"...don't believe something because an "expert" is saying it. Believe it because of the evidence."
News bullets and other items:
- The team scrimmages in Michigan Stadium on Wednesday
- Mason Cole really, truly might play. Really.
- Funchess was held out of practice but Hoke didn't even call it a boo-boo so he's likely fine
- Csont’e York is still part of the program
- Devin Gardner is expected to start against Appalachian State
- The coaches will probably know their starting offensive line after Saturday's scrimmage
- Jake Butt being back by the Notre Dame game is “a little nuts”
- Ross Douglas is a wide receiver
“Thanks for coming out. We continued, I think, as a team to practice hard. We continued as a team to take the incremental jumps that we want to keep making every day were out here I think from all positions. Again, the competition is such that it just creates a great competitive environment in everything we're doing. Happy with the effort we've had throughout camp, happy with the improvements and the progress. We need to keep getting better, I think that's a big part of it. The jump that we make this week as a team, because this is really a grind, is important. Tomorrow we'll put it together up at the stadium, we'll scrimmage up there. We'll see how many plays. Would like to get 120 in, 130 plays. We'll talk a little more in-depth what we want to get from each unit, from the first defense to the first offense, seconds, thirds, all the way down so that we can see – we're getting everybody some reps and also a good idea of guys playing up in that stadium.”
We've heard a lot about Mason Cole. What has he done to impress you guys and is it a good or a bad thing or are you concerned that you might have a true freshman starter on the offensive line?
”I think I'll take the back end of it first. If he's good enough, he's old enough. To this point so far he's been good enough. When you look at the people that he's gone against with Frank and those rush ends and the people that he's blocking, five techniques, he's held his own very well. I think I mentioned earlier sometime but he came in a little differently. I give a lot of credit to his coach and his high school team and their preparation. He has a great passion about playing the game.”
Any update on the injuries?
“Yeah, everybody was back. The only one, obviously Jake is still not full speed but the guys who got banged up – Funchess is the only guy that we held out a little bit but other than that I can't think of another guy. I'm just trying to think so I can give you accurate information.”
What happened to Funchess?
”He just got bumped up a little bit. He'll be okay. He probably could have gone today but we're trying to be smart. We've got a scrimmage tomorrow.”
Any update on Csont’e York and is he still a part of the program?
”No question. We are going to go through the process. You know, he's a guy who has been a part of this team and we'll go through this process. His status hasn't changed.”
So he's still part of the program?
”Yeah. Status hasn't changed.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more on Jake Butt, Devin Gardner, the inside linebackers, and a complete lack of clarity regarding the offensive line]
Not to compare it to last year, but what is a Doug Nussmeier offense? What is this offense going to look like?
“We want to play physical. We want to establish an identity as a physical and explosive offense.”
How have the guys embraced that?
“I feel really good about the way that our guys have worked. The players have worked extremely hard, had a good summer with Coach Wellman and come to camp, like I said, really focused. They’ve had a good first week.”
How important is it to figure out who you are on the offensive line and let them gel? [Note: that’s my best guess as to the question. The audio was garbled.]
“Obviously the sooner you can answer that question the better off you’re going to be. It’s not just the verbal communication but it’s also the nonverbal communication that goes on there. It’s something that we’re working on. We’re looking at a couple different scenarios and combinations right now and we’ll settle on that soon.”
Is there pressure or excitement or both?
“You know, it’s all how you look at it. There’s always excitement and pressure’s what you put on yourself. For me, the expectation at Michigan is extremely high and that’s the way we want it. That’s why you coach at Michigan, that’s why you play at Michigan. You embrace it. There’s a lot of guys that have played in this program and coached in this program before that have set a standard and you want to be part of that and that’s why it’s a special place.”
The offensive line had its struggles last year and yet lost two NFL Draft picks. How can this line be better even without that group?
“Well, we’re really excited about the group we have—young players and they’re growing everyday with different things. They’re trying to focus in on certain things that we do every week so that they can really get good and, as you say, get better with repetition and so hopefully each week we’ll get better and better.”
Are you starting to see guys blossom because of the opportunity?
“I think Coach [Hoke] has said it many times, we’ve created some really good competition on our team. We’re getting better and deeper as far as creating competition at different position and we’re moving guys around to create competition, so you’d think that competition brings out the best in every player.”
Coach Hoke said today that Drake Johnson and De’Veon [Smith] are kind of a cut above the other running backs. What set them apart, those two in particular?
“Well, first thing when you talk about De’Veon is you talk about how physical of a player he is. He’s a tough, tough guy and really day in and day out he’s a guy that puts on his hard hat and brings his lunch pail. To me that’s the thing that’s stood out the most about him. Drake looks really explosive coming off the injury from last year, did a great job with rehab. Schmidty [Paul Schimdt, Head Trainer] and his staff and Aaron [Wellman] this summer, they’ve done a great job of getting him ready to go. And Derrick Green’s done some really good things. Justice does some good things also. There’s a group of guys there and we’re really looking for somebody to separate themselves from the group.”
Brady [Hoke] said he wants toughness to be the identity of this team. For an offense what does that mean?
“Talk about being physical, being physical at the line of scrimmage. That’s across the board. Our wideouts are going to be be physical players. We’re going to demand that from everybody on the offense.”
[After THE JUMP: offensive installation, Devin Gardner, and Jabrill Peppers?]
We’ve heard you’re going to be a tougher defense. How will we see that on the field in the fall?
“Hopefully you see the aggressiveness in base defense as well as when we do pressure. And I think the way you see that, you’re going to see guys—it’s easier right now for our guys to run to the football than it has been in the past. In other words they understand that that’s how they’re going to play. The aggressive part of it is like, everybody kind of wants to get in on hits instead of saying you’re supposed to get over there on hits. The pressure, the way our secondary’s playing, they’re more aggressive, they’re trying to get on guys a little tighter, I think all those kind of things.”
Is this more the kind of defense you’ve always envisioned when you came to Michigan?
“Yeah, it definitely is. Offenses have made it difficult because they spread you out all over the place. If you’re going to sit and just let them take shots and take shots they’re going to have their success. On offense it’s just keep the ball moving, keep the ball moving but on defense I think you’ve got to change the math sometimes and you’ve got to say it’s not going to be, maybe, like it was in practice for you.”
Are you more comfortable with this defense than you have been maybe- is the transition finally over?
“No question. No question. The guys that are playing in this defense are ours. You know, I really respect the first group and the groups that we came in with. Anytime you come in and demand what we demand it’s hard, but these kids that are here now are all the ones that we brought in here. They’re the ones that we’re with every day of their lives. I mean, we spend so much time with these kids. You really are excited about their attitude. You’re excited about—you can coach them really, really hard and you don’t have to worry about, ‘Well, now do I have to go put my arm around them?’ No, they know that you are for them all the way. And I think our coaches have done a great job, and Brady from the top has done that where we’re going to coach you now, we’re going to make sure you do it the right way and sometimes it isn’t going to be pretty but the next play is the next play.”
What do you know about Jabrill [Peppers] today that you didn’t know seven days ago?
“I know that he’s a real good football player. Here’s what I didn’t know because you don’t know this because you’re not with him: he loves to play football. That’s what you didn’t know. You saw him in games be very, very aggressive and very talented but now that we’re with him, he just really loves to be out there playing and he brings it every play. He’s got to gain some maturity. You know, when you’re a guy who’s been as successful as he has I think you never, ever have heard someone say, ‘That’s wrong. You can’t do that.’ His coach is a tremendous high school coach, but he just brings a lot of fire.”
[Regarding Peppers] What went into the decision to finally settle on nickelback?
“Because the way offenses are nowadays you’ve got to play nickel so much more. The nickel position is a very, very important position on the defense now compared to what it was maybe five to ten years ago. You have to have a guy in there now that’s going to be playing a whole bunch in that game. If you put a guy at safety and then you need him at nickel he’s going to play two positions and he may not become as good as he could be at that time as a youngster.”
Brady has talked about talking to him [Peppers] about not getting wrapped up in how much attention he gets and all that stuff. What do you say to him about that and how do you think he’s handled it?
“I haven’t had to say a thing to him about that because we coach him really, really hard. There’s no pampering. You’re just a guy in our defense. Obviously, with what his success was in high school he’ll probably get attention. He’s been very mature about it. He understands it’s Michigan now. When you’re at Michigan you’re just one of the team and you’re responsible to do what the team’s asking you to do and that’s what he’s done.”
[After THE JUMP: more Peppers, improvement in the linebackers, and defensive philosophy]
In the half-hour we spent on the field talking to players at Sunday's Media Day, the theme of this offseason and fall camp was clear: change is here. For the offense, that means a change in coordinators, and with that a significant difference in how they practice. The tempo is being pushed like never before in Brady Hoke's tenure at Michigan, and that also affects the defense, which is dealing with change of their own, as the coaching staff on that side shifts roles while the defense moves from a 4-3 under to a 4-3 over.
I caught up with Dennis Norfleet, Jake Ryan, and Wyatt Shallman to discuss these changes and more, including Ryan saying he feels fully recovered from the ACL tear that limited him to just five starts in 2013. Tomorrow, I'll have further player interviews with the significant portion of the team that hails from Cass Tech.
You're getting work in the slot now pretty much exclusively, it sounds like. How comfortable are you at that position right now?
I'm getting a lot better. The wide receiving crew is really helping me out a lot. Coach Hecklinski is a great coach, he's getting me to feel comfortable when I get in there and getting me comfortable with my plays, so I'm doing pretty well.
What's been the biggest difference with the new offensive coordinator, the biggest change between last year and this year?
The biggest change is we're moving faster, up-tempo. We're a lot better as an offensive crew, we're more than a team, we're a family, so that's what makes a big difference to us now.
With that big increase in tempo, it sounds like you guys are getting more reps in. How much of a difference has that made in terms of getting more comfortable in the offense?
It's a making a lot of difference. It's a big difference because we have a lot of rotation, everybody gets to know their plays, nobody's going out there not knowing what they're doing, and if they don't they have people to tell them if they go wrong. That's a big difference.
How do you see your role being this year? Obviously you're playing the slot, but there's a lot you can do, so how do you see yourself being utilized in the offense this year?
I'm just doing my job, you know. If I get open space, I do what I do best, you know. I'm also being a role model for the younger players that came in. We're basically working as a team in everything that we do.
At returner, you obviously have a lot of experience there. Coach Hoke said you're getting a lot of the reps there but that there are a couple freshmen who are also coming in and making a push. How do you feel at returner right now, and is that a place you feel you can make a really big impact?
Kick returning has always been something that I go into the game and everything, you know, willing that I want to return a kick [for a score] every game. We've been rotating a lot, we've got a lot of players that are competing, spots that's not really set out for who starts where, so we're just having fun in camp right now and competing.
It sounds like both at slot and returner that you're working a lot with Freddy Canteen. What have you seen out of him in the spring and fall so far?
Canteen's becoming a better young man, not just a football player, just in life. He's been looking up to the older receivers, like Devin Funchess, me, [redshirt senior walk-on Anthony] Capatina. It's just a lot of people he can look up to, to become a better person, both in our lives and football.
You keep mentioning how you guys have come together as a team. What's been the biggest change since last year, and do you feel like as an upperclassman now you're really grown into a leadership role?
When I came in, I did things that upperclassmen always told me was wrong that I didn't think were wrong, but now that I'm older I can see what they were talking about. You know, it's more than just a game. We're trying to win a championship, the Big Ten, so as we go along that's the focus of our days. That's what we're ready for.
[Hit THE JUMP for Jake Ryan discussing his transition to middle linebacker and his full recovery from the ACL tear, and Wyatt Shallman talking about his role in the offense and the changes in style under Doug Nussmeier.]
News bullets and other important items:
- Delonte Hollowell has a cast on his hand and Ondre Pipkins was held out of two-a-days as a precaution.
- Shane Morris is the backup QB. They like the progress he’s made, but he’s the backup.
- Wilton Speight is competing with Russell Bellomy for the third-string QB job. Decision on whether Speight should redshirt will be made in a couple of weeks.
- The first team offensive line should be determined over the next week.
- May use by-committee approach to running backs, but they would like to have a featured back.
- Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith are 1 and 1a on the RB depth chart, with Derrick Green at 2.
- Team is still searching for an identity, though Hoke wants it to be one that can run the ball and have toughness on both sides of the ball. Toughness was mentioned a lot today.
- Brian is probably going to have to eat a lemon.
“Good morning. I’m glad you’re here. Overall, we’re really happy with the progress we’ve made from spring. I think in the practices that we’ve had, we went two yesterday-- really good effort and good competition, which is what we’re striving for at every position but also offense versus defense, the kicking game versus the kicking game, all those things, we’ve come out and competed hard. Now we are not, as far as being a good football team yet. But the way they’ve come to work every day and what they’ve done, I think the identity of this team is still one that we’re developing and trying to develop. I think the team has invested themselves in a lot of ways in each other and in what we’re trying to get done. This next week is a grind and should be because you’ve got some double-day practices in there. We’ll scrimmage sometime during that time, during that week, trying to get reps and see what matchups we like as an offense and defense. Really looking into the situational football standpoint of it, how we match up and how we will match up during the course of the year. Excited about where we’re at knowing that we’ve got a lot of hard work that we’ve got to put into it. Staff-wise, player-wise, trainer-wise, manager-wise, everybody that’s involved. So from that standpoint there’s a lot of positives. From the standpoint of where we want to be, we’re not near that yet.
Can you say anything particular about any injuries that have occurred?
“You know,there are some guys who are banged up. Delonte Hollowell, he’s got a cast on his hand. As far as anything real major besides a couple guys we held out, Ondre Pipkins in two-a-day days, trying not to overwork him. We’re doing a lot with some of the GPS tracking that we’re into. I think the first time around doing all that stuff you’re trying to get some baselines and some data and all that and I think that’s helping us when we go out to practice.”
What can you tell me about your thought process through the kicking game this year? Special teams particularly, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of new faces. So what can you tell me, from long snapper to holder to PK…
“Yeah. Matt Wile has done a nice job in his career so far in the kicking part of it. Will Hagerup, it’s great to have Will back. He’s had a good camp so far. Kenny Allen is a young man who’s walked on here who’s worked really hard and is developing a little bit on kickoffs. He’s a very good punter. Snapper, Scott Sypniewski and Danny Liesman are two guys that are really competing there. Scott we brought in a year ago and were able to redshirt him, but losing Jareth Glanda, that’s a big loss but Scott’s done a nice job in that part of it. When you look at the return game there’s a lot of different guys. Norfleet’s really taken most of them but a guy like Freddy Canteen, a guy like Jabrill Peppers, some of those guys have a skillset that we think is pretty good. And the other part of that is having Drake Johnson back is a real plus.”
I’m curious to know how is the development of your wide receiver group going and the transition to a new offensive system?
“The wide receivers, I think, are learning every day. I think the pressure and the stress that we put on them and how we practice as a whole team but for those guys when you’re talking about formationally getting lined up and the different personnel groups and depending on what the quarterback sees and what he’s pointing and all that, I think they’re learning a lot there. I think with Devin [Funchess] and Jehu [Chesson], Amara [Darboh] coming back is a real plus for us. He’s had a real good camp so far. Again, it’s not like we’re in three weeks of it but he’s done a nice job. Freddy Canteen, I think all those guys, Bo Dever, Da’Mario Jones, all of them have improved. They fit what we’re doing. We’ve recruited them to fit what we’re doing offensively.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Ryan, leadership, Gardner, and more.]
News bullets and other important items:
- Blake Countess (groin) and Mario Ojemudia (ankle) were held out of practice but should return by Monday
- Drake Harris injured his other hamstring and has been limited to doing rehab reps
- The offensive line could change from morning practice to afternoon practice until they find a combination they like. Don’t shoot the messenger.
- The open scrimmage on the 16th was Hoke’s idea and will feature…football. They’re going to play football.
“Thanks for coming. Number one, it’s always good to get in the pads for the first day. You know, even though you've been in short pads and helmets it was good to get out in full pads. It was good that the energy that we've had all week has been really positive, how the guys have reacted to some adversity that we put them under. Today we did a little crowd noise and certain situational football setting and you could see we've got a lot of work to do. So we'll continue to put a bunch of pressure on our team. You know, Blake [Countess], he's got a little bit of a groin so we held him out today. Mario's [Ojemudia] got a little bit of an ankle, he's in a boot, but talking to him he said that he feels better every day and I think he'll be okay. Blake and Mario, they should be by Monday ready to go so we're excited about that. We've had good practices but we've got a long way to go when you look at where we need to be.”
What would you say, in just the five days of practice, you've seen the most improvement of and where would you say 'we've got to get this better pretty quick?'
“Well, I guess the biggest thing is how they came into camp. From conditioning and all, the kind of shape we're in, to football IQ and where that's at, and that's why we’ve got to continue to put a lot of stress on them. You know, that way things become a little more reactive and automatic when you're looking at it. That's probably in how they're competing with each other, you know, we get a couple scuffles now and then, and most of that is guys just going. And they're going hard.”
Could you talk about the enthusiasm? They were jacked up at the beginning today.
“Well, they were jacked up at the beginning. It was great they were jacked up at the beginning and it was great they were jacked up at the end. I mean, you need both. You can always start fast but you've got to finish. I thought they've come out every day that way, so they've been excited about football. Obviously tomorrow we'll go two practices and that will be a little bit more challenging in some ways. I think we've got a really good plan when you look at the health and wellness and getting them off their feet and trying to get them as much sleep as we can. That's a little different than years past and I think that's a testament a little bit to how they've gone about their team business.”
About the freshman; are all of them participating?
“All of them are participating. Some of them have to leave a little early depending on what they have on the academic schedule.”
They're all qualified?
“Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yes. I didn't know you were talking about that. They're all qualified, they're all here.”
With being unsure whether Ty [Issac] is going to be given the opportunity to play or not, how do you decide how many reps to get him in case he can play or in case he doesn’t and you don’ want to take away from somebody else
“Right, right. And I think the one thing we’ve done is we are getting a ton of reps. How we practice—so there’s enough reps there. I think as we get closer, a week from now, when you start really game planning—because he really needs to take some reps to learn what the offense is.I think luckily he’s played at a Division I university and there’s a lot of similarities always but I think this has been beneficial for him and I think everyone’s kind of gotten what we need.
Would you be surprised if Devin [Gardner] wasn’t the guy in week 1?
“I would think he’s had a really good fall camp so far. You know, it’s five days. He’s right now the guy taking most of the reps with the ones but we’re splitting them up a little bit at times and if he’s not playing well, you know, Shane [Morris]—Doug’s not hesitant in practice to make that change and so they both are taking reps with the ones. Devin’s getting the majority of them.
You talked a little bit about multiple running backs. Could you see early in the season, let’s say Devin’s the starter, trying to get Shane in there earlier than later and getting him some playing time?
“You know, we haven’t really talked about what kind of contingency plan or plan to try and get him, if he isn’t the starter, reps yet in that first game, second game, third game, fourth game, whatever it might be.”
You talked before about staying away from ‘I like this team,’ but do you have a sense of this team’s identity yet?
“No, not yet but we talk about it every day, their identity and what they want to make it. It’s things that you do repeatedly and they can be good or bad.”
And what’s the response you get?
“Well, I think from a physical standpoint it’s been real positive. I think from a competitive standpoint it’s been real positive.”
In terms of freshmen getting in the mix, Freddy [Canteen] especially…
“I think Freddy. I think Mason Cole. Mason Cole’s a good football player. I think I said that in the spring. He’s a little different than most freshmen offensive linemen in some ways. I think [Bryan] Mone, Mone’s a little different. Him being here was a big plus. Wilton Speight’s taken some good reps. Drake Harris is the other guy. He’s got a little bit of a ham, hammy, hamstring and so he’s a guy that hasn’t—he’s taken some limited reps but not like we’d like to get with him.
Was that something that he re-hurt this week?
“Yeah. He re-hurt it early in the week. Different hamstring.”
Did you guys think about shutting him down for a while?
“He has been shut down.”
You said he’s been doing limited reps…
“Limited, yeah. And most of those are rehab reps.”
You were in pads for the first time today. Do you know when you’ll have your first scrimmage?
“Yeah I do but I don’t know if I remember right now. Sometime next week, but I couldn’t tell you when it is. I kind of go by it daily.”
Blake’s injury is, you said, a groin. Is that related to the core [injury that caused him to have offseason surgery]?
“No. No, no, no. He’ll be fine.”
Is this just a brief thing with Drake here?
“You know, I’m not a doctor so it’s hard for me to really analyze that. I think it’s something that we’re very weary about. I think Coach Wellman, Strength and Conditioning—I think the rehab that we’ve done, I think Paul Schmidt and the trainers have all handled it very well. You know, is it a nagging thing? Maybe. Some people have those things so we have to think what can we do to help besides this rest and they know much better than I know.”
Who do you see mixing in besides Funchess among the wide receivers at the top spot?
“Jehu [Chesson]. Amara’s [Darboh] done well. Dennis [Norfleet] and Freddy [Canteen] right now have done a nice job. Bo Dever. Jack Wangler’s made some good plays but if I would look at that group I think Funch, Amarah, Jehu, Fleet and Canteen.”
Norfleet and Canteen are at slot?
“They’re at slot, yes.”
What kind of progress has Amara made after sitting out last year with injury?
“He really has come along real well. I think in the spring, probably the last two weeks, we could have put him in live stuff but we just decided not to. He’s done well.”
Where have you seen this week the impact of Coach Nussmeier’s new system on the offensive line?
“Well, I think there’s some things that we like more vertical. I think that the combination schemes that we want to be a little more heavy on the line of scrimmage. When you look at hands, you know, four hands on one man to initiate some movement on the line of scrimmage. I think the backs themselves, Drake Johnson, Derrick [Green] and De’Veon [Smith], they’re downhill guys so it’s punctured the line of scrimmage a little bit.
When it comes to the line right now, how do you balance moving guys around trying different things versus wanting to have one unit building cohesion playing alongside each other?
“How do you balance it? I think it can be tricky but I think it can be massaged very well. I think Darrell [Funk] has done a nice job with it and Nuss and who we’ve put in that first group and maybe that changes daily. I’m sure it will change from a morning practice to the afternoon at times until we really feel this is it with these guys. I think the competition there has been really good for us and I think they’ve come out every day very physical.”
So who was the first group today?
“Today it was Mason Cole at the left tackle position, Jack [Miller] was at the center position, Magnuson was at the left guard position for a little bit, Ben Braden was at right tackle, and the right guard was Graham [Glasgow] and David Dawson.”
Can I ask a question about the open scrimmage [on August 16th]?
“I’d love for you to.”
You talked about in the spring how you didn’t show your cards. Is this going to be the same kind of thing?
“That’s why you have to come.”
You could have opposing coaches come in, right?
“If they’re coming in during two-a-day…”
“Well, they could. Do you think they will?
Yeah, they could have a graduate assistant or somebody…
“Are you going to trust a graduate assistant right now?”
I think you were one once, right?
I don’t know your bio by heart.
“That’s okay. Yeah but what are you showing? We’re going to play football though.”
So you will keep your cards close to the vest.
“No, you said that. I didn’t say that. We’re going to play football.”
Whose idea was it?
You’ve got to put this thing together pretty quickly.
“I think it’s good. You know, the more you look at pro football and for a team that’s got some youth but experience I think it’s good for them to be in front of people. Just like crowd noise today, I want as many distractions as we can get. I also think it’s great for Michigan fans because we love them.”
Do you want to invite us more to distract the players?
“No, probably not. You don’t distract them. You may distract me.”
Playing at home hasn’t been a problem. Have you considered doing a scrimmage at an away stadium?
“You know, we’ve done that. We did that when we were going to Alabama, to Texas. I thought that was really good for us. I thought it would’ve been maybe better if we could’ve opened it up and had people in Ford Field. I think that would’ve been pretty cool but that’s pretty hard to negotiate when they have their security, their event staff, all those things.”