Quotes from Bret Bielema’s press conference

Illinois Head Coach Bret Bielema spoke to the media prior to Illini’s Week 1 game at Indiana on 08/29/22.

Opening Statement

“Well, for everyone, it’s their first week but it’s our second week. So it’s kind of a unique position in Indiana. They had a chance to watch us on Saturday. They had a turnover of staff, but what I like about the coach [Tom Allen] about what he did is that he does it his way, and that’s why he was successful. I know they have a huge trump card on their shoulder and they are going to do some good things this year. We’re going to a hostile environment, I don’t know what their crowds are going to be like, but we’re prepared for it to be loud and crowded, so we’ll do our due diligence during the work week. We came out pretty healthy, I think we have two guys we’re still looking forward to. We actually have some guys that we will get more information on through further testing today. Josh McCrayI know he won’t be with us this week, I just don’t know the long term prognosis of where he is. Shawn Miller has an appointment today at five o’clock where we should gather more information. So those are the guys, really the only two, who will be out for a long time, and they won’t be with us this week. Everyone did well. Isaiah [Williams] was just a cramp issue, and he was cleared to play and come back, but we just didn’t want to do it at the time. We had a few guys who were doing well on both sides. You take Julien Pearl on the right, he always started for us on the right guard or tackle, he never started on the left tackle. He started next Isaiah Adams who never started a game in Illinois, who started next to Alex Pihlstrom, who had never played a snap at center, next to our right guard Ty Chrisler, who also never played a game here at Illinois. Palcho [Alex Palczewski] was the equalizer, he had like, 88 career starts at right tackle, so he increases our average, but it was kind of like a microcosm of that game. Tommy DeVito played a lot of football but never played a single game for Illinois football. His first transfer was a big run and his first pass was a touchdown. So there are a lot of positives on the attacking side of the ball. To see from the outside, the development and improvement of Pat Bryant was probably one of the most enjoyable things to watch and watch. But also [Brian] Hightower made some great catches and was just a good player in a good time. Isaiah [Williams] was really effective. Unfortunately, his biggest catches were those that were called up due to penalties. He had a good day, but it could have been an exceptional day, statistically. Isaiah Adams, if I could sum it up in one word, his leadership amazes me every day. We have a team prayer when we sit down for breakfast in the morning, we all get together collectively four hours before, and he said some things that I think moved the room exceptionally. I think you saw from the back Quan Martin taking a big leap in how he can play the game. Spoon [Devon Witherspoon] so, really, really the growth in the room, and really Caleb Griffineven if you want to see him, maybe, convert on those two field goals, he was kicking the ball extremely well at kick-off. Hugh Robertson was a valuable resource for us in the punting game and on the snaps, there’s room for improvement, but still some really, really good stuff there. We should have big improvements, you always say as a head coach the biggest games are week one and week two and we have it. Indiana is another step up from what Wyoming used to be. They had a lot of turnover in offensive, defensive and special teams units. New players are coming out of the portal world. The added element for Wyoming was that we knew who their coordinators were and kind of knew what they were going to do. But offensively and defensively, it’s a bit of a consonant in Indiana. Two new coordinators, don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like, so Friday will be a lot about our ability to be aware and adapt as the game progresses. We actually started last night, we changed our Sunday routine to minimize the transition time. Even though it’s a short week in theory because we play on Friday evening, that hasn’t cut short our preparation. We’ve had a few days of spring prep, and we’ve had three days of fall prep in Indiana, so we’re actually going into a Tuesday, training tomorrow, ahead of where we’d be several days into our preparation, and we hope it will pay dividends.”

On Lunney’s offensive plans

“I’ve said it before, as a head coach I have expectations of what I think and I hope the expectations of our players are even higher, and I think that’s our staff. offensive right now. Barry Lunney and I had a great time, we only had a few words after the game because we had some rookies in town and it’s just a little crazy and whatever comes into play. So I had a moment Saturday night when I came back and reached out to him and just expressed my gratitude for the work he did to make this day happen. His response was, “Thank you coach, but we’re going to improve a lot next week.” He constantly thinks like that. I think you see the potential that Tommy [DeVito] a, he’s a very precise passer, he has a great understanding of the flow of the game. Some of the best things he did on Saturday were actually negative on the stat sheet. He got rid of the ball when he was in trouble rather than taking a sack, he did things he didn’t force the ball into. One of the stats that I was very happy with was that he was only on the ground once, which is actually on the touchdown throw at Chase Brown because they executed a late tackle. I made a point of it in front of him and the team to keep our quarterback up on Saturday. I think when you keep your quarterback on his feet, positive things are going to happen. I’m excited about it, Chase Brown continues to prove to us what a special player he is. Very talented but now he understands the attack, some of the things he does instinctively have developed further.”

On Josh McCray status

To be honest, there were obviously indications after the game, but I will say that his morale was very good yesterday, but we are waiting to gather all the information. Josh has been through a lot before we see him. His last six months in our program were probably his best six months. He changed his body, he leaned over and he was really, really good with his composure during camp. If he’s not with us for a week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, two months even, I’m sure he has a bright future ahead of him, we just need to help him get there.

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