News bullets and important items:
Ondre Pipkins should be back this week. Sounds like he was injured last week.
The coaches want the running game to be filtered through the running backs because they don’t want the quarterback to get hurt
Maurice Ways and Chase Winovich are two younger guys who have garnered attention from the coaches
Mo Hurst was a running back in high school and has good vision; hence his use in goal line situations
Jabrill Peppers is not out for the season
“Thanks for coming out today. Yesterday, again, the consistency of having good practices continued. They went out and it was spirited. It was tough. Obviously they want to win. They want to play better. They want to compete better, and I think they’ve done that throughout so that’s been focusing on improving at each position and what we can do to play better, coach better, the whole deal. You know Penn State has a very good defense. Very salty, very good defensive front. I think Hackenberg is as talented as a quarterback as you’re going to find. I remember talking to Bill O’Brien about him and I know what Bill thinks of him as a quarterback and I can tell you we share those sentiments. We’re excited to get back out on Saturday. I think that’s the great part about football; you get another opportunity. We’ve got to take advantage of it. It’ll be a historic night, obviously, with the first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium. The atmosphere the night games have created the last two years have been something that has been very exciting for our players, so we’re excited about that.”
Coach, Ondre Pipkins didn’t travel with you. Where is he in the mix on the defensive side?
“He’ll be back with us this week.”
So you’re not talking about injuries, but-
With the running backs, do you move [Ross] Douglas back there or do you do anything else to get more depth, because you were kind of thin there anyway?
“You know, Ross is playing a little bit of the slot. He’s helping us there a little bit. Haven’t moved him full-time back. The good thing is he’s had some snaps there but right now we feel pretty confident with DeVeon and Justice and Drake Johnson. In some personnel and situation things Joe Kerridge being back there is a possibility.”
Is Wyatt Shallman playing there?
“Well, he- a little bit, yeah. He does some things for us.”
We’ve talked about this all the years with Denard and now Devin but the balance between letting them run, which was obviously successful the other day, and then now the injury factor; how do you balance that?
“Well, I think with two good athletes like that who from an instinctive point of view maybe run the ball a little bit more than you want depending on what they see down the field in those passing situations, but I think there is a balance. I think we would like to keep creating the runs from the tailback position as much as possible so that we don’t have to put him in harm’s way.”
How much of it is Devin initiating it and how much of it is directed from Doug [Nussmeier]?
“Well, I think he initiates some of it. He has a feel for it, and instinct for it but obviously there were some designed runs that were in there.”
[After THE JUMP: Get out your Ouija board, because we’re (barely) talking injuries]
Any freshmen or young guys on the scout team that have caught your eye halfway through the year?
“I think Maurice Ways is a guy who’s been particularly- you know, we’ve traveled him most weeks kind of as an emergency guy. He’s a smart guy. He’s a big body, so he’s a guy who has done some good things. I think Chase Winovich is a guy who can run around the field. Sometimes he’s not quite sure what he’s doing but he’ll show up at the ball at some point in time.”
Last week was the first week when you tried wiring in the medical staff. Did you see any benefits or any difference in the way that helped on the sidelines? You had Jeremy [Clark] there on the sideline and Derrick [Green].
“I think you’ll see that, the effects of that when maybe there is some sort of head trauma or something as much as anything else. I don’t- I’m involved with the game, coaching. I’ve never made medical decisions so I’m sure it worked okay. Which means I really can’t answer that because I’m not on that line.”
The running back hierarchy; the way it is on the depth chart, is that the way you expect it to go?
“How is it on the depth chart?”
I think it’s DeVeon and then Drake or Justice.
“Yep, that would be right.”
Can you talk about Hurst and how you’ve used him a little bit?
“You know, Mo was a running back in high school, and a pretty daggone good one. Obviously we wanted to get a little weight on him to play nose. He’s got very good quickness. He is learning a little bit, the game, from an inside interior position especially at this level. I think he continues to improve. From an athletic standpoint, he’s got a very good first step and a lot of quickness, and I think as he continues to mature he’ll just keep getting better and better. From an offensive standpoint, because he was a back he’s got good vision. When you’ve got to sort through that stuff with the lead play on the goal line.”
In terms of last year’s game, obviously that was kind of a turning point in your season against Penn State. Do you use that as motivation with the guys a little bit and kind of look at what happened?
“You know what, we haven’t as much. I think part of that motivation has to come from where we’re at and what we’re doing every day. That game itself, we’ve talked about it, but that hasn’t been a focal point. I think sometimes when you do that you miss what the mark is, which is the 2014 Michigan team playing Penn State on Saturday night. Obviously there’s some lessons learned when you look at the two-minute process; [there’s] different staff, though. There’s some different things you concern yourself with so from that standpoint I’d say that’s what you look at.”
The running back numbers, yards per carry, have gone up this year. Are you seeing the gains there you kind of hoped to see?
“I think we’re starting to, and hopefully we can continue that this week. I thought especially [in the] fourth quarter as much as anything last week. I thought the line of scrimmage during most of the game we were really combative at and competing at and I think as the game went on you could see the movement of it.”
Doug had said for a couple weeks that when you guys were down a lot that’s when you went away from the run game trying to get back in the game. This game you guys were down and still stayed with the run game. Was that a conscious choice?
“Yeah, and I think at some point you’ve got to differentiate from how far you’re down. In this one we- and it’s also a feel for the game. What are you getting done? We just stayed patient with it because we felt score-wise we were in good shape, time-wise we were in good shape and felt the offense and the offensive line particularly making movement at the line of scrimmage. That was a good question though.”
Not technically an injury question, but the guys you have who are hurt or that we think are hurt, you haven’t ruled them out for the rest of the season, correct?
“Correct. The only thing I did was rule out guys who I knew were going to be out the rest of the season.”
I’m just getting at someone like Peppers. You haven’t said he won’t come back this season.
“I don’t think I have, no.”
Okay, just wondering.
“Well, I just made sure I didn’t. That was a good question.”
He’s not out for the year?
“I would say something, wouldn’t I?”