Bill O'Brien Press Conference: Illinois

Jamie Sabau

Let's move on to Illinois and forget that Saturday ever happened.

I’ve tried not to think about the Ohio State game too much since Saturday, but now it’s unavoidable, so let’s get right into it.

That loss sucked, but a [great] man once said that you’re never as bad as you feel when you lose (and you’re never as good as you think you are when you win - did you hear that, Buckeyes?).

So, the defense needs to improve, and Coach O’Brien admitted that they need to be coached better.  He called John Butler "a hell of a football coach," and admitted that the offense didn’t do anything to help the defense.  "It’s a team effort," he said.  O’Brien took the bulk of the blame, saying that he’s the one who calls the plays, and the game starts with the head coach.  A weekly theme that comes across is BO’B continuing to improve as a coach.

Christian Hackenberg is healthy and will play Saturday.  O’Brien doesn’t think there was anything dirty about the late hit on Hack, and he doesn’t cry over spilled milk.  BO’B is moving on to Illinois.

Injury Update:

COACH O’BRIEN: Ryan Keiser, he came out of it all right, and he's full go, ready to go.  Ben Kline, he'll be ready to go for Saturday.  Basically, as you look down the list of bumps and bruises, that's basically what it is.  Christian Hackenberg is fine.  He practiced yesterday.  He'll be ready to go. Continuing down the list here, like I said, looks like we came out of it okay.  The normal bumps and bruises, but everybody is ready to go for Saturday.

Quarterbacks:

Q.  You get asked about Christian a lot.  I wanted to ask you about the development of Tyler Ferguson this year.  He got to play in the Ohio State game.  Could you evaluate him and also your walk-on quarterbacks? I think you have three, Austin Whipple, D.J. Crook, and Jack Seymour.  How have they been, how have they developed this year, and what have you seen from those guys?

COACH O'BRIEN:  Tyler has definitely improved.  He's a very smart football player.  He's improved his mechanics throwing the ball.  He's a very capable quarterback.  I thought, when he went in the game on Saturday night, he did some decent things.  Had one poor throw, but overall he did some nice slant pass to Allen (Robinson) obviously, the look pass to Allen was a good play by him seeing that. He's come a long way.  Great guy to coach; fun guy to be around.  A competitive guy.  He gets a lot of reps in practice, and I believe he really takes advantage of those. We have three run-on quarterbacks.

D.J. Crook from Massachusetts has definitely improved, great guy, good playing strength.  Has really improved his throwing.  He's one of those guys that gets a lot of reps in that Monday night developmental scrimmage.  So he does a good job with that.

Jack Seymour from Indianapolis is another guy that's improved a lot.  I thought last night in our developmental scrimmage, he did a nice job.  Had a couple of good throws to Chris Geiss, who's a run-on receiver for us.  So he looked good.

Austin Whipple came into the season; he had a shoulder operation.  So he hasn't been able to throw as much as he would like to.  But I think he's done a lot of other things, and he's a very bright guy.  He's a guy that wants to be a coach.  His dad's a coach (Mark).  Those guys have done a really, really good job for us.

Defense:

Q.  Coach, correct me if I'm wrong, I think we saw Adrian Amos playing corner a little more this past game than we have previously.  Can you talk about whether that's a product of Ryan Keiser's injury status or shoring up the pass defense against a more talented pass offense?  And will Stephen Obeng-Agyapong primarily play linebacker or see time at safety?

COACH O'BRIEN:  I think a little bit of both.  I think Adrian right now is best suited to play corner, and I think that gives us our best secondary back there, when he have Adrian and Jordan (Lucas) at corner.  Whether it's (Malcolm) Willis and Keiser or Willis and (Jesse) Della Valle, whoever the best safeties are.

But our secondary lineup, as we sit here now, is probably Adrian at corner and Jordan at the other corner.

Yeah, you'll see Obeng probably playing more linebacker the rest of the year than you would seeing him at safety.

Q.  What does Adrian give you at corner that makes you want to move him from the safety?  What does he bring?  Is it physicality?  Is it better coverage skills?

COACH O'BRIEN:  I think he's a bigger corner.  He's athletic.  He's a physical corner.  He's got good instincts for the ball.  He's a good run defender at corner.  So, yeah, I just think right now, I'm not saying that will be the way it is for the rest of his career, but I think right now he's better suited to play corner for what we're trying to do.

Resilience:

Q.  All season you mentioned how resilient your kids have been.  Did you see that when you met with them on Monday, and did you feel you needed to say anything to kind of get their heads up after Saturday?

COACH O'BRIEN:  We had a team meeting yesterday, and I knew when I opened those doors, every one of them would sitting there ready to go.  That's the type of kids we have.

Like I said before, Saturday night was not a great night, but it's one game, and it's important to learn from it, learn from the experience.

I talked to the kids yesterday about a couple of things.  I talked to them about experiences.  You go through life, and you have some good experiences.  They've experienced the highs of the high with the Michigan four overtime win, and they've experienced the low, the low moment with getting blown out by Ohio State.  So that's kind of what life's about.

If that's the worst thing that ever happens to you in your life, I think your life will be okay.  So I think that's what it's about, and these kids know that, and they understand that.

And then I talked to them about the foundation of our program.  The foundation of our program is built on good kids, mentally tough kids, hard work-ethic, the ability to compete and practice every single day and get better and try to improve, be a good teammate.

The philosophy, the foundation of our program is to always look for best ways to coach them, do a better job of coaching them.  So, we wake up on Sunday, whether it's a win or a loss, and rely on the foundation of our program.

Film:

Q.  On Saturday night, you said that you would look at the film and kind of tell us on Tuesday what you saw.  So looking at the film, what stuck out?  Did anything surprise you?  What sort of struck you in looking at the film?

COACH O'BRIEN:  Sure, a lot of things...nothing surprised me.  I think I said before I don't really get surprised too much, but let's start offensively.  I saw some things that I thought we could build on.  I really did.  I really thought the first drive of the game was a decent drive.  It was a methodical drive.

So what I learned from that, as we go here, I learned a lot about coaching when I watched the film.  I learned about the fact that maybe we need to try to create some more chunk plays and things like that, try to get the ball down the field a little bit more instead of having 15, 16 play drives. That was one thing.

I think our kids played hard on offense.  I thought sometimes we ran the ball pretty well.  I thought Billy (Belton) and Akeel (Lynch) got in there and ran the ball well.  I saw some things to build on.

We need to pass protect better.  I think three-step drop, we shouldn't be getting hit on a three-step drop.  I think things like that need to improve.

Defensively, I looked at it, and I said, "you know what, I think what we have to do is make sure we coach these guys and that we simplify these things so that these guys can go out and play.  We have a lot of good players on both sides of the ball, but I think we just need to let them go play."  That's what I talked to the staff about on Sunday, to just let them go play.

I think there were some good things defensively.  I thought DaQuan Jones did some really good things in the game.  I thought Glenn Carson played his heart out in the game, and there are other things.  We were a little soft in coverage.  We need to be more aggressive in coverage, like don't be afraid to go make a mistake.  Go take your shot.  That's what I thought was big on that.

Special teams, I think we got a lot of young guys on special teams.  We had a lot of young guys on the trip.  I think there were 28 first year players, or 29, something like that, first or second year players.  A lot of young guys on the trip.

I thought special teams was okay at times.  There were some things.  Our kickoff return needs to get better.  Guys need to win their one-on-one battle better and things like that.  Overall, I thought (Alex) Butterworth punted the ball pretty well, and I thought Sam Ficken kicked the ball pretty well.  He had three kickoffs.

I thought there was some good.  Obviously, more bad than good in a game like that, but some things to build on.

A-Rob:

Q.  You talked a little after the game how Allen Robinson didn't quit.  Is that a product of how naturally competitive he is?

COACH O'BRIEN:  I think we've got a lot of guys like that.  I think that Allen is a great example of that because I watch him in practice every day, and he shows up every single day, and he's one of our best competitors.  He wants to go against Jordan Lucas every day, that type of deal, one-on-ones and things like that, and he tries to get better every single day, and that's what makes him the player he is.

Again, I think we've got a lot of guys like that.  I didn't look out on that field, nor did I watch the tape on Sunday, and see a bunch of guys that threw in the white towel.  I thought we had a bunch of guys really competing, trying to play, and it just didn't work out very well for us.

Came back to work (yesterday) and they’re ready to go.  We've got a lot of competitive kids.

Bye Week:

Q.  There's been a little bit of a pattern through two open dates of how you guys have responded to those.  Can you put your finger on what you have or haven't done that you want to try to correct?

COACH O'BRIEN:  I think that's probably more of an offseason study.  I believe that we've had two good practice weeks during those bye weeks, but obviously that didn't translate into playing well.  I think, when the season's over, we've got to sit down and research what we did there, maybe ask around as far as what other people do, but I think we've got to look at that. You've probably got a point there.  Now is not the time to look at that.

Officiating:

Q.  I think there might be a perception with the fan base, and this goes back to the officiating question from earlier, that you or someone sits and watches game film and cuts things up and sends it to Bill Carollo or someone in the Big Ten to review, in terms of things you want reviewed or have questions [about].  Can you talk about how that works, whether it's a week-by-week thing or in terms of initiating a review after each game?

COACH O'BRIEN:  Certainly during the year we send some things in, and I want to be clear on that.  We do that, in my opinion, from more of a sportsmanship point of view than we do as a complaining point of view.  We send in things of our own players, we think, committing penalties and [ask] "why wouldn't this be called?"  We don't just send in the opponent doing something to us, you know what I mean?

But the Big Ten is very open about that.  Bill Carollo is very open about, "hey, if you have a question on something, send it in." I can pick up the phone and call him if I have a question about a rule or something like that.  That's something that I think that the Big Ten does a good job with.

Illinois:

Q.  Bill, both teams are coming off big defeats.  From a psychological aspect, is there even more importance on getting that first score this week just because of what happened last week?  Or not really?

COACH O'BRIEN:  That's a good question.  We always talk about starting fast.  We think that's important to start fast.  If you look at last week's game, not to say we would have won the game, that's not what I'm saying, but if we scored there, is it a little bit of a different game on that first drive?

So we want to start fast, but if we don't, we can't say the game's over after the first quarter.  We've got a lot of football left to play.  It's a little bit of a fine line we walk, but certainly we want to start the game in a positive way, no question about it, offensively and defensively.


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