Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi
Q. When you take a look at TCU on film, since the quarterback seems to have gotten better almost every week, give us your assessment of their offense.
Pat Narduzzi: TCU has definitely gotten better, (Trevone) Boykin at quarterback, very athletic, can make things happen with his feet. You know, that prototypical spread offense with quarterback runs and break and contain. They're going to mostly be a four wide out set; probably 50 percent of their offense is four skilled receivers as good as we've seen this year, I think.
Again, they have made strides. They've really played three quarterbacks this year. We've gone through every tape from the whole season. I think he's matured at that position as the year has gone on, and I'm sure this bowl practice has been good for him, too, so I'm sure we'll see some things that we haven't really practiced for.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of the corners in your defense to having two veteran corners who can handle things on their own and just sort of Darqueze Dennard a little bit and maybe where he's underrated, undervalued a little bit?
Pat Narduzzi: I'm glad he's underrated. Not on our staff he isn't, that's for sure. I think it's huge to have the two great corners that we have, and we're privileged to have those two guys line up for us every Saturday. And it's a huge part, I don't care who you're playing. If you're playing Wisconsin, who's going to line up with two tight ends and one receiver, or four receivers like TCU is, it's important to have two guys that we can trust that can go out there and have a lot of confidence in what they do, and they're not going to go out there for the first half and go, oh, my gosh, I've got to cover No. 1. I think it's a huge advantage for us.
Q. Darqueze said that in looking at film and the way you guys explained it, you think they remind you a lot of Northwestern on offense.
Pat Narduzzi: Yeah, I think they're very (similar), not just because of the color purple that they wear, but again, they have similarities to a lot of different plays. You can say, oh, that's the same play Nebraska ran...so you pick and choose, but if you had to say there's one team that they're very similar to, it's Northwestern. That's what they do, a lot of the similar packages, alignments by the receivers. Without a doubt I think they're very similar to what they do there.
Q. What have you seen from Lawrence Thomas at defensive tackle so far and what makes that the best spot for him on defense so far?
Pat Narduzzi: Well, I think mainly out of need. I feel like at defensive end, there's nothing at this point saying he can't play defensive end, it's out of need and maturity. The one thing I've seen him do is mature through bowl practice and really throughout the whole season. We gave him an opportunity at fullback, but it wasn't like we were giving him away. I told him that the whole time, and I told Coach Salem, we're getting him back, don't even think about keeping him. So we knew we were getting him back.
He's made some huge, huge strides. You wonder why he didn't play early for us defensively. He's banged up, playing in there for the first time being a linebacker and adjusting to playing defensive end and just the toughness factor. I've seen him...every day he came out this week, Coach, I can't go, I can't go, and at the end of the day he makes it through practice. So mentally he's a lot tougher than he was; that's the first thing. Athletically you watch him run, there was no doubt that he could play defense. I think he's going to be a great player, and I've told this to him a year ago, I told him when he moved to fullback that he will be an all conference defensive lineman. Whether it's an end or a tackle, I don't know, but he'll be an all conference lineman for us without a doubt.
Q. Whatever TCU's game plan is, you can affect it with a better pass rush. Is that a big emphasis going into this game?
Pat Narduzzi: Yeah, I think it always is. I think pass rush is key. They're going to be a 50/50 run pass team, and they're going to get the ball off quick. They've got a lot of quick screens, as well, so as soon as you start to rush that quarterback, everybody wants to get pressure on the quarterback, but when he goes three step, they're going to get it out. We've had more batted down passes this year than I think we've had in two years because the ball is coming out quicker.
When someone looks at you and says, golly, they had 40 some sacks a year ago, let's not hold onto the ball, let's get rid of it, and I think that's what we've seen this year. I think the New York Giants have had the same problem. The New York Giants get a lot of sacks. Go look at their stats; in 2011 look at them, in 2012. People are going to figure that stuff out. They get paid to coach, too.
But pass rush is without a question a priority. We've got to get to the quarterback, but then we've also got to play all those screens. They run T screens, T swing screens, they've got jailbreak screens. They've got about every different type of screen that we've worked our tail off on.
Q. A little off the beaten path of the bowl, your name keeps getting mentioned as a head coaching candidate at different places. How do you manage that, as invested as you are in Michigan State and the players here? Is it a compliment thing or is it something that's just a business thing, you separate from...
Pat Narduzzi: It's flattering to hear all those things, but until I'm sitting at the podium as a head coach somewhere where I want to be, that's the only thing that matters. You focus on the present, you focus on the day, you focus on what your job is to do, and that's all my job is to do. I'm in no hurry, put it that way. I'm not rushing out of here to be the next head coach wherever it can be. It's going to be the right place when the right time comes, and that's all we need to talk about when it comes to jobs. This is a TCU press conference. It's a bowl press conference I guess, right? But that'll come when it comes. Don't worry about that stuff.
Q. I guess just to follow up with this year's defense, you've established a bit of a reputation here, obviously. What are some of the differences this season to the past two seasons as far as what you're doing scheme wise? You mentioned teams getting the ball out quicker. Was that something going into the year you adjusted to or something you realized as the season progressed?
Pat Narduzzi: I think everybody realizes it's going to happen. There's ups and downs in whatever it may be as far as turnovers go and sacks go. But I don't see a whole lot of difference between what we did this year...One of our coaches the other day was doing a self scout report on us and said, how many times did we run that blitz this year? He said, 90. I said, it's just about on par with what we did last year after 12 games. So there's not much of a difference.
If we had a bunch of different changes in our defense then we probably would be on the first step of that ladder of being good at that defense. We do what we do, and the reason we're good I think is our kids can play fast because they know what they're doing and they don't have to go, what changes do we have in store for us this week or this year.
People still got to defend it, and if we're good at what we're doing and good at our trade, then that's the most important thing.
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