Aug. 27, 2012
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "It's going to be a big game week. It's been a long camp. I think it's been productive in a lot of ways. I think we've found out a little bit more about ourselves. I think we finished and ended camp at the end of the week, and really yesterday we had a good practice with being physical with each other, having a good mentality and a toughness.
"I think we improved. I think they came in and competed every day which is a big part of it. The other thing we talked about is coming in with a lot of energy when we come in the building. We voted captains last night, and I'm really proud of both of the guys (Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs) who were selected to be captains by their peers. Both of them deserve that, and they've been tremendous when you look at their leadership and what they've done for us as a football team to this point.
"We also have a whole group of seniors who have done a really good job. So with that being said, I'm really proud of these two guys leading this football team. We've got a big week ahead of us. We practiced last night. Today we'll meet and have some meetings. Tuesday will be a normal workday. Wednesday will be a little lighter, not a whole lot. Then Thursday will be our normal Thursday. Then we'll get on the plane and go. We're excited about it. We're excited about the opportunity.
"Obviously, the defending National Champions and the job that Nick's done is one that we'll respect, and it will be a lot of fun for us to go down there and compete, compete for Michigan and compete for the Big Ten Conference."
On the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint for Saturday's game against Alabama ... "We haven't made a decision yet."
On when he plans on making a decision about Toussaint's status ... "Soon."
On how late in the week he can go before making a decision on Fitzgerald Toussaint ... "We've had a lot of reps by a lot of guys. So we feel comfortable in whatever we're going to do."
On Frank Clark's status for Saturday's game against Alabama ... "Same."
On if Quinton Washington won the starting job at nose tackle ... "Well, he's won it, I think, with the ability. We wanted a little bigger guy at the three, and we're moving William Campbell, and he's played a lot of three the last two seasons or 18 months. So we wanted a little bigger body, and there are some things that they do that we think it's important to have a little more physicalness. Jibreel (Black) can play three in certain situations, and he can play the rush end, so I think it just gives us a little stronger, stouter front."
On how Brennen Beyer looked during fall camp ... "I thought Brennen had a good camp. I think Brennen is a guy who did a nice job in the offseason when you look at some strength gains, some weight gains. He's had a good camp. He's a guy that we'll count on; especially I know during the course of the season you're always going to need that added depth. You're always going to need guys in certain defensive looks that you may play, who can be a little stouter at the line of scrimmage. He's multiple where he can play the Sam if we needed to play more or the rush. So I think he's a smart guy. That always helps. I think he's got very good talent."
On facing Alabama's offensive line ... "They're a physical front, they're a big front. We feel that the best players are always going to play, but the best players in those positions are a big part of it. That's part of it. There is no doubt about it. You start getting yourself nickels and dime packages and that front changes anyway."
On if he sees this game as a step that Michigan needs to reestablish itself as a top program ... "Well, again, reestablish, I don't buy into that and never have. But I do think it's a great marker for where we're at as a program and what we can be. I think every first game every year though you learn a lot about yourselves, you go into it because every team is different.
"I went back and thought about last year at this time. I didn't know if we were going to win two games let alone 11, because you don't know until you get in the real deal as far as playing games. Honestly, it's something that we'll find out. We'll find out about ourselves."
On Roy Roundtree's status ... "He's good. He practiced yesterday. He ran with the first group. I don't think we had one problem with Roy."
On how comfortable he is with Thomas Rawls at running back ... "I think Rawls, (Vincent) Smith and Justice Hayes in his development, I think all three of those guys. They're all a little bit different. But all three of those guys have really had a good camp. Like with Justice, him picking up a little bit more on the offense totally, the passing game, the protection part of it, all that and being able to stick your nose on a guy. I feel pretty good about that. You know, Hopkins is a valuable guy at fullback, Number one because of what he gives us. But he's also a guy who still always takes a carry or two at the tailback position."
On if there is a danger to opening the season against Alabama ... "I don't know if there's any danger to it. It's what you expect when you coach here and play here. To play in those kind of games. I think the maturity process for our team, believe me, I think our guys have known since spring who they open up with. So honestly, it doesn't matter."
On the number of true freshmen on the depth chart ... "Well, I think there are obviously some talented guys who probably are going to get better as the season progresses. I think it speaks to itself to some degree about depth and where we feel we are and where we need to be. I think they have all done a pretty good job. The one thing about freshmen is they become older, young guys get older, and one bad thing is they're freshmen. So we'll stub a toe here and there on the way."
On how Michigan's non-conference schedule can prepare the team for its goal of winning the Big Ten ... "I think like anything else, the better competition you play, the more it pushes you as a player. I think it's a mindset. We want to get better throughout the season, because if you don't, if you go backwards, you really struggle. So I think it helps us in a lot of different areas. From the environment we're going to play in and being able to be focused in the preparation. I mean, the mental part of it, because come Saturday, it's all mental. It really becomes all mental. I mean, there are physical abilities these guys have, but it becomes mental and how you determine how you're going to play and react. So I think it helps us."
On how much time Devin Gardner will spend at quarterback and wide receiver ... "You'll see him at receiver a little bit. He's done some of that during camp, and it's been good on both ends of it. He's taken some snaps at quarterback. So I don't know and I surely won't tell you this is the amount of plays he'll do either, but I expect to see him out on the field."
On the rationale he will use to determine whether Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark will play against Alabama ... "Every day. How they come in every day, how they perform every day, how they are true teammates every day. They're not done paying consequences on our level yet."
On if he finds himself in a tough spot trying to decide if Toussaint and Clark will play ... "I think whenever you're in this position you've got to make decisions that are best for the program. That doesn't mean for one specific team. That means for the program. That means for the identity and the character of the program that you represent. Are they easy decisions? No. Are they decisions you want to make because you love the kids? No. But you have to make them."
On if it is an uncomfortable spot to be in as the head coach ... "I'm comfortable with what I want to do, very comfortable with that. Talking to all of you guys about it, no, that's not comfortable, because it's talking about two kids who are sons to us and made bad decisions."
On if he knows what his decision will be on Toussaint and Clark ... "Oh, I probably have an idea."
On if he has named as starting punter ... "Will Hagerup will do the punting. Will has done a good job. They've both, in seriousness, they've both done a really good job, and I'm excited about how they competed. I didn't think we started the summer off as well as we'd like or the fall camp, but I really like how they've competed. Right now, Will will do the punting, Matt will do the kickoffs and Matt would also do some of the pooch punting, if we got into some of those situations.
On who would kick in long field goal situations ... "You know, I still think the way Brendan's (Gibbons) been kicking the ball, I think we're in good shape with him. If it got outlandish, long, then we'd probably say, all right, Matt, go ahead."
On what he considers an outlandish field goal attempt ... "54, 55 yards. Something like that, I think that's outlandish."
On if he has tried a field goal from 54 or 55 yards ... "Yes. I'll try about anything."
On if not having Fitzgerald Toussaint against Alabama would be a major blow to the team ... "No, I think we've got guys that have worked awfully hard. I think we've got guys that have gotten a lot of reps through the course of spring football and fall camp. I think the two new kids, the young kids have gotten some valuable time from a special teams standpoint and a running back standpoint. So I feel very comfortable with whoever is going to dot that I or be in the gun next to Denard. Vince Smith's played a lot of football here, lot of football. Rawls, carry-wise probably not close, but Thomas Rawls, he fits. Justice is a guy who I've seen grow as a back."
On if he will make a decision on Toussaint before game time ... "I'm sure I'll say something when the time's right."
On if he will make the decision right before kickoff ... "I don't know. I haven't figured all of that out. I've got an idea."
On how ready he believes Denard Robinson is for Saturday's game against Alabama ... "Denard, in my opinion is always ready. Sometimes you've got to bring him back a little bit because of the excitement and his love for the game of football, love for his teammates and love for Michigan. At times you have to reign him in and make sure he's not -- I don't want him to go out there and we don't want him to go out there and think that he has to do it all on his own. Because that's not what he needs to do. He'll be a big part of what we do offensively, as he always is, but I'd rather reign in a bucking bronco than try to get an old mule moving. So I like it when he's excited."
On how to help Denard Robinson stay calm before games ... "I think you just talk about it. You can be amateur psychologist all you want, but it still comes down to that guy understanding where he needs to be. I think at times when he thinks he has to do more than what he needs to do. He's been great. He's been great in fall. He's gotten when we have game day and any time we go up to the stadium is our game day, he gets himself exactly where he needs to be. I can tell when I walk into the meeting with him."
On how Michael Schofield performed in camp ... "I think he played well. I think he's improved. I remember a year ago when we had to count on him with Ricky Barnum being out, and I think he grew up a lot. We're excited about Mike. We're glad he's at Michigan. And I think he really did do a nice job of changing himself a little bit from maybe a mentality of how you prepare and how you get ready, and also from a physical standpoint."
On how important it is for the team to have one or two marque running backs ... "I think it's very important to our offense. I think if you asked Al, he'd tell you the same thing. We need to, number one, the balance that that can give you keeps a defense a little bit more on edge or they've got to plan for it more. The other part of it, we'd like to keep Denard healthy and that's a big part of it. When you've got somebody who can carry the other part of the load like Fitz ended up doing, I think that's huge to have the balance."
On how he feels about depth at offensive line compared to a year ago at this time ... "You know, we probably are a little better off when you look at numbers. It still is a very young -- Elliott Mealer and I don't know how many total snaps he's played in his career here. He's an older guy with not a ton of game experience, but I think his confidence level and he's really done a tremendous job. He, by far in my opinion has had one of the best fall camps that I've seen an offensive lineman have. I think there is enough in there with the different combinations of guys. We played Pat Omameh a little at right tackle. We played Mealer at center. We've done a lot of different combination that have been good for us."
On the audio and visual distractions at the team's practice at Ford Field ... "It was for the whole team. To be honest with you, it was for the whole team to see how we handle, number one. We wanted as many distractions as we could get. Part of that is noise, part of that is what was on the big screen, you know I heard John Belushi up there and Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction. You kind of look to see who looked up, and I looked up at Belushi once. He never won an Oscar. I can't understand why. To be honest with you, it was really good for the defense, because they've got to be signaling, talking, communicating, checking formations, whatever it might be, and it was really good for the offense. I think we all thought we had a very tempo, not-many-mistakes practice. It's kind of getting them out of their same routine too."
On Jibreel Black adding weight during the offseason ... "He's a little stouter at the point of attack. If you've ever seen Jibreel's brother who plays at Indiana, Jibreel can get bigger - let's put it that way. His brother's a big man. But I think it's helped him. The initial punch and the extension, all of the things from the first step, I think point of attack is much better."
On if Alabama's offensive line is one of the best he's ever seen ... "From what I've seen of them, yes. Compare them to some of those Iowa lines when I was here before and being as good as anybody."
On if he is concerned about Alabama's physicality ... "No, I don't think so. Because it doesn't always mean how big you are and how tall you are and how heavy you are. There's a lot to be said with playing with fundamentals, technique and an unbelievable motor. It's probably as big as anything. There are times when you can get blocked. But if you are playing from snap to whistle, good things can happen."
On if he feels like his team is an underdog against Alabama ... "No."
On why he feels that way ... "I like Michigan."
On if Michigan is defending its honor against Alabama ... "Defending its honor? I don't know. I don't know if defending its honor -- I don't know that we've ever had to defend our honor. But I know one thing, it's competition. You go to win competitions. You prepare to go play your best and represent 133 years of Michigan football. Represent a great institution, and represent ourselves and our families."
On if there is added pressure to represent the Big Ten against Alabama ... "I think for some people it would probably look that way. To be honest with you, our first and foremost is to represent the University of Michigan and this team. This team 133, representing the Big Ten is part of it. I don't see pressure. I see guys going to play their best football and preparing to play their best football."
On Dennis Norfleet ... "He's difficult to defend sometimes. He's got the ability, he's got good vision. He's quick, he can accelerate. He's not the biggest guy in the world. But he has a knack and he has a skill level for kickoffs and punts."
On how Jordan Kovacs and Denard Robinson have grown as leaders ... "I think they both have always had a voice, and again, since we've been here, 19, 20, I don't know how long we've been here, but they've always had a voice. I think they've always represented themselves, number one, in a first class manner at the same time they've done a good job within the framework of the team. I think Jordan and Denard both from their actions speak so much more loudly than their words. I think the comfort level that -- being a senior -- probably has allowed them to speak more prominently."
U-M Senior Safety Jordan Kovacs
On his reaction to being named team captain ... "I was honored. It says a lot about my teammates and my struggles, and what I've had to overcome to be where I am today. But it truly is an honor and something I really appreciate. The only thing I can do is be the best leader I can be for this team and that's how I will pay them back."
On playing the defending national champions on such a big stage ... "We have a great sense of urgency. We are playing arguably the best team in college football. I've said it several times, that's why you come to Michigan, to play in those huge games. Sure enough, that's what we have in week one. We are playing the defending national champs in Dallas, on national TV; you wouldn't want it any other way."
On where the program stands compared to where it was one year ago ... "You can't say enough about him (Coach Hoke). He's an unbelievable coach who has an unbelievable passion for Michigan football. I think that's what separates him from all other coaches. He's a tough-loving guy. He's one of those guys who can get on you, but you don't take it personally. You know he's a football coach and you know at the end of the day he truly cares about you. That's the thing that's unique about him. He can rip you but you know that he loves you. It's really easy to play for a guy like that."
On goals for this team ... "Obviously we've got our own goals that will stay in-house, both offensively and defensively. But at the end of the day, you come to Michigan to win Big Ten championships. I think that's one thing that coach Hoke emphasizes, as well as the rest of the seniors. It's all we've ever cared about since I've been here and our expectations have always been the same. The team, the team, the team, and Big Ten championships."
On Michigan being an underdog in the opening game ... "They're the defending national champions. We wouldn't want it any other way. Last I heard, we were a two touchdown underdogs, but that's alright."
U-M Senior Quarterback Denard Robinson
On being elected captain ... "First, I want to say that it is an honor. It is a dream come true to be a captain and a leader of this great football team that we have here. It is an honor behind some of the guys that came before us. I have to make the most of it. My teammates picked me, now I have to live up to it."
On not getting too overexcited for the game ... "I just have to try to calm down. I know that is my weakness, so I need to try to calm down a little more. I have been working on it. At practice, I will try to amp myself up a little more so that I can work on calming myself back down."
On facing the Alabama defense ... "They are going to be a fast and physical team. They have great coaches and great players. If you look at the stats from last year, they were one of the teams that did not give up too many yards on defense."
On if this game will allow Michigan to reestablish itself as a national power ... "Michigan is always going to be Michigan. All the wins that came before us already put us there. We want to continue the legacy. That is what you come to Michigan for, to be part of something like this, to be a part of a big game like this and make the most of this opportunity. Make sure you play Michigan football the way Michigan football should be played."
On being ready for teams to force him to throw ... "We have some great receivers, and I am looking forward to throwing them the ball. But it all starts up front with the offensive line. If we get good timing with the offensive line and good blocking, I get enough time to make plays. I know the receivers can make the plays when I throw them the ball."
On the running back depth ... "You have Vincent Smith, Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes. Vince has played a lot of snaps for the University of Michigan. I have been handing the ball off to him and he has over 1,000 yards in his career. Those guys can handle the load. They have been having a good camp. We all trust them."
On whether the team focused on this first game while training in the offseason ... "I think we want to have a successful season, period. The big game, this first game, is what you come to Michigan for. When you are training, you don't want to make a mistake. In a game, you know that if you make that mistake, it can cost you the game. We tried to make less mistakes, do extra routes, make the most of this time that we did have."
On the freshmen class ... "Those guys were eager to learn and eager to play. They came out and were ready to make plays. You can tell that coach did a great job recruiting."
U-M Junior Offensive Lineman Taylor Lewan
On not getting overexcited for the game ... "It is just a game at the end of the day. We have been doing this since we were little kids. There is an excitement because you are playing the defending national champions. That is something to get excited about but you can't get overexcited."
On physically matching up with Alabama ... "I think if you were in camp with us for the past two weeks, you would have seen a lot of the guys stepping up in their positions. There was the Mike Martin/Ryan Van Bergen position that needed to get filled in. I think guys like Will Campbell have done a great job picking everything up. I am excited to see what they are going to be able to do on game day. You can control how physical you are going to be in the game. That is a mental thing you can take care of. It is not just a physical thing, it is also mental. If you go into a game feeling confident, then the sky is the limit."
On playing with speed ... "We have speed everywhere. I think we play the game just as fast as they (SEC teams) do. I think we do a great job. We have great athletes on this team like Roy Roundtree. (Jordan) Kovacs, he (is faster than he looks). He might not be the fastest guy, but he knows the game. He is a student of the game. I think when you know what is going on all the time, you can play pretty fast."
On the impact of Brady Hoke ... "This team wants to play for him. He comes in and there is always enthusiasm in our team meeting rooms. He is always there, bringing energy. You see a guy who is leading this program and has all that energy. Why wouldn't you have the same energy? We want to match his energy and enthusiasm. I think he has done a great job educating us on Michigan and the history of Michigan."
On not getting distracted by a big game ... "It is a mind thing. You have to focus on yourself, focus on Michigan. Your goal is to win. If you do your job every single play and everyone else does, why shouldn't you win? You have to stay honed in. You can't be looking around, doing all that stuff. You have to stay focused on the game."
On the moment that the team knew that things were turning around ... "I think that moment came with that first team meeting we had and the energy that Coach Hoke brought into the room. I think this whole team stuck together and we knew that if we wanted to do something special, now is the time to do it. The seniors last year did a great job of showing us how to play Michigan football. Even though last year was a failure, I feel like we are on the right track."
U-M Fifth-Year Wide Receiver Roy Roundtree
On being healthy ... "I'm 100 percent now. I went out there yesterday and felt good. Just being back in the huddle with Denard and the rest of the guys, I really can't wait. Once the doctors cleared me, I knew I would be fine. I was running and cutting on it last week. I got hit yesterday and didn't feel anything. I feel good about it. "
On playing such a big game opening weekend ... "It's such a big game. That's why we came here to Michigan. We expect to go down there and do well. I feel like Coach Hoke and the rest of the coaching staff are really getting us ready."
On filling the void as the most experienced receiver on the team ... "I'm a senior now. I feel like I'm ready. I'm the most experienced on the wide receiving corps. It's no pressure to me because I'm used to it."
On this opener feeling different than in previous years ... "It feels different because this is my last first game in college football. We are playing the defending national champs and this is a big test for all of us. Come Saturday, we'll see what we've learned and all the hard work we put in this summer."
On people considering Michigan the underdog against Alabama ... "Everybody has their own opinions. We know what we've got and we know that our coaches have prepared us. It's Michigan. We expect to win, and that's what we are going for. I don't think we're the underdogs. Both of our records are 0-0. They are the defending national champions; we are the defending Sugar Bowl champs. We'll see."