Q. You touched on Keshawn a little bit, but getting him back healthy as you mentioned and having that extra weapon, how much has that helped the offense here in the second half and you guys with your ability to make some explosive plays?
Dan Roushar: It really has, I think, changed us. If you watched the first half of the season, we had Kirk throwing it to B.J., and we were trying to hand it to our tailbacks, and we probably weren't quite as proficient as we wanted to be for a lot of reasons. And then as Keshawn got healthy, that dimension that we all were looking for very early in the season started to evolve, and then I think our offensive staff, recognizing what he's been doing, has put him in a position where we can put him in the backfield, we can motion him back in. He has the ability to do so many different things. He's gained an awful lot of confidence.
In fact, my recollection after the Northwestern game, he made the comment that he felt like he was performing at a really high level, and you really see that in how he works. Even going back through practice these last three, four days, he's having a lot of fun, but he is playing at a very high level. His best football is still coming.
Q. What is the challenge of a 3 4 defense like this one when they have such huge linemen up front and their linebackers come from different areas, athletic linebackers? Is it good to have this extra time to get the line ready for that?
Dan Roushar: Well, you know, it's very difficult to duplicate exactly what we'll see. Their starting nose guard is 351 pounds, and the guy that they bring in behind him is probably 320 pounds. You know, that's going to be a challenge in itself. As I look at them, they're ranked third in the country nationally as a total defense. They are very, very good against the run, and when you become one dimensional, they can get after the quarterback. I think they're second or third in the Southeast Conference with I believe 34 sacks or something like that, so they present a lot of problems.
Some of it is their personnel; some of it is their scheme. They're very well coached. They have people in the secondary that can cover you. So when they go after you, they're in a position to still make plays on the ball.
But we have a great challenge in front of us, there's no question about it. They play 3 4 front, much like you see from the University of Iowa or you see from Notre Dame. So as we Michigan even was running a lot of that as we played them. I don't know if they changed after that. So we have carryover, we have similarity, but again, it's a different challenge, I guess in part because of the size of their people.
Q. Two things: If you would off the top talk about how the news of Arthur Ray hit you yesterday, and as an offensive line guy, even though you have a different role now, how pleased are you that this has all kind of come together when it looked four games into the season that this could implode because of injuries and whatnot?
Dan Roushar: Well, first of all, Arthur Ray, what a tremendous honor. To be recognized nationally - it's well documented all the things that he's gone through and what he's done, but if we all had his toughness and his perseverance and his passion for what he does, we'd certainly be in a greater place. I admire him so much, and what a tremendous honor.
The offensive improvement, I think...I don't know that he gets enough credit, but Mark Dantonio, last year, Big Ten Coach of the Year, a lot of honors, a lot of recognition, and since I've been with him, and I just say this from my personal standpoint, I thought it was his best job of coaching that I've ever been around. I don't think there were things that you saw on the outside but things that he did inside, from a motivation standpoint, from keeping us together, staying focused, staying positive and understanding that improvement was needed, and I thought our kids did that.
I think it's always been a trademark of Coach Dantonio's teams, we get better. We get better as we go through the year, and I think that's reflective, and when you look at our record in November and the way we do things, and it's also a great credit to our kids. If you come onto the practice field, which I know you're not privileged to do all the time, but whether it's the last period of practice or it's the first period of practice, you see guys working. You see guys working for each other. You see attention to detail.
As an offensive staff, certainly we were pleased with the improvement, but I think that goes back to our football team in its entirety. We struggled early for a lot of different reasons, but it was good to see them grow.
Q. Going back to the development of the offensive line, which specific individual improvements stood out to you as the season went on the last couple weeks?
Dan Roushar: Well, I think the first thing is the collection of the group, being more cohesive and having fewer mistakes and being able to make application of fundamental blocks, whether it be a double team or you're asked to block a guy by yourself, and doing it at a much higher level. That kind of jumps out at me.
But I think the big thing was getting guys into the same position, playing the same spot, working together, being able to communicate with the guy next to them and having a much better understanding of what was going to happen. Those were some of the things and challenges that I guess we had to work through. Again, I can't say enough good things about that entire group and what Coach Staten has done with them.
Q. Talk about some of the younger guys, what you've seen from them in practice the last couple days.
Dan Roushar: Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook have done some really nice things, you see some really positive things, and I guess they're younger because they haven't gotten a lot of work.
At the wide receiver position we've had Tony Lippett back over on our side of the ball the last four days, and that's good to see. A lot of things we would have loved to have had early in the year. Keith Mumphery has had a couple of very good days. He's shown a lot of improvement and showing confidence, so that's positive. Nick Hill has run the ball in there, and that's been good.
Our offensive line, although we don't have a lot of healthy bodies, young guys that are working in there, I think Donavon Clark is showing some real positive things. So we'll continue to kind of watch these guys grow.
You know, we didn't practice like we have in the past. We gave the guys, because of the championship game, we gave them a few extra days off, and so really, Saturday was more of our work with those young guys, and it's hard to say in one day's time what you really are going to see other than the attitude is really good, and I think those guys all have very good ability, and we'll see improvement.
I guess I look at it, too, we will go against those young defensive kids. Pat (Narduzzi) and Ted Gill, they've got some outstanding defensive linemen coming.