Press Conference Comments from
U-M Head Football Coach Lloyd Carr
Previewing Vanderbilt (Sept. 2)
Opening statement ... "Good morning, we're excited about the beginning of this season and hosting a Vanderbilt team that as we have studied them in the off season, Coach Johnson has done a tremendous job. They're a very competitive program and well-coached. They've played hard, they compete hard, and they've done an excellent job recruiting.
"The problem for both teams as you go into an opener is that there's always some unexpected things that you have to be able to adjust, and that's for our coaches and players, as well. So that's part of the fun of it. But we're looking forward to it, and I'd be happy to take any questions."
Are you comfortable with the starting tandem along the right side of the offensive line ... "Yes, Alex Mitchell has had an excellent fall. I think he's going to be a very, very fine offensive lineman. He is a big guy, a very good athlete, moves well and is powerful, and I think he will get better as the season goes on."
About your team's knowledge of Vanderbilt ... "Our knowledge of Vanderbilt is based on the press guide and the Internet, and of course the news coverage that they have received. We're limited because it's a new team. It's like we are; we're a new team. And yet as I watch them from a year ago, what I can tell you is that they're replacing (Jay) Cutler, but as I read about (Sean) Dixon and (MacKenzi) Adams, it sounds like those guys have both had outstanding springs and falls. They have the nucleus of a team that competed awfully well, and I was particularly impressed with the way they competed on the road.
"At Florida they had an opportunity to win that game. At the end of the game, they had a penalty that went against them, a controversial play. I think as a group, as a team and as a program, they've done a great job of going onto the road and playing very well. I don't think they're going to be intimidated by anything that they see, and I'm sure in reading the reports, they're excited about this opener and the opportunities that they have."
Is there any particular anxiety that comes with being a head coach in an opener ... "I think it's exciting. I think that's the word. General Eisenhower used to say, 'If you have any worries, tell them to your pillow.' I don't have anything to share with you about anxieties. I really, other than the competitive part of it, I don't have it. I think we have had an excellent fall. I think we've worked this team extremely hard, and I think they're in great condition, and I think mentally they're extremely excited to get going. It's a long training camp, three weeks, so I think there's more a sense of anticipation and excitement."
What separated Charles Stewart to earn the starting right cornerback spot ... "I think we did have excellent competition, and we continue to have excellent competition. You're always faced with some battles that go into the season when the competition dictates that. Morgan Trent has had a good fall, he is right there. It was not an easy decision. Charles is an excellent tackler, a physical guy, and into the boundary he's the kind of run support guy that I think we need. And yet Johnny Sears and Brandon Harrison have also competed well there. So I'm excited and hopeful that all those guys will get a chance to play."
About the play of the linebackers this fall ... "I think David Harris has improved significantly as a pass defender, and of course he's a guy with great experience. He's been in all the big games, and I think he had a good year a year ago. But David is a very physical player, a guy that I think is ready to have an excellent year."
"Shawn Crable, as I've mentioned, I think his upside is his ability and now the knowledge that he has obtained and the confidence that he has. He's a big guy, extremely athletic, probably one of the faster linebackers we've had at Michigan. Shawn can run with the best of them, and he has great height and makes a lot of plays knocking balls down. But he has really come on.
"And of course Chris Graham started a year ago, started some games, a tough guy that will give you everything he's got. And Prescott Burgess has had a good fall. He has experience at every position. He probably will be the first guy to go in. He's a versatile guy that can play any of those three positions."
About the role of Alijah Bradley and moving him to wide receiver ... "Alijah has always been an outstanding pass receiver and he's a very tough, competitive guy, and because of the way he has competed towards particularly the end of last season, I think he has gained the confidence of his coaches and his teammates. What we've tried to do with him because of our depth at tailback is find a place, find a role for him, and I think there are a lot of things he brings to our receiving corps that will enable him to play an important role this fall."
Are you concerned about penalties during the opener ... "I think every day that you practice in the spring, every day that you practice in the fall, one of the things that you're trying to do is create situations that are game-like. We have officials at almost every practice, and as coaches we're trying to educate particularly young players on the importance that penalties play in almost every game because they stall drives, they keep drives alive for the opponents, they create bad field position if you're on the return side. If you're on the coverage side, they create better field positions. So that's part of the ongoing education that you're trying to develop to be a smart team."
About Vanderbilt wide receiver Earl Bennett ... "It's extremely impressive. I read that he may be the greatest freshman receiver in the history of Vanderbilt, and if you look at what he did a year ago, it's easy to understand what he brings to the table. He is an extremely talented guy, and he creates big play potential for them. For a young player, he shows great authority and awareness. He's an outstanding football player. When you have a good enough freshman year to earn pre-season All-SEC, that speaks to the respect that you've earned."
What are you expecting from Vanderbilt's running backs ... "Well, as I read the reports, there have been some injury situations, so I really don't know what to expect there."
About Mark Bihl's fall and how he has developed as a center ... "Mark I thought came on late last season. He struggled here for a long time, and I think the thing that comes to mind when Mark Bihl is mentioned is a real great work ethic, a guy that has gone to work in the weight rooms, much stronger than he was two years ago, and he's a smart player and he's a guy that enjoys and has fun playing the game. He's a serious competitor and likes to play.
"I think at that position, I think center is probably as challenging as anyplace on the field, that along with the quarterback. That's where the play starts. So it's a major responsibility and serves for calls at the line of scrimmage and trying to remember all the things that have to be done before the ball is snapped, and of course when the ball is snapped, you're in there because you happen to have the ball in your hand."
What has been the biggest surprise in Chad Henne's development ... "I don't have any surprises because I've seen this guy come in here and do some astounding things as a freshman. I've seen him handle the good days and the bad days, and he's typical of the guys I've had at this position. He is resilient, he is focused, he has wonderful abilities, and I think he's certainly, because of the experiences he had, he has a confidence in himself and what he's trying to do, and I think he's become a very good leader."
Do you remember having this much depth at linebacker and could you play some 3-4 sets ... "I think we will play some multiple fronts. We are probably fundamentally under defense, which is an overshifted 3-4 defense, but on passing down certain situations, we change our fronts. So we do have good depth from the standpoint that in the front the first four guys played a lot. John Thompson played a critical role in our game last year since Iowa. Brandon Logan has played a lot of special teams. We don't necessarily have great experience from a playing standpoint, but we do have some young players that have been around, and they all bring something to the game."
Is there a chance you could use two punters in different situations or could you settle on one guy ... "I think they're very, very different guys in terms of their abilities. They both bring something to the table, and I think we very easily could use both of them, and we'll have to see how we do when we get into the season, but (Zoltan) Mesko certainly has punted the ball as well as we could have expected him to.
"And of course he's a left-footed punter, which creates a different spin on the ball, so it's a different deal back there when you're used to a right-footed punter. That ball comes down a little bit differently when it's from a left-footed punter.
"And Ross Ryan is extremely consistent. He did an excellent job a year ago, and certainly he will play an important role in our kickoffs, but I think both of them bring something that we will be able to utilize."
On the freshman he plans to use this season and whether he's determined to redshirt certain guys ... "I don't make those decisions at this time of the year. I think what we have to see is how the season goes. Injuries always impact your depth, and of course their development impacts the depth. If a guy gets an opportunity and plays well, then that increases his role. At this stage I can't tell you I've made a definite decision from that standpoint, although there are a few guys that something would really have to happen for them to not get an opportunity to play this year."
Can you speak in general about the health of your team this fall ... "I think the only significance from a time standpoint is Justin Boren. We have some guys that have some nagging-type bumps and bruises, and we'll have to see how those respond this week. But in terms of where we are compared to a year ago, it's night and day."
About the transition to a new coordinator having an experience offensive unit ... "I think any time you have guys that have been around, it makes it easier because you don't have to -- there are a lot of things that you don't have to spend a lot of time on. But I think experience is a wonderful thing, and it's not easy to get. Normally there's a lot of suffering that goes with gaining experience. I think that we've really been able to hone in on what we're doing because we're not doing as much, and I think the idea is to do what we do and do it well."
What will people see different offensively and defensively ... "Well, I think that depends on their knowledge of the game. That's why if they're interested, they will watch the game and they will see us Saturday. I think there are some significant changes, but I hear this all the time, and I think every coach hears this, every coach. 'They're so predictable. I can call the plays before they're ever run. I know before the ball is snapped when a play is going to be run.' Those people, of course, won't know (laughter)."
How has Charles Stewart done this fall ... "Well, as I mentioned, he had a very good spring. He has competed hard, and football is more important to some people than others. Charles is one of those guys that he really loves the game. I mean, when you watch him, those are the things you see. He makes mistakes but he has learned to move on after he makes a mistake. A lot of young players make a mistake and they can't put it behind them, and that, of course, leads to other problems. But maturity allows you to play hard, and if you make a mistake, you move on. That's something that's not easy to learn, but I think he's really made a lot of progress.
"He did an excellent job a year ago in special teams, and any time a guy gets a chance to play in special teams, you find out first of all in special teams if a guy is tough, if he's aggressive, if he enjoys that kind of role. And normally that is -- if he does, that's an excellent omen as far as what he can do in other parts of the game."
About Mike Kolodziej ... "Mike Kolodziej's season is over. Early in the camp we had a problem, and so I think in his best interest Mike is not going to play this fall. I would hesitate to say it, but I think I can say it's been ongoing. That's where we are."
About the recommitment to the running game ... "I feel very confident that we're going to be able to run the football much more effectively than we did a year ago. I don't necessarily think in this day and age that you have to run the football like we wanted to run it 20 years ago. I think defenses have forced -- they can dictate that you must throw the football. If they want to put enough guys up there, then that's why you have to be -- I think to be successful, you have to be able to do both. But there are times in a game when you have to be able to line up and run the football, and when they know you're going to run the football. There are times when you have to be able to do that, and those tests will come.
"But I feel very positive because I think we have very, very good depth in the backfield, and I think our offensive line is going to get better as the year goes on, and I think our receivers pose a threat. We've got enough speed at the receiver position that we can do some things if they insist on bringing eight, nine guys up."
About Mike DeBord saying Michigan needs to average 30 points ... "I don't know about 30 points. I think you have to be able to score. Every game takes on its own personality, and every team that you play has different strengths and weaknesses, but when you're playing a team that is explosive, that has the ability to score a lot of points, then that certainly becomes a factor. But our hope is that we will play good enough defense that we don't get into shootouts. Because I don't care who you are, if you get into shootouts, then anything can happen. So if you play great defense and run the football, then you can keep the other team off the field. That's something we did not do a very good job of a year ago at the end of the game. It still becomes a team game with your special teams protecting the football, not turning it over at the short end of the field. If you can do those things, then you can score enough points to win."
Do you need a go-to receiver like you've had in the past ... "No, I don't think that you have to have one go-to guy. I think that happens, but I'm confident that Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham, that those guys have really -- if I had to point to two guys, I think Manningham is bigger and stronger, and I think he's fast. Breaston has had a great off season, had a great fall, and I think he's learned a lot of things going through a tough year a year ago when he was nagged by injuries. I think we've got some young guys that we'll see how Adrian Arrington does after missing a year. I think Greg Mathews is going to help this football team, and I think Alijah Bradley will help this football team."
What does Jake Long need to do in order to reach the potential you've talked about him possessing ... "I think a great player is going to dominate at his position, and when you're the left tackle, that means that you protect the blind side of the quarterback, you normally line up with their best pass rusher. I think that you see the quarterback a lot from the backside, than something has happened. In the running game, a guy with Jake's ability should be able to knock his man off the line of scrimmage and thread the defense and create running lanes for the tailback. So it's still a team game, but the great player is going to dominate at his position."
What are Obi Oluigbo's abilities at fullback ... "I think Oluigbo will be a guy to watch. He's in great physical condition. He's hasn't lost a lot of weight but maybe a few pounds, but he's one of the quicker fullbacks we've had. He's improved dramatically as a receiver, and I think a lot of that has to do with his conditioning. He has displayed the ability to be an outstanding blocker. He's smart, he's tough, and he's ready to go."
About Brandon Minor ... "I see a guy that has great instincts. What he has displayed at this camp is an ability to find a hole and to make good cuts. I think he's displayed excellent toughness and maturity for a true freshman."
Do you have a magic number of carries you want Mike Hart to get ... "Yes, there's a magic number, just enough to win."
Do you think with the depth you have a tailback that you won't need to ride Mike like in the past ... "I don't know what ride means, but I think Mike Hart is a great football player. He brings a lot of things to the table other than running the football. He's a great pass protector, and he wants the football and yet this schedule this season is a grind. So with that in mind, we want him -- I think there's always a point where a guy plays too many plays, and there could be a point where he doesn't get the ball enough. So that's one of our challenges as a coaching staff is to make sure that he gets enough and make sure that he doesn't get too many."
Do you like not having a bye week and do you see this becoming common place ... "Not if the NCAA knows what they're doing because if they know what they're doing, next year we'll have an opportunity to have a bye week by starting the season a week earlier because it is not in the best interest in the players in this conference to play 12 consecutive games. And yet we all -- we have a great tradition here in this conference that our players have an opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families. So I think they would prefer a bye week, and I think that's the right thing to do, even though it does cost a few more dollars to have training camp start a week earlier and start the season a week earlier. But since we're playing 12 games for the money, I don't think that's a big issue."
About the new rules this year, specifically the smaller tee and the clock management ... "I am very reluctant to criticize the rules committee and I won't do that. I do think the change in the starting of the game clock after a change of possession is one of the most significant rule changes in the last 50 years, and I think it's going to create a lot of scenarios at the end of games that are much different than what the fans and the players and the coaches are used to.
"Now, the intent as I understand it is to speed up the game. I think what we have to do is see how it goes. But we have spent a lot of time in this training camp trying to be on top of that situation. If you understand this, with 10 seconds to go there's a change in possession, that clock is going to start at the same time as the 25-second clock starts, and I think the 25-second clock in college football is probably an area that is probably least understood among college football fans. But I do think that the changes are significant, and I know that there are a lot of people that are not happy with the changes. I think we have to see what happens."
About the lack of game experience in the offensive line backups ... "I think we have some young guys that are going to be good players. They lack experience, there's no question about that, but I think Justin Boren is going to play a very important role in this football team if he comes back. I look at Steve Schilling, a true freshman, I think he's a guy that's going to be an outstanding player here. What they lack is experience. That's true, I think, for most people. You're not going to have experienced players every position. But that's the way it is."
Do you think your players believe they have something to prove ... "I think the players are motivated by their goals and aspirations, and I think when you come off a disappointing season, sometimes it's a motivator, sometimes it isn't. I can't answer that. But I think the important thing is they understand and we all understand that all of our hard work is for an opportunity to play 12 times, and you can't replay them. You don't get a chance to do it over. You get one chance per week, and if you want to be a championship team, you have to take advantage of those 12 opportunities."
About the lower kicking tee ... "I think it makes a difference. I don't think it's great news. But there's no question that it's going to lead to more kick returns, and that was the intent of the rule. I think the other part of that rule change that is significant is that the clock now will start when toe meets leather. So that's a change. At the end of those games, that becomes pretty important."
Are you going to eat timeouts and take delay of game penalties to preserve time at the end of games ... "You can second-guess me, but I think you're getting on to the real major issue with the rule changes because when you get to the end of the game, it is, I think, even more important with the rule changes that you have tried to maintain your timeouts.
"The other decision you have to make because in a lot of cases if you have a miscommunication in the huddle or in the signal or a substitution doesn't match with the play called, there's a thousand things that can happen. So if you're 3rd and 2, you're going to have to take a timeout because 3rd and 2, now you're 3rd and 7. Every possession is important. So that's the way I look at it.
"Now, if we get a penalty and it's 3rd down and 10, I would probably take a penalty because the odds are if you're playing an excellent defensive team, you want to save your timeouts. Every guy looks at that differently, and that's why it will be the coach that makes that decision. But they're not easy decisions, and that's why, you talk about discipline, it's critical that coaches do a good job getting the play in in time, that the quarterback be able to get that call, get the team to the line of scrimmage and that every guy knows where to line up because if you line up wrong and you've got a play called, the play is already destroyed before -- or at least the percentage of success, the odds are against you. All those issues, that's what it's coming down to."
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