"First one of the year, huh? Here we go."
Here we go.
"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
<No pads. Nothing to see after the jump.>
"Is that salmon?"
"Canteloupe? We use that as an audible color. How you guys doing?"
"It's been a while. Can't tell you how much I've missed you. You guys kind of sensed a hint of sarcasm, didn't you? Heiko! I made you a hero. Unbelievable."
Thoughts on Devin's maturity?
"Yeah, he's doing a nice job. When you know that you've done it so long -- he's always been a pretty confident kid anyway, but now that he has a chance to kind of be the guy, I think he's taken the next step."
What's it like having two experienced tackles?
"Yeah, you know, when Taylor said he was coming back, that was a great, great day for Michigan and for our offense because breaking in a new left tackle is never fun. I don't care what level it is. But Mike Schofield, who doesn't get talked about as much but is really a good athlete. He can move. He was a hurdler in high school. He's got a lot of talent. Mike's played a lot. He's played guard, he's played tackle. I think he's kind of fit into a comfort zone a little bit with tackle, not to where he's complacent, but he's comfortable in the position now. He kind of had to relearn the position a little bit. He's been in the offense. He's been pretty consistent the first couple days and in the spring."
<Falsehoods galore after the jump>
- Dennis Norfleet is now a slot receiver. God bless the broken road.
- Fitz Toussaint, Chris Wormley, and Blake Countess are full go.
- Jake Ryan spends most of practice running with trainers; no contact yet.
- Freshman participation will be spotty until next Tuesday due to classes.
- Most of this week will be limited contact (helmets and shoulder pads). First practice in full pads is on Friday.
- Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis are among the candidates for punt/kick returner.
- Fitz says that he will be the starting tailback for the season opener.
I call this the "cameraphone" filter. Is Instagram even cool anymore? Was it ever cool?
“Ahem. Excuse me. I don’t have a real good voice, and it’s only day one. But it’s good. It’s great. It’s great to be out there, it’s great to be with the kids again. I like the competitiveness, the energy, which is something you would think they would have starting fall camp. Hopefully we can continue that consistently all throughout fall camp. I thought we moved around real well. There was great competition on both sides of the ball. I think we’ve learned how to practice with no pads on in a manner that’s physical. It was a good day, good start. We’ve got a long way to go, as we all know.
“One position change was we took Dennis Norfleet and he’s playing receiver now for us in the slot position, which opens up some things for him when he gets the ball in his hands. He’s got a lot to learn still from a formation standpoint and routes and option routes and all that. I think it’s going to be a good position switch for him and us.”
Can you talk about how Blake Countess and Fitz Toussaint looked?
“They looked great, and you’ll get a chance to talk with both of them, but they both did everything that we’re doing. They both looked good running around, speed and cutting ability and all that stuff.”
How important was it to see both of those guys today in camp?
“Well, I think it was a great start. The one thing we’ll be wary of is the grind of camp and two-a-days and all those things. We’ll be conscious about are we getting them tired, are they starting to favor one leg or another, all those kinds of things. But it was good to see them out there. Their teammates like it when they’re both out on the field.”
What were you looking for today?
“I think some of the things about the difference in some of the bodies. Willie Henry and Taylor [Lewan] we’ve talked about, but a guy like Blake Bars and [Kyle] Kalis and Quinton Washington – the big guys and how much better they look, how much stronger they are. The body fat ratio and all that. It was good to get the freshmen and watch them a little bit. They’re the ones who are still in classes for another six days, seven days, so it’s hard to get them there full time, but we got a little bit at the end with those guys, so it was good to see them.”
Did you notice the seniors coaching up the freshmen?
“Yeah, and that’s one thing we tried to do since day one. Your seniors have got to do a tremendous job. We coaches can’t see everything. We can coach a guy, and when we do that, maybe they get tired of hearing our voice, so when it comes from somebody else, and somebody else who has that experience, I think it really helps our coaching ability, and it also helps those kids.”
Was practice fast?
“Yeah I liked the tempo, I liked the structure of it. I like how we went from drill to drill and how the offense broke the huddle and approached the line of scrimmage and defensively how the kids got on the field and off the field.”
How was Shane Morris?
“You know, he took snaps obviously. Had some good throws and then had some throws maybe you’d like to have a better decision. But he’s everything we thought he can be.”
“Derrick had a couple runs in there. Some of those get here late because of class, but he had really good vision on a power play and did a nice job.”
When do you get those guys full time?
“No. A week.”
Did you have Jake Ryan do anything other than watch?
“He runs with the trainers. I mean, he runs and he does some of our walk-through stuff. He’s acted like a really good coach when we’re doing some of the other stuff, but he’s running a lot with the trainers as they go through the rehab.”
How did Chris Wormley’s recovery go, and what are your expectations?
“Well, we have high expectations for Chris. He’s a great looking kid. I think he’s about 48 or 49 weeks from surgery, so it’s almost a year. At the end of spring he was doing everything. I think we’ve got a lot of great competition, and he’s part of that competition.”
How do Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson look at receiver?
“I thought they both looked pretty good. You have [Drew] Dileo and [Jeremy] Gallon and those two, and Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds, but they both had a good day. No one’s perfect by any means; we weren’t perfect coaching, and we have to make sure we’re doing that, but I like the two lengthy, rangy wide receivers. They both run very well.”
Do you sense hunger from Cam Gordon?
“I would say that he’s really, since a year and a half ago, he’s really done a great job when you look at how he’s prepared himself, how he listens, how he pays attention to everything that’s going on. His leadership has been really good. His physicalness and his strength and what he looks like is a lot different than a year ago. He’s competitive and I think he’s done a really good job. Does he feel more pressure because Jake’s out? I don’t think so because he’s just such a competitive guy.”
Do you look back at the run of injuries last year and question whether it was something you did or whether it was just a freak thing?
“I think it’s kind of a freak thing. I think we hit as much and maybe more the year before, and we went all the way to the Sugar Bowl before we got anybody dinged up. I don’t think so, and I know how much Aaron [Wellman] does with the different preventative things that you do, which I’m not an expert on, so don’t ask me what those are. He’s always done a great job with it. Some years you have it and some years you don’t.”
Will Devin Gardner be hands off for all of camp?
“Yeah. And we pretty much have done that with quarterbacks since we’ve been here. Every once in a while you’ll get a guy get a little overanxious as a defensive player or he gets his hands up and the quarterback follows through or he’ll knock an offensive lineman back and the quarterback follows through, so we’ll try and be as cautious as we can with all of them.”
Does it help that he has the experience of getting hit, so he knows the physical side of it?
“And I think a year ago, playing receiver a little bit, that helped. He had to go down and block, take on safeties and linebackers and all those things, so that helps a little bit.”
Will you give Shane and Brian Cleary more snaps?
“Well, Shane’s got to continue to prove it and so does Brian, obviously, but we’ve got to give Devin the amount of snaps that he needs, and at the same time we’ve got to see who the second guy’s going to be, make sure we’re doing a great job evaluating and make sure we’re doing a great job getting them the snaps that can be evaluated.”
Has Devin picked up where he left off?
“Yeah I think so. It’s hard after one day, though. I’m just excited that we took the field and how they came out. They went through meetings all day yesterday on administrative things, and really came in this morning and got the football part of it. [I liked] how they came out in walkthroughs this morning and how they came out in practice this afternoon.”
When do you put pads on?
“I think Wednesday we’re shoulder pads and helmets. Thursday shoulder pads and helmets. Friday will be full pads.”
Keith Heitzman played as a redshirt freshman. How much will that experience help?
“Anytime you have experience, I think that helps, even if it’s not in-game playing experience, but he does have some of that now. I think that helps. But at the same time those younger guys that redshirted, I think it will be really good competition.”
How will you determine the center battle?
“Well Darryl [Funk] will do a nice job. He’s always done a nice job with how he puts together snaps for those guys in practice. He’ll have every snap counted. He’ll have every drill where it’s a fair assessment for both guys, depending on which quarterback you’re with, what guard you’re with, all those things. It’s a great competition. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch and let them fight it out.”
MGoQuestion: At the end of spring, you had Delonte Hollowell and Courtney Avery take snaps with the first team and Raymon Taylor with the second team. Did that reflect the depth chart, and will that carry over into this fall?
“Well, I think the depth chart’s even more stacked now. Ross Douglas came in the spring, so he’s got some good work. I think [Channing] Stribling and Jourdan Lewis, those guys – you look in that room with coach Mallory and those first year guys, it’s a pretty interesting room. The competition will definitely be hot and heavy at the corner position. Having Blake back is something that’s good for us, good for our football team, but they all will do a great job of competing.”
We talked about targeting in Chicago. Will you go over which plays that will now be illegal?
“Yeah in fact we’ll see the NCAA officials, they make a DVD. It’s probably on flash or whatever it is you do on a computer. But it will be watched tonight, talked about tonight. We talked about it last night. Championship teams don’t hurt themselves with dumb penalties or dumb decisions. So we have to be cognizant of all of them.”
Do you sense that Blake and Fitz are comfortable? IS there any hesitancy?
“No I think they feel great. I haven’t seen any, and haven’t since the end of spring. I know how hard both of them worked to put themselves in position to be able to play.”
You seem to be a little thin at safety. Are any of your veteran corners practicing at safety at all?
“No. You know, there’s enough safeties in there, too. Dymonte [Thomas] plays nickel, but we’re playing him more at safety, which is more of a true position for him. I think our depth at both of those positions is pretty strong.”
Are you going to be able to try out any freshman in the return game?
“Well, we’ll work all the other fundamentals, and we’ll work the fundamentals with them. Usually we start practice with specialists. We end practice in one segment with specialists because they’re all here on Mondays, Wednesdays. They’ll all be here.”
Who are you looking at for returner?
“Well, Jourdan Lewis is a guy. Stribling’s a guy who’s had work at it. From a receiver perspective, Jehu and Darboh are guys that have done it before, and I know they’re not in that same class. We’re kind of working six guys on the team with punt returns and some of those guys are kickoff return guys.”
- "I will be the starting running back on August 31."
- Felt he was at 80-85% in spring. Now at 100%.
- Got tackled by the previously-broken leg and felt fine.
- Reputedly beat Gardner in agility drills.
- Still has sweet dance moves.
- Doesn't really anticipate a whole lot of new stuff from Greg Mattison with regard to the corner position, but "we'll see."
- Is playing at both "left" and "right" corner. So no real distinction between field and boundary at this point.
- Teammates have said that he looks "better than before the injury."
- Carries around a milk jug full of ... water. Drinks a gallon and a half a day apparently.
- Doesn't care that players from other teams say that Michigan's run-blocking was kind of crappy last year. Says it's a new offensive line, and it's unacceptable for them to be bad at any aspect of line play.
For being arguably the top prospect in the country from the 2014 class, Da’Shawn Hand isn’t talked about a whole lot, and that’s exactly how he wants it. As Hand prepares for his senior season at Woodbridge Senior High School in Virginia, he has managed to lay low this summer despite being one of the most coveted prospects in the nation. I was lucky enough to catch up with Da’Shawn to ask him about his summer, visit plans, and timetable among other things.
So how has your summer been going? What camps have you attended and how do you think you performed at those camps?
I went to two camps this summer, I went to The Opening and the Rivals 5-Star Challenge in Chicago. I think I did pretty well man, it was a lot of fun. I went for the gear, for the experience, and just to meet a lot of people and make some good connections for a lifetime.
I read somewhere that you didn’t even lose a rep for a few days at the Rivals challenge?
Yeah, I didn’t! That was at the Rivals camp and I was ballin! (Laughs) When I went to The Opening, at first it was really cool, but I got a little camped-out and by the end of it I was definitely ready to just focus on my season.
With football being such a huge part of your life year-round, how has your summer been as far as non-related football activities goes?
It’s been good man, just been chillin’ with family, seeing my family, hanging out with my friends, and just traveling. Oh, and I’ve been…even though it has to do with football a little bit, I’ve been helping out and coaching kids in little kid camps.
When do you start practice for your senior year and what have you done to prepare yourself for a senior season that is going to be very closely watched by a lot of people?
We start practicing August 1st. You know it’s always possible to get better. I’ve been training like a dog. I’ve been doing cross-fit training, I’ve been doing yoga. I do a lot of running in a gas-mask, I’ve just been doing a lot of things to improve in as many areas as I can.
I talked with your coach about how you decided to lay low a little bit with the recruiting aspect and just focus on getting ready for your season. How come?
Yeah, and honestly I think that was the smartest decision I’ve made with my recruitment. I just wanted to lay low. I haven’t really talked to any coaches or anything, maybe once in a while I’ll call them but I have really been focusing on myself and just working.
With all the work you’ve put in what are your goals for your last year in high school, team-wise and individually?
Well of course team-wise I just want to get to the state championship and win it, I want a ring. I want to go out on top. My individual goals are, I want have over 100 tackles, 40 or more tackles for loss and 30 sacks.
Pretty lofty, you think you can get there?
You mentioned your recruitment a little bit but that you did take it off this summer, but how has that been going? Same top 3? Other coaches still hounding you? Just give me an insight as to how it goes for you.
Yeah my top 3 is still the same, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan. Other coaches still try to recruit me for sure, but I really don’t know about it. Me and Coach Harris, we have a system. When I was younger I would talk to all the college coaches as much as possible you know? I told a lot of coaches that I was interested and found out their interest and started to get offers. Then after that we started doing our research. Then after the research was done, he wouldn’t tell me to cut off any schools or anything, he would just say to start chopping my list down, take my time, give me advice. It was fun during my sophomore year, I got like 50 offers or something, it was crazy. The summer leading up to my junior year, that’s when it got like really hectic and it’s been pretty hectic ever since. That’s why I cut it down to three, it’s gotten easier and easier.
How much do you pay attention to the stuff that’s written about you? With all the articles, blogs, Twitter, rankings, videos, etc…how much do you pay attention to it and what is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen about yourself?
Honestly this year, I don’t really care about all of that stuff. When I was younger, like during my freshman and sophomore year it was really cool being told I was the #1 player in the nation and all that, but then during my junior year I really stopped paying attention to it because I mean everyone is good. I mean the top 100 kids in the nation are all top-notch athletes, I really don’t see a need to rank them and they are all going to play in college. As far as untrue stuff, all the time! (Laughs) I don’t really say anything about it, I just let them do them. That’s how they make their paycheck I guess, I don’t really care. One time when I went on a visit someone wrote that the school was now my top school and that they had nothing to worry about, that I was locked. I was like, I never said that? That doesn’t even sound like me. So yeah, there are always things about me that just aren’t true.
What have the Michigan coaches told you about a specific position? Have they discussed where and how they’d like to use you on defense?
Michigan has told me that they want me at end. That’s all, they didn’t really say what side. They like to mix it around and use different combinations. Alabama said they want me to be a JACK kind of like Courtney Upshaw was. Florida was like Michigan, they want me to play just the end since they’d like to mix it up a lot.
I remember watching a video interview you did where you seemed to get really excited about a certain professor at Michigan. Tell me what was so different, unique, or special about that professor to get a reaction like that from you.
That dude was amazing! (Laughs) Goodness, gracious! He just blew us away. I can’t pronounce his last name, (laughs) he has like a long last name, but he just….oh my goodness! Just the way he presented everything was amazing. He talked about what we’re going to learn, he told us that it’s not going to be easy. It even made my dad want to go back to school again, it was just wild, it was insane.
So as your season begins and fall is getting close, what are your plans for your official visits?
Right now I know for sure I’ll visit my top 3 schools but other than that I don’t really know.
Your official visit for Michigan is against Notre Dame for the Under the Lights II game. What are your expectations for the game itself?
I have never been to a game at Michigan so I just want to see how the crowd is, the whole atmosphere, how it feels on a gameday, what does the town do, you know those little things. I also want to see how the coaches face adversity.
So you’ve got your top 3, you have a basic idea about your official visits. What are going to be the deciding factors when you finally decide to commit?
Just my personal evaluation I guess, that’s all I can really tell you. There are so many things that I think about and I just keep that personal you know?
It’s been made public that you have a bit of a relationship with Jabrill Peppers, is that at all something that might factor in to your decision?
Oh, that’s my man! He’s cool, he’s cool people.
How about your decision timeline? Do you have an idea when you are going to commit?
Nothing has really changed. Whenever I feel like the time is right I am going to commit. I want to do it before December but whenever it feels right, it’s right.
Commitments these days can get pretty crazy. How do you plan on doing it? You seem pretty humble and don’t necessarily need the limelight, so how’s it going to go down?
I’m going to be at my school, in the auditorium or in the gym or wherever it needs to be. I’m just going to do it the classic way. I’m not going to have the three hats, I’m just going to have one hat and announce it, and that’s about it.
Talking with Da’Shawn was a pleasure and he’s another testament to the types of kids that Coach Hoke and staff are trying to recruit. Not only is he immensely talented but he genuinely cares about his education and was a really pleasant kid to talk to. He didn’t really dodge any questions which is refreshing, but he didn’t take the Jabrill question completely head-on. He perked up about him when I asked, but he didn’t mention at all if playing with Jabrill would factor into his decision. One thing I did notice, and I don’t know if it was a Freudian Slip or if it was nothing, but he spoke about the professor at Michigan as if he has already decided that he will be his teacher. The fact that a non-football related experience has made that much of an impact on him has got to be a great thing. I expect his official visit against Notre Dame to make a big impact on him and honestly wouldn’t be shocked if he thought about committing while in Ann Arbor for his first game at The Big House among that atmosphere and many other recruits and commits.
[In part 1, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges describes a typical game week and talks about the process of game preparation. In part 2, Borges talks about game day, calling plays, the infamous Ohio State game, and bubble screens. There is no part 3. =( ]
Okay it’s game day. I’m guessing the first thing you do is meet with all the coaches.
“Yeah. What we do is we’ll -- we don’t actually meet. We’ve already got that pretty much out of our system, although I’ve been at places where we did. I’ve been at places where the head coach wanted to meet on game day and talk about everything. But we’ve already hashed all that out. There’s no reason to bother with that at that point.
“But you know, we get up and have a little walk-through usually down at the church -- by the church across the street from the Campus Inn.”
I think I’ve seen you guys.
“Yeah. We’ll have a little walk-through, which is great. It gets the guys thinking about football. We started doing that about the middle of our first year. And then there’s a pre-game [meeting], depending on when the game is.
“Something that’s worthy of mention is that we go through a call-sheet rehearsal with all the interns and everybody that puts that together. You have to understand that I’m a bit of a technological moron. I don’t do --
[Borges gestures to his computer]
“-- All this stuff. I’m too old. I’m not real computer savvy and all that. I mean I can open a computer and find stuff for the most part if you want anything … I let the GAs kind of do that. But what we do is we go through sometimes as many as two or three games with those guys, and one with the quarterbacks where we’ll put a game on, and I’ll call the game practicing off -- say we’re playing Notre Dame and Notre Dame played USC. I’ll put the USC game on, put my call sheet in front of me, and whatever SC did, if they gained three yards [to get to] a second and seven, I will practice the call in that area that I would call in that situation. And maybe Notre Dame played Purdue, SC, and whoever. With those three games I’ll go through a whole call sheet of three games just practicing calling the plays. And we’ll do that on Friday so that, just like the players, I’ve rehearsed what I’m going to call and what I’m going to do. That Friday the quarterbacks will come in and I’ll do it with the quarterbacks.”
[Finally: A one-on-one chat with Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges that has been eight months in the making. In part 1, Borges describes a typical game week, talks about game planning, and shows me what his call sheet looks like.]
“Heiko, what’s up?”
Not much, how are you?
“Just wonderful. How are you?”
Good. It’s good to see you.
How’s the offseason?
“What offseason? I’m not seeing it.”
Oh yeah, you have recruiting stuff.
“It’s always the onseason.”