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NU Practice Notes and a Conversation with Jerry Brown: Oct. 9

I got to talk to secondary coach Jerry Brown today — a rare event, as he's not a fan of interviews — so given the relatively "meh" practice, I'll mainly post Brown's answers about the play of his young corners and recruiting.

- On holding Braxton Miller to 200 yards and no touchdowns: "Yeah, I guess you'd say that's pretty good. I'd like to say we're trying to get better every week, and I'll be honest with you, that was a formidable challenge."

- Do the big plays come with the territory with young corners? "It does and I don't harp on that because I don't ever try to give a guy excuse for giving up big plays, but that is part of the territory. It's, I guess you could say, somewhat of a right of passage, because you've got to be good enough to withstand that, too, mentally, more than the physical component. I think our guys are getting stronger through it and the proof of the pudding will be not giving up explosion plays."

- On more QBs using three-step drops against NU: "It's just something you have to deal with. I guess it's a philosophical thing: three-step routes won't hurt you, but explosion plays will. Because we are playing off most of the time, you're going to have to give up something, and sometimes with those three-step throws, what we have to do is we have to come up and tackle, because you can't miss a tackle and allow a three-step completion to become an explosion play, and we've done a pretty good job of that."

- So you're okay with giving up those five-yard gains? "Yeah. Yeah. Now, obviously if it's something that people keep doing all the time and keep doing it play after play after play, then we need to change the coverage."

- On deep balls last year: "I don't know that people tried to go deep on us last year. I think early in the year, they wanted to, and I think that was the result of two years ago, when we were really terrible at giving up explosion plays. And, so, we did some things differently on early downs to inhibit their abilities to want to go deep."

- On Harris' speed: "He's pretty fast. I don't know that he's the fastest. He can run... He'll be a lot better next year just going through this experience. When you play a freshman, you think about it now, even Dwight White, he's a redshirt freshman, he's never been in a game, either. So they're going through similar experiences, which to a degree is good that they both can go through those experiences because it becomes more of a shared experience, and I think the both of them grow a lot quicker as a result of the shared experience."

- Has your recruiting in recent years improved in the secondary? "Oh yeah, oh yeah. We made a point of trying to really, really recruit hard at that position, because that's one of the positions that's really tough to recruit — the secondary and also on the d-line. So we really worked hard in both of those areas to upgrade ourselves, you could say, at those respective positions."

- More on recruiting: "You look for guys, especially on the corner, that have an instinct to be out there. It's hard to really say that a guy has a mental toughness to play out there, because you ask a high school coach, what's he gonna say? He's gonna say, 'Yeah he's a tough kid. He can do it, coach, he can do it all.' So you kind of have to get lucky with that one."

- Have you gotten lucky in recent years? "Yeah, I think we have. I think we have."


Just some quick other notes:

- One of those young corners, Matt Harris, was down to NU and Wisconsin when deciding where to attend. He said he chose NU because it felt like home and was closer to home (he's from La Grange, Illinois).

- Practice moved inside at the end today to work against crowd noise. Pat Fitzgerald noted that the next few road games — Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska — will be in very hostile environments.

- Fitz said that Wisconsin's play-action will be tough to defend. I asked if he learned anything from the Maine game — the Black Bears had a lot of success with play-action over the middle — and he said that game feels like years ago, but his team has improved since then. Play-action will be interesting to watch in this game. The Badgers had a lot of success with it against Ohio State.