[Ed. A- Thanks to Isaiah Hole for sending along video so I could transcribe this, as I wasn’t able to be there due to some medical issues in my family]
“How’s everybody doin’? We good? Doin’ great. I think. Forty-one years, so…still rollin’. We’re three practices in. Two good ones in no pads. Lot of learning, lot of football being digested. As you know here, that’s what we do.
“Can’t say enough good things about Herb[ert] and the strength staff. Really gave us a really solid group of guys in terms of cardiovascular and bigger, stronger, faster, and just glad to be back with my guys.
“Been doing this a long time. This might be if not the fastest then one of the fastest groups I’ve ever been around, so pretty excited about it. Obviously we’ve got a lot of things to work on but we’ll get there. There’s no question in my mind.”
With Devin and Khaleke, can you talk about some of those guys that are challenging the other guys at linebacker?
“Well, let me just say this, okay? This Devin Bush Jr.? Special guy now, okay? That’s all I’m gonna say. There’s a private story, but this guy stayed with his team. He could have easily checked out for three or four days and everybody would have understood and he didn’t. So, I think we’re talking about a guy whose character is completely off the charts.
“This Khaleke Hudson is playing at a tremendous level a year ago, and I think he’s a much better cover guy right now. He’s playing at a much faster rate. He should go kiss Ben Herbert on the lips because he’s helped him tremendously.
“This Josh Ross is gonna be a dude. He’s gonna be a really good player. Drew Singleton will be a very good player. Noah Furbush, his arrow is so far up from a year ago. I’m just very excited about where he is. Glasgow, we made the move from Viper behind Khaleke, took the slot coverage off his plate, and that’s helped him improve.
[I had to split this in the middle of an answer which tells you a lot about the quality of the responses after THE JUMP]
“Up front, Rashan Gary’s, you know, Rashan Gary, you know? He’s a good player. Tremendous player. Chase [Winovich] gives you everything he’s got every single day. This Kwity Paye came in here, I don’t know, probably 235, 236, out of nowhere in Rhode Island, Bishop Hendricken, and he’s 263 right now. He’s like a muscle from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, so, you know, he’s really exceeded expecations. Lo Marhshall’s done a very good job. Aubrey Solomon, you know, sky’s the limit. The guy that was showing great—taking great steps a year ago during the bowl prep was Dwumfour. He hasn’t slowed. I just hope I’m not missing anybody up front, because I really feel very strongly we’ll have seven or eight guys there. I’m glad Lo Marshall’s coming back. Bryan Mone’s playing really well. I don’t know what his weight is, but it’s just so much better distributed throughout his body. Very strong, very physical guy. Let’s make no mistake about it, when he’s in there, he’s in there to do one thing: knock back whoever he’s against and play the run, and when it’s time to do the other things, we’ll figure it out and get somebody else in for him.
“Seondary-wise, if you ask me, the guys that have made the biggest jump: Ambry Thomas has practiced extremely well for three practices. I’m talking jumpers now. You know we’ve got Lavert [Hill] and David Long, Brandon Watson. Those three guys are veteran guys that are playing pretty good, but this Ambry Thomas, now? Different level. Confident. Fast. He ran through on a sweep play—now, again, we were in pajamas the other day, so it’s not a physical thing, it’s just like Wow, that was fast, so happy with him. Jaylen Kelly-Powell, we’ve got him at safety. Really smart football player. Is playing so much better, so those would be the two guys that I would say. Metellus is choooo [mimics a rocket tacking off]. You know, some people were critical of him in the fall. Not me, but some people, but the bottom line for him is he’s taken this offseason as an opportunity to get better. It’s a beautiful thing. Some guys just wallow. He’s taken it and his arrow is completely up and doing a really good job of directing traffic back there.”
Which of the linebackers are working at that Will spot to replace McCray?
“Well, this Devin Gil? Dude now. Probably if you said to me ‘Who’s benefited the most from Ben Herbert?,’ he has. He’s faster, he’s bigger, he’s stronger. Smarts was never an issue, and it’s hard to say this but Mike McCray was so damn smart and had such just a good, solid instinct about how the game’s supposed to be played and his fits and you could tell him things week to week and change it one gameplan to another and he was great. This is that kind of guy, except I didn’t know if athletically—if you had asked me a year ago athletically can this guy make it, I would have been eh, I don’t know yet. He can make it.
“It’s he, Josh Ross, and Drew Singleton right now, and obviously we got Jordan [Anthony] and Devin Bush. I’m cross-training one of the guys at Mike and Will and obviously McGrone will join us in June, so I’m feeling like that’s six guys there. Pretty good dudes. Then you take Uche, who, he’s a package guy but now he’s becoming a linebacker. Played in high school with his hand on the ground. Now all of a sudden he’s doing a much better job in coverage and just playing at a much higher, higher level. He, Furbush, Khalkee, Glasgow, and then I’m kind of bouncing around with personnel groups like we do on third down. Obviously the most important down in college football is the get-off-the-field down, so he’s making a big impact, and we expect him to make a big impact, on third down. Now the question is can he help us on first and second down and I think he’s going that way.”
How have your two early-enrollees looked so far?
“Uh, Myles Sims? Had a big play today. Not out of place. I’m talking about you watch him make a break on the ball and I kind of went Damn, he’s big [holds hands level with the top of his head]. He’s got a ways to go but really happy with the mindset, the demeanor, the confidence level. He’s not afraid, and here he is in our deal lining up close to people and we’re expecting him to perform, which is a big deal. So, really happy with him. Tremendously happy. You asking me about Joe Milton?”
“Oh, Taylor. Um, good, young, fast, athletic, and willing. We need to get him a couple cheeseburgers and some baked beans and some pizza and he’ll be just fine. We’ve gotta put some meat on his bones but outstanding athlete, quick twitched, fast learner, so we expect big things from him.
“The thing that you have to do is you have to kind of keep it in your head: he’s supposed to be getting ready for the prom this week and he’s here, so that’s a huge advantage, but my mind tells me don’t Don’t evaluate a young man who’s a midyear guy for a year. That’s basically how I try to look at it unless he just jumps off the charts and says I’m gonna make you play me. So, we’ll see, and it’s too early. It’s three days in. They’re sitting in the meeting room as we’re putting in the first install and if I looked at them this would be their expression:
“I mean literally. Alright, we’re gonna go baa baa baa and when they give us trips we check this, when they go to four quicks, we do that.
“So, you know, it’s not an easy proposition for sure, but he’s a smart guy. Dad’s a good guy too, so you can see where he gets it from the football piece. We’re excited to have him for sure.”
Last year you didn’t return a lot of starting experience. You’ve reminded all of us they did play, though. They did come in with some experience. This year you’ve got starting experience and experience. How does that change your expectations of this group?
“You know, all I can tell you is every group’s a new group. Are they going to put the work in all 15, are they gonna cut corners, or are they just gonna grind. Now, every indication that I can give you is our guys are on this plateau going this way [does what looks like airplane taking off with hand]. We’re three practices in and you know how sometimes you can tell, is the room with you or is the room— are there a lot of distractions and a lot of stuff going on? We just don’t have that, so really happy with where we are and got a long way to go, obviously.
“Health is always important in spring because it can create some tough matchups for you, but at the same time you find out if somebody’s going to step up and surprise you, which you’re constantly looking for because here’s the thing: how would you like to be a young corner and now you get bumped to the first level and now you’re playing bump coverage for the majority of the practice? That’s a heck of a challenge. So, just that piece alone is hard on guys but again, I think we’re spreading it around, we’re playing some coverage, we’re doing some things, and really happy with where we’re at, without question.”
What has it been like for your defense to go against Shea Patterson so far?
“Um, good. You know, I love Shea. Shea’s an interesting guy. He’s come in and sat with me and we’ve talked a little bit of coverage and we’ve talked some football. Just really happy he’s here. He’s a tremendous young man, great family, competition’s a beautiful thing, and I expect great things from him.”
What does that say to you when a quarterback comes in and wants to sit with you to dissect a defense?
“He’s got a couple rocks loose. We’re not that sophisticated. I don’t know if you’re supposed to be, but no, we’ve got a nice, quiet relationship on the side and I really enjoy his company.”
What does he bring on the field different than Peters and even McCaffrey?
“Yeah, I don’t really know enough yet so that would be a tough one. Seems very athletic, very mobile, steps in the pocket really well, but the guy to ask would be Pep and Coach Harb[augh]. They’ll tell you all those things. Just as a guy, love the guy.”
What kind of steps has J’Marick Woods taken?
“Ah, vast. I’m surprised I missed him. Rotating with the ones, okay, and doing a very good job in the rotation. We expect him to, like I said, even though he played some, you don’t evaluate freshmen. If you’re evaluating freshmen, you’ve got rocks loose in your head. You’ve gotta give them a chance to breathe, put their feet on the ground, get through this install and the college life and the grind of winter workouts and all those things and see what you got, and I think we’re starting to see what we got there. So, I’m very pleased.”
You mentioned Herbert multiple times. Was it obvious soon after he arrived that he was making a pretty big difference?
“Um…yeah. I mean obviously poking my nose in there a little bit and getting to know him on a regular basis and just looking at our guys. Doesn’t take much. Khaleke Hudson, you go, well, he always looks good. He’s strong. Well, now he looks like a muscle. That’s what he is. Devin Bush’s body has changed. I mean, some of the guys that you wouldn’t think—well, how much better can he get in terms of physique and stuff? Those are two examples of guys that I think, you know, they’ve maximized their conditioning and their strength improvement under Ben, and he’s got a great staff, now, too. It’s really good.”
You mentioned Devin Bush at the start. Can you explain that a little bit more? You said about his absence and his teammates—
“Ahh, you know, it’s just—he had a personal mishap and he had the chance to go home and nobody would have said a word about it, and those kinds of things, they get left sometimes when people are evaluating a young man and he’s got a strong dad and family and obviously he made the decision to stay here. I mean, I would have—either way was fine with me, but I mean, it’s just…he’s just a different cut of guy. So, it impresses me. And sometimes, everybody’s got an opinion on certain things when it comes to wins and losses. I get all that. But this is a guy that gives you everything he’s got and gives it to his teammates and I think above and beyond, so I just felt it was important to mention.”
Do you watch basketball and do you appreciate defense—
when a team like Michigan’s playing the kind of defense they are?
“Oof, they’re doing everything. Moe Wagner, the point guard, is it Simmons?”
“Yeah, Simpson. Boy, he’s an impressive guy. I remember watching and thinking, Oh, he’s a nice player. He’s a Dude now, you know.”
Is he going to play football this fall too?
“Ah, let’s get him out there. I’m sure Coach would love that. I’m enjoying the ride like everybody else. It’s a great deal, so it’s good.”