Weekly U-M Football Media Luncheon
Anthony Thomas | Larry Foote | DeWayne Patmon
Senior Left Guard Steve Hutchinson
On Auburn's defensive line ... "We've watched film the past couple days now, and I know their inside guys are big. They're all just under 300 pounds. They can move and they have great pass rushing ability. I think their defense is a combination of Arkansas' in 1998 and Alabama's last year. They move a lot up front and like to stop the run. Their main philosophy on defense is to stop the run, making you throw the ball and have their defensive backs cover you. From what I can see so far, they're a great defense."
On helping Anthony Thomas set the all-time Michigan rushing yardage mark ... "If I can look back 10 years from now and say 'I was a guy who blocked for Anthony for four years and he got that record,' it's going to be something special. I don't think this record will be touched for a while. There aren't too many backs like Anthony that run like he does. Hopefully, if he gets it, it's going to stick around for a while."
On Auburn's run-stopping defense ... "Auburn's defensive philosophy is to stop the run and force you to pass. Of course we like to run the ball. Somebody's going to have to give there, and hopefully it's not us. Like I said, that record for Anthony means a lot to us."
On the reasons people should anticipate the Michigan-Auburn matchup ... "I have played against two SEC teams. My freshman year we played Alabama and lost in the Outback Bowl, and every year we play them, no matter who it is, Arkansas or Alabama, they play a tough game for four quarters and give us a run for our money. The fans might think it's not a great matchup, but when you're on that field and you're playing and you see the speed of these teams, and the quickness and the ability to score points quickly, you appreciate any SEC team you're playing. This Auburn team won the western side of the SEC. They've beaten a lot of great teams in the SEC this year, and we don't overlook that at all. As far as we're concerned, we're playing one of the SEC championship teams."
On Anthony Thomas ... "He just likes to play football. Of course, any back loves to carry the ball, but he also loves to pass protect, which is rare. You never see a back actually want to pass protect. Anthony just wants to be on the field and getting dirty. If he added a couple more pounds, I would say he could be a good [offensive] guard. He loves to play the game; he loves to play physical."
On whether arriving earlier for a bowl game makes a difference ... "I think it does. You bring us down to the bowl site and we have two-a-day practices like we've had in the past -- I don't know what the plan is this year -- that totally gets our mind back into football. Everybody's done with exams, we don't have to worry about school. We don't have to worry about distractions from home, friends or family. Most everybody is in the middle of nowhere compared to where they're from. It's kind of nice to be isolated and practice and get our mind back in the game mode."
Junior/Sophomore Defensive Lineman Dan Rumishek
On the confidence of the defense ... "As the year progressed, in each game we went through -- even with the losses -- our confidence grew because of what we were doing and what we were capable of doing. I think the Ohio State game really showed what a lot of us can do. There is a lot more room for improvement, but there's was a huge confidence gain after the Ohio State game."
On Auburn running back Rudi Johnson ... "He's a big back. He's only 5-10, but he's 230 pounds so he can pack a punch when he hits you. I think he's got excellent quickness and excellent breakaway speed from what I've seen. I've heard he's supposed to break Bo Jackson's [school] record this year for rushing. He can move, he can hit you, he can pretty much do everything."
On Auburn's offensive line ... "They're very athletic up front from what we've seen. They're not very big in terms of height -- I think the biggest guy is 6-4, 6-5 -- but they are athletic, they can move really well and do an excellent job of blocking."
On conditioning and the warmer weather factor ... "Conditioning is going to be key in this game. We're running hard right now and we're going to continue running, especially when we get down there. I think the biggest adjustment when we get down there is the heat first, and then worry about them controlling the ball."
On starting for the first time in a bowl game ... "The first thing is the expectation for the position. This year, it's my responsibility to get the younger guys into the film room -- just one hour a day, just to see something that we hadn't seen before."
On Auburn's shotgun formation ... "From what I've seen, a lot of times in their shotgun, their blocking schemes are a lot like Northwestern. You can only run so many plays out of the shotgun formation. Like I said, they do a very good job of blocking and staying on people, letting Rudi Johnson make his cuts."
Fifth-Year Senior Left Tackle Jeff Backus
On the team's excitement for the Florida Citrus Bowl ... "Anytime we get out of this weather and go down to Florida and enjoy ourselves for 10 days, we look forward to it. Our goal was the Rose Bowl, but it didn't happen, so we're happy going to the Citrus Bowl. We had a great time down there two years ago."
On the importance of Anthony Thomas setting the school rushing record ... "I'll be very disappointed for us not to give 106 yards, especially when it's our last chance and we just have to go out there and do it. I don't know how much it matters to him, but it matters a lot to the offensive line."
On Auburn's run defense ... "It just seems as if they get after the ball-carrier. Their defensive line penetrates, they have quick defensive ends, and their linebackers don't play too far off the line of scrimmage. They just stop the run, and we're going to have to come up with something to beat that."
On previous bowl game successes ... "We've been pretty fortunate to go to the Rose, go to the Citrus, Orange, and now the Citrus again. Pretty successful career I would say. We've got three rings, won a national championship. I'll definitely be happy when I leave here. Not too many people say they achieved the things that we did when I was here."
Comparing the bowl game with a regular-season game ... "Bowl games are a lot different than just a regular-season game. It's sort of like a one-game season, totally separate from the 11 other games."
Thoughts on his last game at Michigan ... "I just want to go out there and get a 'W.' Win the game, play well and finish up my career on the right note."
Senior Tailback Anthony Thomas
On whether he cares about setting a new rushing record ... "In a way I do, in a way I don't. It's more personal for my linemen. It's something that they can say that they accomplished. They've been here with me for my four years, and it's something that they can say more than I would right now."
On going up against a great rush defense ... "I haven't seen much about them yet, but today is my film day. I know that they are big guys, fast guys and the DBs come up real fast. They have a big, strong, defensive lineman from what my coach told me. I just have to go in and watch to see what's going on."
On thinking about setting the new record ... "To me I just go out and play football and try to win games. Records come and go. They are made to be broken. If I do break it, I just give a challenge to the next guy to go out and try to break it as soon as possible."
On how he would feel if he didn't break the record ... "It wouldn't bother me a bit as long as we come up with a win."
On playing his last game in a Michigan uniform ... "It really hasn't set in yet. I know it's coming down to the last game, and I know that time is winding down, but it just hasn't set in yet."
On the team's satisfaction this year ... "We're never satisfied with what we did. We could've done better. We're not satisfied with what we've got, but we know what we could have done, if we'd have worked harder, tried a little harder. Some things would have changed during the season. We're just lucky we got a chance to go to the Citrus Bowl."
On looking back at this year's success ... "I sit back and think about that all the time. There's a lot of things we wish we could've done different or better, but it's all over know, you just can't dwell on the past, you have to move forward."
On how much the team may miss him next year ... "I see a lot of things that encourage me. There are a lot of great guys behind me. They just need time to settle in and get experience. They don't want to just throw those guys in and let them go. They're just getting experience. They'll be ready next year."
On whether he could ever see himself as a linebacker ... "I don't know. If I had to change positions, that's probably the position that I would want to go to. I've been hit all these years; it's time for payback."
Junior Linebacker Larry Foote
On Auburn's Rudi Johnson ... "He's a great back. He can make you miss. He's got some size and bulk. Every week it seems we're going against a great tailback. We'll be ready for the challenge."
On Auburn's offense ... "They're definitely a running team. They throw the ball to the running backs. I'm quite sure there is going to be a lot of one-on-one coverage with me and the back. They move the tight end all over the place."
On going to the bowl site early ... "We go down there, and we go after it hard. The other players (from different teams), they get down there three or four days after us. They don't have curfew until like two days before the game. That's definitely an advantage for Michigan."
On the U-M defense ... "Towards the end of the season, we grew together. We played tough. Some of the young guys got a lot of experience. Carl Diggs stepped in there and did a great job."
Senior Strong Safety DeWayne Patmon
On Auburn receiver Ronney Daniels ... "Regardless of what kind of year he had, we know the potential he can do on the field. We know he can have a big game at any time."
On Auburn's quarterbacks ... "The problem is, they got a guy hurt. We don't really know which one is going to play. [Ben Leard is] a solid quarterback. He led them to the West Conference championship in the SEC. He's a proven leader."
On Auburn's passing scheme ... "In the SEC, they like to do a spread-out offense. They like to put the ball in the hands of the receivers to make plays. They don't want to necessarily count on the quarterback to make a great throw even though he can. Their passing game is a complement to their running game."
On U-M's bowl preparation ... "The great thing about bowls is to reward you after a long season. You're supposed to have fun down there, no matter if it's my fourth bowl game or the national championship game. We're still going to work hard and do the things necessary to win."
On the last trip to the Citrus Bowl ... "We enjoyed it. It's one of the better bowls to go to. They have beautiful facilities to practice in. Our hotels were nice."
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423