- Boo boo watch: Joe Reynolds "feels better each day." I don't know what that means. Courtney Avery is "close" to being able to play.
- Derrick Green is second on the depth chart.
- Brady Hoke thinks depth charts are silly.
- The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry is a pretty meaningful one, yeah.
- Interior line did pretty okay.
- Erik Magnuson has gotten stronger to earn playing time.
- Missed tackles vs. CMU were not so much the issue on defense. Cupping the ball was.
“Thanks for coming out. I know some of you would rather be on a boat on a lake, but it's football season so you don't have that opportunity. You know, as far as last weekend, I was pleased we won the game. At the same time there was a lot of things that we talked about as a football team, as a staff, that we can do better. There’s a lot of work. There’s no excuse for some of the penalties we had from a coaching standpoint and a playing standpoint. We had a couple returns that Dennis [Norfleet] did a nice job on, but obviously were canceled out. The turnovers -- can't have three turnovers. We lost five games a year ago, and we had 18 turnovers in those five games.
“From a defensive perspective, we got two turnovers, but we need to get more. There were a lot of good things, but for us to be a championship football team, we have to do a much better job in how we play. I thought the tempo in the first half and a little bit of the second quarter from an offensive point of view wasn't really what we needed. I think they got a rhythm and they started to do some very good things. Obviously Devin [Gardner] has a great ability running with the football and throwing the football, so I think he helped us a ton some times in there. When we settled down a little bit, we got into the run game pretty well. I thought the defense stood up well in some sudden change situations. We got to play a lot of guys. There were 11 true freshmen and 14 redshirt freshmen who played in the football game. So that was good because they need the experience.
“As you know and I know, this is a different week. It's a great rivalry game that's been played starting in 1887. It's a great rivalry game, and it's always a lot of fun. The atmosphere here, if you were here for the first night game, the second one should be just as fun. So with that, any questions?”
Derrick Green was fifth on the depth chart. Now he’s second. What did he show you?
“Well he ran the ball very well. Don't put all the stock in all the depth charts all the time. There's going to be a lot of guys who handle the football. But I thought, and Fred though, and Al thought that he did a nice job on the carries he had. He missed a read in there one time that we would have liked to have a little better. But at the same time I thought with Fitz [Toussaint], it was good to get him back on the field. He made some really good cuts. He did a good job in protection. And we thought De'Veon Smith did a nice job. And [Thomas] Rawls he had a good run in there. So there's a lot of guys right now that we're counting on.”
In my review of the tape, I thought the tight ends didn’t block particularly well. Am I wrong?
“I thought A.J. did better. I thought he got better as it went on. [Devin] Funchess, we don't ask him to as much. The one thing on the stretch play, [Central Michigan] really targeted it differently with their linebackers. They really, depending on the formation shift, really stretched the linebackers. You have different calls at the line of scrimmage. Some are interior, some are exterior. Exterior would be outside, right? Right. Exterior for the support systems and how you want to handle that. Second time through, we got on them pretty good.”
What were your thoughts on the interior line?
“You know, for the most part, and not entirely obviously, they did a pretty good job. They're a pretty stout group, especially the two guards. So for their first time out there with live bullets, I think they did a good job.”
Brian Kelly said the rivalry isn’t a historic one for Notre Dame. What do you think?
“Well I think you just said it. 'For Notre Dame.' ”
So for you ...
“It is for us, yeah. Everybody looks at everything differently.”
What are your thoughts on Channing Stribling, and what do you like about bringing him in so that Blake Countess can be your nickel corner?
“Two things. I think number one, when you have a guy who's athletic like Blake that can cover slot receivers, I think that's part of it. The other part, I think Strib and Jourdan Lewis both have had pretty good fall camps. They both battle, and they're competitive. Strib's 6-2 and he's long and he's got long arms, and he's got a lot of leverage ... We think he's a pretty good football player. ”
Are you concerned with putting him on an island this early?
“Gotta get there some time.”
Why is this rivalry such a big deal for you and why don’t you want to see it go away?
“Number one, I think it's great for college football. Gameday's been here six times for this football game. That's pretty significant if they're coming to this campus or the campus in South Bend. It must have some sort of national appeal. I think also from the standpoint of coaching a lot of places, maybe it's just me, but I know one thing. When Michigan and Notre Dame was on TV, I was watching it. I know people out in Corvallis, Oregon are going to be watching that game for one reason or another.”
With a young team, is it good to build up that big game hype? Also, what do you want to see your team improve on from last week?
“Does that make you a little nervous when you have a young football team? You know, them playing in this environment? I think the best thing we do is we try and educate them. What it's going to be like. Started that last night. They're off tonight. So Tuesday we'll talk more about the atmosphere and have some of the older kids talk about what that atmosphere will be like. That's part of it. With technology today, you can show them it. And then you talk about not being distracted. Taking care of your job, being accountable to the teammates on this team.
“From a defensive standpoint, Central had a drive in there where they ran the ball. They ran the ball, in our opinion, too well. There's some things, when you look at how to fit a defense, who's taking care of double teams or combination blocks so a linebacker can get over the top, it's those kinds of fundamental things. Also we gave up a third and 17 and a third and 20 for first downs. The coverage not exactly where it should have been, or we didn't break on the ball. Multiple reasons, but that bothers you. Offensively, we have to start faster. We need to start a little fast. We need to do a better job running the ball this week. Their front seven and their front guys are going to be bigger guys. Guys we had some problems with a year ago. We have to be much better in that area, blocking the line of scrimmage.”
Does this being the last Michigan-Notre Dame game at home change the meaning of this game?
“I don't think it changes because the significance of the just the rivalry itself is so good. I don't know if that changes anything from our outlook of how we'll go about our business.”
You won't go into it any differently? Personally?
“No. Not really.”
Will Courtney Avery play? Joe Reynolds? What did you think about your pass rush?
“You know, I think Courtney's close. I can't tell you if he will or not. Joe should be fine. He feels pretty good each day. Gets a little better. Pass rush, I would say at times we were pretty good. I was really thinking through some of the different calls we made. We messed up a couple inside games that we need to do a better job of executing. Getting a guy's hat into a crease and all those things. It was okay.”
You got a lot out of the SAM linebacker position. How much of it was the players performing well, and how much of it was just a product of how that position is utilized?
“I would say this: because they played multiple roles, they played on the line of scrimmage with their hand down, they played up over a tight end -- personally, you've got to give credit to them because of how hard they've worked and what they've done from a physical standpoint, lifting and all that. And I would also say Roy Manning's done a good job with those guys. Roy being a former outside linebacker, I think he speaks the same language and has been there before. I think that's helped.”
Jake Ryan is on his way back. Do you have different roles for when you’ll have three guys at that position?
“Oh I think there's always roles for good football players, and those two guys are good football players.”
What are the challenges that Notre Dame presents you?
“You know, unfortunately Tommy Rees the last couple years has done a pretty good job against us. He's a guy who's matured as a quarterback. I think his accuracy -- you got one game to look at, but his accuracy was really good. We've taken every clip from a year ago and put that on the tape so we look at that. Their offensive line is big. They lost a couple guys, but it's a big offensive line. I think they've got playmakers. [TJ] Jones is a guy who makes a lot of plays. [Davaris] Daniels. And then they ran the ball pretty effectively and efficiently last week. I think they had over 540-some yards of total offense. That's significant.”
For you personally, why is this game so special, and why will you miss it when it’s gone?
“I think it was always a game that really ... it kind of game you a little bit of a true north of what kind of football team you're going to have, if that makes sense. Because if both teams traditionally -- I think we've won 904 games, and I think they're close somewhere -- I mean, you got two traditional national powers playing each other. It kind of gave you an indication. I remember coach Schembechler al the time talking about, how that game, you kind of get an idea of where you were as a team.”
If Shane Morris has to play, how much does his full quarter of experience help him?
“You know, there's no doubt in my mind that we were able, fortunately, to play a lot of young guys so that they number one played against someone besides their own team and played in front of 112,000 people in that stadium, so just getting in the huddle, commanding the huddle. Getting to the line of scrimmage. All those things are critical for an experience standpoint. The playclock, making sure you're cognizant of that. I think it was huge for him as a quarterback, but I think it was huge for a lot of those guys.”
How much flexibility do you have with your offensive tackles? You had that jumbo package ...
“I guess that's having some depth, number one. The experience of those two guys, Mike [Schofield] and Taylor [Lewan], the number of snaps they've played and what they've done. I think that's part of it. I think it's part of the offense, which is a really good part of the offense because you can do more out of it, which can give people, when they start aligning defensively and how much you can leverage a defense, it can cause some problems.”
Is it a credit to Erik Magnuson for being able to step in there?
“Yeah. There's no doubt. Mags has really improved. He's gotten stronger, which is one of the things that he needed to do. He's always been athletic. That's why we recruited him. Knew the strength would come. He's worked hard to get to that point.”
Turnovers were a big part of last year’s game against Notre Dame. How do you impress ball security upon Devin while still encouraging him to make plays?
“It's a balancing act, there's no question. For Devin, believe me, we started this conversation in July about how we're going to make decisions, how we're going to take care of the football. It's not just Devin, obviously. It's every guy who carries the ball, every guy who snaps the ball. I'd rather have a quarterback like Devin that you have to pull back a little bit than I would a quarterback who you have to kick in the pants to get out there to compete. It is a blessing and a curse to some degree. Just hope we have more blessings than curses.”
Devin mentioned his first interception was a good pass but a bad read. Looks like they blitzed the two linebackers...
“No, that's not what he was talking about. He was talking about the safety, the nickel, whatever you want to call him, showed blitz. [Devin] thought he was blitzing. He needed to take one more count when he lifted his leg and pointed to the ground and all that to really see if the guy was coming. You've got to bait them also and change your mechanics from the gun, and that's what he's talking about. The inside backers had nothing to do with it.”
How has he been overall with blitz recognition?
“Good. He's intelligent. He studies it.”
What kind of improvement would you like to see from Jack Miller next week?
“I think Jack [Miller], Kyle [Kalis], and Graham [Glasgow] -- it gets a little tougher this week in who they play. It's no disrespect to anybody, but Notre Dame has three guys up front that are big, strong, active. Guys who have played a lot of snaps and have experience. The odd front would be a little different that they like to work in and out of. Having a bigger guy on the center is a little different when he's head up on you.”
You said you were disappointed about the missed tackles defensively. What stood out to you on film?
“You know what, I'm glad you asked that. Didn't have as many as I thought. Maybe I was just being mad. I don't know. But there were a few in there that get you a little more mad, that you don't leverage it well enough. Cupping the ball, keeping the ball inside and in front, and leveraging is something that we work on and talk about. For the most part we did an okay job. A good job. But we've got to do an elite job.”
One of your former players said he never wanted to see Desmond Morgan come off the field because he wraps up everything. Your thoughts?
“I thought the three linebackers who played significant reps, Desmond, Biggs [James Ross], and [Joe] Bolden -- all three were very active in what they did. Yeah, [Desmond] tackles very well.”
You mentioned how nice it was to have the students show up early. Hunter Lochmann said it was your doing, that it was your plan. How involved were you in that?
“I don't have any plans, believe me. I'm just glad when they come. Donuts at noon games? Yeah.”
Hunter Lochmann did say it was all you.
SID: Actually he didn't say that. We'll get to that later.
Okay, well, he said that and later clarified after a phone call. I'm just wondering if you were involved at all.
“Uh, no. I'm kind of busy.”
What was your interpretation of Brian Kelly’s comments yesterday?
The comments he made at the teleconference.
“I don't interpret what other people say. I have a hard time interpreting what I say.”
It came across as a little bit of a dis [MGo: People still use this word?].
“Everybody's got an opinion.”
What's your feeling about bulletin board material?
“Anything I say or he says really doesn't matter. Because we're not playing.”
Among your players?
“I don't know. I haven't seen our guys yet. It will be interesting to see if they talk about it.”
Can you talk about Kyle Kalis?
“I thought he played well. I thought he did a nice job. A couple backside cutoffs he could have been a little better, but I thought he was physical.”
How did your receivers do blocking?
“[Drew] Dileo, [Jeremy] Gallon, and [Jehu] Chesson all did a terrific job. So did Joe [Reynolds] when Joe was in there. And Jeremy Jackson. Jeremy was part of that group. I thought they did a really nice job down the field blocking.”
Is there going to be some sort of self-assessment with regard to the amount of ACL tears you’ve had?
“You know, I'm sure we'll look at it, but with Drake [Johnson]'s -- he gets pushed in the back a little bit, he's busting his butt trying to make a tackle, guy kind of pushed him in the back. I mean, those things -- I don't know what else you can do about it. But we will, because I know our strength coach and I know our training staff. They'll get their heads together on it.”
The whole chickening out thing you said in the offseason, do you think Notre Dame will use that as bulletin board material?
“I mean, they could use that.”
Do you stand by it?
“Well, I said it.”
There was an inside zone left when Derrick Green was at tailback and it was blocked perfectly. Looked like he had a cutback in the A-gap. Is that the play you mentioned where he missed the read?
“Yes. Yeah. It's exactly right. He missed a read.”
How does Notre Dame's defense stack up on film this year compared to what you saw last year?
“I think they're a very good defense because of the experience they have back. They lost a guy who was a very good linebacker for them to the next level. Brian [Kelly]'s done a good job of recruiting. They've restocked the shelves pretty well.”
You said that the depth chart is pretty fictional. Is the running back order accurate at all?
“What does it say?”
Well, why don't you tell me what you think it says.
“It probably says Fitz, number one. And then it would be Green number two. And then it would be Rawls and Smith and then Justice Hayes.”
And that's true?
“That looks good.”
You said getting off to a fast start is important for your success. Who’s most responsible for getting off to a fast start?
“It's all of us. Coaches, guys getting in the huddle, Jack Miller calls the huddle, get your butt to the huddle. PArt of that is so we can get up to the line of scrimmage where Devin has a chance to maybe get us in the right play. You have the play clock going on. Give him an opportunity to, on the check plays that were out there or the protection scheme or whatever it might be, get enough time so we can get into the right play. Westarted the game in Nascar, which is the high tempo deal. We throw the pick. The good thing was we were stubborn enough to go to Nascar. We needed that as a teaching moment. ”
Seemed like Taylor Lewan was engaged with a blocker on the penalty. Did you yell at him for that?
“Yeah. Yeah. It's a penalty.”
Should it have been a penalty?
“They have a three yard barrier now over the line of scrimmage on their side, and he had taken the guy about five to seven yards. I mean, he was just blocking, but he's got to remember -- it was 69 Naked. The ball's getting thrown.”
It is harder with Devin improvising?
“No, it shouldn't be on that because it's a naked. Devin naked booted out and hit Gallon.”
Will it be an issue in the future because Devin's always going this way and that way?
“Off of dropback, some times.”
So after three yards, Lewan's supposed to what, disengage?
“Disengage. It's not the matter he was blocking the guy. It's that physically he was down the field.”
Was he run blocking on the naked?