- Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon are your captains.
- Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge now have scholarships.
- Courtney Avery is out with orthoscopic [MGoI'mGoingToDoSoWellAsAnM3: ARTHROSCOPIC] surgery for some cartilage in his knee. Playing time and experience would say that Jarrod Wilson is the next guy in, but there's probably a three-way battle between him, Josh Furman, and Dymonte Thomas.
- Derrick Green and Deveon Smith made the traveling depth chart, and they will be expected to contribute either as backup running backs or special teamers. Their redshirts are toast.
- Starting offensive line is Lewan, Glasgow, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield.
- Blake Countess is starting cornerback and starting nickel. Next guy off the bench is probably Hollowell, but both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis made it onto the depth chart, so there may be some competition there.
- Dennis Norfleet is handling all return duties.
"Okay let's get started. Thanks for coming out. We're five days away now. It is game week, and it's exciting. Our players, our staff, everybody involved has worked very hard since January to get to this point. We're excited about the opportunity to see where this team is, and we talk about never getting a second chance to make a first impression, so it's going to be exciting on Saturday.
"We voted our captains yesterday, and I think the four guys: Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon, are very deserving. At the same time I'll tell you that whole class has done a tremendous job as far as leadership and teaching and helping to help coach young football players. As you all know we are a young football team. We also had an opportunity last night to award three scholarships to guys that have walked onto the program and have set a standard for work ethic and set a standard for their toughness. Their love for their teammates and their love for Michigan. Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge were three guys most deserving. When you have an opportunity to do that as a coach, you always feel good because it obviously is helping their families out. More than that, the guys have earned it.
"Courtney Avery had arthroscopic surgery Thursday night. Cartilage. It should be a two-week setback, but everything went well. He is in great spirits and he'll be back on the field soon."
Any other injury updates? Jake Ryan still on track to come back in October?
"Well, I think so. It's hard for me to say, but I know Paul Schmidt and the people who are with him day to day as far as working him out and seeing him move around. He's doing some drill work with the outside linebackers, a little bit of pass rush at times with coach Mattison. We don't want to get him too far ahead without being careful with him at the same time."
Without Avery, what's the ripple effect at safety?
"Well Josh Furman's been here a long time. He's had a good spring. Dymonte Thomas had a good fall. He is a young freshman. Jarrod Wilson's played a lot of football, so that helps us in what we want to do back there as a group."
So is Josh Furman the first guy in?
"Josh is battling for it."
Looks like the veteran running backs held up their status on the depth chart. Talk about that?
"Yeah. I think, number one, the veteran guys have some personal pride. We recruited two freshmen that we're proud to have here. Think they're going to be good football players. But a guy like Drake Johnson is a guy who really has done a tremendous job all through his time of being at Michigan. We were fortunate enough last year to redshirt him. The job he did on the look team down there, the job he did during bowl practice, we thought this guy's got a great chance. Thomas Rawls and Justice [Hayes] have all competed at a high level. Fitz is back, and you can see it. On Saturday, just some of the things we did -- we didn't do a whole lot -- and on Friday, he looked very good. He feels good. It is what it is right now."
Have you identified a third-down back yet?
"You know, I think all these guys -- Fitz is really good at protection. He's really good at catching the ball in the backfield. So is Drake. I think they've all shown that capability. I don't know if it's as clear cut as it has been in the past. We feel better about the characteristics they all bring to our running back position."
Now that you've gone through camp, what do you like best about the team?
"You know, I like how they've practiced. I think we as a staff like how they come out every day. We do a walkthrough and it's a fast-pased walkthrough. How they've learned from the offensive side of it. I think the physicalness up front, I think is better, even though there's targeting issues with young guys that haven't played a lot. Targeting the right guys, and maybe the footwork, and some of the fundamentals we need to keep cleaning up. Defensively, I think the depth, especially up front -- the four guys who would start for us up front, there's only 17 career starts between all four of them. Now Frank's played a number of plays, Quinton Washington has played a number of plays, and Jibreel [Black], but Keith Heitzman hasn't played a lot of plays, neither have any of the guys behind them. But they've come out and have been physical. This is been a physical camp."
Can you talk about Jack Miller at center and Graham Glasgow at guard?
"I think both of them have played well. I think they executed well. Both of them are intelligent young men, and that is huge, especially when you're a center, because the calls and the communication that you need to have. Both of them have been physical. Graham, Chris Bryant have really fought hard, and so has Ben Braden, but Graham just came in here and really -- five best on the field at the same time. He's one of the five."
Do you look at the five that you have, and are you convinced that they're going to produce more than last year?
"You know, we really like them. I liked the guys last year, too, don't get me wrong. I really like how Taylor and Mike Schofield have done a really good job of pushing these guys and teaching them as much as anything."
You mentioned physicality. Where else are you able to see that in this camp?
"Whether we have pads on or don't have pads on, how they play. The speed that they're playing with. I think you get used to each other a little bit, and that is where they're at right now. They're ready to play somebody else and have a benchmark for where we're at. I'm sure we're not going to be where we want to be after Saturday, but it's just how they've all come to practice. I think it's been a very good teaching month for us, and that's the upperclassmen doing a lot of good teaching to the younger class."
Is physicality something you're emphasizing more this year?
"I don't think so. I think we always want to be a physical football team."
Four captains is a bit of a rarity. What decides how many captains are chosen each year?
"Their teammates. They're the ones who decide."
Is it just if four guys have more votes than everyone else, or is there some other sort of criteria?
"It's honestly the way the votes came out."
You have Blake Countess at two positions. Does that mean that Channing Stribling is the first corner off the bench when you go to the nickel package? If so, how did he grab that job?
"I wouldn't say that's a for sure deal with Channing. He's a guy who's competing for that. Hollowell is competing for it. I think Jourdan Lewis is competing for it. It could be any one of those three guys."
You've been saying for a while that this is a young team and trying to temper expectations. Is youth still a valid excuse though in college football these days? Guys seem to learn thing a lot faster than they did previously.
"You know I think it has a lot to do with guys coming in for summer school. Being on campus, understanding the expectations in the weight room, in the conditioning, the older guys, the seniors doing a great job of teaching what cover-six is, what a route is. I think that helps some, but at the same time freshmen are going to hit a wall sometime. The stress of the academics, being away from home, playing on a big stage."
Does having a redshirt freshman Heisman winner last year sort of put pressure on young guys to accelerate their learning curve?
"I don't think that has anything to do with it. I really don't. Obviously Johnny Manziel won the Heisman as a young guy, and there's a lot of factors in the football team itself and what they did as part of it. I don't know if that comes in."
Talk about the kicking specialists?
"You know, I think Matt [Wile] and Kenny Allen have done a really competitive good job in the punting game. Matt obviously will be the guy who punts. I think having Scott Sypnewski as a backup snapper is really a great thing for us as a team. Sometimes people don't put value on how important those guys are in the punt and field goal part of it. Gibby's been very good. He's done a nice job. Matt is still part of the kickoff and long field goals. And in the return game, there's a few more guys. Having Dennis [Norfleet] get comfortable with the punts and catching punts is much more different than kickoffs. I think that has been a real plus for us."
Will Jeremy [Gallon] still handle punt duties?
"No. Fleet will take both."
You have six running backs on the depth chart. How many realistically will play on Saturday?
"We have six on there? We'll have six travel, and six will play."
All six will get snaps?
"Well, special teams, whatever it might be. I don't think all six will carry the football, but if they're going to travel, they'll have to contribute."
How do you address expectations for the Big Ten championship even with Ohio State as the heavy favorite?
"Well, I don't think we really worry about anybody else. If we do that, then we're losing sight of what's important, and that's us. We have high expectations. We have 42 Big Ten championships that have come before. We talk about that every day. We're trying to be the team that wins the 43rd. And so, I'll be honest with you, we have to worry about ourselves. If we do a good job not having distractions, do a good job with the way we come to work every day and come to Schembechler Hall, then we'll see."
Is there something special about preparing for an opener?
"Well, number one, it's not always the same. Camp is not always the same. It depends what kind of camp you're having. When I say that, [I mean] is the attitude right? Are guys coming in with energy? Are they competing in everything we do? This camp was a little bit different than last year's camp because you could feel that more. We gave them a little more time off. We officially broke camp so mentally they could be 18 to 22-year-olds for eight hours and get back to work. And they earned it with how they practiced every day."
Blake Countess said he's not on special teams this year. Have you made any philosophical changes about that because of what happened to him last year?
Starters will still play on special teams?
"There are still quite a few starters on there."
So it's just him that you're holding out?
"Well he's a backup, and he can do those things. We just, number one, he's coming off [the injury], even those he's completely healed."
Last year there seemed like you played more even fronts.
"I think if you really look at it, when we start getting into our sub packages, nickels, dimes. We have a base out of an even, we have a base we use out of the odd. Certain teams, depending on their personnel groups and what they want to do out of those personnel groups and formationally, you'll be a little bit of both."
Was Devin Gardner everything you thought he was going to be?
"I thought he had a very good camp. Good quarterback? Yeah, you darn right he is. Has his leadership grown? I don't think there's any question. Now there's a matter of the decision-making every time, and that's been better. But [we have to] make sure that we're making the right decisions, [knowing that] throwing the ball out of bounds sometimes is a good thing, and trying to make a play because you have that ability -- which he does -- but you have to be calculating in that."
Does the decision-making part of it basically come down to whether to run or to throw?
"Probably it's more throwing the ball late over the middle, trying to force a throw to a receiver, maybe not going through progressions."
Obviously this year is a little different because he's had a fall camp to prepare. Have you seen a different mental side to him?
"Yeah I think so. Number one, he loves the game. He loves to study the game. He loves to talk about the game. He's an intelligent guy. I think as he's grown and matured, those elements and intangibles are there and they're -- I think he had a very good fall camp."
Last week he said that he still needs to be a leader regardless of whether he's voted a captain. What has he done to stand out in that aspect?
"You become natural to some degree when you're playing that position. You're the one in that huddle. You're the one who's in front of everybody. I think there's always a demeanor that you want to have for that guy, whether he just got sacked or he just threw a 19-yard first down. Whatever it is, the constant and consistency of the demeanor that you have to show, and I think that's been improved upon."
What kind of tone has the offensive line been able to set?
"Well, we're going to find out here real quick, but I think they really wanted to be a group that pounds the line of scrimmage, open up creases, and get movement."
Does anything about Central Michigan stand out to you?
"They're well coached. Dan [Enos] does a nice job. You look at their offensive line and the pad level they play with. Defensively, how they get to the football. Their back is a 1,500-yard back, which I always think is nice to have. I think they're well coached. They beat a good Western Kentucky team, if you look and follow the path of that team in their bowl game. They have a lot of pride. They should. They're a good program."
How many carries would you like to see Fitz [Toussaint] get?
"You know, I don't think we've narrowed that down. If we can get 18-25, 30 runs, I think that would be productive."
Does having a pro style defense help your defense?
"It helps your defense tremendously because of all the combination blocks from power football. Lead play, power play. It helps your guys up front when they have to defend it every day."