As part of Monday’s first session of the Big Ten Media Days, The Daily Gopher had the opportunity to speak with and ask a couple questions of each of the three player representatives that accompanied head coach P.J. Fleck to Chicago.
Here are some quotes from senior running back Rodney Smith.
On the loss of Shannon Brooks for the season:
“I expect the guys behind me to step up and take on Shannon’s part. I know Mohamed Ibrahim, he had a tremendous spring. I’m proud of him and how he’s grown since he’s been on campus. He got Scout Team Player of the Year last year, cause he really gave those guys on defense a great look. We had two incoming freshmen that I’m really proud of how fast they’ve learned the offense. Bryce [Williams] and Nolan Edmonds, those guys are coming along fast. And Jonathan Femi-Cole, he’s gotten a lot stronger this offseason. Proud of the work that he’s put in. I don’t expect [my role] to change, I think those guys will have to step up and play. In the Big Ten, somebody’s always going to get hurt, so you need a pair and a spare.”
On Year 2 under P.J. Fleck compared to Year 1:
“You know what to expect. Last year was all about learning and just rowing, doing what he wanted us to do. And this year, it’s on us as players to master it and really implement it throughout the team to the newcomers. I’m excited to see how it plays out, because with a new coach, you don’t really know what to expect, whether that’s on gameday or at practice. Everything is different. So we just know how he moves now, and I think it’ll benefit us.”
On expectations for the offense this season:
“To be explosive — more than we were last year, definitely. We lacked the explosive factor after those first couple of games. Just to have playmakers step up and be consistent and consistently make plays.”
On what he has left to accomplish in his college career:
“Definitely. There’s always unfinished business. You never reach the pinnacle. But yeah, I definitely have unfinished business that I need to take care of. [Breaking the school’s all-purpose yards record] would be a tremendous honor. Perfecting my game. Getting better at pass protection. Identifying blitzes. Becoming a better zone scheme runner. I think last year I was decent at it, but definitely could work on my zone scheme running. And just being a complete back, getting involved in the passing game. Getting better hands, working on that. Just getting better as a player.”
On moving on from the end of last season, when the offense was shut out in their last two games:
“Definitely use it as motivation. We were ready to get back to campus and get back to work. The offseason was beneficial for us. Everybody got stronger, faster, smarter. We use those games as motivation. Never want to lose, but when you lose the way we lost those last couple of games, it definitely leaves a bad feeling in your gut.”
On how much he watches the quarterback competition:
“I do pay attention to it. I’m looking forward to fall camp and seeing who wins the team at the quarterback position. Whoever steps up as a leader and wins this team, we’ll rally behind them.”
On the ugliest mascot in the Big Ten:
“Bucky’s pretty ugly.”