News bullets and other important things:
Barnum is still day to day.
Woolfolk is fine, even though he may or may not have been limping at the end of the game.
Cam Gordon will practice more. Sounds like he has to fight for his job back.
McColgan should be back for Northwestern.
Hoke voted for Michigan to be in top 25.
Opening remarks: “It was good to start the Big Ten season winning the football game on Saturday. It was good to keep the Brown Jug. I think the score got painted on this morning at eleven. It’s good to have the Jug here in Ann Arbor.
"Everything gets tougher. Northwestern, they’re 2-2 as you all know. They lost a heartbreaker down in Champaign last week, but they have a football team that’s very well coached. Pat’s probably as good a coach as there is in the league and a guy that feels strongly about that program, being an alumnus of Northwestern and being a tremendous player there. I also think when you look at them from an offensive and defensive standpoint, they’re a team that’s going to play physical. They’re going to play 60 minutes of football. Defensively, they run very well to the ball. Offensively, Persa was back, played most of the game, was pretty productive. But Coulter is also a guy who’s moved them offensively and done a nice job. So when you look at it and playing away, we haven’t been away. It’ll be a little bit different for us because we’ve been fortunate enough to play five games in Michigan Stadium.”
Does being tied for second in the country in ppg allowed mean anything to you? Also, can you point to any tangible improvements in the defense between the spring and now? “Well, it’s like anything else. It doesn’t mean anything right now. I mean, none of those things matter. We’re 1-0 right now. I think when you look at our front the last two weeks, we’ve been a little more disruptive. That’s enabled the linebackers to do their job. I think we put a little bit more pressure at times on the quarterback. We still don’t blitz worth a dog, period. And that’s got to improve. Guys are playing together. I think they’re understanding the roles. I think the defensive staff has done a good job in preparation, and the guys are doing a good job preparing themselves.”
How did Denard look in the passing game on film? “I think mechanically he was better. I think the routes were better. I think the timing of the offense was better. There was a good tempo and good flow when you look at him and his footwork and all those things that are part of the mechanics of throwing. I think it was better. I thought it wasn’t bad versus Notre Dame, either. I think he’s a prideful guy, he’s a competitive guy … He wants to be good for his teammates.”
How do you work on timing in practice? “Well it’s just the routes and the timing, and if it’s five-step or three-step drop, from the gun or under center. Just the mechanics of that and when the ball should be thrown, on what step.”
(more after the jump around.)
What do you do differently when you take a team on the road? “I don’t know if it’s different or not. We’ll find out just the demeanor that we travel with. This being a night game, I think we have a pretty good blueprint for that with how we’ll do walkthroughs and all those things. They’re out of the security of the campus inn. There’s a lot of familiarity there with a lto of the guys, especially with the guys who have played a lot of football here. There’s a lot of distractions out there you may not have when you’re here.”
What do you mean by demeanor? “Business. We have goals. This is another one of the 12 guaranteed games that we have, and it’s a Big Ten game. We’ve got to go out there and play our best football and improve.”
What kind of effect does Persa’s presence or absence have on game planning? “It doesn’t do anything. It’s the same offense. They’ve recruited well. It’s all the same offense.”
Last couple games you got running game going. How important is that for offense? “Well it’s important for the team. I think part of the running backs being successful is also how we’re blocking up front. How we’re giving them some downhill space when you look at combination blocks. The thing that’s always different is the targeting for how people are going to play you. Everyone’s going to play us a little differently within a concept they may have defensively because of what Denard gives you as an athlete. So when you’re targeting up front, from the five guys up front to maybe the play-side receivers, if they can get in there and carve out the strong safety or whatever it might be, that’s all part of it. I think the adjustments that have been made, I think Darrell Funk and Al and those guys on offense have done a real good job game to game and series to series because we never know how people are going to defend us.”
Even though their offense is the same regardless of quarterback, how different is it when Persa runs the show for Northwestern? “Well I don’t know if I’ve seen enough totally. I haven’t looked at every game yet. I’ve looked at a lot of different cutups of things we like to look at. I don’t see a whole lot of difference when you look at the athleticism of the quarterbacks and their ability to throw the football. There may be an experience factor somewhere, but when you look at both guys -- they’re both pretty daggone productive.”
What impresses you about Persa? “Well number one I think he’s a tough-minded kid. And looking at a little from a year ago in the off-season, he’s a guy who’s not afraid to tuck the guy and run it, take a hit and deliver a hit. I think he has a very good handle on management on the offense and getting them in the right place and all those things.”
Talk about the short passes and putting Denard in better passing situations to get him more comfortable? “I think that’s always important. I think you always -- we took one shot for sure downfield on a first down, but I think getting the rhythm of the game and the tempo of the game, confidence level, whatever you want to call it. I think that’s an important part of getting your quarterback started.”
Talk about the two-QB formation. Also, how do you balance working on trick plays vs. normal offense? “It’s always a give and take. You’ve got to make good decisions in how you manage it. I think there’s some positives, what we gained from it to some degree. And part of that positive is people now [have to] work on it. That’s just one more thing as a defensive coach -- you only have so many hours a day and so much time on the practice field -- that’s another piece to the puzzle.”
Blake Countess? “Those four guys -- and Raymon Taylor -- I think all those guys are competing every day. Blake made some plays and then there’s some things that, from a coverage aspect and … competing a little closer to the guy that he needs to be better at.”
Do you work on communication this week since you’re going on the road? “You know what, we’ve never really had a problem. That part of it, it hasn’t been previously. Al doesn’t do a lot with it. We’ve got silent counts and everything else that we already use. So it’s not as big of an issue.”
Are you going to practice at night? “No I don’t think so. I think we’ve done that and I think, I don’t know when -- what time does the game start? Six over there? We’ll kind of blend into it as the night goes on.”
Sur la Roundtable
How did you like Stephen Hopkins at the fullback position, and will we see more of him there? “Yeah I think so. I think what Stephen did in the course of the game -- probably one of the better plays was when we blocked the edge on one of the play-action plays. I thought for his first time in there at fullback -- he may have played one other game, a snap or two -- I thought he did a pretty good job. When you get into split backs a little bit, having that ability with a guy who can run, he’s also not afraid to block, that’s always been a part of what Al likes to do.”
What are some of the problems on kickoff return coverage? “I think we’re better than we were the last time we had this problem. The one they ran back, there was obviously a hold that was called. There was a couple holds in there, but we still have to compete off blocks better. I think some of it is always placement. Ball placement, hangtime has to be a part of it. We avoided the wrong way -- two guys did on one of the other ones. There were three pretty good coverages, and then I think there were two not so good coverages we can’t have.”
Is it weird to coach against Pat Fitzgerald? You coached against him when he was a player in 95. “Not really. No. No. I mean, we’ve talked at meetings, but not about that. I know how he was a good daggone football player, I know that.” You have a lot of respect for him, then? “Knowing him and what kind of person he is, first, but watch his teams. Watch how well they’re prepared and how he manages a game and all those things that go along with it.”
Gibbons was 3/3. Any boost to his confidence? “Not really. Hopefully [he has] a humbleness. We’ve played five games. We all signed up for 12 that we’re guaranteed. He’s got a long way to go. I’ve been pleased with how he’s handled himself and how he’s kicked all summer and fall camp long. But he’s like everyone else. He needs competition daily.”
Roy Roundtree isn’t very productive. What’s going on there? “Nothing. Just the way games have played out.”
Ricky Barnum? “He’s fighting. He’s fighting everyday to get back. He’ll kind of be a daily deal.”
Schofield? “He did pretty good. He hung in there pretty well.”
How does having Denard help prepare you for a mobile QB? “Well seeing a lot of the looks, even though there’s differences with -- their zone is more midline, but seeing a lot of the looks we get from our offense from time to time is always a benefit. Both Persa and Coulter are very good athletes and can run well. Same thing when it comes to getting in the pocket and scrambling and finding that opening. I’m sure Greg and the defensive staff will have a few things that will hopefully shore us up and help us.”
Does it give defense more confidence in dealing with these running QBs after having to chase Denard around? “You know, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I’ve never asked them.”
What’s been biggest defensive improvement you’ve seen week to week? “I think our preparation is part of it. I think the front -- the aggression that they’re playing with, the disruptiveness, fundamentals, the techniques … I think our support system whether it be from an outside backer or a nickel or strong safety or free safety is a little better. ”
In temrs of preparation, are your coordinators getting a better sense of the players and how to use them? “It’s a good point. It probably is … how much they can handle. We can know all the football we need to know, but if they don’t know it, it doesn’t do you any good. So I think in scaling some things back in times is a plus.” Any examples? “We scaled some things back a week ago because of a lot of the movements and trades that they had. Better to have 11 guys in position than maybe that great defense that you think you may have called and have guys confused.”
Is there a frustration in having to scale things back? “It’s just a reality. If your guys are going to play hard and play aggressive and play with fundamentals and techniques. I’d be happy if we could run four defenses and two coverages as long as we can play it at our highest level.”
What did you make of Will Hagerup’s performance? “He was okay. There were some wind issues to some degrees. Only had to punt twice, but he was okay.”
What happened in practice for him to win the job away from Wile? “I think Angelique, when she watches that part of practice, I think she really tipped the scale.”
When you run the 2-QB thing, was there any discussion as to when you were going to use it? “Yeah, the other part of it is what’s the flow of the game to some degree.” You used it at the start of the game. “It was a good flow.” I know, but you’re giving defensive coordinators something to think about. “That’s good.” So that’s more important to you than saving it? “Yeah, and really, at the end of the day, it’s about the execution. It’s great to have tricks and all that kind of stuff. If you don’t execute it, you might as well not have it. It’s all about the execution.”
You don’t eat on gameday? “No.” All day? “Obviously I eat. That’s all be settled on that. But no.” You don’t get lightheaded on the sideline? “I’m usually lightheaded. No, I don’t. It’s just a habit. I didn’t as a player.”
Who are you optioning off during read-option plays? “Well … it depends. So some people are going to have the backside linebacker bounce back. Some people are going to fast-flow him on the quarterback. Some people are going to take the frontside safety or the backside safety, or they’ll take the front side linebacker and he’ll crosskey it. There’s a lot of target issues that we have to deal with because everyone does it differently. [Against Minnesota], Bill Miller, who I think is a tremendous football coach, tremendous defensive coach, we had to target the frontside safety. Now, how do you do that? You bring a receiver in. You cut a split a little bit. You motion him in to try and get him that way or do you do it on the line of scrimmage or do you do it with the split zone theory [with] that offset tight end in the back (?).”
Is that something you planned out before the game or on the fly? “It’s usually on the fly. Because of Denard’s skill set, they’re going to have a different way of trying to do it. And some of them will be the same depending on your bases and what you’re doing. That’s where Al and Darrell Funk and Hecklinski upstairs do a tremendous job of seeing and communicating with the kids.”
What do you attribute to the rise in defensive rankings from 110th-ish last year in yards allowed to 31st now? “Because kids are playing hard. And that other stuff doesn’t matter. None of it matters. We just have to play hard and play better. And I’m being honest with you. I’m not trying to be a jerk, but it doesn’t matter. That stuff doesn’t matter. Winning matters.”
So I’m guessing your AP ranking doesn’t matter? “Nope.” Do you know what it is? “Yeah. Justin told me.” Did you vote for Michigan? “Yeah, we did this week.” Where did you rank yourselves? “Somewhere in the top 25 teams. I only have to tell you one week, right? And that’s at the end!”
Do you think you’re overrated? “Yeah.” By how much? “I don’t know. We’re going to find out. And I told our team that, too. I’m not telling you anything I didn’t tell them yesterday.” Why do you feel that way? “Because we’re not playing football we need to play. We’re not playing well enough. We’re not finishing things well enough. There’s a lot of fundamental things. We get two penalties that bring us back. There’s six to eight plays in the game that are going to determine the outcome. Period. That’s going to happen. Especially when you’re playing in a conference like ours, and you never know when those six to eight plays are going to happen, so you have to play your best (thump) every (thump) play (thump), whether it’s (thump) covering kickoff, whether it’s (thump) blocking a three-technique, whether it’s (thump) taking on a double team, you have to play (thump) your best (thump) every play (thump).”
How important is it to remind your team to be humble, since Michigan has started 5-0 before and it hasn’t ended too well? “I don’t think I have to. Our seniors, believe me, they know. And if I don’t have to, that’s good.”
How did you feel about the misdirection plays, and are going to be more in your offense? “Well I think that’s part of an offense I’m sure will be in there. I thought it was effective. It goes back to zone reads and everything else and sprint plays, try and take an advantage on something. ”
Are you pleased with relatively low number of penalties, Lewan in particular? “I don’t know what he did in the past, but I think we understand that we have to play the game with fundamentals, technique, and discpline, and have great poise and composure to how you play.”
Have you ever had a small guy like Vincent Smith play so tough? “Yeah. Yeah. Uh huh. I think he’s a guy who loves football. I think he’s a tough guy. He works at it hard. I think there’s guys like there out there. I’m just glad Vince Smith’s here at Michigan.”
Impressions of Jeremy Ebert? “He does everything for them. He is sure handed, quick, good balance, good hand-eye skills. He’s a big part of their offense. They put him in some different positions, different alignments to let him maybe get away from press man at times and also utilize what he can do. He’s a good football player.”
Was I making things up when I said Woolfolk was limping at the end of the game? “He ran yesterday, so …” So I made it up. “I’m not saying you made it up. You said that.” But I did, though! I did see him limp.
It’s been a while since you coached with Mattison back in the day. Is it interesting to watch him coach now with his experience since? “It’s an interesting question, because it’s … Greg. I’ve coached with him obviously I’ve talked a lot of football with him over the years. It’s just Greg being Greg. Coaching.”
What did you see from Carvin Johnson. Is he competing for more playing time? “I don’t think I can say that yet. I can say he’s improving. I think the competition there is always pretty good. There’s signs that he’s doing things maybe more complete.” With more experience, does he pick that ball off rather than just get his hands on it? “I hope he does. No doubt. We’ve talked about it on the field. Play it at its highest point. I think he realizes that.”
McColgan for next weekend? “He should be ready.”
Cam Gordon? “Well, he’s going to practice more this week and do more.”