Looking at what John Baxter’s done on special teams this year, obviously you guys opened against Northwestern with that kickoff. What has he brought to special teams for you guys?
“John’s done a great job. He’s a really detail oriented coach and puts guys in great position. Everywhere he’s been he’s always been top quality on special teams. There’s three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams so you’ve got to be clicking on all three to have a good football team.”
Jim says the approach is going to be the same as any other game in terms of preparation and how you go about things, but is there a little extra energy in the building this week?
“I mean, anytime you’re getting ready to play any game you’re excited. I think there’s a lot of things going on. Everybody’s thankful for Thanksgiving; their families are coming to town. We’re going to get a loaded stadium. But in terms of preparation, this is just a normal week for us. We’ve got our next opponent and we’re trying to get these guys read to go and perform at a high level.”
Does having gone against a really good pass rush last week help you in any way in preparation in being able to look at what you did against them?
“Yeah, that’s- I think the last couple weeks we’ve had good pass rushers. That helps us quite a bit, just helps us in preparation for that. And being in those hostile environments like Penn State’s a loud place, very good rushers- I think they led the nation in sacks. So, I think confidence level will be up because of that. When you’re performing at a high level it makes you feel good, makes you feel that you’re doing a good job at it.”
[After THE JUMP: How to make your offense dimensional]
Joe Bolden, Kyle Kalis,and Willie Henry
When Michigan State won on Saturday, how did that change your feelings toward The Game and what this matchup might mean?
WH: “Personally for me it didn’t because this is the biggest rivalry in college football, in my opinion. They’re going to go out there and give it their all. We’re going to control what we can control, so we’re going to go out there and play Michigan football Saturday.”
KK: “Yeah, I have to agree. You know, the whole year it’s really just been us controlling our own destiny. It’s going to be up to us having a great week of practice preparing for the game. They’re going to come out hard like they always do. Yeah, doesn’t affect anything for me.”
Joe, you’re a senior. You’re from Ohio. Is there really anything else to say this week?
“Not really, no.”
Is this a game you’ve been waiting for?
“Yeah, [for] four years, you could say. Since I committed.”
Considering you’re all from Ohio, what does this mean for your family and your friends having to deal with both sides of the rivalry?
KK: “There’s definitely some conflict, but it’s all good. This is the best rivalry game in college football. No doubt in my mind, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks that. It’s going to be fun. We’ve all been waiting for it. Team’s been waiting for it. Both teams are going to come out hard, guns blazing, not holding anything back, and it’s going to be a good one.”
Willie, you guys made a slight schematic change going into the game with Penn State on Saturday: you put four traditional down linemen in the game. When did you make that decision, and how do you think that approach worked this weekend?
“That was all coach Durkin and the coaching staff. They come in every week and they’re scheming up something different to help the defense and the team to put us in a better situation to win games. They thought going down to a traditional 4-3 look was better for the team; I’m all for it. It was more what was best for the team and a schematic advantage for Penn State.”
How do you think you guys did with it?
“I think we did well. I congratulate the D-line. I felt like we put a lot of pressure on Hackenberg during the game and tried to keep pressure and get to him with a four-man rush.”
[More after THE JUMP]
News Bullets and Other Items:
Jehu Chesson is working through something. Harbaugh expects him to play, but his medical status will be evaluated again today.
Derrick Green is also working through something and will be evaluated today.
Bryan Mone hasn’t been ruled out for Saturday, but Harbaugh wouldn’t say whether he’s been practicing, instead saying he’s been running, working, and healing.
Peppers at RB is something they might use more in year two. He said next season might “get a little crazy.”
Grant Newsome is the backup tackle and David Dawson is the backup guard/center
The snow reminds Harbaugh of 1969, when Bo called the players in on Monday morning to shovel the practice field. A similarly snowy practice field is the only reason he’s thinking of the ‘69 team, though.
First opportunity you get to coach in this big game, this big rivalry. How much are you looking forward to Saturday?
“Very much looking forward especially to today, gathering with the team and starting our preparations.”
Can I ask you about Jake Rudock? When you were in San Francisco, was he on the board as a potential NFL prospect and are you hearing from NFL teams from scouts and what not asking more about him?
“You don’t call that ‘the board’ until somebody’s in their last year of eligibility.”
What about the second part?
“I would think he would be.”
Have NFL scouts talked to you about him this year?
“I really haven’t talked to many NFL scouts this season.”
In Bo’s last press conference with us he said he did something to prepare for Ohio State every day. Is that something that you’ve been following as well?
“You know exactly how we’ve been trying to go about things. We’ve been trying to be better today than we were yesterday, [and] we’re trying to be better tomorrow than we were today. That’s our approach.”
As a player, it seemed like you guys, Michigan players, treated the Ohio State game differently. Do you not anticipate treating it differently as a coach?
“Uh…I have no frame of reference for what you’re referring to. We treated it differently when I was a player?”
Yeah, just circled it, the game, the rivalry game, doing something each week for it, your guarantee and stuff like that.
“Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t really know where you’re coming from. Sorry.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Rudock gets upgraded from tough as a two-dollar steak to hard as hen’s teeth]
Chris Wormley, James Ross, and Taco Charlton
Harbaugh was just talking about how you guys played so well, especially on the defensive line. Was it a personal challenge after last week? Did he say something to you? Did you talk about it internally about wanting to prove something this week?
TC: “Personally, our defensive line always feels like we have something to prove when we go that way every week with that mindset. We know a lot of the game depends on how we play, and we felt like the past couple weeks we’ve been slacking, so it was something that we internally knew we had to pick up and something coach Mattison preaches to us every day.”
Could you guys tell that Hackenberg was pretty beat up at the end? Seems like you guys got to him quite a bit.
CW: “Yeah, you could tell he was, towards the end of the fourth quarter, he was flinching at the end of his throws, kind of trying to duck out of the way. That was the goal all along was to get to the quarterback and apply pressure to him.”
James, if you could talk about the toughness this team has shown on the road. It’s tough to come through the whole Big Ten season and not lose on the road.
“This team is tremendously tough. We rely on each other and we’re a band of brothers when we go on the road, and we know if you give us an inch like you’ve seen in the Minnesota game we’re going to put the game on the defense’s shoulders. We’re going to do everything we can do to hold it out, and that’s everything we can do and I trust these boys to a T and they prove it every time we get on the field.”
If Taco and Chris could weigh in also.
CW: “What was the question again?”
Why you guys have been so successful on the road, not losing a conference road game.
CW: “I think it’s a mindset, especially when you’re not at home and you don’t have the crowd cheering you on every play. It’s just a mindset, and like Biggs said, we’re a tough team. We have that mentality each and every week, especially when we go on the road.”
TC: “The biggest thing I can attest to is what Biggs said also: we’re a band of brothers. We stick together. We go to a place like this, especially Penn State, it’s a hostile environment but we know together if we play like a team it doesn’t matter what the environment is. Every football field’s the same and that’s all that counts. Nothing changes about that.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more from Wormley, Ross, and Charlton]
“Glad Jake Rudock set a record. Trying to set as many of those as we can, and we’re happy for his success there and Jake Butt going over 1,000 yards was another great milestone, and a great win. You know, the amount of our players that contributed to this win was very high. Maybe the highest of the season when you look at the way the offensive line played, protection that we had, the entire defensive line, defensive stops in the red zone, kickoff return, the offense. Just a lot of guys sucking it up and playing really good football.”
Seems like your team, when it’s on the road, just keeps on getting things done, and they credited practice during the week as one of the reasons they’re effective on the road. Talk about why you think your team has been so effective in road games.
“Well, it always comes down to the players. Good players, you know, they play good on the road or at home.”
Is it just digging down deeper in the environment, or is there any one thing you notice?
“I think the number one factor is just, you know, being good. If you play good…”
Your predecessors when I grew up- talking about Bo and Woody- used to talk about how you can’t be up every week and I would have thought if there was any week where you’d have an emotional valley considering what you went through last week and what’s ahead it would have been this. Have you laid an egg all year, because I can’t discern one where you emotionally weren’t quite ready.
“I never heard Woody or Bo say that.”
Well, Woody said that. I grew up near Columbus, and so you always worry about how sometimes you can’t be up for every game completely.
“Heh. I don’t know about-”
You don’t believe in that anyway, so-
“Nah. I’ve read a lot about Woody Hayes. I don’t remember him ever saying that, and the egg analogy doesn’t resonate with me either. I don’t really like comparing humans to chickens or any other type of animal.” [Going to guess he wasn't a fan of my interview with Graham Glasgow last week -A.]
[/laughs really lightly under his breath]
[Hit THE JUMP for more on the game and some cool stuff about Bo]
So we were told on Monday that the receivers and tight ends were playing as well as any group in the Big Ten. They’ve taken a big step forward, it seems like. What do you think has been the cause of that?
“I think it’s just impossible to work hard and practice really well and not get a lot better. If you do the right things it will pay off. It’s just a matter of time, I think. Really that’s all I would attribute it to.”
Can you measure the synchronization change from the start of the season til now with Jake Rudock and the receivers?
“Just in terms of being on the same page?”
Just being more used to each other.
“Yeah. I think I wouldn’t say that we weren’t used to each other, but with the pass game relationship there’s definitely a benefit of spending more time together. Kind of, as I’ve said before, it’s just a matter of improving over time.”
When did you start to see those improvements pay off on the field?
“In terms of Jake and the receivers?”
“I thought we were going to throw the ball well against Utah, so…it’s not like an ‘aha’ moment, I guess. It’s not like an instance where you go all of a sudden Jake’s good, Jake Rudock’s good or Amara and Jehu are good. It’s just a matter of improving and connecting on plays; more plays in week two than we missed in week one, week three and four, etc. It’s not like a one week, one moment thing even though people will try to make Indiana out to be like that.”
I got scolded a bit Monday for asking about Ian Bunting. He was starting to contribute quite a bit in the passing game early in the year. What’s he got to do to get back to that level and see more playing time?
“He does all the right things. He’s working tremendously hard and is practicing really, really well. If there was a downside of having a really good, deep group at one position I think that would be it. Not everybody always gets to play as much as they’d like or contribute in the ways that they would like, but he’s doing all the right things and hopefully in the next few weeks he’ll be able to show his improvement.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]