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Outback Bowl Media Day Coverage: Coordinators Press Conference

Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar speaks at media day on Tuesday in the Smith Auditorium.

Dec. 20, 2011

Video Coverage: Narduzzi | Roushar

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and offensive coordinator Dan Roushar met with reporters during Tuesday's Outback Bowl Media Day to preview the upcoming matchup against No. 18 Georgia.

Below are the complete transcripts from their press conferences:

Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi

Q. When you look at their offense what do you see?

Pat Narduzzi: You know, what sticks out most to me is obviously they're huge up front, pretty athletic, real good at the skill positions. The thing that sticks out to me most is they really get the ball out quick. First we thought it was three step. It's a real quick five passing game, so they don't really give you a chance to get much pressure on them, so we're going to have to be very careful with pressure because they'll beat you with the ball.

Their tailback doesn't even stay in the protect. He's going to free release all day long, so we're going to have to cover him up and get good four man pressure. That will be critical.

Q. Is your physicality an advantage for you?

Pat Narduzzi: I think so. We'll find out. It should be. Any time you're physical, it should be your advantage in any game really. I think that's key.

Q. With the linebackers when you look at the expectations, maybe just your expectations on the year and now looking at how they performed this year, would you say they far exceeded what you thought they were going to do this season?

Pat Narduzzi: You know, if I said far exceeded, that means I had no confidence in what they could do. As a matter of fact, Max Bullough after a press conference in the summer looked at me like I was crazy when I said I don't know, he's got big shoes to fill, we'll find out probably can't do it as well as Greg Jones did, and he looked at me like, are you nuts, I can do it better.

Our kids had confidence at linebacker, really at every position, but Max especially is one of those guys that looked at me like I can do this, Coach, don't worry about me. Again, they've done what they're supposed to do, and I'm fired up for them. They've done everything they needed to do. They've met expectations, I think.

Q. They have 12 different guys who have caught touchdown passes. How difficult is it to defend a team that has so many that spreads out the wealth so much?

Pat Narduzzi: Well, they're an 11 personnel lot, which means there's three receivers in the game. His favorite target is his tight end, probably his roommate. You'd have to ask them if they're roommates because they look like it and they went to high school together, so I'm assuming. It's difficult, but you know what, it doesn't matter how slow that guy is out there or how big he is, if he's a 300 pound wide receiver, you've got to cover them all, you can't say they're not going to throw to that guy because as soon as you don't cover it's tough anytime they line up with four or five receivers and go run a route, that's what they're going to do; they're going to have five quick receivers. They might as well line up on empty based on how much their tailback gets out on the route.

Q. Does that mean that you're going to have to play more five and six defensive backs on a frequent basis?

Pat Narduzzi: No, no, great question. We won't have to do that. We've got our outside linebacker on the field that's pretty athletic and he can play the run and the pass pretty well based on what he needs to do, so we feel pretty good with our base personnel. They're a no huddle offense, so if we would have to go five or six D backs, you struggle getting those guys in, then they'll snap the ball quick and get you with too many illegal participation. So that's one of our advantages to a no huddle is we don't have to switch our personnel.

Q. If you can just touch on your defensive secondary and how much they've really come along this season and their ability to make plays back there and really intercept the pass, something you weren't able to do as much last year.

Pat Narduzzi: Yeah, we've done a great job with turnovers, and obviously credit the pass rush with Coach Gill and Coach Tressel and Coach Barnett with the secondary. He's done a great job with them. Kids believe in what we're doing and they've made plays on the ball. There was a couple times we didn't make plays. I remember those more than ones we made.

They've done a great job. Trenton was the only senior we have back there. Isaiah Lewis has had a great year. And of course Johnny Adams and Darqueze (Dennard), who's back 100 percent right now. And Mitchell White has really had a great - I don't want to call it camp - but bowl practice, and he's stepped up and looked very, very good.

Q. Mark talked about Denzel Drone moving inside playing some defensive tackle, said you'd have to take a look. Obviously what's gone on? Anybody else you expected to take some reps inside?

Pat Narduzzi: The guy that's really looked good - and Denzel will have a chance to do some of that, but the guy that's really looked good is Micajah Reynolds. And again, like I've told you guys before, he's played a little bit of both. Denzel has looked good and Micajah has looked really, really good. He's looked the best he has playing inside. So guys sometimes step up when they need to, and I think he's ready to go.

Q. Last year even you talked about Denicos Allen and the plays he could make. This year he had 10 sacks, he talked about proving a lot of people wrong. He's not a very big guy. Do you think he's done more than even you expected this year?

Pat Narduzzi: You know what, again, we expect those guys to make plays...Denicos is an explosive kid and he's got an attitude to him and he's aggressive. He's had opportunities to make plays, and whether it's been a three man rush or a four man rush, he's made those plays. He's added in what he's supposed to add in; even if there's even coverage he'll add in. So sometimes you're in a good spot and things happen, and sometimes he's been in the right spot at the right time. But Denicos has done a tremendous job for us.

Q. Does Georgia run a lot of trick plays? Is that something you have to prepare for? Did they run a lot of trick plays during the year?

Pat Narduzzi: Yeah, they've got quite a few trick plays with reverses and that kind of thing. We've got a whole reel up there on what their trick plays have been the whole year and even all their trick plays from 2008 and a couple from 2010, as well. We'll be prepared for them all, but you can't practice them all. We'd exceed the 20 hours per week if we wanted to try to get that done. We know what their favorites are; we know who some of their trick guys are, who the reverse guys are, and we'll prepare that way.

Q. Following up on Reynolds, do you think that's ultimately where he's going to end up next season? And then also, just wanted to know if you've seen any other young guys, any spots yet or anyone that you're looking forward to seeing looking toward next year?

Pat Narduzzi: Well, Micajah's fate will be sealed. As a matter of fact, it's funny you ask that. Yesterday we just went into unit meeting, then we're breaking individually, going in with Coach Gill, and I grabbed (Micajah) by the shoulder and said, you know what, if you keep playing like that you'll never see the O line again, okay. So he's played exceptionally well, and really surprised us defensively because he's back and forth, and he's had great recall. So if he plays really, really good, the offense may not see him.

The day after he has a real good day, Coach Staten is like, man, we could really use him to get a few reps on offense. I said, sorry, you ain't getting him. So he's...not today or tomorrow, but he's really played well.

And then some of the young guys, again, there's been a bunch of them. We haven't had as many of those young day practices as we have in the past because of that championship week. But Lawrence Thomas stands out to me. He's a big, physical guy that had a chance for at least two days this week to step up and play. He's physical, gets the defense lined up, tough. He's done a nice job.

Ed Davis and Darien Harris are going to be three excellent linebackers for us, all three of those guys with LT. That is a good linebacking corps. I think I may have told you back in the fall, I don't think we missed on one kid on defense last year, so every freshman that came in I could say something about, whether it's Trae Waynes or R.J. Williamson, is going to be a great safety for us, and both those guys will play a lot for us next year, I can tell you right now.

And then on the defensive line, Damon Knox, every one of them, James Kittredge, Brandon Clemons, Shilique Calhoun, he gets in the other day against the one offense, and he's in two plays, he gets a sack. He's going to be a great player for us. So we've got a lot of guys here that have showed up, and they show up every day on the scout team. Our offense tells us about it. So we don't need a bowl practice to find out if those guys are players are not. They do it every day I hope.

Q. Your thoughts on their freshman running back Isaiah Crowell.

Pat Narduzzi: I think he's a very good football player. I've heard they've said it's open for competition. They've gone times during the year where they've put a DB back there, a tailback and receiver, but I think that guy is the guy. I'll be shocked if I don't see him in the starting lineup. He's fast, he's explosive, and I think he's a great football player.

Q. I know a lot of Georgia's receivers are young, and that was the case three years ago when you saw them, also. Can you compare the receivers this time to what you saw three years ago?

Pat Narduzzi: Well, they had one young guy three years ago, and that was A.J. Green. He was the baby. But Massaquoi if I recall was a senior, I think. So they had one older one and I think they both had just under 1,000 yards receiving. Those were their two go to guys. This year they've got more guys, they've got more depth there, but I don't know if they've got the talent of those two guys. Don't get me wrong, I don't know if they're first round, second round, but those were two excellent players. You don't see them being featured like A.J. Green and Massaquoi, but they're great players, and I'm sure they'll play at the next level, too.

Q. They've got a couple of NFL quality linemen out there. Is there anybody in the Big Ten that their offensive line reminds you of that maybe you've practiced kind of in that vein?

Pat Narduzzi: You know what, every offensive line is a little bit different. As we talked, when someone said they're considered the biggest offensive line in the country, I was like, they're bigger than Wisconsin? Are you kidding me? They're probably like a Wisconsin I would say, obviously size wise. They're strong; if they get their hands on you, they can put you on your back if you don't play with good leverage and good technique, so I would say probably like a Wisconsin.

I don't know if in the run game...they don't run the ball like Wisconsin so you don't see them trying to pound it at you like that. They run a lot more one back sets so their offense is not built like Wisconsin but they're big and strong like Wisconsin.

Q. Have you taken Isaiah aside since the game and talked to him a little bit? Also about the late play down the field, have you had any extra conversation with him to kind of get him over that game?

Pat Narduzzi: No. Coaches have a lot longer memories than the kids. He probably forgot it that night. His dad probably talked to him in the hotel and said...but Isaiah, he's 100 percent in, and Isaiah is doing whatever he can do to win, and that play was not his fault, period. And that's how it is. There's 11 guys on the field and I can point out two other guys that did the wrong thing on that play and Coach Tressel could tell you that, as well, that could have helped Isaiah.

Offensive Coordinator Dan Roushar

Q. I was going back over my notes at the start of the season and you talked about telling your guys you just wanted them to get better every day. My question for you is how have you gotten better every day?

Dan Roushar: Well, I think through the course of the season, I got a lot more comfortable with our system. I think the other thing that happened is I got a lot more comfortable with understanding what each guy does pretty well, and I think we started getting some continuity and consistency up front and really tried to play to the strengths of our football team.

Often times I think we think so much about scheme, how you might try to run a particular concept, and in doing so I think we also take into strong consideration who those guys are that are doing it. I think I've got a lot better there, and I thought our football team did, as well.

Q. Can you give us an update on Dion Sims, and by the bowl game will he be able to contribute in the passing game?

Dan Roushar: You know, his injury is still taking time to heal, and our understanding is this will take a number of months. He's still wearing a cast on his wrist, and so his skill set is not what it was. But he looks like he's more comfortable. In practices I've watched him the last few days, and really leading up through the last couple weeks in our preparation for the Big Ten Championship Game I could see some positive things there. You know, he's certainly getting work right now, and our hope is that he is very effective in the bowl game.

Q. I'm wondering philosophically if things change in a bowl game environment, you're playing a non conference team, there's nothing to save, they know your tendencies, does it affect how you call a game, and do you tend to be a little more wide open or surprising in that regard?

Dan Roushar: Well, you know, they have all 13 of our games as we have all 13 of their games, and they'll do their homework and their research, and they'll have a good understanding of what our tendencies are or aren't.

I think that going into a game like this, you want to create match ups that make it wide open. So I don't know if you'll see it a whole lot different than you did in the final game of the season, where we try to exploit some things and we want to put the ball in certain guys' hands and let them make plays for us. But you know, as we've gone into this week with our preparation, we've got some different ideas that we're going to see if we can't continue to refine, and if we're executing them at a high level, then you'll see them called in that bowl game.

Q. You touched on the continuity of your offensive line. How drastic was the difference maybe from the Notre Dame game or an earlier game in the season to the last four or five games of the year?

Dan Roushar: Really, I think when you look at us, I think two things really evolved. When Keshawn got healthy, we got a second receiver that got very involved, and that helped out dramatically. But also in addition to that, the offensive line, it was well documented that we had to replace three starters, but we lose Travis Jackson before the season, we lose Blake Treadwell in the Notre Dame game, and we lose Skyler Burkland in the Notre Dame game, and then you're re-developing - here's those kind of movements that you've got to make when you take a guy that's playing left tackle and you move him to right tackle and so on.

And I really think that through our open week, those guys started to develop, and to be able to put them out there each and every week, I think that was one of the biggest differences in our marked improvement as an offensive football team, that their ability to stay in there and work with one another. I think that you could see consistency. We didn't have nearly the breakdowns that we had early, and I think Mark Staten and the offensive line deserve a lot of credit for how well we improved through the last half of the season.

Q. Talk a little bit about Kirk Cousins and just how much you might miss him when he's gone.

Dan Roushar: Well, again, Kirk is such an outstanding person, and I think one of the biggest things when I look at it is, or misunderstandings, is that guy is one terrific quarterback. I mean, you look at what he did and how well he's throwing the ball and the things he's done each and every week, he's very impressive. He'll be missed greatly. We have some young guys that we're very encouraged by. Obviously they haven't gotten the experience.

But when you watch Kirk in practice and you watch B.J. Cunningham in practice, you see two guys that I think perform at an extremely high level, and what you see in practice you often times see in games. You don't see a whole lot different. I've been impressed with him. I'm watching him yesterday in practice and he came off of a third read and went to a fourth look, and he comes back over, and I just asked him, I said, how did you get there, and he very quickly gave me an unbelievable response.

You know, his experience, the things he's done, he'll be a tough guy to replace, there's no question about it.

Q. You touched on Keshawn a little bit, but getting him back healthy as you mentioned and having that extra weapon, how much has that helped the offense here in the second half and you guys with your ability to make some explosive plays?

Dan Roushar: It really has, I think, changed us. If you watched the first half of the season, we had Kirk throwing it to B.J., and we were trying to hand it to our tailbacks, and we probably weren't quite as proficient as we wanted to be for a lot of reasons. And then as Keshawn got healthy, that dimension that we all were looking for very early in the season started to evolve, and then I think our offensive staff, recognizing what he's been doing, has put him in a position where we can put him in the backfield, we can motion him back in. He has the ability to do so many different things. He's gained an awful lot of confidence.

In fact, my recollection after the Northwestern game, he made the comment that he felt like he was performing at a really high level, and you really see that in how he works. Even going back through practice these last three, four days, he's having a lot of fun, but he is playing at a very high level. His best football is still coming.

Q. What is the challenge of a 3 4 defense like this one when they have such huge linemen up front and their linebackers come from different areas, athletic linebackers? Is it good to have this extra time to get the line ready for that?

Dan Roushar: Well, you know, it's very difficult to duplicate exactly what we'll see. Their starting nose guard is 351 pounds, and the guy that they bring in behind him is probably 320 pounds. You know, that's going to be a challenge in itself. As I look at them, they're ranked third in the country nationally as a total defense. They are very, very good against the run, and when you become one dimensional, they can get after the quarterback. I think they're second or third in the Southeast Conference with I believe 34 sacks or something like that, so they present a lot of problems.

Some of it is their personnel, some of it is their scheme. They're very well coached. They have people in the secondary that can cover you. So when they go after you, they're in a position to still make plays on the ball.

But we have a great challenge in front of us, there's no question about it. They play 3 4 front, much like you see from the University of Iowa or you see from Notre Dame. So as we Michigan even was running a lot of that as we played them. I don't know if they changed after that. So we have carryover, we have similarity, but again, it's a different challenge, I guess in part because of the size of their people.

Q. Two things: If you would off the top talk about how the news of Arthur Ray hit you yesterday, and as an offensive line guy, even though you have a different role now, how pleased are you that this has all kind of come together when it looked four games into the season that this could implode because of injuries and whatnot?

Dan Roushar: Well, first of all, Arthur Ray, what a tremendous honor. To be recognized nationally - it's well documented all the things that he's gone through and what he's done, but if we all had his toughness and his perseverance and his passion for what he does, we'd certainly be in a greater place. I admire him so much, and what a tremendous honor.

The offensive improvement, I think...I don't know that he gets enough credit, but Mark Dantonio, last year, Big Ten Coach of the Year, a lot of honors, a lot of recognition, and since I've been with him, and I just say this from my personal standpoint, I thought it was his best job of coaching that I've ever been around. I don't think there were things that you saw on the outside but things that he did inside, from a motivation standpoint, from keeping us together, staying focused, staying positive and understanding that improvement was needed, and I thought our kids did that.

I think it's always been a trademark of Coach Dantonio's teams, we get better. We get better as we go through the year, and I think that's reflective, and when you look at our record in November and the way we do things, and it's also a great credit to our kids. If you come onto the practice field, which I know you're not privileged to do all the time, but whether it's the last period of practice or it's the first period of practice, you see guys working. You see guys working for each other. You see attention to detail.

As an offensive staff, certainly we were pleased with the improvement, but I think that goes back to our football team in its entirety. We struggled early for a lot of different reasons, but it was good to see them grow.

Q. Going back to the development of the offensive line, which specific individual improvements stood out to you as the season went on the last couple weeks?

Dan Roushar: Well, I think the first thing is the collection of the group, being more cohesive and having fewer mistakes and being able to make application of fundamental blocks, whether it be a double team or you're asked to block a guy by yourself, and doing it at a much higher level. That kind of jumps out at me.

But I think the big thing was getting guys into the same position, playing the same spot, working together, being able to communicate with the guy next to them and having a much better understanding of what was going to happen. Those were some of the things and challenges that I guess we had to work through. Again, I can't say enough good things about that entire group and what Coach Staten has done with them.

Q. Talk about some of the younger guys, what you've seen from them in practice the last couple days.

Dan Roushar: Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook have done some really nice things, you see some really positive things, and I guess they're younger because they haven't gotten a lot of work.

At the wide receiver position we've had Tony Lippett back over on our side of the ball the last four days, and that's good to see. A lot of things we would have loved to have had early in the year. Keith Mumphery has had a couple of very good days. He's shown a lot of improvement and showing confidence, so that's positive. Nick Hill has run the ball in there, and that's been good.

Our offensive line, although we don't have a lot of healthy bodies, young guys that are working in there, I think Donavon Clark is showing some real positive things. So we'll continue to kind of watch these guys grow.

You know, we didn't practice like we have in the past. We gave the guys, because of the championship game, we gave them a few extra days off, and so really, Saturday was more of our work with those young guys, and it's hard to say in one day's time what you really are going to see other than the attitude is really good, and I think those guys all have very good ability, and we'll see improvement.

I guess I look at it, too, we will go against those young defensive kids. Pat (Narduzzi) and Ted Gill, they've got some outstanding defensive linemen coming.

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