Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
Don't tell the SEC, but Charles Woodson has been on something of a satellite camp tour of his own lately, crossing the country to meet fans and talk wine. Woodson's the proprietor of Charles Woodson Wines, and he and director of operations Rick Ruiz have been holding events where fans get a chance to taste some of the company's offerings (like the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, which made Wine Spectator's 2014 Top 100 list) and purchase autographed bottles of said wine. Woodson and Ruiz were in Ann Arbor for an event at the new Plum Market near North Campus yesterday, and I had the opportunity to sit down with Woodson for a few minutes to talk about some of his memories of Michigan.
If you're beating yourself up because you missed the event yesterday you should stop, but you're going to need to cancel your plans for this afternoon: Charles will be at the Plum Market in West Bloomfield (6565 Orchard Lake Rd.) from 4-6PM; there's no tasting event today, but you can purchase a bottle of the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, get it autographed by Woodson at no additional cost, and ask that burning question you've had since '97.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Michigan?
"My favorite memories? I don't know. I mean, of course it all revolves around football, you know. [laughs] But really it was, let's say memories of dorm rooms all of us stayed in, because most of us were in West Quad or South Quad. So it was just the times that we all spent together in the dorms. We were all kind of close knit, especially your class. The times we spent together in our rooms, whether we were partying or whatever it was, it was always great."
The [annual West Quad v. South Quad] snowball fight?
"Snowball fight, mmhmm. And then of course the games. My first time running out in '95, running onto the field and kind of losing my breath that first game because I had been in the Big House before but never as a player, and all of a sudden I'm a player and it's like 'oh, wow.' Kind of the magnitude of it hit me. Then of course the Ohio State game with a chance to go to the Rose Bowl, winning that game, the punt return, and the rose in the mouth. I'd say that's five things right there."
In that game, did you allow that receiver a free inside release to bait Stanley Jackson into throwing an interception in the endzone?
"Well, it wasn't deliberate to let him inside, but it was deliberate to undercut him because it was in the endzone and you're always taught, you know, in the endzone the guy's not running a deep route- there's nowhere to go. So you undercut the route and the quarterback threw it right to me, so it worked out."
Did you have a favorite defensive play call or coverage that you guys ran when you were in college?
"No, I didn't. I mean, it was pretty simple what we did. Either I was in man-to-man or it was Cover 3 for the most part. But I played on the wide side of the field most of the time so no, I didn't have a favorite call."
Was there any receiver you had a bigger rivalry with in college than David Boston?
"Uh, no. Yeah, he was the biggest. He was the one that talked the most noise, you know, on that team. He was their star receiver and of course me being on defense, it was kind of a natural thing. So yeah, he would have been my biggest competition."
How did you get into wine and winemaking?
"So I spent a lot time in Napa Valley as a result of being picked there. The Oakland Raiders' training camp was in Napa Valley, and so as a result of being there three and a half-four weeks every training camp I used to spend a lot of time in the Valley at different restaurants just kind of watching people interact with wine, and I became very interested in it. I decided a few years after that that I would get into it."
"I think spring went really well for us. I think the goal was to improve as a team. I think we definitely did that in all areas, so we're just looking to build off that this offseason, get a little stronger, get some of these player-led practices and continue to build chemistry with each other and understand the offense and the defense a little bit better so we can hit the ground rolling come camp."
Jim just talked a little bit about Drake Johnson and the accident yesterday. I was wondering whether you've had a chance to speak to him and what are his spirits like right now?
"I haven't had a chance to speak with him directly or anything but I saw him post a snapchat yesterday and he seems to be in good spirits and everything like that. I'm sure just knowing the kind of guy Drake is he'll come out of this pretty strong."
Do you get a sense that the Big Ten or at least the East division is the most balanced it's been in 2016 as it's been in your career?
"You know, I haven't really been concerning myself too much with that. Really I'm just focusing on what we can do as a team to make our team as good as possible, and there's a lot of great teams in the Big Ten and in the country. What we've just got to focus on is not really what other people are doing but how can we make ourselves the best team that we possibly can be. So yeah, there's some very talented teams out there and we're going to work really hard to try to give ourselves the best chance when we come up against some of these great teams."
How confident are you that this is the best Michigan team that you've been on?
"I'm very confident in that. I think we have the talent, but really I say I'm confident because we have a mentality of just hard work and preparation and I think we've got great leadership from our coaches and from our players, so I think that's really where the confidence comes from."
I was just wondering not just you but Tyrone [Wheatley Jr.] and Ian [Bunting] were making some plays in the spring game as well. Just your impression of the guys behind you at your position group. You guys are pretty loaded at tight end.
"Absolutely, absolutely, and I think we've got a really talented group from top to bottom. And we've got a lot of great guys that are hungry, hungry looking for spots, looking for roles and just really hungry to learn and get better and I think that's a recipe for success right there. So, we've got a lot of guys that can do a bunch of different things. You know, wherever the role is for some guys it's going to go to whoever's the best at that specific role so guys are hungry and they're working hard to find a spot this fall."
In the past couple days you've really let your voice be heard on social media in the wake of the satellite camp decision. Why is it important for yourself and your teammates and other athletes to put your voice out there and state an opinion on this?
"Because I think sometimes we can get lost a little bit, but we do have a voice. We are, the athletes are, one of the driving forces that gets the NCAA to run. Sometimes I feel like we aren't heard as much as possible, especially with these satellite camps. I think it's stripping the opportunity from a lot of young kids that don't have the chance to get out there and see some of these programs and get one-on-one coaching with some of these coaches across the country. So, you know, I really looked at it as who is really winning in this situation? How does the student—if the NCAA is so much about [being] for the student-athletes where does the student-athlete win in this? That was my biggest question and I'm still looking for an answer for that one."
It seems like you and Jourdan [Lewis] and maybe some other guys are speaking out on topics a little bit more whether it's twitter or other places. Do you think part of that is you guys sort of adopting the personality and culture that coach Harbaugh brings in the way he addresses issues and speaks his mind?
"I think that's definitely part of it. Coach Harbaugh is our head coach and our leader so we're going to follow him but also this is moreso—this is something personal. I know a lot of guys on our team that participated in some of these camps and these camps opened up doors for them, some of their friends, some of my friends where you start taking this away…it's more personal. Like I said, we do have a voice and we want to speak out and make these changes positive, make changes in a positive way, so we can help these young recruits and young student-athletes down the line."
On that note of the camps, you as a player, your teammates, what's you guys' reaction when you see the claims that Jim Harbaugh has hijacked college football, that he's using these camps as a promo tool and not doing what the camps are designed for. How do you guys react to that negative kind of attacks on him?
"Yeah, honestly I think that's absolutely bizarre and there's no factual—there's no facts to back that claim up whatsoever. I can tell you from being a player of coach Harbaugh he is always looking for ways to help us out both as football players, as students, and as young men and he's always looking for ways—and he wasn't breaking any rules. He was out here trying to help this program but also help these student-athletes and help some of these smaller colleges.
"So, it's bigger than what we're doing here at Michigan with the ban on satellite camps. It's bigger than what's going on. It's really…we're looking to help student-athletes get their name out there and get recruited, and when you strip them of this opportunity it kind of sits [not] well. And maybe that's where some of the blame is being pushed. I don't know. This is a tough situation and I hope they can figure it out."
Coach, what are your thoughts on Lovie Smith taking over at Illinois?
"Uh, I think it's positive for the Big Ten, for college football. The level of competition I look forward to elevating- fair, honest, healthy competition and a tremendous football man."
What are the issues with going from the NFL to college?
"I can't say that there is any issue with it."
There was a Michigan release this morning indicating that Drake Johnson was injured in an accident and I was hoping you could explain what happened, and can you confirm the widespread rumor/speculation that he was hit by a forklift in the track building?
"I was with the family last night and I'll let them comment on all the specifics. Better, I think, coming from Drake or his family, but he's doing well. I can tell you this, it would have killed a lesser man but he is blue twisted steel and very flexible. Amazing. But, you know, it's one of those miraculous things and he is doing well. As to be expected, yeah."
I was wondering what his prognosis is, if you can share that, and will this affect his football future?
"To the best that I know, I'm not a doctor, but talking to him a week or two or three at the most. So it's…it's a miracle right up there with Easter. Just thanking God. Thank God that he's alright. That's my thoughts on it."
We didn't talk to you after the spring game. Did you guys go into summertime here with a guy leading at the quarterback spot or is it still open?
"There's so much that can happen over the summer in terms of improvements that you expect all of our quarterbacks to make, and we'll want to gauge that when we come back to start practice in August as to who made the greatest amount of strides in those four months so have not decided yet."
Was there one guy who had a better camp than the others?
"I haven't decided that yet."
Your decision to speak over at Paramus Catholic obviously created a lot of headlines. Why did that appeal to you?
"Has it created a lot of headlines?"
It has, yeah. In our parts it has.
"So why? I was asked. I didn't know that, but why I said I would agree to speaking as the commencement speaker?"
Yeah. Why did it appeal to you?
"I think the biggest thing was because I was asked."
Obviously it creates a unique situation with--
"I think that was the most appealing thing, that they wanted me to do it and I was asked to do it. My default is usually 'yes' when asked to do things."
Do you think it creates a unique situation to actually come into Rutgers' backyard and actually speak at a rival school?
"You said 'obviously' it does. I don't agree that that's obvious, no."
I think it's fair to say that there's many coaches in college football who would like to see satellite camps continued versus discontinued. As this goes to the board of directors there's still an opportunity to have the decision reversed as it may be. I'm wondering what plans you may have to be involved in mustering an effort among coaches to get this looked at a little bit more?
"Yeah, right. I think we're all looking at that. I do agree that there are a lot of coaches—most all coaches—there's always an urgency to help the youngsters and their own programs and in this case the spirit of football.
"Really I'm taking those words from Warde Manuel, our athletic director. I thought he framed it extremely well when he talked on the subject yesterday and I think it's a good message for everybody here in our athletic department and our sport here at the University of Michigan. As he said, we're going to continue to put more thought into it and then have a course of action. I'm proud that he's taken a lead in that on that topic.
"We all believe—we believe here it's beneficial, you know. Like Warde said, this is exactly the way he said it, there's always an urgency to help kids, our program, and in this case the sport of football. I would refer you to some of his comments because I think they're spot on."
With the satellite camps, I know your opinion on it so I won't ask about that but something that's interesting for me is the coaching side of it, banning coaches from being able to coach at other camps. I know at your high school camps you invite coaches from smaller programs or smaller conferences. What's your opinion on that? To me it seems like it eliminates opportunity for those smaller coaches to network and build relationships with guys like you and other bigger coaches to build their careers up and have opportunities for them to come in and show you guys that they can coach too. Do you have an opinion on that, how it could affect those coaches?
"Yes. I mean, as I said the other day, I think it affects thousands and thousands and thousands of people. Some people have scoffed at that but it's at least thousands and thousands and you bring up a good point. There's a collegial gesture that goes on when you're working a camp and you have coaches from all backgrounds—high school, college, professional—we get together and we talk about the sport of football and trends and best practices.
"That took place—Pat Fitzgerald was here last year at our camp. It was a tremendous, tremendous learning experience for us being around him. And Pete Lembo was here. There was was many colleges represented. Hundreds of coaches were here and that's just at our school. Yeah, that's another part of the debate."
Tonight's spring game obviously another primetime event, something new for the school. As you guys continue to do new things, how do you balance that with the tradition and expectations at a school like Michigan?
"Well, I think you try something, you see how it works, you see what it brings, what it brings to the team and the staff and what they're trying to do. I don't know the thinking of Jim as it relates to—we haven't talked about the spring game on Friday, whether that's something that he wants to do consistently or if he's trying something out this year and so we'll be there and see how it goes and see what comes of it and see what the feedback is from it, but it doesn't bother me that it's a nighttime spring game. The tradition's been normally, what, Saturday at 1 o'clock or 12 o'clock or something like that? You know, it's done differently at different places and this is something that he wanted to try and we'll see how it goes."
Speaking of night football, you recently expressed an affinity for football games in the daylight. Do you anticipate that that will influence schedules in future years, and some of your predecessors anticipated influence from the Big Ten wanting Michigan to play more night games—your thoughts in that area, too?
"It could be that we play more night games in the future. We talked about it this year as I was coming in and made the decision that this year we wouldn't have a night game at Michigan Stadium. You know, I was told—because I'm not a Twitterer—that I was getting heat because I said that I didn't like playing games at night, jokingly said that because if people would have heard the other part of what I said I said because I played for Bo, who thought you should always play at 12 or 1 o'clock. In my career as an athletic director and athletic administrator I played a lot of night games. I'm not against them, but in the discussions that I had with many upon walking through the door it was decided that we didn't want to play a night game here this year.
"So whether they'll be played in the future, I'm not against them. I think some of our fans like them, and I think I heard some of our fans that would prefer day games but I know our fans love Michigan football and whether it's played in the day or it's played at night they want to see our team have success.
"Last year we played a significant…I shouldn't say significant. How many night games did we play on the road last year? Three. I know the fans are interested in night games, but that's really taxing, particularly coming back late at night for the team, those kind of things. So we considered a lot before we said we wouldn't have a night game this year, but in the future there could be night games at Michigan Stadium in the future."
There's been a lot of talk two years ago after the Shane Morris concussion incident of increased safety measures and then talk about that here and there since then. Have you gotten a chance to evaluate those and do you have any plans for changes there?
"We're going to constantly evaluate the safety protocol for our student-athletes. It's something that we did obviously with that incident being so nationally prominent [and] that you do, but we're going to constantly look at the protocol. Not only in-game protocol but practice.
"I know coach Harbaugh and the staff and the medical staff are monitoring and talking about impact not only of concussions but injuries during practice. The coaches are constantly aware of how much practice and hitting is going on. They're monitoring that for the good of their team, of the individual student-athlete.
"The protocol is set but we're going to continue monitoring that to make sure it's where it needs to be for the safety of our student-athletes across the board. So yes, I'm confortable with where we are now and I'm comfortable that we will continue to evaluate all measures of safety for all of our student-athletes to make sure that it's the best that it could be."
How and when will you officially launch the Nike apparel, and for you, when you saw the Jumpman logo on football, is that cutting edge in your mind, that deal that was cut?
"Yeah. Officially Nike becomes our apparel supplier August 1st. We're proud of the relationship that we had with Adidas, but on August 1st we will officially again become a Nike apparel school and at that point in time the staff—I haven't had but I will have a breakdown of all the things that are being planned, but on August 1st, at that point in time is when we will celebrate the relationship or right around that date, don't hold me to it. But August 1st is the date we officially become a Nike school again."
[After THE JUMP: Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, them boys up for discussing committable offers and transfer policies]
How has the role of athletic director changed?
"Well, I don't know that the role has changed. The magnitude has grown in terms of salaries and the like but I think the people and the effort to really contribute to the success of these students on the student and athletic side is still there. So in the sense of the magnitude financially, particularly here, there's been a lot of growth.
"Actually, to your point, Drew, just this morning when I was in a meeting coach Berenson brought in an article from back in 1984 with the salaries of the coaches back then ,and he was looking for something and found it and thought I'd enjoy it and I did. At that time Bo Schembechler was making more than Don Canham, and it didn't surprise me. The amount he was paid surprised me back in that day compared to now, but I don't think things have changed much in terms of decision making, in terms of effort on the focus on helping these young people, the focus on helping them to produce success on the fields of play—I think those things are all still the same."
Is it harder though for an AD nowadays to take a backseat to more high-profile coaches?
"No, not for me. I never see it in—if you're truly a team there's times where I'll have to step to the podium and address things and there's times where coach Harbaugh and other coaches will be up front. I never have concern about who's in the front, who's in the back. As long as we're all in the same car moving forward I'm good with it."
"Thank you, everybody. Appreciate it."
Your thoughts on the extraordinary attention your old teammate Jim Harbaugh seems to draw, and how you see your role in working with him, overseeing him, [and] assisting him.
"Well, first and foremost, the Jim Harbaugh that I have known and know now is not the person who's out there seeking this for his own benefit. If the attention comes—it seems to come often—I don't think its…as I've talked to him over the last four or five weeks, it's nothing intentional he's doing to say, 'I want attention.' He's going to do things on Twitter, he's going to make the responses to questions the way he wants to do it, but there's nothing that he's doing to try to bring attention to him. I think he's doing what's in the best interest of the team.
"He's going to defend Michigan and Michigan football, and if that creates some attention, if the things he does to make this football team better create attention and that comes with it then he realizes that's just what's going to happen. He's doing it because—everything we've talked about that he's done he's doing because he thinks it's in the best interest of Michigan football, and for that, for me, I don't mind him getting the attention that he gets."
There's been a lot written about the transgressions, for example, or Syracuse and North Carolina in the Final Four. You've got a basketball program that's run by a guy that most people think is clean. What's the balance there? Obviously you want to win at the highest level but you don't want to get into those gray areas. How do you kind of walk that line?
"You do and you focus on doing the right things on a daily basis. And I'm not going to sit in judgment of any institution. They have people there that are trying to make sure that things are done the right way, and sometimes it happens that you don't. You deal with the penalties, you deal with the things that have to come out, and you move forward to get better.
"What we do is going to try and work at it on a daily basis to emphasize the things that are important. I tell people here all the time, we're here to focus on the academic success of our students; we're here to focus on developing them to win championships and compete for championships; we're here to develop them as young people and win and do all that within the rules, and lastly we're going to have fun doing it.
"I'm not going to comment or sit in judgment of other institutions because I know many of my colleagues across the country are trying to do those same things. Where there are issues you deal with them. You deal with them quickly and effectively and [inaudible because somebody coughed] so that they don't happen again."
[After THE JUMP: Satellite camps, whether there are changes needed in the department, Red's future, and the unexploitable Fitbit system]
Where have you seen the biggest growth in your offense over the last couple of weeks?
“I just think that people understand the concepts. Really the passing game’s come along with the precision and timing. You know, making corrections. People understand what you’re trying to correct and they’re fixing it the next day you come out.”
Coach Harbaugh said that his quarterbacks were making ‘one big mistake’ per day right now. Is that still—I mean, what do you need to see from them this week and then going through the summer?
“I think just, you know, in terms of where they need to go with the ball, the progressions of their reads, when there’s no play to be made make a play. And that goes for any type of quarterback in any system. That’s not just this particular system here. That’s what you’re looking for.”
Have you seen a difference between John [O’Korn] being in his first year being in a competitive situation and the other two guys, Shane [Morris] and Wilton [Speight]?
“I think John’s a real competitor. I don’t think if he’s a redshirt it doesn’t matter to him. He’s a guy who comes out, wants to compete every day, and wants to be at his best.”
How do you distinguish between making a play when there isn’t one and trying to do too much? Where’s the line that gets drawn between those two?
“I think those guys just kind of naturally have it. They know when to make a play. They know when to step up and find a spot in the pocket. They know when to scramble. They know when to get rid of the ball not to take a sack. You know, I think it’s just kind of part of their DNA. It’s in there, you’ve just got to get it out of them.”
Was moving Mason [Cole] more about the importance of that center position or just getting the top five on the field?
“You know, you just really want to get the top five in however you do that. We’re still evaluating if that’s the best position for him. He’s done a very, very nice job this spring. That’s a hard thing to do is stand there with the ball in your hand and you’ve got a 300-pound guy breathing down your neck and you’ve got to snap it, you know. He’s really handled it beautifully. He’s done a really, really nice job with it.”
Do you guys feel like Newsome’s ready to start if need be?
“Yeah! When we played him last year as a true freshman we believed that he’s ready to do that if that’s how it all pans out.”
What’s different about him? You’ve talked about football lenses opening. Was his already a little more open than most?
“He’s very intelligent. He gets it. He can make a correction once [and] he can fix it. He understands what you’re talking about when you talk to him in the room. The screen doesn’t got fuzzy with him. He stays with you in a conversation.”
[After THE JUMP: Others in the OL rotation, Ty Isaac’s spring, and what Don Brown’s scheme does for the O-line]