Jake Butt and Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill, you’ve been close several times. What did it feel like to get across finally?
“It’s undescribable. Man, I think I just laid there. I was like, finally, man. The guys did a great job of getting me a crease. They trust me enough to hit what I see and make something happen and that’s what I did.”
For both of you guys, level of concern when it was 21-7 early on?
Peppers: “We’ve been down before. There was no level of panic. It was just like a little adversity. That’s the biggest measurement of a team, how you bounce back when things aren’t going your way. We just had to dig deep and get back to our roots, start tackling better, you know, covering a little better and getting pressure on the quarterback.”
Butt: “We weren’t worried. We weren’t worried. We actually talked about it last night as a team. We knew the first two games we were really never punched in the face, everything was going so smoothly. It’s not going to be a fairytale the whole entire season. There was going to come a point in time where we were going to get punched in the face, where we were going to get backed in a corner and, you know, playing with these guys we bounced back when we were backed into that corner. We fought back and we stuck together and rode that wave and were good enough to get it done.”
Jake, having been backed into a corner, what was the conversation like with you guys on the field and in the huddle during that time when it looked like Colorado had a big advantage?
Butt: “Me personally, I was just trying to go up to guys like, Look, all it takes is one play. We just need a spark. We got that punt block and then they responded again, but we fought back again. We just kept punching back. We kept telling these older guys, this group of seniors and our playmakers, Look, we just need to start making plays. Toward the end of the half that’s exactly what we did, and then I think that a huge play was Darboh going in and punching that screen pass in to give us momentum going into the second half. The defense tightened up and they played a hell of a game down the stretch, too.”
Wilton had a shaky start. It seemed like once he started finding rhythm he was dumping the ball off to you. Seemed like he was getting a little bit of stability there. What did you notice about his comfort level throughout the game?
Butt: “Yeah, it’s Wilton, it’s the coaches, it’s the O-line. It’s never a one-man job. And again, yeah, we did have a shaky start. Again, they were making it really hard to run the ball. They were run blitzing us, loading the box up and the coaches adjusted. They started calling little dump off plays to get into rhythm. Guys were making plays, helping him get comfortable. We had a little package in there where we got some yardage with Pep and McDoom. We just kept making plays down the stretch. That’s all that really matters.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
News bullets and other items:
Harbaugh mandated they make an adjustment on special teams so that Jabrill could be in position to catch and run after Colorado punted to the same spot a few times in a row
According to Harbaugh, Peppers was “…by far the best guy out there in all phases.”
Harbaugh was really happy with the improvement in perimeter blocking.
Tom Brady’s pregame message went through each position group and told them what was expected of them in order to play like some of the best to wear the uniform.
Brady and Harbaugh played catch before the game and yes, it was a competition. Harbaugh said he wished he hadn’t given Brady the wind.
The kicking game was off and they’ll have to check the tape to figure it out; Harbaugh attributed part of it to an overadjustment to high snaps in pregame warmups.
Coach, can you describe your team’s mental state when they get down early in this game? Where were they at early in the first quarter, and how do you build off of a deficit of that nature?
“They—it was fight. They knew it was a fight, because I heard them talking about it. So, I think that’s where their mindset was. I really look at all these—every football game that’s ever been played, that probably ever will be played, it’s a battle of the best players, of seeing who the best players are in a football game.
“Colorado has some outstanding players, and the utmost respect for Sefo Liufau and the game that he played and the player that he is. He’s set 70 records at Colorado, and that first post route he threw, you can not throw it any better. Could we cover it better? Yeah, we should have. Next play he threw the ball on a fade route. I mean, cannot throw the ball any better than he did. He was really effective all game. Then he got that ankle injury. That looked pretty serious, and he hops up and kind of drifts out to his right and throws a post route that is as good a post route as you can possibly throw. So in a game of really good players all over the field on both sides, their corner #4, outstanding player, defensive line was outstanding, and above it all, Jabrill Peppers proved that he was the best player today, in today’s game.
“We don’t win that game without Jabrill Peppers. And also a great team effort. As you were talking about, fighting back and making enough—enough good players making enough good plays. The field position Jabrill got us on special teams. Again, that’s a team effort, but wow. He was making the difference; return for a touchdown and then the field position he was giving us.
“Blocked punts; our special teams unit was our finest unit out there today. Accounted for 14 points plus the blocked punt field position and the punt return field position. It was good. It was really good. The best part of playing football’s competing. I thought both teams did an outstanding job of competing at a very high level today.”
[More after THE JUMP]
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]