needs moar usage
"It's game week. Just more focused." Practice today, ready to see how fun practice will be. Excited to hit somebody new this weekend. Camp is tough and repetitive, but it makes the team better, and game week is time to focus on UConn. It's no different opening the season against a "tough opponent" than a MAC school. "Warmup game? I don't think no team on our schedule is a warmup game, man."
Michigan might surprise some people this year because they're putting in the work on the practice field. The schedule is 0-0 right now. "When we come to the game Saturday, and go out there and play our hardest, I'm pretty sure we can come out victors."
"This is Michigan, we have pressure every year." There's no use in worrying about past years, it's time just go out and "win for Michigan. That's our motive this year." Roundtree's confidence level is high, because Coach Magee has prepared the slots to know the game, and they don't have to think out there.
Work hard, stay focused to put himself in a position to succeed. "I know I have to go out there with a hard edge, I know I have to catch every ball that's thrown my way, I know I have to run decent routes, and get open where the quarterback can see me"
Rodriguez rotates the QBs a lot, so the receivers need to get used to all three. All three had fun and competed during camp. "I'll probably have to wait until Saturday to see" who throws the best ball. "I wish I did know [who the starter is]. If I did, I would have told everybody here." Won't find out until Saturday. "All three of them is pretty different," though there are explosive moments with all three. For UConn, it will be tough, and they'll gameplan around whichever guy starts.
Roundtree is comfortable playing slot or out wide, wherever he's needed more. He and Odoms can both play either, though Roundtree likes slot, because he played it in high school. Outside is a more physical position, and Martavious "likes that physical contact a lot."
First impression of Rodriguez: "Spoke to me like a real guy." Even before Roy was on the team, coach Rod was motivating him. "He never lied to me like other coaches did. He just always spoke the truth to me." Rodriguez used the upgraded Big House as a recruiting pitch. The players will get goosebumps to finally experience it. "I can't believe the stadium is looking like this."
"It's exciting. There's a lot of excitement around the building" getting into game week. The team is excited to finally go against someone else. There's plenty of motivation for a successful season. "My senior year, definitely want to have success, going out the right way." Schilling saw success as a freshman, and would like to bring back that feeling.
Three years into this offense, there's a much better comfort level for everyone, and they know more what's going on. The first year, they were getting used to it. Older guys can help teach the younger guys, which helps eeryone get into the swing of things. "We've had guys stepping up" as leaders on offense. Upperclassmen, QBs, seniors, etc. It's a good group of guys that have played the last couple years.
First impressions of RR - "I try not to make first impressions, really." Knew he was more fiery than coach Carr. Rodriguez has had success in the past, so he commands respect. That doesn't change even with the lack of success the past two year. Schililng has gained more respect for him past couple years as they've gone through adversity together.
The defense won't be quite the same without Brandon Graham. "It's different. Guys have stepped in. Brandon was a hell of a player, obviously." Other guys are working hard to step up. It's their time to shine. Greg Banks has experience, Ryan Van Bergen has experience, they understand what they're doing, and "the pressure it takes to play here, and play every Saturday at a high level."
Tate has responded well to the challenges of this fall. "Obviously he went through some adversity there with Troy's comments and the wings and all that stuff you guys know about." He's worked hard to prove himself, and show that he wants to be the team's quarterback. "I'm definitely gaining a lot of respect back for Tate," as are a lot of others.
Offense - "hopefully we can do everything well." The offensive line is proud of the team's ability to rush the ball.
Patrick Omameh has "grown up a lot, physically and mentally" the last three years. He got the chance to play some last year. He and Schilling can help each other out as the guards. "I think he's going to have a great career here. He's a young guy, and he's gonna need to contribute a lot this fall."
Mark Huyge has had some experience, and has played at both tackles (and even some guard). "That level of communication and trust is there between me and Mark and we know where each other's going to be, and what we expect out of each other."
Huyge and Dorrestein were motivated by the competition with the younger guys. Didn't want to lose their starting jobs. "Helped them get better, made them work extra hard in the off-season."
Taylor Lewan - "He's young, and he plays so hard." He has a bright future as he learns more and gets more comfortable there. He'll be able to contribute whether he's starting or not.
Mark Moundros listed first on the depth chart is not surprising given his work ethic and attitude. "He's a guy who'll do anything for Michigan." He has a defensive attitude, even at fullback. He's smart, and he's working really hard to learn.
Will Hagerup "kicks it a mile... I don't know anything about punting technique, but he can kick it far."
The defense will improve because they're more well-rounded. There are lot of different guys that can step up. Won't rely only on one guy or a couple guys. Lots of playmakers. Depth on the defensive line will help.
UConn "They're a good team... I know they've prepared for us, and we've done the same." Both teams will play hard and "we'l see who gets the 'W' at the end."
Martin has confidence in stopping the run against UConn. Getting to the ball, gap responsibility, more experience and depth on D-line and linebacking corps. GERG stresses minimum assignment - "getting in your gap and then playing football from there."
"As a defensive line we take a lot of pride in getting to the quarterback." Martin thinks they'll do a good job doing it this year. Not worried about the secondary: "They're gonna hold their own back there. They're going to do a good job with coverage, and we're gonna do our job with getting the rush."
"I'm definitely ready" for a big workload. BG played almost 700 plays last year, Martin only played slightly fewer, and he's used to a heavy workload. Patterson and Campbell will be good at backup. Ideal number of plays? Nose tackles don't usually play 70 plays a game. Martin is proud of his conditioning (thanks to Barwis) that will allow him to play so much.
Carvin Johnson is "a smart football player. He's always around the ball. He's a young guy, but he's a hard worker." He has "been getting interceptions, laying the wood on tackles." He doesn't say much, and wants to prove himself on the field. He's been impressive this camp. Like everyone on the defense, he has room to improve.
"I think they know that" the freshmen will play a big role on defense in the first game. Might need to calm them down a bit, because secondary players can't be quite as riled up as defensive linemen. "Just getting them relaxed, and getting them ready to play, and I think they'll do a good job."
The loudest crowd Martin has experienced at the Big House was Notre Dame last year, followed by Wisconsin the previous year.
Hasn't had the experience of going to a bowl game yet, team is hungry to do that. This game has a lot of excitement with the rededication, Brock, etc. The team is excited.
Leadership - "I'm not much of a talker, hoo-rah guy. I just go out there and play hard." Some of the seniors on defense - Mouton, Banks - pull guys together, and Martin has their backs.
It's a big week. Things change a lot in game week. "We all feel good as a whole." It's the third year, and they have a good grasp of the system. "We feel well-prepared, and ready to go."
"All three quarterbacks are great." Devin did a great job coming in and learning the offense. Other than how fast the balls come and where they come, it's all good. "I've developed timing and confidence in all three of them." Devin throws the fastest ball. No hand injuries from that yet.
The difference this camp is "I feel like I'm the oldest. And I have to step up and take that leadership role." The experienced guys have to step up and take leadership roles. "I had a great leader in Greg." Martavious, Stonum, and others have to be that for the young guys. "I just try to lead by example." In weight room, workouts, camp.
Contacts - "They're great. Did an eye test this summer, they wanted me to try out these new contacts." They help a lot, as he can see much clearer, and has an easier time focusing on the ball.
Stadium rededication - "I'm pretty sure it's probably gonna be a lot louder." The field is still 100x53.3, and "we just line up and play."
Stonum hasn't taken any big hits from Carvin Johnson. "Maybe not from Carvin, but Marvin... Luckily they haven't gotten any shots on me yet." "Carvin is like a ballhawk... Wherever the ball is, you're gonna find Carvin most of the time." He never gives up on a play, and gives his all on the fields.
Freshmen have all done a great job, especially defensive backs. With Troy going down, lots of guys trying to step in and prove they can fill his shoes. There's great competition in practice, which is improving the whole team.
Outside receivers not getting passes the last couple years could be attributed to getting used to the system. In Stonum's third year, he's worked hard in the offseason with the QBs. Used camp to prove the outside guys can be go-to and make big plays. We'll see a lot of that this year.
Notes from Coach Rod's Wednesday presser.
The QB battle is close. The coaches haven't been able to taper down who gets snaps. As long as they get better every day, you can be pleased with the progress. Everybody is too worried about who the starting QB is. The second team gets almost as many reps as the first team.
Any of the three are capable of starting right now, but he wants them to play at a high level. "If they're able to do that and execute the offense, then all three will play." Will keep QB choice quiet for competitive reasons. QBs will know Friday night (before game). Nobody else will know until kickoff at 3:36 Saturday.
No particular RB (or two) has stepped to the forefront. The position gets banged up in camp, which limits development. "We have some talent there, we'll be OK." The top 2-3 guys will play. Certain guys run certain plays better, so they'll get in the game for that play.
Fitzgerald Toussaint practiced yesterday, but not today. He's had a neck stinger, now his knee is sore. He'll be banged up a couple days, but might practice friday. Michael Shaw is still taking "the class," working hard at it. He's been spending half of his time practicing, and half of his time studying.
The offensive line is "not set as far as starters, but I think set as far as, you know who the 8-9-10 guys that are gonna be in the rotation will be." RR feels better about up front than the past couple years. He would like to play at least 8 offensive linemen (5 starters, backup C, G, T), depending on how they're performing and the tempo of the game. He would love to have two whole groups at line.
Improvement on defense has to come from several places. One guy can't replace Brandon Graham by himself. "The thing I probably feel the best about our defense is that we have a bigger pool of guys I think are going to be playing. That's going to allow us to have a little more depth, do a few more things defensively." If a couple guys (Mike Martin, Jonas Mouton, and JT Floyd in particular) have a big year, it'll offset some of the losses.
Will Campbell wasn't in great shape when camp started. He's been playing himself into shape. Mike Martin and Adam Patterson are at NG, "if he wants to play he's gotta compete." Rodriguez wants senior Sagesse, Banks, and Patterson, to have their best years. They're having good camps. "Of course you've got Mike Martin up front too who's had an outstanding camp. I think he can have a great year at noseguard for us."
Moundros may be the starter at middle linebacker. Right now he's taking a lot of reps. Mark has at least seen the field, which gives him experience (even if it's at a different position). He has intangibles. He needs to learn technique and system, but he was able to do that mostly in the spring. He's made very few mental errors for being new to the position.
There are some potential answers in the secondary. "Coming from freshman class. "It's kind of scary when you think about true freshmen playing in the secondary, but there's some talent there." They're progressing well now that summer class is over and they can focus on football. 4-5 true freshman DBs will play this year.
Cam Gordon - "He didn't play as well as he had played in any other practice in the scrimmage," but he's had a good camp and the staff feels good about him.
JT Floyd will start at corner on one side. Other corner might be Jame Rogers, "this is the best football he's played," or young guys. Have to keep it simple for the youngsters.
Nothing's new at kicker; it's inconsistent day-to-day. Most days have been encouraging - yesterday was not one of those days. They've been practicing on the new turf in the stadium. It's unlikely that different kickers will be used depending on distance of the kick.
Yesterday was a scrimmage. The last three quarters of practice, only players, officials, and Rodriguez were on the field. Did every special team and offense v. defense. "Glad we did it, but we've gotta do it again." They'll do it again friday, less intense, and maybe a little tomorrow. "With so many young guys, especially on defense playing, we've gotta try to get them used to what it's going to be like in a game where there aren't coaches standing behind them or on the side of them telling them what to do." It's a different atmosphere then practice, with signaling plays, etc.
Troy Woolfolk had surgery yesterday. "Everything went well with the surgery. Certainly it looks like he's lost for the season." No reason why he can't be 100% next year, and Rodriguez thinks he wants to come back for a 5th year. "It's his decision, of course, but Troy loves football."
Have a good grasp on what the team can do. "Certainly offensively, we have a pretty good idea of where our strengths are. And I think defensively too, even with the young guys, it probably takes them a little bit longer to determine a young guy because they have not done it in a game." Some guys plays better in a game, some play too nervous.
Started installing for UConn at the beginning of camp. "Starting really yesterday, and certainly today, and a lot tomorrow and Friday, will be a lot of UConn installation in all three phases."
Quotes from some of Michigan's players at Sunday's Media Day.
"I wish [Troy Woolfolk] a speedy recovery, man. That was like my best friend. I looked across there and that was my man." Woolfolk has encouraged Floyd to keep his head up, and work to make the secondary as good as possible.
Floyd hasn't had to step up his leadership with Woolfolk going out. He's always been a high-energy guy, and will continue to be that way.
Floyd is excited for the opportunity to be the team's top corner. "Personally, I've worked hard for a very long time. I put a lot of time in this summer to work to get better. I just ready for the opportunity to really show what I can do."
Floyd had never played corner until he got to Michigan (he was always a safety in high school). He's now had two years at the position, and knows what to expect and how to prepare.
Stonum's biggest improvement this off-season has been in ball skills. He was already running good routes, had good speed, and was recognizing coverages. He just needed to catch the ball when it showed up. Contact lenses have helped with that, as did working hard individually this summer.
Stonum tried to get a little bit bigger, because he takes a lot of hits with kickoff returns and receiver duty. The team worked hard this summer to get into shape.
The whole wide receiver crew has worked hard to show that they can be the #1 guy. The competition makes everyone better, and makes the team better.
Spending a couple days in jail this summer was a learning experience. It's in the past, and it's something Darryl can look back at, making sure something like it doesn't happen again. Darryl, the coaches, and his family talked about it together, and made the best out of a bad situation.
Darryl and Junior Hemingway take a leadership role among the wide receivers. They're trying to show the younger guys the ropes. "Everybody's a leader. If you're doing what you're supposed to do, and you're someone that your teammate can look at and be like 'he's doing the right thing, he's doing what he's supposed to do' then you're a leader."
"Last year, I thought I was just going to play a role in the defense. I had no idea I was going to start." He didn't find out until Friday before the first game.
On whether there's more pressure to win this season: "More pressure? Nawww. We're at Michigan. We've always got pressure." The team just needs to go out there and play their hardest.
One of the reasons Roundtree came to Michigan is that he loves the tradition and academics (subtle Purdue dig?).
Even when he wasn't a big contributor last year, Roundtree was practicing hard every day. When he finally got his chance, he showed everyone that he had been working hard. "Now that I am almost like the head of the offensive corps, I still work my tail off and still the same things I did last year when I wasn't starting are the same things I'm doing now."
At first, Smith was a little worried about how his knee would hold up in practice. Now, "I'm just going out there to compete and just make it better and better every day." He's now feeling comfortable, and there's no pain in his knee.
Smith was never worried that his knee would never be the same. His lateral quickness means a lot to his game.
"It was pretty tough just going out there and seeing them playing" this spring, when he was held out of practice.
Everybody looked at Smith's size and height coming out of high school as negatives. Michigan saw more though, in his passion for football.
Despite Smith's size, he's more than just a third-down back. He's been preparing to be an every-down guy. He's gotten bigger and worked on the mental game this summer.
Michael Cox and Michael Shaw
Cox: "We've got a real good relationship with Coach J [Fred Jackson], we just gotta do what he asks us to do, and he'll be happy with us."
Shaw: "[Jackson] definitely knows what he's talking about. No question about it. Everything he says, you've gotta listen to it." The coaches have to be brutally honest in their constructive criticism, because that's the only way you'll get better and win football games.
Cox: The different backs give defenses more to prepare for. They can change up in the game and exploit different weaknesses.
Shaw: "I'm not gonna try to run over linebackers, but if Cox wants to do that - look at him - he's definitely a good fit for the job." Having a variety of roles for the running backs makes it better, because you can bring in a fresh pair of legs with no dropoff.
Rogers started the spring game with the ones, because Troy had just gone down with a finger injury. When that happened (and when Troy injured his ankle a week ago), Rogers knew he had to step up.
"I'm just here to play. I'm here to do whatever the team needs. I just get out here and I try to work hard every day." He can't worry about depth chart positions.
Rogers came in as a receiver, but told the coaches he was willing to switch positions to help the team as soon as he arrived in Ann Arbor. He's bounced around since.
Rogers is trying to prepare the young guys, and be a leader. Now that Woolfolk is out, he''ll have to step it up even further.
Woolfolk is a loose leader, and it helps calm down the players so they don't get too serious. Rogers's leadership style might not be the same.
After Rich Rodriguez spoke to the assembled media on Sunday, I got a chance to talk to some of Michigan's assistants. I didn't talk to Calvin Magee or Greg Robinson because we've already heard from them in the past couple weeks, and I didn't get a chance to talk to Greg Frey or Adam Braithwaite.
Each of the three quarterbacks brings something different to the table. Tate's experience of starting 12 games is a significant factor, but the coaches need to make sure he stays disciplined. Denard is the most explosive of the three quarterbacks. As for passing, "he's worked on it, I don't want to say refined." He deserves a lot of credit for putting in the effort, and "he's picked up the offense a lot more than what he had last year." Gardner is a superb athlete who is getting better every day.
The competition is helping the team, because each quarterback has to work hard every rep or risk being replaced.
Though Tate acknowledged slacking a bit this summer, "He didn't come in bad shape. He passed all his conditioning tests." He's been willing to put in the work in practice so far: "I've been pleased with him this camp."
Denard has a much better idea of the offensive scheme and what the coaches are trying to accomplish. "You don't cloud your mind and slow up your feet, and that's what he was doing last year." Over-thinking contributed to part of his problems last year.
Denard does a lot of work in technique drills, but he's not consistent yet. The coaches work on tightening his mechanics from weight transfer to follow-through, which is the sort of stuff a lot of high school kids don't learn. He came in as an athlete trying to play quarterback, and the coaches are trying to turn him into a quarterback who's athletic. He's been willing to put in the work.
Denard's ability to pass will open up defenses, allowing him to rush for more than the 5.1 yards/carry he got last year. "Not just the passing, but I've opened up the playbook a little more to him. We knew what we were gonna do with him. I think defenses knew what was coming." He has the potential to score 4 out of every 10 times he touches the ball due to how explosive he is.
Both quarterbacks at reading the defensive end on the option play. They're prepared to make the read against all sorts of different defenses, so they'll be familiar with everything they face.
"I don't know yet" if Denard will be the starter. The coaches are repping all three quarterbacks while the media focuses on Denard.
Tate came in a little more polished out of high school. Denard and Devin have needed more work on their throwing mechanics out of high school. Both must have worked hard individually this summer to be where they are today.
The different skill sets among the quarterbacks all fit in with what the offensive staff wants to do. They don't want a guy to just stand there. All three quarterbacks have the necessary mobility.
(Short but sweet)
On Stephen Hopkins: "Before he's done here, he'll be another Chris Perry. Feet, shallow cuts, power. I mean, I don't know if Chris ever weighed 230 or not."
4-5 backs will get serious playing time this year.
"They're working extremely hard and doing well." Dews is a little more anxious to see how his guys can do compared to the past, because now there are people with three years in the system. They know the expectations of them.
Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum have been in the system since they were freshmen, and now they're able to help be leaders for the younger guys, because they've been there before.
As far as moving guys to the other side of the ball goes, Dews says "I don't worry about losing anybody if it's going to make our team better." It happens every year in college football, and if it's good for the team, "whatever's going to help us win and compete for BCS bowl games, I'm all for it."
Kelvin Grady has matured quite a bit. He's catching the ball well this camp. He looks a little bigger than last year, and is playing with more confidence. He is not one of the slot receivers who have gotten time on the outside.
Darryl Stonum "did come back in great shape. He's been kind of a piston. He's been out there rolling." Getting contacts has helped him catch better. He really started coming on in the spring, when he realized the opportunity he would have to be a starter. Wearing a cast on one arm helped train him to always catch with his hands. He understands the offense, but needs to refine his technique, and he's willing to do that. He's gorwn up and learned from his past mistakes.
Junior Hemingway has had a pretty good camp. "Junior has shown flashes for a couple years now. Obviously his biggest issue has been being on the field. Obviously when he's healthy and he's playing, he certainly can help us."
On Ryan Van Bergen - Works hard, always around the ball, "he's a great student of the game." He's bigger and stronger than last season.
Pass Rush with the three-man front is tough to evaluate right now. The Michigan offense doesn't have much drop-back passing, so they're hard to evaluate against. "It won't always just be three men rushing."
Craig Roh might be one of the guys adding pressure (from linebackers). GERG will put together some different packages to mix up pressure.
The freshmen have just finished school, and will be able to focus on football now. They're all doing well so far. Tall noted that there are five freshmen in his position group - Jibreel Black, Terry Talbott (Tall used to confuse the Talbotts' first names on recruiting visits), Richard Ash, Kenny Wilkins, and preferred walkon Chris Eddins.
Kenny Wilkins is working at defensive end. "He's pretty good-sized. He's probably up somewhere around 6-4, 270... He's got good size for a young player."
Tall wishes he could have picked a different number for Jibreel Black, so he wouldn't be compared to Brandon Graham so much. "55 was a very special player, and you don't want to put that on anybody."
Troy Woolfolk "was in great shape, he was having a great camp, you hate it for him." If there's any good to come out of his injury, it's that he gets to come back next year. It makes you sick to see a kid that's worked so hard go down.
"You know we can't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves because nobody else is going to feel sorry for us."
All the freshmen are playing hard. At free safety, Carvin Johnson is "doing a great job and has great ball skills." Terrence Talbott has been a pleasant surprise, and Cullen Christian has been practicing at both corner positions. All of them need to keep growing, and work on their tackling.
James Rogers has been playing well, but the second starting corner position is still up for grabs. There are still two weeks to prepare the guys to play.
The first of three posts from yesterday's Media Day. Tomorrow: The assistant coaches.
Austin White is the only player that has left the roster in the past few days. For Rodriguez's full comments on White, see yesterday's post.
QB. Quarterback rotation (if it happens) is by feel, not a scripted thing. They're getting closer to finding two guys to win with. Won't be there at every position, but quarterback will have that. The three quarterbacks are responding well to the ongoing competition. The race won't be settled within the next couple days.
"Rod Smith has done - particularly with Devin and Denard - getting some of the throwing stuff down and decision-making down in the pass game. We've really simplified things to help in that regard."
Denard's throwing mechanics are better, and his knowledge of where to go with the ball is better. "It's a natural maturation with any quarterback, understanding where to go with the ball, where your eyes are at, particularly in the passing game."
In this offense, those factors are important in the run game as well. Rodriguez is pleased with Gardner's progress. He's never played before, but he's talented and is battling for job.
RB. Running backs will be a committee and there's not one guy separating. "I see us having a situation where there's 2, 3, maybe even 4 guys that emerge a little bit. That's not a bad situation to get in." It's hard to get them all reps, for comfort with QBs. Three or four guys will play tailback in the first game.
Vincent Smith has not been tentative with his knee except the first couple practices back. "He's 100%. He's ready to go."
Stephen Hopkins has progressed really well. He's a big physical guy. Initially, the coaches thought he would redshirt, but he'll probably play this fall because the team needs a big back in some situations.
OL. The offensive line is much improved over last couple years. Two years ago, Schilling was only guy with any game experience. "Not quite as talented 1s and 2s deep-wise as we would like to be... We'll have 7-8 guys that we feel comfortable with playing." Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury can back up at any interior position. More guys are ready than the last two years. Pretty close to what we want there. Experienced starters backed up by talented, but inexperienced guys.
Upperclassmen Huyge and Dorrestein are battling to keep the offensive tackle spots. "The two young tackles Schofield and Lewan have been pretty solid. They're bigger; They're stronger." The competition has been pretty good, Perry and Mark have responded to the challenge, and are having their best camp in the past three years.
DL. Don't want to compare people to Brandon Graham, because he's a once-in-a-lifetime player. "We don't have a guy that's 'BG-ready' to play right now, but who does?" Several guys can create pressure, including Roh. Mike Martin can create pressure from his position. The unit as a whole has to replace Graham.
Davion Rogers had a "clearinghouse thing," and just got into the mix. [Ed: probably explains why he's so skinny. He's a lock to redshirt anyway.] Jibreel Black is the frosh lineman with greatest chance to play this year. He's not ready to start, but he will provide some depth as long as he continue to progress. "He's a very active guy. He's got great get-off. He wears #55, and he looks a little bit like BG at times, but he's not quite that strong and explosive." He has natural athletic ability, and Rodriguez is pleased with his progress.
Craig Roh played at 225 last year, and he's closer to 240 or 245. "He's running just as well if not better." The added weight and experience show.
LB. "Obi [Ezeh] has really responded to the challenge." He can play all three linebacker positions, and played two of them yesterday. Great job being a leader - like whole senior class. He's a good player and wants to prove himself in his final year. He's not geting hung up on starters, worrying about how to help the team win.
JB Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens have played a bit, lots of special teams. They've had good camps. JB knows the defense very well and can play a few different positions. Demens has also had a solid camp. More linebackers will play. Ezeh, Moundros, and Mouton (veterans) will be the biggest key. Usually guys have their best season as seniors. "If every one of our seniors has our best year, particularly defensively... we'll be OK."
Hybrid. Jordan Kovacs earned a starting spot last year. "He's taken some challenges and maintained that position so far." Just a great story. He's in better shape now, and his experience shows up. "He's gonna be a huge factor for our defense."
Josh Furman has done well. He could play OLB/S position, or grow into a WILL/Samm linebacker. Will have a great career. One of the fastest freshmen, not sure if he has a shot to play this year. Physically he has a chance to play this year, the coaches need to evaluate him mentally.
DB. Cameron Gordon has more to learn, but Rodriguez says "we're looking for a big year from him." He's very physical, but hasn't played on the big stage yet.
A couple veterans will step in at corner after Woolfolk's injury, James Rogers has had a good camp. Freshmen are competing at that position. It's a young secondary (and would have been even with Troy), a couple guys will move back and forth. "Our defensive coaches have a pretty good plan to be able to compensate for that." All freshman corners are getting lots of reps because of the situation in the secondary. They missed meetings the first week of camp because of the Bridge Program, but now they have a couple weeks to focus solely on football.
Marvin Robinson and a few other frosh will probably not redshirt. "More than you'd like at this point." All three corners will probably play - Cullen Christian, Terrence Talbott, and Courtney Avery. Carvin Johnson and Ray Vinopal have a chance to play at safety. This week is most critical between summer school and fall school.
Carvin Johnson has played a little bit at corner, along with Teric Jones. After watching film from Saturday and Wednesday scrimmages, they'll determine the 4-5 corners that have to be ready for the first game.
There's no word on the timeframe for Woolfolk's injury until after he can have surgery. He will be able to play again at some point. "Troy's as tough an individual as you'll ever be able to find, so he'll bounce back from it."
Special Teams. Kicking and punting are a concern because there's no game experience. Feel better now than two weeks ago. Broekhuizen and Gibbons are both doing well on kickoffs, and getting more consistent on their field goals. "Our freshman punter is a real talent - Will Hagerup - and I mean a real talent. He's had some days where he's kicked and I'm "wow look at this.'"
The scrimmage went well and nobody got hurt. "I saw some good and bad on both sides." Offensive execution was decent with wet ball. Defense didn't tackle too well. There were a couple turnovers, for first time in a few days. "Some guys stood out a little bit, and other guys still have a ways to go before they can be ready to play for us."
QB play was pretty solid. Receiver play was good, especially slots with Roundtree, Grady and Gallow having good days.. Shaw had a good day, Cox and Smith each had a few good runs. The offensive line was good, which the coaches expect from them now.
Mike Martin was limited because the coaches already know what he can do. He been the team's most consistent defensive player since camp started. Molk scrimmaged yesterday a little bit. "We didn't have him go the whole time for precautionary reasons, but he got a few good series in and did pretty well." Vincent Smith was able to go full bore.
There will be another (smalller) scrimmage Wednesday. After that, the projected two-deep and travel squad will be mostly settled. At a lot of positions, guys are competing to be #2 on the depth chart.
"It's not a true 3-3-5." As much scheme remains from last year as there is new stuff. They're keeping it simpler because of youth and the need to play a little faster. "From a mental standpoiont, there were a few mistakes yesterday's scrimmage," but they've done a good job with the mental game through camp. They've had a lot to digest so far, and the next couple weeks will be easier because there isn't as much installation.
Pleased with the team's attitude and work ethic the last two weeks. Though it's a small senior class, they've done a great job with leadership over the summer and the last couple weeks. Team is hungry, anxious to prove themselves.
Notice in practice that guys have been there through a couple camps, and know practice routine. Moving around a little quicker. People who have come in from the outside notice how much quicker guys are moving in certain situations.
The team has some fundamental work to do. It's tough, because you can't tackle every day in camp, or guys will get hurt. "Other than yesterday, I thought they did pretty well tackling in camp."
Team strengths are offensive skill players, experience along the offensive front, and attitude and team speed on defense. "We're not as deep experience-wise, so probably my biggest concern is experience defensively." The team feels a sense of urgency.
For the new captain method, we selected Moundros and Schilling, and will select two more at the end of the season. Mark and Steve have done well, other seniors are excited for the opportiunity to prove themselves and be game captains and maybe year-end captains.
Same pressure to succeed as every year. "Any time a player or coach says 'well I have nothing left to prove,' he'll never get any better."
Brock leading team out will be pretty emotional. Rodriguez spent time with Mrs. Mealer yesterday. Brock's progress and work ethic are amazing, and he's dedicated his life to proving he can walk. To do that in front of our fans and national tv will be emotional. It will be (and has been) an inspiration for the whole team.
Connecticut - Know them well, played them a few years. They get a lot of respect for the past couple years. Most of a good team from last year is coming back. They'll come downhill and make you beat them. Some players have watched film on them, and the whole group will start watching more film this week.
Bullets from Rich Rod's post-practice press conference today.
Dealing With Troy Woolfolk's Injury
Troy is in great shape, and he was playing well. They don't know how long Woolfolk fill be out, "I think we're still waiting on some medical results... I'm confident we've got guys to step in."
Initially, everybody's concerned for their teammate. Once they know he's ok, they're able to bounce back. Everybody's down, but "once they see him getting around, they'll bounce back."
"We'll move guys around in the secondary" to compensate for Woolfolk's injury. Some safeties had already moved to corner, but there may be some more. "With our schemes, our free safeties and our corners are in the same meeting room, so I think they probably know each other's position anyway." Asked if any WRs would move to DB: "No. Strictly defensive guys." All the young guys at DB have a chance, and now they have a sense of urgency to prepare.
Other than Woolfolk, they only have "typical camp injuries" - guys missing a practice or two because they're banged up.
"I wish we had a better way to measure." Rodriguez wishes there was an inter-squad scrimmage, because now there's no way to test yourself against somebody else. Division 1-A is the only level of football without scrimmages.
RR will know after tomorrow's practice who will miss saturday scrimmage due to injury.
In the scrimmage, they're looking for overall competition. Coaches won't be on the field for the scrimmage. Players will have to see the signs from the sidelines, which is new for the freshmen. They'll scrimmage "at least most of" the special teams Saturday. It will be an opportunity to let the player get used to the new turf.
No firm first and second teams on either side of the ball. The scrimmage on Saturday will be mixed across groups. QBs won't be live in the scrimmage.
After the scrimmage Saturday, they'll have another, smaller one midweek next week. After that, the coaches will pretty much know who's on the two-deep, who's on the travel squad, etc. They'll only run practice with two groups getting the majority of the reps at that point.
At QB, Rodriguez always had at least two guys get almost the same number of reps - "even when I've had a clear-cut starter". All three guys are getting equal reps. That'll taper down after the scrimmage.
QBs probably won't be live all camp. As long as they are practicing with good fundamentals, and taking care of the ball, they won't go live.
Tate - He's had a pretty good camp. He's really gotten better. He's been challenged, so far he's responded well. He's a little bigger and stronger. Tate has worked. Some of the guys that have been challenged - guys who have ability and need it. Tate and "a couple other guys" have responded to the challenge. When they know there's competition, they're more motivated.
All three guys at QB are getting better. It's possible that Devin could win the job. Is it likely he could win the job? "Possible? Likely? Possible's a better word." He came in behind because of experience, but he's competing to win it.
There's an ongoing battle at running back. The top guy won't be settled, they're hoping for two or three guys ready for the UConn game.
Jon Bills has been with the team through camp, serving as a student assistant coach. His halo should be coming off in the next few days.
The competition at tackle is going well. "I've really been pleased with Perry Dorrestein, and Mark Huyge, they're veterans. They've come back and played pretty well. And the two young guys, Taylor Lewan and Mike Schofield are competing right there with them."
Craig Roh "is moving around well; he's in good shape... He's carrying the extra weight pretty well."
Mark Moundros is in contention for a starting linebacker spot. Obi Ezeh, Kenny Demens, JB Fitzgerald, Kevin Leach, and Moundros can all play multiple LB positions. Rodriguez has "really been pleased" with Obi Ezeh. Jonas Mouton has been a little banged up. "They're in really good shape."
Kickers have done better, and been pretty good last two days. Will Hagerup has punted well, as has Seth Broekhuizen. Justin Meram (the soccer player) says he can throw it, too. Rodriguez isn't excited to find out.
Leadership And Wings
"Our senior class is doing a great job with leadership." The team was shown a video the other day with the history of Michigan's program, then the seniors presented some team goals. Seniors came up with the goals, and Rodriguez gave a few tips to help them achieve those goals. The goals are pretty common, there are higher expectations at Michigan, and everyone should start the year competing for a championship. "We've got ambitious guys, and they're working toward that end."
It's critical for seniors to take a leadership role. Off the field, in the locker room, around campus, etc. "When a senior's getting on you about something, don't take it personal." They're doing it for your own good and the team's good. Fear of offending someone sometimes makes seniors afraid to speak out.
We've had good leadership each of the past couple years. Guys didn't really know what coaches wanted the first year. Last year's guys were good leaders (Zoltan, Brandon Graham), but they might not have been as vocal all the time.
Have to push to practice at a championship level during camp. The team has a good attitude. There are moments when practice goes well, at other times the team is ragged. The afternoon practices of two-a-days are when guys are really tired. Guys know when they're not practicing at a high level.
Does Tate have his wings back? "Yes, they got it back today. Yes they did. There's the story for you." Why now? "We wanted to see some consistency a few days in a row." This was the first time he's done something like this.
Most encouraged that the players like to work. Nobody's late for practice or meetings, everybody's attentive. "I Love their attitude, and I love their work ethic, and that's the start."
Ball security - really good so far. A couple interceptions, tipped passes or bad decisions, but there hasn't been a fumble in the past couple days. Throwing it well, good at taking care of the ball.
In the past, the coaches have tried to simplify the offense, has that changed this year? Haven't yet put more in this year. Installation really slowed down this week. We'll have to do more to get ready for UConn.
Summer school is mostly over, though a couple guys might be taking a final tomorrow. Freshmen finished, which is nice because school has been making them miss meetings. Rodriguez is anxious to see how they can progress when football is their only focus.
Grades will come out in a week or so, and we'll know the eligibility status of upperclassmen then (obvious Shaw leading question).
Rodriguez has certain things he puts on lists to get done, and they're right on track to meet those goals. "We've really made progress. I think we're right on track." The scrimmage will tell a lot about where they are.
Rodriguez got one of the first copies of Jon Falk's new book. He hasn't read the whole thing yet. "He's got a lot of stories to tell, and he's an icon, and everybody loves big Jon."