So as someone who’s had ties to both schools, why do you think this should be an annual game again, and do you still have a lake house by Brian Kelly?
“It is a — it’s a great game because it’s two really, really outstanding universities. You know, both schools have great academics, both schools do it the right way, and I think in the history of football, those are two of the very, very top schools and they should always play each other.
“And do I have a lake house? No, he’s got a really, really big one I think. No, mine isn’t like that, it’s not by him.”
Defensive line’s obviously been an elite unit the past 3-4 years, how much kinda internal discussion, in terms of how much control they have to take Saturday, do you feel like the D-line is gonna set the tone?
“I think anytime — anytime you expect to have a very, very good defense, you gotta have a very good defensive line. I mean, for the history of Michigan football, I mean, you think of the Glen Steele’s and go back. I mean, the Will Carr’s. You go on and on and on, back then, and now the last few years here with the Taco (Charlton’s) and the (Chris Wormley’s) and the (Ryan) Glasgow’s and all those guys. You have to have a very, very good defensive line in today’s football to have a good defense. And this group understands that, they’ve played a lot of football. And whenever you’ve played a lot of football, the bar gets higher and higher every year.
"They all have very, very high goals. And, this is the first game entertaining those goals. That’s all it is. That’s what happens. When you play the first game, when you work as hard as this group has worked in the summer, when you had the experience that they had last year, this is the next step. Well, now it is. It’s here. Let’s see what you have.”
How have you seen (Mike) Dwumfour kinda take to being in that sort of starter position? He hasn’t started yet, but that leadership role, I guess, as far as being the front guy there.
“Well, the thing that I think we have on our defensive line is like two years ago. I talked about that all the time. We may have eight starters. We may have eight starters, and we may have the ability with our defensive line this year, to be able to tag themselves out. In other words, some places you have to say to a person, that guy looks tired now, we better put this guy in. Well, when you have a group of young men that have earned the right to play, I like to be able to say to them, ‘You rotate yourselves. You look and watch that guy and if it’s gonna be four plays or three plays or how many we decide, you’re rotating on your own throughout the game.’
"And so I look at this defensive line as having the possibility of having seven starters possibly. And then you go from there. And that’s how important it is. And when you have that, then when you're out on that field, there is no time to take a play off. There is no time to not go at 100 percent. Because if you’re gonna be out there playing and your buddy wants to be playing, and he’s earned the right to play, then don’t you dare go out there and not go hard. Now, when you can’t go anymore, because you’re tired, come on out and your buddy will come in for you, and he’ll play the way he’s supposed to play. And that’s what we had two years ago and I think we’re working towards that again this year.”
So are we wrong to think that’s Dwumfour’s job or is — is Lawrence Marshall possibly in that?
“All the guys. You’ve got a whole group of guys in there now. You’ve got a whole group of people in that group. I look at, there’s five guys possibly that are starters for those first inside two positions. And the other thing we’ve done with the inside two positions, they’re equal. Like, when you talk about a three-technique and you talk about a nose, they’re really equal positions. One just plays on one side and one plays on the other. So, you can have the possibility of five guys that are being able to play those two positions.”
Who are those five guys?
“Well the five guys would be, as you mentioned before, you’ve got Bryan Mone, and you’ve got Lawrence Marshall, and you’ve got Dwumfour. You’ve got Aubrey Solomon and you’ve got Carlo Kemp. You’ve got five guys that I believe, starting in the spring last year and right now through this camp have really earned the right, when you say, ‘Ok, we trust you. We think when you go in there, you will play the type of defense that we expect you to play.’ ”
[Hit THE JUMP for details on depth, impressions of the O-line, a look at ND, and more.]
What went into the decision to move Carlo inside and how has he done there?
“He kinda came up to us and — Carlo gives you a really unique player. In that he’s very intelligent, and he understands football. He’s played the anchor position, ok. Now, he’s gotten himself bigger, he’s gained about 15 pounds, he’s one of the strongest players on the team, and he himself wanted to move inside, because it’s less running. You know, you’ve gotta be a lot faster athlete to play outside, and he thought he could do a better job inside. And now you have the guy that can fit in inside. But if anything ever happened, he could also play outside. So he gives you that guy that can play a lot of different positions. And you still trust him on all of it.”
Who’s behind Rashan (Gary) and Chase (Winovich) on the outside?
“Well, Rashan — outside, the guys that are playing the end position have rotated and done a lot of things there. Obviously you have Rashan. And then you’ve got, Carlo’s been there some. You’ve got Kwity Paye, who’s had a really good camp. Kwity’s shown us the ability that he can play both the end and the anchor position. And then you’ve got Aidan Hutchinson, who has shown some really good things as a freshman. So that gives you the ability to rotate. Again, you got guys that can just go through there.
“And then on Chase’s side, you’ve got Kwity again, and you’ve got Reuben Jones. Ability, a junior who has played some football here before. So, you got all guys that have worked really, really hard. So like if you ever asked, ‘What’s your starting lineup? Who’s the guys?’ I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s why you have Tuesday, that was yesterday, you’ve got today. Find out now, you’re all starters. It’s who’s gonna take the first snap? And that’s what we always talk about. ‘You’re all starters, you’ve earned the right.’ If you’re gonna earn the right to rotate, then you’re a starter. So let’s see, who puts their foot on the grass the first play? Alright, you wanna call that a starter, that’s a starter. But in four plays, there may be another guy in there that’s playing just as an important part, a role, as anyone else.”
Has Luiji (Vilain) been practicing this fall? Is that something that’s still carrying over from last year’s injury or is there something new there?
“What’s that? The rotation?”
“Oh yeah, Luiji’s fine. Luiji got a little bump and bruise. He’s been out for a little bit. He’s been doing really, really well. And he got a little bit of a setback. Nothing real serious, but it’s slown him up a little bit.”
When you have the depth and talent you do up front, and also the linebackers and secondary, can you just talk about this defense as a whole and your thoughts days away from playing?
“Well again, it’s a lot of guys that played last year. And coach (Don) Brown’s done a great job of getting this defense to be the aggressive type of defense that it is. And like I said, all these guys, there’s so many guys back. Our next step is, let’s find out. You guys have all done a lot of writing about them. Everybody’s talked a lot about these guys. The great news is, Saturday, we’ll find out. And Saturday’s their turn, now, Saturday, to find out whether they carry the torch for last year’s and the year before’s, and that kinda thing. And they’re the next defensive group at Michigan, let’s see where they rank.”
Greg, what is it about your room that continually seems to have guys that will pass along to the next guy and the next guy. Every year we talk to you and it’s you have the same situation, or something similar. What is it about your room that’s been going on for several years now?
“Well, I think the players understand that, part of the reason they are who they are is that somebody did that for them. I’ll still never forget Rashan Gary coming in and Chris Wormley’s sitting right next to him. And as I would make corrections, you would see Wormley whispering in his ear. And one time I thought, ‘Why is he talking when I’m talking?’ Well I’m finding out that Chris Wormley is telling Rashan, or explaining. I guess maybe my language is not what he understood and he was probably just saying, ‘Coach is trying to tell you, you should be doing this.’
“Well all of the sudden now this year, I see Rashan Gary, and sitting right next to him is Aidan Hutchinson. And it’s exact same thing. And I think when this is all done, you’re gonna hear Aidan Hutchinson say the guy that helped more than anything and has brought him along as fast as he has has been Rashan Gary. And that’s what makes me so proud of the guys in our room. We’ve got some guys in our room that are — I don’t know if you find them in a lot of other places. I don’t know.
"All I know is, I’m proud of this group, because they wanna be as good as they can be, and they wanna help everybody. And I think it probably all stems from the fact, there are eight or nine guys that could play. Not like you’re a starter, and I don’t care about the backup. Our guys understand, when you play the type of football we wanna play, you can’t play the whole game and be as successful as you wanna be. So you better hope there’s a guy behind you that can give you that blow and let you go out there and then him take over, and then you come back again. And pass the baton throughout that game, and I think that’s why they help each other. Cause they all know that they’re all starters.”
Greg, how much different does the offensive line look this year compared to maybe last?
“I’m really impressed with the offensive line. I’ll tell you, the reason I say that is we’ve got a lot of, we’ve got a very physical camp. And they’ve shown some really good things. I’m excited about our offensive line.”
Greg, a lot of people on both sides of the ball, coaches as well, everybody’s talking like a new attitude, kind of different sense of confidence they think is evident with a lot of players. But connecting to that, you personally, you’ve always been a lively guy, always energetic and exciting. Is this year different for you? Is this year’s team kinda reenergizing you a little bit?
“I think every team is different. Every team is different. If it doesn’t become different, it’s time to get out. I love finding out, ‘Let’s see what this team does.’ You know, and whenever you have a group of guys, and this starts with Jim (Harbaugh). This starts with coach Harbaugh from the very top, the way he runs things and the way we expect our kids that, when we come in our room right here, this is Michigan. And our kids are different in my opinion. I think our kids are the ones that you love coaching. Because they have high character. They wanna be great football players.
"I mean, one of the things we do in our room, we watch any clips, our audio or visual department does this for us, any clips of the pro football defensive linemen that are playing right now. And we watch the clips of them in the preseason. And they’re cheering when Wormley got a sack the other day. They’re cheering when they see Mo Hurst running off. And the thing that’s really, really neat to see, there was a game last week. Taco Charlton at whatever size and weight he is, he was running 40 yards down the field as hard as he could. And our guys are going, ‘Coach look at —.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s a Michigan football player, that’s how they play.’
"So those are the kinda things that get you fired up. You know, and as a coach, you say, ‘I’d love to get one of these guys to have that opportunity, and to see —.’ One guy, we watched some film, clips, of, they pick out the best clips. Glasgow, he’s playing four different positions and he’s tormenting the offensive line. And we’re all going, ‘That’s Glas man, that’s Glas, look at him.’ That’s what excites your room. That apparently they’re doing the right things, and then when they get to the next level, with their degrees from Michigan, life’s pretty good. And that’s the way we look at it at our place.”
Greg, what are your impressions of Notre Dame’s offensive line and offense in general?
“Notre Dame always has had an offensive line. They had one of the best offensive line coaches in college football forever in Harry Hiestand, who left last year and went to the NFL. And he’s got guys still there, obviously. And Notre Dame’s offensive line over the years, as long as Harry had been there, I would say, would rank up at the top of anybody you played against. They’re gonna be very well coached. They have three guys that are very experienced, that have played a lot of football, and then they’ e got two other guys that, backups, that were heavily recruited, obviously, and so they’re gonna be a good offensive line. They have a good offense.”
And how much trouble does their quarterback (Brandon Wimbush) give you?
“Anytime you have a quarterback that can move his feet, that’s another dimension. But we’re excited about playing them.”
Do you feel like facing Shea (Patterson) has kind of prepared you a little bit?
“I don’t know if that gets you ready for whatever it gets you ready for. I’m impressed with Shea and a lot of other things, not running, I don’t know. Don’t get me talking about that. I don’t have anything to do with offense. I don’t know anything about offense. All I know is what’s in my room.”
Second rotation, Chase and Rashan don’t strike me as guys who take snaps off, or guys who wanna get off the field or give other people a shot. How do you make sure they are sharing a little bit?
“Theirs is different. It all goes by the player, you know, and for example, Chase Winovich, he could very easily play every snap of a game in his mind. But then all the sudden when you — he just ran 50 yards downfield and then he came back and maybe ran 30 yards to the side to make a play and all that. I know in the fourth quarter, if he can get a few plays off somewhere in there, he’s gonna be better in that fourth quarter. Same thing — difference is, with Rashan, he’s 285 pounds. He’s a bigger guy, carrying more weight. And he plays so fast, you’re gonna wanna give him a break. And it’s not about that moment. It’s about the end of the game when you’re gonna need him. You always want him to have something in that tank, so that the fourth quarter you’re gonna have a chance to play as good as you did in the first and second quarter.”
Greg, a lot of speculation — Rashan’s good to go for Saturday, right?
“Rashan will be — you watch. You tell me afterwards how Rashan does, ok. That’s all I’ll say on that.”
Not your position, but I think Chris Evans said the other day that Devin Bush is the glue of the defense. Do you see that?
“Any — he’s a very, very good leader. Very good leader. And he’s a smart football player and anytime a guy has intelligence and is confident enough to talk, like Don makes sure his ‘backers do, and then you got a guy that comes from a football family. He’s — I’m excited about that. Really, really excited.”
You obviously went up against Shea in practice. As a D-line coach, what would your scouting report sorta be if you’re preparing for a guy like him?
“If the head football coach would let us hit him as hard as we could every time, we would try to do that. That’s what my scouting report would be. Now, you may not be able to catch him. But that’s what I would do. But we aren’t allowed to touch him, so I’m not gonna talk anymore about that.”
Greg, we heard a lot from the players in the offseason about Jim maybe being more personable, taking more feedback from players, playing music before practice. Have you noticed a different Jim this year compared to the past?
“Jim is a great head football coach, and Jim Harbaugh doesn’t change. Jim Harbaugh’s Jim Harbaugh. Maybe the thing that’s changed is our players. Maybe that’s it. And no, there’s nothing different with him. He’s done a great job since he’s been here, and I think he’s doing a great job now."