so much for that
News bullets and other important items:
- No status change with Beyer. Knee injury. Will be out for a week.
- Courtney Avery missed some plays late in the game due to a back problem.
- Richard Ash has a boo boo.
“It’s good to win a football game, obviously. That’s why you go out there and compete. I think when you evaluate and you see where we’re at, we’ve got to improve if we’re going to win the Big Ten Championship. We’ve got to improve at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. You’ve heard before, and that message won’t change. I think we went out with a mission offensively to get Denard very involved running the football. I thought he did a nice job of that. I think we did a nice job in the throwing game. The interception, I think Vince was fighting the umpire a little bit, but also it’s just one of those things that we have to execute that, but from that standpoint defensively, we played 98 plays. Way too much, we have to get off the field obviously, but at the same time those guys hung in there, and they hung in there when they had to at the end of the football game and made some plays. So that part of it is a very positive part of it. I think we adjusted to some things to some things they were doing, which helped in the second half. So all in all was it where we want to be? No. But at the same time, it was a good win to get.”
“It was great to win the football game, I can tell you that. It’s always good to win. Sometimes they’re not very pretty. This would be one, but you have to give Air Force a lot of credit. I think they do a tremendous job of coaching that offense and running that offense. I think they did a good job when you look at the counters they put in -- when you counter one way -- it’s a chess game a little bit. I thought Greg at the end really had some -- changed some things up that helped us. I think the stops by the end by the defense were timely and huge and needed to be there. We played an awful lot of plays on defense. That means you’re not doing a good enough job of getting them off the field, but their tempo was one of those things that’s good. And I think we learned a lot about it, and we played a lot of guys. We played a lot of young guys, freshmen, and I think that helps us as we continue throughout the season.”
Can you talk about Devin Gardner’s development as a receiver?
“Well I think he did a nice job. I think there were some -- you like to go to playmakers, so there were things set up for him. But he also makes plays. He’s coming along.”
What made you decide to go with Joe Bolden at linebacker during the second half?
“Well I think we were trying to play as many guys as we could. Joe had a pretty good feel for the option part of it. At Colerain high school that’s all that they run. He saw things maybe a little bit more than we were, but it is more just trying to keep guys fresh and trying to rotate them through.”
You talked a lot about offenses getting the edge on your defense last year.
What was Air Force doing to get the edge, and what do you need to improve on to defend it?
“Well it depends. There’s a whole series of -- do you get low, do you get arc? There’s a lot that goes into it. Are they T-blocking it or X-blocking it? And it’s who has the pitch. It varies depending on how they want to block it and attack it. Most of the time if we do a good job constricting the line of scrimmage, they can’t get a tackle up on your safety or they can’t get the tackle up on the linebacker who can continue to flow, and then your safety’s got a chance. So there’s a lot of different things that go along with it.”
You played a lot of freshmen. Are they outperforming the veterans at this point?
“We recruited them because they’re pretty good players. I think they’re all competing.”
What’s your assessment of your non-Denard run game and how your lines played today?
“You know, I think the non-Denard running game, I guess if we want to call it from now on, it wasn’t productive enough. Therefore I don’t think we played well enough up front. And then defensively, 290-some yards rushing, you didn’t play well enough up front.”
With your defense, do you chalk it up to “this is a unique offense” or do you have major weaknesses that you need to address?
“I would say there’s a uniqueness to the offense, to schemes, but at the same time I think we’re a work in progress. Quinton Washington’s getting better every time he plays. I think Ondre Pipkins, I think he’s getting better every time he plays. Heitzman -- Keith played a decent amount today. Then the four outside guys. Ojemudia. He’s getting better. Frank Clark, having him back. I think Craig and the guys who are the older guys are doing a pretty good job. I think we’re a work in progress on defense [overall].”
How big was the swing in momentum after the tipped pass interception and having to go into the half up just 14-10?
“Oh, it’s one of those things. I didn’t get a good look as I’d like to. I don’t know if it was a little high or what, but that’s football. When you’re called to play defense, you have to keep them out of the end zone, and we didn’t do that.”
A year and a half in, are you still wowed by Denard?
“Well, you know, I see a lot of it in practice. So yeah, I don’t know if you ever get used to it, but when he sticks his foot in the ground, he’s got an ability.”
Two games in, are you seeing enough out of this team that you’d want to see out of a B1G championship team?
“I think if we keep improving every week, that’s our expectation.”
Can you talk about putting No. 47 on Jake Ryan and his performance today?
“We looked at as a staff the guys who, from a character standpoint and from the standpoint of how he goes about his business every day. There wasn’t a better [decision] than to have Jake represent Bennie. So I think that was, as a staff, we came up with that. That’s the right guy. How he played ... I think he made some plays in there. I think he got on the ground sometimes. For me to say how he actually played, I couldn’t tell you. I know he played hard.”
He made a couple big plays at the end.
“Yeah he did. There’s no question about that. I think though what we’ll probably look at as much as anything is that they load blocked on him and he got chopped or he got arc’ed on him -- we didn’t have that pitch player you needed.”
Dialogue between you and Mattison re: late game adjustments?
“Greg and I think an awful lot alike. We knew we needed to do a little bit something different on the back end because we had three different possibilities, and two of them may have been too confusing to try and do on the sideline without them seeing those looks over and over again. So we kind of went back a little bit to base stuff on playing defense.”
Was Fitz rusty?
“I don’t think he ever got a chance to get started.”
“We didn’t block well enough.”
Did you see any rust or was it more up front?
“No … yeah. He’d been practicing the whole time.”
How do you prepare a defense for that insane tempo?
“It … really besides the tempo part, it takes you about a quarter to get used to the speed and how they execute that offense. We tried to mimic it. Our scout guys -- they’re playing with guards and tackles that are 255 pounds. We have Ben Braden who’s 315 pounds who’s trying to veer block, and he’s giving everything he’s got, but it’s a little different tempo, little different speed. Joe Reynolds did as good a job as anyone being Connor Dietz, but it takes you about a quarter. It really does. I thought we hung in there. We weren’t pretty. The thing we needed to do was get the ball on the ground a couple times, and we didn’t do that. It’ll be very interesting. I’ll talk to the kids tomorrow to see how they felt about the tempo. Because I never really -- I didn’t really see us not set and ready to go as a defense, which you’ll see. Believe it or not, that’s a big step that everybody’s on the same page.”
Brennen Beyer was in a cast. What’s his status?
“Well he strained his knee. I can’t -- I don’t know anything more than that right now, but that’s kind of what’s going on.”
Any other issues health wise?
“Not that I know of.”
“He should be ready next week.”
How many true freshmen have you played so far this season? And is that by design or by necessity?
“Um … I want to say 12. It’s by design and necessity. I’m being honest.”
What kind of matchup problems does Funchess cause for a defense?
“Well you know, he’s a tall guy. He’s rangy. He can run. The thing I like about him is he’s not afraid to block. Matchups on strong safeties, matchups on linebackers.”
What kind of game did Frank Clark have, especially on that last drive?
“I know Frank was active. I know he was disruptive, especially there at the end of the game. Now we’ll see how he played the other 80 plays.”
(player transcripts up later today)
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||THREE-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Craig Roh||Sr.||Quinton Washington||Jr.*||Will Campbell||Sr.||Jibreel Black||Jr.|
|Nate Brink||Jr.*#||Richard Ash||So.*||Ryan Glasgow||Fr.#||Brennen Beyer||So.|
|Keith Heitzman||Fr.*||Ondre Pipkins||Fr.||Matt Godin||Fr.||Frank Clark||So.|
Okay okay okay. Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the lung expand and contract, and feel a calmness wash over you. Yeah. Calm. Calm.
Michigan lost three starters, may be starting a 280-pound three-tech, moved the only returning starter, and has a walk-on seriously pressing for playing time. If they're not starting a 280-pound three-tech, they're starting a 280-pound WDE. Will Campbell inherits a starting spot essentially by default.
No no no no. Calm. Callllm.
The big piece of news that hit when the Big Ten Network was let inside the velvet rope at Michigan practice was Jerry Montgomery naming Quinton Washington one of his starters instead of Brennen Beyer. This was followed up by a depth chart confirming this fact.
Clarity came Monday when Hoke made an appearance at the UM Club of Greater Detroit's kickoff dinner that I was at, waiting for the Q&A session with Greg Dooley and Angelique Chengelis. Hoke took questions, someone asked him about the defensive line, and Hoke gave a straight answer. To paraphrase: Michigan is planning on rotating six guys. Washington will be the nose in certain packages with Campbell at three tech and Black at WDE. In other packages they'll remove Washington and slide everyone down, inserting Beyer at WDE and going with Roh-Campbell-Black-Beyer.
Who's the sixth guy? You got me. I'd guess it's Nate Brink, but it didn't come up.
this year he'll totally live up to this image. really! (probably not really.)
This time we mean it, Will Campbell: it's now or never. The one-time five-star recruit is now a senior. He's been handed a starting spot by the graduation of three DL starters and Rodriguez's crappy recruiting. This makes everyone nervous because obviously.
There is some good news on this front. After a couple years in which Campbell appearances were all but guaranteed to draw this sort of commentary…
I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?
…his cameos were fairly effective last year. He got limited snaps, of course, but only ended up negative against Iowa, when he got cut twice on big Coker runs. He had a +5 against ND, a +3.5 against SDSU, a +4 against Minnesota, and a +4 against Illinois, three of which came when he blew up a third and one by himself:
Unfortunately, these positives and highlights are all against the worst offensive lines on the schedule (and ND, oddly). Michigan didn't put him out there much against tougher competition; now they've got no choice.
"The most dramatic change I've seen in a body on our team is Will Campbell," said left tackle Taylor Lewan. "His body is transformed. He was a sloppy 350 and now he's a toned down 308 kind of guy. He looks real good. His conditioning shows it. You should see him run. He's like a gazelle. It's unreal. I think Will is going to do some special things this year."
Come on, baby. He's getting the full-court press from Michigan's three-headed DL coaching staff, and I wished and hoped my way to thinking he was a lot better this spring:
Last spring game guy was a lump who managed to not get blown off the ball most of the time and just about never did anything. During the year he was largely that with some nice plays mixed in, but too infrequently to be encouraging. In the spring game he had clearly progressed enough to actually beat his man to the gap more than once.
You know all those runs Rawls had where he had to abort mission and find another hole? Most of those were headed at Campbell. Since we got a baseline for Ricky Barnum in the time he got before his ankle injury last year—decent Big Ten player even then—that's a hopeful sign.
While that hasn't kept the coaches from grousing about things, their expectations are not my expectations.
Finding out that Campbell will flip between three tech and the nose is probably a positive tea leaf. Leverage has always been a problem, and at 6'5" he's never going to be a great burrower. Get him one on one and he can deposit folks on their butts. That is what he'll generally be allowed to do at the three. His ability to do that on passing downs is going to be a huge factor in how effective that line configuration is—three techs can get good rush, and Michigan's ability to get pressure out of the WDE spot is very much in doubt.
What to expect here is a mystery. My WAG: adequate play that's on average a few points to the good on UFR charts (which is average for DL, as it measures MAKING PLAYS more than not doing so). Maybe a fringe draft pick if Michigan is pretty lucky. I don't think he'll be worse than Heininger, and he was pretty decent by the end of the year.
[hit THE JUMP for the GREAT MYSTERY beyond the KEN OF MAN (and Craig Roh)]
Can you talk about Quinton Washington emerging at nose tackle and moving Will Campbell to the 3-tech?
“What we’re looking for is getting the best four guys to be available to play inside. Q’s had a really good camp. Will’s had a good camp. So you kind of interchange those two to see which one makes that defense better, whether it’s one of them at the three and the other one of them at the nose. With so much trading and shifting and things like that, they both have to play the same position when they slide over, so it gives you an opporutnity to hopefully make yourself stronger rather than just having a true nose and that’s all he can play.”
Brennen Beyer is third on the depth chart. What does he have to do to move up?
“That group of three right there is never etched in stone. Brennen Beyer, I think, started out camp not as -- I don’t want to say tentative -- but not really realy playing as fast as I wanted him to play. Now the last week, though, he showed signs of being the Brennen Beyer of the spring. You’re going to see him play a lot. There’s no question about it. We got a group right there of guys, again, in the opening game, I don’t know how many plays you’re going to play -- you better have guys that can go in there, especially at that position because there’s a lot more running there. That’s a position that’s a defensive lineman sometimes and it’s a linebacker at other times, and he’s always got to run the farthest to chase the ball down … he has to be a guy that can run.”
Programming note: Due to a poorly timed (but awesome) vacation, I was in California for the last several days. That's why Ace had to cover for me at Media Day and why *Jedi handwave* there was no coordinator presser on Tuesday. I'm back to provide uninterrupted coverage from here on out, though, so feel free to get off your tenterhooks.
News bullets and other important things:
- Just completed 14th practice; did some scrimmaging.
- Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and Erik Gunderson are all practicing at tackle.
- No decision yet on Fitz Toussaint.
- Roundtree's chances of returning for Alabama are "good."
- Matt Wile currently holds a slight edge for the punting job over Will Hagerup and Kenny Allen.
- Chris Wormley has not yet undergone surgery but will; as expected, will likely miss the entire season.
Football was being played.
“Thanks for coming. 14th practice, midway point, did some good things, did some things -- playing with a little better speed. I think the fundamentals and techniques that you always go back to. I think the guys are doing a pretty good job with that. I think we have to be more physical on both fronts. That’s not nearly solved yet for how we need to play, but for the 14th day, this is really grind right now and it should be because of the schedule that they’ve been on. You have to see how they respond. They responded pretty well to some situational things this afternoon, but as far as being ready for September 1st, we have a long way to go.”
By situational, do you mean scrimmage?
“It’s a little bit situations. You know, just give as many -- not a lot of plays, but enough to hear some football and those kinds of things.”
When do you plan to have a full scrimmage?
“Not until Saturday.”
Just wanted to ask about a couple Alabama guys: their QB McCarron and nose guard Williams. Thoughts?
“Well I mean, I think McCarron’s done a great job leading their football team. National championship quarterback. Plays with a lot of poise. The run game, he gets them in and out of the right places. They run the ball. He’s a very good leader. He seems to be on the field for them. Williams is a guy who’s disruptive. Somebody will have to contend with [him]. They have 10 teammates on each side of the ball, so they’re really part of a very good football team.”
Have you identified any backup tackles to Lewan and Schofield?
“You know, I don’t know. All those guys -- Ben Braden’s taken some snaps, Gunderson’s taken some snaps, Erik Magnuson’s taken some snaps. I don’t know I’d identify anybody who was it, I’d be honest with you, yet.”
Is it concerning that you have true freshmen at those positions?
“Yeah, always is. But it’s always -- those guys have to grow up fast. All of them are smart guys, and they’re coachable, so they’ll be okay.”
How many freshmen do you anticipate having in the two-deep on the offensive line?
“On the line? Oh maybe three. Maybe four.”
You didn’t get to spend much time with the freshmen earlier because they were in classes. What about now?
“Well they got out on Tuesday and today’s Thursday, so you still, from a learning and being comfortable with the terminology and what they’re asked to do, I think that part of it’s still early. I think they get through this week and into next week a little bit. You have a better idea. Can they play fast? Can they play with poise? Can they play with great technique? All those things are a part of it.”
Does anyone catch your attention in a positive way?
“Uh, you know, I would probably say they’re all -- I think they’re all working hard. I think they’re all eager. I think the talent level, the athleticism stuff is kind of what we’re looking at -- I don’t know. Not yet.”
Has Desmond Morgan made a leap this fall?
“Yeah, I think he did from spring and I think he has in the fall. I think he had a very good summer. He’s a driven, young man. And a very competitive person. I think the improvement of how he reacts -- he’s pretty instinctive. That’s why Yyu play as a freshman, because you’re an instinctive person and football player. And he’s pretty instinctive. I think the strength gains that he’s made, he’s a more powerful football player, linebacker.”
When do you make decisions on walk-ons getting scholarships?
“No we haven’t done that. It depends sometime before school starts if we’re thinking about that or if we have the scholarships.”
Are you thinking about it this year?
“Sometime before school starts.”
How has Fitz looked, and are you closer to making a decision on him yet?
“I have not, and he’s out there like the others running around.”
How do you plan to build cohesion as an offensive line while rotating three guys at left guard?
“What we’ll do is take a big part of scrimmage, practice situations, and keep playing a guy there so that there’s a comfort level between the left tackle and the center. I think Taylor can play basically with anybody because of his experience, and he knows more what to do. So that part of it, he’s pretty good so he doesn’t have to worry about himself as much as he does that guard.”
Has he been sort of an on-the-field coach?
“Yeah, he’s done a nice job. He’s done a nice job.”
When would you like to identify a starting offensive line?
“Oh, ten -- ten days before probably.”
Is that a rough guess? Why ten days?
“I think, you know, some continuity that we try to build consistently, but I think that’s part of it.”
Chris Wormley tore his ACL.
Has he had/will he have surgery?
“No. He has not and he will.”
“Sometime in the near future.”
How did he sustain the injury?
“Just playing football.”
Any plans to redshirt him?
“Most likely he’ll miss the year.”
You have three guys competing for the punting job. Has anyone stood out yet?
“You know, not really. I would give right now -- probably Wile had the better day. But we’ve got to be consistent day in and day out. Today I thought Matt stroked it pretty well. I didn’t think Will was as consistent, but he was better than he has been. Both of those guys were a little bit behind because they didn’t get as many reps during the summer, so I think they’re catching up.”
How confident are you with playing an inexperienced guy like Jerald Robinson, who has reportedly been standing out at the receiver position, on September 1st?
“I think we’ve got to put enough pressure on him and get him out of his comfort zone that you test them as best you can, and he’s got to go out there and do it. I mean there’s no other way besides going out there on that stage and doing it. We can put him on situations and test him and make him uncomfortable and see how he reacts. But at the same time, he’s just got to do it.”
What would you do to get him out of his comfort zone?
“Well you give him a lot of reps. You see how he reacts when he gets tired. You do some things coverage wise to beat him up at the line of scrimmage. Just trying to get him a little bit out of the comfort level.”
How is Roundtree doing, and what are his chances of playing the first week?
“He’s doing great.”
“I think they’re good.”
What is the clearing process for him to get back on the field?
“Him feeling better and the doctor feeling good and comfortable about it.”
Do you check up on him every day?
“Yeah he’s with a rehab specialist every day. We obviously communicate.”
What’s he doing physically at this point?
“With the rehab -- ”
Has JT Floyd progressed since last season, and how has his chemistry with Blake Countess developed?
“Well I think there’s a chemistry before JT and Blake. I think they push each other. I think the consistency is always something that we’ve got to keep having out there. That’s kind of a position where you’re on the island, everybody sees it when you falter, but I think they both improved. I think they both worked very hard.”
How do Blake and JT differ?
“That’s a good question. JT’s a little rangier, a little longer-armed, a little taller. I would say Blake’s probably a little more physical, you know, of the two. I think JT showed some physicalness a year ago, too. ”
Do you think that they feed off each other?
“Yeah I think so. I think that and Tom Gordon and Kovacs. Kovacs [is] kind of the field general, and it’s part of being a safety. I think they feed really well [off] each other.”
Can you get a sense for what kind of team you are 14 practices in?
Can you characterize anything about it so far?
“You know, we’ve got a lot we need to improve on.”
Do you like what you’re getting out of the seniors?
“They’re doing a good job.”
----------------BONUS PARAPHRASED PLAYER INTERVIEWS!----------------
- Likes his new position, prefers it to OLB.
- Technique-wise working on bull rush and a couple other moves.
- Says defense's strength is "technique." Weakness is "toughness." Needs to be "tougher."
- Father is a high school coach -- used to give him a bunch of pointers on technique, but now just watches the games as a fan.
- Family attends every game.
- Second year in defense, is picking up visual cues faster and therefore playing faster.
- Fitz's absence and return didn't affect running back practice. Fitz basically picked up where he left off.
- No sense of cutthroat competition between running backs -- they're all brothers and support each other.
- Loves watching film. Craziest place to watch film? In the shower. Did it multiple times last season.
I brought up the fact that he had only allowed one touchdown to opposing teams' No. 1 receivers all last season.
Floyd: "Which one? I just want to test you."
Me: "The Iowa guy? McNutt? It was either him or DeVier Posey." [I didn't remember exactly, but it was Posey.]
Floyd: "McNutt didn't score a touchdown on me!"
“Well. I can tell you this. It’s fun to be back out there. Do I look like I’m 25? Because I sure feel like it. Tell you what, it’s fun to be out there catching again. It’s fun. That’s what you do it for.”
How long do you hope to keep doing it?
“I don’t know, maybe 30 more years. Who knows? As long as Brady keeps me. Who knows, he might not want to keep me very long. Who knows. I tell you what, this part of the season is what you really really look forward to coach. This is the teaching time. This is the molding of your team. Wellman, he gets the lucky part. He has them more time than anybody now with the new rules. But we get to have them and get to coach them and get to be around them. Especially when you’ve got some great kids and you’ve got some guys who are fun to coach, and that’s how the first couple days have been.”
What can you glean from just a few practices?
“Nothing really other than they have worked hard in the offseason. You don’t know anything until the pads come on. I think on the defensive side of it, though, when you install the defenses, because there’s carry-over -- they’re a lot more alert. They understand it a lot better. Last year at this time it was probably like they were talking a foreign language. Now they kind of understand it. When that happens now you can get into the little things that make that defense better because they do understand it. I’ve been pleased with their awareness and their interest in learning.”
What do you mean by little things they pick up on?
“Well, like in every defense, for example, you can draw it up and you can say, ‘You have this gap, you have this responsibility, you should align like this,’ but when a guy really starts understanding what the whole defense is about, then you can say, ‘Okay, when they’re in this formation, I can expect this.’ Or ‘when they motion like this, beware of this.’ You’ll hear a corner, for example, yelling out on the motion to the linebacker now, ‘Get ready for the end.’ Well a year ago they’re just hoping they’re aligned right. And just kind of trying to play their responsibility. And those are the kinds of things that happen once you’ve had the same group for a couple years.”
Last year it took a little while for the defensive line to gel. Will it be quicker for this group?
“I don’t know. I don’t know, and I’m not trying to be vague. You never know about your team until the bullets start flying, until you start really really getting tired, getting banged up, hitting. How does a team react then? That’s something why Brady runs a very very physical camp, and that’s why that part of it is something you have to work through and you have to make sure you can handle it, because that’s what it is in the Big Ten conference, so we don’t know that.”
MGoQuestion: Have you bought into the philosophy of rotating defensive linemen?
“That’s always something I like to do. You have to find out who earns the right. It’s always been a deal that you earn the right to be on the field as a Michigan football player. I don’t care what the reason is or why there should be a guy going in there. You don’t go in there until you earn the right. In fact I’ve been at places before where the starter would get after the second team guy because he wasn’t doing well enough because he needed somebody to come in for him. If you’re a great football player, you need a little bit of a break every once in a while in a tough, physical game, but you don’t want somebody to go in there that can’t handle his responsibility and help that team win. That’s what this is all about, to find out who -- is it 15 guys? Is it 11? Is it 12 guys? Is it 20 guys? Who earns the right to be out there during the heat of a game.”
Have you had the chance to look at Jake Ryan as a rush end?
“No. We’ve only had two practices. That goes along with the same idea that you put your best 11 on the field wherever they are. Obviously if a guy’s used to playing one position and you have to move him, you may not be as good. But that other guy coming in, the combination of the two might make you just as good.”
How comfortable are you with the thought of him playing there?
“I can tell you this: any time Jake Ryan is on the field, I feel good. Based on how he has worked and -- now again, he has to go through this camp also, but Jake Ryan has really really worked extremely hard. I’ll be interested to see how he does because now it’s [not] new to him either. I don’t know what he gained. He had a very very good offseason as far as strength gains and weight gains and that sort of thing, too.”
Do you have enough confidence in Cam Gordon to move Jake Ryan down?
“Based on the spring and based on last year, I’d say yes. The key again -- everything starts all over today. That’s what everybody has to understand. It doesn’t matter that Craig Roh has started three years. Everything starts all over again every season. You expect a guy that has played three years to really be advanced in how he plays. Cam Gordon went from safety to SAM linebacker. That was a transition for him. He’s gained weight, he’s gotten stronger, now let’s see how he does when we start hitting, and then you’ll know.”
Has Thomas Gordon been able to pick up where he’s left off?
“Again, all I can go by is what Aaron says that they did in the offseason and two practices. Based on that, I’m very optimistic. Maybe a week from now. Maybe two weeks from now …”
You set statistical goals for your defense. When do you start talking about those as a team?
“We have set goals that we have written on a board, written on a wall -- that’s every year. Those goals are based on Michigan. Those goals are based on what is expected to be a winning defense. Those goals are set so that if you reach those, you’re playing Michigan defense. Every team that comes in has to get it to that level to be able to do that. We don’t lower our standard for what we see on the practice field. We have to raise the practice and the talent and the level and that kind of thing to get to that goal … Everything that you do in a practice: pursuit drill, running to the football, tackling, technique work, all of those are what allow a player to then get the numbers that make those goals. That’s our job as coaches and that’s their jobs as players is to work to get good enough to obtain those goals.”
What are some of those goals?
“Well the nubmer one goal is win. That’s the number one goal on our goal board. There’s a third down goal. I don’t know the numbers -- there’s a point goal. All those things. I don’t talk about those in public. They’re in our team, but they know exactly what the number of points you would love to hold them under to be successful.”
Are they realistic goals?
“Do you think I’d give an unrealistic goal? Let me just say this: I think last year, I think they probably obtained a number of those goals in a number of games. Again, I don’t mean to say anything -- all I’m saying is when you look at great football teams, and what it takes to win, you establish set parameters that you have to do. Third downs, red zone, turnovers, missed tackles, all those kinds of things, and then you set what you have to do to be successful in NCAA football. And they know they have to achieve that. If you achieve it you should win, and that’s what the bottom line is.”
Do those goals stiffen in your second year?
“No. You don’t put the goals to what you [or] somebody perceives as your talent level. You put the goals of whoever is playing defensive football has to do to be successful. I would imagine, out of 124 NCAA teams, a lot of them would have the exact same goals. That is kind of what is the formula for winning on defense. So you, as a coach, you have to make sure your players are doing what they have to do to achieve those goals.”
How much more responsibility does Frank’s absence put on Brennen Beyer?
“I think you always have to have -- no matter who it is -- you always have to have a plan B. You always have to have that, and you never go in there with the idea of, ‘Okay, I got a good guy here. I hope he stays healthy.’ No matter what, you always have to have two and you’d like to have three deep of guys -- and they’re always competing. When you have a great defense, then that guy that’s number two or number one, he might want to look over his shoulder, because there’s always somebody that’s going to be there to take the position. I think you always have to go in with that idea.”
MGoQuestion: How has Brennen Beyer’s weight gain (20-30 lbs from spring) affected his speed?
“In the first two practices, again, no pads -- the biggest thing is probably he feels very comfortable at that position now. So he’s had a whole spring going from the SAM linebacker standing up to have his hand on the ground all the time. I don’t think it was 20-some pounds. I think he was like 10 pounds and he got a lot stronger. He just seems more and more comfortable there. That’s what he played in high school, and I think he really feels good about that position.”
The players say they’re more comfortable with you. Are you more comfortable with them?
“I don’t know if you’re more comfortable. I like these guys, I can tell you that. I like these guys because all I do is watch them from when the season was over with through the winter conditioning through summer conditioning, in two practices -- you know what, these are our kind of guys. Whenever you had good people that work really hard and try to be Michigan, then all you can do as a coach is try to do everything you can so that they can feel like Mike and Ryan and those guys did when they walked off the field that last game. You do everything you can so that they can be successful. They’ve been very alert. They’re a fun group to be around. I told them today when [I walked] in there, I said, ‘God, the greatest time of the day is this meeting,’ because you see all those guys and they’re attentive and all that.”
What have you seen from Alabama’s offensive line on film?
“No question. I’m with Brady 100% on that. Watched a lot of film on them. We studied them all offseason. You watch them and they’re very very talented. They’re very physical, and they’re very big, and they’re very experienced. They’re a very very good offensive line.”
What kind of reports have you gotten from Aaron Wellman on Ondre Pipkins?
“It’s so early, you know. You have a guy who a month ago he’s in a class somewhere in high school, and then all of a sudden he’s at the University of Michigan. It’s just too early.”
Has Kenny Demens stepped up to his leadership role as senior middle linebacker?
“So far Kenny’s been like the other backers -- he’s doing what the’s supposed to be doing. Again, when the pads come on and we start hitting, and you’re in the dog days and everything like that, now you can kind of label a guy a leader. That’s where you earn it. These two practices right here, that’s just coming out and doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s not really where you measure anybody. ”
When will you hit for the first time?
“I don’t know. Is it Friday? Friday, full pads. I thought we were hitting the last two days -- I wasn’t sure, ya know, we were … That’s the other thing that Brady’s done a great job of. When you get a more mature team or a team that’s been around the same system, they learn how to practice. Nobody on the ground. And you can get a pretty physical, pretty aggressive practice with no pads on because they protect each other but still go really hard. That’s what you see if you watch an NFL practice. In the rules, they don’t even allow them to wear pads most of the time. They still get some really good practices. And that’s the same thing that we’ll try to do more, too.”
How do you explain last years’ turnover success?
“The one reason is because in our system, we strip in every phase of practice. So any time a ball carrier is running with the football, our defense is trying to get that ball out. When you're not doing live tackling, we’re doing strip--you’re always tugging at that football. The biggest reason--the biggest reason why we had more success on turnovers is because guys ran to the football. The reason you get turnovers is because guys are around the ball. Think of how many times you’ve seen a game where a guy fumbles and the ball’s just lying there and you're going, ‘Come on, somebody get on it!’ Well a huge part of our defense is effort and running to the football because when you do that, you’re going to have more success tackling and you’re going to have a chance to get turnovers, and that’s big for us.”
And is that something you have to teach the freshmen?
“Definitely. We’ll do circuits in practice with that where we’ll practice that, and they see it real clear. Our upperclassmen have done a great job of trying to pseed up the freshmen on what is expected. So much as where you’re watching the tape and something goes on, a senior may say to them, ‘You don’t do it that way. This is Michigan.’”