Jake Butt and Amara Darboh
When did you know going into the game that you were going to have an opportunity to really have a big production day?
JB: “I mean, I think with the way our offense is set up it’s not just going to- each play isn’t just designed to just get one guy the ball. Really, anyone can get the ball on any given play. I knew there’d be opportunities and plays called where I’d have a chance to get open so I was just trying to catch the balls that were thrown my way.”
Talk a little bit about the process of a new quarterback and receivers getting to know each other and the little things that make the difference in a pass route or a football game.
JB: “The process started really the day Jake [Rudock] got here. His locker’s next to mine in the players’ locker room and we started just playing catch, and all summer we’d do our player-led practices, 7-on-7 and 1-on-1s and just running routes and we started to build the chemistry there. Jake’s had some success at other schools and stuff, so he knows how to get it done.”
AD: “Yeah, true. We were just trying to get the timing down throughout camp and summer, like Jake said. Just tying to get a feel and he tries to get a feel for where we’re going to be at and put the ball in the right spot.”
What did you see out of Grant Perry in preseason camp to know that he was going to be able to help you, and after the game- Coach Harbaugh just said there were a couple routes he didn’t run very precisely that led to interceptions- what do you say to him to make sure he doesn’t get down on himself?
AD: “With the first question, he was a guy who was very focused. He would always ask questions and took good notes and he was a guy that you could tell he understood football even though he was a freshman. And then with the mistakes and stuff, I told him after the game just go out there and pay attention to details and try to do the routes that you did in practice and don’t let the crowd or the atmosphere change the way you play.”
[After THE JUMP: Jourdan Lewis and Willie Henry]
What did Grant Perry do in preseason practice to earn the opportunity he did and how do you evaluate his performance on Thursday?
“What Grant did was he consistently came in and practiced every day at a high level, especially for a true freshman who’s also picking up the offense. He was out there every single day getting better and better.
“His performance in the game was in some ways out standing and some not precise route running, so it was…I wouldn’t call it as consistent as we would like but I think he’ll improve from it. I think he showed signs of some really outstanding play in terms of catching the ball, route running, and blocking. He had some blocks that were things of beauty. So, it was a good first start. But a couple costly mistakes.”
Was that interception on him?
“You never say it’s totally on one player, but he did not run the correct route. It was not close to being precise. It was something he just made up. But, again, when it comes to playing the quarterback position you don’t have to throw the ball if someone doesn’t run the right route. So, there’s fingerprints on that first interception for Grant and Jake [Rudock].”
Drake Johnson was with the team, traveled, dressed, everything. You have any better feel on him this week?
“Yeah, we’re going to evaluate that as the week goes on. Drake’s in really good communication with the doctors [and] the doctors are in really good communication with him. Cautionsly feeling pretty good where we’re at right now and we’ll see what happens during the week.”
[After THE JUMP: “And he’s a football player. There’s a compliment that…you can’t give a better one.”]
How do you feel about your unit here going into the first game?
“You know, the thing that’s unique about the kicking game is the first time you really test it is the game, and we don’t have preseason games in college. So, I feel great about the practices we’ve had so far. We get 29 of them. We’ve had whatever, however many we’ve been allotted. The head coach has given us incredible meeting time, practice time, and availability and so to this point I like the focus of our players and what we’ve done and look forward to the contest, but you get to see what you’ve got when you play. It’s very hard to simulate a kickoff or a punt in practice and the intensity of the game.”
Who’s leading at the kicker spot?
“Well, you know, we’ve got three. This competition is going to go all the way up until pregame. And there’s really no need to pick one at this point because there’s none of them that have been in a game. Coach Harbaugh really believes in competitive excellence at every position, and those guys are duking it out. They’ve been taking- they took equal turns today in team. Each of them got four kicks. They’ve taken equal turns pretty much through camp.”
Who are the guys working there?
“Kyle Seychel and Kenny Allen and Andrew David- you know, the new guy, the freshman. They’ve done a nice job. Once again, we get the opportunity to practice 29 times so we’re going to take that opportunity. There’s not an established starter or whatever there, so…”
What about at punter?
“Well, at punter, Kenny Allen and Blake O’Neill are both punting. They will both punt, okay? They will both punt for Michigan this year. Blake has some skills Kenny doesn’t have, [and] Kenny has some skills Blake doesn’t have. And we’re a pro-style team on offense, defense, and kicking game, and Blake came here to want to be a pro in one year, and Kenny has really embraced being accurate. So here’s the thing: they’re both good. Kenny’s improved a lot. Blake adds some nice depth there, and they’ll both play. Don’t know how often you see a two-punter system, but we got one.”
[After THE JUMP: Kick and punt returners, and a personal connection]
[I jumped in mid-answer]
“We’ve got two coaches who love to hit. With coach Drevno the O-line is real tough this year. On the D-line we've had a lot of guys step up and play real hard, so it’s been a real hard-hitting camp.”
Talk about yourself and where you’ve made progress since the end of last season.
“I think Coach Mattison has helped me with my technique a lot and also coach [Will] Carr has helped me and Mo [Hurst] with our technique a lot. He's helped us out a lot. As far as technique, I feel like our effort has always been there but we haven't always been the sharpest technique-wise, but I think that’s been a lot better since last year.”
What makes coach Mattison such a good coach?
“I think it’s experience of coaching. He’s coached every type of line.”
And guys like Ray Lewis.
“Yeah, he’s coached every type of guy. He knows how to get to it with coaching. He’s not going to coach everyone the same. He knows how to push buttons in the right way, and he has really constructive criticism and I think that’s what makes him a good coach.”
Last year you did have a scholarship. Are you still technically a walk-on? Have you heard anything about a scholarship?
“No, I actually got one last year after the season.”
[After THE JUMP: Chesson, Rudock, and Bolden]
Kyle, a lot’s been made about your maturity and now you’re in your third year here. Just talk about how you’ve grown and how you’re ready for this role as a leader.
Kyle Kalis: “I think a lot of it was the offseason condition. You know, we grew a lot as a team through coach Tolbert’s workouts and stuff, and a big thing not only personally but as an O-lineman and concerning my unit is coach Drev’s ability to coach us.
“He’s taught us stuff that we had no idea was even out there, and his experience, his vast knowledge of O-line play and the way you have to do it, the way you have to take that mentality every day has been huge for us. So that’s probably the biggest thing is coach Drev.”
I know that you guys are probably tired of the offensive line improvement talk, but last year it was said that the offensive line had improved. Do you feel that this season there is real, tangible improvement? Is this finally the year that the offensive line will come together?
KK: “Yeah. I mean, the past couple years we’ve been good. It’s just hard- it was hard to find…to look through the cracks and see us doing well. But this year I think as a team us being able to come together [and] have all the parts working together as a cohesive unit is going to be huge to not only be successful as a team, but also, you know, get the big guys some love. That’s the thing [is] you have to be successful as a team to let everybody have the spotlight.”
You mentioned the spotlight. Are there any guys out there that have impressed you? A lot has been said about Mason Cole. Talk about some of the guys who you’ve seen a lot of improvement from.
KK: “Yeah, Mason’s definitely…Mason’s Mason. He started all last year as a freshman. That’s huge. I mean, no one does that really anywhere, and so that’s huge for him. He’s improved a lot. Again, with coach Drev he’s been able to make some strides. Dave Dawson did really good. Tulley- Logan’s been doing really good. Blake’s [Bars] had a really good camp. A lot of guys have been really coming along and it’s been good.”
[After THE JUMP: More Kalis and Houma, plus Desmond Morgan and Chris Wormley]
“Nice to see everybody. I just spent a nice 45 minutes over at the Weber’s with the M Club of Ann Arbor. Now I get to be here with you to follow that up. It doesn’t get any better!”
What have you seen from your offense so far, and what do you like about the competition?
“What I love about the competition is that…oh, where you talking about offense?”
“It’s been good. Intense competition, which it always is on a football team. There’s a great deal of honor and satisfaction to be one of the 11- a starter. Competition for those roles has been intense, as you would expect. Offensively, defensively, and on special teams.”
Any updates on the quarterbacks?
“I was informed that our competition for Thursday night’s ball game, Utah, would be sending us their official depth chart Monday, and in the interest of fair and healthy competition we will also send our official depth chart on Monday as well.”
Does that mean you’ll have made up your mind by Monday, or are you still hashing it out?
“Like a lot of positions there are some that are very close, some are closer than others, some are still being competed for, and some positions there’s individuals that are ahead. To give you an example, the kicking position is very tight right now and still playing out. At some positions it might continue into the ball game itself. Yeah. I think we’re getting a good idea of things, whether it’s even, close, or someone’s ahead at this point.”
Is it important for you to tell your QBs or team who that is so they can rally behind that one guy?
“To the team? Yeah, I think that’s something that’s been ongoing and that takes place.”
I don’t know if you-
“And they do. They do. It’s been a tight, close competition. Especially at that position.”
[After THE JUMP: “You can also say we really enjoyed each other’s company in a football fashion”]