file because I need to remember to shoot landscape
A number of players commented on the offensive side about how they enjoy having you on the sideline being able to communicate during the game. How did you think that went? Just talk in general about the pluses and minuses of being there.
“Well, you know, one of the biggest things when you’re down on the field you get a much better feel for the players, their state of mind. You can look them right in the eyes and get a feel for where you think you’re at from a mental standpoint and one of the things you do lose, you don’t get the visual effects you can see from upstairs. So, it is important and great communication from the guys in the box. Our staff did a great job, and that was something we talked about going in to the game and went back and talk about it yesterday. How we can do things better, what we did well just as far as a communication standpoint from the field to the box and vice versa.”
Against Appalachian State in the second quarter you’re already up by 35. Knowing that Notre Dame’s coming up do you kind of limit the playbook a little bit to save things for this week?
“As with any game we go in with a game plan and go in to execute the game plan as best we possibly can. Obviously we weren’t going to reinvent the wheel or do anything we hadn’t planned or talked about doing so we stuck with the game plan throughout.”
With coach VanGorder, you’ve gone against him before, you were at Alabama and he was at Auburn. Talk about that and obviously the personnel is different but how you might both be inside each other’s heads a little more than typical.
“Brian’s an outstanding coach. I have a great deal of respect for him. If you look at his track record and what he’s done throughout his career he’s an outstanding football coach sp obviously he presents a lot of challenges for you and that’s why we’ve been in the film room buried all day trying to find a nugget here or there to give us an advantage.”
What were your thoughts on the new look offensive line and especially Mason Cole and how he took his first college game in stride?
“I thought Mason did a nice job. Talked about it a little bit last week, nothing’s too big for him. He’s a young player and we knew that going into the game there were going to be some things that happened and obviously the one sack that occurred, but it’s not about the sack, it’s how you react to it. We talk to our guys a lot about ‘play the next play’ and it’s not about whether the play before was a great play or a bad play because it really doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant now. Thought he did an outstanding job, very focused, very level-headed. Played a good football game.”
Brady said he wanted a little more precision out of the offense going into the Notre Dame game. What does need to be fine tuned or improved going into this weekend?
“What doesn’t need to be improved, I guess, would be the question. We’ve got a long way to go. I hit on it a little bit last week. Consistency in performance. Our ability to perform at a high level each and every day. We’re not there yet. We play well in stretches and at times we don’ do things the way we need to do them so we’ll get back to the practice field tomorrow and it’s important that we have another great work of practice and get better each and every time we go out.”
There was some talk in the preseason about maybe the defense holding things up while the offense developed. You didn’t want to hear that. Did you use that for motivation, and was the first game important in terms of your guys proving a point about being able to move the football on the ground?
“Every game’s important. Every play’s important. It’s about our players and we talked about our youth. Every time we go out it’s important that we focus and get better. I said it last week, we’re doing things better and some days it doesn’t look like it and you say, ‘wow, that was a tough practice’ or ‘that wasn’t the way we wanted things to go’ and then you go in and evaluate and you say ‘we did get better in this area.’ I talked about it, it’s going to be about us continuing to grow and developing that consistency to do it well on a day-to-day basis.”
[After THE JUMP: Devin Funchess hyperbole or just Devin Funchess eeeeeeeeee?]
Just to piggyback a little bit, as far as the ground production I know it’s just one game but you saw a little bit out of Derrick [Green] and DeVeon [Smith]. Do you feel confident that these guys are going to be able to combine to give you a couple thousand [yards] on the ground this year?
“I thought they both did a really, really nice job. Both of them had things that obviously we can do a little better but from a production standpoint you look at the way they produced and the things that we asked them to do and it was a very, very efficient and effective game for them.
Jehu Chesson only had a couple catches but talk about his role as a blocker downfield and how that helps get those long runs.
“I thought our receivers did an outstanding job across the board and we talked about it going into the game that ball security would be a major part as it will every week. If you look at the turnover margin it’s the number one [most] telling statistic in all of football. We talk to our players about everybody’s got to get to the ball. I thought our hustle across the board, the way we competed and challenged on every play was outstanding. Our guys ran to the football in the running game. In the passing game we got down the field. Especially our linemen, but the receivers did an outstanding job of blocking on the perimeter not only for each other when you look at some of the perimeter screens we threw but down the field in the running game too.”
What type of player can Norfleet be for you with this offense this season? He’s a small guy and he’s fast. What can you…
“Dennis is an exciting guy. He brings a sense of electricity. He’s got great quickness, great short space change of direction and does a great job of feeling the game. He’s a physical player. He plays a lot bigger than his physical size. I really liked the way Dennis played. Dennis, he does give us another element.”
You mentioned that you wanted to improved all areas of the game. Brady was talking up Devin’s [Gardner] ability to check at the line, do things like that. Is there still room for improvement there, or do you feel like he has that under wraps for now?
“Well, that’s a week-to-week thing. That’s a growth process. There’s a lot of room to grow. The best players in the world at this, you look at Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, guys that excel at that, doing things at the line of scrimmage, they’re always looking for ways to find a better way to do it or another piece of information they can gather from the film room to find an easier way to get to a check or those kind of things. Devin did an outstanding job in this game and really had a great grasp of what we asked him to do and we expect that from him week-in and week-out.”
In talking about him, what have you seen since you’ve been here in working with him. Where are the areas where you’ve seen the most improvement?
“You talk about his leadership. He’s done an outstanding job being a leader. We’re not a team that has a lot of veteran players and we talk all the time about how leadership’s not defined by age but Devin is our senior that really the guys look to. He’s done an outstanding job of being a role model and providing kind of a rock for those young kids. And I think his understanding of the game and what we’re asking him to do in this offense- obviously any time you get a new system he’s had to learn a new set of expectations, a new set of rules, so to say, within the offense for what we want to do and how we want to proceed and do things and he’s done an outstanding job from a procedural standpoint in grasping that and letting his natural athleticism take over when those opportunities present itself.”
Devin struggled a lot more on the road the last couple years than at home. Is that something that you isolated those games in your offseason study to try to figure out something there?
“We prepare for every game like it’s a game. I don’t think you look at any one scenario and say, ‘this is what it is.’ We’re not going to let any one scenario define us, we need to define the scenario, so to say.”
With so many young players on the road is there something you’ve learned through your time about how to prepare them for something they haven’t seen?
“Well, it’s kind of interesting. Within the flow of the game the other day people are getting excited because there’s a catch here, and I don’t realize I guess just being new, didn’t realize that was Darboh’s first reception in a game. I knew that was Heitzman’s first reception. Didn’t realize Khalid [Hill] had never caught a pass. Those are things when you take a step back after the game you go, ‘wow, that’s really how green we are.’ Which is exciting because that tells you there’s a lot of room for growth and that’s why I keep saying it’s really important that every day and every week that we go out and get better.”
Devin Gardner was in here saying that Funchess could be the best receiver to every play at Michigan. What kind of weapon is he and what kind of luxury is that for you as an offensive coordinator?
“Devin obviously creates a lot of matchup issues for defenses. The way he’s prepared, the way he’s practiced I thin he’s really taking his game to the next level and that’s what the great players do. The way they approach the game within the game so to say every day, what are you going to challenge yourself to get better at today and I think Devin has got a really high ceiling and he’s going to continue to get better as he continues to master his craft, so to say. He’s playing outside now, which is a little different than where he started last season.”
And for you as a coordinator? How’s that when you have that kind of weapon to play with?
“Well, obviously you can look at it from the other perspective. We know people are going to evaluate our offense and say, ‘what can we do to eliminate Devin Funchess from the gameplan?’ So, there’s always that chess match going on, so to say, to find how can we get Devin the ball and what different ways can we do to get him isolated and those type of things.”
Just given what you saw the last week, the numbers that he [Funchess] put up in a half. Are you fully anticipating, obviously, doubling him and doing whatever, do you think it’s going to be dramatically different than what he saw this week?
“Every week you go in with a plan. We’ll find ways, like I said, to get Devin his touches and I’m sure that they’ll try and find ways to make sure he doesn’t get touches and you don’t know how that’s going to play out going into the game. You can imagine, you can look at each defensive scheme and say, ‘okay, what fits within their scheme’ or wait for them to potentially try and take him away but you don’t really know until you get there. Then, like in any game, you’re constantly trying to play the game a series ahead and have the adjustments and get a step ahead of what the defense is doing.”
Brady was very excited about the run check that Devin made on third-and-one and then went for 60 [yards]. He talked especially about how it got communicated out to everybody. How much more difficult is that sort of thing when you go under the lights in South Bend at night?
“Communication, obviously, is different on the road than it is at home and it’s one of the reasons why we spent a lot of time through the spring and then fall camp preaching communication and spending time within our groups as wholes, as the offense. In the film room we’ll put on a reel of film and watch it and we’ll ask everybody to make their calls in the room together so that we are communicating. Like I said, we have a lot of young players and one of the things that you see is you get hesitation because they’re not quite sure and that’s why we’re trying to coach that, that making a decision as long as everybody makes the same decision together is going to be the right decision. Our guys have done a really nice job. We’ve got to continue to improve on our communication and that’s one of the things, that was such a great play because the quarterback made a great check, we got it echoed to everybody, everybody on the line got it echoed and we executed.”
You mentioned the offensive line a little bit earlier. Brady said you guys had a plan. He wouldn’t divulge it. I’m not sure you will either but just your overall take on that. Did they surprise you up front in the game or what was your take just in general?
“I thought the offensive line played extremely hard. They played physical. We talked about establishing an identity of who we wanted to be and I was proud of that group and the way they played. Just like every other group, we’ve got to get better this week.”