Sept. 3, 2012
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "Good afternoon. We looked at the film, and the good news is we've got 11 more guaranteed opportunities to play Michigan football. We didn't play the way we needed to play to win the football game in a lot of different areas, I think from a tackling standpoint to blocking at the line of scrimmage. Those two are two of the biggest factors. We didn't run the ball as well as we would have liked to and didn't stop the run, and those are two things that as a defense and an offensive unit you have to do.
"We'll learn from the mistakes. We have practice today. We gave the guys off yesterday because of getting in at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. So we'll start on, number one, fixing the mistakes, talking about the mistakes, coaching them up better. That's probably number one, we've got to do a better job as coaches. And then the other part of it is making sure that the execution is where we'd like it to be to play Michigan football."
On injuries coming out of the Alabama game ... "Well, obviously it's (Blake Countess' season-ending knee injury) something that you hate to see anybody get hurt. He's a valuable team member, and they'll do surgery I imagine sometime in the next two weeks. I don't know the schedule for that. Brandon Moore probably will be out this week, and it's an MCL issue, not torn or anything, but I think it's stretched. We'll see how his goes. (Taylor) Lewan is fine. I think it was more of a bruise. But everybody else should be okay."
On Blake Countess' role on special teams ... "Blake has always been a first gunner."
On how he decides if starters will play on special teams ... "Well, we try and only put guys who are going to play significant time on two teams, and the rationale is it's one-third of the football game, and you'd better have guys who are capable and guys who you think are your best players, you know, and so the rationale is you've got to win the kicking game, also."
On Denard Robinson's health following the Alabama game ... "Well, I think his shoulder is fine. I think he got more hit in the back the one time. He's sore like most guys are after you play, but he was good yesterday."
On if he worries about Denard Robinson getting banged up as the season progresses ... "I don't think he did last year at all. Last year you look at Nebraska and Ohio, he was pretty healthy. In fact, he told me it's the healthiest that he's ever been at (that) time of year. You know, we didn't run him a lot. They didn't allow us to run him a lot, how they defended him. But I think that's all part of it. He's going to stick his foot in the ground once in a while in those passing situations and go get yards for the team."
On what he is looking for from his leaders as the team prepares for this week's game ... "Well, you can't let one team beat you twice. I mean, you can't do that. I think what you look for is, number one, on the sideline during the football game, our guys were into the game. I mean, never one time did I see the guys who were out there not being into the game, which is a good sign, because believe me, I've been on other teams where you look and they're not really excited about being there. These guys were excited throughout the four quarters of the football game. I think this week we'll learn a little bit more about our leadership. I've liked it to this point. This week we'll learn a little bit more on how motivated they are. I think when you only have 11 guaranteed opportunities left and you're Michigan, I think you'll be very motivated."
On if Fitzgerald Toussiant and Frank Clark will play against Air Force ... "They're both going to play this week."
On how freshman linebacker James Ross III looked in fall camp ... "Well, it was more probably in how much we liked James' progress throughout the course of fall camp. He's a pretty instinctive guy, picked up everything very well for a young guy, physical, and he has a knack for getting off blocks and accelerating, hits, things that you like to see a linebacker do, good vision."
On if he will make the choice as to who wears Bennie Oosterbaan's No. 47 jersey on Saturday ... "Yes."
On if he had an opportunity to meet Bennie Oosterbaan before he passed away ... "I don't believe so."
On if he will take time to have anyone talk to the team about Oosterbaan ..."Yes, we will."
On how to improve tackling ... "Well, some of it is obviously the run fits within the defense, who's supposed to be where, and you've got to count on that guy. Some of it is which -- for us a year ago we were a pretty good tackling team. We're going to tackle more in practice. And we tackled a decent amount. The NCAA limits you a little bit more now, especially during fall camp. But we'll tackle a decent amount this week. The only thing I know how to get better at anything is to do it."
On Courtney Avery's performance against Alabama ... "Courtney is a seasoned veteran. I think with him and Raymon (Taylor) and Terry Richardson, the young freshman, I think all three of those guys are guys that we've counted on to be able to step up and play. Courtney has a lot of experience. He's played a lot of football here."
On if Courtney Avery will start in Blake Countess' place ... "I think Courtney right now, yes, he'll be the starter."
On the decision to allow Frank Clark to play against Air Force ... "He's had a lot of consequences internally."
On the positives that the team can take from the Alabama game ... "I think the positives are the good plays that are on there. Denard's throw to Gallon was a big-time throw. A highlight in that play, but there were some good plays made by guys on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The thing we struggled with is stacking those together consistently, and that's one thing that as you watch the film, you talk about the good, but you talk about the bad. Well, you can do it well, let's do it well. And I think you're playing a team that traditionally is a good football team, and you find out where you're at and where you've got to improve."
On what made it hard for Denard Robinson to get into rhythm against Alabama ... "Number one, I don't think it's just -- people want to gang up on Denard, and they're making a mistake. Routes being run where we had some drops that we can't have, when you look at the flow of your offense and where you're at, protection wise at times was pretty good, pretty solid, but then we got beat a couple times. And you hurry to throw, or he had to move out of the pocket and his feet weren't the way he wanted, his hips and all those (things)."
On if it is fair to say that Devin Gardner is a wide receiver first and a quarterback second ... "I would say he's a wide receiver first, and then a quarterback depending on where you're at in the game or the week."
On if he thinks Devin Gardner will continue to improve at wide receiver as the season progresses ... "A couple things: I think we're very comfortable and confident in Devin at wide receiver, and I know Denard is. And I think as he continues to play more, continues -- especially at game level, game speed, and you try and do that every day in practice, but I think he learned a little bit more about playing wide receiver."
On the team's mindset following the Alabama game ... "We've got to get better if we want to win a Big Ten Championship and play Michigan football."
On if the team has a number one receiver right now ... "No, it's still, you've got to go through a progression. Obviously there are some calls that are a little more specific, but I think all those guys are guys who make plays. So as Denard goes through a read, it's somewhere that we've -- this is what we want to do and attack if we get this look, and it could be either one of them."
On second level blockers getting easily to the linebackers ... "Yeah, some of that is the linebackers' fault and some of it is the defensive linemen's fault. Some of it you've got to have a little more friction on the offensive linemen, sometimes linebackers maybe hesitate or their footwork is bad and they're a little slow getting to where they want to get to, so it's a combination of both."
On his overall impressions of the defensive line ... "We didn't get off blocks. I didn't think we handled the point of attack as well as we can. I think there was inconsistency with it because as you'll watch the tape there's some really good plays and guys knocking guys back. And then there are some other plays where it's not near what it needs to be."
On how the process played out to decide to let Frank Clark play against Air Force ... "I don't need to take you through a process. I just resolved it."
On reasons why Denard Robinson did not run more against Alabama ... "Their nickel or their safeties. You could go action the other way. They weren't moving. They were waiting. And it could have been the backer -- depends if they drop the safety down or the backer out and drop the safety inside. I mean, they weren't moving. And that's where we've got to hit a couple of those throws, when we do throw the ball, to take that out of them."
On how Elliott Mealer performed in his first start ... "He did a pretty good job. He hung in there. He was pretty physical at the line of scrimmage. I think all his gun snaps were good, and he did a nice job."
On if he will keep Elliott Mealer at center against Air Force ... "Yes."
On if Blake Countess' injury changes how the defensive strategy ... "No, no. I mean, not one guy we have out there is going to change the defense and the schematics that you do with it."
On if Blake Countess' injury could change the team's nickel package ... "Well, it could be Thomas (Gordon), it could be Courtney (Avery), and bringing another corner in. We've practiced Courtney there a lot, practiced Thomas there a lot.
On if Roy Roundtree had any physical limitations against Alabama ... "I don't think it was anything to do with him. He's fine, Mark, he really is in good shape."
On if it is concerning to travel 17 freshmen ... "Well, it is, but what are you going to do? The best players got to play, and so you've got to play the best guys."
On bringing 17 freshmen on their first road trip ... "It's like babysitting sometimes a little bit. I mean, they're just young. They got on a big-boy jet and they fly down and playing in big boy stadiums and a big boy team and a big boy hotel. There's a lot that's different. They did a nice job with it, but there's always -- travel is something that as a coach is a headache to some degree. You worry about how guys prepare mentally."
On if the freshmen gain experience from starting the season with a road trip ... "You hope so. You hope so. You remind them that this is not Sycamore High School anymore."
On if he believes Denard Robinson should have ran the ball more against Alabama ... "I think there were a couple reads maybe he should have, but this kid is a great quarterback, and he's a great athlete, and he's probably going to run it sometimes when he shouldn't and something is going to happen. He's a competitor."
On if Josh Furman be available this week ... "Yes."
On if the team is beaten up more physically this week than a typical game ... "No. No. We've got physical teams in our league. This team this week coming in here will be a physical football team. That's how they play."
On preparing for Air Force ... "Well, it's always a challenge. Any time you get into a midline series offense. It's a fun challenge, because it really speaks of playing assignment football, and so we game planned them way back, did very little this fall camp, but we'll start tonight. You can't do too much because their personnel, and what Troy (Calhoun) is doing -- they have changed a little bit with -- they're going no huddle now, and when we were in the Mountain West with them they still huddled, and they've changed around the midline and some of the pro series that when he was at the Texans they did from a no-huddle offense. So it's pretty unique."
On Air Force's offense ... "The biggest thing is you have to really do a great job at the line of scrimmage of frictioning the blocks and keeping your linebackers a little more clean and then taking your rotation of fullback-quarterback pitch, just over and over, and then they'll have ways when you line up one way, they'll have ways to attack you. It will take us a little bit of time to get used to the speed because we don't have a quarterback who can run like theirs besides our quarterback, but he's not going to run scout team this week."
On how far Michigan is from being at Alabama's level ... "I don't know if I have an answer for you. We've got to get a bit more consistent, we need to be more physical. I think those two things are the big things. Those two things are the big things we have to be."
On how Will Hagerup punted against Alabama ... "I thought Will and Matt both did well, the kickoffs he did a tremendous job, Will punted well. I was glad to see that because once in a while Will will try and overpunt, and I thought he may be trying to hit the screen. And so I'm glad he didn't try and do that. So I thought he punted well. I thought the special teams part of it with the kickers and then with (Dennis) Norfleet, I thought he did a nice job in returns."
On how much of a role he can see Dennis Norfleet having besides on special teams going forward ... "You know, I think he's a pretty good guy with the ball in his hands. How you get it in his hands I think is what we have to really look at."
On if he envisions having Dennis Norfleet receiving more opportunities with the ball ... "Possibly, yes."
On Taylor Lewan's play against Alabama ... "I think he had probably one penalty. I thought he played well. I thought he played with a lot of heart and toughness and things you like players to play with."
On how he thought Jake Ryan played against Alabama ... "Jake played well. I mean, Jake is always going to play -- he may not step exactly like you teach him all the time, but he's going to end up in the right place."
On what went into the decision to move Devin Gardner to wide receiver and how he has handled it... "I think he knew Denard was our quarterback. And I think the other part of it, he's helping our football team, and that's probably as big as anything."
On who will step up at tight end with Brandon Moore out ... "Well, it'll be (Mike) Kwiatkowski, it will be A.J. Williams, it will be Devin Funchess."
On if Kwiatkowski, Williams and Funchess will play the same amount of time ... "We'll see."
U-M Fifth-Year Senior Offensive Lineman Elliott Mealer
On making his first career start at center ... "Center is definitely the leader of the offensive line, making the calls and things like that. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit nervous, especially as big of a game as it was. But at the same time with the preparation, going through camp and everything, I felt like I was as prepared as I could have been. After that first snap everything was fine. I felt pretty comfortable out there."
On how he felt about his performance against Alabama ... "I thought I played OK. Obviously the offensive line didn't get it done. Being the center, regardless of if it was my first start or not, I think I need to step up and play better this week -- a lot better -- to make holes for the running backs."
On if the offensive line needs some time to gel as a unit ... "I think so. I think as the season goes on you continue to get used to each other. It's one of those things that you hope as the season goes on you get better as a team. But I think through camp we've been getting plenty of reps at all our alternate positions, so playing at center/left guard and the other guys switching around -- I think it's just like any other season."
On how the team can demonstrate resiliency as it prepares for Air Force ... "I think a lot of the things we go through during the offseason is about overcoming adversity, so this goes on with it. I think we've been prepared to go through adversity. So obviously a loss like this hurts, but we've got to be able to move on, learn from our mistakes and prepare for Air Force. I'm sure you guys have already heard it a bunch today, but we can't let Alabama beat us twice. As an offensive line, we've got to learn from our mistakes today and transfer over today at the same time to focusing on Air Force and preparing for their defensive line."
U-M Junior Quarterback/Wide Receiver Devin Gardner
On if his mindset has changed since transitioning to wide receiver ... "I think of myself as a football player, and a football player who is trying to help this team. So whatever Coach Hoke feels is going to help this team is what I'm going to have to do."
On what he can learn from last week's game against Alabama... "That's probably the best defense we are going to play, so I can learn a lot from that -- the tempo, my speed, in and out of breaks a little faster -- things like that."
On how he would assess his first game at wide receiver ... "I feel like I did okay. Obviously it wasn't enough to win, so I can always get better."
On his 44-yard touchdown catch against Alabama ... "It felt great. It was my first catch. My first catch down the field was a touchdown, so you have to feel great about that. I just wanted to keep fighting during the game."
On if he talked to Denard Robinson on the sideline during last week's game against Alabama ... "We talk all the time. Even when I wasn't playing at all. He's my teammate, you've got to help your teammate and make sure the things you see -- you've got to help him. And he helps me with things he might see too."
On dropped passes against Alabama ... "Got to have stronger hands -- stronger hands to hold onto the football. One came off my hand -- I should have caught that one, and the other one he knocked it out at the last second. I should have caught that one, too. So I've just got to have stronger hands and be more physical."