Wednesday Presser 11-1-17: Pep Hamilton Comment Count

Adam Schnepp November 2nd, 2017 at 8:02 AM



“Let’s knock this out.”

What’s it like practicing against a Don Brown defense every day?

“It makes us better. It makes us better without a doubt. It really is a true test of our rules, you know, with the energy that they bring and how intense his defense is. It raises the level of our intensity as an offense.”

Where have you seen Brandon Peters get better from the start of the season?

“Well, Brandon’s still a work in progress. He’s only played in a portion of one game. Just like a lot of our young players, time on task, having more time on task has allowed them to improve. I don’t want to say that there’s not still a lot of work to be done, because there is. But he’s gotten more reps as of late and we expect continued improvement.”

What did he do to convince you guys to put him in the game? What’s he doing in practice?

“He had a better understanding as the season went on of the offense. More recently, once Wilton went down he had more of an opportunity to get reps with the first offense.”

Was there a play or two that stood out Saturday as impressive to you for a guy getting his first live action?

“Absolutely. Finding the checkdown. The play where we had a four vertical concept called in the red zone, he didn’t force it downfield, he didn’t force it to one of our tight ends that were running down the seams, he stepped up in the pocket, showed tremendous poise, and checked the ball down to Henry Poggi and that was a big play for us.”

[After THE JUMP: finding offensive rhythm with the guys you’ve got, more on Peters, and Mo Hurst: destroyer of games, wrecker of handoffs]

You say he’s a work in progress and everything. How did he perform as far as that was concerned actually getting live game reps?

“Well, I think that there was a great unknown going into the game. We had a lot of young players that were playing for the first time and practice is so different than games. I think Brandon showed pretty good competitive instincts. For quarterbacks especially, there’s no way to recreate the game environment; we don’t tackle our quarterbacks in practice. It was good to see him go out and show that calm and poise that he’s displayed since I first met him. But to go out and actually do it in the game, it meant a lot to our football team.”

I asked Jim this, but when you send him in for the first time, what was your feeling? Were you nervous or like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen here’?

“I wouldn’t say nervous, but there was just a true sense of not uncertainty but let’s see how he responds in a game. For the most part, he responded well. He responded well against a team that we felt like we matched up pretty good against, but there were a couple plays that could have easily went the other way that we had a chance to watch film and evaluate and learn from. We hope to have that same continued progress going into our next game if he has an opportunity to play.”

After he hits the checkdown to Poggi, which I think was on his first drive, is that when you settle in your chair a little bit at that point and say, ‘Okay, [inaudible]’?

“I didn’t settle into my chair until I got home and had dinner with the family and had a chance to kind of decompress. It was—you can’t necessarily worry about the things that could go wrong on game day so much as try and evaluate how each of our guys—quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, tight ends—how guys are handling certain situations, then that’s how you decide on what strategy to use moving forward.

“He did the things that we need our quarterbacks to do, and that’s manage our offense, don’t turn the ball over, and if a play breaks down, mitigate: find a checkdown, throw the ball away, extend the play, run and get a first down, get five and slide. Those are the things that we need our quarterbacks to do more consistently.” 

Why put him in against Rutgers? Why not put him in against Michigan State or Penn State?

“We didn’t feel like there was a need at that point in the season to put him in. I don’t think it had as much to do with Brandon or the opponent from last weekend as it did just where we were as an offense, and we felt good about John [O’Korn] being able to go in and execute that gameplan.”

Does he have the freedom to audible at the line?

“Each of our quarterbacks do.”

Don talked about Dylan [McCaffrey] and what he’s brought to the scout team. Can you talk about what you’ve seen from him?

“Dylan is… he has a really good football pedigree. Football is important to him. He has really good football instincts in that regard. Also, just as far as having an understanding of what the defense is trying to do, and with Don’s defense it’s real simple: they’re trying to hit the quarterback. But he’s responded well running our scout team, but it’s not as hard as it would be if he was playing in an actual game because the difference is we’re holding up a card saying hey, throw the ball to this guy. But still, it’s not easy to go out and do that. He’s responded well in the situations that we put him in.”

How did John handle the situation of being taken out of the game on Saturday? How did he react?

“He reacted the way we expected him to. He was disappointed but very supportive.”

What have been some of the missing pieces overall? Eight games through, what’s been missing?

“Continuity, consistency of execution, and you had a lot of players playing for the first time that are learning on the job. Unfortunately, attrition is part of our game and we’ve lost several big-time playmakers in our offense.”

Talk about Tarik as he’s one of them—


--and what a big loss that was for this offense.

“It was a big loss. Tarik, Nick Eubanks, Wilton Speight, losing those guys considering that they got the lion’s share of the reps in training camp and throughout the offseason, those are big holes to fill. But our young guys and guys that have stepped in, they’ve done a pretty good job. We’ve had times where we’ve sputtered as an offense but they’re working hard. They’re working hard. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a Jim Harbaugh-coached football team.

“And they’re learning on the job. You can’t teach experience, and football is a game that’s learned, not taught. If we give you guys the playbook you could learn the symmetry of the Xs and Os, but it’d be hard for you to go out and block Rashan or Mo Hurst or run a route against some of the really good defensive backs we see on a week to week basis in the Big Ten.”

Speaking of Mo Hurst, you’ve seen NFL-level talent, obviously. How does he measure up and where do you see him going forward at the next level?

“He’s a game wrecker. Our defense has to be one of the best in college football. I find myself at times just taking a break from trying to sort out what we’re going to do in the next series and just watching how intense and how physical Don Brown’s defense is playing, and Mo Hurst is the catalyst for our defense.

“You better be careful if you’re a center or interior lineman against our defense because he’ll be five yards in the backfield before the quarterback can hand the ball off. So he’s a game wrecker. He’s a very disruptive player and he consistently brings it from week to week.”

With some of the youth and injuries, have you guys had to peel back on what you’re doing offensively to some degree? Have you guys found yourselves peeling back on some concepts?

“Well, when you lose your starting quarterback naturally you have to give some consideration to the plays that the guys that are replacing the starters, the plays that they’ve had time on task. So yes, we’ve had to try and do some things that are of course specific to the personnel that we’ve had available. We’ll always do whatever we need to do to score a touchdown.”

You guys were able to get Chris Evans out on the touchdown pass on a wheel route. Is that more of what we can see from Chris, not giving away your entire gameplan obviously, but just seeing him in several roles?

“Yeah, it’s been a long time coming for us to get Chris matched up with linebackers and safeties coming out of the backfield. It just so happened that this was the weekend, last weekend was the game that we had an opportunity to get him matched up and take advantage of the many things that he can do well.”

Ambry Thomas told us last night that he’s working a little on offense.

“Did he really?”

He did, he did.

“He gave it away.”

He’s got some great ball skills. Are there other things you can do with him? Besides jet sweeps, which he also told us he working on?

“So… I think we’ve all had an opportunity to see Ambry with the ball in his hands, specifically when he was returning kicks, and he’s fast and he’s explosive. If in fact that ever happens, we expect that he’ll make some plays.”

When plays break down, it seems like Brandon does a good job keeping his eyes downfield. How much are you preaching when a play breaks down you’ve still got to make a play and get him somebody to throw it to?

“Yeah, we always preach that to all of our quarterbacks but their instincts under duress, they show on gameday. The fact that he was able to do that, that was a plus. We hope that when he has an opportunity to play, he’ll do that moving forward.”

Guys have been out and new guys have been in there. Do you feel like you’re in a spot now where you can maybe start to build and grow and do some things more things and expand what you can do through the air?

“I hope so. I think that’s just part of our game. Once again, attrition is part of our game. It’s our job as coaches to adjust and adapt and find a way to implement the players that are available to play. I think that a really important part of us having success as an offense is stabilizing the quarterback position, and I’ll leave it at that.”



November 2nd, 2017 at 9:01 AM ^

Does anyone get the impression that the coaches are really reluctant about Peters still?  I understand he is young but it feels like they were surprised how he played last weekend. Harbaugh, Don Brown, Pep all seem weird when they talk about him.  It is hard to explain but it is always this extreme cautiousness that I don't detect when they talked about Speight or O'korn.


November 2nd, 2017 at 9:39 AM ^

that you know better than they do? There's a sort of schizophrenia on this board--we worship our coaches in the abstract, but are sometime so convinced that they're blind about specifics. I'm as eager as everyone else to see Peters succeed, but the simple unfolding of the QB scenario this season does not include a plot to keep the best QB off of the field, I am almost certain. 


November 2nd, 2017 at 12:34 PM ^

I hear you MGobules...  However, I still say something is strange.  Peters looks better than Okorn and Speight.  I'm no QB whisperer.  I'm behind our coaches 100%.  Still, Peters looks better than Speight.  He looks worlds better than Okorn.  If you watched either of them simply throw a ball in a pick up game, who would you pick first?  Love our coaches and support them, but this is simply weird.


November 2nd, 2017 at 9:57 AM ^

This isn't some anti-Peters conspiracy. I think they've seen him do good things and bad things in practice and are just pumping the brakes a little bit on the Peters mania that followed the last game. They're just trying to keep the pressure of expectations off of him as much as possible. 

Other Andrew

November 2nd, 2017 at 9:09 AM ^

...I think that is probably them doing their "coaching via the media" to keep the pressure and intensity up. He played well, but did not play a perfect game. They don't want him to get confortable after a partial game vs Rutgers.

I could be wrong, but why else would they broadcast such reservations in public? If they were deeply concerned, they wouldn't play him.


November 2nd, 2017 at 9:26 AM ^

Maybe that is it but if just feels different.  When someone talks about Mccaffrey it is always glowing.  Maybe that is just how they talk about kids who are never going to see the field this season.  I hope I'm reading too much into this, but the wild speculator part of me thinks there is something else.   


November 2nd, 2017 at 10:42 AM ^

Good things can also happen. Barrett - seems like a decade ago. Eason. Fromm. Rosen. Darnold. Lewerke. Hornibrook. Don't have to go far to find freshman QBs in big programs making an impact. Especially when the opening day starter is out and the O is already limited.


November 2nd, 2017 at 9:30 AM ^

Absolutely agree.

You got the same feeling in Harbaugh's presser . . . Peters was not showing this level of execution in practice.  He wasn't the starter because he was not playing like a starter.

It's not like he was a star behind closed door and they were just sitting on him out of inertia.

They put Peters in when they had to put him in, not because they wanted to.

Their fingers are clearly crossed.

Hopefully Peters is just a different kind of cat that shines when it counts in real games.



November 2nd, 2017 at 10:16 AM ^

Agreed, no doubt the coaches saw what Brian saw and more, which is that the Rutgers game was the best-case scenario for Peters, so it's too early for him to read a glowing presser and start patting himself on the back.  It almost went a little too well.  The run game set a UFR record and pass pro was well above season average.  He basically threw a pick but the defender dropped it.  While he did make a checkdown and a couple scrambles, he hasn't faced the kind of adversity Speight and O'Korn have endured.  Not that Peters has any say if the coaches decided to bubble-wrap him, but fact remains the real tests are still in front of him.

BUT, I don't think Hamilton's just preaching humility either.  The numbers and tape show the Rutgers game had the trappings of an outlier, so while what we saw may not have been a mirage, it doesn't give us an idea of Peters' floor when he's under real game duress.  Which means the coaches don't know either, since all they have to go on was that game.  So there's probably genuine concern in Hamilton's answer.


November 2nd, 2017 at 10:27 AM ^

Not sure if I agree with your impression, but one possible explanation is that they want to keep expectations down because they already know the ups and downs that come with being a freshman. 

This board, on the other hand, always takes the bait as far as hyping up freshmen, and then feeling sad when they fail. Kinda like chasing the trendy penny stock.

So we're left with the vicious cycle of (1) "these freshmen are awesome we're not gonna lose again" and (2) "ugh I guess we should have expected that, why do we always forget?"


November 2nd, 2017 at 10:36 AM ^

I get a little queasy when I hear Pep and Harbaugh continue to insist that "we felt JOK was still in a good position to execute our offense..." They saw what we saw, right?

I'm hoping it's just a combination of wanting to protect peters and JOK publicly, and some pride in not wanting to comment on their own mistakes publicly, but that in real life when they are behind the scenes they are going "hahahaha man, we fucked that one up. okay, let's move forward."

Also "yeah, glad we finally got Evans on a LB" against Rutgers makes me think of debuting and using the "Pep-cat" last year against Rutgers and Illinois so it was stale by the time we got to games where we needed a spark. 


November 2nd, 2017 at 11:51 AM ^

I don't necessarily agree with that. What we, as fans, typically see, is the QB throwing the ball. It really doesn't include a number of other aspects such as getting into the right play, finding the right receiver, getting the correct run plays called, and managing the clock, etc. 

Now, I am not saying O'Korn is somehow the king of football, just saying that the coaches are looking for things that you and I probably are not. 

For example, Pep also said: 

“He had a better understanding as the season went on of the offense. More recently, once Wilton went down he had more of an opportunity to get reps with the first offense.”

His reference to "better understanding ... of the offense" clearly implicates more than just making a good throw. In other words, I think Pep and the coaches are looking for aspects that we, as fan, are probably not seeing. 


November 3rd, 2017 at 1:32 AM ^

I don’t want to be an echo chamber of bad info but has anyone heard that Peters has gone sour on the program? His heart isn’t really with Michigan anymore? Does anyone have any insight on this? Again, I have no fist hand knowledge but have heard it come up more than once and wanted to know if anyone has heard the same? Could this explain the coaches hesitation to play him?


November 2nd, 2017 at 9:06 AM ^

And I won't be able to watch the game until the Devoted Wolverine posts the game on YouTube sometime on Sunday. Can you guys do me a favor and not comment on the game until Sunday? Keep a low profile for 24 hours? I really appreciate it!


November 2nd, 2017 at 10:58 AM ^

Don't worry, the dart doesn't really hurt. You may not be much good for your event, but your friends can prop you up. I understand from the survivors (really, there's only been a couple of fatalities, and how were we supposed to know they had heart problems?) that it's actually a very pleasant experience and you hardly remember anything.


November 2nd, 2017 at 9:21 AM ^

“And they’re learning on the job. You can’t teach experience, and football is a game that’s learned, not taught. If we give you guys the playbook you could learn the symmetry of the Xs and Os, but it’d be hard for you to go out and block Rashan or Mo Hurst or run a route against some of the really good defensive backs we see on a week to week basis in the Big Ten.”

That's a money quote.


Ty Butterfield

November 2nd, 2017 at 9:23 AM ^

Is Eubanks out for the season? Also I know some coaches hate dealing with the media but Pep seems like he doesn’t even enjoy his job. At least Gorgeous Al had that bromance with Heiko.


November 2nd, 2017 at 9:55 AM ^

I hadn't heard anything since the concussion, but that was about two months ago. It might just be evidence of how good Gentry, McKeon, and Wheatley have looked.

I'd like to see him get some looks as a "superback"/fullback. It would be nice to have another option next year that is more of a catching threat, since it seems like Ben Mason is going to be more of a beater.


November 2nd, 2017 at 11:30 AM ^

... was because the coaches had to change QBs.  They had no choice.  JOK, unfortunately, was getting worse, not better (how come if our coaches are so elite?).  It wasn't part of any 'plan'.  The plan was to keep him on the bench.  IMO, they're making excuses, now, for why they decided to do that. I hope Peters has great success this year and next, for the team's benefit, for his sake, to get the coaches to improve their system for Identifying and developing QBs, and to prove how wrong they were about him.


November 2nd, 2017 at 1:09 PM ^

At my job, I've seen people get promoted because they walked the walk and talked the talk.  How you are perceived can be more important than the work you produce.  It's just a flaw in human nature.  People make mistakes.  This could very well be a mistake.  He didn't have the personality of a starting QB...  Conjecture of course, but it is possible.  I remember a friend playing second string in high school because he took his junior year off and was a smart ass the coach didn't like.  He was a better player.  It didn't matter.

My wife was watching the game with me.  She doesn't worship football like I do.  She still made the comment, "where has this guy been all year?"  Something is strange, plain and simple.  Not saying our coaches suck.  I'm saying we don't have the entire story.  That or Peters had a total fluke in the spring game, sucked every practice, came in during the season and looked great... Doesn't make sense.

Sten Carlson

November 2nd, 2017 at 2:42 PM ^

I think the simplest answer is the most likely: according to the coaches assessments and “readiness/improvement” metrics he wasn’t ready yet. They had a developmental plan whose timetable was probably accelerated a bit by WS’s injury and JOK’s weak play so, as coach said, it was time. It sounds from all the comments, the “weirdness” that everyone is speaking about, that the coaches didn’t know what to expect and that he outperformed their expectations to some extent. It’s easy now to echo your wife’s sentimen, or to ascribe some sort of mistake because we got to see BP perform. Unfortunately, the coaches had to make the decision without that knowledge.

I’m a trader, and it’s very easy to allow hidesight bias to colors one’s analysis. Of course if we knew how the makers would move, or how BP would play, and we didn’t act it would be a mistake. Otherwise, that’s life. You do what you think is best until new info comes along.


November 2nd, 2017 at 6:34 PM ^

Even when we won earlier this year, they were uninspiring wins for me. I wanted Peters cuz Speight didn't seem to be getting better.

If mistakes were going to be made by our QB, then let them be made by a RS Freshman that was going to get better.