How’s the competition going?
“It’s going well. Typical camp stuff, so we’re supposed to keep it in house but everyone’s doing a good job. Everyone’s competing the way they should be. No one’s trying to back off. No one’s trying to give anyone any leeway. It’s just good, healthy competition.”
What’s the second camp [like] under Jim Harbaugh compared to the first one?
“Hmm. That’s a good question. Hold up with this. What he’s been stressing a lot is the toughness of it. The first camp, I think a lot of us were getting acclimated to his coaching style but the second one, now that we’ve been under his belt for a year-- even the young guys, they’re having to get this crash course in Harbaughism. I personally enjoy it. I’ve got no problem with it, but it’s definitely been an increase in I’d say intensity, maybe, is the best way to put it.”
Is it fun to watch the kids go through it the first time?
“Yeah! It’s always fun. Chris Evans is my roommate. I talked to him the first day of camp and I was like, ‘Hey, Chris. Ready for camp?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, dog. I’m so ready.’ I was like, ‘No, you’re not. You think you’re ready but you’re not. Just give it a couple days.’ But he’s doing well.
“I think all the freshmen are taking well, but there’s definitely those first few days where they’re like ‘What did I just get myself into?’ They’re adjusting well now. Everyone’s doing well.”
Is Chris working at running back and receiver or is he mostly at just running back?
“He’s been doing both. I kind of pay attention to him when he’s with us because we’re doing running back stuff. We get off from our play and we kind of huddle and talk about the play that just happened. I haven’t really seen him leave the running back huddle but if he has I’m typically not in the area where he would be there.I wouldn’t be surprised if he has.”
Jim said good things about him.
”Yeah, he’s a good guy.”
Jim said that about him as a player.
“Yeah, he’s athletic. Very athletic.”
You’ve been full go?
“Yeah, I’ve been through all the practices.”
Any discomfort with anything?
Have we talked to you since the forklift incident?
For those of us who weren’t there, talk a little bit about—I mean, how did that happen? Give us the rundown on that.
“You know, I was stretching at the track and there was a [claps] incident. But I’m not supposed to talk about it. Coach said chill on it so I’m gonna chill on it, but it was just an unfortunate incident. It happened. I’m glad I’m on the other side of it.”
[After THE JUMP: A rejected Charizard tattoo; fat man 7-on-7]
Do you feel like the blue twisted steel that Jim Harbaugh called you? Did you see that comment?
“I had heard it. You know, I’m not sure I’m worthy of such praise. Just blessed to be healthy at this point and not anything worse, I think, really.”
He said it would have killed a lesser man. Was that an exaggeration?
“Um…I mean, the doctor did say, ‘You know, you could have died’ and I was like ‘Yeah, probably could have died.’ But I didn’t so maybe it would have killed a lesser man. Like I said, it’d just be incredible luck all the same.”
So you’ve got Kevin Tolbert to thank for that, the abs of steel?
“Yeah. Well, you know, what really happened was going through spring ball I was doing track and football, and that got me in crazy shape because I was going from spring practice to track practice after. Then the next day I’d go run track again and then go back to football. I was in hooooo shape at that point.”
How about the knee? How’s that holding up? Do you feel anything from it?
“Actually, surprisingly not. I’ve been practicing without the brace and it’s actually been going really well. I like that a lot. I was really nervous at first because I went through spring with it and I was like ‘Oh snap, I’m taking this thing off.’ I hadn’t played without a brace in a year and a half. I was like maybe I should keep it on but on the first day I was like I’m just gonna go for it. I really was like, if I screw myself over this is all on me. Then I was like, you know what, all I can do is try, and it’s been fine ever since.”
Jim said good things about the offensive line the other day. Talk about how those guys are starting to jell.
“Yeah, they are really starting to jell. There’s just times where you have a…just moments of brilliance on the offensive line. You’ll have these moments where there will just be gaping truck holes where you can just [makes whooshing sound]. You just go through there untouched, like, not a soul around you. Just the way they’ve been blocking in camp has been incredible. The development there even from the bottom up is—it’s been outstanding.”
Anyone in particular standing out to you on the line?
“I wouldn’t say anyone in particular but just the chemistry that they have as a unit has been incredibly strong.”
On media day I was talking to De’Veon and he said the mentality of everyone is a little bit more amped up than it has in the past. He mentioned the desire to break records and he said guys didn’t come here to be mediocre. Is it really that much different as far as last year and coming into this year? Isn’t it competitive every year, and is it really that much different this year?
“I would say I think every year you have that mentality of ‘I want to be the best.’ Like you said, no one comes here to be second place. No one comes here to be ‘Oh, I just want to be average’ or come here and play just good enough to start. Everyone comes here and they’re like, ‘Yo, I want to be the best to ever walk through these streets. I want to be the best one who ever graced Ann Arbor.’ I think that everyone’s obviously not going to be the person to bless Ann Arbor with the next A-Train, Coach Wheat, Mike Hart, Chris Perry; you’re not going to see those all the time. The point is that everyone’s always working to be that.
“I think the running back crew that we have, there’s incredible potential. I think any one of us has the potential to breakout and have a great season like that, to have one of those 1,000-yard+ seasons. It’s just a matter of we’ve got to put it all together.
“There’s days—I can speak for myself personally where I’ll do one thing right but I won’t do some others right. Then I’ll do that right that day and then the next day I’ll miss another thing. I think when we put things together and we do everything well it’s just amazing what our offense does and the running game that we present.”
Is part of that a byproduct of not only a guy like De’Veon but a guy like yourself—you guys are older now, you have to set the example. Is that part of it too or is part of it a totally different attitude because of the coaching staff?
“I don’t think it’s a different attitude because of the coaching staff, but I think it’s a different demand because of the coaching staff, you know what I mean? We always expected it out of ourselves, but at this point you get that, yo, if you don’t there will be conseq—not consequences but it’s expected of you to do so.
“Maybe before it was like ‘It would be nice if you guys were having those kinds of seasons’ but now it’s ‘Yo, you’re at Michigan. You’re a running back here. Have the cajones to put up one of those 1,000-yard seasons’ so it’s like why not? It’s like if not you then we’re going to get someone to do it, so now it’s like, yo, let’s do it, let’s crack down.”
What do you like about the quarterbacks so far? And no coachspeak here, be honest. How do you think they’re playing?
“I think they’re playing well. I like all of them, personally.”
“That’s coachspeak? Hey, if that’s coachspeak I’m sorry, but…you know, you see each of them has different aspects of them that’s almost like a niche, you know what I mean? Each of them has got this little tweak to them that’s a little bit different than the next one. I just think whoever does end up starting, it’s weird because it’s not like there’s going to be different offenses, the offense is the same, but it’s almost like each quarterback can throw like a little twist in there where you might have this or that or this.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens because the quarterback’s the commander in chief of running the offense, so if you have a different commander in chief it’s gonna be run a different way. Different decisions are going to be made, so it’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out. I like ‘em. I like ‘em. I couldn’t say honestly, ‘Oh, I dislike this one.’ I mean, I like the subtleties that each bring to their game.”
Harbaugh said that they seem to be advancing a little bit faster than the quarterbacks were at this point last year. Have you seen that?
“Um, well, last year it was a quarterback battle…battle…[airquotes] battle. You know, I think last year Jake was just so mentally there it was just a case of like ‘Okay, I know what to do mentally, let me just get the timing down.’ That’s what his problem was; ‘Oh, let me get the timing down and such because I’m a quarterback that’s started at another school and I know how to do this.’
“Where now I think you have people who haven’t necessarily started with the exception of John, so it’s like they have to get into that rhythm, because there’s always a groove that any player has to get into. I think that it’s huge right now for one of them or all of them particularly to find that rhythm.
“I think whoever has the best rhythm in accordance with the rest of the team—because, you know, you can be off on your own beaten path but that’s not going to do you any good—but if you can jell with the rest of the team and the rest of the offense, I think that’s really what will set the difference between who’s going to start and who’s not going to start.”
What are the coordinates on your tattoo there?
“Oh, the center of Ann Arbor.”
You grew up here, right? Spent your whole life here?
“Yeah, born and raised.”
What led to the decision to get that?
“Well, me and my two best friends, we were—I mean, I’ve known them since I was like three. We said we were all going to get a tattoo one day. We said that when we were freshmen in high school. So my mom [inaudible] in high school, she was like, ‘Drake, I swear to god, if you get a tattoo, I’m going to kill you.’ I just waited until she was out of the picture to the point where I was like, ‘Mom, I’m 18. I can do whatever the hell I want,’ you know what I mean?
“I got to be 20 and I was like, ‘Hey, Nelson, Brady, let’s go get this tattoo together.’ I was like it’s about that time, we need to go get this done. They were like, ‘What are we gonna get?’ We had been talking about it and talking about it and talking about it over the years like what are we going to get?
“We thought each of us gets a different shape. When we were kids we all played Pokemon but like I’d get one starter, he’d get the next starter, he’d get the next starter so we were thinking oh, maybe each of us gets a starter but, like, that’s f---ing dumb. We’re 20 years old now. We can’t just be walking around here with Charizards on our arm, so we were like, ‘Let’s not do that.’
“We were like, ‘Okay, if we were to split up and go different places in the world we need some kind of’—no matter what we’re always back at home so we were like, ‘Okay, something Ann Arbor-related.’ So we were thinking about getting trees, and then we were like, ‘Okay, let’s not get trees because there are trees everywhere in the world.’ There’s no specific tree to Ann Arbor, Michigan. We were like, what’s something that’s specific to Ann Arbor? We’re not going to get block Ms because they didn’t go to Michigan.
“Then we got down to the location of Ann Arbor. We were like, ‘Okay, the coordinates of Ann Arbor are the only coordinates that match Ann Arbor in the world.’ We were thinking landmarks, maybe our elementary school, which was Eberwhite, we were thinking about Slauson, we were like those things might come and go by the time we leave this world, so what’s something that will never leave? We were like, the center of Ann Arbor will always be the center of Ann Arbor so we decided to get the center of Ann Arbor.”
How much more emphasis do you guys feel running the ball while breaking in a new quarterback?
“Do I think there’s pressure or emphasis? Not really. No more so than there always is. There’s always an expectation to run the ball well and play well, so I think there isn’t one necessarily. I wouldn’t say that there’s an increase in pressure.”
What is the sensation like of having a however-many-thousand-pound thing take you out?
“What’s the sensation? In all sincerity, it’s like you tweak for a sec. It’s like, ‘Whoa, this is happening right now’ and then you have so much adrenaline going through you you’re like, ‘This sucks. This is going to be bad’ and then it’s over and at first you don’t feel anything because you have so much adrenaline and then it hits and it’s like [snaps fingers] ‘ah’ and that’s what happened. It kind of hit me about three seconds later and I just freaked out.”
This fair [to say]? [points to stomach] This section?
“Mmm, more, but…”
MGoQuestion: Going back to what you said with doing some things right one day, different things another day, what are some of the little things that you’re working on this camp?
“Personally, one thing that I’ve been trying to get really down pat is when I’m pass protecting not putting my head down or jumping at the person or any of that. Another thing is really working on the top of my routes. Coming out when you run certain routes you need to give [pumps arms three times], you know what I mean? Those are two really big things not even just me but everyone has been kind of really working on. I’ve been really trying to focus on it, emphasize it each rep and try to get it down pat because it’s an art, you know what I mean? It’s not something you can just pick up. It’s something you really have to practice so when you’re in those game situations it’s just second nature.”
Tyrone said with De’Veon, it’s his job to lose. Where do you think you are in that pecking order and do you think you’ll win the job?
“Ah, that’s not for me to say.”
But you think you have the ability right now?
“Do I have the ability to start? I think ability-wise, physically, all of us have the ability to start. It’s not that. It’s who makes the least amount of mental errors. It’s like—the offense is complicated. It’s not something easy, so you’ve got to know your stuff, and if you don’t know it then you’re not going to play.
“Physically, it’s a possibility. I’m not going to sit here and say that, like I said, I’m apt to be the starter because I have XYZ credentials and I run so fast and have done so much but, you know, do I think that if I were to start a Big Ten game I could do well? Yeah.”
You’re about halfway through practice now. Do you expect anything different from the second half of fall practice?
“No. I mean, sometimes I guess us players wish it would ramp down a little bit so we could get our legs back, but that’s not really Coach’s style. He’s consistent in the way he runs practice. whether it’s the first day of camp or halfway through the season, and I think that’s what makes us so good.”
Drake said he’s been seeing massive holes you could drive a truck through or something to that effect in the running game. If you could describe how you’ve seen it the last few weeks…
“Um, yeah. I’ve definitely seen that a lot. It just goes back to knowing what we’re supposed to do a lot better, and we’re able to play faster and more physical. But Coach Brown’s defense is hit or miss with whether or not we’re going to get a straight up defense or some crazy exotic blitz. If you hit an exotic blitz at the right time you get big holes, but it’s not always like that. It’s hit or miss.”
What’s it like blocking against those blitzes when they do bring one? What’s that experience like?
“It’s frustrating. Especially if they get you at the right time and the right place, because it doesn’t matter what you have called offensively. Yeah. It’s great for us because we’re going to see everything in one week of camp against our defense that we’ll see in a whole entire season this year. It’s great, but at the moment you don’t really realize that because you just get frustrated. You just wish you could get a straight-up defense and practice your technique.”
Harder to block against is or protect?
“Oh yeah, 100%. Yeah.”
MGoQuestion: Which guys have made the biggest improvement from spring to fall camp on the defensive line, of the guys you’re going against?
“I think Matt Godin’s gotten a lot better. He’s gotten a lot of reps. Taco Charlton has become an explosive pass rusher. He’s very good. Rashan Gary’s stepping in to make big plays. Chris Wormley is just…very hard to block. He’s humongous and very explosive. Ryan Glasgow’s gotten a lot better. Bryan Mone didn’t play last season, but he’s having an incredible camp. I think there’s a core six or seven guys that could easily start, so it’s going to be hard for Coach Mattison to make that decision.”
When you’re able to list players off like that one after another does it almost surprise you how many names come to mind?
“Yeah, it’s really impressive. I’ve never played against a defensive line or been here with a defensive line that has that many big-time players. I wouldn’t tell them that to their face, but I would go out there and say that defensive line is going to be one of the best in the country just off of raw talent there and their ability to make plays and their defensive scheme. It’s great for us offensively to go against the best every day. You don’t see that everywhere.”
How good is Rashan?
“He’s very good.”
In what sense?
“He’s good at football.”
[laughs] You know what I’m asking.
“He’s very impressive how big he is and yet so quick off the ball, so explosive. He’s a big player. He’s 290 pounds or 280+, I don’t know exactly, but he’s one of the fastest defensive linemen we have. He has a very high motor. He plays strong. He’s—I haven’t seen a freshman come in and play like him probably since Jabrill and it’s kind of ironic that they went to the same high school. I don’t know what’s happening in New Jersey, but they’re very good. But yeah, Rashan has a lot of raw talent and even with that still being raw he’s still able to make a lot of plays. Now he’s learning the coaching and plays and everything. It’s getting harder and harder to block him.”
Does he surprise you maturity-wise as well?
“Yeah. He doesn’t play like a freshman. Sometimes freshmen defensive linemen will come in and they dominated all through high school and then they’ll get here and they’re playing against everyone who’s 300 pounds+ and they struggle a little bit, but he steps in [and] he’s just like another one of the guys. He’s very good.”
Speaking of freshmen, obviously it’s hard for a freshman to play and start on the offensive line but a lot of people are talking about Bredeson. Can he do that? Does he have similar maturity to Rashan?
“Yeah. He reminds me a lot of Mason [Cole] when Mason first got here. Like Mason, he had very good coaching in high school obviously because his technique and fundamentals are spot on. He knows football very well. There are some guys that just understand the game better than others and he’s one of those guys It’s been very impressive watching him.
“But all the freshmen on the offensive line actually have been very impressive. It’s very strange to see how good they are.”
“I just don’t know how they learn all this stuff. I feel like if I learned all this stuff in high school I’d be so much better, but I guess recruiting is getting younger and younger so they’re forced to learn. But they’re all very fundamentally sound and their technique is very good.”
How do you juggle being the next starting quarterback and an offensive lineman?
“It’s hard because I’ve gotta take first-string offensive line reps and first-string quarterback reps, but it puts me at an advantage because I know the blocking scheme so well I know where the pressure’s coming from and where to look if someone’s hot coming off the edge. I think it puts me at an advantage. Just, my arm strength and my accuracy’s just…”
How far can you throw? You said you’ve got a great arm.
“I could throw this ball over those mountains over there. I’m just kidding. That was a Napoleon Dynamite line. Probably like…with a running start I’d give myself 65 yards. Flatfooted, 50 or so, but it depends: wind, humidity, air, elevation. A lot of things.”
MGoQuestion: How’s your grasp of the playbook at the quarterback spot?
“Uh, for me?”
MGoQuestion: Yeah, for you. Since you are the next starter.
“Right. It’s easy. Like I said, I know everything from an offensive line perspective so I go back there and I can see what everyone’s going to do. Just gotta get the ball and make a play. Simple as that.”
Someone asked Drake earlier if Jim’s any different this year. He’s got a year under his belt, know you guys better and the staff. Are you seeing anything [different] or is he the same?
“Yeah, he doesn’t bring any energy to the building and he’s not enthusiastic at all. Seems like he doesn’t like being here and doesn’t like—no, I’m just kidding.
“He hasn’t changed at all. It’s pretty impressive. You’d think with the little bit of success we had last year—not being a successful year all the way but it ended well—you’d think maybe that he could step back and say, ‘Okay, these guys have kind of figured it out. They know what they’re doing.’ I don’t think that’s how he is and that’s why he’s been able to be the coach he is, because every day he brings it and it doesn’t matter. Like I said, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best player or the worst player, he’s going to treat you the same and he expects the same out of you.”
With the few transitions along the offensive line, how are things going with that?
“It’s been good. We get tons of reps. We practice a lot of get a lot of live team reps and everything like that, so everyone’s stepping in and doing their job and whoever is able to do their job the most consistent I think is going to win that job. It’s not going to be decided until a week or so before the game. I don’t know exactly, but I think everyone’s working together well. The cohesion’s there.”
Is that usually how long it takes, a week before, or would you rather be set earlier?
“Every year’s different. Last year I think we had a little bit more understanding about who was going to start and not just because we had a good group of guys. We have a good group of guys this year but depth-wise a lot deeper, so everyone’s being pushed for their job whether you were a starter last year or not. It’s going to take some time. There’s no way I could say I’m starting at right tackle and Kyle’s starting at right guard because that might not be the case. It could be any group of five guys, whether they played last year or not.”
Is that what they’re telling you to say or do you really believe that?
“Nah, I don’t believe that.”
I mean, come on. There’s suddenly been a shift? Four starting linemen coming back, suddenly their jobs are--
“I’m telling you, this is the deepest offensive line since I’ve been here. We have at least 10 guys that could play. Every day I’m fighting. It brings the best out of people. You can believe it or not, but…”
I believe you, I just--
You guys did a lot of stuff offensively last year. Seems like each week you added more and more little things here and there. Are there new concepts you guys are kicking around this fall?
“No, our system is pretty much the same. [inaudible] We’ll have different plays every game depending on defensive scheme, but our core plays are the same core plays.”
You went to social media today to declare a position change. If you could pick another position in football, is there another you would go to?
“Yeah. I mean, I’d like to play offensive line. Playing quarterback just naturally comes to me, but if I had to play anything else it’d be offensive line. This year will be my first year suiting up and playing quarterback. It’ll be interesting.”
How do you think you’d hold up on the Gruden camp show?
“Oh, I think he’d destroy me. I don’t think I have the fundamentals and technique that he’s looking for. I’m just a gunslinger, you know. Go out there and toss the ball around a little bit.”
How’d you develop those skills?
“Just playing football as a kid. Always the quarterback. Pick number one, so I chose to be quarterback every game and just went deep. Let it fly.”
When’s the last time you played quarterback before now?
“Summer. Fat man 7-on-7. It was—we’d do it occasionally, often every week and I’d play quarterback and send some of the other fat guys deep and see what happens. Fat guys means offensive linemen.”
Your teammates, I assume?
“Yes. We wanted to challenge other schools but didn’t get around to it. Didn’t think that would turn out well. Might just be a fight.”