News bullets and other items:
Captains will be voted on after the Ohio State game, with seniors representing the team at each coin toss
The depth chart was released prior to the presser. Read Ace’s take on it here.
Injury update: Kyle Kalis is fully healthy, while Delano Hill is meeting with doctors this afternoon to determine whether he can play Saturday
Hoke raved about Devin Gardner’s progression on the field and as a team leader
Ty Isaac’s status is still uncertain; they’re waiting to hear back about the appeal
The freshman and sophomore classes have an edge to them. Hoke does not know that he has said edge.
Brady Hoke “Well,…” count: 12
[After THE JUMP: a mini scouting report on Appalachian State, Devin Gardner’s development, and the captain situation (or lack thereof) explained]
“Thanks for coming. It’s exciting to be here in game week. We’ve had a good camp. Thought that we competed everyday. It’s exciting to open the season in this great stadium on Saturday. Think camp- the hard work, commitment, the way they’ve competed with each other is something that we’re excited about. They understand what commitment to each other means and that’s something that we can keep building on as we go through the season and I think they’ll do that.
Appalachian State is coming in here. A lot of history. A lot of history with three national championships at a lower level but it’s something that I’m sure they embrace. Obviously this isn’t the first time Michigan and Appalachian State has played so we’ve given full attention to where we need to be and what we need to do as a football team.
We had a really physical camp and a really good camp when you look at staying pretty healthy from an injury perspective, but at the same time letting the guys have a day and a half, two days to get away from football has been real positive. They’ve been able to get themselves- a lot of families were here on Saturday, which was great to see. For them to get away from us and us to get away from them I think was real positive.
When you look at depth charts, the depth charts have been pretty fluid through camp and that’s for a reason. To put stress on guys, see what units look good together. I think we’ve narrowed it down a little bit and I’ll speak a little bit from a defensive perspective first.
I think at the tackle position Willie Henry, [Matt] Godin, [Chris] Wormley, and Tom Strobel all have improved themselves as football players and, again, that comes from the competition. I think Willie has separated himself a little bit but at the same time he knows everyday those other guys are doing a good job. I think at the nose tackle position you’re seeing the same thing. I think when you look at the corner position, I think Ray [Taylor] and Blake [Countess] both had little knicks early in camp as far as just leg problems to some degree but they really came on at the end and that competition was really great throughout camp.
Offensively, having Kalis back. We were a little concerned, obviously, two and a half weeks ago, two weeks ago when his back flared up. He rested it. They did what the trainers and rehab specialists did a great job and so at that right guard position he’s been getting a lot of good reps and that’s exciting. Again, there’s competition and I would say Joe Burzynski also. [Kyle] Bosch on the left side with [Erik] Magnuson is a real plus. I think the two tackles as they’re on there [the depth chart] is what they’re going to be and we had great competition at the running back area and I think that’s going to be something you see all year. I think Derrick [Green], the way he finished fall camp is why he’s at the top of the list.”
You referred to the former Appalachian State-Michigan game. What do you remember from that day? You obviously were at Ball State and do you bring that game up to your guys?
“Our guys know about the game. It’s the only school on our schedule this year that we have a losing record to. I obviously wasn’t here and neither were the 115 guys on this football team and it won’t be the same Appalachian State team either.”
Offensively, especially in this first game, what are you going to look for to see that things have taken a step ahead under coach Doug Nussmeier?
“Well, as a team we all have ownership. Yeah, Nuss is the offensive coordinator and he’s done a fabulous job but we want to be able to run the football. That’s as important as anything. I think that progression of running the football and then the play action game off of the run game is going to be real important. Be positive in the red zone. Don't settle for field goals. You've got to get touchdowns down in there. And then our third down percentage. If we get in some yardage situations we've got to be explosive enough to keep the chains moving."
You mentioned Derrick [Green] and DeVeon [Smith] just as far as the intense competition back-and-forth. Did they show you what you wanted to see or did a guy win by default?
"There's no default. At all. That's not how we operate. What both of those guys have done has been really productive. Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson have really been productive. Just to see the improvements from that part of it has been really exciting."
You said [Kyle] Kalis was healthy. Could he start on Saturday?
What is his health right now? Is he 100%?
"I would say so."
There's been a lot of focus on the offensive line in camp. Is that the biggest question to you and how confident are you that they are going to improve over last year?
"I'm very confident in how those guys have progressed since last year. Through winter conditioning, the weight room, through fall camp, spring ball, the summer so I'm really confident in what those guys have done. Is that the thing that we get asked the most besides that who the running backs going to be? That's – you want to be good upfront. We've got to be a team who's dominant upfront on both sides of the ball."
You obviously like each of your running backs. Could you talk a little bit about what you like about each guy and what each brings to the table?
"Well, they all are different in a lot of ways. Derrick [Green] brings an explosiveness in the hole with good size. DeVeon [Smith], just his mindset and his mentality, he'd rather run you over. Justice [Hayes] out of the backfield with the ball in his hands has been really good, protection for a guy who's not a stout back, he's done a nice job with that part of it. They all have improved. And Drake [Johnson] is very explosive speed-wise and when he hits the hole.”
We talked about position groups, wide receiver and linebacker. Just noticed that [Maurice] Ways is in there, I think, at a three and also just the kind of logjam at linebacker. Lot of talent. Is it just pick a guy? I mean, you’ve got a lot of linebackers there.
“Well, we're in a good position there. We're in a good position because that should help you with your kicking game and, again, we've got more depth than we've had. Now, we don't just pick guys. I think the guys in there at linebacker guys who have practiced well, I think there are guys who played well, you have great leadership and how they go about how they work every day.”
It's not a bad problem to have…
“It's a good problem to have. It's a good problem to have depth.”
Delano Hill – is he out?
“I'll know more when he meets with the doctors this afternoon.”
So there's still the potential that he could play?
The receiver group – could you explain [why Jehu] Chesson is listed behind [Devin] Funchess so are they at the same position? Is Chesson in a different position?
“Well, it depends. What group is that? Is that based group? So you have two receivers or say you have three receivers, it just depends. There are some ways to put Devin Funchess in a lot of different positions.”
Funchess is on the field obviously so are they battling for that second spot? Chesson and Darboh, Is that how that works?
“If we are in base personnel, 21 personnel, Chesson and Funchess will be on the field.”
In what ways do you think your defense will be better this year and could this and should this be the best defense you had here?
“Well, I don't know. I think that's… Why they're better some of it is that we've got depth. We've got depth at the linebacker position, upfront defensively, the only place that we – we've got more depth at corners. The one place where our depth probably isn't as good as we'd like it still is at the safety position. But the way the guys have practiced, I think how they've really competed – and you guys are going to get really tired of hearing that but life is competition. You all are competing with each other. That part of it is what is so good and the leadership that they have with each other.”
Devin Gardner has had his ups and downs but he's now a senior, and experienced senior. What is most important for you to see from him this year?
“Well, your quarterback in a lot of ways, he gets the good and the bad. I think the consistency that he has played with at times is what we're looking for. I think him understanding throwing the ball away is a good play, and I've seen him do that more and more which is awesome instead of trying to force something so from that standpoint I think that consistency every day. I think his leadership in the huddle is 100 times better and I think his leadership overall on the team is 100 times better.”
What stands out about Appalachian State personnel-wise? What groups have you guys touched on?
“Well, I think their skill positions number one offensively. Cox, the running back. The quarterback is a guy who played a lot last year, Kameron Bryant. Their offensive line has 130 starts between eight of them so you have a lot of guys who have been on the field, been in games and I think that's important in the ingredients of how they play together. I think defensively, they got a big old nose, they play odd front, they bring their bases out of an odd front. Odd fronts can give you some problems now and then. Odd fronts are also ways to try and attack an offense because you look at a lot of people and when they get into their sub-defenses you see a lot of odd fronts and a lot of blitz packages. They've got a nose tackle in there, Tyson Fernandez, he's 6 foot two, 335 pounds. He does a nice job. He was an offensive lineman that they moved over there and he takes up the middle. I think their linebackers flow well to the football and good skill in the secondary. I think special-teams – Scott Satterfield is a guy who really believes in special teams and where they need to be. I think that's going to be a big part of this football game.”
Defensively, you already mentioned this, but what do you look at in the first game situation and say, ‘Yeah, the changes that we made are going to be effective’?
“I think start off with the fundamentals and the techniques. Guys getting in the right alignment, guys getting getting in the right stands out of those alignments. I think that's huge because you can see that they've gone through and grasped through the practice situations. The effort to the football is something that we have to make sure we are getting every play. Hasn't been a big problem for us defensively but you've got enough guys that are kind of new and a lot of veterans, just seeing how they play together.”
By my count you could start nine sophomores and two freshmen. How do you get consistency out of that?
“Well, hopefully – why do you tell me that? I didn't even think of that. No, I think that what the preparation has been has been really stressful for them and they’ve responded when we put them in those stressful situations. The quality of what they are positionally, from genetics to how they are athletically.”
Does this sophomore class have a trait that’s universal among them?
“I think that sophomore class is a little bit different. I think it's a little bit different, and that freshman class. Yeah, they're a little different.”
In what way?
“I think they have a little bit more of an edge.”
What have you seen from Jabrill Peppers that makes you willing to entrust him with returning punts in his very first collegiate game?
“Well, he's done a lot even before he got here on big stages. You know, having ran track at national-level events, having been at Paramus Catholic as a football player. Watching him over the course of the last 27 days practice, field punts, be in those situations. The confidence that he has gives me confidence.”
I know it's something that you might not care that much about but it's pretty rare for Michigan not to be ranked in the top 25 going into the season. Is that something the players use as motivation and do you think this team could surprise people?
“Well, I don't know about the last part until we get out there and compete. I would say these are pretty educated guys. You know, they are at Michigan number one and so they understand it's not where you start in any race, it's where you finish. I think is that a chip they may have on their shoulder? They might but that's okay.”
Any update on Ty Isaac's status?
“Still haven't heard anything back from the appeals.”
You haven't said anything about voting on captains. Will there be game captains week to week or where are you with that?
“Well, number one, I think I've mentioned this every time Angelique has asked me about captains but we've had unbelievable leadership throughout the team and we've talked about if you're good enough, you're old enough. One thing, we will have captains but they'll be voted on after the Ohio game. And for the next question, what do you do game by game? I think there's 18 fourth and fifth year guys that we will have represent the team at the coin toss.”
Why is that a better route and you talked about the freshman and sophomore class as having more of an edge, do you think you have more of an edge going into this year?
“I don't know. I don't know if I have more of an edge. Maybe they gave me an edge. I don't know. If I do I think I've been pretty much the same.”
Why is this a better route for the captains?
“Well, I think we've got great leadership in our senior class. We really do, specially on the defense of side of the ball and I think Devin [Gardner] has been absolutely fantastic but at the same time we talked about leadership throughout the team and throughout every class. We have a representative group that's a big part of what we do. Seniors are always- I met with them and we talked about this. Seniors are always going to be the guys that we try to play for, to coach for. That's not changing. Their influence is important but I think that every team is different. I think this team is unique.”
In changing how you do things in that regard with the captains, was there something that really stood out that made you decide, 'We're doing it this way?'
"I made this decision that we were going to go this way last February."