What will it take to keep the guys focused and playing at a high level the rest of the year every week?
“I think it takes a lot of commitment. Hard work. Good goals. Uh…commitment. Good football character. Good human character. I feel like we’ve got those kind of guys.”
You’ve been able to get the ball to four running backs, a couple of wide receivers, Jabrill, fullbacks. Short and long term, how much does that help you whether it’s recruiting, but also to win games because the other team doesn’t quite know who’s going to get the ball and everybody’s fresh?
“I think it helps in all the ways you just said. Helps in all those areas.”
I think Mone went out of the game in the first half? Did he come back in or is he hurt?
“Yeah, he fell down. Fell down on his leg and came off, but he came in yesterday saying he felt good.”
Do you have any expectations whether Grant Perry will play this week or is he still going through whatever he’s going through?
“Yeah, we’ll…to be determined.”
Thoughts on DJ Durkin coming in with Maryland and the job he’s done with them so far this year.
“He’s done a fabulous job. Just always respected DJ as a tremendous competitor at the highest level. Smile thinking about his competitiveness, and also always happy for a friend’s success. I think he’s doing a fabulous job, him and his entire staff and team. You can see the energy. You can see the strength. You can see the competitiveness and execution on the field, et cetera. The flip side of that is we know that this’ll be a big game, a championship game. This will be a real test for our club.”
[After THE JUMP: We’ve got to build some immune systems. More push-ups. More whole milk.]
Kind of along those lines, does it change the way you prepare for another coach with DJ being here last year as opposed to just another coach? Does it change the way you approach the game since he was here last year and kind of knows what you guys do.
“I don’t think too much, no. Not significantly. Approach won’t change.”
MGoQuestion: Karan Higdon had more carries than any other player in the fourth quarter. What have you seen from him in-season to earn those carries and earn that level of trust?
“Well, he’s a good player. I think particularly in the ballgame, in the fourth quarter of that game, we were getting some edge pressure and Karan does a good job, maybe the best job, of hitting the hole. He hits it downhill very fast and we felt like we needed that in that part of the ballgame.”
Going back to DJ coaching at Maryland now, what is it like for you to see your assistants or staff members move on to bigger positions and spread the word, if you will, and take what they learned here to other programs and apply that?
“Oh, it’s always fun. It’s a big thrill. I follow all the coaches that we worked with and pull for them when they’re not playing us. Happy for the other guys’ success is the attitude that we have here at Michigan. Personally, it’s good. I like it. I like it a lot. Professionally, to see guys develop and reach their goals, especially when you know going in what their goals are because you ask them, you talk about it, and you want to see your friends have success and be good. He definitely has been at every job that he’s had. He goes all out. Does things at a very high level with a lot of enthusiasm and just…kindred spirit, so very happy for him.”
When you look at the Maryland program, do you see a lot of familiar elements of things that he worked with while he was here or is he doing things differently?
“Yeah, there’s elements. Elements certainly on the defense and you see the hustle, you see the aggressiveness, similar schemes that we recognize. Andy Buh, the defensive coordinator, we worked together at Standford. Matt Barnes coached here last year as well. Got to know some of their offensive coaches this summer. Worked some camps. You know, it’s a really good staff, good bunch of guys who understand the intensity they have and they’re good at their jobs. That’ll add to the test this week.”
Wanted to ask you, too, about Channing Stribling. Seems like he’s made a big jump in the past year and improved steadily. How important has be been to the overall success of the pass defense, being able to make sure there’s no weak link?
“Yeah, he’s been a stalwart. Really exceptional in coverage. Mainstay last year and this year. Can count on him. Can count on him for practice. Can count on him for gamedays. Playing at a real high level in terms of coverage and he’s--
“There’s gonna be some things to teach off this past game, which is a good thing. It was good that our defense was tested, and there’s things that we can improve. I would say that for all our players. As coaches, good opportunity for us to make further improvements.”
Devin Bush had a couple more big plays on special teams. Can you talk about his impact there and how you see that translating to the linebacker position eventually?
“Yeah, he’s an improving player without a doubt. I think he’s really bought into the fact of running down on a kickoff and being excited about that, being excited about making the play. Has contact courage. He’s looking to go from point A to point B and hit somebody. He’s improving in that area.
“The one difference—people sometimes ask the difference between college and pro football, and what always stand out to me is the kickoff coverage. Guys are really running the same type of 40 time, but at the pro level they’re going faster. It’s something where you can feel the guys running. I mean, their jobs depend on it, their livelihoods are at stake. Try to get the college guys to have that urgency and mentality. Improving on it, but I bet if you just timed it—if you timed, which I haven’t done, [but] if you took an average time of guys running down on NFL kickoffs and compared it to college guys it wouldn’t…it’d be disproportional to how fast they are.
“But Devin’s a guy who, he relishes that opportunity. He’s improving. He’s running down there faster. Just—the NFL guys, they go as fast as they possibly can. The college guys, they all seem to have a governor on them. He’s learning. He’s ascending. He’s trying—we’re trying to get the governor off all our guys, but it’s a process.”
Some of the defensive players said they thought some of the struggles in the fourth quarter were just the lack of focus and intensity. Is that something that you saw in terms of the reason for giving up so many yards in the fourth quarter?
“No, that’s not what I saw.”
What do you think the primary reason was that it was different than the first three quarters?
“Well, as I said, we’ll have things we can address. I do feel we have some things that we can address and coach and be better at. I thought we got a little tired up front. Gonna address that and some other things that aren’t for public consumption.
“Throughout the team, it was good for our defense to be tested. It was good for our offense and our kicking game to be tested, and you get excited about the fact that you win the game and have things that you can improve on.”
Did you happen to see Grant Newsome’s tweet about making the hill climb with his walker and your thoughts about that?
“No, I didn’t see that.”
He talked about making a climb up the hill, he needed a win as well as Michigan, and it showed him getting out and working out as best he can right now.
“Yeah. You know, it’s good. I’ve been following his progress and seeing him. You’d all be really proud of him. He’s such a stud. And it leaves you with little doubt that he’s going to be successful at whatever he does, including football. He’s got great parents. He’s highly motivated so it won’t be—he will be back.”
When you go over Wilton’s game again, I know you said two weeks ago you thought that was his best game, against Illinois, but in that first half before the interception, is that about as good as you’ve seen him with some of these third-down throws, standing in and making plays?
“Yeah, Nick. Really excited. I mean, you could make an argument this was his best game. Really, I think we’re looking at a budding really good player. [laughs] I almost said budding star. I mean, it’s really close to that. He’s doing so many good things, and he’s been almost flawless, really, when he has time and space to see things. Now he’s making play after play after play with people right in his grill. He knows he’s gonna get hit and still making the throw over them and then takes the hit and bounces right up. I mean, throwing accurate passes knowing that he’s going to get hit. That is really a courage quality, and really playing well.
“The interception, we busted. We busted the assignment and turned the defensive end free, and he looked back to find Karan and somebody was affecting his vision, couldn’t really see the defender. You could make a case that was his best game. You really could.”
You can teach a lot of things to a quarterback, but his temperament, he seems to be the same, good play, bad play, every play. Is that a unique thing for him and something you can’t really coach?
“It’s really improved. I don’t really—I don’t know if you can teach that or not. Somebody has, you know, because he’s really come a long way in that regard, and he’s had great examples. Jake Rudock was certainly a tremendous example of that. His parents are—they’re just rock-solid people as well. I think Jedd [Fisch] does a great job, and he listens, he takes coaching. He’s taught himself. Self-talk. You teach yourself through self-talk in a lot of ways. A lot of ways, people rise to the occasion when they have the opportunity and they have an urgency to rise to the opportunity. That’s certainly been the case. He’s learned it. I don’t know exactly from where or what proportion for some of those factors I mentioned.
“He’s really ascending in that area. Cool. Cool as a cucumber out there. Thinking, really thinking [and] processing. We’re now getting to the point—it’s really so good, within the last two weeks I’m going to him and asking him what he’s comfortable with, what he’s excited about, what he wants to throw. Hey, give me this or that; giving him an option that wasn’t there with that three, four weeks ago, five weeks ago. And he’s confident in saying what he wants to do.
“Shoot, there were some times in that ballgame I could tell he was calmer, more collected, cooler than I was during the game. But does it in a real thinking way. It’s good. I don’t know if I’m describing that very well, but it’s what I’m seeing.”
What type of kid is Kenny Allen, and you must have been extremely happy with him on the weekend. He seemed to fall back in nicely.
“Yeah, really since I met him he’s been that kind of guy. Just working, working, working, progressing. Always does it with a bounce in his step. He’s got a real positive type of demeanor, but he’s also somebody that does it daily. Comes with a good work ethic to be better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today. Very confident but not obnoxious at the same time. He’s got a good mix, a real good mix, of confidence and humility. Well socialized. Great guy to be around.”
Two-part baseball question: did you have fun last night, and is your dad confident that his Indians will be able to pull it out?
“Uh, so we had a great time. It was a tremendous atmosphere. It was one of those signature moments, being in a World Series game with my dad, my mom, my wife, Sarah, was outstanding.
“I think he does. I think he feels good. Kluber coming back, he feels good about that. Yeah. He’s been very excited. He’s been very excited. It means a lot to him. It’s real. Just like it was being around so many Cubs and Indians fans last night. And the pressure! Pshoo. It was there. You could see it for the ballplayers. Had a great seat out in left field. It was fun. It was really good watching the game in as opposed to watching the game out. Ben’s work out in left field was tremendous. The catch he made where he had to deal with the bullpen mound and holding runners there, it was—Carlos was out there too, as well. It was really interesting being out there in left field. I think that’s where I prefer to watch a game at. All good, all good.
“Baseball’s a little like ice cream, though. It’s so good that—good to be back in football. Football you can do every day. Baseball’s almost too fun. It’s like ice cream. You couldn’t eat it every day.”
I think Jake Butt said he and Mason [Cole] were sick last week. Can you evaluate Mason’s—he and Malik [McDowell] were going at it during the game and on that interception he was the guy who pushed Hicks out.
“Yeah, definitely. We had some sickly youngsters last week. We’ve got to build some immune systems. More push-ups. More whole milk. Jake and Mason were two of the most sickly during the week, but they both responded.
“Mason Cole, there’s a guy—and I’ve always said this, too, but experienced playing some of my best games with a temperature. There’s something that makes you focus more during a game. Mason was our offensive lineman of the week. Thought he had the best performance of our offensive line. Jake Butt came through with some big catches and tremendous blocking, so yeah. More hand sanitizer and more push-ups and whole milk on tap for this week.”
How has he progressed in that role, playing center and being as physical as he was with Malik during that game.
“Oh, great. I mean, you flick on the film and there he is. I mean, he’s moving people and getting his job done down after down, playing low and fast and physical. He’s really developing as a center, there’s no question about it. This is—feel great that this is his position. He is a ideal, prototypical center and doing a great job. Just gotta boost his immune system.”
Eddie McDoom's a guy you've got the ball to a few different ways the past few weeks. What kind of possibilities does he have in the offense?
"Several. He's an ascending player. Kekoa Crawford as well. Both those youngsters are doing a tremendous job. Nate Johnson is right there with them, too, so that's exciting. Now, playing the rest of the season and goign forward in the future see what those guys can develop into, but so far, so good."
Have he and Chesson raced yet?
"No, haven't raced 'em yet.
"What about Peppers? How is Peppers not the fastest guy on the team? Thought I heard a sonic boom when he was going on that two-point conversion. I've seen it in practice so many times before, but that is so fast. Some day he's gonna go to the combine and run the 40 time, and it's gonna be so interesting to finally see what it reads. I mean, when he picked up that loose option pitch and was running back, I thought I heard a sonic boom. I was a little disappointed that parachutes didn't deploy. That looked like what was going to happen. As he got near the goal line, I thought some parachutes were goign to come out. Impressive. Im-pressive. Mercy!"
Jourdan Lewis actually seemed and said he was disappointed with the way the game ended. What did you say to those guys to let them know that they should be happy about that win and that there’s no room for disappointment there?
“Onward! Onward! I’ll probably say this a bunch of times, but the thrill of victory, the wonderful, wonderful feeling of winning. Our team was tested. That was a good thing. Look forward to coaching things and improving this week, and onward to this big game that’s in front of us and this championship ballgame we’ll be playing against Maryland.”
Were you rooting for the Cubs or Indians?
“I really like both teams. Definitely I found myself Cubs. Cubs, Cubs, Cubs. I’m with Greg Mattison rooting for the Cubs. Jack Harbaugh, Rick Finotti—Rick Finotti, now, is a tremendous, tremendous Cleveland Indians fan. I have baseball favorites. I really like the As a lot. Love the As, love the Tigers, and then Cubs, for me. Got feeling for the Pittsburgh Pirates and also the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians. And the San Francisco Giants, I like them. There’s probably an order there. There’s an order.”
You like the Padres? Baltimore Orioles? The Reds?
“Uh, those don’t resonate with me as much as what I just said. I have several favorites.”