"How’s everybody doing today? Come outside and practice outside with us."
“We’re excited about going to this next challenge. This is going to be a definite challenge. We’ve got a chance to watch Iowa a lot throughout the year. They’re very very good offense. They don’t do a lot of things, but what they do, they do really really well. Two good running backs, three good running backs. Their quarterback, nobody ever talks about, but I think he’s 60 percent completion. He can scramble. He’s not afraid to scramble. Their tight ends, I think 87 is the best tight end we’ve played against all year. He’s definitely a Sunday player, so we definitely have a big challenge ahead of us.”
In the last couple weeks, you’ve been good defensively but have given up some last minute touchdowns. What does it mean to this unit to finish strong?
“It’s huge. We talk about finishing, and the thing that when you watch the film – every player on that defense ran as hard as they could to the football almost on every play. And when you start getting that, then good things happen. I don’t care how good you are on defense, you’re not going to stop everybody on every play. Offenses are too good these days and too spread out. I thought our guys did a really really good job. I kind of figured that would happen because they practiced that way all week. All week, from Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you saw a tremendous effort every day. That’s what we have to keep doing.
"I tell you, the thing that people don’t talk much about, that I want to bring up, and nobody’s told me to do this. The two calls that our head football coach made in that game were really really big. The one people don’t talk about: when we gave them the wind in the third quarter. That game comes down to the fourth quarter with us having the wind. I thought that was an unbelievable call. And then that field goal. I watch them every Thursday. We’ve done it since the day we do there. He starts counting off 10, 9, 8, 7, and everybody runs on and off the field. I think if you look anywhere in the country, you don’t see that. You don’t see them execute like that. Those two things I thought were huge in this game.”
Do defensive coaches like that kind of weather?
“You know, people talk about the weather – the wind on the field was not as huge of a factor as what you thought. You could still throw it into the wind. It wasn’t like – I don’t know what they said it was, but it didn’t seem like it was that bad down on the field. You didn’t go, ‘Oh boy, they can’t throw it at all down here.’ At least it wasn’t cold. I think there was enough that it would affect the kicking game, and it might affect it at some parts obviously.”
It’s going to be cold and windy this Saturday. What does the cold do?
“Cold doesn’t matter. Now you’re in November in the Big Ten, and you go out and play. They’re a hard-nosed running team that runs play-actions and has the ability to throw the ball also. I know what we have to stop, and that’s what we have to work on.”
MGoQuestion: How did using two deep safeties contribute to your ability to defend the option last Saturday?
“It got another run defender on key down in the box. Sometimes when you have one in there – [Northwestern’s players] do a really good job of chop blocking, and Colter is an outstanding quarterback, and he can make you miss. By having two safeties reading and being able to support, it gave us a chance.”
MGoQuestion: Willie Henry had a pretty good game again. Can you talk about his development?
“Willie had a good game. But the guy who had a really good game, and why our linebackers were able to run to the ball so well, was Quinton Washington. There were times there were two guys on there and he was holding the line of scrimmage. Our linebackers were scraping downhill and then scraping back down to where the ball cut back to. That kind of goes unnoticed. A lot of people don’t see that, but when your defensive line demands a double team and doesn’t get knocked back into the backers, those backers now have a chance to go to the run and come back, and that’s what they did. That’s why the backers played very well for the most part also.”
Where are you with your safety rotation?
“Well, I think we’ll keep doing what we’re doing. We probably learned a lesson in the Indiana game. We substituted everybody else, but we don’t substitute the back end. In today’s football, covering the passes you have to cover, the deep balls and all that, those guys need a little bit of a break also. When you ask the safeties to help you on the run, the days of a safety playing every play, and he’s the only guy that does that, are gone. I think we have guys that can rotate. There were times in that game, for example, Raymon [Taylor] was covering a guy way down the field, and he was signaling to the sideline, ‘Give me a blow.’ We couldn’t have done that before. Now all of a sudden Raymon isn’t out there not playing the technique we don’t want him to because he’s a little tired. And that’s a lot of running. I think our philosophy in the back end is the same way now, that we want to get guys in there that have earned it at times.”
I thought earlier in the season you said you didn’t want to do that.
“I don’t think you can do that as much anymore. I just don’t think you can – what has to happen is the chemistry and continuity has to be seven guys rather than four. The way people open it up now and the way they throw it down the field, and what you’re asking the safeties to do on the run, I do believe you have to have the ability to get them out at times also.”
What did Josh Furman and Courtney Avery do that convinced you that this was an option?
“Well just practicing like we demand that they practice, and staying true to the course. With the ups and downs and the things this year – believing and doing what you’re supposed to do every day on the practice field allows you to keep improving. There are a lot of teams, with some of the misfortune that has happened, that would just say, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’ These guys didn’t. They came out and played as hard as they did the week before. The big emphasis was finishing, finishing. I think they all bought into that.”
MGoQuestion: You mentioned Iowa’s tight ends. In past games you guys have struggled defending tight ends down the seam. Which players will you be relying on this week to shore that up?
“Well it’s eye discipline. Whenever that happens, it usually happens because they’re running the football and all of a sudden the guy that’s supposed to be covering them starts looking to try is trying to help out on the run, and all of a sudden they have a guy right down the seam on you. That’s a huge challenge for us this game. There’s no question about it. We have to be able to stop the run and play the run and don’t cheat. On the back end, being really disciplined on your visual keys is so big. As soon as a guy gets tired or as soon as a guy thinks he needs to help or something like that and he takes his eye off his man, that’s when problems happen, and we’ve got to really work hard on that all week.”
Do you and your son go back and forth on this Michigan-Iowa rivalry at all?
“He surprised me by coming to the Northwestern game, because he coaches himself at Mishawaka. They just got beat in the semi states. All of a sudden, he showed up. I didn’t know he was there. He got his tickets through his mother. He’s a Brady Hoke, Michigan fan, and he’s always going to be an Iowa [alum?], but I know where his heart is in this one.”
How much emphasis have you put on finishing these last couple weeks?
“When we practice and we get down in the red zone – our last practice day we move down in the red zone and finish in the red zone. That’s a huge emphasis. ‘Let’s finish this, now. Let’s finish this.’ We go two-minute every Thursday against our offense. Sometimes we do some really good things and don’t finish. That was an emphasis. That’s what everybody was talking about on the sidelines. We all know that to be the defense we need to be here, and it’s expected at Michigan, you have to finish. It doesn’t matter what you do for three and a half quarters. You’ve got to finish. That’s being a defensive player. That’s part of what being a good defense is.”
Was this the best you’ve ever defended the option, and how will that help you against Ohio State in two weeks?
“Well, I don’t know. I know one thing: I think we improved at doing it. We have to get a lot better. There were a couple that broke back inside, but I think our guys understand. I think the effort again, when you play with good technique and do your responsibility, and then have good effort, that’s how you stop the option. If you’re asking a guy in the open field to defeat a block and make a tackle on a guy that has a huge amount of area, you can’t do that yourself. You better get help on your buddies who are running to the football. It all goes hand-in-hand in defending the option … If on a certain defense you were supposed to turn the ball in, there’s a difference between running outside and saying, ‘I turned it in,’ or physically getting on that blocker, throwing him down, staying outside, that’s the difference. That’s where our guys made a huge improvement.”
Thoughts on Taco Charlton?
“He’s improved every week. He’s really understanding the defense now. He gives you a lot of athleticism. This kid can really run, and he’s gotten a lot more physical. He’s really kind of gotten out of the freshman thing now. I’m really excited about his progress. I tell you, it’s interesting because a guy like Frank [Clark], that’s how Frank was as a freshman. And Frank has done a really good job of, while I’m screaming at him, he’s talking to him. [Frank] was the same guy – do something good and then he’s lined up completely wrong. I see Taco improving a great deal. The other guy that really maybe had one of his best games was Mario [Ojemudia]. Mario came in and did some really good things. You don’t see – he’s close to some sacks, he’s flushing the quarterback, he’s running to the ball and making good hits.”