2006 Big Ten Football Media Day Quotes

Aug. 1, 2006

Ron Zook, Illinois
On his team:
"It's good to be back for the second year. We have a lot of work to do, but I think we've made a lot of progress. We helped ourselves on the offensive line with a couple of transfers and position changes. We're fortunate enough to have both our running backs back. We have an excellent kicker returning. Our defense will be young but much improved. We've helped ourselves athletic wise. We'll have a defense that moves around and doesn't stay in one spot."

On senior defensive back Alan Ball:
"One guy we feel particularly good about is Alan Ball. He's a returning starter and had a great summer. He broke his arm in the last week of spring, but we felt like he was beginning to come on and be a Big Ten type defensive back. He is back healthy and has worked extremely hard this summer."

On first half vs. Penn State in 2005:
"As bad as it was, it might have been the best thing that happened to us. I was in shock like everyone else. I told our football team that this is as bad as it's going to get - it's not going to get any worse. I don't think there's any question that since that day we have steadily improved both on and off the field.

On trying to raise Illinois into the top half of the Big Ten:
"Growing up in Ohio, I know how prestigious and competitive this conference is. We have everything we need. There's no reason why our program shouldn't be up there with everyone else. Since the 2000s, there have been four teams that have won the conference and Illinois is one of those teams. We've done it; we just haven't done it consistently.

On the passing of Randy Walker:
"I met Randy in 1972. His track coach was my older brother's football coach so we went back a long way. The one thing Randy said to me before our game last year is you better enjoy it. And he was right."

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
On improving the defense:
"We've made improvements in just going to practice and coming together as a group. The first step is that cohesiveness between the players, the coaches and the staff. After last season's Arizona State game, Coach Walker said to all of us in true Randy Walker fashion, "We're going to find a way to get through this," and that is exactly what we're going to do."

On being the youngest coach in the Big Ten:
"It's a great benefit being 31. I'm not too far away from my playing days and I know what it's like to be a student at Northwestern. I know what it's like when the cameras are off, when you have to walk to class in the snow and what it is to sacrifice."

On what it is going to take to win:
"The talent, commitment and coaching staff are what it is going to take to bring the Purple Pack back to the Rose Bowl. I have nine fingers left for rings, but that's not the focus right now. The focus is getting through this difficult time in all of our football families' lives. That's the real focus, and we will move on from there."

On Randy Walker's tragic death earlier this summer:
"This has been a difficult time for all of us. Coach Walker played such a key role in our lives and we are fortunate to have his son Jamie on staff with us this season. We're trying to deal with it as a team. As one family we are coming together to get though this and get ready for the August 31 home opener. It'll be just as tough for Miami (Ohio), where Walker holds the record for most wins. Our seniors have had a lot of trials and tribulations to deal with, so they will need to step up as leaders for our younger guys."

Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
On continuing success from last year:
"We have a lot of great returning players and a lot of younger guys coming up in a program that is known for taking good players and making them great."

On losing Brian Calhoun:
"He had some special talents. In addition to his abilities, he had great composure on the sidelines and could not be rattled easily. He had three freshmen that were able to come in last year and watch and learn from him; people like PJ Hill. I want to have the best guy out there and we will see more at camp. If we have to switch guys on first, second, third and fourth downs to get the job done in the best way possible, then that is what we need to do."

On fluctuations in offense and defense in last two years:
"Consistency in recruiting is the key to solve that. You have to be able to bring in players on both ends on a consistent basis so that when you lose some guys, you have others waiting to take their place that are just as good. Guys need to come in and come out on a regular basis in a program."

On replacing Barry Alvarez:
"He came here and built a program that no one thought could be built. He brought Wisconsin to a level of greatness, and for me to tell you all the great things about him would take longer than 15 minutes."

On Wisconsin fans and players:
"The more you tell people from Wisconsin that they can't do something, the more they want to do it."

Jim Tressel, Ohio State
On being favored to win the Big Ten:
"I think it's encouraging to all the people that care about Ohio State that people think highly of us. And granted we do have to replace a lot of good folks. We have been working hard to do that since January. How legitimate is it? I don't know if we know the answer to that. We will find out by the end of November. But it's always nice to be mentioned."

On opening up at home:
"It's important how you come out of the gate any time you begin the season at home. The first impression that you make is important to yourself and to your fans."

On scheduling a tough non-conference schedule:
"To me Texas is a huge game because it's one that our guys will remember. That series against Texas - they'll remember it. We like to have one of those marquee type series going on at all times. We got USC coming on home and home, and Miami coming on home and home and those are the types of things the guys will remember. I think that's big in itself."

On junior wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.:
"He's got fabulous hands. He catches the ball with his hands, unlike some excellent receivers who just catch it. Route running - I think that's something that he has gotten better and better in. Now I think you would have to characterize him as an excellent route runner - studying the film and so forth. Has he taken on a leadership role? He is a pretty neat kind of leader. He does a little bit with his energy. He's so bubbly. He's a positive guy. You can see him encouraging the least likely guy that you would imagine. He's just a fun-loving positive guy."
On having an experienced quarterback:
"A guy who has had a lot of time under center is something that any team would consider a luxury. The quarterback position can really add a lot of confidence to the coaching staff, the defensive team and obviously to its own offensive unit."

Joe Tiller, Purdue
On his team:
"I like this team. I've made that comment often and I continue to say that because I believe that and feel that. I like the camaraderie and the way we interact with each other."

On his team's strengths:
"Our strengths will be on the offensive side of the ball. We think we have the best offensive line since our Rose Bowl year in 2000. Our receiving core has added some depth and size. We have some talented youngsters in the program at running back and our quarterback, Curtis Painter, started the last five games last year and improved each time out. "

"We'll continue to throw it until we get hot and when we get hot, we'll continue to throw it."

On his team's weaknesses:
"I'm skeptical about our secondary, but help is on the way. We have three pretty good junior college players joining us that we identified early in the recruiting process and were patient with. We have some work ahead of us on the defensive line although we do have some depth this season which will be critical as we move through the schedule."

On the key to his team's success:
"How we come out of the shoot will say a lot in determining the way our season goes. If we get off to a respectable start, we will have the type of team that improves as the season goes along. Sometimes you have a team that looks the same at the beginning of the season and at the end of the season. I don't think we have that type of team."

On having five new coaches on staff:
"Having five new guys on staff is something I've never experienced before as a coach. It was stressful during recruiting. But I think this is the strongest staff we've had since my first year at Purdue."

John L. Smith, Michigan State 
On his excitement for the upcoming season:
"This is probably the most excited I've been for a season since taking the job at Michigan State. We had one of the best springs that I've ever been a part of both on and off the field. The kids have been working very hard and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can get accomplished this season."

On his team's need to be strong defensively:
"In order for us to have a chance, we have to be good on the defensive side of the ball. Our ability to be successful on that side of the ball is mostly dependent on our secondary. Our coverage in the secondary will allow us to do a lot more up front. It was important that (the secondary) had a different mentality this spring."

On his offensive attack being coined `dynamic':
"Yes, I believe we're going to be exciting on the offensive side. I believe we are going to be able to score. We've always been able to do that. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a circus. We're going to enjoy it and we'll put points on the board. But for us to be where we want to be, our defense has to step up. We're going to be exciting to watch offensively, but we better be exciting to watch defensively as well."

On how his senior quarterback Drew Stanton can improve:
"One of the things we worked on with Drew during the spring was him learning to rely on the football team a little bit more and relying on the offense a little bit more. Going into spring ball I made a little bet with him that he couldn't go through the spring without throwing an interception- which he did [successfully]. We're trying to have Drew get a little more confidence in the offense and a little lower interception ratio."

Glen Mason, Minnesota
On his outlook for the 2006 season:
"I'm really anxious for our upcoming season. We're losing very few players from our 2005 ball club, but the players we lost were pretty darn good players. I've been impressed with the work ethic of the returning players. The players and I are growing tired of answering the same questions about the players we lost because we return a lot of guys who played a significant amount of football for us last year."

On his senior quarterback Bryan Cupito being considered `underrated':
"I think it's tough to get the credit you deserve when you play for a run-oriented offense. Without the numbers, you may not get the attention. But without the ability to throw the ball, the running game isn't nearly as successful. The fact that we do run the ball so much is why he is probably considered underrated by many."

On the new football stadium for the university:
"The stadium will be there, it's a done deal. When is it going to be there? Not soon enough. There is a possibility of our game with Penn State (Oct. 7) being moved because the Minnesota Twins are the hottest team in baseball right now. We plan to open the 2009 season in the new venue."

On filling the void at the running back position:
"Our most notable returning running back is junior Amir Pinnix. He's been waiting in the wings for a few years now. Not this last spring, but the two previous springs he had been named Outstanding Player of the Spring Game. We're not going to have the type of talent and depth we've had at running back in the past."

Joe Paterno, Penn State
On the difficulties of August for a football coach:
"August to me is a very demanding time for coaching. In preparing for a championship season, you need August to tie up all the loose ends and replace the exiting football players.  We have some good football players returning though. Paul Poluszny and Levi Brown are good football players."

On advising Pat Fitzgerald:
"Pat called me when he was calling a lot of coaches around for advice as he was looking for my input. It is very hard to give advice to anyone in the position Pat's in. I remember playing against Pat; he was a fierce competitor. He's bright; he's got all the ingredients. He knows he's got a tough job and he's lost his mentor [Randy Walker]. The advice I told him was to put `I'm the boss' on his mirror. He's not an assistant anymore but he'll be alright. He's going to make mistakes, but we all make mistakes, so it is important to hang in there and have some fun."

On whether it's possible to achieve success as a young coach:
"Yeah, it's possible to have success at a young age but you must believe in yourself. Young coaches are good for football. They add something to the league. New ideas and an urgency to begin recruiting put more pressure on the other coaches."

On changes in the offense over the past two years:
"Each player you have is different. You must give the team or the player a specific scheme to fit their strengths. We had Michael Robinson who was great in that scheme as well as some young players who gave us a new dimension."

On how long he will remain coach at Penn State:
"I had a physical because I have been feeling pain in my leg, but besides that I'm feeling good.  The doctor says I can still coach for 10 more years. I feel great and I feel that I am going to coach as long as I feel good about myself and still be excited about my work."

On Ohio State's talented offense:
"I think he's [Troy Smith] a great football player. He just got better and better as the season went on. They also have good guys on defense. He's [Smith] surrounded by Ginn Jr. and other great players. Ohio State is an awfully good team and Smith is a great player."

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
On departed senior class:
"We have solid potential for this season despite the loss of a lot of seniors. We had a great group of seniors last year, many who were three or four-year starters. These seniors provided not only great production but leadership. Our focus since January has been to replace these seniors and help our younger players step up."

On the state of the defense and offense:
"We were hit hard by graduation. The inside linebackers, Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway, who had played like seniors for three years are gone. We have lost two corners that played for three-and-a-half and four years. We also graduated three receivers and two offensive linemen. On the other hand we return some outstanding players. Drew Tate returns for his third season with a chance to add on to what has already been a very good career. Albert Young had a tremendous season last year - the first year he has been fully healthy.  We have good depth at the tight end position. With Scott Chandler returning we are three deep. We have depth at the offensive line to fill the gaps left by exiting seniors. Defensively we return every defensive linemen and our safeties are sound."

On playing Ohio State at night:
"It is only the second night game ever played at Kinnick Stadium. Formerly it was a logistical problem to have a night game due to the lack of parking around the stadium. Outside of that, the environment is going to be excellent with Ohio State coming to town."

On young head coaches:
"It's funny that they call the two new coaches [Bielema and Fitzgerald] the next generation. I was once referred to as a new-generation coach. Bret Bielema once played at Iowa, a great story obviously, and Pat Fitzgerald much the same way. They are both outstanding coaches who are intelligent and have enjoyed success. They are highly motivated and my guess is that they will do extremely well. Age is extremely overrated."

On the youth of the offensive line:
"We have three guys who have already played a lot of football for us and they occupy their starting spots. On the other hand we have three more guys competing for the other two line positions. It is necessary for the incumbent underclassmen to fill this void."

On Kinnick Stadium's renovation:
"It is a fantastic stadium, combining storied past and modern amenities. Most importantly it embodies the character of a true student-athlete that its namesake, Nile Kinnick, was."

On playing without a bye:
"Hopefully in a few years they will bring a bye week back. It is nice to have a break in the middle of the season where the players do not have to focus on football. It is also nice from a coach's standpoint to use the bye week to check the mental and physical pulse of a team."

Terry Hoeppner, Indiana
On the loss of Coach Randy Walker:
"It was with mixed emotions that I drove into the city last night because I was here just a short time ago to pay respects to Coach Walker. In fact driving into the city last night I called his brother Rob, but I know `Coach Walk' would all want us to move on and we'll do that. I think that will be part of his legacy for sure."

On the Hoosiers'  team speed:
"The motto for the winter at IU was `If you can run, then you can play.' That was our theme.  And if you can't run, then you're going to be standing beside me watching.  But we are going to be a much faster football team."

On the team's youth:
"We'll be a young football team. The term redshirt may not be used at IU this year. I tell young guys coming in `We're going to play you soon - not too soon - but soon." 

On the excitement of the upcoming season:
"There's an excitement throughout the state - the Hoosier Nation. There is an enthusiasm.  And to the groups I've had an opportunity to speak with I thanked them for their patience because they're more patient with me than I am with me."

About the Big Ten Conference:
 "It's a great league. I've always respected the league. I've been an IU fan and a Big Ten fan and now getting to be a part of it is a special thing for me and my family."

On the Hoosiers' recruiting class:
"We are light years ahead of where we were a year ago at this time simply because of the knowledge we have about our players and the trust we've been able to develop with them.   We may have some young offensive linemen - which the hardest position to play might be the offensive line - and we think we've recruited well at that position."

On the Hoosiers' running backs:
"That's an inexperienced position, but I've always felt as a coach that was a talent position that you can play early on. We're going to hand off the football and tell them not to get tackled - and if they can do that well, then that's good for us. The hardest part of being a running back is to learn to pass protect so that's going to be a challenge for them. We think we have some talent there for sure."

Lloyd Carr, Michigan
On the expectations for the upcoming season:
"I'm very excited about this Michigan team. We have an excellent nucleus of returning players offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. We've had a great offseason, with the only disappointment being the loss of Antonio Bass in the spring. With that exception we go into fall practice healthy. I think we have a great attitude, a strong nucleus of leaders and our goals are extremely high."

On the team's defense:
"Defensively, I think the strength of our team is going to be the front four with LaMarr Woodley and Alan Branch - two of the finest defensive linemen we've had at Michigan. Leon Hall has a chance to be one of the best corners in the country - one of the best corners we've had as well.

On the Michigan running game:
"Our situation at running back is as good as it's been since I've been at Michigan. I think Mike Hart is a great football player - one of the best I've coached. He is a great leader and he has no weaknesses. He can run the football, he's a great pass receiver, a great pass protector and a guy that plays with great energy. When he's healthy he brings something special to the table."

On quarterback Chad Henne:
"Chad Henne is ready to take another step. I think at some point he'll be a great quarterback.  He's got everything it takes to be a great quarterback."

Jim Delany, Big Ten Commissioner
On the death of Randy Walker:
"He was a good friend and a great college football coach. He will be missed. Not only from the standpoint of a conference commissioner but as a friend. He represented a lot of the qualities we like to see in our coaches. He was a tough guy, a fair guy, an honest guy, a great representative of Northwestern and the Big Ten as well as North Carolina, Miami of Ohio and other places he visited."

On the conference's new bowl lineup:
"We thought that the change was the right change, playing in the Insight Bowl against the Big 12. It should be a great game and we're real excited about that. Then in the state of Florida we renewed our relationship with the Capital One Bowl in Orlando as well as the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Then we divvied out the selections so that we will be playing in San Antonio at the Alamo Bowl as well as the Champs Bowl in Orlando. Our bowl lineup provides us an opportunity to compete in the BCS annually at the championship level if we are No. 1 or No. 2. We also have the opportunity to receive an at-large bid to the Rose Bowl Game which has been reestablished under the double hosting. I think you will pretty much see a Big Ten and Pac-10 opponent competing in that game every year."