Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-6-11: Coordinators

Submitted by Heiko on September 6th, 2011 at 10:01 PM

News (and other important items) bullets:

  • Hopkins will be major contributor, can compete for starting position at RB
  • Borges wants to use less shotgun -- Saturday wasn't representative
  • Mattison does not plan to put any one cornerback on Michael Floyd all game
  • Woolfolk is healthy and practicing at full speed
  • Woolfolk will remain on special teams
  • Barnum will be back this week 
  • <3 Kovacs

Al Borges

Coach, you look great. “Well, thank you.”

How would you assess Denard’s performance? “He managed the offense very well first time out. He had very few errors. A couple of deals, but nothing catastrophic, which is really all you ask for the first time out. He didn’t create the big plays that he’s used to, but our tailbacks did. So as long as somebody does, we’ll be fine. Eventually that part of his game will surface.”

Did you get use enough plays on offense you wanted to? “Oh, it wasn’t even close. We ran 39 plays. I mean, we didn’t even scratch the surface. There was so much left in the bag, just the way the game went, which is kind of good. Didn’t even begin to approach our menu.”

The one play where Denard scrambled and almost threw a pick, did you use that as a teaching moment? “Of all the plays he had, that was the only play that was a little higher risk. After the fact, he realized he should have probably checked the ball down to the tight end in the flat, but he got a little greedy on that one. But for the most part his decision-making was fairly accurate, other than a play or two.”

Is it hard to get a gauge of your offense with only 39 plays? “Yeah, a little bit. But you have 39 to judge, [so] judge and go from there. It was incomplete in so many ways. But it was a win, and we’ll take it, and we’ll go from there. We got another week to practice.”

This horse isn’t dead yet. Let’s beat it some more. Fitz vs. Shaw? “Both of them showed up. We ended up playing them both, probably Fitz a little more than Shaw, but Shaw did some nice things.”

Can you comment on Notre Dame’s defense? “They’re legitimate. Their third-down percentage -- [USF] got two or three third down conversions on them. If you look at their numbers, South Florida didn’t move the ball very well on them. And just because of the circumstances of the game, they lost, but the defense, I thought, was outstanding. Te’o the linebacker was as active and as physical a player I’ve seen in a while, and that’s quite a statement. He is a good football player. They get pass rush with only four guys. They don’t have to blitz, which is disconcerting. They’re good on the back end -- Harrison’s around the ball all the time. Ball hawk, physical, well-coached. They use their hands real well up front on the line. They’re good.”

What do you see in Harrison Smith? “I think he puts himself in position real well. He doesn’t get out of position a lot. He’s got a feel for where the ball’s going. It looks like he plays smart. He’s physical. He’s just one of those guys I’m sure they count on.”

Passes were distributed pretty evenly between receivers against Western. Is that going to be how you do it for the rest of the season? “Not necessarily, no. I think there’s going to be games where you’ll see one guy catch a bunch of balls, and the other guy won’t catch as many, and vice versa. Once you get into the battle, you don’t know how it’s going to go, so you’re never sure exactly who’s going to get it. Now you design certain plays to go to certain guys, but because of the nature of the defense you’re not going to get it to those guys. You always want a degree of distribution, but I’m not obsessed with [the idea that] everybody needs to catch x amount of balls. I could care less about that. What I care about is taking what the defense gives you, and if that means one guy catches ten passes, then so be it.”

How did Denard do under center going through his reads? “I thought he did a pretty darn good job. For his first time, his under center play was really good. His shotgun play was -- that’s kind of his power zone, and that’s why we’re going to use that and do that stuff. His under center play was solid. His mechanics in terms of exchange, tracks and things -- had a couple of errors on some tracks, but for the most part was pretty reliable.”

Only two of Denard’s runs were scrambles. Were you pleased with patience in pocket? “He did a nice job on one scramble particularly. I think he got a first down. He came off one of his receivers a little quick -- but for the most part, what you have to understand is you want him to give the pass a chance, but you don’t want to be so obsessed with him always wanting to check the ball down, because he is the best checkdown you could have. So what could be perceived as impatience is sometimes a little more designed than you might think.”

Talk about that NFL pass to Grady? “That was the second option. That was a good play. They jumped the slide play, and he threw the ball. That was a nice play by him. He reset his feet, got his hips set, and he hit [Grady] right in stride. That was totally designed. And no scramble there.”

How would you assess O-line play re: Schofield vs. Barnum? “Mike had a good game. Mike did a good job. He was very solid in there. And now this week, we’ll see how the thing goes [between Schofield and Barnum]. It’s nice to know [Schofield] can, if that makes any sense.”

Is Barnum back in the lineup for Notre Dame? “Oh yeah. Absolutely.”

Talk about going for it on fourth and one. Whose call is it? “It’s my playcall, but it’s [Hoke’s] decision.”

Do you coach Denard on his scrambling or do you allow him to improvise? “When the protection breaks down or the pocket gets pushed or for some reason he can’t see, he has to go to an improv mode. All our improv has structure, but Denard does a lot in there that I don’t draw on the board. The one thing you don’t want to do is inhibit a playmaker. A guy that can do some things, you don’t want to make him so that he’s so robotic he’s not doing what he’s capable of doing. Yeah, there’s structure within our improvisation, but his ability to create -- I always talk about create without doing something stupid. He’s living by the law pretty good, knock on wood.”

Would you have gone completely vanilla if there had been a fourth quarter? “Had we scored on the last drive, we probably would have gotten a little more physical. It’s hard to say, but when we get ahead, we like to run the football if we can without being too conservative.”

Is the ratio of shotgun vs. under center what you’ll stick to the rest of the season? “No, no … no. The game had no balance to it with regard to that. If we had played a fourth quarter, we would have been right about where we wanted it.”

Would Devin Gardner have gotten some snaps? “I don’t know. We’ll see. I couldn’t tell you. That’s up to Brady.”

Is Hopkins going to have a role this week? “Oh, absolutely. You bet. He was in the fold big time. Before he couldn’t play, but now that he’s back, he’s going to be a factor. He’s a good player. He brings something to the table. He’s a big back that you like to have.”

Is he competing for the starting job? “They’re all competing still. I’m not counting him out of the mix.”

(more after the jump)

Greg Mattison

A photo of the elusive Greg Mattison in his natural habitat.

Can you share what it’s like to have coached on both sides of rivalry? “It’s a great rivalry. I mean, you’re talking about two of the greatest schools in college football in athletics. I don’t think there are any better when you look at the whole package of it. I know it’s a huge rivalry for everybody involved in it. It’s Michigan. It’s Notre Dame. That’s what it is.”

Was it weird when you went from Michigan to Notre Dame? “Yeah, it was hard. I can tell you that was hard because it was Michigan … you know, I can’t honestly say if I even really knew what a big rivalry that was. I never grew up being a Notre Dame fan. I’m a Lutheran, not a Catholic. When you do that decision based on family, once you’ve made that decision, you kind of go, ‘Whoa.’ But I had a great eight years there. Got to see my family through school and my daughter in collge there, so that made it a really, really good deal.”

Assess defensive performance early in the game and how you adjusted later? “The thing that happened is what you kind of worry about happening when you have so many guys that haven’t played a lot of football. You probably got the toughest scenario you could get because it was a very fast paced -- they were switching personnel groups in and out without us really being able to see what they were, and you got defenses that you’re playing for certain personnel groups that you hadn’t against a different group. This young group needs to see everything.

“Then it goes down to when a team hurries like that and speeds up the pace, communication is everything, and that’s something we’ve been harping on. With a young group of guys and young linebackers that haven’t played a lot, the communication is the first thing -- when it all happens -- it goes. [During] that [first] drive, there was a number things that we weren’t aligned correctly on. And we’re not good enough to do that. We’re not good enough to not be perfect at what we’re doing. Once they came off the side and we settled them down, and we just said, ‘Hey listen. There’s a whole ball game ahead of us. If we get these things corrected we’ll be fine.’ And then we get the interception, and [we] let them pick back up again.”

Hoke wasn’t happy with D-line play. “Neither was I.” What stuck out to you? “I wouldn’t just single out the defensive line. When we looked at that tape, I knew what I would see. That is not how we want to play defense. Our whole thing is stopping the run. Some of those runs were me -- I’m calling pressures to try to get after the quarterback and he runs a draw, and we didn’t fit our gaps right. That kind of thing happens. Others they weren’t. We have to be able to stop the run. Anytime a team runs the football on your defense, you can’t have a great day. I think a lot of our fits, our backers fitting, our defensive line knocking them back, playing real physical every snap, all those things have to improve.

“The one positive thing in the entire game, though, was we kept the ball inside and in front for the most part. We can’t allow a big play [to become] a homerun play, and that quarterback is a big time quarterback, and that wide receiver is a great wide receiver. So our guys did keep the ball inside and in front, so we could get more guys on the tackles.”

Rees vs. Crist? “Well, I think that they’re both very good quarterbacks. The one thing that you have to understand with Rees is he was the starting quarterback the last four games [of 2010] and they won all four. And then he goes in this game in a half and throws for 300-some yards or whatever. So obviously he’s a guy that when he goes in ball games, he does a great job. I think both of them are very talented. You wouldn’t be at a school like Notre dame or Michigan if you didn’t have talent. I think they both have good arms, and they both appear to be very intelligent, and they both have a great wide receiver."

How do you get D-line up to where you want it to be? Will you keep blitzing as much? “It depends if a team is going to throw as much as [Western Michigan] threw. It all depends on what the team does. We won’t sit back and play zone coverage until we have the ability to get a rush with a four-man front. And that comes from technique -- that comes from a lot of things. It’s not fair to that secondary and it’s not fair to that underneath coverage to let a quarterback like that hold it. I’m not going to say I’m a guy that’s going to blitz every down, but when it dictates it, then I think you have to.”

Do you need to get more production out of Craig Roh? “Definitely. He has to play better. One of the things we addressed is that we had too many players in that defense that did not get production. We have a big chart up in our hallway [where] you get points for tackles, for assists, for caused fumbles, all those kind of things, and then you also get minus points for missed assignments, missed tackles, that kind of thing. [Ed-M: Mattison keeps a UFR!!!] On our defense we had too many guys that didn’t have a lot of points. You had one guy that had 47 points: Jordan Kovacs. So we gotta get more guys get production. And Craig’s one of those guys. We’ve gotta get more out of him. I think he knows that, and he understands. He saw the film himself. He understands he’s a better football player than that.”

What makes Kovacs so special? “He’s a football player. He’s a Michigan football player. If you had a team of eight of those. I’m not going to say 11. Eight of those. You might sit on a lawn chair and watch the game. That hit that he came on one of the pressures -- you all saw the picture. It was what you tell and what you coach. Put your face right through his chest. Wrap him up. Eyes up. And he put his helmet right through the football. The thing that people didn’t see on that was he was in the endzone almost the same time as Herron after he had caused a fumble and made the hit. That’s what Michigan defense is about. The same thing happened that was a positive -- Jake Ryan on his tipped [pass]. He hit the gournd after he tipped it, [and] he was the first guy down there next to Herron. And that’s what we’ve been talking about. That’s a great sign. Now we gotta keep doing that all the way through a ball game.”

Did Herron just happen to be in right place at right time or was he actively doing things right? “He was where he was supposed to be. He executed the defense and good things happen. Thank goodness he’s fast. He never looks like he’s running that fast, but not many people catch him.”

Kovacs said he expected to have fewer tackles in this new scheme. But he led the team in tackles on Saturday. At what point is that going to change? “I hope soon. You hit it right on the head. When your safety is making a lot of tackles, that’s not a good thing. It’s a good thing we have Jordan Kovacs, but that’s not a good thing [for him to be making all the tackles]. That happened a number of times -- if a linebacker were where he was supposed to be, he would have made that tackle. The great news though is Jordan was where he was supposed to be, and I think at times when I’ve watched, he’s been up in there too far, because he’s been trying to make [the tackle], and all of a sudden if he misses the tackle, [the other player] is gone.”

Does having a guy like Kovacs allow you to do more with the defense? “Well it allows you to call it without wincing. No no … I have confidence in the entire defense. I wasn’t pleased with our performance. I was pleased with the win. I was pleased with the turnover margin, but as a defense I can’t say I was pleased because I really, really believe in my heart we can be much, much better than this. And we have to be. We have to play better defense than what we did. “

How do you defend Michael Floyd? “You better make sure, number one, that you’re playing with great technique on him. If you don’t -- in the back end -- if you don’t play with perfect technique, you’re going to get exposed. I think the second thing is you can’t allow the quarterback all day to throw to him, and I think you have to give him a number of different coverages so he doesn’t know all the time what you’re getting.”

Are you going to play one cornerback on him the entire game? “No.”

Was Woolfolk on pace for Kovacs’ level of production before he left the game? “He made some very physical hits on those bubble screens, which was great to see. I would love to see him play that game. He needed that. I would have loved to have that thing go four quarters. We needed it. We need every second of playing under pressure that we can get. But I’m glad that we got out of there like we did, and we got a victory, and now we just got to improve more.”

Was Woolfolk going full speed in practice today? “Uh huh.”

Will you lobby to keep him off special teams? “No. No I won’t. honestly, I will not … special teams play is a huge, huge part in our defense -- if you saw where we started on defense after a number of those kickoffs. There’s three equal parts to the game, and I’ve seen too many coaches that will say, ‘I gotta have that guy.’ Okay then put another guy [on special teams] that doesn’t do as well and you’ll see how fast that ball comes back. We really believe in that here.”

What do you and Hoke talk about on headset? “He doesn’t have it on, does he?” But he said he did! “Oh I don’t even know. I tell you what, to be honest, he probably can hear everything I’m saying without the headset on, so I don’t know. Brady is -- he is tremendous on the sideline. After that first drive -- because he’s a great defensive coach -- He was over there saying the same things I was saying to those guys. A lot of head coaches might not have reacted like he did. And that pays dividends, because we trust these guys. We believe that they’re going to try as hard as they can. Now we gotta get their tehcnique better, we gotta get a lot of thigns better as coaches, but they’re going to try it, and they’re going to do it. Just like today’s practice. There was a whole bunch of mistakes … but you know what? They went hard. And we’ll get those corrected. We just gotta keep on eliminating those mistakes.” 



September 6th, 2011 at 10:49 PM ^

"I feel i'm hearing a lot of what was said last year"


You do?  I sure don't.  For the first time in several years I hear a coaching staff who seem to know exactly what they want to do and have confidence that the players they have will soon be able to execute against their vision.



September 6th, 2011 at 10:57 PM ^

"I hear a coaching staff who seem to know exactly what they want to do and have confidence that the players they have will soon be able to execute against their vision."

In my opinion, that's as accurate a description of RR last year when talking about the offense as there is. 

But agreed that last year's defense was a clusterfuck and those coaches had no clue


September 6th, 2011 at 11:12 PM ^

Yes, we do seem to have a staff that knows what they want and are fully supported and supportive of the head coach.  I love the coaching staff.  They have the wisdom and confidence of age coupled with a more youthful energy that seems to be powered by a love of the game and the school.  They seem fearless.  This is a whole different psychology than we have seen recently.


September 7th, 2011 at 12:57 AM ^

They make me feel reassured and all warm and squishy comfortable every time they talk.

They certainly know what they are trying to do on both sides of the ball.  They are limited only by talent level and inexperience, which appears to be only temporary in our case.  You get the feeling that it's only a matter of time.


September 7th, 2011 at 7:55 AM ^

Every time someone compares RR to Carr I laugh my ass off.   Carr won 75% of his games and a national title.  He also won 5 big ten titles.  What was RR's winning percentage at Michigan?  Who was the first coach to commit major rule violations in Michigan football history?  Who was the first to commit major rule violations in the history of WVU football history?  The bum only won 6 big10 games in 3 years.  He's a  bum and a snake.  The moron wasn't smart enough to adjust his offense to his players and only won 8 games in his first two seasons.  You RR supporters would call for Hoke's head if he did the same.  Hoke will win way more games in his first season because he's a good coach.  I will say it one more time for you  "RICH ROD WAS A FAILURE AT MICHIGAN" 


September 7th, 2011 at 1:02 AM ^

changes made during the game in the defensive playcalling.  the defense look soooo out of sorts the first 2 drives but then mattison tightened it up and adjusted his gameplan...i dont think GERG did that once.  i dont think weve seen enough offensive plays and/or struggles to judge AB's in-game strategy but its nice to know that we have some versatility in the defensive playcalling compared to last year's drop back in zone and rush 3 or blitz everyone and let the safties get torched like one of mannigham's doobie snacks. borges' willingness to incorporate some plays for denard into his usual playbook speaks somewhat to that but as for in-game adjustments i think the jury is still out - thanks rain and brandon herron's awesomeness.  im excited about the improvement in coaching. here's to hoping the players can follow suit.


September 7th, 2011 at 1:36 AM ^

"For his first time, his under center play was really good. His shotgun play was -- that’s kind of his power zone, and that’s why we’re going to use that and do that stuff. His under center play was solid. His mechanics in terms of exchange, tracks and things -- had a couple of errors on some tracks, but for the most part was pretty reliable.”"

Not to find fault with Borges or anything, but, why would we want to take Denard out of his  so called "Power Zone" in terms of the shotgun?  

Can someone please explain to me how going under center is better than shotgun and in what way?  Don't bother taking into account that everyone including the OC believes this is the best utilization of his skills.  Seriously, in what way does going under center benefit a QB, any QB, as well as specifically Denard.  What is the obsession with going under center with any QB?

Gulo Gulo Luscus

September 7th, 2011 at 2:32 AM ^

this question could be dissected every which way by any number of this blog's truly knowledgeable posters, but i am not one of them.  luckily, you got me googling and i found an interesting article on the pros and cons of shotgun from smartfootball.  i'm not advocating for one or the other, but towards the bottom there is a "disadvantages of the shotgun" section that seems to explain the main arguments from a proponent of "manball."  disclaimer: references to RR are purely coincidental.


if you'd rather not read it, this seems like as good of a one line summary as you can get:

- It retards the notion of a power run game and shifts more towards deception based delays, options, or draw type run plays. This is not a bad thing, though true.


September 7th, 2011 at 2:25 AM ^

I love reading what both Al and Greg had to say about the game, what worked and where there needed to be improvement.

Did RR's OC and DC give these kind of press conferences? I don't seem to remember this format but I hope this continues through the season.

It will be interesting to see how the running game shapes up.  Next week will be a bigger test with the ND defense. It still looks like DROB is more comfortable from the shotgun. May be  Al thinks the running game would perform better if DROB starts from under center?

Hopefully the DLINE will play more aggressive against ND. The key will be getting pressure Rees.


September 7th, 2011 at 2:27 AM ^

<br>I think that the implication is that In the best case scenario we would be able to dominate games by handing off to the rbS over and over.
<br>Also, we would ideally be in the lead and would want to run the ball to control clock. Also under center Handoffs allow us to keep denard Out of harms way.
<br>I think Borges will unleash denard When necessary. But would rather not have to in an ideal world.


September 7th, 2011 at 7:07 AM ^

Just wait till these guys get a few great recruiting classes under their belt ...... This defense will be TREMENDOUS ....




I dont mean to sound arrogant but this is MICHIGAN !!!

Blue in Yarmouth

September 8th, 2011 at 8:08 AM ^

First I want to state that I think Hoke will be a great coach for UM. I love what he has done so far and think he will enjoy success here for years to come. However, you are the one who opened this can of worms so I will say that their overall records seem to conflict with your statement. 

I agreethat RR (for many reasons that have been hashed and re-hashed a million times on this blog) was not a success here at UM. To say that he isn't a good coach because of that, especially given the situation, is absurd. He has proven he is a great coach when in the right situation. 

He has been gone for nine months now. Can we please get past the attacks already!


September 7th, 2011 at 10:53 AM ^

We won’t sit back and play zone coverage until we have the ability to get a rush with a four-man front. And that comes from technique -- that comes from a lot of things. It’s not fair to that secondary and it’s not fair to that underneath coverage to let a quarterback like that hold it.

How different is that from what we've seen?