Boilermakers See Progress
Purdue Boilermakers head coach Danny Hope press conference transcript.
Q. Danny, I guess the first question, just if there’s any update on Robert, and then how is he handling this disappointing latest blow?
DANNY HOPE: Well, there is some update. They’ve done an MRI on his knee, and there is some ACL tear to some extent. It’s significant enough to hold him out for a while. I was with him yesterday, just a little while ago, and he’s walking very well. I’m surprised how well he looks. He’ll be out at least for a couple of weeks, let the swelling go down, and then he will have the option whether or not he can come back and play or not. If it feels good enough from a pain management standpoint, a swelling standpoint, he can brace it up and he can actually come back and play.
We’re hoping that things go his way from a healing process standpoint, but it is torn. We anticipate him making an attempt to come back and play this season.
Q. The No.3 quarterback, how is that looking? Who kind of looks like will fill that role?
DANNY HOPE: Well, we’re still in good shape, obviously, from an experience standpoint with Caleb TerBush still healthy and at the No.1 spot, and then obviously Rob Henry is a heck of a player. He didn’t play in the game the other day. That’s probably good in some ways. He had a few more days to rest and recover. He had struggled some throughout the course of camp, kind of like Robert did last year coming off of a ACL surgery, but he’s much further along health‑wise than what Robert was at this point last year. Certainly Rob Henry becomes very, very important to us and our team right now.
We have our quarterbacks that are in the program. We have a young man who has been in and out of the No.3 position the last couple years, Austin Parker. Austin Parker is a good football player that’s been in the offense and in the program for the last couple of years, and he’s a make‑it‑happen guy. He manages the offense pretty good for a guy that doesn’t get any more rest than what he does. He comes in the‑‑ in the last several months he has come in on his own and studied a lot of film and he has done well in the scrimmage reps that he’s had. We have obviously Caleb TerBush, Rob Henry, Austin Parker, and as I mentioned before, we’re waiting for Robert Marve to heal up some and see where he’s at and we’re anticipating him making an attempt to come back and help us this year.
Q. Eastern Michigan, what kind of problems do they present?
DANNY HOPE: Well, they’re a tough football team. Offensively they remind me a little bit of Rice a year ago. Not exactly the same scheme, but what they have coming back in regards to their firepower: A very experienced quarterback, a guy that has played and started in a lot of games, really understands how to manage and operate his offense. Last year they were very successful at running the football. They were ranked nationally I think in the top 15 or 20 teams from a rushing standpoint at the Division I level. They have nine starters back on offense.
They do some things, shifting of their personnel, sometimes they’ll employ six or seven offensive linemen in some of their formations and schemes. The quarterback is kind of a wild card type guy in some ways; he’s fearless, excellent runner with the football. He’ll take it and drop back to pass the football, an he’ll see some lanes and he’ll tuck it and make yardage. He’s taken a lot of hits and always bounces up and gets back and plays, so he’s very tough. But their offense can certainly present some problems for you with the experience that they have coming back and guys understanding the scheme.
We’ll have to be very sure of our assignments from a defensive standpoint, and I think we’ll match up very well against them but we’re going to have to play well because they do some things that they are good at.
Defensively they have about half of their starters back. They have good corners that have played in the past that are fast, that are speedy. They have one good defensive lineman coming back that played last year. They went out and signed two junior college defensive linemen that are big and strong and play with good leverage. They don’t have to pressure but they can. They haven’t been a big pressure team in the past, but you can see where they have the potential to bring zone pressures and create some movement across the front. I think we match up with them very well, but again, we’re going to have to be very sure because they present some challenges.
They’re a good football team. They have very good return specialists. Their punt returners and kick returners are very good, very fast, they’re proven on film so they’re a football team that hasn’t started as fast as they would like to, but they certainly have some upside to them and they can be potentially dangerous if we’re not ready to play and exactly sure about what we’re supposed to do.
Q. And then last thing from me, in the NFL you got a lot of young quarterbacks that had an instant impact either as rookies or second year. Are you seeing that at the college level? In other words, are guys coming in as freshmen more ready than ever before, and what is causing that, and then is the college game really helping these quarterbacks to be immediately ready for the NFL?
DANNY HOPE: I don’t know what direction college football is really going in in regards to the quarterback position. I think a lot of the young emerging quarterbacks that you see on the college level a lot of times are dual‑threat quarterbacks, people that are trying to find some edge, they’re trying to win the numbers game, and that’s tough, some, with the modern day defenses that you see.
Also with a lot of people running spread offenses and featuring their quarterback as a runner, you might see more guys getting injured, so playing and having more than one quarterback ready, having that young quarterback that’s an athlete that may be able to give you the wildcat package, which is a simple thing to implement into your offense if you have that type of athlete.
So I think there’s a lot of reasons why you may be seeing younger quarterbacks on the field. In some ways I feel like quarterback is gravitating back to where it was a decade or two ago where you have maybe more people in need or going in the direction of the drop‑back quarterback, utilizing the fullback some, the tight end more. There’s some trend in that direction. But right now I think the spread offense and featuring the running quarterback has presented opportunities for younger quarterbacks to get on the field.
Q. I heard only part of the answer you gave about the quarterback situation, so I just want to clarify a couple things real quick. Is there any chance at all that Marve plays this week, or is he officially out?
DANNY HOPE: I don’t think he’ll play this week.
Q. And is that just a situation where you’re just going to monitor it as you go forward in the season, and when you get the clearance that he’s ready to play, you’ll stick him back out there?
DANNY HOPE: Well, a lot of that will be up to Robert. The knee obviously is going to have to recover from swelling and some of the trauma of the injury. There is a significant ACL tear, but there have been some guys in the past that have played with a similar situation. He’d have to be braced up.
So it’ll be up to Robert as far as when he can get back and start getting some reps and how he feels, but I know he’s very determined. He’s a real warrior. Unbelievable amount of respect for Robert Marve. Some of the adversities that he has endured and some of the audacity that has come along with that has been I think a real testament to his character.
Q. Having said that, knowing that he’s probably not going to play and Henry is the No.2 and stuff, do you go in this week saying we drill jump playing three quarterbacks the last two or three weeks. Is this a situation where you start TerBush but do you feel going in that Henry has a real good chance to play on Saturday?
DANNY HOPE: Well, obviously we want to start Caleb and play Caleb a lot. Robert Marve being such an outstanding quarterback prospect and the way that he had developed his game the last several months certainly encouraged us to want both of those quarterbacks in the game. Rob Henry brings a whole different dimension as a quarterback, as an athlete, to the playing field. Obviously we’re always going to make an attempt to play a No.2 quarterback so that that quarterback can continue to develop and get a game‑like experience. Rob Henry already has game experience and he’s been our starting quarterback, so if he performs well in practice this week and he looks like he’s healthy and ready to go, then he can certainly play an important role in the game this weekend.
I don’t anticipate playing a third quarterback this weekend unless there was some reason to. We had three that were ready to play, and Henry, again, brings a whole different dimension to the offense, so it’s a different type of package. We didn’t necessarily feel like we had to have a three‑quarterback system. We just had three really good quarterbacks that we thought could help us win ballgames in some facet or another.
Q. I think you touched on this a little bit, but Rob was going to be your starting quarterback last year; he was right there, so obviously you liked him a lot going into last season. What has impressed you about him in the last year coming back from this injury because from what I understand it was a pretty serious knee injury. What have you seen from him so far that gives you some confidence that he’s ready to come back in if you need him?
DANNY HOPE: Are you talking about Marve?
Q. No, I’m talking about Robert.
DANNY HOPE: I wasn’t sure because we don’t have the best acoustics in here. Henry is a fantastic leader and a great athlete, and when he was our starting quarterback before he got injured, he had good command of the offense and managed the offense very well. He’s very bright. He’s had some time coming back from his injury to work on his passing game a little bit, even though he’s behind reps‑wise, passing the football in practice he’s had a lot of individual time throwing individual routes to the receivers, and I think that he is a much improved passer from where he was a year or two ago when he first broke into the starting lineup.
I like everything about Rob Henry. I think he’s a fantastic athlete, brings a whole new dimension to the offense and to the playing field, great character guy, outstanding leader, very, very fast and a much improved passer and a guy that the players have always believed in.
We’re very fortunate, again, a huge hit to our team losing Robert Marve, but we knew coming into this season that we had at least three quarterbacks that would be in position to impact our season. So thank goodness that we have Caleb TerBush that’s proven and experienced and Rob Henry who has a great potential and is experienced, as well.
Q. Did you do any research, you or somebody on the staff, looking at college teams in the past that had used multiple quarterbacks and just seeing how it’s gone, because I know there’s a common tendency to say‑‑ the old cliché is to say that’s not going to work. But a little research shows it’s kind of mixed; some teams have been okay with it, others have really struggled. Did you do any kind of research yourself when you went into this multiple quarterback thing, kind of looking at where it might take you, and did it influence your thinking at all?
DANNY HOPE: No, we didn’t base any of our coaching decisions based on statistics of people that have used multiple quarterbacks in the past. We ended up in the position to have three quality quarterbacks on our football team based on necessity, the result of an inordinate amount of injuries to the quarterback position. Again, we haven’t had healthy quarterbacks to work with all along. Even the scenario with Robert Marve this season, as well as he’s improved, he still has some knee issues. This is the healthiest he’s been all along, but there has always been some doubt as far as if and when, so obviously you had to have some others ready. But we didn’t do a statistical research to find out if it was significant as far as success rates of other teams that have used multiple quarterbacks. No, that’s wasn’t part of our master plan.
Q. Sounds like it was kind of you had three good quarterbacks and you figured let’s get the best way to get them on the field and help us more than anything else?
DANNY HOPE: Well, we had two really good senior veteran quarterbacks that could help us win, and we struggled around here to keep one healthy, so both of those guys competing and playing and playing well was the best thing for our football team, particularly with Rob Henry recovering from his knee injury.
Again, I don’t have any buyer’s remorse about any of the quarterback decisions we’ve made. I think that the way the game flowed the other day was exactly the way we wanted it to for the most part. We played both the quarterbacks in the first half and we came out on offense and had a seven‑play drive or eight‑play drive and turned the field over and came back out on offense and I believe had a 13‑ or 14‑play drive that kept the opponent off the field, and then we had another seven‑ or eight‑play drive with Robert Marve in there and then another 13‑ or 14‑play drive at the end of the half that manufactured a score.
The game was 0‑0 most of the first half and 7‑7 at the half. That’s a pretty good position to be in in a big ballgame like that.
And then obviously the way that it flowed at the beginning of the game encouraged us to start the second half that way. We didn’t play as well in the third quarter, and then Marve came in the latter part of the game and did some good things and got us in position to score again, and then he was injured, and thank goodness Caleb was ready to go and came back in and threw some strikes and got us in a position to take the game potentially into overtime.
I don’t have any buyer’s remorse about how we have manufactured the quarterback position the last couple of years or the last couple of months, the last couple of weeks or the last couple of days.
Q. I know everybody talked about Kawann going into the year, but how good are your defensive tackles playing right now because it seemed to me watching that game Saturday they both obviously had tremendous games, and it seems like they’re getting some notice nationally. I’ve even heard some people say just at the tackle position you guys might match up as well as anybody certainly in the Big Ten and maybe anybody in the country. Do you agree with that?
DANNY HOPE: We have felt we had that potential the last couple years, but we didn’t have age and maturity on our side. The same guys have been played the last couple years but they were playing as freshmen and sophomores and they were good players then. Now they’re juniors and seniors and potentially great players now.
I think Bruce Gaston has taken his game to another level. He is playing very well, physical and a lot of want‑to and doing a lot of right things. Kawann is certainly an excellent football player; Ryan Isaac is being more healthy now coming off of knee surgery, he’s a big, physical tough guy that plays well across the line of scrimmage; Ryan Russell developing into a top‑of‑the‑line defensive end certainly has enhanced our defensive football team; Brandon Taylor, for him to go in there and play and be a physical player.
So we’re in good shape right now from a size and a strength and a numbers and a maturity standpoint, an experience standpoint. They’re coached very well by Coach Wolthausen. Coach Tibesar’s defensive system allows us to really feature our defensive line in a lot of ways. Jalani Phillips, his emergence has assisted us significantly, him and Greg Latta, the fact that we have half a dozen or more defensive linemen that can go in and play throughout the course of the game and be successful impacts our football team because once you get tired it’s hard to recover. If we can keep all those big, tough, burly guys that we have fresh and playing hard and kicking butt across the line of scrimmage, we’re going to be in good shape as a football team.
It all starts up front. We have tried in some ways to model ourselves a little bit after the Giants. I know that their method to their madness in some ways is they believe in having more defensive linemen that can play and rotate, and keeping them fresh has certainly serviced their program well, and we feel like we can do the same for ours.
Q. Just an update an Ricardo Allen with his ankle injury. Do you think he can go this weekend?
DANNY HOPE: I think so. We’re going to be careful with him obviously. He’s had a million reps. A lot of the things that he has to do he already knows how to do. Recognition and film study are his strong suits in a lot of ways. He’s a football junkie, so he can get himself prepared for the game this week without having to take every rep in practice. It would open the door to give some other young corners caught up reps wise some, it would help Frankie Williams get caught up reps wise some, and then we’re behind significantly right now with the play of Normando Harris. He was one of our top players last year and certainly can be again this year, but he injured his knee throughout the course of the summer. It was just a sprain but one that held him back some, and then we brought him back and he practiced hard early in camp and it swelled up and he had some struggles with it, so he has really been limited in the amount of reps that he has been able to take in the last four or five weeks of the season, and he’s coming back healthy now, so he is very important to our football team, his reemergence, if you will, so hopefully we’ll get Ricardo back this weekend. I’m optimistic that he’ll be in position to play, but we have some other good players that are knocking on the door and can service our football team very well this Saturday.
Q. Sticking with the secondary, you had E.J. Johnson out there a lot toward the end of that game. What do you like about what he has given you here early in the season?
DANNY HOPE: E.J. is a smart guy and he’s a good athlete and he works hard and he’s getting better. I think he’s kind of a good sample or representation of our entire football team. We keep getting better, and if we continue to improve, we’re going to be a tough outfit to beat. I really like the competitive spirit and the commitment of our football team, and that certainly includes Max Charlot and E.J. Johnson and all the safeties that we have on our football team.
I think Max is playing a lot better. I think he’s making good decisions and improving as a player. And then E.J. always has been a great talent. Again, had a few injuries the last couple seasons and got behind reps wise, so I think now that he’s getting more reps that his confidence level is stepping up, and he is certainly a great talent and someone that we need to take his game to another level so he can really impact our team.
He played Saturday and did some good things, and I’m pleased with his development along with Max Charlot and Landon Feichter and all the guys that are playing the safety position, Taylor Richards and the whole bunch. I think they’re all doing very well.
Q. You’ve been pretty efficient so far in the red zone. What’s your opinion about how you’ve done in there?
DANNY HOPE: Well, we’re better. We have better players and we’re a better football team. I think offensively we’re nine of nine in the red zone this year, which I believe puts us right about 100 percent with eight of them being touchdowns and one being a field goal, which is good numbers. And I think from a defensive standpoint, as far as defending the opponents’ offense in the red zone, I think that there have been seven shots and they’ve only scored four times, and two of those four times I believe are touchdowns and two are field goals.
We’re scoring touchdowns in the red zone, the Boilermakers are. We’re holding our opponents to a couple of field goals about a quarter of the time. The numbers speak for themselves. We spent a lot of time throughout the course of camp on our one offense versus our one defense, going in the red zone, and the same with our twos versus our twos. We spent a lot of time in camp with the red zone scenario, and again, we’re a better football team. We have better players, and better players make you better in the red zone.
Q. Where are you at this point with your offensive line, and if you feel like you need to make some improvements, is there anything you can do personnel wise or do you just need the guys playing where they’re at to play a little bit better?
DANNY HOPE: I think you’re right in your assessment. We need to play better. I like where we’re at because I think where we’re going looks good. I think that you can tell sometimes when you’re watching players or a unit of players when the light is starting to come on and they’re fixing to take a big step as a unit, and I think that’s where our offensive line is at right now. It’s been a revolving door the last several months with guys out in the spring and getting new guys in the lineup throughout the course of the fall and we’ve tried to manufacture some continuity the best that we could throughout the course of camp. And right now I think we’re settled in pretty good with Schmeig and Devin Smith and Trevor Foy at the center position, right guard and right tackle.
We’ve rotated Justin Kitchens and Kevin Pamphile at the left tackle position, and they’re both doing very well. We started Kitchens Saturday because he graded higher in the opening ballgame. They’re both fantastic athletes for offensive linemen, not to take anything away from my favorite group of guys obviously, but they are really upgrades as far as fast twitch, foot speed, foot quickness, they’re both exceptional. I think they’re both playing that left tackle position much better now, getting in the groove at that left tackle position.
We’re going to try to take maybe Kevin Pamphile and work him at the left guard spot some, and I think that could help us some there, maybe to spell Peters Drey some. He’s still struggling some coming back off of his back injury. Think he’s done fine in camp and plays good in the games, but there’s still some reps issue there, and we’re worried about wearing him out some, and it also allows us to keep more of our top athletic big guys on the field. And then Cody Davis obviously can roll to left guard spot or the center spot or the right guard spot, as well.
We’ve kind of narrowed it down to those handful of guys, whoever the starting five are, and then Cody Davis and then Pamphile or Kitchens, depending on who’s No.1 at the left tackle spot.
I think we can play much better, and I see them starting to do some little things in practice and in the games that you’ve been waiting to see all along, and now we just have to see more of those things on a much more consistent basis, but I believe that’s fixing to happen, and we’re taking a big step as an offensive line. I really feel good about the potential of this group.
Q. What did you learn about your team against Notre Dame that will help you going forward, whether it’s corrections that need to be made or building on kind of good signs that you saw?
DANNY HOPE: Well, obviously there’s always some corrections to be made, but it’s pretty obvious that if we can play a little bit better, we’re going to be tough to beat, regardless of who we play, regardless of where it’s at, regardless of whether or not we get good calls or not, tough calls or not.
We came away from the game obviously disappointed that we didn’t win but very encouraged about our potential as a football team. This outfit, they really want to win. They are self‑motivated. There’s not any selfishness on our football team. They all pull the rope in the same direction. Their theme for the year is “one team, one dream,” and I think they exemplify that the way they play and stick together.
I think our quarterback position has always exemplified that the past couple years, particularly going into this season. But we can go out there and correct a couple of errors and put ourselves in position to win each and every Saturday. And that’s a good feeling, and we’re excited about that, and that’s what we anticipate doing.
Q. And obviously you had momentum coming into this season and the way you played against Notre Dame, I would suspect you still have even though you lost that game, but does losing Robert hurt that momentum at all?
DANNY HOPE: I think it hurts our team because we lose one of our soldiers and one of our warriors. Obviously Robert or no one plays perfect. But I’ve been around a lot of football, and Robert gives an unbelievable effort and brings a lot of passion to your game and to your team. If you’ve watched him on the sidelines the last couple years, in spite of his obstacles, he has been a team guy all the way through. Sometimes people might not understand everything about him and about our program, but I’ve never had any questions about his intentions or how important this team winning is to Robert Marve.
We lose a little bit of that with him not being on the field right now, but he’s on our team still and he’s getting ready to play again. I think just our players watching him trying to return to the playing field again to help us win is something that will inspire our football team and maybe add something to our football team even though we might be without the services of his play for a while.
Q. Has Rob Henry been missing some practices? I know with Robert and the other guys who have had ACL, you can’t practice every day. Has he been okay in that regard?
DANNY HOPE: He’s been better than Marve was at this time last year, but he’s only had one ACL repair, and Robert had two. We learn from the past, where as bad as we want him out there playing, sometimes we hold him back a little bit just to make sure and only put him out there some out of necessity or just to get him back on the field some, and then this past weekend we didn’t think it was a good idea to have him out there in the game in the end. Maybe there’s some plays that he could have executed that might have helped us some, but with Robert going down and Rob had not been in the game yet at the time, we opted not to put him in and put it on Caleb at the end.
Q. You mentioned Caleb and the first couple drives he had in that game were long drives but we didn’t produce points. That needs to change. Regardless of who the quarterback is, you want to score points. How does that change them having those long drives but finishing them?
DANNY HOPE: I don’t think they were drives that we didn’t finish, they were drives that we didn’t‑‑ they were incomplete as we progressed down the field. We had some drops early in the game. Quarterback stat wise Caleb was seven for seven. We had a couple of drops. We manufactured a drive coming off the minus 8 yard line and drove the ball down the field and punted and turned the field over, and they took over on their minus 7 or 8 yard line. If we didn’t have a couple of drops on that drive, maybe we would have had enough momentum to score on our opener. Who knows, but that’s hindsight. We have to play a little bit better.
He didn’t get to play in the first game. He was red hot. He was really ready to go, didn’t get to play in the first game, so obviously he has some experience. It was the first game he played in this year. We anticipate him to really pick it up and take his game to another level. We’re counting on him doing that and I know he will do that. That’s what he’s all about. If we make a few less mistakes offensively and we are more successful on our drives, it’s a pretty simple thing. It wasn’t any one thing, a dropped ball here, a guy that doesn’t hold up maybe long enough in a protection there, just a couple of plays and a couple of small things would have made a big difference Saturday.
Q. O.J. Ross said that he’s a different person now than he was since the suspension. Have you seen that? What have you seen about him that’s different?
DANNY HOPE: I like him a lot better now, that’s for sure. He’s grown up and matured quite a bit. He came in a four‑star athlete, hadn’t really paid near the price to be a great player at this level yet, and certainly a great talent, but he has paid an unbelievable price the last year to be the player that he is and be in the position that he’s in right now from an academic standpoint. He has been absolutely zero maintenance since he’s been reinstated on the football team. He’s been very open, honest and direct with myself and all the coaches.
We took a scholarship away from him last semester, and he had to pay his own way and had to earn his way back, had to earn his scholarship back, had to earn his position back, had to earn everything back. Hats off to him. I thought the odds were stacked up pretty good against him, but he had enough want‑to about him to work his way back into not only our good graces but to being one of the better players on the field out there on Saturday. So he’s a great talent, very strong hands, much more physical, much more courageous as a player, and that’s a big step up from high school football to Big Ten football, particularly if you’re a skill player and maybe not red shirted.
I’ve seen much more manlihood about O.J. Ross as he’s matured as a player over the last year.
Q. He’s gotten more snaps in these first two games he said than ever. Was it just kind of part of the process this summer and camp that you saw him being more accountable, that you were able to trust him with more snaps?
DANNY HOPE: He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do and then some, and he’s been exceptional in practice. There are times in practice when it gets tough and it gets hard and he’s still shoving off the football and he’s still detailed in his routes and he’s a disciplined player and has been on and off the field now for several months. He demonstrates a great want‑to in practice. He’s one of our harder workers. He doesn’t ask for anything. All he does is show up and work hard and keeps his mouth shut and does a fantastic job. I couldn’t be any happier or any prouder of O.J. Ross. He’s doing everything he’s supposed to do to be a good student and to be a great player. So very, very pleased with him. Hats off to him.
Q. With a lot of receivers, they want to kind of get the glory, but he talked a lot about they have to hold up on the perimeter as a blocker, and he said that’s actually kind of exciting for me now, and I wouldn’t have said that last year. Even when he gets the ball he’s more physical. Obviously that play against Notre Dame he had three guys on him and he pops out of there. Just from that perspective of his physicality and maybe wanting to do it, have you seen that, as well?
DANNY HOPE: No question about it, and he’s very strong for his size. He’s, I don’t know, 5’9?” and I don’t know what he weighs, 185, 190 pounds, but he bench presses almost 400 pounds, and he’ll run in the 4.3′s every time, extremely fast and has very, very strong hands and catlike quickness with his hands. He can reach out there and snatch one out of the air and has very strong hands. I think he has a lot of redeeming qualities, but right now he has a real burning desire to be a great player and to get a college degree, and that’s all that you could ask for. He’s very motivated right now. O.J. Ross is doing very well.
All of our receivers, particularly our smaller receivers are more aggressive on the perimeter now than we have been in the past. They’re older. Now their juniors and seniors rather than freshmen and sophomores, so the physical part of their game has increased significantly, and then to be quite frank, we ran them into each other a lot in the spring and throughout the course of camp. Just about every day they had to go out there and line up and get after it and spend time putting their face on people in camp and throughout the course of spring football, and we became more physical on the perimeter as a result of it, and they’re very fast. They’ll use their speed as an ally, then they can be a physical player based on their speed and courage. I think we’ve improved significantly on the perimeter.
Q. Sticking with receivers, Dolapo is listed on your depth chart. What has he done to get in that position?
DANNY HOPE: He’s a talent, and he’s really a hard worker. He’s always been a hard worker. When he was on the scout team last year he gave those guys fits. He went harder than they did and he made big plays showing the opposing team’s offense, so I had a good feeling about Dolapo just from a work ethic standpoint. He’s very tall. He’s grown a lot since high school. I didn’t even recognize him when he walked onto our program a couple years ago. I had met him before; he had come down to our place on a couple unofficial visits and I didn’t recognize him when he came back. But he’s probably 6’5?”, 6’6″, probably 220‑something pounds, and he’s done a great job in the weight room. He’s gotten faster and stronger, and he catches the ball well now and he’s making plays and he’s been aggressive as a runner with the ball and has tried to fight them out on the perimeter as a blocker, so he’s done all the little things that you’d want to see a developing receiver do, and he’s emerged as one of our go‑to guys, one of our better players. Really pleased with his development.
Q. When a player moves from a different position, whether a quarterback or defense or to wide receiver, what are their biggest challenges? What’s the biggest obstacle?
DANNY HOPE: Stamina. You cannot believe how much they have to run out there. It’s unbelievable. Until you’ve done it, you have no idea. We’ve had Justin Siller a couple years ago move from the quarterback position to the wide receiver position, and he didn’t catch his breath for a year and a half. It’s a position where stamina is a premium. Your body weight is a huge factor. Usually you take your wide receivers and lift their tee shirt up and you can count almost every rib on them. You’ve got to be a lean machine out there that can go and go, and the stamina is usually the first thing that really sticks out when somebody gets moved to the wide receiver position.
Dolapo was an athletic quarterback in high school and did a lot of things in high school, so I don’t know that he was necessarily all engrained in being a quarterback. He came here as a walk‑on quarterback that we moved to the wide receiver position, but he’s been out there for a while now and has certainly acclimated to the position.
Q. One early sign of your defense is being able to react after turnovers, six turnovers by the offense, you only allow three points. What’s the key in that situation for your defense to stop the opposing team?
DANNY HOPE: Well, confidence in each other and being sure about what they’re doing. Those two things go a long ways when you have your back up against the wall. Hats off to Coach Tibesar and the defensive staff that the players have not only bought in and believe in a system, but they’ve also bought in and believe in the standards that we adhere to on the defensive side of the football, whether it’s making sure that you’re lined up fast and right pursuant to the football, all the little things that we preach about on a daily basis, you can preach about it and maybe they’ll listen and do it or you can emphasize those things and they really buy into it. And we have preached those things with this defensive coaching staff and the players have really bought into the standards.
But I also think the fact that we have a formidable enough defensive front to go out there and disrupt the line of scrimmage makes everyone else lined up behind them believe that something good is going to happen. So there’s a lot of reasons why I think we can go out there on the defensive side of the football and know that we’re probably going to be successful regardless of the situation.
I thought the‑‑ I don’t want to call it an almost goal line stand because it doesn’t really sound so good, if you will, but I thought the fact that it was 1st and goal on the 1 yard line down there at Notre Dame the other day, and it took them four attempts to get in and it’s still questionable whether they did or not was a good sign for where the mentality of our defense is at right now.
Q. After this game you have a bye week. With the bye week coming up, is there a certain sharpness you need to see out of your game to see if they’re really moving in the right direction?
DANNY HOPE: We need to play well this Saturday. We need to add to what we’ve done so far, add to the momentum behind our football team. We need to correct the little things that we’re not doing to a degree of excellence right now and take a step as a football team and play our best game this Saturday. That’s the most important thing to this football team and this program right now is that we play our best game this Saturday against Eastern Michigan.
And then I think how we organize the off week is going to be to our best advantage. We’re going to probably take most of Sunday off and maybe just come over and look at the film and stretch them out a little bit and then we’re going to practice some on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and give them Thursday, Friday and Saturday off, and that way they’ll be fresher going into the second half of the season.
And I think that recovery is a big part of our master plan, if you will, this season. We’ve talked about it all along. We’ve had the perfect equation in mind, the amount of reps that we’ve had in practice, the type of or the lack of conditioning our football team after practice in exchange for the players buying into the game speed and the intensity they have to practice at on a daily basis. All those things have been spelled out to our football team as a perfect equation throughout the course of the season, and right now we’re right where we ought to be based on that equation. I think we have the perfect equation for the second half of the season, and it starts by playing our very best game this weekend against Eastern Michigan.
Q. The combination of TerBush and Henry now, we’ve seen a lot of quarterback combinations that you’ve put out there, but that dynamic, what does that give you moving forward now?
DANNY HOPE: Well, that could be potentially the epitome of a dual‑quarterback system, two quarterbacks in the same huddle at the same time, both of them with the potential to be passing quarterbacks and both of them with the potential to be running quarterbacks and one of them being one of the fastest guys on our football team. Where we’re at in the evolution of that right now and where we’re at two weeks from now or four weeks from now at the end of the season is yet to be determined, but there’s some great potential there.
Q. Dolapo McCarthy, how did he end up here? I know you don’t always go out and actively recruit walk‑ons. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Was he in a situation where you recruited him or did he just show up on your doorstep?
DANNY HOPE: That’s a tough question because he was identified kind of in the transition period. I say identified, we knew about him, but there was‑‑ he had to do some work academically. I wasn’t sure what position he would actually fit in at. He was a developmental player. He was new to football in some ways, so we knew about him and knew that he had some upside to him, and then we didn’t actually recruit him as part of that recruiting class. He had been identified, and then I believe that he‑‑ at one point in time maybe he had gone to a junior college or a prep school for some period of time, or maybe he didn’t even go anywhere for a period of time, then all of a sudden he showed up on our campus and he came out as a walk‑on and he was in the stretch line and he was 6’6″ and looked good, so we thought we’d give him a shot, and he’s been a great thing so far.
Q. What’s Greg Latta’s niche right now with your line?
DANNY HOPE: That’s a good question because he’s very important to us. He has a fantastic potential. They all do. They’ve all got fantastic potential. But his numbers speak for themselves.
Physically he has some of the same type of numbers that some of the top defensive players that have played here have. He has a lineman’s body, and a lot of times if you have a lineman’s body, someone times you in a pro shuttle and you have a linebacker time, that’s a good thing. He has a lineman’s body, and we timed him at the pro shuttle and at times he has a defensive back’s pro shuttle time. He has some innate quickness and suddenness about him. He can change direction, and then he has excellent strength potential, very good numbers in the weight room, and he’s fast. He probably runs in the low 4.6′s. That’s good for a guy his size.
But he has not played very much football. I don’t think he played any football in high school. I could be wrong, but he did not play much up to the point in time when we recruited him, and he was a very good basketball player in high school with a football player’s body. So after his senior year of high school he decided to go out for the football team at the local junior college, and so he played a semester of junior college football, and then he was with us last spring.
And in the spring, he showed some good signs, but he was a long ways away from being a Big Ten football player. He was just learning how to get in a stance and where to line up at and the competition was tough. It was a whole different tempo, a whole different level of competition for him. He kept working hard and he’s emerged as a guy that can help our football team. He’s strong enough to play inside and manufacture some good play against the run, and he’s athletic enough to manufacture some good play as a pass rusher, as well.
We needed a big, good body in there that was good enough, that brought some redeeming numbers to the table, because right now, rotation and keeping him fresh and having numbers at the defensive line position is a huge part of our success this season. It’s already proven what the potential could be.
He’s a big part of that equation.