Aug. 26, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Head coach Bill Lynch met with the media on Tuesday, Aug. 26, for his weekly press conference in preparation for the Hoosiers' season opener against Western Kentucky on Saturday, Aug. 30. He was joined by captains Marcus Thigpen, Christopher Phillips and Will Patterson.
"I know our players are anxious to play a football game. As a coaching staff, we're no different than anyone else around the country, where you get to game week and you're anxious to play but you also want to make sure you've covered everything. There is so much to the game of football with offense, defense, the kicking game, substitutions, new rules, and all those kind of things. I really think we've had a good three weeks, now into our fourth week. I think the guys came and worked hard in the summer because our conditioning level has been good. Obviously, we'll continue to work hard this week but also be conscious of getting their legs back underneath them, so that they are at their best on Saturday. I think this week is a little bit different for us because this is the first time in a while that I've coached a team that plays the first game before classes begin, and that always makes it a little bit different. Normally, this week they're going to school all day and coming in in the afternoon, but we don't start classes until next week, so that is a little bit different. I think you've got to be conscious that you physically have them ready but mentally as well, and when you have them without school, you try to be smart about not burning them out mentally with football too, with meeting and meeting and meeting because we want them to be fresh on Saturday.
"Depth chart. There are a couple things there that I'll share with you now that I'm in game week, and it is Tuesday and really the first big work day. We've got four guys that will not play for disciplinary reasons. They are Troy Wagner
, Greg Middleton
, Brandon Mosley
and Kyle Kozak
. The quarterback position is one that obviously everybody has been very interested in. We're going to start Kellen (Lewis). I talked to (Lewis and Ben Chappell
) yesterday. It has been a very, very good competition, and we've got two guys that we feel really good about, that we can win and win in the Big Ten with. I think that is something that is a real positive for the football team. I think the competition has made them both better. First with Ben, I think what he has done from the start of spring practice is win over his teammates. I think his teammates have a great feel for him, and when he runs out on the field, they're going to believe that we're going to win football games. Obviously, Kellen has a year and a half of experience and has played in some very big football games and has played very, very well. I think the competition has made him better. I think he has been sharper this summer, and I think he certainly is on top of his game. As a coaching staff, we certainly feel good about the fact that we have two guys we can win with, but we're going to start Kellen on Saturday.
"The other part of it, Marcus (Thigpen) will be starting at tailback, and I think you'll see Marcus do different things in the course of our offensive structure, both in the backfield and lined up outside because he is a very, very good football player that by being elected one of the three captains of the football team obviously shows the respect that the other guys have for him. You'll also see Bryan Payton and (Demetrius) McCray in certain situations. Trea Burgess will certainly be on the field, particularly in special teams situations, but I also think you could see him in the backfield.
"At wide receiver, we will play a number of guys. (Andrew) Means and (Terrance) Turner and (Ray) Fisher certainly have all played and have played very well in camp, but I think Mitchell Evans, Matt Ernest, Max Dedmond and obviously Brandon Walker-Roby, who has played a lot of football for us. I think you'll see all those guys at different times as well as some other guys could get in there.
"Offensive line. I think we're set. We've got five guys. Two of them have played a lot of football and the other three have played a whole lot since spring practice and hung in there. So it is Rodger Saffold, (Pete) Saxon, (Alex) Perry, (Cody) Faulkner and (Mike) Stark.
"On the defensive side, I think we talk a lot about it. Our defensive line, we've got some depth there. As we sit right now, (Ryan) Marando and (Jammie) Kirlew will start out at ends, and Greg Brown and Deonte Mack will inside. I think you'll see a number of guys rotate in there.
"At linebacker, with Geno Johnson and Matt Mayberry and Will Patterson, I think we've got experience as well as quality players there, but I also think you'll see (Tyler) Replogle and (Justin) Carrington and Darius Johnson play there at times.
"At safety, with Austin Thomas and Nick Polk we have two returning starters who have stayed healthy and had great camps. Chris Phillips, I think a real credit to him, taking over at corner and being elected a team captain as was Will Patterson. And, then the other corner, as we're sitting here on Tuesday we still can't tell you exactly who is going to start there. So, the competition has been really good. It is not because we're trying to find a guy, I think we're trying to make sure they all keep competing because they all have done a very good job, and I say that in (Chris) Adkins and Donnell Jones and Richard Council and Adrian Burks in particular. Bruce Hampton was set back because of an injury.
"We'll go ahead and let Austin Starr kick. We decided that. Chris Hagerup will be our punter, and I'm anxious to see him play because I think he has worked hard at it as well.
"So that is a rundown of where we are. The one question mark right now is exactly who we're going to start at the other corner. When we'll decide that, I'm not really sure at this point."
On where Jeremy Finch fits in right now:
"He is going to be a good football player. He really is. He is an athletic guy and he has been really good. We've just got to find the right niche for him. Obviously, you're going to see him on special teams. He is going to be out there then, and then where we work him in the defense this week, we'll kind of see as we go through the week. It is like bringing a freshman in because it is a new system without spring practice, and every system is a little bit different and he really played linebacker at Florida, and he is playing safety here. So, to be back there, there are different reads and different things to our coverages. What is really good is Austin Thomas and Nick Polk are really good players and they're really good teammates. I think there is a respect factor there and they'll mentor him, and Joe Kleinsmith is the same way. Joe has been really good as a safety, and he played a lot and will, so I think they're helping bring him along, along with the coaching staff. But, he is going to find his niche. I don't want to sit here on Tuesday and say where it will be, but he is obviously a very good player. You know it is really tough for a kid to go through transferring to start with, and then the uncertainty of whether you're going to get to play or not, and we're fortunate that he is able to play, so we certainly have a lot of respect for him and his talent. We've just got to find the right niche - where it is and how it all works out. And it will through the course of the football season, especially with a 12-game season and a bye week. It is a long season now, much more than the old days."
On whether Finch is 100 percent healthy?
"He says he is. It is always hard for us because we didn't coach him before, and he sure is athletic and runs around and says, `I'm fine.' I think there are days when he is a little sore, and he also didn't get the opportunity to have all the conditioning in the summertime. I don't know if that is good or bad for his leg. He is not using it as an excuse, let me tell you that. In terms of exactly what it is, I do know that it has been sore at different times."
On whether he always thought Kellen would be the starter:
"I'm going to go back to the same word I used throughout the whole process. I was always hopeful because I knew deep down inside that Kellen wanted to be the quarterback here at Indiana. If I didn't feel that way, then I don't think that I would've been hopeful, but if you take that out of the mix, I knew how well Ben had played in the spring and how hard he had worked and knew how ready he would be and had to see how Kellen would come back and play after missing all of spring, and effectively May and June when those guys were out working out so hard."
On why he thinks Kellen won the competition:
"I think the experience. The fact that he has played a lot of football and played very well when he has played, and I think he has played very well in practice."
On true freshmen that might play:
"I had them all in and talked each one of them individually yesterday, and as I said to most of them, three or four guys are going to play. I'm not positive who they are yet. It is a long time until the Big Ten season. We've got four weeks and three games before we get there, and then you stop and think about it and you've got eight more football games. So, it is a long year, and it is not like we've got to make a decision this week. With all of them, you don't want to play them a little bit. I think that is when it is unfair to them. Now, sometimes that happens and you don't realize it is going to happen, but you want to be fair to them. If you are going to play them, you want to play them, but you've also got to do what is right for the football team.
"That being said, as we're sitting here right now, I think DeMarlo Belcher has got a great chance at playing. I think Tandon Doss does. Tandon is set back a little right now by his shoulder, not by the other thing, but by his shoulder. The day he came back, I don't know what the term is other than his shoulder is hurt, but he is going to come back pretty quickly - when that is, I don't know. Because of some depth issues on the offensive line, I think both Justin Pagán and Will Matte could possibly play. They're both working with the twos along with some other guys. But, we've been a little bit thin there. I think there is a possibility that one or both of those guys could play. We still don't know what we'll do with Darius Willis. I really do think he is a really good back and I think in time will be the complete back, but we've also got some guys with good experience ahead of him, and we're not ready to leapfrog him over all of those guys, and if you're going to do that you would have to play him a lot, so we're not in that situation yet. Something would have to happen for Adam Follett to play at quarterback. Defensively, we've got a lot of experience there, so I would say right now that something would have to happen to play those kids on defense."
On Western Kentucky:
"I think they are very athletic on both sides of the ball. I think they are a really good football team. They come off of seven wins. I think any time a team comes off of seven wins, we talk about coming off of seven wins here, but they've won a lot of games over the last 10 years. They expect to win. They run the spread, and they have some athletes, and they do some things a little bit different than us, so we've got to prepare for a few things different than what our offense does. That first week is always tough because you've got to get your scout teams up to speed, and they are not used to being a scout team.
"Defensively they play a different front. They're an odd front; people call it a 30 defense, but they play with three down most of the time, but they can give you a lot of blitzing and movement from it, which is different from what we're used to seeing, so that is a real challenge for us and they've got athletic guys doing it.
"I know they're really well coached because I know their coaches really well and have a ton of respect for them, and I know what they think. There are a bunch of them coming back to Indiana, and I know the motivation that comes with that. I certainly think that they feel like we're a great opportunity for them to go beat a BCS team.
"With all that said, I do think in an opener, and this is probably what coaches all across the country are doing, you probably in your first game spend more time looking inside because of the uncertainty of every team. Even though we've got a lot of experience, they haven't gone out and done it in front of a crowd quite a while, and there are so many little things that happen, whether it is special teams or penalties or turnovers or things that you haven't done in practice and yet you've certainly got to make sure that you maintain your composure and mentally you're prepared to play so you don't make those mistakes in openers. Now, they're saying the same things down there. That is every team getting ready for an opening football game."
On special teams players that aren't in the two-deep on the depth chart:
"Terrance Thomas was a good special teams guy last year for us too. He is one of those guys that he takes great pride in that role, so I think he is certainly one of them. I don't want to leave anybody out. There are a lot of twos that are going to be really big. Tyler Replogle is going to be one of them that is a hundred mile an hour guy that is going to be really good. Our return guys are really our players, Thigpen, McCray, Ray Fisher, and Polk and Finch. We're trying to work Finch in where we see fit. We've got a role for him on all of them, and then it is getting him up to speed to play him on Saturday. He has been a good return guy, but right now Ray (Fisher) has got some special things about him as a return guy and Thigpen obviously has had great success as a kick returner. There are a lot of other places where you can use Finch's skills, whether it is covering kicks. We've worked him at different places, and I'd probably be able to better answer that at the end of the week, exactly where we feel he best fits."
On the next step after reaching a bowl game:
"I don't think there is a number of wins. I just think it is we've got to keep getting better as a football program. I look at some of the programs who were similar to where we were and where they are now or where they have been in the last decade. I'll start with Kansas State. When Bill Snyder went there and they built the program and then they became a bowl team and then they won a bowl game and then all of a sudden they were playing a BCS game. I remember coaching against them one time where if they weren't the best team in the country, they were one of the top three and playing ultimately for a national championship. I think you look at Kansas and Missouri right now in the Big 12. I mean those are teams that were knocking on the door, went to a bowl game and then have sustained not only good play but excellence and now are talked about on a national level. I think that Wake Forest is a good example. They didn't have great tradition, but Jim Grobe went out there and then they're at the Orange Bowl. I think of what Illinois did last year, but first and foremost, you've got to develop a consistency in your program, where your players expect to play well and if you get enough of them to expect to play well then it becomes an expectation to win. And then, I think you can create the environment that you want where your fans aren't shocked, where your fans expect it. I think that creates an energy and an excitement in a program, and we're working everyday at that, but I don't think any of us have ever said this is the magic or this is when we know we've arrived. It is a long process, but I think we certainly took a big step last year, and I like the kids that we have and the way they practice. I like the recruits we've brought in. So, we're building towards that."
On there being seven players from Warren Central on the field between the two teams on Saturday:
"I think that is a great tribute to their program and the kinds of football players they put out. I know the ones we've got are good football players. The two of them that probably didn't have all the recruiting stars, Chris Adkins and Andrew McDonald, are really good football players. Jeff Boyd is going to be a really good football player. He just happens to be playing behind some older guys that are pretty good, and obviously we talked about Jeremy (Finch). The guys they have are really good. And really, you know, Kevin Wright has a lot to do with all of that. Kevin Wright is their offensive coordinator but Kevin Wright was the coach [at Warren Central] when they won their first four state championships. It doesn't fall far from the tree or whatever because Bud Wright is his dad has won more state championships than anybody in state history, and I've known Bud a long time and have great respect for him. He has got a brother that coaches at Lebanon that does a great job, so it is a football family, and they've done a great job at Warren in not only winning football games but sending guys off to play college football. Obviously, there was a good connection down at Western for them, and David (Elson) has come up and recruited Indianapolis well too. He has got a lot of respect in the Indianapolis area, so he is going to come up there and recruit."
On preseason rankings and projections as motivation:
"I don't think I have to do that. They read. They read those things all summer long and they talk. So, sure, I think that is part of it. But, until you do it on a regular basis that is what happens. We've got to go out and try to prove ourselves every Saturday."
Senior cornerback Christopher Phillips
On being voted a team captain:
"I guess I was excited. It is a great honor, and I was excited to hear that Will (Patterson) is a captain as well."
On being voted a captain despite not starting until this year:
"Off the field I try to keep everything in line and coach my young guys up. I feel like because I have more young guys, me coaching them and teaching them helps."
On keeping everyone's spirits up in the locker room:
"I try to keep everything lively. I try to keep everything going."
On Western Kentucky:
"We've watched a good amount of film so far, and they look like they have good speed and explosiveness so they'll be a good challenge."
On what he took from the bowl experience:
"Don't be satisfied with just getting there."
Senior running back Marcus Thigpen
On being voted a team captain:
"I was excited about it. I feel honored and privileged to be named a captain and voted by all my teammates. I mean, not being here in the spring and still getting voted felt really good."
On getting out of camp and into the routine of the season:
"It is a great relief. Instead of going against our guys every day, you finally get to see somebody else, see some different teams and get some better looks. Just being out and getting our legs back is a relief, and getting out of the hotel, too."
On how this team compares to previous teams:
"In past years we didn't really have the energy about us throughout the year, and this year it is like we have the enthusiasm and camaraderie as a team and everybody is just together. It is a different feel in the locker room on the field and off the field. It is like everyone is together now, and we all have each others' backs, so it is a good feeling."
On what he took from the bowl experience:
"I felt like we were just trying to play 13 instead of really putting an emphasis on winning the last game. I feel like that was a major part of why we came out as sluggish as we did, and then towards the end we started picking it up because we felt like we had a chance."
Junior linebacker Will Patterson
On being voted a team captain:
"It was big for me because I'm the young guy of the group. Just to know that my teammates look up to me as just a junior was real big for me. It was an honor."
On getting out of camp and into the routine of the season:
"Just the look that we get from our offense is probably a better look than we are going to see from a lot of teams throughout the season, just because of the different elements our offense brings in the game of football. It is really preparing us for our first opponent because they bring a lot of what our offense does. So it is beneficial."
On playing a no-huddle team:
"Obviously we are still trying to get used to the pace, but we saw it in the bowl game. We've been seeing it all spring and all preseason, so I think just getting a jump on it is good."