at least it's not just us?
Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-6-12: Will Campbell, Roy Roundtree, Denard Robinson, and Jordan Kovacs
We'll miss you, big guy.
What did you see out of your guys from Day one?
“I thought everyone out there was excited to play … We’ve been training all summer …”
Are you coming in more confident this time around?
“I mean, it was not more confidence. I just had to step up and this was the time to do it. This is my last go-around, and I owe Michigan and these fans a lot.”
When did that sink in?
“I mean, I had to change a lot. I was talking to a lot of guys who left. It’s just been a lot going on this summer and a lot of hard work.”
What do you mean by “owing the fans”?
“Well I came in with big expectations and I didn’t live up to them. And now it’s time to play.”
Can you tell the difference between guys who prepared well and guys who didn’t?
“I think everybody prepared the same because we all owe each other to play for each other. I mean I go out there to work hard every day for the guy next to me. Craig Roh. I work hard to go out there every day even for the freshmen. I work hard every day for Willie Henry, Peewee, everybody.”
(F-bomb after the jump)
Michigan's athletic department has made a few changes regarding media access for the upcoming season:
- Players' family members cannot be interviewed without permission from the athletic department.
- Freshmen will be withheld from media day.
- Practice will be closed to all media.
This is just a heads up. Shutting off practice is the only item that affects MGoBlog directly, but it's not a huge loss. Last year I attended a few Tuesday practices and took a couple photos, but I didn't see anything other than stretching and a hand-off. If they're going to do things like throw a Jordan Kovacs jersey on Matt Cavanaugh anyway, nothing is left to be gained. No complaints from me.
The other two items, however, will significantly affect the MSM (main stream media for those new to this blog). Enterprising features about David Molk's mother, Kovacs's journey as a walk-on, and Denard Robinson's humble beginnings will be harder to come by, as I predict that access will be granted sparingly and only to preferred media outlets. I doubt we'll see any freshmen this season, and relationships with their family members formed during the recruiting process will no longer be viable sources. Hail to the VictorsTM.
BREAKING, RELATED: Will Campbell dropped the F-bomb today (transcript tomorrow), so here's to never hearing from him again.
News bullets and other important items:
- Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark did not practice today; judgment has not yet been passed.
- Jerald Robinson did practice.
- Antonio Poole is out with a pec injury.
- Ricardo Miller is playing both U-back TE and receiver.
- Devin Gardner is taking reps at receiver.
I feel like there's something between us.
“Ready to go? All right. Thanks for coming out. For us, it was the first day back out there with a new football team. It’s always fun. There’s a lot of questions out there that we’ll continue to have as we go through this fall camp. I thought there’s some excitement, some chippyness, which is always good because there’s some competition. And that’s an important part of every day. We’re going to manufacture that as much as we can and put stress on our players and get them out of their comfort zone so that Saturdays are easy. That’s part of what the plan has always been. I thought we had a pretty good day. We got some good work as a team. Obviously when you’re going out there without pads on, helmets on, it can be deceiving at times, but I liked how we practiced with only helmets on. I thought they did a nice job with that. Thought the seniors and the guys who have played a lot of football at Michigan -- they’ve really taken an accountability, so that part of it is exciting and it was a good first day.”
Did Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark participate?
“They did not participate.”
“I don’t know that.”
When will you make a decision on that?
“When I make it, I guess. When? I don’t know.”
What’s your hope and expectation for Schofield at tackle?
“What I like about him is that he has some good game experience from a year ago being at guard. I think his athleticism, I think his maturity -- when you look at the group as a whole, genetically I think we look better from what we did physically during the summer. He’s one of those guys who’s stronger. He’s one of those guys who I think the maturity level -- everyone’s a little different, but I think he’s pretty serious about it.”
With Frank Clark out, who will compete with Brennen Beyer, and how will he respond to the competition?
“I think when you talk about him responding, he’s always responded. He’s a competitive kid. He loves to play. I think he’s done a tremendous job. Mario Ojemudia is a guy we can play at that position. We can put Jake Ryan back down there and play him there and move Cam Gordon up and rotate some linebackers around if we had to. So when you look at it, there’s some freshmen who are going to get some looks obviously throughout our football team, depthwise. I’m not too worried about it.”
Jake Ryan’s been a playmaker without a whole lot of technique. How do you refine that technique?
“I think through the spring he got better. Greg did a nice job coaching him every day. I think Jake probably became [a] more focused and intense football player, so his fundamentals would improve, his technique would improve. You still like some of the natural things that he does instinctively best that he does at times.”
Given that the entire staff is back, is there some continuity?
“I think there is. I think there is from the standpoint that -- and I know Kovacs said this in Chicago. They [have] the same coaches, and they [have] the same playbook and the same terminology. So I think all those things are a big part of it, which help it.”
What does a “good practice” mean on day 1?
“Well we lined up right. We didn’t have too many balls on the ground. Didn’t have a whole lot of penalties. Personally I like it when it’s a little chippy. Come out with an attitude to compete with each other.”
“Well I think it would help our team an awful lot. He’s got a great atittude. He’s really become a tremendous leader of our football team in a lot of ways. He’s worked his tail off during the summer from everything I’ve heard from players on this team. He really was a guy who led by example and then when he had to get after somebody, he’s not afraid to do that.”
Is it uplifting when that kind of thing comes from the players?
“No question. If we have to lead -- if I have to lead or the coaches have to lead the team, we aren’t going to be any good.”
Is that why you think Campbell’s going to be better?
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t because of his work ethic and his toughness and his leadership.”
Is lack of playing time a factor in his development?
“Well I think that’s part of it and when you play a couple different positions a couple different times around -- you’ve been in three different defenses when you did play defense, I think there’s a continuity level that you like to have.”
How do you know that a guy is going to be good before Sept. 1?
“I don’t know that you do. Some guys get in front of those big crowds and they just don’t quite play as well maybe as they practice. I just like his work ethic and what he’s done and not just physically but the mental part of playing the game of football.”
What about Ricky Barnum makes you think he’ll be ready?
“I think again there’s a guy who’s played some snaps. His work ethic, I mean, his leadership, you know I think Ricky’s got a really good quickness. I think that’s one of the pluses of a center that he has. Plays with pretty good leverage. I just like him.”
How is his chemistry with Denard?
“Well we’ve only had one day, but it was pretty good today. What I’ve seen of it. Now again, we’re out there in shorts. It’s a little different.”
Have you seen Denard be more of a vocal leader?
“Well I’ve seen that from him probably since the end of spring and through the end of summer. I think his maturity for the position and at the position has been really good. I thought today, again, we’re one day in. I thought he did a nice job of getting the offense where they needed to be from place to place and from practice. Talking with his receivers whether it was skelly or one-on-one and just how he runs the huddle.”
How different is that from how he was the first day of practice last year?
“Oh I don’t know. If I had to measure it, I couldn’t tell you that. I think what we observe, I think it’s there.”
What’s the goal of practices without pads?
“Well there’s a lot of installation obviously. The veterans are pretty clued into most of it. You always maybe tweak some things on either side of the ball during the course of spring and summer a little bit. You look at opponents, maybe somebody’s doing [something] that fits your scheme. There’s those kinds of things. I think it really is trying to establish the physicalness that we’re trying to play with.”
Have you decided how you’ll split Devin Gardner’s reps?
“Not yet. Again, it’s one day.”
Did Jerald Robinson practice?
Is his punishment effectively over?
How long does it take before you make decisions regarding position battles?
“We evaluate it every day. We evaluate the kids we’ll meet here in about an hour as a staff, and we’ll go through practice and talk about it. The coaches right now, they’re already into the tape, so they’re looking at it, so when we meet we’ll talk about them. From what we did in the special teams today and the different things we did there to how they [did in] the seven-on-seven, how the nine-on-seven went, the full line stuff. And trying to do a good job of talking about where everybody is as a staff. We’ve got walkthroughs in the morning, and we’ll meet before that and talk about it, then we’ll talk about it afterwards.”
Stephen Hopkins looks more like a fullback now with his weight gain. What will be his role?
“I think Steph is one of those guys who has good understanding and has accepted that role in a real positive way. I think he’s grown a lot maturity wise. I can just tell you from 18 months or however long it’s been we’ve been here, I think it’s really for the position. I think he’s become a teammate. So his role will depend on the game plan and what we want to do. I think he fits a great role for us.”
Has Al Borges used a fullback extensively before? Catching the ball, running the ball …
“Oh yeah. A whole lot.”
Did everybody show up?
“He’s the only one.”
“Well, his pec.”
You were pushing Kenny Demens pretty hard in the spring. How has he done so far?
“I think he’s done a good job. I think Kenny is, again -- these guys who are getting ready to play their last year, they finally realize that you tell them for three or four years it doesn’t last forever. I think those guys, there’s always a little difference in their approach in a positive way, and Kenny’s one of those guys.”
Overall, are you happy with the condition of the players?
“Oh yeah. I’m very happy with it. And they do a nice job. They’ve done a nice job and they had a little time off. The guys who have finished with school were able to go home for five, six days before we came back. I think they came back ready to go.”
How has Kovacs changed over the past year?
“I don’t know if he has. I think Kovacs has always been a guy who’s had a lot of passion and love for the game of football. He’s a guy that’s very instinctive. He’s smart. He’s got a love for Michigan, and if anywhere he probably feels a little more comfortable and confident talking when he needs to say something.”
Is that steadiness part of who he is, and do you think others feed off it?
“I think they do. I do think it makes him who he is.”
Ricardo Miller was a tight end last fall, a wide receiver in the spring, and yesterday he was a tight end again.
“Well he’s playing both. I think from a weight standpoint and everything he’s still going to be an edge guy, U-back guy, wide receiver guy. So he’s working them both.”
What do you most want to see from the team to know that you’re ready to go?
“Well, I really hope we’re a tough football team. And a physical football team. We have the mental toughness in how we prepare, to prepare at a high level, to play fast as a team, which means you’re confident and you’re knowing what you’re doing. There’s a physicalness to that because there’s an intensity to it. I think that’s what we would like to see.”
Is Miller back going back to tight end due a depth problem?
“Well you got some death issues -- uh death, DEPTH -- depth issues, that’s part of it. You have some depth that you want to look at at wide receiver, too. Right now he’s kind of a guy who can be a swing U-back for you and play wide receiver.”
Any freshmen who have impressed you?
“Some of those guys -- most of them, they’re finishing classes so they’re kind of running in and out. So to be honest with you, no.”
What did you think about Denard’s speech at the B1G luncheon?
“I think he did an amazing job. I thought he really told a story and did it how Denard would do it. And I think that’s what you want out of your players. Just like your captains. You want them to be who they are.”
Do you know when you’ll choose your captains?
“No that’s not for a couple more weeks. Usually we do it the Saturday or Sunday before game week.”
Rawls runs angry, mean, and fast. Is that how you would describe him? Also, re: Devin. Did he take snaps at receiver today?
“Yeah. And Rawls is angry.”
“He just runs hard. He runs hard, he’s hard to tackle, he’s physical, he’s got pretty good balance. Between Justice Hayes and Thomas and Vince, they all got carries.”
Did Jibreel Black show up with a good weight on him?
“He did. He’s not near as big as his brother who plays at Indiana. I don’t know if his body can be that, but he did a good job of working hard to put some weight on him. He and Craig both did a tremendous job. I think how he is able to keep it during camp, and I don’t know what the weather is going to be. I’m hoping it’s hot like it had been for at least 10 days, because that’s good for us. You know, I sweat a little more, maybe lose a pound. You know, that’s always good. But I just think how he manages that …”
How’s the punting battle shaping up?
“It’s a heck of a battle.”
The formal stuff was transcribed for us. The rest of it was not. So Ace and I will slowly but surely post transcripts from whatever audio we got from the coaches and players. Stay tuned. Also follow us on twitter for updates and witty commentary. (@AceAnbender and @Heiko25)
Brady Hoke's Small Group Session
The media have mastered the swarming technique.
You talked about the guys that are suspended. Will they be allowed to practice?
“I don't know yet.”
What do you think about having such a tough first game?
“I think it's great. To be able to play a team like Alabama, the reigning national champs, and focus on that—as you do every year—the first game, that's a great opportunity.”
Are the players excited as well?
“Well, I'd hope so. We'll find out better soon.”
What has Denard done this offseason to improve himself?
“Well, I think he's worked real hard on his fundamentals and mechanics and being a leader. His conditioning level is probably as high as it's been since he's been here. I just think he's doing what it takes to perform and compete.”
Expectations are high, higher than last year. How do these guys to live up to that?
“You go out every day, you work together, you prepare together, and make sure on those Saturdays that you're prepared to play your best.”
Because you've been limited in your contact with everyone, do you put that on your leadership that some of these guys have had these off-field transgressions?
“You always do. You always do. That's all part of it. It's a growing and an educational process that guys go through, and they're paying the price because there's consequences.”
Are you saying to your leaders, though, that you need to get your own guys in line?
“Oh, yeah. No doubt.”
You're not allowed to watch in the summer, obviously, but based on reports that you've got who are some of the guys who have had a good summer?
“I think Will Campbell has really had a great summer. From what I hear in talking to him and the seniors there are a lot of guys who have done a nice job. I think the one thing that's been good is we had 30 freshmen come in six weeks ago, they've had a little more time to be around those guys more than maybe in years past.”
When you talked about Penn State kids you said you'd keep your business your business. Does that mean you're not going to recruit them?
How quickly can that program bounce back?
“They'll do just great. They've got a great coach. I'll tell you, Bill is a good man. They'll do great things; they're a good university.”
Have you reached out to Bill?
“I've talked to him.”
There was nobody on that roster…
“No, there was nothing…”
If there was somebody that wanted to come, would you take them?
“You've got a team chemistry that you're worried about, and I think that's a big part of it.”
Can you give your thoughts on the rivalry with Ohio State and going head-to-head with Urban Meyer?
“It's not about coaches, it never is. It's about the players who are on the field, it's about two great schools.”
Is there anyone injury-wise who's in doubt for the start of camp?
“I don't think so. I'll get final word on that on Monday.”
Is [Toussaint's and Clark's status] something you're just going to think over the next week or two? What goes into all of that?
“It goes into if they're meeting the standards of being a Michigan football player. There's consequences that they'll be working through right now.”
When word came down on the sanctions from the NCAA to Penn State, what was your thought as a coach about the severity?
“There's so many victims involved here, for me to comment on it like I'm an authority on anything, which I'm not… it's sad in many ways.”
From a coach's perspective, how hard is the loss of scholarships, etc.
“Every school's different. I think that's such a great name in college football and such a great university, who knows? We'll just have to see what the future brings.”
This obviously isn't a typical opener. Do you split your practice time in the fall like you always would, or is there special attention paid to that first game?
“We'll do what we normally do. There's a lot from a offensive, defensive, kicking standpoint that we'll put in, and the fundamentals and techniques. As we get closer to game day we'll focus more in on what they do, which is pretty good for us anyway because there's a lot that we do that they do, so our offense and defense can gel against each other.”
Some schools wouldn't play a non-conference opponent like Alabama. What are the benefits from your perspective about why to play a game like that, especially in the last couple years with the BCS?
“What I think is you go to Michigan, you coach at Michigan to play the best. If you want to be the best you have to do that. For us it's a great opportunity. It's going to be a fun game, we'll learn a lot about us—win or lose—and I think that's a big benefit.”
Talk about the Michigan State game. Is that the biggest game as far as the Big Ten is concerned?
“For us that's always a big game because it's an in-state rival game. They've been kicking our butts pretty good lately, and that's something we don't like. That game and then obviously the Ohio game is as big a game as there is on the schedule.”
When will you choose about the legacy jerseys and who's going to wear which ones?
“Some time, in the future.”
Will that be before the season starts?
An open position like left guard that's still up in the air, at what point in the fall do you want that decided?
“I think it depends a little bit who it is, because of the continuity some of the older guys have. If it's a younger guy, so be it, there's no entitlement; we'll just go day-by-day with it and evaluate it day-by-day.”
When you bring in the freshmen on campus, how does it help in terms of acclimating and development of team chemistry?
“Number one, they get acclimated maybe a little bit to the academics. For some of them, like any of us, that's big. Their time management skills, all those things, that becomes important, then how we lift, how we run. There's a multitude of things. Then being able to get around your teammates and get to know the older guys. In the older days, you had three days with them, then the next day the veterans came in and it was kind of a culture shock. Now, with everybody being on campus all summer, the academic year has extended itself, I think it's great for them to have that opportunity.”
Do you have a preference in terms of eight games versus nine games in Big Ten conference play?
“I really don't. Whatever's best for the conference. I think we have a great conference and it's very competitive. You want to have the ability to play some of those Alabamas, those games too; whatever's best for the conference.”
Would it be strange, though, to play in a year where you play four home games and five road games in the Big Ten?
“Yeah. It'd be different. The good thing is everybody has to do it.”
Are those things you talk about in your meetings?
You always prepare for your season opener, of course, but have you prepared more for this game? More film viewing, more studying…
“I don't think so, to be honest.”
This is pretty meta.
Per Phil Brabbs's twitter, Charles Drake, starting strong safety for Michigan from 2001-'02, has passed away. Drake was a moderately shirtless '99 running back recruit who traded in a career of kick returning to play safety because Michigan had no safeties after June and Curry. Drake did it mostly with athleticism and a taste for (juuuuuust close enough to the whistle to not get flagged) hitting. Personally I remember him going ham against Michigan State a few times, and causing two turnovers in the closer-than-it-seemed 2002 Michigan-Illinois game. In the first he forced Beutjer to throw to Marlin Jackson (at 2:02), the other…
…was his only career interception and sneaky runback that caused know-it-alls on couches across the state of Michigan to exclaim, "remember, he was a kick returner!"
His senior year Drake shared the Ufer Bequest award (for enthusiasm and love for Michigan) with Bennie Joppru. From the little I knew of Drake off the field—all from a guy who worked with the team—"enthusiasm and love for Michigan" was most apropos. Let it stand as a fitting epitaph to a Wolverine who'll be missed.
“From an overall perspective, 15 days, I think we really had a nice spring offensively. We got a lot of questions answered, I think. Had a chance to do some experimenting, although we didn’t use any of it today, but we did some things and turned another page in our offensive approach. I think people we knew could play pretty much proved they could play, and we found a few guys along the way that I think are going to be contributors. We still have a ways to go. It’s still a typical spring game. The amount of times I’ve come out of a spring game and been happy I can count on two fingers in all the 26 years I’ve been coaching. That’s just kind of the way it is. But we got something done, and that’s what’s most important, is getting a chance in front of our fans to do some deals, do some things and I think we got something done, and that really was the goal for today.”
Can you talk about Ricky Barnum’s progress. Did he meet your expectations?
“Yeah Ricky’s come a long way for a position that he really hasn’t played very much. But I mentioned to you guys before, I think from a profile perspective, Ricky fits that position better than he probably does any other position. He’s a smart kid that plays with good leverage, knows how to use people around him. Now that he understands the calls and how to put everybody on the same page, that really makes a big difference at that position, because you’re not forced to block people one-on-one constantly. That’s the thing about playing center, is there’s a lot of that going on. He’s done a nice job. I’m really happy with Ricky.”
We didn’t see a whole lot from the receivers today. Who are some of the guys that can really step up and compete for playing time with Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon?
“Well I think Jerald Robinson is one guy you’re going to see more and more of. He got banged up a little bit I think somewhere, I don’t know, but nothing serious. But I think he’s a guy you’re going to see step to the forefront because he’s been very prominent in our practices. Jeremy Jackson and Drew Dileo have also been very very active in our passing game. So I think those people and then if some of the freshmen come in and show up and aren’t awed by their surroundings, they may be able to contribute. I think we’re good at the position. We’d like to be deeper, but I think we’re pretty good.”
You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …
“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”
Thoughts on their springs overall?
“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy. We have three quarterbacks who I think … I’m not sure when their major contributions are going to come -- two of them, anyway -- but I think there will be a point in time when they’ll make a major contribution. I’m happy with the position.”
Rawls had some nice runs. Can he potentially be the more physical back you’re looking for?
“Yeah. He’s a different kind of runner than Fitz and a differnet kind of runner than Vince and Justice Hayes too, in that he’s a battering ram type of guy. He goes in there and when Thomas hits you you’re going to feel him. He makes no concessions to the defense. He’s got a little bit of stop and go ability, but I would not say that’s his game. His game is running through people and making it very difficult to tackle, and following forward. He’s done that all spring. You only saw a little bit of it today. In the 14 days previous, we’ve seen quite a bit of it. He’s another guy that, you have to understand our appraoch was not to entertain today. Our approach was to find out more about our football team. He’s one of the guys we wanted to find out [about], and he was going to be featured. The players that we needed to know about were the guys we let play more, him being at the top of that list.”
What did Burzynski do to push his way into a starting spot than guys who have been there longer?
“Well he worked his butt off. He’s still not in the starting position but he’s competing for one certainly. He’s worked his butt off and he’s very coachable. He’s worked hard for Coach Wellman. He’s very attentive. He takes everything to heart. It’s very important to Joe that he improve, and a guy like that is going to improve if that’s your appraoch. When you’re a walk-on and you’re battling to get in that depth, you’ll never get in that depth until you get someone’s attention. He just did a good job. We’re not really deep at offensive line. He’s had opportunities, and he’s taken advantage of them.”
When did he get your attention?
“We saw some last year. More this spring, you know. Early on he became a factor and decided that he was going to step up and compete for the postiion, but I would say the first three or four days of spring football.”
What was he showing you?
“Good, explosive get-off, number one. Good hand placement. Good hat placement on his drive and zone blocks. Pretty solid pass protector. Had a good feel for playing games, working with the guy next to him. When you’re not the most gifted guy, you have to have something else that llows you to play. Joe’s not a bad athlete, but he’s probably not as athletic as some of the other guys. That means you have to study the game and play with awareness. And I think that’s what he’s done as much as anything to put himself in the position that he’s in.”
Did he show any of these signs last season?
“Yeah, some. Some. Because the depth was different, it wasn’t as critical that we have him step up. Well the depth’s not quite what it was, now there’s an opportunity there. We tell the players every time there is [and opportunity] to seize the moment. He’s seizing the moment.”
We heard more about Chris Bryant at the end of last season than this spring. What does he need to do to get better and get back on track to play?
“Just keep going the way he’s going. He’s been set back from being banged up a little bit, too. Nothing major. Chris Bryant’s going to be a good player. The one thing you have to understand about an offensive linemen: in my opinion, I think offensive line is the most developmental position on the entire football team. There are very very few that can step up on day one and be right with it. Now every so often you get a tailback. I know when I was at UCLA, I had DeShaun Foster. The day he stepped on campus he was the best tailback we had and we had to find a way to play him. But you don’t find many linemen like that. Usually they have to go through some growing pains, get a little stronger, get a little more aware, and do some of the things I’m talking about with Joe. Chris Bryant’s going to be a good player. He just needs a little more of that development.”
Denard said he only threw off his back foot one or two times this spring. Was that the major improvement he made? Are there other areas he’s improved?
“That was the biggest one. There are two things. And you didn’t see much of Denard today, but if you could have you would have appreciated this a little bit more -- and I want to see it [keep] going before I go on about it too much. I’d like to see some carryover, but the two things that have gone away in Denard’s game is falling off throws or throwing off your back foot as you say, and number two is indiscriminate decision making. He had very very few interceptions this spring. Very few. He had cut his interceptions from last spring to this spring four times. Four times [fewer] interceptions. And that’s not unusual now for a guy that didn’t understand the offense. I said that last year our passing game was a drastic disparity from what they had done in years past, and there’s going to be some growing pains. We have to take the step into the fall because it’s all irrelevant if you don’t, but our passing game is enhanced immeasurably.”
“The thing I would say starting out is we have a long way to go. When watching from the side and seeing what I thought I saw, we’ve got to become a lot more physical. We’ve got to improve a great deal over the summer. The good news with that is our staff and this program believes in working very hard at improvement over the summer and not just lifting weights. I think we’ll make a lot of gains this summer.”
Blake Countess had a nice INT today. Can you talk about his spring and maybe your feelings on the secondary as a whole?
“The thing that I was pleased with with Blake is I’m always leery of a freshman who has success and then what is he going to be like that next year? You’ll tell really big what he’s going to be like in the spring. Blake has come out every day and worked to improve. Blake has tried to become a better football player. I didn’t see any signs of a guy thinking that he’s arrived. As far as the secondary, I think we have a long way to go yet. You always are looking for guys to step up because you need to find who’s going to play every day, who’s going to go out there and do what you’re asking them to do, and you can’t miss tackles back there. You can’t do that. We had that happen. I think we have to become a better blitzing team out of the secondary. I think we called a pressure, a guy was unblocked and didn’t hit the quarterback in the backfield. That should have been a knock-out hit. Those kinds of things are what we have to improve on.”
Kaleb Ringer got a lot of snaps today. What have you seen from him this spring?
“He’s a freshman. I think we saw, and I think I said before, he should be going to the prom. But the good news is he has been out there to be evaluated and to be coached every day. And hopefully that will pay dividends and show him what he must work on this summer to make coming this early be a benefit.”
You did a lot of shuffling with the defensive line this spring. How much more comfortable are you with them this spring?
“I feel very comfortable with the moves. Very comfortable. I think that might be one of the bright spots of the spring. Craig Roh showed me that he’s got a chance to be a pretty good football player there because he plays with such a good motor and he’s so prideful of his technique. And now when he gets stronger, I think you’re going to have a good 5-technique. Jibreel Black has to really -- the key to him is how strong he gets this summer. He did some good things this spring, some other things he showed why you can’t play at 270 in there if you don’t have great technique. The combination of Beyer and Clark give us a lot more athleticism on the edge. All three of those things … have been very beneficial for us.”
Have Beyer and Clark separated themselves at WDE yet?
“No, they haven’t separated themselves. Beyer is a very strong football player and can run. What Beyer has to work on a great deal is he gets a habit of getting high. He’s got to stay lower. Then he’s going to be a real force I think. Frank, on the other hand, wants to run to make plays before he beats the block at times. He needs to take some of what Beyer does and Beyer needs to take some of what he does. Both of them, I have been very pleased with the two of them and how hard they’ve worked and how hard they’ve tried to improve on what we say they need to improve on.”
Was the defense’s performance today pretty indicative of what you’ve seen all spring?
“Yeah. I think it was. I think you saw we’re going to be a defense where if we lose one or two guys at this point before the freshmen get in here, you’re going to fall off a little bit. I think that’s going to happen when Des[mond Morgan] was out of there. That’s a key guy for us. But it’s forced us to put a younger backer, where you know we need a lot of help, under the microscope. When we watch his tape we’re going to know exactly how he did, and then you’re going to have to say okay we have a lot more work to do.”
Do you think you’re well ahead of where you were a year ago at this point?
“I don’t know if we’re way ahead. The thing is we didn’t call many defenses today. I think I only probably called four defenses the whole day because I wanted to see how they were going to play under the gun. I know Al didn’t call a lot of stuff either. We wanted to make it really really hard nosed. I think this group wants to be really good. Like I said, I think sometimes maybe you don’t believe what I’m saying, but we make more gains at Michigan in the summer with what they do on technique than a lot of programs. That’s a three-month period of them doing it, the same individual [drills] that we’ve done with them for 15 days.”
What have you seen from Will Campbell this spring, and what did you see from him today?
“I see that we need him to be a football player. We need him to not just knock people around, but tackle the football. Will and I have talked long and hard about that: that the ball is the issue, not how many lumps you can put on that guard or center. Will’s getting it. Will’s getting it and Will’s the key. Will’s a big key because you’ve heard me before, you’re only as strong as you are down the middle. That’s going to be our whole deal this year because we’ll be fine outside. Jake Ryan had a good spring. Cam Gordon, you can see he’s going to help us. Our outside will be fine. It’s inside.”
You mentioned the gains you make over the summer. Is Will one of those guys you’re counting on to lead those efforts?
“Definitely. Will is definitely a leader. Will is a guy that has bought in totally to being a senior at Michigan.”
Do you see that this defense is faster than it was at this point last year?
“I do think this might be a little quicker defense than last year. One of the biggest reasons is they understand the defense. That defense last year was all new to those guys. You can’t play defense unless you know what the problem possibly is, so you can play faster. Any time you know the defense well you play faster, and I noticed that this spring.”
How do you shore up the middle of the defense?
“Well I think a lot of it’s technique, but one of the things -- down the middle sometimes means linebackers and taking on guards. One of the biggest things we have to improve on is using our hands and not using high school forms. That’s what some young freshman linebackers are doing right now. But the beautiful thing is they have sleds to work on all summer. Little techniques that will help them be stronger down the middle I think we have in place.”
Keith Heitzman made a bunch of nice plays today. Talk about his progress, and how do you talk about the overall depth on the defensive line?
“Yeah, Heitzman is one of those players that may not pass the eye test when he walks out on the field, but you know what? He’s always around the football. I made a comment one day at a meeting. We were watching the practice film, and I said, ‘You know what? This Heitzman kid, before it’s long, he may be one of those Michigan defensive linemen that just plays hard and tough.’ He needs to get a lot stronger. He needs to get a lot better at his technique, but he’s a young kid, and I think that’s a big thing. As far as the depth, everybody had their day. We have to all have our days. That’s what bothers me. I can name every player that played inside and there will be one play where it’ll be, ‘Yeah! See, that’s what you’re looking for!’ and then you won’t see it on the next one. We need to get consistent. Mike Martin, you’d see it every play you looked at. Will Heininger you might see it every play. Those guys, we need to get that kind of consistency out of that front.”
So many young linebackers will be working on technique over the summer. How important is Kenny Demens going to be in leading them?
“Very important, because Michigan’s always a senior leader -- and Kenny Demens needs to work on it as much as the young guys. So he can be the first guy going and they’ll be following him along, but every guy -- there’s a lot of competition at that position. There’s a lot of competition at every position, but at the linebacker position there’s going to be great competition.”
Where does Brandin Hawthorne stand right now?
“Yeah, I mean he has that ability to make plays. You remember he started some games last year for us. He has the ability to make plays, but the key in our defense is a guy has to be a very physical football player and he has to play with consistency. Guys that make plays put a lot of pressure on the coach to see if you hit it right when he’s going to make a play. We need guys that are going to be consistent all the time. He’s going to be another one of those linebackers that’s going to be in the mix.”
Is it his physicality that needs work?
“Well he’s been a little banged up ever since he’s been here. That would keep a guy from being real physical.”
Did you play him at MIKE out of necessity?
“You had a number of guys banged up. Mike Jones had a hamstring I guess, and Des, and Hawthorne’s got an elbow -- it’s spring. A guy that plays the WILL can also play MIKE. He should be able to play both. The linebacker thing, it’s going to be a heck of a competition before it’s all done.”