...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
“You know, it’s always an exciting week. Believe me. I think from campuses, both schools, both programs, the opportunity to play in a rivalry game that has a lot at stake obviously with us both in the same division, they’re an awfully good football team. I think they’ve come a long way from early in the same season as far as from an offensive perspective. I think Connor Cook has done a nice job. I think their whole offense has really taken off, and you can really see it. We pay attention throughout the year, but really their football team. Their defense is as good as any. That’s going to be a big challenge for us. Playing up in East Lansing is always a bit of a challenge. Any time you play away from home, that’s just part of it. Making sure as a team that our focus and discipline and all those things have to be spot on for us to go out and compete at our highest level. That’s what we need to do. We’re excited. It’s going to be a fun week.”
With how aggressive Michigan State plays, how do you get your team to embrace that level of physicality?
“Well you hope your team does the same thing. We’ve been inconsistent in that department, so they all know, the guys who’ve been here. I think there’s 27 of them who were there in East Lansing two years ago. It’s not a whole lot, but they understand that it’s a physical next five weeks, and it starts with the physicalness that Michigan State will play with.”
Can you talk about this game in the context of the Legends division title?
“Well number one it’s the passion for this football game by Spartans and Wolverines, something that as a coach or a competitor you understand that and you look forward to it. The other part of it, the piece of the puzzle, it is important football game when you look at where you want to be and where they want to be at the end of November.”
What are the areas you need to improve the most for this game?
“I think our special teams need to get better. I don’t think we’ve punted the ball as well as we need to. I don’t think we’ve covered at times the way we need to. Big plays defensively. Can’t give up those big plays, and you can’t have those lapses. From an offensive standpoint, you always want to be able to have a running game and count on the guys up front being physical at the line of scrimmage, and getting Fitz or whoever it might be in the backfield started.”
Michigan State likes to attack the middle of your offense and blitz their linebackers. Will you get a good test for how good your new guards are going to be?
“I don’t think there’s any doubt. I think those two guys – and the good thing is there’s nine other guys out there with them. Believe me, there’s other guys who will be there for the first time with more significant roles than maybe they were before. I think how we handle their defense, their front seven, how we get off bump coverage and all those things as tight as they play. Those are all things we’re going to learn. I’d like to know a little bit more before, but that’s not going to be the case.”
Will you know the identity of your team after this Saturday?
“I think it gives you a little bit of an idea. Will you know it for sure? I’m not sure. I think there’s no doubt that every part of this game from the offense and defense, every fabric, whatever it is, you’re going to find something out about your team.”
How do you get Devin Gardner not to try to do too much?
“Yeah. You can’t give the ball away. I think they lead the conference in turnover margin and those things. We’ve got to do a great job of taking care of the football. Great job in decision-making. I think a lot of it, and you asked specifically about Devin. A lot of it for a lot of guys is the fundamentals that you play with and the techniques, and not getting yourself off kilter with how you’re going to play.”
Can you talk about the run game and how important it is to run against them? They haven’t given up 100 yards to an opponent yet.
“Yeah. And if you watch them enough you know why. I think running the football opens up so much of your play-action game. I think that’s where offensively they’ve done a nice job. They’ve done a great job with pounding it in there with the power plays, the stretch plays, those kinds of things, and the play-action game has really helped from an offensive standpoint. I think it’s important for both of us to establish a running game of some sort.”
MGoQuestion: What have been the keys to Michigan State’s improvement on offense over the course of the season?
“I think their offensive line is better. I think they’re playing better together as a group. I think Langford is a back who’s very patient. I think he’s come on. I think the quarterback situation’s settled now, and there’s not who’s going to play, who’s not going to play?”
MGoQuestion: Given the propensity of their offensive coordinator to break tendency in rivalry games (e.g. Ohio State 2011), how do you prepare for that?
“Well you have to prepare for what they do, and most teams are going to have four base running plays, four base pass concepts. You’ve got to be a little bit different in some ways in how you call a game. But at the same time it’s the same plays, and getting all the looks you can at those plays is going to help you.”
Michigan State doesn’t like you very much. How do you feel about them?
“Well we don’t necessarily like them either. This isn’t an admiration society. It’s a great rivalry with two teams that are 45 miles apart? That might not be enough, but it’s what it is.”
It sounds like you’re hoping your players are physical rather than knowing that they’re going to be.
“Yeah, I would say this in answering that: I think there’s a lot of guys who have played a lot of snaps. They understand it. There’s some new guys, a couple true freshmen, that haven’t played in this magnitude of a game. But you look at the back half of our schedule, it’s all physical. Every game’s got to be a physical game. I think from that standpoint, yeah, there’s some guys who don’t know it yet. I think they’re learning. I think they’ve learned in the last couple practices.”
How uneasy does that make you feel, that you have to hope -- ?
“I’m not hoping. It’s not hope. I don’t know if hope’s the right word. I think it’s more of us educating guys who haven’t played in that environment.”
How would you compare and contrast this rivalry with the Ohio State rivalry?
“I think they’re both important.”
[Sorry everyone, my recorder crapped out on me while this was taping, so I’ll just write up a summary of important things that were said. As always, most of it was people trying to get Hoke to say something provocative or edgy, like “how tough is your team?” and “is this an important rivalry game?”]
- Team is better equipped to handle the tough road environment. Learned a lot from 2011.
- Gardner’s fundamentals have improved. Getting a couple snaps in East Lansing in 2011 was a valuable experience.
- Michigan has not changed game prep to simulate Michigan State’s “physicality.” Will continue to do prepare the same way.
- Jake Ryan could play more continuous snaps. Previously he was rotating in for three snaps and coming out.
- Memory from playing Michigan State in 1997? "Charles Woodson's interception."
- Drew Dileo’s status is questionable. Coaches will see if he can practice on Wednesday before making a decision on whether they will unleash The Threat.
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht/Wt: 6'4"/207 lbs.
Location: Paul VI High School – Haddonfield, NJ
Offers: UMass, Old Dominion, Rutgers, Temple
With the Michigan coaches being free of game-prep duties this week they have taken the recruiting trail by storm visiting states across the nation and checking in on recruits from dozens of high schools. Tuesday afternoon Coach Ferrigno dropped in on Irvin Charles while making a sweep through New Jersey. Charles was a very cool kid to talk to and seemed very flattered to be contacted by the Wolverine staff. I asked him how long the visit had been set up and he surprised me with his answer.
Man, I had no idea they were in Jersey. He ended up telling me they were on a bye week so. I had no clue they were coming, I just got called down to the office and he was there. It was cool. It was my first interaction with Michigan so I was definitely surprised.
Charles told me that the visit wasn’t very long but that he and Coach Ferrigno talked about as much as they could in the short time they were together.
We talked about my recruitment, my training, my football season this year and just some personal life questions. He asked me how my dad is, asked about my sisters, where I live and who I live with.
This is another common thread I hear from recruits, that the coaches take a genuine interest in the life of the young man outside of football. That sentiment always seems to go a long way and I believe it did with Charles as well, as he said Michigan is now very intriguing to him and he rates his interest level, “From a 1-10, a 9 for sure.”
Charles is built in the exact mold that the coaches seem to love in receivers. At 6’4” and 200+ his body type is a lot like Moe Ways and he plays strong on film. He’s not a burner but he runs well (4.73 Nike SPARQ) for his age and size.
You can check out the first four games of Charles’ season here.
Word of the day?
“Huh? Uh, let me think about that one.”
MGoPetulant: “Fake bubble.”
“… Okay. Questions.”
Will you keep the same five offensive linemen that you ended the game with?
“We’ll see. It’s going to be competitive, but those five guys did a pretty good job during the game. It’s going to get tougher. And we’re going to have to demonstrate some consistency. But if they can do that, they will be the five offensive linemen. But we’re not eliminating anybody. We still have some talented kids in the wings. We’re trying to keep this thing competitive. Do we want the five guys? Yes, we do. I’ll answer the question before you ask it. But that being said, we got to this point where we’re pretty functional now because we’ve kept it competitive. We don’t like doing it this way. We’d rather just have the same five from the beginning, but it hasn’t worked out that way.”
MGoQuestion: After looking at the film, did you think Kyle Bosch and Erik Magnuson an upgrade at the guard positions?
“I don’t know if they were an upgrade. They were an alternative, and they had a chance to prove what they can do. They didn’t do a bad job. Upgrade is a pretty strong word. I wouldn’t say that.”
“Obviously we’re not – I’m not – happy with the amount of points given up. The big plays, that’s not our defense. We’ve got some things we’ve got to get corrected. A lot of that is on me. That’s – any time something like that happens, you have to look at yourself, you have to look at the game plan, you have to look at what you had in. I think there are some things we could have done different. But we’ll get it corrected.”
Brady said guys were in position but didn’t execute. How much of it was scheme, and how much of it was execution?
“That’s always the case, but your job as a coordinator is you get guys in the right positions and they make plays. Either we haven’t practiced them enough – obviously that offense, the thing I was proud of and we made a really big deal of not getting our defense all out of whack because of the speed of it, and the speed of it was unbelievable. You had to be there to feel that.
"Throughout the game, if you watched and you saw, our guys were lined up and our guys knew where to be. You see other people play that and they’re running all over trying to get set and it looks like a circus sometimes. One of the touchdowns, the first one, the corner didn’t get the call. That’s what we stressed all week that that’s why they run that offense. To get just one guy to not get the call or to be sure of the call and they take advantage of it. That was one of them. Another one of the big plays, we’re right in position again, and it’s an interception, it’s no question it’s an interception, it turns into a touchdown. That I blame myself for. We have to work harder running to the football. We should have had five more guys around the football. We’ll get that corrected. There’s going to be plays like that that are going to happen. That’s where a Michigan defense runs to the football and stops it for a gain and you have another chance to play.
"For the most part I thought our kids, they hung in there. I think what they did at the end of that game shows that they believed. I mean, you’ve all been around teams before that folded in that kind of situation, but they didn’t. Thank goodness for the offense, which you knew was going to be your advantage against their defense -- our offense did a tremendous job of bailing us out, and that’s what happened.”
Ht/Wt: 6'2"/185 lbs.
Location: Mona Shores High School – Muskegon, MI
Offers: Western Michigan
As the search for the next quarterback to be offered continues a new name has popped up in Tyree Jackson as he’s been in frequent touch with the coaches and attended the Indiana game on Saturday. He wasn’t able to contain his excitement when I asked him about the atmosphere.
It went really good! I had a great time! The fans were crazy! When I walked through the tunnel they were yelling my name and stuff. It really felt cool. It was awesome. (Laughs)
Tyree obviously enjoyed his arrival and tour of The Big House, but after the game he didn’t get to do much mingling as he had to leave pretty much right away. I asked him how his short visit with the coaches went.
I did get to talk to the coaches but not for very long because I had to leave. They said that they will be in touch with me soon and just for me to keep up what I’ve been doing. Coach Ferrigno might be back to see me. He came to see me once before my Muskegon game.
I didn’t talk with Tyree for long but it wasn’t necessary to get a feel for how much he’s digging Michigan. With his only offer being Western I’m not going to shock anyone by saying Michigan would easily top his list if he were to be offered, but I think that may be the case no matter who comes calling.
You can check out Tyree’s sophomore film below.
- Joey Burzynski is out with a torn ACL. Drew Dileo should be fine.
- Amara Darboh is out of his boot.
- Offensive line is still subject to change.
- Team will take Tuesday off and resume practice Thursday and Friday.
- Offensive game plan vs Indiana was to use a lot of double moves to take advantage of Indiana's corners' tendency to jump routes.
- Defensive game plan was to not get frustrated.
“It was great to win the football game the other night. Obviously we don’t like winning games when we give up that many points. We have to do a better job defensively in some areas. Offensively, obviously, it was a great offensive performance. I think playing itself, going into the game to take advantage of some of the things that Indiana did defensively, some of the double moves, the play-action game out of the two-back and 12 personnel sets were really good. And it helped that we were able to run the football. I think the guards that played did a nice job. Was it perfect? No. But I think all three of them did a nice job. The unfortunate thing is Joey [Burzynski], we’ll probably lose for the year with an ACL. You look at your depth and you look at the last five games you’re going into, you need everybody. We’re fortunate Chris Bryant is still a guy that will compete, and Kyle Kalis is a guy who can compete. That helps you a little bit but you feel bad for Joey because he’s worked so hard to get to this point.”