Oct. 3, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "It was good to start the season winning the game on Saturday. It was good to get the (Little Brown Jug). I think the score got painted on it this morning. It's good to have the jug here in Ann Arbor.
"Everything gets tougher. I think Northwestern, they're 2-2, as you all know, (they) lost a heartbreaker down in Champaign last week. But they have a football team that's very well coached. Pat (Fitzgerald) is probably as good of a coach as there is in this league and a guy who feels strongly about that program, being an alumnus of Northwestern, being a tremendous player there.
"I think you also look at they're a team that's going to play physical, they're going to play 60 minutes of football. Defensively they run very well to the ball. Offensively, Dan Persa was back, played most of the game, was pretty productive. But Colter, Kain Colter, is also a guy who has moved them offensively and done a nice job.
"So when you look at it, playing away, we haven't been away, will be a little bit different for us because we've been fortunate enough to play five games in Michigan Stadium."
On being second in the country in fewest points allowed and how that's come to be ... "It's like anything else, it doesn't mean anything right now. None of those things matter. We're 1-0 right now (in the Big Ten). I think when you look at our (defensive) front the last two weeks, I think they've been a little more disruptive. I think we put a little more pressure at times on the quarterback. We still don't blitz worth a dog, period. That's going to improve.
"Guys are playing together. I think they're understanding their roles. I think the defensive staff has done a very good job in preparation. The guys are doing a good job of preparing themselves."
On how Denard Robinson performed against Minnesota ... "I think mechanically he was better. I think the routes were better. I think the timing might be off (indiscernible). I thought it wasn't bad versus Notre Dame either. I think he's a competitive guy, he takes a lot of I don't know what the word is he wants to be good for his teammates."
On how Denard Robinson has improved his timing with the receivers ... "It's just the routes and timing, if it's a five step or three step drop from a gun or under center, just the mechanics of that, when the ball should be thrown, on what step."
On what he will do differently for the team's first road game ... "I don't know if it's different or not. We'll find out. Just the demeanor that we travel with. This being a night game I think we have a good blueprint for that with how we'll do walkthroughs, all those things.
"They're out of sort of their security of the Campus Inn. There's a lot of familiarity there with a lot of guys, especially guys who have played a lot of football here. It's all those distractions that are out there that you may not have when you're here."
On the type of demeanor the team will have on the road ... "Business. We have goals. This is another one of the 12 guaranteed games that we have. It's a Big Ten game. We've got to go out there and play our best football and improve."
On how the injury status of Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa affects preparation ... "It doesn't do anything. Same offense. They've recruited well. So it's all the same offense."
On the success of U-M's running backs in the last two games ... "I think part of the running backs being successful is also how we're blocking up front, how we're giving them some downhill space, when you look at combination blocks. The thing that's always different is the targeting for how people are going to play you. Everyone is going to play us a little differently within a concept they have defensively because of what Denard (Robinson) gives you as an athlete. When you're targeting up front, from the five guys up front to maybe play-side receivers, if they can get in there and carve out the strong safety or whatever it might be, that's all part of it. I think the adjustments that have been made, I think Darrell (Funk), Al (Borges), those guys on offense have done a real good job from game to game, from series to series because we never know how people are going to defend us."
On the differences between Northwestern's quarterbacks ... "I don't know if I've seen enough totally. I haven't looked at every game yet. I went through a lot of different cut ups of things that we like to look at. I don't see a whole lot of difference. When you look at the athleticism of the quarterbacks, the ability to throw the football, there may be an experience factor somewhere, but when you look at both guys, they're both great dag-gone productive."
On what impresses him about Dan Persa ... "Number one, I think he's a tough-minded kid. Looking from a year ago in the offseason, he's a guy who is not afraid to tuck the ball running, take a hit, deliver a hit. I think he has a very good handle and management on the offense, getting them the right plays and all those things."
On setting up Denard Robinson for passing success early in the Minnesota game ... "I think that's always important. We took a couple shots, one shot for sure, downfield on a first down. But I think getting the rhythm of the game, the tempo of the game, confidence level, whatever you want to call it, I think that's an important part of getting your quarterback started."
On balancing the 'normal offense' with the package that includes Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner ..."That's always a give and take. You've got to make a good decision how you manage it. I think there's some positives what we gain from it to some degree. Part of that positive is people now work on (stopping) it. That's just one more thing as a defensive coach, you only have so many hours in a day, you only have so much time on the practice field, that it's another piece."
On freshman cornerback Blake Countess competing with J.T. Floyd, Troy Woolfolk and Courtney Avery ... "Blake felt like a guy you could feel out there again. Those four guys and I think Raymon Taylor. I think all those guys are competing every day. Blake made some plays, then there are some things, from a coverage aspect, when talking about coverage aspect, maybe competing a little closer to a guy that he needs to be better at."
On adding anything in practice this week to get acclimated to a road environment ... "You know what, we've never really had a problem in that part of it. It hasn't been previously. Al (Borges), he doesn't do a lot with it. We've got silent counts and everything else that we already use, so it's not as big of an issue."
On Stephen Hopkins as a fullback ... "I think what he did in the course of the game, probably one of the better plays was when he blocked the edge on one of the play action plays. I thought for his first time in there at fullback, he may have played one other game a snap or two there, but I thought he did a pretty good job. I think when you get in the split backs a little bit, having that ability with a guy who can run, he's also not afraid to block. That's always been a part of what Al (Borges) likes to do."
On kickoff coverage ... "I think we're better than we were the last time we had this problem. The one they ran back, there was obviously a hold that was called. There was a couple holds in there. We still need to compete off blocks better. I think some of it is always placement, ball placement, hang time has to be a part of it. Then we avoided the wrong way, two guys did, on one of the other ones. There were three pretty good coverages and then I think there were two not so good coverages that we can't have."
On his respect for Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald ... "Knowing him, what kind of person he is first. But watching his teams. Watch how well they're prepared, how he manages a game and all those things that go along with it."
On if Brendan Gibbons is exhibiting more confidence after his showing vs. Minnesota ... "Not really. Hopefully he has a humbleness. Look, we played five games. We all signed up for 12 that we're guaranteed. So he's got a long way to go. I've been pleased with how he's handled himself, how he's kicked all summer, fall camp long. But he's like everyone else: there's competition daily."
On Ricky Barnum's availability this week ... "He's fighting. He's fighting every day to get back. It will kind of be a daily deal."
On Michael Schofield ... "He did pretty good. He hung in there pretty well."
On Denard Robinson helping the U-M defense prepare for mobile quarterbacks ... "Seeing a lot of the looks, even though there's some differences with their zone, it's more midline. But seeing a lot of the looks we get from our offense from time to time is always a benefit.
"Both Persa and Colter are very good athletes and can run well. The same thing when it comes to getting in the pocket and scrambling and finding that opening. So I'm sure Greg (Mattison) and the defensive staff will have a few things that will hopefully shore us up and help us."
On the biggest defensive improvements made week-to-week so far ... "I think our preparation is part of it. I think the front, the aggression that they're playing with, disruptiveness, fundamentals, techniques. I think our support system, whether it be from an outside backer or a nickel or strong safety or free safety, I think it's a little better."
On if the offensive and defensive coordinators are getting comfortable with their personnel ... "It's a good point. Probably is how much they can handle. We can know all the football we need to know, but if they don't know it, it doesn't do any good. I think scaling things back at some times is a plus.
"We've scaled some things back a week ago because of a lot of the movements and trades that they had. Better to have 11 guys in position than maybe that great defense that you think you may have called and have guys confused."
On if it's frustrating to have to scale back some things ... "No, it's just reality. If your guy's going to play hard, play aggressive, play with fundamentals and technique, I'd be happy if we could run four defenses, two coverages, as long as we could play it at our highest level."
On punter Will Hagerup ... "He was okay. There were some wind issues to some degree. He only had to punt twice. But he was okay."
On how the package with Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner makes opponents prepare ... "Right, right. That's good. And really at the end of the day it's about the execution. It's great to have tricks and all that kind of stuff. If you don't execute it, you might as well not have it. So it's the execution."
On running option plays against particular defensive positions ... "Well, it depends. Some people are going to have the backside linebacker or linebacker back bounce. Some people are going to fast flow him and have the end on the quarterback. Some people are going to take the frontside safety or the backside safety, or they'll take the frontside linebacker, he'll cross key it.
"There are a lot of target issues that we have to deal with because everyone does it differently. Minnesota, Bill Miller, who I think is a tremendous football coach, tremendous defensive coach, we had to target the frontside safety. Now, how do you do that? You bring a receiver in? You cut a split a little bit? You motion him in to try to get him that way or do you do it on the line of scrimmage or do you do it with that split zone theory, that offset tight end or back."
On how he makes those blocking decisions ... "It's usually on the fly. Because of Denard's skill set, they're going to have a different way of trying to do it. Some of them will be the same depending on what your base is and what you're doing. That's where Al (Borges) and Darrell Funk and (Jeff) Hecklinski upstairs do a tremendous job of seeing and communicating with the kids."
On his belief that Michigan is overrated in the national polls ... "We're not playing the football that we need to play. We're not playing well enough. We're not finishing things well enough. There's a lot of fundamental things. We get two penalties that bring us back. There are six to eight plays in a game that are going to determine the outcome, period. That's going to happen, especially when you're playing in a conference like ours. You never know when those six to eight plays are going to happen. So you have to play your best every play, whether it's covering a kickoff, whether it's blocking a three technique, whether it's taking on a double team. You have to play your best every play."
On running more counter plays and misdirection plays ... "I think it's part of an offense that I'm sure will be in there. I thought it was effective. Again, it goes back to what he's talking about in zone reads, everything else, sprint plays, trying to take advantage of something."
On Taylor Lewan avoiding penalties ... "I don't know what he did in the past. I think we understand that we've got to play the game of fundamentals, techniques and discipline, have great poise and composure in how you play. That's all part of it."
On Vincent Smith ... "I think he's a guy who loves football. I think he's a guy that's a tough guy and works at it hard. I think there are guys like that out there. I'm just glad that Vince Smith is playing at Michigan. I think it inspires you. I think it's your mentality."
On Northwestern wide receiver Jeremy Ebert ... "He does everything for them. He's sure-handed, quick, good balance, good hand eye skills. He's a big part of their offense. Put him in some different positions, different alignments to let him maybe get away from some press man at times, also utilize what he can do. He's a good football player."
Junior Quarterback Denard Robinson
On using Saturday's performance as a confidence booster for the passing game... "It won't really help me because I already knew we had that, we've been doing it all summer we just hadn't put it forward in a game yet."
On the offensive package where he and Devin Gardner are both on the field ... "We haven't done anything with that yet. It's going to be kind of fun when we do."
On going on the road with this team for the first time ... "It's going to be a sight to see. It's going to be a great team we play against; Northwestern is a great team. We're going into a hostile environment and we just have to be ready."
On the swagger of the defense... "They have confidence and they're playing well so their confidence is going up and that's good."
On playing at night and on the road ... "I really don't like playing at night because I get butterflies before the game and I just want to play. But on the road it's a different feeling, everybody isn't with you, their fans aren't with you. So have to go out there and get them quiet before they become the 12th man."
On Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa ... "He's probably one of the most amazing quarterbacks in the Big Ten, if not the country. He does some things that other guys can't."
On the toughness of Vincent Smith for his size ... "He's one of the toughest dudes I've ever been around my whole life. He will fight you until he has nothing left."
On the Wolverines' position in the rankings ... "I think it's too high too. We still have things to work on and still have time for improvement if we keep improving and do things right."
Fifth-Year Senior Defensive End Ryan Van Bergen
On Michigan's position in the national rankings ... "I wasn't aware of the number. I knew we've been ranked for a week or two now. As far as the ranking goes my opinion hasn't changed, the team's opinion hasn't changed. Ranking doesn't mean anything to us. If anything, all it does is provide motivation for the team playing against us. We don't think we've played to the level we need to play to yet still and we definitely don't feel like we've played up to the potential of being the number 12 team in the country. Can we be there? Possibly, but we still have to put a couple of different things in order. We're getting there, and we're definitely making some progress, but we're not the number 12 team in the country in our minds yet."
On the help practicing against Denard Robinson provides ... "It definitely helps. When you play against one of the most versatile players, and then you have Devin [Gardner] too who's kind of like the changeup. Devin is not slow by any standards, he's a really fast quarterback. But when you play against Denard and then you play against Devin, you're getting the best of both worlds when it comes to running quarterbacks and athletic guys in the backfield plus our running backs. So when you get that kind of experience when you go against somebody like [Northwestern quarterback] Dan Persa who's so versatile and so athletic, we get an opportunity every week in practice to get that caliber athlete in the backfield and try to contain him in the pocket or take good angles to him when he's running the ball. That's an advantage our defense has I think over most defenses in the country is how we're able to prepare for athletes in the backfield because I know a lot of other teams have to use scout team guys that are RBs or receivers, skill positions that can't necessarily throw the ball. When we have Devin and Denard that provides a huge advantage in preparing for the week."
On the progress the defense has made from a year ago ... "I'm really encouraged. I also think that it's interesting to see some of the statistics we've put up with the way that we've played and grade it out. There have guys that have played well, but they haven't played as well as they have in a Tuesday practice as far as missed assignments and stuff. There were some first downs and some eight-plus yard runs that they had that should have never broke for more than two or three. I'm sure people are getting tired of hearing, 'we could be better, we could be better.' We posted a shutout and people are probably thinking we played pretty well. But it's amazing where we could have been had everybody been just a little bit better on some assignments. So that's what keeps me motivated, keeps me going is the fact that we could be so much better if we just clean up just a few more little things."
On 'Having a Place to Stand' and short-yardage situations ... "Having a place to stand means there's no game where a team doesn't get some type of play like a first down, or when they break one into the red zone. But the emphasis of our team has been when they get in the red zone, don't let them in the end zone, doesn't matter if they're on the one. We did goal-line probably three days a week in camp and I don't know of any other team that did that in summer and fall camp. And then on third-and-ones, third-and-twos, fourth-and-ones, fourth-and-twos, we have an unbelievable swagger and confidence in our defense that we can stop guys on third and one. I don't know the statistics but I think we've been pretty good on third-and-shorts because that's what we practice, that's where we hang our hat as a defense that we can shut people down when it comes to short yardage because we can stop the run."
On taking the defense on the road ... "I'm excited to get on the road. As a team, you don't really know where you are 100 percent until you get a road game and see how you're going to react. We don't know how this team is going to react to a road game. The offense has a hard time communicating sometimes because it's vocal. But for us on defense, their fans aren't going to be cheering when they're on offense.
"So defensively, we should be better than we were before just because we can communicate, everybody can talk. It's not going to be where no one knows a call or anything like that when we face the situation so defensively we should play a little bit better."
Senior Tight End Kevin Koger
On Coach Hoke thinking the team is ranked too high ... "I'm not surprised at all. He will come in and praise us in certain areas but never the whole team. He is never satisfied and we just have to continue to improve."
On Denard Robinson improving ... "I think it does a lot for his confidence. I know he is already a confident guy, but I think it does a lot for him and the team also. We helped him out a little bit, we caught the ball better than we have the past couple of games and that attributes to it also."
On Denard and Devin Gardner both playing at the same time ... "They communicated well with us and we knew what the first three plays of the game were going to be anyways. I knew it was coming the second play of the game, so I was not surprised."
On reasons for thinking the team is ranked too high ... "Just stuff we have to work on, I mean special teams and kickoff coverage was awful and Coach Hoke will tell you that. Special teams has not been a strong point for us yet this year. I feel like teams can exploit that if we do not improve upon that soon."
On preparing for the first road game at Northwestern ... "It is weird. We have not traveled since last December. The true freshmen have not traveled at all so they do not know what it is going to be like and we do not know what it is going to be like either. Coach Hoke is different; he has different expectations of us."