Michigan Football Comments from
CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl Trip
Player quotes (offense) in Orlando, Fla.
Junior Offensive Lineman Steve Hutchinson
How is the offensive line coming along now
"Good. I think we have played the same unit for quite a few games now and the group is playing well together. Everyone is starting to get a feel for what the others are doing and that is making us more comfortable on the field. At the start of the season, we moved around a lot."
Did you ever feel that you made too many changes along the line at the start of the season
"No. Even after the first two games that we lost, we weren't down on ourselves. We have great senior leadership on this team and we worked hard to step up our effort. That's just what we did."
On the time to prepare for Arkansas ...
"We have seen their defense on film. They are vey fast and are a great squad. We have been practicing very hard since arriving in Florida. We have emphasized running the ball and that's exactly what we want to do. Our goal is to run the ball, straight at them. That's all part of our game plan."
On the Arkansas defense ...
"They are fast and pursue the ball very well. The defense is extremely quick laterally -- both their linebackers and defensive line -- so we are going to need to go right at them."
On the team's attitude about the Citrus Bowl ...
"We have had a great time in Orlando and look forward to playing in the Citrus Bowl. This is great place to be and the bowl is nationally recognized. We are happy to be here and are having a ball so far."
Can the hot conditions play a factor in the game
"Sure. If it's hot on Jan. 1, the heat could be a big factor. It could tire you out. We have had some hot and humid practices the last couple of days so I feel we are accustomed to it. I don't think it can get much hotter than those few days were. I think we have adjusted well."
Senior Offensive Lineman Jon Jansen
How has the heat been for you
"It has been hot. I think the first day was the hottest because we weren't used to it. For the offensive and defensive lines, it is probably the most difficult to get adjusted because we're those big, heavy guys with some excess insulation that we need to shed. We have had some good practices and I think we have adjusted to it well."
What is the key to dealing with Arkansas' defense
"I see some similarities between Arkansas' defense and Ohio State's. They are both fast defenses and are able to make up for being a little smaller-sized up front. Arkansas may get bumped off the ball but their speed gets them to positions quicker. They get off blocks well and make some big plays."
Is there one aspect about the Arkansas defense that worries you
"Their speed. Just that they get off blocks so well. You can drive a guy five yards down field but they have a tendency to get off blocks and make plays. They have made some big plays this season with their speed and forced a lot of fumbles. We need to hold onto the ball and not give them any opportunities."
In 1990 the offensive line was named Gator Bowl MVPs. Would you like to see that happen in the 1999 Citrus Bowl
"It would be nice but that something we can't worry about. As offensive linemen that would mean we have done our job. That would mean that we would have established a solid running game and done the things offensively that we wanted to."
On the perception of Big Ten being a bigger, stronger style of game and SEC being a speed type ...
"If you look at the teams in both conferences, those are some of the trends that you see. With the way that scholarships have gone, you are seeing a lot of players go from the north to the south and vice versa. There has been a meshing of many different forms and styles and I think it is beginning to get to the point where each team has many different styles within the chemistry of the squad. There are still some aspects of the power game up north and the speed down south."
What is your motivation for this game
"There are going to be 25 players on the field for our squad who will be playing their last games, I know that's all the motivation that I'll need. For the remainder of the team, everyone needs to decide whether they want to finish with a 9-4 record or a 10-win season. We can either be seen as a mediocre 9-4 Michigan team or a pretty darn good 10-3 squad."
From a national perspective, is this game a chance to erase the Ohio State loss
"I think in some respects. The last thing that people see in a year is what they remember most. This game will not erase the Ohio State game and we're not trying to do that."
On sophomore running back Anthony Thomas ...
"I think we need to give him the opportunity to get into the line, make some cuts and do what he does best. I think if we can knock them off the ball, you'll see Anthony Thomas have a great game."
How does Arkansas' smaller defensive unit compare to Big Ten squads
"It's not that they're very small. In comparison to some that we've played in the Big Ten, they are smaller in terms of weight but they make up for it with speed. They are not small by any means, but I will say that they look faster than any squad that we've faced this year. We have not played a squad that has as much team speed as they do. When you have that much speed there are many things that you can do."
Junior Quarterback Tom Brady
On the game ...
"I am confident that we'll be ready for Arkansas. We have five or six days to finish preparations and I am sure we'll be ready to go."
Why did you choose Michigan
"I wanted to play big-time college football. At Michigan, you are always playing a big game. You play in front of 100,000-plus fans every home game, you're always contending for a national title. The tradition that the football program has and the appeal that the university has both athletically and academically are the reasons I chose Michigan. Playing for Michigan and the motivation for winning -- we have a saying 'Win for Michigan' and that means play for the guy next to you and uphold the pride and tradition that the guys prior to you set -- is what drives us."
On the bowl schedule under coach Lloyd Carr ...
"Coach Carr does a great job of scheduling practices and then allowing us the opportunity to enjoy the bowl experience. Take today for instance. We will practice from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. After practice we have the opportunity to go to MGM Studios if we haven't been there or Coach allows us to rest. I will probably go MGM. This is my first time to Orlando, and its been a great time so far."
On the perception of Michigan as a defensive and running program and how that perception is about the entire Big Ten ...
"I think that the best teams in the Big Ten do both. People are getting away from the one-dimensional style and into a more balanced lineup. We try to run the ball effectively and pass the ball effectively. We are at our best when we can do both equally well."
Is there still a first priority to establish the run
"Definitely. I think all teams look to do that. Establishing a solid running game means that you are possessing the ball and keeping your defense off the field. You are controlling the clock. Running the ball is the key to success at Michigan and it is the success in many programs."
What challenges do you face against Arkansas
"They mix up their defenses very well. They have a very good secondary with good speed and athleticism. Arkansas' defense is always getting to the quarterback and knocking him around, so they have taken some of the accuracy away from the quarterback. The defensive backs have really looked good. They like to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and I don't expect that to change in this game."
Has is been a challenge for you this year to avoid sacks and move in the pocket
"It has been difficult. I am continuing to learn when to move around and I try to work on that aspect in practice. Everyone looks to improve areas of their game so as to help the team as a whole. That has definitely been a point of emphasis for me. I have become more comfortable with that as the season has progressed."
What is your personal motivation for this game
"I think any time Michigan takes the field, it's a big game. We don't step onto the field to lose. That's motivation enough for me and I know that's motivation enough for the majority of the players on this team. When you step out on the field, you are not only representing yourself but everyone who has worn the maize and blue before you."
Sophomore Running Back Anthony Thomas
On his injuries earlier this season ...
"It was very frustrating for me. I wanted to be in the game and help the team win. It hurts when you can't practice or play in games."
On his play in the Hawaii game ...
"I have always felt like I'm capable of that type of play. You are playing for a lot of guys, not only the ones that you currently play with but the entire program of players that played before you. I always try to have a good game and give it my best."
On his first bowl trip to last year's Rose Bowl and how that's prepared him for this year ...
"I learned that from two great seniors last year, Chris Howard and Chris Floyd. They taught me how to prepare for an opponent that you have an entire month to look at. I had great leadership from those guys and they really helped me develop."
On the difference between the heat and the cold ...
"I think it is easier to run when the conditions are warm because your body is loose. You can always run when the weather is warm but sometimes it takes a little bit extra when the conditions are cold, say around 20 degrees or so."
On his hometown of Winnfield, La., and whether they are Arkansas fans ...
"The entire town supports Arkansas. I went home for a few days before coming here and the town was all talking about the Razorbacks. My hometown is about three hours from Arkansas."
Did Arkansas try to recruit you
"Yes. I did consider them when I was recruited. I looked at Arkansas, LSU and Michigan. I wanted to go someplace where I could grow up a little bit, leave the state and try a new area of the country and go and play for a school that had a rich football tradition. That's why I decided on Michigan. Chris Howard and James Hall, both from Louisiana, were on the team when I was recruited. I remember on my recruiting visit there being about four inches of snow and saying there is no way I am going here, but both Chris and James told me it's really not this bad. I asked them if they practiced in this stuff and they said yes. They said once you get adjusted to it, you'll forget the cold or snowy conditions and just have fun playing football."
On his motivation for this game ...
"Playing for those 20 seniors and trying to send them out winners in their final game is motivation enough for me."
On his season ...
"I always think my best game is ahead of me. I haven't played my best game yet. I am looking to get better and improve in every area. Now that I've been able to put the injuries behind me, I am ready to play."
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423