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Nebraska Football: Aug. 25 Press Conference

August 25, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



Opening Statement
"Before we get started, I wanted to announce who the team elected as team captains
yesterday. We have three on offense, Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell and Jake Cotton. And
we have two on defense, Corey Cooper and Josh Mitchell. We never really officially
announced it, but we had a couple walk-ons who were put on scholarship, Sam Burtch,
Sam Foltz and Brandon Reilly. There will be a few other walk-ons who will go on
scholarship this year, and we'll announce that at a later time when all the i's get
dotted and t's get crossed. We've got a good group. I like what we have going
heading into the year. We've got a lot of good work done. I'm looking forward to the
upcoming season. I think our kids are anxious to start playing against somebody
besides hitting each other. I think they're looking forward to that. I know I am.
We're ready to get this thing started."

On the development of punter Sam Foltz
"You know Sam has done a fantastic job. I think he's really come along. Obviously
he's a great punter and member of the field goal unit. He's really come along fast.
I think he's exceeded expectations. I'll tell you what, I've got a tremendous amount
of confidence in him. I think he's only going to get better with time. He worked
very hard in the off season, and I think he'll have a big year for us."

On Sam Foltz as a specialist
"Well I know one thing, I'm not coaching him because I don't know much about
punting. Coach Papuchis probably knows the most about punting on our staff. But
yeah, you pretty much have to coach yourself. And at the same time, he takes some
time to work with different people in the offseason to discover the fine details and
figuring out what's going to help him progress as a punter."

On the players who have progressed the most since camp
"From the beginning of camp until today, I tell you (Dylan) Utter on the offensive
line has done really well. I think he's come a long way and has really made a lot of
progress. He's really going to help us. I think all the quarterbacks have done a
good job. I think all of those guys are progressing as a group. Those guys stick out
to me. I think Alonzo Moore has come a long way as a wide receiver. He's got a ways
to go yet. On the defensive side of the football I've seen a lot of guys make
progress. Now the test will come. Once we get to the first game, the question will
be can we apply what we've learned? Can we react with 93,000 in the stands? That's
where the true test comes. I've seen a lot of guys really across the board who have
made progress. But that progress has to continue. I told guys the natural reaction
that when camp is over and school is getting started, they just want to take a
breath. They'll have that behind them, but really it's all just starting. The sense
of urgency you start camp with, you have to have that sense of urgency and carry
that right on through, especially with school starting and into the first game."

On his attire
"You know, it's the 125th year and I wanted to pay my respects to Coach (Bob)
Devaney and Coach (Tom) Osborne. I was actually just downstairs trying on some
different things we've been thinking about doing for game day, and I really didn't
have time to change. I like the look."

On the scholarship status of Offensive Lineman Alex Lewis
"Alex Lewis is on scholarship, yes."

On the improvement of the middle linebackers from last year
"Well it's a lot more settled. We would much like it if Michael Rose was in that
mix, but unfortunately he went down. But I think Josh Banderas has done a good job
of stepping up and Trevor Roach has done a good job stepping up, too. I have
confidence in both of those young men. I think we'll be better around those guys.
Are they where we want them to be yet? No, not quite. But believe me, it's night and
day compared to where we were a year ago as far as our understanding of the defense
and ability to execute."

On the improvement of linebacker Josh Banderas
"Well he's got a lot better handle of the defense as far as the techniques that are
required to have success on that side of the football. I think he's playing a lot
more physical because I think he's playing more comfortable in the position. I think
that I like where he is right now. He's significantly improved right now."

On the status of Jaevon Walton
"We've worked through some things with Jaevon. There's some things that he's working
through. If he follows through with those things, which I anticipate he will,
there's a good chance you'll see him in January."

On the depth of the team despite injuries
"Like I said, any time you lose good football players, you take a hit. You can't
just replace guys because those guys are all good football players. We feel good at
this point in time. If it were earlier, then maybe we could plan certain things and
guys would have an opportunity to learn to step up and show the ability to help us.
Is it good that we lost them? Absolutely not. I think that the people that have
stepped into those roles have done really well. I feel good going in."

On the helpfulness of playing a young defensive team last year
"It has helped me because at this point last year, I knew what was ahead of us. Like
I said I think on the defensive side of the football, we're still a work in
progress. But I think we're significantly ahead of where we were a year ago. We're
not even in the same ballpark. That gives me a level of comfort. You can just talk
to guys at a different level than we could a year ago. Last year we were just hoping
to get lined up. Let me tell you, it's harder to play defense these days. There's a
lot more formation. It's more spread out. There's a lot more variety on a
week-to-week basis. Teams are a lot more multiple. Let's face it, a lot of these
guys were playing for the first time last year. You get to this level of college
football, it's a lot different than what they've seen in college and the things that
are required of them to have success. In our defense, it requires discipline, it
requires knowledge of what's going on, not only what we're doing defensively but
also in what offense has going on. We're further along obviously and we're more
prepared to be able to handle the things we're going to see."

On the potential of the defense
"I think we have tremendous potential as a unit. I like what I've seen from those
guys. I think our backups have come along. We're a lot deeper than we were. Even on
the front line, we didn't have necessary starters last year. We were trying to find
out about a lot of these guys a year ago. And those guys played at a pretty high
level through camp. We're starting to refine them now. We had some experience in the
secondary, but that whole front seven was young. And it made it difficult. There
were times where we could see that talent last year, but there were also times where
we weren't very good. It's just the situation we were in. I thought we got better as
the year went on and we continued to get better through the offseason. And I think
that's what we're seeing right now."

On the progress of defensive tackle Maliek Collins and defensive end Greg McMullen
"Well I think the light turned on for those two during spring practice. There were
some good things last year, but also a lot of things they needed to get better at.
They needed to progress. And every guys comes along at a different pace. For those
two, if you put on the film and look at how they were last year, they're not even
close. They've made significant jumps. And I can really say the same thing about
Vincent Valentine. He's a lot more consistent. He's grown up and matured as a
football player. He's always been a mature young man, but I'm talking about maturity
as a football player. He's made a significant jump also."

On what fans can expect to see differently for punt return
"I mean hopefully we'll execute at a higher level."

On the development of senior I-back Ameer Abdullah
"He worked his tail off like he always does in the offseason. He's stronger and
maybe a little bigger. He's probably more explosive than he was. We haven't overused
him in camp. I think we've done a good job of managing him. He's put in enough work
so that he's able to move along. I like where he is. I think he's in a great mental
state. I think we need to play well around him for him to be able to do what he
does. He's going to play, and he's going to play well."

On Abdullah's multiple roles
"He's got a lot of different roles. In the return game, as far as returning, we have
a couple of different roles for him. Will we use him week one? I don't know. There
are different things that we've been working on. He's good at everything he does.
He's got great balance and great strength. And he competes. He wants to be out there
and we're going to use him. I've looked at him in a number of different roles."

On if there is a plan for the backup quarterbacks
"Well Tommy (Armstrong Jr.) is going to go in and start the game Saturday. And we're
going to play to win the football game. We're going to do what we need to do. First
of all, I've got a lot of confidence in Ryker (Fyfe) and a lot of confidence in
Johnny Stanton (IV). When you see them it will be the situation of the game we'll
dictate. I'm not going to sit there and say we're going to use them for this play
and that play. At the end of the day we're going to do what we need to do to win the
football game and move this football team along. Tommy's going to be that guy on the
center. If we see fit as a coaching staff to get Ryker in there or anybody else in
there, that's when we'll use them."

On Armstrong as a game manager
"I think that's always a case with any quarterback. You have to experience some
things, especially at that position to progress and move along. I think he has a lot
better handle of the offense. I think he understands the offense. Is he perfect? No.
I don't think there is anyone who is perfect that plays that position. There's a lot
of things happening and there's a lot of things on his shoulders just by the nature
of that position. I know this, he is a lot more prepared to be lined up on the
center this year than he was at this point a year ago or even at the end of last
year. Does that mean he's going to be perfect? No he's going to make a mistake. I've
never seen anybody play a perfect football game. He's going to make mistakes and
hopefully he understands that there are times when to do things and when not to.
There's times when you take your checkdown. There are times when you can take your
shots. Not only that, but it's about understanding situational football. I think
we've spent a lot of time on that. He's worked through some growing pains like
everybody has in these situations. I think he'll continue to get better as we move
along."

On his view of team efficiency
"Absolutely efficiency is the key. Keeping ourselves out of long yardage situations,
moving the sticks, giving us winnable third downs and all those things. And also
knowing the times when it's OK to take off and run, and when it's time to throw the
football away. All of those things play in. It's hard when you have the ball in your
hands every down. It's difficult. That's what makes it hard at that position. You're
the focal point. The light's on you. Really every decision you make whether good or
bad can become magnified."

On the passing game and tight end Cethan Carter
"I think Cethan's a really talented kid. He's had a great camp. He's a guy that can
do it all. He's physical in the running game and he can get down the field in the
passing game. He has great hands. He understands the passing game. I feel like he's
a heck of a football player. And gosh, he's still only a sophomore."

On the new coaching staff at Florida Atlantic
"Well you always deal with that to a certain extent going into the first game, and
sometimes even the second game like we'll see this year. They won't have played a
game before us. You've got to prepare for a lot, and you have to prepare to make
adjustments. At the end of the day you have to execute your football. What they're
going to do and how much change they've made in the offseason is hard to tell. You
do your homework and use your best guesswork, then you prepare your guys. The
biggest key is to try not to over-prepare. You can't have your guys chasing ghosts.
You just have to lean on your training to be able to apply your roles for things
you've maybe haven't seen up until this point. There are times when you might give
up something because you might see something you haven't seen and a guy might not
react the right way. It might cost you some yards or a big play or whatever it might
be. You can't panic. You've just got to teach them. You've got to move on and make
your adjustments."

On Florida Atlantic quarterback Jaquez Johnson
"I think he's got a strong arm, a good arm. He runs fairly well. I think he manages
the offense well. I think he has a good handle on things more than he did a year
ago. I don't know how much things have changed. He's a guy that can kind of do
everything you ask him to do. Like I said he's got a good, strong arm, he's got a
good running ability. He seems to make good decisions."

On his feelings about Florida Atlantic with Carl Pelini as coach
"It's not about personal feelings. It's about our football team. I haven't had a lot
of conversation with him about that."

On the overall progress of cornerback Josh Mitchell
"I think Josh has come a long way. He's one of my favorite guys that I've coached.
It's always rewarding. Every kid you get kind of goes down a different path. They
all have different backgrounds and different things they have to go through. Josh
has really grown and matured as a young man, not only as a football player. I just
used him as an example for another player. Eventually the light came on for him on
the football field as far as the technique and the how-to. And when he did his game
really progressed. You're not going to have a guy that will compete and play harder
than Josh. Early on in his career he was sort of his own worst enemy. He wasn't
enough into the details on how we were asking him to play. Once he bought into that,
we saw him progress."

On the defense this year compared to last year
"It doesn't really matter the way I see it right now. It's what we're going to put
on the field. Are we going to be the finished product on Saturday? No. I mean you
never are. I'm looking forward to what we'll put out there on the field. Time to
talk is over. It's let's find out where we are on Saturday and from there we'll
assess it and see where we need to go from there. That's how we assess and that's
how we're looking at it. I feel good about our team going in, both defensively and
offensively and what we've done up to this point special teams-wise. Saturday will
be a starting point and then we'll move from there."

On the emphasis of forcing turnovers
That's always an emphasis. The turnovers will come if you execute the right way.
Your opportunities will increase as you play better. There is no magical thing. We
could sit there in a room and have a séance about getting the ball out, but if we're
not executing our defense, it's not going to happen. If we're not in the right
spots, then we're not going to have any opportunities. If the opportunities come we
have to take advantage of them. I think it's the same thing offensively. We need to
be better in the turnover margin. That has to happen for this football team. Talking
about it, emphasizing it, yeah we can do that all day. We'll do it on Saturday. That
has to happen. Time will tell."

On taking advantage of opportunities
"Well when you have a veteran unit, you have guys that are more confident where they
are and what they're doing. And they're going to execute hopefully at a higher
level. If you're in better positions, you'll have a lot better opportunity to have
those opportunities. A year ago when your eyes are always in the wrong place and
you're having trouble with your guys handling their responsibility, it's a lot
harder to have guys in the right positions. Sometimes it's luck. You've got to make
your own luck too and being in the right places to increase opportunities."

On playing potential neutral site games in the future
"If the schedule sets up right, we're not opposed to it. We've actually had that
conversation with Shawn (Eichorst). We're not going to shy away from playing anyone,
but it has to fit right with the schedule. It's got to be able to fall on the line
right. It just depends on how things are set up."

On whether neutral sites have to be in recruiting territory
"Not necessarily, because usually in those games if it's the right opponent, we've
recruited effectively enough to not even be outside of out recruiting territory.
Most of those games are nationally televised which is good for recruiting."

On continuing to sell out every home game
"I think it's important. How much thought to I give it? I mean that's not really my
job. My job's to hopefully put the best product out on the field, and that will
hopefully take care of itself."

On his impression of the Big Ten today
"I think it's a great conference. I think it's deep. And I think there are a lot of
great football teams. That's about all I'm concerned about this week. I'm not really
worrying about what's going on at the end of September and the league play. I just
want to get our football team ready where we are right now. I do know this. We'll be
a different team by the time the Big Ten play comes around than we are right now. It
normally always plays out that way."


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