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Nov. 3, 2009
University Park, Pa.; -
Q. Can you compare how Terrelle Pryor is playing this year compared to how he played last year?
I think they've done some things a little differently in the offense to take advantage of his tremendous ability. He started a little bit slow, to be frank with you, but the last few games he's been very, very overpowering, really. He's running well, he's throwing the ball well deep. I think he's improved. He has improved, but he was pretty darn good as a freshman and he's better as a sophomore and will continue to get better, because they do a good job. They do a good job coaching and he's got some young people at the wideout to begin with, and they lost Robiskie and a couple of other kids, and the kids now are starting coming around so, he's playing well and they're playing well.
Q. What do you think is the key to Saturday, keeping Terrelle Pryor in the pocket or not allowing the big play to the Buckeyes in the kicking game?
Well, I think we've got to do both. I don't think one is a bigger challenge than the other, I think we have to do both. Not necessarily keeping Pryor in the pocket but it's a question of being able to have some kind of control so that we can play some decent defense. Because if you don't do something to at least slow him down, you're never going to be in the ballgame. As far as the kicking game goes, you make a couple of mistakes in the kicking game, and that will beat you, so I think both things are important to us.
Q. Is Sean Lee basically back to a full week of practice now, and how do you think he handled the added snaps in the Northwestern game?
I thought he did well and he seems to not to have had any after-effect. We practiced yesterday and he was fine, so I would think if he's not 100 percent he's awfully close. I think his stamina is getting better, I think he's getting more confidence in how hard he can go for a longer period of time. So I think he's made good progress and I think our medical people and Sean ought to feel pretty good about the way things have gone. Having said that, you always are scared to death because you put...He's doing well. I ought to just keep my mouth shut after that.
Q. What makes it difficult to get sustained drives, field position and scoring opportunities and points against Ohio State's defense?
I think the problems are obvious. They're a very, very good defensive football team. We've got to be precise, we've got to mix-up things. We can't have foolish penalties, all of the things you've got to do in order to be able to compete against a good football team. I think your premise is Ohio State's defense is very good, and you're absolutely right on that; it's one of the better defensive teams in the country. They run really well, they're disciplined, they hit hard, strong, so you just have to have a balanced attack and you have to take advantage of any opportunities that you may get, but don't think we're going to go in there and dominate the ball game offensively; nobody has done that really yet.
Q. It seems like you haven't had a whole lot of production from your punt return game this season. Are you satisfied with how things are going there? What are your thoughts on that?
I think that a lot of it is...you've got to look at the punters we've been against. Last week at Northwestern, the kid isn't quite as good of a punter as a couple of kids we worked against, even Eastern Illinois had a great kicker, so I think that's part of the reason we haven't had a lot of big returns. But we did block a punt Saturday, even though we...I mean, we're doing okay. We're getting better but I do think part of it is because of the quality of punter, and Saturday the wind was a big factor. When they kicked into the wind it was tough to really get the kind of opportunities that you get if they outkick their coverage or they have to hustle on every play. It was a tough, tough day to get much out of the kicking game. But I do think you've got to give the people who have kicked against us credit.
Q. Jared Odrick seems to play just as hard on the first play of the first quarter as he does on the last play of the fourth quarter. Can you talk about him? How does he compare to any defensive tackle you've had in the past?
He's right up there as far as his performances. I think he's done a terrific job and I've said before I think that he may be kind of an unknown factor sometimes. He's played really well, he's a great leader on the field, and he reminds me a lot of the good ones we've had, Matt Millen who played defensive tackle for us, is the same kind of guy; he is a guy doing color (TV analyst) these days. We had guys like Mike Reid and Steve Smear and people going down through the years; we've had good defensive tackles, and Odrick would be right up there with them.
Q. Can you talk about the progress of Derrick Moye? Is he coming along faster than you anticipated?
Well, you guys, you're watching....he's doing really well. You see the same thing I see. He's a big kid that can run and he's a good competitor. He does a heck of a job blocking. I think he's getting better all the time, which should happen as he has the kind of success he has been getting. I think he's doing really well and he's obviously a very, very strong factor in the outcome of our football games.
Q. In 2005 season, at about this time, you started publicly stating that you think Michael Robinson should be talked about in the conversation for the Heisman (Trophy). With Daryll Clark, would you be willing to say the same thing about him now, especially if you win Saturday and he comes up big? Should he be in the Heisman conversation?
I've tried to say time and time again without...I think Daryll Clark has been an outstanding performer for us. It's hard to compare. I don't see all the other guys that people are talking about all the time. Every week it's a new list, from what I hear. I don't know. You turn on the tube, to get some sleep, and there are a couple of guys up there talking about, "Let's hear your Heisman Trophy list," and whose list is this and that. Daryll Clark is one heck of a football player. As I've said, again, as I've said about Odrick, I'm not sure he's (Clark) getting the kind of acclaim he should get. Where does that put him in a so called Heisman race? I don't know. But I do think we've got some games to play, and I think so do the other people, and I think at the end of the year somebody can...whoever does the deciding, they can vote and make their decision. But he's a heck of a football player, he's been a great leader, great competitor, and I hope he gets his due.
Q. I was wondering, are there any players on defense that have really surprised you by how much they've developed this year to this point or how well they've played to this point?
We knew (Brandon) Beachum was a good football player. I think (Navorro) Bowman has played really well, and we have (Sean) Lee back, obviously, but Lee hasn't surprised anybody. I think (Ollie) Ogbu maybe. Ogbu has been a little better than I thought he would be, and the (Jack) Crawford kid. I think those two kids have really done a good job, particularly Crawford, because he has not played a lot of football in his lifetime. Ogbu has really become a firey competitor, and I think has been a little bit of a surprise, to me. Now I don't think Larry Johnson, who coaches him, would say the same thing because Larry has always been one of his boosters.
Q. During a given season do you pay any attention at all to what is going on in the rest of the conference, like the way Iowa continues to win games in the fourth quarter, or do you consider all of that just a distraction?
I try not to let it be a distraction. We played late Saturday. It was 3:30 Chicago time, which was 4:30 Eastern Time, and I got to watch the second quarter (of Iowa-Indiana), not the entire second quarter, in the hotel room waiting for the bus to take us to the stadium. I watched part of that, and it looked as if Indiana might sneak by them but that that's about the only thing I've really, really watched. Ohio State, as soon as I could, I wanted to get a look at their game against New Mexico State and I looked at...since then I've looked at a couple of other Ohio State games, but you've got to fight yourself to just concentrate on the next football game. And it's not easy sometimes, it's not easy, because there is so much football on television, and you're tempted if you're not careful to spend more time away from the goal that has to be prominent for that particular week. You have a tendency, if you're not careful, you get caught up in what somebody else is doing. I try not to get distracted if I can help it.
Q. Ohio State closes with you guys and Iowa and Michigan, which would seem to be its toughest stretch of the season. Last week against New Mexico State they tried an onside kick early in the game, recovered it, and not long after they did a double reverse pass for a touchdown. Seems to me that if they had tricks in their trick bag they might have held them for this week or one of the last two games. Do you think maybe they were trying to give you something else to think about?
Well, when you start questions, "it seems to me," well, if it seems to you, that's fine, that it seems to you. That's not asking me a question. I don't have the slightest idea. I know that they tried an onside kick. I know they recovered an onside kick, I thought they did it very well. The kicker dribbled the ball and he got on top of it and obviously the New Mexico State kids weren't expecting it, all right? And they were successful with it. Whether that's trying to send a message or not, ask (Jim) Tressel when you get him on a press conference, all right? And you tell him "it seems to you" that he did a good thing.
Q. Could you give us an update on Stephfon Green, and how did you think Beachum played kind of in his place as a second teamer last week.
Beachum is a good football player. He's not a flashy football player, but Beachum could play...he would be a heck of a linebacker. He was a heck of a high school linebacker. He played fullback, good blocker, and he's a good tailback. He's not the explosive runner that Green is. Green practiced yesterday, and I'm anxious to see how he does today. If the ankle is going to act up on him, we'll see. Green has that ability to go all the way, Beachum is not quite that kind of back, but he's strong and he finds the right hole, he's patient, and he catches the ball well, so Beachum is a good football player. Is he a great tailback, is he a great this or that? I don't know. But he's certainly a solid performer.
Q. Following up on Daryll Clark, over the last five weeks especially, has he made any adjustments since the Iowa game that helped him get the success or is it a reflection of the offense overall?
No, I resent that question, to be frank with you. I've said several times I thought he played a heck of a game against Iowa. I don't think our getting licked by Iowa had anything to do with Daryll's performance. He throws a pass that the guy should have caught and he doesn't, and the ball slips through his hands and they intercept it and run it back down, we don't cover, they block a punt...we were playing against a fine defensive football team, you can't do those things. We had some silly penalties. No, I think Daryll Clark has played well all year. I would not qualify his performance by saying, "well, we lost to Iowa." It was not his fault we lost to Iowa, he played a heck of a game.
Q. Drew Astorino was the only safety with experience you had coming back this year. Why did you play him at strong safety versus free safety? And what about him lends him to that particular position?
I think our football team is better with him at strong safety because we can get him involved in more things than we can at free safety, and (Nick) Sukay had not played a lot, the first year he's played, and he was an unknown factor and we didn't know if we had a free safety. So I think that Astorino in the position we have him in, he can be involved in more plays and have more leadership impact, and I think that's worked out pretty good.
Q. Can you compare and contrast your coaching style with Jim Tressel's?
My coaching style with Jim Tressel's? Come on. Jim has done a heck of a job everywhere he's been. He did a heck of a job at Youngstown State, won that division's championship several years, done a heck of a job at Ohio State, he's been the winner or co winners of the Big Ten for the last four or five years. No, I'm not going to compare myself. Heck, I'll compare your writing with somebody else's writing if you want me to do that, or something like that, but that's not...I think Tressel is a heck of a coach, and I think his staff is, he's done a great job out there.
Q. You've played big games against Ohio State in the past. With Iowa undefeated in the conference it kind of boils down to an elimination game for either team this week. I was wondering what kind of stakes you are putting on this game?
The consequences of winning or losing are obvious to everybody, but you can't go at it that way. We've got to concentrate on doing the best we can against Ohio State. It's not going to be an easy situation for us because they are solid. They are very, very solid, and they've gotten better and I keep referring to the fact that they're doing a heck of a job coaching. So I think we've got to just say, "let's play it," "let's go out there and have a little fun," and "let's not beat ourselves," as I've tried to all the time...no dumb penalties, don't put the ball on the ground, no blunders in the kicking game, and afterwards what happens happens. I don't know what's going to happen after it.
Q. Coach, can you talk about Royster and his leadership abilities, especially with Beachum and Carter stepping up with Green injured?
I think Royster is a fine running back; I think that's obvious by his stats. We give him a little blocking and a little room, give him a crack...he's not the fastest guy, I don't think, in the league but he's a guy that can...he takes advantage of opportunities. So, I think that Royster is certainly a big league tailback. I think he's proven that over a couple of years. Again, I'm reluctant to start comparing him to this guy or that guy or something like that, but I think Royster does a great job for us.
Q. This is going to be the third or fourth time Matt Millen has done a game on TV this year. How enjoyable has it been for you to spend some time with him and reconnect with him after he was with the Lions and doing some other things?
How enjoyable? If Millen's listening, don't pay any attention to that, Millen. It's good to see any of the kids (former players), and Matt does a really good job. He did a great job when he was doing the color in the NFL, when he was doing pro football. Probably had a little bad luck in some decisions when he was the general manager of the Lions, but it's always good to see him. He's got two girls that go to school here at Penn State, he had a boy we talked to about recruiting and ended up going to West Point is now a (U.S. Army) Ranger. Graduated from West Point, is now a Ranger waiting to go overseas. Matt is a heck of a guy, still lives in Lehigh Valley and it's always good to see him.
Q. This week you've got a game with one of the top two defenses in the Big Ten. Do you expect a game similar to last year's?
I know you guys and the fans want to conject, and you guys have to have an angle, but I can't think that way. We've got to go in there and play our game. Whether it turns out to be a tight, tough game, it's going to be determined by a turnover as the game was last year when we got a turnover late in the game and made the drive to win the game, I have absolutely no way of knowing. You know, you never know what kind of field position you're going to have, you never know if we're going to make some mistakes. It was brought up earlier, the kicking game, you fumble a snap...(the) Northwestern kid fumbles a perfect snap from the center and still makes a first down out of it, so I don't go into games with that kind of an approach. I go into games, we've got to do ours, play after play after play, and when we run defense we've got to hustle on every play, and we can't give 'em this and we can't give 'em that and the whole bit. What comes out, comes out. I just hope we're competitive enough and we're adaptable enough that we can take advantage of whatever circumstances present themselves.
Q. Obviously a big game. I was wondering if your approach to a week like this, you know, if it's altered at all in terms of the hoopla and the excitement of a week like this? How do you handle that versus the course of the season?
Well, I really try not to change much. Whether you have a little more bounce in the practice field, maybe you yell a little more, I don't know. Probably the squad could probably tell you better about that. But I try to just...my concern is always with practice, regardless of who we're playing. Are we working too hard? Are we practicing too long? Do they look tired? Are we going to have our bounce? Do we know what we're doing? And I try to have those same thoughts every game. Now, you've got to get into some kind of pattern. The kids go to class, they come to the field, they have a breakdown meeting with their position coach, they get on the field, this is going to happen first, this is going to happen second, so you're not wasting time and they're comfortable. If all of the sudden you start changing things because you're playing this club as opposed to that club, I don't think that's productive. So we...I think we practice exactly the same. Now, as I said, whether there is a little bit more thrust, enthusiasm, emotion in the way we teach things or whether we...my involvement in it and so forth, not knowingly, but I think the kids could probably tell you better than I could on that. I try not to do it.
Q. Switching gears, I was wondering, with Iowa, and the things that they've accomplished so far and you've gone on record saying you don't vote, but the polls do help determine some of these bowl opportunities. Do you second guess that at all or do you think you should vote when you have another conference team that, you know, you could help or your own team that you could help?
Well, they told me I couldn't vote. I wanted to. I voted a couple of years ago when we had three undefeated teams, and I said I can't vote for one and two, and I voted for Auburn as one of the three teams. They were all undefeated. They called me up...I've told you this story, they called me up and said "you've got to vote." I said, "I can't vote," I did vote. "These are the three teams I think deserve to be number one," and got a call from the head of the USA (Today), a call from the head of the AFCA, "you've got a vote." (The) next year, I'm not one of the voters.
Q. I thought you voluntarily stopped voting.
No, I didn't. I just said, I told 'em I was not going to be told who to vote for, which may have eliminated me, but what's the difference? I'm not going to worry about that.
Q. Heading into a big game like this, do you consider it a benefit to have been through the adversity that Northwestern game presented last week?
Well, we didn't do some things as well as you would like against Northwestern, hopefully you learn from that, but I don't know. I really don't. I would think every game you play you learn something, particularly some of the younger kids that have had to come to the front. We played a true freshman kid, (Stephon) Morris a lot, he played maybe 60 plays on defense against Northwestern, against a good passing attack. Played a kid (Curtis) Drake, he got in there, a true freshman. Any of those kids get in there, obviously it's a good experience for them. Whether some of the older guys that have been around it, you know, maybe they got a little careless, I don't know, but we didn't play a great football game against Northwestern, but we did what we had to do to win it. I think anytime you play a game you learn something from it or you're blind.
Q. As it stands now, even if Iowa were to go undefeated they may not play in the championship game and Ohio State has had some trouble on the national stage in big games in recent years. Does the conference's reputation around the country, does that bother you at all? Do you pay much attention to that at all?
Well, I think...if I had my way, as I've said several times, I would expand the conference so we could be in the same kind of...were involved in the similar calendar as these other schools are. You know, we're sitting home. We'll be sitting home for two, three weeks, everybody else in the country will be playing. Southeastern Conference will be playing for their championship, the Big 12 will be playing for their championship, and everybody will be watching those people. And last year when we had to go to a bowl game, you know, Southern Cal played two or three games after we had, going out there. We didn't play very well, and they gave us a good lickin' and I think that didn't help the conference. But Iowa went down and beat a pretty good South Carolina...was it South Carolina they beat and won the bowl game? I think it's hurt us some, yeah, I think it's hurt us some, but I think it's obvious why, obvious why. We just have...we've backed out of the national scene after this Saturday...I mean the (Nov. ) 21st, that's the last Saturday we play in the league.
Q. You mentioned Jack Crawford as a guy who surprised you on defense this year. What specifically surprised you about him and can you recall another player you've had who had less experience than he did?
I don't think surprise is the word I would use, but I think I know where that was coming from. Who has been playing well you may not have expected to play well. He never played much (before coming to Penn State). How do you know what's going to happen? He didn't play football (until late) in high school. Prior to coming to this country he was a basketball player, soccer player, something else. So, you never know what's going to happen, yet he's been mature, he's handled problems that...where he's gotten hurt with different blocking schemes and maybe over-reacted and a couple of things, but he's learned and he's gotten to be a very good football player. I think that part...not necessarily is it a surprise, it's a pleasant experience to see a kid develop like that because he's tough and he's smart.