Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Injuries and Actual News
Multiple guys had headaches, their status is unknown until he talks to the doctors. Not sure about Stonum - he'll try to run around a bit the next couple days [but is in a boot].Gallon's shoulder will have to progress.
"Mike [Martin] should be OK. He'll be a little limited probably, he and Jonas [Mouton] both." Martin is the most dominant defensive player when he's healthy. "When we've got a healthy Mike Martin in there, it's different for us... He's one of those guys that can stand up to anybody." He gets treatment every morning, but he still won't be 100% this game - maybe by the bowl game.
Special teams have been pretty good outside of the inability to make a field goal. Drew Dileo and Fitz Toussaint will do more returning with the injuries to other guys. Fitz was on returns for the first time all year against Wisconsin because they were running out of capable bodies. "I think he's still getting back into the groove. There's so much time, it's like starting all over again. I think you'll more likely see him more often this weekend."
Kickers - "Seth had a great week of practice then he missed the one... Brendan kicked the extra points, but they were low, so we're lucky they weren't blocked." Nothing looks wrong with Seth's form, so it may be mental.
"Hopefully Vincent's OK." He's been the #1 RB, but Stephen Hopkins, Fitz Toussaint, and Mike Shaw should be good to practice all this week.
"It's looking that way" for a medical redshirt for Devin Gardner. Muscular issue in his lower back, probably won't require surgery.
Wisconsin accusations: "Playing dirty? That's funny." Must have been looking for something controversial.
Rodriguez has played during Thanksgiving week in the past. "The routine really pretty much stays the same." Most teams are still playing this week.
Personnel and Team
Denard - "For a first-year starter, he's had a pretty remarkable year." Hasn't looked as young as his age a lot of the time. Very committed to improving his game, understanding everything better. Not worried about postseason awards "I don't think we have to trumpet anything." On top of the numbers, Denard's taken a bigger leadership role, he loves his teammates. "He's got the type of personality that you wanna be around."
Scrutiny in the media might have changed with bowl eligibility, but the attitude inside the program is no different. "We've kinda had to take a tunnel-vision type of approach as a staff, and as a team, and as a program." The focus can't change because of outside perception. Sometimes stuff is falsely reported - and being a coach is like being a politician in that way.
"I didn't get this job at Michigan by getting a lottery ticket that said 'congratulations, you're the coach at Michigan.'" There's more to building a program than what's written in the media. Some circumstances may come up altering timeframe, for better or worse. "Close in some areas, but still a ways away in others." Rodriguez is still positive that they'll get to where they want to be - he sees the progress. "It's sooner rather than later, but it's not overnight."
The program has come a long way offensively since last these teams played, not as much progress on D. "A lot of the other thing that I've seen that's maybe not shown on the field as much, I think has come a long way."
The perception that teams with spread offenses have poor defenses is incorrect. Northwestern won a Big Ten title with the spread, Florida and Oklahoma won national titles running a spread. West Virginia had top-10 defenses when Rich was there. "It was probably doubts because people just wanna doubt. There's a faction of them that love being negative." Way too much is made about running schemes. The execution, players, etc. are more important.
Have to continue doing some things well, and improve the areas in which they haven't done well. "It's a game that's easy emotionally to get your guys focused for." Need to worry about execution. "Defensively, we've gotta make some stops, it's as simple as that." You can make some steps during the season, but the D won't improve exponentially in, say 4 weeks.
The defense isn't just one thing, there have been different issues each year. "There's no question that it needs to get fixed." Getting healthy, recruiting, development, putting them in position to succeed. "We've gotta look at everything, just like we would on offense." Team will naturally improve next year with experience, it's just a matter of maximizing that improvement.
"I've seen us play outstanding football in all three phases at times." Been more consistent on offense, and if the defense grows up and a few things bounce their way, it's a winnable game. Last year, they played well defensively but the offense turned it over too many times. "The situation was right us to maybe sneak one out there." but they missed opportunities to make plays.
Jordan Kovacs has been one of the D's most solid players. Kevin Koger has been splitting time with Webb at TE. Those two will be some of the team's greatest leaders next year.
The offense has stayed healthier, the defense has been ravaged by injuries. The freshmen who are playing would normally be redshirted.
"First off, it means a lot because it's Michigan-Ohio State." Means a lot to the seniors. "This would be something for them to remember quite fondly." Ohio State may have at stake from a conference championship standpoint, but the game is important on its own merits either way. "We do a few special things different for Ohio State week."
Great for fans, seniors, coaches, families. "I don't think about the end result right now, winning or losing. Right now, I want my players, and my coaches, and myself, we're thinking about the process." Want to focus on what they need to do to achieve the end result, not the result itself.
"I don't think about point spreads. When I came to Michigan I thought about winning championships."
Slow starts in past few games haven't been the same cause, sometimes a turnover, bogged down in the redzone, etc. "I'll study all of that after the season and see if there's something that will help our guys get out of the gate faster."
Pryor - improved understanding of the offense, runs when he has to. "He's a great athlete, I think there's no question he's the leader of that offensive unit, and he's made a lot of big plays for them."
The Ohio State OL is good, tailback position is talented, Dane Sanzenbacher is one of the best WRs in the country. Best corner pair in the league, LBs as good as anybody - and they gave Michigan lots of trouble last year, especially Brian Rolle.
OL - "We didn't play as well up front last week on the edges as we have been." JJ Watt's talent had something to do with the struggles, and the guys know they'll have another challenge this week with Cameron Heyward and John Simon.
Ohio Stadium is a challenge, but the quality of the team is daunting itself. "As far as intensity level and all that, it will be unparalleled." History, intensity, make this the greatest rivalry in sports. "It's hard to match the intensity of this one." Playing at OSU will be loud, as Penn State was. Communication issues come with offensive guys, so the youth on defense hopefully won't be too affected by the road atmosphere. Last time at OSU, saw some stuff, old ladies giving the bird, but that wasn't anything new. "Playing with Pitt, we saw whole families of them."
"We're not practicing and going down there with the intention of 'let's just show up and see what happens.' We're going down there to battle our tails off and try to get the win."
"We don't talk about the past and what's happened last year, 3 years ago, 5 years ago, but you want to be able to have it on your resume that you beat Ohio State if you played at Michigan." Greatest rivalry in college sports "for us, we've gotta perform better and get some wins to make us feel better, make our fans feel better."
Even if you fall behind, the team should have enough confidence that they can make a comeback. "It certainly will help the atmosphere so to speak if we can at least get off to a better start offensively."
Might the coaches take more chances on offense or special teams to cover for the weak defense? "If I did think that, would it make any sense to tell you? Probably not. We'll probably punt on third down."