press conference transcripts
Is he [Rashan Gary] working on the same side as you?
“He mostly works with Worm at the Anchor side. I usually keep it to the End unless I go—I switch back and forth sometimes. Right now he’s working hard. He’s getting into film with us. He’s never scared of putting in extra work, also. He has that mindset where he wants to be good and he’s frustrated when he’s not dominating. I love seeing that out of the kid because it shows me that he wants to be great, just like I want to be great.”
What about you? How are you doing? Don Brown singled you out as one of the guys that was doing well.
“You know, it’s my senior year so—my goal is always to be the best of where I’m at, and my father always taught me never be second best to anybody. My goal’s always to be the best defensive end in the country right now, so that’s why I go out every practice and try to prove it. So far Coach Brown’s been loving it and hopefully every coach will. Like I said, I just go out there every day and practice with that mindset and hope it carries over to everybody else.”
How different is this defense with Don Brown as the coordinator, especially for the defensive line.
“We love him. We play hard for him. I think the whole defense does. He gets four of us on the field at the same time with the 4-3 defense and lets us attack, lets us play hard, lets us play aggressive and as a D-line that’s one thing you want to be able to do is play aggressive. Don’t have to worry about anything else, just out there and play and play hard, attack and make plays, and he allows us to do that.”
What’s the biggest difference for you? Is it just more knowledge and experience or are you stronger, faster, quicker?
“A little bit of all—I lost a little bit of weight, got my speed back. Got stronger in the offseason. Watched a lot of film of NFL guys. Got smarter. Met with a lot of coaches over the offseason. It’s just been a season I know I had to step up and I’ve done a pretty good job in practice doing that and being a leader on the defensive side of the ball, especially defensive line.”
Did you drop weight because you knew you were going to be on that edge and rushing again?
“Yeah, it was one of those things I got to talk to our coaches about and it’s something I really didn’t do myself. Met with Coach Mattison and Coach Brown, then I met with Coach Tolbert. Then we figured out what was that weight that was kind of in the middle—not too light, not too heavy, and it was perfect.”
What are you running now? What are your speed times?
“That I don’t know. I never was really—I was always one of the fast guys. Got a little faster.”
[More after THE JUMP]
On who can make the call to change the years Michigan plays MSU on the road:
“It’s a combination of television, and where we have control it falls on the home team and not the visiting team, and that’s usually in conference and non-conference. But most of that now, any game changing assignments, time assignments, is usually done by television through the conference office. We don’t really have a lot of say. They may ask us what we’d like to do, but we now don’t have a say in picking the game times at this point.”
On breaking up the two home, two away format of the schedule and whether that’s something he’s pursuing:
“Conversations are continuing to be had about what we’d like but there’s 13 other schools in the conference. Scheduling, whether you have 10 teams in the league, eight teams in the league, or 14 like we do, is very hard to do. I don’t negate that. Would I love to see Ohio State and Michigan State on different years? Yes. Do I think it’s hard to do given where we are now? Yes. Will I continue to still have the conversations that need to be had to try to see if there’s anything that can be done? Yes. Is it easy? No.”
On whether he plans to present that to the board:
“I plan on having any conversation I need to have to the benefit of Michigan athletics. Listen, I have great colleagues. Jim Delany is a great commissioner. We have a great staff in the Big Ten. I have great colleagues across the conferences. We all have different things, tweaks, that we may like to see. I’m not the sole member that may want tweaks and changes to the schedule. As soon as we can have that conversation with everyone or individually, and conversations I’ve already had and discussion points, I’m working to understand as well as to talk about what I believe is in the best interest of Michigan.”
On whether Michigan will have to wait until the next batch of schedules is released to make a change:
“Probably, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s not going to change overnight. It’s trying to figure out how we can make any adjustments, and people know that we would like to see an adjustment to that.”
On changing the schedules that are in place:
“Listen, I’m not proposing that what we already have changes immediately, but I do want to have the conversation—I have had some—to understand and…but again, in talking to some of my colleagues, there are some things that other ADs would like to see on their football schedules. So, while we talk about the imbalance of Michigan State and Ohio State, both of them being away or at home, they have other tweaks or changes that they would like to see on their schedule. And once you start putting all that together, now you’ve got a big cauldron of issues that you’ve got to try and figure out, right?
“It’s not as simple as me saying, ‘Well, we want this’ and everybody saying, ‘Okay, we’ll just change it.’ If you start to make the changes—and you guys are very smart—as you start to look at the other schedules you’ll see that there’s more moves than just flipping one to one year and keeping the other on the other year. I mean, there’s more that needs to happen. So, it’s complex enough that the conversations need to be had and I’ll continue to have them when the issue comes up.”
[After THE JUMP: who has input on alternate uniforms, Harbaugh as attention lightning rod, and a bit about Harbaugh’s contract]
You like what you’re seeing so far?
“Guys have worked extremely hard. Coach runs a great camp. We don’t waste a second, and that gives us a chance to get better physically, get better mentally, demeanor-wise, the whole deal. It’s been a tremendous couple of weeks here and just looking forward to shifting gears here and getting ready to play meaningful games.”
What’s different about a Jim Harbaugh camp than any others you’ve been in?
“Just efficient. You know, every second’s accounted for. Players, coaches, you all know where to be. We all know. We’re taking advantage of every second, staying within the rules. And it gives the guys a chance mentally to learn the system, which is an important piece for us. As I’ve said before, we put in the concepts in the spring and now we’re trying to master those concepts. We maximize our meeting time and Coach does a good job of knowing when to crank it up and knowing when to take it back, so it’s been great.”
Who are some of the Dudes so far in camp?
“We’ve got a lot of Dudes. We’ve got a lot of guys playing well. The guys that are fairly typical up front. I think Wormley’s had a good camp. Taco Charlton’s had a good camp. Bryan Mone, in my opinion, is from here [hand low] to here [hand high] from spring. You know, obviously he was coming off an injury so. Ryan Glasgow’s the real deal; very physical. We feel good about a bunch of those guys. Rashan Gary’s certainly going to be in the mix, but he’s got a learning curve as well. We’re happy with the front.
“At linebacker, the biggest thing with Ben Gedeon is he’s had to go from being a contributing linebacker playing some to it’s his show. Not easy to do. In fact, hard to do. So, I think he’s done an outstanding job in that area. Wroblewski…I don’t know. Probably doesn’t run as fast as some guys. Probably doesn’t hit quite as hard as some guys, but he just finds a way to help us so I’m very happy with him. I think Jabrill’s had an outstanding preseason camp, and Noah Furbush has a chance to be a real-deal guy. Mike McCray continues to be steady eddy, and Devin Bush is really doing well. I’m happy with the young guys. Uche is what we anticipated as a pass-rush guy, and he’s learning the Sam position better than expected. Devin Gil coming along as well and Elyse Mbem-Bosse, so those are the three rookies there.
“Then in the secondary, those guys are all good players, the veteran guys, and the addition of Khaleke Hudson—I think he has a chance to really help us this year. David Long—really happy with him. Special player as a freshman, and a very…he’s a professional. Comes in, notebook’s open, taking notes, being sharp, doing all those things. And there’s a number of guys—it’s probably really unfair, because I can’t think of anybody that I, like, ‘Oh geez, I gotta straighten this dude out.’ But it’s been a good camp and the guys are working hard, and that’s all you can ask.”
The veteran players you talked about, they’re in their third defensive coordinator in three years--
“Yeah, it’s hard now.”
How have those guys made the transition to yet another defensive coordinator?
“I don’t know, you gotta ask them, you know. I mean, I enjoy working with them. I’ve got great guys. I enjoy my room. Maybe it’s my age, whatever. I really don’t care too much about all this stuff but I do care about my room and coaching those guys and trying to get them to whatever their dreams are as a football player. That’s what I’m focused on. So, you know, you’d have to ask them, I guess.”
Are you seeing a willingness out of them to learn?
“Oh yeah. I mean, they got no choice. But, for a lot of reasons. You know, I don’t need anybody to hold my hand, you know what I mean? The bottom line is you’d like them to have that kind of a feeling and affinity towards what we’re doing. I think we do. They certainly seem willing. And we’re flying around out there, so that’s a positive.”
[After THE JUMP: “…I can assure you I’m not just looking at it (like), ‘Oh, okay, they’re going to run the zone read and we’re just going to throw this one against the wall and see if it works.’ I’m too old for that.”]
[At this point I left the scrum to go talk with Tim Drevno. I transcribed the rest from video posted at Maize and Blue News.]
If you had to pinpoint one aspect of something that impresses you with what’s being accomplished with your unit, could you find one?
“How much we’ve absorbed. You know, I was kind of—came in and had phase one, phase two and then if I’m fortunate we’ll do phase three. I’m in phase three, so I feel pretty good about the learning curve and what they’ve been able to digest. We’re not perfect. Hopefully we can get close to…you know, the efficiency thing is what Coach talks about all the time. He just talked to the players about it with great points. That’s what we’ve got to be. We’ve got to be efficient a week from next Saturday. That’s the whole goal is try and get your guys efficient.”
I think a Big Ten analyst said this is going to be a high-risk, high-reward defense. Is that--
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s a bunch of baloney. The high risk—no. We don’t just throw this stuff against the wall and take it and go, ‘Oh, I’m gonna run this play.’ Come on. We’re not doing that. We look at the formation, we look at the personnel groups. We lean to be on the aggressive side.
“Whether you’re running or passing the ball, we’re gonna have the ability when we dictate to come. That’s what it’s all about. And I can assure you that every one of the calls we’ve made—we’ve done kind of a thorough study—we’ll at least have run it 100 times. So, we’re not throwing things against the wall. It’s not that kind of a scenario. I guess say it because you’re playing man coverage and those types of things.
“Well, guess what: that’s what…Mike Zordich and Brian Smith, they’re accomplished teachers. If you call that high risk because we’re going to come out and play you like this [steps toward some reporters]…well, I don’t call that high risk. That’s just part of the deal.
“One thing we believe in is we deny free access, okay? We’re not going to play eight to 10 yards off and let you play that game all the time. Now, you’ll see us play off, but we determine when we do that. We’re gonna be able to do it all, but I can assure you I’m not just looking at it [like], ‘Oh, okay, they’re going to run the zone read and we’re just going to throw this one against the wall and see if it works.’ I’m too old for that.”
With all of that said, how important is physicality and how impressed have you been with this group?
“There’s been some days out there where I’ve stood behind the 9-on-7s—and that’s nine offensive players against the seven defensive players—and it’s kind of a ‘Ooh’ cringe mode [on] both sides, now. So, I’ve been happy with that. I think when we go ‘On your mark, get set, go’ I don’t have any question that we’re going to go.
“But it’s a fine line because you’re tying to get Barney and Sally and everybody else to the dance, so, you know, there’s kind of a combination deal there that you’ve got to pay attention to. But again, Coach does such a good job of taking care of us it’s a non-issue.”
Channing Stribling had a great spring. How’s he played in the fall?
“Good. Really solid. I think the one thing we’ve been able to get through to him is it’s not just about defending out there. You’ve got to come in here and work the run game, be a part of that, too. But no, he’s a solid guy. Working hard. Happy with him.”
MGoQuestion: Last we heard Ben Bredeson was taking snaps at left tackle. Do you see that as his long-term future, or do you see him sloting in somewhere else along the line?
“Yeah, he’s a really talented football player and can really play a lot of different positions. Put him out there at left tackle. Just like his foot turn, his speed, his initial quickness. Just trying to figure out the best five out there and the best six and seven. He’s really had a nice camp and is doing a really, really good job. Intelligent guy. Really good football awareness. Can fix a problem after you tell him, so it’s exciting to see that.”
Where do you stand with the quarterbacks? Have you narrowed it down?
“It’s been an unbelievable competition. Guys are coming out every day throwing great balls, great drops, great precision, great timing. I mean, we’re way further along than where we’ve been. I mean quarterback-wise last year. We haven’t made the decision and we don’t want to make the decision too early and make the wrong decision. So, we’ll keep going along here and then we’ll gather together and make that decision.”
You had seen the difference between Jake and Shane somewhat early in camp last year you guys had said even though you didn’t make the decision until later. What’s the difference between Wilton and John at this point?
”For me to say that, it’d be like splitting an atom. I mean, it’s like…they’re all doing really good and they all bring something different to the table and they’re all working hard and competing and we keep evaluating the tape and putting more on them and as they digest it we’ll make that decision.”
A couple freshmen Coach Harbaugh mentioned were doing well on the offensive line. Do you have a set starting five?
“No, no. Ben Bredeson’s really been stepping up there good. We’ve been working him at left tackle. He’s doing a really, really nice job. Michael Onwenu’s done a great job. He’s D-line and comes back. I mean, this offensive system that we have here is a lot to learn. He’s done a good job. And Stephen Spanellis, a big strong guy, we moved him in to guard. He’s doing a really good job. We’re really pleased where we are with the young guys than we were last year in terms of the retention. And the older guys in the room have done a great job. I know during the summer by NCAA rules we can’t get together with them but I heard through the grapevine those guys were getting together and watching tape and really sitting down and getting better as an offensive line.”
Did those young guys make it harder for you this year than you were expecting in camp to settle on--
“Yeah, it did, which is nice. It’s a pleasure to have that. You come out and see a guy coming out and competing against a senior defensive lineman and blocking him you’re going, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good.’ I mean, that’s a big, strong guy across from him that he’s blocking, so that’s exciting.”
You’ve said in the past that you don’t really care if a freshman starts, you’ve done it before. Would you be comfortable with Ben starting at left tackle?
“I would. I would. And nothing’s been set this time but we’ll just keep competing there at that spot and see how it all works out. But he has all the skill set, the mental capacity, the physicality, all the characteristics you look for to be a starter. He’s a special young player and he’s got a chance to have a really, really good future.”
Has anybody nailed down a spot? Not five, but is there two? Three?
“It’s day-to-day, but if we played a game Magnuson would be at right tackle, Kyle Kalis at right guard, Mason at the center spot, Ben Braden at left guard, and then it’s Grant Newsome and Ben Bredeson battling it out at the left tackle. But things could change from there. If we played a game tomorrow, that’d be it.”
[After THE JUMP: a little bit about every offensive position group, plus what M looks for in an offensive lineman]
[I walked into the scrum mid-answer.] “Camp’s really been fun lately. I’m actually enjoying camp. You know, getting to spend time with the boys playing football. It’s crazy because usually different teams go do activities, but we just wake up, come down to Schembechler and practice. And that’s fun, to spend time with the boys.”
Do you think losing last year to injury changed your perspective on that, wanting to be back around and involved?
“Yeah. One thing that my injury taught me is just to be thankful. There’s people that can’t walk. I’m just grateful, grateful to play football.”
Obviously a lot of talent on the defensive line; you guys showed it last year. Do you ever think about if you were healthy, what it could have been?
“Yeah, I wish I’d be out there to be with the boys, but everything happens for a reason.”
With you back in the mix, can you talk about that depth a little bit?
“It’s really good. Coach calls it like he doesn’t really have starters, he has a two-deep group and everybody—basically anybody could play if [inaudible].”
Is it the depth that stands out most about the defensive line or is there something else that stands out to you?
“What do you mean by that?”
What stands out about the group?
“What stands out? We have a lot of veterans back, that’s what really stands out. We have so much leadership from the defensive line, and what’s really positive about the D-line is all the old heads we have.”
Why is that important? We know about the physical part of the defensive line, but the mental part.
“Mental part? Sorry, I’m lost.”
The leadership: why is that important as opposed to all the guys coming back?
“Oh, leadership! Because we have so many young guys—a lot of young guys. It’s good to have that leadership because it shows the younger boys what to do, and the vets throughout the whole thing have just been good leaders and everyone’s been backing them up.”
What’s Don Brown like to play for?
“Oh man, I love it. Coach Brown, he’s a fun coach you want to play for. I don’t know. Coach Brown, he’s just a great ol’ guy.”
What does he do that you like?
“He just brings the juice to every practice. In practices and in meetings he always has his juice. So much energy from Coach Brown.”
You talked about being thankful and you talked about the old heads a little bit. Do you find yourself in a position where you’re talking to the younger guys like, ‘Hey, don’t take this for granted.’?
“Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, I talk to mostly all the freshmen. I took them in under my wing and just told them to be grateful because there’s no other place like Michigan. Everybody just likes and enjoys the struggle of being out there.”
[More after THE JUMP]
You mentioned at media day that year two makes things so much easier—or more familiar, I should say. How’s it feeling?
“No, not easier. But feeling good right now. Coming off of a very good practice today, so feel good about the way our guys are working. Feel really good about the way we practiced today. There was quite a bit of good scrimmaging. Feel like our team is building a callus now that bodes very well for us. I mean, it was not. It was a little more [purulent] than about a week ago, but now it’s starting to harden. Feel good about that.”
Your quarterbacks now compared to a year ago: do you feel like they’re about where they were or in the system for a year, does that help them?
“Definitely has helped them. Right now we’re—I hate to compare—but we’re better. We’re better at that position than we were eight, nine days into camp last year.”
Have you narrowed it down? Is it down to two guys? Have a rank order?
“Yeah, not just two. I mean, Shane Morris is doing good, having a good camp. Wilton Speight’s having an outstanding camp. John O’Korn’s having a very good camp. The quarterback play’s been really good in camp, right from the first day. Been very pleased with that. They’ve…they’re completing balls, they’re running the team, they know what they’re doing. They’re competing at a good, high level. It’s been good. Yeah.
“I’m trying to think through different camps. I’ve said it to myself: this group of quarterbacks is playing really well. Better than most camps that I’ve seen from the start. Sometimes they struggle with their accuracy and struggle with different things, communicating, fumbled snaps on the ground. We haven’t been seeing that. We’ve been seeing solid play that’s improving, too. It started good and it’s getting better every day. Hope we’ll be better tomorrow than we were today, but we had a good day today.”
Are there any other positions where you’re seeing as fierce a competitive battle as you are at quarterback?
“Uh, there’s…there’s some good play. Some good—young guys are playing very well. Devin Asiasi had a heck of a day today. Michael Onwenu is somebody I’m—you know, he’s one of my favorites. Doing a heck of a good job. Ben Bredeson is doing an outstanding job. Rashan Gary is a really good football player. The young linebackers are playing really well. The young receivers are doing a heck of a good job. Chris Evans is maybe one of the most outstanding of them all. Khaleke Hudson’s doing an outstanding job. Dylan Crawford’s doing a good job. So, yeah, it’s been good. Quinn Nordin’s doing an outstanding job. Those guys, some really good players in that class have heated some of the competitive waters at multiple positions. It’s a good thing.”
How many freshmen do you expect to play this year?
“Right now it’s competitive and I don’t see any of our older guys just giving their jobs away. Don’t see that happening. Not through the nine practices. Not saying that for one minute, so it’s still to be determined. There’s some competitive, heated-up waters. More than you see on really probably any team I’ve ever been on where a group of new guys…they’re showing that they’re on track to be either starters or backup players. It’s still to be determined.
“They’ve got to do it over the course of the next couple weeks, but it’ll be exciting to watch. Some of them will, some of them won’t. The best players are going to play, regardless of class year that they’re in. As I’ve said, we’ve got a lot of veteran players who like their starting jobs. It’ll be a battle.”
Last year you waited until the first snap at Utah to reveal the starting lineup. Do you imagine that’ll be the same this season, too, with the quarterbacks and rest of the roster?
“I haven’t decided yet.”
[After THE JUMP: I guess you could say this press conference was…[/puts on sunglasses] suspended.]