Obviously we saw a big leap in the running game last year against Florida. Is there something where having more time as an offensive line really helps you fix mistakes or figure out some stuff?
“Yeah, I think late in the season you forget those fundamentals you focus on so much in camp. You’re focused more on gameplan and stuff, so this is a good time to get back to fundamentals, get back to working on double teams, working on pass protection. Just get back to fundamentals and really clean those up. I think that’s what made last year go so well and hopefully this year, too.”
For you going forward, do you want to stay at center or are you entertaining other moves?
“Yeah, I’d like to stay at center but whatever has to happen has to happen.”
Have you guys not had those conversations yet?
“No, no, not yet. Just right now it’s all Florida State stuff, so just focused on that.”
Have you made any progress on your NFL decision? Talked to anyone or had any extra evaluation?
“No, not yet. Just trying to gather all the information out there. Just gather as much information to make a good decision with Coach Harbaugh and the coaching staff and everyone. Just the more information you have, the better.”
If someone said a round attached to your name, where would you want to be to make the decision that you’re going to go?
“I don’t know if there is an exact round. Like I said, just talking with Coach Harbaugh and Coach Drevno and hearing their opinions and just trying to gather as much information as possible so I can make an informed decision.”
Are you on pace to graduate this spring?
“No, no, no. I graduate next December.”
[After THE JUMP: Kenny Allen, Mike McCray, and Matt Godin]
Chris Wormley, Ryan Glasgow, Wilton Speight
Wilton, what are your thoughts on Florida State and playing them?
“Yeah, pretty cool. I saw that the last team, the last Michigan team, to go to the Orange Bowl was Tom Brady’s team that went to overtime with Alabama, so that was a cool little piece of history that I saw. Really athletic team in Florida State. Lot of studs on that team and real well coached by Coach Fisher, so I’m excited to hit the film with Coach Fisch and figure out the gameplan for what we’re going to do.”
What was the rollercoaster of emotions today? Did you wake up feeling you still had a chance to get into the playoff and when you found out, how did you guys cope with that, deal with that, move forward from that?
WS: “I think we all woke up hoping something might still happen. We knew Clemson or Washington had to lose for us to really have a solid chance, but it’s not done by computer; it’s done by people with brains and emotions and thoughts, so we thought there was still a chance. But we put ourselves in this position to leave it up to other people. Four points away from sitting here up in front of you guys undefeated. It’s tough, but at the same time we’ve got a lot to prove. We can really make a statement in Miami.”
RG: “Yeah, I agree with Wilton. I think that this game in Miami is going to be a statement game. We want to leave this program on top and [with] a step in the right direction. Chris and I are leaving, but Wilton has two more years here to lead this team. So yeah, we want to make it a statement game. We want to show that we’re in the top four teams in college football.”
CW: “I agree.”
Wilton, how’s the shoulder, collarbone, whatever’s going on? How healthy were you last Saturday?
“I was healthy enough to play, to be able to try and make as many plays as I could for the team. This week off has helped. We didn’t practice this past week; coaches were out recruiting. We’ll start back up on Tuesday. Not sure the extent of how hard we’ll go this first week, but the week off definitely helped. I’m getting healthier every day.”
[After THE JUMP: “I think we’re gonna be hungry, we’re gonna be angry, and we’re gonna want to take it out on a team, and Florida State’s the next team up.”]
Jake Butt and Mason Cole
Jake, talk about how it’s your last game coming up and what do you know about Florida State and that matchup?
“Yeah, first on Florida State, we’ve gotten the chance—they play a lot of night games down there in the south to stay out of the heat a little bit, so after some of our noon games I got watch them play Clemson and Ole Miss. Just kind of flipped it on, so, I mean, we haven’t studied them yet. That’ll happen here in the upcoming weeks. We do know they’re a very good team and they’re gonna be hungry for that win. With it being the last game, gotta lay it all out there.”
Mason, what are your thoughts on playing the Seminoles? Being a Florida guy, you’ve been familiar with them a long time.
“Yeah, just really excited to play another Florida team. We beat Florida, we beat UCF, and hopefully we beat Florida State. Just exciting to go down to Florida and play a really good team. Excited to play in front of family and friends. It’s gonna be two great programs going against each other.”
Did you guys get together and watch the selection show today? What was the general [feeling]? Were you disappointed? Were you excited? Can you take us through the emotions from this afternoon?
JB: “This was our first weekend off in a while, so I know most guys were home. We didn’t have a watch party or anything. I’d say it’s mixed emotions because you set out goals at the beginning of the year and obviously one of those was to be in the playoff, but we weren’t and really we can’t blame it on anyone but ourselves. We left our fate in the hands of other teams and we understand that. That being said, we’re excited about this game. It’s a big game, great opportunity for us to compete against a really good team. We’re really excited to play in this game.”
MC: “Yeah, same thing. We had an opportunity at the end of the year to be in that playoff, but they put us in a great bowl with a great opportunity to go play a really good team. We’re just excited for that now.”
[After THE JUMP: how Butt will look back on this year a decade from now and which way Cole’s leaning re: turning pro]
“Hi, my name is Jim Harbaugh. Thanks, Mr. Wahl [Ed. A-Orange Bowl communications director]. Uh, sorry I wasn’t able to get on the call earlier. I was on a plane. Thanks for coming back at this time. If you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer.”
Being at the ‘86 game against FSU in Ann Arbor—I believe that was your senior year—you won by two. I just remember it being probably one of the worst officiated games I ever saw. What do you remember about that ballgame?
“What was the final score? I don’t remember the final score.”
20-18, you won.
“Oh, it was two points? Okay. I just remember how great Deion Sanders was. That was what stood out in my mind. And Coach Bowden, he was really cool. I remember running and scrambling, I scrambled left and went back to the right toward their bench and ended up having—probably ran almost eighty or ninety yards one way to the one side then all the way back to the other side, and I got thrown out of bounds. I just remember him being cool and giving me a smile, a pat on the back, and he said something. But my coach that year, Bo, and Coach Bowden were coaches in the Hula Bowl, so I got to know him a little bit better at that point, too. Those are the two things that stick out most in my mind from that game.”
You would have been in the NFL, but did you watch that ‘91 game?
“Yeah, I remember not seeing the entire game. I do remember watching it. FSU won that one. Back-and-forth, intense game.”
It was 51-31, I think.
We just talked to a few of the players and they were bringing up the Christmas Camp you guys did last year and doing that again this year. Given the fact that you guys were aiming for the playoff spot and came up a little bit short, is there any concern making sure those guys are still motivated and still willing to put in the work here for a few more weeks?
“Um…well, I know I am. I know I’m motivated and ready to put in the work, and looking forward to it.”
[After THE JUMP: Florida State, one last statement on officiating, and great memories of coconuts]
Mike McCray and Chris Wormley
Chris, what was your view of the spot?
“Looked like he was short, but I guess the refs saw something different. We have to play through those types of calls, that type of adversity.”
Through the first three quarters you guys kind of bottled them up. What did they do differently in the fourth quarter?
CW: “We were just playing lights-out the first three and a half quarters. They got some plays and they have good players. They go to Ohio State, they’ve got good players. If we made a few plays at the end the outcome probably would have been different, but I thought we played pretty well for most of the game.”
Chris, do you guys still believe that you’re a playoff team?
“I think so. They’re saying Wisconsin can do that if they win next week and we beat that team. So, there’s probably some things that have to go our way, some people that have to be on our side on the committee or however that works, but we’ve played good football all year. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and we’re excited for whatever happens.”
With the regular season ending, how do you guys view these last 12 games and the final result today?
CW: “I think you look back and we had a great run. This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing football, with Mike, the rest of the defense, the offense. I think you look back and you can see what you did poorly, did well, and build off of the things that you did well and take that into the bowl game and prepare for that as best you can.”
MM: “Like Chris said, had a great season throughout the regular season. Didn’t get the outcome that we wanted--to go to the Big Ten championship--but like he said before, you’ve got to get ready for the bowl game and see what we did right throughout the season, see what we did wrong, and improve on it.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
Khalid Hill, Wilton Speight, Kenny Allen
Wilton, what was the preparation process like for you going into this game?
“Same amount of preparation as any game in terms of football. Just had more recovery stuff to get back for this game.”
At this point, you had them, seemed to be on the ropes, just a couple mistakes--
WS: “Yeah, that’s pretty disappointing. Game of this magnitude, the fight that we’ve put in as a team together since last January after the bowl game, it all came down to this game. The Game. The way it played out, incredible game, but came up short.”
Khalid, describe what you were a part of here today. You had two touchdowns. Just describe what this game was like for you.
“I struggled. Got stopped on the goal line, then Coach called on me again to go do it again. Just shows the trust he has in his players. It’s not about my success, though. We wanted to get it done as a team and fell short. Got to keep our heads up and keep moving.”
A lot of self-inflicted wounds today. What do you guys take out of that and what do you make of it?
WS: “Yeah, I made a couple mistakes in the game. Unfortunate to get my hand hit when I was throwing out of the end zone, which resulted in a pick-six. Then trying to force another ball into too tight of a window. But yeah.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]