press conference transcripts
Talk about the secondary, what with all the departures and the progression not only today but in the spring with the young guys.
Brown: “You know, I’m really happy with our young guys. I mean, they’re all young. Thought Brandon Watson did a good job today, but he’s done a good job all spring, so that’s not surprising. Lavert Hill’s been hurt a lot, so him getting back and getting repetitions was good. David Long made it for three quarters. Nothing serious, but he’s been fighting it as well so we really had to lean on the young guys: Ben St. Juste, Ambry Thomas, and a couple of our younger roster guys, Matt Mitchell.
“So, all those guys were well informed today. Thought we did a pretty good job for a good chunk of the time. Obviously there’s so much to learn as a young player the first time you come and play in front of an audience. It’s just different. I think it was an important task and we did it. Obviously we were challenged on both sides of the ball; I’m sure Drev would feel the same way. You know, neither of us unveiled our attacks, but at the same time, you just want to see your guys compete and play hard and see where we can go technique and fundamental-wise.”
I remember that Josh Uche wasn’t participating in bowl practices. He came pretty close to blocking a punt today, Devin was in the backfield a lot--
Brown: “Oh yeah, jeez. Josh has had some good days. We have a few things special for him, so when we let him do those things he’s been exceptional. But he’s got a long way to go. Again, he’s a guy who was a defensive end in high school who I absolutely loved because he was fast. Now we’re teaching him to play linebacker. That’s a huge challenge for him, so that’s a big deal.
“Devin Bush is exactly what we knew he’d be in this type of environment. You know, he played a year ago. He’s certainly right in form to stepping in to do a good job. Between him and Mike McCray and Robo helping out at times, I feel good about those three guys. We’re really looking for a fourth guy, and I’m not sure we know that yet. From a linebacker standpoint, that would be my huge task.”
Anything that jumps out at you as far as progression with Devin? Is he faster? Is he stronger?
Brown: “I mean, just look at him. You know, I teased him yesterday. He walked by me and didn’t have a shirt on; ‘Last year you were a short, pudgy guy,’ and he’s chiseled. He’s got a Division I body now. I’m asking him to play two positions. Played pretty much one today, and I’m very pleased with where he’s at, obviously.
“You know, this is a day about individual evaluation. Again, I think Drev would say the same thing. Guys are playing out of sorts in different units and spots and all that, but it’s about your performance individually and just see where you take it from that standpoint.”
[After THE JUMP: Don Brown’s Rome plans include scheming for Michigan’s week-three opponent]
Karan [Higdon] mentioned you had him watch a lot of NFL tape. Were there any teams you spent time with this offseason or any coaches you worked under?
“I’m close with the Baltimore Ravens’ running backs coach Thomas Hammock but no coach in particular, no team in particular. More so plays, finding NFL examples of plays that we run and just looking through different scenarios, different things that our guys could end up seeing. Just trying to get a lot of experience, mental reps, in terms of watching the pros.”
What’s been the biggest adjustment for you in terms of going with another position?
“That’s a tough question. I mean, it’s all different so I don’t know if there’s a ‘biggest’ adjustment, but new guys and everything but they’ve been great to work with. They’re all working really hard and it’s a really, really good group. Nothing stands out as being any bigger adjustment than anything else.”
How much do you lean on what you saw out of these guys last year or did you come in [with a] clean slate?
“Yeah, none. None at all. It’s a clean slate. I mean, I knew what those guys were because you see them play and everything, but it’s a new season and a relatively new offense in terms of all the things that we’ll do. So, it’s kind of a fresh start for everybody.”
You came in having never coached this position before. Did you play running back at all?
“No. I’m sure you could guess that just by looking at me. I carried the ball a few times growing up. I scored on one, just for what it’s worth.”
[After THE JUMP: development in RB protections, the evolving offense, and what to watch in the spring game]
Tyree Kinnel has been playing free safety and Josh Metellus has been playing Rover (strong safety). If the season started today, those are your starters
Rotating guys is always an option; Kinnel and Metellus played both positions last year (and Metellus played some VIPER, too)
The biggest challenge for Smith this spring has been getting the safeties to “open up and communicate.” The natural ability is there, but their communication skills (i.e. getting everyone lined up) are being refined.
How enjoyable has it been for you this spring with all the new faces you’ve had to coach and get used to?
“It’s been really enjoyable. Like you said, we’ve had a lot of new guys in the room, a lot of young guys that don’t have much experience, but they’re eager to learn. They’re starting from square one so they’re listening to everything you tell them. They’re holding on to it, so it’s been good so far.”
Who has stood out?
“Well, from the safety position, I think J’Marick Woods has had an outstanding spring. He’s kind of earning his nickname; we call him Woods because he brings the wood. He’s a physical player, he’s a hitter…I mean, he’s what you look for back there. He’s got good range and some other things he needs to work on still, but he’s shown a lot of potential and enthusiasm for the game.
“Jaylen Kelly-Powell, he’s done a nice job. He comes in from a good high school program. He’s been well-coached. He’s really technically sound for a young defensive back. His man-to-man skills are definitely there. They flash. He’s done a nice job so far.”
For Khaleke [Hudson] and Josh [Metellus], for them to be kind of moving back and forth between safety and that VIPER position, does that help them or does it hurt them not being able to focus on one spot?
“I think it helps them. After last year having a whole season under their belts just playing one position for Khaleke, now having to play another position, I think it gives him a better understanding of the defense. You know, once you play different positions, things start to make sense and they come together. You see the big picture. I think it’ll help them definitely in the long run. I think VIPER’s a good position for him with his physical traits, Khaleke, and I think he’s done a nice job so far.”
[After THE JUMP: the differences between a Rover and VIPER, and what the staff looks for when recruiting those positions]
Your initial impressions of Wilton?
“I’ve been very impressed with Wilton. Wilton is a conceptual learner, and so some of the things that we’ve put on his plate up until this point in the spring, I mean, he’s a quick study. And football’s important to Wilton. Winning is important to Wilton. So, very impressed with him.”
I don’t want to say you’re inheriting a quarterback, but he was here before you got here. What are the challenges of that, because he was actually here before Jim got here as well—what are the challenges of stepping in and having a guy who’s already been tabbed the starter and going from there?
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a challenge for me. I think it’s probably more of a challenge for Wilton to adjust to a different style of coaching than what he was used to, than what he had in years past. We haven’t had any issues. I think Wilton understands that, as the quarterback for the University of Michigan, the expectations
You’ve moved back to the college game from the pro game. Do you have to change how you coach or your expectation level when you’re dealing with a college kid as opposed to who you’re dealing with in the pros?
“No, you don’t have to change how you coach, but you have less time with your players. I think it’s more of a challenge when you’re trying to put a lot of volume or put a lot on their plate to get them to the point where they can handle all of the information and all of the strategy that you try to implement at times. But the kids here at the University of Michigan, they’re tough and they’re smart so they’re able to adjust and adapt to some of the concepts, for example, that we’re going to use this upcoming season.”
Why come back to the college level?
“I want to win a national championship.”
[After THE JUMP: working with Wilton, rotating centers, and Don Brown’s headache-inducing defense]
Mattison seems very confident that his starting four is Gary, Hurst, Mone, and Winovich. They’re working to find the group behind them that will earn the right to rotate
Carlo Kemp and Donovan Jeter were mentioned as young guys who’ve been very impressive this spring
The guys competing at the tackle positions are Lawrence Marshall, Ron Johnson, Carl Myers, and Michael Dwumfour
Dwumfour is being held out of contact drills but is participating in non-contact portions of practice
Winovich has gotten much stronger and is now capable of being an every-down player.
“Here we go. That’s four hours out there; my knees feel really good. I feel great.”
Do you do conditioning for this?
“It’s conditioning every day we’re out there for me. But it’s going good. It’s going good.”
What do you like about the depth of your guys? Obviously not as many proven guys.
“Yeah, and that’s something we really are working on and the depth’s gonna be a real key because, as you know, we have a real belief in rotating guys. That was a big positive for us last year and really that’s why the first unit we’re very optimistic about because they played so much last year. Now we’ve got to develop another group to be able to come behind that new first group. They’re working very hard, but that’s gonna be a big key for us.”
What have you noticed out Rashan mentality-wise and intelligence-wise?
“Rashan comes out every day like he’s a senior, and he’s done that throughout the winter conditioning. You know, he came out and came off this last season and I really think it had a lot to do with Taco and Chris Wormley [and] the way they mentored him, and they set a great example for what you have to do to be successful.
“Rashan is a tremendously talented young man. He’s got great character, and he just stepped forward from the start of conditioning to right into spring practice. Every day he comes out and tries to lead by example. You would never be able to tell that the young man is going into his sophomore year. He’s having a real good spring.”
He said that he was looking forward to nitpicking himself a little bit more. He said he was hitting the film a lot harder. What have you noticed about him in that aspect?
“No question, he has. That’s why I say he acts almost like he’s a senior. A lot of times when you’re a sophomore coming off a good season as a freshman you’re kind of ‘Okay, I got it, I got it’ but he’s really critical of himself. He listens to every coaching point. I mean, when that happens, you’ve got a special, special young man.
“And he leads the other guys by that. They see him doing some really, really athletic things on the field and watch him do it and all of a sudden that’s like somebody saying this is how you do it. He’s been a very good example for everybody.”
[After THE JUMP: Kemp hype! Winovich hype! Mone hype! Carl Myers hype!]
What’s the talent like at your position?
“Great. I mean, we have great talent. We have a chip on our shoulder when we come to practice every day. We’ve got a lot of opportunity ahead. But yeah, feel really good about it.”
How much has Devin [Bush Jr.] progressed from last year to this year?
“Devin progresses on a daily basis, you know. He’s starting to understand what it takes to be a Big Ten linebacker. He’s having a heck of a spring so far. He had a heck of an end of the season and got better and better. And he’s the kind of guy who comes to work every day, so he gets better every day. You really see it. He’s working on some things. We’re very excited about him.”
Do you feel confident he’s one of your top three guys right now with Mike McCray and Wroblewski?
“No, I can’t say that. I think every linebacker is one of my top guys, you know. I think that they all have to come to work and they have an opportunity. It’s all about opportunities in the spring and if they show up, whether it’s one rep or a hundred reps, they’re got to take advantage of it and work their butts off. I’m not ready to say—at least personally, I’m not ready to say who the top guys are. I think they all have to earn and do their part.”
The ferocity that Devin plays with on special teams; does he play that way at linebacker as well?
“Oh yeah, oh yeah. He’s not allowed not to. He’s really good. He’s the kind of guy who shows up and just…he’s the kind of guy who shows up every single day and every drill, whether it’s special teams or linebacker stuff, he gets it and that’s important.”
[Hit THE JUMP for Partridge’s recruiting philosophy and the strengths of the LBs]