While I was looking for someone to talk to one-on-one yesterday, our photographer Eric Upchurch said redshirt freshman tight end Chase Winovich, who moved from outside linebacker this spring, seemed like a great interview. He was not wrong.
How is the transition from defense to offense going for you?
At first I wasn’t sure how to think about it, and just a little hesitant. I feel like, as most people are, going to a position that you’ve never played before and weren’t recruited as going through the recruiting process—it goes through your mind, here’s what you’re going to be, and then to go through a season playing [linebacker], you’re just having a blast with it, going up and hitting people and just playing physical and the chase. I always joked, I said, “they named me Chase, they didn’t name me Block or something else.”
But as the time went on I grew to really start liking it. The practices were more fun, [I was] more engaged, more versatile, you could take mental reps a lot, it was easier to see how people break, especially Jake Butt, and just go about their business, and I started to love it. So going into camp, I’ve never been this excited to go into a camp in my entire life.
With Coach Harbaugh and his styles of camps and his history with Stanford and San Diego and San Francisco, it’s going to be a battle, man. I want to be in the trenches or in the Apache helicopter this camp, you know, shooting the machine guns. That's how I view it. Every day is going to be a grind and if I can maximize the transition from summer to camp and linebacker to tight end and have those coincide, I think the days are going to go by great.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the interview.]
“Hello, everybody. Nice to see you. Good to see everybody here. Exciting day for us. The first day of football fall camp, so…glad you made it.”
Kids Go Blue Club member question: Other than football, what is your favorite thing about being back in Michigan?
“Autumn, that is a wonderful question. Thank you for asking that question. Being with my family is my favorite thing about being back in Michigan.
“How old are you?”
“So I have a six-year-old daughter named Addie and a four-and-a-half-year-old daughter named Katie and Jack is two and a half. My son James is 18- he’ll be a freshman at Michigan. My son Jay is coaching at Michigan. He’s 26.
“And then, so seeing all my kids back here in Ann Arbor and doing some of the same things that I did when I was your age and their age- went over to St. Francis elementary school and met some of the teachers for the first grade and the kindergarten class and just walking down the hallway, seeing them in the same school that I went to. It was…it was- might have been the best moment about being back in Ann Arbor.
“St. Francis is a typical Catholic school. It’s old and it’s clean. There’s a lot of memories. Pretty neat to think that my kids are going to be experiencing some of the same things I did.
“Are you excited for school to start?”
“When does school start for you?”
I don’t know.
“How about a big smile for all the cameras? How about a big, pretty smile for the cameras. Look at all these cameras!”
There was some stuff earlier this week or a couple weeks ago about the fifth-year players. Keith Heitzman, I think, said he was asked to try-out for a spot on the roster. What’s your take on the fifth year guys? Are they given a spot? Earn a spot? How’s that work?
“Well, it’s- you know, fifth year is mutual. When it comes to a fifth year, if you have a fifth year of eligibility and then it becomes do you want to come back to the University of Michigan for a fifth year and does the football team mutually want you to come back for the fifth year.
“All the fifth-year players that were on the team were not asked to come to a try out, but in his particular case I said, and [with] a couple of the other youngsters too, I haven’t coached here before [so] couldn’t guarantee a spot for the 2015 team but could guarantee an opportunity. And that opportunity would have taken place during spring practice. Some did want to come back who were fifth-years and some didn’t. That’s about as simple as it is.”
[After THE JUMP: Harbaugh tells the football rebirth story again and you should read it because why would you not want to read that]
Previously: Kyle Kalis
Brian Cole wants to see the field this year. [Fuller]
Next up for the Media Day interviews is slot receiver Brian Cole, one of a few freshmen who was available to speak to the media, presumably because he enrolled early and went through spring practice with the team. Cole has already undergone his first uniform change. While he wore #81 in the spring, he's now rocking #41, perhaps a sign that senior walk-on tight end Michael Jocz (now the only #81) is in line for some playing time.
A couple guys have said they didn't even know it was Media Day until they walked in. How has it been with Harbaugh keeping you guys on your toes?
Oh, yeah, it's blessing us though, I'll tell you that, because he's getting all of us ready for the league, NFL-ready. He's treating it like it's the NFL, so people are just getting a better understanding of what it's going to be like if you play in the NFL.
How big of a transition is it coming from high school to this type of environment? What's been the toughest part of that?
It's very overwhelming, to be honest. It's a lot of pressure. You have your highs and your lows. To be honest, it's been hard, but it's been a good experience.
What's he got you playing right now?
I'm playing slot receiver.
I know you played a lot of different spots in high school. How comfortable are you settling into that position?
I'm still getting used to it since I never really played receiver. So my footwork, stuff like that, I'm still working on it. I like it a lot, though. I want to score touchdowns, too, so that's always fun. Catching them isn't so bad, either. I'm just getting used to it.
You guys have Jedd Fisch as a receivers coach, another guy with NFL experience. How big of a help is it to have somebody who's been there?
It's great. The whole coaching staff, they know what it takes, and having Coach Fisch, that's my dawg, I love Coach Fisch. He's always helping me. He's always on top of me about everything, too.
With you in the slot, do you expect to be utilized as a runner as well as a receiver? How do you expect to be used out there?
To be honest, I don't know. I have no idea.
So they're keeping you in the dark about everything.
How easy has it been to pick up the playbook?
Not easy at all. (Laughs.) It's still coming along. It's just the fact that, coming from high school, our playbook looked nothing like that—like, it was numbers, and that was our play. Having all this extra stuff, audibles, all these extra signs we can do, it makes it a lot harder but you gotta learn it. If I want to play I gotta learn it, so that's what I'm trying to do.
Four hour practices, it sounds like the intensity is way up; how well do you think the team has adjusted to that?
Well. We grinding. We got better every day, so things are going good with those four-hour practices. It's not hurting us too bad.
What are your expectations for this year? Do you have anything laid out?
As far as team goals, I don't know. I know, even not talking to them, I know we want to win, like, every game, and that's what we plan to do. We're going to work, have fun, and just win.
And for you personally, what are your expectations for your play this year?
I just want to play. I just want to touch the field.
This afternoon's Media Day marked the unofficial start of Michigan football season. Over the coming days we'll be posting several interviews with players and coaches—and, of course, Harbaugh's presser. First up is Kyle Kalis, who had some fascinating things to say about the new way of doing things under the new staff. Oh, and some thoughts on shirtlessness. Note: several of these are MGoQuestions, but not all or them. I'll note in other posts if I had an actual one-on-one.
What's been the biggest change for you from Hoke to Harbaugh?
Really not much has changed team-wise. It's great to know we have a coach like Coach Harbaugh. Going through spring with Coach, learning how he likes to do practice, seeing how intense he is—I think just his intensity alone drives us and makes us practice harder which in turn is going to make us a great team. Especially going into camp, it's going to be a long camp, it's going to be a grind, but we've put in the work all summer and we're ready for it.
It sounds like Harbaugh is keeping you guys on your toes. Do you guys know the schedule or...?
Oh, yeah, Coach's deal is he doesn't like us to know, he doesn't like us to be able to prepare for things. He wants us to be able to react. That's what we're doing so far. Like coming into today, we didn't even know we had media today. We walked through the door and here we are talking to you guys.
So you guys didn't know this was going on today?
We knew something was up. When we got the schedule, there was no practice today, so were like, "Oh, something's up. It's going down."
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the interview.]
The worst kept secret in Michigan football is now finally public:
Media Day uncovered another loss that had not yet come to light with redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Chris Fox bringing his playing career to a close.
A native of Parker, Colo., the 6-6, 303 pounds Fox played in one game last season, but was not introduced with the lineman on Thursday despite appearing on the roster.
An athletic department official confirmed that Fox will continue with the program as a student assistant coach. He will be moved to a medical scholarship, which does not count against the 85 scholarship limit set by the NCAA.
Fox was set to be a redshirt sophomore this fall and opens up a 2016 scholarship as a result. Michigan was already at 84 scholarship players give or take a Norfleet, so his departure opens up another slot for a walk-on.
Upchurch – MGoBlog
Michigan’s first stroke of bad luck came late in November: the Wolverines had just lost a hard-fought contest to eventual 1-seed Villanova in Brooklyn, but starting point guard Derrick Walton suffered some sort of toe injury – one that would affect him for the remainder of the year, eventually sidelining him for good in late January. It was evident that the injury sapped Walton of his explosiveness, both vertically and running in the open floor, but he played through it until his other foot was injured, most likely due to overcompensation for his original injury.
After a disappointing sophomore campaign, it’s prudent to recall exactly how good Walton was as a freshman. He started all but one game for a team that would come to the brink of a return trip to the Final Four and excelled in a modest role on offense. Derrick got better throughout the season: he posted a gaudy offensive rating (120.8) on a not-insignificant usage rate (18.4) in conference play while posting the fourth-highest free throw rate of qualifying players in the Big Ten; he was arguably Michigan’s best perimeter defender; he shot 41% from three on the season on 105 attempts. Expectations were naturally quite optimistic for the highly-touted Detroit point guard entering his sophomore season.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much of Walton’s struggles were due to his injury, the stark decline in talent around him, or the burden of an increased role on offense, but the drop-off was so severe that the injury is the best explanation. After shooting an impressive 59% at the rim as a freshman, he shot 41% inside the restricted area as a sophomore – evidence that his toe was clearly bothering him. Derrick was still called on to play just shy of 40 minutes a game (barring auto-bench foul trouble in the first half) and, even though Spike Albrecht played well down the stretch, Walton was clearly Michigan’s first option at the point guard spot before his season-ending injury.
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[After the jump: let's go back to the beginning]