"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
press conference recaps
The formal stuff was transcribed for us. The rest of it was not. So Ace and I will slowly but surely post transcripts from whatever audio we got from the coaches and players. Stay tuned. Also follow us on twitter for updates and witty commentary. (@AceAnbender and @Heiko25)
Brady Hoke's Small Group Session
The media have mastered the swarming technique.
You talked about the guys that are suspended. Will they be allowed to practice?
“I don't know yet.”
What do you think about having such a tough first game?
“I think it's great. To be able to play a team like Alabama, the reigning national champs, and focus on that—as you do every year—the first game, that's a great opportunity.”
Are the players excited as well?
“Well, I'd hope so. We'll find out better soon.”
What has Denard done this offseason to improve himself?
“Well, I think he's worked real hard on his fundamentals and mechanics and being a leader. His conditioning level is probably as high as it's been since he's been here. I just think he's doing what it takes to perform and compete.”
Expectations are high, higher than last year. How do these guys to live up to that?
“You go out every day, you work together, you prepare together, and make sure on those Saturdays that you're prepared to play your best.”
Because you've been limited in your contact with everyone, do you put that on your leadership that some of these guys have had these off-field transgressions?
“You always do. You always do. That's all part of it. It's a growing and an educational process that guys go through, and they're paying the price because there's consequences.”
Are you saying to your leaders, though, that you need to get your own guys in line?
“Oh, yeah. No doubt.”
You're not allowed to watch in the summer, obviously, but based on reports that you've got who are some of the guys who have had a good summer?
“I think Will Campbell has really had a great summer. From what I hear in talking to him and the seniors there are a lot of guys who have done a nice job. I think the one thing that's been good is we had 30 freshmen come in six weeks ago, they've had a little more time to be around those guys more than maybe in years past.”
When you talked about Penn State kids you said you'd keep your business your business. Does that mean you're not going to recruit them?
How quickly can that program bounce back?
“They'll do just great. They've got a great coach. I'll tell you, Bill is a good man. They'll do great things; they're a good university.”
Have you reached out to Bill?
“I've talked to him.”
There was nobody on that roster…
“No, there was nothing…”
If there was somebody that wanted to come, would you take them?
“You've got a team chemistry that you're worried about, and I think that's a big part of it.”
Can you give your thoughts on the rivalry with Ohio State and going head-to-head with Urban Meyer?
“It's not about coaches, it never is. It's about the players who are on the field, it's about two great schools.”
Is there anyone injury-wise who's in doubt for the start of camp?
“I don't think so. I'll get final word on that on Monday.”
Is [Toussaint's and Clark's status] something you're just going to think over the next week or two? What goes into all of that?
“It goes into if they're meeting the standards of being a Michigan football player. There's consequences that they'll be working through right now.”
When word came down on the sanctions from the NCAA to Penn State, what was your thought as a coach about the severity?
“There's so many victims involved here, for me to comment on it like I'm an authority on anything, which I'm not… it's sad in many ways.”
From a coach's perspective, how hard is the loss of scholarships, etc.
“Every school's different. I think that's such a great name in college football and such a great university, who knows? We'll just have to see what the future brings.”
This obviously isn't a typical opener. Do you split your practice time in the fall like you always would, or is there special attention paid to that first game?
“We'll do what we normally do. There's a lot from a offensive, defensive, kicking standpoint that we'll put in, and the fundamentals and techniques. As we get closer to game day we'll focus more in on what they do, which is pretty good for us anyway because there's a lot that we do that they do, so our offense and defense can gel against each other.”
Some schools wouldn't play a non-conference opponent like Alabama. What are the benefits from your perspective about why to play a game like that, especially in the last couple years with the BCS?
“What I think is you go to Michigan, you coach at Michigan to play the best. If you want to be the best you have to do that. For us it's a great opportunity. It's going to be a fun game, we'll learn a lot about us—win or lose—and I think that's a big benefit.”
Talk about the Michigan State game. Is that the biggest game as far as the Big Ten is concerned?
“For us that's always a big game because it's an in-state rival game. They've been kicking our butts pretty good lately, and that's something we don't like. That game and then obviously the Ohio game is as big a game as there is on the schedule.”
When will you choose about the legacy jerseys and who's going to wear which ones?
“Some time, in the future.”
Will that be before the season starts?
An open position like left guard that's still up in the air, at what point in the fall do you want that decided?
“I think it depends a little bit who it is, because of the continuity some of the older guys have. If it's a younger guy, so be it, there's no entitlement; we'll just go day-by-day with it and evaluate it day-by-day.”
When you bring in the freshmen on campus, how does it help in terms of acclimating and development of team chemistry?
“Number one, they get acclimated maybe a little bit to the academics. For some of them, like any of us, that's big. Their time management skills, all those things, that becomes important, then how we lift, how we run. There's a multitude of things. Then being able to get around your teammates and get to know the older guys. In the older days, you had three days with them, then the next day the veterans came in and it was kind of a culture shock. Now, with everybody being on campus all summer, the academic year has extended itself, I think it's great for them to have that opportunity.”
Do you have a preference in terms of eight games versus nine games in Big Ten conference play?
“I really don't. Whatever's best for the conference. I think we have a great conference and it's very competitive. You want to have the ability to play some of those Alabamas, those games too; whatever's best for the conference.”
Would it be strange, though, to play in a year where you play four home games and five road games in the Big Ten?
“Yeah. It'd be different. The good thing is everybody has to do it.”
Are those things you talk about in your meetings?
You always prepare for your season opener, of course, but have you prepared more for this game? More film viewing, more studying…
“I don't think so, to be honest.”
This is pretty meta.
“From an overall perspective, 15 days, I think we really had a nice spring offensively. We got a lot of questions answered, I think. Had a chance to do some experimenting, although we didn’t use any of it today, but we did some things and turned another page in our offensive approach. I think people we knew could play pretty much proved they could play, and we found a few guys along the way that I think are going to be contributors. We still have a ways to go. It’s still a typical spring game. The amount of times I’ve come out of a spring game and been happy I can count on two fingers in all the 26 years I’ve been coaching. That’s just kind of the way it is. But we got something done, and that’s what’s most important, is getting a chance in front of our fans to do some deals, do some things and I think we got something done, and that really was the goal for today.”
Can you talk about Ricky Barnum’s progress. Did he meet your expectations?
“Yeah Ricky’s come a long way for a position that he really hasn’t played very much. But I mentioned to you guys before, I think from a profile perspective, Ricky fits that position better than he probably does any other position. He’s a smart kid that plays with good leverage, knows how to use people around him. Now that he understands the calls and how to put everybody on the same page, that really makes a big difference at that position, because you’re not forced to block people one-on-one constantly. That’s the thing about playing center, is there’s a lot of that going on. He’s done a nice job. I’m really happy with Ricky.”
We didn’t see a whole lot from the receivers today. Who are some of the guys that can really step up and compete for playing time with Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon?
“Well I think Jerald Robinson is one guy you’re going to see more and more of. He got banged up a little bit I think somewhere, I don’t know, but nothing serious. But I think he’s a guy you’re going to see step to the forefront because he’s been very prominent in our practices. Jeremy Jackson and Drew Dileo have also been very very active in our passing game. So I think those people and then if some of the freshmen come in and show up and aren’t awed by their surroundings, they may be able to contribute. I think we’re good at the position. We’d like to be deeper, but I think we’re pretty good.”
You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …
“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”
Thoughts on their springs overall?
“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy. We have three quarterbacks who I think … I’m not sure when their major contributions are going to come -- two of them, anyway -- but I think there will be a point in time when they’ll make a major contribution. I’m happy with the position.”
Rawls had some nice runs. Can he potentially be the more physical back you’re looking for?
“Yeah. He’s a different kind of runner than Fitz and a differnet kind of runner than Vince and Justice Hayes too, in that he’s a battering ram type of guy. He goes in there and when Thomas hits you you’re going to feel him. He makes no concessions to the defense. He’s got a little bit of stop and go ability, but I would not say that’s his game. His game is running through people and making it very difficult to tackle, and following forward. He’s done that all spring. You only saw a little bit of it today. In the 14 days previous, we’ve seen quite a bit of it. He’s another guy that, you have to understand our appraoch was not to entertain today. Our approach was to find out more about our football team. He’s one of the guys we wanted to find out [about], and he was going to be featured. The players that we needed to know about were the guys we let play more, him being at the top of that list.”
What did Burzynski do to push his way into a starting spot than guys who have been there longer?
“Well he worked his butt off. He’s still not in the starting position but he’s competing for one certainly. He’s worked his butt off and he’s very coachable. He’s worked hard for Coach Wellman. He’s very attentive. He takes everything to heart. It’s very important to Joe that he improve, and a guy like that is going to improve if that’s your appraoch. When you’re a walk-on and you’re battling to get in that depth, you’ll never get in that depth until you get someone’s attention. He just did a good job. We’re not really deep at offensive line. He’s had opportunities, and he’s taken advantage of them.”
When did he get your attention?
“We saw some last year. More this spring, you know. Early on he became a factor and decided that he was going to step up and compete for the postiion, but I would say the first three or four days of spring football.”
What was he showing you?
“Good, explosive get-off, number one. Good hand placement. Good hat placement on his drive and zone blocks. Pretty solid pass protector. Had a good feel for playing games, working with the guy next to him. When you’re not the most gifted guy, you have to have something else that llows you to play. Joe’s not a bad athlete, but he’s probably not as athletic as some of the other guys. That means you have to study the game and play with awareness. And I think that’s what he’s done as much as anything to put himself in the position that he’s in.”
Did he show any of these signs last season?
“Yeah, some. Some. Because the depth was different, it wasn’t as critical that we have him step up. Well the depth’s not quite what it was, now there’s an opportunity there. We tell the players every time there is [and opportunity] to seize the moment. He’s seizing the moment.”
We heard more about Chris Bryant at the end of last season than this spring. What does he need to do to get better and get back on track to play?
“Just keep going the way he’s going. He’s been set back from being banged up a little bit, too. Nothing major. Chris Bryant’s going to be a good player. The one thing you have to understand about an offensive linemen: in my opinion, I think offensive line is the most developmental position on the entire football team. There are very very few that can step up on day one and be right with it. Now every so often you get a tailback. I know when I was at UCLA, I had DeShaun Foster. The day he stepped on campus he was the best tailback we had and we had to find a way to play him. But you don’t find many linemen like that. Usually they have to go through some growing pains, get a little stronger, get a little more aware, and do some of the things I’m talking about with Joe. Chris Bryant’s going to be a good player. He just needs a little more of that development.”
Denard said he only threw off his back foot one or two times this spring. Was that the major improvement he made? Are there other areas he’s improved?
“That was the biggest one. There are two things. And you didn’t see much of Denard today, but if you could have you would have appreciated this a little bit more -- and I want to see it [keep] going before I go on about it too much. I’d like to see some carryover, but the two things that have gone away in Denard’s game is falling off throws or throwing off your back foot as you say, and number two is indiscriminate decision making. He had very very few interceptions this spring. Very few. He had cut his interceptions from last spring to this spring four times. Four times [fewer] interceptions. And that’s not unusual now for a guy that didn’t understand the offense. I said that last year our passing game was a drastic disparity from what they had done in years past, and there’s going to be some growing pains. We have to take the step into the fall because it’s all irrelevant if you don’t, but our passing game is enhanced immeasurably.”
“The thing I would say starting out is we have a long way to go. When watching from the side and seeing what I thought I saw, we’ve got to become a lot more physical. We’ve got to improve a great deal over the summer. The good news with that is our staff and this program believes in working very hard at improvement over the summer and not just lifting weights. I think we’ll make a lot of gains this summer.”
Blake Countess had a nice INT today. Can you talk about his spring and maybe your feelings on the secondary as a whole?
“The thing that I was pleased with with Blake is I’m always leery of a freshman who has success and then what is he going to be like that next year? You’ll tell really big what he’s going to be like in the spring. Blake has come out every day and worked to improve. Blake has tried to become a better football player. I didn’t see any signs of a guy thinking that he’s arrived. As far as the secondary, I think we have a long way to go yet. You always are looking for guys to step up because you need to find who’s going to play every day, who’s going to go out there and do what you’re asking them to do, and you can’t miss tackles back there. You can’t do that. We had that happen. I think we have to become a better blitzing team out of the secondary. I think we called a pressure, a guy was unblocked and didn’t hit the quarterback in the backfield. That should have been a knock-out hit. Those kinds of things are what we have to improve on.”
Kaleb Ringer got a lot of snaps today. What have you seen from him this spring?
“He’s a freshman. I think we saw, and I think I said before, he should be going to the prom. But the good news is he has been out there to be evaluated and to be coached every day. And hopefully that will pay dividends and show him what he must work on this summer to make coming this early be a benefit.”
You did a lot of shuffling with the defensive line this spring. How much more comfortable are you with them this spring?
“I feel very comfortable with the moves. Very comfortable. I think that might be one of the bright spots of the spring. Craig Roh showed me that he’s got a chance to be a pretty good football player there because he plays with such a good motor and he’s so prideful of his technique. And now when he gets stronger, I think you’re going to have a good 5-technique. Jibreel Black has to really -- the key to him is how strong he gets this summer. He did some good things this spring, some other things he showed why you can’t play at 270 in there if you don’t have great technique. The combination of Beyer and Clark give us a lot more athleticism on the edge. All three of those things … have been very beneficial for us.”
Have Beyer and Clark separated themselves at WDE yet?
“No, they haven’t separated themselves. Beyer is a very strong football player and can run. What Beyer has to work on a great deal is he gets a habit of getting high. He’s got to stay lower. Then he’s going to be a real force I think. Frank, on the other hand, wants to run to make plays before he beats the block at times. He needs to take some of what Beyer does and Beyer needs to take some of what he does. Both of them, I have been very pleased with the two of them and how hard they’ve worked and how hard they’ve tried to improve on what we say they need to improve on.”
Was the defense’s performance today pretty indicative of what you’ve seen all spring?
“Yeah. I think it was. I think you saw we’re going to be a defense where if we lose one or two guys at this point before the freshmen get in here, you’re going to fall off a little bit. I think that’s going to happen when Des[mond Morgan] was out of there. That’s a key guy for us. But it’s forced us to put a younger backer, where you know we need a lot of help, under the microscope. When we watch his tape we’re going to know exactly how he did, and then you’re going to have to say okay we have a lot more work to do.”
Do you think you’re well ahead of where you were a year ago at this point?
“I don’t know if we’re way ahead. The thing is we didn’t call many defenses today. I think I only probably called four defenses the whole day because I wanted to see how they were going to play under the gun. I know Al didn’t call a lot of stuff either. We wanted to make it really really hard nosed. I think this group wants to be really good. Like I said, I think sometimes maybe you don’t believe what I’m saying, but we make more gains at Michigan in the summer with what they do on technique than a lot of programs. That’s a three-month period of them doing it, the same individual [drills] that we’ve done with them for 15 days.”
What have you seen from Will Campbell this spring, and what did you see from him today?
“I see that we need him to be a football player. We need him to not just knock people around, but tackle the football. Will and I have talked long and hard about that: that the ball is the issue, not how many lumps you can put on that guard or center. Will’s getting it. Will’s getting it and Will’s the key. Will’s a big key because you’ve heard me before, you’re only as strong as you are down the middle. That’s going to be our whole deal this year because we’ll be fine outside. Jake Ryan had a good spring. Cam Gordon, you can see he’s going to help us. Our outside will be fine. It’s inside.”
You mentioned the gains you make over the summer. Is Will one of those guys you’re counting on to lead those efforts?
“Definitely. Will is definitely a leader. Will is a guy that has bought in totally to being a senior at Michigan.”
Do you see that this defense is faster than it was at this point last year?
“I do think this might be a little quicker defense than last year. One of the biggest reasons is they understand the defense. That defense last year was all new to those guys. You can’t play defense unless you know what the problem possibly is, so you can play faster. Any time you know the defense well you play faster, and I noticed that this spring.”
How do you shore up the middle of the defense?
“Well I think a lot of it’s technique, but one of the things -- down the middle sometimes means linebackers and taking on guards. One of the biggest things we have to improve on is using our hands and not using high school forms. That’s what some young freshman linebackers are doing right now. But the beautiful thing is they have sleds to work on all summer. Little techniques that will help them be stronger down the middle I think we have in place.”
Keith Heitzman made a bunch of nice plays today. Talk about his progress, and how do you talk about the overall depth on the defensive line?
“Yeah, Heitzman is one of those players that may not pass the eye test when he walks out on the field, but you know what? He’s always around the football. I made a comment one day at a meeting. We were watching the practice film, and I said, ‘You know what? This Heitzman kid, before it’s long, he may be one of those Michigan defensive linemen that just plays hard and tough.’ He needs to get a lot stronger. He needs to get a lot better at his technique, but he’s a young kid, and I think that’s a big thing. As far as the depth, everybody had their day. We have to all have our days. That’s what bothers me. I can name every player that played inside and there will be one play where it’ll be, ‘Yeah! See, that’s what you’re looking for!’ and then you won’t see it on the next one. We need to get consistent. Mike Martin, you’d see it every play you looked at. Will Heininger you might see it every play. Those guys, we need to get that kind of consistency out of that front.”
So many young linebackers will be working on technique over the summer. How important is Kenny Demens going to be in leading them?
“Very important, because Michigan’s always a senior leader -- and Kenny Demens needs to work on it as much as the young guys. So he can be the first guy going and they’ll be following him along, but every guy -- there’s a lot of competition at that position. There’s a lot of competition at every position, but at the linebacker position there’s going to be great competition.”
Where does Brandin Hawthorne stand right now?
“Yeah, I mean he has that ability to make plays. You remember he started some games last year for us. He has the ability to make plays, but the key in our defense is a guy has to be a very physical football player and he has to play with consistency. Guys that make plays put a lot of pressure on the coach to see if you hit it right when he’s going to make a play. We need guys that are going to be consistent all the time. He’s going to be another one of those linebackers that’s going to be in the mix.”
Is it his physicality that needs work?
“Well he’s been a little banged up ever since he’s been here. That would keep a guy from being real physical.”
Did you play him at MIKE out of necessity?
“You had a number of guys banged up. Mike Jones had a hamstring I guess, and Des, and Hawthorne’s got an elbow -- it’s spring. A guy that plays the WILL can also play MIKE. He should be able to play both. The linebacker thing, it’s going to be a heck of a competition before it’s all done.”
Hoke said you broke a sweat in warmups.
“Oh yeah, oh yeah. I broke a sweat in warmups, but it was swell [Ed: I'm 90% sure Denard said 'swell'] watching the guys play. A lot of people say we weren’t going to get started playing the game because the rain and the weather were bad, but we actually got to play and [I] watched them play, and it was fun.”
Were you frustrated at all you didn’t get a chance to play during the scrimmage?
“Uh, it was kind of frustrating, but I love watching other people be succesfull, and talking to the guys making sure they do well, it’s all good. We had fun.”
What did you see from Russell and Devin?
“They were eager to make plays, and they were making plays, but we have to just stay focused and stop with all the three-and-outs.”
Were there things you were telling them as they were coming off?
“Certain things, like make sure you throw the ball faster, [do] a certain step -- three-step or five-step -- some of that stuff.”
Would you be interested in wearing the No. 1 jersey?
“Oh man, that’s an off-the-wall question. I don’t think about it. That’s for the receivers. The 1 is for the receivers. I’m not a receiver at all. I’m a quarterback. I’m supposed to be the best quarterback for the University of Michigan … You can ask Roy that question, not me.”
So you wouldn’t wear it?
“No. I feel like it’s a receiver thing, but if they want to give it to me, I don’t know what I’d do with it.”
(more after the jump)
“I think the body of work throughout the spring is what we always want to make sure -- it’s always difficult when you just get done either a practice or even a scrimmage situation that we had to say who was good, who was bad, who did right, who did wrong, all those things, until you really look at the film. I mean, we can all perceive what we want, but you have to look at the tape. I thought the frustrating thing was we put three snaps on the ground. I don’t care who it is at quarterback nor do I care who it is at center. It’s fundamental football. Had some, on second and long, we jumped offsides defensively, which, second and long is a down and distance that we should be aware enough that’s where teams are going to try to get to that second and five where it’s a little easier for them offensively. I don’t feel like we tackled like we needed to. That’s concerning, but in the body of work there were some awfully good things during the course of the spring.”
What were some of the encouraging things?
“I think we’re tougher as a team than a year ago at this time, the way they come out and play with no pads on, pads on or whatever. That’s an improvement. I think, and I said this to a couple people last night -- the one thing I think we would feel though, point of attack defensively especially up the middle is not near where it has to be before we get to September 1st. That’s bothersome.”
Was the plan to not have Denard really break a sweat today?
“He sweated. We warmed up for a long time. You weren’t here. Yeah it was. We wanted to get, number one, Russell Bellomy as many snaps as we could. Get him with the second group there. And give Devin a chance to run quite a bit with the first group. That’s all part of it, yeah.”
Does the format of the spring game format set the defense up to have a better day than the offense?
“I didn’t see the defense have a better day.”
It looked like Brandin Hawthorne was playing middle linebacker. What have you seen from him this spring?
“He’s been beat up a little bit. He’s got an elbow right now. He’s coming off of surgery. He didn’t have much contact the first week. I think he made some of those wild plays today.”
Thomas Rawls had two touchdowns. How would you evaluate him this spring?
“Oh I don’t know. I think Thomas has had a good spring. He’s one of those guys who hen you look at the body of work, his physicalness -- he’s hard to tackle. You have to give him credit for that. He’s a good football player.”
Jack Miller played a lot today. How has he progressed?
“You know, I think every day he’s learning how to play center at the division I level. I think there’s been improvement and some footwork and the things that you look at from a technical side of it. I think that, and I think he’s got to continue -- strength gains are going to be huge for him this offseason, this summer, in the weight room. But I think Jack’s made progress. I’d like to find out, I think two of the three snaps were him and the quarterback, and it’s usually a matter of both their faults, but we can’t have that.”
What happened with Desmond Morgan’s knee?
“He got, uh, I don’t know. He got hit.”
Desmond Howard, ESPN analyst.
1991 Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan.
What did you think about the receivers this spring? Progress of the young guys?
“I think, Des -- I really like Roy Roundtree. He’s catching the ball away from his body better. I think just throughout the spring. I think Gallon has done a nice job for us. Jerald Robinson, he tweaked his ankle late today, but I think he’s made some growth. I think Jeremy Jackson has showed some great flashes. Drew Dileo is a guy you can count on all the time for being in the right spots. I think we’ve had some growth there. I really think Roy, and this is my opinion, really has improved a lot.”
Today aside, the top three guys at quarterback -- what stands out about their springs overall?
“I guess the first thing I’d say, is there’s a maturation they’ve had as a quarterback a little more. When you’re a Michigan quarterback, it’s pretty significant. I think you’ve seen some of that when you look at leadership, when you look at the fundamentals. I think we’re still not where we need to be or where I would like us to be with tempo, huddle, all those things. I think we need to be a little better there.”
How important will Jordan Kovacs be to the defense this fall?
“Well, you know, I think all 11 guys are improtant, but Jordan’s got a lot of snaps, a lot of experience. Very instinctive, does a great job with our back end, getting them lined up and his communication -- football intelligence, is a higher level. You have to have a guy like that back there. He’s not scared. I mean, he’ll put his face on you and that’s what you want when you talk about safeties.”
What did you mean when you said the defense didn’t have a better day overall?
“Well we’re too soft in the middle. Way too soft in the middle of the defense. Some of the read plays, they were too lateral defensively in my opinion instead of what we like to call knock-em back football. We didn’t do that.”
We didn’t really see much of a deep threat today. Who is the receiver who will be that guy?
“I think Roy has the ability to get some separation. Jerald Robinson would be the other guy.”
What were you hoping to see out of Bellomy today?
“Oh, you know, number one, it’s really his first kind of real snaps in Michigan Stadium. I don’t know how many people were here, but TV, all that kind of stuff -- just see how he handled himself, how he handled the huddle. I ind of ripped him one time because I didn’t think he commanded the respect he needs to command in the huddle. And he’s a young kid. He’s smart, knows the offense, and there was one throw that got away from him. That was a mechanics situation, but again, until you really look at it and analyze it and all those things, he handled himself okay.”
Are you going to consider handing out the No. 1 jersey this year?
“Yeah, we’ll consider it.”
Is Denard a possibility for it?
“We have a 115 guys on the team. They’re all possibilities.”
What did Burzynski do to put himself with the ones?
“[He] plays very consistent, plays with good leverage and good technique.”
Did he do something to beat out Mealer?
“No. You use the word ‘beat out’. Elliott didn’t start last year. There’s competition every day. They’ll compete all through summer.”
If you were to name a No. 2 quarterback today, who would it be?
“Well, it’s Devin.”
You talked about Roy’s improvement. What specifically has he improved?
“I think he’s catching the ball with his hands more, not catching it into his body. And his route running has continued to improve.”
Is that something that comes with maturity?
“Yeah. I think it does. But also because he’s played in this offense for exactly 14 months now.”
Now that you have a couple months off, how key is it for the leaders to continue leading the team?
“It is critical that they’re accountable in every action from the social issues to the academic issues and the competition issues that you need to have as a football team.”
With Fitzgerald Toussaint and your other running backs, do you feel like your running game is in pretty good shape?
“Between him and Fitz and Thomas -- everybody forgets about Joey Kerridge has had a tremendous spring. Paul Gyarmati is a fullback. Hopkins, I am so excited about Stephen’s growth as a fullback. He can be a big back in the I situation down at the goal line. He’s really come on. I think, you know, we’re as comfortable as you can be at this point with our personnel there. And I like them. I like them all. Vince Smith is probably pound for pound the toughest guy on this football team. You like to see that.”
News bullets and other important things:
- Blake Countess is being considered for punt and kick returns.
- Nathan Brink will be out for the spring game.
- Kenny Demens has been held back recently due to a concussion.
- Jerald Robinson has had an AC (shoulder) problem that he's been working through.
“This is kind of an exciting weekend around here for multiple reasons. Obviously we get a chance to go in the Big House and play football and compete, kind of assess where we’re at to some degree. The other thing is with Victors’ weekend, I think 350 or so former players are coming back for an event Friday night and then on Saturday, obviously the game and I think there’s 100 guys signed up to play in the flag football game, [for] which we’ll make sure we have enough trainers around [Ed-S: ...because they're old(!) get it?]. And then that night, Victors Night, something James Hall started seven years ago, we’re going to honor Coach Moeller. It will be a great celebration of the guys that he coached and what he did for Michigan.”
Will there be a team meeting like there was last year?
“Yes. On Friday? Yes.”
You’ve talked about having the Spring Game against anothr team. If you had a magic wand, would you prefer an NFL model where a team could come here for a few days or would you rather just have the spring game against them?
“I think the NFL model. I think you get together for two days. You get together, you plan out practices together as a staff. You do your different situational drills that you may do … I think it would be a great idea to be honest with you. I don’t know from a budget standpoint and all those things, if you’re traveling and doing those kinds of things, who you would do it with. I like that model. ”
Would you also prefer it to be not open to the public or the media?
“Probably not. I think that would be worked out through both schools, how they felt about it.”
How has Denard progressed in terms of limiting turnovers?
“You know, I think he’s done a good job with ball security, which he’s been pretty good with that. I think in his decisiveness and throws, I think he’s made some pretty good throws. I can’t say I’ve seen him make a bad throw but maybe once or twice where you’re going, ‘What the heck was he looking at?’ as a coach, but I think he’s done a good job. I think the mastering of the offense or whatever you want to call it. I think he’s a little better.”
What have you seen in terms of leadership this spring?
“Yeah. Well I think so. I think Roundtree and Kovacs are two guys, I think Patrick Omameh … Will Campbell’s done a good job. I’d be remiss not to name a lot of those seniors, but I think they’re really understanding this is the way we want to go about our business.”
Who are some players on offensive and defensive line that have stepped up?
“I think Ricky, as a center. I think he’s really going to be a good center for us. I think his athleticism, I think there’s still some issues with making sure we’re getting the ball where we need it out of the gun and that part of it. We want to make sure we’re not making the quarterback work too hard for it. Elliott Mealer I think has had one of his better springs. I think he’s grown up a little bit and playing with more confidence. Joey Burzynski, a young man out of San Diego, he’s done a good job and he’s made an impact as a guard in there [and as] a second center or third center. I think Mike Schofield … I think Taylor has progressed, which I think there’s more progression for him still because of his abilities. Schofield’s done a nice job. ”
And on the defensive line?
“The other side of the ball, I think Will Campbell’s made some strides. Looking at Tuesday, I thought was one of his better days since he’s been here. I think Jibreel and Craig played inside. Gives us a quickness and gives our defense an ability to run. I think they’re doing well at the point of attack. I think they’ll be better in the fall because of strength gains and weight gains they’ll go through. Doesn’t have to be a lot, but some. Richard Ash has started to play with a little more confidence. Keith Heitzman is a guy we redshirted a year ago and has shown some signs. And Quinton Washington. If you look at all those guys, none of them are where we want them to be or need them to be, but I think at the same time they’re making some good progress.”
How can you tell that you’re playing physical enough?
“Well we really are more physical than we were last year at this time. When I say that, we’re more physical in the standpoint of we play a little faster, I think the effort down the field -- that second or third block, the point of attack, and I think we’re just playing with better fundamentals than last year at this time. Now by no means are we close to where we want to be.”
How is the punting situation?
“I think they’re kind of neck and neck. One day one of them is really consistent and one day he’s not. The other guy’s consistent. We’re going to do some stuff on Saturday to really put some heat on them and see how they handle that part of it. We’ve been doing that some, but I think in that environment you get a couple more speed guys on there, I think it will be interesting to see.”
Hokespeak translation: Hagerup = inconsistent big leg, Wile = consistent less big leg. We'll see what happens when there are punt cover teams running at them.
What about kicker?
“I think Gibbons has done a really good job. And Matt continues to do a good job, [but] I think it’s Gibbons for sure.”
What about the secondary?
“Well I think Blake Countess is a guy working his tail off all the time. Kovacs, I think Marvin Robinson’s improved. That’s huge. I think Thomas Gordon’s better. I think JT and Courtney and Raymon Taylor are doing a nice job, and Jarrod Wilson’s gotten a bunch of snaps. He’ll take a bunch of snaps on Saturday. I think he’s doing a nice job. And a guy I don’t want to forget -- Floyd Simmons is a guy who’s doing really well for us in the kicking game, but he’s done a nice job in the back end too. ”
Are you set with the kick returners or would you like to wait until fall to experiment?
“I think both … I think Jeremy Gallon is a really good punt returner. I think he’s got great confidence in catching the ball. His vision’s pretty good. He’ll take it burst-wise when we look at the punting game. In the kickoff game I really want to see Rawls and Hayes come along a little bit. Vince Smith’s been back there before. Jeremy's been back there some, but punt-wise [it would first be] Gallon, and the next one would be Countess. He’s very confident in what he does back there. I think Countess is a guy we’ve looked at kick returner some.”
How is the competition between Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer?
“It’s pretty good. You’re talking about two wonderful young kids who, I think, as they continue through the weight room and everything else, both of those guys are going to be good football players. They’re pretty good now, but they both have a very good future. I think it’s daily. Frank’s here one day and Beyer’s here one day. They compete and they’re really friends. It’s fun.”
Is Denard becoming more adept at using his running ability as a third option if receivers aren’t open?
“No, I think it’s probably a place where he’s got to improve that a little bit. I think he’s really conscious of going through different reads. He really wants to make sure he’s letting the play play out. He probably hasn’t taken the ball down and run maybe like he will in the fall.”
With a guy like him, how do you balance using his athleticism with making sure he goes through his progressions?
“It’s a balancing act. You’re exactly right. When you have a guy who has that capability and at the same time, I think there’s things where if he let the dig route come further in it’d maybe be a 15 yard gain, but him tucking the ball down would probably be a 15 yard gain, too.”
What will be the format on Saturday?
“We’ll probably go sixty-some plays. We always have depth problems in the spring, so we’ll go ones on ones and twos on twos and compete. We’re not at the point program-wise because of depth issues on the offensive front and defensive front to draft like you want to. So we’ll pretty much do what we’ve been doing.
Will there be a scoring system?
“Yeah there will. There’ll be a blue team and a white team. I want to move the ball all over. It’s not going to be a true drive. We’ll do some punt before it. We’ll work that part of the game in the stadium. We’ll do some PAT stuff. The kids have been over there doing some of that, but just to do it in the stadium.”
How are you health-wise right now?
“I’m good, thanks.”
What about your team?
“Pretty good. Brink has done all the individual drills. He hasn’t done any full contact with 11 bodies out there, but we knew that going in. We get some boo-boos here and there, but we’re pretty healthy.”
Has Kenny Demens been held back at all?
“He was held back for two days because of a mild concussion deal. Kenny -- and he’ll tell you -- probably could have gone, but we’re trying to be, like we should, cautious with those kinds of things.”
Was that this week or last week?
“It was Saturday and Tuesday.”
Is there anyone who will be out for sure on Saturday?
“Brink won’t go. I think that’s it. Some guys are going to be limited play-wise. We’re not going to run Fitz 30 times. Taylor’s not going to play 60 plays. That’s not going to happen.”
How beneficial was it for Joe Bolden when Kenny sat out a couple days?
“Oh it was really probably a great indoctrination for a young guy. But it’s been good. Him and Kaleb and Jarrod -- I’m real proud of how they made the transition. When you think about it, they should be going to Prom. But I mean, it’s just … that part of it is good to have them.”
Can you talk about the relationship between the spring game and Mott?
“Well I think as you know, that relationship for over 20 years has been special. The football team and the rest of the athletic teams, the athletes going up there and sharing with the kids and being around them, so it’s one that we really think is special. I think it’s a win-win for both Mott and [the football program].”
How have the receivers developed?
“Receiver-wise, I think Roy’s had a really really good spring. I think Jeremy [Gallon] has, and Jeremy Jackson’s improved. Dileo has done a nice job. Gosh dangit … I have to get through the depth chart in my head … who am I missing? Jerald. I think Jerald’s made some good strides. He’s been a little bit beat up. He’s had a bit of an AC separation, but he’s played through it and has done a nice job. I’m excited about him. I know I’m leaving somebody out. I think they all -- you can see improvement. One thing I like about the receivers and I liked about them last year: they’re not afraid to block. They’re not afraid to get up in a safety’s face or a corner’s face, and that’s pretty good.”
Is there any amount of a bounty system in college football, and is that why coaches are hesitant to talk about injuries?
“Yeah … I’ve never heard a coach ever talk about that. I think coaches talk about we have to stop this back or whatever, hold him under this many yards, but that’s part of team defense. I have never heard a coach say we want to dive at his knees. I think it probably has been said, but none that I’ve been around.”