Kirk On the Side
Your tackles have missed a lot of time; are they coming around?
I think they are behind in that, I think we are seeing when they do struggle, it hasn’t been that much, but they are not at midseason form yet. We are working through it. Bryan missed three entire weeks, plus. Both he and Kyle missed significant time in camp, to the point where I don’t remember them being out there. I am sure they were for a while. That is why camp is so important; players get their timing down and smooth things out. The amount of work you do in season is minimal compared to what you do in camp and they are both playing catch up. I think they are both close to getting where we want to get and that will help us.
Can you accelerate that process, or do they just need to get more reps?
You can take them out Sunday and practice, but now you are being counter productive. I am a big one in season, where you have to be careful with the amount of activity players have. They are experienced, however. It’s more devastating when a younger player gets hurt in camp because it’s tough to catch up because they don’t have any baseline to catch up to. Both Bryan and Kyle have that.
Tony, he has had so many injuries and keeps coming back. Is that the kind of thing, the way he responds to adversity; that seeps to rest of team?
You would never know. I don’t live with Tony and hang out with him, but from my perspective you would never know what has gone on in Tony’s past; he has the same demeanor. I know he has been frustrated. He is human. He has not shown it and he has handled it well and he has kept looking forward. I think the way he has handled his hardships and the toughness he has displayed since he has shown up, he is really respected. The players respect that, and how he is more than what he has done.
A lot of people see the touchdown catches, but when you see the film what are little things that make him good?
He does everything well, and I don’t say that about a lot of players, but he does. I was alluding to the attention he will get in coverage and it will be that way the rest of the year; that opens up other things in the offense. That is what good players do. Shonn was the same way last year. If you were playing us you would try to take him out of the equation, and we do the same to other teams. You always want to try to neutralize people.
Cross, Flagg, Cook, Clark, where does Tony rank with the great Iowa tight ends you have been around?
Mike Flagg, I don’t know that I ever saw him drop a ball anywhere. He was always a favorite of mine. We have had some great tight ends here. Marv was a different kind of player but a great football player. Dallas Clark is totally different than Tony but a great player. Tony is the ultimate in terms of helping the running game but also being able to threaten you in the passing game. There are not many guys that come along like that. The common denominator is that all four made the team better. They gave an emotional lift to the team. That play against Michigan State in 1985 and he moved the pile like 10 or 15 yards. He was dragging everyone. Plays like that lift a team up. Dallas, take 20 of his plays. Just how he energized the team and the stadium. Good players do that and Tony is in that category.
What is Michigan State doing now vs late September?
They are playing cleaner. That’s it. They could have won any of those three games, so it’s not like they have played bad football. You clean up your play a bit and make more big plays and protect the football. The Central Michigan game, they had a penalty on the field goal, so Central got two kicks. It’s like us, we had to block two and it turned out OK. When you walk that fine line, it can get you. That is how we beat Minnesota in 1986. They are playing well now, like last year.
When the door shuts at halftime, you are doing position groups, and then the discussion starts?
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The coaches meet offensively and defensively as a staff, make a quick sweep through there and I will say a few words to the guys, then we go back and people are conferring one what we will do and the staff’s break out and present the material, and I talk for 30 seconds and we take the field. It’s teaching.
Saturday, it seemed like the running game and the defense did something different there.
It wasn’t radical, but it’s usually little things that hold you back. When you are playing a good team and you don’t take care of the little things, they become big things.
Is it stuff that guys upstairs see?
It’s everywhere. We always talk all game. We probably are at the bottom of the NCAA as far as coaches in the box. That is just our preference as a staff. It seems to be working. Our entire defensive staff is on the sidelines with a GA up above. It seems to work. I have seen it done both ways, but we talk a lot. And the players have a big voice in this. It’s not just us dictating, we want information from them and they have the best seat in the house.
You have a chance to make school history with eight wins to start a season. Do you think about that?
Someone told me that this morning. That would be nice. It would nice because it meant we won Saturday and that will be no easy task. I can assure you this, if the season goes well and we are off to a good start, I will have my feet up all Thanksgiving. You will have a hard time finding me because I will enjoy it. That is what that week is for. After 2006 it was a week to reflect about a lot of things. It’s more fun to reflect on positive things instead of negative. That is why I am mad about the bye week, because I won’t be able to put my feet up there in the coming years thanks to our Big Ten inertia, or thinking. Big Ten coaches.
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Has Daniel Murray reached a point where he has turned the corner?
I hope so. It’s like any position, there will be up and down. Ebb and flow. A lot of it is concentration. That was one of the big plays of the game on Saturday was that 48 yard field goal. Just like Amari, Tony, those were obvious. That field goal was a huge play in that game.
Still injured. It’s perplexing right now and he is still in a boot.
You joked about Wegher in a cast earlier; does Internet chatter ever bring harm to the team? Or game week prep? Or more of a nuisance?
I don’t get a lot of questions, but Lester brought that up last night. I started laughing. Some of the stuff that is out there, some of these rumors…the same thing happens in recruiting, some of the things. I read something recently that we were alleged to have said something to a prospect. None of us remembers saying that. It’s interesting how things get floated out there. That is one of the dangers of technology, I get. It’s not always better.
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Last year you said the book was not closed on the 2005 recruiting class. We are getting close now.
We are getting there. It’s a long race. It’s like a season, you never know until it’s over. In fairness to everyone involved, you need to wait. You have to be careful not to be too quick to judge anything.
Down the road, the Big Ten may front load the conference schedule for more marquee games, because you can’t play night games in November, as a conference rule. How do you feel about that possibility?
Whatever. If that is the case I hope we are in night games because we are doing well. My only request is that we need to shape a policy in terms of playing night games on the road in a year. I think that should be a discussion point. I didn’t think of it until they snuck that third one in on us. This one got snuck in. I knew about the first two.
Should there be a limit on night games?
I think you have to consent to play two road games at night. The option is fine, but I would have appreciated someone asking how we felt about this. I understand we are in a conference, and I am not trying to be a pain in anyone’s neck, but at least give me a call. I got one on them. My mind does deviate a bit, when they called to tell us when we were playing at Penn State, he said to promise him it won’t be a 6-4 game. I thought to myself ‘What if this game is 10-5?’ I did have that moment during the game. Every now and then I let myself have a laugh.
Do you get input on home night games?
Not really. They come to Gary (Barta) and he asks me how I feel. The last one was tough because it was homecoming, but it was great exposure for our state. I would play them all at night. That is not true, either. Those 11am games are nice. I was home by 8pm. It was like a week off.
Does this team compare to 1985?
Time will tell. All you have to do is go back to Saturday. Two teams, one team traveled to West Lafayette, one went to Boulder and played two teams that had one win apiece and they came out on the short side of the score. Those are great examples; there are no gimmees in college football. We’d like to think there are but there aren’t. Ohio State has good people and Kansas has done a good job and neither got it done. We watched Toledo beat Colorado handily. You have to be mindful that there are always landmines out there. We have a big one planted right in the middle of the field this week.