“Well, it’s getting going in the Big Ten season, and you know we’ll see where we are and we’ll see how much we’ve improved. This is a good football team we’re playing. Purdue’s a much better team than they were last year. Watching them on film, they’ve done some good things, so this will be good. This will be good for us to take the next step.”
What are the things they do offensively that concern you the most?
“Well they throw a lot of screens. They throw a lot of screens, a lot of bubble screens, a lot of X screens, and that’s their way of getting the ball outside, so what they’re going to do is show you a running play and either hand it off in the run, or if they don’t feel like you’re covered down well enough, then they’re going to throw it out there, and they’ve been very successful on it.”
Is there a big difference between how they play this year vs. last year?
“Probably executing much much better this year. The quarterback’s making good throws, and they just look like a much better football team. The thing about it is you always look at who do they play, well they played Notre Dame pretty darn well. I’ve been watching a lot of them against us last year, too, and they beat Ohio, you know. They’ve shown that they can go.”
How encouraged are you about your defense after watching the Notre Dame film?
“Well I’m encouraged that it re-emphasized that if we play really hard, if we run to the football -- and that was the thing in that game that stood out to me that we really had a lot of helmets to the football, and that’s the only way we can play here. There was nothing about scheme, there was nothing about -- I think we played better technique at times. The biggest thing is we really really played with high effort, and it emphasized, and I told the players this before the game, I felt they were going to play well because they really prepared. They really worked at understanding the game plan, understanding what they had to do. The walk-throughs were really crisp on Thursday and Friday and eve right before the ball game. And communication was better. It just showed that that’s the only way we can play right now. That’s our only chance. Until these young guys gets old, and these inexperienced guys get experienced, we have to play hard every day. And they kind of, up to this point, the off week, they showed that.”
Are you giving your defense more “bullets” for the Big Ten season?
“Yeah we always have them. We have a big ready list of things, but along with that, I don’t ever want to call something that puts our defense at a disadvantage or a chance of it. That’s not fair to the defense. I would rather not call something that I feel that there’s a lot of adjustments to or chance of lack of communication or a chance of somebody not executing it than to say we had a call for that. I’ve never believed in that. That’s my job to make sure that what we call and what we play, we can execute. They’ve been told that. They know that, too. Therefore they have worked very hard on the walk-throughs to make sure they do understand that. We’ll carry enough there.”
What have you seen from Raymon Taylor this year?
“Well he’s gotten more physical. I think he’s feeling more comfortable. A lot of it, for a young guy, is confidence. It’s, ‘Hey I can do this.’ I think every day in practice I see him feel a lot more comfortable. At the same time we set the bar high for him every day in practice, too. If he’s a starter at the University of Michigan, you must play up to that level. We can’t tolerate any of the so-called freshman or young, redshirt-type mistakes and efforts and things like that. That has been stressed with him also.”
On the play where he didn’t turn around for the football vs. Notre Dame …
“That was technique. That wasn’t a guy not playing hard. That was a guy -- I mean, that you see on Sundays every day. That was just a guy who had to get out of his backpedal a little fast and not looking back for the football and trying to get it out. That comes with experience. He learned from that.”
Building off the Notre Dame game, what did you hope to accomplish over the bye week to take another step forward?
“Well, we didn’t do anything building off that. What we did is keep going to where we started out in camp, and that is keep emphasizing technique and keep emphasizing running to the football. We just showed them over and over again look what happens when you do this. Now you can play. And then we tried to spend quite a bit of time putting the game plan in early. Again these are young guys. Anything you give them, if it’s a short week, for example, starting on Tuesday, it’s hard to get that done, but we got a lot of film looked at so we could put things in earlier with them.”
Anyone impress you over the bye?
“No. Nothing. Nobody all of a sudden said, boy, you had a great off week. I think everybody’s expected to practice well, so no.”
How important is Courtney Avery going to be vs. Purdue since they throw a bunch of bubble screens?
“It’s going to be huge because unlike the Notre Dame game when we were in Wolverine the whole time -- we were in our big people the whole time. Now when you get against Purdue, Illinois, and as you move forward into some of these teams where everything is spread, now your nickel becomes a real big factor, and that’s going to be really key. And the other thing it does is it gets into your depth one more man. Now you have to have another secondary guy ready to play in case anything happens with anybody. That’s a big part.”
Are you concerned about the depth on the defensive line?
“Yeah, I’m never happy with our depth. You know, it really doesn’t do any good to concern yourself with it because you can’t do anything about it. I mean, really. It’s what they are. The next guy, and the expectations -- and you’ve heard this forever -- are for the position. I go back, and you remember in the Sugar Bowl, we lose two defensive linemen before that, so all of a sudden the next two guys have to step up, and that’s the way it’ll be any time here. We could lose two or three guys right away in that game. That’s not an excuse. You have to have a guy ready to go. That’s why we practice the way we practice. That’s why in all of our practices, the first unit takes a rep, the second unit takes a rep, so you always have guys getting better and always have guys who, if something happens, can step up. This game is also going to be a game where you can expect tempo. You can expect them coming out and just trying to wear us down with fast tempo. That means you better have another guy waiting at every position so he can go in there and there’s no drop-off. That’s just the way it is.”
Do you wish you could do more with your defense given your lack of depth?
“No I don’t, in fact. That’s where I’m proud of this group. They have gotten much better at that. Anything we put in, they -- and our coaches do a great job of teaching it, and we do walk-throughs more than anybody else to make sure they get it down because they can’t tolerate missed assignments as far as getting lined up right or executing a stunt. The reason the bullets we talk about you don’t use is because maybe they give you formations or things that, if they do that, that isn’t a good call right there. That’s what you don’t ever want to do is put your kids at a disadvantage or in a position where you think, ‘Gah, I wish I didn’t call that.’ ”
Are the young guys accelerating their learning curve?
“Yeah. Even the young guys, when you think of it, the sophomores, which I consider young, or the seniors that never played I consider young, they were all through it a year ago. They’ve heard it. That’s what’s the great thing about us not changing a lot, so now they kind of understand when you put it in. ‘Okay, this is why I do this, and this is what I better do with it.’ They’ve picked things up a lot faster.”
You’re on pace for only 10 sacks this season. How concerned are you about that?
“That’s a big concern. That’s a big concern. A very big concern. You know, good news is we have eight games left. I would gladly give up all those sacks the first four games and start getting them now, but we have to get sacks and we have to get pressure on the quarterback. And I think we have pressured the quarterback. I just don’t think we’ve gotten it, and some of that is the fact that maybe the ball is getting out quick, but we have to. That’s a number that -- and I don’t look at stats -- but that stat is something that will play hand in hand with how you’re doing.”