And the Attack of the Blue Daleks...
at least it's not just us?
“Well, how about our basketball team, huh? Golly.”
Are you happy they recruited Mitch McGary?
“Yes. No question about it. I already promised him he’d be a five-technique right away, and we’d get him a lot of sacks. No question about it. I love him. It’s funny -- I saw him one time the team was going to eat somewhere, I just happened to run into him when my wife and I were out. I had never stood next to him, and I just looked at him and all I kept thinking was ‘Wow, would he be good as a five-technique.’ ”
“Well it’s a good spring in that there is a lot of competition. We’ve got a lot of young guys that were redshirted a year ago that were heavily recruited, and we’ve got some veterans that are improving. We’ve got a very good mixture. All of them together are working to become as good as they can be, which is what we already try to do here. The attitude -- I’ve been very happy with it so far because they come out every day and they want to try and get better. We’ve got a long way to go. There’s no question about it, but that’s why you have spring practice.”
Can you talk about how much losing Jake Ryan has changed the look of the linebacking corps?
“Well, that’s the nature of football. Everybody knows how much we love Jake. But you have to be ready for that at every position. You can’t go through a season without [depth]. That’s football. The good news is Cam Gordon has been right there with Jake getting all the reps, improving -- in fact not because of what happened to Jake but as we watched the cut-ups last year, I made the comment to a number of the coaches that maybe I got him out too fast sometimes. As you watch the film as you’re sitting in your chair, you say, he did pretty good on that play. He did a good job on that play.
And he just continues to get better. Cam’s a guy that you know better than I do. He was a wide receiver, free safety, and all of a sudden he’s a SAM linebacker. I think right now for the first time, and it was starting to happen last year, he’s starting to get confidence. He can look in the mirror and say, “I am an outside linebacker.’ It’s not, ‘I wonder if I can do this.’ He knows he can do it, he’s just got to get better and better. We moved Brennen Beyer back from the rush, which he had played SAM linebacker, and he’s done some very good things for being moved back a couple of days. We’ll always find a way to make sure we have guys where we have to have them.”
Is Desmond Morgan back inside?
“Somebody mentioned that, they said, ‘You changed Morgan.’ I don’t ever look at it as being a change. Inside linebackers are inside linebackers. A team can trade a tight end or shift and they can end up getting you in that position anyhow. I always look at those two guys as inside linebackers, especially with now the guys we have. They’re all about the same kind of players. If you have a real big guy, then sometimes he plays a MIKE linebacker and the other guy doesn’t, but now I think our backers are all kind of the same body type, same ability to run and that kind of thing, so we put them both at the same [position].”
Is that by design?
“Yeah. That’s by design. Everything for us is speed. It is everywhere, but for us especially, so you want always to have guys that can move. There’ll always be some that can move better than others, and if that happens you can’t put one as WILL linebacker and the other guy as MIKE. You can make that decision, but your great defenses can always have them flip-flop and always interchangeable. Now a team can’t get you into something they want to get you in.”
Have you looked at moving anyone else to SAM?
“I didn’t look at moving anybody else, because we really only wanted two guys right there, and then we’ve got Lawson right there, that’s a good young kid that’s always gotten reps since last year, but you don’t need more than that. I feel confident with Cam and with Brennen.”
What does that do with rush end? Do you see Beyer moving back down eventually?
“In a lot of ways, we might have had too many at rush. I was looking at that. And not too many to say you don’t like all those guys at rush, but to get reps in practice. The biggest thing in spring practice is getting enough reps for your guys. We have four guys that are pretty darn good football players there. You want to get them all enough reps so that all equals it out for you more.”
Can you compare and contrast the games of the three guys at rush end?
“Yeah, you got Frank, who’s played a lot of football. People don’t realize that Frank came in at 217 pounds and he’s now at 274. Frank can continue to get better. And there’s another example. I think Frank in high school was a safety. And now he’s a rush and has been since he’s gotten here. He’s done a great job for us. Mario Ojemudia has played a lot for us as a freshman last year. Continues to improve. And Taco Charlton is a young man who should be at his prom who’s here in school. He almost -- sometimes I look at him and I say, ‘You’re too big to play.’ This is a young man that’s 6-6, 270 pounds. He’s getting some valuable reps. The good thing for Taco is he gets to see two guys that are veterans that kind of know how to play it, and he gets to see what’s right or wrong and so he can learn a little quicker.”
MGoQuestion: Where do you see Ondre Pipkins contributing this fall?
“Ondre’s a nose guard. Ondre’s a nose guard. That’s the only reps he takes. Again, the inside guys are the same way. Every day you see some really really bright spots and you see some things you have to improve on. You have great leadership in Quinton, and Ondre being able to play, and Glasgow is a young man that does some really good things sometimes, and then you have Willie Henry. You have some other guys that are good players. My whole thing up front, and I’ve always wanted to do this, and at other places I’ve been able to do this -- I love having the ability to rotate. I love having a guy, and I mentioned this to our guys in the film room last night because our first scrimmage, you could see guys were getting tired. I teased one of them. I said, ‘This is really good. You’ll be standing next to me during games when you run to the football like that and the other guy will be in there.’ Then I made a serious comment to them, I said, ‘Guys, you have to understand that all I’m trying to ask is that you go as hard as you can go, and it’s never wrong for you to raise your hand. If you can’t go as hard as we want you to go, raise your hand and we’ll develop a guy that can come in right behind you, and now that guy goes hard.’ When we get that up front, then you can get a front that you’re going to really like watching because they’re going to go hard every snap.”
MGoFollowup: Does needing the depth at nose guard make it difficult for Ondre to try practicing at the three-tech position?
“Yeah. And I don’t know if we need to. I don’t know if we need to. I look at two guys as one. Now you want to develop two guys as one at the three-technique and two guys as one at the end, and two guys as one at the rush, and then another guy’s always there getting better and better to come along and get better when it’s his turn.”
Who are the guys at three-tech right now?
“Willie Henry’s done some really good things, Glasgow has done some really good things. I think Brady’s coaching those guys, and I’ve seen great improvements on those kids as we go along.”
Is it difficult to tell players that they’re not going to play every down?
“No. I think a player, if he believes -- I made this comment: there’s a starting first string and there’s a second first string. If you have that philosophy and they believe that and know that you’re really sincere about that. We started that last year, where we’d have a guy play five snaps and then another guy would come in and play three. What you want to do is you want to get it so that it’s four and four. When you get more consistent, you’re going to get four and four. What happens when you get that kind of philosophy and that kind of ability is you’ll see guys play extremely hard and not be afraid to come out. I think the old thing when you started out in high school, if a guy ever took you out of a game, you’d feel like you’ve done something wrong. You see it in basketball all the time. Coach Beilein takes guys out and says, ‘Hey, you have to come out because you can’t keep going at the pace we want,’ and that’s the same thing we want in football.”
Is Beyer’s move permanent, or is that just until Jake is healthy enough to come back?
“Well, it’s going to be until Jake is healthy enough to get back … Brennen Beyer seems like kind of a big-boned kid. He gets pretty big pretty fast with lifting. The other thing that happens -- the SAM linebacker position also plays a rush in our nickel. In nickel, you’d love to be able to play that equal with all the spreads that teams give us, so now that gives us another pass rusher on the edge that we want that gives you a little more speed.”
Thomas Gordon, leadership, etc.
“Yeah, the first part of that process is he’s got to understand what’s acceptable. When you’re a senior, that bar becomes very very high. When you’ve played as much as he has, it even becomes higher. He has to be the kind of guy that every day in film he’s consistent. He’s the guy you point to and say, ‘here’s how you do it.’ He knows that’s his role. I’ve seen him embrace that a little bit this spring already in the short time we’ve been out there.”
“James Ross has got a lot of experience as a freshman. Has worked extremely hard. Very instinctive, smart football player that can run. And not afraid to hit. So you hit three pretty good components for a linebacker. I think he just gets better and better every day, too. And as Joe Bolden, Royce Jenkins-Stone -- that’s what you look for as a program is a freshman now to come on and get the reps. When we’re out there competing against our offense, ‘Okay, Royce you’re in there. We’re expecting you to play just like the other guys.’ And he’s tried to step up to do that.”
What went behind your decision to stay another three years?
“I woke up one morning and I said I felt as young as I’ve ever felt in my life. I said, ‘You know, I ought to keep doing it.’ I feel great. I love it here. I love the direction that the football program is going, and my wife kind of put it really clearly to me. She said, ‘Come on now. How long are you really going to play golf before you try to kill somebody. Let’s be honest.’ And I said, ‘You’re right. You’re right, honey. I love coaching. I love being here. I feel great every day coming in the office. When I don’t feel good coming in and when I don’t feel good standing up in front of that defense, then I’ll know it’s time. But right now I feel like I’m -- I’d say 25, but that’d be really … But I feel great. I feel really good about this team.”
Are there other guys on the defensive side that you’d like to see step up?
“Anybody that has played last year is really expected to step up. An example would be Jarrod Wilson. Here’s a young guy that was right on the verge always of playing, and he played in that bowl game extensively. Now it’s his turn. Now it’s his turn. No longer do we say, ‘You’re a young guy.’ Now you’re expected to do this. Marvin Robinson’s another guy. He’s been here a long time. Now it’s time to go. And in a nutshell, without naming anybody, it’s anybody that has played. Now it’s the next year, it’s time to really start moving it forward. No more ‘the learning curve,’ because we haven’t changed a lot of things. It’s our system now. It’s the Michigan defensive system, so anybody that comes in here gets the time to learn it, but then after you’ve been here, now it’s time to take it and embrace it and run with it.”
Can you assess the strongside end?
“We’ve got Keith Heitzman, has played a lot of football. A young man that has gotten a lot of reps is Matt Godin. Tom Strobel -- these are young guys that didn’t play last year that have been just kind of waiting in the wings, and there’s been some good things by all of them as we get going. The one guy that I’m very excited about that’s finally getting closer and closer is Chris Wormley. Now all of a sudden he’s cleared. And with Chris, you can see the talent, you can see all the things. It’s now just feeling really comfortable being out there. All these kids that I’ve mentioned, the thing I like about them is it bothers them not to do it good, and they want to be as good as they can be. When you have that, you have a chance.”
Is Wormley cleared to do everything?
“Cleared to do everything.”
Is there a marker for a successful spring on defense?
“No, we don’t play a game in the spring. We don’t play. We have a spring game, yes, but my marker for these guys is as long as they keep improving every day. If they keep improving every day throughout the 15 days, then it’s been successful. There’s nothing about ‘Did you hold them to this many points?’ ‘Did you do that?’ No. Because we’re going to evaluate the spring when we’re done and say, ‘Boy, we’ve got a long way to go yet. Now you’re going to evaluate it again in the summer and see how much improvement -- it’s not about how much we do against our offense. It’s how much they do against themselves with the bar we set for them.”
Is Dymonte Thomas playing safety or corner?
“Playing both corner and nickel for us. There’s another young guy that should be at his prom. One thing about Ross Douglas and Dymonte and Taco, the three that we have on defense -- they come in every day with a smile on their face and ready to go. Sometimes you worry about guys getting homesick and the thing getting so big for them. It hasn’t been that way at all for them. They just want to learn and they want to become as good as they can be.”