Mike Lantry, 1972
I don't always golf. But when I do, I think of brunette girls.
What’s your overall reaction to your team’s reaction to winning No. 900 against Michigan State?
“Well to be honest with you I don’t know if they realized the 900th win. Maybe the two seniors had an idea -- the two captains -- where we’re at, because that wasn’t the point of focus for the week. It was playing a great rivalry game, a game in our division, that’s important to win. Playing hard and playing to represent the 133 years of Michigan football.”
Reaction to Drew Dileo’s game?
“He’s not the biggest guy. He’s not the fastest guy. But the one thing Drew is, he’s a football player. What he does for our football team in a lot of different areas from an off returner in kickoffs to holding on PATs and field goals, I think you all would agree that there were two field goals that were pretty important today. The one at the end, that’s a skill set. He’s just a tough, undersized, not fast enough, but he’s a football player. That’s what he is.”
Where do you think your defense is at right now compared with where you want it to be?
“We really had a bad series in there defensively. You give your opponent credit, but we didn’t do some things well at the start of the second half. They went down and scored the touchdown. You know, I think we’ll look at the film. I think we’ll look at some things we did well, and I hope we repeat those, but we’re not near the defense we need to be to win a championship in this conference.”
Denard was bottled up for most of the game but was able to make some big plays when it counted. What does it say about his leadership ability?
“I think he’s been an outstanding leader. The confidence that he has and his teammates have is part of it. I don’t know if anyone on our sideline thought the game was over. The defense was playing well at that point. Get the ball back and see what happens.”
Can you talk about the fake punt but then holding MSU to a field goal afterwards?
“Yeah that was a very good play for Michigan State. That was a smart play. They saw that we weren’t leveraging the outside, and that’s something that I need to do a better job with as part of the punt return team coaching staff. Because that got them some hope, got them in the game, but the one thing we told the defense: ‘Keep them to a field goal. If we keep them to a field goal here, then good things can happen for us.’ Obviously that’s what happened.”
Did you feel like you did a better job of matching their physicality this year?
“I think so. Yeah. I thought our kids, you know, we wanted to play, finish everything we were doing. Blocks, plays, catches, runs, whatever your job is to do, we wanted to finish. I thought we practiced that way. I thought we did that.”
You’ve talked to us before about Matt Wile having a big leg. What went into the decision to put him out there for the long field goal?
“You answered it. Bigger leg. Stronger leg. That’s one reason why Matt kicks off for us. We had some wind with us. That wind kind of changed really right before the start of the game, so we felt that he would have the leg to do it. He did by kind of a lot.”
What does Michigan State do defensively that’s so effective in terms of bottling up Denard?
“I think they’ve done that to a lot of players, quarterbacks. I don’t know a final statistic, but they have good players. They play extremely aggressive. The things that they like to do, sometimes can be higher risk and higher reward. It’s a belief system they have. They tackle well. They do the things that you need to do in order to play good defense.”
What do you feel like you need to do in order to become a Big Ten championship-level defense? Also, what is Raymon Taylor’s status?
“Raymon got a little boo boo. He’ll be probably okay, most likely. Turnovers. We need to do a better job of creating. We need to do a better job [putting] pressure on the quarterback with four guys. I don’t think that’s a strong suit of ours. That can help our secondary out. I think at times we’re playing too far off the guys in coverage. So that’s a start.”
Gibbons seems a bit of a free spirit.
“What do you mean by that?”
Well, you know, last year at the Sugar Bowl about the brunettes and stuff, not that I don’t agree with him, but …
How do you approach kickers? Do you stay away from them? Do you say something before a big kick? Are you superstitious? Where’s your mind at? Do you go up to him and say, “Hey, we got this one?” Do you --
“I’m with those guys a little bit during practice. I’m not a kicking coach, but it’s kind of like golf, which I’m probably a pretty good golfer ... if I would do it. Those guys, they know what they need to do and how they need to do it. I think them going up to the stadium during the week is helpful because the wind in there’s a little different, especially with the new stuff up there. I think it’s a little different. You know, both those kids, we have a lot of confidence in. And anything else, when you show confidence, kids are going to respond. Not that you don’t rip them once in a while, but I decided when they called the time out, I was just going to watch Gibby do his thing. I don’t know. There’s no magic to it.”
As well as Michigan State’s defense played, you maybe missed a couple opportunities for big plays (dropped pass, missed a block, etc.). Were you disappointed by the execution?
“Oh. I think you could go through every game and there’s going to be execution. We didn’t block down once on a run play that may have been pretty open. We don’t block down. Why? I don’t know. 113,999 or whatever it was? A good defense that you're playing against. You want to see them all execute, but no one has ever played a perfect game. No one will ever play a perfect game. They’re 18-22, 23 years old. We’re going to try and prepare them and remind them and do all those things and grow them right, and then … go play hard.”
Dileo said on the radio that he thought the kick was going wide right. What was your view?
“I watch the people sitting behind the goal post. Because they’ll tell you. I’ll be honest with you. You can’t see it from [the sideline].”
Kovacs said this was the monkey off the back for you guys. Does it feel like that’s what this was for the program, preventing them from beating you five years in a row?
It’s not more meaningful than a “Yeah”?
“It’s an in-state rival. But we have bigger expectations.”
Did you feel like the icing-the-kicker timeout helped you or hurt you?
“I think we were well prepared. Denard did a tremendous job spiking the ball. The field goal team was there. Dan Ferrigno was there, our special teams coach, had all those guys right there ready to go. I think it’s a strategy that can work. Can’t work. You know? Flip a coin.”
What made you go back to Gibbons rather than Wile?
“Because it was his range. We had talked about distance, and it was his range, and he’s more consistent than Matt has been in practice at that range.”
[player transcripts will be up later today]
Bullets of informative information:
- Michigan State. This is a rivalry game. Rivalries are important.
- Vincent Smith getting held out for his hamstring was precautionary. May be back this week. Maybe not.
- Hopkins is "back."
- Frank Clark's decreased playing time was due to rotation, not due to injury.
- Denard is fine.
“You know, obviously it was a great team win the other night. Played well as a team. Played together. Probably our most complete game when you look at the offense and defense. In the kicking game I thought we did some very good things. Had some penalties that we don’t want to have when you look at hitting the returner late and we had two defensive offsides penalties that we need to be a little more poised and a little more composed about that. A couple dropped passes. I think we were 9 of 14 on third downs, probably could have been 11 of 14. Missed assignments, I think we had 10 of them on offense. Defensively, early in the game I thought they ran the ball a little too well, so we have to do a better job with the integrity of gaps and getting off blocks. Best we’ve played, but a long way from playing championship football, so we have a lot of work to do. We’ll go back to work.
"This is a great week because it’s a rivalry game and those are always special, always fun. At the same time it’s another championship game, which we’ve started that run two weeks ago. We have to prepare like we have, and I think we will because we’ve done a nice job to this point and the maturity of our team – I think we are maturing, so we just have to keep going forward.”
News bullets and other important items:
- Kickoffs: There was one bad kick and nine missed tackles, but kicking it short and to the right was on purpose to avoid Raheem Mostert.
- Denard's wrist is fine.
- Gallon's job as punt returner is not in danger.
- Hoke did not consider putting in Rawls earlier for Toussaint.
“Thanks for coming. Very pleased with the win. It’s great to win, obviously. I thought we set a tone early defensively and great to win on the road is what I should say because you look at this league on the road, it’s a tough place to play. I thought we set the tone with the three-and-out on the defense, and offensively, 17-play drive, almost nine minutes, really was what we needed to do. We play really good defense watching our offense out there on the field. That’s a good deal. I think we practiced well for the week. We prepared well. Liked how our guys came to work every day, and we need to continue to do that. We know we’re in a championship game every Saturday, so our mentality and attitude needs to reflect that by our actions in practice. We had a good day yesterday, and hopefully we can continue that.”
Brady Hoke, before he was cool.
Three games in, what about your team is developing well?
“Um. It’s a really good question. I think, uh, we’re progressing a little bit in the two areas that are the most concerning, and that’s up front defensively and up front offensively. I don’t think we’re close to where we should be and where we need to be, so we’ll go back to work and keep working it. I like the attitude our team's had and how they’ve come to work, but I think for us to meet the expectations that we have, we have to get a lot better.”
How would you assess how your offense ran the two-minute drill?
“I thought once we knew we were getting the ball back, we wanted to go, and they did a nice job with it. I’m not going to recite every play to you, but I thought we were good with the timeouts when we took them and what we needed to do.”
How important was it to come out of this game without any injuries? Did you have any reservations about playing Denard when you were up 49-13?
“Well we wanted to play another series, and this is all about trying to get the mindset of a team and the mentality to win a championship, and keeping the offense together was a big part of that, and letting them finish. I don’t know if we got any boo boos today, but we’re having one of those years where a lot of guys are getting dinged up.”
How would you assess Fitz and the running backs?
“I think he did okay. I think we’re a little - there were a couple times where I’d like to see him stick his foot in the ground and be more vertical with some stuff.”
Status of Desmond Morgan and Stephen Hopkins?
“They should be back next week.”
What’s the issue with Morgan’s head?
“Uh, a head thing. I don’t know what they classify him as. Sometimes you just get dinged.”
Is this a type of game that you needed to have before getting into the brunt of your schedule?
“We would have taken any win.”
What did you see from the offensive line today?
“Oh I didn’t think we moved the line of scrimmage as well as we needed to.”
What do you need to see from them in order to accomplish that?
“Well we better play with better leverage, and we better combination block better when we’re doing that, and we better finish.”
Would you contemplate shaking up the starting lineup?
“I think you willl evaluate like you always do.”
Vincent Smith had a couple touchdowns. How did he play?
“Vince is a guy who whenever you call his number, he’s pretty much going to perform. It’s not surprising. When you look at what he’s done for Michigan football and how he comes to work every day, it’s not surprising.”
You don’t sound like a coach that has won by 50 points. Are you disappointed? Can you give an assessment of where you’re at?
“I think we’re getting a feel, but these kids have worked hard, and they’ve worked hard throughout -- since last January, and they have high expectations. It’s our job to be honest and be real and push them to where they can meet those expectations. I told them the same thing I told you. It’s great to win. But if we want to win the Big Ten championship, we need to improve a lot in a lot of areas, and they start up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage.”
What kind of gains can you make from a game like this?
“Well, there’s always a team morale factor, and being able to play a lot of guys, a lot of guys who have worked hard, a lot of guys on the look teams, them having the ability to play in this football team in from of 100,000 family and friends, I think that’s great. That’s what you want to happen. The other gains are not just for those guys who got that opporunity but for us as a team to improve. The kicking game, on offense, and on defense. Turnovers -- we’ve been terrible, terrible, of creating turnovers. If we don’t start creating turnovers, we’re going to get beat because we need to give more opportunities to our offense. Running the football and defending the run. I think they were seven of 17 on third down -- UMass was. We had some opportunities to make some stops and we didn’t make them. I’m either answering your question or I’m rambling …”
Are you at the point where you’re a little frustrated with the offensive line?
“I’m not frustrated with them. I wasn’t frustrated before with them because I know how hard they go to work and how much work they put into it. At the same time we have to do it better. So, frustrated? I’m not frustrated. I like the offensive line. It’s my favorite part of the football team because of the work they do. I put a lot of pressure on them. We put a lot of pressure on them, just like we do with the defensive line. But if your’e going to be good at football, you better be good at your offensive line and your defensive line.”
How important is it to find a playmaker on offense other than Denard?
“That’s a big part of it, and that’s why we need to block better in the traditional run plays with the running back. I think there’s some playmakers on the offense, at receiver, at tight end. Devin’s a guy who -- he’s a freshman, he’s still got a lot to learn, but he’s a playmaker. We have to find more, but trying to get your running back to be a playmaker is blocking at the point of attack.”
It’s very clear you’re not happy with the run defense.
“I think you are to some degree. They had four senior offensive linemen who were pretty good football players. Mike Cox was a scholarship athlete here at the University of Michigan. Mike, when there’s a hole there, he runs it pretty well. Totally? Probably not, when you get into a power running team.”
So were you pleased?
MGoQuestion: It looked like Matt Wile was varying the angle and direction of his kickoffs. Was that part of the plan, and what were you hoping to accomplish with that?
“Yeah we were trying to, just like everything else, your kicking game -- we felt that the first two ball games, we didn’t play as well as we needed to. The Alabama game we had three blocks in the back on kick returns that kills you. And then last week, we didn’t think we were consistent enough. Part of that is trying to place the ball on kickoffs. He did the pooch punting because he had a little pineapple kick -- I don’t know what they call it, that’s what I call it -- but he does it pretty effectively. Yeah we were trying to spread the ball a little bit.”
Drew Dileo. Nice surprise?
“Drew is not the biggest the cat in the world, but he’s a got a heart that’s huge, and he loves the game of football. Every day Drew comes out and we ask him to do a lot, and he does it well for us. So it’s not surprising.”
There was no greater example of Brady Hoke's ability to manufacture something out of nothing using only smirks, confidence, and home remedies from back at Yellowstone than the one-year transformation wrought in kicker Brendan Gibbons. When last we saw Gibbons, he was doing this and I was captioning like this:
WHAT THE BALLS WHY IS THIS MAN'S PICTURE HERE
Hoke put CONFIDENCE in his BRAIN in a VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER, and brunette girls did the rest.
A year after going one of five and doinking an extra point, Gibbons hit 13 of 17 field goals and won the Sugar Bowl. His leg wasn't severely tested and it seemed like Michigan was going out of its way to avoid long field goals, but long field goals are for saps anyway.
In 2012 Gibbons should produce the same steady Garrett-Rivas-like production, pounding him a bunch of field goals under 40 yards and not taking many longer ones.
Rating: unfathomable, or bad and then 3
After being suspended for five of his last six games, Will Hagerup returned against Minnesota and proceeded to thunder two punts off his leg for 75 yards each. Wait. That's not an average. 37.5 yards each. Against MSU two weeks later he pounded seven punts for… 31.8 yards each. In the Ohio State game he immortalized himself with a now very funny but still-not-too-good-for-his-job-prospects GIF:
After Hagerup shanked two Sugar Bowl punts for an average of 25 yards, Michigan finally had enough, inserting freshman Matt Wile for the remainder of the game. Season total: 29 punts for 36 yards each and one muff-induced torrent of profanity from section 44, row 16. Brendan Gibbons 2010 == Will Hagerup 2011.
Despite all that, Hoke announced he'd won the starting job a few days ago. Hopefully Hoke has executed the same sort of mind-meld with Hagerup that he did with Gibbons last year. Early signs to keep an eye out for:
- expressing preference for redheads
- or starting to look like Spuds McKenzie
- or starting to look like Lynyrd Skynrd
- or kicking the everloving hamburglar out of the ball
A return to Hagerup's freshman year performance—second only to Zoltan The Inconceivable for best all-time at M—would be worth almost eight yards a kick, and Hagerup has upside even beyond that, as a 72-yard bomb against Purdue would attest if New York copyright nazis acknowledged fair use.
Reaching that is a matter of recovering his freshman chi. That's unpredictable. Think of the Gibbons.
If Hagerup doesn't Michigan will be okay. Sophomore Matt Wile's 17 punts a year ago averaged 42 yards each. He's got a big leg—he also handled kickoffs—and was an Army AA kicker and all that. The bottom here is average.
Kickoffs and Return Units
We'll start with the kickoffs since it's uncertain how much they'll matter. The Mathlete predicts that half of all kickoffs will now be touchbacks, and I think it may be even higher as coaches decide on the safe start at the 25 over a small shot at something better.
This may be good for Michigan in the short term. They were terrible at kick returns last year, averaging just 18.4 yards an attempt. That was good for 117th. That's not a huge surprise when your top two returners were Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith, who no one will confuse with top-end athletes. Odoms is gone now and Smith seems to have lost the job to Dennis Norfleet, who is Smith except quicker than neutrinos, and Josh Furman, who is probably the fastest guy on the team not named Denard. Furman might not have much wiggle but he can fly. Michigan should improve here, for as much as it matters.
When kicking off Michigan was average a year ago and figures to be again.
Hoke also worked his juju with Jeremy Gallon, who went from this…
Jeremy Gallon special teams error limit: determined. It is ten billion. I'm obviously on the tolerant side of the scale when it comes to coaching errors (outside of obvious game theory errors, about which I have an Al Qaeda level of zealotry) but JESUS GOD RICH RODRIGUEZ WHY DID YOU LET JEREMY GALLON RETURN KICKS AND PUNTS FOR TEN GAMES.
…to a solid, error-free returner. Michigan got punt returns up to 53rd nationally (9 yards each) and last season is notably free of ALL CAPS moaning about fumbles and punts left unfielded. I'm vaguely hoping we see a second guy back there, probably Dileo, against teams that go to the rugby style spread punt, but am not banking on it. This, too, should be a blank.
There is some possibility that having a dedicated special teams coach will let Michigan block some stuff or get creative on a return or finally go to the max gunner style most teams are running these days, and not HOLDING ON TO THE DAMN BALL is a constant threat. The likeliest outcome is meh all around, which fine.
News bullets and other important items:
- This record is so broken, but no official decision on Fitz yet. Decision has been made but won't be revealed until the "time is right."
- Roundtree is back in full pads and practicing.
- Quinton Washington has won the starting nose tackle job. Will Campbell is the starting 3-tech. Jibreel Black is back at WDE because -- I'm guessing based on other Hoke comments -- he still isn't big enough.
- Brennen Beyer will float between WDE and SAM depending on the situation. It sounds like he's the primary backup at both positions rather than starting at either one.
- Will Hagerup is the starting punter. Matt Wile will kick off. Brendan Gibbons will kick field goals. Wile will handle "outlandishly long" field goals -- 55 yarders -- if it comes to that.
- Michigan shuffled the offensive line a lot during camp. Patrick Omameh spent some time at right tackle and Elliott Mealer spent some time at center.
- Dennis Norfleet will return kicks.
“It’s good to be in game week. It’s been a long camp. I think it’s been productive in a lot of ways. I think we found out a little more about ourselves. I think we finished and ended camp at the end of the week and really yesterday we had a really good practice. I think with being physical with each other, having a good mentality and toughness, I think we improved. I think they came in and competed every day, which is a big part of it. I think the other thing we talked about was coming in with a lot of energy. We voted captains last night, and I’m really proud of both guys who were selected to be captains by their peers. I think both of them, obviously, deserve that. Both of them have been tremendous when you look at their leadership and what they’ve done for us as a football team to this point. We also have a whole group of seniors who have really done a good job. With that being said, I’m real proud of those two guys leading this football team. We have a big week ahead of us. We practiced last night. Today we won’t practice. We’ll meet and have some meetings. Tuesday will be a normal work day. Wednesday we’ll be a little lighter, not a whole lot. Thursday will be our normal Thursday, and we’ll get on the plane and go. We’re excited about it. Excited about the opportunity, obviously. The defending national champs and the job that Nick’s done is one that we respect. It’ll be a lot of fun for us to go down and compete. To compete for Michigan and to compete for the Big Ten conference."