Rodriguez Media Day Presser Notes

Submitted by Tim on August 23rd, 2010 at 1:02 PM

The first of three posts from yesterday's Media Day. Tomorrow: The assistant coaches.


Austin White is the only player that has left the roster in the past few days. For Rodriguez's full comments on White, see yesterday's post.

QB. Quarterback rotation (if it happens) is by feel, not a scripted thing. They're getting closer to finding two guys to win with. Won't be there at every position, but quarterback will have that. The three quarterbacks are responding well to the ongoing competition. The race won't be settled within the next couple days.

"Rod Smith has done - particularly with Devin and Denard - getting some of the throwing stuff down and decision-making down in the pass game. We've really simplified things to help in that regard."

Denard's throwing mechanics are better, and his knowledge of where to go with the ball is better. "It's a natural maturation with any quarterback, understanding where to go with the ball, where your eyes are at, particularly in the passing game."

In this offense, those factors are important in the run game as well. Rodriguez is pleased with Gardner's progress. He's never played before, but he's talented and is battling for job.

RB. Running backs will be a committee and there's not one guy separating. "I see us having a situation where there's 2, 3, maybe even 4 guys that emerge a little bit. That's not a bad situation to get in." It's hard to get them all reps, for comfort with QBs. Three or four guys will play tailback in the first game.

Vincent Smith has not been tentative with his knee except the first couple practices back. "He's 100%. He's ready to go."

Stephen Hopkins has progressed really well. He's a big physical guy. Initially, the coaches thought he would redshirt, but he'll probably play this fall because the team needs a big back in some situations.

OL. The offensive line is much improved over last couple years. Two years ago, Schilling was only guy with any game experience. "Not quite as talented 1s and 2s deep-wise as we would like to be... We'll have 7-8 guys that we feel comfortable with playing." Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury can back up at any interior position. More guys are ready than the last two years. Pretty close to what we want there. Experienced starters backed up by talented, but inexperienced guys.

Upperclassmen Huyge and Dorrestein are battling to keep the offensive tackle spots. "The two young tackles Schofield and Lewan have been pretty solid. They're bigger; They're stronger." The competition has been pretty good, Perry and Mark have responded to the challenge, and are having their best camp in the past three years.

DL. Don't want to compare people to Brandon Graham, because he's a once-in-a-lifetime player. "We don't have a guy that's 'BG-ready' to play right now, but who does?" Several guys can create pressure, including Roh. Mike Martin can create pressure from his position. The unit as a whole has to replace Graham.

Davion Rogers had a "clearinghouse thing," and just got into the mix. [Ed: probably explains why he's so skinny. He's a lock to redshirt anyway.] Jibreel Black is the frosh lineman with greatest chance to play this year. He's not ready to start, but he will provide some depth as long as he continue to progress. "He's a very active guy. He's got great get-off. He wears #55, and he looks a little bit like BG at times, but he's not quite that strong and explosive." He has natural athletic ability, and Rodriguez is pleased with his progress.

Craig Roh played at 225 last year, and he's closer to 240 or 245. "He's running just as well if not better." The added weight and experience show.

LB. "Obi [Ezeh] has really responded to the challenge." He can play all three linebacker positions, and played two of them yesterday. Great job being a leader - like whole senior class. He's a good player and wants to prove himself in his final year. He's not geting hung up on starters, worrying about how to help the team win.

JB Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens have played a bit, lots of special teams. They've had good camps. JB knows the defense very well and can play a few different positions. Demens has also had a solid camp. More linebackers will play. Ezeh, Moundros, and Mouton (veterans) will be the biggest key. Usually guys have their best season as seniors. "If every one of our seniors has our best year, particularly defensively... we'll be OK."

Hybrid. Jordan Kovacs earned a starting spot last year. "He's taken some challenges and maintained that position so far." Just a great story. He's in better shape now, and his experience shows up. "He's gonna be a huge factor for our defense."

Josh Furman has done well. He could play OLB/S position, or grow into a WILL/Samm linebacker. Will have a great career. One of the fastest freshmen, not sure if he has a shot to play this year. Physically he has a chance to play this year, the coaches need to evaluate him mentally.

DB. Cameron Gordon has more to learn, but Rodriguez says "we're looking for a big year from him." He's very physical, but hasn't played on the big stage yet.

A couple veterans will step in at corner after Woolfolk's injury, James Rogers has had a good camp. Freshmen are competing at that position. It's a young secondary (and would have been even with Troy), a couple guys will move back and forth. "Our defensive coaches have a pretty good plan to be able to compensate for that." All freshman corners are getting lots of reps because of the situation in the secondary. They missed meetings the first week of camp because of the Bridge Program, but now they have a couple weeks to focus solely on football.

Marvin Robinson and a few other frosh will probably not redshirt. "More than you'd like at this point." All three corners will probably play - Cullen Christian, Terrence Talbott, and Courtney Avery. Carvin Johnson and Ray Vinopal have a chance to play at safety. This week is most critical between summer school and fall school.

Carvin Johnson has played a little bit at corner, along with Teric Jones. After watching film from Saturday and Wednesday scrimmages, they'll determine the 4-5 corners that have to be ready for the first game.

There's no word on the timeframe for Woolfolk's injury until after he can have surgery. He will be able to play again at some point. "Troy's as tough an individual as you'll ever be able to find, so he'll bounce back from it."

Special Teams. Kicking and punting are a concern because there's no game experience. Feel better now than two weeks ago. Broekhuizen and Gibbons are both doing well on kickoffs, and getting more consistent on their field goals. "Our freshman punter is a real talent - Will Hagerup - and I mean a real talent. He's had some days where he's kicked and I'm "wow look at this.'"

Saturday's Scrimmage

The scrimmage went well and nobody got hurt. "I saw some good and bad on both sides." Offensive execution was decent with wet ball. Defense didn't tackle too well. There were a couple turnovers, for first time in a few days. "Some guys stood out a little bit, and other guys still have a ways to go before they can be ready to play for us."

QB play was pretty solid. Receiver play was good, especially slots with Roundtree, Grady and Gallow having good days.. Shaw had a good day, Cox and Smith each had a few good runs. The offensive line was good, which the coaches expect from them now.

Mike Martin was limited because the coaches already know what he can do. He been the team's most consistent defensive player since camp started. Molk scrimmaged yesterday a little bit. "We didn't have him go the whole time for precautionary reasons, but he got a few good series in and did pretty well." Vincent Smith was able to go full bore.

There will be another (smalller) scrimmage Wednesday. After that, the projected two-deep and travel squad will be mostly settled. At a lot of positions, guys are competing to be #2 on the depth chart.

"It's not a true 3-3-5." As much scheme remains from last year as there is new stuff. They're keeping it simpler because of youth and the need to play a little faster. "From a mental standpoiont, there were a few mistakes yesterday's scrimmage," but they've done a good job with the mental game through camp. They've had a lot to digest so far, and the next couple weeks will be easier because there isn't as much installation.


Pleased with the team's attitude and work ethic the last two weeks. Though it's a small senior class, they've done a great job with leadership over the summer and the last couple weeks. Team is hungry, anxious to prove themselves.

Notice in practice that guys have been there through a couple camps, and know practice routine. Moving around a little quicker. People who have come in from the outside notice how much quicker guys are moving in certain situations.

The team has some fundamental work to do. It's tough, because you can't tackle every day in camp, or guys will get hurt. "Other than yesterday, I thought they did pretty well tackling in camp."

Team strengths are offensive skill players, experience along the offensive front, and attitude and team speed on defense. "We're not as deep experience-wise, so probably my biggest concern is experience defensively." The team feels a sense of urgency.

For the new captain method, we selected Moundros and Schilling, and will select two more at the end of the season. Mark and Steve have done well, other seniors are excited for the opportiunity to prove themselves and be game captains and maybe year-end captains.

Same pressure to succeed as every year. "Any time a player or coach says 'well I have nothing left to prove,' he'll never get any better."

Brock leading team out will be pretty emotional. Rodriguez spent time with Mrs. Mealer yesterday. Brock's progress and work ethic are amazing, and he's dedicated his life to proving he can walk. To do that in front of our fans and national tv will be emotional. It will be (and has been) an inspiration for the whole team.

Connecticut - Know them well, played them a few years. They get a lot of respect for the past couple years. Most of a good team from last year is coming back. They'll come downhill and make you beat them. Some players have watched film on them, and the whole group will start watching more film this week.



August 23rd, 2010 at 1:24 PM ^

Our freshman punter is a real talent - Will Hagerup - and I mean a real talent. He's had some days where he's kicked and I'm "wow look at this."

Coming from a guy who coached Zoltan Mesko, this is very, very good news.


August 23rd, 2010 at 1:32 PM ^

"Our defensive coaches have a pretty good plan to be able to compensate for that."


That's great guys, but do you think you could share a little?  Just a hint?  All I want is one quote, something like "Cullen has been killing people out there, he and JT will be fine".  Right now I'm afraid the plan includes switching Tacopants to D.


August 23rd, 2010 at 2:05 PM ^

"Kovacs will be a major factor in our defense."

"If every one of our seniors, particularly defensively, has their best year, we'll be OK."

"More (freshman DB's will not redshirt) than you'd like at this point."

This defense will be young, inconsistent and make a lot of mistakes.  Similar to the past 2 years, results-wise.  However, they will also be young, hungry, more talented and have a great attitude.  IMHO, a bit different than the past 2 years.

Not sure what the plan will be to "compensate" for the defense.  I'd imagine that it involves lots of pressure up front to make it easier on the secondary.

Also: we're going to have to outscore people.  I, for one, welcome the challenge and am looking forward to watching it!


August 23rd, 2010 at 3:36 PM ^

I basically agree.  It does sound like the LB core should be better, so hopefully that will help in the underneath stuff.  It is always difficult to judge how a defense will play based on scrimmage results because the two sides know exactly what the other does and how to exploit it.  And all things being largely equal, an offensive player will have an advantage over a defensive player because he usually has control over the direction of the play and the defensive player must react.  Also, this offense is designed to absolutely shred young, tackling-suspect defenses like UM's; against more predictable, pro-style offenses like a young ND, MSU, Iowa, UConn, etc., they might show better.


August 23rd, 2010 at 4:11 PM ^

Also: we're going to have to outscore people.

That would be the general goal, yes.  :)

I wouldn't put too much stock in coachspeak.  If we judged teams on those grounds, Bobby Bowden and Lou Holtz would have been fired in year 2, and Charlie Weis would be in the Hall of Fame. 

I'm also not worried about the Kovacs comment; he's the leading returning tackler, and is a smart, heads-up player who has a knack for finding the ball.  If he didn't have the scarlet "W" (for walk-on) sewed to his jersey, we would look at him as an essential cog in the Rube Goldberg machine that is our defense.

Zone Left

August 23rd, 2010 at 1:46 PM ^

Personally, the news about actual depth is really good.  Michigan still has better talent on paper than 8-10 teams it will play and added depth should make them more competitive.  The last two years, one injury left the team with a player that was woefully unprepared to play college football.  This year, there's going to be less of that--except the secondary.

Zone Left

August 23rd, 2010 at 2:33 PM ^

About 10 true freshmen will probably be contributors this year. Though he didn't mention anyone by name at that time, expect Will Campbell, Vlad Emilien, Vincent Smith, and Je'Ron Stokes to be among them.

Hemingway is going to be an important player for the offense - it sounds like he might even be the #2 split end.

The QB situation is much better this year than last because now there are 3 viable options.

The general tenor of that presser and the others were much more negative.  This year, the QB situation is much, much better than last year, which was much, much better than 2008.  The O-line is better, the receivers are better, the backs are probably a wash, the D-line has better depth (but may be worse), the linebackers will be better, and the secondary is probably a wash. 

Overall, the team looks better on paper...


August 23rd, 2010 at 3:53 PM ^

Rodriguez does seem more optimistic this year. I think you are probably right in your assesment of this year vs. last year except for backs and secondary.

As bad as it was last year, the secondary,. on paper, was better last year. No Donovan Warren, no Cissoko, No Woolfolk, no Turner compared to last year.

Backs last year on paper were better than this year (no minor, grady or Brown, only adding Hopkins).

That being said, Turner and Cissoko didn't work out as planned in preseason and the running backs were constantly hurt, so both groups have a chance to perform better.



August 23rd, 2010 at 2:09 PM ^

the hell Spur and Bandit positions are, Furman and Robinson do seem perfect fits.  As Brian mentioned in their profiles, star ratings (4,3,3 Furman, 4,4,4 Robinson) may have been affected by tweener status - maybe too big for safety, too small for LB.  Strong and fast and rangy, they look set to tear shit up for a long time in this D  

If either of them can unseat Kovacs, that is


August 23rd, 2010 at 3:00 PM ^

I'd like to see have a great year, it's Obi Ezeh:

LB. "Obi has really responded to the challenge. He can play all three linebacker positions, and played two of them yesterday."

It would go a long way toward improving the defense.


August 23rd, 2010 at 3:16 PM ^

Being able to pin our opponents back deep inside their end of the field on a consistent basis will be huge for our defense (as long as our kick coverage holds up their end of the bargain...)


August 24th, 2010 at 1:12 PM ^

Like the speed on defense remark he had. Really looking forward to seeing Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman play. They can hit like crazy and still have a lot of speed.