Wednesday Presser 10-18-17: Mike Zordich

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 19th, 2017 at 8:01 AM



Jim said the Lavert [Hill] pick was not a penalty. What did you see on that play?

“Yeah, I was astonished. I actually asked the official at halftime, I said, ‘What happened? What’d he do?’ He said he tugged on his top shoulder and that’s what made him able to slingshot in front of him. You look at the film and you don’t see that, you just see a kid making a hell of a play, so I was surprised.”

Tyree [Kinnel] said he sees a little Jourdan [Lewis] in him. Do you see that?

“Yeah, you know what, I can see it. I can see what Tyree’s saying, and Lavert is starting to come out of his shell a little bit and you can see his fieriness, his competitiveness more in practice as the year goes, so absolutely.”

Have you been pretty happy with David Long’s progression at the other spot?

“David has progressed well. B-Wat has progressed well. Yes, happy. We still need to progress, absolutely.”

We’re starting to see a little bit of Ambry Thomas in pivotal game moments. What has he been able to do?

“Ambry’s come along. He had to go in there because David got dinged up a little bit or a little dizzy, but Ambry’s coming and so is Benjamin St. Juste. Both those guys are working extremely hard. I would say if they keep up this pace, in a couple weeks I wouldn’t be afraid to put them in more than what they’re seeing now.”

[After THE JUMP: the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau is gonna love this]

You said this summer it was a little strange the first time you went to Penn State and played against them.

“Yes, yeah.”

Are you over that little—

“Oh yeah, absolutely. It was pretty surreal. It really was. Going there, my son played there and going to his games, then standing on the other sideline… it was interesting. It was very interesting. But I’m very excited to get back there this Saturday. I think we’re going to see a good game, very competitive game.”

Your thoughts on your guys in run support so far?

“So far, so good. For all the man we play, they’re not getting run off a lot. They’re seeing it and they’re able to fill. I think Lavert had two or three tackles for losses the last couple games, so he’s seeing it. David made a huge play in the Michigan State game coming off a man and stopping a third-down play, so they’re seeing it, which is good.”

[lingering silence]

“Boy, this is an easy crowd.”

What are the challenges Penn State’s receivers pose?

“Well, I think as a whole they are more—they’re probably the best we’ve seen all year. I would put them with the Florida group but maybe just a notch ahead, because all four of them are pretty good, pretty fluid downfield.”

What’s been the biggest difference for Lavert to get from where he was in the spring to where he is now? What’s the thing that stood out to you [inaudible]?

“Yeah, I think he’s just starting to mature and starting to understand that he could be a really good football player, and I think just that process. Every day just staying on him, staying on them all and helping them all grow up and understand the game.”

When you guys were getting ready for them last year and getting ready for McSorley to what you see now, how has he changed?

“Really he’s pretty much the same guy. I’m watching all this film [and] he still likes to run. He likes to get out of the pocket. He’s a lot like the last two quarterbacks we’ve faced, so in a sense it’s been helpful playing Michigan State, playing Indiana where the quarterback likes to get out of the pocket and run, so he is the same guy, I think, from a year ago. Competitor. Great competitor. Great competitor.”

Is this one of those things where more reps and more snaps and you just have to progress that way?

“Yep, exactly.”

The last drive before the end of regulation, Tyree said you guys played off a little bit more. Was that by design or was that saying that they were individually a bit more cautious?

“We were playing off? In coverage?”

Yes. Is that incorrect?

“No, that is true, that is true. Just being smart in some situations, that’s all. Certain calls. Got a better view of things, not letting them get anything behind you.”

In a game like this, is it more important for your guys not just to defend but to make a play?

“Well, you never want to press to make plays. I think naturally you make plays. You’re not thinking about it, you’re just reacting and playing. I think that’s how you make plays, by just reaction. No thinking. If you get too analytical and you start pressing the point, then they start thinking, then their feet stop, then plays are made against us. So we just practice hard, practice, and the way we practice is just hey, you’re prepared, go play. That’s kind of the way we’re approaching it. Always have.”

Do you think Lavert’s made that next step now to not just knocking down balls but looking to pick it off as we saw that in the last game?

“Yeah… he’s very natural, very instinctive. He’s going to do whatever he can to get his hands on it, so I think he’s always looking for a pick, but if knows he can’t he’ll try to slap it or backhand it away. He’s instinctive in that way.”

So is he ahead of the curve, do you think?

“I think so a little bit. A little bit. We saw it. There’s a reason why we recruited him. It was great to have him here in the spring. You could just see that he could do some things. Then now it’s just applying it now to everyday activities on a consistent basis. [knocks on actual wood] Thus far since the summer, all those guys have accepted the challenge, so to speak, and are getting better.”

I know he’s not your guy, but can you talk about Mo Hurst and the effect he’s had making life easier for your guys?

“He’s a really talented guy, really talented football player and he’s very quick, as you all see, and he’s great coming off the football. I mean, his acceleration off the line of scrimmage, his ability to get in the gaps and make penetration, causes a lot of havoc for the offensive line and that has been extremely helpful. Quarterbacks don’t have much time when he’s in there, for sure.”

All the defensive players came in last night and talked about big stage, chance to show the world, etc. Is that a theme? Is that something the coaches have sort of preached to them?

“Nah, I think—I think they understand it’s a big game. We were coming off the field yesterday and on the TV Michigan-Penn State, 7:30, white out and all that good stuff, so they know. That’s what’s kind of nice: it’s built in, so hopefully that will help in our preparation.”

They were talking about a chip on their shoulder, getting knocked down in the rankings, I think Chase said slap after slap in the face.

“Well, yeah, and I can understand their frustration. They’re part of a really good defense nationally and yet they see we win a game, a lot of teams ahead of us who were ranked lose games, and we go backwards. So yeah, I could see there’s a little chip on the shoulder. [chuckles] Absolutely.”

[a shorter pause]

“Man, you guys are easy. This is easy. Are we done?”

So what do you recommend doing in State College?

“What do I recommend? There’s a lot of good places, but those are places you wouldn’t want to go.”


“I had a couple old places we used to hang out but I don’t even think they’re around any more.”

So stick to the sticky buns and the creamery?

“Yeah, yep, yep, yep. It’s a good place. We’ll enjoy it. Hopefully we’ll enjoy Saturday.”

In June or July you said last year’s game, you didn’t expect to see that much of a—

“No, I really did not expect that big of a margin of victory, if you will. But they had some very key injuries on defense, and then the linebacker gets called and kicked out of the game for targeting which it really wasn’t targeting and you could just see the whole team kind of just deflated a little bit. So yeah, we were surprised. We were all surprised. That’s certainly not going to be the case this weekend. It’s going to be a great game, great battle. I think it’ll be a fun game for the nation to see.”

Watching them on film, a lot of the same personnel as last year. Why are they so much better?

“Well, I think they’re just confident. Coach Franklin’s done a hell of a job just getting them confident. You look at after our game, you would have thought last year that they were done and they ended up running the table, so they’ve got confidence. Confidence helps a lot, and they all have it. It shows. They’re playing well. They’re playing very hard.”

Will this be the toughest atmosphere your guys have seen?

“For this year, yes, absolutely. It’ll be a great atmosphere. Certainly the white out will have something to do with that. As far as this year’s away games go, yeah, this’ll definitely be the best place they’ve seen.”

Anything different to try and prep for that?

“Nah, nah. Coach does the same things we’ve done for every away game, so there’s nothing more or less.”

Did you hang out at the Rathskellar? Is that it?

“Oh-hooo. That was—that was one of the spots. You been there?”

Yeah. They have the little bottles of… Rolling Rock?

“Rolling Rock, yeah.”

At first I thought it was Skulldrudgery but Rathskellar.

“Yep, yep. That’s going back a bit there.”

Still there.

“It is.”

Don’t they bring a case of beer out on the table?

“Put it on the table, yeah. I was 21 when I went there. Absolutely.”

Okay, is this ov--


“Where’s this going? You’re gonna get me fired!”



October 19th, 2017 at 9:11 AM ^

Are the chicken littles still “scared to death” about our secondary being young?

Trust in the talent and coaching. Brown, Mattison, Zordich, Smith and company have proven themselves time and time again. Our defense will be elite for many years to come.

Toby Flenderson

October 19th, 2017 at 10:05 AM ^

I think it is unfair to call the people who were concerned about the secondary "chicken littles". Michigan lost all 4 starters in the backfield, along with Jeremy Clark and Jabrill Peppers. It was reasonable to suspect that the secondary could have some growing pains due to the loss of experience in the backfield. In addition, Zordich was not particularly optimistic about the secondary pre-season. Needless to say, the secondary has passed our expectations and have played well. However, I don't think it was irrational for some fans to have some concerns about the secondary in the preseason. 


October 19th, 2017 at 10:10 AM ^

This defense evolves as players come and go.  When Glasgow departed we all wrung our hands over a Mone/Solomon NT rotation and thought Brown's scheme meant Furbush was gonna get shelved for the rest of his career like Poor Damn James Ross.  We had long and reasonable discussions projecting our defense to be "top 20 but short of elite".  Did anyone predict Brown would morph the defense into a 3-3-5 in a single offseason?  And hot damn, they're good.

Hurst Burst will be off to the NFL at the end of this season, and as a result it's looking like Brown will again change the defense into something different and no less effective.  Tough to lose one of the best players in the country but I'm almost looking forward to it just to see what Brown will think of next.

As for Zordich, I think he lit a fire under our CBs with his brutal fall presser, and that that was his intention.  Kudos for getting through to them.

Michology 101

October 19th, 2017 at 11:49 AM ^

It sometimes takes a little luck to get a shutout and Durkin's defense had a better offense that wasn't constantly putting them in bad situations, which can help the opposition score.

I think the 2017 Michigan defense would have one or two shutouts by now if they were playing with the 2015 Michigan offense.


October 19th, 2017 at 12:33 PM ^

First, by the Northwestern game Durkin fell victim to the hype and left the starters in to get that shutout, which he got, but it isn't smart football.  Up 38-0, Brown's working in next year's starters, and they will get got.  Haven't seen that this year because the offense is guh and next year's starters are already on the field anyway.

Second, Brown's had his work cut out for him.  It's very difficult to shut out Air Force, Purdue is a gimmick factory, Indiana hasn't quite lost its #CHAOSTEAM and Dantonio will always scheme up a TD or two just for the UM game.  Durkin did have to face BYU and a good Northwestern team but they weren't the sorts of teams that would muster up frippery just to get on the board; they were vanilla in ways that played right into Durkin's hands.

But going forward, I think the thing to keep in mind is that Brown's schemes aren't built to engineer shutouts in the first place.  They are VERY aggressive, which over the long run is more effective but will give up some points.  Going back to just after last year's MSU when Dantonio ran up the score for #DIGNITY, opponents have scored 3, 14, 10, 17 (in reg), 33, 17, 14, 13, 10, 10, 20.  The bad offenses haven't been shut out, but the good offenses fared little better.  Just looking at those numbers, excepting the 33 FSU got against not-Peppers, can you easily remember which offense did what?

So if you're an OC, the scary thing about Brown isn't a possible shutout, but that he makes your offensive scoring low variance.  Not-so-talented team running transcontinental flea flicker quadruple reverses?  5-star-laden read option juggernaut?  Doesn't matter.  He's Football Ivan Drago; you can get a few punches in, and then you die.


October 19th, 2017 at 10:51 AM ^

"So yeah, I could see there’s a little chip on the shoulder. [chuckles] Absolutely."

This quote makes me think the defense (and maybe the entire team) is a little pissed off at the reaction its been getting.  If they come out raring to go, with an edge of saltiness, it will be an enjoyable Saturday evening...

BTW, I spent time at the Rathskellar, Skulldrudgery, and Lion's Den on Friday night before the 1997 game, and again Saturday night after the win.  Good times...  Those were some fun little bars.


October 19th, 2017 at 11:11 AM ^

had 12 seasons in the NFL after only being a 9th round pick.. says something right there.

Too bad he went to PSU but that might help us in this case, give the kids more insight 


October 19th, 2017 at 1:15 PM ^

Zordich, Brown, and other coachs on the defense deserve a bonus and/or a raise.  On the other hand, JH and coaches on the offense like Drevno, Hamilton, and Jay Harbaugh should chip in to pay for the costs to reward the defense.  That's a lot closer to a merit system which JH advocates so strongly for use with his players.  How would that fly?  Good quesstion for a JH press conference?


October 19th, 2017 at 2:26 PM ^

Is it just me or does the defensive staff just give far better interviews than the offensive staff? Even last year when the offense was doing much better, it still seemed that the defensive coaches are much more willing to give answer questions and give information rather than just coachspeak. I even appreciated Zordich's preseason doom talk. At least he was being honest about where he saw the guys relative to where he thought they could be.