Kyle [Kalis] last night was saying people shouldn’t panic about the run game after Saturday.
“No! You know, I was truly flattered, to tell you the truth. When you load the box like that and you send that many pressures it means you’ve done something. You’re doing something that’s making people take notice. Most defensive coordinators, hell or high water, they will not let you beat them running the ball. It’s a demoralizing feeling to be beat up front in the run game, so most people say, ‘If you’re going to beat us, beat us in the pass game.’
“Like I told my backs, I said, ‘Look, don’t look at the numbers on the board. Look at what they did to take this away, and take that in pride and [to] heart. The offensive line is blocking like madmen up front for us and we’re taking holes and making them into big gains. Take that to heart. Feel good about that.’ Hey, when a team comes in saying ‘we want to stop the run,’ that means you’re doing something. So the run game, not worried about it.”
You spread the carries around; no one had more than 10. Was that just to see if anyone had a different take on it and could do something, or was that--
“No, that was just something Coach Harbaugh came up with and just wanted to keep the guys rolling, keep them fresh. No more than that.”
Were there things that you saw that they did that maybe we couldn’t notice in terms of what they did? I guess De’Veon breaking the tackles was significant, but--
“Each guy kind of—Chris [Evans] is quick. He gets in there, made a couple of moves. Been able to use his ability in terms of quickness to make some guys miss [and] create some separation. Ty [Isaac] is a guy that can lean on some people and push the pile. But anything or one thing in particular that separated them? Not really. It was just a game where we just needed to get the tough yards. There was going to be some creases in there where if it was three it was going to be a tough three. The old three yards and a cloud of dust, that’s basically what it was. Or a cloud of rubber, rather, as a matter of fact. That’s what it was.”
What do you see from the rest of the room when you put the tape on and De’Veon, he’s breaking seven tackles and getting a first down on that one run. Do you tell the guys ‘This is it, right here’?
“In terms of what?”
[Hit THE JUMP to resolve this cliffhanger, as well as more on the Four Horsemen or Four-Headed Monster or whatever you prefer calling Michigan’s stable of RBs]
Just as an example for everybody else in the room.
“Well, if I had five De’Veons I wouldn’t…like I’ve said, De’Veon is a special guy. Every back is special in his own unique way. Those two runs, the two runs De’Veon had, were incredible. You can’t take anything away from it. This guy breaks two or three tackles, stiff arms a guy, spins out of it, and he goes. But it would be very unfair for me to go back and say, ‘Chris, do you see this? This is what you should do.’ That’s not Chris’s deal. Chris can do some things that I look at Chris and say, ‘Well, damn. De’Veon…’ No. It’s unfair. So I tell them, this is what I tell them: I love each and every one of you the way you are and where you are. And that’s how I coach them. I coach each guy individually. I can’t coach them all like one.
“But you do say, ‘Hey, that’s the effort and the intensity that you want.’ You look at it that way. Never give up on a play, continue the play, feet movement, and all those things. But to go in there, next week you have Chris trying to run everybody over and it’s like, what the hell is going on? Then I’ll say it’s your fault.”
Coach Harbaugh was talking about Khalid Hill a couple days ago and how he’s risen up to give you some help around the goal line in different ways. Can you talk about how you’ve seen him come on?
“Khalid is an amazing athlete for a big guy. He’s really quick, has some sudenness to him and ball skills whether catching the ball or running it. I think that was something that was surprising for us and also just said, ‘Hey, we can use this thing down by the goal line, to be a big guy, to be as quick and strong and be able to push the pile.’ You know, why not use it? He’s a great help in that regard.”
How have your guys been at finding the right holes this year?
“As opposed to what? Last year they didn’t find the right holes?”
Did they or didn’t they, I’m talking in terms of your expectations.
“Well, once again, my expectations always come across as just being able to trust them. Blitz pickup, getting the tough yards, and doing all the right things. So yeah, they’re finding the right holes.”
What do you like most about Chris Evans?
“What do I like most about Chris Evans? I’ll explain it like this: he’s like my Steph Curry in the room, meaning that he can create his own space one-on-one, he can win one-on-ones, and most surprisingly—and I said this earlier—I didn’t realize how tough he was between the tackles. That was one of my things coming in to see how he could run between the tackles, his toughness, his strength. He’s surprisingly strong.”
He doesn’t look strong, does he?
“He doesn’t look it, but he’s surprisingly strong. The other things I like, a guy with that mixture of strength and being able to make guys miss is a huge deal. De’Veon makes guys miss in a certain different way of making tackles and breaking tackles. Chris can actually create the separation and not only [that], once he creates the separation he has the speed to pull away, so those are things that you get excited about and you want to see more of. I mean, he’s a dandy delight to watch. I like that guy.”
He said he talked to you in the offseason about being a hurdler and you guys kind of bonded over that a little. He was impressed, he didn’t know that about you. Is there something to that in terms of what his flexibility is or something that translates?
“I don’t know, because dammit, I was a hurdler and I damn sure didn’t have that. It was just some of the things you talk about in hurdling: how you approach a hurdle, how you attack a hurdle, and there’s one thing I always talk about in running the ball, you’ll see in the defender it’s one more step.
“We use the analogy when you attack a hurdle, when you approach a hurdle, you can’t—as you’re running a hurdle, as the speed, as you get faster in the hurdle you don’t want to crowd the hurdle and pull off, you want to attack the hurdle. We just kind of talk about that in terms of how you run the ball. You want to attack every defender, and so that’s kind of how—certain things, you can talk about that to a certain guy and he’ll look at you like ‘What the heck is he talking about?’ He, on the other hand, being a hurdler from one hurdle to the next understood that, so there was an analogy and a concept that we could talk about to carry over to the football field.”
The Colorado-Michigan matchup, obviously people think about 1994--
“I don’t wanna talk about that.”
You don’t want to talk about it? No [inaudible] from your teammates? Business as usual this week?
“Business as usual. The goal is to get to 3-0 and basically just play our brand of football, whatever that may be. I tell ya, this set of receivers we have, they’re stepping up, they’re really looking good. Not only are they doing an incredible job pass receiving, you look at these guys block, a couple times it helps bring Chris Evans [or] De’Veon in. They’re just all around doing a great job. Speight’s putting the ball right where it needs to be. He’s out there throwing darts right now. He’s having fun, and that’s the great thing about it. And like I said, the offensive line is blocking well. Hey, you want to take away the run? Deal with us in the pass game. Give them a couple things to defend.”
Why don’t you want to talk about that game?
“Because I was there and I was on the sideline and I thought we had the game won. To have a Detroit native come in the freakin’ building and steal one from us and go back to Colorado wasn’t a great feel. And…there’s just certain things you kind of carry with you and it kind of sticks with you. I didn’t play that much in that game so you’re just like, man, if I was healthy maybe I could have helped a little bit. But it was—it’s still a bad feeling. I think that was also a year that we kind of had national contention aspirations and things of that [nature]. Just a bad taste.”
Are you friends with that Detroit native?
“Not at that time I wasn’t. Not at that time. Yes, yes.”
Now you guys are friends?
“Yeah, I mean, we’re still good. He’s a good guy.”
Does this provide any chance to get bad taste a little bit off the palate?
“Honestly, I mean, so many years removed, I’m in a different spot; this game has really nothing to do with that. Just keep it separate.”
How is Drake Johnson handling not being able to be on the field right now?
“Drake’s a competitor. Obviously not being on the field, he wants to be out there, he wants to go. Drake is a great teammate. Great guy. He’s in the room, spiritual, lending a hand in terms of helping guys prepare. He’s a great guy. Like I said, it’s Drake Johnson. Can’t say much [more] about the guy. He’s doing well, helping the young guys. He’s in the room just being positive. Just a positive motivating force for us all.”
We only saw a little bit of Kingston [Davis]. What’s his style? Is he more of a big, physical back?
“He’s a downhill guy but surprisingly has some light feet. Like I said before, just because you don’t see a guy everybody suspects bad things. No, he’s just developing. There’s some things he needs to develop because we’re rotating four guys right now, and so while we’re rotating four, hey, let’s work on his game and develop his game. A guy coming straight out of high school doesn’t really have a ‘style’ right now. We’re still trying to develop that and get that going.”
Even deep on the depth chart, though, you guys wanted to play him. The redshirt thing not a factor? Is that just to get him experience and see what the game feel is like?
“Well, I mean, it’s a little bit of everything, all of that. You want to get him going and get him playing, get him some gametime experience, but at the same time it just goes back to, on my end, developing. That stuff is targeted towards Coach Harbaugh. On my end it’s more toward developing Kingston Davis and getting a feel what he is and who he is and what type of back that he is so that we can develop him.”
You’re flattered, you said, about how UCF played your run game. What if the pass game’s not there? Do you feel confident that your backs can at least get those yards you need in that situation?
“Yeah, I do. I do. I’ll give you a prime example. There have been years in the NFL and in college where personally where we’d play games and so if you don’t get 100 yards or if you don’t get 200 yards, ‘Oh, that was a terrible game.’ You get enough to win. You pick up the key first downs and you make runs that are big enough and large enough to win, and so if you come out of the game with a victory, not matter what the yardage is, that’s a victory. You know, it doesn’t go in the win column as an ugly win. Or it doesn’t go in the win column as ‘Oh, they had 75 yards in the win.’ Those 75 yards are hard-fought yards.
“Plus, trust me, on the defensive board they go in with a goal in mind: let’s keep them under this much or let’s keep them under here. We don’t know what those yards are, but our deal is hey, let’s win the game. Whether it be pass—let’s say Speight comes out with an off game [/knocks on wooden case he’s leaning on]. And I know you did this to me last time. Goodness gracious. But yeah, we will pick it up in the running game. We will pick it up in the run game. It will be picked up. The defense has to play a little bit harder; that’s why it’s a team game. But yeah, we will pick it up. We’ll be there.”
Do you think Drake will play this season?
“Once again, he—don’t know the timeframe. Not sure of that right now. I wouldn’t count him out, but I’m not sure what the timeframe is.”
Talking about all your backs, did you think one of them would separate themselves from the others by now or are you happy with the four?
“Happy with the four. Four-headed monster. Four horsemen. What other things out there? But I’m happy with the four.”
How has Kareem’s [Walker] attitude been?
“Great, great. Working hard. I think he’s put on about 10 pounds of muscle. He’s looking good. You know, he’s really, really upbeat. He’s ready to go. He’s ready to go.”
I know you don’t want to talk about the game, but that year, how did you respond? You did say it could have been a special season, 1994.
“You know what, it’s been so long, in all honesty I can’t remember. But I do remember this, though: it was a hangover for about two days. There was a hangover for about two days. That was a hard one to shake. I don’t…I can’t even remember the record of that year. After that loss, there was a two-day hangover. I do remember that, though. It’s kind of one of them deals where you’re telling each other, ‘Hey, man. Let’s get out of this funk and get going’ and everybody’s like, ‘Man, only if this..’ and you start going through the entire game back through your head like what if we’d got this, what if we did this. The what ifs started coming up, and so like I think I said, it took about two days to really get that out of our system and turn around and get going. But as to really specifically how we bounced back and what we did, I can’t remember.”
No one thinks when he’s releasing that ball that it’s going to be completed, right?
“I’m gonna tell you this: I turned around. I remember this. I was standing on the sideline and I turned around like, oh, I can’t watch it. I can’t watch it. It was silent, then everybody was like, ‘Oh, man!’ and I was like ‘ugh.’ Because I think at that point in time the stands were almost empty. The stands were almost empty, and there was a brief moment of silence and then it was like, I can’t believe it. I looked up and they were running around [and I was] like, you’ve got to be kidding me. So that was a tough one. That was a tough one. Stewart threw the heck out of that ball, though. Oh well.”
Sorry I made you relive it.
“It’s alright. It’s alright. It is what it is.”