West Lafayette, Indiana
JEFF BROHM: Well, we’re definitely getting excited for this upcoming weekend. I think that we made a few strides this past week where guys competed and played hard, and we showed some grit and toughness and we found a way to win in front of a great crowd we thought, which we’re very thankful for all the support we got this past weekend, and we’re looking forward to having a night game in our stadium against a very good TCU opponent coached by Coach Patterson who does a tremendous job, plays football at a high level, and we’ll have our hands full.
I think they’re very athletic on defense. That’s been their strength, two really good defensive tackles, two really, really good corners, and it’ll be a challenge for us. On both sides of the ball, we’ll have to step up and play well, and we’ll have to get an advantage somehow on special teams. A lot of work to be done this week in practice, and we’re looking forward to it.
Q. Any update on Elijah Sindelar?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think him and quite a few guys got nicked up, and we’ll see how they heal up this week. We’re hopeful that him and a lot of our guys will be ready to play, but we’ll probably let that play out a little more to the end of the week.
Q. What’s his issue?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think it was a concussion, a slight concussion that we’ll monitor and see how he passes all the tests and go through the proper protocol and hopefully get him back if he’s ready to go.
Q. Just kind of lumped everybody into that assessment of injuries, but Matt McCann, could he have returned, or was that a precautionary thing, or how concerned are you about his availability for Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: He’s the one that we’re probably most concerned about, and we’re getting more tests done today. That will give us a further grasp of where he’s at, but yes, we have concerns about his availability.
Q. How has Stickford held up and what kind of play did you see from him after watching the film?
JEFF BROHM: It was good to get Mark in the game. It was good to get DJ Washington in the game. I think you may see — I know we say this every week, you may see a few more guys get in the mix if we’re not getting done what we need to get done. You know, Mark is big, not the most athletic guy, but can occupy space and loves football, competes hard. DJ has a little more athleticism, maybe not quite as great a grasp of what we’re doing. So both guys can help us and contribute.
The one thing I’ll say, our offensive line goes hard. They work hard, they play hard. They do the best job they can. When you throw the ball that many times and give up zero sacks, that’s an accomplishment, so I’m very proud of their performance and the work they put in. With sacks, everything factors into play, getting the ball out quick, guys getting open, getting off press, good play calling, all that stuff, but they did a very good job. Did we do what we need to do in the running game? No, but it’s not all of them. It’s a combination of me and everything, and we’ve just got to work hard to get better.
Q. Saying all that about the offensive line, this will be their biggest challenge to date facing what TCU brings. Two games in, how comfortable are you with them knowing what they’re going to see on Saturday night?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I do think that this past week was encouraging. I thought Vanderbilt was a good defense, and we were able to put up some yards in the passing game and give up no sacks. That’s an accomplishment.
This week this front is very good. Their D-tackles are very, very good. They move around. They shift, they slant, they stunt, and that’s the most concerning thing is all the line movement. That’s where we have some problems and probably most offensive lines do. So we’ve got to work hard at blocking that and pass pro’ing that and understanding exactly what exactly we want done on each play, and we’ll get going on that all week, every day this week. But it’ll be a challenge.
I think with it — Coach Patterson has coached the defense for a long time, and they’re very aggressive in their approach, and they challenge things, and they’re not going to sit back, and that’s going to be a challenge for our offense.
Q. How do you evaluate the play of your cornerbacks, Mackey and Major, right now? I know Mackey was a game-time decision going into Saturday, but just what those two guys have done for you in the first two games.
JEFF BROHM: I think Dedrick and Kenneth both have competed very hard, and both guys were nicked up and not able to practice a ton during the week, and they came out and played the entire game. We’re very thankful for the toughness they displayed and their desire to want to compete and help their team win, and they’ve done some good things. I think we put a lot of pressure on the corners and they’ve got to be produce I have play a little bit of press, be able to know what we’re doing, and while we gave up too many pass yards, once again, which I don’t like, especially to a team that doesn’t throw the ball a whole lot, and some big plays which we need to eliminate, I think if we can just be more consistent in our approach, sometimes I think we relax a little bit and we ease up and we kind of just take a deep breath and that’s when big plays happen.
You want your team to make sure they understand that now you’ve got to bring it every single play, and regardless of the score, up or down, you cannot allow yourself to do some of the things that we do as far as just kind of being a little bit on our heels and not as aggressive, and that’s kind of when we get hurt. We’ve got to improve that. We’ve got to talk about it, and we’ve got to work hard to get better at it, but I am very encouraged that Dedrick and Kenneth played the entire game and competed as hard as they could.
Q. Jack Sullivan got in there early. Just kind of evaluate his performance and the stats I think had him for three batted-out passes. Was he as effective as what he showed on Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I’ve been wanting to get Jack in a little bit more from the get-go. I think he’s done a good job in practice. I think he gives us athleticism and length and maybe isn’t quite the weight or strength you want at this point, but he’s still developing, and he’s got a bright future. So it was good to see him and more guys playing on the defensive front. I think it helped us. It helps keep us fresh. I think it helps the competition, and when he got in there he was productive just as far as having some football instincts, batting balls and getting in passing lanes and those things. While you want to create push and get sacks, all of those things matter, and he gives us a few extra dimensions that maybe some of the others don’t have as much, so we were encouraged by his play.
Q. Do you get a sense David Bell is starting to settle in a little bit more? I know it’s just two games in his career, but Saturday he came up with some big plays and big catches. Is he settling in a little bit more?
JEFF BROHM: David has done a great job, and we’re trying not to put too much on him, and he responds to everything we do with him. He’s kind of a smooth receiver, doesn’t look like maybe he’s going quite as hard, but boy, he’s smooth. But he’s precise, and he ran some good routes, and even when we didn’t throw to him, he got open on some one-on-one match-ups, and he knows how to go up and make the catch, and I think he can be a tremendous player and has an unbelievably bright future, and his demeanor about wanting to compete and play football we love. He’s a team player. We’re happy he’s on our team, as well, and I think he’s going to be a star when it’s all said and done, and he’s continually been adding to our offense, and we’re going to make sure we keep him in the mix and we utilize him properly.
Q. TCU played two quarterbacks in its first game. Kind of evaluate those two guys and the challenges that they’re going to bring to your defense.
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think when you look at TCU over the course of the year when they have had phases where they’ve been really well, that means they’re really good on defense and they run the spread attack with an athletic quarterback very good. When they haven’t won as many games is when their offense hasn’t been able to respond. You know, they’re going to spread you out. They’re going to do a lot of things. You’re going to have to defend in space. That’s something we’ve got to get better at. We are pretty decent when guys load the box and put guys in there. We’ve got to get better when teams spread the field, and that means a mixture of playing coverage but it’s still a mixture of getting after the quarterback.
I think the fact that this past week we blitzed more, we affected the quarterback, we got pressure on him, we got sacks, but yet we still got hits and made him know that we were not going to let him sit back there and read coverage and throw it helps us. So we’re going to have to be smart in our approach, and still stay on the attack and make sure we’re not letting those quarterbacks get comfortable.
Q. Any history with Gary Patterson? Faced him in any situation? Do you know him well?
JEFF BROHM: You know what, we faced him when I was an assistant at Louisville, had some good games against TCU, and that’s what you know about him. I’ve heard him speak before. We’ve gone against him. He’s outstanding on defense. That is what he’s known for. And he’s very creative. He’s changed with the times. He’s adapted. He’s not just going to run one or two things, he’s going to be creative. What we try to do a little bit on offense, he’s going to run multiple things. He’s going to change it up each game. He’s going to base it on the team and the opponent and the offense he’s playing, and it’s not going to be exactly what he ran the week before or a couple weeks before. He’s very aggressive in his approach, and I think that’s what makes him tough is that he is going to take chances and he’s going to make you beat him, and he’s going to try to take away the good things that you do.
Q. Any chance we’ll see Lorenzo Neal this week?
JEFF BROHM: More than likely not. We’re working hard to get him back, but we’re — he’s probably not ready yet.
Q. Any update on Richie Worship?
JEFF BROHM: Rich is kind of the same. We were not extremely optimistic going into the season, even though he’s made some strides and we’re still letting him continue to rehab and get better, but no, I don’t think you’ll see him this week.
Q. You played eight defensive linemen. Jeff Marks hasn’t played yet this year. Is there a reason why he hasn’t played?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think Jeff is the next guy up, and he’s someone that has shown some good things for us at times. We want to get him in the mix more. You know, as we’ve gone through in his development, he’s not at the weight we want. We don’t think that weighing 250 pounds is where he needs to be at. But I think he realizes that now, where before, I don’t know if it meant as much to him, but he does want to get out there, and he wants to play. I think he can help us. We just have to make sure that, while I think he has some quickness and elusiveness, he still has to have some strength and some push, and hopefully we can get him in this week, but he’ll have to have a good week of practice and show us he’s ready to go.
Q. Who’s the No. 3 tight end?
JEFF BROHM: Well, right now the No. 3 position is — we’ve got Kyle Bilodeau and Garrett Miller working there. Early in the season, we don’t want to just waste games with a few plays. We’re going to be careful about putting them in. We probably will work Jack Cravaack at tight end, as well, who has already redshirted, in case we just need somebody for a few plays. But if someone goes down for an extended period, definitely Kyle Bilodeau and Garrett Miller will be up.
Q. Who first?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it probably depends on the situation. I think both guys can play for us and do good things. Both guys can be good receivers. Garrett is probably a little more of a physical blocker. Kyle is probably just slightly ahead as far as knowing the package. So it’ll — we’ll see how they practice this week.
Q. You guys were 125th out of 130 schools in rushing in the country. Can you beat teams like TCU being that imbalanced?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think the key to winning is score points, so whatever that takes. We’d love to be good in both, but I think if you’re good in both, then you’re probably not going to be high ranked in both, either. We want to score points and win games, and yes, put in all the pressure on the passing game is what we would prefer not to do, but yet at the same time if that’s going to help us score points and win, we’re not going to be stubborn, and we’re not going to force the issue. We’re going to work hard this week and get it better in the running game. We’re going to work hard this week at improving at that.
And on the flipside of it, too, I think Elijah is a rhythm — excuse me, he’s a guy who’s very streaky and can get in a rhythm, and throughout his history when we’ve been very balanced, he hasn’t played as well. When we’ve thrown a lot, I think he’s played better, but yes, we need to get better at the running game.
Q. Can you assess the special teams? Punting struggled Saturday; you had a big punt return called back; you missed a field goal. Talk about what you think of your special teams the first two weeks.
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think that we can continue to get a whole lot better. I think penalties have hurt us and turnovers have hurt us when you look at the two games. I think if you take away the turnovers and the penalties and you have that return and the ball doesn’t bounce up our helmet on a punt return and we don’t fumble another one, we’re doing okay. But the penalties have hurt us. Really the punting in general was not good this past game. I think that we struggled at the punter position. We missed a field goal, but I think J.D. has done a tremendous job other than that, especially on his kickoffs. We still have plenty of room to improve, so yes, we’ve got to get better, and the key was to try to get more yards on the return, and you take away the penalty, we made some strides there. So I think the plan has been pretty good. The execution and the attention to detail has not, and that is something that has to get better.
Q. TCU has a player very similar to Rondale Moore and Jalen Reagor. Talk about what you’ve seen from him on film.
JEFF BROHM: Well, he’s another great athlete that you’re going to have to know where he’s at and you’re going to have to contain him and you’re going to have to make sure people understand that you’ve got to rally to him and know that he’s an important piece to their success. When you have a good player, you just have to know where he’s at, and your players have to always know where he’s located.
Q. You know I’ve got to ask, right? Press release says Nick on the sideline; he’s going to be on the sideline, right, Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: Well, that would be the guess going into this game. I think that would be a good guess, yes.
Q. If you need Plummer, how confident are you in Plummer?
JEFF BROHM: We’re very confident in Jack, and I think that he would have had to go in if we extended the game longer. He’s had good weeks of practice. He’s improved. He’s got some moxie to him, some athleticism. I think he’s gaining confidence because he’s practiced well, and he has to always be ready to go. We tell him that all the time. Elijah has done a very good job, but like every position, especially quarterback, they’re one hit from their time being up, and they’ve got to make sure they’re ready when their number is called. That’s one of the worst things that can happen to a quarterback is when they’re not ready and their number is called and they don’t play as well as they would like and they lose confidence and that can affect you, so we want to make sure he’s ready, but he’s done a very good job to this point.
Q. How much of the offense can he run?
JEFF BROHM: I think he can run it all. That’s kind of one of his strengths. He’s very smart, very cerebral. If anything, he’s got some David Blough in him. He overthinks things a little bit, but that’s not a bad quality, and he works hard at it. I think he has a very bright future here.
Q. Is there a plan in place for you guys to run the ball more? Have you talked about what you want to do, or are you still all right, like Tom mentioned, being a little more imbalanced towards the pass?
JEFF BROHM: Well, you know, every team is different. You look at a Washington State, they win games and they throw the ball. Every year we’re going to do whatever we do the best. I’ve been on teams where we broke rushing yards, and same thing with passing records. One year I was on a team where we broke a passing record and a rushing record in the same season. So you’d like to have that balance. Whether we’ll have that, I’m not sure about that. I don’t know if that’s our strength. What you don’t want to do is beat your head into the wall and cause your team to lose because you think you have to do something just to have balance. But we will work hard at the running game, we will work hard to get better at it, and we understand that pressure has to come off the pass game a little bit. But we have good receivers and we have a good quarterback who can throw it. That’s his strength.
But yet you have to be smart, and teams are going to play the pass and do some things, that’s when you definitely have to run the ball. But it is important to have a mix.
Q. Do you have an update on Tario Fuller? When do you hope to have him back?
JEFF BROHM: Tario, he’s got to recover and heal up, and this is a long, lengthy process. I don’t have a timetable on it, but it’s not in the very near future.