Press Conference Comments from
U-M Head Football Coach Lloyd Carr
Previewing Purude (Oct. 13); Reviewing Eastern Michigan (Oct. 6)
Opening Statement ... "After watching the film, I think the positive thing for us is that we had an opportunity for a lot of our younger players to get some valuable playing time.
"As we go into the second half of the season, what I really like, I think the most important statistic in football is turnover margin. I think we are in good shape there from a standpoint that we're plus-seven, which means that we're doing a better job at taking care of the football. Both our turnovers on Saturday -- one was a deflected pass, another was where a quarterback got hit -- you're going to have some of those. But it was not a case of being careless with the football, which I like, and so we may subscribe to that area in recent games.
"I think you have to be able to run the football. We've done that throughout the course of the season. I like that we're running the football, and you know, if we can get healthier in that offensive line, I think that's something that is going to be valuable to us.
"Our third down conversions, 48.5 percent, I think that enables you to keep the football, protect the football, to protect your defense, to get points. I think we've done a very good job there. I think Zoltan Mesko, our punting, has been excellent. And I think we've created some pressure on the quarterback.
"So as we go into this part of the season now where it really, from the standpoint of the intensity of the games; the weather is about to change here, and so we're getting into Big Ten football, and we've got some things to build on. Certainly we've got some things to get corrected.
"But I thought there were some very good things, and I think you have to be able in the course of a season to be able to win when you aren't at full strength. We've done that for four games now. But those first two wins of the season, we won with a freshman quarterback that stepped in and did a good job, but certainly I don't remember being in a position like we were last Saturday.
"So we've got to come together here this week and try to beat an excellent Purdue team that comes in at 5-1, a defense that's always tough. I thought they have played well throughout the course of this season, and they have an explosive offense with guys that can run the football and run with it after they catch, and a guy that can throw it."
Will Tim McAvoy be ready to go this week ... "Well, I will have a lot better feel tomorrow when we practice. So there are some guys that are coming off injury, and you don't know how they are going to come off the injury, and really, in terms of being able to perform until they get on to the practice field. They may feel better and they may look better, but it's really how they can handle getting into practice, because without practice, you've got -- it's a very, very unusual circumstance where a guy can learn the game plan and play efficiently without practicing. So we'll just have to see."
Would you say of the guys that missed, is there anybody that you had I will for sure be able to go this week ... "It doesn't matter what I think. Now, you know, when you get a trainer's report, Paul Schmidt, he's not going to say -- occasionally, he'll say, okay, he should be back, he's ready, full strength, ready to go. In most cases, it's, 'Well, he's going to return to practice, and then we have to watch and see.'
"So, until we get out there, some of those guys are going to practice, certainly, but I can't tell you more than that."
Was Jake Long correct on the PAT block ... "No. (Laughter).
"You know, for those who study the game, the rules have been changed in recent years in terms of they eliminated this year, the ability to push a down lineman. In previous years, a linebacker for example, could walk up behind a down lineman and push. And that created a situation I think where the rules committee felt that was unfair, maybe unsafe, I don't know.
"When I was on the rules committee, we eliminated the ability for guys to stand four or five yards behind the line of scrimmage and then sprint on the snap of the ball and leap up. We got rid of that part of the game because of the safety issue.
"So consequently, we are in an era now today where the defenses have been limited. You may have seen an NFL game last night where a rule was called an illegal defense because a lineman on the center.
"But what has happened is teams are working much harder on your standard gap-rush defenses. And where you're vulnerable is over the center, because the center has got his head down. He's got the ball between his legs, and so there's a soft spot in that area. And they took -- they executed -- their guy did a great job. He got off the ball, he moved almost the exact second that the ball moved. He made a great move; he made a great block, just as Terrance Taylor did when he blocked their extra point.
"So you know, I think we're seeing more of those and I'll be interested to look at the statistics at the end of the season. But when you get big guys, and the offensive lineman, you know, they can't fire out. They are trying to stay low and keep from getting knocked back. But when you get guys that are 300 pounds that are charging hard, you're going to get some penetration.
"So he made a great play. Jake Long has been on that team for four years, and there's never been a block over him. That's my answer and I'm sticking to it."
Could you talk about Shawn Crable, what you've been through with him over a couple of years and how he's evolved ... "If you know anything about his life growing up, I mean, he has had some challenges. I think the fundamental thing that you know about Shawn is that I have never had a situation with him where he didn't tell me the truth.
"Sometimes, you know, when you're 18 years old, and you have a coach or a parent and you don't -- it's hard to admit that something happened that maybe you're not proud of; that you know will be disapproved or embarrassing, all those issues.
"I've always believed that fundamentally if somebody truthful, then he's going to be okay. And Shawn has always been very honest about anything that we've had to deal with from a coach/player standpoint, which always gives you as a coach tremendous confidence in the fact that you're dealing with a guy who has got some character. I think he's always been a guy that can take hard coaching.
"One of the things he had to learn -- some guys grow up and when they are in high school, there's even a few college players that are so talented that they don't have to play the game at full speed all the time. They never have had to really compete throughout the course of a year or a season and so sometimes they have developed bad habits.
"I think one of the things Shawn had to learn here was to play hard every down and understand that, you know, that's the only thing that would give you a chance to reach your potential. He's made great strides and I think this year, I think part of it is I think he feels a responsibility after being selected as captain. What I tried to tell him is that, hey, you know, leading is not about talking. It's about performing and setting an example.
"So he's having an extremely good year, and I think, he's going to earn his degree, which you know, is always a measure of where a guy's focus was. So I'm really proud and I'm really happy for him. You know, he's got the ability to do some things when he leaves Michigan."
Did you see something in Shawn that you thought would make him a captain because he did not think or imagine that he would be ... "I think after his selection, we had a conversation, and I think he was surprised to be selected. And I tried to tell him the things I think his teammates saw. And what they see is a guy that is not afraid, not intimidated, by anything; he never has been. The only reason he didn't play as a freshman is he hurt his shoulder early, and so at some point it wasn't worth wasting a year of his ability.
"I think his teammates felt the same thing about him; here is a guy that, you know, he's going to tell you the truth. He's a guy you can trust. And I think, when you go to select somebody to lead you, you want somebody that you can trust. And to me, he had ability. But I think the other thing they saw in the last year is a tremendous work ethic. His work ethic really changed last winter. Not that he had ever been bad, but I think he really stepped it up.
"And so I think they saw him on a daily basis work hard, and a guy that was not intimidated by anything, and a guy they could trust."
Is it a benefit for Adrian, as well, in terms of what he's rebounding from ... "I'm extremely proud of Adrian Arrington because you know, he had to change. He had to change and he was willing at one point there to prove to me that he really wanted to stay here and that he really wanted to play football at Michigan. He's just playing great football.
"He's developed into the kind of player that I always hoped he would be, and he played well a year ago. This guy is one heck of a football player."
Do you think Adrian has changed on the field, and what do you think he's doing better ... He's always been gifted. He has great size and he has great hands and he's tough. And he's another guy that's not intimidated by anything. He's made some catches -- he makes the catch that's thrown behind him look easy. And in my assessment of receivers, that's one of the things that's most difficult to do. I've seen him make catches that when I watch it on film, I mean, you see it in the game, you don't really appreciate the kind of catch it is.
"My guess is, he's a fun-loving guy and he likes to have a good time. And I think he really had to learn to prioritize the things that he said when he came here. He wanted to get a degree; he wanted to be a great football player.
"So if you've got things in order, then you can still have a good time. But if you like to have a good time more than you like to go to school, then, I think its maturity. I think he's a young kid, and you know, I think he's matured and I think he's fun to be around right now."
Is there anything you have learned about yourself as a person and as a coach as a result of the first half of the season ... "No, not really. I think no matter what profession you're in or what you're doing, you're always learning, because if you're not learning, if you aren't getting better, you're regressing.
"So I think I've been in it long enough that I do have a philosophy on, you know, how you're going to deal with things when they are going your way and how you're going to teal with things when they aren't going your way and how you handle success and how you handle disappointment. And so that's one of the things that I think every coach has to understand.
"It's a great opportunity to teach college students, and there's no better place to learn than on the football field. The ability that comes to those who coach and compete in this game, just like it counts in every area and walk of life, sooner or later."
Brandent Englemon felt a strong challenge from you going into this year, how do you feel he's responded to that ... "I will say this about Brandent Englemon: This kid is truly -- he's a kid, he was probably the last scholarship we gave in his freshman year, because we had had a kid change his mind. And Jim Herrmann sold me on Brandent Englemon from the standpoint of he was recognized nationally for his achievements as a student athlete, as a scholar athlete. And when I met him, Jim had told me what great character he had. He was exactly right.
"A year ago, Brandent did not play to his potential. I was very disappointed in the way he played and when he expressed an interest in coming back for a fifth year, I told him I wanted to think about that. And consequently, we had three or four discussions, and I decided because he made it clear to me that it was very important to him and that he wanted to prove what kind of player he was, I gave him the opportunity to come back.
"And this guy, if you watch the film, this guy is having a sensational year. I mean, he has made play after play, made a big tackle, caused a fumble on Saturday, he's done a great job on special teams. You know, because he has his priorities in order, this guy is something special. And he'll do some things with his life when he leaves here, I guarantee you that."
Have you ever seen anything like this in the national landscape, where it's so wild ... "I think it happens every year. If you look back -- maybe there's more (this year). But the one thing you know, there are 119 schools in I-A and every week, 59 of them are going to win and 59 of them are going to lose.
"So this idea of upsets, as long as there's gambling, there's going to be some favorites. But the truth is, I think you know, anybody that's been around for any length of time, there's ample evidence that, you'd better be ready to play. Sometimes there's reasons.
"It's a game, psychologically, this time of year is when you know, a lot of them happen because guys right now across the country, a lot of kids are taking midterm exams. They are staying up late. They are not getting the rest they need. They are getting fatigued because they have been in training camp for four weeks, so that's two and a half months they have been competing; you know, the weather.
"So I think there's reasons, and anybody, I don't know if anybody ever coached that wasn't vulnerable to those things. Because if there was an answer, there was a solution; somebody would have come up with it by now. If you do this, you'll never get upset. That's the deal. And we're all trying to find that answer."
What do you like about Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter ... "He's got great size and he's got a great arm. He's in an offense where, because of the way you're spread out, you know, he's got ample opportunity. There are only so many things you can do defensively when there's five wide receivers or when there's four wide receivers and a tight end or there's nobody in the backfield.
"He's a senior. He's got the experience that comes with being a starter. He's got great experience, so there are very few things he hasn't seen. And he's been into all of the stadiums, so I think they do a great job with what they do. If you look at the quarterbacks they have had down through the years, and certainly, they are all guys that are smart, guys that knew what they were doing."
On how tackle Mark Ortmann graded out against EMU in his first start ... "I don't give them the grade. I think he understood early that he was going to have a chance to play, and I think he prepared like that. We had a couple problems on that side primarily in pass protection, because he was in his first start, and (Stephen) Schilling was starting at guard.
"So they haven't worked together, like worked very little together -- and the speed of the game. As the game went on, I thought he got better. I think he's going to be better for the experience, and once you play, you like to play. You want to keep playing. So it motivates you to work hard, practice hard all those things."
In what ways do you see Morgan developing taking over that cornerback position ... "He's playing with a lot of confidence. He played, up until the very end of the season ... I thought Morgan Trent had a very good year a year ago. He wasn't satisfied with the way he played at the very end.
"He came back in the winter with an attitude that he wanted to play a full season. He's a very dedicated guy, takes care of himself. He's got pride, and that motivated him in the course of the spring and off-season. There's no question in my mind he'll be able to finish this year ...
"When he came here he was a wide receiver. What I liked about him was he played both ways; he was a safety. But the cornerback position is new to him, and he had a lot of things to learn. But he's a hard working guy with a great attitude. The interception Jamar Adams had Saturday was a great play by Morgan ... he's having a very good year."
As a former quarterback does it surprise you that this Purdue offense has been so successful, and what is it that makes it so successful ... "I think the difference, and probably when they first got to Purdue, when Joe first came into the league, really my biggest question about that offense is, could you run that offense and still play good defense. Because what you're going to defend is what you see every day in practice. And this has been traditionally, historically, and I think it still is, a team where you have to be able to run the football to win.
"And you know, I think they have done both. They have been able to run the football out of that offense, and I think they have played very, very good defense. I don't think it's strictly, you know -- you're not going to win as much as they have; you're not going to be as successful as they have without being good defensively, too.
"And of course, offensively, they have had the ability to score a lot of points, and yet they have still been able to play good defense. So that would be my response."
What did Ohio State's defense do to slow down the Purdue offense ... "I think the biggest different was that they had a hard time running the football. You know, I think you credit -- it looked to me like an outstanding defense.
"Because if you have a hard time running, now the down and distances, if you're second-and-long, third-and-long all the time, even in that offense, it makes it harder.
"So that's what I saw, and I have not studied the whole thing yet. I'll do that this afternoon."
Do you think that this team is still searching for an identity ... "I told them last week that I felt last week would be a crucial point in the season, because we went in there knowing that we were not full strength, and I think you're going to have to be able to win some games when you aren't. And we have been in some games here, but that game Saturday, I think if you really take everything out of there, we ran the football extremely well.
"I thought our defense played very well. I mean, the points -- 11 of those points I think you can attribute to the kicking game. So we are not where we need to be, but from the standpoint of a team that has given the kind of effort and have displayed the kind of things that I think you need to be able to compete for a championship, I think those things are there.
"Now, we've got to get ready for an outstanding football team, and you can measure us again this week."
At the midway point, as you reflect on the first six games, how would you describe where this team is at this first half ... "I really don't want to get into assessing that whole thing. We are where we are. I've just tried to explain to you that I think there are some very, very positive things, and I'm optimistic about what this team has done recently, and the prospects as we go into this schedule.
"But it's going to be typical, Big Ten football. The intensity of it is just about to pick up because if you've got one loss -- Purdue has got one loss, but they are still in the race, and they have got a lot to play for, and every team that we're playing is in the same boat. I mean, they are either in the lead or they are close to the lead and that brings out I think the best in everybody, and that's what will be fun about it. For those who win, it will be more fun."
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