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Steve Addazio and the Players Talk About Victory Over CMU

Hear from Addazio, Lukas Denis, Anthony Brown, Micchael Walker, and Jon Hilliman

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Assorted BC players and Head Coach Steve Addazio all spoke to the press yesterday after the Eagles’ victory over Central Michigan University. Topics touched on include the development of the offensive line this year, Michael Walker and Lukas Denis’s continued success, and Anthony Brown’s injury last week that kept him out of the end of the Clemson game.

Steve Addazio

STEVE ADDAZIO: We've had some interceptions that have been fantastic, some knock-downs on the quarterback on defense have been great. We ran the ball pretty well today. Considering our quarterback didn't practice this week, I felt that -- you're asking a lot with a freshman throwing the ball with him when he didn't have any of those practice reps. I don't think -- we certainly didn't take a step forward in that category, and I didn't think we would.

A lot of good yardage, hidden yardage in the stats with Mike Walker's returns on punts, which was great for us. I think we were able to put enough on tape for them to see that ability for us to get after that punter, and so they sacrificed punting distance for getting the ball out, which put us in great opportunity for Mike to return the kicks.

All in all, coming off a week where we were pretty banged up, a lot of guys missed practice, including the quarterback, and so I think the ability to come out here and play with some physicality on both sides of the lines, offense and defensive lines, get a win, get that great feeling get, pleased with that, and looking forward to getting to conference play next week.

Q. You talk about Michael Walker; how much of a spark is he where he can just turn a game like that?

STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, he's certainly been a spark for us on special teams, without a doubt. He's done a great job on our kickoff returns. He's continuing to do a great job on our punt returns. So those are valuable plays, valuable yardage, valuable plays. And so I'm very, very pleased with that.

You know, I'm very, very pleased with our punt coverage. You know, we had that one mishap last week at the very end of the game, but otherwise it's been outstanding. Our kickoffs between Max (Schulze-Geistoverl) kicking it out, even against a strong headwind today at times based on what side of the field we were going to. I've been very, very pleased with that.

I think, you know, I'm a little disappointed in missing our field goal today. We had a really beautiful kind of 12:00, wind it down, grind it down the field (drive), and then we missed the field goal, and you come away with no points. That's something that I'd like to think we're beyond that, and that showed up today, which I'm disappointed in. But we'll get that right. We'll continue to grow there, as well.

Q. How do you manage just coming off of games like last week and the week before, Clemson, Notre Dame, then a MAC team, then you have Tech? It's a different swing, but these are games that you have to win.

STEVE ADDAZIO: Yeah, you're right, every game is really important, but those are pretty good sizable emotional roller coasters, and what's hidden in there is not only the emotional roller coasters, but there's physical tolls taken in those games. We lost Max Richardson, and that was a physical toll taken on us, so now we're putting another young player plugged into our defense. We're playing some high-level teams, so at this stage of the game, you're looking at a lot of teams in the country that are 4-0 and whatever some of that reality is coming into focus again. We saw a couple games last night, so that starts -- we haven't had that. But to think, though, that we opened up with a MAC team, that MAC team beat Nebraska, okay, and we were on the road. To think that that stuff doesn't add up, it does. To think that positive confidence and momentum doesn't matter, it does.

And so, you know, we're doing this the long hard way right now, which is front-ending some really tough teams, although we've still got many tough teams to go. That's the nature of where we are in this conference and the division and the side that we play on. I've been doing this a long time; it's powerful -- I was in the SEC when it was powerful. This is powerful.

And so -- and we're doing it with a bunch of guys, some of which have some experience, a bunch don't because of injuries, only because of injuries, but here's the beautiful thing: These young guys, this is like so valuable right now. The learning lessons here are so valuable. And these other guys that are gone now for the year, they're all coming back. They'll be back. We should be a fourth- or fifth-year team.

So I keep looking at that. You're watching Jon and AJ running the ball and the offensive line. They're down four starters up front, but they kind of rallied back. So for me I have to keep that in focus and then realize who we're playing.

I want to tell you guys something that's really cool, okay. The attitude in that locker room and the mindset and the joy and the passion, you know, this is a tough group of guys that take some punches and keep grinding. You know why, because I think they know and believe in their heart that everything we do is an investment that's just going to come back. And if anybody can't see that, then they don't really understand football, don't really get it. And that's life.

Q. Kind of to your point about the heart that your running game showed, the way the game started, you kind of get stuffed, and then the first drive of the first half, I think you guys had 10 runs out of the 12 plays and kind of dominated. How did that come about, I guess?

STEVE ADDAZIO: I mean, you know, we opened the game, and we went for the fourth down. I'm not going to get into what happened. But it is what it is. We went for it, and then we got the punt right down the 1 and then we had a miscue up front and hit us in the backfield. But you know, those things are going to happen right now. You're talking about the apex of your offense has got first-year players in there right now. So you've just got to be steadying the boat, and I just kind of said, don't worry about it, we're going to be fine. Just keep grinding, guys. Build that confidence a little bit. Just overcome -- weather it and come out of it, and it was kind of that mindset at halftime.

Our guys knew that -- we were kind of blocking them, but we just have this mechanism right now because we have some interchangeable parts in here that aren't quite grooved in right, and they will. They're going to get better and better and better and better, but that's what happens. Because offense is such a precision thing that everyone has got to kind of fire right, and when you don't and they're at the POA, some not-so-good things can happen. So early on, it was just kind of like steadying the boat. We're fine. We'll be fine. And I want them to know that total belief and confidence in them. That's why I went for a couple other 4th down calls. We'll be fine. And we've got to grow through this.

And this is all part of it. It's part of it. And there's going to be some rough spots along the way with that. But that's just the way it is. I'm really pleased with their approach, their demeanor, their resiliency, and they came back and showed that, and that's very valuable to me to see when I watch it from the side.

Q. At the beginning of the season you had mentioned that vertically and horizontally you thought the offense was doing well, but between the tackles there was still some trouble. Now today a lot of Hilliman and Dillon's yards did come between the tackles. How have you seen the line develop, particularly on those tackles with Aaron Monteiro and Marcell Lazard?

STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, I think our development is herky-jerky a little bit, and I think a lot of that has to do with who's healthy, who's practicing, who's not. It took us a while today to kind of groove in a little bit, you know, because Aaron was pretty banged up this week, okay. I mean, he had a pretty sizable injury last Saturday. You know, and so those are some of the things I think that are happening. Like it's kind of like that -- just needs a little work, we get going here and kind of get back. Then all of a sudden this needs a little work, it kind of feels like that, you know, and quite frankly, I think our 1st and 2nd down play action game, we've got to get it going. It was the strength of our team in preseason camp, the absolute strength, and right now, it hasn't been. We've got to get that going. Just got to get going, simple as that.

Q. Defensively, too, we saw a little bit -- looks like Harold Landry was playing some outside linebacker today. Why that decision?

STEVE ADDAZIO: Just schematically we're growing. We're continuing to grow. We're trying to adapt based on some of the personnel hits that we've taken, to be honest with you. We're taking a lot of hits, right. You talk about Sharrieff Grice, we started and we lost him, and then we lost Connor (Strachan) and then we lost Max (Richardson), and we're getting to the point where we have to account for future issues, right. There's a lot of football left to play. So we're trying to do some things to give us a little bit more versatility, if you will, okay. So we're looking at a couple of different things right now, trying to get absolutely to squeeze out the best we can out of everybody to give us a little bit more depth, so to speak.

Q. You've been talking about wanting to feature Dillon for a while now, but how have you seen him and Jon work off of each other?

STEVE ADDAZIO: Great. I'm really pleased with that. Now, we've seen that against really good opponents right now. I think Jon has really elevated his play, and I think AJ continues to elevate his play, get more experience, and he's getting more comfortable as we go. And so the two of those -- those two guys combining together, I think there's a really nice kind of flow there right now.

And then I like watching it. Jon does a great job as an older guy leading, and these are really good guys, and they have talent, and so I'm enjoying that piece of it right now, watching that develop.

On the play of Lukas Denis …

STEVE ADDAZIO: You know, he's got like five picks, I think. Yeah, five picks on the year. He's doing a great job. He's another guy, he's a first-year player. He's never really played. He played a little bit, bits and pieces, but he's starting to gain some confidence, starting to gain some experience, and so I think he's more comfortable in the different coverage schemes. We play a little bit more zone, and you know, there was a time all we played here really was man, and we have to play a little bit more zone, and so we're playing a little bit more zone.

I think he's growing with that, as are the other guys. They're learning how to play a little more zone. We play both now, man and zone, as opposed to just man.

Q. Last week the defense and special teams did a lot of work and put the offense in a good spot. This week was it good to see some of the work paid off on the scoreboard.

STEVE ADDAZIO: Yeah, yeah, I really think it's just trying to play better team football. I mean, last week we were just playing against some really elite talent out there. We had some really good -- we knew we'd have about four or five opportunities on offense last week. We were able to capitalize on a couple, but we missed a few, and you can't do that on the road against a team like that but we've played them so nose up, you know.

And this week, I think, like I said, we took advantage of good field position from our special teams and from defense, and we were able to really insert the running game, and that was a good thing.

So I think it's just good collection team football. It's got to grow. It's got to continue to get better. It's not where it needs to be yet, and it needs to continue to get there, and we need to keep developing each phase, and what happens is we get a little -- why is that? Some say, well, why? Because each week we're losing key pieces, and we're starting to run out of some of those key pieces. You just can't take a guy that hasn't played really much before, put him in and think you're going to have this unbelievable level of play. That's not going to happen. It's going to take some time. So we've had to juggle that along the way. You know, we're down seven starters, and I thought -- quite frankly I didn't know if Anthony would play in this game, and that would have been eight, and that would be like, whoa, and he did, which I give him a lot of credit, and I give Aaron Monteiro, I give him a lot of credit, because it's really important to these guys, and they know that their teammates really need them and they know it, so they're doing everything as fast as possible. But to say either one of them were at maximum level ability today? No, no, not really, not even close.

Anthony Brown

Q. Coach mentioned you were hurt all week. What's bothering you?

ANTHONY BROWN: Just a little soreness in my shoulder. That was really it.

Q. When you're limited like that, just how important was what Jon and AJ did for you with the running game?

ANTHONY BROWN: It was extremely important. I had to take advantage of my opportunities when I was given them. Mike (Walker) also helped us out, giving us great field position with the special teams, and we kind of took advantage of it today.

Q. How long did it take for you to decide or determine whether you were healthy enough to play?

ANTHONY BROWN: It was a Thursday thing, Thursday, Friday thing. And then just felt better, so I just went off that and just tried to play through it.

Q. And so many bodies already kind of displaced or whatever. How important was it to try to play with the condition the team is in at this point?

ANTHONY BROWN: Be there for my teammates. I know they'll back me up. I had a really strong feeling about today, so we just went with it, and we played really well.

Q. You've been talking about AJ being featured more in the offense, and it's happened gradually over time --

ANTHONY BROWN: Today from based off of what I've seen, he was keeping his pad level down, running through contact, just kept pushing, and our offensive line did great today, so that also was another key factor in his runs.

Q. Anthony, you took two roughing-the-passer penalties today. How hard was it to stand in the pocket knowing that you had your shoulder injury and all?

ANTHONY BROWN: Basically just trusting my offensive line. Didn't really faze me about the roughing the passers. It was fine. It happens. It's the game. That was really it.

Q. Now that it's over, and on paper it just was a good match-up for you guys before you've got what's coming up, I know you can't go into a game thinking about that, but now that it's over, how important was it to have a satisfying win with what you've got coming up in the ACC?

ANTHONY BROWN: It's always important to win your games. We only have 12 shots. That was five. Sixth one is coming up against a really good team, and it really just helps our confidence and keeps us building, and we've just got to get ready to go.

Michael Walker

Q. Michael, just on that opening punt return, why wasn't there anybody in the middle for them?

MICHAEL WALKER: I don't know what to say. We probably blocked it perfectly probably, and it was right there. It was wide open, and just saw it and just took it.

Q. Michael, when you get the second and third one, are you excited that you returned it back there or are you a little disappointed you didn't break it?

MICHAEL WALKER: I mean, no, I'm definitely excited, definitely excited every single time. I mean, just got to take the opportunity and just try and make the most out of it.

Q. How does it feel to have a spark like that? The offense had struggled the first couple series, and it just takes one play where you can feel like you made a real impact?

MICHAEL WALKER: Definitely any way I can to help the team out. If we need that little spark and I can provide it, then that's all we need. Helped the momentum going.

Q. Just knowing how challenging your schedule is, these games when you have -- there are certain games that you have a chance to regain some confidence after a tough loss, but also you know they're very important, how do you navigate the swings in the types of games you play?

MICHAEL WALKER: I mean, definitely as Coach Addazio said, always just keep chopping. Got to attack every game -- doesn't matter who you're playing, just got to attack it full force. Definitely helps with confidence. It was good to get that win today. Definitely help us moving forward.

Q. What was the confidence last week moving into this week?

MICHAEL WALKER: I wouldn't say it was any different. You've got to hit every game the same way, so just go full speed as hard as you can. That's pretty much it.

Q. When you're trying to return those runs, it looks like you have the strategy of running into the punt 10 yards out. Why do you do that and what's the risk-reward behind it?

MICHAEL WALKER: I mean, especially with today's they were doing the rugby pants so there wasn't much hang time. So if I didn't see anyone there I could run full speed and hit it. Definitely there's a risk to it, but the reward is you hit it full speed and that crease is there, so you get to hit it.

Jon Hilliman

Q. Jon, a couple weeks ago you took a loss very hard, and today you were a big reason why you guys won the game. Leadership, I'm just wondering what goes through your mind in a game like today, especially with Anthony being as banged up as he was?

JON HILLIMAN: Well, I knew that. I knew a guy like me would kind of have to make certain plays, and not just make plays but kind of keep the morale high because I've been on teams here where we've won bowl games and been on teams unfortunately where we've been 3-9, and this was kind of like a must-win game for us. We kind of knew that coming in. So just wanted just to keep the morale high, just to keep the confidence high in certain guys, and I think we did a good job for the outcome that we had today. I think I did a pretty good job of that. But just got to keep it going. Pretty much we've got a very good VTech team coming in, so just got to keep it going, to answer your question.

Q. After the way the game started in terms of the running game and the first drive of the second half, night and day, and I just want to get from you how important establishing the running game in that first drive of the second half was.

JON HILLIMAN: It's one of the pillars of our program pretty much, running the football. That's one of the main reasons why I came here, because we like to establish the run. The run unit, we're getting better every week. Every week we're getting better. Holes are getting bigger. Guys are getting more confidence, which is the most important thing for our offense, that's just the most important thing is confidence and getting better, and just improving every week, that's just the most important thing.

Q. How would you describe the relationship between you and AJ? You're an older guy, obviously, got some experience, and he's a younger guy, but what do you feel like your role is?

JON HILLIMAN: Just bringing him along. Obviously y'all can pretty much see I don't really need to do much, but just bringing him along, just keeping his confidence up, if he makes bad plays or indifferent, bad stretches, just letting him know, hey, you're a very good football player. It's no different from high school. The guys are bigger, faster, you're bigger, faster; there's no real difference. Just keeping him up, keeping him humble and everything. He's done a great job. He's working very hard. Very proud of him, and he's just going to keep building.

Q. You've been through the schedule before, you know how this goes; those swings from one week to another are very different. How do you navigate one game like the confidence -- the way things can change with confidence from one game to the next?

JON HILLIMAN: Yeah, yeah, that's very true. Yeah, pretty much this game, like I said, was must-win for us, but it was like more so a confidence builder. I think we're coming into that VTech game a little more hungry, a little more confidence and faith that we can do this. Let's go, we played Clemson toe-to-toe, dropped the rope a little bit, same thing with Notre Dame. But we know if we come with that same energy we can shock this team, and no one is going to be shocked in the locker room if we do it. It's not going to take anything crazy, we've just got to go out there and just get better, just like how we've been, just get better, defense making stops, offense got to keep them off the field, and I honestly think it's a very doable task. It's a very doable talk, a tall task but it's a very doable task next week.

Q. Every team is trying to get to six wins to be bowl eligible, do you have the attitude like can we steal one --

JON HILLIMAN: No, we feel like every game is a winnable game. Not to disrespect any opponents, we play the best amateur competition, period, in college football, and we know who we're playing, so straight up we just know that every game is a winnable game, just got to bring it the same. We don't look worse than that team so we should get one. We've got to play every game different. We've got to play every game the same with different opponents knowing we've just got to improve every week pretty much.

Q. Just talk about being part of the passing game in the red zone and getting that touchdown pass.

JON HILLIMAN: Yeah, that's one thing I worked on in the summer with the quarterbacks, pretty much from the summer and the spring the coach told me in the off-season you're going to be pretty much in protection a lot, you're going to be doing a lot of younger backs, you're the older guy so you're going to be in the pass game a lot more than usual, so I'm just going to have to be ready for that.

But I mean, that's just something I worked on, something I embraced, and I just want to continue to do anything, to make any plays that the offense needs, any plays in the pass game, run game, just anywhere I'm needed, just lead the guys, just to continue to keep this thing rolling because it's going to be guys like me, older guys on our team that's going to help turn this ship around. Like I said, it's a doable task.

Lukas Denis

Q. How do you continue to be Johnny-on-the-spot, man? The ball keeps finding you or you keep finding it.

LUKAS DENIS: You know, I just try to keep doing my job, and my job is to stay on top of the receivers and kind mirror the quarterback, and every time I do that, the ball just happens to land right in my hands.

Q. The first one were you surprised, did you look like, that's a football?

LUKAS DENIS: Yeah, I mean, the ball was a little bit overthrown, and I didn't expect the ball to be that high overthrown, so I just kept running, and it landed right in my hands.

Q. Last week the defense played well, and you guys created some opportunities for the offense that they weren't able to capitalize on. This week was it sort of a confidence builder?

LUKAS DENIS: I mean, yeah, every week we try to come out -- even on special teams, try to get the offense a better chance to score. We live on that board over there that kind of dictates your chances to score based off your field position. Every time we try to give them a short field, do the best we can so that as a team we can win the game.

Q. Educate me about you're from Everett, Mass., local kid, your recruiting process. What did you think about BC growing up, and what made you come to Boston College?

LUKAS DENIS: Yeah, growing up, BC was the biggest school in Mass, and I took pride in the fact that I came from Massachusetts, and a few other guys, we always joke around, being from Massachusetts. My first chance came at a camp, I came to the camp every year for four years, even after I committed, and I learned a lot coming in and staying with the coaches. After I committed, I would come up and hang out with the guys and just try to get a good feel for the people I'm going to be around for the next four years, and I really appreciated the type of people they were, the atmosphere they brought, and I made the right choice.

Q. Did Manny Asprilla talk to you or did he push the place for you?

LUKAS DENIS: Yeah, I knew Manny went there, and all throughout high school, people would always be like, you're going to be like Manny, you're going to do this, and he kind of just tole me what college was like and the type of ball that we play here at BC, and I came for visits, and I kind of loved it. I kind of liked playing ball. I liked the coaches here, and although some of them have changed, we brought in some very good coaches, and I really appreciate

Transcripts courtesy of Jason Baum and BC Athletic Communications