No witty repartee with Heiko this time?? I find myself disappointed. Otherwise good questions.
...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
"How we doin'?"
Great. Are you game ready yet?
"Getting there, yeah. We're getting there. Now that we've kind of shaved it down to the guys that we think are going to participate in a game, that's always kind of when you start making a little bit more progress. You're not working with your third team guys all the time. You're working with the guys that are actually going to play in the game. You can start getting a little chemistry, and it starts going better."
You have six running backs on the depth chart. How many do you think will actually get carries?
"Who knows? I don't know. Fitz [Toussaint] is going to be our starting running back, and we're going to play it by ear. I don't have an answer to that question because Fitz is going to be the running back and we'll just see how things go."
Have you ever listed six guys at running back before?
"I think so. At one point I did. It may not have been at running back. Yeah, I'm sure I have, yeah. At some place I've been. That's a lot, though. I will say that."
What are you seeing about Fitz that convinces you that he's "back"?
"Well because he just looks like the old Fitz. Fitz is a hard worker and he goes hard every single down and he's got great feel for our system and our run game in particular. A little bit of everything. [Blitz] pick-up in our passing game. He looks comfortable. He doesn't look like he's really missed a beat to me. Now we're not going to hit him too much. We hit him some. But I think this will be a good test for him this game. Get him a few carries, get him knocked around a bit. Make sure he feels good about his knee or his injury, and I think that will tell you more than anything. But just from watching him practice and watching him scrimmage, I mean he looks like the old Fitz."
At what point did Graham Glasgow start standing out at guard?
"It goes back to the same thing I've been saying since I got here. You want to play the best five offensive linemen and somehow some way fit them into the right positions. A year ago we thought for a long time that Ricky Barnum was going to be our center. But as we got closer to the game and started playing the guys that were really going to play, it became increasingly evident that Mealer was a better center and Ricky was better suited to guard. That kind of worked out here. Jack has come to the forefront, and Graham, who's a good player and has proven he's one of the top five at this point, you have to make sure he plays somewhere, too, so we moved him to guard and that's kind of how it all shook out. Just trying to get the best five guys on the field. That's the key."
MGoQuestion: You've said before that targeting was an issue for the offensive line. By that do you mean targeting linebackers?
"Targeting anybody. When we talk about targeting, we talk about who to block, okay? Having a play call whether it's a run or pass and everybody knowing who their target is. If you target a running play, is it the defensive end? Making you sure you know that's what it is and what technique it takes to block the defensive end. If it's a pass protection situation, which way is the turn going, where's the running back look first? When we talk about targeting, we're just simply talking about who's your assignment on that play."
MGoFollowup: That first level of targeting seems pretty straightforward. What about getting to the second level?
"Well I'm not sure how to answer that question, but what you initially do is you try to tell them who to block and then knowing that there's always some adjustment on the run, where maybe a guy you're blocking could be eaten up by somebody else in turn forcing you to block his guy. Again, that takes some experience, some understanding and all that stuff. When you have guys that have done all that before it helps."
How have your receivers adjusted to Amara's absence?
"They've done a pretty good job. But most of them, guys like Jeremy Jackson, who's kind of been a jack-of-all-trades since he's been here, has had an outstanding camp. He's kind of taken over. He's done a really nice job of supplementing that with Jehu Chesson. Jehu played X the whole spring, and then we moved him to Z. There's been some adjustment there, but he's worked out very nicely. Between the two of them, you've got capable replacements."
Does quarterback depth impact Gardner's number of runs in a game?
"Oh it can, yeah."
Any discussions with him about getting out of bounds, not taking hits?
"You know, you don't ever want to take any unnecessary hits. I don't care if you have a really good or really seasoned backup for a quarterback. You have to understand it's a delicate balance from a playcaller's standpoint. You want to make sure you explore the skillset of the man under center. If you don't, you're probably not doing a very good job of coaching, but by the same token, that heightens the probability of him getting hit more, which in turn heightens the probability of an injury. Where does one stop and the other one start? Well like I told you before, we're not going to run him 25 times a game. Those days are over. But to say all he's ever going to do is throw the ball and hand it off, we're not going to do that either. So we can't play scared. We can't go out there and say we're not going to do this. You can't coach football that way, and you certainly can't play football that way. But there's times when you have to use good judgement and understand that you can avoid taking the big hits sometimes by getting out of bounds, by getting down. As a playcaller, there may be a time to call off the jam, if you will, with regard to having the quarterback runs. So that's kind of a roundabout answer, but that's really the essence of the issue."
You've had eight months to come up with new plays for Devin and new schemes. Is it exciting to test out all the new stuff in a game?
"Oh yeah. Yeah. And to find out also, not just so much as schemes, find out how guys react under pressure, you know? How do we take what we practiced into the game? I tell the players, sometimes the issues that come up on Main Street don't come up on State Street. That simply is because there is more to it. People are watching. Everybody's watching on television. There's pressure. There's officials there now. There's so many other things. Sometimes we have what we call game spasms, which is when you get to a game and all of a sudden someone's doing something they've never done before. And that happens more with guys that don't have much experience. They usually go away. I mean, after you've done that a while, you don't have much of that. But guys that haven't played a lot, it can happen to more often."
Any true freshmen you think will get some snaps for sure on Saturday?
"Uh, no. We'll see. I'm not going to say no freshman are going to be in there. There'll be some freshmen in there, but if I say it, you'll probably hold me to it, and I'm non-commital."
Not even Jake Butt?
MGoQuestion: How is Dennis Norfleet looking in the slot?
"Good. He's got a lot of skills. He's quick, and he gets in and out of cuts fast. He's still learning the position, you know. So there's some growing pains with that. He certainly fits the physical qualifications of the position, even though he's not a big guy. He makes out for it a lot with his mobility, quickness, and he's got good hands, too. He can catch the ball pretty good, too."
How have your backs looked?
"Good. Really good. Now some of the younger guys are still kind of learning it, but Fred's done a nice job of training several kids that can handle that. You get in pure pass and you see a variation of blitzes, twists, or movements. We have several kids that can do the job there that Vince Smith did a lot of last year and several of our other guys."
How difficult is the pass protection?
"That's the hardest thing. That's it. If you had to pinpoint one issue with a young back, it's trying to figure out all the pickup and the protections, whether it's six-man protection or whether there's play-action or whatever. Him just figuring out who to target. That's not always easy to do. Now, some guys get it faster than others. Most of the pro teams will tell you that. The young backs, you have to be very careful because you get your quarterback killed."
No witty repartee with Heiko this time?? I find myself disappointed. Otherwise good questions.
No time for pets this week. Al's got his game face on.
Did Borges really just say that what happened on the interior OL last year regarding last minute position battles is what happened this year? Guh.
I'm afriad we may see a return of Poor Damn Toussaint. 3 of the 5 spots are Locked Down(TM) but LG and C seem a bit shaky. LG makes me especially concerned
He was a special talent at running the ball, but obviously at times a liability as a qb (as covered so perfectly by The Story 2012) when it came to decision making. Opposing teams had to stop him running first, and the rb's second. The issue of him pulling the ball down and running on a pass play, was such a non-issue (as covered so perfectly by The Story 2012) opponents only had to worry about the run, or the pass. Added dimension now is we have a qb that will pull the ball down and run. They were 2D, now they're 3D...
Lol...you guys and your concerns. Fer fok sake, can't y'all just enjoy the process? Why does everything have to evoke concern/worry? Fitz found himself in a "perfect storm" as another poster pointed out. Denard's terrifying running ability, coupled with his less than terrifying passing ability, and a relatively weak OL made for uber-tough sledding. Team 134's OL is at likely significantly more talented, but less experienced. Add to that the respect that Gardner's arm garners, and I think all your concerns will be allayed, and then you can sleep soundly my fellow Michigan Man.
I think the worries will come after the first game. If we fail to literally punish CMU then we can worry. I am looking forward to watching Fitz run for 120+ and Big Smooth tossing several TDs for about 350. I think we are definitely better at the interior this year than we were last year.
Yup, sucks to be CMU, but I'd like to see this team come out rolling and make a statement right from the get go.
Borges isn't going to say, "Hell, last year was an unmitigated disaster on the OL". He's never going to say "Omameh couldn't pull for crap." In Coach-speak, Mealer was a fine starter.
The nugget of truth in there is that last-minute position battles, in themselves, aren't problematic. The issue is the quality of the players competing. I think this year we are at least marginally better in 3 positions, and potentially in all 5. I also think that the play-calling might play to the OL's strengths as straight-ahead MANBALL blocking might benefit younger players and pulls will be executed by Kalis, who appears better at it.
OL will struggle, particularly early, but I'd be disappointed if there wasn't significant improvement by the end of the year.
There's nothing wrong with the same thing happening as last year, it doesn't mean the players are the same. Lets give them a few games before we write them off.
Or even one game for chrissake.
The way I am choosing to look at it is this:
Last year we had a last minute position switch because the guy they wanted to play center just couldn't do it. He couldn't snap the ball and so they had to make a switch.
This year the switch is coming because the guys fighting it out for center were both just so good they couldn't keep the loser of the battle off the field. One guy simply won the job and beat out a another quality option.
I actually find this more encouraging than one of them simply winning the job and the other being relegated to backup because it shows that there was real quality fighting it out there and the loser of the battle was so good they had to make room for him elsewhere, which also tells you that he is playing even better than the option they were looking at for left guard.
All in all I find this to be goos news IMHE. Last years switches had everything to do with depth and nothing to do with talent. They had to keep Barnum and Mealer on the line somewhere because they had no one to put on in their stead. This year there are actually options behind these guys and the starters are beating people out for their positions.
I actually think that we are going to be pleasently surprised with the lines peformance this year. I think by the halfway point they will be a pretty big force.
If I recall correctly, he had a knee injury in 2010 that kept him out of a few games.
...but he kind of corrects himself in the very next sentence.
his latest injury was his leg/ankle but Fitz has had numerous injuries, one of which I am pretty sure was an ACL tear a few years ago. I remember him coming back and running with a brace for sometime after the injury. I guess what I am saying is that his knee might still be an ongoing concern.
I mean, come on... The second half against Ohio last year, for example
I know Borges was non-commital about true freshman. But could you ask how the true freshman WRs are looking? Anyone standing out?
On defense, I'd be interested to know more about that "other" safety (non-Gordon) spot.
DaMario Jones looks like the freshman receiver most likely to get playing time this season.
The other non-Gordon spot seems to be improved from his bowl game performance.
Other than that I got nothin'.
I know people talk about getting out to the second level when blocking, but does it make sense when applied to targeting? If your assignment on the play is to take out the Mike, that's that, right? So I wouldn't have thought there were two levels of targeting.
I only played football through high school, but as a guard you never had an assignment that was just take out the mike. You have an initial assignment which is determined by how the defense lines up and the play you are running. Then if you are able to get leave your first guy because you're on the backside or combo blocking, then you can try to get out to the second level and locate a linebacker. I think offensive line play is a lot more complicated than most people understand.
Thanks. I assume there are principles governing who leaves a combo block, etc. Can you shed any light on them?
I liked the MGoEditorialMandateNorfleetQuestion.
Guh, double post removal. Enjoy a Power Rangers Moment instead.
Perhaps an irrelevant fact for some, but for others of us an important one. According to the official roster, Jack Miller is a poly sci major. Graham Glasgow was a high school National Honor Society member. Yes, these guys are 6'4" and 6'6" respectively and weigh in at about 300 lbs apiece. But both appear to be actual students as well. That should mean, and probably does mean, that both absorb information quickly and are highly coachable. That neither was deemed ready to start last year is no mark against either of them. Kalis wasn't ready either. As someone already pointed out on here, playing in the O-line is a lot more complicated than it looks to the casual fan.
Gorgeous Al needed both Miller and G Glasgow on the starting O-line, so he made one a center and one a guard. To me anyway, that does not bespeak any weakness in talent. It means the coaches recognized talent and found ways to get the most talented players into starting positions. And now capable back-ups are behind all the starters. When did that last occur?
I admit my spectacles are Maize and Blue. But I think this year's O-line will be pretty good.
Some say that after QB, the O line is the 2nd hardest position(s) to get down.
I think the O line play will better than last year as well. However, they will need to get any wrinkles worked out against CMU because week 2 it's on vs. ND.