Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan

By NU Athletic Communications
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska Football Weekly Press Conference
Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)

Bill Callahan
Nebraska Head Coach

Opening Statement

“We’re moving on to Kansas.  We’re excited about playing the eighth-ranked team in the country this Saturday.  They’re awfully good across the board and should present quite a challenge for our football team.”


On Joe Ganz taking over at quarterback

“We have the utmost confidence in Joe’s abilities and leadership to lead our team and perform at a high level.  He’s gotten all the work, training and repetition that he needs to be successful in everything we do.  He’s a great game manager and a great field general.  He has all the abilities in the world to function effectively, so I’m excited about him on the field.  Just going back to the Texas game and watching him play for the very short time he was in the game, I think excites everybody.  I think we have a lot of hope when you look at a player of that caliber that can come into the game and do the things he did late in the game.”


On Ganz not getting more experience earlier in the season

“The big thing is that I can’t do anything about the past.  I think Joe’s well aware of what our plan was throughout those games.  We don’t look back in that respect.  We look forward to what he can do for our team.  I think that’s the big thing is that he’s been in games before, he’s been trained.  He’s practiced.  He knows the system.  He knows how to execute all the throws and reads.  I’m very confident in his abilities.  I think it’s been well-documented around here that he can do some other things as well, so we’re excited about it.”


On Ganz’s poise

“He is (very even-keeled).  He’s the type of player that has great poise.  He’s a tough guy from Chicago.  He’s not going to let a lot of things rattle him.  I don’t get on him too much, even though he’s a Cubs fan.  Being a South Sider and a Cubs fan is a little different for me.  I have to try to understand that portion of it, for those of you who know Chicago.  He’s just an outstanding kid.  He’s waited a long time for this opportunity.  I know that he’s going to try to make the most out of every play and every practice rep he gets this week in his preparation.”


On increasing the amount of running by the quarterback

“I think he naturally does that.  He’s going to be the type of player that’s going to work the pocket.  If he has to, he’ll escape and make plays.  I think we saw one scramble of his late in the game against Texas down in the red zone where he made a positive play with his feet.  He has that ability.  We’ve always had plays in that move him around, so it’s really no secret in that regard.  He does have mobility.  We try to feature that.  He has a lot of other things that he does as well to complement his abilities.”


On the team’s confidence in Ganz

“There’s no question in my mind.  I look at our players and they’re very supportive of whoever is in that role.  You feel that in the course of the week when you’re at practice.  You see teammates encourage him and rally around him when he’s getting his turn to run the second unit.  Everybody is very supportive of him.  I tend to agree that a lot of guys are going to rally around Joe.  I’d be disappointed if they didn’t.”


On the team rallying around Ganz

“He is (a guy a team gravitates toward) because he’s been here for four years.  He’s earned his spurs and gained the respect of a lot of people around here.  By and large, he’s a guy that has really earned his spot and this opportunity.  He competed hard with Sam and he was unbelievable in the way that he handled himself in that entire competition.  When the announcement came out that Sam was the starter, he handled his role with pure class.  I can’t say enough good things about Joey.  We’re excited to see him get this opportunity, though it was unfortunate that Sam got hurt and is not with us.”


On Ganz’s place on the team

“He’s a different type of player.  He brings a different dimension to the attack.  I think, by and large, players are looking at it as an opportunity to rally around a guy that’s a fan favorite and a guy in the locker room that everyone enjoys being around.”


On getting an edge from a changed gameplan because of the different quarterback

“There’s not going to be much variation from the system, aside from what we do.  We’re going to add some things, but I don’t think that’s going to shock them or surprise them.  They’ve seen a lot of different quarterbacks. I don’t think so, but I can’t speak for (KU defensive coordinator) Bill Young or any of those guys.”


On which quarterback will back up Ganz

“I certainly wouldn’t want to waste Patrick’s (Witt) redshirt, but we have prepared him as the third quarterback throughout the season.  We’re going to take a very close look at that.  As we look at that closely during the week, both he and Beau Davis will compete for the two-spot.  We’ll look at that, examine that and let them compete throughout the week.  We’ll have a plan for that for game day.  Patrick was the guy who was in the three-hole for this position, so we’re going to continue to groom him and see how he looks this week compared to Beau and make that assessment later in the week and make a decision.”


On the progress of quarterback Patrick Witt during the season

“I’ve seen good progress, the progress that you normally see from a freshman.  It was great to have him here in the spring so that he could be indoctrinated into what we’re doing.  Now that he’s here and was with us through training camp and fall, I think he’s been groomed a bit more.  It’s hard to say because I’ve never actually seen him compete against top competition.  He hasn’t had that opportunity to get in there against Big 12 opposition, so that’s a tough assessment for me right now.  But I have confidence in him.  He’s a smart young man.  He’s bright.  He’s quick on his feet.  He’s alert and a guy that can manage the system and do well.  In the same sentence and the same breath, Beau Davis can do the same types of things.  We’ve groomed these guys for some period of time in Joey and Beau, and that’s a luxury that most people don’t have.”


On the benefits of having a fourth-year player as a starting quarterback

“I think it’s a great benefit.  He has a great understanding of what’s expected of him.  He has a great command of the system.  His ability to see defense, audible, check and do the things that you want to do from the sidelines or at the line of scrimmage, he can do really well.  We feel very good about his opportunity and good about putting him in the game and taking control and command of this football team.”


On changing communication from the sideline because of Ganz
”No.  No change whatsoever.”


On the linebacker situation

“With (Lance) Brandenburgh being out and Bo Ruud and Blake Lawrence being questionable this week, what we’ve done is made a couple of moves.  Tyler Wortman will play the SAM linebacker this week in practice until we get some further evaluation of Bo and Blake’s progress.  We’re also going to move (Major) Culbert up into a backup role.  Freshman LaTravis Washington will be a backup at the SAM linebacker at this time.  We have some young players that we’re going to have to groom and get ready.  That doesn’t change the MIKE position with Corey (McKeon) and Phillip (Dillard) sharing that role and Steve (Octavien) at the WILL position, with Culbert backing up.”


On potentially moving McKeon to SAM linebacker

“We’re going to keep him inside right now.  We’re looking at Wortman, a solid player.  He’s a walk-on player from Grand Island that’s done an excellent job.  He’s played on special teams.  He’s been trained in that role, so we’re going to put him in that spot.  He played some last week against Texas.  We have confidence in his abilities.”


On playing a player for the first time in his career this late in the season

“I think that’s where we’re at.  I wouldn’t want (to play a potential redshirt) to do that to the young man, but we’re trying to win games and we’re battling every day.  That is tough.  That’s why we’re going to look at it in practice.  I think it’s only fair to say that we’re going to look at in practice and see where both those guys are at and look at their preparedness and readiness and make a decision accordingly, because the No. 2 will get more reps.  We’re going to have to get those guys more reps this week, so that’s a bit of a juggling act in itself.”


On Kansas’ running game

“We’re not pleased where the ranking is at (119th run defense in Division I).  That’s a question that’s going to be asked about our defense.  We’re not pleased where we’re at.  We’re disappointed.  I haven’t seen as balanced an offense as Kansas’ attack.  They’re well-balanced, run and pass, they do an excellent job distributing the ball and running from the spread system, whether they’re in four-wides, three-wides, two-backs or one-back.  They have a great feel for what they’re doing.  They have a lot of confidence.  They’re very good.  They’re excellent in the way they attack people.  They complement it with an outstanding defense.  They’re just having one of those years that’s a grand year for them.  They’ve earned it.  They deserve it.  They’re in a position right now to do a lot of great things.  We’re going to go down there Saturday and give them our best shot.  I was pleased with our effort at Texas.  I wasn’t pleased with the fact that we didn’t win the game, but I was pleased with the effort.  If we can take that kind of effort down there, I think it will be a heck of a ballgame.”


On the Kansas defense

“Their scoring defense (stands out to me), No. 1.  They’re second in the country in scoring defense.  They don’t allow you to score.  Their red-zone defense is No. 1 in the conference.  Their rush defense is excellent.  They’re very sound and solid across the board.  The thing that sticks out to you as you see their defense is that they have an excellent player at each level, (James) McClinton at defensive tackle, (Aqib) Talib at corner and their linebackers are all good players.  They complement each other very well.  They’ve been around for some time, so it’s all put together.  I saw signs of that a year ago when we played them.  I knew they were a good football team.  They had a lot of close games a year ago that they could have won and been in, but for whatever reason, they didn’t finish it the way they wanted to.  They were 6-6 finishing the year, but I kept looking at Kansas as a team that was getting better.  I liked their skill.  I like what they did with their roster.  You can see them progressing and getting better.  Same with Missouri.  I’ve said it many times in here that they were good, solid, sound football teams that were getting better and growing and developing and starting to emerge.  What they’ve done on the road three of the last four weeks is incredible.  That’s what you have to do to win this division and be in the championship game is win conference games on the road, and they’ve done that, and that’s the thing that’s most impressive to me.”


On the performance of offensive tackle Jaivorio Burkes against Texas

“He had some really good plays and a couple of plays that he’d really like to take back, but the experience is invaluable for him.  He’s upbeat and positive in his performance.  I think the sack he gave up was the only real detrimental play of his experience in that game.  Overall, he did a real nice job.  I was really pleased with the way he protected.  His run-blocking was really solid.  He’s going to be an excellent player here.”


On being ranked 119th in the NCAA in run defense

“It’s disappointing.  When you’re in the situation we were in last week, we did everything we could to shut down Texas.  We changed the structure of what we were doing.  We were more aggressive.  We were pressuring more often and really rolling the dice in creating more disruptive-type plays.  When you get hit with a big run against the type of structure that we were in, those are big plays.  I was concerned more about the ability to get beat in the air when we were in those zero-blitzes and matched up in the man-to-man.  I was very concerned that we were going to see the ball in the air more often, but they did a better job running the ball against those zero-blitzes and we didn’t maintain contain and gap-control on a couple of those plays, which led to big, big plays.  That was the fourth-quarter finish for us, so if we can finish better in that particular area and continue to show improvement, that will take care of itself.” 


On Nebraska’s run defense

“I am disappointed.  No one is more disappointed than I am about that.  I know our coaches are beside themselves in that regard because of the statistical production and the production on the field.  There’s no question we’re disappointed about that.”


On Nebraska’s play-calling with the lead against Texas

“I think we had that type of (killer) instinct.  I think that was shown throughout the game that guys poured their heart and soul into that game.  I wouldn’t say that they didn’t.  Some of the plays that we didn’t, we just didn’t make a play on.  It just comes down to making plays.  What you say is aggressive or conservative, you could say Texas was conservative running the ball late in the game.  I think you have to be careful with what you’re saying there in terms of attitude.  I thought the attitude was there.  I thought the spirit was there.  I thought the want-to was there.  We just didn’t get it done.  We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make to close it out and that’s what it came down to.  I wouldn’t get into what’s conservative and what’s not conservative, I would just focus on the fact that we have to make plays.  We were mixing it up.  There was balance late in the game.  We were trying to throw it.  We were trying to do some things.”


On the mindset of the team entering the Kansas game
”I think they’re excited.  I think its something we can build on.  It’s something that gives our team hope.  As you watch our performance in Texas, we didn’t close, but the guys played hard.  They played physical.  They ran to the ball.  I thought they really put everything to the preparation and performance that they possibly could.  With that said, that’s all you ask of your team.  I just want our kids to give us their very best.  I believe that they keep striving to do that.  That’s what I’m encouraged about as a coach.  I see that on the field and you see it on film and in their attitude.  I know they’ll be encouraged again to go on the road and upset Kansas this week.”


On Keller being on the travel roster for the Kansas game

“We haven’t discussed it, though most likely not.  Last weekend was our senior trip where we could take over the 70-limit.  We need everybody to play right now, because we’re moving more guys up into starting roles.  You’re also trying to be smart about backups and special-team roles as well.  That’s another juggling act in itself.  I don’t think we will take him down there because that would take away a number on the roster, and we’re going to need everybody to win this game.  I think he understands that better than anybody.” 


On quarterback Sam Keller’s reaction to the season-ending injury

“He’s a competitor.  Just visiting with him, you could see it on his face and feel his emotion, he wants to help this football team.  He’s been great.  He’s a classy kid and a competitor and a stand-up guy.  He’s a guy’s guy.  That’s the best compliment I could give Sam Keller.  He’s going to do well in his future.  We’re very appreciative of his efforts and what he’s done this year.  He would’ve had a chance to do some things positively as far as records and numbers.  I think if you’d ask him, he’d rather win a game than have those other things.”


On Keller’s football future

“I think he’s got an outstanding shot to do some things.  Where they pick him or draft him is up to a club’s needs.  He has a great opportunity to continue to develop and become a quarterback in the National Football League.  I think he’s got that type of talent.  He has the arm to do that.  In time, as he develops, he’ll make a fine quarterback for somebody.”


On how a late-season injury affecting a player’s draft stock

“It just depends on what you’re looking for and where you’re picking and where you want to take a guy.  The great thing about this is that it’s his non-throwing shoulder.  That’s the real positive in that respect.  Just going through the healing process and seeing how he comes around to where he’s able to go back out and train, throw and work out for people, I think that will be a major criteria.  If he doesn’t, I think there will be teams that will be definitely interested in him.”


On Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing

“For a young player, he’s been exceptional.  He made a throw against (Texas) A&M where he moved left in the pocket, and it was an incredible play.  He kind of karaokes out of the pocket and looks at a receiver downfield.  He ropes a throw that’s hot and that’s coming in like a razor.  It gets deflected off the receiver.  It was one of those plays that catches your attention.  You watch him run the football and make the reads and just function as a normal drop-back quarterback, he’s very effective.  I have a lot of respect for him.  This guy is a competitor, and not only can he throw it, but he can run it.  He can do it outside the pocket as well.  He’s a different type of guy that we’ve seen in a while.  He’s going to be a challenge for our defense.”


On the improvement of Kansas the last three years

“I think it’s different from ours.  I’ve had that discussion with Mark (Mangino).  I was curious to see those players come up.  He said that they just take players when they’re young and we just groom them and develop them.  When they become seniors, they’re looking for a kind of experienced team where they’re senior- or junior- and senior-laden.  That’s basically what’s he’s looking and what he’s trying to develop on a consistent basis.  I felt that way a couple years ago when we went down there.  I really thought they were a talented football team, especially on the defensive side.  They got us pretty good that day.  I just think they’ve done a nice job recruiting and an excellent job with their systems of football.  They’re very technique-sound and fundamentally-oriented.  They’re a good football team.  They give everyone a test that they play.  I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done and accomplished.”


On the difference between the Kansas and Nebraska programs

“We’ve added some junior-college kids earlier.  You look at our corners, we have three junior-college corners.  (We’ve had) players that can come in immediately and play and help.  We just felt the necessity to bring guys in early and really didn’t feel like we could bring in a guy at a young age and wait for a period of time to develop them, because you have to win right away.”



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