2017 Purdue week: Mike Riley transcript

Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Oct. 23, 2017
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
Pre Purdue

Head Coach Mike Riley
Opening Statement
“I thought before we got into where we are with our team and our next game, I just have a couple comments about where we are a little bit. Obviously, we have been really disappointed with our football in general. I think the bye week was timely for a lot of reasons, I suppose. We would like to do everything we can to help this team grow. We’re confident about doing that and I’ve been real impressed with the work that we’ve gotten from our team. I know that I have mentioned the character of this team often in here and I would like to just reemphasize that this is a good group. It felt good to get to practice with them last week, the way that they worked. That part of it, I don’t think we will be lacking at all from this group. We want to one day at a time grow and have that result in a win. That is our goal for the moment and that’s what we are going about doing. I’m really excited to work with these guys because of who they are. We’ve got a great blend on this team, I think, of people. Some new guys that have stepped in this year with some youth and a few solid older guys that are on the team that have I think probably been a big part of the stability of being able to go to work like we have. I’m sure I’ll forget somebody, but when I say that I think of a guy like Chris Weber who’s about as sound and consistent a person as you can find. We are fortunate to have people like that to be with the younger guys in the program. When we talk about change, it’s really, really smart during the bye week time to take a good look at self-evaluation, what you’re doing, and sometimes as you look at that you can emphasize some of the things that you think you are capable of doing well and have done at times well, and then it’s also important to recognize what you should probably stay away from. Offensively, who you want to emphasize and make sure they’re getting the ball. So, it’s a good time to do that. The part of coaching that has to be kind of a continual part of it is evaluation of your team and what you’re doing, and that was a good time to do that. Then, I’d just like to reiterate, like I always do, despite being disappointed, the great fans that we have and we want to obviously put together a great product for them.

Our injury situation, part of it was a good week, for sure. I think that the three safeties that either missed all of or most of the last game, Antonio Reed and Aaron Williams and Joshua Kalu, I think they’ll be healthy to practice and go this week. I think the week was perfect that way for JD Spielman, he hurt his shoulder near the end of the last game, and so that week was good for him. I anticipate him practicing this week and going. He did not practice last week. Stanley Morgan, with his hip, did not practice last week, but I anticipate him being able to go. And then on the other side of it, Luke Gifford is still bothered by a hip, so I don’t know what his status will be going forward. And Dedrick Young, you’ve all seen him play with his cast, well they discovered that the plate in there was misplaced, and so they had to redo it, so I don’t know if he’ll be able to recover enough to be able to be a player on Saturday night. We’ll see. The other news is, Tre Bryant will have surgery tomorrow. We’re just looking at many things with Tre. He has just been a warrior trying to get back, but as we look at it for his long-term future with us, the best thing for him is going to be to go ahead and get it done now. And then the next question that will come from you, ‘What does that mean about his redshirt?’ and I think that he would be a great applicant for getting this year back. It also gives him the best chance to be healthy for the next go-around in the spring. So, that’s where that is with him.

“Purdue is coming off a tough loss, but really, really played a lot of good football in their last game. I think they outgained Rutgers by a couple hundred yards in the game. They’re very sound defensively. They’re like a lot of times, like we are, they start with a 3-4 and mix in a four-man front from time to time depending on the team or the situation. Offensively, they are balanced. They have something off of whatever they do. So, there’s a counter-punch to how they play. They use two quarterbacks. I don’t think necessarily they’ll run a different offense, but just to play in there and give you a different look. Like I said, they have great balance within what they do. We’re looking at a team that has either won or been really, really competitive. (Purdue Head Coach) Jeff’s (Brohm) doing a nice job you can tell with that team, so we’re expecting a really competitive, tough game in West Lafayette on Saturdaynight.”

On Tre Bryant’s Injury
“I can’t get technical on that, because I would be misleading probably in some fashion. As best as I can say it, as they all are, it’s just corrective to, like I said and the most I can say about it is, it gives him his best chance to get back and play again.”

On Tre Bryant’s two games played this season
“I have a ton of respect for Tre Bryant. He’s a great worker, great teammate. He was in a great competition within our group. As you know, we didn’t make that decision until the final week that he would be our starting back and would not necessarily be in a rotation. As we looked back at those first two games, I think that he made the most of it for sure. It was exciting. He had a lot of good plays and showed, really, what he’s capable of doing. I’m hopeful for him that he can get this fixed now and have plenty of time to play once again like he’s capable of playing.”

On Jaylin Bradley and his similar skill set to Tre Bryant
“We’re really excited about him. I think that when you look at those two guys, I think they would both go into the category of possibly being an every-down back. I think that Jaylin is talented and we like all that about him, and that’s really why we kept him active, and knowing the running back position and how hard it is, and we’re looking at it right now with really the loss, this year, of Tre, that important. And who knows where that will surface with him before the year’s out, but he’s an exciting player.”

On clarifying whether running backs Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon have qualities that prevent them from being every-down backs
“No, I think that all three of them that are playing right now are. It really wasn’t the fact that either Devine or Mikale would be limited at all, we just, as everybody knows, decided to go with a back to start the year and then would substitute Devine and/or Mikale, when appropriate. And then, when we lost Tre, we found that that that rotation with those other two was pretty good. They’ve had their moments where they both played together and have done a good job. I don’t really have any regrets about how that has transpired, but really, all of these guys are pretty capable of being an every-down kind of back. They can catch the ball. They biggest thing for Jaylin, probably to continue to do, is to get really comfortable with the times that he has pass protection. If you give him the ball and run, he’s good, and he’s capable of being a good runner and a good pass receiver, so he’s got a lot of stuff, as do the other guys.”

On plans to get Matt Farniok involved on the offensive line
“We’re pushing Matt in there, he rotated in at guard, even, last week. I think that it’s really important to look at players, even as you go, and decide what might be the best fit for them position-wise. Who he is as an athlete might be better fitted inside, so we’ve taken a look at him in there, but yes we would like to play him. He’s still hampered a little bit by that cast, but he appears to be getting more and more functional with it.”

On the linebacker situation with Luke Gifford and Dedrick Young’s status
“That’s a good question and we’ve been through that a little bit. It’s that time of year, right,  where you could think about if there was the right guy. Really the other guys that could surface that if you were going to take a red shirt off of somebody, one of them is a boundary backer for sure and not an inside backer or a field backer, and then the other three are definitely are just inside backers. There’s no real good young guy that is redshirting that could slide in there and help us. Right now we would have Marcus Newby, which is good, in a perfect world our plan was to rotate Luke Gifford and Marcus Newby in the game and then Tyrin Ferguson.”

On how the bye week helped coaches reassess
“What we did was we did a lot of self-evaluation, and working with our team. Not Necessarily game planning, but just working on whatever we saw as we evaluated those things that would be necessary to help our players get better. So the reassessment of the work has to do with how we can help the players, and then also to have a good picture of what is important for us to emphasize doing.”

On quarterback recruiting “We have re-evaluated the whole idea of whether or not to wait and just get a guy in 2019. I like the room the way it is, I want to keep a small room in the quarterback room. But, when you look at the big picture in the future it made us think ‘maybe this would be smart to continue to look if we find the right ’18 guy.’ Obviously, through the year we watch a lot of video even while we’re preparing for games. We’ve kept an eye on a few and for me, that’s kind of been one of the things I’ve always done on a bye week is go see a quarterback or two if I can. So, we had two likely suspects to take a look at.”

On the challenges of the makeup of the roster between year one and year three
“There are more similarities than you would think between one and three. Even though you never expect or want any kind of setback, the one thing I think is for sure with not only the changing of the guard at quarterback but almost the changing of the system, too. Then, the changing of the defensive system. Putting those things together almost feels like a year one more than a year three. I won’t say that I anticipated where we are at all because of it, but I don’t know that I can distinguish too much. It almost feels more similar than different.”

What did you anticipate?
“I think that what I anticipate is normally really at a high level. With things production-wise, I anticipated being more productive on both sides of the ball. When you can take an analysis of the mid-season review of where you are statistically, I would hope we’d be better. The one thing that was great for us from year one to year two was we really improved in the turnover margin, a key factor. The thing that I had hoped that also makes a big difference is that we would be better in the rushing category. So, I think that as I anticipated, I had a more optimistic view of what those two would look like. Then, the other thing that you can never anticipate are some injuries that happened that have played a key role, and you just have to be ready for them. It’s been good in that regard to get Chris Jones back and to look at that as what it might’ve looked like in the safeties back there this week. I hope that makes a big difference this week as we look at it.”

On if he stands by his preseason thoughts
“I don’t ever look at a year like that, Sam. I don’t ever want to message that to our fans. That’s like telling your team that. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I don’t have any excuses for it. We should and could be better. It doesn’t have to look like this. Now with what we see, we can take a realistic look at where we can go to help our team. So, we’re in the middle of it and that’s our job right now to do that. I’ve coached a long time and I’ve never believed in that. I would never actually message that out.”

On the offensive line
“I think that what we have to do with the offense, which a lot of it is triggered by how the offensive line plays, is I think if we can run the ball better than we have been and continue to improve, which we’ve done better, at protecting our quarterback, those two things will mean a lot to us as we go forward. And how would I assess their play? As a group we certainly can continue to get better, but there have been individuals that have grown. Michael Decker got his first snaps of significant playing and I think that’s been good for him. Brenden Jaimes, obviously a true freshman, which is unusual playing right tackle. For now, a lot of snaps and just continuing to get better. There’s pieces like that that when you make a general statement about the group trying to get better, which we need to do, there are guys within it that are playing significant downs and improving which is kind of neat.”

On the tight ends
“We haven’t been able to use the tight ends like I anticipated. I think that it’s kind of part of the overall picture of where we’ve been productivity-wise offensively. Are we continuing to work on that? Absolutely. I think that there are people in that group that are weapons that can be used like that and I think that they can play a significant role of balancing our pass-receiving corps which is what tight ends can do for you. I think that Stanley is having a productive year, JD is having a productive year. I think we can do more with our flanker who’s doing a pretty good job, he’s making some plays. De’Mornay and Tyjon, I’d like to break him loose a bit. Our tight ends, in that balancing act, would be a big help there.”

On the younger tight ends
“There are two freshmen that are redshirting that I think are going to be good players and we will probably keep them on the redshirt deal, but they’re interesting guys. They both are, and if they could help us in play right now I’d say let’s go, but they need some weight training. Austin Allen is really athletic, he’s got a great confidence to him as an athlete that I really like. He can use an offseason of a redshirt year to get ready for spring ball and make a move. I’m excited about him and Kurt Rafdal. I’m excited about that ’17 group that’s redshirting as a matter of fact.”

On the mental aspect
“For some of the guys, the bye week was really good physically. For our team, with where we are, it was really good to get a few days away from us and football. I think the practices that we did have I see as kind of a release to get out there and get to play without a game right in front of you. We interacted and played offense against defense most of the time during that time without scout teams so they could just play football and coaches could coach, and hopefully technically help guys grow in some of the things they needed to improve on. We could get a little bit better idea of how we can forward.”

On if he’s standing by the three-four defense
“Yes I am. I think that what has been taught in spring ball, fall camp and even into the season, I think that we found out the last two games where we have to go. We’ve played two teams that are in the top five, so we found out more of where we need to go. Up to that point, the previous couple games, our defense was improving and even played into the third quarter against Wisconsin with only giving up one touchdown. So, I think that this is a great, hardworking, detailed coaching staff on defense and I really like the looks of it. I think that it will do nothing but grow, and it’s a good thing for Nebraska.”

On Purdue
“I think they’re doing a very nice job with their team. They’re competitive, they have a plan and it looks good. They’ve been in almost all of the games. They’ve been very competitive. They played Wisconsin relatively tight. They played Louisville tight, so they’re very capable.”

Source: Nebraska Athletics