Aug. 29, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "Finishing fall camp on Saturday morning, I think we were very productive in what we wanted to get done. You're never going to be satisfied and it's never going to be as good as you'd like it to be. That's just part of being competitive. I think we developed as a team and became closer as a team. When you look at it as a team, I think we are excited to get going, and have that first opportunity. We have 12 opportunities and we have made that known to our players. We want to play, obviously, 14 [games]. But the 12 opportunities we have, we start with the first test this weekend.
"We voted on captains last night as a team. I think our players understand that our seniors will always be our leaders, and the three guys -- with Mike Martin on defense, Kevin Koger and David Molk on offense -- I think have demonstrated an ability to lead. I think they all three bring a lot to our football team. When you look at the leadership roles that they play, and you look also at the roles from a production standpoint and those kinds of things.
"Western Michigan is a well-coached, disciplined, tough football team and I've had a little bit of experience with Coach Cubit and how his teams play, offensively and defensively. And they play in a great conference. And I say that not because I played in that conference, believe me, or coached in it, but I think that conference you see coaches do a great job of developing kids and Bill is one of those guys who has done that over the years.
"Offensively they are led by a great quarterback in Alex Carder and when I say great, I do mean it. That he's as impressive as anybody that you'll turn tape on the entire year; with what he did a year ago and 30 touchdowns, over 63 percent in completions. I think their offense starts with him as most offenses do, but they are really a very, very good football team when you look at them. Jordan White, the wide receiver, has a sixth year of eligibility, he caught I believe 94 or 97 balls a year ago. So he'll be something for our secondary to contend with obviously. Then up front offensively, Anthony Parker, their left tackle is a guy who kind of spearheads that offensive line unit that's a big unit, and physical. They lost some guys from a year ago. But they really have some pieces. They have got a couple junior college transfers that Bill went out and recruited who I think they are pretty happy with.
"You don't know until you see them, obviously, live, and we looked forward to that on the third [of September]. Defensively, I think maybe some of the strength of their team is their defensive line. They have everyone coming back. Their secondary, they feel is one of the better ones in the Mid-American Conference, and they have always had guys back there who are going to be physical and going to attack the football.
"So we are excited. We are not near ready to play, and I'll probably say that on Friday. We are not near ready to play. But we get to play and that's a good thing. We get to see that first test where we are at as a team and as a program and to get out there and I guess not beat on each other, but you get to play with somebody else."
On the competition for starting spots at running back and special teams ... "I think there's just great competition. I think running back, Fitz (Toussaint) has done some good things. Michael (Shaw) has done some good things. Vincent Smith is a guy we talked about being a guy that would be a third down back for us for multiple reasons, but I think there's still some great competition there. And I think with J.T. (Floyd) and Troy (Woolfolk), and you look at Courtney Avery, I think Blake Countess is a young guy who has played pretty well, and Raymon Taylor I think, you know, all of those guys are competing and Gregg Brown too.
"I would suspect that J.T. and Troy would be the guys who would start the football game, but when we get into nickel then we get into some other situations.
On Will Heininger's ability to earn a starting job on the defensive line ... "I think it is, more than anything else, I think it's more his experience. We like what Nathan (Brink) has done, and you know, he's practiced very well, played well, been productive. But Will (Heininger) at the same time has done a good job. And the other guy who has come on a little bit is Will Campbell. I think that would be fluid up front. Because we want to play six guys during the course of a game so we can keep guys fresh and keep them healthy."
On if any of the starters are in doubt due to injury ... "No, health-wise, we are in great shape. As good as you can be coming out of fall camp. We had a pretty physical fall camp. And so I'm pretty pleased. Mike Jones had a little bit of a fever and pneumonia the other day, but just saw him on the way here, in fact and it feels pretty good."
On if his familiarity with Western Michigan is helpful ... "I don't know if it helps because you've got to go back to the tape that you had from a year ago. First games are always a little different as far as when you start to study; do you take the last four games or the first three from a year ago to see what they taught within their offense and defense. And then the last three games, you know, as far as when you start breaking an opponent down and looking at it.
"I really am impressed when you watch them play on the tape and you're a defensive guy. I always probably look at more offensive film of an opponent than I do defensively. But I'm very impressed with [WMU quarterback Alex] Carder and how he handles this offense."
On his emotions about leading the team out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel for the first time ... "It's a special place, being at Michigan. So I'm sure that will be very humbling. But the end of the day, we are playing a football game, and our consistency as coaches is important and so we'll move pretty close, pretty quickly to do what we have to do. I'm hoping we get to the sidelines the right way, and you know, you're always as a new staff, you're doing things different. When we go to dinner on Friday night, we'll practice at 5 p.m. on Friday night, and all those things are different than what have been done in the past. Those are things I'll be worrying about until the game's kicked off."
On Western Michigan's potential inability to prepare for Michigan ... "I'm sure they are a good football staff, and I'm sure that they have got a hold of all the San Diego State film they could from an offensive perspective. I think defensively, it's always a little harder to get any kind of NFL film, but usually and especially a guy, Bill has been around the block a long time, he's well thought of, I'm sure they have been able to see remnants of what we are trying to do."
On how much the running backs still have to prove themselves ... "I think they all do, it's not just the running backs. We want to evaluate them every day, you know, and if a guy doesn't meet the standard or expectation that we need to play with, and it could be any position, if he doesn't meet that standard, then we have got to find somebody else."
On the evaluation process for practices versus games ... "I'm a big believer in when you prepare and when you practice you're going to play that way. So if we have got great intensity getting to the football, our wide receivers are sustaining blocks and harassing corners, we expect that to be done during practice and that's a demand that we have, because I believe you play like you practice."
On giving both punters and both kickers opportunities to play in the game ... "Right now [Brendan] Gibbons is going to handle the field goals and if we get into a long field goal situation, I think Matt Wile or Kris Pauloski would be next in line for that. Matt will kick off, and Matt's going to punt."
On how his offense has evolved since spring practice ... "I think Denard Robinson's knowledge of what we are trying to do as a whole package, and I know there's still some things (offensive coordinator) Al Borges has not added to the mix, but I think him and his grasp of it is at a higher level than it was in the spring. I think when you put that together where he doesn't have to think as much and now can be settled in his fundamentals and techniques, I think that's where the growth has come, and that his growth as being a leader, you know and that maturity level, is at a higher place."
On the kicking range difference between Brendan Gibbons and Matt Wile ... "I think when you start getting over, let's say, I would guess from my observation, 43, 44 yards, something like that, you know, Matt's just got a little, I don't know if it's a bigger leg, better leg. He's got the opportunity to hit the ball more cleanly. You know, everybody attributes and compares it to golf and I can't tell you about golf. If you've seen me golf, you would know why. But it's kind of, you know, that sweet spot that he hits it with."
On if the offense is how he envisioned it ... "I think it depends, I really do. I think, you know, the basic plays of a pro style offense, you know, are a big part of it, the play-action game, all those things. There are some things out of the spread that we are obviously going to stay with. But kind of overlap a little bit, you know, with how you want to block at the point of attack and those things. But you know, we are still going to lineup and run the power play a bunch."
On his instructions to Denard Robinson in terms of trying to stay healthy ... "I think it's the same. You don't want him to take needless shots and we would not want Devin (Gardner) to either. We want him to be aggressive and always know what the stakes are but we don't want a guy to take needless shots if he can help it."
On the importance of playing veterans over freshmen and sophomores ... "I think that's an important part of it to some degree. I mean, believe me, if we thought those younger guys were at a point where the older guys are, and were better, the younger guys would be playing. I think we are growing with some youth and probably more, so on the defensive side of the ball, there are some guys that have a better chance to play than on the offensive side."
On the veteran starters and their hunger to succeed on the field ... "I hope they are hungry, first and foremost. This is a competitive game. This is the winningest program in college football. So I hope they understand those expectations that we have as a team and we have as a program.
"I think we had good competition. I guess that's what I would say. I think we have had really good competition and it's easy to see, our depth on both sides of the ball up front are not exactly where you would like it to be. And that's okay, because it's always an expectation for who is playing the position. And it doesn't matter if they are a fifth-year guy or a guy who is a true freshman. You have to play to a Michigan standard."
On how decisions were made about the starting lineup ... "Every day they are evaluated, and it doesn't matter, in the weight room, I talked to Aaron (Wellman) every day, how did he do, because we are looking for an attitude. We are looking for a team attitude first. If a guy goes in there and doesn't do what he needs to do to help his teammates, then we are going to have a problem with it. And so it all starts there, obviously when you are in those situational things that you do with the football aspect of it, you are expecting them to play at a fast level and fast tempo and with an enthusiasm for the game."
On Ryan Van Bergen being locked into defensive tackle ... "He's one of those guys that can play a lot. He can play in sub defense, he can be over the center, which he is at times, and I'm talking about nickels and dimes and those kinds of things. But you know, he can do that, and he can swing back out to the five. So Ryan brings a lot of intelligence to the game, and being an older guy who has been around football a lot, it really helps him out and helps our team out."
On his assessment of his transition as U-M's head coach ... "It's about what you think it would be. It's really just trying to have a focus on what Michigan is all about, and starting there. I don't know if it's any different or not."
On how he will decide on a main punt returner ... "It will probably be fluid. I would not be surprised that we probably had two guys back there to try -- I mean switching them per punt -- to see who we think may be the best playmaker out of it."
On his meetings with captains ... "I meet with the seniors every Sunday and every Thursday. So [the captains] will be part of that group, obviously. The captains, I'll meet with them periodically when I feel there's a need."
On freshman defensive end Frank Clark ... "Frank is a guy that we think can do some things in those nickel and dime packages. Blake (Countess) I think has got an opportunity to be a very good corner here, very good feet and he's got some makeup speed that corners need to have. He's tough. Both of them are tough. From a defensive mentality, we don't want to overload them so that they go out there and it's paralysis by analysis. We want to be able to go play the game."
On whether it will take time to install all of his systems ... "I think it always does. I've done this at two other schools, and you know, every week is a learning experience. And when I say that, I'm going back to every week how we travel. We are playing at home, but still we are going to the campus and how we meet and all that stuff. It's a learning experience every week. The sooner that we feel, I don't want to say comfortable, but that's basically what it is, then the faster we'll start playing; then the more physical we will play football with."
Fifth-Year Senior Center David Molk
On being voted a captain ... "It's a great honor, something that I didn't understand when I got here, but once I became a Wolverine was something I wanted. Being recognized was a great honor and something I've always wanted."
On being a captain ... "When you walk in [to Schembechler Hall] the first thing you see is the wall of captains. Those guys were just always so well-respected, have done great things in and out of football, and it's a good group to be a part of, and it's a group that I knew I wanted to be a part of."
On what the excitement is like having an opponent this week ... "It's great. It's been a long time since I've played and I love every single first game. It's an experience that is unmatched by anything else, and I can't wait to play again."
On Brady Hoke as a coach ... "He's just a great guy. Sometimes coaches are stand-offish or hard to approach, but Coach Hoke is not like that at all. He's just a great guy you can put your arm around and say 'Hey, how are you doing?'"
On how dangerous Denard Robinson will be ... "A player that is that good can be dangerous in any offense. He still has the ability to get out and run around and he's going to do his thing this season."
On whether it matters what team you play to open the season ... "It can be anyone. It can be some D-III school, I still love it. It's just playing someone else. Every day you go to practice and block Mike [Martin] and go up to a linebacker that I've seen a hundred or a thousand times, it's just good to see someone else. "
Senior Defensive Tackle Mike Martin
On being elected captain ... "It's an honor. Our whole senior class does a great job of leading. Defensively, Ryan Van Bergen does a great job, [Jordan] Kovacs, Troy Woolfolk, a lot of guys, but it's an honor to be selected by my peers to represent those guys and the guys that have come before me."
On seeing himself in a more versatile role than just nose tackle ... "Coach has me playing nose and some other positions on the defensive line, but I've been focusing on that pretty much because we've had some other guys that have stepped up at other positions that coach has a lot of confidence in."
On how game week feels ... "It's special. Tomorrow's practice is going to be critical for our team to get better -- Wednesday, Thursday, and every single day going on to Saturday. Coach has 'Game Week' posted up everywhere in Schembechler Hall, so when you are in that building, wherever you go, you're thinking about game week. It's when you go home and get in your playbook, going over your plays, taking mental reps, and when you're at Schembechler and getting better on the field. You have to think about game day every day and what you can do to make sure this team is successful."
On maintaining intensity throughout the week ... "Coach always says 'When you come to Schembechler Hall, you have to come with energy, ready to compete.' Competing every day keeps the energy and it keeps the excitement in practice because guys are going after it every single day, and that's what it takes to get your team better. You have to give guys looks, you have to push them every single day. That's what guys are doing that that's why we've become such a better team throughout camp because guys are giving those looks to each other."
On the defense's preparation for the season ... "Coach talks about accountability, the details, and all the things it takes to be successful. Defensively, that's what we've been focusing on all camp since Coach Hoke and his staff have gotten here, and I'm very sure that our defense has done a great job of making sure we will have no regrets going in to Sept. 3 and the rest of the games this coming season because we've done what we can do make sure we're in the best position. Coach Mattison and the whole staff have done a great job of working with us and we come to work every single day to get better."
On upperclassmen helping coach the underclassmen ... "Coach has always said that if he has to lead every single day then this team won't be good. He needs guys like the seniors and upperclassmen that have played football to step up, lead and coach. Coach can't be looking at everyone at the same time, so to coach guys in between drills -- take them aside, tell them what they need to do to get better, that goes miles and miles and it really helps. It gives them a different perspective on how to get better, and really that's what you need. You need guys pushing each other, because they know that they're getting evaluated every single day."
Senior Tight End Kevin Koger
On finding out he was a captain ... "We were in the team meeting room and everybody got a ballot and voted. We voted for one offensive and one defensive captain. I thought we were going to come back today and find out, but they actually went out of the room and counted them and came back in and told us. I was kind of surprised. I didn't really expect to be a captain. There are a lot of other qualified guys to be captains in the senior class. I really thought one of those guys would get it, but I was honored to get it and it took me by surprise."
On how Saturday is going to be for him ... "I try to calm myself down because I tend to get too excited before the games. I don't want to play the game before the game actually happens so that I'm mentally drained when I get there. It's my last home opener in Michigan Stadium so I'm kind of excited for that. I have to prepare for the game and try to make the best of it."
On what stands out about the first game week ... "The excitement. Everybody is coming back to campus for Welcome Week. A lot of students are excited. You can see it on Twitter, you can see it on Facebook. You can expect a lot of people come to the stadium early for the home opener, so I'm excited to see all the people in the stands."
On what it will mean to get Coach Hoke his first win at Michigan ... "It (would mean) a lot. Not for just Coach Hoke, but for the senior class as well. Coach Hoke always talks about playing for the senior class, and that's who we're going to go out and try to get this win for. It's not just for us, but even for Michigan as a whole, from the stands to the bench and everybody. We just want to get this win for Michigan as a whole."
On how Kevin Koger will look on Saturday ... "Kevin Koger will be very excited. Kevin Koger will be enthusiastic on the field. You can expect to see me more outspoken on the sidelines, so you can look out for that."