"It's a lot easier being a drug dealer than an AAU coach" - this guy. Tell me something I don't know. I mean, don't think but have never tried either.
Oh herro prease. I'm back for spring practice. There will be two or three pressers every week leading up to the spring game, and I will be transcribing all of them. Huzzah!
News bullets and other important things:
- Ricky Barnum is practicing at center.
- Rocko Khoury, Terrence Robinson, Mike Cox, and George Morales are all graduating this spring and will not return for the 2012 season
- Justice Hayes is staying at running back but will be considered for kickoff return duties.
- The spring game will be a scrimmage due to lack of bodies on offensive and defensive line.
On wearing pants today: “I put them on just for you guys.”
“First, this is off-topic a little bit, but we had severe weather yesterday and the damage and all that was out there in Dexter, and I don’t know too many other places -- I think that was the worst hit, but our thoughts and prayers are with those folks who went through that. We had our guys here for training table and when the campus alert went out they were all in the locker room and it was one of those situations. Our thoughts and prayers really go out to those people who were affected by it.
“We also yesterday had our pro day, which is a part of your program that the guys who have given so much, the opportunity, the dream they may have about continuing after they get a great degree from Michigan and continuing to play the game of football. I thought they represented Michigan well, and we’re proud of them for that.
“As far as this team, Team 133, I think we have a lot of questions. I know I do from the perspective of who’s going to emerge as the leaders, who’s going to have the toughness to lead and the sacrifice to lead. I think we’ve had a good winter. You can see some guys developing, you can see some guys really working hard, but I think you put the pads on, spring football, those things, you learn a little bit more about your football team. Starting tomorrow morning we get to do that. It’s going to be fun because you get to wear shorts again, get out on the field … it’s going to be good.
"When you look at where we’re at, there’s some obvious holes that we need to fill from the standpoint of our defensive line with the three seniors graduating at the position who played a lot of snaps for us a year ago. When you look at our offensive line there’s some good competition, but at the same time we’ve got to see improvement from young guys like Chris Bryant. He’s done a good job with the weight room and that part of it, but how he continues and matures. And Ricky Barnum, we’re going to play him at center to start with and see where he ends up there. Elliott Mealer getting an opportunity at the guard position, and Schofield will go out to right tackle, and obviously Taylor will obviously be the left tackle. Really for us we were very fortunate from an injury (standpoint) on both sides nad both fronts when you look at the guys up front defensively who stayed relatively healthy until the bowl practices and the six guys who were really responsible for the front. Those were the obvious places. Obviously Junior, Odoms, and Kelvin Grady. There’s a rotation there, and Junior obviously having most [contribution] statistically and all those things. There’s heavy competition and there will be competition.
"That’s probably the longest I’ve ever spoke.”
On your defensive line, how big of a spring is this for Will Campbell?
“I think it’s big, but I think he’s made great progress [in] what he’s done from a physical standpoint how he looks and all those things. I think his leadership and that part of it, with Quinton Washington, Richard Ash, when you start looking at that nose position, the ability for Will to slide from the 3-technique to the nose position is important.”
What’s the biggest issue with moving a guy like Ricky from guard to center?
“I think number one, snapping the football is always a little different. Now we did quite a bit with Rick when he got back healthy last year, playing both. I think Darrell and Al both had that mindset, if we did get beat up somewhere else where we had to rotate those guys -- at the end of the day the best five guys have to play, however that rotation works out. But I think snapping the ball, the shot gun snaps, you’d like to see centers be able to snap and step at the same time.”
Is the reason you’re moving Ricky to center because you’re not confident in guys like Rocko Khoury or Jack Miller?
“Well …” (ominous pause) “… I think there’s some unknowns there. I think that’s the best way to put it.”
How has Craig Roh embraced the move to strongside and Jibreel Black with the move inside?
“I think they’ve really embraced it. I know when we had the conversation and Greg met with Craig after we discussed it staff-wise. It was like, okay. I get to eat a little more. If someone said that to me I’d be happy. He really has embraced it. They’ve done some senior drill work and all that where all those guys -- him and Jibreel both are really excited about it.”
Do you expect there to be greater competition on the offensive and defensive lines since a lot of positions are up for grabs?
“I think so. I think these guys have learned to compete more and more as far as what our perception of competition is and our expectation of competition. I think they understand what’s at stake and I think they also understand that September 1st is going to be here before we know it.”
Borges said on the radio that he wished he would have spent more time using the spread early on in the season before transitioning to the pro-style. Is there an opportunity to spend more time in the spread now?
“I think the more we get comfortable in this scheme, you may see a little more, but for us, I think Al when he’s talking about that, [he meant] maybe we could have had a little more success, but we were pretty good early. I think you could because of some things that we’ve looked at.”
How have the three early enrollees progressed through the winter?
“I think they’ve had a really great winter. The first thing you always look at is how they adjust from being away from home, mom not cooking, mom not doing your laundry. I think classes, and that responsibility -- I think Joe and Kaleb and Jarrod have all really done a good job. Talking to coach Wellman in the weight room and how their work ethic is, I think all three of them have done a tremendous job.
Have any of the three stood out in any way?
“I think they all have maybe not exceeded but have adjusted well.”
“Yeah, we’ve got some guys … George Morales is going to graduate. Rocko’s going to graduate. Terrence Robinson will graduate, and Mike Cox is graduating. I think that’s it.”
Is that this spring?
“Yeah. A couple of them have like six hours in the summer, because this is the winter quarter.”
So they will not be back in 2012?
“Hmm mm. (No.)”
Ws that their decision?
“I think it’s their decision.”
Could they take advantage of the post graduation transfer rule?
“Mm hmm. (Yes.)”
What do you expect out of Roy this season? Who do you have hope for at the receiver position to step up?
“I think the first guy you look at is always Roy. I think that Jeremy Gallon is a guy who has shown tremendous ability. You look at his year and he was pretty successful. You look at Jeremy Jackson and his development and his growth. Dileo is a really valuable guy to our team. Jerald Robinson is a guy -- he was down most of the year with us. He can be pretty productive. Joe Reynolds is a guy who’s worked awfully hard.”
What’s different going into the second spring here vs. a year ago?
“For us, I don’t know if you look at it a whole lot differently. I mean you’re always trying to meet expectations of competitiveness, toughness, leadership, development, discipline, and all those things. At the same time it’s probably a little -- I never want to say the word easier -- but they do know what certain terms mean now from an offensive schematic or defensive schematic in how we coach or how we call things.”
What’s the next step in leadership that you want to see Denard take?
“He’s done a really good job of leading this winter. He’s done a good job when you look at -- he’s always been an unselfish player, so that’s always something that his teammates have seen. But he’s always taken it and been a little more … you hear him a little more I guess. Holding guys accountable a little more.”
From a passing standpoint, how big is going back to the fundamentals and footwork?
“There’s no question. That’s an everyday thing, and that’s an everyday thing for every position. The fundamentals and techniques. Our guys do a lot of seven-on-seven in the offseason. Continually they work drills at every position, so that’s huge.”
Last year the defensive line set the tone for the defense. Do you set that kind of expectations for this group?
“No question about it. Your expectations don’t go down. They better increase because the bar is always going to be set high here at Michigan and should be. Those expectations are for the position, not the person who plays the position.”
How does their lack of experience change the way you approach that this season?
“It doesn’t. Maybe you are a little more patient when they don’t do it exactly like we want them to, so that might be part of it, but it really doesn’t.”
Do you anticipate growing pains with that group? What’s the kind of thing that will drive you crazy during spring practice?
“A guy not playing with toughness and a guy not running to the football. That will drive me crazy.”
How good do you feel about your back seven? All of them are returning.
“I think as a whole, as a unit, I feel good -- I feel good about the kids themselves. As a unit that’s going to play at the level we need to play, I don’t feel very good because we didn’t play as well as we needed to a year ago. I’m not a huge statistic guy, but you go in and you look at opportunities that we missed either in passes broken up or interceptions on that end or supporting the end, getting off a block and doing that, and you’re looking at your linebackers a little bit -- your inside guys, are they missing tackles or making tackles? I’ve always been from the school that we’re going to be really critical, so I like the guys who we have. I like the guys who are coming in. I think we’ll have great competition by the time September 1st gets here. That part of it’s good, and I like that. I like having guys how have had some experience. Now where can they take the next step with the fundamentals and schematically of what we’re trying to do so that we don’t get beaten by Michigan State or we don’t get beaten by Iowa or we don’t give up this many points against somebody.”
With the attrition, you seem to be pretty low in terms of numbers.
“Well we’ve been low in numbers for a while, especially at the offensive line position from a scholarship standpoint. I think last year we had eight guys. Usuaully that number is 14 to 16. From a defensive line standpoint, if you’re going to have a four-man front, you better have 14 to 16 scholarship guys. We weren’t even close.”
Are you happy about how 2013 recruiting is going?
“Well number one, this is not an exact science and you don’t really know what you get until they get here because this is a hard game to play and hard to be championship teams and play. I think our coaches have worked extremely hard. I think they do a tremendous job evaluating and we’ll see. That’s why there’s a signing date. First Wednesday in February. But we’ll see. We have a long way to go.”
Punting struggles with Will Hagerup?
“The punting situation is one that will be competitive. I think both guys are very capable. I think the consistency we need to have by whoever that guy is is going to be an important part.”
How do you see the running back situation shaping up since Fitz locked down the starting position last season?
“Well he’s going to compete. He’s going to compete there. I think I’ve said this since day one. There’s nothing sacred. There’s no position that’s given an entitlement. He ended the year doing a nice job for us. You have to love the kid -- I do -- because of his competitiveness. I think he grew up a lot during the course of the year with whatthe expectiations are for a Michigan back. But Thomas Rawls and Vince Smith and Hayes, you know, there’s guys there. He can’t have a bad day.”
You mentioned Justice Hayes. Are you keeping him at running back or moving him to another position?
“No, he’s a back. We’ll see how he transpires. The good thing about him, he does have that talent where he can go out and catch the ball and he’s got great explosion. Kickoff returns -- he’d be a guy we want to look at because he’s got a gear to him that’s a little different.”
Spring game format?
“It’ll probably be a lot like last year. We’d love to have a true spring game, there’s no doubt about it. I said some numbers earlier about your most physical two positions on your team, and our numbers aren’t where they need to be.”
Are you taking walk-ons this spring?
“We’ll wait more until the fall.”
Guest post by Craig Ross.
I talked to Coach Darrell Funk for a bit before his three sessions (all on the inside zone game) and asked him about his impressions re: the defense last spring. He said, “I could feel it in the spring that the defense would be good. Coach Mattison was doing little things that drove us crazy.” The coach indicated that he thought his offense would be decent, so he knew that Mattison had a chance to show a lot more than the defense had in 2010. Indeed, Coach Funk stated he had been pretty certain of his assessment.
Funk is a very engaging guy. Like a few other coaches I have talked to (Mark Smith on the current staff, Rod Smith, Scot Loeffler and Mike DeBord on prior staffs) he considers it a priority that the listener understands what he is getting at. And, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the listener is a coach, a wanna-be coach, or just some schmo off the street (me, for example). He is a teacher, first, and it shows. At the close of his last session (he was three hours in) I bugged him (well, Brian goaded me; his fault) about the offside’s guard first step into the A gap (some call this a “bucket” step, a term Funk doesn’t prefer—he likes to say the OL is “giving ground to gain leverage”), and he was pleased that I asked him, demonstrating the technique to make sure I understood the point.
He started his first session saying that he could talk “for two full days” on the inside zone, if anyone was willing to listen. When Brian joined me for session 3, (he had spent sessions 1 and 2 with Coach Mattison) he (kinda) groused about not having the background to learn the “minutia” of these blocking techniques. But after building upon the first two sessions, I could have easily have listened to a few more. Not that I can swear that I was getting more than the various tips of isolated icebergs. And, probably I have some of it twisted around. But, my notes from the first session were close to pristine, before my energy waned.
Here are Coach Funk’s basic principles from the first session [the philosophy of the Inside Zone] with the caveat that I am just an ordinary fan. [Though Funk said, “If you just get a tidbit out of this I will be happy.”] Jargon is always tough for the non-coach but I think I have most of this “right.”
When zoning, Funk and Borges are seeking “hard double teams” at the line of scrimmage. Even though it is zone, they still want physical, hard downhill combo blocks.
The hard double team at the LOS is more important than getting one of the double team blockers to the second level, though, clearly, that’s the idea. But, between late on the second level and not getting hard double team blocks at the LOS, Funk chooses “be late.”
He doesn’t want the offensive line blocking “rules” to vary. He prefers that there not be a lot of exceptions to blocking assignments; it is best if the OL have a few rules, and not a lot of exceptions. Practice time is limited, you can only learn so much. [I have heard coaches say this over and over. Get good at what you do.]
Funk wants the offensive line and the RB to work for “squareness” with their shoulders. He thinks the shoulder angles of the OL and RB should match, as much as is possible. He stressed this a couple of times so I assume this is a key point for him.
He says if your RBs are running with square shoulders and “downhill” the back has a greater opportunity to take advantage of cut backs. He prefers that the RB press the gap and stay square, implying less bounce to the outside and, when there, the opportunity to find a lane (a cut back) when the defense has over-pursued. [I found this very interesting, not something I had heard before, especially the “match” between RBs and OL.]
When they are running zone with “number 16,” they often have a read to the backside (but not always). The key for Coach Hoke “and I have heard him say this a hundred times” is that he wants the back to “press the A gap until he can’t.” Hoke stresses simplicity.
Targeting. Who is going to combo what DL and to what backer? The Coach says the guards never say/call anything but the Center (Tackles? They may communicate with guards on the 30 or Bear fronts) is responsible for making “exception” calls. In the UM offense the exceptions are (primarily) a “30 front” (odd front with a NT right over the center) or a Bear defense. Otherwise, they have primary rules to determine who is doubling and who the target LB is. My assumption is that an OL blocks a lineman if he is covered. If not covered he doubles to the next linemen to his play side. Depending upon the movement of the DL, one blocker releases and looks to the second level, the targeted LB.
OL Splits. The basics are that center to guard is about 2 feet. Guard to tackle, about three feet. But he isn’t dogmatic about this or with stance, so long as the lineman isn’t tipping run or pass.
Landmarks. Doesn’t like angles. He wants each OL to work from “his backside eye to the play side number.” He feels this gets back to principle #1, hard doubles at the LOS. And then work to square, finishing North. “Stay low, don’t stand up.” [As he shows tape in subsequent sessions, he critiques OL play primarily looking to footwork, working to square.] So, let’s say the backside guard has a DL over him. The landmark is still BSE/PSN. He wants the OL to work a line of his backside eye to the DL’s play side shoulder, thus protecting the backside A gap. In the subsequent sessions, when reviewing tape, I would say these are the keys for Funk.
Footwork. “First step, get out of your footprint.” [And gain ground.] The second step is the most important, has got to “get into the ground.” Funk makes the second step as the most important coaching point. [He provides examples.]
Get out of your footprint, “get into the ground with your second step,” work backside eye to play side number, work to square, finish north. This is the homily.
Oh yeah, “don’t stand up.” Funk says he has one, young promising OG who “will get there” as soon as he stops standing up.
Two small things that cropped up in his presentation that I found interesting. First, Funk’s theme that there just isn’t enough time to teach/practice, so getting good at a couple of things is better than doing a lot of stuff not very well. I have heard this from coaches a lot.
Second, and this wasn’t that explicit but it was clearly there, was that Al Borges isn’t a huge fan of zone schemes. He would prefer to be in a man or gap system. I think Funk can go either way, and might even lean to zone constructs, but Borges isn’t convinced. Whether or not this is a tea leaf for the future I don’t know. Coach Funk seemed to indicate that it would take him a couple of years to get his zone scheme in sync (a bit different that RR’s scheme). So, we get the zone into gear next year and then we transition when Denard graduates? Or not? Next time I get the opportunity, I will ask.
In sessions two and three there was a lot of video demonstration and refinement of the basics outlined in session 1—ergo Brian’s comment. In the second session there was a lot of talk about defenders “spiking,” specifically “spiking down.” That’s when a defender attacks a gap from (say) outside of the right guard, looping back into the A gap. Funk talked about the techniques for protecting the A gaps, which were, in fact, variations of the BSE/PSN theme, but with an OL always taking a “bucket” step to the protect the gap to his play side, even if a short jab step and if the OL was “covered.”
So I hit up a Glazier Clinic last week. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about actually talking about this stuff since the atmosphere in the room was not at all similar to press conferences in which carefully evaluated non-statements are provided. For instance, at one point Greg Mattison said that "I've never seen such awful technique" than that of the defensive line upon his arrival.
Mattison didn't say anything offensive, but he was very blunt. If he knew someone would be posting about it on the internet he might not have spoken like that, which means I probably shouldn't be in the room. But being in the room was exceedingly useful for me as I try to figure out what people are supposed to be doing on the field. So here's a mostly paraphrased recap that I don't think anyone could possibly get mad at.
I also listened to an hour of Funk after Mattison was done; having missed two hours of table-setting and lingo I had a hard time grabbing anything that I could relate to you. FWIW, Funk's presentation was three hours of inside zone minutiae—I don't think we're dumping zone any time soon. Craig Ross took in the whole thing and provided a few notes that I'll post Friday.
Mattison. Very personable, obviously a veteran of the clinic circuit. At points reminded me of a folk singer in one and only one very specific way: after explaining this formation or this coverage or this defense, he would fire off some zingers, get everyone to laugh, and then continue with business. I can see why he's regarded as a great recruiter.
His interest in teaching was also clear. Occasionally it felt like it was a college class as Mattison asked the room what player X would be doing in a particular situation. That lent a lot of credence to his assertion that one of two primary reasons he came back to college was a desire to "influence young men—that's what we do." (Brady Hoke was the other.)
On message. Mattison kicked the session off with about 30 minutes describing Michigan's philosophy, goals, and motivational techniques before getting into Xs and Os. He started by talking about Hoke; that "the one thing Brady did was bring back what made Michigan what it is." Michigan hasn't been "one of those teams loaded with unbelievable stars" but plays fundamentally sound, tough defense with maximum effort. Etc.
There were then the usual bits about Hoke's "Years: 133, Championships: 42" call-and-response and a statement that the Sugar Bowl was "fine" but he would trade 100 of them for a Big Ten Championship. The rooms say "THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM," of course. The program is on message.
Position switches. As I wrestled with how to handle this various coaches in the room told every-damn-body that Mattison said Brennen Beyer was moving to WDE and Craig Roh to SDE. This was explicitly stated. Adjust the wiki pages.
Helmets to the ball. A major theme: "loafs" are not tolerated and Mattison wants to see the jersey of 10 guys at the end of every play. When he catches a defensive lineman getting passed by another one he asks the kid how fast he is, and when they say "4.7" he says "well that guy must be a 4.3 then."
At the end of the session Mattison was discussing a corner blitz they didn't run much because the corners didn't come hard enough. One of the cut-ups was from the end of the third quarter against OSU. This play:
The coaches' film is a wider shot and emphasized the huge distance Floyd had to make up to catch Miller before the touchdown. Mattison took the opportunity to point out that this was an example of the corners not coming hard enough and gush over Floyd ("I love this kid") in general and specifically as an exemplar of the Michigan philosophy. Floyd's effort led to this:
And that led to a field goal.
Bonus: For those looking for a reason other than blind luck that Michigan recovered 80% of opponent fumbles this year, in practice all incompletions are live balls. Mattison credited this practice for getting players moving towards the ball at all times and being in position to scoop up live balls in actual play.
Technique a priority. This was a feature of both the general philosophical section and the chalk talk. Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork. There was also a long discussion about why your rush end needs to start with his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him*. Etc.
In the philosophical section he noted that Michigan was probably the only team in the country with a head coach who coaches a position, that nose guard. It was at this point he told the story about Hoke coming to him fuming, saying he "wasn't going to be one of those head coaches who just walk around" and demanding a position group. He took the nose. Zinger: "now… I question why he coached the best player on the team."
Here he also noted that everyone hits the sled every day and that this was not something the previous coaching staff did frequently, if ever. This is where the bit about "I've never seen such awful technique" came in. Pretty much the only thing negative Mattison said was about the state of the team he was handed. Everyone who's surprised raise their hand. That's no one.
The final bit on this: "don't go be a scheme coach, focus on technique."
*[The reason is the biggest threat to the rush end in this situation is getting reached and if the tight end flares out to do so that first step needs to be one that gains him distance, something you can't do while remaining square if your outside foot is to the LOS. Disagreement with this appeared to be a pet peeve of Mattison's.]
Big plays. Obviously a priority just from the play on the field. Section on this concentrated on the secondary, declared the biggest problem with big plays. Hates it when safeties "look like blitzing linebackers" when there is a pile. He wants a cup around the pile and safeties to make tackles at least six yards downfield.
Now, that doesn't mean Jordan Kovacs needs to make a tackle six yards downfield. In this context a safety is a player in a deep zone. This is most often the corners and Gordon/Woolfolk.
Rotation. This is a Hoke thing Mattison was skeptical about: Michigan rotates the entire defense on every play of practice. Run on—snap—run off. This is "not pretty" when your 21st and 22nd best defensive players are going up against the first team offense but builds conditioning and depth and was credited for "saving the team" in the Sugar Bowl when injuries whittled down available defensive linemen to dust. Think Martin and Van Bergen in the third quarter.
Goal line philosophy. To Mattison it's simple: one zone "you run perfectly" and an all-out pressure.
When they're backed up. Mattison asked the crowd to think of what they are thinking when they've got the other team backed up, and then said "how many of you are thinking 'don't give up a big play'?" Mattison's been there and tries to fight that. Now if you're backed up, "if we have a great run pressure, we're coming after your ass."
This goes here.
Not exactly a run pressure but Michigan is sending all five guys on the line there. "When you have a chance, when they're backed up, go after their ass."
Third down. "For us, we're gonna pressure." Mattison on the end of the Akron State game:
You saw the Ohio game, you probably thought 'this guy is the dumbest sonofabitch in the world' He turned a wide receiver loose against Ohio a couple minutes left in the game.
But we intercepted it on the next play. Did we win? Yes. So we were aggressive and we won. [laughter]
So they'll be aggressive come hell or high water, that's clear.
4-3 versus 3-4: THE FINAL WORD. "We'd be here for hours" if someone tried to argue him away from playing the 4-3 under. Said something along the lines of "if you've got that 330 pound nose tackle and your ends and your linebackers, okay, God bless you." I thought of Pipkins—what is Mattison going to do with a 330 pound nose?
Anyway, Greg Mattison will never run a 3-4. End of story.
4-3 under assertions from the man himself. These aren't too different than the things you'll hear about the under when you read up on it on the internet but just to confirm, the basis of the defense:
- Rush end: "The whole thing is predicated on the rush." Must be a great player, and athlete who can spill power (ie, get into a pulling guard and stop him in his tracks), drop into coverage, and win one-on-one battles with the tight end. All that and he's got to be a ferocious pass rusher. More similar to the SAM linebacker than the SAM is to the ILBs.
- SAM linebacker. Must not be outflanked either in the run or the pass game. Hugely important not to give himself up one for one on the edge. [Editor's aside: that's something we were talking about a ton early in the year. It got a lot better as the season progressed.]
- Inside linebackers. The usual: the mike has to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and the will has to be able to adjust to coverage outside of the box. An important difference between the two is the WLB has to be able to run vertically down the seam whereas the MLB can pass his guy off; IIRC this year the guy running down the seam was Demens, not Morgan. Adjustment based on Demens's surprising ability to stick with guys downfield?
- Nose tackle. Also hugely important. "You cannot win with a weak nose." We should start calling our incoming five star "No Pressure Pipkins" right now.
- Corners. "Corners are corners" but the field corner (Countess) is not involved with "heavy work" and usually just has to clean up plays that have been strung out. The boundary corner (Floyd) has to be a bigger guy better in run support. It's a seven man front; if you go eight you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner because he's got to cover an outside receiver with little additional help.
Michigan does not align to strength but rather aligns to field—ie, if you're on the left hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field and if you're on the right hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field. You can flip your tight ends all around and Michigan won't flip in response. I assume the flipping from earlier in the year was a necessary evil as Michigan tried to get everyone up on the new system.
The most important thing. One of the line shifts Michigan runs is called "pirate technique."
Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."
Jake Ryan. Mattison said Michigan was "blessed" at SAM linebacker—probably including Beyer in that assessment—and that Ryan was a major player. A major player they probably wished they didn't have to run out as a freshman, but a major player.
Mattison referenced a particular play against Nebraska on which he lined up on the wrong side of the field. I remember that but I don't think it was against Nebraska; there's no mention of it in the UFR. "Still a lot of coaching to do" with him but it's clear they think he has vast potential.
JT Floyd. As mentioned, Mattison seemed enamored with him. "Love that kid."
Desmond Morgan. Came up on a couple of clips where he ended up clubbing offensive linemen. Mattison said something along the lines of "think he'll hit you?" And "is that good or what? For a little freshman?" It is unknown whether he has ever said "freshman" without preceding it with "little."
Morgan tipped one of the blitzes they run; Mattison mentioned that he told Morgan he'd play three technique if he kept it up. This is a common threat, as…
Kenny Demens. …they literally did this with Demens, playing him at nose so they could have Martin run the blitzes he wasn't coming hard enough on. In contrast, the SAM (Ryan) was called out as a guy who does come hard.
Some secondhand reports that the implication was Demens's job is under threat have filtered out to premium message boards; I did not get that vibe.
Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's "down safety" or "close safety"—I'll stick with strong, FWIW—was "tremendous."
Departing DL. Heininger "really became a football player." Seems like they think they'll miss him. Van Bergen "really, really played" for M and Martin was of course the best player on the team.
I was tasked by Brian with a couple specific MGoQuestions for coaching assistants following the press conference. Here are those answers and whatever else I could get.
Can you assess your new offensive line recruits?
“These guys are tough. They can run, they can move, they’re going to be really good players. They’re great looking kids. Each one of them has a little different skill set, but they’re going to be a great line for the years to come. We’re really excited about that.”
Players’ bodies change a lot from when they’re in high school to college. What do you look for physically in recruits?
“Like I said, they’re each different. A few of them have to put on a few pounds. A couple of them are pretty much at weight. When you’re developing linemen that can come in, the biggest difference is the strength levels between them and the defensive linemen they’re going to block. I think these kids are advanced in that compared with some potential guys we were looking at because they are stronger and more physical. They’ve got some size to them, but every guy develops a little bit at his own pace.”
How excited are those guys to finally get here?
“Well they’re chumpin at the bit. Most of them have been commited for a while and just signing day seemed like forever to them. And now that’s here now, and now the next thing I’m going to hear is 'Gee, coach, when is June 24 going to come around?' Then they have a lot of chances to get stronger, hit the weight room -- they’re going to have an opportunity to play early. As coach always says, you can’t guarantee someone’s going to play right away, but if they’re better than the guys in front of them they’ll play. And they know that and we’ve talked about that, and the work that they do between today and June 24th when they come to school in the summer will go a long way.”
Are you allowed to communicate with them and advise them before they get on campus?
“As soon as they sign, which they have, now we can give them a weight workout. I can send them playbooks, I can send them different things. There are some strange rules whether they can come on campus and they can’t sit on meetings and different things -- we abide by the rules -- but for the most part I can be on the phone with them every night talking about our base power play and explaining things, and I will. I’m going to work hard with those four kids and give them every opportunity to come into camp and when we install the offense and they hear the terms it won’t be the first time they’ve heard it.”
Do you send them a playbook?
“We send them a version of it. The reason we couldn’t last year is because really until we went through the spring, we really didn’t know exactly -- we know what we’re going to run. We may tweak a couple things. I’ll send them a version, kind of an accelerated version, almost like cliff notes or something like that, so that they get pretty well versed before they come here.”
Are there any other offensive linemen you’re waiting on?
“Yeah, I think it’s important we talk about the guys that we have for today.”
MGoQuestion: Who of your current players on the roster would project to center?
“Well, we have guys who can play center. We wanted to recruit someone in this class that could play center. Guys could play center in this class … you could make some switches. I’ve got some flexibility with the guys I have, and we can find some replacements for David, and we have guys who have played a lot at the position.”
MGoQuestion: What exact position does Mario Ojemudia project?
“At this time I would think he’s more of what you would consider a defensive lineman. He’s going to be more of a defensive end, kind of a Craig Roh position where sometimes he plays up, sometimes he drops. I won’t have much exposure to Mario until he gets here.”
MGoQuestion: Do any of the current commits project to weakside linebacker?
“Well of all those four guys you mentioned other than Mario, with Kaleb and Joe and Royce and James, they’re all going to play somewhere in the middle, meaning a Mike or Will-type linebacker. They’ll be one of those two positions at least to start out with. That’s where our need for depth and competition is most.”
MGoQuestion: What do you look for in a middle linebacker vs a weakside linebacker?
“Generally speaking the guy in the middle’s a little bit bigger. He’s going to have to take on blockers a little bit more, whereas the guy on the weakside, he’s protected more, and what I mean by that is he’s covered up by down linemen a little bit better, so maybe a smaller guy that runs a little bit better. But you know, what I want them both to be interchangeable. They should be able to play both positions to start out, and then you try to fit them in where they best fit in.”
MGoQuestion: Dennis Norfleet isn’t the prototypical back for the power running offense you talk about a lot. How do you envision using him?
“Well until he proves he can’t do that, we’ll give him a chance to do that. He’s coming in here kind of as an all-around player. He’ll return kicks, play offense, and we’ll see what he does. I’ve had little guys that you didn’t consider prototypes to be good backs. You say, ‘Well, maybe he can do it.’ As we go through it, we’ll test the waters and give everybody a chance to prove what they can do. He’s in that category, too, but he’s electric. He’s a touchdown scorer. You can’t get enough of those guys.”
MGoQuestion: Hoke said you guys didn’t really give him that hard of a look until yesterday. How long have you known about him?
“Well we’ve known about him, but because of the fluid nature of recruiting, you have things become available, and you say, okay, well, we got this, we have a kid that can score touchdowns, let’s take a good look at this kid and see how he fits. Everywhere I’ve been we’ve done that. Whether it’s last week, last couple days, something becomes available … you end up taking a guy who has a chance to help you in some way or some form.”
People have talked about this offense potentially shifting over the next couple years to something similar to what the Patriots run. What do you say to that?
“We do a little of the things the Patriots do. We have an empty package. Didn’t use it this year as much as I’ve used it before. We are very similar to the Patriots. We’ll line up in two back offense, we’ll line up in spread … the key to offense is not whether it’s the Patriots or the 49ers or whoevers. It’s being diverse enough to deal with all situations that arise in football. Having an offense that can accommodate all of those situations that’s geared to your personnel. That’s a nebulous answer, but that is the answer.”
Tight end is a position you like to use. Funchess and AJ Williams are pretty different players. Do you envision using them differently?
“Possibly. There’s a skill set that you anticipate and there’s a skill set that you get. So when they get here, we’ll see how they fit into what we want to do with them. They’re both going to be tight ends, they’re both going to be coached to be pure tight ends, and we’ll see how that skill set fits with the rest of the group, and we’ll accommodate it.”
How do you like your depth at that position?
“I think we have plenty of guys. We just have to see how it shakes out. We have a couple kids in the spring that are still going to get a golden opportunity to prove they can do it. With the new guys coming in, we’ll see if they can break into the depth chart.”
MGoQuestion: Jeremy Clark and Willie Henry seem to be pretty under the radar recruits. How did you learn about them?
“Well Jeremy Clark was in our camp, and all it took was for a bunch of guys to watch him, they went, ‘Wow, this guy’s something special.’ And then the process that we talked about where the coach that recruited that area goes in there and meets the caoch and the coach just says the same things about them. You walk down the hall and you talk to the math teacher and the math teacher says this guy’s unbelievable. Now all of a sudden you say, you have all of this, and look what we saw on the field, and then it’s pretty easy. Willie Henry was the same kind of thing. There are some schools that coaches will not recommend very highly until they’re done with them. They’re going to make sure -- people, especially the ones that respect Michigan and respect coach Hoke, they’re not ever going to give you somebody they’re not willing to put their name on. When a coach like that says, ‘Yes this guy can play.’ Then you listen. So that’s the deal with that.”
After looking at his film and evaluating him for yourself, did you feel like he was underrated as a recruit?
“I don’t care about stars. And I really don’t. There are some five stars out there that I hope we play against. To me all I care is what we, our staff, when we look at the film and say yes he can play or no he can’t play. When we looked at this guy on film, we said, Wow, this is one that we want.’ I don’t care if he’s a five star, three star, or two star. Those are the kind of guys we want in this class.”
[Captions located below images]
The French Quarter was flooded with Michigan and Virginia Tech fans for most of game day. I walked down Bourbon Street to take some photos of the fanfare.
"Sugar Bowl Headquarters" on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. If true, would explain a lot.
These street musicians didn’t play jazz, but bluegrass is basically the blues. Right? No? The guy in the middle hails from Grand Rapids.
Michigan fans enjoying the view. Pretty sure that woman is/was a dude.
And for something completely familiar, Michigan sorority girls on their way to …
Rick’s (American) Cabaret.
(more after the jump)
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the official postgame press conference for the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
We'll begin with Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. We've been joined by Denard Robinson, Junior Hemingway, and Brendan Gibbons.
At this time I'm going to turn it over to Coach Hoke, a few thoughts on the game, and we'll open the floor for questions.
COACH HOKE: You know, thank you. It was a great college football game. Two teams who played extremely hard, two teams that played for each other. I think Virginia Tech and Coach Beamer, they did an excellent job, when you look at how they defended us a little bit and then offensively and then you look at the Michigan Wolverines and how our guys stayed together, complemented each other.
We talked about playing 60 minutes of Michigan football. We played about 63 and a half, I think. So I'm just real proud, real proud of our seniors, real proud of how they took this football team last January and molded it and did a tremendous job.
And we always have a tremendous legacy of Team 132 that a lot of teams are going to have to try and match up to.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Ryan Van Bergen.
Q. Brendan, it hasn't been a great Bowl season for kickers. You see him miss, and you go up. Just talk about what's going through your mind at that point and how good it felt?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: It felt good to go out there. Coach Hoke and the whole Team 132 had faith in me the whole season. Coach puts us in situations, two-minute drill every Thursday practice.
And it just felt good to make the kick for the team to help the seniors go out in a good way.
Q. Junior, you seemed to get very emotional after the game. What was behind all the emotion, just the victory? Was there something else? What does it mean to get the two touchdown catches and the victory?
JUNIOR HEMINGWAY: From the beginning when the coaches first came in, you know, we had to buy in and the seniors had to get the rest of the team to do the same thing, Team 132.
It was just a hard-fought season. And to go out there and do it for the underclassmen who now have a Sugar Bowl championship under their belt and for us to leave with the Sugar Bowl championship, it just shows our hard work, our determination, our resilience. And that's where most of the emotion came from.
Q. Coach, I'm curious: What do you think this win means for the program? Is Michigan back?
COACH HOKE: I was asked that the other day. Michigan never left. And some people may have thought that way, but Michigan never left. What it means is that we've got a group of guys, especially a group of seniors, who won 11 football games.
And it's only the fifth team in the history of 132 years of Michigan football to win 11. And so it's a significant task.
And these guys have grown as a team. We've grown as a football team and a staff, and there's a lot of love and respect that we have for each other.
Q. Denard, how do you describe the way this game went, just from your perspective?
DENARD ROBINSON: I feel like this was a team that didn't quit and we just kept fighting. We held everybody accountable for what we had to do to win.
Q. Ryan, Brady's talked throughout the year about what this season has meant to the seniors and he's in a way dedicated this year to seniors. Can you talk about what it meant for you ending it with so many challenges in losing Will and all that?
RYAN VAN BERGEN: We've had times where we had to face adversity throughout this whole season, and it kind of comes full circle for the seniors. Like you talked about, we faced a lot of adversity since we've been here.
This game was kind of just, you know, a microcosm for what happened to us so far as a senior class, and it's been an amazing turnaround for this year, and I think the seniors left an amazing legacy.
Team 132 will be the fifth team in Michigan history to have 11 wins. That's significant when you play in a program that has the tradition that Michigan has.
So we couldn't be more proud as a senior. I couldn't be more proud of the guys that we got the opportunity to lead. It's a full team effort. And we just stayed strong all season. It's a marathon.
Q. Brendan, did you know it was good when you hit it? How did you celebrate when you were absolutely sure?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: I thought it was good when I hit it. Felt good coming off my foot. How did I celebrate? I just wanted to celebrate with my teammates, and it felt good to celebrate with them.
Q. Denard said earlier in the week he wasn't second-guessing himself, whether he made a mistake throwing the ball to Junior Hemingway. After he throws that pick looking for Junior earlier in the game, goes back in the corner, I guess, what kind of confidence does Junior instill in you and what kind of confidence does Denard instill in you and your performance today?
COACH HOKE: I've always had confidence in both of these guys. And when you have a big target and a guy who has great timing, which I think is part why Junior makes a lot of those catches, and has a big body and bodies some people out of the way.
And so we've always had a lot of confidence in that combination and sometimes you are going to make plays. And you've got to have guys who can make those plays, and when they're the ones doing it, you feel pretty good about it.
Q. Junior, talk about your two catches.
JUNIOR HEMINGWAY: The first one, the play was called. I forgot what the play was. It was corners. So I saw how the DB was playing. I broke it off in front of him. I seen Denard getting ready to throw the ball, but I didn't know who he was throwing the ball at. He threw it up and, number one, didn't play the ball good. I caught it. I heard the safety coming over I didn't know if he was going to take me out or what. Snatched the ball in there, ran it in for six.
And the second one, it was an all-go play and I got behind the safety, and I was thinking in my head: Please, Denard, throw this up, please, I want you to so bad.
And he threw it up. He threw it up. And I made a play on it.
Q. Coach, a lot of people question the selection process for this game and said that maybe the teams weren't worthy. What do you think that the result of the game and the way that it transpired says about that proposition?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, people always are going to have an opinion, and that's part of the beauty of college football, part of the beauty of the BCS and all that kind of stuff.
And I can tell you that team we played tonight is a pretty doggone good football team. And I think we're a pretty good football team.
So people are going to have their opinion. We just happen to disagree with them.
Q. Brady, a couple of things kind of related maybe. If somebody had told you you weren't going to have 200 yards of offense in this game and only have the ball for 23 minutes, how much trouble do you think you would have been in? And can you talk a little bit about what David Molk went through to even be on the field?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, I'll answer the second question first. David, he's a warrior. He's a captain on this football team. He tweaked his foot during the pregame. And our trainers did a tremendous job, our doctors.
And he has a lot of pride in Michigan and he has a lot of pride in this offense. And so it means a lot to see him come out there and perform like he did.
What was the first question?
Q. Getting it done without offense …
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, you never know what you're going to get in any game. We just gotta be able, when the time's right and when either side of the ball needs to make a play, and we've done that through the course of the year.
The defense caused a turnover. We got a great turnover on the kickoff, their kickoff return, which was a big part of it. But to be honest with you, you know, you really -- points on the board. And that's what's at the end of the day. We had more points.
Q. Brady, you've been resistant, reluctant, throughout the year to qualify whether or not this season has met or exceeded your expectations for this season. Now that it's over, can you qualify if the season lines up with what you expected?
COACH HOKE: We go in with the expectation to win the Big Ten championship. And that won't ever change. Winning ten games or more are part of that expectation. So we didn't reach that goal. But I can tell you this group of guys got us a heck of a lot closer than we were before.
Q. Brendan, what was going through your mind as Virginia Tech calls time out and it's overtime you're lining up that kick and thinking about lining up that kick? What was going through your mind before the kick in overtime, during the timeout and all that?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: Brunette girls. Every time we were like struggling in kicking, Coach tells me to think about girls on a beach or brunette girls. So that's what we did. Made the kick. (Laughter).
Q. Brendan, I'm curious if maybe thinking about those brunette girls you may have false started on that kick. Replays appeared to show that you jumped a little early. Do you feel you might have beat the snap coming out there?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: I moved a little bit. Not really. But it's kind of like my false step approach. So Glanda and Drew did their job and I did mine to win the game.
Q. Denard, after giving up two field goals early, what helped you change to get the offense going?
DENARD ROBINSON: We knew the defense was stepping up making big plays. It was time for the offense to step up and make plays, and that's what we did.
Q. Coach, out there Al talked about how this really wasn't about execution, it was more about will. In some ways is it even more satisfying for you as a coach?
COACH HOKE: I think you're right. And Al's right. It was about will. When you play a game like that and we're both -- both teams are getting after each other -- and I can tell you down on the field it was physical. You could hear. And guys were playing football, and you could hear football. And so it was a physical game.
The one thing that's great about this football team is they've continued to stay together. And they've continued to complement each other. And that's exciting. And that's why we've won 11 games.
Q. Ryan, obviously in the crutches, just what happened in the end?
RYAN VAN BERGEN: I got stuck under a pile and my foot got bent down in an angle, so my foot was parallel with my shins, so that was an awkward angle. That was early in the game, and that was bothering me. I had a cut block actually fold it the other way. So I was just trying to battle it off.
This was my last game. Unless I saw a bone, I was going to try to stay in and fighting that off. The guys behind me, they filled the role really well. Jibreel Black did a great job at the end of the game.
Q. We talked about after the Ohio State game what this senior class means to you. After a game like this, a win like this, how are you going to remember them? How are you going to remember the team and how they set the foundation for your first year?
COACH HOKE: These guys have left a mark and one that -- I can tell you, the senior class, we'll always remember and always be proud to say that we had the privilege and the opportunity to coach them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
(FastScripts by ASAP Sports)