Talk about where your group is right now and how pleased you are with their progress.
“Really pleased with where we’re at. Simple thing that we talk about as a group is just getting better every week, and I think the last three or four weeks we’ve been better and looking to continue that moving forward.”
What does it mean to have somebody at the top of the all-time tight ends list in terms of receptions. I know Jake was excited about it.
“Yeah, really excited. The whole group was really thrilled for him, which says a lot about who he is as a teammate in the room and just in general on the team. Guys being happy for his success says a lot about who he is. And understanding the work he puts in, how he approaches every day. It’s not really surprising. It’s just what you expect of a guy who puts that much into it.”
Jabrill got so many opportunities on punt return early in the year and seemed like there was one or two every game he was a step away from breaking. Is there something in the last couple weeks that’s different in the way they’ve been blocking you guys or adjusted to something?
“Uh, well, shoot, I think against Maryland they only punted a couple of times, which is unusual for a game like that. Then both times there was excellent hang time on the ball and great location on the punt, so credit to them. That’s how it goes sometimes. There’s things you can do to neutralize a great returner. It’s really all in the punter’s hands. And then not having as many opportunities is the other part of it. I think those things kind of go in cycles and hopefully we’ll see a few more opportunities down the stretch.”
Jim talked a lot about Kekoa’s blocking, then he did, too, last night. How much do you work with the wide receivers on blocking? Is that you or is that Jedd?
“None for me. I can’t take any credit for those guys. Jedd and Drew [Terrell] and Ryan Nehlen and the other guys, they do a nice job working with them. Really seen a lot of progress from those guys.”
[After THE JUMP: Kenny Allen’s kicker swagger, running the program like an NFL team, and differences in utilizing tall vs. short TEs]
Is it hard to be anything but elated with your group at this point in the season?
“Yeah, I think so. I think if you ask any team in the country they’d like to be sitting at 9-0 and our ranking, so yeah, we’re happy but certainly not satisfied. There’s work to be done.”
How about your position group?
“Playing well. I think we had a little bit of a slide in the Michigan State game. Other than, I think they’ve learned from it and are moving on.”
What’s the key or you guys in the short-yardage situations, in the red zone, to be as effective as you have?
“Well, I think in short yardage it’s just gap integrity. Guys in front have to stay in their gaps, linebackers have to stay in their gaps, the secondary fits and fills where needed, so that’s very important in short yardage. Then red zone is something we work day in and day out, starting on Monday all the way through Friday. That’s an area we hit every day, so it’s important in the game and you have to practice it.”
You talked about Channing [Stribling] in run support earlier in the year. Have there been some teaching moments the past few weeks?
“Well, yes, absolutely. The Michigan State game is a big teaching moment. He realized it and he knew he was wrong and he fixed it. That’s important. Just gotta keep building on it. That’s what he has to do.”
How do you fix that, exactly?
“You work at it. In practice we do some tackling drills, and we have some nice talks about it, too.”
[After THE JUMP: who is mini-Jourdan, more on run support, and talking about tunnel screen defense]
Jake Butt, De’Veon Smith, Delano Hill
Jake, just talk about what [the TE receiving yards record] means to you and how Wilton’s been playing here down the stretch.
“Yeah, Wilton had an unbelievable game again today. He just keeps coming through for us when we need him most extending plays, breaking tackles, and then finding guys downfield. He’s doing a hell of a job for us, and it’s great to see [from] Wilton because without him—you need a great quarterback to succeed the way we are and Wilton’s doing a great job for us.
“As far as the record goes, it’s hard to even take in. At such a historical program like this, to be up there as the number one guy—and I want to get the touchdowns and receptions now, too, but I just want to give credit to my teammates more than anything, honestly. It’s a collective effort. It’s not a one-man record, it’s a collective effort: the O-line, the receivers, the running backs, the coaches, the defense, special teams. It’s not a one-man job, so credit to those guys.”
Kind of going off that, ‘The team, the team, the team’ attitude is starting to really show itself more and more as Jim’s been here and as you guys continue through the season. Today’s another effort. De’Veon, when you look around at the guys in the locker room after the game, what’s that moment like? What is that signal that ‘Guys, we got this going and we’re really rolling right now.’ Do you feel that way?
“Definitely. We all believe in each other. We believe in our defense, and I know for a fact when I look in my huddle I believe in every single one of those guys and they believe in me. It’s just a great feeling, and after we get a win we go in there and high five each other, give each other hugs…there’s no feeling like the feeling we have right now, and I’m not going to take it for granted.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Might be a broken record, but might that have been Wilton Speight’s best game, and could you talk about how he extended plays by sliding around in the pocket when he needed to?
“Yeah, that was…statistically, and just the eyeball, that’s the best half of football I’ve ever seen a Michigan quarterback play. I think the statistics back that up. Yeah, moving and throwing and accuracy and extending plays, all of the above. I don’t know how you play better than Wilton did. I think there was one throw that wasn’t a great throw. That was it. Other than that, it was a perfect game as a quarterback and that’s really tough to do.”
This team continuing to roll. How much more enjoyment do you get out of seeing these guys as the season progresses and you see the execution as it is each and every week?
“I enjoy it a lot. I really felt that the week of practice we had was outstanding, and then you, when you have a week like that where it seems better every week and the practices are really sharp and crisp, then you want to see that again on gameday. You feel like if you’re good in practice you’re going to be good in the game, and I thought our guys were great in practice this week and then they were great in the game, so that, get a lot of enjoyment from that.”
De’Veon Smith went over 100 yards. I know you talk a lot about liking how hard he runs. How’d he look to you today?
“He looked great. He really did. He was one of the big factors in our team’s success. We didn’t punt again in the ballgame. I don’t know if we’ve done that in the season—maybe one or two times. But it was, a big part was him. The yards he got after contact were real eye-opening, and he’s so tough to get down. Three touchdowns, but extending drives and contributing. We had a lot of first downs today, and he contributed to that in a big way.”
Clearly the scoreboard reflected it, but what was it like for you to coach against DJ Durkin, your former defensive coordinator, and what were the emotions that went into it?
“The normal emotions. Definitely a friend. Watch what he’s done at Maryland, he’s doing a fantastic job. And what he did for us, what he did for our football team—he was a great contributor to our ballclub.”
[Hit THE JUMP to find out what offended Harbaugh’s football sensibility and the football gods themselves]
You guys didn’t punt until the fourth quarter Saturday. I’m guessing you’re pretty pleased with the way things went offensively.
“Yeah, went well. Good to get a win on the road like that. Guys played well. Always good to come back with a victory. I was pleased with the offensive performance. It’s a new week. Kind of forgotten about that. The problems that occur here with the next opponent we face, so just moving on.”
Mason seems like a very dependable guy. Talk about that side of him and what he gives you every game, every play.
“Mason, football’s very, very important to him, [and] that he’s right. He’s got great football awareness. Can really fix problems. He’s a competitor. He loves to compete. Great leader. Really gets it. Once you tell him, he’s got it. Really locks in his brain. He plays at a very, very high level and it’s just a real pleasure to have him. He’s a real great team leader, especially on the offensive line with what we’re trying to do.”
What went into the decision to have Bredeson in there and have Juwann [Bushell-Beatty] with the second team?
“We just felt like that was the best thing for us. Juwann’s doing a nice job. Ben’s done a nice job. We just felt that that was a good combination in there, best for us to be successful.”
How far has Ben Bredeson come from that first game to now?
“A long way. Just, he understands what we want to do, how we’re going to do it. Processes quickly on his feet. Just, he’s played a lot of reps in there. The maturity level, the confidence in his eyes. Anytime you go out in a game and suit up and go play another game and start, you grow more and the more practice reps you get the better off you’ll be, so he’s really made a great transition.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
How does game 7 look for you tonight?
“Oh, I don’t want to talk about—I don’t want to jinx ‘em. I just know last night in the seventh inning my wife tried to talk to me and I wouldn’t speak to her. I said, ‘Let me concentrate on this.’ Great move by the manager, by the way, to get the win you have to get.”
How about game 7 for you guys, Michigan State. They moved the ball on you guys a little bit. What happened there?
“I think they had some good runs. We didn’t tackle as well as we should’ve. I think our guys up front would say that at times we got a little high, and we haven’t been doing that. They saw it themselves. That’s the kind of group it is, and we addressed it and you keep moving forward.”
Was that more on the D-line?
“Yeah. I mean, I think I’m the kind of person, and our players, I think the D-linemen would say if a team runs the ball, it’s the D-line. We take great pride in that. We don’t want anybody to be able to run the football and when they do, we look at ourselves first. That’s the way it is.”
When you see Jabrill do all the things he did in that game and yet be able to move as quick as he did on that fumble, what are your thoughts?
“That’s Jabrill. I mean, he’s a special player. You see him practice like that. You’ll see him in practice—a lot of guys don’t see that. He’s in practice and he’ll do something like that, intercept the ball or something like that, and you’ll see him take off running and you’ll go whoa, where did that come from? That’s just the way he plays.”
[After THE JUMP: “So, some people when people gain a few yards every once in a while, they’d say, ‘Ah, no big deal.’ This group takes it to heart, and that’s what I think separates them.”]