"These high chairs are not really built for me. Hrnggh. How's my hair look?"
Great. Bad news about Amara Darboh. How do you compensate for that?
"Well, fortunately we have some pretty good kids that can fill in, but I feel probably worse for him than anybody. The kid had an excellent spring ball and capped it off with a fabulous two-a-days. He was playing good. I feel bad because I really feel like this was going to be a big, almost maybe even a coming-out season for him. But he's got a redshirt, so I guess there's a silver lining, but I just feel bad for the kid."
Does this maybe put a little more pressure on Jehu Chesson?
"Well Jehu would do it. Joe Reynolds will be out there. Jeremy Jackson. We have some capable replacements, thank goodness. All those guys, not just Jehu, but everybody."
Will you consider any position changes to try to get some depth?
"Oh I don't think so. I think we're still okay. We can't lose too many more."
Are any of the freshmen capable at this point?
"No. No. Not really."
"No. Not yet. But we're not completing eliminating them, either. Not yet, anyway."
Can you get more creative with Devin in the passing game as well?
"Devin Funchess? We have a couple Devins ... well yeah. We would do that anyway whether or not we had Amara. He's going to be -- he's always going to be a huge factor in our passing game. We're always thinking of different ways to utilize him just like we did a year ago. That's always a factor. That's always at the foremost on our mind. He's a weapon at tight end, and he's got to be used as a weapon."
MGoTeachersPet: In your book, Coaching The West Coast Quarterback, you delineate several receiver attributes that quarterbacks need to know. You have your "hands" guy, your "deep threat," your "guy who's almost always open." Which one of those was Amara?
"He was a little bit of all them. That's ... that's a good question, you know?"
"You're welcome. It's better than your jump ball question. But he was a little bit of all of them. He's a hands guy, faster than you'd think he is, although he's fast on the clock. Jumps, range, good range, he kind of had all of that stuff. He'd fit what you're looking for. I would not stereotype him as a possession guy or anything like that. He's pretty much got the whole package."
Are you going to do more with two or three-tight end packages?
"I think so. Yeah. We're more equipped for it. How much we use is going to be by game. Certain games depending on how people defend you, it could be more prominent. But we are now a little more equipped for it, where it was really wasn't a viable option the last couple of years."
What kind of camp has Jake Butt had?
"Good. He's bigger. He's stronger, he's got good hands. He's what we recruited, maybe even a little better than what we thought. He's still learning the offense. He's still got his issues on occasion, but not many. They're going away. And being here for spring ball was invaluable because he got 15 days of acclimating himself to this system."
Hoke said yesterday that Toussaint would be the starter. What have you seen about Toussaint for Hoke to say something like that?
"Well, you know, Fitz, he knows what he's doing. He hits the ground running. He was always a pretty smart player to start with. We never went through a lot of growing pains with him from a systematic perspective. But now that he's done it a lot, he knows the pickup in our passing game, he understands our run game, and now we're tracking more home-position plays, which kind of catered to the way he is anyway. And like I said before, I don't see any residuals of the injury, so he's Fitz again. We'll throw him out there and see what he does, but I have a feeling if we give him a little room, he's going to do something good."
What do you need to see out of Derrick Green?
"Well he's just got to keep learning the system. He's only been here for a couple weeks, and he's still figuring things out. But you can tell there's some talent there. As soon as he does, he's going to be a force."
MGoQuestion: How much of a running back's vision is innate vs. coached?
"Some of it's instinctive. What you do with a running back is you aim him where he needs to go in terms of landmarks in the run game. You make him aware of where his help is coming from, but at one point in time, his instincts have got to tell him where to go. Some guys are better at it than others. The one thing I will say is the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some guys never get very good vision. But generally, with a lot of repetitions, if you run the same play 25 times and see it blocked differently every time, you start getting a feel for where the creases in the defense are."
MGoFollowup: Does practicing against a defense that's as good as Greg Mattison's make it harder to coach some of those things?
"No, it's like any other defense. They're not going to sit still all the time. No. We get pretty much every look. When the game comes, there's not a lot of surprises. I mean, it can be painful sometimes if you don't block it very well, but it's good for you at the end of the day."
When will you be able to say the offense is game ready?
"We're not game ready."
"Because we aren't close to a game yet. We still are in the process of shaving it down to the people that will play in the game, which is about to happen here soon, at which time you can really start to think about being game ready. But we still have some auditioning, I guess? That's a bad word. Guys are still being evaluated. But we know some of them, now, don't get me wrong, but there's still a few spots that are still out there. And once we get that shored up, then we can really start honing in on getting game ready."
Will that be decided at the end of this week?
"Somewhere around then. Yeah. It's getting close to that time."
Impressions from the scrimmage?
"Uh. Hrng hmm. We did some good stuff. Um. We were really run-heavy. We wanted to establish our run game, and get a look to some of our tailbacks. But in doing so, we did some good stuff, and like any scrimmage, you have some ugly plays, too. But in evaluating, I'll say this about it: it was productive. Whether there were good plays or bad plays, there was a lot of good stuff to coach from the tape. Lot of stuff to be encouraged by, a lot of stuff to fix."
What do you like about Deveon Smith?
"He hammers the ball in there. He's a no-nonsense runner. He hits it hard, and he's not easy to tackle. You're going to feel him when he gets through there. I think he's going to be a really good back. He's big, and he's strong, and he accelerates well."
Chances he'll play this year?
"Who knows? It's still too early to say."
Shane Morris didn't play in the scrimmage. Is the competition between him and Brian Cleary --
"Still going. Yup. Still going. That'll shore itself up soon, too. Just so you know."
Are you guys scrimmaging this week? Will you hammer it out then?
"By the end of the week we should have a pretty good idea what's going to happen with that."
How has Brian Cleary improved?
"Just understanding so much better. In terms of knowing where to go with the ball and timing the throws, he's improved -- he made a quantum leap [since spring]. He seldom makes an error in judgment. Now where he has to shore his game up is taking advantage of those scenarios every time they present themselves. Making a routine throw, making a routine play with consistency. He is getting there. He's getting better every day. The thing about Brian Cleary is he's a really smart kid and he's got a good arm. He seldom makes the same mistake twice."
MGoQuestion: How would you compare him to where Russell Bellomy was at this point last year?
"Well, Russ was a little further along. Russ is probably a little more athletic than Brian. He can get out of some jams. But that would be probably very similar in a lot of ways with their intellect. Russ is probably a little faster."
Does not making a decision on the offensive line sacrifice some of the chemistry?
"Oh yeah. It does a little bit, yeah. But then it's the pains that you go through to put the best five out there. It does, but the good thing about it is at one point in time, when you've established that, you've got the best five getting the chemistry, rather than rolling guys through there and there never being any chemistry. When you settle it, let them roll. There is a little bit of that."
What have you seen out of Jeremy Gallon?
"Well, I mean, he's probably our best receiver right now. He's good against bump and run coverage. As I said before, he plays taller than he is. He can win jump balls and he's about 5-8. He'll say he's taller, but he's lying. [He gets] in and out of cuts fast, reliable in the middle of the defense, and he does the dirty work, too. When somebody's bearing down on him, he'll catch the ball in traffic. He's just reliable. You know what he's going to do, and he has a big play dimension. Jeremy has very good speed, but he's not what I would classify as a burner. But he's crafty and knows how to get open."
At center, do smarts sometimes outweigh physical ability?
"As long as you're capable. I learned a long time ago that you don't necessarily play the smartest players. You play the best players. Sometimes the smartest players are the best players, and sometimes the smartest players play better than what you think the best player is. That's a roundabout answer, but center requires a certain intellect. If you don't have it, then you're going to struggle at the position. But you don't want to put a smart guy out there that can't block anybody but knows how to target the front."
MGoQuestion: Do you see a difference in the offensive line's ability to target on zone blocking schemes vs. man/power blocking?
"They all have a better feel for the whole thing, whether we're gap blocking, whether we're zone blocking. They all have a better feel for it. We still have errors. We still have things that we have to shore up. We watch the tape and we still see some things that need to be coached. I can't honestly say we've mastered any one scheme. Sometimes we mess up a power scheme, sometimes we mess up a zone scheme. Sometimes we do them both good, you know?"
Have you ever have a young offensive lineman like Kyle Kalis, who has so much confidence?
"Yeah. I've had guys like that. They think they belong, and that's good. That's what you want. You want young guys that think they belong an think they fit. If you're a young guy who's in awe of your surroundings, you're going to have a heck of a time playing here. It can be very intimidating. If you believe you're good enough and can prove that you are, usually you probably are."
Do you have to knock that guy down a little bit?
"Constantly. That's with everybody. They come here and they're five stars and four stars [Ed: High five!], but when they walk in the door they're no stars. Sometimes it's a rude awakening for some guys. Kids have to be get used to getting coached every single snap. Sometimes forcefully. So yeah. Some kids hit the ground running. It is different. This is Michigan and this is college football and the expectations are high."
What's the role of fullback these days? How much do you use them in practice?
"Quite a bit. Yeah. Our fullback is basically a blocker and an occasional receiver. His job, depending on the play, can be either to kick somebody out and eliminate somebody or cover somebody up who missed a block. That happens, too. The identity of the fullback has changed since when I first started coaching. The fullback was a runner and a receiver and a this and a that. But now the fullback is more of a blocker and a receiver. That's what we ask our kids to do, and if they're tough and willing to get their nose bloody and have a little bit to them when they hit a guy, they have a chance to play."
Who do you like there?
"Same kids. Joe Kerridge, Sione [Houma], Wyatt Shallman. They've all shown good stuff. One time or another they all look like they can play here, and some have. Joe's played quite a bit already."