn't any question in my mind. He has gotten bigger and stronger and he is going to be a pretty good football player and he has gotten a taste of it already. Pete Saxson is another guy that adds size to the line coming back. We are going to have competition because I am not going to grant anyone a position. But if you throw in Mike Stark, Cody Faulkner and Alex Perry, we are going to be a bigger offensive line. And these guys are all very close and hang out. Kyle Thomas and Jarrod Smith are getting better and may not have gotten the recognition but are going to be big for us."
On the importance of recruiting those big offensive linemen:
"It is huge. Oklahoma State was a really good offensive team and their offensive line was really good. Watching tape leading up to the game, you knew the tailback was good and the wide receiver was good, but I thought the offensive line was good. They were big and rangy and athletic and could move. And with all of the bowl games, there were some pretty good teams up front on both sides of the ball.
"The number one thing that we were able to do with our offensive line in recruiting was when we started out, we had a philosophy of what we were looking for. (Offensive line coach) Bobby Johnson was the lead guy on that, but everybody on the staff is aware of it. So there may be some really good offensive linemen out there, but they just didn't fit what we were looking for ... what you do in the spread is different than what you do in the I-formation."
On determining who will replace graduating senior cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors:
"Tryouts. Of all the places, that is where we don't have the answers there ... at cornerback it is pretty wide open, which can be healthy. Bruce Hampton probably has the most experience. Corner is kind of like cornerback in that generally you don't substitute there ... Christopher Phillips is obviously a guy that has played a lot and we feel really good about him. Adrian Burks and Hampton have been here for a couple years. And then Donnell Jones and Chris Atkins are a couple guys that jumped out at us in bowl practices and they are probably a little bit bigger, more physical-type corners. Now, there is always the chance of a position change, but we will give those guys the first crack at it.
On filling in for senior punter Mike Hines:
"(Chris) Hagerup is going to be pretty good. That was the best thing we could have done was redshirt him. We teased about it last spring about who our punter is going to be ... and we really felt the best thing was going to be if we could redshirt him. And now he is punting it pretty good.
"If you look back at it, Mike Hines may have been one of our most valuable players. That kid did a great job from the spring when we had no idea about our punter to what he did this year. We had two kicks blocked this year and he had nothing to do with it. He fielded every one of them and he was consistent. And talk about a guy that played to his potential, he might have been that guy. Obviously, Austin (Starr) was pretty good too, but we knew Austin was pretty good. But Mike might be a senior that we might overlook."
On when the benefits of playing in a bowl game begin to show up:
"The benefits started the night the Insight Bowl people called us and invited us to come. Because there is a perception out there and the perception is your are a bowl team or you are not. I equate it to the NCAA basketball tournament, either you are in the tournament or you are not. Once you are considered one of those guys, it lifts everything. I think it lifts the confidence of your football team. I think it sets the bar a little bit higher for your own football team. It certainly helps in recruiting. We have two things going here that we haven't had. First, we go out and recruit or kids come here and we are a bowl team. And the second thing is we have a brand new facility coming. They all want to know what their playing time is going to be so that's not unique anywhere. They want to go some place that is a bowl team and has a nice new facility. We have both of those things right now.
"Now, what we have to do is maintain it. I think that goes back to the bar is now set. We are going to have to work harder and we are going to have to play better in order to do it again. But I think the benefits of the kids having confidence and knowing they can do it and the belief systems there are certainly something to build on."
On Andrew Means and his possible future in baseball:
"I have never had that conversation with Andrew. I have heard all of it, but I am not too concerned about it right now. I think he really enjoys playing football and I know he is looking forward to baseball and we'll see how it works out ... my sense is that he is going to come back and play with us."
On whether Nick Polk could return to offense:
"Well, I don't want to get in that conversation in the staff room about Polk because it will be five guys on offense rooting for him and four guys on defense rooting for him. Polk is a really good player and right now I see him as a safety. Now whether we can work him into a dual role is yet to be seen. I am a firm believer that you better be good defensively and he makes us a better defense."
On the fan support out in Arizona
"Unbelievable. It was almost to the point where we look back at it and feel bad that we didn't play better. It wasn't because of effort or poor preparation; we just didn't play well, particularly in the first half.
"When we went on `The Walk,' it was unbelievable. They took us on the buses and dropped us off at this park and the kids had no idea. They had heard about this park but we had only been out there a couple days. We got off the buses and started walking and then all of a sudden it was unbelievable the number of people there. And the enthusiasm of the people there took us all back. When we took the field, the number of people there, and I will go a step farther and say the number of people who stayed when we didn't play real well and cheered for us when we went back up the tunnel was incredible. And I think anybody that was down on the field sensed it, felt it or heard it and that is all motivation for the future."