Here is Wilson’s opening statement:
"All right, the opener is here. For us, you know, noontime, so an early kick, first couple of years have always been night games. It's kind of had some heat the last couple of days, practice has been great. Nice to have it on a Saturday, open the following week, so all concentration on this game.
"First game, you always got those glitches, working out the kinks. It's going to be on national TV, ESPNEWS. Third year we've played these guys in a row. They've always played with a lot of effort and fight, and kind of flown around in a pretty good way. Obviously look at last year's game, we made a few big plays and there were a couple of the first game error plays where it kind of goes against them and we get up 45-7, and then at the end of the second quarter, end of the first half and start of the third quarter we throw a pick-six, and they score 21 straight points to make it a 45-28 game.
"They didn't quit. It was obvious because the next week they go to Purdue and lose to Purdue 20-13, and I believe Purdue returned the opening kick-off for a touchdown -- excuse me I think they lost 20-14, in a game that they won by 6 points at Purdue, so it shows the fight of the team. It's evidence, too, with the previous team the year before, it's a 24-17 game, chunking the Hail Mary in the last part of the game into the end zone.
"We got a lot of respect for them. It's Indiana guys, Indiana, Indiana State, Terre Haute, I think we're excited. We’re recognizing Anthony Thompson this week, and his accomplishments of being one of the greatest, if not the greatest to play here, and also being from Terre Haute, that game is going to mean a lot to him, and I know he means a lot to Hoosier Nation, and he means a lot to the our program and to our kids, so we're going to be excited representing A.T. this week as well as the alumni, and the team, and really it's a new start, new year.
"It's new for them. They have always played us well. It's three in a row, so we'll see what happens this week. For us, you can kind of talk and look at the film and last year's game and there are new guys and always new wrinkles, sometimes the first games are kind of hard to gauge when you're watching tape of someone, watching last year's team playing last year's guys, and that being said you kind of start concentrating on where we are. Here is where we are in the update of us, because it always starts with you more than the opponent, and you got to take care of us.
"We're more than ready for game week. We have 350 returning starts, guys that started games 350 times. There is a lot of experience of. It's the most in the Big Ten, one of the most in the country. I think our preparation through all our phases has been pretty good, going back to winter, winter including the recruiting process and the way that went down for us. Spring ball and the way we came out of spring with the new implementation of a defensive scheme, a lot of guys competing, fighting, getting guys that were nicked up healthy and back.
"Summer was outstanding, new rules, coaches could be involved in some degree of work outs or video, your freshmen are all here, love those guys, it's a good class, getting those guys acclimated, up to speed is awesome. I think our preseason practices have been outstanding so I like the prep part of what's going on and all that does is set us up for our journey. We're bigger, strong, we got experience, we got some depth with a lot of guys come being back and depth with a lot of freshmen coming in.
"We come out of camp in good health, I think we come out in very good health, I think we come out in a good state of mind, physically how we prepare, a good group of core leaders that will lead us and go through this journey. I'm looking to this first day. Coaches worry about wanting to see what you got when you go at it, because you've just been going at yourself. So how we start and how we handle the highs and lows of the season, the tough practices, the nicks that guys get along the way, the calls or bounces that don't go your way, there is ebb and flow in games and in the season and in life and really just want to see how these guys handle it. You guys got your two-deep today and I think you guys want it more than I worry about.
"I think I called you about an hour ago and said this is it, because we don't post it to the team, it's not in the locker room, it's not on meeting room doors. They practice every day, they know who is one and two and there are some three's that are going to play, that maybe aren't on your piece of paper right now. I expect many guys to play each and every week. I expect guys to help us win each and every week, I'm not really concerned with who starts because there will be twos playing as much as ones. One guy might go out there first, because somebody is going to be the first. Tevin is a great tailback, we are going to play two or three tailbacks; we have to. Shane Wynn is an awesome receiver, but we're going to play guys out there to keep him fresh. We have nine offensive linemen that have started games, so 10 returning guys on defense that have started games.
"So a lot of guys that have started and to me that's exciting. A lot of guys that are going to play, and what I like about that is it's going to keep us playing fresh and it's going to keep us playing hard throughout the year, more than anything it's going to give us a chance to see who is playing the best. Give us competition, a guy gets a hot hand, plays well, if a guy gets an injury or something, so I'm excited about our depth and what we got.
" Injury updates, to wrap it up for you. We have two guys that have injuries that are going to probably, it looks like, end their seasons. One is senior linebacker, Steven Funderburk, had a back injury. Steven would have been in our two to three-deep playing some and special teams. He had a back surgery deal that's going to take about 12, 14 weeks to recover and that's going to eat the bulk of his season. He's a senior linebacker, played for us the last couple of years, done well, tough break because he's a senior and you feel for him. He's a heck of a kid. We're lucky we have depth there so as a team we can handle it, but you don't like that for Steven who is a senior.
"And our freshman running back, Tommy Mister, a week ago had an injury, it's going to require surgery. I think he's got not an ACL but a PCL injury, and I think he will have surgery it looks like this week, which basically will end his season, making him a redshirt. So two guys right now on the shelf. We don't expect maybe to have for the season. Fortunately those are two positions where we've got six running backs on scholarship and a lot of linebackers, you don't like it for those guys but I think the team will have the depth to overcome that.
"Wes Rogers, Danny Friend, Anthony Corsaro and Dawson Fletcher have all had injuries in preseason that have limited them. They're day-to-day, week-to-week, kind of getting back in it but they've missed some of the prep time and I don't anticipate them doing a lot this week and with opening day coming it might be two or three weeks, whether they have had a high-ankle sprain or knee sprain that glitched them there so those four guys are gimpy, but outside of that we're in good health as far as consistently having guys practicing, had a good camp. Unfortunately you’re losing two solid kids for their season, we hate that, but preseason has been awesome. We look forward to the opener at high noon, 12:01 with Indiana State and we expect them to come in with a lot of energy and effort and flying around like they did last year with their -- it's going to be -- they have nothing to lose.
"They will be coming from all over the place, and couple years ago if you don't remember 4th and 1, play action pass for a touchdown on 4th and 1, because you're playing a team that wants to get a hunk of you and again, respect them. Know it will be tough. I do expect this team to have a great week of preparation. Our camp has been awesome. I anticipate this week to be a lot of great focus and work and looking forward to getting started. Questions."
(Wilson was asked his thoughts on opening the season.)
COACH WILSON: "Well, I think as much as anything we just -- so many guys have been around so long, that there is just a good understanding of how we want to practice and things we want to do for the most part and handle our business. I think we've recruited longer bodies and bigger guys and we have had now four years of Collin Rahrig, for instance, he's benched over 400 pounds now, and it starts when you bench 315 and you gain 20 pounds per cycle and then four years later you're at 395, 400, 405, it's 15, 20, 25-pound increments over time. So with a lot of those third and fourth year guys in the program to be developed, that gets you excited, then you've recruited the last two years better, so you've got some very good young talent and experience.
"But as much as anything to me what you just don't know in the opener is how you're going to put it all together. You're always going against yourselves. It's "O" versus "D" and you're kind of kicking, but you're not playing the game. How does the defense handle an offensive negative play on our part? If we put them in bad situation, can they come out and get a stop? When they create a turnover can the offense take advantage of it? When we need to punt the ball with a veteran punter, can we down that thing deep and give them a long field and pin them back and now go get points? So how do you play as a team? You've been practicing as a team, now you got to learn to play as a team.
"I think that's what's always interesting early in the season is how do you put it together? Because you've been working hard, but you've been working against each other. Now you're kind of locking arms and hooking up together, so I think it's interesting just to really see when you put it all together what are your deficiencies and how do you maximize and minimum nice those things."
(A reporter said to Wilson that he thought he seemed more about excited about this team than he had been in the past.)
COACH WILSON: "I think we're always -- I'm not flat a lot of days. I don't drink decaffeinated coffee, but I don't drink a lot of coffee. I've never had one of those energy drinks. I don't need those. I'm kind of ready to roll. Nothing against those 5-hour guys, and all them Monster drinks you guys have, but I don't need that. I'm ready to roll. I was ready the first couple of years, but I think the team is more prepared and that excites me. Man, you got to go play. You know? And everybody is going to say, you beat these guys the last couple of years, you got a better team, and, you got to go play.
"You know? And you have the opportunity every week to be off your kilter and not play well, and as a coach, I'm accountable to get these guys ready to go. They're responsible to get ready to play. I'm accountable. I got yo get it all set up and man they're responsible, too. Everybody's got to be all in.
"Again, you're just -- I think we've always been excited. We've been close the last couple of years. You can say, hey, you have underachieved. We haven't -- we've lost some games where at the end we couldn't make a play we needed to, but we have been on the verge of winning six, seven, eight the last couple years. We've been a little shy of that. This team could do the same thing or this team could stay shy. That's what I'm saying, you're just kind of looking forward to seeing how these guys want to ride it out."
(Wilson was asked about having a bye week after the first game)
COACH WILSON: "If it was a real schedule, and we didn't have another bye week, I wouldn't like it, because I think it's too early. I think you want to -- you work hard and you want to get in rhythm.
"So to me right now it's all about Indiana State, and then we got to find ways to improve from that in the open week, and you can say it's a learning curve but you want to get in rhythm. If we didn't have another bye week I would really not like it, 11 weeks in a row, you kind of get nicked up or beat up. I think sometimes you like it after that fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh game. You don't like it week one or two, most of the time, and you really don't like it when it's the last two weeks. You want it somewhere in the middle, so you can kind of regroup, eval, catch your breath and then make a run down the end. That's what I'm looking at now. We pointed everything into this one, we have a chance to regroup and have a six-game run and then an open date and then a five-game run. Right now all our focus is on Indiana State. Then we are going to catch our breath and get ready and see if we can jump-start again and see if we can get ready for the fall and six games in a row.’’
(Wilson was asked what he would like to see from Bobby Richardson this season.)
COACH WILSON: "I think he's one of the more under appreciated guys on our team, and he's kind of been fighting this first couple of years through just some hip and low back and almost like a sport hernia deal, where he gets gimpy and can't play at the speed he has. He comes here as a defensive end, we play him at 3 technique tackle, now he's playing at 4, 5 technique for us in the scheme that we're doing.
"He's very diverse. He's had the best preseason he's ever had. He's healthier than he's ever been, and I think he is one of the more -- I think we have guys on our team that have better stats, that have better name value to our fans, but he might be our best senior as a player, and he's one of our better leaders, so I'm expecting him to play at a high end and have a great year for us. He's had his best practices to date the last two weeks. He's been very, very good."
(Wilson was asked about the progress of center Collin Rahrig)
COACH WILSON: "No, he's better than I ever thought about being. He's a guy, when you go through your journey, he was a guy that was not coming to preseason practices freshman year. He was not an invited walk-on. Everybody wants to be invited, preferred, and all these fancy words. He was a guy on the numbers was on the outside looking in, and I think one of the freshman in that class that year broke an ankle, and now all of the sudden he couldn't play, and it opened up a spot, and the day before reporting day, the year before our staff was here, he was invited to camp, and redshirted. Our first year in spring, he's a little bit undersized, but he's battling, but as we got into the season, his second year, you know, we weren't particularly playing as hard as you wanted, and he had a lot of buy in and he was a little small, but we went with it.
"He spelled Will Matte a little bit, when Will got hurt at center for a game or two. He started in a handful of games as a right guard, from there he got -- kind of rolled it, and to me he's basically a four-year starter, although he hasn't started every game. Barring any injuries, he's going to be a two-year starter, 20, 30-some games in a row.
"He's a very good player, I think he's a potential pro camp guy. I worry about his size and on the pro roster they only keep seven guys, and you have to be a center-guard guy, and he's a little more just compact enough, where he's kind of ideal at center. Sometimes in the pro game he will have difficulty against those three techniques, because of his size, but he is extremely athletic. He's, like Bobby, one of our best leaders, he's a great worker. He's what we want guys to look like.
"When you're telling guys maybe how to do things now you don't tell them, you say watch that guy and stretch like he stretches, practice like he practices. I think he's one of the better centers in our conference and I know he's one of our best players and I like him a lot. I don't know how he compares to anybody else but I know he's awfully good for us."
Part 2 of the Kevin Wilson Press Conference will go up on the site tonight after 9 p.m. ET. Stay tuned.