Sept. 18, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Head coach Bill Lynch met with the media on Tuesday, Sept. 18, for his weekly press conference in preparation for the Hoosiers' contest against Illinios on Saturday, Sept. 22. He was joined by sophomore Kellen Lewis, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.
"Well, after a couple days of looking back at the Akron game, we felt like we played three pretty good quarters of football. We didn't play the way we had hoped in the second quarter, but maybe Akron had something to do with that. They made some plays and you have to give them some credit. But I thought we came back and played a solid second half. I kind of feel like that about the last two games, when you take the games against Western Michigan and Akron, two pretty good Mid-American Conference teams, we played six pretty good quarters of football. We had a couple where we didn't play as well. Once we get in the Big Ten, you have to play four good quarters. I think that is the lesson we will take from it."
"But I do think that it takes between three and five games to really get to know your team, and I think we are getting there. One of the big things is that we have to play solid, consistent football for four quarters. We are anxious to get into Big Ten play. Illinois is a really good football team that has made good progress over the past three years. They have played a good non-conference schedule and played very well in it. We are anxious to get going and our preparations for Illinois get underway this afternoon."
About the mutual respect between Illinois and Indiana:
On the advantages of playing against a quarterback that is similar in skill set to Kellen Lewis:
"I'm in a little different situation now, in that I haven't been the head coach through the whole process, but we know guys on their staff. Curt Mallory is a very good friend of mine who I worked with for quite a few years. I think when you're in the same conference, and particularly, where we are located, you're going to recruit against each other too. Whether or not you're recruiting the exact same guys, you're evaluating the same guys. At least early on in the process, quite often kids are looking at two programs, so there are some similarities from where you start. Plus, you play each other every year. We've had two really competitive games against them. They've done a really good job. They obviously have a system they believe in, and they've gotten better in it each year."
"Here we are in the fourth week of the season, but we're still not too far removed from all of those Spring practices and all that preseason camp when you're going against each other, when you are really competing. Our defense has had to contend with Kellen all that time, very much like their defense has had to contend with Juice (Williams). I think there is similarity there. There is similarity in a lot of the things that we do offensively. I think from that standpoint, it is different than if your own quarterback doesn't play that way."
On the advantages of coming off of a game in which the team played another dual threat quarterback in Carlton Jackson of Akron:
"I said that Akron had a lot to do with our second quarter, but he probably had a lot to do with that second quarter because he made some plays on the run when we really kind of had them pinned in, and he kind of squirmed his way for first downs. Then he made some nice passes too. Juice is an awful good football player though. I think compared to Kellen, he is a bigger more physical guy. He can really run through tackles and get that extra yard. He also is not afraid to scramble around behind the line of scrimmage before he throws it. We played against him last year, so we have a point of reference there when you turn on the tape from the year before. And, the guys that played in that game have a feel for that as well."
On changing the defense to defend Juice Williams:
"I think you are what you are. We're not going to change our defensive scheme. We believe in what we are doing, and we think we play good defense. Now you have to make adjustments week by week, depending on who you're playing and the style that you are playing against, and I think as much as anything you try to learn to become a smart football team. A smart football team recognizes who they are playing against and the strengths of that team and makes sure that we make the proper adjustments. Certainly we have to with him. We're also playing against what I think is a big time Big Ten back. Mendenhall is a big, physical, strong, break tackles kind of back. And really the first of those kind of guys that we're going to play as we go through the Big Ten season. They've got some skill on the outside. So, it is the most complete offensive football team we've played, and with a multidimensional quarterback, we're going to have to have a good week of preparation. We believe in what we're doing, and we're not going to change our scheme because of it. We just have to make the adjustments like any good team does week by week."
On the importance of the Akron game in Kellen Lewis's development:
"I guess in our mind he has had a few of them (breakout games). The numbers might have been larger, but I think going back a year ago, the second half of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, those were games that gave him the confidence and our football team the confidence in him. On Saturday, he just happened to make some plays. I don't know how many he made in third down situations, where they were truly third and long, and he had the ability to run for the first down. Those are the kind of plays that are huge. That, in all honesty, you don't always count on, but they keep drives alive. I think the biggest thing is he has played within himself. He knows what his abilities are and what he can do, but he hasn't forced things. He hasn't forced the ball. Two of his three interceptions have been tipped balls. He has only been sacked twice, I think, so he has a great awareness of when to throw it, when to get rid of it, and when to run. But, he hasn't just taken off and not played within the framework of the offense. In the passing game he is very much there to throw the ball first, and he does a pretty good job of it. In our run game, he has a little bit of read to it, whether to give it or keep it. He is not a selfish guy. I think that is where he has played within himself and within the framework of the offense and kind of let the game come to him."
On where Mitchell Evans fits in at safety:
"He is a really good football player that is learning, but Austin and Nick are the starting safeties. Mitch and Austin are playing the same spot, but Austin has a lot of experience. It goes a lot more than just game experience. It is all those reps in Spring practice and Fall practice, and Austin is a good safety, and he really understands our defense and is very comfortable in it. So, Austin is the starter, but, Mitchell, we feel really good that he can play."
On Juice Williams' high completion percentage:
"I think it is just the growth of any quarterback probably and what they are doing offensively. I think they've done a nice job with their offensive scheme with fitting it with the personnel that they have. They've incorporated Benn, the young wide receiver in it, and they've got good looking tight ends. I think they've done a nice job scheme-wise. I think Juice fits in that whole deal. He has played a lot of football. You can tell he is a leader. You can tell that he is a guy that a team can rally around."
On Arrelious Benn:
"He is a good looking receiver. He runs well. They also motion him back in the backfield and he lines up like a back. That just goes to show you they've got a lot of confidence in him as an athlete, but he is a physical looking guy. He is not as big as the last two guys we've played against, but he is a big receiver. The guy at Western Michigan and the guy at Akron were really big physical guys. He is not that big, but there is a presence to him on tape. I've always thought this. You can watch all the film you want, but until you get on the field with him, you never really know. The guys that you've played against year after year, you know exactly what you're going to see when you get out on the field. That was probably a little advantage we had against Western Michigan because we had played those guys the year before. Most of these guys at Illinois played, but he is a new guy, and he is a good looking player."
On J Leman:
"He is a really good player, too. He has got some height to him, and he has gotten bigger through the years. I don't know what he is listed at now, but I'm sure 235-240. He runs well. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm; I mean he plays like a linebacker, like a Big Ten linebacker. He is everywhere, he doesn't miss tackles, is very active, and animated. He is good football player."
On how Leman affects IU's running game:
"It is a little bit like the defense. You're three games into this thing, and we like what we're doing offensively. You don't want to all of a sudden change a lot of things for one game. Football is a game of repetitions, and the more reps that you get at anything, you're going to get better at it. If you change a whole lot week by week then all of a sudden it is like starting all over with your players. At some point too, it is like telling them what we were doing isn't very good, so we've got to try something different. Now with that being said, obviously you make adjustments and there is going to be some things we're doing this week that we haven't done before, but in terms of what we are doing with the running game or the passing game, the basics of it are what you are going to see on Saturday with a few adjustments."
On his satisfaction with the production from the running backs:
"Do I want to get better? Yeah, and we need to get better. We all know how to play with the numbers to make it look like. But, some of the numbers are the score of the game. We've been ahead and in a real run mode and been able to do that, but there are areas where we've got to get better. We've still got to be a better short yardage running team. We've got to be a better goal line running team. We did a great job against Akron of running the ball and running out the fourth quarter and scoring some points. We didn't at Western Michigan. All those situations will come up in the course of the Big Ten season, and those are areas that we have to get better. But, we have gotten some big hits in the running game, which is important because I think that is a little bit of the nature of the backs that we have. And, there is no question Kellen adds a dimension to it as well."
On what he is most happy with after 3 games:
"I think we've been a pretty consistent team. We didn't play a real good quarter against Western Michigan, and we didn't play a real good quarter against Akron. Other than that I think we've played pretty good football. Offensively, I think we've run the ball pretty well. I think we've thrown it pretty well. I think we have the ability to do both. Defensively, I think it is the same way. I think our run defense has been good, and we've put good pressure on the quarterbacks. If you can play good run defense and pressure the quarterback, teams are going to get passing yards on you, but we're not too concerned about that as long as we keep them out of the end zone. Some of those passing yards have been because of the score of the games, where teams have had to throw it. That is why you can play with numbers all you want. I think our kicking game has been solid other than the kickoff return we gave up against Western Michigan. You can't have that. That will come back to beat you. I think the other area that we talk a lot about, and we have got to continue to improve on is we've got to score touchdowns in the red zone and not settle for field goals, and we've got to force them to kick field goals and not score touchdowns. As simple as that sounds, there is a lot of work that goes into it and a lot of preparation as well. In Big Ten football games, that will make a difference. One of the things we stressed early is turnover margin, and we're at +6, so that is a marked improvement from a year ago. We have got to continue that as well."
On what other recruiters didn't see in Kellen Lewis that Indiana did:
"I wasn't here. I came after the signing date, in February, and at that point we were done recruiting quarterbacks, and then we went through the Spring, and we had a couple of quarterbacks here that decided to leave, and then I think we only had two scholarship quarterbacks in the program. One was Blake Powers and the other was Graeme McFarland, and Coach Hep thought it was real important that we got another scholarship quarterback, and so that was in May. We started getting the old tapes out to see who was still available. Kellen had decided to go to a prep school where he could play quarterback. It is my understanding that other people had talked to him about playing some other position except quarterback. He certainly, I think as has panned out, had confidence he was a quarterback and given the opportunity he could do it. So we were fortunate enough to get him up here for a visit and convince him to come here and play quarterback. I'd like to give you some great answer about we saw this or saw that, but that is really how it came about. He wasn't here long before we could tell he could play though. I'll give us that much credit."
Sophomore Quarterback Kellen Lewis
On his game against Akron:
"They were rushing three and dropping eight. Coach always told me it means you have to rush 30 times if they are doing that every time, they have eight guys back there and you only have four receivers. So I just have to take what they give me. The linebackers were getting pretty deep so we took a lot of shots up field and some of them turned into big runs."
On what he expects to see from Illinois:
"Coach Canada, our quarterbacks coach, always has a game plan. I went in to watch film yesterday and he already had four or five new plays to exploit the defenses that they run and the coverage that they run. He is always hard at work and I am not worried about his game plan because I know whatever he is going to run is going to work."
On sliding when he runs:
"Sliding is good and bad. I got down one or two runs (against Akron), but not too many. I was watching the Missouri vs. Illinois game and it looked like (Illinois quarterback) Juice Williams was trying to slide at the end of his runs. And that is when he took the helmet-to-helmet hit because guys are diving down at your legs more anyways. Sometimes I think if I can move at the last second, then I can avoid more contact. Believe it or not, I do take quite a few hits, but I don't take many head-on hits, and maybe that's why I am able to run as much as I can."
On watching other dual-threat quarterbacks:
"In high school, I was watching Xavier Lee. He was from Daytona Beach, which is an hour south of me, so I have seen a lot of film on him. Another quarterback that I watched quite a bit was Matt Leinart. Even though he's not a scrambler like that, some of the things he does in the pocket are some of the things I need to work on. I don't work on my scrambling ability a whole lot, I work on my mechanics in the pocket so I can get rid of the ball when someone is in your face and don't have to rely on making a play with your legs."
On similarities between himself and Juice Williams:
"I think Juice might be a little more patient in the pocket. Sometimes I can see twists on the defensive line out of my peripheral vision and I get a little quick-footed and want to get out of the pocket. And a lot of the twists that I did see, the person did eventually come clear, but not as early as when I left the pocket. So if I had waited a little bit longer, a receiver would have been open. That is one difference that I see."
"As far as similarities, we both take what the defenses give us. We both use our legs when we have to."
On running plays for wide receiver James Hardy:
"When you get down in the red zone, he is a much bigger target so a lot of the plays are going to go to him. Out on the field, unless we have a backside route that is tagged or something, it just depends on where your read takes you. Sometimes he is going to get his catches and sometimes the coverage is going to dictate that he's not going to get that many catches."
"And that's what happened on Saturday. We ran a lot of routes where he would be the main or secondary target and the coverage dictated that I had to run or dump it off underneath. It's not like we are like `we have to get this guy the ball,' its just something the coverage dictates."
On whether a game like Akron motivates him to prove he should be playing quarterback:
"No, I already got past that stage. There is a long list of people that I wanted to get a list of the plaques that I won last year. When I went home last Christmas or Thanksgiving break, I had some people that I wanted to go see - middle school coaches, one high school coach at my first school - and I wanted to show them those plaques that I got. I wanted to show my high school coach because when I got there, they immediately put me at cornerback because they already had their quarterback and didn't give me a chance. But overall, I got over that last year. I just told myself that people make mistakes and it's a business and I can't look back and blame anybody for not taking me as a quarterback when I had double the rushing yards that I had passing yards my senior year of high school. I really don't hold a grudge against anybody for that reason. I just hope that when the people that were recruiting me turn the TV on, they remember that they said I couldn't play quarterback."
On where his desire to play quarterback comes from:
"When I was younger, I played safety, running back, receiver - all the positions that you put your better athletes. I used to throw the football with my brother but he could always throw it harder than me, so it's one of those things where I was going to work on this or work on that. The only reason I decided to play football was because my brother decided to play. Since he wanted to play, I wanted to play. I always tried to be better than him. It was the same thing in basketball, I was just striving to be better. We would have contests to see who could throw harder and of course he is going to win because he is three years older. So ever since I was younger I have wanted to work on it and that eventually led to me having a decent arm by the time I was able to play real football."
"My dad always had those NFL Films with the commentator that has that voice that makes the guys sound heroic. So I was watching the Cowboys - Staubach and all those guys - and I realized that those guys are so much more glorious than the safety coming down to make a tackle. I just got more interested and by the time I got to seventh or eighth grade, I realized I could play the position decently, so by the time I hit high school I wanted to play quarterback. I'll play receiver or cornerback, but all I wanted was a chance to play quarterback. That led me to where I am today. When I reached my senior year (of high school), I felt I could take my game to the next level. And I didn't feel like having to re-learn the receiver position and I think I made the right decision and I am happy with some of the results I am getting now."
On other schools that were recruiting him as a quarterback:
"By senior year, no. It was down to Eastern Michigan, Rhode Island University and Charleston Southern. And ironically, we had to watch tape of Charleston Southern for the Indiana State game. But those three were the only schools that actually offered me a scholarship at the quarterback position."
"Florida was going to put a scholarship on the table for me since I would have been right at home. I forget who the coordinator was at the time, but he told me that if I signed as an `athlete,' they could get the paperwork together the next day. But he also said that I was barely on the chart as a quarterback, so it was one of those decisions of whether I wanted to stay close to home and not move away from the people that I know or maybe or maybe not get a shot at quarterback. But I think Chris Leak had just signed there so they obviously weren't hurting at the quarterback position. I declined the offer and thought about if for a couple days and the next thing I know, (then-Florida head coach) Ron Zook had gotten fired. So I tried to follow the coordinator to Oklahoma State and Ron Zook tried recruiting me a little bit at Illinois but I never really got any more phone calls."
"Other than that, a lot of schools went from sending me hand-written letters every week to not writing me at all or just sending me the flyers that they mass produce to even some of the juniors."
On how close he was to going to prep school:
"Two weeks away. I had already worked out all the paperwork with Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia and had already gone on a visit in the Spring. I was going to start packing in a week. Then my old defensive backs coach called and gave me the situation. Then I told him I would have to call him back and I called my dad and told him that it sounded too crazy and too risky. But he said `Do you want to play quarterback?' and my answer was yes so he said you are going to get your shot here (at Indiana)."
"At the time, I had no idea where the state of Indiana was. I thought it was a little bit closer to Kansas or somewhere further in the West. I had no idea where Bloomington was, I had only heard of Indianapolis. It was one of those things where I signed and when everyone found out, they all shook their head and wondered if I even knew where that was. So I got on a plane and I came here. I was going into it blind, it was going to be a hit or a miss. And luckily I hit and I am happy to be where I am at today."
On the city of Bloomington
"I love it in the summer and I love it at the beginning of Fall and the end of Spring. But I hate it at then end of Fall and all through the Winter. Six months out of the year I am bundled up. I have learned to layer my clothing and the value of Vaseline. I came up here originally with basketball shoes but no boots. My mom was telling me to get some boots but I told her that you can walk in snow in tennis shoes. But she told me boots make it easier and your feet don't get cold. I came home for Thanksgiving and told my mom I need some boots."
"I have learned more up here. It is a good thing to get a little farther away from home. My dad back home always told me to go somewhere far when I go to school so when your parents want to come visit they can say `we are going to see our son in another state, have fun here.' So it is one of those things were they can visit places where I play. Being up here, my mom has never been to Wisconsin so she is going to travel to the Wisconsin game this year. She is getting to see other parts of the United States that she has never been to. So it makes it a win-win for everybody."
On his leadership role on this team:
"Leadership is a funny thing because there are two different ways to lead - by what you do on the field or being vocal off the field. Last year I was more of a leader on the field, but this year I have worked on being more vocal. Sometimes I have to fire the team up at practice when we are doing blitz pick-up drill and we aren't doing too well. So when our group is done, the 1's will meet on the side and I'll talk to them about it."
"I feel like the better I play, the more confidence they are going to have in me. Just like James Hardy playing so well over the past year. As a result, he has more of a say in the wide receiver corps and is the leader. So the better I play, the more responsive the team is going to be to me. And if they know I am giving 100 percent then there is a better chance of them giving 100 percent as well."
"Just being the vocal leader wasn't me last year, even though I made some big plays and had some good games, I still felt like it was still the seniors' team last year. This year I feel like it is more my team because a lot of guys on the team are returning guys that aren't seniors."