You like what you’re seeing so far?
“Guys have worked extremely hard. Coach runs a great camp. We don’t waste a second, and that gives us a chance to get better physically, get better mentally, demeanor-wise, the whole deal. It’s been a tremendous couple of weeks here and just looking forward to shifting gears here and getting ready to play meaningful games.”
What’s different about a Jim Harbaugh camp than any others you’ve been in?
“Just efficient. You know, every second’s accounted for. Players, coaches, you all know where to be. We all know. We’re taking advantage of every second, staying within the rules. And it gives the guys a chance mentally to learn the system, which is an important piece for us. As I’ve said before, we put in the concepts in the spring and now we’re trying to master those concepts. We maximize our meeting time and Coach does a good job of knowing when to crank it up and knowing when to take it back, so it’s been great.”
Who are some of the Dudes so far in camp?
“We’ve got a lot of Dudes. We’ve got a lot of guys playing well. The guys that are fairly typical up front. I think Wormley’s had a good camp. Taco Charlton’s had a good camp. Bryan Mone, in my opinion, is from here [hand low] to here [hand high] from spring. You know, obviously he was coming off an injury so. Ryan Glasgow’s the real deal; very physical. We feel good about a bunch of those guys. Rashan Gary’s certainly going to be in the mix, but he’s got a learning curve as well. We’re happy with the front.
“At linebacker, the biggest thing with Ben Gedeon is he’s had to go from being a contributing linebacker playing some to it’s his show. Not easy to do. In fact, hard to do. So, I think he’s done an outstanding job in that area. Wroblewski…I don’t know. Probably doesn’t run as fast as some guys. Probably doesn’t hit quite as hard as some guys, but he just finds a way to help us so I’m very happy with him. I think Jabrill’s had an outstanding preseason camp, and Noah Furbush has a chance to be a real-deal guy. Mike McCray continues to be steady eddy, and Devin Bush is really doing well. I’m happy with the young guys. Uche is what we anticipated as a pass-rush guy, and he’s learning the Sam position better than expected. Devin Gil coming along as well and Elyse Mbem-Bosse, so those are the three rookies there.
“Then in the secondary, those guys are all good players, the veteran guys, and the addition of Khaleke Hudson—I think he has a chance to really help us this year. David Long—really happy with him. Special player as a freshman, and a very…he’s a professional. Comes in, notebook’s open, taking notes, being sharp, doing all those things. And there’s a number of guys—it’s probably really unfair, because I can’t think of anybody that I, like, ‘Oh geez, I gotta straighten this dude out.’ But it’s been a good camp and the guys are working hard, and that’s all you can ask.”
The veteran players you talked about, they’re in their third defensive coordinator in three years--
“Yeah, it’s hard now.”
How have those guys made the transition to yet another defensive coordinator?
“I don’t know, you gotta ask them, you know. I mean, I enjoy working with them. I’ve got great guys. I enjoy my room. Maybe it’s my age, whatever. I really don’t care too much about all this stuff but I do care about my room and coaching those guys and trying to get them to whatever their dreams are as a football player. That’s what I’m focused on. So, you know, you’d have to ask them, I guess.”
Are you seeing a willingness out of them to learn?
“Oh yeah. I mean, they got no choice. But, for a lot of reasons. You know, I don’t need anybody to hold my hand, you know what I mean? The bottom line is you’d like them to have that kind of a feeling and affinity towards what we’re doing. I think we do. They certainly seem willing. And we’re flying around out there, so that’s a positive.”
[After THE JUMP: “…I can assure you I’m not just looking at it (like), ‘Oh, okay, they’re going to run the zone read and we’re just going to throw this one against the wall and see if it works.’ I’m too old for that.”]
[At this point I left the scrum to go talk with Tim Drevno. I transcribed the rest from video posted at Maize and Blue News.]
If you had to pinpoint one aspect of something that impresses you with what’s being accomplished with your unit, could you find one?
“How much we’ve absorbed. You know, I was kind of—came in and had phase one, phase two and then if I’m fortunate we’ll do phase three. I’m in phase three, so I feel pretty good about the learning curve and what they’ve been able to digest. We’re not perfect. Hopefully we can get close to…you know, the efficiency thing is what Coach talks about all the time. He just talked to the players about it with great points. That’s what we’ve got to be. We’ve got to be efficient a week from next Saturday. That’s the whole goal is try and get your guys efficient.”
I think a Big Ten analyst said this is going to be a high-risk, high-reward defense. Is that--
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s a bunch of baloney. The high risk—no. We don’t just throw this stuff against the wall and take it and go, ‘Oh, I’m gonna run this play.’ Come on. We’re not doing that. We look at the formation, we look at the personnel groups. We lean to be on the aggressive side.
“Whether you’re running or passing the ball, we’re gonna have the ability when we dictate to come. That’s what it’s all about. And I can assure you that every one of the calls we’ve made—we’ve done kind of a thorough study—we’ll at least have run it 100 times. So, we’re not throwing things against the wall. It’s not that kind of a scenario. I guess say it because you’re playing man coverage and those types of things.
“Well, guess what: that’s what…Mike Zordich and Brian Smith, they’re accomplished teachers. If you call that high risk because we’re going to come out and play you like this [steps toward some reporters]…well, I don’t call that high risk. That’s just part of the deal.
“One thing we believe in is we deny free access, okay? We’re not going to play eight to 10 yards off and let you play that game all the time. Now, you’ll see us play off, but we determine when we do that. We’re gonna be able to do it all, but I can assure you I’m not just looking at it [like], ‘Oh, okay, they’re going to run the zone read and we’re just going to throw this one against the wall and see if it works.’ I’m too old for that.”
With all of that said, how important is physicality and how impressed have you been with this group?
“There’s been some days out there where I’ve stood behind the 9-on-7s—and that’s nine offensive players against the seven defensive players—and it’s kind of a ‘Ooh’ cringe mode [on] both sides, now. So, I’ve been happy with that. I think when we go ‘On your mark, get set, go’ I don’t have any question that we’re going to go.
“But it’s a fine line because you’re tying to get Barney and Sally and everybody else to the dance, so, you know, there’s kind of a combination deal there that you’ve got to pay attention to. But again, Coach does such a good job of taking care of us it’s a non-issue.”
Channing Stribling had a great spring. How’s he played in the fall?
“Good. Really solid. I think the one thing we’ve been able to get through to him is it’s not just about defending out there. You’ve got to come in here and work the run game, be a part of that, too. But no, he’s a solid guy. Working hard. Happy with him.”
MGoQuestion: Last we heard Ben Bredeson was taking snaps at left tackle. Do you see that as his long-term future, or do you see him sloting in somewhere else along the line?
“Yeah, he’s a really talented football player and can really play a lot of different positions. Put him out there at left tackle. Just like his foot turn, his speed, his initial quickness. Just trying to figure out the best five out there and the best six and seven. He’s really had a nice camp and is doing a really, really good job. Intelligent guy. Really good football awareness. Can fix a problem after you tell him, so it’s exciting to see that.”
Where do you stand with the quarterbacks? Have you narrowed it down?
“It’s been an unbelievable competition. Guys are coming out every day throwing great balls, great drops, great precision, great timing. I mean, we’re way further along than where we’ve been. I mean quarterback-wise last year. We haven’t made the decision and we don’t want to make the decision too early and make the wrong decision. So, we’ll keep going along here and then we’ll gather together and make that decision.”
You had seen the difference between Jake and Shane somewhat early in camp last year you guys had said even though you didn’t make the decision until later. What’s the difference between Wilton and John at this point?
”For me to say that, it’d be like splitting an atom. I mean, it’s like…they’re all doing really good and they all bring something different to the table and they’re all working hard and competing and we keep evaluating the tape and putting more on them and as they digest it we’ll make that decision.”
A couple freshmen Coach Harbaugh mentioned were doing well on the offensive line. Do you have a set starting five?
“No, no. Ben Bredeson’s really been stepping up there good. We’ve been working him at left tackle. He’s doing a really, really nice job. Michael Onwenu’s done a great job. He’s D-line and comes back. I mean, this offensive system that we have here is a lot to learn. He’s done a good job. And Stephen Spanellis, a big strong guy, we moved him in to guard. He’s doing a really good job. We’re really pleased where we are with the young guys than we were last year in terms of the retention. And the older guys in the room have done a great job. I know during the summer by NCAA rules we can’t get together with them but I heard through the grapevine those guys were getting together and watching tape and really sitting down and getting better as an offensive line.”
Did those young guys make it harder for you this year than you were expecting in camp to settle on--
“Yeah, it did, which is nice. It’s a pleasure to have that. You come out and see a guy coming out and competing against a senior defensive lineman and blocking him you’re going, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good.’ I mean, that’s a big, strong guy across from him that he’s blocking, so that’s exciting.”
You’ve said in the past that you don’t really care if a freshman starts, you’ve done it before. Would you be comfortable with Ben starting at left tackle?
“I would. I would. And nothing’s been set this time but we’ll just keep competing there at that spot and see how it all works out. But he has all the skill set, the mental capacity, the physicality, all the characteristics you look for to be a starter. He’s a special young player and he’s got a chance to have a really, really good future.”
Has anybody nailed down a spot? Not five, but is there two? Three?
“It’s day-to-day, but if we played a game Magnuson would be at right tackle, Kyle Kalis at right guard, Mason at the center spot, Ben Braden at left guard, and then it’s Grant Newsome and Ben Bredeson battling it out at the left tackle. But things could change from there. If we played a game tomorrow, that’d be it.”
[After THE JUMP: a little bit about every offensive position group, plus what M looks for in an offensive lineman]
[I walked into the scrum mid-answer.] “Camp’s really been fun lately. I’m actually enjoying camp. You know, getting to spend time with the boys playing football. It’s crazy because usually different teams go do activities, but we just wake up, come down to Schembechler and practice. And that’s fun, to spend time with the boys.”
Do you think losing last year to injury changed your perspective on that, wanting to be back around and involved?
“Yeah. One thing that my injury taught me is just to be thankful. There’s people that can’t walk. I’m just grateful, grateful to play football.”
Obviously a lot of talent on the defensive line; you guys showed it last year. Do you ever think about if you were healthy, what it could have been?
“Yeah, I wish I’d be out there to be with the boys, but everything happens for a reason.”
With you back in the mix, can you talk about that depth a little bit?
“It’s really good. Coach calls it like he doesn’t really have starters, he has a two-deep group and everybody—basically anybody could play if [inaudible].”
Is it the depth that stands out most about the defensive line or is there something else that stands out to you?
“What do you mean by that?”
What stands out about the group?
“What stands out? We have a lot of veterans back, that’s what really stands out. We have so much leadership from the defensive line, and what’s really positive about the D-line is all the old heads we have.”
Why is that important? We know about the physical part of the defensive line, but the mental part.
“Mental part? Sorry, I’m lost.”
The leadership: why is that important as opposed to all the guys coming back?
“Oh, leadership! Because we have so many young guys—a lot of young guys. It’s good to have that leadership because it shows the younger boys what to do, and the vets throughout the whole thing have just been good leaders and everyone’s been backing them up.”
What’s Don Brown like to play for?
“Oh man, I love it. Coach Brown, he’s a fun coach you want to play for. I don’t know. Coach Brown, he’s just a great ol’ guy.”
What does he do that you like?
“He just brings the juice to every practice. In practices and in meetings he always has his juice. So much energy from Coach Brown.”
You talked about being thankful and you talked about the old heads a little bit. Do you find yourself in a position where you’re talking to the younger guys like, ‘Hey, don’t take this for granted.’?
“Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, I talk to mostly all the freshmen. I took them in under my wing and just told them to be grateful because there’s no other place like Michigan. Everybody just likes and enjoys the struggle of being out there.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Young Toothless in repose [Fuller/MGoBlog]
What’s it like for you to be back in the mix?
“It’s great. I really missed playing football. Mostly I just missed the camaraderie, I feel like. When you’re hurt, you’re not playing, you have to sit out. You don’t get to play with your friends—these guys are your best friends, your teammates, guys you work all year with to achieve your goals, and not being a part of that really hurts.”
How much did it bother you down the stretch last season to watch and not be a part of it?
“It…the thing that bothered me was I felt like I was hanging my teammates out to dry. I know we played a lot of up-tempo teams and you need depth against those teams. You can’t expect four or five guys to go out there and play every snap against a team that’s snapping the ball every 15 seconds. So, I felt like I could have done more. I felt like I was kind of hanging them out to dry, for lack of a better term, out there, so that kind of hurt pretty bad.”
You were saying at the linemen camp that you felt you were healthy and ready to go. Are you able to assess it better now that you’re actually going against people?
“Yeah. I mean, there’s no substitute for a 300-pound man trying to block you. So, it took a couple days to get back in the swing of things but I feel great. I feel 100%. Feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. Everything’s going great.”
How about the depth as it stands now? They’re talking about rolling lines.
“I’ll let Coach Mattison and Coach Harbaugh talk about the depth chart. It’s not really my place to talk about it.”
Harbaugh was saying that Michael Onwenu is possibly his favorite player on the team—or favorite of the freshmen, that he’s going both ways. So are you going against him and working with him?
“Yeah, he’s a mountain of a man. He’s a big guy. He was playing defense and giving us looks as an offensive guard in individual, you’re just like, ‘This kid is huge.’ And he picks up on everything really quickly. If you can play offensive and defensive line both as a true freshman or you’re rolling through depending on the day, whichever side of the ball they want you to play, that’s pretty impressive.”
If you had to guess, how much would you say he actually weighs?
“Um…I think the most recent weigh-in was about 375, so I think that’s the heaviest on the team by about 50 pounds. That’s a pretty wide margin on a college football team.”
But he still can move well at that size?
“Yeah! He moves extremely well for a guy who [inaudible].”
You felt earlier you could have done more last November. Medically, you weren’t allowed to play, right?
“No, I wasn’t. It’s just the feeling like I was I was out there with my guys. Maybe that’s just me. I don’t know. It was just a weird feeling sitting at home. I’ve been traveling basically every game since my redshirt year, and so watching on the couch instead of being there, it was just a little strange.”
Does that make you reassess things, not coming back by the end of the season?
“Yeah, it’s just like this game does end and having it taken away so abruptly—like, if I was a true senior or something that could have been my last game, [the game] against Rutgers. It kind of makes you take every day and cherish it and not take it for granted.”
What was the rehabilitation period like for you and the recover period like for you?
“I spent six weeks in an immobilizer. Just a little wedge thing right here to keep it still to let it heal. But our strength training staff and our athletic training staff was great, especially Jason Williams, a Michigan grad. He took probably about an hour out of his day every day to work with me for God knows how long. Probably like two weeks straight. So, that was great and I really appreciate the strength staff and the athletic training staff for that.”
What’s your reaction to the new boss on defense?
“He’s the man. He’s awesome. It’s a little different being coached by him. He’s not as big of a screamer as our past defensive coordinator but he gets the point across. He’s a great guy. His defense is awesome and we’re excited to play in it this year.”
[After THE JUMP: the origin story of Young Toothless and a little technique talk with McCray]
How’s the competition going?
“It’s going well. Typical camp stuff, so we’re supposed to keep it in house but everyone’s doing a good job. Everyone’s competing the way they should be. No one’s trying to back off. No one’s trying to give anyone any leeway. It’s just good, healthy competition.”
What’s the second camp [like] under Jim Harbaugh compared to the first one?
“Hmm. That’s a good question. Hold up with this. What he’s been stressing a lot is the toughness of it. The first camp, I think a lot of us were getting acclimated to his coaching style but the second one, now that we’ve been under his belt for a year-- even the young guys, they’re having to get this crash course in Harbaughism. I personally enjoy it. I’ve got no problem with it, but it’s definitely been an increase in I’d say intensity, maybe, is the best way to put it.”
Is it fun to watch the kids go through it the first time?
“Yeah! It’s always fun. Chris Evans is my roommate. I talked to him the first day of camp and I was like, ‘Hey, Chris. Ready for camp?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, dog. I’m so ready.’ I was like, ‘No, you’re not. You think you’re ready but you’re not. Just give it a couple days.’ But he’s doing well.
“I think all the freshmen are taking well, but there’s definitely those first few days where they’re like ‘What did I just get myself into?’ They’re adjusting well now. Everyone’s doing well.”
Is Chris working at running back and receiver or is he mostly at just running back?
“He’s been doing both. I kind of pay attention to him when he’s with us because we’re doing running back stuff. We get off from our play and we kind of huddle and talk about the play that just happened. I haven’t really seen him leave the running back huddle but if he has I’m typically not in the area where he would be there.I wouldn’t be surprised if he has.”
Jim said good things about him.
”Yeah, he’s a good guy.”
Jim said that about him as a player.
“Yeah, he’s athletic. Very athletic.”
You’ve been full go?
“Yeah, I’ve been through all the practices.”
Any discomfort with anything?
Have we talked to you since the forklift incident?
For those of us who weren’t there, talk a little bit about—I mean, how did that happen? Give us the rundown on that.
“You know, I was stretching at the track and there was a [claps] incident. But I’m not supposed to talk about it. Coach said chill on it so I’m gonna chill on it, but it was just an unfortunate incident. It happened. I’m glad I’m on the other side of it.”
[After THE JUMP: A rejected Charizard tattoo; fat man 7-on-7]
[I sat down shortly after the start of Mattison's roundtable.]
"Watching them this summer, you know, we're not allowed to be around them but I'm hearing what they've done and they've really taken care of business. They've worked really hard this summer, which shows that they have the same goals for their group as we do."
How many different places are you going to use Taco, or are you going to center in on one spot for him? And talk about what he brings to the table.
"The entire group of guys by their positions, tackle and nose, end is called 'end' or 'anchor', those are the two outside guys, they know that they have to know both positions. The reason for that is teams that trade the tight end, when you're an end you become an anchor, anchor becomes an end, that kind of thing, nose and tackle—and it helps us with our rotation. We've found this out over the years and it's happened more and more—teams that run spread offense, really one of the reasons they do that is if you have a really good defensive line or experienced defensive line, they try to wear them out, they try to get that defensive line to not have the impact that it would have in a game by taking a little bit of their gas away. So we want to have the ability to plug a lot of guys into different positions.
"Also I think whenever you are at a position and you know the other positions, you know better how to play it. I think the days are over where 'I am a this position and that's all I do,' and you're going to get in trouble doing that because all of a sudden somebody goes down or gets nicked up and you need to take the next-best guy and put him in somewhere. Experience helps you with that. These kids have heard the same techniques, the same expectations for three and four years, it's easy for them to slip into another position."
And then Taco, talk about...
"Taco will start out—he played both the anchor and the end, but we'll play him more as the open-side end this year. With him playing that position will be Chase Winovich. Chase has showed some great things this spring, having never played the position, but he's a young man that we're looking for—he's got a lot of things going for him. He's very aggressive, very fast for his size, he's gotten bigger, and that gives us the two that you're looking for, at least, at that position."
And Taco, talk about his contributions, speed and size, what he brings...
"Taco's got great leverage. He's a six-foot-five guy, so he's got long leverage, which allows you to keep separation. He plays very physical. He can run. He's an athlete, he was an outstanding basketball player. And he's got great experience now. He's played a lot of football since he's been here and now I think he really feels about about—you know, he's ready to really go."
[Hit THE JUMP for Mattison answering many questions that aren't Taco talk-abouts.]