Weekly U-M Football Media Luncheon
On Penn State's quarterback changes ... "All I know is what I've read what Joe (Paterno) does. When (Rashard) Casey is playing well, it seems he stays with him. I don't think there is a pattern there."
"I think it really changes the game when Casey comes in because the pace of the game changes. I was surprised to see Penn State's statistics and Casey is their second leading rusher. That is something that tells you his athletic ability. I see the offense changes with some plays that are designed for him, but there isn't really a difference. Just when the offense breaks down, he has the ability to make something happen."
Comparing Penn State to other rivals ... "If you ask the Michigan alumni in that live in Pennsylvania, they will say it's the biggest. Alumni in Ohio will say Ohio State is the biggest, other parts of the country maybe Notre Dame. It all depends on your perspective, we have great respect for Penn State. I think from a national standpoint it's one of those games everyone wants to see. You have two programs that have great traditions and we play in a great conference."
On Penn State in the Big Ten ... "I think Penn State has been tremendous for this conference. I'm not sure it's been good for scheduling because that has created a change. There is no doubt that there addition has been excellent for the Big Ten."
On Penn State joining the Big Ten ... "The most difficult thing is they make it harder to win the championship. I remember when they first came in everyone was saying they will dominant the conference and they have done real well, and I think the one thing they will tell you is that every time they play a Big Ten team, that team wants to beat Penn State. That is the competitiveness they bring to the conference.
On Michigan's offensive line ... "They all understand for us it begins up front. If you can't punch a hole and run the ball, you won't beat them by passing the ball every play. It's that simple. You have to create third-and-short situations, and to do that you have to run the football with some effectiveness. It's not just the offensive line. ... I can remember when we first went down there in 1993, we didn't know much about Penn State. We didn't know their coaches in terms of playing against them, but it didn't take long to appreciate playing at Penn State because it's an exciting place to play."
"When you go on the road you would always like to get control of the game either by getting ahead or moving the football well and that is what we were able to do in the last two games against them, but every year is different. You have to be prepare to play for 60 minutes and the game will probably come down to the fourth quarter where someone's got to come up with a big stand or big play. What makes it fun is we're coming in as an underdog on the road in a tough place to play and that is what it's all about. There's something special about being an underdog on the road in November."
"I don't know a lot about their (Penn State's) mindset. I know they're having a great season. The Rose Bowl or national championship is not out of the question for them. I know what kind of players they have. It will be a great football game. They will play with everything they have like we will."
On the quarterback change this season ... "I make my decision on the quarterback that is best for this team. Tom Brady has done a magnificent job this season, not just as a quarterback but as a leader. I've always respected and admired him. I assure you he did not want to share the quarterback job and yet as the head coach it's my decision to look at the big picture. I wanted to be prepared at this point in the season if something happens, and yet there aren't many guys I have coached that could handle the situation like Tom Brady has, and that is one of the reasons I felt comfortable in doing it because I knew what kind of a guy he is made of."
"You need a special guy at quarterback. In the long term, I think Tom Brady will be able to say in the most difficult situation he has been in, he has handled it extremely well. He gained in the eyes of his teammates and stature because he put his team first."
On David Terrell playing both ways ... "(David) Terrell thinks he is Deion Sanders and he isn't. David has done a good job and just being able to put him over there is great for our defense. He doesn't lack for confidence, and when you're like that you can do anything. When we first moved Charles Woodson his sophomore year, I didn't think he got as many snaps as David is getting and yet the next year Charles was ready to take a major step. I think it's a revolving situation. We taught him (Terrell) the entire secondary package in the spring, but he still has a lot to learn."
"In 1994 Penn State utilized four wide receivers that year, but they had a package that was two backs and then would take their tailback as a receiver and that is still their base part of their offense. I think they're throwing more. But I think the fact is that they've got some guys who have big-play potential. You always have to be alert to who is in the game."
On giving up big plays this season ... "We have not been as good as we would like to be this year against big plays. We'll find out in this game where we are, if we've learned from the mistakes we've made, and if we've improved. I think that's what it will come down to."
On what will decide who wins on Saturday ... "This game for us is about playing collectively: offense, defense, kicking team. The kicking game will be extremely important as well as turnovers. Turnovers, to me, will be the biggest indicator of who wins the game."
On the progress of running back Anthony Thomas this season ... "I think he's shown everybody how tough he is. I think his ability to read the blocks and to run the daylight has increased. I think he's become a devastating pass blocker, and of course he catches the ball well. You have to see those things to really appreciate what an outstanding football player he is."
On Penn State's defense ... "It seems like (David) Macklin and (Anthony) King have been there forever, and I guess they have. ... They play more man-to-man at the corners than most teams do. Even in zone coverage, they're going to bump you and run with you and carry the receivers. It's not a soft zone where they're trying to prevent big plays. They're up on you, and challenging you. They mix it up and they disguise their coverages well. Their secondary, because of their aggressive nature, every once in a while you can get a big play on them but it doesn't happen very often. When it does, you know you've earned it."
On Penn State's offense ... "Because of the fact that they get into one-back sets without substituting a third wide receiver, if you put a nickel back in there, you may find that you're defending two backs in the backfield and you're ability to defend the run is not as good. It makes it difficult to substitute. The problem with getting Penn State into long yardage situations is that they've got so much balance offensively. They're rushing for over 200 yards. You've got to do something awfully well on first and second downs to get them there."
On tight end Bennie Joppru ... "He has been hurt, but you can see the kind of athleticism he has. You could see in the crossing play that got called back against Northwestern what he's about. The guy that went to tackle him really got punished. He's almost 250 pounds, he's 6'5", he's smart and athletic. I think he's going to be a fine player."
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423