- What Rashan Gary's return brings
- Overall depth on the line
- Josh Uche's ascendence
- Luiji Vilain and Aubrey Solomon injury updates
[After THE JUMP: Skeletons]
Coach, fans see Rashan (Gary) as this big, massive wrecking ball. Can you talk about his personality?
“Great personality. He loves the game of football. He loves Michigan. And he’s got a real high character. He’s a fun guy to be around. And the way he plays — when he’s out there, you can see it. He wouldn’t play like he plays unless you were really enthused about the game and love the game. And that’s what he shows.”
What did you see from Kwity Paye when he came in and replaced him?
“Kwity Paye, he’s, like, another one of the guys that we take great pride inn here. ANd that’s bringing in great character athletes. Kids that want to be very good football players, and just see them grow. And here’s a young man that was a 10-900 meter guy at high school, at 224 pounds. I think right now he’s 265 pounds. He works as hard as he can. Again, another real, high-character young man. Very intelligent. And he’s why you coach. He’s why Michigan is Michigan, because you get a guy like that, that just keeps working, keeps working, and all the sudden, he needs to step up and he steps up. I’m really proud of him. Really proud of what he’s doing. It’s gonna be fun watching him grow, as we keep going.”
And how versatile is he? Cause we’ve seen him lining up in different places
“Very versatile. He’s an anchor. He played anchor behind Rashan. He also would be the first guy to back up Chase (Winovich) in some of the packages that coach (Don) Brown puts together. He’s a guy that can do a lot of different things, because he’s very, very intelligent and he’s very fast. So he’s a real plus.”
How much do you work with Josh Uche? Is he more with the linebackers, or is he defensive line?
“Josh works with the linebacker group more, and he does pass rush work with us, but he does more with Al Washington. There’s a great example of, I think, guys developing players. This guy here, I think, has seven sacks now in 61 plays. And that’s a person who has very, very good ability in his speed. I think it’s also a real credit to Don Brown, and the schemes that he comes up with. And the ways of trying to get our best football players in the best positions at eh right time. So now you see a young man like Uche, who is very fast and quick and he’s improved — Al Washington’s done a great job with him, getting him ready. And now he comes in and helps us.”
Are you seeing Bryan Mone play some of his best football?
“I sure have. Bryan Mone, just steadily getting better and better. And I would say yes, this is his best football this year. And it’s still not done. And I’ll say that about our entire front. Our guys are doing some good things, they’re working very, very hard. But if you asked every one of them, and if you asked me, we can still get much, much better. And that’s what we plan on doing, every game, game by game, as the season goes on. And Bryan will tell you the same thing. I’ve done some good things, but I can do some better things. And that’s what we’re counting on him to do.”
Speaking of the versatility and speed, the third-down group you guys have been putting out there with Josh and Kwity and Michael (Dwumfour) and Chase — is that as quick, athletic as a speciality package (as you’ve had)?
“Yeah, we take great — we really enjoy getting fast guys out on the field. It’s a passing situation — if you know it’s a passing situation, you’re better with speed. And we happen to have some guys that are a little faster than others. The other thing that does, and again, this is a credit, again, to coach Brown. The other thing that does is — you have a lot of talent — and it keeps guys involved in the game. Michael Dwumfour, we’re three-deep inside at defensive lineman and all are playing very, very well. Well, Mike Dwumfour wants to be on the field. Well, he’s one of the fastest guys, so we’ve put him in in passing situations and he’s done very well. Michael’s also very intelligent. Cause when you do that, you have to figure out — this is a different scheme. This is different than I do every day, and everything we do at our level is make sure we don’t make missed assignments, and that’s what he’s done. So that’s what helped us.”
Do you think that Rashan could play inside in one of those?
“Oh, Rashan can play where you want to put him.”
Is that something you guys tinker with at all?
“Well, we did it last year. We’ve done those kinda things. But again, you keep talking about, guys are doing well where they’re at, then keep playing guys. So you get more people involved and more people can help us win. And more people have their stamp on this defense.:
Is Aubrey (Solomon) ok? He was limping around out there a little bit
“Yes, he’s fine. Aubrey’s fine. And he’s another one — Aubrey is playing his best football right now. I thought last week, in practice, Aubrey was playing as good of football as I’ve seen him since he’s been here.”
Would you put Lawrence Marshall in that same category?
“Definitely. Lawrence Marshall, again, a young man deciding whether to come back for his fifth year and everything like that, and he’s rotating — we have a starting first unit and a rotating first unit and a rotating second unit. All of them are starters. And Lawrence Marshall, if you ask me, is a starter. The guy that happens to be playing very, very strong for us in there right now is Carlo Kemp. And so Carlo Kemp gets the nod, as being the first guy when the ball is kicked off that he goes in there. Four pays later, you’re gonna see Lawrence Marshall standing there in that same position. Not in a mop-up role, but in a role where we have to get them stopped. We have a — I think, a very strong group of guys. Which, that’s what we try to build here. You want to be able — anybody that goes in that game should be, in your mind, a starter. ANd that’s what the young men are doing right now, trying to get that done.”
You mention being fast, in the spring, Don said he thought this was the fastest defense he’d been around. Is it?
“I think it is. The thing they do such a great job of — again, I don’t have to tell you this — our coordinator, these kids practice the way you’re supposed to practice. ANd our guys, as a staff, take ownership in their players. If you look at the secondary, I think the last three years they’ve been the number one secondary in the country, right? Well, (Mike) Zordich and (Chris) Partridge, that’s their room. ANd they take great pride in that. And it all starts with coach Brown and all of us sitting there together. And then we divide up and, ‘Let’s go.’ I think every player knows that, when you go out on that practice field, we’re gonna practice fast. We’re gonna go really fast. We’re gonna do everything we can to make sure that, what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re gonna do. Yesterday was a good example. You wonder, after a big win over Penn State like that, ‘What’s it gonna be like?’ It wasn’t any different. Our kids came out and they practiced as hard as if we were playing any one of the past three games. ANd that’s a real credit to Don. It’s a real credit to our defensive coaches, I believe. And our players, more than anything. It’s a real credit to them. They want to be great. ANd I think if you asked them, they know they can get better. We all know we can get better, and that’s a goal for us. Is to see how good we can get this defense.”
How eye-opening has the offensive line improvement been, from your point of view?
“Well, we don’t go against them much anymore, but it’s very obvious. You know, one of the greatest calls in all of a game is, punt team up, ‘Sit down.’ And that’s what you’ve heard a lot this year. We’re all ready, guys getting ready, we’re getting ready to punt. And all the sudden it’s a first down. Well. I’m a firm believer it all starts up front. And we go against them a little bit in pass rush each week, but I’m so impressed with the job they’ve done. And the offense has done a phenomenal jobb. This thing — and the special teams have done a great job. To me, when good things are happening with a football team, it’s enver one phase. You can’t do it unless you get all three phases working together. And that’s one thing coach (Jim) Harbaugh’s done a great job of. All three phases are working together right now. And, offensive line, that’s a real bug plus. I’ll say it again — your team, I’m very biased, you better be good up front. That offense is doing a really good job that way.”
Is this the season you envisioned Chase having, if he returned?
“Oh yeah. This is why I was so adamant about him coming back. I felt that he needed to have this kind of a year. He needed to be more than just a flash in the pan, like people would have looked at him as. Taco (Charlton) leaves, Chase comes in, it’s still, ‘Well, he’s not Taco.’ Or this or that. Well all of a sudden now, you’re talking about Chase. I’m so proud of him, because he’s not just a guy that runs fast and plays hard anymore. He plays with great technique and he’s been very physical. And that’s what we said — we needed another year, so that he could become a complete player at that position. And I think his play on the field shows that.”
Thinking back to that Michigan State game — I’m not asking about the pregame stuff — but when you see Devin Bush getting fired up like that, and I know you don’t coach his position, and I’ve asked you before about Devin. What does he bring, that emotion?
“Well, Devin Bush is a phenomenal linebacker. And I keep saying this, and I mean this. He’s got tremendous character. He’s a great young man. He’s intelligent. And I keep on — after I say that a few times, I always go, ‘Cause he’s a Michigan man.’ And I mean that. Having been at other schools and things like that, I’m telling you what a Michigan man is — this is him. A guy that has so much invested in his teammates. So much invested in how he plays, that when somebody disrespects you, that bothers you. And I don’t know how you are, but I’m not one of those guys, when somebody does something like that, I’m just gonna walk away, no big deal. He showed his emotion right there. Now, whether that was right or wrong, that’s Devin. And that’s why Devin is a premier linebacker in this college football game right now. The whole thing happens — when you put as much into playing like you’re supposed to, like our kids have, when people do that, when people disrespect you, people don’t treat you like you feel like you should be, you’re gonna show some emotion. Because you have invested so much. Devin’s just another example of the guys that we work with on this defense and on this team. I’m not singling out offense, either, I don’t have them, but with this team, I was glad to see it to be honest with you. Show them how much it meant. It showed how much the rest of his teammates meant to him. Then all you have to do is watch the film and see how he played. Go ahead and do it again, if you want. See what happens. A little better than a pep talk, to him.”
Out of all the players you’ve coached, how does his speed compare to different players?
“His speed is top-caliber. His speed is speed. You don’t ever know — don’t go out there, go get a stopwatch and say, ‘Ok, you run this and you run that.’ All you have to do is see — we talk to our defensive linemen all the time. Play your position and control your gap and let these guys run, and you’ll have success. And we sit there and watch the film and say, ‘Good job. Look at these guys go to the football.’ And Devin being the guy. You’re running at a different level now. I don’t know what that time is, but I know one thing, it’s faster than a lot of other people. The other thing, they’re so well-coached. Don, I keep saying it, but he does such a great jobb with those kids that they know exactly where they’re supposed to be, when. You don’t see false steps out of them. You don’t see the ball going that way and, ‘Oh, why is that going that way?’ No. They’re right on it. And then the speed goes from there. So, it’s been good.”
What’s Luiji (Vilain’s) future and how is he handling his second injury?
“Oh, he’s working extremely hard. And his future’s very good. His future was very good when he was recruited here. And that’s something we can’t control, how does a guy come back from injuries and operations, but I know one thing. Luiji is doing everything that our trainers are asking him to do. He’s working extremely hard to get himself back. He did right before this season, and I would never count him out. I would never count him out. And again, he’s another — he’s a Michigan man. And that’s what he’s showing by how he’s handling this and doing this.”
You’ve had some whoppers at Florida, here — defensive line-wise. I don’t want you to swell their heads too much, but in terms of everything they can do across the board, depth and speed, is this one up there? They can do all the things those other ones have had?
“I don’t know if I can answer that question until the season’s over.”
Ok, that’s fair enough
“I can say this. The way they’re working right now, and the way they’re trying to get to, they have a chance to be there. It’s funny, we talk about that. If you looked in our meeting room, you saw two years ago, the All-Big Ten players. ANd then last year, the All-Big Ten players. And then there’s another board that has skeletons of people and saying, ‘Who’s gonna be in this group?’ And we talk all the time about, at Michigan, you’re gonna play in a defensive line, you better play it up to here. That’s all that’s accepted. And now, all the sudden, this group is doing that. So, you see, again, the culture that coach Harbaugh has established. Then it goes down to the defense, with coach Brown and these coaches. And the kids, it’s happening. Now we got — all this means nothing, this next game. And that’s what our kids now. It’s this game. Right now, we got one more game. This next game. You can say all you want about, ‘Boy the film looked good.’ And, ‘Boy you’re really doing good. You mentioned how Carlo, he really improved.’ Do you understand what that means if you don't go and get better in this next game? That doesn’t mean anything. So you better come out this next week in practice and you better get ready to play your best football game when you go to New Jersey. And that’s what our kids are buying into.”