Notes from today's morning press conference. To get live updates from these events, you can follow me on Twitter @varsityblue.
- Tate Forcier's shoulder is bruised, but he will play this weekend. Denard Robinson might play a slightly larger role as his comfort with the offense improves. The quarterbacks need to be smart about taking unnecessary hits. They're running a little more than Rodriguez might like, and he'd prefer to see 5-6 rushes a game.
- Moosman's snapping issues cost the team about 70 offensive yards, but Moosman is a smart, hard worker, so he'll work with Coach Frey to correct the issues. The quick snap to catch guys offsides resulted in fumbles a lot because Tate (and Denard) and Moosman don't have the comfort level with each other yet.
- The first road game being a rivalry makes it a little tougher, especially for the young guys who have never played on the road yet.
- Though the depth chart lists Cissoko ahead of Floyd and Turner, the competition at the second corner spot will be more open this week. Hopefully, someone will seize that opportunity and step up to win the starting role.
- The media will not be able to watch practice this week. Part of that is just paranoia from the coaches, and the rest of it is to make sure the players can maintain their focus in preparation.
- The Michigan/Michigan State game is a big rivalry, so fans get whipped up into a frenzy. Sometimes they get ahold of the opposing quarterback's phone number and bother him all week, etc. Rodriguez has a good relationship with Mark Dantonio: "I'm friendly with everybody. I'm a nice guy." The two have known each other from Dantonio's days at Cincinnati, and they've come across each other a few times a year since then.
- Kevin's favorite Michigan/MSU moment was watching Chris Perry run the ball 51 times against the Spartans (for 219 yards in 2003).
- Grady knows State fans at home, and even says "I have family members who are unfortunately state fans," including his grandmother. She doesn't talk a lot of trash, but both Kevin and Kelvin know where her loyalties lie.
- The team has to run the ball well in order to beat MSU (the team that rushed for more yardage has won 37 of the last 41 games between the teams). This, like every game, is just another opportunity to prove themselves.
- Kevin doesn't think Tate will falter on the road. If he's able to play in front of 100,000 at home, playing in Spartan Stadium shouldn't be a problem.
- Carlos, echoing his coach, doesn't think that spread teams are necessarily any less physical than I-formation teams: "We can line up and do exactly what they do."
- Coming from Georgia, the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry reminds him of the UGa/Georgia Tech battles. Whichever team wins is the state champion for a year.
- Tate should play well against State. He's a great quarterback, and the supporting cast is going to do what they can to get the win.
- The in-state guys really value the rivalry with Michigan State. Its a chance to win a trophy game, and get back the in-state bragging rights. The Ohio State rivalry might be bigger in the grand scheme of things, but this one means something special, particularly for the guys from Michigan. The team wants to show that last year's loss was more of a fluke than anything.
- Obi is from an area of Grand Rapids that is a little more Spartan-centric than where Kevin Grady comes from. He has 5 or 6 neighbors that fly Spartan flags, and he joked that he's going to sneak out in the night and take them down.
- He definitely avoids wearing Green and White this week - but that wasn't the case when he went to Michigan's summer camp as a high schooler. He was wearing an MSU Engineering shirt, and Lloyd Carr gave him the evil eye. Without Carr saying a word, Obi knew it was probably better off if he didn't wear the shirt.
- Coming from out of state, Donovan wasn't aware of Michigan's rivalry with the Spartans (all he really knew about Michigan was that he could watch them when he woke up at 9am on Saturdays). In his freshman year, seniors like Shawn Crable, Jamar Adams, and Brandent Englemon taught him about the rivalry.
- State might come out desperate to avoid a 1-4 start to their season, but the Wolverines will be able to match their intensity: "It's not a 1-3 team, it's Michigan State."
- MSU has 3 great receivers in White, Dell, and Cunningham, and they can all be big-play guys. The defense will need to communicate better to avoid giving up big plays.
- If the defense plays well enough to win, it doesn't matter if the game is something of a shootout. It's the final result that counts.
David Molk had surgery this morning on his broken foot, and will be out 4-6 weeks. David Moosman will be back this week, and replace Molk at center. Rocko Khoury and Tim McAvoy will be healthy now as well. In other injury news, Tate's going to be fine, he just bruised a rib, which prevented him from moving around quite as well in the Eastern game. A rib shot is a good way to teach a quarterback that he needs to get rid of the ball quicker.
Mike Williams and Brandon Minor are both day-to-day. Minor is a guy who will play through a lot of pain, so the coaches have to be careful with how much they let him practice.
Offensive Line. Mark Huyge and Patrick Omameh can both play interior and exterior positions on the offensive line. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield have both been running with the 2s recently, and might be able to earn a little bit of playing time. There are a few more freshmen that haven't played yet, but probably will before the season is over. Justin Turner is among them. According to Donovan Warren, "He just needs to be a little more comfortable, and have the coaches trust him." Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne, who are backups at the SAM linebacker position, will probably see a bit more time as well.
Walk-ons. The walk-on program is important to Michigan Football as a whole, and it's going well so far. Kevin Leach, Jordan Kovacs, Jon Conover and fullback John McColgan are examples of its success. Rodriguez isn't going to publicly announce which walkons have received scholarships, because that's a downer for some of the guys who may have been close but didn't quite get one.
TOP. One of Rodriguez's big defensive goals is to force the opposition into at least 6 three-and-outs per game. That helps in time of possession, and getting them some rest. He doesn't worry about time of possession that much, because it isn't a meaningful stat - especially if you have a quick-strike offense. [Editor's note: woooooooo!] The defense hasn't been able to get a ton of pressure on quarterbacks yet, because opposition has gone to max-protect set and a quick-hit passing game.
Indiana. Indiana is a surprisingly experienced team defensively. They have two of the best defensive ends in the conference, which could cause some trouble. As far as the conference at large, Rodriguez doesn't know how his team stacks up, because they haven't played anyone from the league yet. He's worried about taking care of Indiana for now. As Ryan Van Bergen said, the 3-0 start means nothing towards winning the conference.
Troy Woolfolk gave Carlos Brown a little bit of grief for only having the 3rd-longest run in Michigan history. Brown: "He was like, 'look, my dad's got number 1." I was like 'We've got 9 more games to go.'"
Warren. All three defensive cordinators so far in Donovan Warren's career have been excellent coaches, who are very similar and passionate about the game. They have their differences, but all are good. Warren briefly talked to Coach English on the field after the game on Saturday.
Donovan doesn't notice if an opposing team is trying to avoid him. He just goes out there and plays his assignment, and gets to the ball. He likes that the offense can score, but wishes they'd do it a little slower so he could rest. The team's conditioning has helped him be ready to get right back out there, however.
As far as halftime defensive adjustments go, both Donovan Warren and Ryan Van Bergen pointed out that opponents have given some looks in the first half of games that they hadn't yet shown on film. The coaches are able to make the necessary changes at halftime to slow the opposition down.
Grady (Small). Kelvin Grady talked a long time about the transition from basketball to football, and the decision-making process that resulted in ending up on the football team. He worked in a factory at Amway over the summer, and had a lot of time to think about what he was planning to do. His dad provided him guidance, "He's the father that I want to be someday."
Grady said it would be a great experience to play in an NCAA tournament and a bowl game (knock on wood) within a year of each other.
- About 28 players played their first game in a Michigan uniform. A lot of them had meaningful (early-game) action on special teams. The QBs and Craig Roh (in a year, he'll be up around 250 pounds, and faster than he is now) were singled out as some of the young guys who played very well.
- The offense wasn't that bad in the second half. In the third quarter, they only had two drives, one of which had a touchdown called back for a penalty. In the fourth quarter, the offense went to chew-clock mode for much of the time.
- There were a few missed assignments both on offense and defense, but a lot of that can be attributed to first-game jitters. Rodriguez didn't want to call out his players on the long Western touchdown. It was typical first-game nerves.
- All three quarterbacks will continue to play for the next several weeks, but Tate will get the start again next week. It's not fair to compare the freshman QBs, both because they're a little different in terms of skill set, but also because Tate has had 9 extra months in the system - and has about 70% of the playbook at his disposal. Denard is not just a runner, but "He ran really fast."
- Hemingway should be good to go Saturday, Same with Moundros and Boubacar. Minor looked pretty good in pregame, but they still held him out and hope he'll be able to go Saturday. All of those injured players will be a little limited in contact drills this week. Rodriguez is going to implement a weekly injury report for the team, released on Thursdays. He would like to make this a league-wide policy.
- Carlos Brown will start Saturday unless he has a bad week of practice. "We thought he ran well, he caught the ball well, and he really protected well."
- Offensive player of the game: Junior Hemingway. Defensive player of the game: Obi Ezeh and Stevie Brown. Special Teams player of the game: Zoltan Mesko.
- The QBs carried more times (21) than Rodriguez would like in an average game. Some of that was getting Denard in there and getting him comfortable. However, Rodriguez doesn't mind his QB running if nothing's open downfield. The quarterback's 4th read on passing plays should usually be to run.
- Nevada was a top offense last year, so for Notre Dame to shut them out was impressive.
- Both teams being good increases the national tone of this week's contest: "I would hope. Michigan-Notre Dame is always going to have a national tone. It's one of the greatest rivalries there are."
- To beat Notre Dame, Michigan will have to pressure Clausen. He's too good to give him a lot of time, and has some really good targets in Tate and Floyd. Brandon Graham will be double-teamed a lot, because Notre Dame likes to max-protect.
- Adrian Witty will not attend Michigan this semester. The coaches will continue to re-recruit him for the winter or next fall.
- Schilling watched film yesterday on his day off from practice. The offensive line played a lot more physical than last year (which is something Frey emphasizes). There were many more knockdowns than in any game last year. It was nice to move the ball for first downs and touchdowns, which was hard last year.
- Craig Roh is one of the quickest D-Ends Steve has ever seen. When he gets bigger and stronger, he'll be a really good player.
- All 3 QBs are different, which forces opposing defenses to prepare for more things. Tate's a leader, and acts like he's not a freshman although he's been here only 0 months. Denard's a little quieter, but he's still just learning.
- The team has to be grounded after the win. Notre Dame is ranked, and although Western will contend for the Mac title, the Irish present a bigger opportunity to make a statement.
- Tate is young, but he's going to be a great leader. Even if the seniors disagree with him in the huddle, they'll get something worked out.
- It's good to start the year injury free, and he hopes to stay that way.
- If the offense is clicking, Carlos doesn't care whether he gets 1 carry or 20 carries. One of the great things about the college game is that there are multiple capable backs that can step in for each other.
- "We're going to be prepared for Notre Dame."
- The defense made a statement against Western by playing hard, fast, and aggressive. In the first game, it's nice to be able to be aggressive with open field tackles.
- The Notre Dame game will set the tone for the whole season. The team owes the Irish after what happened last year.
- Notre Dame likes to use play action to go deep. Donovan's looking forward to the challenge, and like the opportunity to prove himself against the best. The defense needs top be aggressive on every snap to make Notre Dame's day harder. They'll disguise coverages, but that depends on everybody knowing where the help is coming from and where the defense's weaknesses are.
- He'll get in guy's faces on the other team and play tough coverage on every snap. He didn't think the pass interference calls against him on Saturday were legit - but every defensive back usually feels the same.
- Tate's enrolling early helped get him the experience he needed to start fast. "He knows that we have his back, and we know that he has ours."
- The ankle that's injured is the same one that he hurt last year. He's glad he ended up getting a medical redshirt, because otherwise it would have been a lost year. It was tough not being on the travel squad, and having to text his teammates before the game, and watch on TV.
- "I'll be ready to go on Saturday."
- The receivers have the mindset that they can win every battle on the perimeter. The offense has to make sure they know their assignments on every play.
- "Got to be out there ready to play when we play Notre Dame."
If you follow me on Twitter (@varsityblue), you probably got most of the info yesterday, but for those who don't, or who want it in a convenient format, here are the notes from yesterday's postgame press conference.
- The drama of the week heading into the game brought the team together as a family more than they already had been.
- Rodriguez told Tate that he didn't need to do too much himself. He's surrounded by athletes on the team, just get them the ball and let them make the plays.
- Tate's never gotten nervous for a game - "and I don't think I ever will."
- Tate has no Denard jealousy - in fact, playing two QBs substantially makes the Michigan team much harder for opponents to defend.
- Tate wasn't impressed by Denard's touchdown run - "I've seen him do it so many times in practice... it's typical for him to do that."
- Tate was surprised by the offense's big plays. He thought the offense would move it down the field - not get it all in one play.
- The first game against D-1 athletes didn't faze Denard. He's practiced against the guys on his own team, and knew what to expect
- Denard's athleticism makes it much harder for the opposing teams to prepare. There's even the potential to get both QBs on the field at the same time for some crazy stuff (see: Denard lined up at slot in second drive).
- Denard said college is a lot different from high school. On top of actual gameplay, the crowd was really loud.
- There's velcro on the inside of Denard's shoes to keep them on despite the lack of laces.
- As far as the QB competition, Robinson isn't too worried about who starts. He came here to compete for playing time at quarterback, and he'll continue to compete for playing time at quarterback.
- The coaches try to put a lot of pressure on the kids in practice, so that they won't get overwhelmed in games. (Hmm, sounds a bit like one Glenn Schembechler).
- There were a couple execution errors offensively, as well as too many penalties. Once those get worked out, hopefully the offensive will be able to move more consistently.
- The biggest key for Michigan's coaches in preparing for the season was to eliminate negative-yardage plays and turnovers. They did that for the most part, and they'll try to work on the penalties (which they aren't happy with, either).
- Rodriguez is still concerned with defensive depth. However, the defense looked pretty good in the first half.
- Rodriguez thanked the fans for supporting the team. In true Michigan coach fashion, he dropped the word "tremendous" about 5 times. As far as fans chanting his name, "They can say my name, but really, they're cheering for Michigan."
- Brandon Minor looked OK in warmups. He hopes Brandon can play next week, and he's confident that Junior Hemingway and Boubacar Cissoko will also be fine for next week. (Notes: From the sounds of it, Minor could have gone if the team really needed him. I think he was held out mostly as a precaution. If Cissoko isn't healthy for next week, God Help Us against Notre Dame).
- Craig Roh has a lot of talent, and should really contribute to the team this year.
- All 3 quarterbacks will continue to play (Note: I would say it's pretty clear who 1a, 1b, and 2 are at this point, though).
- The coaches knew Junior Hemingway could be this good. He showed it last year, but then got hurt and couldn't play most of the year.
- It was tough giving up the shutout in the fourth quarter. It would have sent a big statement in week 1.
- The team's been hungry all off-season to erase the bad taste from last year. The drama of the past week didn't change that, it only amplified it.
- Obi has seen Denard making crazy runs in practice, and it's good to see him do it against actual opposition. "It's not just me" that Denard can make look foolish.
- Notre Dame has a good QB and good offensive threats. Though most of the focus in practice to this point has been on Western, they'll jump straight into Notre Dame prep. The coaches will have a good gameplan against the Irish.
- It feels good to be healthy. It almost feels weird, like he's starting over again. It feels good to be out there with the team.
- It feels good to start the year putting the team's best foot forward.
- The offense is much better this year, because everyone is on the same page, and everyone knows what to do now.
- Hemingway himself says he could have played in the second half if needed. Sitting in the second frame was precautionary, and he'll be fine to go against Notre Dame.
Light day at the press conference today, aside from the pseudo-bombshell that Brandon Minor is still injured, and is now considered questionable for Saturday. It remains to be seen how much of this is legit, and how much is gamesmanship/giving the press something new to talk about. Either way, not good. Carlos Brown would get the start if Minor can't go, with Shaw, Grady, and Vincent Smith also garnering playing time.
Rich says the coaches are starting to have a good idea of who will start at QB on Saturday. They'll let the quarterbacks know tomorrow night who is getting the starting nod.
Big focuses in camp this year: holding onto the ball and avoiding negative yardage offensive plays. He felt like they held onto the ball pretty well in last year's camp (and we know how that turned out), but it's even better this year.
During punt return practice, the returners seemed to be having some sort of competition to not be the first to drop one. When someone finally did, a grad assistant who had been turned the other way immediately turned around and asked "Was it Terrence [Robinson]?" It was.
Jihad-relevant snippets from today's press conference.