PURDUE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 4, 2012INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and get started here. We'll start out with the phone calls. Go ahead.
Q. Coach, talk about what you saw on film that you'll see from Notre Dame this weekend.
COACH HOPE: They're awfully good from the line of scrimmage. They have a heck of an offensive line. Big and strong and experienced, veteran offensive line. And I think their front seven on defense is outstanding. They have, obviously, a lot of great players on their football team.
Tyler Eifert is certainly one of the top players at his position on a national level. Great skill players, particularly in the backfield. What really sticks out in my mind is their strength off the line of scrimmage with their offensive line and the strength of their defensive front seven.
Q. Hey, Coach. Wanted to talk to you about Frankie Williams winning the Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. What do you think about the way Frankie played, and what do you expect from the freshman this year?
COACH HOPE: Frankie's a very good player, very skilled. He was highly regarded in the recruiting process. We recruited him long and hard and got a commitment from him, and then there was a lot of competition to hang on to Frankie. He was a guy, who the season was over last year, we had redshirted, but looking back at last year, if I had to do it all over again, I would have taken the redshirt off of Frankie Williams because he was certainly a good enough football player to help us win last year, not only as a defensive back but also as a punt returner.
He's a high energy guy, unbelievable to be around. Has an unbelievable personality. A lot of fun. He has great character, and he is a character. A great addition to our football team. I think he'll be a real star here at Purdue throughout his career.
Q. And I wanted to get your take on?? I wanted you to assess your running game from week one and what strides you want to make going forward as well.
COACH HOPE: I couldn't understand your question.
Q. Your running game, and what did you think of it in week one, and what do you want to do to kind of improve upon it as you go forward as well?
COACH HOPE: I was excited about the way our team showed up and played the whole game with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm. We had the game pretty much handled by halftime and challenged our team to come out in the second half and demonstrate some killer instinct, if you will. I thought that they really rallied to the occasion. So I was glad that we were able to start fast and finish strong.
There were some areas of improvement, obviously. We turn the ball over way too much. Against a better opponent, that would potentially equate into a loss. I think we're a much more disciplined football team this year. We didn't have very many penalties throughout the course of the game, didn't have any penalties on defense. We didn't have any pre?snap penalties on offense until the latter part of the fourth quarter.
I think there's a lot of great signs for our football team. We have grown up in the church significantly from a physical standpoint. We're an older, better, and more physically mature football team, particularly across the defensive front.
So a lot of good signs this past Saturday and certainly some areas to improve on. I like where we're at and the direction that we're going in.
Q. Coach, you'll probably get asked this about every week this season, but where are you with the quarterback situation right now?
COACH HOPE: We're in great shape. We're very fortunate to have three good, experienced, for the most part healthy quarterbacks, guys that all three of them are a big part of our game plan each week. We went into the game last week without Caleb TerBush, and I thought Robert Marve did a heck of a job. We were fortunate to get Rob Henry in the game early, and he had to knock a little bit of the rust off, if you will.
I thought the last drive of the game he manufactured a scoring drive and was out on the field, I think, for about 7?1/2 or 8 minutes and got a lot of reps in. He got a lot of reps in, and that was huge for Rob Henry and our football team. He's going to mean more to us as the season progresses.
We're very glad to get Caleb TerBush back. He was the No. 1 quarterback going into camp and the No. 1 quarterback going out of camp. He has, I believe, taken his game to another level. He makes very good decisions on the field with the football. Certainly has proven it in the past. Last year he went the last 4 1/2 games without throwing a pick. Excited about having him back to help us win this Saturday along with Robert Marve and Rob Henry as well.
Q. So to be clear, you said he was the No. 1 quarterback in camp, and going into the season, is he still your No. 1 quarterback? Talking about TerBush.
COACH HOPE: He did a great job in camp and not would the job hands down, and all three quarterbacks did very well. But he separated himself from the others. It would be to our best advantage, I believe, to start Caleb this weekend because I feel like a smooth start in the beginning of the game at South Bend could be very important to our football team.
We're geared, from an offensive and a defensive and special teams standpoint, to be able to catch up if we get behind, but that certainly isn't our first choice on how to start the game. So my gut feeling is that we go in and start Caleb TerBush, and I think that's in the best interests of our football team.
Q. Coach, how do you feel about?? obviously, with Beckford out, different folks have to step in. How did you feel about that particular position on Saturday?
COACH HOPE: Well, our opponent struggled to manufacture many yards. We shut them out for the majority of the ball game. I thought our entire defense played very, very well. I was really excited about our defensive performance. We're really strong across the defensive front and very experienced and talented in the secondary.
So the fact that we're able to play some inexperienced linebackers right behind an experienced defensive front and right in front of an experienced back half of the secondary, I thought, was an advantage or good for the new linebackers that played this past Saturday.
But I was really pleased with the performance of Joe Gilliam. He's an aggressive player. He's a smart guy. He had a very good camp. He was a guy we thought had performed well enough in camp to certainly be in the mix with the varsity play with the game on the line. Regardless where we were at with Beckford returning as the leading tackler on our football team, we were still very excited about Joe Gilliam.
I thought that Antwon Higgs did very well. He's an experienced player. He's played some snaps around here the last four years, really likes football. He's a big body. He's a little over 6'2" and about 250 pounds. He brings some physical presence at the linebacker position.
Will Lucas has played a lot. He's a very good player. He plays will linebacker position and did very well this past Saturday. But he alternated reps with Sean Robinson, who is new to the position. We moved Sean to linebacker in the spring, and I thought that he did very well in his first debut as a linebacker in a real game.
So I was pleased with their effort and pleased with their performance. I think the more experience we get at that position, the faster and harder they can go, so I anticipate them playing even better this weekend.
Q. Kawann Short's ability to block kicks?? it helps that he's big and fast and strong, but what is it that enables him?? a lot of guys are that way but can't block kicks. What is it that enables him to do that?
COACH HOPE: I think Kawann has great hand?eye coordination. If you take a ball and go out on the field and pitching it around and goofing off, he can really catch the football. He was an outstanding basketball player in high school. You see him do some things from an athletic standpoint?? not necessarily speed oriented. Sometimes we always want to equate foot speed with athleticism. He has very quick feet and very quick hands and outstanding hand?eye coordination.
That's a big part of him not only getting some push against the opponent's P.A.T. and field goal teams, but also be able to time it up and get his big paw up at the right time and bat the ball down out of the air. I think his excellent hand?eye coordination and his skill set as an athlete enable him to be a force in regards to blocking extra points and field goals.
Q. You mentioned this a little bit about Eifert at Notre Dame. What particularly makes him dangerous and something you've got to be concerned about.
COACH HOPE: He's big and fast. He's a heck of an athlete. I remember we recruited him hard here at Purdue when he was a senior in high school. We thought he would be an excellent tight end prospect. He's he was a developmental player. He needed to get bigger and stronger, and he certainly has, and they do a great job of featuring him in their offense. He's certainly one of the top players on the national level.
Q. Notre Dame obviously has a new quarterback. He didn't throw a whole lot, but he didn't need to. Just talk about the problems that he presents.
COACH HOPE: I thought he did a great job for a first time quarterback in a game. Did a heck of a job managing their offense. He looks like he's a good decision?maker. He did a good job of taking care of the football. They didn't feature him much as a runner and didn't have to. They handed the ball off and pounded away. They were able to do what they wanted and needed to do against Navy.
But he is a good passer with a good composure. He makes good decisions for a young quarterback, and he is also a mobile quarterback. So he is a threat as a runner as well.
Q. Hello. What ways has Antwon Higgs turned himself into a better player here over the last year?
COACH HOPE: I think Antwon Higgs has always been a good football player. He's a big linebacker, and I believe a year ago he might have gotten himself too big at the linebacker position. He has trimmed himself down to a little over 250 pounds. At one point in time, he was approaching 265 to 270 pounds.
He's a good football player and really loves football and brings a lot of energy to the field. We've got some other good football players on our team, so we've experimented around with him at different positions. That may have slowed him down as far as where he was at on the depth chart at the linebacker position a year ago. We fell short at one point in time at the fullback position due to injuries. So we got him ready in case we needed a battering ram coming out of the backfield. We thought he'd do a good job with that.
Then we got a little bit thin at the defensive end position. So we put his hand on the ground and used him some at the defensive end. Not a whole lot in the games, but prepared him in case we needed him in the game. I think he's always been a good football player. I think he's in very good shape right now. He's trimmed down. He's more athletic. He's running faster. I think that his position coach, Coach Tibesar, and the defensive scheme really fits well for Antwon Higgs.
So I'm really happy for him. He's a great effort guy, and he's certainly a teammate that's easy to like, and he brings a lot of energy to the field. I'm really excited for him to see the success that he's having.
Q. Yesterday was Caleb's first day back at practice. I know he didn't miss any practice days, but first day back post?suspension. Did you get a feeling that everybody welcomed him back with open arms without any hard feelings after getting suspended right before the opener?
COACH HOPE: Certainly.
Q. Can you play all three of them this weekend? Is there room for three?
COACH HOPE: Certainly. Been playing all along, hasn't it? We'd have played all three last weekend if we'd have had all three available. Certainly plan on it, and that's part of the master plan, if you will.
Q. We saw Raheem Mostert quite a bit in the running back role for you guys, and I know he's in that position where he can play either in the slot or the backfield, but he looked really good at running back. Is that something where you maybe want to give most of the snaps in the game from him as a running back in the offense?
COACH HOPE: He looks good in everything he does for me. He looks great returning kicks. He's fantastic every time he has the ball in his hands. I like him as a kick returner. Certainly one of the very best in the game at this level. I like him as a receiver. He catches the ball pretty good.
He has really enhanced his receiving skills. He's got a lot of reps the last year and a half. He catches the ball much better, seems a lot more natural at it. He understands the offense a lot better, route running a lot better in our master scheme of things. He's a physical guy. He has a lot of natural strength about him.
When he was a junior in high school, he probably weighed maybe 170?something pounds, and he went out for the power lifting team. They have two events that they compete in in power lifting in south Florida. One of them is the bench press, and the other one is the clean and jerk. I believe that he clean and jerked well over 300 pounds as a junior in high school at 170?something pounds the first time he went out for the power lifting team.
So he has some natural strength about him, big, strong hands that enables him to hold onto the football. Just a great person from a character standpoint. He's just the top of the line character?wise. He has a lot of redeeming qualities and certainly one of our best players. In time, he could be a top player, not just on the Big Ten level, but maybe on the national level as well.
Q. But do you see him getting more of his snaps at running back?
COACH HOPE: Any way we can get the ball to him. We're going to get the ball to him more. Obviously, that means he'll have to get in the backfield some, and then I'll have to get the ball to him on the perimeter more. We'll have to get the ball in his hands more. Whether we hand it off to him or throw it to him, whatever it takes to get the ball to Raheem more, I think, is good for our football team.
Q. It seemed watching the football game he was at receiver maybe a dozen times or more. A lot of those times you were able to use him to block, passing the other guy for a screen. One of the places in the backfield when you're lining up in the I?formation, he cleaned a guy out that was blitzing too. From a physicality standpoint things happen when he does and doesn't have the ball, right?
COACH HOPE: He's a physical player. Last year he was the nation's No. 1 kickoff return man, but he was also one of the better kickoff coverage men we had on our football team. He'd run down the field wide open. He's one of the fastest players, not just on our team, but in this conference. He went out for the track team his freshman year last season, and he immediately became the top 60?meter man on our team, and I believe he placed in the top maybe four in the Big Ten.
So he's very, very fast, and he's courageous and strong and a good hitter. He's an excellent football player.
Sometimes in an attempt to increase your team's speed, you make a conscientious effort to recruit guys that have documented track times. So sometimes you could end up recruiting your track guys, and you try to make football players out of them, and that's okay. We did that some in the past when I was here before. We recruited Jock Reeves from Lancaster, Texas. He's one of the top sprinters in the country but was a developmental football player. When it was all said and done, he was a heck of a player at Purdue and had a great career in the NFL.
Raheem Mostert was a heck of a football player that had documented track speed. So I'm not surprised to see the success that he's having.
Q. When you mentioned with Caleb one of the things you really like, you used the term "managing the game." Can you just?? in your mind, what does that mean? I think fans think that's a negative connotation of he may be conservative or they'll think?? when you say that you like how he manages the game, what do you mean?
COACH HOPE: I don't think it has anything to do with being conservative. I think it has a lot to do with being a good decision?maker, doing a great job of getting the signal from the sidelines, getting that information transferred to the other players on the offensive field. He's very, very?? makes very smart decisions with the football. You throw a lot of passes, and you don't throw a pick in 4 1/2 games, I think that speaks for itself.
But I think he also has great composure about him. Not comparing him to anyone else, but just comparing him to quarterbacks in general, I think he manages the game and has better composure about him than most of the quarterbacks that I've been around. So he has a lot of redeeming qualities.
He's also very tall so he can see over the top of the offensive line. I think that helps him avoid a few negative plays. He has a lot of redeeming qualities. He's really developed over the last year. He's much bigger and stronger. He's thrown the football very well throughout the course of the camp. So he's a heck of a quarterback prospect from a size and strength and foot speed standpoint. Accuracy has really improved.
But he has some intangibles that allows him to manage the offense really well. I thought that was really evident last year in the season when he hadn't played at all throughout the course of his career and was thrust into the starting role a week before the opener. And even though we didn't score as many points as we'd like to and early and often throughout the course of the season, I thought he did a heck of a job for a guy first time out.
Q. You talked about Tyler Eifert obviously??
COACH HOPE: That was four questions.
Q. He was joking because I didn't ask enough.
COACH HOPE: I thought you were over your limit. Didn't want anyone to get their feelings hurt and think that I favored you. Okay. Go ahead.
Q. Eifert obviously gets a lot of credit because he is good. I know you like your group of tight ends as well. Just the versatility that you have there. It seems like they line up quite a bit off the?? detached from the line, and you ask them to do a lot of things. Why do you like that group?
COACH HOPE: We have great speed at the wide receiver position, but we do not have great size. We haven't recruited any peanuts, guys that are 5'6", 5'7", they're bigger than that. But we have guys that are 5'9?1/2" to the 6 foot range and bring great speed on the field. They've become more physical on the perimeter, but we're not very big at the wide receiver position.
Our tight ends are very athletic. It allows us to flex them out some and put them in position to be big receivers on the perimeter and big blockers on the perimeter. They're a very, very talented group. They're coached very well. I think that coach Knox does a great job with the tight ends. They're a small group. They're almost like the specialists in some ways. There's always just a handful of those guys, and they're really close.
They do a great job of competing in practice. They have good skill sets about them. I think Gabe Holmes is one of the top athletes I've ever coached at the tight end position. Crosby Wright is one of the most?? he's a guy that is the most low rep football player that I've been around. It doesn't take a whole lot of instruction for him to go out there and do it right. He really has a great football IQ, and you only have to show him one time usually. He gets it right. He's a very good technician.
I've been really pleased with the development of Justin Sinz. He came to Purdue as a quarterback from a small school way up north in Wisconsin. Almost up by the tundra somewhere he was so far north. I think, when I went to do his home visit, it was the furthest north I've ever been in my life, going to Justin Sinz's house. But he's really changed his body around. He's a lot more athletic. Runs well, moves well in space. He's increased his flexibility, and he's become a much more physical player on the line of scrimmage.
He was a quarterback in high school and also did some place kicking and played a little bit of defense. So I think he has really developed as a tight end.
And then Sterling Carter, when we recruited him a year and a half ago from the junior college ranks, at that point in time, we were depleted at the tight end position. There were some holes in our roster, and the tight end position was one that was laden with seniors two years ago, and we went out and recruited Sterling.
He's a good prospect. He had to really increase his lower body strength and flexibility, and he's done a good job with that and really improved as well. We're fortunate right now at the tight end position.
Carlos Carvajal is out with an injury. If not, he'd be in there. He has a knack for running routes and getting open. He's very fast of foot for a guy that's 6'7" and 250 pounds. He catches the ball really well. I don't know what his health status will be as the season progresses, but he's an excellent tight end prospect as well.
Q. You have the option to do the double tight end sets, which you ran 12 or 15 times in the first game. Do you like that then that you can have the same personnel grouping, but then spread them out and go three wides or four wides, just like that?
COACH HOPE: I like the idea that we have a plan to get our best players on the field, and our play caller, Coach Nord, our offensive coordinator, has a great plan to spread the ball around a little bit. I think that keeps the defense off balance a little bit.
If they knew every time the ball was going to one or two specific players, we'd be a lot easier to defend. I like the idea our tight ends are versatile. We can do anything we want with them. A lot of our slot receivers, Antavian and Raheem Mostert?? that's actually where Akeem Hunt started off at was a slot receiver. But those guys can be utilized some in the backfield.
I like what we have at the running back position, but we've had to kind of manufacture that by taking strong receivers and putting them in the backfield. That's a position on our football team right now that we're probably the leanest at numbers?wise. It's going to be really important in the recruiting process this year that we land some top running backs. And you can tell from the past we're going to play more than one or two guys at that position because that's a position that wear and tear over a period of time really has this effect on.
So that and the linebacker position are probably the two spots on our football team that we're lean numbers?wise at that will be key to us in the recruiting process this year.
You've done your homework. You've studied a lot of football. I can tell.
Q. All right. A couple quarterback questions. One with Caleb. You mentioned Sunday he outperformed Robert and Rob, and then today you say he separated himself. I guess help people understand how did he do that? What was the process he outperformed them? Was it stats or something else that he came to light that was better than the other two?
COACH HOPE: Everything we've been talking about all along. His ability to manage the offense and make very few mistakes, getting the signals from the sidelines. His audibles and his checks have been, not 100%, but almost close, very close to 100% throughout the course of camp.
His decision making with the football, I think, has been exceptional throughout the course of the season last year and all through camp. Any time that you just had 13 games under your belt as a starter and you've won, you develop a whole other level of confidence. To me, that was the biggest difference in Caleb TerBush.
When we came out in the spring, he was a whole different guy when he stepped out on the field. He had 13 games as a starter and had won. He had gotten bigger and stronger. He has reduced his body fat without losing a significant amount of weight. He walks in the room, and he has a real physical presence about him. He's probably close to 6'5?1/2" and 220?something pounds and really put together well.
So he's big and strong and mature and experienced and improving. He has gained a lot of confidence from that, and it's carried over to his performance throughout the course of camp.
Q. And with Robert Marve, two years ago he played his first game for Purdue up at Notre Dame and got that start, and just where he's at now compared to two years ago.
COACH HOPE: I think he's way ahead. It was really unfortunate last year that the?? his knee did not recover and stay recovered like we'd have liked it to and really slowed him down. That's a position where reps are so important. He has missed a ton of reps throughout his collegiate career.
Thank goodness he got a sixth year because he's a great talent. He's a warrior on the field. I love watching him play. He's fearless. He gives you all he has. He certainly is wide open. He has really grown and developed, and his game day management, the management of the offense, he's way ahead of where he was two years ago. Or at any point in time last year.
I think he makes better decisions with the football than he did two years ago or at any point in time last year. He's much healthier now than he was at any point in time last year. Not as healthy as he was before he got injured two years ago, but I think everything about his game has improved and his knowledge of our system. He has a much greater grasp on the system, and that allows him to get the ball out of our system much quicker.
He has phenomenal arm strength. He is a superb passer. Potentially, he is exceptional. I think the fact that he understands the offense a lot better, he is much, much further ahead as far as getting the ball out his hand in a hurry. That's so important. You only have a second or two that the protection is going to hold up on a regular basis, and getting the ball out of your hand in a hurry in that position is the difference maker. I think that's probably the area he has improved most in from a year ago, just setting up, making a decision, and getting the ball out of his hand in a hurry.
Q. Akeem Shavers, kind of trace his journey when you first saw him and his journey here to Purdue.
COACH HOPE: A couple of years ago we identified we were really behind at the running back position depthwise and talent?wise, and we could see some potential attrition coming in the forecast. We had Danny Dierking graduating, and we had some guys we had moved over from other positions to the running back spot that could service our team in some ways but maybe weren't necessarily difference?makers for us from an offensive standpoint.
So a couple of years ago, it was really evident we needed a junior college running back, and not just any junior college running back, but one that could come in and impact our team and impact our offense. So we had two or three that we thought were the top guys at their position on a national level. Getting a guy that was a midyear grad was really important to us so we could get him out into the program, through the off?season workouts, get him acclimated to Purdue, and get him out there in spring practice. So getting a midyear guy was important to us.
So we went after a couple of guys. We had two guys in mind that we thought were exceptional running back prospects for us, and one of them was Akeem Shavers. He was very fast. The head coach at the junior college that he played at said he was probably the fastest running back in the junior?? Texas junior college system out there. That's a pretty big statement. There's a lot of fast guys in Texas, and there's a lot of fast guys in the junior college system in the state of Texas.
So we thought he would be a class sprinter for us, and he is. And then after we met him, we realized, not only was he a class sprinter but a real class guy. He is an extremely high character person, outstanding blue collar work ethic guy. You've got an inordinate amount of votes by his teammates, selected as team captain. Very, very humble. All of you who have talked to him, you can see his demeanor and his presence. He's extremely humble.
I love him as a guy. He's a heck of a player. He's fast. He's tough. He cares about winning. He has developed significantly, I think, as a player over the last year. He's a much better blocker than he was when he first came to Purdue. That's a big part of playing that position.
So I think he has improved, but he's got a great upside as a prospect with the skill set that he brings, and then also from a character standpoint he's A?plus.
Q. For this team this year, what would a win at Notre Dame mean for this group?
COACH HOPE: Well, we'd be 2?0 with a lot of momentum, and I think it would certainly be?? could potentially be a confidence builder for our football team. That's a tough venue to play at at times. So it would certainly show we were strong willed and strong minded. It would be a confidence builder for our football team and a confidence builder for our fan base. There's a lot to be gained from a big win at South Bend this weekend.
Q. Danny, in one sense does it feel like an opener just from the sense that they took care of business just from a team they should have beaten pretty handily? You guys did the same thing, and obviously neither one of you had to empty the playbook out too much.
Is it a little bit of mystery about Notre Dame because it's early in the season and you haven't seen a lot of tape on them?
COACH HOPE: We have seen a lot of tape on them. We have tape from all of last year.
Q. Well, with this quarterback.
COACH HOPE: That's the problem. You're not sure whether they'll come out and play the same style of offense that they played last week against Navy. They played a lot of two and three tight end sets and pounded away with their running game and didn't put a whole lot on their young quarterback, which is probably a good decision and very rational and makes a lot of sense, obviously.
I think, as far as our football team goes, we expected to beat Eastern Kentucky, and it's important to beat the teams that you're supposed to beat and really important to beat them like you're supposed to beat them. I think the win for our football team this past weekend was huge. Obviously, they probably feel the same way. They went in with a rookie quarterback three?quarters of the way around the country and played and played well and won.
Again, which offense will they feature the most, the one that they played against Navy? Or will they go back and do more of what they have done in the past where there's not as many tight ends on the field, and they could be in the shotgun more and pitch it around more. We don't really know. So obviously we have to prepare for both.
Q. After the way that Robert Marve played this weekend, how much did you consider maybe moving him into the starting position, or did you know that Caleb was going to be your guy?
COACH HOPE: We consider it every day. That's why we go out and practice and compete, and that's why it's very important to have open competition. I think Robert played very, very well. I think that, if Caleb would have played in the game against the level of competition, I think he would have played very well too.
So obviously, because he played well, we certainly consider him as a starter. Again, my gut feeling going in is that we will probably start Caleb this Saturday just because he has a great knack for managing the offense and avoiding negative plays more so than most of the other quarterbacks that I've been around.
So, obviously, Robert Marve gets a lot of consideration as a starter, and each game is going to be different. Each week is going to be different. Each week their performances are going to be different. There's nothing ever etched in stone obviously, but it may be to our best advantage this weekend to start Caleb TerBush.
Q. We talked about the quarterbacks a lot today??
COACH HOPE: Every day.
Q. I mean today.
COACH HOPE: But every day around here, okay.
Q. But looking at the rest of the offense what does the rest of the offense take to maintain continuity?
COACH HOPE: I think it's kind of been a work in process just based out of necessity. We've had so many injuries at the quarterback position that we've had a revolving door in regards to which quarterback is stepping into the huddle. And till our team, they don't know who's going to be in the huddle next. The other ten guys don't really know, and they're comfortable with either one of those guys in the huddle.
They all believe in Caleb TerBush, and rightfully so. They all believe in Robert Marve, and rightfully so. He's a guy that can come in and bring energy to the field and be a big play maker. He's a guy that can take over the game in a lot of different circumstances. They all really love Rob Henry. He's one of the top athletes on our football team. One of the highest character guys we've been around.
I don't think the ten guys in the huddle need any more special training to get aptitude of which quarterback may step in the huddle and call the play. Doesn't matter which way we start. We have a plan to utilize these guys in different roles and watch us win.
Whoever steps in the huddle, we need him in there because we think he can help us win at that point in time or execute that particular play call. I don't think it's going to take any specific training or molding of the personnel on our offensive football team. I think we weathered that the last couple of years just based out of necessity.
Q. Obviously, there's some youth at quarterback for Notre Dame. We spent the whole off?season talking about you're going to have some options this year defensively to do a lot of different things with your schemes and what not. Is that perhaps something you want to try to do this weekend without obviously revealing your game plan?
COACH HOPE: I'm not going to get the game plan out, but we were pretty vanilla against Eastern Kentucky University. We didn't have to open up the gamut and pressures of play calling that we have the potential to utilize from the defensive standpoint.
I think you go into every ball game with a wrinkle or two. You don't want the opponent to know exactly what you're going to do on every single snap. So certainly we can change some things up, and the fact that we have an inexperienced quarterback, that could be part of the game plan. We're not going to change everything we do based on the inexperience of one player at one position.
We have to go out and do what we do best, go out and execute what we hang our hat on. I think that was probably one of the best things I saw this past Saturday, other than the effort that we played with. I thought we played with great effort and great energy.
Hats off to Eastern Kentucky University, and they did too. You can look at the plays in the fourth quarter, and the game was certainly out of reach, but they were still fighting and scrapping, and our football team was still fighting and scrapping. I was really proud to have been a part of that.
So the thing that I was excited about, one of the things that I was excited about, when the game was over Saturday, was the fact that we had went out there and executed the foundation of the defense. They were doing what they were told to do, whether it was things that were identified as standards, for example, pursuit. I thought our pursuit to the football was really good from the beginning of the game all the way to the end of the game.
Or whether it was just executing the base alignments and assignments. I thought they really went out there and executed the foundation and the structure of the defense that had been implemented and solved by Coach Tibesar and his staff.
So we're going get better at doing what we do, but every week we're going to have a new wrinkle to keep the opponent off balance some. Both sides of the ball and special teams too. That's part of our plan.
Q. Notre Dame is going to try to run the ball with some power. Obviously, this seems like the strength of your defense up front.
COACH HOPE: It is.
Q. Is this strength versus strength in some sense?
COACH HOPE: I think that will be fun to watch. One of the keys to victory this Saturday is the team that plays best across the line of scrimmage. Again, they have an outstanding front seven. Their defensive football team has an outstanding front seven. That will be a challenge for our offensive line.
Our offensive line is very athletic. We have some experience, and we are gaining some continuity, but it will be a challenge in some ways for our O?line against their defensive front. And then on the flip side, they have a big strong veteran offensive line, and we have a big strong veteran defensive line, and so I think that will be a great matchup and something that will be a lot of fun to watch for all those that really love the line of scrimmage play.
I was really impressed with Ryan Russell. Everybody, and rightfully so, talks about Kawann. He's a heck of a player. But I came out of the game thinking that Ryan Russell had played his best game, his most physical game. Last season he was a freshman All Big Ten player, but you watch him throughout the course of the game, and he played with great leverage, great effort. He, along with the rest of the defense, played very wide open and threw their bodies around.
I was really pleased with the play of Brandon Taylor. He's a guy that plays a great leverage. He's very strong. Probably one of our better knock?back defensive tackles.
So I was pleased with the play of our defensive front. They'll be challenged this weekend with the quality of Notre Dame's offensive line. It ought to be a great match?up and a lot of fun to watch.
Q. One more quarterbacks question, I promise.
COACH HOPE: No way.
Q. During training camp, what kinds of situations did you put those guys in from a competitive stand point to give someone an opportunity to separate themselves, like you said Caleb did?
COACH HOPE: Well, practice and then the evaluation of the practices on film. We didn't tackle our quarterbacks throughout the course of camp. We probably hit more than others. I listen to different radio talk shows and people talking to other head coaches, and they talk about how much they tackled and how many times they go live. We probably tackle and go live more than some others. I don't know.
We're not going live on those quarterbacks. Two of them are coming off knee surgery. And we have only one that's never had knee surgery. We don't want to try to manufacture a knee surgery for him too. That's not part of being in the quarterback club. So we didn't go live on him, and that makes it tough.
That's why how they play in the games, I think, will make a difference down the road if there's a shakeup in the depth chart. It's competition under fire.
Q. There were a couple of special team mistakes this weekend. Are you planning on making any changes against Notre Dame or letting the guys work through their mistakes?
COACH HOPE: The changes we're going to make is from an execution standpoint. I think Frankie Williams is going to?? is a great punt returner. He certainly was in high school. We need great punt returners. I like Ricardo back there. He had a heck of a punt return, but he plays a lot. He plays a whole lot. It's hard to take Ricardo out of the game from a defensive standpoint.
I really like Frankie Williams back there. He muffed a punt, made a poor decision. First time he's played in a game in a while, first college game.
And then I like Josh Johnson back there. He's a good punt returner as well. I don't see necessarily a shakeup of the depth chart other than go out there and execute better.
I thought that Thomas Meadows kicked the ball off very well even though two of them went out of bounds. They went out of bounds way down the field somewhere. We asked him to kick it in the corner somewhere, try to pin him down. I think that he kicks the ball off right now as well as Carson Wiggs ever did, and Carson Wiggs was an awfully good specialist.
Thomas Meadows, I think he had three or four that he placed in the end zone, which I thought was good in an opening game. Really for being a freshman, he has exceptional leg strength. I don't see a change?up as far as our kickoff man goes. We just have to make sure he kicks it between the lines. He was off a little bit the other day.
Cody Webster is a very good punter. He led the nation in punting for two?thirds of the season last year, seven or eight games, whatever it was. He's our punter. Thomas Meadows is also a very good punter. But Cody has an edge on him right now. We got one blocked in the game the other day. It wasn't much of a block as a block attempt by our opponent. They were trying to block it, but it wasn't an all out rush, and we had the punter too close to the shield. He manufactured getting his punt blocked on his own. So surely he'll learn from his mistakes and back up a step or two.
Q. Coach, could you talk about Manti Te'o. He's down about 15 pounds. It seems like it's made a difference after watching him in just one game.
COACH HOPE: I can't imagine him being any better than he has been because he is a great player. Fantastic motor. He plays the position like it's supposed to be played. He plays with the bat on. He's a good hitter. He's very, very fast. He triggers very well. He keys and reads and goes in a hurry.
We have looked at our game film from last year and other games he's played in the past, and he is certainly one of the very, very best players at his position on a national level. He certainly will probably be one of the first four or five guys taken in the draft just based on his talent and how he plays the ball game. There's not many players in the country better at his position.
Q. And getting a win over Notre Dame, how would that help you guys in other ways besides just 2?0? Is it almost like a bowl game in the middle of the season? It's a high profile program. You could probably use it for recruiting?
COACH HOPE: Every win for us is a big win. A win over Notre Dame would certainly draw a lot of national attention to our team. It's never a one?game season. Obviously, if you make it too big, sometimes you can create some tenseness for your football team, and that's a tough venue to play at. We have to keep it in perspective.
We know what a big game it is. It's a huge game. But it's certainly not a one?game season. We feel good how we match up against them. We've fallen short the last two or three times we've competed against Notre Dame. They're a great program and a great football team, but this is the best team we've had here at Purdue in the past three or four years from a talent standpoint.
So our odds of winning have increased this year, and that's exciting for our football team.
Q. You mentioned that Notre Dame is a tough place to play. There's a lot of chatter in South Bend about what to do in the future. Jumbotron, last year they toyed with the music a little bit. You guys have a great game day experience. When you look at Notre Dame and you consider it a tough place to play, what makes that a tough place to go into South Bend?
COACH HOPE: The quality of their players, and they expect to win. That makes it tough. They win there a lot.
Q. So the environment, when you've been there, has that's been intimidating at all, or is that anything you look at as far as crowd noise? Or is it just a tough place to go to because of the team?
COACH HOPE: They expect to win, and they're very, very talented, and they always have a big crowd there, and there's a lot of energy. There are some louder venues. I wouldn't refer to it as intimidating because in this league every Saturday you could go into a venue somewhere that has 100,000 fans or more.
But they expect to win there, and they've got a great tradition and history and lots of great players and lots of great fans that are there and love their football team and expect to win. And those things all add up.
Q. Finally, last year Michael Floyd was such a target. Everybody had to game plan against him. This year Tyler Eifert seems to be that guy, but with the wide receivers, it's kind of hard to find out who they're going to go to.
COACH HOPE: They have the potential, as we do, to spread the wealth. Their running backs are very fast and very athletic. You always want to get the ball in their hands, and Tyler Eifert is a great player, and you want to get the ball in his hands. They have very big wide receivers. Sometimes when you're watching the film of Notre Dame, you're not sure whether he's a wide receiver or a tight end. So you have to get the depth chart back out and the roster back out and take a look.
They're very, very big on the perimeter. So they have lots of options and lots of great players to get the ball to.
Q. How is the Notre Dame practice week different than other nonconference weeks in the time that you've been here? I know it's only Tuesday, but have you had that same feel this week as you started preparing for Notre Dame?
COACH HOPE: I think our team was really excited and prepared very well for Eastern Kentucky. The one thing about this team that really sticks out in my mind is they really compete well against each other. They line up and get after it in practice. Sometimes I'm afraid that we practice so hard that we're going to leave it on the practice field. Our guys practice well.
So I don't see where there's going to be much of a change in regards to the tempo of practice. I'm trying to slow them down a little bit and try to cut back a little bit so we can be fresh on Saturdays. This football team has a the lot of pride and a lot of want to about them. They're very motivated and driven, and it comes from them. You can take your team out there and work them really hard in practice, or you can take your team out there and really work hard on their own. This is a motivated football team.
So I anticipate this week of practice to be like all the other weeks of practice that we've had so far on this team. We go out there and lay it on the line and prepare themselves and get themselves in position to expect to win.
Q. With all the quarterback questions, one thing you talked about is Caleb really minimizing turnovers. Last year against Notre Dame, first drive, that interception. Obviously, how big is it that maybe playing the percentages he won't start the first drive this year with a turnover?
COACH HOPE: I'm not going to hold it against him.
Q. How important is that to have a quarterback who generally minimizes mistakes and gets it going on the road?
COACH HOPE: I think it's important for our team and our game. We'll obviously put the guy out there to get us off to the best start. I think that's going to be important.
Again, we're geared to play catch?up if we have to. Offensively, we have the potential, if we get behind, to wing the ball and throw it and create yards and points, and defensively we have the potential to pressure someone's quarterback and get after him and maybe manufacture some takeaways.
And then I always expect to go into every game with special teams having the chance to be our edge. I don't want to start off behind, that's for sure. I think making good decisions early in the game and getting ahead or staying even early could impact the outcome of the game.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
COACH HOPE: Thank you, guys.