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Ryan Bates | So. | Offensive Lineman
Q. So I would like to compare and contrast the attitude and the confidence in your locker room leading up to last year's Ohio State game compared to where you are right now, the self-belief, the inner confidence, how would you kind of compare the two time frames?
RB: I feel like this year we have a whole lot more confidence than we did going into the game. If I remember correctly last year, I'm trying to think, what games we played before Ohio State. Coming off the bye week, last year we lost twice, we lost, devastating loss to Pitt and devastating loss to Michigan. I feel like last year we needed a game to turn around our season and I feel like that was the game to make a statement. This year we're doing really well and going into the game, I feel like we're on top of the world, but we have to do the same thing we do each week: watch film, practice, prepare as we prepare every game. We're preparing for the Super Bowl.
Q. Follow-up question about confidence. How does that manifest itself on the field? How, what's different out there when you're believing in yourselves the way you guys are now?
RB: Playing football, confidence is the biggest thing you can have really. If you're not confident in yourself, then who is going to believe in you if you don't believe in yourself really?
Q. What do you expect Ohio State's defensive approach to be?
RB: I feel like they're going to be aggressive. Every defense we have played this year, we have gotten a whole lot of blitzes, and they try to disrupt our option, our RPO's. I feel like every game we played so far we have gotten a lot of pressure. and that's what I'm expecting from them.
Q. What did you see from Will Fries when you reviewed the game, he's obviously on the opposite side from you, but it seemed like he grew up a lot last week.
RB: Absolutely. I feel like he played a really good game last week. He's really progressing into a good player. I think he's going to be a good player here.
Q. What do you remember from last year when they put four defensive ends on the field and really came after the quarterback the way they do on third and longs?
RB: That's what they do on third and longs they run that “outlaw” look. What outlaw is they put two or three tech's, two fives and they put four defensive ends in and it's kind of like their pass rush package. And they put [Nick] Bosa in there, they put Tyquan Lewis in there, Sam Hubbard in there, they're all four very good defensive linemen and, yeah, it's hard to block, but I feel like we're going to do really good against them this year.
Q. How do you guys go through film when you have four different defensive ends like that that are going probably going to be picked pretty early in the NFL draft and they all have contrasting styles to an extent?
RB: We prepare the same way. The same way we would do any defensive lineman. Last week we played [Chase] Winovich, Rashan Gary and [Maurice] Hearst. I mean he's probably the best defensive lineman we're going to play this year, he's an unbelievable player. But same, we got to do the same thing we do every week, prepare the same way we would.
Q. You had offers from Ohio State and Michigan, right?
RB: I did, yeah.
Q. Did you meet [Ohio State head coach] Urban [Meyer] and [Michigan head coach Jim] Harbaugh and what are your memories of those two guys?
RB: I did not meet any of the two. I committed here before I could even get a chance to take a visit to either school.
Q. What's your impression from a far of an Urban Meyer?
RB: I don't know the guy, I can't tell you. I don't know him. I can't tell you my impression. He's a football coach, I know that. He coaches for Ohio State. That's what I know about him.
Q. What if I told you that he was 21-1 after bye weeks.
RB: I couldn't care less. Honestly, I mean we're going to play how we play and I'm confident in our team and how we play versus how they play.
Q. Do you feel that the offensive line played its best game of the year last week?
RB: Best game of the year for the offensive line? I'm not sure. I know last week we played really well. I'm not sure if it's the best one we played all year. There are always corrections we have to make. After the game, you watch film and you see the mistakes you made on technique and the mental errors you made if you blocked the wrong guy, there's always places to grow.
Q. Also, the pendulum swings pretty wide versus home and road performance when you go back, you guys clocked Iowa here last year, ended up in a really tough game, the next week they beat Michigan out there. I mean there's a bunch of different examples. How do you guys adjust for the level of emotion on the road versus maybe what you have built-in at home?
RB: Every practice we have these giant speakers outside on the practice fields and we blast music with them to help us prepare for away games. I think that us playing Iowa this year at Iowa they had the “stripe out” and it was a night game and it was loud. I couldn't hear myself think let alone hear [quarterback] Trace [McSorley] make some calls. Honestly, I think that if we could play the way we played versus Iowa in that environment, I think we can play anywhere.
Q. Where did the bye week help you guys most from allowing 13 tackles for loss at Northwestern and then just seven on Saturday?
RB: When you have two weeks to prepare for one team and you have all that time to prepare for one team, you have time to watch film every day and it helps. Especially playing a team like Michigan.
Q. Did the preparation help from the bye week versus physical reps or rest or?
RB: The bye week also helps with rest a lot. A bye week is a good opportunity for young guys to get a lot of reps and to progress into the players that they're going to be. But also mentally you take some time, take a lot of time to watch film, see what they do, schematic-wise, and it's a good opportunity to learn the team. You have two weeks to do it.
Grant Haley | Sr. | Cornerback
Q. Coach mentioned how different your personality is with [Jason] Cabinda and with Marcus Allen. It’s the difference in your guys' personalities that has kind of defined the defensive culture. Can you elaborate on that?
GH: I think a video on Twitter or something the other day, Jason kind of put it perfectly - we mesh together well. Jason's that vocal leader, I'm more of the lead by example guy, and Marcus kind of combines the both like with his character and his goofiness.
Q. Does it make it easier for you to kind of be who you are and be a quieter guy when you have those louder personalities around knowing they have those aspects handled?
GH: Yeah, I think it is a lot easier. We have great guys, Marcus, Jason, and me as leaders, and we have not only us but we have a huge bunch of upperclassmen and seniors that take those leadership roles. So when you have a mature team that has a bunch of leaders, like seven seniors on starting on defense, I think that takes us a very long way.
Q. James Franklin was joking that J.T. Barrett's been at Ohio State for 16 years. You have gone up against him a few times. What have you kind of gained from game-planning him, I guess the fourth time now, and how familiar are you with J.T.?
GH: I think that he's a great leader. He's obviously one their top quarterbacks and leaders on the team and he's a very mature guy. He's going to give everything he has every single play and we understand that he's a running quarterback, we have to keep him contained and he's feeling confident right now in his passing game and running game. I think he's only thrown one interception. So we need to be able to cause turnovers and kind of get him on his heels a little bit.
Q. Going back to the leadership that you have, Marcus and Jason, can you take us through when each of you stepped up into those roles do you think when you all came in together and then to where you are now?
GH: I think for Jason it was kind of as soon as he stepped on campus. He has that presence and when he comes in the room you can feel his presence type of leadership. And Marcus, he's been a guy that he's got a lot of character to him, so it's grown over the years. And for me, I've always been a guy that I just keep my head down and just do my work and just lead by example, but I think over the years we have all become more vocal leaders, especially now that we're seniors and taking the big control of our defense.
Q. It's been a year, do you have an estimate of how many times you've watched that kick return and can you still believe how fast that holder was?
GH: Don't really watch it that much anymore. It's been a year, so kind of moving on and getting excited for this upcoming game this week.
Q. Going back to that moment for you, scoring the touchdown, momentum in Penn State's direction, it seems like momentum has sustained in your direction for Penn State all the way to where we are now. Can you describe kind of the growth of confidence and kind of belief within your locker room since that win against Ohio State so facing them now again?
GH: Yeah, I think it was a huge win for our program and obviously it gave us confidence throughout the season, and the last year and kind of even coming into this year. We just needed that really one game where we were able to go against a top team and come out victorious. I think that after each week we just kept believing in each other more and more and you can just see the locker room, coaches always talk about the leadership and the teamwork starts in the locker room and the coaches are there to just help us with that. So I think it just translated from the field to the locker room, back and forth, and it's just really given us that confidence and leadership and maturity that we have today.
Q. As a guy who has played ever since you were a true freshman here, I'm curious, have you developed competitive relationships with certain opponents maybe all across the Big Ten and if so, how have those competitive relationships developed for you? Do you sense maybe receivers are respecting you a little bit more than what they would have as a freshman when maybe they don't obviously know who you are and haven't seen you play or played against you?
GH: I don't think I've ever, or we as a team have ever looked at it like any opponent as more than the other. Coach Franklin does a good job of praising each team we play each and every week and having the mindset of going 1-0. But I think that as a secondary and as a defense, and the success that we're having this year, I think people are seeing that and respecting us more. If we don't let that get to our head and we just keep our head down and do the dirty work that [defensive coordinator Brent] Pry reiterates every single week to us.
Q. Besides the hyper-speed tempo that they want to go at, what are the primary differences between this offense and the one you played a year ago?
GH: I think they have more, a lot of younger guys on that team then last year and I think that they're playing confident right now, there's a lot of speed, and they have got a great running back, one-two punch going on right there. Obviously with J.T.'s leadership at the helm of the team he's really taken control of that offense and they're playing some really good football right now.
Q. Is it fair to say you keeping that speed in front is a focal point this week, or do you expect that in the coming practices?
GH: Yeah, one of our goals for defense is not to give up a certain amount of big plays, and if we contain an offense this amount of big plays, then usually we're going to like the outcome. I think that's what we're going to focus on this week and keeping everything in front, not getting beat deep, not giving up those big runs, because you never want those big plays because it gives an offense momentum and confidence as the game goes on.
Q. You spend a fair amount of time in nickel. What have you seen so far from film on Parris Campbell? I'm guessing you're going to spend a fair amount of time matched up against him?
GH: He's a fast guy with the ball in his hands. I was looking at him, he ran track in high school. Ran a 10.7 in the hundred. He's playing with confidence and they're going to get the ball to him any way possible. A lot of bubble screens, a lot of crossing routes, any way to get the ball in his hands so he can make plays. He's athletic and he has a lot of confidence right now, and confidence is one of those things that, as you keep making more plays, you just keep rising and rising. So it's going to be a good challenge for me and for our defense, and I think one the best things about our defense is we're up for any challenge and up for this opponent this week.
Q. You talked about having different styles of leadership than Marcus and Jason. How does your specific leadership style benefit the team?
GH: I think that sometimes -- we have different people on our team, people respond to different leaders in different ways. Some people don't like the “rah-rah” type of leadership, and other people just kind of sit back and just kind of watch people and see what helps them be successful, can help their own personality be successful. So I think as a guy that's lead-by-example, I am able to be somebody that people can watch how I do on and off the field, and kind of reiterate that and hopefully they can see that there's ways to be successful by not just being loud or a “rah-rah” type of guy as well.
Q. DaeSean said something about requesting a JUGS machine be brought over so the receivers could get some work in on Saturdays here before the game, at halftime or whatever it may be. Do you guys get involved with that as well, or do receivers have a monopoly on that?
GH: I think the receivers and the corners and safeties have done a great job working together with catching JUGS, and in the summer and catching JUGS throughout the week. I see the receivers catching balls before games, and I see the secondary and the defense catching balls too before the game, as well. So I think that we have got that mindset of creating turnovers and them making big plays. So I think it's gone hand in hand with the work we put in the spring, the summer and even throughout the season.
Q. I'm curious when you have a big moment in a big game like that and you're coming into another big game against Ohio State, how do you manage your emotions to not let that get the best of you or do you use that to your advantage and kind of think about what happened last year and bring that into the game this week?
GH: I don't think I use last year as any advantage for me. I think that our coaches do a great job of keeping us level-headed, keeping us focused, keeping the outside world away from us in terms of like social media and TV. So I think that we're a mature group of guys, so I think that having guys like [DaeSean Hamilton], guys like even Trace [McSorley] and Saquon [Barkley], leaders on offense and leaders on defense, I think people can just reiterate the message of what we want to do each and every week.
Q. Are you guys having more fun out there or in the celebrations or anything? Is anything different for you guys compared to last season?
GH: I think that we're definitely having more fun. Obviously winning is fun, so when we go out there we're just happy to be around each other. I think that this group, this team and this group of guys they really do love each other on and off the field. I think that's special. It starts in the locker room and we have a great time on and off the field. So I think that the locker room translates to the field as well.