News bullets and other important things:
- Woolfolk is "banged up."
- Barnum's status is up in the air, but last night he "ran around."
- Shaw played because of situational stuff against Northwestern, but is also working his way back into the rotation.
Opening remarks: “Saturday, I think, we learned a little bit about ourselves as a football team in good ways and bad ways. We learned that you can’t turn the ball over. That’s an important aspect that we have to do a better job [with] decision making at times, fundamentals at times, technique at times. The other thing I think we learned is that from a defensive standpoint, you need to get off blocks. That enhances your ability to make tackles. I think we learned that if we hang together, good things can happen. If we play with an aggressiveness and an aggression, then we play a little better football.”
Can you talk about how good your team has been in the second half and what you attribute that to? “From an offensive standpoint, I think we see something different pretty much all the time in how people defend us offensively and really defend Denard. I think Al does a tremendous job. And his staff -- Darrell Funk and [Jeff] Heck[linski] and Fred [Jackson] and Dan [Ferrigno] -- I think they all do a tremendous job of getting together and talking during the course of the game or the first half, putting their ideas down, and making the appropriate adjustments and changes. I think the same thing defensively. I think Greg [Mattison] and Curt [Mallory] and Mark [Smith] and Jerry [Montgomery] do a tremendous job defensively. The kids have been willing, and they’re listening. I think they’re learning.”
What stands out about Michigan State’s defense, particularly their defensive line? “Well I think you answered that question. I mean, they are extremely talented, aggressive, well coached. Coach [Ted] Gill was one of my coaches in college -- their defensive line coach. He’s a tremendous motivator. He knows the game, does a great job coaching them. Those kids play with a fire to them. You look at their defense as a whole, and I think the whole team is very well coached. I have a lot of respect for Mark Dantonio. He’s a defensive coach in his mindset and vision of how they’re going to play defense, and I think they’re athletic. I think they play with good team speed, and they’re going to be a physical presence out on the field.”
(more after the jump)
(No jump because this was a pretty short presser.)
News bullets and other important things:
- Barnum isn't "out", but didn't practice much yesterday.
- Hemingway's arm wrap sounds about as concerning as Denard's arm wrap.
Opening remarks: “We had a good day yesterday, I thought, on both sides of the ball. One of the big things in this football game is going to be field position and turnovers. They’re plus five and we’re plus seven. They’re taking care of the football, and they’ve done a nice job defensively of creating some opportunities. The other part of it is the field position in the kick game, when you look at their returns on punt and on kickoffs, they’re significantly higher than the average. Both of those things I think are a big part of it. We had some struggles with kickoff coverage last week. We haven’t done great in kickoff returns. I think we had some opportunities in the punt game punt-return wise, but we have to be better at those two things to create some things for us offensively. Obviously defensively, when you look at helping your offense out so they can get another -- steal another possession.”
How much do you physically practice coverage? “We always do coverage teams Tuesdays, plus our return games on Wednesdays, plus we always do another five-minute segment with the punt because that’s such an important play in football. Statistically, if you believe in statistics, if you look at teams with a punt return against them or a punt block, your percentages go way down to win a football game, so we work pretty physical with it. We’re going to do some kickoff live at the end tonight, and we have to send a message. We also have to do a better job of coaching and teaching.”
How much success on kickoff coverage is location of the kick? “I think it’s always part of it. When we’ve had really good locations, usually we’ve had good coverage. I can think back to last week, there were three of them that were really located pretty daggone well. And then two of them, one of them was in the middle of the field where we didn’t want it, and the other one was -- if I’m coming down the field -- right-middle, which wasn’t far enough. There’s all kind of things you look at. I think their returner is very good, quick, and he does punts and kickoffs. We just have to be more sound.”
You pitched a shutout on third downs defensively last week. What’s your target percentage for third-down stops? “I think if you can be successful defensively 63-, 64-percent of the time, maybe a little higher than that -- but I don’t know where we are right now. I don’t really look at that stuff much. I don’t think we’re where we need to be. I think last week helped, but that’s an anomaly a little bit.”
How much is Junior Hemingway limited by arm wrap? “He’s all right. He’s just got a little boo-boo on his elbow. He’s fine. We did punt yesterday and he’s one of our wings and did a great job protecting. We serve them live bullets.”
Have you talked to players about road game and traveling expectations? “A little bit. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow. It’s more when we, on Thursdays, you cover some more of those administrative things. Where they sit on the plane, all those kinds of things that go along with it. How we’ll dress, getting to the hotel, knowing where you’re at, knowing where the stairs are, because that’s important. Elevators sometimes don’t, you know, bode too well.”
Are you pleased with how healthy this team is given how physical you practice? “Yeah. Yeah. No question about it. And I will knock [on wood] a bunch (knock knock). Understanding that Tuesdays are going to be heavy work days and today will be a heavy work day where we’re going to get as good a look as we can, as physical a look as we can so that the reactions on both sides of the ball and even on the kicking game are what we want come Saturday. And the mentality of how we play.”
Is Barnum out for Saturday? “No, I don’t think he’s out. ”
How much is he practicing? “He didn’t do much yesterday, but today’s Wednesday.”
Countdown clocks … have you caught anyone talking about Michigan State yet? “No. Heck no. No way. The seniors have done a nice job. They’ve done a nice job.”
How is Will Heininger doing? “I think Will has come along when you look from the fundamental side of playing the position and what we ask those guys to do up front. He has always wanted to do it. I think there is a confidence thing at times that he had to, in my opinion, push through. Being a little more confident in this is how we’re teaching this and how we want you to do it from a physical standpoint. But I think we do some two-on-one live drills on Tuesdays and Wednesday that are really good for our guys up front on both sides of the ball.”
Craig Roh was dropping back in coverage. What does his versatility do for your defense? “I think it helps. When you have a guy that can do a couple different things, it can keep an offense off balance. Craig’s greatest asset is he’s a smart kid and he’s a smart football player, and he picks up things well and he has good recognition of if he has to wall the second receiver or if he’s on what we call train and he has to take the guy out of the backfield. He has a good understanding of it.”
Do you see your players getting more comfortable with Mattison’s defense? “Last two weeks they feel more comfortable. I think this week we have a different challenge because of pace and tempo that we’ll get from Northwestern. They’re going to snap the ball at times with 30 seconds still on a 40-second clock. So that’s getting to the line of scrimmage and making a decision. At other times they’re going to slow it down, so all those things that are things that will disrupt you defensively, and that’s where our discipline, our communication, our urgency to look into the sideline and getting set -- that’s all part of it.”
Mattison talked about players taking ownership of defense. What does that mean to you? “I think there’s a lot of pride. There’s a unit pride by position. I think it’s always important. I think the personal pride you have, how much you really study the game and study the oponent and look at tape and all of those things. I think they’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
What kind of effect will having a whole lot of Michigan fans in the crowd have on the game? “Well I think it’s always nice to play in front of folks that are behind you. It may help a little bit with crowd noise if we have a lot of Michigan people there. I know there’s a ton of alums who live in the Chicago area, so we welcome them all.”
Thoughts on Denard’s improvement? “We worked on it pretty good, you know. And he took it to heart. He was stressing that he wasn’t throwing well. He’s a better passer, I’ve told you that before. Like I said, part of it is we had to get him some throws that he could make early and then he got into rhythm, and it was lights out after a while. Yeah he was feeling good. But his fundamentals were so much better other than two throws, okay -- there were two throws and both of them were pocket movements to the left where I think he didn’t get turned very well, and part of that was protection. But he got his screws in the ground pretty good and transferred through most of the throws, and he was pretty much on the money. And he touched a few balls nice, too. He dropped a couple balls in, and the key to passing is it’s a finesse art.”
How did you come up with the diamond thingy and what can we expect to see from that in the future? “Well I’m not going to tell you that. But it’s something -- Devin Gardner’s a talented kid, and we just wanted to give him a chance to feature him a little bit in a couple of deals. [With] Big Ten play, we’ll empty the drawer more as we go now. Our first four games, we’re still learning the offense. That’s still a work in progress. We’re going to have our deals. They’re not all going to work. Some are going to be good, some of them aren’t. But that was just one of them.”
Is it based off anything or did you just kind of pull it out of thin air? “Well, it goes way back. There was a series [that the] Chargers ran back in I think was the 80s or early 90s with Buford Jordan, where he was a quarterback in college and we took a piece of that and expanded it a little bit. I think Dan Fouts was playing back then. Part of that’s kind of old Ernie Zampese would have done that. The other piece is that we just kind of built some stuff off it that they didn’t do back then. The option part of it was a piece from the past.”
(more after the jump.)
News bullets and other important things:
- Barnum is still day to day.
- Woolfolk is fine, even though he may or may not have been limping at the end of the game.
- Cam Gordon will practice more. Sounds like he has to fight for his job back.
- McColgan should be back for Northwestern.
- Hoke voted for Michigan to be in top 25.
Opening remarks: “It was good to start the Big Ten season winning the football game on Saturday. It was good to keep the Brown Jug. I think the score got painted on this morning at eleven. It’s good to have the Jug here in Ann Arbor.
"Everything gets tougher. Northwestern, they’re 2-2 as you all know. They lost a heartbreaker down in Champaign last week, but they have a football team that’s very well coached. Pat’s probably as good a coach as there is in the league and a guy that feels strongly about that program, being an alumnus of Northwestern and being a tremendous player there. I also think when you look at them from an offensive and defensive standpoint, they’re a team that’s going to play physical. They’re going to play 60 minutes of football. Defensively, they run very well to the ball. Offensively, Persa was back, played most of the game, was pretty productive. But Coulter is also a guy who’s moved them offensively and done a nice job. So when you look at it and playing away, we haven’t been away. It’ll be a little bit different for us because we’ve been fortunate enough to play five games in Michigan Stadium.”
Does being tied for second in the country in ppg allowed mean anything to you? Also, can you point to any tangible improvements in the defense between the spring and now? “Well, it’s like anything else. It doesn’t mean anything right now. I mean, none of those things matter. We’re 1-0 right now. I think when you look at our front the last two weeks, we’ve been a little more disruptive. That’s enabled the linebackers to do their job. I think we put a little bit more pressure at times on the quarterback. We still don’t blitz worth a dog, period. And that’s got to improve. Guys are playing together. I think they’re understanding the roles. I think the defensive staff has done a good job in preparation, and the guys are doing a good job preparing themselves.”
How did Denard look in the passing game on film? “I think mechanically he was better. I think the routes were better. I think the timing of the offense was better. There was a good tempo and good flow when you look at him and his footwork and all those things that are part of the mechanics of throwing. I think it was better. I thought it wasn’t bad versus Notre Dame, either. I think he’s a prideful guy, he’s a competitive guy … He wants to be good for his teammates.”
How do you work on timing in practice? “Well it’s just the routes and the timing, and if it’s five-step or three-step drop, from the gun or under center. Just the mechanics of that and when the ball should be thrown, on what step.”
(more after the jump around.)
Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith
Why was the passing game better today? Denard: “We just clicked. We worked on it in practice, and we just had to put it forward in games, and that’s what we did today.”
When the last time you had a rushing, receiving, and passing TD in the same game. Also, can you talk about the game plan that utilized you in a unique way? Smith: “I was just put in the right place at the right time. The coaches know what I’m capable of. What I have to do for the team to help them out.” Was it fun? “Real fun. And the last time I threw a pass was in high school, but not like three [TD’s] in one game.”
When did the 2-QB thingy arise? Denard: “We’ve been doing that in practice. We’ve been working on it. Coach said he’d throw it at us, and just be ready. And he called it, so we were ready.” Were you expecting it that early? “Oh yeah.”
That was an unorthodox offense today. Is that exciting for you? Denard: “Oh yeah … Just going out and having fun with my teammates.”
Denard, how comfortable did you feel in the passing game? You looked more comfortable. Denard: “Oh yeah. I mean, we’ve been practicing getting it down with the receivers, and we were just on the same page.” How much you looking forward to going on the road? “Both of us are looking forward to that.” Smith: “I mean it’s just another football game, and that’s what we love to do. We just love to come out to compete, and it’s another night game.”
You guys have been putting up a lot of points. How does the team feel about this new offense? Denard: “We’re confident. I mean, we’ve been playing [well], and we trust Coach Al to give us the right play and make things happen, because we have some playmakers.”
Are there other things we haven’t seen that you might show us? Denard: “We can’t tell them that …” Smith: “Not that I know of.”
(more after the jump)
Misdirection plays were a big part of offense. Will we see more? “Maybe. It just is kind of the offensive package. It’s kind of, when you have a quarterback that threatens people because of his ability to run, that’s part of it. That stuff is like the old counter play, which you don’t see a whole lot of people running anymore. It’s a lot of traction one way and then going back the other way.”
Talk about Denard’s passing. Is that more like what you see in practice? “Yeah. The sky’s never going to fall. We’re going to make it through. He throws the ball well, and we like how he throws the ball. [He] set his feet well and we ran good routes and completed some balls.”
Talk about the intensity of tackling and sacks. “I think Jerry Montgomery has done a tremendous job with our front, and the pride that a guy like Van Bergen or Martin have in how they play is a big part of it. I think this whole thing is a process what the kids are going through and how you do things. I think it’s just one of the things that we emphasize and they really did a nice job on some of those things. As far as tackling goes, if you fit the defense right, and wherever the support is or the cutback player -- all those different intangibles you have to have on defense -- I think you tackle better.”
Talk about Denard/Devin formation. What kinds of problems can that create for defense? “They’re both pretty talented. I think who’s back there in the backfield with them have some talents. It’s just something that Al has had for a while and something that we thought would be a good thing to do.”
Talk about Vincent Smith. “He does everything you want him to do, when you look at him as a football player and how he prepares and his toughness. All those things that -- Vince is a guy that you can count on. If he makes a mistake or doesn’t do something as well, it’s not because of lack of effort or lack of toughness. He’s done a good job for us.”
How pleased are you at the 58-0 effort to start your Big Ten career? “It has nothing to do with my career. It really has to do with these kids and that jug, and keeping that jug in Ann Arbor. And us going out to play better football every time we take the field whether it’s tomorrow when we practice or if it’s on game day. Believe me we have a lot of mistakes from a personnel standpoint. We take a daggone penalty, and that’s my fault. We didn’t have a guy out there on the punt team. You can’t do that and win championships, and that’s my fault.”
Why did you choose this game to unleash all this offensive creativity? “You work on it during fall camp, you put it to bed for a little bit, but you work on it so the kids have a knowledge of it so when you bring it back out, it’s just something we thought was a good time to bring out.”
What was your reaction when Borges brought the 2-QB package, and is this the most complete game you have played this season? “Well Al and I have talked about that package in March? April? And believe me, Al Borges is very, very creative. So that’s not just that package. I’m sure his creativity will show up again. We played probably our best game to this point, but the schedule is -- we’re going away. We’re going on the road. We haven’t been on the road. They don’t know how we like to travel. And I say we as a staff. They have an idea, but there’s a lot of unknowns out there, and there’s a lot that we have to get better.”
Did you practice any jug security so you wouldn’t drop it, and does a game where everybody gets to play give you a boost in practice the next week? “I’ll answer the second question first. No question the morale of your football team -- those other guys, and I’ll use an example: Richard Ash, I don’t know how many plays he got, maybe four or five. But he goes down there on that look team and does a tremendous job down there and has the ability to come out there and play some. I would think he would feel pretty good about that. So I think that’s always important. You get guys live reps in games.
“Jug security is always at a premium.”
(more after the jump)
How did the game plan defensively change for you after you learned Marqueis Gray wasn’t going to play? Also, how did your defensive front do against Shortell? “We really didn’t change it at all. We do a lot of things by personnel groups, what personnel groups they have in. So all the calls were based on those groups. So they would have had the same calls if Marqueis would have been in there. So there was no change at all.”
Is the confidence level of players high enough where they expect to win a Big Ten championship? “I hope so.”
Are you eager to get this Michigan team out on the road, and will it give you and your staff a better indication of where they’re at? “We like playing at home. Now if Dave can do a 10-game home schedule, it would be wonderful. It’s pretty convenient. I’m kind of interested in seeing how we react. I really am. To see what we’re made of -- see our mentality, our mental toughness, see if we’re business-like in how we go about the work that we have to do, and the preparation and all those things.”
The defensive line wasn’t where you wanted it to be. Talk about progression? “I think they were disruptive. That’s what I like and that’s what you have to do if you’re a guy who plays up front. As you look at the schedule and you look at teams you’re going to play, I think there’s some offensive lines in this league that are pretty stout. We’ve got to make sure that we’re making our gains and our progression on a daily basis with great urgency and intensity.”
Three things: Troy Woolfolk looked like he was limping. What did Denard have done to his arm? How did Schofield play? “I didn’t notice Troy limping, so that’s new to me. Denard had a boo-boo. Schofield I imagine did okay in there. I can’t tell you for sure because of not [having watched] the film yet.”
Helmet numbers? “That was my decision, and we will have those numbers on there throughout the rest of the season when we get into Big Ten play because we want to honor the guys who wore those numbers before, and the 42 championship teams. And the guys who have represented Michigan. It’s important to us.”
McColgan was out. “He got banged up a little bit.” Is it serious? “Week to week, day to day.”
Did you sense more physicality up front? Also, how did Fitz Toussaint run? “I think, up front, you try and gauge yourself. Molk’s played a lot of football, and I kind of, being a defensive line coach, I like watching other defensive lines and how they play and how we block them. I thought there was football being played at the point of attack. And … why are you laughing at that? It was pretty obvious football was being played. But you could hear it. You could feel it and sense it. When you look at your line and you look at, if the back has to start making his decision and his cuts further back from the line of scrimmage, then you’re not doing a good job. And you could see when Shaw and Fitz and those guys were coming, they got more downhill, pressed the line of scrimmage more, and that tells you those guys were working hard. Fitz, I thought he ran well. He’s a tough little burger who did a nice job.” [ed-M: I doublechecked the video: he definitely said 'burger.']
Re: Two-QB formation. How much does that help that other teams have to prepare for it? Also, what’s that called? “Uh, you know, two quarterbacks, whatever. It doesn’t matter what it’s called. It really is, yeah. People have to prepare.”
Talk about your secondary and how guys like Avery and Countess are playing. “Well, you know. Courtney and Blake, and there’s Raymon Taylor, [who] is going to be a good football player also. Our young guys have done a good job. It starts in my opinion with Jordan Kovacs and his leadership and his directing traffic out there. I think they have a lot of confidence in each other. I think there’s a chemistry. I think J.T. has done a nice job. When he focuses in, he’s pretty doggone good. I think there’s number one, there’s some competition, because there’s a lot of guys in that room that all want to play.”
Talk about Thomas Rawls? “It was good to get Thomas some carries. He’s a freshman that’s learning the game of football at the Division I level. I think he’s got some skill sets that are pretty good. I think you saw some of that today. So it was good to see him out there.”
Gibbons was 3/3. “Someone has said that he’s kicked really good during fall camp. Ahem. Someone did. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him, and hopefully that injects even more confidence into him.”
Denard was 11/11 before his first incompletion. He’s a pretty confident guy, but how important is it to re-establish that confidence that he can be a succesful passer? “Yeah, because all he hears is he’s not. Not from us, but other people. (Ed: Looking at you, buddy.) I think getting off to a good start helps us with the run game so much. People want to put nine guys, and they played a lot of quarters, and they were doing a lot of good stuff with their safeties depending on where the back was. And then they changed during halftime, which is good coaching. Bill Miller’s a good defensive football coach. It was good, and being able to throw the ball was a big part to our offense.
Can you be successful in the Big Ten relying on Denard to get most of your yards? “I don’t think so. You become too one-dimensional. People are creative. We’re going to play a lot of good coaches and some teams with very good personnel. When good coaches give good personnel the game plan and scheme, they can be a problem. The ability for our running backs to do a nice job running with the football and the ability to do a nice job in the passing game is a big part of it.”
As a defensive coach, you must love a shutout. “Right.”What did you like specifically, and what can you improve on? “Yeah. They broke two runs that got outside that shouldn’t have. Then they fumbled. We got fortunate at the end [when] They fumbled the ball -- and the daggone end doesn’t squeeze when the tackle blocked … Just simple. Basic. Football. Stuff. That we didn’t do. As many times as we’ve done drills and as many times -- that’s unacceptable, because that’s a discipline that you have to have.”
Greg Mattison said during the halftime radio show, “An average defense comes out and goes downhill during the second half.” Were you concerned about a letdown during the second half? “I think we communicate with them pretty well. I think Greg and his staff -- I think we challenge them. This was a first step to what the goal of this football program is and has been, and that’s a Big Ten championship. You can’t go out there in the second half and slop around and not tackle well and not have an urgency and not have an intensity. That doesn’t get you any better. You go backwards, and I’m not a believer in going backwards.”