Checking in with ... Matt Canada, Part II

August, 1, 2008
8/01/08
10:20
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's the second half of my interview with Indiana offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Would you like to see Kellen (Lewis) or whoever is the quarterback running less and getting hit less this season?

Matt Canada: Every game's different. Kellen does so many things with his feet when he is in the game. We don't want to limit him that way. We'd like to have more production from our running backs. There's no question about that. Some of that comes back to me calling the plays and calling their number more. All those things come into play. We feel like we'll be better up front. Our offensive line is maturing. When you run this offense, if a team wants to stack the box and stop the run and force you to throw, they can do that. If they want to play coverage and force you to run, they can do that. Our job is to put our kids in position to make plays. We're looking to run the ball as well as we can with all of our guys.

Marcus [Thigpen], just from talking to him at [Big Ten] media days, said, "I'm the running back. I want to have the most carries and be the most involved." Do you have confidence in giving him more carries?

MC: Well, Marcus has done a lot for us. He certainly came on strong at the end of the year there, did a great job in the Purdue game. But Marcus ran track in the spring, wasn't with us a whole lot. He was out there a couple days. But I know he's lifting and is excited, wants to play. We've got a bunch of them. Demetrius McCray's coming back, Bryan Payton's coming back, Zach [Davis-Walker], Trea Burgess. So there's a bunch of guys that are going to, again, compete for that job. In the past, we've had a few backs play, so it's not like you had one guy with a whole bunch of carries. So the stat of Kellen having the most carries is a little bit misleading if you added up the carries of all the backs. But we do want to run the ball better.

Marcus said he played at just 182 [pounds] last year. Was gaining weight a big key for him?

MC: We want him to be as durable as he can and we want him to do those things to be able to carry the ball as many times in a game if he wants to be the primary back. But they all want to be that. As you get bigger and stronger and more mature and older, the weight starts to come on. Marcus has worked hard his entire career here, but I think it just finally clicked in. He started gaining some good weight.

I covered you briefly when you were [offensive coordinator] at Northern [Illinois] with a traditional offense and big-time backs like Michael Turner. This is quite a different offense from the one you ran back there.

MC: Hopefully, that's a good thing. It's something I've always believed and all coaches believe that you coach to your players, you coach to the strengths of where you are. Certainly at Northern, as we got it to the end there when I was finishing up, we were very good up front and we'd gone through the tough times and had a big offensive line and a great back. So we ran the ball very effectively and played with two tight ends, did some of those things. And then now, we're in a little bit different situation. We've got a bunch of great wideouts here, an athletic quarterback. There's some things that are very similar about the offenses, for sure. Obviously, coach Hep (Terry Hoeppner) had run it at Miami (Ohio). The offense there, they were spread, but they certainly ran two-tight end plays like we ran at Northern. We were more known as a running team, but we were in three and four wideouts 40 percent of the time as well. So some of it's perception, but we're certainly a long way away from where we were at Northern.

You mentioned the respect that Ben [Chappell] earned in the spring. For Kellen, is there any respect he needs to get back in camp after being away from the team, or will he be able to do that pretty easily?

MC: I think he'll be able to do it, but I'm sure it's something that has to happen. That's something that goes on in the locker room that we're not privy to as coaches. No one's going to question Kellen's talent. They know what he can do on film. But to be a good football team, to win the games you want to win in the clutch, your quarterback's gotta be a guy that everybody can look to and have faith in and believe he's going to lead them to where they need to go. So those are things we talk about, those are important issues and I'm sure those things will happen as we get going in camp.

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