Aug. 5, 2010
NIU Head Coach Jerry Kill
Overall Review of football program
"We have accomplished a lot in the past two years and that is a credit to the youngsters that we have. We have guys graduating with their degrees. We've got guys playing in the NFL. We've been able to play in back-to-back bowl games. We have one of the highest APRs in the country. We are involved in community service. We're doing a lot of good things in our program. Now, what we need to do is we need to win a few more games. We need to take the next step, we need to win a bowl game and good things will happen to us."
On Preseason Projections
"The predictors have us to win the MAC West. I told our kids that it's great and good for the University and fans. As far as for the football program goes, you win football games on the field and what you do in camp. Those are great things but our job to get better everyday, work hard and the rest will take care of itself."
On this year's team
"We have a good group of people. I've been fortunate. We've had a good group every year. This is a different team than the last two years, and each team is different. You find out about your team through camp, through adversity and things of that nature. If we can handle all those things and our kids stay focused, concentrate, communicate and listen to what we tell them, I think good things will happen. We will have some tough times and the way we handle those is where we will end up."
What is the difference in this team?
Is this a faster team or smarter team?
"Every year is different. I've been coaching for 28 years and every team has been different. That is the great thing about being a college coach; we have about 36 new players that I have not seen. They all come from all over the place and have to learn to get along. That's why I say every year is different. You can't base predictions and the future on what you did a year ago. It's what you do now."
"If we win, that means they are faster and smarter. Every year we look at players on our team and try to get somebody faster and stronger. The kids go through a year of strength training, so they are going to be faster and stronger. Everyone on the team is stronger and faster than they were last year because they worked at it. Every upper classman is going to be a better football player this year. Freshmen will be better when they become a junior or senior if they do what they are suppose to do. If they lay around and don't do any work, those are the ones who get left behind. Right now we have enough a competition, you better work."
Worthy or being predicted the number one team in the West?
"I am not one of those guys into all those predictions, so you won't get a whole lot out of me. You're wasting your time asking me about predictions because you win football games on the field, you do not win them on predictions. I have been picked last and we have been first. We've been picked first to win the conference. Yesterday when I walked into the [meeting] room, the first thing I said `what is our goal.' We want to win the conference championship. How do you get there? These are the things we have to do. If you do these things, we will have an opportunity. All you have to do is give me your best. If you give me your best, we have good enough athletes here that good things will happen."
What are the strengths in this team?
"I think you have to look at the depth of the defensive line and athleticism. There is no question that we can go two- to three-deep in there. So if you do not compete you can end up on the sideline because we have some athletes.
"Our linebackers are a little bit thin, but the quality of our linebackers is good. We lost a little bit of depth with Pat Schiller's injury. A freshmen or two are going to have to step up until he comes back.
"We are deep at defensive back. Mike Sobol coming to camp is a great sign for us because it gives us some more depth at safety.
"I think we can be a great team on defense which is kind of a unique situation. I know they are going to play well. They are very well coached and they have a great amount of pride. The last two years we have lead the conference in defense, yet we still do not have a player on the all conference team. So I think those kids on defense are fired up about playing and I think they have a chance at being better than they were a year ago. "Offensively, there have been questions on the offensive line but we have some guys who have waited their turn and I am sure they will step up and play well. We have added about six or seven freshmen offensive linemen and one junior college linemen. This is the first time since we lined up in spring practice that we have had 15 offensive line bodies. We actually have 17. When I first got here, we had nine I think. So we have added some depth there, they are just young. We will see how they come along but that is what two-a-days camp is for. Once they start hooking up against our defense line for the next three weeks, some of them will be boys when we start will end up being men once the defensive line is through with them. Our defensive line is good and they will make us a better football team.
"At receiver, Landon Cox is the most underrated player in our conference without a doubt. I have said that all along. He is a great football player, he gives up a lot for the team. He is a great blocker and a good receiver. He does a lot for our football team. He is surrounded by a lot of young receivers and a lot of talent. We are very skilled there and very athletic.
"At running back, we're very talented and deep there.
"At tight end, I think we are good there. Jason Schepler is now a junior. We need Nick Groeniger to step up and do some things for us and I am sure he will.
"At Quarterback with Chandler's situation being able to play that gives us a tremendous amount of depth at the position. I talked to them yesterday about finding that person who is going to be durable and reliable. Whether you like Brett Favre or not, if he is going to retire or not, if he plays you know that he is going to be there every Sunday. That's what makes him special.
"Probably the biggest question on our team is who's going to be the kicker and I do not know that. We will find that out in camp."
Competition for the linebacker spots
"Alex Kube has spent more time with our young linebackers and been with them all summer lifting weight and running. He has mentioned a lot of kids like Cameron Stingily doing good things but you can't tell until you put on the pads and play. But there has to be someone from that young group that has to step up and give us some depth, maybe two or three of them because of Pat's situation. Jordan, Tyrone, Devon and Alex are all guys with talent. We are in good shape there, but we have to find out about three or four others because you got to have about eight or nine guys. We got them. We have athletes. That's not the problem. We have to do a great job in coaching them but we have the athletes to do it and we will see how they will pick it up. When you are younger it's a littler harder to handle the grind. When you play high school football, sometimes you go for about two or three hours and you are done. When you are in two-a-day camp here, it is an all day thing. Then you have to go to school and study and all that. It is hard to be a freshmen and play. Sometimes I make the mistake of doing that."
How can Landon Cox distinguish himself?
"I think as an offensive group, that is part of our job. We have to be able to get him the ball. Once he gets the ball, he has to be able to take advantage of it, which he has. But a lot of it has to do with the coaches. We get caught up with trying to get everyone the stats. Just because this player has 35 catches. It is not always about stats. I told the team last night, there are only three stats that I care about; scoring offense, turnovers, don't turn it over and defense cause turnovers, and total points on defense. Those are the only stats on in football that matter the other ones don't really matter to me. But once you get in to the individual things you get into stats. I think Landon is going to have a great year. I believe that. He has worked hard and better he has stepped up as a leader and done a nice job, which all of those kids have done.
"I can tell you right now, if we can get through camp, and things go the way things have gone through the spring, when we go out there and go to Iowa State and they continue to do what I ask, I will feel very good going out there with this group of guys. If I had to go to war and I had to jump in a pit with every one of those guys, I can honestly say I'd love to have them with me. We just need to gather more and you don't know that until you get into camp."
On the Non-Conference Schedule
"We go on the road and play seven on the road and five at home. We got a tough schedule. We need to concentrate on doing the best we can, compete and get better. When we go to Iowa State, they are going to be ready to play. If you look at last year, they were ready to play against Wisconsin, had a chance to win the game, beat Purdue. We have to learn to bottle that energy up and take it to the MAC. That is our problem. We are going to be ready for the out of conference games. That's easy. Once we get into conference, we cannot be worn down, discouraged nor can we be too high in case we did really good. We have to forget about what we did in non-conference and concentrate on winning the conference and bottle the energy that we play in the non-conference games and bring it to the conference. If we do that and play with the energy that we did in Purdue and Wisconsin and carried it through the conference last year, we might have had a shot. Some how we did not do that and that is not the kid's fault, that's my fault. I wasn't able to carry the juice and get them where we need to be. We have been able to do some work and hopefully we have done the right work to get that taken care of."
Will playing Big Ten opponents bring out the best in your team?
"If you are playing good people, you are going to get better. You are going to know where you're at. When we go to Iowa State, we are going to know where we are at. Win lose or draw where are going to know where we are at. Then, we build from that and you build each week. The bottom line is that when you play at home, you cannot lose at home. I am a firm believer in that. If we didn't lose at home last year, we are in a different situation. You have to win at home. We are home this year for five and we have to have five wins from that."
On the strength of the overall schedule
"We have the toughest schedule in the league without a doubt. We are playing the best of the best, so that is why I said that our kids understand that. That is why we cannot worry from this week or this prediction or that prediction. We have to go to work, today. We started last night. We had great sessions in our meetings, great sessions and meetings this morning. We have to have a great practice and build on it because we have got a tough schedule. Everyone has heard of the huskies and the Iditarod. That is what we are doing. We are training for that race. We are going to have some battles and we understand that. How we come out of that will determine our success. With these kids, if they do what they are taught, with the athleticism we have and if they listen there isn't anyone on the schedule that we do not have the opportunity to win. They know that is the way it was last year. That is how we felt last year. There isn't anyone on that schedule that you do not have the opportunity to lose to. So there is going to be a lot of close games, tough situations. How do we deal with it? We deal with it through the training these next three weeks. That's is on the coaches not the kids. They have to listen to us. If they listen to us good things will happen."