Jammie Kirlew was lost for words.
And to be honest, I felt for the Hoosier defensive end. I really did.
After Purdue’s 62-10 massacre in November, there sat Kirlew in a cheap, rusty chair outside the visitors locker room attempting to say something, anything that would make the media frenzy go faster.
Tick by tick, he had to dodge hardball questions as if he was a politician debating the iconic talk show host Chris Matthews.
“Should Bill Lynch return as coach?”
“How come certain players never gave it their all every down?”
These were a few of the questions Kirlew was asked following the bloodbath in West Lafayette.
It was what Kirlew called “the worst post-game interview of (his) college career.”
“Not only do I not want to be in that situation again, I won’t be,” said Kirlew, a senior on the 2009 squad, in a recent phone interview. “My teammates won’t be put in that position either. We will not repeat last year’s season.”
The passion in his voice traveled through the airwaves quite clearly.
He didn’t pause much. He didn’t make excuses for the disheartening and downtrodden season, either.
In my mind, I pictured Kirlew, hot-blooded, working himself into a state resembling a typical pre-game routine.
But, amid all the negativity and “what-ifs” pinned at 2008, the reigning team MVP expressed some optimism pinpointed toward the 2009 season.
Kirlew hopes the new 12-game schedule will culminate with a bowl appearance.
“Our goal, first and foremost, is to win a Big Ten Championship,” Kirlew said. “In the back of our minds, we all know how much a bowl game will mean to the program moving forward.”
The Hoosiers cannot emulate last season’s style of play. The coaching staff would be better off demanding that the video coordinator trash most of the film – only a select few plays are worth archiving.
In many ways, the 2009 schedule is more difficult than 2008’s.
First and foremost, IU isn’t fortunate enough to host eight games at home like last year.
That was a gift, a rarity in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Instead, the team will host six, which will be better for the program anyway.
No matter how many times the Hoosiers get blown out, they need to compete against bigger, more revenue-generating programs. As good as Ball State and Central Michigan were, IU should schedule even tougher opponents – schools who regularly plan for a bowl trip in their primary budget meetings.
IU Athletics Director Fred Glass is slowly beginning this style of scheduling already, locking Virginia for a home-and-home series this season and next.
Some of you naysayers might disagree with Glass and I, arguing that a cushioned schedule is best for this lost-in-transition team.
I beg to differ.
IU will face two of the most storied programs in college football history when Michigan and Ohio State come back into the frame. And as recruiting classes become stronger, it will be best for the younger student athletes to experience first-hand how top-notch teams separate themselves from their adversaries.
Kirlew admitted the 2009 schedule is tough, but fitting for a squad searching for success.
“There’s definitely challenges to come. No question,” Kirlew said. “But we are going to fight. More than last year; more than ever. As a leader and as a senior, my job is to make that message very clear to the younger guys on the team.”
Ready to rebuild, take two
Jammie Kirlew was lost for words.