Where are you guys offensively heading into this game?
“Feel really good about it. Guys have really prepared well, got a great gameplan, the focus is there, everything you’re looking for to be successful, so we’re really excited about it.”
Outside a lot of people have questioned you as a young team, what are you guys going to look like. Do you have a little bit of curiosity or anxiousness about what these guys are going to look like in an actual game?
“No. I mean, we feel very confident about the guys that we have. You always kind of wonder how’s the game going to take place, what’s the situation that’s going to come up, the calls that need to be made in critical situations and things but in terms of confidence behind this team, I’m 100% confident in what we have in locker room and the core group of guys that we have. It’s an exciting time.”
Who’s starting on the right side of the line?
“We’re not going to talk about the depth chart today. It’s a good try. Nice job. Keep grinding on that one.”
Are you all settled?
“Yeah, we’re settled.”
You know what you’re going to—
“Yeah, we know. We know, absolutely. You get to this point and this time in camp and you’re ready to kick it off.”
When we talked a few weeks back you said you’d like to have about eight or nine guys in the core rotation. Do you feel good about where those guys are and do you have that?
“Yeah, feel very good about it. These guys have done a great job developing. The coaching staff has done a great job. Feel good about the core guys that we do have, and there’s other guys progressing.”
[After THE JUMP: the line’s lack of levity, Welch’s Light, Ulizio bulks back up, and more receiver buzz]
James Hudson is listed on the roster released this morning as an offensive linemen. What went into the move to offense for him?
“James is a big, athletic guy, can move really well, very powerful, very heavy-handed. Felt just like with his measurables and his athletic ability he could add something to our depth chart at the offensive line, and very excited about James.”
How’s your health?
“Health is outstanding.”
Lot of coachspeak sometimes when guys talk about their defensive lines but you guys have a good one to go against. Can you talk about the iron sharpening iron thing?
“Yeah, they’re very good. Coach Mattison does a great job and Don Brown and his scheme and things creates problems so there’s a lot of moving parts, lot of scheme that goes into it thinking about how you’re going to attack Don’s defense. Those guys practice hard so you’ve got it bring it every day and it makes us better. That’s a good corps of guys that they have on that side of the ball.”
Do you do anything to prepare for the scale of that stadium?
“It’s another game. We play in a big venue every weekend and no, nothing. Just prepare. We’re Michigan, man. We play in big games. That’s who we are and that’s why we’re here.”
Is there a young player that you’re looking forward to seeing on the field for the first time this weekend?
“I think the corps of receivers. I mean, those are exciting guys. I’m excited to see those guys get a live deal. They’re very talented. Very talented.”
Jim talked about the drop in mental errors up front. What does that mean? How rapid was that and was it rough in the beginning?
“Yeah, I mean, when you’re putting a lot of stuff on them there’s a higher number and as camp went on we brought it to a point of emphasis with them: Hey, we’ve got to get these things down, and they’ve really dropped. And that’s just, they feel more comfortable with the schemes and the concepts and them putting stress on themselves to know their assignments.
“They’re a very serious group up front and they want to do well. Not a lot of levity. We’re getting to work every day in the room, and that’s the leadership of the group with Kugler and Mason Cole. They bring a lot of experience and maturity and that really helps those younger guys.”
Mason mentioned that the other day about guys not joking around or anything this year. Is that something you asked of them?
“Yeah, I think that’s just the great lines that we’ve all been around, there’s a seriousness about them. When it’s time to get to work it’s time to get to work and how good can you be at your craft. I’m coming in everyday [like] nobody’s going to take my job; they should have the other—they’re thinking nobody’s going to take my job either, so it’s like how great can I be at my craft, the best I can be at my ability [and] today’s a day I can get better so let’s get better. There’s times to have fun but there’s times you’ve got to lock it down and make sure you’re going the right direction, doing the right thing for the football team to be successful.”
Jim said yesterday that Tarik [Black] and Donovan [Peoples-Jones] are two of his favorite people on the team. You mentioned being excited about seeing all the young receivers. What is it about them you’re excited about seeing?
“They’re just very explosive, you know. They’re very good at man-to-man when people play man-to-man coverage on them and their ball skill, how they track the ball in the air, how they catch the ball out in front of them, they pluck it with their hands, big, strong-handed guys, and how they can go up for the ball, their explosiveness from the ground up. Everything you look for in a receiver, they really shine when they do it.”
MGoQuestion: What’s your philosophy as a playcaller? Are you the kind of guy who likes to go in with a script, and does the fact that you haven’t seen some of these guys live in a game change that at all?
“No, we feel good. We have a core group of plays that we like and how to attack it and different situations that might occur, it’s all laid out. No, no, it’s just—we’ve been preparing. Things that we put in camp that have been good to us, things that haven’t been very good we take out, and that’s what training camp is about, to find out what your team’s about and your offensive philosophy and how you’re going to attack, that’s what you’re trying to figure out. So we feel good about the core plays that we do have.”
How much does that philosophy change year to year with personnel?
“It does, it changes. Sure it does. Maybe some teams are good at doing this and some teams are good at doing that. You’ve got to adapt to your players and the position groups so that you put those guys in successful situations, so it does change, absolutely.”
Where do you foresee this year’s philosophy being different from last year’s?
“I think that we’ve got the speed outside and different things that we can do inside. I don’t give away our secrets but you’ll see. You’ll see on Saturday and as we progress through the year.”
How much has Onwenu changed in body, mentally, everything since even in spring?
“A lot. A lot. You can just tell that he’s lighter and he moves really well. He can finish on guys. He’s really heavy-handed. It’s changed a lot, and he’s understanding the offense. He went through spring ball and then he went through training camp. Mike’s a sharp young man, really sharp. And he’s very prideful. He wants to do it right.”
Do you feel like his body’s more right than it was?
“Yeah, it is, and he’s done a good job over the summertime. You can tell when you see him walking around. He just looks like a sleek Mike.”
If that’s possible, right?
You mentioned not giving away secrets, and it’s probably the same for every coach every year, but given how young you guys are, do you feel like there’s been an emphasis on wanting to stick under the radar this year?
“Nah, I think we do what we do every year. We’ve got a job to do inside this facility and it’s about us, it’s about the family. You just don’t want to say too much, you know. We want to be good at what we do. It’s about Michigan football.”
Ulizio came in during camp talking about how much he’s competed and how hard he has competed. What has he done this camp?
“I think Nolan’s just matured and he’s gotten stronger and really understanding what we’re doing offensively, and he likes to play physical, he likes to finish. Just like some of the other guys [like] Jon Runyan and Andrew Steuber, there’s a lot of guys that have really progressed. I’m happy for Nolan and happy for some of those other guys because it’s their time, it’s their time to shine.”
Nolan had to re-add some weight after last year, right?
Bulk back up?
“Bulk back up a little bit, yeah.”
Is this kind of the guy you thought you’d see when you recruited him?
“Yeah, yeah, and he was working through some things there earlier in the year and he’s done a nice job.”
How much do you look at Saturday’s game as a measuring stick for some of your younger guys?
“For some of my…?”
“Younger guys, measuring stick? Eh, I don’t see it as a measuring stick. I mean, we’ve got what we’ve got. We don’t approach this game any differently because we’ve got a young football team.”
How far has Wilton come just since spring?
“Oh, a long way. Pep’s done an outstanding job with him, he really has, just like with the other quarterbacks, too. John O’Korn, Dylan McCaffrey’s going to be a good player. I mean, there’s a lot of them there.”
Where have you seen Wilton progress?
“Understanding the offense, really taking command, throw the ball deep like he always does but reading coverages has been huge, understanding protections. Pep’s done a really good job with him. Really demands from Wilton and the whole group.”