- Fitz's surgery went well. He should be out of the hospital by now.
- Denard is improving. May be able to throw.
- Desmond Morgan should be back.
- There's some kind of football game happening on Saturday.
“Number one, Fitz had surgery. Went very well. Saw him yesterday. Should get out of the hospital today, and should have a full recovery, and we’ll move forward and he’ll move forward. But everything went well, as well as it can as far as having an injury. No one wants that for any kid.
“The Iowa game was one where we have to play much better than we did this week to be successful. The great thing about it was our guys, the seniors of this team, being able to come up that tunnel for the last time and sing the Victors in the locker room here. That was a real positive and as we look forward, we’ve got a great challenge in front of us and an opportunity, one that -- this is a fun football game. Any time you have a rivalry like this, this is a fun game to play.”
How much will it help your team that having been able to get game experience using Denard the way you used him?
“Well, I think it helps our football team. When we moved Devin, and he wanted to move to wide receiver, we were helping our football team because you’re putting your best 11 on the field. I think Denard fits in that either as a quarterback or as a slot receiver or wherever it may be. It helps our football team. Was it good to see him in live action? Yeah.”
What exactly was Fitz’s injury …
“I’m not going to get into that. That’s his business.”
Do you expect him back for next season?
“Yes. Yes. Hope so.”
How much does Kovacs’s journey as a walk-on to starter help him now?
“It probably, you know, speaks to his character and his resiliency. Perserverance and all those things. His work ethic, to me, is what it talks about. I think his teammates obviously feel that way or they wouldn’t have voted him a captain. He’s put in a lot of hard work and he’s been through a grind.”
You were there the last time Michigan won in Ohio Stadium. Why is it so difficult to win there, in a place where you’re not particularly well liked?
“I don’t know if we’re not all that well liked. But it really is a great environment, and we have a lot of respect for them. They have good football players and always have and always will. They play with a passion. Their fans are passionate about their school, which is what makes college football so great, which is what makes this rivalry so great. I can’t speak to winning down there, losing down there. I’ve done both. It’s a fun week I can tell you. Fun week in practice. And it’s a fun game to be involved with.”
Do you stick with Devin at quarterback this week or is that up in the air?
“I’d say it’s probably -- Denard continues to get better every day. I would say it’s probably up in the air.”
A couple of teams have had success on the edge against your defense. What do you need to do to contain Braxton Miller?
“I don’t know if you’re ever going to be 100 percent with an athlete like that. Never happens. I think your emphasis and your focus on your leverage positions, your perimeter players, your support, and how you’re leveraged defensively is a big part of it.”
How has Thomas Rawls progressed with the season, and what does he bring to your offense?
“Thomas, I think, has imrpoved a lot as the season went on. I think he learned a little more about playing the position at this level. And some people, and I probably am one of them sometimes, think you’ve got a gifted guy, you give the football to him, and then he decides where to go, but there’s so much more to it when you’re looking at backside reads on linebackers, you’re looking at pass protections, all the things that you have to do as a back. I think that’s where Thomas has grown the most.”
What has been key to having success passing downfield?
“A lot of it is the play-action part of it. Being able to get some yardage on the ground, being able to create some space. I think that’s always a big part of it. What helps you then is off the play-action. The safeties, they get a little more eager to get up in there, and if you have the ability to get by them a little bit, it creates vertical plays.”
What kind of inspiration and leadership has Elliott Mealer brought to this team?
“I think his journey has been one that means an awful lot to the guys on this football team because of how Elliott lives daily. To overcome the tragedy that he’s dealt with in a really first-class way and just love the love his teammates have for him.”
How does the magnitude of the Game increase with Ohio State being undefeated?
“It doesn’t. To be honest with you. We’re playing for a championship still. If you need anything to get amped up more or whatever for this football game, then you don’t know college football, and you don’t understand the importance of this great rivalry.”
How much of the tape from last year is relevant to this year?
“From an offensive standpoint, probably not much. Defensively, some.”
Because of Fickell?
Does it mean anything different to beat an undefeated OSU team?
“Just that ball game. Just winning the game.”
How has Desmond Morgan progressed? Will he be ready?
“Yeah, he’ll be ready. He’ll be ready.”
How does it compare being a head coach for this game vs. being an assistant coach?
“Well I get the delight of sitting here talking to all of you. … I’m coaching a position.”
What can you say about the job James Ross did in Morgan’s stead?
“I thought James, I think from day one we thought he was instinctive and a good football player. It doesn’t surprise you that he has good instincts. He sees things well and he likes to tackle.”
As a defensive coach, can you talk about the problems that having both Devin and Denard on the field presents to a defense?
“Well, yeah. You know, I just think you’ve got to look at from a schematic standpoint, making sure how you leverage, how you look at things, what kind of options does a team have off the various formations, how you want to defend and what’s real there to defend, and what’s not. That to me is always the hard part about it.”
MGoQuestion: What are you most concerned about with regard to Ohio State’s offense?
“They’re running the football very well. They’re scoring more points than anybody else in the conference. I think Carlos Hyde is a big back who’s physical and Braxton with what he does with his athleticism, that’s part of it in his uniqueness and his ability to make people miss. I think their offensive line is talented. They’ve got playmakers at the wide receiver position that can get down the field. I think the way they use the tight ends, which we really didn’t do a great job defending this past week, it’s a concern.”
Does Toussaint’s injury change the way you use Denard?
“No. No. Thomas Rawls, this is a great time for him, and Vince Smith.”
You’ll know by Saturday whether or not you have a chance for the B1G championship. I’m guessing it won’t change how you will approach the game on Saturday.
Thoughts on what you’ve seen from Urban Meyer, and can you comment on how it will be exciting for the two of you to go against each other these next few years?
“Um … I don’t know? The good thing is neither one of us is playing, so we’re going to prepare our teams to the best of our abilities to go play in a great rivalry game.”
You and Urban Meyer both started in the MAC. What would you attribute to MAC coaches having so much success in their careers?
“Well, you know. I think you have to define success. I think the MAC is a great conference because everyone plays with the same guys for the most part. The technical side of teaching and coaching or schematically may be have a different edge to you. Could go a long way, but believe me, there’s a lot of good coaches who have coached in that league, and a lot of good coaches coaching in that league now.”
Devin has completed 74% of his passes on first down. Whoaterenowy?
“Well, people defend you in different ways. First down, second down, third down. I think some of it he’s done a nice job because there’s some run checks, pass checks that you deal with on early downs. I think he’s done a good job of that. When you watch some of the routes that have been run by wide receivers, they’ve been good. I think the play-action’s helped. And he’s thrown the ball well. I guess I could start with that.”
Do you have a favorite Michigan-Ohio State game?
“Oh boy. Uh, I don’t know. The favorite ones are the ones you win.”
“Hm. I don’t remember the year, to be honest with you. It would have been … maybe the ’02 game?”
Uh, they beat you in ’02.
“I know. You said most memorable.”
Why was it the most memorable?
“If I’m … boy. Was that Clarett’s first year?”
“Screen pass. A big third down play.”
OSU defensive line?
“Very physical, very good speed, Hankins is as good as any defensive lineman playing in the interior in the country, in my opinion. He plays hard. John Simon, I’ll be honest with you, I love watching him play. I have a lot of respect for him because of from point A to point B, he goes. I’m a defensive line coach, so I like watching guys who play that way, at that tempo, at that toughness. I think they have speed at the linebackers. They flow well. Shazier is a guy who you better get to the second level on. You don’t see their back end making many mistakes. And they’re athletic”
What’s your first memory of this game as a kid?
“You’re really going back. Look, I had a hard time going back to 2002. I’m serious! I don’t know which one it would have been.”
Any players or names come to mind?
“I really couldn’t tell you.”
Does it help at all that Greg Mattison has worked with Urban Meyer before?
“I don’t think it helps. I think as much as anything, it’s the guys doing it.”
Do you do anything special with the guys on Thursday?
“Yup. We’ll have Thanksgiving dinner.”
Is being from Ohio a bigger deal when you’re playing in Ann Arbor or in Columbus?
“I don’t know. I think it’s just such a great game, you know. From the standpoint of the rivalry and the excitement about it. I don’t know. I mean, I wouldn’t say either way. It’s a fun week. I mean … it’s a fun week!”
Did you ever attend a game there?
“We didn’t do many football games, because we were usually playing.”
Do you educate your players on the rivary?
“We try and do that a lot through August as we talk about Notre Dame national rivalry, the in-state rivalry. And then this week we’ll go a little bit historical -- I think this is our 109th game. I think obviously our guys know that we haven’t won there in a long time. So all those kinds of things are part of it.”
Do you think they understand?
“I think there’s certain guys who -- a lot of freshmen don’t unless you’re from the state of Ohio or the state of Michigan. I think in just talking to some of the older kids and meeting with the seniors yesterday, some of them didn’t understand it until they’d been through it.”
“Joe, he’s probably one of the hardest-working guys on this team, period. Whatever it might be. We do have some depth there, but he’s earned that right to go out there and compete.”
What are his strengths at that position?
“He’s intelligent. I think probably first and foremost he’s not afraid, which is always a good thing when you play the game of football. And he’s pretty detailed in what he does.”
What are your thoughts on the Big Ten expanding?
“Heh. I think that’s -- right now, Ohio may be a little more important.”
MGoQuestion: Any of the Team 132 seniors coming back to talk to the team?
“Not that I know of.”
MGoFollowup: Any alums at all?
Do you think the recruiting competition has heated up since Urban has entrenched himself?
Will it make recruiting harder?
“I think we’ll get the ones we get, and they’ll get the ones they get. It’s just the way it goes.”
What’s your favorite part of the preparation for this particular game?
“This moment right now.”
What’s your second favorite?
“Second favorite is when this moment is over with.”
Bo Schembechler used to do something in practice every day to prepare for Ohio State. Do you do that?
“Well, I think there’s not a whole lot you can do than prepare for another opponent every day. I think there’s things we talk about every day, you know, as far as part of remembering that game throughout the year.”
Beyond the greeting?
“Eh, that’s part of it.”
Did you watch 60 minutes?
“No. No. I was watching Ohio.”