National Signing Day Presser Transcript: Coaching Assistants

Submitted by Heiko on February 1st, 2012 at 4:33 PM

I was tasked by Brian with a couple specific MGoQuestions for coaching assistants following the press conference. Here are those answers and whatever else I could get. 

Darrell Funk

Can you assess your new offensive line recruits?

“These guys are tough. They can run, they can move, they’re going to be really good players. They’re great looking kids. Each one of them has a little different skill set, but they’re going to be a great line for the years to come. We’re really excited about that.”

Players’ bodies change a lot from when they’re in high school to college. What do you look for physically in recruits?

“Like I said, they’re each different. A few of them have to put on a few pounds. A couple of them are pretty much at weight. When you’re developing linemen that can come in, the biggest difference is the strength levels between them and the defensive linemen they’re going to block. I think these kids are advanced in that compared with some potential guys we were looking at because they are stronger and more physical. They’ve got some size to them, but every guy develops a little bit at his own pace.”

How excited are those guys to finally get here?

“Well they’re chumpin at the bit. Most of them have been commited for a while and just signing day seemed like forever to them. And now that’s here now, and now the next thing I’m going to hear is 'Gee, coach, when is June 24 going to come around?' Then they have a lot of chances to get stronger, hit the weight room -- they’re going to have an opportunity to play early. As coach always says, you can’t guarantee someone’s going to play right away, but if they’re better than the guys in front of them they’ll play. And they know that and we’ve talked about that, and the work that they do between today and June 24th when they come to school in the summer will go a long way.”

Are you allowed to communicate with them and advise them before they get on campus?

“As soon as they sign, which they have, now we can give them a weight workout. I can send them playbooks, I can send them different things. There are some strange rules whether they can come on campus and they can’t sit on meetings and different things -- we abide by the rules -- but for the most part I can be on the phone with them every night talking about our base power play and explaining things, and I will. I’m going to work hard with those four kids and give them every opportunity to come into camp and when we install the offense and they hear the terms it won’t be the first time they’ve heard it.”

Do you send them a playbook?

“We send them a version of it. The reason we couldn’t last year is because really until we went through the spring, we really didn’t know exactly -- we know what we’re going to run. We may tweak a couple things. I’ll send them a version, kind of an accelerated version, almost like cliff notes or something like that, so that they get pretty well versed before they come here.”

Are there any other offensive linemen you’re waiting on?

“Yeah, I think it’s important we talk about the guys that we have for today.”

MGoQuestion: Who of your current players on the roster would project to center?

“Well, we have guys who can play center. We wanted to recruit someone in this class that could play center. Guys could play center in this class … you could make some switches. I’ve got some flexibility with the guys I have, and we can find some replacements for David, and we have guys who have played a lot at the position.”


Mark Smith

MGoQuestion: What exact position does Mario Ojemudia project?

“At this time I would think he’s more of what you would consider a defensive lineman. He’s going to be more of a defensive end, kind of a Craig Roh position where sometimes he plays up, sometimes he drops. I won’t have much exposure to Mario until he gets here.”

MGoQuestion: Do any of the current commits project to weakside linebacker?

“Well of all those four guys you mentioned other than Mario, with Kaleb and Joe and Royce and James, they’re all going to play somewhere in the middle, meaning a Mike or Will-type linebacker. They’ll be one of those two positions at least to start out with. That’s where our need for depth and competition is most.”

MGoQuestion: What do you look for in a middle linebacker vs a weakside linebacker?

“Generally speaking the guy in the middle’s a little bit bigger. He’s going to have to take on blockers a little bit more, whereas the guy on the weakside, he’s protected more, and what I mean by that is he’s covered up by down linemen a little bit better, so maybe a smaller guy that runs a little bit better. But you know, what I want them both to be interchangeable. They should be able to play both positions to start out, and then you try to fit them in where they best fit in.”


Al Borges

MGoQuestion: Dennis Norfleet isn’t the prototypical back for the power running offense you talk about a lot. How do you envision using him?

“Well until he proves he can’t do that, we’ll give him a chance to do that. He’s coming in here kind of as an all-around player. He’ll return kicks, play offense, and we’ll see what he does. I’ve had little guys that you didn’t consider prototypes to be good backs. You say, ‘Well, maybe he can do it.’ As we go through it, we’ll test the waters and give everybody a chance to prove what they can do. He’s in that category, too, but he’s electric. He’s a touchdown scorer. You can’t get enough of those guys.”

MGoQuestion: Hoke said you guys didn’t really give him that hard of a look until yesterday. How long have you known about him?

“Well we’ve known about him, but because of the fluid nature of recruiting, you have things become available, and you say, okay, well, we got this, we have a kid that can score touchdowns, let’s take a good look at this kid and see how he fits. Everywhere I’ve been we’ve done that. Whether it’s last week, last couple days, something becomes available … you end up taking a guy who has a chance to help you in some way or some form.”

People have talked about this offense potentially shifting over the next couple years to something similar to what the Patriots run. What do you say to that?

“We do a little of the things the Patriots do. We have an empty package. Didn’t use it this year as much as I’ve used it before. We are very similar to the Patriots. We’ll line up in two back offense, we’ll line up in spread … the key to offense is not whether it’s the Patriots or the 49ers or whoevers. It’s being diverse enough to deal with all situations that arise in football. Having an offense that can accommodate all of those situations that’s geared to your personnel. That’s a nebulous answer, but that is the answer.”

Tight end is a position you like to use. Funchess and AJ Williams are pretty different  players. Do you envision using them differently?

“Possibly. There’s a skill set that you anticipate and there’s a skill set that you get. So when they get here, we’ll see how they fit into what we want to do with them. They’re both going to be tight ends, they’re both going to be coached to be pure tight ends, and we’ll see how that skill set fits with the rest of the group, and we’ll accommodate it.”

How do you like your depth at that position?

“I think we have plenty of guys. We just have to see how it shakes out. We have a couple kids in the spring that are still going to get a golden opportunity to prove they can do it. With the new guys coming in, we’ll see if they can break into the depth chart.”


Greg Mattison

MGoQuestion: Jeremy Clark and Willie Henry seem to be pretty under the radar recruits. How did you learn about them?

“Well Jeremy Clark was in our camp, and all it took was for a bunch of guys to watch him, they went, ‘Wow, this guy’s something special.’ And then the process that we talked about where the coach that recruited that area goes in there and meets the caoch and the coach just says the same things about them. You walk down the hall and you talk to the math teacher and the math teacher says this guy’s unbelievable. Now all of a sudden you say, you have all of this, and look what we saw on the field, and then it’s pretty easy. Willie Henry was the same kind of thing. There are some schools that coaches will not recommend very highly until they’re done with them. They’re going to make sure -- people, especially the ones that respect Michigan and respect coach Hoke, they’re not ever going to give you somebody they’re not willing to put their name on. When a coach like that says, ‘Yes this guy can play.’ Then you listen. So that’s the deal with that.”

After looking at his film and evaluating him for yourself, did you feel like he was underrated as a recruit?

“I don’t care about stars. And I really don’t. There are some five stars out there that I hope we play against. To me all I care is what we, our staff, when we look at the film and say yes he can play or no he can’t play. When we looked at this guy on film, we said, Wow, this is one that we want.’ I don’t care if he’s a five star, three star, or two star. Those are the kind of guys we want in this class.”



February 2nd, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

"Don't care" has a nuanced difference from "disregard".  It's a way to keep students from evaluating themselves based on ratings; you don't want the 5-star guy getting cocky or the 2-star guy giving up just because of some effin' scouts.  But, even if they use the ratings as a resource, "don't care" can still be an honest answer.

The way I see it, any coach will look at a 4- or 5-star recruit.  In that sense, yeah, the answer is hypocritical.  No coach has all the time in the world to look at every HS football player with a magnifying glass.  However, I think the point here is that if Mattison sees a 2-star player he likes and finds a 5-star lacking, he'll throw the ratings out the window and take the 2-star.  At that point he no longer cares about the ratings, having formed his own opinions, and the answer becomes honest.


February 1st, 2012 at 6:04 PM ^


  I said it once, and I'll say it again, I'm really excited about seeing Norfleet run through the remnants of a Front 7 that Kalis/Magnuson/Bars/Braden just utterly destroyed


February 1st, 2012 at 10:21 PM ^

I love this part of Mattison's answer:


You walk down the hall and you talk to the math teacher and the math teacher says this guy’s unbelievable. Now all of a sudden you say, you have all of this, and look what we saw on the field, and then it’s pretty easy.


A lot of universities and coaches pay lip service to academic success, but Hoke, Mattison, Borges, et al. seem sincere on this point.  

(Btw, a student who can't make or has to struggle to meet the minimum NCAA academic standards most likely will not succeed in the classroom at a reputable university.)



February 2nd, 2012 at 12:07 AM ^

You don't become coach of Michigan and pay only lip service to academics, as you can't keep idiots academically eligible at U-M.

However, it's also just easier to coach players who aren't idiots.  Scouts differentiate between "football IQ" and general knowledge, and sure you can accumulate know-how in a specialized career and know fark all about the rest of the world, but riddle me this:  You think someone who can't even do HIGH SCHOOL MATH will take the time to memorize an FBS-level playbook?  Or that a guy who can do calculus can't pick up technique as fast as someone with supposed "football IQ"?  The only real downside to a geek is that they're not as likely to dedicate as much time to bulking up, but if Mattison's says he can play, what's the problem?

Brains are brains.  Ask any zombie.


February 1st, 2012 at 10:09 PM ^

Mattison hinted at Ginn calling the coaches late in the process and "vouching" for Willie. Kinda cool if that's the kind of relationship Hoke and this staff have built back up with a feeder school in Ohio so quickly. 


February 2nd, 2012 at 1:16 AM ^

Hoke has had that relationship for years, back when he was an assistant at UM and even when he was at Ball State he was taking Ginn Sr.'s kids that didn't go to the bigger programs, I have a feeling that there's a lot of mutual respect there, and it definitely bodes well for the future...