- Some Jalen Mayfield and James Hudson excitement
- Insight into Cesar Ruiz's progress
- Warinner on how he looks for and measures improvement on the O-line
- A non-comment on the Urban Meyer situation
[After THE JUMP: Boy, sure seems like they want to do something about those tackles]
“How we doing today?”
(Everyone, all together) Good
“Doing well. Doing real well.”
How far have (James) Hudson and (Jalen) Mayfield come over the last few weeks?
“Well, over the summer they’ve come a long way. So, wasn’t sure with Jalen, how the summer would affect him going through summer BRIDGE, and freshmen, you never know. But he’s really come on and works every day with the twos, and gets some work with the ones every day. So his progress is great. James Hudson played in the game and played well in the game when he was in, and he’s made a lot of progress, too. So his transition from D-line to O-line has been good for him, and I like where he’s headed. LIke the trajectory he’s on, so feel like we’re starting to develop some depth there that could roll in to more and more playing time as they deserve it.”
How far along in Jalen, just in terms of progress?Is he ahead of schedule, compared to regular freshmen?
“Yes. I’d say he’s ahead of schedule. Physically, mentally, both, he’s ahead of what would be a normal trajector for a freshman that starts in June, so really like where he’s coming.”
What’s your assessment of the two tackle positions — the two starting tackle positions — through the two weeks?
“Much better Week 2 than Week 1, but a work in progress, still. Jon Runyan’s first two starts as an offensive tackle, and has played solid. Continues to grow there, and I think we’ve improved Juwann Bushell-Beatty, has improved, and I think he played better as well. Still want him to push and continue to grow and develop. We’re pushing him hard. Yesterday, had a good practice, I thought we got a lot better yesterday. And they’re very coachable guys.”
Is it a different type of challenge, having to go up against a team like Notre Dame and having the really talented ends that they had, compared to easing into the season, anything like that?
“Well, I think that was a big game. Marquee matchup with a very talented team, so yeah, it was a challenge. Yeah, anybody wants to play somebody that maybe isn’t quite that talented in the opener, but that isn’t the schedule we have. We have to be ready to play those guys, and it is what it is. You just take ‘em one at a time. It really isn’t about them, it’s about us. It’s about how we prepare and what we do. It’s about how we practice. It’s always about us. It’s not about them. You don’t change what you do during the week, or how you practice based on who you’re playing. You prepare the same way every time, and make it about you and getting better, and learning what you’re supposed to do and doing it with the intensity you need. So, we focus more on that.”
How quickly has James made that transition from defense to offense?
“I think his growth over the summer, and then this fall has been tremendous. Cause he’s fully invested now as an offensive lineman. In the spring, I think he was putting his toe in the water to see what he thought, he gave it a good effort and he showed some talent. There were times though that it was frustrating for him, cause it was just so new. And you go against our defensvie ends every day, it’s challenging. And I think it’s way beyond that. I think he’s gaining a lot of confidence in himself, confidence in his ability to do the job, confidence in knowing what to do what he goes out there.”
Is he physically there? Could he — we obviously saw him on Saturday — but do you think it’s just still a matter of grasping the playbook a little bit more?
“Well yeah, I mean, when you talk about jogging out there to play against Notre Dame in the opening game and you’ve never played a snap in a college football game at tackle, and that environment, that’s just a bit overwhelming for anybody. But he didn’t really play in that game. But in the last game, he did play, and when he went in, he didn’t look like he was overwhelmed emotionally or mentally. He looked very comfortable. He looked like he knew what he was supposed to do and did it well, so we need to give him a bigger sample size this week if we can, and get him in there. The more he earns that right in practice — cause I base it on how you practice, not, ‘Ok, you played good against Western.’ If he practices poorly this week, he probably won’t play. If he practices well this week, he might play more. So at his practice yesterday was good.”
And that goes for the starting — the guys who have started, right?
How much do you balance that between Week 1 and Week 2, the staying consistent and some of this wasn’t good enough?
“Yeah, the most growth in a football team in my 34 years of experience is between Week 1 and Week 2. When they finally play someone other than their own team, when they finally have to learn to adjust in a game, when they finally have to go out and play and the coaches aren’t around them anymore, then you learn a lot about — ‘Ooh, all those things coach talks about, they are really important. Boy, they do matter. I really better pay attention.’ And then they see themselves on film against someone else, that’s when they grow the most. And I thought our growth was great from Week 1 to Week 2 as a unit, and I think we were much more consistent and productive. And then I hope to see that again. Cause I still think we have room again to make that bump again.”
Where did you see that growth from Week 1 to Week 2?
“Just consistency of assignments, consistency and execution. Just in the overall productivity. Just all areas. I thought they communicated better. I think you don’t realize how well you need to communicate up front until you actually go in a game and it’s loud and there’s a lot of people. You realize, and one of the big things for those guys is to all be on the same page. And so just like yesterday was the best I’ve ever seen us communicate at practice. In the spring, in the summer, and in the first two game preps. Because now, it — totally, they get why whatever the left tackle’s doing has to be tied to what everybody else is doing or it won’t work. And whatever the center — and they all have to be tied together — and the tight ends have to be attached to that, and the fullbacks do. So now they all get it, that if one guy in that chain doesn’t know what’s going on, and they don’t communicate effectively, then you have a problem.”
Jim (Harbaugh) said that (Ben) Bredeson had the best — was the best of the offensive linemen last week. Where is Mike Onwenu in this?
“Mike’s improved a lot. I thought — he’s a talented guy, and I like where he’s progressed. And he has a ton of talent, so he made a lot of progress. Cause he can do every job that you need to do — I mean, he has a high ceiling. We just keep pushing him and he’s gaining confidence in that.”
As a center, how important is Cesar (Ruiz) when it comes to communication?
“He’s very important. We put a heavy burden on him to make a lot of communication calls. Now, some of the other things that go on are just echoing those out to each other and sharing the knowledge. But he has to understand — he came in today between classes and met with me for 45 minutes. And we went through a whole series of plays for this game, about what he’s supposed to do pre-snap to make sure we get everybody on the same page. And so he’s very interested in growing there, too, so like I said, he’s between class 10 and 11, he’s got a free hour, he’s in here on his own. He comes in on his own, he says, ‘Coach, can we meet and go over something for 30 minutes?’ Boom. Know what I mean? That’s the kinda kid he is, but it’s critical — what he does up there, is the quarterback of that group.”
And in your mind, he’s handling these added responsibilities better?
“Oh yeah. And he’s still — he has a high ceiling, too. None of these guys have reached their ceiling. Bredeson can get a lot better. Cesar can get a lot better. They’re pretty good, but they can continue to grow with understanding and consistency and just, we’re playing together. Cause people don’t realize, they do, but there’s an assumption that Cesar’s a veteran. He started his first game at center in Division I football against Notre Dame. That’s first game. Not like he started somewhere else and transferred in, or started last year. He’s never played that position and done what he did. Now he’s done it twice. So he was better the second time than the first time, and I’ll bet you he’ll be better the third time than he was the second. So, it’s a process. That’s what I said — we’re a work in progress, that’s going like this cause as long as you can see it in the meeting, you can see how they practice, you can see how they’re buying in and they like getting better. And they like the confidence and the mojo. Cause we ran the ball pretty effectively in that game. And that’s a credit to their preparation and they played hard. And they’re practicing like they wanna be better this week. And I think they will be.”
Two weeks in, are you pleased with the progress the line has showed? I remember you said you wanted this line to be a middle-of-the-road Big Ten line
“Yeah absolutely. Pleased with where we’re at right now. And then we just gotta keep going. If we don’t grow anymore from here, then I would be disappointed moving forward, but I think they all see where we can. But when you watch practice, and you’re out there, and you feel what’s going on, and you listen, there’s a lotta things where other position coaches are saying, ‘Man, that’s pretty good. Listen to them up there talking, they’re really together.’ And then the physicality of how they practice, cause we’re really pushing for that, too, is practice hard on Tuesday, practice hard on Wednesday, then recover on Thursday and Friday and then go get it Saturday. So we’re really trying to develop that culture. Cause the only way you really get good up front is practice at a high tempo. You don’t get better as an O-lineman doing walkthroughs in shorts and t-shirts. That doesn’t — all of us can do that in shorts and t-shirts. They have to put shoulder pads and helmets on, they have to put knee braces on, they have to tape their hands up and they have to go to work. And they have to do that three times a week — once on Saturday and twice during the week — for them to really become a machine. And they’re learning to do that.”
How do you balance the improvements that you saw on the field while still knowing Western Michigan isn’t exactly the team that Notre Dame is? Is it really just kind of what you’ve seen in practice and what you’re seeing now?
“Yeah, there are just certain things that you watch and you see if things that a guy didn’t do well the week before, did he do it better in this game? His footwork, his pad level, his hand position, his communication, his second effort, his finish. You just watch for those things. And every guy has different — what Jon Runyan needs to work on is not what Mike Onwenu needs to work on, is not what Cesar needs to work on, is not what Juwann Beatty needs to work on. So, they all have something different.”
Those are things that are independent of competition?
“Yeah, so you watch and say, did Juwann get better at the three things that we said, ‘You gotta improve in these,’? Did Mike get better, did Ben get better, did they? And you look at that, and you evaluate that, and for the most part, most of those areas, they all took a step. Like I said, it’s not about who we’re playing, it’s about us. The standard is gonna be the same regardless of the opponent.”
How have you handled the transition on this staff, now that you’re into the season? And you’ve coached a lot of places, so how long does it take you to really feel comfortable and be yourself?
“With coach Harbaugh and the guys on this staff — great guys, great, a lot of football knowledge — it’s been easy. It’s been very easy, and, to express yourself, it’s been easy to be who you are. They want me to be that, they don’t want me to be something else. They don’t want me to change, they just want me to be who I am. Then I learn who they are, and then what do we need? And if I think I have something to add to situation, or a play, or a concept, or something we’re doing — cause everybody has that. Jim McElwain will come into a meeting with a run, I’ll go to Jim with a pass, I’ll talk to Pep (Hamilton) about this, Pep will talk to me about that. It’s all a collaborative effort, trying to just put the best product on the field. But that’s been very comfortable, with the way our offensive staff, and just our staff in general is. Don Brown comes into my office and says, ‘If you were gonna go against this blitz, how would you block it? Would this blitz be better that way?’ We do that all the time. Know what I mean? Like, ‘Hey, how would we —’ know what I’m saying? It’s all, how do we get the best that we can outta these kids, adn then how do we do the best job preparing them as coaches? I mean, the things I’m pleased about with the offensive line — we don’t have a holding call in two games, I know I just jinxed it (knocks on wood). We have one illegal procedure penalty in two games (knocks on wood). And we really, we have four sacks, but two of them really aren’t on the O-line. They would be considered other issues. So, in general, are those things improvement? To me, I would say those things are pretty good. That you played the number of plays you played, if you look at the numbers of certain things that we’re doing, pretty good.”
When you say work in progress, I think you mean individually each guy’s a work in progress, but does it also mean your starting five is a work in progress — that you could bring different guys in?
“Yeah. Your job is yours for the start of that game. If you aren’t playing well in the game and somebody else is close, we’ll make a move. And the game — if after the game, we realize that you underperformed and somebody else is passing you up or even with you, then we’ll move on. Yeah, it’s not like that’s the starting five for the season. It’s based on, again, performance in games, performance in practice and who’s the most consistent. So, anything could happen moving forward, but I think the thing is that the guys who are the next guys in at a lot of positions are young, and just bring them along at the right place. You put a young guy in there before he’s ready, you could ruin him. And you could really set him back. You bring him along and give it to him at the pace they can handle, then you got something for a long time.”
You talk about chemistry, consistency on the offensive line. How long do you flirt with that line of bringing in new guys? You want to get to a starting five at some point, I would imagine
“Right, but the ones who don’t start are the next guys in. They rotate in with the first — Jalen Mayfield’s in the first group every day in practice 25 percent of the time. So if he jogs into the first group in a game, it’s not gonna be like, ‘Who’s this?’ They see him every day in there. And James Hudson they see in there every day, and (Stephen) Spaniellis they see in there. We roll in guys that we think are the netx guys in at positions all through practice with the ones. So it’s not like they’re looking around going, ‘I haven’t played next to that guy.’ They’ve played next to that guy from August 2 ‘til today, in terms of being in the picture there. Does that make sense?”
Spaniellis always at center or does he come in at guard?
“He plays center and guard. Both, in practice.”
You mention that Jalen Mayfield spends about 25 percent of his time with the ones. Is that about where James Hudson is as well?
“Yeah, James might be a little bit more. Yeah. But I mean, they have — we have a set rotation that we figure out how much we wanna give them with the ones, and how much we wanna give them with the twos, so we’re giving them plenty of work to get them ready.”
You were at Ohio State with Urban (Meyer) and that staff, do you have any comment on that situation?
“Nah, I’m here to talk about the University of Michigan and us getting ready for this game. And I have no comment about that.”
Did Ohio State reach out to you for its investigation?