Sept. 19, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "A couple things about last Saturday -- it's good to win a football game. I thought we started a little slower than we would like to. I don't know if there is a magic answer for that. We talked about that as a team. The first six possessions offensively I think we were three and out three times, and then we were driving the ball and we throw an interception. That hurts you when you look at your tempo and the fluidness you want to have offensively. And obviously your defense is back on the field. I thought early we struggled a little bit with some of jets series plays that come from that series. But after that, I think our guys made some good adjustments on both sides of the ball.
"I thought the kids played fundamentally maybe more sound. Then the time of possession obviously became a big factor. We play good defense when we're watching our offense, and we were able to do that in the second half a little more. The running game I thought came on. As we saw, we still don't want to run Denard (Robinson) 26 times a game. That's a good way to get him beat up and hurt. So we have to keep plugging away.
"I thought with Vince (Smith's) production, Fitz (Toussaint) gave us some good runs in there and took a little bit of the load off of him, but we've got to make sure that we are a healthy football team as we continue forward.
"We need to complete a couple balls if they're going to load the box and play man coverage, which they did, and that's smart. We have to be able to complete a couple of those things to loosen some people up.
"Defensively, Thomas Gordon made probably as critical a play in the game with the interception and the fumble recovery. And both of those were hustle plays. On the interception, it was Thomas doing his job, which is he didn't get fooled, didn't get sucked in. I thought that was a nice play by him.
"We felt our defensive front during the course of the game a little more. Craig Roh played his best football of the year so far I think. Jibreel (Black) played a pretty productive football game. You could feel Mike (Martin) a little more in there. I thought Will Campbell again gave you go some really good snaps.
"So we've got a lot work ahead of us with a very good San Diego State team coming in. They're undefeated; they're 3-0; beat Washington State last week. (SDSU is a) very talented team, a team that's going to play with a lot toughness and team that's well coached, so we got our hands full."
On having coached San Diego State from 2009-10 and how he ended up there ... "I think people may make a big deal about it. They're a travel team; 70 guys are coming. San Diego State playing Michigan, that's really all it is. It was the right opportunity at the right time."
On if he's talked to San Diego State head coach Rocky Long since leaving in January ... "We've talked some. But we talk more about families and more about what's going on. I mean, we don't talk a whole lot about the football aspect of it besides how spring went and those kinds of things."
On if this game is different emotionally because he knows the players on the San Diego State team ... "I don't know if it gets into that. Really in the framework of what's going to happen, it's two football teams competing. Their staff will compete like heck; they're very competitive. We're very competitive. It's about those 60 minutes on the field. Yeah, there are great kids, no question, but we got great kids here, too."
On which running back is emerging as a go-to player ... "I think Vince (Smith) right now probably has earned that right, his performance and his production. I think when you look at Fitz (Toussaint), I was real encouraged by him coming out with some toughness and running the ball hard and coming off that shoulder, so I was pleased with that."
On if he was involved in scheduling the game against San Diego State ... "I was involved in scheduling it. Scott Draper and Don Oberhelman from San Diego State and myself. I don't know if Dave (Brandon) or Bill Martin may have been Dave. I'm not sure. So I was involved in it."
On why this game was important to him when he was at San Diego State ... "I think it's a great place to come play a football game. I thought we would have a pretty good, competitive team."
On helping Denard Robinson start games with more success passing ... "There's no question as coaches we have to do a better job, maybe make him a little more comfortable with the throws depending on what you're going to throw. I know the second play of the (EMU) game we were going to throw the X screen. They dropped to him. They zone blitzed it and dropped to him, and (Denard) made a great decision not to throw the ball and get what he could. I think we can always see from our vantage point what we can help him with. Just have to make sure we set our feet a little more."
On having Denard Robinson line up in the shotgun more than under center ... "(Under center) is always in the game plan. I mean, we have put both offenses in the whole time since January, you know. So that's always in there. Just depends how much of it you get to, and, you know, what's going to help you win.
On being displeased with Denard Robinson's performance when he's under center ... "I have been okay with it. I'll tell you one thing, if we can hit a couple of the throws under center -- because of what people want to do defensively on loading the box, you take a couple shots -- it's going to help."
On the keys to being plus-six in turnover margin ... "I think pressuring the quarterback. When you talk about from the interception standpoint or whatever that is, tight coverage, pressuring the quarterback, effort, and guys getting to the football. Those four components usually turn into turnover opportunities.
"Jibreel (Black) chased all the way from the backside and did a tremendous job, punched the ball out, and Tom Gordon was on the front side and had been blocked. He did a good job hustling his butt down to cover the ball."
On how different San Diego State's team is since he left it in January ... "There are always different guys. There are a lot of returning guys. Four of the offensive linemen are returning starters; three tight ends; quarterback who's a doggone good player and a great kid."
The running back, (Ronnie)Hillman, is a tremendous player. Defensively, (Miles) Burris and (J.J.) Autele, (Leon) McFadden. I mean, there are a lot of those same guys that were there, so we're going to see a lot of good football players."
On if his knowledge of the San Diego State roster helps with identifying strengths and weaknesses ... "I don't know if they have weaknesses, to be honest with you. You watch the film of them. I've watched three games from their offensive perspective, and they lost two receivers, but Colin Lockett and Dylan Denso have come in and done a great job. Colin was a corner year ago and has done a great job in being a big part of their offense."
On how he told the San Diego State players he was leaving for Michigan ... "(You never can) do it the right way. They're on (winter) break so no one was there. You know one of the guys in San Diego, and you send a text because you couldn't get them all together. There was a time element in everything obviously.
"We had a full team meeting when I left Ball State, my alma mater, that was hard to leave and hard to leave those kids. So we were fortunate enough to be able to do that. We couldn't do it out there."
On Jeremy Gallon establishing himself as a punt returner and his chances of being a kick returner ... "I think Jeremy has done an excellent job, but to say Vince (Smith) isn't explosive (on kick returns), you may have the wrong Vince. If we get one block in that deal on the kickoff return -- what's funny about it, is (EMU) had punts always to the right all year set to protection. They changed it and we had a good plan, but they punted everything to the left. Jeremy did a great job. He got the ball all the way back out and made a block that you don't want to make in the back.
"Same with Vince, a little, on kickoff return, because of how their coverage was going to go to our right if we're the return team. If there was one block secured enough, he's out to at least mid field. Gallon is doing a good job and could be a guy that we would we put back there. He does both for us."
On if he would take Vincent Smith off of kick return if he becomes the starting running back ... "I don't know. At the end of the day you have to make sure your best players are on the field. He's one of our best football players."
On San Diego State's motivation on playing against him ... "I don't know. That's not for me to answer."
On Brendan Gibbons' demeanor after his first field goal of the season ... "He's great. He's been great all fall. He worked hard over the summer. I think mentally he has himself in a good place. Very consistent all fall camp, and then to this part during the season. I like the mechanics to everything from the snap to the hold. I think Jareth (Glanda) is doing a good job there (long-snapping). I've been impressed. I am very confident in (Brendan)."
On Denard Robinson showing more wear and tear after 26 carries vs. 10 carries ... "He didn't say anything. You know him, he's not going to say anything. He comes in Sunday like they all do to get checked out by the trainer and the docs and all that. He's in fine shape. The course of the year, this is a marathon. The season is always a marathon. You want to try and protect him the best you can so he's not getting too many doggone hits on him."
On San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman ... "Ronnie has very good vision and he's got tremendous speed. As a true freshman a year ago, I think he rushed for 1,5000 yards or something like that. He has an innate ability that good backs have. Their vision is good, their balance is good, and he's got a burst. I've seen it a lot obviously, but he's a very dangerous guy for them, and he's playing very confidently."
On what makes San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley special ... "Ryan Lindley, he's got a very strong arm, he's got a great demeanor, and he's got a tremendous work ethic when studying opponents. His coach, Brian Sipe, who wasn't a bad football player in his own right, and has a lot of the intangibles I think Brian has been able to really feed to Ryan. The kid is a tremendous kid, he's tremendous leader, and has a great sense for the game."
On the challenge San Diego State will present for Michigan's safeties ... "You have to have your eyes on the right thing, whether it's quarters coverage and it's the tight end side, or is the tight end down blocking or is he releasing, you know, in the standard seam routes. That's the biggest thing, your initial alignment, your eyes, and then what you do with your feet. That's critical. Different coverage is a little different. If you're in Tampa 2 or something like that, then they should be back because they got to be the last one on a run play to the ball."
On San Diego State linebacker Jake Fely ... "Very instinctive. Very physical for not a real big guy. In that defense he's perfect because of his quickness and his ability to react. Tough kid. Real tough kid."
On why Vincent Smith had success vs. Eastern Michigan ... "I think a couple things. No. 1, I think he played good with his vision, you know, on where to go and listening to Fred (Jackson) as we go through the game about pressing the ball more in the line of scrimmage. Then reacting off the center's tail end, let's put it that way, and where you would cut and those kind of things. Vince has been a tremendous pass protector. We missed one third down, I think it was the second drive or third drive where we had him isolate on the linebacker. We should have gone to him early with it. But he does a lot of things very well, and he's doing a lot of things well."
On if the good rushing numbers vs. Eastern Michigan reflect positively on the offensive line ... " I thought they played pretty well when you look at it. A couple times we got knocked back, which we don't want to do. But I thought for the most part we got on the right guys. I know talking with Darrell (Funk) there were a few cuts from the backside that we should have made that we didn't for one reason or another that we got to fix."
On having reservations about playing Vincent Smith too much due to his size ... "He might be smaller, but he's put together. I'm sure you've seen him. He's rocked pretty well together and his mentality is that of a tough guy."
On if it's a running back by committee approach at this point ... "It might be. Neither one of us [Al Borges) want it that way. But I think we're there at this point in time."
On if he wanted to play Thomas Rawls more vs. Eastern Michigan ... "Yeah, I struggle with that a little bit because I never felt real good about the game. I know Fred (Jackson) probably would have liked to get him in, but I wasn't feeling as comfortable where we were as maybe other people were."
On if Cam Gordon and Brandon Herron will be able to play this week ... "Yeah."
On the play of freshman punter/kicker Matt Wile ... "I think for a young guy coming in here and doing the punts and the kickoffs and long field goals, for a young freshman, he's hanging in there. He had a couple kickoffs and had the one punt that was not what he wanted, but I think he's done a nice job. There is a maturity level that you have to have and accountability to teammates that you have to have."
On if the Michigan players appreciate how talented the San Diego State team is ... "They will. Believe me, they will. All you have to do is watch them. They're pretty doggone good. They're as good as anybody we've played."
On the areas he would most like to see improvement leading into the Big Ten season ... "That's a good question. I have to pick one? I would say our front seven defensively has to play better."
On Michael Shaw seeing fewer carries ... "He's got perform a little better. And he is. He is conscious about what he needs to do. Then you get a guy who gets a little bit hot, and that hot hand kind of takes over a little bit."
On if Raymon Taylor jumped Courtney Avery in the cornerback rotation ... "No. Ray played the nickel when he get in the nickel. When Troy (Woolfolk) got a little bit beat up, we only had one, and that was Thomas (Gordon), who was playing the nickel. To get a little bit better of a cover guy, moved Raymon in. Ray missed two weeks. We thought Ray would be on the field, special teams, maybe nickel or corner some going into the year. So he just got healthy. He's physical. He's a good athlete."
On if he is shrinking the number of candidates for playing time at running back ... "No. You're going to obviously, through the week, work with guys you think are going to be the guys. But at any time that changes to some degree. Stephen Hopkins is still a guy who we think is a pretty good back. He's got a little bit of a sub flexor or whatever that is, I don't know what that is, that hurt him a little bit."
On if he worries about national rankings at this time of the season ... "No, I am at the end of November. It's not a big deal."
Senior Tight End Kevin Koger
On what the whole offense needs to do to get the passing game going ... "(Pay) more attention to detail with the receivers on their routes, coming out of the routes and the depth and all of that, the little intricacies that go into the passing game. So we just have to be more detailed in that."
On Denard (Robinson) saying that he needs to be better ... "He does that all the time, I feel like sometimes he's too hard on himself. I know you're a great player, but you're expecting a lot of yourself, which you should, but a lot of that stuff is on us. Every pass isn't going to be perfect, so as receivers, we have to help him complete those passes."
On Vincent Smith's breakout game against Eastern Michigan ... "I see him working hard all the time, he's a tough guy. I know any running back that goes back there, he's ready. This was just his day to shine."
On the biggest difference between San Diego State and Eastern Michigan ... "Scheme-wise, (San Diego State has) some great schemes. I've seen a little bit of it already. They have great schemes and they have a lot of players that fly around, so it'll be a good game."
On the level of frustration at the lack of completions the first three games ... "It'll come. We've done well rushing the ball. If that's what we have to do to win, that's what we're going to do. We aren't going to deter from what got us here. If Denard has to run the ball 15 times, he's a tough guy and he can take the beating. So we just do what we have to do to win and the passing game will come with that."
On the offense being similar to last year ... "With Denard back there, you have to tailor it to his strengths, and one of his strengths is being in shotgun and the read-option. So we are definitely going to incorporate that into the offense. We do also have the two running back set that we will run a little power, so we can run the ball with Denard under center."
On being 3-0 and ranked in the top 25 polls ... "We just have to stay focused. In the past couple of years we've had strong starts, ranked in the top 25 and all that good stuff. It doesn't matter how you start, it's how you finish."
On having to match San Diego State's intensity ... "It's not hard for me to get fired up for any opponent. I feel like we are going to get everyone's best shot because of the players that we have on our team, so we have to come out ready to play. We can't get hit in the mouth early like we have in the past couple of weeks. We have to start strong and not have these slow starts like we have been."
Fifth-Year Senior Defensive End Ryan Van Bergen
On playing San Diego State ... "Coach Hoke made it a point to say they are a good team. I have seen the film and they are a really good team. They have some really good players. They are going to be the toughest challenge we have faced so far. We have to have a great week of preparation. We have to make sure we take them seriously because they are an awesome challenge for us and it is going to be exciting."
On San Diego State players feelings towards playing former coach ... "It would be very motivating. I think those players are definitely going to be highly motivated. There are plenty of reasons to be motivated outside of that. I can imagine that they are going to come in with a demeanor of we are going to play hard and beat them in their own house. That is what I would expect from them and that is what I would expect from myself if I was placed in that same situation. We have to be prepared to get their best game and to give them our best game. Because, like I said, they are a good team and if we do not play our best game they are going to run away with it."
On getting more turnovers this year ... "It is an emphasis in practice. We are constantly going after the football in practice against our own guys. Regardless of if it's tackle or not. The main emphasis is to strip the ball no matter what. We jump on incomplete passes every time like it is a fumble. When you focus on it, it is something that starts to come naturally and you do not think about it. The other thing is red zone. Coach Mattison emphasizes the red zone as being one of the most important things, because everyone thinks the offense gets better in the red zone and that is not our perspective. The field gets shorter and there is the same number of guys out there, and we think we have better odds in the red zone when it comes down to it. We can hold them to field goals and make goal line stands. That is something we pride ourselves on and we are excited about that we play well in the red zone."
On comparing this 3-0 starts to previous starts ... "I think 3-0 in the last couple of years has felt like a bigger accomplishment. We felt much better about ourselves; we kind of had more confidence, undeserved confidence, we did not play very well. Right now we are at the stage where we recognize we have not played very well and we are 3-0. We have not put together a full game offensively and defensively, yet we found a way to win in our three games. That is something I do not think we had in the past, that awareness to the fact that we have not played well yet and we still have that urgency to get better and to improve. I think that is something that the coaches instill and the senior leadership has righted the ship that we need to keep improving; 3-0 has not really satisfied us at all."
Fifth-Year Senior Center David Molk
On the production by the running backs ... "They each have their different style of running. They approach the game, they approach each play, in a different way. But, it seemed liked Vince (Smith) came out and had some pretty good runs. Then again, it is also how the offensive line blocks. We did not block as well in the beginning of the game as we did in the end. It's just kind of how holes open up and whoever hits them."
On running back Vincent Smith ... "He is really tough. He likes to hit, that is the really weird part about him. He is such a small guy, you think he would shy away from hits or cut blocks to stay away from the heavy contact. But he will seek it out and go find the biggest guy on the defense and just nail him. I love that about him."
On looking ahead to the matchup with San Diego State ... "They are a good team, they are a very good team. They are a valuable opponent; they have a very good defense. They really have an interesting scheme on defense, that will be kind of fun to see."
On comparing this 3-0 starts to previous starts ... "It feels about the same, we just have to make sure we maintain this level of play that we are at. We need to improve through the season as we get into the Big Ten season to maintain this winning. Obviously, we are happy with three wins in a row that is always a good thing having no losses. But at the same time we are more in tune with what our issues are. We know what they are and we know how to fix them. We are really putting a valiant effort to fix those every week."
On quarterback Denard Robinson ... "He just needs to progress as a player. It is something he will find in himself and when he figures it out, he figures it out. Right now what he does is working. He is an incredible player, we all know that. We all know that he is a winner."