Mike Lantry, 1972
- Roy Roundtree and Carvin Johnson are doubtful for Notre Dame
- Second-team FS/holder Jared Van Slyke (a walkon) is out for the year.
- Junior Hemingway is expected back.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint may or may not play against ND.
After the game, Rodriguez got to spend time with Brock's family, and before, he saw the end of Brock's walk.
Managing from execution standpoint first thing you want. Can run the ball and get first downs, not as necessary to throw downfield for big plays. Can block downfield better. Consistency in blocking need to improve the most. Guys were in the right place, but didn't sustain blocks, or didn't get downfield. Didn't get downfield as well as we're capable. On D - just lost contain a couple times. Special teams were very average. KOR and KO units were below average.
Worked so hard on the passing game because they knew UConn was going to bring safeties down to help against the run. "Watching the film, we played hard, we played well at at times, and we took care of the football offensively." Can still execute a lot better on O. Not having big plays on offense gave the defense rest with long drives, but Rodriguez would prefer to execute well enough to get the big plays.
On Denard: "He graded out relatively high. He made a few mistakes, which you would expect in his first game as a starter." Made a couple negative-yardage plays. You rarely see a first-time starter command the game like he did.
Shaw and Smith: "They ran better than they blocked." Usually they're better blockers. Wish they could get back the negative-yardage plays. The other backs need to prove themselves better in practice to play.
Pretty much satisfied with the offensive line play. Liked the effort. No "high grades" on the OL - partially because it's tougher to grade out well with Coach Frey. "A couple guys didn't play nearly as well as we thought they would," both at the point of attack and on the second level, but they were solid as a group.
The defense had a few plays they'd like to have back. "We got what we thought we'd get." ND will be a bigger challenge than UConn. Tackled pretty well, only a few missed assignments.
Muffed punts - "This year is this year, last year is last year." It was Gallon's first game action, and it came on a windy day with a tough punt. "He'll be fine. I have no concerns whatsoever." Not worried about kickers' performances in the wind. Drew Dileo mishandled the missed extra point.
Roy Roundtree is listed as doubtful with internal bruising, they'll re-check him later in the week. Carvin Johnson is "very doubtful" with a sprained knee. Junior Hemingway should be able to go, but they won't know until later this week.
Still concerned with youth of team. Guys will get beat up. The outside people have been saying whatever "You go in our building, it's been a little bit different the whole time."
Denard - "He's a pretty humble guy anyway. I'll talk to him about staying humble. I think that's in his nature anyway." Just one bad day away from being a goat. Positive press is like poison - it's OK as long as you don't swallow it. He needs to trust timing and progression before he takes off. He has been getting better at that, and did very well Saturday.
Denard was sharp - "My concern coming in was the wind more than anything else." Biggest thing was where his eyes were going to be. If their eyes are in the right place, they'll make the right decision. "He's smart enough to figure out that hey, you're just one bad play away from everybody saying 'you can't do this' or 'you can't do that'." Guys know it's a big stage.
"You could sense earlier on that [Denard] is a guy who, not only does he have the physical abilities, but he has the type of mental makeup you'd like to have at the position." It all comes with learning. Denard and Tate will still have some mistakes, have growing to do, but they have bright futures. "I'm always concerned with our players' concerns. That's what coaches do." It's a team game, not an individual game. TV may try to sensationalize something.
Is Rodriguez concerned about Tate? "Why? Is there a reason to? Oh." Coach wasn't making a big issue out of it - TV was. It's no surprise that he's disappointed to not play. "I want all my players to be happy all the time. Inevitably, 110 of them probably won't be. If we win, you expect most of them to be happy or fake it. I don't blame guys for being unhappy if they don't play. That's human nature." RR will talk to the QBs, "There shouldn't be any problems... If he crosses the line as far as being a team player, we'll worry about that."
Devin - "We think that Devin has proven that he's ready to play." He's at the point where he'll help win games this year.
Probably could have repped more OL in the game. Players have to give the staff confidence that they'll be able to execute.
Obi - "Yeah, I thought he played pretty well. I really did." Jonas Mouton and Mark Moundros played well, too.
Young DBs have been getting a lot of reps, they have to "grow up in a hurry." They'll have great futures, just need to get them ready. Pleased with play of Floyd and Rogers. "JT's continued his performance. We think he's been pretty good all camp." Team is thin in secondary, esp. losing Carvin Johnson. Put the next guy in and see what happens. Thomas Gordon played well, Floyd Simmons will get some play "We have a lot of confidence in Floyd."
Competition at PK is still ongoing.
Brian Kelly's scheme - "There's a lot of similarities. Studying them and studying us, every spread has a little different emphasis at certain times." RR's spread is a bit more run nowadays. Cincy pass, now at ND looks like he'll mix it up a bit. They'll study last year's ND film for personnel, but coaching staff is new so have to see what those guys did at previous stops. Both teams will run a bit of stuff that they didn't last week. Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph are big weapons, but they have talented RBs and QB as well. Have to tackle well in space against ND. "If we can't get 'em on the ground, and we can't cover 'em..."
ND 3-4 look, sometimes 4-man front. "Everybody's multiple defensively. nobody runs one front and run coverage anymore." They brought some pressure, but mostly worked to contain Purdue's players last week.
RR has only played Kelly one time. Played at Cincy in 2007. Dews worked with Kelly for a year at Central, so there's some familiarity there. He's had great success. They have a lot of talent. They recruit nationally, even if they haven't been pleased with the record the past few years.
ND - "I'm sure their players and our players understand it's a rivalry." This is the first rivalry game each season. A section of West Mich is always asking about ND. New coach, lots of excitement.
At ND Stadium "They are very passionate about football. Every seat will be taken. Theyr'e into the game. It's a very intimate setting." Always seems to be raining when RR goes there "The grass is high - because of the rain, I guess." Younger players - "We've got to get them to grow up in a hurry." Have to learn to keep your poise, and have a sense of maturity on the road. 25 or 26 guys on the travel squad for their first road trip.
Noise is biggest challenge "We'll crank it up this week, and try to get our skill guys offensively to get used to the crowd noise." Very crisp against UConn, doesn't expect any against ND.
Keys to winning: 1) take care of the football. Lost the game with that last time at ND. 2) Understand you'll face adversity - they'll make plays. 3) Don't give up big plays, because they have big play talent. 4) Make big plays offensively ourselves.
It helps to have Division-1 experience when you start coaching at a bigtime institution. "It's invaluable coaching at the small-school level." You have to worry about all the details of running the program. Have to learn very quickly from a recruiting and teaching standpoint. "Sometimes you have to get creative." Try new things, which will be innovative at the higher levels. Rodriguez and Kelly are both familiar with that.
"Obviously, I'm pleased with the victory." The stats were pleasant, though maybe not a surprise. The only penalty in the game came on the first drive, and there were no turnovers in the game. Third down conversions were pretty good at 14/19. "Our goal offensively was no turnovers and execute, and I think we did that for the most part."
At the last team meeting last night, Rodriguez could tell that the team was ready to get out there and play.
"We were halfway down the tunnel" for Brock's walk. It was a touching moment because they know the whole story.
"When they announced 113 thousand - I normally don't pay attention, but by that time the game was pretty much under control" Rodriguez thought it was amazing to have that many fans at the game.
RR didn't realize Denard ran the ball 29 times. He was really sharp passing, with only three incompletions. There are a few things that he can fix after watching film, but his decision-making was great for a guy in his first start. Denard and the rest of the backs did a great job running North and South instead of moving around laterally.
Denard showed a lot of toughness, and he'll only keep getting stronger as he grows. Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith showed toughness as well. "It's a good physical team we played, and UConn's gonna win a lot of games this year." Is there anything about Denard that reminds Rodriguez of Pat White? "Yeah, he runs fast." He also has a sense of feel for the game, and maturity. "If he can carry it 29 times for 200 yards, he'll carry it 29 times again." He probably won't be able to carry that many times so effectively in every game. Rodriguez would like him to carry it a little bit less.
Denard has been showing his potential since the Wolverines recruited him. "That's why we signed him." In the spring, he took another step forward. His experience last year helped, but spring practice helped him understand. "He'll hit some bumps in the road, and he's going to play against a lot of good people, and there's going to be mistakes made." The key is minimizing those mistakes.
"I knew, most of the guys knew, and I don't think it was probably a big secret" that Denard would be the starter. The goal in practice is to get all three guys better, and they've done that. In fall camp, Denard solidified himself as the guy who should take the first reps.
"Part of it is just going from a true freshman to second-year player, and understanding the offense." All the QBs can make all the throws they need.
Will Denard start against Notre Dame? "Stay tuned. I think you'll see him starting."
Devin came in after Denard's injury "Because that was a coaches' decision."
If the team doesn't turn over the ball, they'll have a chance to win. They haven't held onto it in the past, so the key is to take care of it this year.
The wind was a big factor in the game. "I think it was a factor somewhat, particularly in the kicking game."
"I felt, from the first series, on that long drive, that we had some fast guys in the space that they may have problems with."
"I will enjoy the next three hours and ten minutes. Try to get me five hours of sleep tonight, and my wife will probably get a chance to sleep a bit tonight." The program has been through a lot, but the focus has never wavered. They have tonight to enjoy the win, but after that, it's Notre Dame time.
After last year's disappointing finish, it was important to start the season on the right foot. "I want our guys to get some confidence." The key now is to maintain the level of intensity.
The defense played hard and tackled well. "We gave up a couple big plays, the one on the tipped pass that the guy made a good play on." The defense had to be ready, because UConn was playing at a fast tempo.
"I'd like to score more than 30, but I like the fact when you don't have to punt." It was good to get Will Hagerup some experience on his only punt of the day, though.
"Everybody likes a win. Everything is better. The food tastes better, you're in a better mood, everybody's happy." Michigan's 110,000 fans (RR estimates there were 3,000 cheering for UConn) deserved the win. The goal and expectation at Michigan is to win championships, but there's a process to get there.
Brendan Gibbons's missed extra point was a snap/hold issue. The missed field goal was due to a stiff wind knocking it short. Rodriguez was going to kick another field goal at the end, but though they'd have a chance to get the first down and run out the clock. "Seth Broekhuizen is still battling for the job."
"One of the goals as a coach when you coach college football is for your players to truly enjoy the experience of being a student-athlete." It's easier to do that with a win.
James Rogers was really poised, and made a couple nice plays. "We're probably going to kick ourselves watching the film defensively, because it looked like we had a couple opportunities to get some BIG big plays: interceptions and something like that, and we just missed out on the ball." The secondary was well-prepared.
Jeremy Gallon's fumbled punt was a tough one. "He's going to be a very good punt returner. Terrence Robinson will be fine too." Both guys will still play in the return game, though Rodriguez was not pleased with the overall play of the unit today.
Obi Ezeh's fumble recovery was a huge play.
The only real injury was Carvin Johnson "I don't know what his status is." (Afterwards, it was revealed he's day-to-day with a sprained MCL). Junior Hemingway's hamstring is injured, but "our hope is that he'll be able to go this week." Terry Talbott is still working through a clearinghouse eligibility issue.
"They practiced hard, and they've got a chip on their shoulder; they've got some things to prove. Hopefully today was the start of something good."
Winning the home opener is a big deal, but there's a lot more season to go. "They're just going to go back and work hard - and I know they will. We've got a big game next week; let's see how it goes. But I'll tell you what: I love the start, love the start."
On Denard Robinson: "I'll tell you what, he's the fastest guy on a football field that I've ever seen." His toughness in taking a bunch of hits against a big UConn team is underrated, as well. He can outrun guys even when they have the angle on him. His passing stats were as impressive as his running. "If you think too much about the run, he's gonna burn you."
There will always be critics, even with a big win. "We'll let [the plaers and coaches] enjoy this, because they deserve it."
The Stadium Rededication was designed to be special, which was the reason for the multiple flyovers, fireworks, etc. Brandon challenged the marketing team to come up with some special things.
"Brock is an inspiration to this team. He's got a share of this victory today, too." When he touched the banner, "I held it together pretty well until that moment, and I'll tell you why. I sat with him, we planned this whole thing. I told him how we needed to make this happen and he was great about it. I'm getting ready to leave, and he kinda called me over and said 'Mr. Brandon, would it be OK if I touched the banner?' That's what he wanted to do, and that's what he did."
The big victory felt good, because that's what the team has been working hard to achieve. "We just wanted to come out and just play."
The first touchdown run "felt a little bit weird because I was like on my injury, coming out and just catching the ball. I wasn't expecting to break that many tackles and just head upfield and score." The knee is 100%, and even Vincent was a little surprised by that.
With the team so focused, they're able to run the offense at a faster tempo. They knew which plays were going to be effective against the UConn defense. The team has been running that tempo in practice, so they were ready to play that fast.
On Denard: "I knew what he can do, and he just needed to be put in the right positions and come out and just play." The offensive line did a great job clearing the holes. Smith didn't think Denard would run that ball 29 times. Despite the heavy workload, "he always gets up. Very tough."
Denard's first start was pretty much everything he's dreamed about. "I've got my offensive line to thank, and my coaches for putting me in the right situation."
The quarterbacks found out last night that Denard would be the starter. Rodriguez also told the other guys to be ready. "I was just playing well, and I'm going to continue to play well. That's how it gonna be." Despite that, Denard's not guaranteed to start next week.
Setting the QB rushing record: "That's crazy. That's a dream come true, I guess."
Denard didn't know how many times he'd be carrying the ball, but he was ready to do whatever the coaches asked of him. "Coach told me to be ready, and I was ready."
Denard didn't have first-game jitters, because he saw the field a lot last year, even though this was his first start. "My team, my offensive linemen, all the seniors told me 'we got your back.'" He din't have to try to win the game by himself.
The biggest change from Denard 2009 to Denard 2010 is knowing the offense more, staying focused more, and "giving my all in the offseason."
UConn's players were trying to take Denard's shoes at the bottom of the pile. They got one of them on one play. "Trying to slow me down, I guess. Or slow down the offense, because the offensive line was just killin' 'em."
"I knew I always could throw the ball, that was never a question. It was just, getting the offense down at, that's basically what it was."
Denard wouldn't say what the design of the play was for Terrance Robinson's 43-yard reception. After leaving the podium, Denard (jokingly) told Rodriguez that the media was trying to steal the play.
Denard took a shot to the hip when he had to leave the game for a play. "I feel alright, pretty good, pretty good." He had confidence that he was going to be able to come back in.
The adrenaline takes over during games, so Denard doesn't really feel the nerves.
"It was a pretty good feeling" to have the offense rolling along in rhythm.
Are you going to wear shoelaces against Notre Dame? "(laughing) I'm not changing anything."
"It was definitely a tribute to our coaches and our preparation" to beat a good team like UConn. It was good to finally have a chance to show everyone what the team is capable of.
"James played a heck of a game, man. I'm proud of him, man." He's been waiting a long time to play, so it's good for him to get a chance.
On forcing UConn's only fumble of the day: "I just put my hat on the ball. When you're in position to make plays, the coaches put you in position to make plays, good things happen."
On Denard: "Aw man, he's a crazy animal to tame. He gives every defense problems." It's good to see him get a chance to show off some of what he can do.
this game is a step in the right direction. "We're at no point to stop working. We've still got a lot of things we've gotta do." A good game for the defense should be a mental boost for the young defense.
"You're blocking, and two seconds later you just see Denard 20 yards upfield. There's nothing better than seeing that."
"It's amazing how far he's progressed in such a short amount of time, and really without any true game experience, and now he's just building and building and building on what he can do." His patience and knowledge of the game are the biggest jumps.
The goal of the offense is to get first downs all up and down the field, and wearing down the defense. There was no specific key to converting third downs, everyone just did their job and worked well.
It was nice to see a lot of young guys get out and have a chance to perform.
29 carries won't wear Denard down. "He's just a tough kid. He's tougher than I am. He'll push through anything."
"We were hungry, we were so hungry." The team was hungry last year too, but the defense didn't pay as well.
When people talk about the defense not being any good "if they can give even, a little bit more of a morsel of motivation, then we're just gonna come out and do what we did today."
Getting stops and turnovers at critical times is huge. Getting the 3-and-out right at the beginning of the game really boosted the defense's confidence. "It's great. Confidence is obviously a big thing. The whole team is going in hungry, and nervous too. So, winning this gives us a huge confidence boost."
It was nice to see somebody else chase Denard. "I had to chase that guy all spring, and let me tell you, it's not easy catching that guy."
There were no real surprises from UConn. "I felt like what our coach told us was exactly what happened."
"I'd say in spring, we were molding into what we would become, and what you see today." That was more of a learning experience, and fall camp is when the intensity came in.
Craig's hybrid position is a perfect fit for a guy with a hybrid skill set like him. He can take pass drops, rush the quarterback, etc.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's weekly press conference.
The team is relatively healthy, other than waiting on Fitzgerald Tousaint's status with a sprained knee, which they'll know in the next day or two. Outside of Troy, they've been fortunate through camp.
RR will talk to the QBs at the end of the week, and let them know the plans. Everybody gets reps in practice, so there shouldn't be a huge adjustment. "I don't think for our offense, they're worried about who's behind them. Everybody's gotta do their job." Could see scenarios where all three play during the season. "Everybody says, 'is Devin gonna be redshirted?' Probably not. Devin's probably going to play."
Starting QB - "I don't know if the coaches know yet, but I have an idea." Will know a guy or two who is ready to play, but he reserves the right to change his mind. As far as informing the players, "I don't need no Dr. Phil moment with the guys. 'Let me explain the situation and how do you really feel about it?'" QB rotation will be determined by "Basically a feel thing. How the game is going, how we want to attack the defense or how they're playing." Rodriguez won't have an itchy trigger finger if guys make one mistake. Seeing things from the sidelines will help them learn. When Denard played last year, he knew what the team was doing, not the why, or how it would be defended. Would have been nice to redshirt him, but needed him to play.
Shaw and Smith - "They've been the most consistent." Well-rounded with running, protection, and receiving. They understand offense the best. Michael Shaw's eligibility will be known in next couple days. Rodriguez is not sure all six tailbacks on the depth chart will play, but all of them have taken 1st and 2nd team reps. Teric Jones has moved back to offense. He showed enough in practice with other guys in class or injured that he'll settle there. "I think he likes, and probably can perform better offensively."
This fall is the most consistent Darryl Stonum's been in three years. Pleased with him this camp. He, Hemingway, and Odoms, are the most experienced. Stonum had to prove himself, but other guys did, too. "He's had to reach a certain maturity level. He's been very focused on it... He came into camp in great shape." He'll be a big factor.
The coaches are as comfortable with the secondary as you can be with freshmen. Rogers and JT Floyd provide a bit of experience. "The young guys will have opportunity, and have progressed well in practice." They'll improve during the season with experience. Rogers has been more consistent in practice. Some of the things that aren't "or" on the depth chart probably should be. More guys capable of contributing, you'll see more guys play this year.
Harder for the big guys to play a lot of plays. Martin is in good shape, but to play that much is a lot to ask. Ryan Van Bergen won't get that much either. Adam Patterson and Will Campbell will have an opportunity. RVB has a combo role - very athletic, and has a knack for pass-rushing. Jibreel Black is "readier than he was back then" at media day. The coaches have to play the best guys they have, and "right now Jibreel is good enough to play."
With a lack of experience in the secondary, they'll adjust scheme accordingly. "How do we limit the pressure on some of the young guys?" James Rogers and JT Floyd have played. The safeties are inexperienced. "That's the hope" to make up for inexperience with speed. They want to get a lot of guys to the ball.
Carvin Johnson as starter - "We probably could have put an "or" on there." There are still 3-4 practices before the UConn game. He's only played that position the last couple weeks. He gives the team athleticism at that spot.
True freshmen to play this fall will include all on the depth chart, and there could be others who "have a chance to sneak up in there." A lot of other guys are on special teams as well. In a couple years, Michigan won't be as reliant on freshmen, depending on recruiting and development.
It's not just the younger players who have nerves. "We're nervous too, as coaches." The only way to deal with that is play. Have young guys who need to play. "If they're not nervous, there's something wrong with them, or they're probably lying to you." They'll adjust. Eventually, you just are able to block everything out and play. Some young players will have to mature quickly.
Rodriguez doesn't worry about puffing up individual players. "It's all about The Team, The Team, The Team. That's why." Our guys aren't getting much national press anyway. Being one of 80 guys on a watchlist isn't that big a deal. He'll worry about touting guys at the end of the year. Is that just sandbagging? "I would never do that." Guys understand what team is about, and are working toward that. Their priorities are about the team, not individual glory.
"I'd rather have the element of experience than the element of surprise" as far as the depth chart. Might know eventually what we'll have, but there will be nerves through the first couple games. "Big Jonny [Falk] will probably have to bring a couple extra pairs of pants, in case they make a little mess, you know. If you see somebody running up the tunnel in the first quarter with big Jonny running behind him, carrying one of his books. Wardrobe malfunction or something."
"I hope it's not the case that we have to have shootouts. I think our defense would take exception to that."
"I think it means a lot, especially for our players and our staff" to start the season right. It helps with momentum for the following week. As for expectations, Rodriguez wants to play well, they haven't talked about win numbers. "Every team in America is excited about the first game."
Rodriguez doesn't worry about outside expectations. "Our expectations every year are to compete for the Big Ten championship." This year, keep showing progress, so the team can get to the point where they'll win close games and not beat themselves.
UConn is Big, physical team. Lots of experience. "Older group of guys that have kind of been-there, done-that." They won't make mistakes, so Michigan has to go out there to win it, not capitalize on the opponents' mistakes. Rodriguez's past experience against UConn helps a bit, but there are different guys, they've grown up, we're a younger team, etc. "We know a little bit about some of the things they do."
The key against UConn will be tackling well. The team does some live tackling in August, but they don't do as much as you'd like because you don't want to get hurt. UConn has great skill guys, so Michigan must tackle well.
The differences between Big Ten and Big East aren't as pronounced as some say. Schemes are similar - despite the reputation. There are some downhill teams, some spread teams. The Big East is underrated in terms of talent, they're just not as known. "I don't see it as a huge amount of difference." The Big Ten has more long-standing football traditions, which leads to a better reputation.
UConn's program has grown "quite a bit probably recently, because of the facilities." The University, state, and supporters have shown a level of commitment to go as high as they can in 1-A football. Coaching staff stability has helped the program achieve success.
"We have a rule anyway, once you score, you hand the ball to the official and celebrate with your teammates."
Two years ago, the team had no quarterbacks and very few guys overall with any experience. Even with young QBs, the sophomores are experienced. On defense, there are fewer guys who have played (particularly on the back end). It's OK to look at the last couple years to learn, but don't reflect too much.
"If we're recruiting you, it's because we believe you can play. how quickly you play" depends on you. won't put a guy in there unless he's ready physically and mentally.
The team might be more prepared for the no-huddle of UConn since they practice against it all the time. "They'll probably come right at us." Running downhill with play-action, and they'll take a couple early deep shots. "They'll run the ball right at us, they've got big linemen, and they'll see if we can hold up up front and tackle well." No huddle not a big deal.
Rich has played UConn 4 times "I think we won 'em all didn't we? So [the memories] are all good." The last one is memorable, because WVU was on a roll. The Huskies always played physical games.
On Thursdays, they practice in the stadium. Before the first game, the band comes out to perform. "As you all know, they're terrific." The players never get to see the band, so they'll get a chance to watch some performance, and sing The Victors together.
The team will see Brock Mealer walk out, but "once it's kicked off, we're worried about football."
Notes from Coach Rod's Wednesday presser.
The QB battle is close. The coaches haven't been able to taper down who gets snaps. As long as they get better every day, you can be pleased with the progress. Everybody is too worried about who the starting QB is. The second team gets almost as many reps as the first team.
Any of the three are capable of starting right now, but he wants them to play at a high level. "If they're able to do that and execute the offense, then all three will play." Will keep QB choice quiet for competitive reasons. QBs will know Friday night (before game). Nobody else will know until kickoff at 3:36 Saturday.
No particular RB (or two) has stepped to the forefront. The position gets banged up in camp, which limits development. "We have some talent there, we'll be OK." The top 2-3 guys will play. Certain guys run certain plays better, so they'll get in the game for that play.
Fitzgerald Toussaint practiced yesterday, but not today. He's had a neck stinger, now his knee is sore. He'll be banged up a couple days, but might practice friday. Michael Shaw is still taking "the class," working hard at it. He's been spending half of his time practicing, and half of his time studying.
The offensive line is "not set as far as starters, but I think set as far as, you know who the 8-9-10 guys that are gonna be in the rotation will be." RR feels better about up front than the past couple years. He would like to play at least 8 offensive linemen (5 starters, backup C, G, T), depending on how they're performing and the tempo of the game. He would love to have two whole groups at line.
Improvement on defense has to come from several places. One guy can't replace Brandon Graham by himself. "The thing I probably feel the best about our defense is that we have a bigger pool of guys I think are going to be playing. That's going to allow us to have a little more depth, do a few more things defensively." If a couple guys (Mike Martin, Jonas Mouton, and JT Floyd in particular) have a big year, it'll offset some of the losses.
Will Campbell wasn't in great shape when camp started. He's been playing himself into shape. Mike Martin and Adam Patterson are at NG, "if he wants to play he's gotta compete." Rodriguez wants senior Sagesse, Banks, and Patterson, to have their best years. They're having good camps. "Of course you've got Mike Martin up front too who's had an outstanding camp. I think he can have a great year at noseguard for us."
Moundros may be the starter at middle linebacker. Right now he's taking a lot of reps. Mark has at least seen the field, which gives him experience (even if it's at a different position). He has intangibles. He needs to learn technique and system, but he was able to do that mostly in the spring. He's made very few mental errors for being new to the position.
There are some potential answers in the secondary. "Coming from freshman class. "It's kind of scary when you think about true freshmen playing in the secondary, but there's some talent there." They're progressing well now that summer class is over and they can focus on football. 4-5 true freshman DBs will play this year.
Cam Gordon - "He didn't play as well as he had played in any other practice in the scrimmage," but he's had a good camp and the staff feels good about him.
JT Floyd will start at corner on one side. Other corner might be Jame Rogers, "this is the best football he's played," or young guys. Have to keep it simple for the youngsters.
Nothing's new at kicker; it's inconsistent day-to-day. Most days have been encouraging - yesterday was not one of those days. They've been practicing on the new turf in the stadium. It's unlikely that different kickers will be used depending on distance of the kick.
Yesterday was a scrimmage. The last three quarters of practice, only players, officials, and Rodriguez were on the field. Did every special team and offense v. defense. "Glad we did it, but we've gotta do it again." They'll do it again friday, less intense, and maybe a little tomorrow. "With so many young guys, especially on defense playing, we've gotta try to get them used to what it's going to be like in a game where there aren't coaches standing behind them or on the side of them telling them what to do." It's a different atmosphere then practice, with signaling plays, etc.
Troy Woolfolk had surgery yesterday. "Everything went well with the surgery. Certainly it looks like he's lost for the season." No reason why he can't be 100% next year, and Rodriguez thinks he wants to come back for a 5th year. "It's his decision, of course, but Troy loves football."
Have a good grasp on what the team can do. "Certainly offensively, we have a pretty good idea of where our strengths are. And I think defensively too, even with the young guys, it probably takes them a little bit longer to determine a young guy because they have not done it in a game." Some guys plays better in a game, some play too nervous.
Started installing for UConn at the beginning of camp. "Starting really yesterday, and certainly today, and a lot tomorrow and Friday, will be a lot of UConn installation in all three phases."
The first of three posts from yesterday's Media Day. Tomorrow: The assistant coaches.
Austin White is the only player that has left the roster in the past few days. For Rodriguez's full comments on White, see yesterday's post.
QB. Quarterback rotation (if it happens) is by feel, not a scripted thing. They're getting closer to finding two guys to win with. Won't be there at every position, but quarterback will have that. The three quarterbacks are responding well to the ongoing competition. The race won't be settled within the next couple days.
"Rod Smith has done - particularly with Devin and Denard - getting some of the throwing stuff down and decision-making down in the pass game. We've really simplified things to help in that regard."
Denard's throwing mechanics are better, and his knowledge of where to go with the ball is better. "It's a natural maturation with any quarterback, understanding where to go with the ball, where your eyes are at, particularly in the passing game."
In this offense, those factors are important in the run game as well. Rodriguez is pleased with Gardner's progress. He's never played before, but he's talented and is battling for job.
RB. Running backs will be a committee and there's not one guy separating. "I see us having a situation where there's 2, 3, maybe even 4 guys that emerge a little bit. That's not a bad situation to get in." It's hard to get them all reps, for comfort with QBs. Three or four guys will play tailback in the first game.
Vincent Smith has not been tentative with his knee except the first couple practices back. "He's 100%. He's ready to go."
Stephen Hopkins has progressed really well. He's a big physical guy. Initially, the coaches thought he would redshirt, but he'll probably play this fall because the team needs a big back in some situations.
OL. The offensive line is much improved over last couple years. Two years ago, Schilling was only guy with any game experience. "Not quite as talented 1s and 2s deep-wise as we would like to be... We'll have 7-8 guys that we feel comfortable with playing." Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury can back up at any interior position. More guys are ready than the last two years. Pretty close to what we want there. Experienced starters backed up by talented, but inexperienced guys.
Upperclassmen Huyge and Dorrestein are battling to keep the offensive tackle spots. "The two young tackles Schofield and Lewan have been pretty solid. They're bigger; They're stronger." The competition has been pretty good, Perry and Mark have responded to the challenge, and are having their best camp in the past three years.
DL. Don't want to compare people to Brandon Graham, because he's a once-in-a-lifetime player. "We don't have a guy that's 'BG-ready' to play right now, but who does?" Several guys can create pressure, including Roh. Mike Martin can create pressure from his position. The unit as a whole has to replace Graham.
Davion Rogers had a "clearinghouse thing," and just got into the mix. [Ed: probably explains why he's so skinny. He's a lock to redshirt anyway.] Jibreel Black is the frosh lineman with greatest chance to play this year. He's not ready to start, but he will provide some depth as long as he continue to progress. "He's a very active guy. He's got great get-off. He wears #55, and he looks a little bit like BG at times, but he's not quite that strong and explosive." He has natural athletic ability, and Rodriguez is pleased with his progress.
Craig Roh played at 225 last year, and he's closer to 240 or 245. "He's running just as well if not better." The added weight and experience show.
LB. "Obi [Ezeh] has really responded to the challenge." He can play all three linebacker positions, and played two of them yesterday. Great job being a leader - like whole senior class. He's a good player and wants to prove himself in his final year. He's not geting hung up on starters, worrying about how to help the team win.
JB Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens have played a bit, lots of special teams. They've had good camps. JB knows the defense very well and can play a few different positions. Demens has also had a solid camp. More linebackers will play. Ezeh, Moundros, and Mouton (veterans) will be the biggest key. Usually guys have their best season as seniors. "If every one of our seniors has our best year, particularly defensively... we'll be OK."
Hybrid. Jordan Kovacs earned a starting spot last year. "He's taken some challenges and maintained that position so far." Just a great story. He's in better shape now, and his experience shows up. "He's gonna be a huge factor for our defense."
Josh Furman has done well. He could play OLB/S position, or grow into a WILL/Samm linebacker. Will have a great career. One of the fastest freshmen, not sure if he has a shot to play this year. Physically he has a chance to play this year, the coaches need to evaluate him mentally.
DB. Cameron Gordon has more to learn, but Rodriguez says "we're looking for a big year from him." He's very physical, but hasn't played on the big stage yet.
A couple veterans will step in at corner after Woolfolk's injury, James Rogers has had a good camp. Freshmen are competing at that position. It's a young secondary (and would have been even with Troy), a couple guys will move back and forth. "Our defensive coaches have a pretty good plan to be able to compensate for that." All freshman corners are getting lots of reps because of the situation in the secondary. They missed meetings the first week of camp because of the Bridge Program, but now they have a couple weeks to focus solely on football.
Marvin Robinson and a few other frosh will probably not redshirt. "More than you'd like at this point." All three corners will probably play - Cullen Christian, Terrence Talbott, and Courtney Avery. Carvin Johnson and Ray Vinopal have a chance to play at safety. This week is most critical between summer school and fall school.
Carvin Johnson has played a little bit at corner, along with Teric Jones. After watching film from Saturday and Wednesday scrimmages, they'll determine the 4-5 corners that have to be ready for the first game.
There's no word on the timeframe for Woolfolk's injury until after he can have surgery. He will be able to play again at some point. "Troy's as tough an individual as you'll ever be able to find, so he'll bounce back from it."
Special Teams. Kicking and punting are a concern because there's no game experience. Feel better now than two weeks ago. Broekhuizen and Gibbons are both doing well on kickoffs, and getting more consistent on their field goals. "Our freshman punter is a real talent - Will Hagerup - and I mean a real talent. He's had some days where he's kicked and I'm "wow look at this.'"
The scrimmage went well and nobody got hurt. "I saw some good and bad on both sides." Offensive execution was decent with wet ball. Defense didn't tackle too well. There were a couple turnovers, for first time in a few days. "Some guys stood out a little bit, and other guys still have a ways to go before they can be ready to play for us."
QB play was pretty solid. Receiver play was good, especially slots with Roundtree, Grady and Gallow having good days.. Shaw had a good day, Cox and Smith each had a few good runs. The offensive line was good, which the coaches expect from them now.
Mike Martin was limited because the coaches already know what he can do. He been the team's most consistent defensive player since camp started. Molk scrimmaged yesterday a little bit. "We didn't have him go the whole time for precautionary reasons, but he got a few good series in and did pretty well." Vincent Smith was able to go full bore.
There will be another (smalller) scrimmage Wednesday. After that, the projected two-deep and travel squad will be mostly settled. At a lot of positions, guys are competing to be #2 on the depth chart.
"It's not a true 3-3-5." As much scheme remains from last year as there is new stuff. They're keeping it simpler because of youth and the need to play a little faster. "From a mental standpoiont, there were a few mistakes yesterday's scrimmage," but they've done a good job with the mental game through camp. They've had a lot to digest so far, and the next couple weeks will be easier because there isn't as much installation.
Pleased with the team's attitude and work ethic the last two weeks. Though it's a small senior class, they've done a great job with leadership over the summer and the last couple weeks. Team is hungry, anxious to prove themselves.
Notice in practice that guys have been there through a couple camps, and know practice routine. Moving around a little quicker. People who have come in from the outside notice how much quicker guys are moving in certain situations.
The team has some fundamental work to do. It's tough, because you can't tackle every day in camp, or guys will get hurt. "Other than yesterday, I thought they did pretty well tackling in camp."
Team strengths are offensive skill players, experience along the offensive front, and attitude and team speed on defense. "We're not as deep experience-wise, so probably my biggest concern is experience defensively." The team feels a sense of urgency.
For the new captain method, we selected Moundros and Schilling, and will select two more at the end of the season. Mark and Steve have done well, other seniors are excited for the opportiunity to prove themselves and be game captains and maybe year-end captains.
Same pressure to succeed as every year. "Any time a player or coach says 'well I have nothing left to prove,' he'll never get any better."
Brock leading team out will be pretty emotional. Rodriguez spent time with Mrs. Mealer yesterday. Brock's progress and work ethic are amazing, and he's dedicated his life to proving he can walk. To do that in front of our fans and national tv will be emotional. It will be (and has been) an inspiration for the whole team.
Connecticut - Know them well, played them a few years. They get a lot of respect for the past couple years. Most of a good team from last year is coming back. They'll come downhill and make you beat them. Some players have watched film on them, and the whole group will start watching more film this week.