"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
“Hello, everybody. Nice to see you. Good to see everybody here. Exciting day for us. The first day of football fall camp, so…glad you made it.”
Kids Go Blue Club member question: Other than football, what is your favorite thing about being back in Michigan?
“Autumn, that is a wonderful question. Thank you for asking that question. Being with my family is my favorite thing about being back in Michigan.
“How old are you?”
“So I have a six-year-old daughter named Addie and a four-and-a-half-year-old daughter named Katie and Jack is two and a half. My son James is 18- he’ll be a freshman at Michigan. My son Jay is coaching at Michigan. He’s 26.
“And then, so seeing all my kids back here in Ann Arbor and doing some of the same things that I did when I was your age and their age- went over to St. Francis elementary school and met some of the teachers for the first grade and the kindergarten class and just walking down the hallway, seeing them in the same school that I went to. It was…it was- might have been the best moment about being back in Ann Arbor.
“St. Francis is a typical Catholic school. It’s old and it’s clean. There’s a lot of memories. Pretty neat to think that my kids are going to be experiencing some of the same things I did.
“Are you excited for school to start?”
“When does school start for you?”
I don’t know.
“How about a big smile for all the cameras? How about a big, pretty smile for the cameras. Look at all these cameras!”
There was some stuff earlier this week or a couple weeks ago about the fifth-year players. Keith Heitzman, I think, said he was asked to try-out for a spot on the roster. What’s your take on the fifth year guys? Are they given a spot? Earn a spot? How’s that work?
“Well, it’s- you know, fifth year is mutual. When it comes to a fifth year, if you have a fifth year of eligibility and then it becomes do you want to come back to the University of Michigan for a fifth year and does the football team mutually want you to come back for the fifth year.
“All the fifth-year players that were on the team were not asked to come to a try out, but in his particular case I said, and [with] a couple of the other youngsters too, I haven’t coached here before [so] couldn’t guarantee a spot for the 2015 team but could guarantee an opportunity. And that opportunity would have taken place during spring practice. Some did want to come back who were fifth-years and some didn’t. That’s about as simple as it is.”
[After THE JUMP: Harbaugh tells the football rebirth story again and you should read it because why would you not want to read that]
"Now everything's just slowed down for me, and it's just me, I can just play ball." — Jourdan Lewis [Photo: Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan's 2014 roster includes six proud graduates of Detroit's Cass Tech High School, including four in the secondary alone and a fifth—Royce Jenkins-Stone, Class of 2012—also on the defensive side of the ball. Remarkably, all six are making a serious push for playing time this fall. At Media Day, I caught up with every former Technician on the team save for Delano Hill, who's recovering from a broken jaw, to discuss their current roles on the team, what it's like to be surrounded by their former high school teammates, and much more.
- The defensive backs, to a man, are excited about the new aggressive playing style, as well as the level of competition at corner.
- Terry Richardson feels physically prepared to be out there after adding "a quick 12 to 15 pounds" this offseason.
- Delonte Hollowell was wearing a small cast on his left hand due to an injury suffered from "practicing hard, you know?" He thinks it's just a sprain.
- Royce Jenkins-Stone says Greg Mattison "critiques the little things" more with his new charges at linebacker, and the group is better for it.
- David Dawson, man of mystery, does not want you to know what position he's playing.
- There's competition everywhere.
- Every single one lit up when talking about playing with a big group of other guys from Cass Tech—they clearly share a strong bond with their former and present teammates.
You made a big move in the spring. Heading into the fall, Coach Hoke talked about how you're one of the top three corners. How do you feel you've progressed since last year and what are your expectations for this season in terms of your performance?
Just be aggressive. Just play good. Just keep playing how I'm doing. Just keep the intensity up though the season, pretty much.
There's been a big emphasis on aggressiveness from the cornerbacks. How do you feel that fits in with your style of play, and what's been the biggest change since last year?
It's definitely a big emphasis on being physical, that's how all of us really like to play. Just doing that, just with how we like to play, it's really suiting us. We're actually better as a whole unit.
Because of how aggressive you guys are playing, has the level of competition been raised between the cornerbacks and the receivers right now?
It's just everybody. All of us just love to compete, and it's not even like—the competition, we don't see it [that way], we just see it as "we're gonna just lock this receiver up every chance we get."
There's a bunch of Cass Tech guys on the team, and a lot of them are competing for time. What's it like to be surrounded by your high school teammates at Michigan?
It's amazing. It's amazing just knowing that you've got somebody who has your back through anything. It's really amazing. It brings everybody together, even the ones that didn't go to Cass Tech, it actually helps us all be together and help us be tight as a unit.
[Note: This is where I wrapped up my Q&A; I caught the audio of a couple questions for Lewis from The Wolverine's Chris Balas.]
How much more confident are you from year one to year two?
Confident? I was about the same, but being consistent and comfortable is a key, really. Right now that's all I'm really worried about, just being consistent and being comfortable in my technique in everything we do.
How much more comfortable are you knowing what you know now compared to what you knew a year ago?
It was way faster last year. Now everything's just slowed down for me, and it's just me, I can just play ball.
[Hit THE JUMP for interviews with Terry Richardson, DELONTE HOLLOWELL, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and David Dawson.]
In the half-hour we spent on the field talking to players at Sunday's Media Day, the theme of this offseason and fall camp was clear: change is here. For the offense, that means a change in coordinators, and with that a significant difference in how they practice. The tempo is being pushed like never before in Brady Hoke's tenure at Michigan, and that also affects the defense, which is dealing with change of their own, as the coaching staff on that side shifts roles while the defense moves from a 4-3 under to a 4-3 over.
I caught up with Dennis Norfleet, Jake Ryan, and Wyatt Shallman to discuss these changes and more, including Ryan saying he feels fully recovered from the ACL tear that limited him to just five starts in 2013. Tomorrow, I'll have further player interviews with the significant portion of the team that hails from Cass Tech.
You're getting work in the slot now pretty much exclusively, it sounds like. How comfortable are you at that position right now?
I'm getting a lot better. The wide receiving crew is really helping me out a lot. Coach Hecklinski is a great coach, he's getting me to feel comfortable when I get in there and getting me comfortable with my plays, so I'm doing pretty well.
What's been the biggest difference with the new offensive coordinator, the biggest change between last year and this year?
The biggest change is we're moving faster, up-tempo. We're a lot better as an offensive crew, we're more than a team, we're a family, so that's what makes a big difference to us now.
With that big increase in tempo, it sounds like you guys are getting more reps in. How much of a difference has that made in terms of getting more comfortable in the offense?
It's a making a lot of difference. It's a big difference because we have a lot of rotation, everybody gets to know their plays, nobody's going out there not knowing what they're doing, and if they don't they have people to tell them if they go wrong. That's a big difference.
How do you see your role being this year? Obviously you're playing the slot, but there's a lot you can do, so how do you see yourself being utilized in the offense this year?
I'm just doing my job, you know. If I get open space, I do what I do best, you know. I'm also being a role model for the younger players that came in. We're basically working as a team in everything that we do.
At returner, you obviously have a lot of experience there. Coach Hoke said you're getting a lot of the reps there but that there are a couple freshmen who are also coming in and making a push. How do you feel at returner right now, and is that a place you feel you can make a really big impact?
Kick returning has always been something that I go into the game and everything, you know, willing that I want to return a kick [for a score] every game. We've been rotating a lot, we've got a lot of players that are competing, spots that's not really set out for who starts where, so we're just having fun in camp right now and competing.
It sounds like both at slot and returner that you're working a lot with Freddy Canteen. What have you seen out of him in the spring and fall so far?
Canteen's becoming a better young man, not just a football player, just in life. He's been looking up to the older receivers, like Devin Funchess, me, [redshirt senior walk-on Anthony] Capatina. It's just a lot of people he can look up to, to become a better person, both in our lives and football.
You keep mentioning how you guys have come together as a team. What's been the biggest change since last year, and do you feel like as an upperclassman now you're really grown into a leadership role?
When I came in, I did things that upperclassmen always told me was wrong that I didn't think were wrong, but now that I'm older I can see what they were talking about. You know, it's more than just a game. We're trying to win a championship, the Big Ten, so as we go along that's the focus of our days. That's what we're ready for.
[Hit THE JUMP for Jake Ryan discussing his transition to middle linebacker and his full recovery from the ACL tear, and Wyatt Shallman talking about his role in the offense and the changes in style under Doug Nussmeier.]
On Saturday the Michigan football team had it's annual media day. Bryan Fuller and I (Eric Upchurch) had the privilege of attending. Here are some photos and galleries from the event.
Yes indeed Taylor..
Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson
Big Jon Falk
Here is a combined gallery of selected photos from Saturday.
Here are links to our individual galleries if you would like to see all of the photos that we shot.
They are alive. HD scoreboard what:
It's so lovely.
Also there is a ton of video from Media/fan day. Choosing one at random:
Choosing a second:
And LB coach Mark Smith pronouncing Marell Evans's first name "MAH-rell":
There's also fluff, JT Floyd, Craig Roh, Mike Cox, Junior Hemingway, Taylor Lewan, Stephen Hopkins, DBs coach Curt Mallory (who still gets asked about Denard despite being the DBs coach), and RB coach Fred Jackson (who talks up the freshmen and describes the offense as "West Coast").
And then there's Countdown to Kickoff talking to Mike Shaw, and Rivals has a full transcript of the presser Tim covered yesterday. Also MVictors took pictures. Matt Wile has a big forehead, all the better to kiss expansively when he makes a 32-yarder. Tim's also got his assistants/players recap in the hopper; that will be coming up this afternoon.
I haven't found this in a linkable form yet but the buzz yesterday was that Frank Clark was quickly moved to WDE and Brennen Beyer was flipped to SLB—an inversion of what they were expected to do. We'll see if that sticks.
Other things Fred Jackson said. I've been shepherding select Fred Jackson quotes for the season preview in order to throw a little cold water on the Rawls/Hayes hype train but what the hell, you'll probably forget about it in two weeks anyway: last year he said Stephen Hopkins was "another Chris Perry, except I don't know if Chris Perry was ever 230 pounds." So when Fred Jackson says this…
"Every day they come to work, they know they got to bring their lunch pails because the freshmen are coming out there like they're sophomores," Jackson said.
"Those two freshmen have made the whole room different because now the upperclassmen look around and know the competition is way beyond where they expected it to be (during spring practices)."
…I'm maybe not 100% convinced.
When Fred Jackson says this…
"I got a guy who's going to be a great third-down back for us," Jackson said. "I don't want to say right now who that guy is because I'm still trying to develop depth at the position.
"But the first game, you'll see who that is. I promise you, you'll see who that is."
…though, I believe him because that's obviously Vincent Smith. That would seem to take him out of the running to be the primary guy. I'm still betting on Shaw or Hopkins.
Schwing? Here's one of Scout's national analysts sort of kind of saying Michigan might have a lead-type substance for Mitch McGary:
*There was some clarity given to the Mitch McGary recruitment this week with him narrowing it down to six schools. As we said in the last recruiting report, the school most consistently mentioned by people close to the situation is Michigan. Now does that make the Wolverines the leader, not necessarily, but they are in as good a position as any school in his top six.
This weekend McGary is scheduled to go down to Florida to check things out. This will be an unofficial visit, and McGary’s first trip to the Gainesville campus. Look for another unofficial to Michigan before it is all said and done, and then probably two or three official visits once he gets back to Brewster.
I'll take it! McGary's supposed to wrap his recruiting up by October. Adding him may or may not amplify a scholarship crunch that may or may not exist in 2013. He's widely believed to be a one-and-done; if he does end up committing and sticking around it seems like the only thing that will create a serious issue is Hardaway also sticking around for four years.
BONUS: GRIII has moved up to #39 in Scout's latest rankings. Outrage: no Stauskas.
Fourteen is less than twelve. I have no idea why the SEC is going to bother with Texas A&M. I guess media markets and all that—the constant battle to make more money will not cease until every toilet is gold. But the sacrifices entailed are great. Instead of playing opponents in the other division every other year a 14-team conference will have a whopping two crossover games against a randomly selected set of seven teams. That's about three times a decade.
Despite this, certain SEC partisans are demanding the presidents vote yes even if there is no vote. Very postmodern.
Apparently the Big Ten is content at 12, and thank God for that. There were compelling reasons to go to 12—no more annoying co-champions, title game, etc.—but there is exactly one school that should prompt the increasingly inaccurately named Big Ten to bloat further. I refer, of course, to Wake Forest.
Demon Deacons or bust.
At least he's annoying. Brady Hoke has gotten the goat of the Ohio State fanbase:
I AM SO TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT BRADY HOKE. Did you know Brady Hoke "gets it"? He's changing the culture? On and on and on. What is so revelatory about the coach of Michigan has expectations this year? Have I been reveling so much in Michigan's despair that I've failed to realize just how pathetic they've become over the years?
I also get a kick out of how he's riding his Segway around up there (this is how I like to envision he travels everywhere) like he's the second coming of Bo Schembechler (who currently resides in the 7th Circle of Hell) when he's really a homeless man's Rex Ryan who has won as many games at Michigan as I have. Brady, you've been at Michigan for like two months, bro. Quit your posturing.
So as you're wincing when Hoke refuses to deploy "State" for the duration of his career at least know he's making people in Ohio peevish. If he actually wins some games there is the potential for helpless rage. That sounds fun. Let's do that.
In the grand tradition. Russell Bellomy on his decision to switch from Purdue:
I ended up choosing Purdue [on] June 1st. I’ll never forget that. But then
the best opportunity I’ve ever had fell in my lap. In the middle of January, I got a call from my head coach, and he said ‘hey Russ, Michigan called; are you interested?’ He left me that voicemail, and I was just like ‘is that even a question?’ So I called him back, and then Coach Borges ended up coming down here to my school, and then he came for a home visit right after that, and we sat here from about 6:30 on just sitting here talking, and on the way back to the hotel, he called me and offered me, and me and my dad were going insane.
I like to think of an enraged Danny Hope twirling his mustache upon reading that. I like to think of an enraged Danny Hope twirling his mustache in many scenarios, actually: in a sinking boat, catching his wife eating yogurt, at Stalingrad in 1942, upon discovering he will not be able to attend the REO Speedwagon concert.
"She knows yogurt has bacteria in it, goddammit. This aggression will not stand."
Etc.: The South Bend Tribune has details on what went down with Corwin Brown. You can have your very own Justin Boren jersey. Photo gallery from Maize n Blue Nation. Rod Beard is the guy who drew the short stick and had to interview random fans for their random opinions. I hate every single quote in that piece.
Now seven practices in, the kids are "learning more with each practice." They're bringing energy to practice, but need to sustain that throughout to show they can compete late in games and in the season.
The team is healthy, and there's lots of competition
Two-a-days start tomorrow. The adversity of two-a-days can "teach you about who the leaders will be on the team."
On padded practice: "guys are willing, wanting." Need to see consistency between the morning and afternoon practices. Will be in full pads for 3 days of two-a-days this week. Guys are anxious to establish themselves. Want to prove to coaches and teammates how they've progressed since spring.
On kicker Matt Wile: "Obviously he's a San Diego guy. His dad was one of our orthopaedics at San Diego State." Lance Ortega was his kicking coach, the staff knew him. Matt is a 5th generation Michigan grad.
"He's doing well. I think this is a big stage. That mental part of going out there, until you get on Main Street and have 110,000, you've gotta see where the guy's at." He can do a good job coaching himself with fundamentals, etc. Doing punting, KOs, and FGs right now. "I'd be very comfortable" having a true freshman handle those duties.
On running backs: The young guys missed some time finishing up summer school. Rawls is talented, has done a good job. Backfield is unsettled. Need to show consistency from practice to practice. "We'd like to have one guy who could tote it 25 times." Maybe a couple situational guys, 7-10 carries for a secondary back.
"Our base run play will be the power play, and that's no secret." Denard's talents, and opposing defenses wil adjust what they do. 10-15 snaps running for Denard. "The objective is to win, and we've gotta do what it takes to help Michigan and this team win." He's fitting into the offensive system. "We're fortunate enough that he has some other things that he brings to the table."
Denard is a great kid. "Leadership qualities really start to stick out more and more [for upperclassmen]. That's what I've liked that he's done in camp."
On rooming, Koger: "Seniors are rooming with freshmen. Part of that is to get to know them. Set the example, set the expectation." Koger extensively praised for his demeanor and selflessness, the sacrifice he'll give for this team. "He's a tremendous guy. I'm talking about things not on the football field."
The offense question again: "You've got a system that you wanna run, but you're not going to be putting a square peg into a round hole either." Al Borges has a coaching pedigree that proves he can adapt to different personnel. He'll get playmakers the ball. "At the end of the day, we've still gotta block up front, and knock people off the football."
On Mattison: great coach, great integrity. Builds great relationships with players. "He's coached a lot of football, coached a lot of guys. He brings so much from a knowledge standpoint."
On captains: "They won't get picked for 2 more weeks. The team will vote."
On countdown clocks: "Those are important football games. Those are big rivalries."
On the defense and standouts: "I don't think we've played to the standard that's going to be acceptable, to this point. We need to be more physical at the point of attack."
"Tom Gordon has had a good summer. Kovacs has really taken ownership." Kovacs is one of the guys who shows urgency in getting to the football. Kenny Demens also mentioned as a standout. Nathan Brink shows toughness as a DT/DE. JB Fitzgerald: "you talk about another guy who stands out as far as his leadership goes, and selflessness."
On the two-deep: They'll start penciling that in by the end of the week. "We're gonna scimmage pretty good in six days on Saturday. We'll put them in a lot of situations and see how they respond."
On Woolfolk: Troy Woolfolk has progressed well. Has taken some senior ownership of the team. Had a minor hamstring injury yesterday, there's enough competition at that position that they could afford to rest him and be cautious. JT Floyd and Courtney Avery competing at CB. "We don't have the greatest competition everywhere. I wish we did, because that makes us better."
On McColgan: a tough guy. "When you look at it, he's one of the true fullback bodies that you have." TEs will get a chance to play H-back as well.
On this still being Michigan [tremendous van river]: "I think I've made this comment before: This is Michigan. There won't be any excuses. If we don't win the Big Ten Championship, we've failed these kids, as coaches."
On the offensive line: Elliott Mealer: "He's competing." The rest of the guys: "Our left side of our line with Taylor back, and I think Ricky Barnum's done a nice job. Molk's back." Omameh at right guard. "Patrick and Elliott and Mike Schofield and Huyge - I think that's great competition."
On the backfield again: "I think there's some guys back there who can do it. All of them have shown signs of being able to run the ball like we'd like."