“Well obviously I’m disappointed. We’re disappointed as a defense. I don’t believe we played at the same progress or the same way that we have been playing as far as moving forward. And we’ve got some things we’ve got to get corrected and still work towards becoming a very good defense. There were times in that game where we did play, but as a whole, we needed to play better to win that football game.”
Do you feel like you took a step back?
“No I don’t think we took a step back. I think that was the first game where our lack of communication hurt us, and it always will. It wasn’t because of the noise. It wasn’t because of it being loud or anything like that. In a game where you’re playing against a high tempo team, you have to make sure everybody gets set. That’s everybody’s job out there. It won’t hurt you until it does, and it did. When you go at fast tempo, that’s one of the things they try to get done, and if you’re not a tremendous defense, then you all have to be exactly on the same page all the time, every player. If one guy isn’t or two guys aren’t, and they’re not hearing it or they’re not completely set on the check, then you’re going to find little cracks, and those cracks become big. That’s what disappointed me.”
Is that what happened on the first half drive?
“Well it happened throughout the game. I can’t pinpoint did it happen here or did it happen there. We’ve gone a period of about four weeks where we’ve been very pleased with not many missed assignments. When there aren’t missed assignments, it’s not necessarily just that guy not making it, it’s somebody making sure he doesn’t miss an assignment. Everybody’s job is to communicate. Everybody’s job is to take care of them -- if I’m a defensive linemen, I’m going to take care of the defensive lineman next to me. We didn’t do that. That disappointed me.”
Are the missed assignments things that are quickly correctible?
“No. They definitely will be quickly corrected. There’s no question. I mean, that was addressed right away. And I know the guys, when they saw it, they felt the same way. It’s sometimes -- if you don’t feel the urgency, I guess a good example, if you’re out there and you’re golfing with a buddy and he’s a really good golfer, and you say hey, that’s going to break that way, you’re going to save him. But if you think he’s a really good golfer and you’re not going to say anything to him, you don’t say anything to him and he makes a mistake. It’s our job to be ahead of the game. Everybody assume that you didn’t hear it. Everybody assume that you’re not sure what to do. I’ve said this forever, that great defenses, they sound like a boardroom of a great company when you’re out there. Check right, watch out for this, make sure you’re wide enough, that’s what great defenses, that’s when you really feel it. In a walkthrough on Saturday, we were that way. We were that way and up to this point we’ve been that way almost every time we’ve done things. For some reason it didn’t happen and we’ve got to get that back.”
Could you not hear that on the sideline?
“No. Yeah, you couldn’t. You don’t hear it on the sideline. You can’t hear that. You can kind of see it and then when you watch the film, and a guy that has never made a missed assignment has a missed assignment, then that’s something that somebody’s not talking to him trying to help him so that doesn’t happen. It’s a whole bunch of little things that we consider missed assignments when you don’t do it. That has to be an urgency. That has to be a real urgency.”
What was the number of missed assignments?
“I don’t know. Not many. I don’t know a number, but it’s been not very many.”
You’re facing another fast tempo team in a couple weeks in Northwestern. Is the tempo something that you can adequately prepare for?
“Yes. You definitely can prepare for it, you just have to make it a priority in your preparation for a team that has tempo. And in a lot of ways, that’s the first tempo we’ve had in quite a while. And maybe a real strong message has come out that, ‘Okay now, let’s make sure that this doesn’t happen again,’ where you don’t allow something that somebody’s doing to keep you from playing your best.”
Is Quinton Washington’s strength a defining trait?
“He’s very strong. Physically strong football player. But the fact that he’s working so hard and trying to become -- and he’s conscientious about trying to do the right things and become a better technician, that’s a strong trait also.”
Have you seen that change since you’ve come here?
“I don’t know -- I’ve seen a change, and I don’t know if that’s me coming here, but it’s our program. Our program instills that. Our program with Brady, the way we run things, what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable, and if you’re going to be a defensive lineman at the University of Michigan, this is the bar and this is what’s supposed to be done. And he’s bought into that. He’s working everyday to get better at it.”
Can you talk about your redshirt linemen and how they’re buying in?
“Yeah. I won’t name names, but that’s a very talented group of freshmen. Very talented. There’s a lot of them that could play right now. It’s a fine line, and as a head coach that’s one of the things where you say, ‘Okay, he may be ready, he may not be ready …’ You have to say to yourself, ‘If we can play good football with [the current starters], now you have [the freshmen] longer and they’re going to be more mature.’ But I think all of them, again it’s because of the way we practice. Those guys are going against our best players and expecting to go at the same level as one of our [starting] defensive linemen or our linebackers. It isn’t, ‘Oh, that’s a young kid.’ No. That’s not acceptable. If he doesn’t do it right, he’s coached on it.”
Any pass rushers in the bunch?
“I hope! Haha. I hope … Yeah. There are.”
What has Chris Wormley shown you?
“He’s very talented football player. He’s very strong. He’s conscientious. They’re all that way though. And I’m not saying to slight it. That whole group of guys kind of put a smile on your face when you think, ‘Okay, they’re going to get stronger, they’re going to get more experienced, they’re going to be older.’ There’s some kids I think have a pretty good thing going for them.”
Brady said yesterday ‘If they don’t score, they can’t win.’ Can you talk about that mindset?
“No question. No question. That’s not a cliché. That’s not being a defensive coach. I truly believe that. I believe that that defense, that Michigan defense oculd have, if played up to their ability, kept them from scoring. There are some games you know -- you go in there and you go, ‘Oh boy, this is going to be a tough team to keep from scoring.’ And I’m not taking anything away from Nebraska. They did a very very good job. They were really well prepared, and it’s a good football team. But I believed in when you watch the tape that if we played at a higher standard, if we played at a Michigan level, who knows what would have happened. That’s the way I believe. It isn’t because, hey, you’re not supposed to -- it’s because I think we could have measured up to that, and that was disappointing.”
What’s the distinction between a wide receiver running a route and setting a pick?
“Next question. Next question.”
Minnesota’s quarterback? Does he look like a freshman?
“Uh, no. He’s a very talented football player. Gray’s still there, and he’s a big athletic guy that runs the football and can throw it all that, so you think when this guy comes in here, he’s just a thrower. But he’s not. He’ll take off and run as much as anybody. I think they really like him and I can see why. He’s a spark. He’s a real spark to their offense and looks to me like he’s a tough kid and a good football player.”
This is a team that you shut out last year. How have they grown as an offense this year?
“Well, they’re another year together. Last year if you remember, the game started and Gray didn’t play, and it was a gametime decision, so all of a sudden you had another quarterback in there. Now they have a quarterback they’re set on, it’s his third game, it’s his second year in their program, [Jerry Kill] is a tremendous football coach, he’s done a nice job, they’re very sound, they don’t have tendencies ... We have to play. We have to come out and play a lot better than we did on defense.”
For the first time in a long time, the top tacklers at Michigan are linebackers. What have you seen in their development?
“I think they’ve improved. The only thing, and don’t take this wrong, but I don’t always look at tackles. I look at tackles where they happen. Sometimes when a guy’s supposed to make a tackle for one yard or at the line of scrimmage and he’s making a tackle for nine, he still has a tackle. We expect our linebackers to lead in tackling. They’ve improved. They’ve worked very hard. We still -- all of our defense has a long way to go and a short time to do it at every position. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”