- If Denard were a rapper his stage name would be Day2Day.
- Hoke says decision on Denard's status for Saturday will be made based on health, not sentiment.
- Mario Ojemudia is "coming along," which probably means he won't be ready for Saturday.
- Will Campbell "probably played his best football game" against Northwestern.
- Hoke did think about going for a touchdown instead of a field goal at the end of regulation but decided not to.
Whether Denard could play situationally even if he were unable to throw the ball is something Hoke may consider.(What does that even mean. Aye aye aye.) Take two: Hoke will talk to Denard about playing situationally or as a runner if he remains unable to throw the ball on Saturday. Maybe.
How are you doing?
“Better than the alternative.”
“Really proud of our football team. I’m proud of how they stuck together. I think I mentioned, I may not have -- they really stuck together the whole game. They believed in each other, believed in what we were trying to get accomplished. I thought there were some really smart decisions made by players and by some of the guys on the staff when the two returners at the end of the game on the punt, because of the way they tried to punt the ball, Gallon was able to get some real positive yardage and set up being able to get the ball to whatever yard line it was to try for the field goal to tie it. If you have one returner back and that ball bounces, you lose field position and those things. Kids executed it well.
“This week’s a special week. Number one, our seniors. Last time they get to play in the greatest stadium in this country. Get to wear that blue jersey here at home and so it’s really special for us as coaches and for those underclassmen who go out and play well. Iowa, as you know, they’re a very good football team. They’ve lost the last two games I think by a total of six points. Run the football well. I think they’ve had some nicked up people when you look at it earlier in the year, but I think they’re really coming together. James Vandenberg, I think, is a very good quarterback. We’ve got our work cut out for us, and we have a lot to do.”
What are the chances we’ll see Denard at least to some extent since it’s senior week? Will you put him on the field even if he’s not totally recovered?
“He’s day to day.”
MGoQuestionPt1: Last year against Notre Dame you went for the touchdown…
MGoQuestionPt2: Last Saturday you went for the field goal. Why was the decision was different this time?
“I think that it just made sense at the time, you know? Kids were running all the way down the field, didn’t have a time out. [Devin] spiked it, did a great job of managing that. No one was moving. And that time I just thought it was the right thing to do, because [going for the touchdown] did cross my mind, but I thought, ‘No, let’s kick the field goal.’ ”
Talk about the mental toughness on the last drive in regulation, especially after Northwestern converted their fourth down?
“I thought our defense, we didn’t tackle as well as we wanted to. We didn’t get off blocks as well. I thought the inside run portion of their offense was eliminated because we did a nice job, but we didn’t get off blocks well enough in the perimeter, but our defense, there’s a play in that game when Craig Roh makes the sack the play before, there’s 10 guys running their tail off to the football and getting to the football. They played with that kind of effort all day. You just have to give them some credit because I think Kain Colter’s a good football player, and I think Venric Mark is a guy who can play anywhere because he’s got great quicknes to him and speed. So I thought our defense stood up when it had to.”
Were those issues due to Northwestern and Colter just being that good?
“Yeah. I think obviously that some of what they did well and some that we didn’t do well enough. I do think they’re two really good athletes, so I don’t know how you want to slice it, but are there things that we could do better, get off blocks better, leverage the ball better? No question about it.”
Was it a similar thing against Air Force?
“Yeah, but it’s a little different because Air Force basically has four backs in the backfield depending on what they’re doing with the slots.”
You’ve been much more of a running team with Denard. Is there a concerted effort to change your philosophy when you’re trying instead to pass in order to set up the run? Did you find that to be successful?
“Yeah, I think it always helps when you can throw the ball and the safeties have to get a little further back off the line of scrimmage. I know we thought some of the hitch routes that we threw to Gallon, threw a big one in overtime to Roundtree, which he caught well with his hands, made a guy miss, and picked up some critical yards. I think there’s no doubt if you can be effective enough in either portion of it, it will help the other.”
You mentioned the rugby punt. Are you surprised they didn’t try to kick it out of bounds?
“Well, where do you kick it out of bounds? And to me, that’s one reason why we don’t do that. It’s a hard kick to manage. Guy’s moving sideways. That’s like hitting a golf ball walking towards the tee. I’ve seen a guy do it pretty good, but I think that’s hard to do.”
When do you make the decision on Denard this week because of Senior Day?
“That won’t have anything to do with it. His health is what will have to do with [it].”
Can you talk a little more about the seniors in terms of them having to switch coaching staffs …
“Well, I think you see it as a team that we’re pretty resilient. That’s what this group is. They’ve been through two approaches, two styles of how you go through a football program, and they’ve done a great job with it. They’ve worked hard. They’re a fun group of guys to be around. I just think the world of them.”
How many of Northwestern’s big plays were due to lack of leverage vs. missed tackles?
“Heh. If I could give you a percentage -- it was obviously a little bit of both. I thought we were in space in times to make a play and didn’t. Probably more on some of the pass rush things. I think there was an opportunity to have four more sacks if we keep the ball constricted in that pocket, but some of it’s a matter of us not running through a guy or not taking a proper angle, and some of it is they made a play.”
Considering how good you have done the last few weeks, is that something that’s easily fixable?
“I think it’s easily fixable. I don’t know if anything’s easily fixable, but I think the message was sent yesterday about leveraging the football as a defense.”
Can you talk about the career that Denard has had and what he means to this program?
“Well, I … he’s obviously made a mark within Michigan football. He’s done a tremendous job, but I think there’s a lot of guys as a team, as a group of seniors -- Will Campbell is a guy who’s really grown and probably played his best football game.”
How much do you have to remind your team to block out things like Nebraska’s game vs. Penn State?
“They’ve done a great job, to be honest with you. I never hear anything but who’s next, who the opponent is. I think they know we’ve got to take care of ourselves. To achieve greatness you’ve got to put yourself in position. You’ve got to take care of your business to do that.”
Is it disappointing that you don’t control your destiny?
“Yeah. It always is. You want to be able to control things that you can do, but we do control what we can do, and that’s why Iowa is so significant.”
What do you see from Iowa on film? They don’t seem to be as good as they have been previously.
“I don’t know. Not being there, I don’t know. I know they still run the plays that they run. I think they do a great job of blocking them. I think both backs are capable guys. I think Vandenberg is really a good quarterback. He gave us a lot of fits last year especially on critical downs, even though the third downs -- what was it?”
Four of 12.
“Four of 12. I was thinking in my mind it was a lot worse than that.”
What happened on the long kickoff return?
“You know, there were a couple different things. Number one, you have to cross face some blocks and we didn’t do it on the backside. We stayed and -- we tell them to cross their face, go buttside. We didn’t do that. They blocked it decently well. We had a safety in position that needs to be more aggressive on it. It was a lot of different things.”
Do you think there’s going to be disappointment from fans they’re not going to hear from him this week?
“You know, he’s day to day.”
Did you do anything this week that’s different and shareable in terms of the seniors?
How has Will Campbell grown?
“Uh, really grown -- well in some ways he hasn’t grown. He’s gotten thinner. I think his approach to the game, and you see that. You see that in guys who become juniors and seniors that are focused. Their mindset, how they prepare. That’s part of it. Leadership’s part of it. The comfort zone a guy gets because he’s been through it and been through the struggles.”
Dennis Norfleet played more on punt return. What went into that decision?
“Gallon, you know, he had kind of boo boo-ed himself last week, so we were just trying to give him some rest. We have a lot of faith in [Gallon] and trust in him and he felt good.”
How do you spell ‘boo boo-ed up’?
“You’re the writer.”
What went into the last two tackles by Kenny Demens?
“The one on the quarterback draw, the first one. He did a nice job coming back and it really was forced nice from the inside where the guy had bobbled it for a minute and he only had a certain area to go. Kenny did a nice job with that. On the last play of the game, number one, I thought Greg really gave them something a little different. I think we had run it one other time in the game, but when we ran it, it was Siemian in at quarterback. Gave them a different look. Had three backers in the box. Jibreel Black did exactly what he was supposed to do in forcing the A-gap and getting penetration, so there was only one other way the running back could run the ball. He had to get it right back into Kenny, and Kenny obviously made a terrific tackle and was in the place he should have been. The good thing on the outside of the perimeter, the pitch man was taken care of. Kovacs was exactly where he needed to be and the quarterback, we had two guys on him.”
Is it easier to build off a win even though it didn’t necessarily go very well defensively?
“Yeah, I think so. It’s easier to teach, always, off a win. Believe me. So yeah, I think there were a lot of things yesterday we -- I don’t want to say cleared up, but maybe made a little more crystal on how we want to play.”
How has Denard handled the past few weeks mentally?
“Been a great leader. I mean, he’s been a terrific leader.”
Could Denard still be used in the running game or situationally even if he can’t throw the ball?
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll talk to him about that day to day.”
Has it been frustrating for him?
“I would think so.”
Is there more a comfort level for your staff playing against a prostyle team like Iowa?
“Oh I don’t know. I think you’ve been coaching long enough, you get comfortable with most things. It’s usually not the system. It’s the players.”
Michigan has always been “The Team,” but you have to admit that Denard has been the face of Michigan football for the last few years. Has he enjoyed that? Is he a guy who --
“I don’t know.”
Well, from your perspective, is he a guy who has enjoyed being --
“I don’t know.”
How has he handled it?
“I think he’s done a great job.”
With grace? Does he seek it out? Does he not like attention?
“Do you think he’s graceful?”
Yeah, I think he’s graceful.
“Then I would say yeah.”
But I’m talking about in terms of the public perception and the expectations of him.
“Expectations are always lofty when you’re at Michigan. You know that.”
“So it comes with the territory.”
I’m trying to understand how Denard has enjoyed his career here being the face of --
“I think when his career’s over, he will enjoy it immensely.”
Okay ... [sigh]
“Day to day.”
Have your linebackers come as far as any group on this team this season?
“I think they’ve made progress. I think the rotation of the guys has been positive. Kenny’s been productive. Jake, obviously, has been pretty productive. I think as a group, they’re a very solid group.”
What does Denard do to help Devin during a game?
“Number one, he’s on the headset. He was trying to get one of the wide receivers lined up the other day, and that’s kind of hard to do because it gets loud in there, but when Devin comes off, they have a conversation. I know late in the game when we needed to get the stop defensively, he was talking to every guy on the offense about keeping them going, I guess.”
Does Denard offer more to Devin because of his experience?
“Yeah I think so.”
Is there a situation in which that particularly helps?
“I don’t sit in their conversations when they’re coming off, but what I know and how I see them interact, I would say yes.”
Is it frustrating for you, personally, to think that Denard might be done?
“I think any time a guy can’t finish the way that they would like to because of injury or whatever, you’re disappointed for them.”
Is it more so with him?
“No. They’re all our sons.”
Is there any further status update for Russell?
What about Ojemudia?
“He’s coming along.”
How has Antonio Poole progressed?
“He’s coming along. He’s not running everything yet, but he’s coming along. He’s doing alternate conditioning, a lot of weight room, a lot of biking. All those things.”
Kenny was challenged for playing time earlier in the year. Was there something that changed for him?
“Kenny has a lot of pride. Any time there’s competition, which is healthy for all of us, I think it brings the best out of you. I think he has a lot of respect for Joe [Bolden] and how Joe plays, and I know Joe has a lot of respect for Kenny. When we can have the opportunity to rotate them a little bit just to keep guys fresh at the end of the game, we’re going to do that. So it’s not all based on where a guy is. Will and Jibreel rotate a number of plays all the time. Now that doesn’t mean one’s better than the other. They’re both being productive and we’re keeping them fresh.”
Were you more pleased with the offensive line?
“Yeah. I thought we were better. In the first half I thought Fitz missed two reads. Now I was a running back in seventh grade, so that tells you how much my vision is, but he really -- I thought they did a better job and a more thorough job of finishing.”
How do you keep this team focused game to game even though you’re so focused on Ohio State?
“I think they have a unique sense of what’s important.”