"Is that salmon?"
"Canteloupe? We use that as an audible color. How you guys doing?"
"It's been a while. Can't tell you how much I've missed you. You guys kind of sensed a hint of sarcasm, didn't you? Heiko! I made you a hero. Unbelievable."
Thoughts on Devin's maturity?
"Yeah, he's doing a nice job. When you know that you've done it so long -- he's always been a pretty confident kid anyway, but now that he has a chance to kind of be the guy, I think he's taken the next step."
What's it like having two experienced tackles?
"Yeah, you know, when Taylor said he was coming back, that was a great, great day for Michigan and for our offense because breaking in a new left tackle is never fun. I don't care what level it is. But Mike Schofield, who doesn't get talked about as much but is really a good athlete. He can move. He was a hurdler in high school. He's got a lot of talent. Mike's played a lot. He's played guard, he's played tackle. I think he's kind of fit into a comfort zone a little bit with tackle, not to where he's complacent, but he's comfortable in the position now. He kind of had to relearn the position a little bit. He's been in the offense. He's been pretty consistent the first couple days and in the spring."
<Falsehoods galore after the jump>
What's he like? Is he a quieter guy.
"He's a little different than Taylor. Yeah. Right."
"Yeah. He's a little different. Quieter. You said it. I mean, you know, Taylor's pretty flamboyant. And Mike is more soft-spoken. He's smart, though. He gets everything you tell him, and he'll give you the feedback you need to help him get better. But he's not a real outgoing kind of guy."
What's the center battle like?
"Got a good battle. Jack [Miller] and Graham [Glasgow] and Joe Burzynski too has jumped into the mix. In two days, who knows? We haven't really done anything yet that would warrant a hard evaluation, but both guys, particularly those two I'm talking about now have showed up ready to play."
Seeing Fitz running around the first couple days --
"Yeah, Fitz has got fire in his eyes. I see no signs of any injury, if that's the question you're asking. He is very hungry. One thing about running backs is it's not like the line. You get to see them cut even if it's not live or not with pads on. His stop and go ability looks to be right back where it was. It's always been tough. That's not changing any, and his understanding of our scheme is probably better than anybody else's because he's run the ball more. We'll find out in the next few days, but so far I don't see any signs of injury."
Are you going to narrow down the number of backs you'll use?
"Fred and I talked about that, and we're leaving it a little open-ended, but yes, we are going to do that. But to say we're going to pinpoint a day? We haven't done that, but it's probably going to be within the next week and a half."
So you'll go from six to four?
"We'll keep six up, but the carries for certain players will go down because you can't get six guys ready. But we're not waiting until the week of the game. I guess that's probably what your question is. We're going to give everybody a chance and see what they can do running in live situations and such, and then once we hopefully get enough data we'll pare it down to who we think it's going to be."
Derrick Green weighed in at 240 pounds. Is he still moving well?
"He moves pretty good. Yeah, he does. But what we have to do with that, and Aaron Wellman helps with this a bunch, because this is kind of his specialty, but we have to watch and see if he's efficient at that weight. If he's efficient at that weight, no need to drop weight. but if we see that he could be more efficient at a lesser weight, we'll ask him to drop. Now Derrick's a big guy, and he's going to be a big guy. We'll find out if that's a good weight or not here probably within the next week or so."
MGoQuestion: Last year there was criticism about your guards' ability to pull. You have two new starting guards. How do you like their ability to pull?
"Yeah, we've got two very athletic guards. Big. Our biggest issue is experience, not athleticism. Those kids are powerful kids. You throw Graham into the mix, too, because Graham's playing some guard, too. You've got some big strapping dudes who can move. But their deal is going to be getting in games and getting some turns and maybe screwing something up here and there, but in terms of their ability to pull and in terms of their ability to zone block or down block, gap block, physically they don't have any issues that way."
MGoFollowup: When you have a guy like Graham Glasgow who's pushing to be a starter, is there a potential for you to rotate offensive linemen? You've said in season past you don't like doing that ...
"Well, we try to avoid rotation on the line, but we never rule that out because if there's a guy that shows up that deserves to play, there's always that possibility, but our knee-jerk is to say let's find five guys that can get some chemistry and not mess with that."
How would you rate perceptions of different leagues from where you've coached?
"Well the perception right now is that the SEC is the best conference and they have something to go on, but I still believe, as much as they've done well -- and credit to them, I've coached in that conference, so I'm not speaking out of school here -- this is a cyclical deal. There will be a point, don't be surprised if one of the other conferences win it six or seven years in a row, but they're on an upswing right now. Until somebody proves to them that they're a better conference, they're the best conference.
"Coaching in what was then the Pac-10 and now the Pac-12, you had teams that could beat anybody in the country. Same thing in this conference, same thing in the SEC. There are good coaches all over the place, good players all over the place. I don't see a huge discernable difference. Guys will argue that, but coaching in all of those conferences, I have some expertise now. My point is there's no reason it can't go the other way."
You said it's cyclical. What do you think it will take for someone to beat the SEC?
"Oh I think just keep recruiting. You just recruit -- we recruit against all those schools. We get our share of players. As long as you're getting as good a player as they're getting, why shouldn't you win? It's all recruiting, it's what it's all about. Focus on that, then get them in there and develop them."
How are your receivers progressing?
"Good. Yeah. Good. Again, it's another position you can evaluate better than other ones because they're catching balls, running routes. They're not getting hit, but at least you can assess their ball skills, explosion, speed, competitiveness. That all shows up in just what we've been doing to a degree. Our receivers have kind of picked up a little bit. In spring it was a position where going into the spring we were a little concerned about. We didn't know who -- but we had a couple guys show up. We'll see how they do in the lights, but so far so good."
Is it nice to have rangy guys in Amara and Jehu?
"They are that rangy, yes. Now they have to show it -- they have the range and that speed that we want. But they have to do it in games. Until they do that, we'll withhold judgement, but they certainly have the physical qualifications that we're talking about."
When do you want to settle on a backup quarterback?
"Oh ... boy that's a good question. Uh, if I put a timeline on it, I may not know then and then I have to backtrack, you know what I mean? You'd love to have it all in place the week you're ready to play, and probably will be is my guess, but right now we're throwing them out there and see what they do. It'll talk back to you eventually."
How are you dividing snaps?
"The [backup] reps are being split between [Brian] Cleary and Shane [Morris]. Yeah."
You mentioned body types. Any veterans jump out at you in terms of looking better after offseason workouts?
"Taylor's percent body fat is incredible. I mean, for a big guy like that. But nothing that's that different. They all got significantly stronger, and they've all lost a lot of body fat, which with Aaron Wellman, it's no coincidence. But to say somebody's made that big of a metamorphosis in that short of time, there's nobody that I've seen, but they all look pretty good and in shape."
How do you divide reps when you have guys fighting for a backup spot and then Devin?
"Well Devin takes all the 'one' reps."
Do you eventually pull that back to protect him?
"No. Not necessarily. We're not hitting quarterbacks, so I don't know that you'd have to do that, but there may be a time, and I don't know if we'll do this or not, but we might, but if a kid's not getting good locks or getting sacked too much with one of the units, you may move him up to the 'one' unit just so you can get a better look at him because maybe they will protect him better. That could happen. I'm not saying it will happen. THe good thing about our situation now is we have some experienced kids in our second unit that know our offense pretty good. Sometimes you put the second unit out there you have a lot of kids that just don't understand what to do. And the guys who usually pay for it are the tailbacks and the quarterbacks. But we're in a position now where that shouldn't happen very much."
What's it like without Denard for the first time?
"Yeah, it's different! Are you kidding me? Denard is a -- he's a bowl of energy. He's a wonderful guy to be around if for no other reason because he's always smiling, he's always happy, he's always up-tempo. He was great. I miss that. I miss his skill level, that's a given, but just the way he was was pretty good. Guys like coaching guys like that. Guys like interviewing guys like that. He's just a wonderful kid. And I heard he's doing pretty good."
Have you talked to him since the start of Jaguars camp?
"No, but I'm testing him. I told him to call me back when he gets rich and famous, okay? But I haven't placed a call yet, so stay tuned."
MGoLeadingQuestion: Do you teach all your quarterbacks the pistol or do you just have Devin doing that?
"No. We don't teach pistol offense here. We're a pro-style offense here."
Can you compare how you feel about the tight end position now vs. a year ago?
"Because we've recruited to it, we feel a lot better about it. When we came in it wasn't a position of emphasis, so we kind of made do with what we had. But now that we've had a chance to recruit to it, we feel a lot better about it."
Having having the two guys get playing time --
"Those poor kids went through some growing pains. That wasn't easy. Two freshmen playing as much as they had to play -- two PURE freshmen. I've never done that as a coordinator, playing two pure freshmen at the position. But now they've played, some of those errors have ironed themselves out. Not to mention guys like Devin Funchess are stronger. They've had a year to develop themselves a bit."
Is he still a little on the lighter side?
"No he's gotten bigger and stronger. He's doing some things. And when we put the pads on we'll learn a little more about that, but he's done a pretty good job so far."
Do you think Jake [Butt] will have a chance to play?
"Possibly. Next couple weeks will tell."
A lot of people would say there's a big question mark on the interior offensive line. Why do you think it's not? Or do you?
"Oh it is a question. I can't say it's not a question because guys haven't played yet, much. You can't just say it's going to be okay, but you have to coach them like it's going to be okay. You have to have the attitude that it's going to be okay. And you have to hope like heck you're putting guys in position that can handle this style of football and this level of football, and I think we're doing that. But anytime you make those kinds of changes, I don't care where you are, there's going to be some growing pains. Somebody's going to have to learn the harder way. I just believe in time, once those kids get in there and get that chemistry I'm always talking about on the line, I think it's going to shore itself up."
Do you see any evidence of these young guys being everything you think they're going to be?
"The new guys? Yes. I mean, it's still -- how do you know? I have to see them hit somebody. They move pretty good. It just doesn't tell you enough. Linemen, they have to collide. Really collide. You can't collide in the environment we're in right now."
What have you seen from the defense?
"We have a good defense. We play hard. Good schemes that make you work as a coach. But I just think that we're fortunate in that we see a defense that tests us on a daily basis, both physically and mentally. And I think it helps everybody and makes everybody better, you know? So yeah, I love it. I love it. The harder it is on us, the better you generally play as a team. If you're ripping through your defense, there's issues. If they're knocking you all around every play, there's issues. But there better some balance in the amount of punches that are thrown. They can't all be thrown by one side of the ball, and our defense does a great job of testing us in that regard."
A lot of people say the defense is usually ahead of the offense during camp. Do you feel that way?
"Nah. You don't know, because nobody's hit anybody. In about a week you'll be able to draw conclusions. It's funny -- that's day to day. Somedays you'll go out there and walk off the field and go, I don't even wanna ... I'm so mad ... Next day I walk off I'll feel pretty good. Some days I'll walk off and feel more in the middle. Sometimes I walk off and watch film and feel better. Sometimes I walk off and feel great, watch film, and I feel worse. So I don't know. That was probably a stupid answer, but that's how I feel. It was an honest answer."