...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
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.”
News bullets and other important things:
- Troy Woolfolk is, once again, fine.
- Ricky Barnum didn't practice yesterday. He's questionable.
- Cam Gordon is practicing a lot better but still trying to work himself in.
- Brandon Herron is also fine.
- Team hasn't started tapering physicality of practices yet.
- No decision on Justice Hayes' redshirt yet.
- Hoke is being all weird about the punting situation, but Will Hagerup looks better in practice according to all observers named Angelique Chengelis.
“We got a new table. It’s rusty --” Rustic. “It’s rustic.”
Opening remarks: “We had a very good practice yesterday. I thought both sides of the ball we had a lot of energy. I thought it was physical -- how we want to be physical during the course of competing against each other. I thought that was good. I thought game-plan wise I think they responded well to those different things that you do, so it was good.”
Are you going to be less physical now than you were in camp to keep players healthy? “Not really. Not too much. Not right yet. As you get into the marathon that a season is, you may lighten up a little bit later, but this isn’t the time for us to do that.”
Was Troy Woolfolk able to do everything? “Yeah. I think I was asked Saturday, and Sunday he did everything. And he did eveything yesterday.”
Ricky Barnum? “I’m not saying he’s out, but he’s trying to take care of that ankle.” Is he practicing? “Not today. Er, not yesterday, let’s put it that way.”
How much is Cam Gordon practicing? “A lot. He’s just working himself back into it. He did some good things yesterday. I think he feels better.”
How difficult is it to stay intense and also pick up new schemes mid-season? “Well the schemes -- they’re new to a standpoint of how you want to tweak your base things to take advantage of an offense. From a defensive standpoint, most of the offenses are different, but I think when you look at a guy like Cam. He had a pretty good spring. What he did during the summer was pretty good from what I can tell. Fall camp, until he got hurt, he was fine. He’s a smart kid, so he’s in tune with everything that’s going on. Learns well. So for him it’s maybe not as difficult as it is for someone else.”
Brandon Herron? “He did everything. He’s fine. He’s 100%.”
Thomas Gordon said Will Campbell needs to get lower. What does he have to do to take that next step? “I’m glad Thomas is coaching him up. I really am. Thomas is right. Will just has to -- and this happens with a lot of guys who are big guys, and they’re big in high school where technique and fundamnetals are taught and they’re important, but it’s just one of those things where he’s got to play lower. He’s got to be more consistent with that part of it. His get-off the football is something he’s got to be conscious about and make good habits with.”
You say Mike Martin plays with great leverage. Is that what you want Will to do? “Well yeah. But Mike, when he has a bad play in there, it’s usually because his knees start to lock out and they don’t bring their feet with them. This is a good conversation because it’s D-line play and that’s what I like to talk about, so I can do this all day. But that part of it with Mike, I thought, last week he did his best job with it. Will did some real good things in there. And he’s improving.”
Craig Roh’s good performance two weeks in a roh (do you see what I did there?), is that a better sign than just seeing it for only one week/flash in the pan? “Well I think you always have to be guarded, and you always have to make sure the consistency you want from your players is there. Craig takes it very seriously when he works and he prepares from the mental side of it to the physical stuff that we do.”
Is it harder to build consistency with front four than with an individual when you’re trying to get max effort? “Well it starts with that individual pride and ownership of who that guy is. We talk about that quite often. And then there’s always a unit pride that you want to have. I always think, and we always think that kind of permeates through that unit.”
Is this team better suited to play against a mobile quarterback because of Denard? “It probably helps. I think our team, facing Denard and Devin both, and Russell Bellomy -- I mean, he’s a little slippery. So when you look at it that way, there’s some familiarity with what we do, which is kind of a great thing because of what we do with the spread part of it and out of the gun to what we do with the I-back stuff. I think it really helps us as a team.”
What do you tell your defensive linemen when you play against a running quarterback? “I think gap integrity is always important in part. The critical thing to me is you have to chase the rabbit. You have to stay after it through the whistle because you see a lot of those guys make plays on cutbacks and those kinds of things, and you have to be a part of the 11.”
Are you going to look at other Big Ten games any differently now that divisions are in place? “You know, I was asked that once before. I don’t think so. Maybe I need to go back and look at it. But within the framework of the divisional play and crossover play, I don’t see much difference.”
Depth is a concern, particularly in the trenches. How does that affect you during the year? “It affects you in practice. It does. Guys you have to bring up on both sides of the ball. Guys who might be fighting for two and three in there who are down. They have to go over, so you take a good look from your look teams. That’s one reason we do so much against each other. I started doing that when I went to Ball State because of the competitive nature of going ones on ones, twos on twos, and the speed and all those things.”
What’s the situation at nickel? Two weeks ago you had Raymon Taylor but then last game it was mostly Thomas Gordon. “We’ll use both. Raymon’s a young guy who’s learning. Thomas is more of a veteran, obviously. We’ll use both guys, though. I think they both are doing okay. Not quite what we need.”
Are there any other freshmen that haven’t played at all that still could? “Good question. I hate to count anybody out because you never know. You get guys twisted up and those kinds of things and you never know when that’s going to happen.”
Is it safe to say that Justice Hayes will redshirt? “I wouldn’t say that yet.”
What’s punting situation? “What do you guys think?” Angelique only saw a couple yesterday. “I think they were both punting well yesterday.” Would you say one has a leg up on the other? “Not yet. That’s pretty good, I like that. You’re giving him good material, Angelique.”
Are you a stats guy? Mattison said yesterday he’s not much of a stats guy. “Huh uh. Why?” Well Idunno … “No no no. I’m not asking you why. My point is … no. I mean, the only statistic that's important is the outcome and winning. So no.”
Mattison also said he wasn’t pleased with Jake Ryan down the stretch. Is that because there were some one-on-one situations he didn’t win? “Oh, I think that’s part of it. I think we have a high opinion of Jake, and at the same time we have to remember he’s a redshirt freshman. He can do some good things. He can make plays, and part of that is he runs around the field and plays with good effort. He’s always not doing exactly what Jake should do in the framework of the defense, but he has an opportunity, because he plays hard, to make up for those things. That’s contagious, a little bit, and he’s got to keep growing with everything that we do.”
Have there not been enough carries for Thomas Rawls for you to properly evaluate him? “I think we gave him a pretty good look during the course of camp. And then he got banged up a little bit. Fred does a nice job of rotating those guys through, number one, to keep them healthy. Because we do compete against each other. I think the second part of it is trying to see where guys are at.”
Are you resigned to the fact that Denard’s your lead back? “You could say that probably. But he carries the ball. I know that. But I don’t know if I’d consider him a back, personally.”
Borges said if he has two backs running for over a hundred yards combined, he can live with that. Do you agree? “Sure. Sure. I’m fine with that. And again I go back to the statistic that counts: Winning.”
News bullets and other important things:
- Weekly tailback musical chairs update: Fitz and Smith. No mention of anyone else.
- Cam Gordon still not 100%.
- Barnum is questionable for Minnesota at the moment.
- Woolfolk was up and running last night.
- Two of Denard's bad throws were the result of bad routes.
- Justice Hayes didn't dress because he had a "bump."
- Hagerup has to compete to get his position back. (I have a feeling this is nominal, but we'll see.)
Press Conference (filmed)
Opening remarks: “Again, as always, thank you for coming out. This is really loud.
“Ahem. It’s good to win football games. It’s bad to lose games, so it was good to win. I thought from a perspective as a team, I thought we played as well as we have to this point for the first quarter and maybe three quarters. Then I think we struggled a little bit for one reason or another from an offensive standpoint. You can’t turn the ball over four times. That does nothing for you as a team, and I thought defensively they hung in there and they played hard. I thought our front played probably their best football to this point of the year.
“It’s got to get much better as we get into Big Ten play offensively. Three-and-outs and turnovers in the third quarter -- time of possession affects your football team in a lot of ways … momentum and all those things. So we have to do a much better job executing and being more consistent blocking at the line of scrimmage. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
“In the kicking game, I thought Matt Wile did a nice job punting the football, and I thought his kickoffs -- he really placed the ball well. He had one kickoff that was in the middle of the field, but everything else I thought he did a tremendous job. And that was a good sign of a guy that’s maturing as a freshman.”
Is Will Hagerup’s suspension over, and does he have to compete to get his position back? “They’ll compete. We’re going to compete in everything we do. I think that’s an important part of your development as a program. I think that’s how you improve as a program. They’ll compete during the week.”
Cam Gordon dressed but did not play -- at this point is it his conditioning or is the injury still affecting him? “I think he’s just not 100% yet. I think he’s just not where he needs to be yet.”
13 for 13 in the Red Zone. What makes you so successful there? “I don’t know if there’s a magical answer. I mean, I think part of it is always you have some pretty good luck. Things are going well. I think we’re blocking it decently. I think the different options that Al presents to some degree within the offense makes [us] a little bit tougher to defend.”
Denard’s incompletions. You said it wasn’t all Denard. When you look at the film did you see problems with other things, too? “It’s definitely not all him. I mean, route running -- we blew two routes. We didn’t convert on another route. That’s part of it. He’s got a lot of pride, and he’s going to also help himself with some of the technical and technique -- fundamental parts of being a little more patient with his feet and doing a good job with that.”
What led to strong start against SDSU, and how do you replicate that? “It’d be great to replicate it every week. I think we had a great week of practice. I think our preparation was good. From a defensive standpoint, they really did a nice job of preparation. I thought Greg did a nice job with the plan, and Al did too.”
(more after the jump)
You downplayed the fact that this was your old team, but postgame you hugged SDSU players, etc. Talk about how this game was different. “Well, it still was Michigan playing San Diego State, so that doesn’t change. Obviously there’s some great kids on that football team and great individuals. They work hard, they play hard, and that part of it is, I guess, being a human being. There’s a love that you have for those guys that you’ve coached and you’ve been around.”
How much did you feel D-line today? “I thought the run game, from that standpoint -- I thought they were disruptive. I thought the backers were able to flow pretty decently. There was some pressure on the quarterback, some of the play action. I thought the transition from run to pass was pretty decent, especially Mike and Ryan did a nice job. And Craig Roh you could feel out there.”
The non-conference schedule is over. Can you talk about where this point is right now vs. where you want it to be? “We can’t turn the ball over four times, I can tell you that. That’s disappointing. We ended up a minus one. Defensively we caused three turnovers, and then we turn it over four times. You can’t win anything -- you can’t win your pop warner league if you turnt he ball over. WE were fortunate to get out to a decent lead in the football game, and I thought our defense kept us in the game because we tried to get it away.”
The decision to go for it on fourth down? “I just thought our defense was playing pretty good, to be honest with you. I think it gives your kids some confidence [that] they know you have confidence in them.”
For defense to come out and set the tone with three-and-out. How good was that? “It was a big deal, number one, in how we covered the kick. Kickoff coverage has been a little thorn in our side. Greg talked about with the defense before we left the hotel about that first possession, that first series how we want to play as a defense. We talk about the Michigan defense and wanting to be a Michigan defense.”
Can you assess Denard separately with his running and his passing? “I think he ran the ball pretty daggone well. He makes some things up as he goes, which I wish I could do … sometimes I do do. He really did a great job running the football. Thought he did a good job managing the offense. It’ll be interesting when I talk to Al tomorrow about some of the check plays because some of the different looks Rocky’s gonna give you, which are a lot. That’s not an easy defense -- Andy Dalton had plenty of problems with it a year ago. It’s not an easy defense to try and figure things out, but he did a good job there in the run game. I think throwing the ball -- I don’t know if one sailed on him a little bit, but I’m not sure about the route at this point, if this was run to the specifics of what it needed to be run. I think the one he tried to find a hole in there, you know, probably just made a bad decision.”
Talk about the pressure on Lindley. “I have the utmost respect for Ryan -- for how he studies the game and how he plays the game. I think it’s like all quarterbacks. You want to get as much rpessure as you can. It’s that fine line. They throw the fade down here in the fourth quarter and that’s going to be a touchdown if they hold onto it. It’s a fine line to how much zone you want to play to how much you want to try and get after him.”
What’s Troy Woolfolk status, and talk about Blake Countess? “Troy, he tweaked the ankle that he tweaked earlier in the season. I’m sure that’s day to day. If I know Troy, he’ll come out tomrrow and do everything that we’ll do. I thought Blake, he’s a young guy. He’s a talented young guy. He’s done a good job of -- he has great pride in his performance. He gets himself ready to play.”
Smith fumbled but was then in on the next series. How important was it to show confidence in him after a mistake? “Fred has a lot of confidence in him obviously, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I want to see that play. I know he was fighting for an extra yard or two or whatever. I don’t know where he got loose with the ball or a hand punched it through. I don’t know. I’m glad Vincent Smith’s on Michigan’s football team.”
The turnovers gave you bad field position, but the defense only gave up seven points. Thoughts? “Well, I mean, that’s [why] those guys are on scholarship at Michigan -- to play defense. That’s what we talk about. It doesn’t matter what the offense does. I’m on my scholarship. I’m Ryan Van Bergen, defensive end, and I’m at Michigan to play defense.”
They got on your side of the field eleven times and scored only once. Are you relying on turnovers or are you just that kind of defense? “Well I think we all would like to be that kind of defense. I think we all stress turnovers -- how to get ourselves to the ball and angles and punching it out or ripping it out. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing that we’ve been able to create them. I don’t know if it’s such a good thing that the field position battle for a good [part] of this game, we were getting our tails kicked. I thought the Wile kid in the second half did a tremendous job of punting the football, and that was great to see.”
Field goal situation? “I think it’s one bad kick, and I can tell you from how he planted -- not that I’m Garo Yepremian and know much much about the kicking aspect -- but he just didn’t plant it well and kind of pushed it.”
Is there a difference between San Diego State’s physicality and Michigan’s? “No, I don’t think so. I know one thing about how those guys on that other team are coached and how they’re going to play with a physicalness on both sides of the ball. They’re going to get helmets and bodies to the ball, and they’re going to be aggressive on the line of scrimmage.”
Denard had a great first half but an interesting second half. How important is it for the offense to put together a solid four quarters? “Well, I think it’s obviously important, but it wasn’t all Denard. We had enough -- from the turnover standpoint and then [not] blocking the line of scrimmage like we’d like to. I don’t think we did it as well in the second half, and that’s disturbing because championship teams have a way of improving during the course of the game and finishing games, and we didn’t do that.”
You mentioned Denard had bad decisions throwing. What about his footwork? “I said he had a bad decision. He may have had more, but I want to see what plays he got us into, and that’s something the quarterback never gets credit for. He obviously got us into pretty good quarterback iso play depending on what they were bringing. I thought the one throw where he tried to throw it maybe into too many people with the different color jersey [was not good].”
Does his bad day passing spoil the good day he had on the ground? “No. I don’t think so. We won the game. And I’m not being sarcastic, but I think it’s something [about which] we’ll have good conversion tomorrow. We’ll point out things whether it’s his feet and those kinds of things or -- again with that one route, I don’t know if the route was totally run the way we coach it to be run.”
What were your conversations like with the SDSU players after the game? “It’s great to see them. Those conversations are personal.”
Now that it’s over, how does your mindset change for the Big Ten season? “I don’t know if it changes because you prepare to win every game. I don’t know if your mindset and how you go about your job for those kids [insert suitable verb] any differently. We’re going to be in there tomorrow and put this game to bed as coaches and players and move to Minnesota.”
Four weeks in, is there anything about this team good or bad that surprises you? “I like how they like each other. I’ve been around teams that don’t like each other. I like how they like each other -- if they like each other enough and respect each other enough, they’re going to play for each other. And that’s a powerful thing. When they play for each other and they play for Michigan, that’s a powerful thing.
News bullets and other important things:
- Vincent Smith is starting at RB.
- Thomas Rawls is second or third on RB depth chart.
- Russell Bellomy is scout team QB to simulate Ryan Lindley.
- Matt Wile hit a 59-yard field goal in practice.
Greg said yesterday that he’s asking the Michigan defense to play perfect. What does that mean? “I think perfect means perfect, and it’s a part of what you want to be. You’d like to go out and play a perfect game. When you say that, you have high expectations for each individual out there for a specific position and for the defense itself. Whether it’s playing your base package, your sub packages, whatever -- if they’re doing exactly what thye’re supposed to do with the best of their abilities with great effort and toughness.”
Will Vincent Smith be the starting running back? “Yeah, I would think so. And Fitz had a good day yesterday, too. Both those guys ran the ball hard. Rawls ran the ball hard. He had some snaps in there. I think we’re still trying to find what the magic combination is.”
Don’t want to be running back by committee, but is there a point where you want to see just one guy to establish rhythm? “I think there’s a point, but I can’t tell you on the 21st of September that we know when that point’s going to happen. I think there’s good things that they all do, but at the same time, we want that guy who’s going to play a perfect game.”
Where does Rawls fit into the depth chart right now? Would he be second or third? “Probably somewhere in there.”
Mike Shaw has gotten fewer carries. What’s going on with him? “He has to be a little more consistent in everything that we do. He’ll have his time in there. There’s a lot that goes along with being a back besides running the football, and we’ve got to be a little more consistent in those areas. He’s working his tail off. That’s the encouraging thing.”
How important is running back pass protection in a week like this? “It will be very important. This is unique. You never know what Rocky Long’s going to have in store for you. Working for him for six years on the defensive side of the ball, he’s going to have something you haven’t see and something a little different.”
Rocky Long does funky things with defense. As his head coach did you talk about those things with him? “We ran it at Oregon State. Believe me I still have playbooks from that, not that it helps, because he’s evolved quite a bit from the basics. Number one, the personality of that team and the quickness of that team -- the thing that you equate it to from a defensive standpoint, when you play midline option to use a true triple option, your defense has to catch up a little bit with the tempo and the speed. I think it’s the same way offensively three or four possessions in, trying to have a clear understanding of what the defense is doing and catching up to that speed.”
What do you do for the scout team? “Well they’ve been working like heck. They gave them a great look yesterday. Roy Manning, the GA who runs it, did a great job of preparing them for it. Credit to those kids on the look teams -- they did a nice job.”
You have a quarterback still in his first year getting used to the offense. How difficult is it to prepare for such a unique defensive set? “When you look at your schedule, I think there’s a uniqueness to every defense. Some of that may be if you’re going to be a man team, a man free team, a tampa 2 team … He did a nice job yesterday. What we ask a quarterback to do, getting in and out of things, that’s a good start.”
Is it a problem that you don’t have anyone on the scout team who can throw the ball as well as Lindley? “Well, Russell Bellomy throws the ball pretty well. So that’s a plus. I really think the pride that those guys are really getting when it comes to giving you great looks. We reward those guys who do the best job every week. We’ve had two guys a lot of the time, which is good. I think they’re doing a daggone good job. In fact one guy came up to me and apologized after practice because he didn’t think he did a good enough job. That tells you a little bit about their consciousness of helping the football team.”
How would you assess tight end play up to this point? “I think we’re doing okay. Kevin’s a really good tight end to do both -- blocks at the point of attack well, runs good routes, catches the ball well. Brandon’s coming along well. Steve we’ve used both at fullback and tight end. Ricardo hadn’t gotten any playing time yet, but he gets some good work with them. He’s escobar for us this week and doing a nice job of running the routes and the speed and those things. I think they’ve been pretty good.”
You looked a little mad when team when over to student section after the Eastern Game. How come? “I wanted to score a touchdown at the end instead of a field goal.” Is that something you’re going to allow the team to do? “Yeah it’s fine. I mean, the students are important. I hope they will get there early. We need a lot of noise.”
Greg said that he’s been very hard on Craig Roh, and about a week ago he saw a different player. “I think if you’d ask Craig, he’ll tell you his best week of practice was last week. It’s amazing -- how you practice is how you play. That’s always a battle, Angelique. Angelique, is it your birthday? Are you 39? 29?” I’m still younger than the head football coach at Michigan. “So is everybody else! But, uh, no, that’s something that you always push and you always want. You’re going to play like you practice, and that’s what he did.”
How has he practiced this week? “Good. He’s been good. He’s got a lot of pride and ownership of you are, and pride and ownership of who you represent.”
Is part of that breaking bad habits and rebuilding them? “We all have habits, good or bad. I think the expectations that we have for the kids and what they have for themsleves are always different. We’re coaching pretty hard but fair. We love them and kiss them on the cheek when they do things the right way, and kick them in the butt -- not literally, please understand that.” So you do kiss them on the cheek? “I do. Yeah.”
Is there a lot of emphasis on special teams coverage? “Yeah. Part of that’s placing the ball. Part of that is doing a good job of lane recognition and the block recognition at full speed. Wasn’t as bad as you think, and I hate saying that. I think the kids have a lot of pride, and they don’t like if we think they didn’t do as well as they could.”
Wile hit a 59-yarder in practice. Would you try such a long field goal? “Yeah. Yup.”
You want defense to be perfect. At what point would you say they were perfect or had a perfect game? “Hm. I don’t know. I don’t know.” Have you ever said that about any of your defenses? “Nope.”
Does this game feel different for you because it’s SDSU? “Well, looking at that part of it, I guess is different. We’re obviously more familiar with this team because we just coached the team. It’s nothing to do with any of that stuff. It’s about San Diego State against Michigan. Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.”
Rocky Long said you have advantage because you know the SDSU players and their signals. How much does that come into play? “No. I really don’t get caught up in that too much. Signals and all that stuff, it’s overrated. Way overrated. There are 17 teams in the NFL that run the same offense. They use the same terms. Nobody changes -- they may change a little bit here and there, but not significantly enough to where it scares people.” Do you use the same signals here at Michigan as you did when you were at SDSU? “No we don’t. A lot of ours is sent in on wristband calls anyway, so it’s difficult for anybody to get what we’re doing because they’d have to have the wristband.”
Were you involved in recruiting Ronnie Hillman? “Hillman was already committed when we got there. Our job was really just hanging onto him.” Did he look good back then? “Oh yeah. The kids that we kept, we thought were pretty good players.”
Are you surprised by how prolific they are offensively? “No. No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.” Does that make you feel good? “No. We have to play them. Made me feel great last year. They’re a good team and they deserve respect, and we’re going to give it to them. Our kids are well aware of what they’re dealing with here. We’ve made it clear that this is going to be a tough contest. We better come ready to play.”
(more after the jump)