Sept. 17, 2012
Press Conference: Coach Hoke | T. Lewan & D. Gardner
Opening statement ... "Well, it was good to win on Saturday, obviously. We have a lot that we need to keep doing better. I think we did some things better than we did the week before, but still we are growing as a team I think in a lot of ways, and we have got to improve every week if we want to be the kind of team that we need to be.
"So we just have to keep making progress on fundamentals to techniques, everywhere across the board; do a better job up front on both sides of the ball, and you've heard that many, many times, and you probably will continue to hear it. But that's where the game is played and that's where it starts.
"For us, you know, going on the road, playing a Notre Dame team that's 3-0 and has played very well, been in tight games, they have played in East Lansing, had a tight game at Purdue and won the football game at the end.
"You look at them as a team; their front seven on defense is playing really well together; disruptive. And offensively, I think Everett Golson who has done a nice job running the offense and managing it, a lot of tight ends involved, and they are a good football team. So we have our hands full and we need to get a lot better as a football team."
On the test of facing Notre Dame's front seven ... "I think it's going to be -- see how far we've come from game one to game four, is exciting. There's no question that it's going to be a test; they have been very productive as a football team and as a defensive team. You know, we'll have to block at the line of scrimmage and need to do a great job of protection."
On the wide receiver position . ..."One thing last week, I think it's probably one of the better positions on our team, from a depth standpoint. And last week, watching them block on the perimeter, I thought that was exciting. Most people don't get excited about blocking, but I do. I thought we put a nice jab on the perimeter.
"I think Devin in his progress is coming along. I think (Jeremy) Gallon is a tough guy, and (Drew) Dileo, not the biggest guys in the world, but they will go out and block anybody. So that part of it was good, and I think the depth at that position is probably better."
On the team's top two tacklers both being safeties ... "I'll always tell you we need to get more from our linebackers. But when you play Air Force, your safety has got to be guys who make a lot of tackles. I think last week, Thomas was a little more involved and it was good to see him, because I think he can be a real playmaker for us, has that ability. But some of it's by design, depending on what coverages you're playing and then some of it, obviously we like to see the second level guys and the guys up front get off blocks and make some plays."
On Denard Robinson completing passes to eight different players in the first half against Massachusetts ... "No. 1, I thought he really threw the ball well. He had really two bad throws. One, he kind of darted out there to Devin on the one play, instead of just throwing it; he kind of aimed it. And then you know, the interception, he was a little bit behind the receiver. But I thought he threw the ball well and I thought his decision-making was really good. And probably you know, when you look at it, it was good to see him put that in running with the ball together."
On if going up against Denard Robinson in practice will help the team prepare for Everett Golson ... "I was thinking about that while I was watching their tape. You know, we see a guy like that every day, we do enough live stuff one-on-one against each other, that you know, hopefully (there) will be, you know, some similarities there and that our guys are a little bit used to the speed. But you never know until you get in that environment."
On if he expects Brennen Beyer, Desmond Morgan and Richard Ash to play against Notre Dame ... "Beyer, not sure. Morgan should be. Ash should be."
On the balance between building continuity with lineups and tweaking lineups, including the offensive line ... "What we have determined to be our best five are playing. If someone else is better, believe me, they would have stepped up and that's one of the things you want to see is that competition level keep going on so that there is great competition at all those positions. But our best five are on the field."
On what Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess have brought to the team's passing game ... "Devin (Gardner) really did not surprise me to be honest with you, from an athletic standpoint, or surprise us. We wouldn't have moved him if we didn't think he had the ability. I think the progression has been good. I think when you look at him block, you know, he's a quarterback, he never had to block. And now the toughness that he's showing there -- I mean, the other thing, really, Funchess he's an athlete and to make some catches that, you know, maybe some other guys couldn't make, and also, you know, he's a little bit of a mismatch."
On how much he relies on personal experience from last year compared to what he's seen of Notre Dame this year ... "You know, you always -- personally, I think you always look at what they have done lately. It's like anything else, they are a different football team than they were last year just like we are. There's some similarities in some guys who are playing, but at the same time, you know, from an offensive standpoint with Everett (Golson) in there, could be a little bit different than when Tommy was in there. So, you know, that part of it, the first two games, they didn't have Cierre Wood. He's a definite playmaker; they had him last week. So you've got to take what you see right now."
On Notre Dame's turnover margin this season compared to last season ... "Well, that's the thing that they have done a nice job. I think they are plus four. And last year, the game before us, I think they were minus five. And it's one of those things where they are doing a good job with the football, and we are not getting the football back very much right now, and that's got to improve."
On if the team will stick to the same game plan for Denard Robinson as the previous two Notre Dame games or add wrinkles to the game plan ... "Well, you know, they obviously have some answers. They had some answers the first three quarters last year, because we didn't do anything, if you'll remember, offensively. And didn't play really great defense. And so, you know, Al always has different things that week to week he'll put in the game plan."
On how he sees Dennis Norfleet progressing in the future ... "(To) be honest with you, you know, he ran a couple jets in there and he's a good athlete, we'll see."
On how he would assess the offensive line's pass blocking ... "We have had a couple issues, a little against Air Force probably and maybe a little against Alabama, but for the most part, they have done a pretty good job."
On his most vivid memory of playing at Notre Dame ... "Being up I think 14-3 at half-time and getting beat 28-24. Pretty vivid."
On what the defense needs to do better to create turnovers ... "I think there's three things. You know, we're practicing the same way, you do turnover drills and all that stuff. But you've got to think: Tighter coverage, whether it be man coverage or zone coverage; if you're pressuring the quarterback; you have to get 11 bodies to the football, those three things."
On what this Notre Dame game means to him personally ... "You know, this is a great national rivalry, and we are fortunate at Michigan, because we have three great rivalry games. You know, the storied history of our programs, on and off how this series has gone, I think it's special. I think it's one reason why you go and come to Michigan; to play in that rivalry."
On reasons why the team has struggled to force turnovers through three games ... "There's always pursuit and effort things that you look at and you evaluate. On that particular one, I mean, it kind of came right back to the guy. But at the same time, you're always trying to evaluate that."
On what he thinks of Notre Dame Stadium and on if he thinks it is an intimidating place to play ... "It's always about the players. I mean, no matter what. Now, you can always -- playing on the road and being Michigan, you're always going to get everybody's best. I think for us, it's a night game, a home game for Notre Dame; I think, you know, there will be some things that will be loud and we have got to do a great job managing our communication and what we want to do."
On why he chose Brandon Moore to wear Ron Kramer's No. 87 ... "Well, because of his leadership, you know, Brandon has done a tremendous job. I think when you look at recognizing somebody like Kramer, I mean, there's a lot -- you know, him being a great athlete here and obviously going on, and I was a Packer fan, so I can remember watching him play. But you know, for Brandon, he was a guy that we all thought as a staff, he's the kind of guy that, you know, exuded kind of that leadership and character that you want."
On Stephen Hopkins' status for Notre Dame ... "He may be ready."
On what he thinks of the NCAA rule that allow programs to have four grad assistants instead of two ... "You have two more coaches on the field."
On if he is using the grad assistants any differently ... "No. We got two more coaches on the field."
On if he is in favor of the rule allowing four grad assistant coaches ... "Yes. I think it helps develop young coaches, too."
On if Amara Darboh is working his way into the wide receiver rotation ... "He's done a nice job, he had two tackles on a kickoff team the other day. He's played some at wide receiver and (the) first play he's in, he had a great block. You know, I think he improves every week."
On his biggest memory from last year's game against Notre Dame ... "I would say the team on the sideline was great throughout the game. Communicating and believing in each other and all those things."
On if he would like to continue to use tight ends the way he has the first three weeks ... "You know, I'm not sure where you got that we were not going to use them as much. But I think with the development of the two young guys and then Mike Kwiatkowski doing a good job, and then I give Brandon Moore a lot of credit because he's been a real teacher to them and done a good job with the young guys."
On what he has seen out of A.J. Williams ... "He's a guy who is mainly on the line of scrimmage. He's learning how to play college football, learning how to block fundamentally and technique, that's a big part of it. He's got great hands, and he can run."
On how the team goes about getting more pressure on the quarterback ... "Right now, you've got to look at it -- I'll be honest with you, you look at the Air Force game and you have to take that one out of the mix to be honest with you. I thought we had very good pressure against Alabama at times, the four-man rush, and gaming it a little bit. We obviously want to be better with pressure and we would love to have more sacks and have more negative plays, tackles for loss and those kind of things. But I think, you know, it's just like anything else we are doing right now, it's a little bit of a work in -progress."
On how important Frank Clark is to the pass rush ... "I think him, I think Mario Ojemudia. I think he probably played as well as anybody up front last week. But him and Jake (Ryan) when we put in our sub-packages; Craig Roh adds a dimension in there and Jibreel Black. We have to count on all those guys."
On Craig Roh's play this season ... "I think he's doing fine. I think, you know, we have got to do a better job of getting off blocks and holding the point better. But I think he's doing good."
On Courtney Avery ... "I think he's a smart football player. I think that's one of the best things that Courtney has is football intelligence. I think, you know, we still use him some in the nickel situation, but as an inside player. Competition outside with him and Ray will continue."
On Raymon Taylor's progression ... "Ray, you know, is making progress. His technique is a little better, his fundamentals are a little better, his eyes are a little better, which are a big part. You play defensive back with your feet and your eyes -- I think he's learning that."
On if he wants the team to improve its punt coverage ... "I think the one that really last week, was the first one when we pooched it. And Matt (Wile) pooched it down there and both of our gunners -- they doubled both gunners, which means someone else should have been clean. We have got to do a much better job covering, and then the other one, he drove. You're not going to have great coverage if you drive a punt 60 yards."
On what kinds of things the team can do to strengthen its punt coverage ... "Well, I think you want to look at net punt, and No. 1 is if you get the ball up high enough, and allow some guys to get down the field, it's just getting off blocks."
On Blake Countess' impact on special teams ... "Blake was one of the guys who, you know, was a starter for us. And we would hope we would have other guys step up. Delonte (Hollowell) does a pretty good job, and did a good job last year for us. Joe Reynolds is doing some of that for us, (Josh) Furman. That's a real pride thing. And it depends what kind of return you're facing, also, they were a big double-team. They doubled both the gunners. And that means it's a six-man box and you want to have somebody in position."
On if it has been a challenge for the defense to go against so many different types of offenses to start the season ... "You know, I don't know if it's a challenge. I mean, the Air Force one is the biggest one that challenges you, but I mean, you're still playing blocks, you're still, you know, I think setting fronts, and I'm just thinking out loud about rules and how you do things; it's not that big a deal."
On if the team does anything motivational to prepare for Notre Dame ... "Talk about the series, talk about the legacies of it."
On what Joe Bolden and James Ross III bring to the linebacking core ... "A lot of inexperience and youth, but there is two guys that have pretty good instincts."
On when he sees inexperience and youth from Bolden and Ross ... "Well, it varies from play to play, to play-action pass."
On how important having the defensive line plugging holes is to getting the linebackers going ... "Well, I think it's really important and how you play blocks and how you demand blocks."
On if playing young guys will help team down the road ... "Well, I don't know. I don't know how much I look at it that way. We just have to get -- we have high expectations. And we have to get better a little quicker maybe."
On if the team is starting to click like he'd like ... "I think we'll know more about us as a football team in the next two weeks."
On if the team is responding to his message that the team has to continue to improve ... "I think they are. I think when we meet with the seniors on Sunday and Thursday, I think they talk about some things that are encouraging."
On if the team is more physical this week in practice because the bye week is next week ... "Well, we are going to be kind of like we have been; more physical last week and we're going to be more physical again this week practice-wise."
U-M Junior Wide Receiver/Quarterback Devin Gardner
On facing Notre Dame's tough front seven ... "I feel like you can't look at it (like it) is pressure ever. And through the film their DB's don't look bad to me. I feel like I don't see where people get that from. But their front seven is really good and their front seven is really good from what I can see. We need to work hard every week no matter who we're playing. It's going to be the same work ethic we have every week."
On maintaining stamina ... "I'm getting better and better every week. The coaches are doing a good job of (tracking) my reps (and monitoring) how I'm feeling. I'm doing a lot of blocking and cutting, and that can be tiring. I feel like I'm doing pretty well in that area."
On quarterback Denard Robinson spreading the ball around to receivers ... "The game plan is getting different receivers in the game as well. A lot of us play the same position; we get to interchange. You know Jerald Robinson, we play the same position. Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon do too, so if you switch these guys out, a lot of different guys can get the ball. I feel like [Robinson] is going through his progression really well. He is checking down and getting it to guys that are open."
On reaction to coach Brady Hoke calling the receiving core strong ... "I feel really good about it. It's our job, we have to try and be the best position group, as should every position group on the team. That way we'll win every game. We've been doing our best and I feel like our best has been enough."
U-M senior/junior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon
On reaction to coach Brady Hoke calling receiving core strong ... "It's an honor. I'm glad that he acknowledges us being a strong point in the offense. We take pride in blocking. I think we stepped up in the passing game. The slot receivers are making a lot of plays, blocking hard, and doing everything that they do best."
On using several receivers in the game plan ... "I guess it's just (a) way of the coaches putting the best players on the field, trying to spread the ball around and keeping the (opposing) team from keying on one person. There is no selfishness on the team. If we get the ball, we get the ball. If we don't, we don't. We really take pride in our blocking. Catching the ball is a big deal, but so is blocking."
On defending a balanced Michigan offense ... "So many teams key on Denard (Robinson) and how they can stop him and Fitz (Toussaint), and when you have receivers to add to that mixture it's a little difficult to key on that guy."
On watching teammate Roy Rountree catching first touchdown ... "I was happy to see him get his first touchdown. Roy is a big brother to me and I just like to see him succeed and do well. Everybody was happy and we were celebrating on the sideline when he caught his first touchdown pass. He was just going crazy, pointing at everybody and hugging everybody. He was just going crazy. It was a good time."
U-M Senior/junior Offensive Lineman Taylor Lewan
On scoring a touchdown in Saturday's game against UMass ... "I feel like y'all are making a big deal out of it. I kind of just fell on the ball. I got lucky, it was the situation. Everyone keeps saying it was Elliott's (Mealer) touchdown, he was laying on it, I just grabbed it out of his hands. It is cool to get six points."
On preparation for this rivalry game ... "I haven't looked much into the film yet. I didn't watch the Michigan State game yet. They are a good team though. They always play well, and they played us well last year. I know that if we play this game like we played the first three quarters like we did last year then we will be unsuccessful."
On the offensive line play overall ... "It was better. We still need to improve. You said quality of competition and stuff -- I think this offensive line needed to see that we could do it. Now that we know we can do it, we need to keep doing it even when we play against the Notre Dame's and all the other big teams."
On memories from playing Notre Dame in the past ... "No, not anymore. We played those games and it was fun, the night game last year was exciting. But, the first three quarters of last year we played awful and can't come out like that. This is a different team, we're a different team. I'm really focused on this game right now. I'm hoping to make some memories this game."
U-M Senior Defensive End Craig Roh
On memories from playing Notre Dame last year ... "Last year was just a real exciting game, the first night game in the Big House. There was just great electricity. This year is another night game at Notre Dame, and it is going to be a real fun experience just like all the other times playing Notre Dame."
On the importance of this rivalry ... "This is one of the oldest, most ferocious rivalries in college football and you don't treat this game like just another game. It is Notre Dame, this is the peak of college football right here, Notre Dame vs. Michigan. We have been going against each other for a really long time and it has been a great rivalry and it will be a great experience."
On differences during the Notre Dame week ... "There definitely is a focus. I'm not saying there isn't a focus for the other weeks, but there definitely is a focus there and an energy because Notre Dame is a very good team. We need to bring our best football to beat them."
On what it is like to play at Notre Dame Stadium ... "It can get very loud. I remember that the grass is a little high, I remember that being something. It is a great place to play. You just have so much tradition there. It is just great playing there."
On preparing for Notre Dame's quarterback Everett Golson ... "I don't really know until Saturday, Denard (Robinson) is really fast and it is great chasing him around in practice, but we will see come Saturday."
On what the defense needs to continue working on ... "I'd say that we need to get better with our technique. We need to keep improving every week. Getting better with our keys, getting better with our intensity, and running to the ball. It is a journey throughout the entire season, just improving every week."