Kyle [Kalis] last night was saying people shouldn’t panic about the run game after Saturday.
“No! You know, I was truly flattered, to tell you the truth. When you load the box like that and you send that many pressures it means you’ve done something. You’re doing something that’s making people take notice. Most defensive coordinators, hell or high water, they will not let you beat them running the ball. It’s a demoralizing feeling to be beat up front in the run game, so most people say, ‘If you’re going to beat us, beat us in the pass game.’
“Like I told my backs, I said, ‘Look, don’t look at the numbers on the board. Look at what they did to take this away, and take that in pride and [to] heart. The offensive line is blocking like madmen up front for us and we’re taking holes and making them into big gains. Take that to heart. Feel good about that.’ Hey, when a team comes in saying ‘we want to stop the run,’ that means you’re doing something. So the run game, not worried about it.”
You spread the carries around; no one had more than 10. Was that just to see if anyone had a different take on it and could do something, or was that--
“No, that was just something Coach Harbaugh came up with and just wanted to keep the guys rolling, keep them fresh. No more than that.”
Were there things that you saw that they did that maybe we couldn’t notice in terms of what they did? I guess De’Veon breaking the tackles was significant, but--
“Each guy kind of—Chris [Evans] is quick. He gets in there, made a couple of moves. Been able to use his ability in terms of quickness to make some guys miss [and] create some separation. Ty [Isaac] is a guy that can lean on some people and push the pile. But anything or one thing in particular that separated them? Not really. It was just a game where we just needed to get the tough yards. There was going to be some creases in there where if it was three it was going to be a tough three. The old three yards and a cloud of dust, that’s basically what it was. Or a cloud of rubber, rather, as a matter of fact. That’s what it was.”
What do you see from the rest of the room when you put the tape on and De’Veon, he’s breaking seven tackles and getting a first down on that one run. Do you tell the guys ‘This is it, right here’?
“In terms of what?”
[Hit THE JUMP to resolve this cliffhanger, as well as more on the Four Horsemen or Four-Headed Monster or whatever you prefer calling Michigan’s stable of RBs]
How’s your group doing through two games?
“Not bad. They’re doing okay. I thought the first two games we were challenged a little bit and I thought they handled it pretty well.”
Colorado’s got some receivers that are a little bit more of challenge…?
“Yeah, this’ll definitely be more of a challenge than the first two games. No disrespect, but it is what it is. They’re better receivers and the quarterback is a much better quarterback. He’s a guy that actually has time to throw, and he’s got three or four good guys to throw to.”
Clark’s had to step up. Talk about what your evaluation of him is.
“Yeah, Jeremy’s done a great job. And since spring. He’s been very steady and he’s improved. He had a couple glitches last year we’ve been working to get out and he’s trying to get ‘em out. He’s doing well.”
Is Jeremy a natural corner? He’s only played it for a year.
“He’s definitely the safety body, for sure. I think a lot of teams would love to have a corner with that length, and certainly his size and strength. Like I said, from moving from safety he did have a couple little glitches that he had in his game with his feet at corner. It’s a totally different deal, especially with all the pressing we do when you’re up in people’s faces. He’s starting to get it down. He’s working hard at it for sure.”
When you moved him in the first place, why did you do it?
“I think just because of the lack of depth at corner, and, you know, we had some guys at the safety position. I’d just say the lack of depth more than anything.”
[After THE JUMP: Jourdan Lewis’ health, eye discipline, and where Stribling’s improved]
Wilton Speight, Chase Winovich, and Matt Godin
Wilton, a lot of people speculate that you were the guy Jim Harbaugh was getting on in the HBO special. Remember that?
[laughs] “I do.”
Just talk about how your relationship with him has grown and how much you’ve learned since then.
“Yeah, obviously it’s come a long way since that HBO special, telling me to, I think it was ‘transfer somewhere else’ or ‘go somewhere else.’ All my buddies joke, like, yeah, they blurred out the number but you’re the only eight-foot [tall] quarterback in the country, so it’s easily identifiable that it’s me. Yeah, we’ve obviously come a long way since then and it’s something to look back and laugh about now.”
Chase, at what point did you know that you were going to play a bigger role on Saturday with Taco being out, and what was kind of your gameplan and maybe take us through the first quarter, getting your first big play in there.
“The first time I realized I was going to have a bigger role it was kind of—the spawn was back in spring when Taco was playing more of an Anchor role and Chris was back inside and I was starting at the End for a while. Then it came to this camp and I realized my role as a backup or whatever, I always had to be ready.
“Then he went down last Saturday and it was just so natural to get up there and take the next step, to step up and perform, that it really didn’t even phase me. Then this week I realized that I was either going to be starting or sharing time with Rashan at End whenever they released the depth chart, and whatever it was it was. I’d go out there and try to do my thing and try to give everything I have on every play, just the same as always.
“Then this Saturday getting out there, it was cool to get out there and just do the same thing that I’ve been trained to do. There is a quote by Coach Brown and he tells us we’re ‘trained assassins’ and that’s true. We’ve trained for this moment and that’s what it was. It was natural. It wasn’t like an ‘oh, this is my first time playing ever’ type deal. I felt like I was ready for it.”
[More after THE JUMP]
What do you think Yost would think of your almost point-a-minute offense so far?
“Um…you know, it’s so far, so good.”
Can you talk about how the offensive line graded out on Saturday?
“Did well. They played a lot of plays, the offensive linemen. Really were in the most snaps of the game. Mason Cole was the best of all the linemen, and I thought the other four were real close, but I thought Mason stood out.”
I noticed at the satellite camps that you always told the campers don’t be Freddy P. Soft [alternate Chase Winovich-posited spelling: Fredeee P. Soft]. I’ve been trying to find out who is this guy, Freddy P. Soft?
[chuckles] “He’s a four-inch guy that wears a cape and a hat with a plume in it, and he’s just tall enough to talk right into your ear and tell you that ‘You don’t have to practice today. Why are you working so hard? Get over there in the shade. You don’t have to attack with enthusiasm unknown to mankind today. Take a break, take a knee.’ Yeah, he’s not a guy you want around. Want to get him off your shoulder as fast as possible.”
I know you guys do the practice where you have the guys spring and you race. You know what I’m talking about? Where you have them race in practice?
“Yeah, the race.”
Where does Eddie McDoom land in those heats with the skill guys?
“We don’t do those in the fall as much as we do in the spring. We’re real close to having a race between Jehu Chesson and Eddie McDoom. It’s been talked about, so when that official challenge is made, then we’ll race ‘em. It’s been close. There’s been discussion if Eddie’s faster than Jehu or not. That would be the guy that Eddie would have to dethrone would be Jehu.”
But he’s up there with the fastest on the team?
“To my eyes. My eye-time of watching him run, he’s right up there with Jehu. And I’m not the only one. There’ve been a few others that have commented on it and would like to see that race. It may take place. The gauntlet, the challenge has not been thrown down yet, so it’s just been talked about.”
Khalid Hill has obviously been helping you around the goal line. Can you comment specifically on how he’s done so far and on your fullbacks?
“Yeah, I’d say Khalid has been outstanding in all areas: blocking, catching out of the backfield, protection, and a special gift of being all around the ball. He’s got a real knack. Picked up some fourth downs for us and touchdowns. I mean, he looks like the most complete NFL-prototypical fullback on our roster.
“And the others, Henry Poggi, I think he’s coming along and he’s…they’re both real tough guys. I think of the hammer, rather be the hammer than the nail. A fullback is a guy we want to be our hammer. There’s a special place on our team for the fullback position. It’s the identity of the team. Both those guys, along with Bobby Henderson. All three have real courage, contact courage.
“I think of it as contact courage. How fast can you go from point A to point B to hit somebody? That’s where the courage shows up. Just how quick can you get there to do that aggressive act? Feel good about all our fullbacks right now. The most polished guy in terms of at an NFL-ready level, I would say that would be Khalid.”
[After THE JUMP: things that are obvious for anybody who knows football, cereal vaguely power ranked, O-line issues diagnosed, what to do after a QB’s inflection point]
Wilton Speight and Chris Wormley
Wilton, if you could talk about what you had to do early in kind of a quick-strike offense. They were stacking up and you took it to the air and had a lot of success.
“Yeah, we went into the game knowing that we’d be able to take some shots, especially in the [?] and I was really excited about that. And the defense came out and it was a look we were expecting, so we were able to air it out a little bit.”
Wilton, how much of the struggles to run the football do you think were attributable to how much they were crowding the line and trying to stop that?
“Yeah, they were teeing off and bringing a lot of people, and that was a result of the success in the play action game, so when we would hand the ball off they were coming hot. That was just the defense, and we knew we were going to rely on the play action and deep shots a lot more this week than we were the run game, so it’s really nothing to worry about.”
Chris, a lot of yards rushing against you guys today, a lot of those on scrambles. How much of that is contain and what was the issue?
“Yeah, they had those four big plays which led to almost 300 yards rushing, which is not what you want as a defense, especially as a defensive line. But yeah, it was those rush lanes on the scrambles. Not keeping contain and not staying in rush lanes were the big parts.”
Wilton, you talked about how they were coming hot and thwarted the rushing game, but as far as the passing game, what have you done to develop chemistry with your receivers to have this kind of game today?
“Um, what have we done to develop chemistry? Just throwing routes and working our tails off back since January after the Florida game. No real special recipe or secret, just working hard.”
[After THE JUMP: Rashan Gary jumps in]
How impressed were you with Rashan Gary and what kind of progression have you seen from him just from week one to week two?
“It’s been very good, very outstanding. Tough guy. He’s been—he got a finger dislocated about the first week of practice and they took him in, put him under the x-ray, and the trainer was like, ‘Man, what is that?’ or something to that effect, and Rashan was like, ‘That’s football.’ Taped it up and went back out. Another time he was cramping and I took him out of practice, and then about six plays later saw he was back in there. He’s really good like that. Real football player. Doing a great job. Played the whole game today, looked like, most of it.
“And along those lines I felt the lines really took care of business today. That was something we felt was gonna be necessary and could get accomplished. Wouldn’t call it dominating but it was—took care of business, both the offensive an defensive lines. Did a very good job.”
Just asked Wilton about [how] in week one he didn’t really get hit; barely touched. Today he did get hit a few times, sacked a couple times. Just as a quarterback, what can that do for you? He said it’s not like he wants to get hit all the time, but it kind of gets him in the mode. Curious your thoughts on that.
“I thought, first of all, quarterback throws for four touchdowns and over 300 yards, that’s a great performance. Would not be going out on a limb to say he’s probably going to be our offensive player of the week, of the game. Had some good courage plays where he had to stand in the pocket and either a blitzer or a rusher was coming. Even made an improv play, improvise and adjust, to kick it out to Poggi in the flat. Thought that was a smart play. Hit two post routes. I mean, the hardest routes to hit, in my opinion. I played the position and watched for all my life [and] it’s a hard route to hit, and both Chesson made a great catch and so did Darboh for a touchdown. For the quarterback to hit those, that’s the toughest route, I think.
“And also the backs. I thought the backs--right from the get-go our backs were getting hit. Big hits and really good formed-up tackles by UCF and they hung onto the ball. It was a hard-hitting game all the way through, and also feel like we’re building up a callus with our team. Didn’t come out of this game with any injuries. And we delivered some blows, too. It was a good, real football game.”
How do you balance getting a running back in a rhythm versus keeping him fresh and getting other guys carries?
“Um…by getting him in there every couple. Today we were rotating backs. De’Veon had some unbelievable runs, especially the one drive—I think we ended up getting a field goal out of it—breaking tackles and pickings up the first downs. Two first downs he picked up by extra effort, and running with the ball, getting hit, three, four, five hits on the same play. Always thought it was smart to put a fresh back in when you have a run like that. But I thought he was exceptional. There were definitely drives we don’t get points on the board without the extra effort he was making out there.”
What’s your concern level on the quarterback scrambles, and is that something that’s pretty easy to clean up?
“Yeah, we made the adjustment in the second half. We were getting behind the quarterback. We’ve got to either retrace or spin back into the lane to keep the quarterback from leaving the pocket and getting all those rushing yards that they got. I thought Don and the staff did a nice job of making adjustments in the second half.”
[After THE JUMP: special teams, Speight under pressure (from the opposition), a minor injury update, and the wonder of the MRI from a non-doctor’s perspective]