August 27, 2012
Purdue's had three weeks of practice to get set for the 2012 season, and now has one remaining to prepare for its Week 1 opponent.
Saturday, the Boilermakers will host FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky. Following, Purdue's coordinators, Gary Nord and Tim Tibesar, talk about the latest with their units and preview the opponent.
Offensive coordinator Gary Nord
Gold & Black: How do you assess your offense a week before Game 1?
Nord: "Well, I think we've gotten better every practice. I haven't seen any big drop-off days, that's a sign of experience. The last couple years we've had some days where we've looked pretty good and some days where we were really bad. Thank goodness, we haven't seen any really bad days this camp."
Gold & Black: Last season, in games vs. Middle Tennessee and Rice, the offense sputtered. I'd think you're more confident that you can start fast this year.
Nord: "Last year was a first-time starter at the quarterback spot, and that's the major difference. When you've got a quarterback that's starting for the first time, you can't lay him out there and expose him and have a chance of ruining him for the rest of the season. We were awful conservative the first couple games, and this year is a different story. We feel like he can pretty much handle whatever the defense gives him now. We can call plays and if our plays, the defense will not allow us to execute, then he can check us out of them."
Gold & Black: What's the status of Rob Henry for this weekend?
Nord: "I'm not sure yet. I'm still a little concerned about him, if he's 100 percent. He still has his good days and his bad days with that knee, so we're going to be on the conservative side."
Gold & Black: Even though you haven't settled on the starters on the offensive line, do you feel comfortable with your options there?
Nord: "Yeah, I think we have to continue to improve and get better from now until Saturday. We had a couple spots (open) up there; I think we're talented, but we don't have the experience there that we need, or that we'd like to have, but they're going to have to grow up quick and learn on the run in the next four or five days."
Gold & Black: Justin Kitchens seems to have made a late push at left tackle, challenging Kevin Pamphile. What do you like about him?
Nord: "Justin Kitchens started for us last year, before he hurt himself. Justin Kitchens was always in our thoughts and our plans. We didn't know how he was going to come off the surgery that he had, but he's getting more and more strength in that shoulder, so he's getting back to full speed now."
Gold & Black: Is Cody Davis nice to have, in the sense that he can play multiple spots inside?
Nord: "He gives us a lot. He's probably really just a guard, probably won't get any center action, with Robert Kugler being the backup center. We'd have to go three-deep to get him in there. He's been playing both sides at the guard spot and is getting better too. He may be one of the more improved lineman that we have, with his strength, he really built up his upper body and got a lot stronger. He's given great effort and I love his attitude."
Gold & Black: How do you play to rotate your quarterbacks this season?
Nord: "I don't think it's going to be a whole lot different than what we did last year. We're going to start Caleb TerBush and we're going to play Robert Marve and we'll make the decisions based on who gives us the best chance to win the football game that we're in at the time, and go with him."
Gold & Black: What young guys do you anticipate playing this season?
Nord: "Well, right now, I think the only young guy that's really going to see any action early would be Danny Anthrop. He's probably got the best chance of coming out and playing early. And Cameron Posey, those two guys. Carlos Carvajal was going to play, but he's been injured and hasn't been able to practice the last week-and-a-half, but probably the two wideouts, Danny and Cameron."
Gold & Black: You need some help, from a depth standpoint, at receiver.
Nord: "Yeah, they both run really well and are catching on; they're really intelligent, and they've got great motors and love the game. They're going to play a lot of football around here and hopefully we can get them in early."
Gold & Black: Has Anthrop surprised you?
Nord: "He did surprise me, I'll be honest with you. He came over to camp last year and we tagged the offer on him because of his skills, his ability to run fast and change direction, so we gave him an offer, but when he came over here in the summer, he didn't have any idea how to run routes like we wanted him to or understand the different things we wanted him to as a wide receiver. But man, he's a football junky, he loves it. He asked questions and they're intelligent questions and you don't have to tell him twice."
Gold & Black: Do you need your pass protection to be much better than it has been in the past?
Nord: "I think that's definitely the thing we're going to hang our hat on this year, to make sure that we have the best passing game we can. But it usually always comes back to being able to control the line of scrimmage and being able to control the line of scrimmage and run the football when you need to, and we've got to be able to do that."
Gold & Black: What can you tell me about Eastern Kentucky?
Nord: "Eastern is a very talented I-AA football team. They've got a bunch of kids that have transferred from Division I schools and they've got a great tradition there. They play a three-deep defense, which you hardly see any more. That used to be the only thing you saw, but they'll play a three-deep defense and three down linemen and they'll stand another end up, which is different than most teams. But they're very active and play with a lot of energy. They've caused a tremendous amount of turnovers last year, which is always concerning."
Defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar
Gold & Black: With less than a week left 'til Game 1, what are your thoughts on the defense?
Tibesar: "I think we're coming along. I think it will be a good test for us to come out against a team that returns a lot of their starters from last year, so I think they'll be very comfortable in their offense, so I think we've got to go out and execute."
Gold & Black: Where do you think you've made the most strides since the start of camp?
Tibesar: "I think just learning and understanding and mastering the system, certainly. We got a good introduction last spring and we've been able to hone in more on the details and get more into the playbook and add a few more defenses to the package."
Gold & Black: What are you looking for on Saturday?
Tibesar: "The biggest thing is I want us to get lined up correctly and play fast and physical. If we do those, then we'll do well. That's really what I'm looking for, that I'm judging us on. We're going to keep it simple enough for our guys to do that. We're not going to make it complex. We want to be able to get lined up and play fast and physical for 60 minutes."
Gold & Black: Missed defensive assignments have been a huge issue the last couple years. We've heard your defense is simpler to master. Should that help?
Tibesar: "Yeah, in general, we certainly don't want missed assignments, those are always bad. So we want everybody to know what they're doing out there and like I said, be able to play a fast game and a physical game, and not have to do too much thinking while the play is going on. Obviously, pre-snap we've got to get lined up correctly and recognize formations and get the communication that we need. Then after that, hopefully we can lock in on our keys and go play."
Gold & Black: Are there still spots to determine in the two-deep?
Tibesar: "Yeah, we're still working some spots out where we're trying to figure out our true two deep. In some cases, it's because we have actually have enough guys to be two, two-and-a-half or three deep, and other spots, we've got one and we're trying to figure out who that next guy is that we can really count on. So we've got different scenarios all over the defense. Hopefully, the goal is to have a solid two deep across the board where those guys can be interchangeable out there."
Gold & Black: Linebacker Joe Gilliam has apparently made a move of late. How's he looked?
Tibesar: "Joe has had a great fall camp. He's done a real good job. He's done a really good job. He's played primarily at Will linebacker for us, and has had a few reps here or there at Mike, just to show that he can do it. When he's gotten his opportunities he's made the most of it."
Gold & Black: As far as freshmen, it sounds like lineman Ryan Watson could make an early impact, right?
Tibesar: "I think he's got tremendous talent and a great upside. He's very athletic for his size. He's like a lot of freshman right now: big-eyed and didn't know what to expect and he's learning as he goes along. I think as the season goes along, he's going to develop and has a real good chance to be able to help us."
Gold & Black: He's already near 300 pounds. You can't coach him into that.
Tibesar: "Correct, you can't coach size into him; he's already got that down. It's a big transition. A lot of people don't realize going from high school football to college, there's a lot more from a mental standpoint and a lot more from a physical standpoint, and there's a certain standard of hustle we're looking for on every single snap. He's coming along as well as any of the freshman are, but he's still just a freshman."
Gold & Black: Cornerback Anthony Brown too, it seems like he's a possibility to play as a freshman.
Tibesar: "We knew going in in recruiting that we got a heck of a talent, and he's shown that he's a phenomenal athlete. He's done a good job of picking up the system. Corner is one of the mentally easier positions to play, so it allows him to go out and use his physical tools. Coach Burns has done a great job of bringing him along and get him ready to go. We do have some depth out there, but it's amazing you start getting into nickel and dime packages how quickly you need to use those DBs out there, so I forsee Anthony as a guy who can definitely help us out."
Gold & Black: You've worked a lot of pursuit drills during camp. How do you grade those on game day? Is it an eye-ball test?
Tibesar: "Every time our guys do it, our coaches are watching to see. I've got to get a thumbs up from every one before we move on. It certainly is graded by that standpoint. And everything we do from a game standpoint, we grade every player every play on pursuit and how hard they are running to the ball and if they're taking the right angles to the ball. That's one of the things that's a real priority for us; we're going to be a team that runs hard to the football every single snap."
Gold & Black: Does Robert Maci seem like a linebacker now to you? Are you pretty confident in putting him out there?
Tibesar: "Absolutely, I have all the confidence in the world in Robert. He's done a great job at the end of spring ball, he got some reps at linebacker. He did this fall camp too, so he's kind of that dual-role player for us that can line up with his hand down or standing up. He can give us a physical presence with a tight end as a linebacker or has a little bit of speed as a rusher off the offensive tackle."
Gold & Black: Do you have any concerns?
Tibesar: "No. I don't have any concerns. I'm looking forward to getting to game week, like I'm sure the players are, and to finally have a focus on a single opponent.
We can really drill down on the reads and keys during the course of a week. We're all looking forward to game day."
Gold & Black: Tell me about EKU.
Tibesar: "They were very good on offense and return 10 of their 11 starters, so it's a very veteran group. They've got two guys at the tackle position who are considered NFL possible players. They've got a big, tall, physical wide receiver who had double-digit touchdowns last season, and a tailback who despite not starting 'til game five or six last year had over 1,500 yards and averaged about 185 yards per game the last five.
"You look what they've done the last three years, they've played three BCS schools and although they lost all three games, the margin of victory was six points, so they played all three teams very difficult and tough. We're expecting a tough game. I think our guys are focused in and want to go play."
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