Coach, can you talk about the tempo of the offense? Is it where you want it to be at this point?
“Obviously we’d like it to play a little faster. Right now our focus is playing right. Execution. We’ll worry about tempo later, and I think like we’ve said before we want to control the tempo of the game on offense, whether that’s to slow the game down or speed the game up.”
Doug, Brady said he’ll have a decision tomorrow on the starting quarterback. What’s going into that decision?
“Well, I think there’s a lot that goes into the decision of who plays quarterback and both guys have done an outstanding job of preparing and practicing and competing. It’s what we’ve talked about all along at every position on our team; we want to have competition and we want to compete and challenge every day.”
Whichever one is in there, I assume the turnover message has to be reinforced.
“Definitely. I mean, you start from base premise of what we talked about fro day one that we continue to talk about every day and until we get it right we’re going to continue to struggle. It’s the turnover margin. You can’t win football games when you lose it. It’s the one telling statistic in all of football over time. You lose the turnover margin week in and week out and you’re going to struggle to have a good football team.”
Doug, I guess at this point not knowing who the quarterback’s going to be what positives do you see? What could you do differently if Shane Morris were your starter?
“Well, I don’t know that you say you start all over and change your offense. No. You do the things that play to Shane’s strengths and Shane’s obviously a talented guy. Got a lot of arm strength. He is a young player like a lot of our players and learning, and Devin does- they both are similar in a lot of their style. Both you can see can make plays with their feet. Both have really good arms, and we feel really good about either one of those guys.”
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Doug, at Notre Dame Brady had said that Devin needed to ride it out and play the whole game because that was really important. Obviously the last two games you guys have taken him out later in the game. What’s the difference in the dynamic there in that decision?
“Well, I think that in the last game it was important for Devin to take a step back at that point in time after the interception and get a view from the sideline of what was going on. So we talked about, ‘Hey, take a step back.’ Sometimes it’s better when you can step back for a minute and you can see from the sideline view what’s going on and how the game’s developing, and for a quarterback sometimes when things aren’t going well and you’re being challenged for every yard like we were the other night things seem to speed up and a lot of times the picture’s not real clear. The reason to give Devin a chance to sit back and look at it and try to clear the picture for him.”
Doug, with Devin what is it that you focus on in terms of improving him like you would any other football player, but what with him specifically do you focus on and is there a problem in slowing the game down for him?
“Well, that’s my job and I’ve got to do a better job trying to slow the game down for him, and part of that is repetitions of the things that we’re doing and we’ve worked extremely hard at that. For Devin it’s tying his feet and his eyes to being in the right place at the right time and then making the right decisions.”
Doug, because maybe Morris and Gardner seem to have some different skills and I know some similar, could you look at…call it a platoon system or specialty plays for each one and not just have one set starter?
“Well, we’ve always had, since the start of the season, a plan for both guys to play. You always do. I think you’ve got to have a plan when you’ve got- when you look at a game in football you know there’s a chance your starting quarterback could get knocked out of the game, and you better have a plan for your backup and what he does well, what can he execute. Each guy- any quarterback at any level of football has plays that they like better than others so we’ve always had a plan. ‘Here are the plays. Devin, what do you like.’ And we always meet on that before the game, the night before the game. We talk through plays and [I ask], ‘What plays do you feel really good about, Devin?’ and ‘Shane, what plays do you feel really good about?’ so I have an idea going into the game where their mind is at.
Would you just want one starter or could you-
“Yeah, you want one starter.”
It looked like in the first half I think you guys looked Funchess’ way eight or nine times and I think only once after that. Did they take him away from you or what was the difference there?
“Well, it’s important that you look at the big picture of things and we tried to get it to Funch a little bit more and we had some things that happened to us, the sacks and those type of things and obviously we’re always looking for ways for Devin to touch the ball. He had the four touches in the first half, I think it was, for eighty-some yards and obviously we would have liked to get him more touches and that’s a focus of our offense each and every week. And yeah, we’d like to get him more touches. We had some that were called out and we just couldn’t get him the ball.”
I don’t know if this is a coincidence or not, but it seemed like every time you got across midfield there was normally a play that sent you backwards and kind of slowed things down. What do you attribute that to and how do you fix that?
“You know, it’s interesting. We talked about it and it’s been a recurring thing. Consistency in performance for our offense. You can take plays, a specific protection for example, that we run in the first half and we execute to get a big play, and we come back to the same protection versus the same pressure essentially and we get sacked because, and I talked about it last week, communication and being decisive versus their pressures and those types of things. Consistency in performance is where we’ve got to improve and coaches, players, we’re all in this together. It’s all of us together getting it corrected.”
Since it’s been a re-occuring thing do you just try to be consistent with the same message over and over and get into them or do you have to change the way you approach it with those guys?
“Well, one of the things that we’ve talked about that we need to make improvement in is making sure our scout team- and it’s one of those things that doesn’t get talked about a lot, but when you have a young team like we have offensively the pictures that they see Monday through Friday preparing them for Saturday, if those pictures aren’t exactly right and they’re a little bit off, it can skew young teams. Veteran teams, they’re usually able to overcome it because they’ve seen those blitzes or they’ve seen those looks over and over, and with a young team like we have offensively we’ve got to make sure those pictures are right. We’ve got to give them the pictures and then we’ve got to execute better.”
Coach, of course we’re playing for the Little Brown Jug on Saturday and you’re relatively new in town-
“I got my history lesson yesterday.”
Did you? That’s what I was going to ask you. Who gave you that?
“Coach Hoke did.”
Okay. Well I’m not going to quiz you.
“Don’t quiz me. I don’t know all the facts but I believe we got the jug there to make sure the water was good. I can’t remember the year, but a lot of history in this game. Feel fortunate to be a part of it.”
Doug, obviously the pass protection has been spotty at times, I guess. Do you feel like Gardner has felt that pressure or maybe sometimes feels the pressure before it’s there because he has been hit a lot?
“I don’t know that you can say that. I don’t know if that’d be correct or incorrect. You have to look at this way: any time the quarterback’s effected by the pass rush we’re concerned about it, and every quarterback has a different threshold. Devin’s an extremely tough individual and I don’t think that I would say that that’s the case.”
You come from a really successful place. What’s missing here?
“Consistency in performance.”
So those players can do it?
“Well, you see us do it in stretches. You see us move the football and you see us create explosive plays and the things we talk about; establishing the line of scrimmage, running the football, creating explosive plays. We do it at times and then at times we struggle and, once again, new group. Hasn’t played a lot together. If you look at career starts that we’ve got together right now there’s not a lot of them, and so it’s going to be important that we just continue to play through this [and] we stay together. The kids have done a phenomenal job. I can’t say enough about how hard those kids competed the other night. You know, go sit in that locker room after that rain delay, to be behind and have 7:51 or whatever it was to go in the game. They came out and those kids fought with everything they had. I’m very, very proud of what they did.”
Coach, what did you tell the offense during the rain delay? You just mentioned it, but…
“The biggest thing was our execution, and it’s about us. Each and every week when you look at our schedule, and we’ve said this week in and week out, it’s going to be how we prepare and how we execute. We don’t really- you look at who you’re playing, the players that they have, where might there be advantages for us, where may there be disadvantages but the biggest thing is about how we play [and] how we execute. Just because you win a game doesn’t mean you played good. Just because you lose a game doesn’t mean you played poorly. It can be skewed and usually the truth lies somewhere in the middle. You’re not usually playing as bad as it looks, and you’re not usually playing as good as people think at times.”
With Funchess, between missing a full game and missing drives here and there, limping a lot, things like that, where is he in terms of being at 100%?
Is there concern over his durability and maybe some of the positions he’s being put in across the middle of the field?
“I think there’s- you look at Funch and his competitive nature and the things he’s done. You know, he’s a tough, tough guy.”
This isn’t quarterback specific so it could be offensive line [or] running back. When you make personnel changes what goes into that in terms of not only what you think the person you’re inserting can do but the effect on the person you’re replacing, that sort of thing?
“Well, I think that’s the environment we’re creating and that’s the compete and challenging every day. We want to have competition at every position and just because you’re not the starter or you don’t start that specific game doesn’t mean that you’re not going to start the next game, [or] whether or not you’re going to get an opportunity the following game. It doesn’t work like that. Getting the best players we can here at Michigan, having them compete each and every day because that raises your level of play. Players play better, and coach Hoke’s talked about that from day one and that’s what we want and we feel like we’re getting better at that.”
Doug, you’ve had the chance to coach at a lot of different places that were in a lot of different situations when you got there. Have there been obstacles [or] challenges that have been different here than anywhere else that you can think of?
“Each situation you’re in as a player or a coach is unique, and that’s why each and every day- the great thing about athletics is you’re judged on what you do today, not what you did yesterday and ultimately each and every day when you go out on that field you’ve got to go play so every place that you go you’ve got unique circumstances. Positives, negatives, may not be exactly the way you want things, [things] may be better than you expected maybe, so our biggest goal is focusing on improving each and every day.”
After the Notre Dame game you said the offense was in its infancy stages. Where have you seen growth since?
“Well, there’s been a lot of growth, and I think you can look at the production of certain individuals and certain players in certain situations. Now, can you say consistently as a group we’ve come a long way? I wouldn’t say that. I thought that the other night we took a little bit of a step back so it’s important that, once again, we refocus, get into the game plan, work on our techniques, work on our fundamentals, and we go out and play better.”