...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
manball - defensive edition
Scheme installation: "Originally, I wanted to get all of it in. And I'm not going to say spring has been a success or not a success based on how many defensive calls we have in." They have scaled that back a bit to make sure the players fully grasp each scheme before moving on. "Their grasp of the defense probably hasn't been as fast as I thought it would be, but their want-to and their desire to do it has been really good." Even though installation is going slowly, "There is no disappointment whatsoever in me. I get excited and more enthused every day we meet." They get to mold the players into what they want to see, and the players are all excited to learn.
Talent: "I'm really encouraged by the attitude and the 'want-to' of the guys that we're working with." There hasn't been any moping or negative attitudes, guys come in wanting to learn. When the coaches make corrections, the players demonstrate those by the next day. The entire D has tons of work to do on basic techniques. "But I would have said that about any time I've had, unless they're perfect with their technique, I'm not satisfied." First step, punch, etc. - all the basic techniques need work.
Brady Hoke is hands-off in determining D schemes, though he's a defensive coach. He works with the SAM linebackers. "Its not Greg Mattison's defense. It's the Michigan defense." All defensive coaches can bring ideas. "It's the Michigan defense and we all have input."
It's great if the O score quickly: "I hope we score in 3 plays every time they're out there. Because our job is going to be to get off the field in three plays." As long as the offense isn't turning the ball over, they'll help the defense. The defense earns their own rest by getting off the field on third downs. "Your job is to do what you're supposed to do on third down to get off the field." They have started installing the nickel/3rd down package, because stopping third downs is so crucial.
Talked with Urban Meyer yesterday. They knew each other at Notre Dame, and Mattison was defensive coordinator at Florida for a while. "He's a great head coach and a great friend."
Michigan's coaches don't believe in supplements, but if players do what Wellman says, they'll grow. They want every player to get as big and strong as they can without sacrificing speed.
On wearing his Michigan 1997 Rose Bowl ring - "I use that as a reminder of how excited I am to be here." He made his son get it from the house in Mishawaka immediately when he took the Michigan job. "That was a special team and our goal is to get more of those."
Big Ten Divisions - "I love the conference playoff." It provides incentive to play for something on top of a bowl game. "That championship playoff game is bigger than any bowl will ever be." Aside from playing for a National Championship, it doesn't get any bigger than a conference Championship game. He learned that coaching in Atlanta with the Gators.
Denard - "If the darn kid would throw the ball rather than run all the time. Anyone can scramble (laughing)." He can make your defense pay if they aren't disciplined, no matter what D is called.
Standouts: "Mike Martin, obviously." He's already had success at Michigan, but he still comes to practice like a rookie hungry to learn. Craig Roh has shown some signs of wanting to improve and be more physical, Jibreel Black can be an explosive guy. "All the guys have had their good moments." They aren't executing perfectly, but all of them can realistically hear "you're still in the mix to be a good football player here. Now you've just gotta keep going."
Campbell is coming off the football better at times, but not always. Quinton Washington "has been neck and neck with [Will Campbell]... When you see Quinton Washington and Will Campbell battling for a position, that says 'great, because now we can roll them.' Because I believe in that, and I always have." Will Heininger has stepped up, and can rotate with Jake Ryan. Jibreel Black looks as good as Craig Roh on some days.
DL has to be a strength of the D "You can't have a great defense unless you have a really good defensive line." In the next 9 practices, they'll find out whether their defensive line can reach that standard. Going forward, they'll recruit great defensive linemen because the philosophy is to have good defensive line play.
Kenny Demens is out with shoulder injury. He's probably most experienced LB. He's looked good in no-contact drills, is picking up the scheme. Returning linebackers haven't played a lot of minutes in games, and definitely not in the new scheme.
A lot of the experienced guys have mostly blitzed, now they need to learn run/pass reads, take pass drops, know who to cover, etc. ILBs will always be interchangeable positions. WLB and MLB can always play both.
"Mike Jones has shown some great improvement from where he was Day 1." Isaiah Bell wasn't moving well on the first day, but now that he understands the D a bit better, he's able to move faster.
"The one guy probably that has improved the most and I have really become excited about him is Cam Gordon. I've really got high hopes for him." He's playing SAM backer, and has a chance to be good. "Has a tremendous attitude." He has safety athleticism, just need to get bigger. "Cam's a really long way away, but as a coach you see things in a young man you say 'this guy really could be one of those really good players some day.'" He's battling guys much bigger than him right now, and they want him to get as big as he can while still being able to run.
"I've been pleased for the most part with that group... I hate to name [individual] guys because you're leaving somebody out, but that position to me has done a pretty good job." There's more carry-over for those guys from the previous scheme. Carvin Jonson has has some good days. Thomas Gordon has done a good job. "The one thing [Thomas Gordon] has done is he's now working at the nickel position for us, which is a real credit to him, because it shows he can go from playing safety to all the adjustments that have to be done at that position."
On missing Woolfolk and Floyd - "It's difficult if we were playing a game today, but I tend to look at it as a positive." Those guys have already shown they can play, and younger players get to develop, and improve depth.
Right now, the safeties have to be able to pay both spots.
Marvin Robinson has had class during one of the in-week practice days. He's starting to understand the defense and make plays. "He's got the range, and he's got the ability to run, and he hits." Now he just need to learn the schemes.
Courtney Avery - "He's another one of those secondary guys that I think is really improved. He's working extremely hard with Kurt [Mallory]."