PURDUE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 25, 2012INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to week four of the Purdue football season. The Boilermakers will take on Marshall this Saturday at West Lafayette Stadium. The game time is 2:15. We will go ahead with people who have called in.
Q. Hello, Coach. I wanted to ask you about Frankie Williams. What kind of impact has he made on the defense in the first three games and what did you want to see out of him going forward?
COACH HOPE: Frankie is an awfully good player and a guy that we red shirted last season, but could have helped our team last season, and not surprised to see him doing so well already this year. He is on special teams at times, he has lined up as a number one at the corner position and he's also available as a nickel back in certain situations.
We expect a lot from him. We have him prepared and in a position to help our team in a lot of different ways. He is a high?energy guy, a lot of fun to be around, a high?character guy, he is a "character" in a lot of ways, so he brings a lot to the table to our football team along with his great play.
Q. Good morning, Danny, just first of all, how is Robert Marve doing? I noticed he wasn't listed on the depth chart this week. Is there any chance he is available?
COACH HOPE: He's on the depth chart but listed under "injured" with the injured players. I don't anticipate him playing this weekend. I don't know what the timetable is going to be like for Robert. I'm optimistic that he will make a come?back this season. He is only a couple of weeks away from reinjuring his knee, but he's done some things in practice that are very optimistic about his return. He's been throwing the ball well, taking his drops, getting some snaps. We haven't had him in many team situations, minimizing the running, and what I am seeing now I am encouraged, but I don't anticipate him being a factor this Saturday.
Q. Please correct me if I'm wrong but I noticed you listed Danny Anthrop as a wide receiver this week, and it seems like you've used him mostly at running back. And I know everybody seems to like him a lot and the progress he's made and stuff. Going forward do you see him more as a running back for you or more as a guy who is going to line out wide more?
COACH HOPE: I think he's similar to other?? some other slot receivers that we have on our football team. One of the positions on our football team that we're the leanest at from a depth standpoint and numbers and also talent is at the running back position. We do not have that many running backs on scholarship. We went through some attrition in that position through the course of the last year so we have been manufacturing running back play from the slot receiver position.
We have taken Akeem Hunt, who was a slot receiver and manufactured some running back plays for Akeem Hunt, done the same thing with Antavian Edison. He is a slot receiver but he will lineup in the backfield. We have done the same thing with Raheem Mostert. He is a slot receiver but we have manufactured some run game with him aligned in the backfield, and Danny Anthrop falls in that category.
He's fast, he's reliable, he catches the ball well, he's tough with the football, so numberswise we need help in the backfield so we've taken Danny and even though he's a slot receiver on the depth chart, and he gets most of his reps that way, we're utilizing him as a running back.
Q. Has he shown you enough early on that his role might increase as far as playing time, or is that too early to say?
COACH HOPE: I don't think it's too early to say. We have him marked on the depth chart special teamwise to contribute more. He is a wide?open player, he has excellent speed ?? good football speed, not just track speed but football speed. He's reckless with his body, and you can certainly count on Danny and rely on Danny coming through for you, and we're going to play him more on special teams, and as the season progresses and he continues to improve and learn the offense, I would assume that role would increase as well.
Q. Coach, there was a report this morning that came out about an hour ago, and I don't know if you've heard it or not but?? no, it's about Notre Dame has said they're going to end their series with Michigan in 2014. They were supposed to play in 2015, 16 and 17, and because of Notre Dame's deal with the ACC they're going to be ending that series with Michigan. Just because obviously Purdue is a long?time rival of Notre Dame, to your knowledge have you heard anything from them in that regard about possibly ending it or as far as you know the games through 2021 are a go?
COACH HOPE: I haven't talked to anyone about the Notre Dame/Purdue series, but I would expect to continue with the series. In my mind it's a no?brainer; the schools are so close together, and it's a great rivalry game. From a travel standpoint it makes sense, and if you look at the record the last 20 years, Notre Dame has won more than they have lost, so I would assume it will be logical to continue with the rivalry and I hope it goes in that direction.
Q. So to your knowledge nobody from Notre Dame said anything to Purdue like, "Hey, we're going to reexamine this" or "We are going to try to buy out way out of it"?
COACH HOPE: If they have, I have not heard that.
Q. Marshall has done some things offensively from a distance that jump out at me, and they put up some pretty good numbers and had an emotional win down at Rice. What's your take?
COACH HOPE: They're loaded with talent, a lot of great athletes on the football team, a lot of guys that we knew a lot about in the recruiting process so we're familiar in some ways with their depth chart, but they are a great passing football team.
They have the number one passing offense in the nation, a good quarterback. He was a young quarterback, a rookie a year ago, and he did some good things as a young quarterback last year, but he's much more experienced and efficient at running their offense. They air it out, they have the option to pass the ball or run the ball on any given play, and they will take what the defense gives them.
If you give them opportunities to pitch the ball out on the perimeter, they do a good job with it. They can get the ball in the playmaker's hands and they cash in on those opportunities, and if you allow them to take advantage of the numbers in the box, they will line up and run the ball at you. They're balanced in ways as far as their master plan goes, but they are throwing the ball a lot more than they have ran it, but that's what the defense has provided for them, the opportunity to though the ball.
They're a talented football team, athletic, they've got a good plan, a lot of great athletes in all three phases, they have great skill guys to cover return kicks with, and then defensively they can pressure. They haven't pressured quite as much but they can pressure; they've got a good package to pressure you with. Again, offensively they're a hyper speed, up?tempo offense, average 90 plays a game and 500 yards per game in passing offense, so the challenge for our football team is we are going to have to play well to win.
Q. Just from a defensive standpoint elaborate how you prepare for that. 90?plus plays is a lot and that's an up?tempo thing. What do you do in practice to prepare for that?
COACH HOPE: We're fortunate that we had an open week, a bye week, so we had an opportunity to break down the film that we had on Marshall and come up with a game plan that we feel good about, and we had a chance to run that game plan early and often last week during the bye week, so we're ahead in our preparation for Marshall.
Our offensive football team, we can change your tempo up, sometimes we huddle up, sometimes we go no?huddle, and we spent time last week with our defense going against the offense. Some of the passing plays are similar and the run plays are similar, but we can give our defense a great look going against our offense in practice, and that's the best preparation you can have.
Q. Dan, I guess from the bye week standpoint in terms of recruiting, I know you can't talk specifics but were you able to get done what you were hoping to get done from a recruiting standpoint?
COACH HOPE: We got done what we wanted to get done during the bye week, and the most important thing was that our football team had a chance to rest and recover, and that was number one.
We took some practice opportunities and gave ourselves a chance to improve, and that's important right now because we're playing well at times, and in phases of our game, and we feel like if we continue to improve as a football team we can continue to expect to win each and every Saturday.
We got better practicing last week, got ahead in our preparation for Marshall. We gave our team a chance to rest and recover some, and those are the most important things for our football team to get accomplished during the bye week.
We did get some recruiting done last week. I was able to get out in the state of Indiana, do some in?state recruiting in the mornings and make it back in time to be part of the practice sessions in the afternoon and meet with our staff. We wrapped up our final practice of the week last week on Wednesday. We went out at 3 and had a short practice, were done by 4:30, and our coaches were on airplanes flying out of Indianapolis, and we recruited Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So we got some work done, but the main focus of the bye week was to?? for our team to recover and for us to get a head start in our preparation for Marshall.
Q. Marshall has a receiver, I believe his last name is Dobson who might be playing up a little bit, but he's been effective. What kind of problems does he present?
COACH HOPE: He's a great athlete and he has had some injuries and it's slowed him down some, but he has great size, runs well, and has great hands and if you watch on the film for Marshall you can see him making great catches, circus catches, heck of a player with size, speed, and great hands, and he's one of their top go?to guys. I'm not sure he's the number one guy this year, they spread it around and throw it so much that there may be a player on the team with more stats than he, but he has been their go?to guy in the last couple of seasons and rightfully so.
Q. Coach, Kawann Short, when I talked to him yesterday he mentioned that he wanted to spend the preseason and this year being more of that every?down guy, you know, being more consistent. How do you think he's done in that regard?
COACH HOPE: He's made progress as a player throughout his entire career here at Purdue, but probably more progress from junior to senior year. About a year and a half ago we had a change in the Director of Sports Performance and we brought in Duane Carlisle, an advocate of promoting lean muscle mass and promoting lean body fat, so he carries his 315 or 320 pounds better than he has in the past, and he's in pretty good shape. When Kawann is playing his best, he is the best, and that's a key for our team this season, is to get him to play his best on every play.
He's done that at a much greater rate or much more consistent this season, but he's significantly better than he was a year ago. I like the coaching he's getting from Coach Wolthausen. He has made an impact on our defensive line play, and I think the fact that we have good players around Kawann, across the defensive front particularly, we have a good dozen veteran, tough players that we run in and out of the game that allow him to stay fresh.
I think he has had a heck of a year. There is room for improvement, I think he's gaining momentum, but I think he's much better than he was a year ago.
Q. The Marshall offense, when you look at, say, the Ohio film, and they're throwing for 433 yards and running for 59, and then you look at the Rice film and they're running for 344. What does it do for you when you see that dramatic of a shift in rushing numbers?
COACH HOPE: It's a dramatic shift in the game plan but you can look at the film and understand why they throw so much or don't throw as much and opt to hand the ball off more, so we can look and see what the game plan would be if they want to air it out against opponents that they have already played and what there has to be on the field in order for them to manufacture their run game.
So a chance to evaluate both of those games gave us some answers to what they're all about as an offensive football team. We're going to have to line up and play fast and play well because they present a lot of challenges for our defensive football team, but we're a good defensively football team and we believe we're up to the challenge.
Q. You talked about Kevin Pamphile playing left guard and spell Peters Drey at times. Is he closer to doing that?
COACH HOPE: We haven't worked him at the left guard position quite as much throughout the course of the bye week. We're still in a position to rep it that way some. I like Justin Kitchens a lot at right tackle, and I think Trevor Foy is a great right tackle, and we would like to play Justin maybe a little more at right tackle. I think he's very good at and that, will give us a chance to keep Trevor Foy fresh and going hard, and we also like Justin Kitchens as a left tackle, where he's listed as a starter right now on our depth chart.
Our plan going into the game a week ago and probably will be similar this week is to play both Pamphile and Kitchens at the left tackle position, maybe even, depending on the game goes, and then also maybe play Justin some at the right tackle position. If we spread Justin thin like that, Kevin Pamphile will play more at the left tackle position, maybe not as much at the left guard position.
He looks good at the left tackle and he looks good at the left guard position and when Pamphile is in the lineup your numbers go up on the offensive line. He's bigger, stronger, faster than most offensive linemen, puts more talent on the field. I like what I'm seeing from Robert Kugler, he's a good player. He has a knack for doing things on the offensive line, oftentimes it takes years for a guy to achieve as a player, and he's played some at the left guard position and has done well so we have a lot of options.
We can play Peters Drey, who is a good player and he has regained health status the last couple of weeks, he has practiced much better than he has throughout the course of camp, so I think he's back in football shape again and has a little more confidence in his back maybe now, more than what he had five or six weeks ago, so I think Peters Drey is playing well, and Cody Davis is rotating at the guard spots, and we can utilize Kevin Pamphile or Robert Kugler at the guard positions. We're okay with numbers at the left guard spot.
Q. Do you feel with Peters getting healthy and those tweaks you can get him playing on the offensive line as well as you want to?
COACH HOPE: I hope so. That's the one position that I believe we're starting to achieve continuity at, and that's really, really important to have continuity on the offensive line, but the same five guys have been the starters in the last couple of weeks, and even though we have veterans back it's not the most experienced offensive line. Trevor Foy was coming off a shoulder injury and it's only his second year as a starter, and he's our second?most experienced player on the offensive line. Rick Schmeig has two years and change as a starter; he's our most experienced player on the line, and Pamphile and Kitchens are guys that come in and out of the lineup based on positions and injuries, and Peters Drey was an experienced offensive linemen until he missed most of last year with a back injury, so we don't have the experienced line that we have played with before, and we won't be in that position until end of the season.
Q. How about Ryan Russell from an injury point of view?
COACH HOPE: We're in good shape I anticipate going into the weekend with everyone healthy. Obviously there is question about Robert Marve and Ralph Bolden and guys who have been out throughout the season but guys are ready this Saturday.
Q. Sounds like Ralph is close, maybe it's up to him whether it's this week or next?
COACH HOPE: I think so, but it's hard to tell. It's a lot different what you're running your plays in practice with a jersey on that indicates that you can't be hit or tackled and you haven't played in any live scrimmage reps in almost a year, so he looks good in practice doing some things but I still think he might be a ways away from a confidence standpoint. He's been through this before, this is his third time, so he will know when it's time for him to step back out there on that field.
He knew two years ago when he was ready, and he knew last year when he was ready, and I think he will know this year if and when he's ready, but I am optimistic that he can come back and play this year. He looks very good at times to me but I don't think he's ready yet.
Q. Nnamdi Ezenwa hasn't played a whole lot in his career before this year, but he's getting in. What have you seen from him that's allowed him to get in there a lot this year?
COACH HOPE: He's matured as a player. He was a developmental player coming out of high school, meaning that he was new to the game, Nnamdi can run in the low 4.5s or faster, one of the faster linebackers I have been around, and he can jump high and he's fast and explosive. I knew him at the high school level. When I was at Eastern Kentucky we recruited the state of Georgia and knew about Nnamdi, so he's come a long ways as a player. That's been his nemeses of his career, staying healthy. Every time he practices well he has turned around and sustained an injury, so he's been healthy, and we have new coaches and a fresh start was good for Nnamdi and other players on the defensive side of the ball.
So he had a fresh start with the a new position coach and he's an outstanding prospect in regards to size and speed and explosiveness. He has all the moves and he has a lot of pride. He's smart and he's blue collar and somebody that cares about winning and puts the team first.
Easy to be a Nnamdi fan, hard worker and great guy, and we're excited about his success because for him to have not had success this season we would not be as good of a football team and he would have gone through his career at Purdue without a successful year, so very proud and glad he's playing well.
Q. If you had to play a game tomorrow do you know who your extra point kicker would be?
COACH HOPE: No. We don't play tomorrow.
Q. Will you decide up to game time or how will that go?
COACH HOPE: We're doing some extra point and field goal kicking in practice, and there is some competition. And when the camp started, Sam was further ahead, he had been in college already and had gone through the freshman growing pains and Paul was a freshman, and freshman a lot of times start off slower, and Sam was ahead throughout the first part of camp and I thought Paul closed the gap and passed him up toward the end of camp.
And the two have been competing in practice and some in the games, and whoever hits them the best in practice this week is probably the guy that's going to run out there and kick this Saturday.
Q. Ralph is wearing green not because he's not cleared for contact; it's just to be cautious, right? He's been cleared to play?
COACH HOPE: He's a "go" but limited. Means he's been cleared but you have to limit what he does and don't injury him again, just like Robert Marve came back and he was limited, and they are both "go" but limited. You have to be careful and watch that you don't reinjure them.
Q. This week you've got some votes in the Coaches' poll. Are you a Top?25 team?
COACH HOPE: I think so we are. I think we potentially are a very good football team. I'm excited about the way we have played so far. If you look at our stats and numbers and how we compare to other teams in our league at this point in time, I think the competition has been comparable. We have played a Top?10 team in Notre Dame, and played them well and we had our chances to win at their place.
Then we have also played some MAC?level teams and we have won and won big against the teams that we were supposed to beat and we beat 'em like we were supposed to beat 'em. I look at the stats and see that we're in the upper half of the league in almost every statistical category and ranked in the top two or three in many statistical categories.
I think we're playing well and the key for us is to continue to get better; that's key for us. Our players can see where we're at, they can see the scores, they can compare where we're at, compared to other teams in our league. We know that if we continue to improve we're going to be a hard outfit to beat. What I'm excited about is right now we haven't played as well as we had anticipated at the quarterback position.
I'm excited that we can still really improve at the quarterback position and that is key. And we can and we will. We have an experienced quarterback, got off to a slow start, wasn't available in the first game, so he hasn't had a lot of reps in the game so far this season, but he has a lot of experience and has played very well in the past. So I'm excited about the fact that I know we can play better at the quarterback position and the players around our quarterback can play a lot better, and we have the potential to be explosive on offense and we have had some good offensive showings so far throughout the course of the year.
We can still get a lot better as a football team, so I think we're a Top?25 football team, and if we continue to improve we will certainly be a Top?25 football team.
Q. Were you among the coaches who voted you in as a Top?25 football team?
COACH HOPE: No, but if they had asked me I certainly would have.
Q. A lot of people are talking about you being contenders. Do you think that's because you are playing well or because the Big 10 is down? Are they talking about you because no one else is good or because you are good?
COACH HOPE: We went into the season as a football team believing that we were going to be contenders, not that we were a dark horse candidate, but as contenders, and I look across the defensive front, and I've been around great defensive linemen throughout my coaching career, Ryan Kerrigans and Rosevelt Colvins, and I've never had this many good defensive linemen on a football team, and I've been around some mighty fine defensive backs, but never as many on one football team as we have on this team.
And our punter is one of the top in the nation, and the speed we have on the offensive side of the football, half a dozen class sprinters, all of which have game experience, and coming into the season with three experienced quarterbacks, and even though we do not have continuity yet on the offensive line, it is an athletic offensive line.
So we came into the season believing that we were contenders, and regardless of anyone else's performance we are basing our opinion of who we are and what we might be as a football team based on what we see from ourselves.
I don't care what the experts are saying or how they're coming up with their conclusions, I think it's based on talent and personnel and on the field performance.
Q. I don't know how many people call a punter a "weapon" but Cody Webster seems like he has been a difference maker this year, right?
COACH HOPE: He's a fantastic weapon and we would anticipate that every one of our special teams unit would give us an edge in every ballgame. We're not there yet this season. We have had some great sign and good play but we have to be more consistent on special teams.
Cody has certainly been a bright spot. He has a cannon for a leg and he will start off really well. When you have a good punter, and you're playing good defense and you have a good chance as a football team, the field position goes to your advantage a lot of times when you're good on defense and you have a good punter, so Cody is huge for us and ?? but him in conjunction with the defensive play we're having now, that makes us a better football team.
Q. Normondo seems to be an important player, this week especially if you were going to have a couple of extra defensive backs. Do you feel optimistic he is going to play and what kind of a game do you hope he has considering what he came off of and still having the injury?
COACH HOPE: The times Normondo has practiced and played this season he has done fantastic. He was coming off a knee injury in camp that he sustained throughout the preseason training, and he came out and did two?a?days, and the first day he was out there he had a great practice, he was wide open and sure and physical, and that set him back. He did too much too early, and it cost him a lot of practice time and practice reps, and he was only able to play just a little bit in the first couple of ballgames.
He was coming back off his knee injury, but he played very well in the game against Eastern Michigan, and he played well in the secondary, and as a result of the extensive play he got there was soreness, he missed some practice time last week, but we anticipate him ready to go this weekend and playing at least as well as he did against eastern Michigan a week and a half ago.
Q. The defensive tackles, with Bruce Gaston, I know you really like him, why?
COACH HOPE: He's got everything that you want a defensive tackle to have. He's big, 6?3, he weighs over 300 pounds, he bench presses almost 500 pounds, so he's big and strong and has a little bit of height to him. Sometimes your 300?pound defensive tackles are sawed off, shorter guys, and he has a football IQ, doesn't make that many mistakes.
His new position coach has helped him take his game to a whole different level. He's more proficient at the fundamentals and the techniques that are involved in the play of his position. But he's a tough guy. He has a mean side to him at times and that goes a long way across the line of scrimmage.
He's big, tough, strong, has good size, experienced, he came in and started as a true freshman, and he can improve as a player, he can get better, do a better job keeping his pad level down and being more consistent with his techniques, but he has everything that you're looking for in a big?time defensive tackle. We thought we hit the jack pot when he chose to come here, and he hasn't let us down.
Q. Your thoughts on replacement officials? No, I'm kidding!
COACH HOPE: Are you available?
Q. Kind of a transition to the offensive line, a lot of focus on the secondary and covering wide receivers. As you approach this game how important is your front being able to get pressure on the quarterback and disrupt their offense?
COACH HOPE: Obviously it's very important but Marshall does a good job of getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry, they hang their hat on quick?route passing game, if you will, so going into the game against Rice he had thrown the ball a lot of times and hadn't given up many sacks; It was a 45 to 50 passes to 1 tackle ratio, so you have to do things to be aggressive and disrupt their front some and try to get their quarterback out of sync, if you can, and he does a good job of not taking sacks and getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry.
Disrupting the front and the line of scrimmage is going to be a key focus of the game, and we have the personnel to do that and there are other ways that you can manufacture ball disruption from a defensive standpoint, and that will be a key this weekend.
Q. Your impression of the quarterback, Cato, and since he's from Florida was he a guy that you targeted at all?
COACH HOPE: We remember him very well. He's from Miami Central High School, outstanding athlete, I think he has shown great composure, improved significantly from a year ago to now. I think he's done a great job of development in their program. He has quick release, makes good decisions, he doesn't get them in trouble with the football. I think he's a heck of a football player and the numbers speak for themselves.
Q. With Rick Schmeig as your center, you talked about him earlier, not as one of your most experienced guys, but his development from the time he started playing to now and what stands out about what he's done?
COACH HOPE: It's hard to believe it's the same guy to be honest with you. When Rick came here he was overweight and wasn't in good shape, and he was a good football player but he wasn't consistent, so everything about him has changed, I think, in the last three or four years. He's stronger and he's lost a lot of body fat and he's much more sudden, quicker than I thought he would ever be.
This summer when they timed our players I think he went under 1:40, which is very good, and he's a big center. Rickie is between 6?4 and 6?5 and he's down to 303 bounds. At one point time he was 340 pounds, so he has done a great job of mold and go changing his body and he does "center" things very well. There are some things that the center has to do that aren't easy, one of them is to snap the football with a 320?pound nose guard two inches away from your face and be able to get over in front of the nose guard and hold the point so they can run the ball in the A and the B gap, and he has a knack for that.
He can sit back in pass protection and get his hands on the defender and snatch up some cloth or get his hands on the defender and play strong with his hands and wrist and there is not easy to do when there is no space between you and the guy that you're lined up against.
I think he has a natural knack for doing "center" things; there are lots of offensive linemen that can't do those things, and he has some natural talent with regard to that. He's changed his body, he's better size and strengthwise and lean muscle masswise, and he's come a long ways in remodeling and remolding his body if you will.
He's an aggressive guy and that helps a lot on the line of scrimmage and at the center position. He's got a lot going for him. I think he can play at the next level. There have been scouts that come out to practice that watch Rickie and like him. I think he's a good center and plays his position well.
Q. In talking to him he believed he had to develop a nasty attitude to play on the line. From a coaching standpoint is that something that you can teach and coach or is that something you have to bring out?
COACH HOPE: It's something you better teach and coach. You know there is an old saying if you have a soft offensive line than you have a soft offensive line coach, so we take that personal. Rickie has become a tougher player and we pushed him and expected it from him and all the guys, you know, that play on the line of scrimmage. But sometimes it's developmental things, sometimes it takes some guys longer to develop the tenacity it takes to be a stand?out player on the line of scrimmage, and Rickie has developed in every area of his game, including his aggressiveness.
Q. Final nonconference game before you get into Big 10 play. Any unanswered questions you have before you get into league play and the important part of the schedule?
COACH HOPE: I don't think there are any unanswered questions, I think it's going to be a work in progress, if you will, in a lot of ways. I'm excited about our football team because we have played pretty good up to this point in time, we're relatively healthy going into the fourth game of the season and I see lots of areas that we can improve in.
We're going to continue as a football team getting better and better and better and if we continue with that we will be tough to beat.
Q. The game Saturday between two coaching staffs that took the job at the school they're at now hit Florida hard in recruiting because of longstanding ties they had there. Can you comment on what impact that's had on your program, the Florida guys you brought in to begin with?
COACH HOPE: Well, the Florida ties was just one of the reasons to go back to Florida. If I wasn't from Florida I still think that would be a good place for Purdue to recruit. When I came back to Purdue, Coach Tiller's last year they were wrapping up his recruiting class there were scholarships available but not many names on the board to choose from, and I worked at Purdue before and I think one of the keys to being successful here from a recruiting standpoint is to put yourself in the position to complete at a championship level, and you have to have names on that board of top players, upper?half Big 10 players, and that's how we go about it in the evaluation process.
I don't look at any player?? there is not a player that comes across my desk that at least two coaches on our staff hasn't ranked as maybe an upper?half Big 10 player, so in order for us to have numbers we have to go to states where there are a lot of players at, there is not enough players in our own state for us to service us, Notre Dame, Ball State, Indiana and build a championship program against the level of competition that we have to compete against.
So we have to go to states that has a lot of players, and Florida is one of those. The Florida guys have impacted our football team. I have a picture of all of the Florida players and myself, and I can go over all the guys and most of those guys start or play a lot, and I think they have significantly impacted our football program and particularly the status where we are right now as a team.
Q. I think Florida kids in general tend to be fast and confident. Is that maybe a few of the areas where they have impacted your program?
COACH HOPE: Well, the speed factor is obvious. When I came back here three or four years ago I didn't think we were a very fast football team. We had only a half a dozen guys on our football team that could run fast and we have 20 guys right now that can run in the low 4.5s or faster. So we go to Florida, recruit, and that's part of the master plan. It's tough to beat all the top program teams in the country, the biggest and the fastest, but you can go to South Florida and come back with fast guys.
A lot of the players down there, they love football, they play football year?round down there, it's a big deal to be a football player in the state of Florida. They take a lot of pride in that down in the Sunshine State, so they bring an air of confidence with them, and they come on board, and you train them and help them become confident at this level, and they do have some confidence level because football is so important from where they come from.
Q. Does Rakeem Cato, quarterback of Marshall, remind you of any player you have seen play?
COACH HOPE: Not off the top of my head. He's a good player, cool and collected back there.
Q. Their offensive style is based on tempo or predictability? How would you classify it?
COACH HOPE: A little bit of both. You can look at the film and see, you know, some of the things they're trying to do. They're always trying to get themselves in position like all offenses are, taking advantage of what the defense gives them and they do a fantastic job with that, but they are an up?beat, hyper speed, if you will. They try to get a ton of plays off and they will average over 90?something plays a game, so they crank a lot of plays out and they take advantage of what the defense gives them, like most offenses do, so they have a good scheme and they do it at a good pace.
Q. Danny you mentioned a few minutes ago that this team may have the most defensive linemen and corner backs than??
COACH HOPE: Defensive backs.
Q. Is this the best defensive team you've been around?
COACH HOPE: That's a tough statement; we're not done yet. I can tell you that at the end of the season, if we continue to shut down run games, and getting hits on the quarterback, maybe we can be a good defense, but I'm not ready to cannonize them yet. We have defensive potential and a lot of good players. I think the coaches have done a great job, I think Coach Tibesar was a great addition, Coach Wolthausen and Coach Burns, they have done a fantastic job.
Our defensive players are motivated, they are coached well, hardly any penalties on the defensive side of the ball, I don't believe we have had any presnap penalties on defense, maybe one, or none, but we are disciplined, and playing well, and there is a lot of talent, talented defensive line and secondary, and I like our linebackers, too. We have new guys in the lineup learning the position but they're doing well at this point in time.
Q. What has impressed you the most with this defense and where do you feel like you need to make the most improvement?
COACH HOPE: We have to stay healthy, right now our strength is our numbers and our whole football team is tied that way. If you look at where we're at statistically we're represented very well in the upper half of most statistical categories in the Big 10, and oftentimes first, second or third in a lot of major statistical categories but not much statistical leaders individually.
I think we have O.J. Ross and Antavian Edison, they maybe 1?2 in the Big 10 as far as receptions go, and Kawann and Ryan Russell may lead in regard to sack and big?time plays, but we don't have that much individual leaders. It is a collective effort; that's what I like about our football team. We have numbers of good players that want to win and it's a great collective effort. We went into the fall camp believing that our team had a great "one?mindedness" about themselves, I see them demonstrate that on a daily basis, we don't have selfish players, they all show up on Saturday playing hard.
We have some guys that play a lot, we have players that play some and we have players that play a little but they all have a role and they all have embraced their role and it's a great collective effort of our football team. That's what I like best about our football team, the great collective effort that they have, and I think our defense exemplifies that.
We went into the game last week against Eastern Michigan, we played 55 or 60 players while the game was still on the line; that's a lot of guys to play in the ballgame when the game is still on the line, but that keeps a lot of people into it.
As a football team right now we're "into it" and that goes a long ways. Our defense is a collective effort of a lot of players that want to play well and do good.
Q. Where do you feel like you need to make the most improvement over the course of the season?
COACH HOPE: Well I would?? without spending a lot of thought on it I would say the linebacker position because that's the spot that we're the least experienced at. We came into the season and we lost our leading tackler, Beckford is not able to compete this season so we had to shake up the depth chart if you will in some ways and we like what we have seen out of Gilliam and Higgs, but Joe hasn't played in a lot of the games and Higgs has been in and out, andWill Lucas was a good player for us last year, and he is backed up by Shawn Robinson, who was a quarterback until a year ago, and the emergence of Robert Macy has impacted our football team, because he has been moved to the linebacker position and he's big enough and strong enough to play over the tight end and play well, and he's experienced enough and old enough and big and strong enough to put his hand on the ground and be a good pass rusher as well.
I think if we can continue to improve at the linebacker position, that's probably the position that we can improve the most at just through rep and practice and in the games.
It's nice to talk about defense. When you look at the top teams in the country, they have a good defensive football team, and they take care of the football and they have a quarterback that plays well, and we think we can do all three.
Q. The anniversary of your famous?? the big field goal in Minnesota 11 years ago on Saturday. That was your last year as an assistant. What do you think about the "Miracle in the Metro Dome"? Was there coordination that last 19 seconds, you had to make sure your offensive line didn't jump off sides, but any memories you take back from that?
COACH HOPE: I haven't given it a single thought until just now, to be honest.
Q. That's what I figured.
COACH HOPE: That was an exciting game because it was always a high?scoring game when we played Minnesota, and it came down to the wire, and it was fun and exciting, but I don't remember details about that game.
Q. Do you remember having a game where in 19 seconds you go half the field? Had many games like this in your professional career where you pulled one out like that?
COACH HOPE: The first two years that we were here at Purdue, and I thought it was a difference maker for us, when we were here with Coach Tiller, '97 and '98, the first year we were down to Michigan State by two scores and they had the ball with less than two minutes to go, and we found a way to win.
And a year later we were playing Michigan State, and they always had a lot of talented players, we were down by two scores with less than two minutes to go in the game, and they had the ball, and we found a way to win, and after that happened to us two years in a row, I believe that our team always believed that they were in it and had a chance to win. I remember those two games vividly, the impact and the impression that those come?from?behind victories had on our football team.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else? Thanks, Coach.