- Don Brown has been waiting for Penn State
- The Revenge Tour, Leg Three
- Tarik Black is practicing
- Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins are taking leadership roles
- The offensive line's improvement as a whole
- Jon Runyan's individual improvement
[After THE JUMP: Stuff, and lots of it]
Chase (Winovich) said that Don Brown, he’s more amped up this week cause it’s Penn State. How does Don Brown look amped up?
“He just, you can tell. His energy, he’s one of those guys where he just brings a lot of energy off — just as him. … You can tell, he’s an aggressive guy. You can tell, walking through the hallway, you see coach Brown, you just see him jumping up. He’s an old man, but he’s still got a little energy in him. You just feel it, it gets you kinda amped up, too. Seeing coach Brown like that get you amped up, too.”
Is he different this week? He did say he’s been thinking about this game since last year
“Yeah, it’s one of those games where we owe them. Last year, one of those games you try to forget, but you can’t It’s just stuck in the back of your head. … Wanted to make sure we make a statement this week, cause last year we didn’t. So it’s just one of those weeks.”
How much do you think about that game?
“I think about it a lot. Cause I don’t like losing. I wouldn’t like losing like that, where we look like we have no chance. … I’m pretty sure everybody on the defense just felt like we could’ve did something better to improve the output of the game.”
Chase said he still remembers when Penn State tried to score late in the game. Does that stick with you?
“Yeah. I found that as disrespectful. It’s two seconds left on the clock and they try to run the ball, to run up the score even more. I just take that personally. This game’s real personal.”
Is that something you guys have talked about this week?
“We brought it up. It’s not nothing we stress on, cause it is what it is. We can’t do nothing about it now. All we can do is go out Saturday and make a statement. But we haven’t really talked about it much. We talked about it once, but that’s about it.”
How do you get better at pass coverage? Is it just more reps?
“It’s more reps, learning what works best for you. Not everybody covers the same way. Some guys like being more aggressive, some guys like being more patient. So just learning what works for you. Watching receivers, the different way they run their routes when other teams play man against them. Or just learning what type of route concepts the offense likes. Whether it’s man or zone, you can always kinda anticipate what’s coming next — what’s coming your way — depending on the split or the formation or stuff like that.”
So what works for you then, personally?
“I just like playing a little bit aggressive, you know. I’m a bigger guy compared to most slot receivers, so I like to get my hands on them. I got the ability to move where they move.”
What sort of things did Chris Partridge teach you this offseason?
“One thing I really like about coach Partridge is that he always stresses finishing. And no matter — if we’re doing a drill where we run 30 yards, jump up, catch the ball, he wants you to finish back to the line. He stresses that, really, like, if you don’t finish, we got punishment after practice. Or if you don’t finish the play, he writes it down on his little piece of paper and he tells you after practice. Now we gotta finish after practice for it. And I just really like that about him, cause no matter what, in football and in life, nobody’s perfect. Something will go wrong, nobody's made to do everything right. So finishing is the only way to get people with certain mistakes — big ones — like a missed coverage or missed assignment, you finish, you can turn an 80-yard play into 20, a 20-yard play into 10.”
How much of this is a revenge game from last year? A lot of guys were talking about that angle
“Yeah, we started a little revenge tour thing. I’m all aboard. We gotta prove ourselves. We’ve done it so far. Penn State, they’re a good team. Last year, that was a tough atmosphere. They had some really good players that they lost. So we’re focused on this year and these players that they got.”
Seems like as the year has gone on, the offense has started to slowly add layers and layers. How different does it feel from the beginning to now?
“That’s a good question. I definitely think we’re expanding. We gotta adapt to what teams do. Teams are definitely gonna bring their best game against us, they know we’re Michigan. It’s adapt or die. So we gotta adapt, and we definitely have done that so far. It’s going well.”
Is Tarik (Black) getting back to becoming the guy that you saw before he got hurt?
“Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Coming back from an injury like that, there’s gonna be some cloudiness. Coming back on the field, there’s definitely some doubt, ‘The plays, do I know them well enough?’ He’s definitely overcome that gap. He’s back to being Tarik.”
Is he a full go at this point? In practice and everything?
“Yeah, full go.”
What do you like about the progress of the young receivers?
“Making plays. Ronnie Bell, making plays, catching touchdowns. Donovan (Peoples-Jones), didn’t even think of him as a young guy, really, but he is. Him and Nico (Collins) are both making plays, just really being leaders as well. Young leaders. That gives me a lot of confidence for the years ahead, to have them in the room and teach guys that are coming in.”
Guys like Donovan and Nico, what makes them wise beyond their years, not like their young guys anymore?
“I think, credit that to coach (Jim McElwain), coach (Jim) Harbaugh. Just being around a bbunch of coaches that expect a lot, but also just teach fundamentals. Off the field, on the field. I’ve definitely tried to instill some stuff I’ve learned from (Amara) Darboh and Jehu (Chesson), both guys that are in the league. And they’ve picked it up really well. They’re becoming leaders, like I said. It’s good to see that.”
You guys have really controlled time of possession this season. Is that something you’re focused on, or is that just a product of guys moving the football more?
“I definitely just think it’s a product. I’ve never really heard and coach say, ‘We need to hold the ball as long as we can.’ But we definitely — long drives add time and time is our friend when we’re winning.”
Jon Runyan Jr.
Jon, the last few weeks, the offensive line has really worn down the opposing defensive line. How different is that, compared to previous, and what’s been that change that’s made it so you guys have been able to do that?
“I think that change has come — obviously, with the offensive scheme that we’ve been running. You can’t really run certain looks against certain defenses. Like, we can’t really run power against an odd front. That’s kind of just beating your head against the wall, when we keep trying to do that. You can’t really run iso against an odd front. Scheming up four-down, three-down fronts, and plays that are good against those — the inside zones that we were running against Michigan State, to wear them down. And the belly plays. That’s what they did. They wore them down. And we were able to bleed out the clock at the end of the game.”
In previous years has it been more like you’ve kind of been beating your heads against the wall in that sense?
“Yeah, that’s kinda what it seems like from the outside, yeah. I don’t think we did a good job as an offensive line. The play is called you have to run it, no matter what. I don’t think we did a good job blocking those up, but sometimes the scheme might not have been there as well. This year has definitely been a really great (adjustment).
Have you gone back and watched the Notre Dame game, and have you seen things that you were doing then that you don’t do anymore? Any changes in your game specifically?
“Yeah, this past weekend, had the bye week. Didn’t really do much on Friday and Saturday, besides watch a bunch of football. But I did go back and watch the Notre Dame game. Was kinda hesitant to, at first. Kinda made me sick to my stomach, looking at myself in that game. Just seeing where we were at that point, and watching the Michigan State game, just the progress has been amazing. And I just watched that to remind me of where I came from, my first start at left tackle, big game. To see how far I’d progressed and the offense had progressed. That’s something, I don’t want to ever have that feeling again. … I remember that feeling when I watched that game, feeling so — I don’t want to have that feeling going into these next four games. Hopefully seven.
Do you have any examples, certain things, where you just weren’t communicating correctly on the line? What were some of the things that you noticed?
“Kinda losing my technique in the heat of the moment. In the pass game and in the run game, I still vaguely remember, I got beat inside on a second or third-and-short. I got beat inside, running back got hit in the backfield. That makes me sick, too. Just refining those things, making sure they don’t happen anymore is something that I really try to work on.”
Did you feel you made a big jump from game one to two? When was the biggest improvement?
“I think the biggest improvement was during the Nebraska game. I think that’s where I amde my big leap, definitely. Nebraska game, and then I felt aonther ibg leap in the Wisconsin game. Those two games, I thought I played really well. And we were just having funn out there. Those games were really fun. Those are the games especially — under the lights, ESPN, 7:30, whatever — those are the games you grow up watching and live for. That was really awesome.”
A few weeks ago, you said you felt the run blocking needed a little bit of improvement. Where do you feel like now, after the Michigan State and Wisconsin, games, where do you feel like you guys are at, with that regard?
“Yeah, Michigan State, going into the game, they’re the number one rush defense in the country. We knew we had to be on our game. And they came in blitzing, I think, 35 percent. And they doubled that when they played us. They knew that they weren’t gonna stop us, if they let us stay on our double-teams, so they were gonna throw everything they could at us. We did a good job, starting with Cesar (Ruiz) communicating up and down the line when we knew that there was gonna be pressure. We can get into our schemes that we have against pressure, so those little nuances that are involved in that was really helpful. Hopefully we carry that over to Penn State. Cause their team really likes to bring pressure, too.”