Aug. 14, 2011
Opening statement ... "Thanks for coming out. It's great to see this enthusiasm for the University of Michigan. We're seven practices in at this point. We find out a lot about our team at each practice. They've come with great energy, which is an important part. There's a sustainability that we have to have during those practices. How you compete late in football games is how you win championships in November in this league. That's an important part, and we talk about it every day. I think we're pretty healthy, which is pretty good and we'd like to keep healthy. There's a lot of competition. I talked to you all on Thursday, so you probably realize that the competition is what is really going to make our program better on a daily basis -- the evaluations and how we compete with each other. We have two- a-days tomorrow, and that's when you find out a lot about the struggles and who the leaders are. We had a good first seven days. We're 20 days away, we're not ready to play, and we've got a lot of work to do."
On the first practice in pads ... "Guys are willing, wanting. I think as you go through it you always want to see the consistency. You want to see if they'll hit in the morning and come back and hit in the afternoon. That's why I think this week, we have three of the five days are two practices a day. We will be in full pads for all the practices. We will be physical with each other, and we will find out if they can consistently bring it."
On whether pads bring a different mindset ... "I think there is always that anxiousness, they want to establish themselves, come out and show how -- to their coaches and their teammates -- they've progressed throughout the summer, from the spring until now."
On freshman kicker Matt Wile ... "Obviously he's a San Diego guy. His dad was (one of) our orthopedists at San Diego State in 2009. Matt would come around and start investigating. Most of these guys have kicking gurus, because it's such a special thing. A guy named Lance Ortega is a guy we have known for a long time on the west coast and has worked with Matt and thought he was pretty good. So, we just proceeded in the recruiting. Having Doc Wile there, Matt would come to game days and practice days now and then. He's a tremendous kid, a fifth-generation Michigan grad -- his dad got his degree here -- and it all seemed to fit pretty well. He's doing well. I think this is a big stage; there's always that mental part about going out there. Until you get on Main Street in front 100,000, you've really got to see where the guy's at. He's very consistent. I think he's one of those guys who really knows his technique and fundamentals and can do a good job of coaching himself. I think he's taking all three phases on to some degree right now -- punting, kickoffs and field goals. He's done a good job with it."
On the running-back competition ... "I think as a backfield we're unsettled. We have great competition, and you're looking for the consistency you want to have from those guys on a daily basis. We've got some older guys who had played a number of snaps here, that one day I think we're pretty good and one practice we kind of slide back -- that's the consistency. You're on them about that every day, because you can't be like that on Saturdays. You can't play great one Saturday and then fall back. So, that's the evaluation. We're still evaluating where we're at back there."
On his preference for one running back ... "We'd like to have one guy. You may have a situational guy out of the back field or something like that for down-and-distance situations, but we'd like to have one guy who can take it 25 times. Maybe have another guy that's 7-10 and go from there."
On factoring junior quarterback Denard Robinson in the offensive scheme ... "I think that's hard to do, because you have what you want as a base. Our base run play will be the power play, and that won't be any secret. That's where we want to start our football offensively, but depending on the scheme we're facing, depending on the team, depending on how we are running at the tailback position, it could be more or it could be less. In a real world, I think we'd like to get him 10-15 snaps of running the football and put the rest on those guys who dot the I."
On balancing the desire to run Robinson with the need to keep him healthy ... "It's a real fine line. The objective is to win, and we have to do what helps Michigan and this team win. When you look at it at the end of the day, the kids want to win. They practice hard. We've got to put them in and give them a plan that's going to put them in a position to win."
On Robinson's playmaking skills ... "I got to see a couple games a year ago; we played a lot of night games with a three-hour time difference. He's just a great kid, and I think the thing that usually happens by the time you're a third-year guy is that leadership qualities start to stick out more and more. That's what I like he's done in camp. He's taken charge, and he's competitive. He's challenging the guys, not just on the offensive side of the ball. There is some competitiveness challenging the guys on defense. He is doing it the right way, so that kind of stuff is fun."
On the seniors taking in the freshman class ... "I think it's been really good. All the seniors are rooming with the freshmen. Part of that is to get to know them and set the example and expectation. Some guys have always done that. Kevin Koger is one of the better leaders that I think we have because of who he is -- his character, his integrity -- but I think a lot of those guys are stepping up."
On Robinson's improvement in his system ... "I think he's a great fit in what we do. He's done a tremendous job. We're fortunate that he has some other things that he brings to the table that maybe another guy doesn't, and I think it's progressing. We're installing more and more that we want to do and that he can do. We're not going to ask him things he can't do. We wouldn't do that to Devin [Gardner] or him. I think he's doing great with it."
On adapting the personnel to the offense or the offense to the personnel ... "You've got a system you want to run, but you're not going to put a square peg in a round hole. That's what Al [Borges] has been able to do. Al's coaching pedigree and what he's done, he's always seemed to make the right fit. That's why he's at Michigan. He understands playmakers need to have the ball in their hands. They're the ones who need to make plays for you, but at the end of the day we still need to block up front. We need to knock people off the football to have success no matter what you do."
On the process of bringing in defensive coordinator Greg Mattison ... "He's a tremendous coach and a tremendous leader. He's got great integrity and relationships that he builds the kids -- 18-23 year olds. He frames what your defense is, and on a daily basis the fundamentals and techniques you want to play with. He's coached a lot of football, coached a lot of guys, so I think he brings so much from a knowledge standpoint to a guy who's going to represent this team with high character and integrity and a guy who's going to pass that along to the kids on defense."
On the leadership of senior tight end Kevin Koger ... "All you've got to do is spend a half hour with him. His demeanor and his selflessness and the sacrifice he'll give for this team to help the team. He's a tremendous guy, and I'm talking about things not on the football field, because that will take care of itself. He's a guy who has impressed me with what he's done in the weight room, what he does in winter conditioning and what he does all year long. He's always been on point, and he's a great kid to be around."
On offensive coordinator Al Borges' work with quarterbacks ... "They're all different. We all have different philosophies with how we handle kids. We all have different benchmarks and expectations, and part of Al is the guys he's coached and the places he's been. It's different when you're at Portland State, where you've got a whole different dynamic, than when he went to UCLA and then a whole different dynamic when you go to San Diego State. Number one, his knowledge of playing the position, because he's worked very hard to make sure that he's up to speed on all quarterback play. He did that 25 years ago. When you look for new things or what might be out there -- and this is any position -- when you want to look at technique or scheme, you don't learn about it. You go make those calls and stay ahead of the curve. Al is that kind of a guy. I think he does a nice job of looking at what you have and what to do with it."
On the defense ... "I don't think we've played to the standard that's going to be acceptable to this point. We need to be more physical at the point of attack. I think we need to have an urgency in some of the things when you change coverage communication, and I think that we have to have a mentality of how we want to attack the football. So, it's coming, but it's not where we'd like to have it.
"Tom Gordon has had a good summer. [Jordan] Kovacs has really taken ownership, and I think Kenny Demens [too]. Kenny's done really good things, and a guy named Nathan Brink, who we kind of saw at the end of spring. As a five technique or a three technique up front, he's got a real physicality to him, and he's a tough guy from what I can tell. J.B. Fitzgerald is another guy who stands out as far as his leadership goes and selflessness; he's been excellent. There's probably other guys who've come along a little more, but we've got to have 11 guys at a time, playing at the same level, and there's got to be a fanaticism that you need to pay defense with."
On coaching urgency ... "If we're not chasing them and we're not doing what we need to do as coaches, then you accept a lack of urgency. Well, we're not accepting that. That's not how we're going to play defense, and it's a culture you always need to stay on top of. If guys don't play that way and practice that way, they're not going to play. We'll take 23 guys on defense and go play games."
On senior/junior safety Jordan Kovacs ... "Putting him in the right position, he's a guy who can get things lined up for you. He's a tough guy, and he will go attack the football. He has a great deal of pride. In his performance on a daily basis, he's one of those guys who has an urgency for getting to the football. I am pleased with what he's done to this point, and he's a guy who probably won't take a step back."
On what he expects to see this week ... "We'll see adversity. Every team has adversity during the course of the season, during the course of the game. We'll have adversity, because we're demanding and there is an expectation of how you show up in this building. We'll see if they're going to handle it. It's a struggle. It's part of fall camp. It's going to be hard."
On planning for adversity ... "We're going to do the two-minute drill today. In the two-minute drill, you're talking about pressure from both sides of the ball, and that's going to be fun. We want to see how we'll react. We have all kinds of situations they have to know as an offensive guy and a defensive guy. When you start talking about down-and-distance field position, field goals and touchdowns, how do you want to play, how you get set, how you get the call from the coach on the sidelines, how you communicate, the quickness of the receivers to get back on the line -- that's the greatest drill ever. I would do full line, full line for us in an interior drill, linebackers and the front. I would do that drill two hours a day, about 900 plays with each other, and I'd do two minutes and then I'd go home."
On the fullback competition ... "John [McColgan] is another guy who shows great leadership. He's a tough guy, and you have to be to play in a pro-style offense. But I think he's done a tremendous job for us. When you look at it, he's one of the true fullback bodies. We'll do a lot with Steve Watson -- one of those tight ends that will put us at a 12-person out instead of a 21-person out package. That could help us put the power play in some of those things."
On the Wolverines' progress ... "We've had a better indication of where we're at from a standpoint of teaching, learning, philosophy -- all those things that have to go along with it -- than where we were in January. There's been a lot of improvement made by this team since January. When you see the attitude they come to work with and you see the closeness and competitiveness, they're starting to -- in my opinion -- take hold of and embrace it. I think there is a realization, because we talk about it every night -- of who we are, who we represent and how special that is."
On some opinions that it will take a few years to turn the program around ... "I think I've made this comment before, but it's Michigan. There aren't going to be any excuses. If we don't win the Big Ten Championship, then we fail these kids as coaches. Our job is to put them in the greatest position where they can succeed, and our job is to put them in positions where they are doing things the right way in this community and on campus -- the work ethic and selflessness that they need to have. If we don't do that, then we've failed and we need to go back to work."