[Ed. A—Pick your poison if you’re wondering why there aren’t any MGoQuestions: is it the GI bug that has kept me up and…uh, occupied since 4 AM, or is it that my wife could go into labor at any time? I’ll be back at Schembechler Hall as soon as I can. Thanks to MGoFriend Isaiah Hole for the video.]
Do you have the deepest position?
“Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know, we haven’t looked at it. I think the linebackers got some good depth, some good talent. I think there’s some good young kids all over that defense that are working to make the depth that we need.
“But up front, you know we want to always have enough depth to be able to rotate, and really, that’s what the spring is for us. We want our first group to get better and come out every practice to get better, and guys behind them gotta earn the right so that you say, ‘Okay, when we get in games, this guy can go in right now. I think you’re getting that. I think you’re seeing that.”
Who’s starting to earn that right?
“Well, Kwity Paye is having a really, really good spring. Michael Dwumfour, I think, is having one of the best springs that I can remember. I mean, he’s really playing hard, and Aubrey’s [Solomon] playing hard, and Carlo, Carlo Kemp every day comes out an gets a little better, and he’s playing a couple positions. I think we’ve got a number of kids that are doing good to try and get that first group [to] feel like they’re there.”
What distinguishes Dwumfour?
“Dwumfour, it’s been he’s so quick off the football. He has a lot of Mo Hurst in him. There’s times when you see him come off the ball and you just go, ‘Whoa, that’s really good,’ and he’s a little bit thicker and a little bit bigger.
“The other thing, it’s probably Rashan [Gary] and Chase [Winovich] and Bryan Mone’s leadership that have really gotten him to step up. He’s always shown flashes, but now all of a sudden he’s getting more mature. Times when he’d play really good, really good, really good, and then all of a sudden try to take a play off or he wasn’t ready to take that next play. He’s not doing that now. He’s pushing himself way past where he usually would, and that’s a real good sign for us.”
[After THE JUMP, a 275-pound man is referred to as “little Phillip.” Football!]
When you say guys have to earn the right to do this, is that done on a player-by-player basis or is there a sweeping set of guidelines you have for everyone?
“No, it’s player by player. I mean, there’s nothing really like you write on paper, Yeah, he passed this test. It’s when you keep putting a Carlo Kemp in with the first unit and he does well. And then the next time it’s a competitive situation and he goes in again and he does well again, now you’re looking at the film and you start saying to yourself, ‘If we’re playing a game right now, I feel really good about him going in.’ That’s how you earn the right. And then pretty soon, after a month of camp, you go, ‘Okay, here is Rashan’s backup’ right down the line. Now you get the rotation that you want.”
In what ways have you seen Kwity, as you mentioned him—in what ways have you seen him grow?
“Kwity’s so much stronger than he was a year ago. I mean, Kwity came in here probably 230 pounds and I think he’s 250-some pounds now, and he’s a lot stronger and he hasn’t lost any quickness at all. He’s playing like a guy that’s been here before, not like a freshman.
“I’m really looking for good things out of him. I mean, he has a summer in that weight room with these guys? Watch out. I mean, you’re going to find someone that you’re going to really be excited about.”
Which spot is he practicing at?
“He’s at both right now. We’re doing him with both right now and just kind of moving him around to try to find out who’s the best anchor, who’s the best end, and the other thing we’ve talked a lot about is we want our guys—our positions are equal, like a tackle is really a nose and a nose is really a tackle. When you’re young, you can’t do that.
“Now these kids have been in this system for long enough that I’ll tell one of the guys ‘Go in at nose right now’ and they’re handling it and when you have that, that really helps you as far as when little injuries happen, little things like fatigue, now your rotation—see, sometimes you don’t have eight. You might have seven or six at first, which allows guys to rotate and jump around to different positions.”
Besides Kwity, which of the other younger guys are standing out?
“Like I said, Carlo. Carlo is doing really well. Another guy that is really starting to show signs is Phillip Paea. Philip is really starting to come on. And Aubrey’s Aubrey. Aubrey’s going to be a very talented player; I already consider him being one of the guys, but Phil Paea is really starting to show some signs. That’s good to see.
“You know, it’s kind of neat. Guys kind of take guys under their wing that they respect. Like, you’ll never get an older guy taking a guy that keeps making mistakes and doesn’t go hard. They don’t take him. They wait for him to get there. And that’s my job. I guess I’m the one who’s got to get them there. But you’ll see Bryan Mone take little Phillip like he’s his little brother and get really excited when he does something good, and that happens the same thing with Rashan has done that with Carlo. I mean, he’s really taken him, boy—because those guys that are first unit guys, they want some guys behind them because they want to be able to come out.
“And Chase is having a great spring, too. He decided to come back and sometimes when guys come back there’s a little bit of a period where you go Welllll, you know. He didn’t. He came back and from day one he and Rashan have said ‘Come on, we’re going to get this group going as good as they’ve ever gone.’”
Did you ever doubt that he’d come back?
“Well, you know, I hoped and I really believed it was his best interest. In my heart, I believed that, but you can’t tell a young man what to do. That’s his—he’s a grown man now. I had hoped he would make the right decision because I really do believe it is the right decision, and I believe that if continues to work like he is right now and produce like he did last year, then he will have really improved himself.”
Why did you think it was the right decision for him to come back?
“Because I thought he had some more room to grow to become better. I think a lot of the great things that he did last year were toughness and effort, and I think when you go to the next level, everybody has that. And I think the thing he is trying to work on right now is better pass-rush technique with that toughness and effort, and I think it’s good.
“And I think the other thing: it’s great for him to be a leader. It’s great for him and Rashan to say, ‘Okay, these are our guys now,’ and I think that’s good.”
Why is his leadership so valuable, Chase’s leadership, especially this year?
“Because you know what happens? When you lead, you better be the guy that shows it, and all you ever have to do with Chase Winovich, and with Rashan, is put the film on and you’re going to see effort and you’re going to see guys that don’t make many mistakes. So when they’re leading and telling guys we’ve got to do this, they’re doing it, they’re not just talking.”
Rashan, at least from what we see of him, is a pretty quiet kid. Him and Chase couldn’t be much more different from what we see personality-wise. How has he handled being—
“Yeah, Chase is Chase. I love him. I mean, Chase…Rashan, though, has become a lot more vocal because that’s his job. He knows he’s got to do that with Chase. Chase is still the same as he’s always been, which is—when a guy plays as hard as he plays and he does the things that he does and the way he handles himself off the field and the way he does a great job in the classroom, the guy deserves to have some fun, and that’s what he’s doing: having fun.”
Is that you telling Rashan he needs to do more of that?
“Yeah. Well, we all talked about it. When you’re coming back after being an All-Big Ten first-teamer and you’ve been a great backup rotator with Wormley and then you were the starter last year, now it’s time. These are your guys now. And it’s the same thing with Chase. They voted you All-Big Ten. You came back. Now, let’s go. They’ve kind of looked at it that way, too.”
After Dwumfour, what does that defensive tackle look like?
“Well, you’ve got Lawrence. You’ve got Lawrence Marshall. Lawrence Marshall’s doing great. Lawrence Marshall’s going to have a really good year. He’s the other one that I think starting maybe the last two games and going through the bowl game, he really started to come on. He also has shown to be a leader by his performance. He’s not a real talkative guy but when you sit and watch it, and they all know what we critique and what we don’t critique, they look at Lawrence and they go, ‘Boy, that’s a good play.’ Lawrence will be another guy there.
“Aubrey Solomon will be another guy in there with Bryan Mone. I mean, you’ve got—Donovan Jeter has shown some signs. He’s up to 300-some pounds. He’s strong as can be. Those kids are all starting to come on.”
Did you have to convince Jeter to move inside, because he originally was saying he wanted to be that—
“No, no, no, no, no, no, not a bit. If you saw him right now, you would say ‘There’s no way he’s playing end.’ But my man looks like this [holds both hands up]. No, nuh-uh. Didn’t have to say a word.”
Any update on Luiji’s [Vilain] status?
“Well, they say he’s getting better all the time, and Luiji does not miss one treatment, does not miss one workout, his grades are doing really well. I’m really excited about when he comes back. This is going to be interesting once he finally is cleared.”
What is he able to get out of spring practice without being able to go full?
“Yeah, he’s doing a lot of lifting, a lot of upper-body lifting and things like that. He hasn’t been able to do much with the running yet. It’s not quite cleared yet, but he will be pretty soon, I think.”
It’s not your job to evaluate the offensive line, but what are your linemen seeing from them?
“I personally feel like the offense is much more physical. I think it starts with the offensive line. I’ve been very impressed with the offensive line. We go against them a lot, probably more than we’ve ever gone against anybody, and I’m impressed with how aggressive they are. I think Ben Bredeson, I mean, he’s a real man in there. And Cesar Ruiz has done really well, and Runyan, I see some really good things out of him. You know, I see a lot of them doing really well.”
Why are you going against them more?
“Well, I don’t know, just we decided we’re going to do more key drill against them. It’s just different ways of doing things, you know, and it’s good.”
With Ed Warinner, do you work with him on that?
“Yeah, yeah. He likes doing it, I like doing it. It wasn’t anything like drastic different. What it was was saying, ‘We want to get to become the best d-line in the country and you want to be the best offensive line in the country. Why should we go against our own guys? Why don’t we go against each other.’ And that’s how you do it in the NFL. Rather than beating our heads against a wall, we practice against each other.
“The kids are smart enough now and old enough now to [know] you don’t get in fights, you don’t take it past where you should, you’re just practicing the blocks and everybody’s good. We’re trying to help each other.”
What kind of addition has Ed been to the staff overall?
“Ed’s a great—Ed’s a really good coach. I mean, Ed’s experience speaks for itself. It’s not my job to judge coaches, but I’ll tell you one thing: there’s some good coaches that are hired. I mean, coach McElwain is an outstanding football coach. Sherrone [Moore]…I just think coach Harbaugh’s always going to do that. I mean, he hired good people, they all work hard, they’re doing a great job. I love this staff. I’ve really enjoyed so far spring practice with them.”
Did you field any calls about Hurst or have you called NFL people—
“I have fielded calls, yeah.”
And what are they asking you about after getting knocked out of the combine?
“Well, they say ‘What’s the word, what’s the deal with that?’ And they all know because I was in the NFL that I know what that is, and I said, ‘Whoever gets him is going to be a lucky team.’ You’re going to see a guy that in the NFL will be so explosive and so fast. And I’m being honest. If I didn’t think that, I would never do that to some of those people that are NFL coaches. I’d be honest with them, and I think my players know that, know that I’m going to be honest with whoever asks me. I’m very excited about his opportunities.”
How’d Mo handle that news?
“How did he handle it? Well, I think he was—it was surprising, because I think he had that when he came in and it was all cleared. And I think what happened, and I don’t know this, but I think what happened is they thought, hey, that’s gone, there’s not going to be a problem, then all of a sudden he got tested again and they go whoa, what is this? Then there’s no alibi so you’ve got to do it all over again, I think.
“Mo is fine. Michigan would never play him if there was a chance of anything like that happening. Mo’s fine, and I think the NFL knows that too now.”