News bullets and other important things:
- Weekly tailback musical chairs update: Fitz and Smith. No mention of anyone else.
- Cam Gordon still not 100%.
- Barnum is questionable for Minnesota at the moment.
- Woolfolk was up and running last night.
- Two of Denard's bad throws were the result of bad routes.
- Justice Hayes didn't dress because he had a "bump."
- Hagerup has to compete to get his position back. (I have a feeling this is nominal, but we'll see.)
Press Conference (filmed)
Opening remarks: “Again, as always, thank you for coming out. This is really loud.
“Ahem. It’s good to win football games. It’s bad to lose games, so it was good to win. I thought from a perspective as a team, I thought we played as well as we have to this point for the first quarter and maybe three quarters. Then I think we struggled a little bit for one reason or another from an offensive standpoint. You can’t turn the ball over four times. That does nothing for you as a team, and I thought defensively they hung in there and they played hard. I thought our front played probably their best football to this point of the year.
“It’s got to get much better as we get into Big Ten play offensively. Three-and-outs and turnovers in the third quarter -- time of possession affects your football team in a lot of ways … momentum and all those things. So we have to do a much better job executing and being more consistent blocking at the line of scrimmage. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
“In the kicking game, I thought Matt Wile did a nice job punting the football, and I thought his kickoffs -- he really placed the ball well. He had one kickoff that was in the middle of the field, but everything else I thought he did a tremendous job. And that was a good sign of a guy that’s maturing as a freshman.”
Is Will Hagerup’s suspension over, and does he have to compete to get his position back? “They’ll compete. We’re going to compete in everything we do. I think that’s an important part of your development as a program. I think that’s how you improve as a program. They’ll compete during the week.”
Cam Gordon dressed but did not play -- at this point is it his conditioning or is the injury still affecting him? “I think he’s just not 100% yet. I think he’s just not where he needs to be yet.”
13 for 13 in the Red Zone. What makes you so successful there? “I don’t know if there’s a magical answer. I mean, I think part of it is always you have some pretty good luck. Things are going well. I think we’re blocking it decently. I think the different options that Al presents to some degree within the offense makes [us] a little bit tougher to defend.”
Denard’s incompletions. You said it wasn’t all Denard. When you look at the film did you see problems with other things, too? “It’s definitely not all him. I mean, route running -- we blew two routes. We didn’t convert on another route. That’s part of it. He’s got a lot of pride, and he’s going to also help himself with some of the technical and technique -- fundamental parts of being a little more patient with his feet and doing a good job with that.”
What led to strong start against SDSU, and how do you replicate that? “It’d be great to replicate it every week. I think we had a great week of practice. I think our preparation was good. From a defensive standpoint, they really did a nice job of preparation. I thought Greg did a nice job with the plan, and Al did too.”
(more after the jump)
How’s Troy Woolfolk’s ankle? “He ran last night. Did everything we normally do.” Should you maybe not play him too much if he’s not 100%? “I don’t think so. I haven’t see that yet from a coach’s perspective. I think he’s being physical, which is one of the first things when guys are a little beat up that you worry about. But I think he’s being physical. I think he’s doing a nice job of breaking on balls. Fundamentally and with his techniques he’s been pretty good, so I don’t think so.”
Talk about the speed option play? “We’ve worked on that since spring. We’ve run that against each other and it was really [effective] because if they’re going to play a lot of man coverage, which we thought they would, [it] is a way to really back people off from man coverage. Because if you’ve got your pitch man and whoever’s going to take the quarterback -- when you play man and you’re going to blitz, you’ve got to be right.”
What’s your assessment of the Big Ten, and what do you think are your chances of competing? “I haven’t seen a lot, to be honest with you. We pretty much put the blinders on with what we have to do. That’s the truth. It’s a great league. It’s a competitive league, and it has been. This is an important game because it is a league game, and our expectations as a program -- that Brown Jug is pretty important to us. We’d like to keep it here in Ann Arbor. ”
Are you going to do or say anything special to the team about the Brown Jug, being that it is your first trophy game? “We have. We did last night. Again, it’s one of those important traditions when you’re involved with the University of Michigan football team. We talked about the history. We talked about it’s the oldest trophy when you look at trophy games and the history of college football. It was the first. It means an awful lot, and we want to keep it in Ann Arbor.”
How strange is it to play five straight home games? “I don’t know if it’s helped -- it’s always good to play in this stadium with the passionate fans that we have. I don’t know if it’s that much different, and that doesn’t sound quite right, but being home has been great. Has it helped us as a team? Maybe, youth-wise and all that. We like playing here.”
Do you know Coach Kill and can you comment on his situation? “Jerry and I competed against each other at the MAC level. He and his wife Rebecca are two of the finest people you’ll ever be around. Our prayers for him and his family are there. He’s a great person and a terrific coach.”
Talk about Jeremy Gallon as a punt returner and as a wide receiver? “He’s very consistent. He does it all in practice and all that kind of stuff. He’s real consistent. I think he has a real feel for it, hand-eye coordination and all those things that go along with it. We’re real comfortable with him being back there. We were about a block away from springing him again for a decent return. I think that all will happen. I think that punt return unit really worked their tails off last week and it showed where we were at in terms of setting things up for him.”
How difficult is it to get a read on your team without playing a road game? “I don’t think we’ll find that out until we get there, until we leave Ann Arbor. Then we’ll find out where we’re at.”
Have you ever had a season with five games in a row at home? “No. This is unsual.”
Do you like what you see at the linebacker position? “I think we need to play better there. I think Jake’s improved a lot since spring, but I don’t think we’re playing near as well as we need to at that position. I think Kenny gives you some great leadership and does a pretty good job of playing downhill. I think Hawthorne’s come on. He missed some fall camp because of an ankle, which set him back. Desmond Morgan is a guy who I think has a very bright future. I think we were better a week ago, but I think we’ve got a long way to go at that position.”
Mike Martin said you had a great week of practice last week. How much of it is them understanding how you want them to practice? “I think that’s always a transition you go through: how hard we want to practice, how physical we want to practice, how demanding we are from a fundamental and techniques standpoint. There’s a lot of things that we have demands of them. I think that and their personal pride helps.”
Talk about Ricky Barnum’s status. “We’ll see. Twisted an ankle up and went back in the football game. He’s sore.”
How do you feel about status of backup quarterbacks? “I feel pretty good about Devin. I think we all do. I think Al does too. I think he’s had a very good fall camp, and to this point, he’s conditioned himself and prepared himself to play. That’s what that guy has to do. I think he’s talented and gifted and smart and can do a good job running the offense.”
Roundtable (not filmed)
Is the tailback situation just Fitz and Vincent Smith at this point? “Well those two got the snaps the other day. They both practiced well. Vince played well and Fitz played well.”
Do you run different plays with them? “Not necessarily. There’s some protection things with Vince that we’ve liked for a long time. Fitz has done a really good job in that … he’s a tough guy and he’ll stay in there and take a guy on.”
What do you say to your team about not getting too excited about your record and respecting a Minnesota that’s struggling? “I think your consistency as a coach in how you handle everything weekly. One week’s not different from another. For us, we play for the Big Ten championship. Obviously this is the start of the Big Ten part of the schedule. I don’t think there’s any secrets that we’ve got to play a lot better than we have within the Big Ten. Minnesota got beat by North Dakota State, which is as good a football team as -- you don’t want to schedule them, I can promise you that, because they are well coached and they are tough. They always play well. I don’t know how many national championships they’ve won. And [Minnesota] get beat by SC 19-17 out in the Coliseum. And I do know SC has a lot of athletes.”
What do you have to respect from Minnesota? “I think Marqueis Gray, their quarterback -- and they’re using two quarterbacks. I think he’s averaging right around a hundred [yards] rushing the football. He’s talented. We tried to recruit him out at Ball State. He’s a big guy who’s got very good feet. They’re playing two guys at times in there. They move the ball. I think they’re averaging 179 yards a game [rushing] and almost 170 throwing the ball. It’s something in that range, but they have a lot of talent, and they play very aggressive defense.”
Do you have a scout team quarterback in mind? “Well, we’ll use the guys that have done a good job for us. Jack Kennedy’s done a good job down there. Russell Bellomy came down and did a nice job for us last week.”
You going to use Denard at all to simulate the dual-threat? “We see enough of that from our offense. We’ve got ones on ones all the time.”
How are Gray and Denard different as quarterbacks? “Well Gray’s a big guy. He’s 6’4, probably 6’5. He’s a bigger guy. Probably more physically like Pryor. He’s a bigger guy when you look at him physically. They both have good feet, and they both read the play very well.”
Why didn’t Justice Hayes dress? “He had a bump. But he’ll be okay.”
In what situations do you run traditional option vs. read option? “We don’t have the midline, the true triple. We’re not built for that, nor do we run that. So it’s more of a speed option.”
Is there a different feel to Michigan Stadium now vs. then? “I think it’s definitely a little louder. I think the renovations and that part of it are part of that.”
Were you ever interested in the Minnesota coaching job? “No. Nope.”
Did you have Jon Falk pull out the Jug? “Oh we had the jug there. Oh yeah. It was there.” Players excited about playing for it? “I think. They know it’s an important part of the legacy of Michigan.”
How has Hagerup been punting? “What do you think?” Oh yeah, that is pretty much all we get to see. “So what did you think?” He stretches pretty well … I’m asking you! “Well you’ve seen him.”Yeah, he’s pretty good! Do you feel that he’s had a change in attitude after his four-game suspension. “Well I think we all grow up. We all mature in life and everything else. I think he’s done a nice job of coaching Matt and helping Matt. Those guys all have the little uniqueness to them about where the ball is when they drop it. I try and watch and try and give them a hint now and then, but I think he’s done a nice job.”
If Hagerup reclaims his punting duties, will Wile compete for placekicking? “That’s always open. I mean, that’s open every week. He kicks field goals. He punts. He kicks off.”
Gibbons? “He’s fine. He’s fine.”
How formal were talks with Minnesota about the coaching job? “I’m not going to talk about that. That has nothing to do with anything.”
Are you concerned Devin isn’t getting enough real snaps to prepare him to back up Denard if the situation arose? “I don’t know. The way we go after each other [in practice], he gets used to the speed of the game. We go ones on ones 25 minutes a day. It’s physical. I don’t know. That’s why we do it. To prepare guys.”
Are you frustrated you haven’t played Devin much yet? “No. It would have been great to play a lot of guys. There’s Quinton Washington I would have liked to have been played more as a defensive tackle. It’s not just one position. There’s a lot of guys we’d like to get to that point with, but we haven’t.”
What went wrong with Denard’s INTs? “One was a pretty good breakup by their guy. A nice effort. The other one should have gone to the smash route.”
How did Countess measure up on film? “I thought he did a nice job. I think he’s a talented kid. I think he’ll be a real good player for us. He’s smart. Understands the defense. Has a good feel for it.” Did he show you enough to push Avery or Floyd? “They’re always pushing each other.”
How likely is Barnum to come back for Minnesota? “I don’t know.” What about Schofield’s play? “He’s done that before. Michael’s got experience. He’s a good athlete.”
What players on Minnesota’s defense stick out to you? “I haven’t looked much at their defense yet. I know Royster, I think their safety -- what’s his name?” Kim Royston. “He’s a good football player. He sticks out. Linebacker 51 (Gary Tinsley) sticks out.”
How much does feeding off each other’s emotions come into play in terms of improving every week? “I think that’s part of it -- defensively, offensively, kicking game. This is such a mental game. It’s played from the neck. This part of the year, you’ve done all your heavy lifting, you’ve done all your condition[ing]. It is now time [for] knowing your opponent, knowing the game plan, knowing where your reactions and your eyes and all those things should be. That’s a big part of it.”
Would it be possible for Countess or Avery to play nickel? “Corner’s a little easier than playing nickel because of the adjustments that you have to make and some coverage aspects of it.”
How much does the offense change when you get into the red zone? “We’ve been in jumbo personnel, we’ve been in heavy personnel, we’ve been in 11 personnel, we’ve been in 12 personnel. I would say it changes.”
How is Denard doing in terms of avoiding contact? “You know, as best he can. I think he’s done all right. He’s gotten out of bounds at opportune times. But he’s a competitor. First play of the game, he went after the guy who was going to be locked on him. He’s a competitor.”
Because of the way your offense runs with Denard, do you change the red zone offense more than you have at other places? “No. We’ve been in I-backs down there. We’ve been in three tight ends. We’ve done a lot of different things.”
Denard blocked a safety at one point. Is that something he should avoid? “That would be a wise thing for a coach to tell him, but the guy’s a competitor.”
Have you had to temper the emotions with this 4-0 start, or is this team pretty level-headed about it with senior leaderhip? “I don’t think we’ve been any different than before the season started.” Is that from you or from the seniors? “I think it permeates through the program.”
Four games in, is this job everything you expected? “It’s coaching 115 kids.”
Anything surprise you? “Nothing surprises me. I’ve been doing this a long time!”