"Wait, I just looked at Mattison. He had about three or four of these [tape recorders] here. Can somebody explain that to me? I get up here and [omg there are so many.]"
You talk softly. Honestly.
"I don't understand."
"Speak up!? I've never had anybody tell me that was a problem."
What did you like from the first game?
"Well, we had some very nice plays. We ran some plays that were executed very very well. We had a reverse that was done pretty well. We had a couple play-action passes that were nicely done. We had some outside zone plays that got the corner nice, and we [were able to make] one-cut and run. I think those things were good. The biggest issues were interceptions. That's got to go away, because that's going to come back and haunt you, and then we had some penalties. Most of them were from first time players. Not all of them, but some of them were first-time players. We had a false start. We had a premature snap one time. So, you know, I hope that's first game stuff. It'll go away as we play more."
How does Drake Johnson's injury change the running back position?
"Well it's just one less guy. He was the first guy up after Fitz [Toussaint]. He was playing well and he was really learning our offense from the perspective of protection. He was a guy that was able to do some of the things Fitz could do, [Thomas] Rawls could do, guys that have been in our system for a while. So that hurts. That hurts. He's a good player who's going to become a better player as he plays more. Hurts our depth and we lose a guy that's not only a good offensive player but a good special teams player, too."
Was the running game good enough for you?
"It's never good enough. I'm never -- but it's a good start. It's a good place to start. We had some nice runs. We sprung our backs a few times. That's always good. With all due respect to Central -- I thought they played really hard and they're a well coached team -- this will be more of a challenge this week for obvious reasons. We'll see if we can meet that challenge, but I mean it was a good start I guess."
How do you coach Devin's improvisational skills?
"He's a little bit like Denard. You don't want to use bad judgment but still want to allow him to use his athleticism, because it certainly -- as you could see early in the game particularly -- buys you time. He's a third play guy. You guys have heard me talk about the third play, right? He's a third play guy. The third pass play when there's breakdowns, he can make something happen. Earlier in the game, [he scrambled] more than [making] the third play, but as the game went on, it became more of a third game proposition, so he was throwing the balls and scrambling less. But the answer to that question is you can't keep him from doing what he does. Nor would you want to. You just have to make sure you're always using good judgment. Every play is different. Sometimes he gets out of a mess, and you have to tell him what he should have done or shouldn't have done. It applies to the other players as it does to him. You have to have some structure within your improv. We talk a lot about how we're going to adjust once the pocket's broken. You have certain rules that we use. On the one where he hit Drew Dileo early in the game, the scramble rules were close to perfect. Everybody did pretty much what they were supposed to do when the quarterback scrambles to his right."
"Yeah he just got fooled a little bit. After the fact, he would have liked to have pulled it back, but he got fooled a little bit. It's a credit to the other team, too. The other one he got hit on. He wanted to throw the ball because we didn't really win the double move, and I think he was trying to throw the ball behind [Jeremy Gallon], but he got hit and the ball floated. That's a tough one."
Derrick Green had 11 carries. What did you see from him?
"Oh he's a pounding type back. He's a good, strong kid that I'm sure they feel him when they tackle him. It was a great opportunity to get him the ball to run some, because it was the first game of the season, you never know what's going to happen. We got him some carries, and he got a feel for college football. Freddy [Jackson]'s on him now to fix some of the things he did wrong, but I thought for the first time he did a good job."
What did he do to elevate himself on the depth chart?
"He carried the ball, didn't fumble it, number one. That's huge. You don't want to assume that. Didn't fumble it. Didn't make a lot of bad running decisions. Ran the ball pretty much where we wanted him to. So he grew a little bit. I don't know if that means anything, but he grew a little bit with those carries."
Has he lost weight?
"I don't know. Fred [Jackson] monitors that. I don't know what it is right now."
Would you like one guy to establish himself as a goal line running back?
"Well, it's different from game to game. We'll feature different backs in different situations based on what we think they do best. It could change week to week. Like I've always said, I like the feature back. The guy that's going to carry the ball more than the rest of the guys. They're interchangeable in certain situations, because one guy may do something, whether it be blocking or running, better than other guys."
Shane Morris took extended snaps. How did you feel about his game?
"He did a pretty good job. His biggest issues are fundamental flaws, whether it be taking false steps under center in the run game, following through on fakes, things that freshmen -- they're in there and they're so fired up to be in there they forget a lot of what they've been coached to do. He had one ball that floated on him that got tipped and intercepted, which probably wasn't a very good decision, but he made a couple very nice plays. He had a couple pitch and catch throws where he hit the guy in stride. He looked like the guy we recruited."
He handled himself well?
"He was loving life. He came out and looked around. He told me in warmups, he goes, 'Coach, this is COOL!" I said, 'Yeah, this is big boy football.' And it's going to get bigger this week."
You talked about game spasms. Did you feel like you avoided that?
"Uh, not totally. But yeah, for the first game it wasn't terrible. But we had a few game spasms still. A few guys did some things where you wonder why. To a degree, that's a little bit expected. It is a first game and you have a lot of new guys playing. Our goal is to eliminate that. I mean, get that where, if you get beat doing what you're supposed to do using your technique, sometimes as a coach it's hard to complain about that. If it happens too much you simply replace the player. It's good to have a game where you are afforded the luxury of a couple game spasms, because as it gets more into the grind here, you're not going to be afforded that luxury."
How did Jack Miller do in his first start?
"Jack did good. He got us on the same page most of the time. He had a couple errors, but he was pretty solid. Again, he's a guy who's learning too. Hasn't played much, and he's got to kind of -- it's a process for him. Center's not an easy position to play. It's going to get tougher this week, because they've got a big nose guard that can cause problems in there."
What stands out about Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt?
"Well, they're as good as anybody we'll play, we think. Across the board. They've got a stout nose guard, two athletic defensive ends. Their linebacking, they don't have Te'O anymore, but they have pretty active kids. Solid cover guys in the back end. They know their system pretty well because they've been playing in it for a while. They'll be formidable."
Are there things that they did to you last year that you can learn from? Or is it not applicable?
"Oh I think so. I think you still can. We're so different now, I think that's what you're getting at. There's still a little carry-over here and there that you can steal from a season ago. Denard took a lot of physical and figurative hits in that game. A lot of those balls he got intercepted, he was hit on. They weren't all just easy pitch and catch, uncontested throws. Which tells us we need to take care of our quarterback so he can see the throws. That's part of our planning, too."
MGoQuestion: As far as blocking goes, how did Jehu Chesson do?
"Our receivers in general, not just Jehu, but everybody got after guys. They always have. Jeff [Hecklinski] coaches those guys to be aggressive. They're going to run down there and they're going to mix it up. We don't have receivers that are going to run down the field five steps and [not block] so we'd be playing basically with 10 guys. They won't be in the game. We're going to mix it up every game, and I thought all our guys, including Jehu, were willing participants for doing just that."
Are there guys that will play Tuitt and Nix on the scout team?
"We're kind of establishing that right now, but yes. There will be."
Is there some pride that comes with playing those guys?
"Oh yeah. Yes, there is. You bet there is. And we tell them, 'You have to do this this way because this is what we're going to deal with,' and last week the scout team did a very nice job of simulating what we're going to see. I don't have any doubt they're going to do the same this week."
Who decides on that?
"We all kind of decide it together. What you don't want to do is you don't want the scouts playing positions they don't play, so then they don't grow. So you'd like a nose guard playing nose guard so that he can go in the position, even though he's not playing with the travel squad. We all kind of decide."
Do you know who's going to simulate Nix?
"Oh I think so, but we'll determine that. Yeah I think so. We'll find somebody. Yeah. As a matter of fact I have somebody in mind as we speak. Not going to say who, but yeah. I think there's somebody who can." [MGo: Five bucks says it's Maurice Hurst, Jr.]
Two guys or one guy?
"Hehehe. Boy, sometime's ... he is a load. He's not easy to move."
Brady says he holds his breath every time Devin improvises. Do you?
"Oh yeah. It's like watching a guy shoot a three-point shot sometimes. It looks ill-advised, like 'No! No! ... Oh, good shot.' There's some of that, too. But I know one thing about Devin. If he uses good judgment, which he usually does scrambling -- we had a couple interceptions, but neither were on improv plays. If he uses good judgment, he's a problem for the defense. There's some stuff you simply don't draw up on the board that you can account for. You have to cover him and the receivers. That's not easy to do."
As far as the offensive line goes, will the competition continue?
"Oh yeah. That's not over. That's ongoing. That is ongoing. Our depth charts are in pencil. That's an ongoing competition that week to week could change in a minute. Right now we are what we are and we'll see how things go as the week progresses."
Does Devin sell a play action pass as well as you can?
"Yeah. He's good at it. He's a long-armed guy, which truly helps. I've had different quarterbacks, but the long-armed guys that could extended the ball that could make the defense believe there's a connection with the back really [fools] the defense. Denard wasn't a bad play-passers, but his profile didn't cater to those long and convincing fakes. But Devin, he's good at it. I've had a couple guys just like him."
Even in the NFL, it seems like some guys are just going through the motions.
"Well you have to understand, faking's different. Certain fakes don't require animated movements. Certain fakes require -- we call them 'poke' [?] fakes or 'token' fakes, where you're just trying to freeze the defense for a second and beat them with timing. Where other throws, you're really trying to sell the hell out of it, make them believe they're coming up so you can get hard bites and take the ball behind them. Just because you don't see a great fake, that could be by design. Sometimes it's by design. Sometimes it's by -- they're all by design with us, but they're not all animated fakes."
How hopeful are you be about Joe Reynolds playing this Saturday?
"I think Joe's going to be fine."
Can you talk about his impact?
"Yeah, he's a self-made receiver. He really is. He's got some ability, don't get me wrong, but he's basically busted his tail to put himself in the position he's in. I'm not sure two years ago I would have guessed he would be in this position, but because of his work ethic and his toughness, he's just sticking with it. He made himself a very very valuable entity."
You've coached around this country. Is Michigan-Notre Dame a regional rivalry?
"No. No. A regional rivalry? I was pretty aware of Michigan-Notre Dame when I was in California. I guess it's a 'regional' rivalry, but it goes beyond that."