[Ed: I had a math exam Tuesday night, so shoutout to The Daily's Max Marcovitch for sending audio and shoutout me for probably failing a math exam]
- What the defense thinks of Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor
- Jared Wangler's touchdown
- Wangler's post about DJ Durkin
- Ronnie Bell flipping from basketball to football
- Bell's ascension
- Lavert Hill's dunking ability
How do you feel about going against a team like Wisconsin?
“I mean, we play in the Big Ten, most teams in the Big Ten are running the ball primarily, so it’s just a good thing to get back to our roots. Even, they kinda run that pro-style offense, our offense is kinda pro-style. So we’re used to seeing fullbacks, 21 personnel, so it’s just good to go back to that run-style, pro-style offense.”
What stands out to you about them?
“Just the way they play. They go with what works, they get a lot of inside routes — they like that, like, running the ball. They keep pounding the ball, keep pounding the ball, trying to wear teams out that way. They got their big backs, just O-linemen opening up the holes for their big backs to run to.”
When Jonathan Taylor gets out in the open, what kind of challenge does he present?
“Just get him to the ground. Just save us, make us play another play, just help the defense get out there and try to get a stop.”
What does he do well?
“He has good vision and patience. He waits for the hole, he doesn’t try to force it in there. He waits for the creases, so he can hit them, full-speed.”
The two Devins were in here yesterday saying you can’t come in and run on this team
“Yeah, that’s one thing as a defense we pride ourselves on. Can’t run the ball, you gotta beat us passing. Get us — once we get them in third down, that’s where we want to thrive as a defense. Third down, limit as much third down conversions as possible, so we just make sure a team can’t run the ball, get them in third-and-long, get our ends, D-tackles doing work.”
Are you taking it personally that they think they can run the ball on you guys?
“I take everything personally. Cause it can make or break the season. So I take everything personally.”
(Alex) Hornibrook tends to be known as a game manager, but as you saw last year, he was able to make a couple big throws. What is so challenging about facing him?
“It’s like, we didn’t know — we go into the game like, ‘Alright, they’re more of a run team, not a passing team.’ We know he made all the throws to beat us last year, so going into the game this year, just play how we play. Don’t expect anything, don’t expect them to just run the ball, don’t expect them to get in under the center. Expect them to be — expect them to play. Just don’t expect too much, don’t expect too less.”
I think Devin said the other day that Wisconsin has to come beat you, not vice versa. Do you hear that — what does that mean to you?
“Yeah, so first of all, it’s our house. It’s not, ‘Alright, we’re going out there, alright, we gotta make sure we beat Wisconsin.’ We focus on ourselves first. We focus on Michigan first. We do what we have to do, everybody does their job, now they gotta beat our job. They gotta beat us 1-on-1, they gotta beat us man-on-man, they gotta beat us. So it’s not, we have to go out there and beat them. We do what we do and they gotta beat that.”
Is that how you guys wanna prepare yourselves for every game?
“Yeah, as a team, that’s what coach talks about. Just do your job. Don’t worry about the other teams, do what you have to do. Win your 1-on-1 matchup, don’t let the other guy beat you.”
What was that experience like (scoring)?
“It was a great feeling. Just being there with my close friends, I think one thing about this team is we’re really close-knit and we’ve built a lot of great relationships. So, being able to share that moment with my friends was pretty awesome.”
Did you know that — did coach say you were gonna have that play available for you?
“We’ve been practicing a lot of different plays. There’s, obviously, you saw a package with me and Ben (Mason) on the field. There’s several plays we practice out of that package and that just happened to be the one that they called in that moment. So, when we called, that, obviously knew that’s the play that’s designed for me to catch the ball.”
Did you get a chance to celebrate with your brother at all, in the stands?
“Yeah, actually, it’s pretty funny. He’s supposed to be up like 30 rows, I think that’s where his seat was. But somehow he made his way to the front row. So I got back and I saw him in the front row, I was like, ‘Oh.’ And I went over and gave him a hug. It was a cool moment.”
How did you get (the number) 5? I know you wanted to wear 5 like your dad did
“Yeah, so just like anyone who wants to do a number change, you gotta run it by the head coach. Obviously, it’s — I would call this a meritocracy here — so whoever’s playing the most, who’s wearing the number, whoever makes the most sense is gonna wear it. If the coaches decide after camp ends, so, yeah, that’s just kinda how that works whenever there’s multiple guys wearing the same number or someone really wants a number, you gotta compete to earn that number.”
Prior to the injury, did you have expectations of making the kind of contributions that you’re making now, or is this something that developed over the course of the season?
“No, I expected to play a lot this season on offense. Throughout spring ball, I thought the fullbacks in general, we all competed really well, but obviously Ben wasn’t there during spring ball with his knee injury. So yeah, I got a lot of reps in spring, I thought I developed really well. … Lot of guys really helped me kinda mold into the position that I’m in right now. So yeah, I was expecting to play a lot this season and contribute on offense and obviously on special teams as I had been doing previous years.”
You mentioned the two-fullback package. When did it start to develop, did it come when Ben started having success running singleback type of stuff? I guess when did you start practicing that kind of package?
“Yeah, so that’s kinda developed throughout the year as Ben — obviously you guys all know how versatile the guy is and how great of a football player he is. So as his role has expanded, I’ve seen my role expand as well. And I know in the past few years, they’ve liked to get multiple fullbacks on the field, as you guys saw the goal-line packages with (Henry) Poggi and Khalid (Hill) and even with Ben on the field last year. So we weren’t really surprised when they put that in. They just like to get guys on the field who can block.”
You added the commentary about DJ (Durkin) in your (Instagram) post. Why did you do that?
“I guess it’s something that I appreciated, that he did for my career, was, he was tough on me. He’s a tough coach, that’s kinda his style. So that quote just kinda always stuck to me in my head and that’s one of those things, like I mentioned earlier, you just have to prove people wrong. So I appreciated that, that he gave me that extra incentive.”
How special was it getting in the end zone on Saturday?
“It felt good, it was very special. Just that I got to give us that lead right before the half with a big play.”
Can you take us through what you saw on that play?
“Yeah, I knew Shea was gonna be rolling out, so I guess I just tried to get over there as quick as I could to make myself available. And then me and him just kinda made eye contact, so then I realized the ball was coming my way. And so then, I think it was the safety, he had slipped and I’d seen him out of the corner of my eye. So I just was coming back to the ball to make sure he didn’t get it, and he ended up running into his teammate, and then I was able to get into the end zone.”
You’ve got two touchdowns now in your career, did you envision your career starting off like this when you first got here?
“No, I mean, I came in humble. Just kinda, I was the basketball guy, kinda, to everybody, so my goal, I guess, was just to show everybody that I can play football. So, for me to start out this way,m it’s a great day, great feeling.”
You were committed to play basketball, why did you flip? Why did you decide to come here?
“I always wanted to play football, and so once me and my dad — me and my dad had a conversation where we just kinda talked about it. Don’t worry about money, I’ll just do what I wanna do. And that’s when, it was a no-brainer, to decommit and switch sports.”
So before you got an offer from Michigan, were you considering walking on somewhere to play football?
“No, I got — I was getting calls from other schools. Like I was gonna — schools like Northwest Missouri State back home.”
Do you think about where you might be if you had chosen basketball instead? Like, halfway through your freshman season
“Yeah, I thought about that not too long ago, actually. My buddy, real good friend of mine, Khalid Smith. I talk to him every day and he texted me after I scored the touchdown against Maryland, and he was like, ‘Man, a year ago today, I was on the sideline talking to your dad about you playing basketball at Missouri State.’ And he was like, ‘And now you just scored a touchdown.’ So that’s just — it’s crazy. It’s crazy to think about how much it’s switched.”
Why do you ultimately prefer football to basketball?
“I honestly think it was cause my dad was a coach, and I was around football a lot — college football a lot — as a little kid. I just loved it. Once I started playing in middle school, just a great passion for it. And then high school, the passion grew more and more. I think it was — I was just writing about this actually, for a school assignment — but my sophomore year, it was after that football season, I was like, ‘I wanna play football in college.’ Like I told myself, ‘I wanna play football in college.’ ”
Who’s the second-best basketball player on this team?
“I’ve heard good things about BP — Brandon Peters — and I’ve heard good things about (Lavert Hill). So I gotta see with those two guys.”
“Gentry’s tall. So I assume. …”
“No. No 1-on-1s. We’re not allowed to do that. … We don’t want nobody to tweak anything.”
I think Lavert actually, a few weeks ago, said he’s the best dunker on the team
“That’s a false —”
(Cut off by everybody laughing)
“That was false for sure.”
Can he even dunk?
“Lavert can dunk. Lavert can definitely dunk. But I think it’d be either me or BP who can dunk the best on the team.”
What was it like when Michigan — you said you kinda had this talk and made this decision — and then all of the sudden, Michigan comes in with the first Power Five offer. What was that experience like, all of the sudden they’re calling you?
“It was, like I said before, it was a dream come true. It made me feel a lot more better about my decision, of course, cause I mean, I was like, ‘I wanna play football, I wanna prove to everybody I can play football.’ And Michigan comes in, I’m just like, ‘Now I’m really about to show y’all.’ Like, I can really do this. … Yeah, it was just a good feeling in the whole decision-making. Like, it really made me feel like I made the right decision.”
How did that happen with Michigan reaching out to you?
“Coach (Jim) Harbaugh, actually, his brother-in-law coaches basketball at Blue Spring South, which was a team in my conference back home. So I guess they were just talking football and then coach got a hold of my senior tape and whatnot. And then yeah, the rest is history.”
Have you seen the tweets from Matt Dudek, after each game, about you?
“I love it. I love it. Cause, I mean, it’s true. I was no stars, nothing. So it’s just like, that’s just definition, stars, I mean — ehhh. Eh. Can’t always pay attention to stars.”