Talk about the line play through three games. Some room for improvement, do you think?
“Yeah, absolutely. There’s always room for improvement. They’ve done a good job and we’ve got to keep on getting better just in pass protection, which is—we’ll do that, and communication. But they’ve done a nice job, and we expect a big game this week.”
Do you see guys still playing too high at times?
“Yeah. You always can improve on the offensive line with pad level. You’ve got to get lower and get your eyes in the right spot and be physical with your hands and move your feet and know where you’re going and communication and targets and that sort of thing still needs improvement. Every day you’ve got to work on that and that’s important.”
Do you still see a rotation with the two Bens at left guard?
“Rotation’s always open. Rotation’s always open.”
Talk about Bredeson’s progression.
“Done a nice job. Really has. He plays, like I mentioned before, quick twitch and smart and can process quickly on his feet. Like all those other freshmen, has done a nice job transitioning there and really improved.”
What did Wilton show you in that game? You take the first game interception and then the big hit and coming back in.
“Wilton’s a true competitor and he’s a tough guy. I think anybody who plays the quarterback position’s got to be a tough guy. You’re gonna take hits you don’t want to happen, we don’t want to happen, but it’s how they respond. I mean, that was a tough hit on him and he bounced up and he led us the rest of the game and took us back from being behind. Just really pleased with what he did. It shows his true character and how important it is, the team to him and him being a competitor and winning every down.”
[After THE JUMP: what’s up with the Morris/O’Korn thing, complimenting large gentlemen plying their trade, and a big compliment for Speight]
What about using Shane [Morris] and John [O’Korn] the way you did?
“Yeah, it’s always an option for us. We love to have that option.”
What do you see Shane doing going forward?
“That’s always an option. Stay tuned.”
Talk about what you get from De’Veon [Smith].
“Hard running. Hard, physical, breaks tackles, good pass protector. Just—you’re going to get yards out of him when he hits it up in the hole, and really pleased he’s really letting the play express itself and finding the holes. He’s done a nice job.”
We haven’t seen him turn the corner real often.
“Yeah, that was neat, wasn’t it? I was real happy for him to turn the corner and go score a touchdown. That’s fun.”
What was your reaction to the blocking on that play? Pretty much no one came close to him. What goes through your head as an offensive coordinator when you see that?
“Right on, man. We’re coming back. It was exciting. Any time you break a long run like that it’s exciting when you see that, and just knowing that guys got hats on the right people and what you’re coaching during practice is working. It’s fun.”
How much concern about not being able to run between the tackles?
“You know, I’m not concerned about that. You do different things different weeks, you know.”
Jabrill got in on offense a couple times last week. How much does he need to practice to be—to know your offense?
“We’re not going to talk about anybody’s reps or what we do at practice. That just stays in here.”
But he’ll be used going forward?
“It’s always an option. Stay tuned.”
Harbaugh liked a lot of what Khalid Hill’s doing. Can you talk about some of the things he’s giving you?
“Yeah, he does—for a fullback the first step is so critical, that initial quickness and your hat placement, and he does such a great job doing that and bringing his feet and being physical at the point of attack, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield, which is really neat. And he can do something after he catches it—yards after contact. He’s really done a good job and really pleased with his progress.”
Is that something you saw last year and you kind of had this idea all along, or was it something in the offseason?
“No, we saw that last year and then we got into the spring [and] I think it showed more and more. He needed to step up, which he did. But he’s always had that skillset that’s pleasing to the eye.”
Do you like the push you’re getting from the front five in terms of the downhill stuff?
“Yeah, I do. I think it’s good. There’s room for improvement. We’ve got to stay on blocks better and finish a little better, but there’s always room for improvement. We’ll just keep getting better every week.”
When you say stay on blocks I know what that means, but how do you go about teaching them?
“Strain to finish. Practice it. Rep it.”
How are the MAs this week compared to the first two weeks?
“Uh, it’s about the same. Yeah, about the same.”
So are you pretty pleased through three games with those guys?
“Yeah, they’ve done a nice job. They’re communicating and we’ve got to keep getting better, but for the most part it’s been really good.”
Put into words the attitude of your offensive line.
“Veteran group. They understand the expectation of what it is to be an offensive lineman here and play in this group at the University of Michigan. Hard-working group, and it’s important for them to be right, not to be wrong. They take it really, really personal when it’s not right. Really personal, which is neat. That’s a neat thing to coach. They take pride in their work.”
What does Jake Butt have to do to improve his blocking? Where can he get better?
“I think Jake does a nice job block. I’ve coached a lot of good tight ends like Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz. He’s up with those guys. Those guys were blockers for us at Stanford, and Jake is just as good or better than them at this point in his career.”
Last week Kyle [Kalis] said the last couple years—more 2013 and 2014—the offensive line was a scapegoat. When you inherited the group did you sense that from them, that they’d been sort of beaten up?
“No, I didn’t really pay much attention to what happened in the past. When I walked in [it was] I’m here to improve the guys, we’ve got to coach them and just push on. Every day that I’ve walked in this building they’ve always given their best and worked very hard and asked questions and really want to be good at what they do.”
In that regard, did they have a sense of ‘let’s prove them wrong’ kind of mentality?
“Well, I think anytime—if you’re a football player and you’re competitive…there’s doubters out there. There’s contrarians, people that want you to fail, that are rooting for you to fail. I think in any position, you’ve got to have that kind of chip on your shoulder. You’re backed into a corner, you’re swinging to come out. And then if you want to be really good at this profession and what you do, you’ve got to have that type of attitude when you walk in every day [which] is I’m going to outwork people, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, I’m going to compete every down, I must win this. So I think they have that attitude.”
What did you think were the reasons for the lack of downfield passing game. Was it Speight’s elbow? Was it your receivers not getting open?
“I think it’s just—there’s different things. Protection was one issue, right. I mean, you saw that. You know, just maybe a missed throw, maybe not precision timing on a route, maybe not being in the right spot. But, you know, I’m pleased. The week before we threw for 312 yards.
“There’s no finer thrower than Wilton throwing the deep ball in college football. That’s hard to do. Not a lot of post routes and things that I’ve seen have been completed. It’s just, they understand the expectation level and we’re going to get the passing game fixed. We will. With Jedd and Jim and myself, we’ll make sure we get that cleaned up this week.”
Mason had a tough assignment on Saturday. How do you think he handled it, and is he still sort of a work in progress there?
“He’s doing really good. That young man from Colorado’s a really good football player, and you see out of the 32 teams I’d say 25 [or] 24 play a 3-4 front. A 3-4 front is very difficult to run the ball into. It’s very sticky. That nose tackle’s like the most important thing because he’s got to hold ground. That young man from Colorado’s going to be a high draft choice in the National Football League, so I thought he did a good job. Are there a couple plays he’d like to take back? Yeah, but that was two good football players battling it out that are going to have healthy careers in this profession.”