U-M Football Media Luncheon
Jake Frysinger | Shawn Thompson | Kurt Anderson
Hayden Epstein | John Navarre | Larry Foote
Fifth-Year Senior Linebacker Eric Brackins
On being recruited by Tennessee ... "Tennessee recruited me early. They offered me to graduate high school early and come to Tennessee during mid-term basically so I could participate in spring practice. I know a few guys who did that and it worked out for them, but it wasn't for me."
On connections to the Tennessee program ... "I played against a few guys in high school and played with a few in the all-star game who play for Tennessee now. I liked college football in general growing up, so it was kind of hard not to follow Tennessee football when I was growing up because I was around it all the time. It's like when you grow up around here, it is hard not to root for Michigan."
On the Citrus Bowl matchup ... "It's two great football programs with great traditions playing each other. It will be a great matchup for us and I look forward to it. When I found out who we were playing, I was pretty excited to have the chance to play against a great program like Tennessee, especially since it was the team I followed growing up. I think they're going to be ready to play. Any time you come off a loss it's always difficult, but at the same time you are always ready to play to get that taste out of your mouth."
On Tennessee running back Travis Stevens ... "He is a great running back. He runs very aggressively and runs very hard. He is a type of guy who doesn't quit until he gets that extra yard. From what we saw, he is a great running back."
On next year's defensive unit ... "They have great potential. As we saw, our defensive line this year played incredibly and I think we only lose Jake (Frysinger) and Gary Rose. They have a great group of guys coming back and of course we have a great group of linebackers coming back who got a chance to play this season. Carl Diggs is a great linebacker who makes all kind of plays when he's in there, and Zach Kaufman does a good job and Victor (Hobson) is coming back. And a lot of the secondary will be back, minus Todd Howard. So they have great potential for next year."
Senior/Junior Linebacker Victor Hobson
On entering the bowl game with a loss ... "You just have to put the disappointment behind you and just focus on what the game plan that the coaches have prepared you for and that goes for both teams. Whoever is able to do that and execute their game plan the best will be victorious."
On the break between the regular season and the bowl game ... "I don't think it's as much of a break as it seems. We are practicing and working out every day to stay in shape. As far as our timing and the little things that only game situations can produce, it's hard to get back into sync, but with the practice we will be ready."
On arriving at the Citrus Bowl early ... "It is a big benefit because we get a chance to get used to the heat and the atmosphere we will be playing in. It also gives us a chance to practice hard and get back into the swing of things. That helps us a lot."
On the game ... "It is important for us as a team just to get a win no matter who it is, Big Ten, SEC, whoever we have to play. We just need to get a win. We are fortunate to get to play Tennessee. They are another big program with great football tradition who likes to win."
On his expectations of next season ... "I am just focused on the season at hand. As far as I know I'm a still a junior at Michigan and I will be back to play my senior year. Potentially we will have a great defense next year. That was shown through the tremendous improvement we made from last year. We will have great talent and experience at nearly every position next year and I think we will be able to do some great things. A lot of people stepped up this year and we expect the same thing next year."
On Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen ... "The have a very consistent quarterback. The one thing that sticks out is his completion percentage. I think he has something like a 64 percent completion percentage going into this game. I think that shows his consistency and his ability to read defenses. So we will have to be ready for him too."
On the bowl game experience ... "As a freshman I was pretty much amazed. Going to a nice bowl game I just went in to it just hoping to take it all in. Now that I'm older and more experienced I am able to look at it more differently. I go into practice taking everything one day at a time."
Senior/Junior Defensive Lineman Dan Rumishek
On playing Tennessee ... "With Tennessee's tradition, it is going to be a pretty special game. It is the first meeting between the two programs, and ever since Michigan won the national title in 1997 and Tennessee won in 1998, there is a little rivalry. People were asking, 'What would happen if these two teams meet' and we are finally going to find that out. It's the SEC and it's a great conference and Tennessee is one of its better schools in the conference, so I think it will be a great game."
On the game ... "Both schools just want to get the bad taste out of their mouths and this is our last chance to do it for this season. I think you have to move forward and Tennessee is our next opponent, so we have to be ready to play them."
On preparing for the bowl game ... "You have to be patient with it. You have to put time and effort into it. When you go to a bowl game there are a lot of attractions and since we are going to the Citrus Bowl again we get to go to Disney World and see all the sights and everything. Sometimes when you are not sure of something you have to go back and watch the films and possibly miss an event, but we are down there for football first. I still get excited about going to Orlando. How many times can you go to Disney World We've been there so I know a lot of the attractions."
On keys to Michigan's success in bowl games ... "Our preparation. When we get down to the bowl so early, practicing in the heat and trying to get ready for it. Our coaches do a great job. As players we watch more film than just about anyone in the country. It is a dedication that we follow from the seniors before us."
On how to juggle one's schedule at the bowl game ... "You just have to know when to have fun and when to it is time to be serious. Going to the bowl game, you try to get in as many sights as possible. This year it's all business. I have this game and hopefully I'll have another game next year, so I have to take advantage of my opportunity."
On practicing for the bowl game ... "Our main focus is this game and at the bowl site it's a good time for young guys to get work in with the coaches. At the same time it's great for the older guys to work on fundamentals again. I think its going to be fun to watch some of the guys that will be back next year, but we're working on winning this game."
On what this game means ... "This team has a lot of potential and our goal was a Big Ten title and we came up short. We have to go out and go get a win. I think that's a huge difference is winning this game. The best thing about a champion is they always finish and we want to finish strong. Citrus Bowl champions would be a big thing for us."
Fifth-Year Senior Defensive Tackle Jake Frysinger
On the BCS and U-M finding out its Citrus Bowl opponent ... "The BCS is so complicated that a million things could have happened, so it was kind of hard to stay focused on one game because we could have ended up playing like five different teams. We figured though if Tennessee lost to LSU, that we would be playing them. We set our goals high here at Michigan and everybody wants to play in the national championship game but I can't think of any team I'd rather play than Tennessee. It's going to be a great game. I don't even know where this rivalry developed, but everyone is really excited to play Tennessee and they're very excited to play us. I don't know if that goes back to some 1997 stuff but I know everyone is looking forward to this game and some of that is compacted as a result of Brackins. Eric Brackins, my roommate, is from Tennessee, so he's yapping in my ear and he's getting me all fired up about it too. That's his dream game. I know he doesn't show his emotions a lot but he's really excited about this game. His whole family is from Tennessee and we have Rudy Smith from Tennessee too so we have a Tennessee connection here."
On giving Eric Brackins a hard time about being from Tennessee ... "We, especially our third roommate Shawn Thompson, give him a hard time about his Tennessee roots. He gives us a hard time about being Yankees, so it goes both ways."
On the background behind the rivalry ... "It's a real interesting situation and I don't know where all of this comes from. There is definitely a feeling of rivalry and excitement. I don't know if that's the SEC-Big Ten thing or what. There is going to be a lot of exciting things about this game."
On his experiences when Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy ... "I remember that was my freshman year. We were in the dorms and I remember right when they handed it out, I didn't realize how many people were watching the presentation and all of a sudden the whole dorm just erupted. It was the loudest I've ever heard it. It was just crazy. Everyone went nuts."
On the difference between a 9-3 and an 8-4 record ... "There's a huge difference between 9-3 and 8-4 with that one win or one loss going either way. That's just motivation. There's a whole lot of motivating factors in this game. Especially for the senior class, going out in our last game, playing in a huge game like this against Tennessee, 9-3 vs. 8-4, everything is on the line. That's how it should be. It's a reward for what you do in the season. That's what the bowl game should be all about."
On the potential for the defense next year ... "I see improvement everyday. It's not only the guys you see out there everyday, but there's a lot of young talent on this team that's going to be able to emerge when they put some weight on them in the weight room. I'm not just talking about defensive line guys. There's a lot of young talent on this team that's going to step in and they're going to open some eyes. I see this defense getting even better."
On the problems Tennessee's offense poses ... "They have some big-play threats in their receivers, a great quarterback, a solid offensive line, and Travis Stephens, he's not a big guy, but watching him on film he runs real hard and he fights for every inch he can get. He runs a lot of people over and he presents a challenge and I know our defensive staff is going to come up with some good schemes."
On preparing for a bowl game ... "The first thing you need to do, as hard as that loss was to Ohio State, is to put that game behind you and learn from your mistakes and focus totally on Tennessee. Once you get down to the bowl site, being able to balance the distractions of the fun and the Christmas time along with the business of taking care of football. We've done a great job of that the last four years since I've been here. It's part of being a bowl. There's going to be fun involved but you have to balance everything."
Fifth-Year Senior Tight End Shawn Thompson
On this being Brackin's "big game" ... "I think the only way to picture it is if I picture myself going away to a different state or something and thinking about playing Michigan State or something. I guess you can compare it in that way. He grew up his whole life in Tennessee and I know it's a dream game for him and I know he's excited."
On Tennessee's defensive line ... "Their defense is great. It starts up front. They have a great front, a great linebacking corps, and a good secondary. Their whole D is solid."
On Tennessee's John Henderson ... "Henderson is a player. He always seems to make the plays."
On the offense regressing over the second half of the season ... "It's going to take improvement and focus. We understand that offensively we have to play better. That's what we've been concentrating on after the Ohio State game and that's what we're going to continue to focus on when we get down to Florida. Offensively, we have to get stronger and we understand what we have to do and we're going to do it."
On the impact going down early has had on performance ... "I think the big thing is adjusting to the weather. This year it's been warm but it's a shock going from December weather here in Michigan to the warm weather in Florida. Going down early lets you get used to the heat. The biggest adjustment is getting used to the climate and getting in shape, getting accustomed to the environment."
On having an easier practice schedule next week during finals ... "It definitely is helpful. It's very stressful as far as school with exams and papers due. It gives us a break. We understand we have a few practices here but we know that when we get to Florida it's time for business."
On the anticipation of playing a third consecutive SEC team, particularly Tennessee ... "We're really excited to play Tennessee. We respect their program. It seems like every year we get excited watching the SEC Championship and finding out whom we are going to be playing. We respect their program and we're really excited to play them."
On the common thread among the SEC schools ... "The SEC is a great conference. There are always strong teams that come out of there. They're always fast. When we play an SEC team we know that we're getting a good team that we have to respect."
On the chance to be the first group of U-M players to win five straight bowl games ... "It crosses my mind. For me personally it has because it's something that's really special and pretty hard to do. It's something that we'd like to do."
Fifth-Year Senior Center Kurt Anderson
On the senior class leaving their legacy ... "Every class that leaves here leaves their legacy. Sport is as much about history and memories as it is about the present. Twenty-five years from now you'll still talk to these guys, and have reunions and go fishing with them, hunting and stuff like that. That's the type of legacy you want. Those are the type of things that you talk about that make old men happy. I want to be a happy old man."
On the overemphasis of "devastating games" by the media ... "It's as devastating to us. We're the ones out there playing in it. You know how you feel and how devastated how you feel, just imagine how the guys out there that were playing in those games who lost and how we feel and that we have to live with it the rest of our lives and that's something that we'll never forget. My dad and my brother don't talk about those things. My brother (Erick Anderson, 1988-91) still talks about how many championships he won and how many he won in a row. He doesn't talk about losing to Washington in the Rose Bowl. The media talks about that. Those guys don't talk about it. I want something positive to talk about for the rest of my life."
On the matchup with Tennessee ... "To me this is huge. This is a matchup that the media has wanted and something that the players have wanted -- two storied traditions, two great teams. I compare it to the two big kids on the block who steer clear of each other because they know what would happen if they fought. Eventually they're going to bump into each other and one of them is going to look at the other the wrong way and they're going to have to fight. That's what's going to happen here. We're both coming off of losses and we both want to redeem ourselves, we both want to win the Citrus Bowl championship. There's a lot to play for. Those guys have a lot to play for. We have a lot to play for. I'm just thankful that I have an opportunity to play against them."
On Tennessee's ability to stop the run ... "In order to win this game we have to run the ball. We have to bounce back and make some corrections. We have some time here to correct those things. We have to continue to practice and continue to get better. That's something that this team definitely needs. They want to rush the passer and if we put ourselves in situations where we have to pass then we're not setting ourselves up for success. Running the ball is going to be key for us in this game."
On Tennessee's defense ... "They have one of best defensive lines in country. I'm just excited because as a center if you could pick a season to have you'd want to play against a top line like this. To play against three preseason All-Americans in Washington's Larry Triplett and Wisconsin's Wendell Bryant and now Tennessee's John Henderson is a dream season for me. It gives us an opportunity as an offensive line to play against great defensive lines like that. It gives you something to play for. It's exciting."
On getting tired of going to Orlando ... "I've been there and I know what's there. It's fun and exciting. The younger guys can enjoy it. I've done it all. I'm just going to be concentrating on my job and what I have to do to give myself the best chance to be a part of a tradition and leave my legacy with five consecutive bowl victories and 50 wins in five seasons. I've been to Disney World and I'll stay five days afterwards so I can do that stuff after the game."
On the regression of the offense ... "What better chance than to play Tennessee I told the offensive line that we don't have a better opportunity to put to rest what's happened in the latter part of this season. There's no other way that we'd rather have it. If we were playing someone who didn't have the defense that Tennessee has, then it wouldn't be as meaningful to us. We want the best. That's what Michigan's all about -- competition, playing the best, beating the best and that's what we're about. There's a definite solemn mood at Schembechler Hall because we don't like the taste that's in our mouth right now. We're going to do everything and anything we can to get rid of that."
On some of the misfortune that the offense has had ... "Football is a game of the way the ball bounces. We don't like to make excuses. We made lots of mistakes. If you see how many balls get tipped and fall to the ground or fall through defender's hands or how many fumbles you have that you get back, it's amazing. This second half of the season anything that could go wrong did go wrong; a critical penalty here that doesn't always get called that way. We can't make excuses and that's just the way the game is played. We just have to correct those things. We're saying the same thing over and over again and you can play the best to your ability and sometimes the ball bounces that way. We have to make corrections and there's nothing more to say."
On the mood in practice right now ... "We're very task-oriented right now. We feel we have a job to do. There's not too much laughter. There's so much focus in Schembechler right now. I'm just proud to be a part of it. I know that it's not the most fun time but if we continue to do the things we're doing right now we'll set ourselves up for success."
On his most memorable holiday gift ... "When I was eight I opened up all my presents, and my dad's a big giver so I always got a ton of presents, but I really wanted a bike and I opened all my presents and no bike. As much as I was happy I was kind of disappointed. Then my dad said, 'Come on let's go for a ride,' and then he told me to grab his checkbook out of the trunk and so he gave me the keys and I opened the trunk and I had a bike in the trunk so it was pretty sweet. I was all excited. It was probably the best Christmas gift because I felt like the kid in the Christmas story where he really wanted the red-rider BB gun but he didn't get it and then after all the presents and his brother's asleep, he finds it in the corner so it was kind of exciting."
On how he learned to ride that bike ... "He taught me how on my brother's bike. He would just throw me down the street and I'd pedal eight times and then I'd fall and I'd be bleeding and crying. My dad would say, 'Be tough' and 'You'll get it.' He kept throwing me down. We had a circular drive and I'd make everyone park their car on the street so I could ride around the drive like I was racing somebody."
Senior Placekicker/Punter Hayden Epstein
On playing his last game at Michigan ... "As a senior you definitely want to go out with a victory. My class will have four bowl wins and the fifth-year seniors will have five. It will be nice to have four bowl wins. Everyone, including the younger guys, wants to send the seniors off with a win."
On characterizing his kicking this season ... "It has been pretty good. It started off kind of slow but picked up at the end. There were a couple of times that a bounce went this way or that way and didn't fall in my direction. I felt I had a pretty good season."
On how he's kicked in Florida ... "I could have done better. I punted and kicked off pretty good down there. Field goals will be better this year than they have been in the past."
On his readiness if a game-winning field goal is needed ... "If it comes down to it I will be ready. I don't know if it will. We're all going to prepare our best and I have to be ready for that situation."
On Tennessee's special teams ... "Their special teams are good. Their punter is very good. He gets the ball up in the air with good hang time. They cover the punt pretty good. Their field goal kicker is good. Their special teams are good."
On Tennessee's kick returners ... "They are fast, very fast. The numbers do not always speak to what they are capable of. We've definitely seen that a lot of times they could have broken somebody through. With their speed back there they could definitely do that."
On overcoming disappointment ... "I don't know if we're trying to overcome any disappointment. We're still happy to play in this bowl. It's a great bowl. We just want to go out there and win. Whether it be the BCS or the Citrus Bowl, we're just happy to be playing on January 1."
On the team's future kickers ... "We have some good young guys. Phil Brabbs is improving all the time and Troy Niemberg is doing a tremendous job coming in here. Adam Finley is doing a good job punting. I think the young guys will do a good job."
On being amazed by the team's punt blocking this year ... "Not really. They come against us everyday in practice. They are amazing. We see what they do against us. I get frustrated when they block all my punts in practice and then they don't in the games so this year I was really happy they went out there and produced and did a terrific job."
Junior/Sophomore Quarterback John Navarre
On coach Lloyd Carr's re-evaluation of the quaterback position ... "I do not feel that it is like training camp again at all. You have to win football games and turnovers do not help. You have to go with the best guy. This time we have off for bowl practice I feel comfortable. I feel confident. I put that game (Ohio State) behind me and I am very excited about this game. I am ready to go down there. All I want to do is win. You have to stay focused and stay confident and be ready to win."
On reaction to comments ... "I had no idea. I do not pay attention to that. It is up to you and not to what someone says or what is written. You control you own destiny by your performance. I feel like I control what I can do and I do what I can do on the practice field. That determines what happens on gameday."
On comparisons with Brian Griese and Tom Brady and things that have been said about him ... "I do not listen much to what people say. If you do that it is going to play mind games with you. All that matters is your performance on the field. You control that, nobody else does. It does not matter what people say and you have to look past that. It is a different story when you are out there on the field and a lot of people do not know that. You have to put that behind you and try to win as many games as you can and play your kind of football. I have talked to Tom and he is doing well. I learned a lot from him when we played together. I learned a lot from him and how he handled it. It is part of the position and something you have to handle."
On taking the comments from coach Lloyd Carr ... "In some respects you have to take it for what it is worth. Your coach is challenging you. He has confidence in all of us. We are going to be ready to go. It is something that you have to turn your head and just play. If you are thinking about that all the time, you are not going to play well. It is part of the position and you have to deal with it."
On the chance to prove himself against a very good defense ... "Any opportunity to play a game after a loss is a great opportunity. It is a great opportunity to win. Playing Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl is a magnified opportunity. There is that solemn, determined attitude around the hall. Everybody knows that we did not play our best game. But we also know that we have one more chance to avenge ourselves and show everybody what we are all about. What better way to do that than against the SEC in the Citrus Bowl in Florida"
On what he has learned about himself during the year ... "I have to say that I focused all year on adjusting in a game. The biggest thing that I learned all year is that you have to play football and not worry about other things, outside forces or what the other team is doing. Strap it on take over the team and be a leader. All that matters is winning football games and being confident with yourself. Being a leader is the biggest thing that I have learned about playing quarterback."
On the significance of both teams coming off of losses ... "It is tough to say. They played two games after we did. We had a lot more time to adjust to our loss. I believe that both teams are excited about this game. We both had chances to go to a bigger bowl but that is over. Now it is time for who prepares, who wants it more and who is not looking back. You have to be totally focused on this game and your heart has to be in it all the way when you go down there. You have to be ready to play."
On the difference between the first half of the season and the second ... "As the road goes on it gets a lot tougher. Teams make more adjustments. You play your best ballclubs at the end of the season. Wisconsin and Ohio State are real good teams, as well as Michigan State. You play your best teams at the end of the season. It is a matter of staying focused on your goal and what you want to accomplish. You have to take one game at a time. It is a tough road and winning every game or winning a championship is tough. At the beginning of the season we wanted to focus on taking it one game at a time and one step at a time. That is the key to winning a championship. I am not saying that we were looking ahead. I think it is a tough grind and it takes it toll on everybody."
On the personal difference between the two halves of the season ... "Once you get into the swing of things you try to make too many adjustments instead of sticking with what worked. You have to go back to the basics every once in a while. Once you start winning and get in a groove you tend to get away from the basics. Sticking to basics and staying focused is a big key."
On having bowl game experience ... "It is fun. Some people say that it is a vacation but it is really not. I am not saying that is bad but you are going down there to play a football game and to win. There are a lot of bonuses. I think what I learned most is that you spend a lot of time watching film. You get prepared, you eat right, you get the proper rest, and you get ready to win a football game. It is not vacation. You have to prepare your hardest for that game and you have a lot of time to do it."
On the temptation to be all business ... "That has crossed my mind because you want to win. Any time you lose during the season you have to re-evaluate the team and yourself. You want to look at what you did wrong and learn from it. It is business and we are going down there to win a football game. That is our main goal and that is what we are going to do."
On the rivalry with Tennessee ... "It is funny because it is like someone said, it is the biggest rivalry game that has never been played. You have the two biggest stadiums. They are a powerhouse in the south and we are a premier football team in the north. It is a big game and is has drawn more attention to the bowl. It is exciting and that is what we have to be ready for. It is another football game and you have to be ready and prepared for it like any other. The magnitude is big because of the two teams that are playing in it."
Senior Inside Linebacker Larry Foote
On the Tennessee offense ... "They are definitely explosive. Their offense is not that difficult, but they line up and bring it right at you. If you bring the safeties up, they will go deep just like any other team."
On Tennessee's offensive game plan ... "They run the ball, that's their game plan. They have a great offensive line and a tough running back."
On the importance of winning the game ... "It's big. It's a rivalry. You're playing a powerhouse team. Winning this game would put a cap on the season and get the nasty taste out of our mouth from the Ohio State game."
On winning awards ... "My teammates made it happen, my coaches. I accept the awards, but I give the other guys credit."
On being healthy on defense ... "It's going to be a challenge for us. Marlin Jackson and (Jake) Frysinger will be back so we will be healthy and we're getting ready for the challenge."
On bowl preparation ... "Since I've been here, we're 3-0. Coach (Lloyd) Carr has a great bowl record. He schedules practices and curfews well. There is time to have fun down there but then there is time for football. They organize that right and you just follow suit."
On defensive improvement since last season ... "I'm very proud of them. Most of the guys took a lot of abuse last year and we just grew together. Next year's group is going to surpass this year. The defense will be better. The D-line will have guys back and so do the defensive backs. There will be some new defensive backs or linebackers, but they will be good."
On Coach Carr's demeanor at bowl games ... "He is definitely serious. Bowl games, since I've been here, when we get down there it's business and you have a little time for fun. Coach Carr wants to win at everything. That's the kind of guy he is."
On riding the roller coasters .. "No way. Not a chance. I just have a weak stomach. When I'm on an airplane I'm gasping for air and my stomach hurts. That's the truth. My boys tell me I'm scared, but that's not the case."
On personal goals for final bowl game ... "First, I definitely want to win. I just want to cherish the time I have with my friends because we won't be like this together again. I want to have a lot of fun."
On lasting relationships with friends on the team ... "I think we will stay together. Just being here four years, most of the guys will be at my wedding. People you meet in college, you'll be friends with forever, so I want to do my part. It's too bad time goes by so fast."
On new players for next year ... "We've got some superstars on this team. Pierre Woods is going to be a great one and I love watching him practice. (Ernest) Shazor is a hitter and those two guys are definitely going to be good."
On any regrets for his career at Michigan ... "I wish I did red-shirt knowing how the team is going to blossom next year. I'll hate being in the NFL watching them winning the championship, because they will have a chance. I'll always be a Wolverine. Whatever they do I am going to be with them. When they are happy, I will be happy. When they hurt, I will hurt. David Terrell still calls and is yelling at me when I lose. Dave definitely wishes he was back. He has a hard time in the real world and he says he misses it. Guys like Ian Gold tell me to take advantage of it because you'll miss it. In the off-season I just put it all on the line, taking care of my body, talking to the younger guys. I don't know why the time went by so fast but that's the way it is."
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423