On the football games of the opening weekend of college football
... "I saw four great football teams last Saturday: Penn State, Florida State, Miami and Notre Dame. They were impressive, and college football obviously is going to be exciting in 1999. Our Michigan team is a team of question marks: Who's going to start, who is going to kick, can we kick, can we protect, can we cover, can we tackle, can we run the football and how good is this Michigan band going to be"
On the Notre Dame football team ... "The Notre Dame team I saw is a team that is as talented and as deep as any Notre Dame team I have seen. You start at quarterback where you have Jarious Jackson, who is a great athlete, a great football player. At fullback, you have (Joey) Goodspeed, (Tom) Lopienski, and those guys would all start probably anywhere else in the country. They have outstanding depth at tailback and the tight ends are tremendous. The offensive line is big, strong and talented and the defensive front plays eight or nine guys. Overall, it's an outstanding football team and we are looking forward to the game and playing in what I think is one of the great rivalries in college football."
Who is going to start for Michigan at quarterback against Notre Dame "What time is the game 3:30 You will find out then. I know one thing and that is the one place you will not have a question mark is quarterback. We will have a good quarterback at Michigan this year."
On the competition for the starting quarterback position ... "I think the two guys, Tom Brady and Drew Henson, have done a tremendous job in handling the situation and all of the questions. They have competed as hard as any two guys I have ever seen and they have both performed extremely well. I think we are very comfortable with our situation at quarterback. The decision was very difficult because of the way they have competed and performed. It's never easy to say you are choosing one guy over another and yet they understand that's the nature of college football. You can only play one."
Are you comfortable that the players can keep the secret of who is starting at quarterback all week "That is one of the question marks. My guess there is, there will be a lot of speculation in the media about who is going to start and some of it will be right and some will be wrong."
On the decision-making process ... "It did not come down to one practice. It is something you evaluate over time. I've said from the beginning that, as a coach, I will try to be fair as I could, and that was certainly something that was important to (quarterback coach) Stan Parrish because he is coaching them. I also wanted to make a decision based on what is best for our team and to me, that is the critical issue. I'm not going to discuss who is going to start. I've said about all I'm going to say. I don't blame you guys (members of the media) for trying to get me to make a mistake. I'll make enough on my own."
Do you like the idea that Notre Dame can't prepare for just one quarterback "Yeah."
On Notre Dame playing a game before meeting Michigan ... "I think the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry is one of the great rivalries in all of sport. I think it's unfortunate for this rivalry that they chose to schedule a game to gain an advantage. With that said, the one thing I can assure you is when this game is over, we are not going to have any excuses, period. We are going to go in there, play the best we can, play as hard as we can and try to win."
On Notre Dame's win over Kansas ... "I thought Notre Dame played a good game but made some typical first-game mistakes. I think Kansas did a tremendous job. There aren't many teams that would come back from being down 20-0 and make a game of it. Kansas did a good job in preparation. They made some mistakes, however. When you turn the ball over three times in the first quarter in that stadium, you can get beat 60-0, so I thought those players played hard and did an outstanding job."
On the status of kicker Hayden Epstein ... "The doctor that did the surgery has given him the green light to play. In watching him during this training camp, he has kicked the ball extremely well. He has not been as consistent as he was a year ago, but that's because he hasn't kicked all summer."
On WR/DB David Terrell playing both offense and defense ... "David will play a significant amount of defense, but he is a great threat on offense. What we hope is that our other guys play well enough that we don't have to play David too much on defense."
On the impact of a loss in the early season on the national championship and the pressure it adds to this game ... "Obviously, if you lose it puts you at a tremendous disadvantage as far as the national championship. One of the things I have said that is negative about this game is that Michigan and Notre Dame can never play for the national championship and that is something that I think would be really special."
On if he is happy with the running game ... "I don't think we're going to know exactly. The only important thing is if next Saturday at about 6:30 p.m. I can be happy."
On the problems with the running game last season ... "I think the expectation that we had with Anthony (Thomas) heading into his sophomore year was that he would take over from where he left off in the Rose Bowl. He didn't. I think part of it was because he had an appendectomy in the summer. So that hampered him some. I think he may not have understood what is required of the guy that all of a sudden becomes the starter. I think part of it is that as coaches we made the decision to move Steve Hutchinson to center. Steve missed a lot of the preseason practice, and that hurt us.
On facing the option ... "Well, I think (Notre Dame offensive coordinator) Kevin Rogers obviously is an outstanding football coach. I think the thing he does is use a lot of personnel and packages so you have to be on your toes. He does a tremendous job of utilizing the unbalanced line, which requires quick changes at the line of scrimmage. He's not strictly an option coach; he sprinkles it in. He's got a lot of offense to go to so you're really up against more than one type of offense."
On the possiblilty of playing without Hayden Epstein on special teams ... "Well, there aren't many guys in this country with a leg as strong as Hayden Epstein. I guarantee you we only have one. The other guys don't kick as deep as Epstein, and that's why one of the questions is how well we will cover."
On why this rivalry is special ... "The tradition of these two programs. They're arguably the two greatest traditions in college football going back over 100 years. I think you have on one hand the greatest public institution in this country, and on the other hand an outstanding private institution. I think the alumni at both places have a lot of pride. When you look back at the history of college football, the players and coaches, it's the tradition knowing every single person in this country that likes college football will be trying to watch this game. If they can't watch it, they'll be trying to listen and find out what the score is. It's that kind of excitement that every kid who grows up playing football dreams of playing in. ... The greatest game I've ever been in during this series was my first one in 1980. We lost on the last play of the game in South Bend, but I think it was just a tremendous football game. I don't think anyone who was there or saw that game will ever forget it. It's unforgettable players and exciting finishes."
On Notre Dame's tandem of running backs ... "Well, they're big, powerful, can break tackles, have speed to run over you and around you. Every guy down there we tried to recruit. (Tony) Driver we thought was a great football player, and if you're going to have great football team, you got to have guys that can fill in there. One of the impressive things I saw with Miami, at Penn State, Ohio State, when one guy left, they didn't miss much, so it's that kind of depth that gives you the ability to keep pounding."
On getting the offensive line ready ... "One of the big issues in the first game is penalties, blocked kicks and turnovers. This weekend I saw a lot of those things. I think one of the things we've tried to emphasize is playing the game so we don't beat ourselves. The thing that you do when you have penalties, low snaps, jumping offsides. Holding this year is a better situation than it was last year because of the rule change. Now, if holding occurs at the line or behind the line, its assessed from the line of scrimage. Holding is always an issue. Hopefully our guys understand how to avoid holding by using good technique, moving their feet and thinking quickly."
On delaying his announcement of the starting quarterback ... "You try to make the decision based on how you see things and what will be in the best interest of the team. Some people want to see one quarterback start, some people want to see the other start, while some people want you to play both of them. But they're not making the decision. I do. There will be people that are very happy if it's their guy and not happy if it's not. We're at a point in Michigan football history where we have two outstanding quarterbacks on this campus. Part of the challenge is to deal with that. Both for them, me, our coaches and players."
On the challenge of facing a different style of offense ... "Certainly we've worked hard on it. We don't have a Jarious Jackson. Now, on the other hand, the teams that will play us don't have our offense. For example, we're going to play Rice next week. I doubt Rice has a quarterback that can emulate Tom Brady or Drew Henson. They're an option team. So there is an issue there for their defense to get ready. It's a trade-off."
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423