Ross Says Doubters Don’t Faze Michigan

James Ross / USA TODAY Sports

James Ross has seen a lot of growth in himself and his team during the offseason. Now the Wolverines are preparing to let their play prove all of their critics wrong.

Question:  What has been different about this camp, James, in terms of the linebackers? 

James Ross:  “This year we’ve been working under Coach Mattison.  He has been giving us the proper tools we need, just all around basically the whole defense, what we need to understand to be successful in that defense.” 

Question:  Is Jake Ryan looking more comfortable there in the middle than he did during the spring? 

James Ross:  “Jake Ryan is a player.  He is comfortable wherever he plays.  He motivates me and makes sure I’m doing the right thing because I’m playing the position that he played last year at the SAM.  So, he’s doing pretty good.” 

Question:  How are you doing with it all, the switch? 

James Ross:  “It’s going pretty good.  Like I said, I’ve got guys like Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan, they all give me advice to play as best as I can at that position.” 

Question:  You and Royce there? 

James Ross:  “Yeah, me and Royce and Allen Gant at that position.” 

Question:  How does that work in terms of rotation? 

James Ross:  “We’re all getting enough reps.  Everybody is giving as much effort as they can and going as hard as they can go.” 

Question:  What is the biggest change for you now at this new spot?  How does this change or does it? 

James Ross:  “It is a little different.   I’m playing a little more down on the tight end but at the end of the day it’s still football.” 

Question:  The coaching staff on the defensive side got shuffled a little bit.  You said you were working with Greg Mattison.  Did that change the energy at all?  Did it improve things?  What kind of byproduct did you see of that shuffle? 

James Ross:  “I feel like just working with Coach Mattison, he has a full understanding of the whole defense, him being the defensive coordinator and not just the position.  Now you know it’s our responsibility to help out the corners if we feel like it’s something like that or the D linemen, more of the D linemen.  The back handles the corners in the secondary but if we see somebody out of position, we are able to correct them.” 

Question:  Does this feel like this is the deepest defense you guys have had since you have been here? 

James Ross:  “Yeah, this feels pretty deep.  It feels like everybody can go two deep everywhere.  Great players two, even three deep in some cases.” 

Question:  Coach Hoke says that entering camp there are three or four things in his mind that had to be accomplished and one of them is seeing how the linebackers work together.  Why was that such a question and how have you worked through that? 

James Ross:  “Just like we’ve been told by Coach Mattison, the defense starts with the linebackers.  It’s our energy, our pulse.  So, if we’re handling things at that linebacker position, communicating well and handling our responsibilities in team, the defense itself is going to run smoothly because we’ve got talent everywhere.” 

Question:  Do you think it was an issue only because some guys were being moved around a little bit? 

James Ross:  “No, I think any defense that starts with the linebacker, honestly I feel like you can’t have a weak linebacker core without having a whole solid team.” 

Question:  Was the scrimmage last week consistent, as far as what goes on in practice, in terms of the running game, how you guys were pretty successful in stopping it.

James Ross:  “Like I said, we just play as hard as we can.  Anytime we get a chance to play against our offense, the scouts, anything, we just go as hard as we can.  We sometimes make mistakes but a lot of time, we are correcting those mistakes and doing what we need to do.” 

Question:  Have you seen strides from them in terms of having a little bit more success against the guys than they did a year ago? 

James Ross:  “Are you saying with the offense?” 

Question:  Yeah, with the offense. 

James Ross:  “Like I said, we play as hard as we can.  We try to stop them from doing pretty much anything but they’re great and they do what they need to do.” 

Question:  You said the defense starts with the linebackers. Does this team start with the defense?  Are you getting the sense that the defense will sort of set the tone? 

James Ross:  “We’re both, offense and defense, we’ve been coming together knowing that we have to make a change.  It’s not more in the defense than it is to offense, everybody has a full part.  On that defensive side of the ball, the linebackers want to be able to know what we’re supposed to do.  We want to be responsible to get people lined up if they’re out of place and things like that but as far as the team, everybody is in control of that.”

Question:  If the offense does struggle, do you feel like you guys can carry this team with all the experience you have on that of the ball? 

James Ross:  “We’re just going to do whatever we can on the field.  The offense is going to do what they can do and they have been putting in a lot of work, just as much as we have.  We’ve got as much confidence in them as they have in us.” 

Question:  You guys have seen the polls, you watch Sports Center and you read papers.  Does it bother you that people don’t have a lot of expectations? 

James Ross:  “Actually, it motivates us.  It keeps us on edge knowing that we have something to prove.  A lot of guys do not believe in us but we believe in us and that’s the bottom line.” 

Question:  You’re comfortable, you’ll prove it. 

James Ross:  “Definitely.” 

Question:  The linebacker, with all the shuffling and everything, what’s the point when you start to feel comfortable.  Are you guys there yet or do you think … 

James Ross:  “Yeah, we’re definitely comfortable.” 

Question:  When did that happen? 

James Ross:  “We shuffled in the spring and we’ve been getting those same amount of reps ever since the spring game.  Nothing has changed since then.  We are comfortable now. We’ve had all these practices and camp we’re ready to go.”

Question:  They’re talking about Joe (Bolden) every time.  Is he really that much better? 

James Ross:  “Joe has made a significant improvement.  That’s my guy.  That’s one of the guys that I get a lot of advice from.  He’s did a great job of advancing his play.  It’s definitely visible on the field.  We want to play on his level sometimes.  He gets the energy going.  Jake gets the energy going.  We all just want to get up to their level.  That’s what they do.  That’s the type of leaders they are.” 

Question:  Jake says he leans on too and asks him for advice.  Is Joe kind of the go-to guy as far as that goes? 

James Ross:  “Everybody asked each other for advice.  There are times when I ask Jake for advice.  Everybody asked each other.  We might just have insight on a particular thing that one of don’t.  I feel like that is where we come together as a great defense and we have a lot of depth inside that and we can rely on each other.” 

Question:  Do you have any memories from the Appalachian State game from 2007, are you guys talking about that at all? 

James Ross:  “It might sound very bad but honestly I did not even see that game. It was such a long time ago. We are just focused on now.” 

Question:  In terms of you guys the ones, does it seem like there is a second group with you guys or is everyone getting …? 

James Ross:  “We’re just getting reps.  Everybody is getting a lot of reps, equal amount of reps, just trying to play hard.” 

Question:  What is the difference in Royce?  You’ve known Royce a long long time. 

James Ross:  “That’s been my boy.  I would just say Royce, he is just coming to play every single day, being focused and being there.  I rely on him now.  He has been a player.  That’s something that I have seen.  He has definitely made progress since he has been here.” 

Question:  James, why is defense different now?  How different are you now than you were last year?  What is the biggest difference?  

James Ross:  “I think it’s just our comradery together.  We all bond together.  There are guys that I talked to that I’ve never talked to.  It is just a team feel.  We feel comfortable with each and every person on the team and we want to play for each and every person on the team.  There are no individuals, it’s all team.” 

Question:  Who are you closer to now than you never thought you would be? 

James Ross:  “I mean, it’s just all over.  I can’t single out nobody.  I feel like I’m closer to everyone.  I can go to anyone and sit down next to them at a lunch table or I can have a conversation with anyone and I won’t feel uncomfortable.” 

Question:  How did you guys get that, where was that maybe in the past? 

James Ross:  “I don’t know.  I think that’s just the change we made.  We understand that we needed to make a change and that was one of the things that the coaches insisted that we do, that we become closer to each other. That’s one of the things that we’ve done.” 

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