Head coach and the Hoosiers open Big Ten play Saturday at Northwestern.
Sept. 25, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head football coach Kevin Wilson met with the assembled media at his weekly Tuesday afternoon press conference. Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell and co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler also discussed Saturday's Big Ten opener against Northwestern.
Below is a partial transcript:
"Northwestern, I think you know the record, before last week they were the only team to have won three games over BCS opponents. They're 4-0, so it'll be a good challenge going up there. We have talked for a long time, with our team, about improving and playing better in Big Ten games. This is our first challenge and it's a road challenge. We have been on the road once, but it will be a good opportunity to go up there and see if we can make an improvement in all three phases. You look at these guys real quick, they're making a really good commitment in running the ball, playing exceptionally well. They're doing a little bit of two-back, even in their shotgun game, but some downhill running. They're using their one back (Venric Mark) and giving him space. He's awfully good. He's one of the premier returners in the game, not only in the Big Ten, but in the country, so he's an impact player, makes plays. They're playing two quarterbacks, one of which is Kain Colter, who we know played last year. A combination quarterback-receiver, who plays quarterback and is excellent. As a quarterback, not only can he throw, but he has running ability. They actually play three offenses. They've got a one=back running game, with what they do and with their running back and what Mark can do for them, and then what Kain does out there. There's some split-back, old school veer. Then with Kain and their other quarterback (Trevor Siemian), there's some traditional passing, so they put a lot of stress on you defensively. As an offensive coach, I enjoy watching their offense because I think they do well and they're really good on the offensive line. Defensively, they made some nice strides from a year ago. I think they're one of the better teams in our league in run defense. Coach (Pat) Fitzgerald, being an old linebacker, kind of positioned the linebackers and safeties so that they're going to stop the run and get you one-dimensional. They've played really well during the last few weeks, not only against South Dakota, but previously against Vanderbilt and previously against Boston College, by not only shutting it down but getting it one-dimensional. They also kick it well. Their return game is good, their game against Boston College is 15-13, they put you down to the two. They're playing well in all three phases.
"They do a lot of things that I like in building a program. Pat was there with Coach (Gary) Barnett and they kind of flipped it. Coach Barnett coached there for seven seasons. They had two really good winning seasons where they won the championship and co-championship. When Coach (Randy) Walker came in I was a part of that. Pat came in at the tail part of that and I think he's got a little bit of Coach Barnett's thoughts with some of Coach Walker's thoughts on how to run the program - play good defense, stop the run, kick it well. They've won a boatload of close games for a long time. They've got a nice thing going on up there, so it's a good challenge. At the same time, we're talking our team. We're a young team that's getting better. Let's get back to us now, practices are positive and the kids are having fun. We didn't get a result a couple of weeks ago, but our team gets better every day. We're practicing every day, we're getting stronger, gaining weight, we're practicing faster, we're getting more physical, we're gaining as a team, recruitment is going better, and every day is getting better for us and our program. We're going up to Evanston. Excited to be on the Big Ten as a kick-off game ... and we're challenging our team to play Big Ten football. You came to Indiana to play in the Big Ten. The schedule is not going to change. We're going to play our division, we'll play Michigan State, we'll rotate a couple out of that Legends division. We're trying to teach our guys to be competitive and play winning football. Great challenge against Northwestern, a team this week that I ranked in my Top 25, because if you're 4-0, I've got a lot of respect going to that place. I coached there, I stand here today because of what those kids did for us in 2000, and so you have to respect the school, respect the place and at the same time I've got a lot of respect for what we're doing, doing our thing, and taking our thing up there and having a great game in Evanston. I think it'll be a lot of fun and I think our kids are looking forward to a great challenge."
On preparing for Northwestern:
"I think it's a little different, but the one comment I did share with our defense is that if you're truly an option team, or like Northwestern who runs a lot of option in their package, we have probably spent as much time as most people working on it. I've used that as a positive for the offense, how to play at a low-pad level, work on cut-blocking, so I don't think it's been a detriment for the offense, trying to take that into our linemen, trying to come off the ball. As much as we pass, you can get high and have a high-pad level and you're still going to have leverage on every block, leverage on every pass block, but when you pass so much, you start playing high. I've tried to take that even as an offensive opportunity to improve us, but defensively it is different. It's more of a two-back than a three-back. But there are some premises on closing on the dive, who's got the quarterback, who's got the pitch and again, it's still a difficult thing to do, but they run it off pretty well. We've been working on defense every day this week, but we're working on it more this week because we're going to see it. Typically we just splash it real quick, we use it in non-game weeks to emphasize, but this week we're doing it a little bit every day because we're going to see it out of these guys, because they do it really good."
On Northwestern's offense this season vs. last season:
"Other than their commitment to being a little more physical in running the ball and running the defense, they've made some commitment in the running game. The quarterbacks can throw the ball well, but I think with (Dan) Persa last year, Dan being a little bit more experienced, they probably did that a little bit more. But once they get in the rhythm and get going they can get their running game going and it all starts with a group that no one talks a lot about, they really play well at the line of scrimmage. Last year they completely controlled the game from their offensive point of view and kind of worked us well, so it will be a good challenge. I don't know if they're radically different. Their schemes are similar. They've advanced and added a wrinkle or two, it looks like each week, but to me it just looks like they're just trying to continue to play tougher, stronger, more physical. You can see it each week as they play. You see their offense getting a little better. You see their defense getting better, but I see that from my own team as well. I just think it's the process of the season and the way they do things. I don't think it's dramatically different."
On Northwestern running back Venric Mark:
"He's got really good speed, but I think for a fast guy he's learned how to maybe pace some things and let the blocking happen and then accelerate and pace through the mesh, and you've got a common read and then you stick it. You make one cut, get behind your pads, and you use your speed. A lot of that too is giving credit to their line play. They have big strong guys in their lines. They do a great job with developmental work. We're talking to our guys about gaining weight weekly and getting stronger weekly, even during the season. I know that's their process because I was a part of that in player development. He's a smaller guy and can't be seen behind those big guys, but he's got great speed and I think as he's matured he's a little bit better between the tackles and getting north and south and getting more downhill instead of sideways all of the time."