The following is the transcript of Kevin Wilson’s press conference at media day. The big news, if you don’t want to read further, is he has opted not to pursue any Penn State players in the wake of NCAA sanctions and the ruling that all PSU players can be openly recruited and transfer without penalty. He said some of his coaches were in touch with contacts close to players, such as their high school coaches, to see if they might be interested, but there was no interest and Wilson has opted not to attempt to contact any Penn State players directly. The rest of the transcript follows.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Head Coach Kevin Wilson from Indiana.
COACH WILSON: Year two, again, of course we know coming off a very disappointing record year, but I think we’ve made some really great strides even last season off the field establishing our process, mindset, whatnot. Have had a good spring. Boat load, 110 kids were with us all summer. Even more than our preseason limit we can bring in.
Reporting Wednesday. Ready to roll. It’s great to be back here for year two.
Q. All the stuff going on with Penn State off the field, what do you have to look forward to when you guys square up on the gridiron later this season, what’s your expectations?
COACH WILSON: For that game? Is that the question?
Q. Yes. For that game. Ignoring everything that’s going on off the field, by the time you guys play, that stuff will be behind everybody. But just looking at Xs and Os, what do you have look forward to, what Coach O’Brien is going to bring in.
COACH WILSON: For us it’s game 11. I’m excited about it because I had the opportunity three years at Northwestern and last year. But with the rotation of our league at that time, we didn’t play everyone. I didn’t have the opportunity in 2001 to play against Penn State. And my first two years we didn’t; they didn’t come to us. So I’ve never had the opportunity to go into that venue, and that’s one of the great venues of college ball. So I look forward to our team.
But that’s so far down the road and in our challenges and building, I haven’t even studied that. We’ll have plenty of time to see the schemes and the defenses that Coach Ruffin will bring in, that Taylor will bring in, that Billy will employ with ten previous games. So we just look‑‑ I know it’ll be a phenomenal opportunity for our men to go there.
And our players, a couple years ago, actually played in Washington D.C., so it’s been a while since our football team has been there. It’s a great venue. They got phenomenal fans. But it’s a long way off, game 11. We have more important issues than that one.
Q. What do you think Coach O’Brien will bring from his NFL and previous experience, and how do you think that will look differently and what do you think he’ll bring in?
COACH WILSON: Got lot of respect for Bill. Had a chance to‑‑ knew him from young days when he was at Duke and Georgia Tech and his background there. Had an opportunity a few years back. We visited‑‑ we were doing some pro visit camps and went up to New England.
And at the time, I think it was just when Coach Weis had left and he was kind of the quarterback coach in waiting. They were going through‑‑ it wasn’t quite the coordinator yet, but was gracious with his time. I know he’s got a phenomenal background. I know anyone working for Bill Belichick in that time is coming of a great background that long as a college coach. And he’s a phenomenal coach. I’m sure he’s going to do one phenomenal job. I got a lot of respect for Coach O’Brien as a man and as a football coach.
Q. You’ve talked about how IU has been down one or two possessions and the game will quickly go down to IU, being down three, four, five possessions. What have you worked on the defensive side to fix that problem? You’ve talked about how IU has been down one or two possessions on the defensive side and the game will quickly go to three, four, or five possessions down for IU. What have you worked on this off season to fix that problem?
COACH WILSON: Again, making some strides. We did address some recruiting issues with six junior college players that we have got set to come in to be a part of our spring practices and been with us through summer. So hopefully some maturity is going to help us with that. Year two of schematics, understanding some schemes, and coaches adjusting some schemes and adapting to players what they can and can’t do and whatnot.
Defensively, we’ve got to get to be a point as a team where instead of attacking the whole thing, certain things we need to be a little bit better at. One of those needs to be better at third down stops.
So when we get a team on schedule‑‑ there’s a number of games last year where we had a team on schedule and a very manageable third and long that we gave up that we worked very, very hard in spring to understand the concepts of what we’re trying to do and the type of routes and the schemes that offenses will do in situations to win a basketball game, get some stops.
I think we’ll be a lot better on defense, but we’re not at a point physically and in year two to play lights‑out great defense. We’ve got to score a lot more points, too. Everybody talks about our D struggling. We average 18.1 points. That’s as poor an offense as I’ve been around since 1999.
So we need to score points, because that will help our defense. We move the ball offensively. I think 59percent of the time when we got to the 40 yard line, we scored points. So basically, three out of five times, we scored points at the 40 yard line when you’re getting into that fringe score area.
So scoring points is going to be critical for our football team’s success, to complement the defense, and I think third down stops, because we’re not going to play great defense yet, but we gotta get some stops to keep the game manageable and give us a chance to start getting the Ws in Big Ten play.
Q. You gave up over 240 yards a game against the run on defense last year. Has that been a focal point during your off‑season preparations for this year, and what needs to change to be more successful against the run?
COACH WILSON: We’ve got to be a lot better than that. We were one of the few teams in the nation that gave up more rush yards than pass yards. And when a team can run the ball‑‑ when coaches talk about balance, they’re not talking 50/50 to me; they’re talking the ability to establish a run game. Or if you’re a true option team you can make some passes.
And in our world, we’ve got to get a team playing one‑handed. So last year, our inability to play defense in the run game allowed our defense to play as poorly as it did.
Again, junior college players, a couple of linebackers we’re impressed with. Three guys in the secondary at defensive end. A bunch of young players that are back. Three defensive tackles, seniors.
We’ve only got five scholarshiped seniors. We have eight total. Three came to Indiana as walk‑ons. We have five scholarship seniors, three in the defensive interior.
So that D tackle spot better be pretty solid. A lot more play on the edge, and with those JC players at backer and in the secondary, we need to be a lot better.
So we’ve got to play 11 defense. Get 11 guys getting hats to the ball, team defense. Still, whether we’re stopping the run, whatever, third down stops, creating some turnovers getting the ball back to the offense is what we’ve focused on more than just stopping the run.
Q. Speaking of offense, at this point now is Tre Roberson a lock at quarterback or will he have a little bit of a battle between Cam Kaufman as well?
COACH WILSON: Great question. And we’re also excited about Nate Sudfeld, a freshman. He actually graduated early. Would have been through spring ball, but with the recruiting change, he backed out of a commitment. Instead of enrolling in school in January, Nate went through a process. He was a highly touted kid, and he showed up for May. We started our summer school in June, but he went through a May session with us. So he’s got three months. I’d like to think he’s going to be a smidge in our mix.
When you’re 1‑11 football team there’s no job safe. There’s nothing etched in stone. So if you’ve started, if you’ve played, we’ve played a lot of guys looking for combinations. I think with a lot of those guys playing, that increased our work habits and we’ve had a great off‑season. And we’re not going to have a quarterback threat or a quarterback competition.
But when you’re 1‑11 football team, you’re trying to change a culture and build a winning program at a great school, a great institution, you’ve got to earn it every day. And we’re going to put a lot‑‑ I’ll say this: The conversation to Tre Roberson and the conversation to every quarterback, we’re not going to be a good team in the Big Ten with average quarterback play. That is a fact. We better be one of the better quarterbacks in the league and we better play at a high end if we expect to win and start playing quality Big Ten football.
So Tre’s been challenged. We’re excited about Cam. We’ll see what Nate Sudfeld does as well. Those are the three guys with a couple young walk‑ons, but those are the three men that played the position for us this year.
Q. With the Penn State scandal, of course, over the last several months and the NCAA sanctions, coaches from this conference and throughout the country have been asked for their take on it, and some have gotten some public criticism because of their comments. For you and your media relation staff, is it something that you guys have kind of prepared to be ready for and had to be really careful about saying the right things, given the inevitability of being asked about Penn State all the time?
COACH WILSON: Well, in my position‑‑ and again, it’s gotten so much news and coverage, notoriety. But in my position, with where we are as a program and our issues building our football team, to have thoughts on other teams and public thoughts, I don’t think are well worth it.
I always like it when one of you guys say off the record, because if I say it, it’s not off the record. So I always tune it out when I get the: Hey, coach, off the record, how was your summer, how was your golf game, I tune that conversation out immediately.
I also kind of laugh when I read the comments that coaches make in the preseason magazines about other schools. I know what my school’s like when I’m at my school. I know what that other team’s like when I watch that tape, and that’s all I know about those schools. I don’t know their educational backgrounds. I don’t know their social life. I don’t know their dorm. And I’ve predicated myself on immersing myself with our situation and making our program better.
So no disrespect. Penn State is a phenomenal school. It’s one of our great institutions and what I think is one of the great premier leagues of college football and college sports.
I know as a conference we’re going to support those guys and keep all those players’ families and people in the community in our thoughts and prayers.
But it’s not that I don’t have no comment as much as I’m addressing Indiana football and letting you guys do all the talk about everyone else.
Q. We’ve heard a variety of opinions from some of your peers regarding recruiting Penn State players. How do you‑‑ what’s your stance on that? Do you have a problem with that philosophy?
COACH WILSON: We all have the rules and the guidelines. The one‑‑ I don’t know if you were the one that said this, the one rule that I don’t understand is how I can oversign and some team have more than 85 guys on scholarship and other teams don’t have that right. That’s a competitive advantage to another school.
So I don’t understand how someone can go past 85. If I go past an initial and take it back, but if I’m walking into an arena and I’ve got 85 on grant and somebody’s got 87, I don’t know if that’s fair. I want to be fair to those kids if they want it. As far as reaching out, I see it as a kid wanting to transfer.
If that kid wants to transfer, he’ll contact you. I don’t feel like contacting those guys. We’re working on our program, our team. We have not studied tape or talked about guys to this date. We’ve talked only about getting ready for preseason next week.
If someone’s interested, and by rule, then I think that’s a kid wanting to transfer and I’ve been taking that stance more than: Let’s go recruit those guys.
Q. Coach, off the record, of course, what’s your team’s goals coming into this season?
COACH WILSON: Realistically, and again, I don’t have a long‑term/short‑term year, one, two, three, four, five, but where we are year one, I will say this: The record is not near as what it can be, should be. I’m personally embarrassed, and if we’re going to win this year significantly and make strides, the first thing that happens is I have to coach and our coaches have to coach better.
I’ve said a year ago, we have got some talent. I think that can be okay. It’s getting the attitude right and the ability of the coaches to reach and understand our talent and make adjustments.
I think the key thing, it starts with me. And we’ve done a great job as coaches addressing us and doing some of the things we need to do and what I need to do better to communicate, to team lead, to team build, to get that thing going.
Schedule sets up, you know, we play the conference games as always. The nonleague sets up with a break after three games. We’re going to make some strides. Even though the record is not what we want, I don’t regret one day of preparation in the foundation we’ve laid.
And I promise you, we have worked like a team that’s not 1 and 11 the Monday after the last game last of November, 1st of December. We’ve worked at it hard; we’ve worked at it positively. When you talk to our three men that are here that I’m proud to be with today, you will hear men talking that’s not sounding like coming off a team where it is.
We’re excited where we’re going, and I think we’ve laid a solid foundation. And I think we’re going to be pretty competitive this year. I’ve never said we’re going to win X games and beat X team. We’re going to play some Big Ten football at a significantly better level this year. That’s the expectation, and I believe we’re going to see that.
Q. You’ve talked about attitude on the team. With good attitude comes responsibility from good leaders. Talk about a couple of leaders on the team, particularly Kofi Hughes, and what their leadership and attitude will bring, both to the team on and off the field.
COACH WILSON: We’ve worked hard and worked with the group that helped us on leadership building. The thing I got from the group, I think it’s better for our coaches than for the players in how to develop leadership as you go through your off‑season spring/summer programs.
We targeted 12 guys. We targeted young guys, old guys. So we don’t want to wait until a guy graduates and say now you’re a leader to teach them leadership. So we’ve got a lot more.
You mentioned one name. Very impressed. Even though we don’t have a lot of seniors, four of our seniors in particular, the 3‑D linemen. Larry Black, Adam Replogle, both of those young men are here. Nick Sliger has done a phenomenal job. And Will Matte, our senior center might be our strongest, best leader.
Some of the younger guys, I’ve been very impressed with what we’re getting out of Kenny Mullen. Been very impressed with what we’re getting out of Tre Roberson, and we’ve gotten some great things out of Ted Bolser.
So we haven’t targeted one or two. We actually targeted 12 guys as leaders. We targeted 12 guys as second in command to get a core group, because I don’t think we have one person strong enough to lead our team to victory. So we’ve tried to develop a core of guys.
If we’ve done one thing done as coaches better, we’ve addressed that, because last year in change and in moving and schematics, we talked football. I think this year we talked a heck of a lot more about how to lead, how to work, how to act, how to Twitter, how to put things out that winners and Big Ten players put out.
Q. You said you would only recruit Penn State players if one reached out to you. Just by chance, have any reached out to you? Have anybody come to you?
COACH WILSON: To my knowledge, no.