Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Northern Illinois Game


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Coach Mike Shula
Coach Mike Shula

Northern Illinois Game Press Conference
Opening Comments & First Five Questions Transcript


"As we start our preparation today, the things that we are going to talk to our players about are that we've seen how they've reacted going into the first game. We've seen how they've reacted after a tough loss against Oklahoma. Now we want to see how we're going to react and see if we can put two wins together back-to-back against a Northern Illinois team that, with Coach (Joe) Novak, started from scratch and has done a great job building their program. They lost in the division championship last year within the last minute. They gave Wisconsin last year all they could handle. This year they beat Maryland. They're 2-0 now. So these are the things that we are going to be talking to our players about.

"And also we'll talk to the players about just continuing to improve, each guy individually on his own game. We're still becoming more familiar with what we are doing in all phases. It's kind of an on-going learning process this year more than ever because of the circumstances. Those are the things we need to get ourselves ready for week in and week out and that's going to start today with our players."

On playing nine straight games before having a "bye week":

"I think it's a little bit of a concern, but it's kind of like a lot of other things this year. Those are the cards we are dealt with, so you go into that with the frame of mind that `we are going to do whatever it takes. Whatever the situation is, whatever the team is we come in and play, we've got to find a way to prepare, stay focused, continue our level of effort and energy and continue to improve. And do that with the injury factor, guys getting nicked up a little bit and having other guys come in. So far everything we've asked our guys to do they've responded well. We've got some work to do improvement-wise with what we're doing in all three phases and now we'll have to add some of these guys that are going to come in and play for us that maybe haven't played early in the season."

Mike, realistically, how much longer can you wait before you arrive at a decision on Cornelius Wortham and A.C. (Antonio) Carter as far as a redshirt, and what will be the factors that go in there as you make the decision?

"This (redshirt decision making) is new to me but in talking to some of the coaches who have been through this a lot, you take it week to week. We're trying to get these guys healthy. That's the number one thing.  They continue to improve each week, so that's been our mindset as a staff. Once those guys are healthy, then we'll make a decision on whether or not to redshirt them or to play them."

Coach, could you give us your assessment of Northern Illinois' running back Michael Turner?

"He's a guy who's got very good speed and he's a lot bigger than people think. I think he's close to 230 or more. He does a nice job. They do a nice job offensively, and it's geared around Michael. Running the football they come off the ball, they get after you. They're a little bit different from the other teams maybe that we've played who were a little more pass-oriented. These guys want to run the football. They don't try to hide it. And they do it with a guy that can pound you so to speak, use his size to run over you and he's got speed once he gets on the corner, and he's got quickness to make guys miss and to get the ball in the end zone. Each week we've faced some guys that are dangerous in that at any time they can take it into the end zone. And here's another week."

Can you comment on the play of the defensive line and more specifically Anthony Bryant?

"Anthony's played better the last couple of weeks. I think he's done a nice job inside. We've got a nice combination with our defensive line. Our defensive ends are more speed guys so to speak, and, I hope Anthony doesn't take this the wrong way, but he and Ahmad (Childress) and Jeremy (Clark), they're more power pressures up the middle. They do a nice job of occupying the linemen so our linebackers who also have speed can get freed up so to speak to make plays on running backs. So, hopefully he'll continue to improve the way he has the last couple of weeks."

Coach, with it being such a long season did you have any second thoughts about not playing Shaud (Williams) late in the fourth quarter of that game, to save him for the end of the season, and will that enter your mind these next few games?

"I think it's going to be tough for any back to carry the ball thirty times every week, so that's something we definitely have to look at. As a coach you are always looking for those comfort blankets, and Shaud's one of them. You get a little nervous when he's not on the field in whatever phase, special teams or offense, so we put him in there at the end where we felt we wanted to preserve the lead and keep the ball away from those guys. They'd just scored and we wanted to somehow keep our defense off the field and keep their weapons off the field. So to do that Shaud's a big factor in our offense. It's nice to be able to run the ball like that and have a lot of carries, but we've got some other guys in there, too, that we want to get work with, Ray Hudson and Ken Darby."