- Brandon Minor has been limited in practice, but he's been participating more than he did last week. From my personal e-observations, he was wearing a normal jersey, not a green (limited contact) one.
- Rodriguez didn't mention other injury news, but I did not see Junior Hemingway participate in the one drill I watched the wideouts do. It's highly possible I just missed him.
- There are no set plans for the QB rotation this week, other than Tate starting. They'll try to get Denard and Nick in there as well.
- On Notre Dame, Rodriguez said he thinks Clausen is a good QB - and thought the same last year as well. The Irish will try to beat you deep, and mix in a bunch of play action as well. They have a couple good deep threats and the secondary will need to be ready. Speaking of which, he was asked about the Donovan Warren penalties against Western. He couldn't explicitly say so, but it definitely seemed like he thought one of them was BS. Still, he wants the corners to be aggressive.
- Rodriguez felt turnovers cost the team the game last year (which, duh). If the team loses on Saturday, he wants it to be because Notre Dame was just the better team: "I don't want Michigan beating Michigan."
- Craig Roh's intelligence (he's a 4.0 student) has helped him be ready to compete at this level in just over three weeks. He has a high motor and intensity, and loves football. He came into the program very technically sound because he got good coaching in high school, and learned a lot by going to camps.
- Stevie Brown's move to linebacker has been a success. They moved him because they thought he'd be a good fit at the position, especially when the team plays against spread offenses. It gives the defense flexibility without subbing. There's more of a speed emphasis on defense, and there's been a national trend towards always having a nickel-type package on the field.
- An interesting question was asked about how Tate will respond in a game the first time he makes a big mistake (which he didn't do in the spring game or against Western). Rodriguez said he's not worried, because Tate is hard on himself after every mistake in practice, and tries to understand what he did wrong, and why it was wrong to learn for the future.
- Tate wasn't having his most accurate day throwing the ball, so hopefully that will be worked out by Saturday.
Every time Rich Rodriguez meets with the media, he is inundated with a thousand questions about the quarterback situation. Today was no different. Rodriguez reiterated all three quarterbacks will see some time in the opener, and the schemes may be slightly different for each signal-caller. "We have an idea in mind as far as what plays each guy runs well, which ones they execute well," he said. Denard Robinson and Nick Sheridan are unlikely to have the same portions of the playbook available to them. As far as playing time, there's nothing set in stone yet, but the staff plans to use each QB in meaningful minutes—for the first time in Rodriguez's coaching career.
While performance on the field will play a role, the staff isn't going to be quick to hook an unproductive quarterback. "It's not going to be pulling in and out based on just one play or how well they play on one play," Rodriguez said. "There could be a guy in one play then out, but it wouldn't be a constant thing."
Clearly, Rodriguez doesn't buy into the adage "If you have two quarterbacks, you have none." [Editor's note: adage says nothing about three.]
The team's first chance to play in the Big House comes this Friday. "It's not really a full scrimmage because it's not live... Getting accustomed to the stadium, where they stand on the sidelines and all that, we'll do that Friday afternoon."
- Jason Olesnavage is leading the kicker competition for now, but it won't be settled (along with the rest of the depth chart) until next Thursday.
Brandon Herron and Craig Roh are neck-and-neck to be Stevie Brown's backup at the Spinner-ish position[Editor's note: no, that ain't right. Revised bullet follows.]
- Craig Roh is Brandon Herron's backup at deathbacker.
- Brown's backups are "two true freshmen." Rodriguez didn't specify who but it's easy enough to deduct with Isaiah Bell enduring some sort of injury. The backups, then, are Brandin Hawthorne and Mike Jones.
- Michael Williams and Troy Woolfolk are physical for safeties, despite a slightly smaller stature. Williams, however, needs to remember to wrap up after going for a big hit.
- Michael Shaw has worked to improve his physical play and his ability to contribute in the passing game.
- The team is holding onto the ball better than last year, but they'll need to prove they can continue that in games.
Carr says things here; the captains say things here. Full audio here. There wasn't a lot from the captains that can be used as tea leaves for the position battles ongoing, but Jake Long did drop a couple names on the offensive line:
â€¢ On sophomore offensive lineman Stephen Schilling ... "He's had a great camp so far. He got a lot stronger in the off-season, and he's got quick feet. I think he's really impressed the coaches. He's been pushing guys around and his footwork has gotten better. He's only been here two weeks and he's been able to pick things up right away. He's a smart guy. He's powerful. I'm really impressed with how smart he is. He's picking everything up real well and improving the offense."
On the younger players on the offensive line ... "They've really stepped up. You can really tell that Stephen (Schilling) worked hard in the off-season. You can tell he got a lot stronger; his footwork and technique has gotten a lot better. He has a great work ethic, and you can tell he really wants the job. David (Molk), for being here just over two weeks, he's really picked up the offense. He's a smart guy, and he's so strong and powerful. He's really been impressive in his blocking and picking up everything he needs to."
Molk's push has been made possible by injury to Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Cuilla, who was one of many guys missing a week here or there. He moved over from center. Impression: wary. I liked Molk as a recruit, but he's pretty undersized and is a true freshman. Seeing him on the field against anyone other than Appalachian State would be uncomfortable. Schilling, OTOH, has a death grip on right tackle and looks on his way to a Jake Long-level career.
Carr had a lot more to parse. More on Schilling:
At right tackle, Steve Schilling has had an excellent fall. He's an extremely talented guy, with great size and athletic ability. He's a guy that is smart and that loves to play. He will be a great player here someday.
"Mark Ortmann has done a very good job and has competed well. Perry Dorrestein ... it's just too close to call at this point."
I call BS on the "too close to call" given the nonstop Schillingfest going on -- Carr was responding to a general question about all of the position battles going on and went right to him. He's the man.
We have a kickoff guy: Bryan Wright. We do not have an actual kicker. Frowns. Alarm. Etc. I do like that Wright has a big leg and has locked down the kickoff job. With kicks from the 30, an excellent kickoff guy is worth his weight in gold. And it can't be Brabbs/Neinberg/Finley bad, right? Right?
"The fullback competition is very intense. Mark Moundros has had a very good fall. Vince Helmuth is competing well. I think that will go right down to the wire, as far as the fullback position."
Probably not a huge deal either way.
Middle linebacker is down to two:
At the Mike linebacker position, John Thompson and Obi Ezeh -- those two guys are really in a spirited competition. I think it's safe to say both of them are going to play a very important role.
This answer is more notable for the absence of JUCO transfer Austin Panter than anything else. A redshirt is now a serious possibility. Carr said the competition would extend into the fall.
On the weakside, Jonas Mouton is one of a parade of ankle sprains/twists; Chris Graham has "really improved as a pass defender." Graham retains the starting job going into the fall.
Cornerback, 2007's Position of Dread:
Johnny Sears has had an outstanding fall. He's a guy who when we recruited him ... he really played a significant role a year ago on special teams. He made some great plays on the kickoff. He's a guy that plays without any fear. He's a very tough, hard-nosed player, and I think he's really matured at the corner. He's had a very good fall.
That's the second shout-out from the coaches after English raved about him on WTKA. I and anyone who saw him last year remain skeptical, but Sears is a guy whose potential might take a bit longer to reach given his lack of high school experience. Brandon Harrison also got the "excellent fall"; "Vance was very pleased" with Morgan Trent. I dunno how well this meshes with both Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk seeing the field as freshmen.
Free safety is not necessarily Stevie Brown's job:
Stevie Brown is really a physical player. He's still a young player, has a lot of things to learn. Charles Stewart has made the move in there. I like both those guys; I think they are both going to play. I think they are both guys that are going to make a real contribution in a lot of areas on this team. That position right now is probably up for grabs, so we'll see what happens there.
A classic glass half-empty or -full situation. Is Brown not worthy of the hype? Is Stewart proving himself a useful safety? Dunno.
Johnny Sears has done an excellent job returning punts. We practiced yesterday morning in the stadium in a torrential rain. It was a very valuable practice from the standpoint of learning how you have to play different when the ball is wet. That's particularly true in the return game, as a receiver, as a quarterback and center ... I think we learned some things yesterday. ... Greg Mathews is really a reliable guy in terms of handling the football, and that's what a return guy has to prove.
I like this answer. No offense to Mathews, but when his name is plugged as a potential punt returner images of Diallo Johnson dance in my head. Sears has speed to burn and it appears he's the leader at the moment. Also called out as potential guys here: James Rogers and Donovan Warren. I would still expect a Rogers redshirt.
Kick returners mentioned: Brandon Minor(!) and freshman tailback Avery Horn. Carr mentioned some tailback depth concerns with using Minor, which was my initial thought too.
Right tackle is Schilling's; the line is set assuming a reasonable return for Mitchell. Panter is not the starting middle linebacker; Sears, Harrison, and Trent are all getting unreasonable amounts of praise that could be highly dubious. Stewart and Brown are locked in a battle for the free safety position; someone will return kicks and punts.