University of Michigan Football Player Comments
Previewing Notre Dame (Sept. 16); Reviewing Central Michigan (Sept. 9)
Junior Defensive Tackle Alan Branch
On preparing for Notre Dame ... "It's a rivalry game so we are naturally going to go out there and be a little more intense in the weight room and practice field. We are going to be really focused this week and I expect a whole different team practicing this week."
On the difference between this year and last year ... "That really never comes up when we talk. Really we just focus on the year that we're playing, and it's this year. I'm not stuck on the past anymore. I'm ready to just play this game this weekend."
On the Notre Dame offensive line ... "Right now, we're going to be playing against a really good offensive line - it's going to be our first real test as a defensive front. I'm really excited because you always want to play against the best and Notre Dame has one of the best offensive lines in the nation. I just want to be able to show that we can put pressure on the quarterback when we play against anybody."
On the difference between this year and last year ... "The only difference I can really tell from last year and this year is the team speed. But I realize that more on the defensive side because I'm over there. I can just tell with the intensity that everybody wants to get to the ball and put a hit on the quarterback and put a hit on the running back or try to force the ball loose and get turnovers."
On the difference coach Ron English had made ... "The biggest difference with Coach E is probably the intensity that he brings to the practice, brings to the meeting room. I've never seen that guy really relaxed. I mean, he's always really intense. He's really emotional about what he does, and we just feed off of that as a defense. It's just really been producing so far."
On the Notre Dame offense ... "We started watching film. They're a really complex offense. They've got a lot of different players at a lot of different formations. They look really disciplined and they're really poised. I was watching the Georgia Tech game, and they were just poised throughout the whole game even though it was a tight game at the beginning. They looked really poised, mature, ready to go."
On preparing for Notre Dame's front line ... "As a defensive line, I look at the way they pick up the defensive plays, like the pickup blitzes and how they pickup d-line twists. And also, I just look at footwork and overall strength and technique. And so far, they are hands down the best I've seen on film."
On Penn State's loss to Notre Dame ... "I've really just been focusing on the teams we've been playing for the week, so I can't tell you about all the Big Ten teams. I don't know what happened with Penn State, but Notre Dame is a good team, so I'm not going to take anything away from them."
On Notre Dame running back Darius Walker ... "Their running game is really good I think because Darius Walker is one of the most patient runners I've seen. He'll wait for a block to open up a hole. He follows his blocks. He reads his linemen's backside really well, so he knows where to cut. He's probably the most patient runner that I've seen on film."
On what it feels like to play in this rivalry ... "I can't explain it. I'm a boy from New Mexico. I never thought I would be in Michigan, and just playing with this type of tradition. Here alone, it's overwhelming. But then you put me in a big rivalry game like Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan State. The first time I played, I barely was able to breathe after I touched the banner. It will probably be the same this year. It's just an awesome feeling to be a part of something so thick in tradition."
On making a statement against Notre Dame ... "We want to make a statement to show everybody that we're not the team from last year. We're a different team. We're the 127th Michigan team, and we're ready to go. We're not last year. And hopefully, we just come out and win."
On what he remembers from last year's Notre Dame game ... "I remember getting pancaked once or twice. Really, I just remember that we were holding them pretty well during the first half, and we really didn't take opportunities to finish the game and put our foot in their throat."
Fifth-Year Senior Punter Ross Ryan
On what his dad (who went to Notre Dame) thought about him going to Michigan ... "He was excited for me. I've got another brother, Charlie, who's a sophomore, and he's glad that I got the opportunity to come here and play football."
On improvements in kick coverage ... "We struggled a little bit last week, but it's something that we'll definitely fix for next week. I think a few guys probably missed their assignments. I can definitely do a better job of placing the ball where it needs to be put. But we'll get that cleaned up for next week."
About last year's Notre Dame game ... "Any time we play Notre Dame, it's one of our three biggest games of the season. So yeah, it was a heartbreaker. We're definitely going down there this year with something to prove."
On sharing punting duties with Zoltan Mesko ... "I think it's a good thing that we're sharing an opportunity to both punt. Zoltan is one of the most talented punters, I think, in the nation. And the competition that we share in practice is great and makes us both punt well.
"The coaches are going to use each of us differently in different situations throughout the season. They will probably ease him into the pressure situations as the season progresses. In situations when we have to get the ball off quickly, they will keep using me there and ease him in."
On what the series was like for him growing up ... "I was always rooting for Notre Dame. My dad was always taking me to games down there. I remember going to a Penn State and a Stanford game. I never really watched any Michigan games. I didn't know about the Michigan tradition until I came here."
On what he will tell Zoltan Mesko about this rivalry ... "He is a very enthusiastic kid. Sometimes you have to remind him to go out there and do what he does every day and relax. It's going to be no different down in Notre Dame than what we do every day in practice."
How do you prepare mentally ... "We prepare every day in practice. We go through every scenario, every day. We practice danger punts, which are punts when we are down in our own end zone, every day. We've got a lot of experience and practice and it shouldn't be any different down there."
Senior Outside Linebacker Shawn Crable
On playing at Notre Dame Stadium ... "The atmosphere is different. We are used to playing on turf and we will be playing on grass. We are excited to go over there and play. They got the best of us the last couple of years, but we are excited to go play them."
On defending Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn ... "We have to get to him. If you distract a quarterback then the offense isn't going to run too smoothly. We want to get to him and get to him early. We want to all game."
What are the effects of playing on grass versus turf ... "We practice on grass all the time. It's just the attitude of the team. This team has a great attitude and wants to win. This team feels comfortable going out and traveling. I don't know how we are going to play. We aren't too worried going over there. We are just excited to play."
On facing one of the top teams in the country ... "We have a shot at one of the top teams in the nation. That excites anybody. We are ranked what they projected us as this season. I really like the opportunity personally to be able to go out there and play them. The defense, the offense, our team in general respects the opportunity to play."
On Notre Dame ... "They have a good offense, a great coach and a quarterback that gets the offense going. They run a lot of plays and some of the plays they just block differently. It will be a good challenge for our linebackers to be able to read plays and be able to adjust to people coming up on you and not coming up on you. I think it will be good for our linebackers.
"They have plays that they love to run and they have plays that they throw in just for the team they are playing and our weaknesses, but mostly they play well. Whatever they have to do, they do it well."
On Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis ... "He does something nice every game. Last game, he started an empty formation. He might come out in a goal line situation. I don't know what he will do, but he does something to throw you off. He follows the plays you have made mistakes on the previous weeks, but for the most part he stick to what they know and what they do best."
On Notre Dame running back Darius Walker ... "I think he sees the holes and reads well. To me, when he runs the ball he doesn't look like he is in a hurry. When he gets the ball, he is patient and sees all of it and explodes to the hole. We have to put a flat wall up. You can't really run with a flat wall in front of you so if we do that well this week and are where we are supposed to be, we will do well against him."
Junior Safety Jamar Adams
On Notre Dame's wide receiving corps ... "I think they're a very good receiving corps because of their size, athletic ability and competitiveness. They compete really hard; when the ball goes up they go get it. So far this is one of the best receiving corps we've faced this year."
On Notre Dame's offense ... "I think they bring a lot to the table because of their coaches. They have a past NFL coach, he knows what he's doing and he's going to attack your weaknesses. They have very good players, they block well, run well, and their quarterback is excellent so it's going to be a great match up."
On Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn ... "After watching film on him, I think he's a lot better at making plays when everything breaks down than what most people give him credit for. When things break down he's good at moving outside the pocket and making throws down field. He's a very strong quarterback, he's knows defenses and coverages well, so he knows where to go with the ball so he makes good decisions. Along with that he has a strong arm, so he's a very talented quarterback."
On playing in a big rivalry game ... "That's why I came here. Anytime you put the uniform on it's a great opportunity. You get to play in the stadium and against other teams, but you come to Michigan to play in the rivalry games. You come to Michigan to play on national television, to play against teams that are ranked top 10 in the country. So I think that's how our whole team feels, this is what the coaches brought us in here for, to play against the Notre Dames and the Big Ten schedule. So it's definitely going to be exciting."
Fifth-year Senior Offensive Lineman Mark Bihl
On the troubles presented by Central Michigan ... "In the past game, Central Michigan threw some stuff at us we weren't ready for, we were looking for some other things. We'll just have to go back and look at that, because if we couldn't handle it last week Notre Dame's going to try and throw it at us. And that's what Notre Dame does, they try to throw everything they can at you, so we'll just have to be ready for that."
On what to expect from Notre Dame ... "They've played two great opponents and they've probably put in quite a bit of offense. Charlie Weis is a great coach and they've got a lot of good players over there that can do a lot of good things. So you just have to be ready for anything, you have to watch film and prepare for everything."
On the U-M offense ... "We picked it up a little bit in the past game. Just keeping our head out on blocks and putting our hands up on pass blocks. In the run for the most part we're moving people off the line. When we watch film we want to see the line of scrimmage move back and we've been pretty positive with that outcome. We want to improve more in the pass game and the run game because we never want to be complacent with what we're doing."
On any defensive linemen that standout ... "Derek Landri is a great defensive player, and for the past four years I've played against him in every game. Also Trevor Laws number and Derek Landri, are guys that I'll be going against the most. They're seasoned veterans and have started quite a few games so I'll just have to be ready for them. This is a big week, its Notre Dame, so you have to be ready for them."
Senior Cornerback Leon Hall
On anticipating Notre Dame ... "You definitely circle that game on the schedule, especially being a defender and knowing that they have such a great offense. They have got two of the top receivers in the nation and a Heisman frontrunner at quarterback. They also have a really good running game. You have to circle that game and get ready for it, and it is finally here."
On what the Michigan defense will learn from the Notre Dame game ... "Depending on how we perform, this will tell us a lot. This is a real test right now. It will be one of our biggest tests of the year. We are going to prepare well this week and see where we are after Saturday."
On Notre Dame's No. 2 ranking ... "There is a little added incentive, but at the same time it is still the Michigan-Notre Dame game. It is one of the biggest games in the nation. It does not get any bigger than that. Regardless of where they are and where we are, it is still a big game and we are going to get up for it."
On Notre Dame's talented receiving corps ... "They have both been around awhile and know the offense well. They are both really good. These first two games I have seen Rhema (McKnight) really excel. (Jeff) Samardzija is doing what Samardzija does. He has really great hands and he makes defenders miss. They just keep getting better every game. They are a lot better than last year. Obviously they have McKnight back from last season. They are definitely going to be a great challenge for all of the defensive backs to cover. They are probably going to be our biggest challenge of the year because they have two great receivers."
On the added pressure of a rivalry game ... "I do not know if I would call it pressure. If you do not get up for this game then you really cannot get up for any other game. That is just how it is. Considering the fact that they have a great offense this year and we are trying to do big things on defense and for the team as well, you have got to get up for this game and highlight it. Do whatever it is you do, but this is a big week."
Junior Running Back Mike Hart
On establishing the running game on the road ... "I think it is very important. I think anytime you go on the road it is important to get off to a good start because you want to go in there and control the crowd. They have a great crowd there, so we want to go in and control the crowd and getting that running game started is a big part of it."
On Michigan's recent 0-6 road-opener record ... "We do not talk about that at all. Our last six road-openers have been hard games in hard environments. Like I said, that is why it is so big to go in there and take over the crowd. Last year we went to Wisconsin and that is one of the hardest places to play. The year before that it was Notre Dame. Those are hard environments to play in, so the biggest thing we can do is go in there and control the crowd."
On the rivalry ... "I do not think there is extra pressure. We have lost to Notre Dame the last two years but they have been good games. We could have won them. It is going to be the same way this time. It is going to be a close game. It is just going to come down to the little things. We have to go in there and make sure that we make every series on offense and defense count. We need to make every field goal count. At the end of the game that is what it is going to come down to."
On Notre Dame's defense ... "Obviously (Tom) Zbikowski is a great player. He is tough. He will come down to hit you. He is a great cover guy. He is fast. The new linebacker they have on defense is a fast guy. He is tough and will give it his all every play. He is a good player out there too."
On Notre Dame running back Darius Walker ... "He is a good back. I like his style. He can catch and he can run. He blocks well and gets the extra yards. He is a great back. My freshman year he came in and no one knew his name. He ran for 100 yards against a great Michigan defense. That is when he came on the scene. Last year he had a great game against us too. We have got to be prepared for him. He is a great back and shows up for big games. He is a tough guy to stop, but the defense is looking forward to it."
On being the running back for Michigan in this series ... "Of course you want to be the back that does it for Michigan. The last two years I have been unfortunate against them. (Walker) has been fortunate against us. I am just going in there with the mindset to win. I do not care if we have two running backs rushing. If we win the game, that is all I care about. (Kevin) Grady can go in there and have 300 yards rushing and I can have two yards and if we win the game then that is fine with me."
On knowing what to expect at Notre Dame ... "It is always better when you have experience going to a place on the road. Being there before and knowing what to expect and what type of atmosphere comes with being older. We have a lot of guys that have been down there so we know what to expect."
On being injured in last year's Notre Dame game ... "It was hard. It is always hard when you get hurt, no matter who you are playing. If you get hurt and you can not play, it is going to be hard. I am happy that I have gotten over it and am looking forward to this year's game."
Senior Defensive End and Co-Captain LaMarr Woodley
On if he can replicate his Vanderbilt and CMU performances against Notre Dame ..."I see it as another game to get better as a team. Hopefully I have a good game, but as long as you come out with a victory then that's all that counts. Another defensive lineman or another player on defense might go out there and get three or four sacks. As long as we win as a team, that's all I really care about."
On how to stop the Notre Dame passing game ... "You just have to get off the ball faster and find a way to get to the quarterback a little faster. Definitely with a guy like Brady Quinn, you just have to adjust to him."
On how badly he wants to even his record against Notre Dame ... "I would definitely like to even the score. This is my last year and I have another chance to come back and do it again. So you definitely want to go out with a win."
On how important it is to stop the rushing attack ... "It's very important. A team is not going to come out and pass the whole game. Eventually they are going to have to run and when they run you have to be ready for it. If you come out thinking they are going to pass it the whole game then they'll beat you on the ground. That's something we're practicing is going against the run and the pass.
On reaching the Michigan sack record ..."I was just in there looking at it. It would be nice to be one of those guys who are remembered in the great tradition of Michigan. It's definitely a goal for me."
On being double-teamed ..."We have a lot of good guys up front. You look at Tim Jamison and Rondell Biggs coming from the other side. You have Alan Branch and Terrence Taylor in the middle. So it's like if you double-team one guy, somebody is going to be free. It's kind of hard to pick who you are going to double-team. If you double-team me, then we have other guys who are really going to come after you."
On coming back for his senior season ..."It was just to come back and have the opportunity to do it again and try to leave on a positive note. If you have another opportunity to do it C I just wanted to come back and turn around that 7-5 season. I wanted to come back and help this team and lead this team in anyway that I can."
On preparing for a Charlie Weis offense ..."It's kind of hard to prepare for it, because you never know what he is going to come out in. Saturday he might be in one offense and then the Saturday coming up, when we play him, he might be in a totally different offense. You look forward to seeing something new."
On facing a young offensive tackle ..."It means he is just a guy who doesn't have a lot of game experience. Hopefully, you can take advantage of when a young guy is in there because that means the guy hasn't played that many football games in college. He hasn't played in the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry. So, sometimes, a young guy won't know what to expect."
Senior Offensive Tackle and Co-Captain Jake Long
On Notre Dame's defense ..."We started watching film last night on them a little bit. Their front four is powerful. I think they are all returning players. Their linebackers are good. Their whole front-seven is talented."
On how much of a test Notre Dame's defensive line will be ... "Every week is a test, but going against such a great team like Notre Dame, with such talented guys, will definitely be a test for our offensive line to see how we do."
On the Notre Dame - Michigan rivalry ... "It's definitely one of the reasons why you come to Michigan is for big games like this and big rivalries. It's always been a great game with two great programs going up against each other. It's just fun. They don't like us and we don't like them. It'll be a fun time."
On playing at Notre Dame Stadium ... "It's a hostile environment. You know you go in there and it's just a sea of green. It's loud and everybody hates you there. You only have a small group of your fans, so it's fun. You've got your back against the wall and you just have to play under the pressure. It's loud and hard, but it's fun at the same time."
On Notre Dame starting true freshman offensive tackle Sam Young ... "It's a big deal. Whenever a freshman comes in and plays, it's tough in a game like this. With all the hype and the history behind the game, it's a huge deal. I don't know much about him, but he must be a real good player to play for them at such a young age. There is a lot of pressure that comes along with it."
Media Contacts: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423