Head Coach Lloyd Carr Speaks About Spring Practice

Press Conference Comments from
U-M Head Football Coach Lloyd Carr
Spring Practice Update

On the quarterbacks ... "John Navarre has got everything it takes. He's gotten better, and he's going to be everything you want. There's a battle there at number two. There's good competition, and we'll just have to see how it plays out. They are going to compete. You always make a decision on what's best for your team, and the guy you feel gives your team the best chance to win."

On the battle for the backup position ... "Spencer (Brinton) has been slowed some with shoulder problems. He's missed some practice ... I think he hurt it down at the bowl game a little bit. He's starting to come back a little bit, and he had a pretty good practice yesterday. Matt Gutierrez has got a good grasp for his age of what we're doing. He continues to improve, but he's got a lot to learn, like any freshman. But he's really smart, and he's got a good grasp. We'll just have to see there, but he's done a good job."

On John Navarre's strengths ... "The thing I know about Navarre is he's got an excellent arm and he's extremely smart. From the mental standpoint, he's like (Brian) Griese and (Tom) Brady. He can get you into the right play, he knows defenses, he understands coverages, and he knows where to go with the football. He knows how to get the ball on the checkdown to the backs and receivers.

"He's extremely smart, he's extremely tough, and the thing I see in him this spring is he's taking charge. John has always been a quiet guy, but Griese was a pretty quiet guy. You don't have to be a loudmouth to be a great leader. But I do think, if you remember 365 days ago, John did not have a good day in the spring. He had tremendous pressure on him. But what you're dealing with is a guy who has great confidence. I think he's got a very good team around him."

On where he'd like Navarre to improve ... "You want him to improve on in increments the things he needs to improve on. Mechanically, it's a battle because when you get hurt or tired ... I think his conditioning is always something he needs to be aware of because he is a big guy. He needs to make sure his weight is good. But there's nothing he needs to drastically improve on.

"I think last year he made a lot of plays, and if you look at some of the plays he made later in the season moving in the pocket. Is he going to have a great 40 (yard dash) time No. But neither did Brady or Griese. What he does extremely well is he moves in the pocket, pushes the pocket, steps up, and he can throw the football. He's learned to reset his feet, so he's made tremendous strides and he's what you want."

On the tailbacks behind starter Chris Perry ... "David Underwood has had an outstanding spring. David has really stepped up.

"It's hard to really look at four guys or five guys. Elijah Bradley, a young kid out of DeLaSalle High School, hurt his ankle and is missing the whole spring, but he has great quickness. We'll have to see what he does in the fall. But Pierre Rembert, I think the last couple of days, has really taken some strides. I think David has really taken a step. I think he's made some great runs out there, knows where the holes are, knows the protections better and he's catching the ball. What he went through a year ago was tough on him because he fully expected to play more. But he hung in there, and I'm very pleased with where he is. I think Pierre is going to get better.

"Tim Bracken the last couple days has played better. He's been hurt a lot of the spring. I think he's been hobbled with a foot the last few days, had a slight concussion early. He's been hobbled, but he's in the mix there.

On the fullbacks ... "We moved Brian Thompson to fullback, and I'm really excited because what I see there is a young Aaron Shea. This kid is really athletic, and I think it's going to be a great move for our team. Kevin Dudley has made real improvement, and I think he feels comfortable where he is. He's a much-improved blocker this spring, so I feel very comfortable with our fullback position because it was a concern. It's going to be difficult because B.J. (Askew) did so many things. But I'm telling you, I think Brian Thompson has a chance to be an excellent fullback here."

On fullback Sean Sanderson ... "His status is that I held him out of spring practice because of academic issues."

On whether Sanderson will be back to compete for the job in the fall ... "I have no idea."

On walkon running back Elijah Bradley from Concord (Calif.) DeLaSalle ... "[He's just] a true freshman, but this kid has just got something about him. He has great quickness, and with him missing the spring, it really hurts his development. It's hard to really make an assessment of what he'll be able to do in the fall, because once we get there there aren't a lot of reps and there isn't a lot of time to evaluate people. But we've seen enough to know there is a role for him. I think he has a role on special teams, because he's a tough little guy and he can separate."

On the linebackers ... "Lawrence Reid had his best day [yesterday] ... you go day by day, that's the deal. I see it as a microcosm of the season. You go three days and they are all intense practices. What you look for is a guy who can, from start to finish, fight through the fatigue that comes -- and it's here, right now. We're banged up, and there are very few guys out there who don't have some discomfort. Bad ankle, bad shoulder, bad hamstring, bad knee, that's just the nature of it. But Reid had an outstanding day yesterday, his best of the spring. David Harris shows real promise in there, and Pierre Woods gets better every day."

On whether the incoming freshman safeties will have an impact next year ... "I can't answer that. Physically there is a lot of guys capable of competing, but it comes down to how quickly they can grasp what we are doing and be able to play in a way that they can be successful. You've got to be in the right place at the right time, because if you aren't, on defense you'll give up big plays. If a guy lines up wrong and you leave a weak spot over here, it can cost you a touchdown. So I can't answer that. We'll find out.

"The second issue for any freshman is conditioning. This is a game of stamina from a standpoint that the pace is extremely fast, too much for some guys who walk in here, because the speed of the game isn't the same and the strength of the players ... these other guys have been through it. Some guys just hit a wall. But physically we have some guys capable of competing."

On new defensive backs coach Ron English ... "I know this, I really like him. He's an outstanding coach, and you don't have to be around him very long to know that. He brings a real knowledge, a real intensity and he pays attention to detail. I think our players think the same thing."

On Darnell Hood's switch from running back to cornerback ... "We've moved Darnell Hood to cornerback, which I think is going to be a great move for Darnell and I think it will be a great move for our team. He's a guy we recruited with the idea that we would look at him for a year because he did want to be a tailback, and I think he could have been a good tailback. But there's an opportunity for him on defense.

"He's got a lot to learn, but I think the good news is he saw the opportunity, so we didn't waste the spring. He has played all spring at cornerback, and he's a great tackler. He's just got to learn the fundamentals and the keys, but he's very athletic and will be I think an excellent cornerback here."

On other players who have made position switches ... "Willis Barringer played corner, and he's made a move [to free safety]. Willis Barringer has had a great spring. For a young freshman, I'm very, very pleased with where he is."

On where Pierre Woods has improved in moving from defensive end to linebacker ... "He's playing on his feet as opposed to putting his hand on the ground. I think where he's really improved is his alignments. If you are supposed to line up on the guard and you line up stacked on the nose guard, you are defeated before you start. So it all begins with knowing where to line up ... and then your keys. Then there are adjustments because the tight end starts out here, then just as you think he is going to stay there he backs up and motions, or he moves over, or the back shifts, which changes your alignment.

"What I like about him is these last couple of days he's playing much lower. The first instinct of a player who has had his hand on the ground is to play too high. When you play too high, you don't have the leverage to defeat a blocker because the higher you are, the less ability you have to play with your legs. The power comes from your legs and your hips. Pierre has a knack for getting to the football, and I like where he is right now."

On the commitment to improve the tackling this year, and why tackling continues to get tougher ... "You're more spread out and you are in more one-on-one situations. Sometimes it's ability, sometimes it's poor technique, but as coaches, we're trying to develop the fundamentals of tackling, trying to finish every play fronting up the football. We do not scrimmage near as much as we used to, and I think that's one of the reasons the tackling isn't as good as it used to be, because you are spread out. But we've worked extremely hard on it.

"What we're trying to do is develop drills that will simulate game conditions and teaching them how to control the body. The other thing about tackling, the most important thing, is you need to know where to miss a tackle. If you miss a tackle, you want to miss it to where your help is to where you know your teammate is going to be. There's a lot of things that go into it. If you miss it where he isn't, those are big plays. You are always going to have missed tackles, because backs and receivers are skilled. The key is to know where to miss it. That's important."

On the challenge defenses face today ... "It is much more difficult today to play defense than it has ever been, just because of all of the formations. It puts a real stress on the players, particularly the young players, because of the experience they have. Most linebackers in high school, there are always two backs in the backfield. Now, sometimes there is one, sometimes there are none. They are always shifting and motioning."

On the tight ends ... "I think Andy Mignery has shown a lot of toughness, because he's been hobbled with an ankle until the last three or four days, but he just keeps fighting and playing through it, which is what you like. Tim Massaquoi missed all of winter conditioning because of surgery, so he's done a good job, but he's not where he needs to be. We'll keep working there. Because of his conditioning, because he missed spring practice, he's a little behind from that standpoint. But Massaquoi will be fine.

"Kevin Murphy missed training camp last fall with some injury problems, really didn't get to practice until about midway through last season. He's having a good spring. David Spytek is there, and then we've got a young guy like Mike Mandich. Jim Fisher is out with knee surgery, and Jim has been a very good blocker. We don't have the depth there right now. Tyler Ecker will be here on May 1."

On Roy Manning's health ... "Roy's knee ... he is right where he needs to be."

On freshman linebacker David Harris ... "Harris is at the MIKE (inside linebacker). That's normally the strength of the formation; that's where you want your best run defender in terms of taking on the lead back or fullback, or the guards coming around. But he's done very well."

On sophomore receiver Jason Avant ... "Avant you just love because Avant is an all-out, all the time, pure football player. He's a great blocker, a tenacious competitor, and he's having a very, very good spring. He'll catch the ball over the middle, he's smart, and he can play any of those positions. That makes him very valuable just in that because we have four wide receiver threats, and a lot of our offense is three-wide receiver and one back. The more a guy knows, the more valuable he is. I like him. I like him a lot."

On receiver Carl Tabb ... "Carl Tabb has caught every ball we've thrown this spring, but he's got a lot to learn, like all of them. But he runs well, and he's made some great catches over the middle where he's gotten hit, so Carl is on the move. He's a smart guy, but there are a lot of things he needs to learn. He's going to be a very good player."

On receiver Steve Breaston ... "Steve Breaston, unfortunately, has been hampered all spring with a pulled hamstring. We're holding him out this week and hope he can practice next week, but he's really been hampered. He's had some days in there when he fought through it, but Breaston is an exciting football player. When he's in there, he'll make something happen.

"He pulled it in winter conditioning ... any time you're not there as a freshman, it's a negative. He'll be fine, but we'd love to have him out there because every time you get a snap, you learn something."

On who is working on punt returns ... "We're working a lot of guys back there. Markus Curry ... we've worked Jeremy LeSueur back there."

On the shape of the Michigan Stadium turf for the spring scrimmage ... "I was just up to the stadium today. A week ago that field was nothing but mud, but hopefully, we won't get enough rain that will make it impossible to play there. But that field is in such bad shape, it will be a day-to-day thing.

"If it becomes a safety issue ... a week ago, they said, 'No way.' But we've had some good weather. We got outside last Thursday, but the middle of that field is just dirt. We'll just have to wait and see. If it's bad ..."

On the format of the spring scrimmage ... "I like a game-type situation, but if everything is good, we'll have game simulation. But we'll also use part of that practice as a practice, to work on some of our fundamentals, to do some group work, so in that regard I think it will be typical of what we've done in the last few years.

"You are all right as long as you don't try to divide it up into two teams, because then you need 22 players on each team and depth really becomes a problem. If you keep all the offensive guys in one color jersey and the defensive guys in another, unless you get somebody really banged up. We'll have to see where we're at next week. I don't think we're any different than any other team in the country; it's just the nature of spring practice."

On the offensive line ... "I can tell you this, we are going to have a line, a Michigan line. David Baas, what I like about him is he's better today than he was nine practices ago. Leo Henige and Matt Lentz are battling at right guard, and there's very good competition there. Adam Stenavich has had an exceptionally good spring and gotten better, and then you've got Tony Pape there [at right tackle]. So now we'll rotate a lot of guys at the guard and center positions, and I'll know a lot more in five days, but Courtney Morgan is working at guard, Andy Christopfel at center, though I think he may be a better guard.

"Rueben Riley, we may end up moving to tackle, but Rueben is very talented. It's a typical spring ... these freshmen, you put a lot of things in in the spring, and every day it's something different, and the defense is doing something different every day, so it's an up-and-down battle. It's a process, but Rueben has very good ability and I think will be fine.

"Demeterius Solomon is playing in there at tackle, and Demeterius has improved. Dave Pearson has had a very good spring, proved to be a very good football player. Mark Bihl, he is battling hard and we'll have to go into training camp to see who wins that job at center, but Bihl has really had a good spring. What we're working on is our depth. But this is a strong, powerful, physical line."

On freshman Jeff Zuttah's health status ... "I'll have an announcement on that in a few days."

On sophomore DT Gabe Watson and redshirt freshman Larry Harrison ... "Gabe, I think he's much better because he has had a lot of repetitions. He hasn't missed a practice, and like I said, we've had a very physical spring. He and Larry Harrison have gotten a million snaps, and they were better yesterday than they were the day before.

"I don't know what [Watson] weighs, but very few guys are in as good shape as you'd like them to be. But Gabe, for a guy that size and that strong -- and he's extremely strong, and so is Larry -- as they get stronger, the people who are blocking don't wear them down as much. It's not so much conditioning as it is the stamina to be able to play ... 50 plays. Those guys right now, they can't play 50 snaps. Very few freshmen can, because they are playing against linemen who are 320 pounds. It wears you down."

On Braylon Edwards' health after spraining his ankle ... "Braylon is back; he sprained his ankle and missed about a week. But until he hurt his ankle ... he's faster, bigger, and he knows more. I think he's improved."

On Edwards wearing the No. 1 jersey ... "I've got a deal with him. He wanted to wear that number, and to me that number signifies you will play with certain characteristics. Braylon, when we recruited him he wanted it. I told him he can earn it. He's earned the opportunity to wear it. Can he keep it You might see him wear No. 1 one day and No. 80 tomorrow."

On the upperclassman wideouts ... "Tyrece (Butler) has had a good spring, and Jermaine (Gonzales) has excellent hands. I think he's had a good spring. He hurt his ankle the first day so he's not at full speed, but I think he's done some good things in there as well. Calvin Bell has had the best spring since he's been here. He's caught the ball extremely well, and yesterday he blocked like he's capable of blocking. We've got some depth at receiver and some guys who can make some plays.

"I don't look at those guys as being one or two because I know they are all going to play. But (Jason) Avant, with the experience of already being in game competition ... I think just as importantly he was in every game plan. He had to prepare like he was a starter, and when you are being redshirted you don't have the same focus and concentration, so you don't learn as much. I think the fact that he played a year ago certainly helps his confidence. He's got a great, competitive spirit about him that I really like."

On offensive coordinator Terry Malone ... "Terry Malone is an outstanding football coach. He did an outstanding job, and I have tremendous confidence in him. The mark of a good coach is that you ... you always change, you've got to learn from every season. You study a lot of film, study everybody doing similar things and do new things on what you learn."

On whether leaders have emerged in spring ball ... "I think it's a process that starts in January when you go in the weight room throughout the spring, but the summer is always the big test. We elect our captains in training camp. I think as a coach -- and you can be wrong -- but what I look for is what kind of work ethic they have, what's their attitude, how hard are they competing. I can tell you this about this team: they've worked extremely hard and they're good kids. I like 'em."

On Jeremy LeSueur ... "Every guy matures differently. I think any time you have an injury like he had, it's a major setback. You are away from home, you've got the academic challenge, you just don't feel a part [of the team]. It's a difficult thing to go through. But the other thing Jeremy had to learn is he had to learn to play within a concept. He's a very competitive guy; he looks at a receiver and says, 'My job is to cover him.' Well, it may be on certain coverages, but there's other things you've got to learn if you're playing zone coverage. It's not just a one-on-one game. I think that's what he's learned ... he's learned to play hard every down, and most guys have to learn that. The ball goes away, you want to relax a little bit. It's all a process, at every position."

On Ernest Shazor's progress ... "Ernest is involved in a real battle at that position. I think it's very tight, so we'll have to see how we finish there."

On whether the spring game has become a "necessary evil" ... "I wouldn't rather it be just a regular practice, because first of all, the players really look forward to playing in a game. They would much rather have a situation where you have a game atmosphere where there are people in the stands, their family and friends get to watch. That's why you practice, so you can play a game.

"From a coaching standpoint, I love the spring game. Any time you can play in front of a good size crowd, it's game experience, even if it's 25 plays. I want to see how Matt Gutierrez plays when he's in front of a good crowd. I want to see how Carl Tabb plays, how Jacob Stewart plays in front of a big crowd. Those are the things you gain from it. I think you gain a lot more than you lose. But I do think there have been enough guys in the last few years that have been injured in that practice that it's difficult. If you lose a guy that late to injury, it really makes it difficult for them to come back in the fall because you lose the summer conditioning, the weightlifting; you just have to start all over again. So it's a dilemma, but I like it, personally."

On the starting offensive line if the season started tomorrow ... "(Adam) Stenavich would be left tackle, (David) Baas at left guard, (Dave) Pearson at center, and the right guard; what I like about it is both those guys are going to be good players. But Leo Henige has really made some strides.

"Baas, the thing about Baas is he's a great athlete. When he pulls, he's not just a guy who can knock you off the ball when you are lined up across from him. He gets up in the small seams and finds the linebacker. Henige is a guy with excellent movement. I don't know what he's weighing now, but he got a late start, started to come on the last half of last fall, and he's really competing. Then you've got (Tony) Pape at right tackle."

On his enthusiasm about the offensive line ... "I like 'em. I like 'em. Now, I might not like them tomorrow, but I like them today. We're going to be all right there."

On how practice has gone in general ... "The thing about a spring as a coach, you are never happy, because you are playing against each other, and if you like it here, you don't like it right over there. That's the way it is, because if you're running the football ... if David Underwood is making some great runs, then somewhere else you're not playing well. I do say this: we're going to have, if we stay healthy, if we continue to work and stay focused, we're going to have a good offensive football team. It starts with an outstanding quarterback who can do everything you need him to do. I think Chris Perry is getting better, and he's confident.

"What we have yet to find out, and what I don't know, is we're missing (Carl) Diggs, we're missing Norman Heuer, so maybe if they were playing we wouldn't be running through there. Maybe we're not as good on offense as I think we could be. You're playing against yourself every day. What I've learned is don't get too excited and don't get too disappointed, because we've got good kids who are competing hard, and we'll see what will shake out.

"Now, I do love Adam Finley."

On the selection of FieldTurf for Michigan Stadium ... "The only thing that matters is it's the best. The hours, the time [our guys] spent, I'm extremely pleased with the process, because they studied it, visited places. They've been everywhere you need to be to make sure our players and opponents are playing on the best surface available."

On whether he'd like to see a Block "M" on the middle of the field ... "Yes, I would."

Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423

»  Learn about season ticket opportunities for the 2017 Michigan football season.