Just talk about Mo Hurst’s game last game. Haven’t seen a lineman play that well probably in a long time.
“Well, yeah, Mo had a really good ballgame. Mo’s done some really, really good things. Obviously as a senior in big games you want to play your best and he’s been practicing that way to do that. I was happy for him. He’s capable of doing that a lot this year; he’s very explosive. The thing I’m proud of him is he’s been a good leader and he’s worked very, very hard. The guys look up to him and you want guys like that to have the reward of playing like that.”
How’s Mike Dwumfour coming along?
“Mike Dwumfour’s coming along very well. He has a lot of Mo in him. He really does. They both are very quick twitch, they’re explosive, they can run. You’ll see Mike a lot more as the season goes on. He played in this last game and I feel like we’re really starting to get with the D-line like we had before with the two-deep. They’ve worked hard in practice, and the only thing you can judge by is practice. The guys are working really hard in practice. Coach Brown does a great job of rotating them in practice like we do in-game, and they’re all starting to become that two-deep group like I want them to.”
This isn’t a criticism of Rashan, but it seems like he’s maybe a quarter step slow off the snap sometimes. Is that just because he’s playing next to a guy like Maurice Hurst?
“Well, I’d question anybody who would say Rashan’s a step slow. I bet you’d like to ask the people he’s played against if he’s a step slow. I think if anything it’s because he’s being very, very unselfish and very team-oriented and he’s knowing he’s playing the run first, and when you’re playing the run there’s a lot of times you have to react as you step as a D-lineman, and that’s what he’s doing.
“We could get all our guys to just come sprinting off the football if you wanted to but I don’t think you’d be happy with the outcome of that. I’m very proud of Rashan because he continues to try to work on his technique and continues to try to do what the defense asks him to do, and great things are going to happen because of that.”
[After THE JUMP: scouting a DeBord offense, the development of Solomon and Paye, and some good stories about Winovich]
Are you still seeing a lot of doubles and tight ends staying in [inaudible but it’s about Rashan]?
“Yeah, and the thing about it is Rashan’s position on the defensive line, unlike any other position, is he is head-up on a tight end. He’s right down the middle of a tight end, whereas you see Mo is shaded on a guard, you’ll see the nose is shaded on a guard, and Chase is shaded on a tackle, so you already have the edge where our defense is very, very predicated on the fact that you better have a strong, strong guy over that tight end, and he has to do a great job.
“Last year, Wormley was that guy. Rashan is doing a great job of that also. So, he doesn’t always get the edge like you want him to, but again, like I say, I’m proud of him because some guys at some programs would complain about that. He doesn’t. He just plays the defense like it’s supposed to be played.”
How far have you seen Aubrey Solomon come since the first day?
“I think he’s come a long way. He’s come a long way. It’s a lot different here than it is in high school and I think Aubrey kind of found that out when he got here, and not negatively. I mean, like every little technique and stance and movement is critiqued and I think there were some times where he just walked away going ‘My god, can’t I do anything right?’
“Now he’s really starting. I’ve seen it the last week, the week before that—he’s really starting to buy in to what we call Michigan defensive line technique and he is really starting to be that guy. I mean, he’s going to play a lot. He’s gonna play a lot, and he’s another one of those guy’s that’s going to rotate.”
This is more of a bigger-picture question. You’ve coached a lot of players over your career, been through a lot of ups and downs. What’s the best advice you can give a team right now or a player when their confidence is down or they hit that bump in the road, whether it’s individually or as a team?
“Well, first thing is our confidence isn’t down. That’s the very first thing. When you practice and you play as hard as we do, there’s no reason ever to have your confidence down and we don’t. The only advice that we give them is—I’m going to use the defensive line because that’s—all we care about is we have a goal that we want to get to a certain level, and are we working to that goal and every game we want to try to do whatever we have to do to get there and they are. They are working to that.
“They worked through it last week, they worked there the week before and the week before that. So we continue to do that, and then when that’s over with you look at it and whatever that is, that is. So there’s no confidence problem. There’s nothing like that. All we do is come out every day and say ‘Alright, we’re going to become the best defense and the best defensive line we can be.’”
You’re familiar with Mike DeBord I think.
What do you expect from him against Indiana.
“Mike and I came here together. I remember his locker was right next to mine. You’re going to get a very, very well-coached team. In fact, spent a lot of time looking at opponents and seeing if they give you something that you can put your hat on and really Mike doesn’t. Mike is really, really sound. Their offense is very sound. I really see the difference with him being there. I think they are a very, very good football team and a very good offense because of that, and you can see Mike in it. I can see it. He’s done a good job.”
Are there a lot of differences between this offense and the one from the last couple years?
“Yeah, I think that there’s differences in the backfield set, there’s differences in some of the plays they run and what they really are trying to do. You can definitely see Mike’s influence on it.”
We get to see Chase [Winovich] on Saturdays but from your perspective, on a daily basis, how far has he come since transitioning to the position last year?
“Excuse me, who?”
“Oh.” [Smiles crazy big] “How far has he come? Well, Chase came here as a linebacker. I recruited him and I remember being in his home with his family and at the high school and he was a linebacker. And then I remember his first year as a linebacker, and then I remember coach Harbaugh taking him as a tight end. Spent a whole year looking over there at him going, ‘This guy’s—this guy’s gonna be a good defensive…’ so we were at the bowl game and we asked Coach if we could have him back and Coach gave him back to us.
“He has improved every day. I mean, the thing about Chase Winovich that every young man should have is he has a burning desire to become the best he can be, and almost sometimes if you look at it could be a fault in that he always wants to be The Guy. Well, that’s what you want in your defensive line. The thing that I’m so proud of him is that he always puts the defense ahead of his own personal goals. If every player prepared and played as hard as Chase, you’d have one of the greatest defensive lines you’ve ever had and that’s what we’re really trying to do.
“All of our guys know that that’s what’s expected, but there was a play in that Michigan State game where he broke the run, Chase Winovich ran around the entire defense and ended up making the tackle 50 yards downfield. And there were secondary guys running as hard as they could also, so it wasn’t a deal where guys weren’t, it’s just Chase’s burning desire to be the best that he can be, and that’s what he does with everything he does on that field.”
Is this second defensive line, for lack of a better description, coming along as fast as you thought?
“Yeah, it is. It really is. The backup unit or the first unit that was the seconds before, honestly, we talk about that all the time. We’ve got something to prove. We want to make sure that each game, that this group shows that they were a big reason for a really good D-line last year and they weren’t just guys that went in. It’s their turn now, and so that’s why each week you’ll see them work to improve. They want to finish this thing this year as being what is expected here: to be a great D-line.”
And the guys backing those guys up, are they—
“They’re really coming along. Yeah, I think over the last week and a half I saw more improvement out of that group than I have in the first three weeks. They’re really working towards that now.”
Don Brown said a few weeks ago that he’d like to see Kwity Paye in the game but Chase just won’t come out. What kind of player has Kwity been so far?
“Kwity’s really, really improving. He’s really, really improving. In fact, we were talking about it, last night’s practice was one of the best practices I’ve seen out of him. He’s gotten more physical. He understands everything. Kwity Paye’s going to be one heck of a football player and yeah, you’re gonna see him. You’ll see him as it goes on. He’s getting close.”
Did you know Chase took ballet classes in the offseason?
“Nothing you would tell me about Chase would surprise me, you know. Going back to your point, it’s really true. I’ll talk to the guys during the game and the whole thing we ask them is to be honest and if you can’t run as hard as you possibly can run, if you can’t go the best you can go, then just say it and put somebody else in, because the guy that’s gonna go in will do that. And he may not do it as long as you because you’re the starter but he will do that. And I’ll be asking Chase during every game, ‘Chase, you need a break?’ ‘No, I’m fine. I feel great, coach. I feel great.’ And I’m going, ‘Oookay.’ You know what, that’s what you see. Kwity will be getting some playing time.”
When he got moved to tight end, did you guys fight it?
“Noo. When the head coach takes somebody there is no such thing as fighting it. Absolutely not. You give him a blessing and you say, ‘Chase, you are going there to help this football team and that’s why you’re moving there.’ No, not at all.”
Was Chase at all upset, though?
“Nope. Chase is a team player. Chase would do whatever the team asked him to do, whatever coach Harbaugh asked him to do, and that was what was good about it.”