Saturday I decided to make the trip from Toledo to Ann Arbor to get a look at the 2003-04 U-M…
2003 Media Day Press Conference
• Opening statement ... "Hello, everybody, it's great to be here, great to see you all here. Welcome to Michigan Stadium. Our first practice, we went into the stadium, as you know I opened the practice up, the camera was going, that was so everyone would know what's going on here. We did have an opportunity to practice on the field, I think it's going to be a great surface. I think it's going to be tremendous for guys who play in the stadium. We're used to it from the standpoint that we have an indoor building. The one noticeable difference is the heat that's probably 10 to 15 degrees hotter out there than it would be if it were grass. It's going to be a great thing for us. We also have a great advantage.
"Through the generosity of particularly three major donors -- Ira Harris, Al Glick and a former Michigan football great and athlete here, Tom Maentz -- as well as O'Neill Construction Company here in Ann Arbor has done a tremendous job so getting an opportunity to see that locker room. I think it's something that we've needed for a long time.
"This morning we had our fourth practice. The NCAA has changed the practice format; they've eliminated the orientation time for freshmen. I do think that was a mistake. I think there's a lot of coaches feel that way. It really puts a lot more pressure on them (freshmen). Hopefully we can make some kind of adjustment in the future. It's important to have a couple of days with the freshmen so you can orientate them better academically and in terms of football, as opposed to coming in with the rest of the team. They've changed the format so we'll have five single practices before we're allowed to get into the two-a-day sessions. Two practices with helmets, no shoulder pads, and then two with helmets and shoulder pads. We just finished that practice with shoulder pads and tomorrow we'll have our first full padded practice. Then the next part of the change is to acclimate all the players to the weather due to some of the things that have happened in the last few years. They've instituted a practice schedule where you cannot practice on consecutive days, double sessions. It's what they call a two-one-two model. We'll begin our two-day practices on Tuesday. That means on Wednesday we can only practice once, Thursday twice, and so on. It is quite a change to football as I've known it, certainly since I was a kid in high school, we practiced twice a day every day this time of the year. It is a change for our players, but it does give them more recovery time. We'll have to see how that goes but I think that the players probably prefer it. So at any rate, that's an update on where we are.
"We got some guys married this summer. Aaron Shea got married, I'm glad to see that. I went down to his wedding in Cleveland. We had a great time. Andy Mignery is engaged. He's marrying a girl from here in Ann Arbor. So we've got all the weddings and all the activities this summer and we're ready to go. I'm tremendously excited about this football team and the kids that comprise this team, the attitude and the work ethic has been good and we have the nucleus of what we think will be a very good football team."
• On the Marlin Jackson situation ... "Some of the leaks to the media have been inaccurate and in my judgment, some of those leaks have been unprofessional, maybe worse. What I do know, what Marlin has told me, is that number one, he did not initiate the confrontation and number two, and in my judgment the most critical issue, is that he is adamant that he did not use, or did not have possession of a bottle or any kind of object. I think there's compelling evidence that supports his position. That's where we are. He is practicing and I will continue to let this situation play its way through the justice system and we'll see how it resolves itself, and at that time I will make some decisions on his status on this team."
• On the movement of Marlin Jackson to safety ... "We have moved him to safety. We did that last spring. That gives us the advantage of putting our 11 best players on the field. It gets Marlin in a position, as a free safety or a safety who's in the middle of the field, where he's the kind of guy who's capable of making a lot of plays, I think it just gets him closer to the football. I think he has a great knack for the ball and based on what we've seen, it allows us to do some other things. I think the fact that Markus Curry and Jeremy LeSueur have proven themselves to be very good cornerbacks, and we're also addressing the situation of losing three outstanding safeties from the team a year ago. One of the most important things you do as a coach is try to find a way to get the right people in the right positions. We think that enables us to do so."
• On the importance of the safety position ... "I think the safety has always been a critical part of any defense because when the ball breaks or when the ball goes up, what I really like is having a safety in the middle of the field who can break to either side. We're also a team that plays a lot of two-deep zone. That means that instead of three guys back there you have two, and when you have one guy that can cover half the field, which Marlin can, it allows you to make it very, very difficult to throw the ball underneath. I think he fits very well and I can see down the road, he may end up being a safety when he leaves here."
• On the adjustment of the freshmen ... "We have a number of guys that will factor in there some point. Ryan Mundy has impressed, and Prescott Burgess are our two young kids that we're trying to get up to speed. (Veteran safeties) Jon Shaw, Ernest Shazor and Willis Barringer are all guys competing so we'll just have to see. We're just getting into the initial stages of training camp. We've got some guys competing and we'll be okay."
• On freshman placekicker Garrett Rivas ... "Rivas has created quite a stir in our training camp the first four days because he's one of those kids who has a great leg. When the ball comes off his foot, the ball explodes. There's something happening because he's got a great leg and he's kicking extremely well. He's a confident guy, I think he's what we thought he would be, but again, we're just in the beginning. He's kicked the ball very, very well and there's no hesitation in him. He's one of those guys that possess a kind of poise and confidence you need in a position like that."
• On the team injuries ... "Zach Kaufman has struggled; they held him out this morning. His knee is swollen and we'll back off of him a couple of days. He was the guy I was most worried about. Carl Diggs I think is going to be fine, he's at full speed. But we'll have to see, when you practice with this kind of tempo and in a training camp situation when you're going every day, we'll just have to see if he has any discomfort. But I think he's right where we want him to be. Lawrence Reid and Roy Manning, both those kids played in the spring so they're fine and doing extremely well."
• On sophomore Willis Barringer ... "Willis was one of those guys that we were interested in (when recruiting). (Offensive coordinator) Terry Malone continued to pound the table, we had not made a decision to offer Willis, and Terry continued to say, Hey, look, this kid, we need to go. We did it and I'm glad we did. Willis is a great competitor, he's done a very good job thus far. Like any young player, he'll have some bumps along the road; that is a position that you're going to have some ups and downs. He's done a very, very good job. He has a good chance to be one of the starters."
• On the development of and competition between quarterbacks Spencer Brinton and Matt Gutierrez ... "We're going in with the idea that we're going to let them compete. I think they're both much improved. Spencer had some discomfort in his throwing arm in the spring. He did not throw the ball very well, but he's got a live arm and is throwing the ball very well thus far. Matt has made some real progress. He's always been a guy that's smart and confident, but he's starting to throw the football with better anticipation before the break. I don't know when exactly we'll do that. I want to give both of them an opportunity and I think both of them have done really well so far."
• On the progress of Gabe Watson ... "We're going to put the pads on the first time tomorrow but Gabe is much further advanced than he was a year ago. As you remember, he came in overweight but he's one of those guys, we run a couple of laps before we start practice, here's a guy that's trying to get under 330, he's very close, but he has good stamina for a guy his size. I'm excited about he and Larry Harrison. I think they're both going to play an important role in our defense."
• On the chance of a walk-on taking a starting position ... "If there's any available, we'll make a decision after training camp. Alijah Bradley is a guy that I can see factoring in there somewhere, special teams. He's very, very quick and tough so he'll have an opportunity there."
• On freshman LaMarr Woodley ... "He's 263 pounds, and in high school he played a position where he was called a linebacker, but probably 95 percent of the time he rushed. I think his great strength coming in here is the fact that he's an outstanding athlete and a guy that can be a force off the edge, because the nature of playing linebacker is very much like playing quarterback, because with all the formations you get, there's a lot of thinking, there's a lot decisions, a lot of checking going on. You ask a young kid to come in as a true freshman and to grasp all that is a lot, so we're going to try to put him in a position where he can do things that he's capable of doing at this stage and we'll see how that goes the next couple of weeks of training camp."
• On the move of junior Tim Massaquoi to tight end ... "In this camp, we're working a lot more on the passing game because the contact is something that you want to try to stay away from until you the pads on but I think Massaquoi is going to be really something special. He's just over 240 pounds, he's gifted and he's going to be plenty big. He's going to be a big guy before it's over. He can run, I think he's got wonderful potential, he's got a great work ethic. It's a move he really wanted to make, so he's really bought into it and he's worked extremely hard this summer. Andy Mignery is also a guy that's going to be a real factor there, [and] Tyler Ecker gets better each day, back from his Mormon mission. So our tight end position, we don't have much experience there, but we do have very good talent there. Kevin Murphy has impressed in the spring, a young sophomore from Grand Rapids. He has impressed this fall so it's just a matter of getting as many repetitions and getting them as prepared as we can going into the season."
• On the recovery of Tim Bracken ... "Coming out of spring practice, Tim had not regained the same form that he had before that injury. He did not come back last fall like he was and this spring he still wasn't where he is so I'll know a little bit more here in couple of weeks when we get into game week."
• On the development of Braylon Edwards ... "I think first of all, anytime a freshman plays as a freshman -- that happens more at the wide receiver position, maybe at the cornerback position, but Braylon has been through -- the thing you can't prepare for is the mental pressure from having to be focused week to week to week over what is essentially a three-month period. Braylon hit a wall as a freshman. I think when he hit that wall last fall he fought his way through it. He has the experience of having been through the length of the season, he knows what's coming. Until you've been there, you don't know. I think he knows the offense better, so his confidence is at a high level. He's a very competitive guy. I'll be disappointed if he doesn't have an outstanding season because certainly, at this stage, he's prepared to do so."
• On Jeremy LeSueur ..."First of all, Jeremy as a freshman in one of the very few injuries we've ever had in practice, one of our other freshmen made a mistake and Jeremy suffered a knee injury that put him out for a year. He's one of those kids that comes a long way from home, and he has a brother who had some health problems, so he had some adjustments to make. He had to learn how to compete. He had to learn how to compete every day. Then he had an off-the-field problem. But I can tell you I'm very proud of where he is today. I think he's learned some difficult lessons and I think he's one of those guys that is going to be a guy that will have some postseason honors if he has the kind of season he's capable of, because he has tremendous ability. So we're counting on him to have a great year."
• On the offensive line ... "As a coach, what I look for in an offense, in today's football you'd better have people that can knock people off the line in front, and you'd better have people that can protect the quarterback. You have to be able to do both because of the nature of the defenses that you see. That doesn't happen overnight. I thought we improved dramatically as an offensive line during the latter course of last season. Right now I think that's a group with Adam Stenavich, Tony Pape, Matt Lentz and Leo Henige will compete there. Dave Pearson is a fifth-year, tough, hard-nosed leader and a great competitor. David Baas has a chance to be a great one. Pape is one of the better tackles we've had. We have a group of guys up front who have been through the wars. There's Mike Kolodziej, who is talented, and we've got some other guys in there who are going to get better as the season goes on. So what I like is their experience. I can tell you they're tough, they're unselfish guys, which is normally the case with offensive lineman. They're really the backbone of your team. If you have a great line, you have the chance to make things happen and I really like this group."
• On quarterback John Navarre ... "I think it starts with John Navarre and those guys up front. Navarre is a guy who is having a great time and he knows what he's doing. I'm excited about what he's prepared to do. He's paid his dues. That's normally the case. Anything worthwhile you're going to have to pay your dues and nothing comes easy in this game. Navarre is grounded. He knows not to get too high when people tell him he's great and he's certainly learned the other part too. Navarre, make no mistake, is tough mentally, he's tough physically, and he's talented and he's smart. I don't know what else you need."
• On Chris Perry ... "Perry is still here. I tried to get Chris to transfer because he and I didn't see eye to eye for a long time. This is what I love about Chris Perry: I know that every day when I go to practice there will be one guy that is energized. He loves to practice. It's fun because a lot of times at football practice it's not an easy game to get ready to practice every day. But Perry has a great enthusiasm and love for the game. He's developed into a complete football player. He's smart, he's very smart, and he competitive. He's a big, strong guy who has wonderful feet and I really like him."
• On Steve Breaston ... "If you like Michigan, you're going to like Breaston. He's a guy that has developed some strength, which he needed. He was a quarterback in high school so he had to start all over. He's listening in the huddle instead of talking. All the communication, some of those signals are 10, 11 words. He's had to learn a lot about the receiver position. The disappointing thing is he missed most of spring practice with a pulled hamstring. He's back I think very healthy and you'll see a lot of him."
• On the punt returners ... "Steve Breaston is definitely going to be a factor on the punt return. Jason Avant has really shown up well there, and there's Markus Curry. We'll work during training camp with some of these guys because you can never have enough. I've never been through a year it seems when at some point in the season you get a guy hurt. So we're trying to develop as many guys as we can so we can be prepared if we have some injuries or something of that nature."
• On acclimating his freshmen ... "Well, what we've tried to do instead of our situational drills is we've tried to have some plays designed for them. In other drills we've added a five-minute period at the end of a period where all the plays that were called in that segment are designed for them. It's hard. And I don't particularly like it and I think it really adds to the pressure on the freshmen when you can't spend a couple of days with them individually."
• On teaching his players about dealing with the media ... "One thing I try to tell the freshmen is, watch the upperclassmen. Because the last thing that you want as a coach for the player is you don't want them to embarrass themselves. All of a sudden when you've got four or five people standing around you with a camera, with a notepad, with a tape recorder, those are all things that you have to gain confidence with. There are some basic fundamentals, just as there are in the game, that you use to deal with the media. I try to tell them the people that they are going to come in contact with have a job to do. They're not necessarily your friends. They have a responsibility. Don't say anything that you don't want to see in print. Try to deal with them with respect to that. I'm not going to criticize our players in the media, in the public, but neither am I going to lie to the media. So there are fundamental issues there that we deal with with every team, and I think for the most part our guys do a great job, and every once in a while a guy makes a mistake. But I think we've all made a few mistakes."
• On competition between his players ... "This is my take on competition: earn it. Earn the position and keep it. To keep it you have to compete. There's no such thing as arriving. When you earn something, that doesn't mean the competition is over, because somebody else wants that job. So I think that if you can develop that mentality, as a coach, as a player, in anything you do, you have to fight that sense of entitlement that once I earn it, I own it. That's not true. So hopefully everybody understands that you're always striving to get better. To me, that's the key. That's the key in anything: understanding that you can be better, whatever it may be."
• On Darnell Hood adjusting to the cornerback position ... "We moved him over during the spring and I think he's going to be fine. He's one of the best-conditioned athletes I've ever seen. He's been here all summer long, nobody has a better attitude. He's got some things to learn because at this level, in high school as a cornerback you can get away with some things, but here fundamentally you have to be lined up properly, you have to be looking at the right thing. If it's zone coverage you have to be looking at the ball. If it's man coverage you have to be looking at the man. Sometimes a young player has a difficult time, as simple as that may sound. So there are a lot of things, but I think the more repetition he gets the better he'll get, and I'm hoping that he's going to develop quickly."
• On the backup running backs ... "Coming out of spring practice, I was very excited about David Underwood. He's one of those kids that at one time there was talk that he was going to leave, going to transfer because he didn't get to play much last year. I think his expectations coming into the season were different. He just needed a little more time to grow up and to understand and learn what it takes at that position. The tailback at Michigan is not just a running back. He's a guy that we ask to pass-protect. He's a guy that we would like to throw the football to. So we're looking for special guys. There are a lot of guys who just want to carry the ball. They don't want to block for somebody else. I'm very proud of David Underwood. I'm expecting him to do some very good things. And then we've got some other guys competing and we'll have to see over the next couple of weeks if Anton Campbell and Jerome Jackson, two young kids, if they surface, and if Pierre Rembert is there, and of course Tim Bracken. So we'll have to see what develops there."
• On postseason award possibilities for John Navarre, maybe the Heisman ... "The Heisman? What is the Heisman? Is that a trophy that they give at the end of the season? I don't have a vote. But I always tell the players that those awards normally go to people who play on great teams. There will be enough credit for everybody if, as a team, you achieve and accomplish a lot. We've had more than our share of All-Americans and Heisman Trophy winners without promoting them. I think they understand when they come to Michigan, when they go into that stadium, there are always television cameras there. There are 112,000 people watching. They have a platform on which to display their abilities. So they'll get more than their share if they can be the kind of guys that are unselfish and play together and have a great team. All I know is with Navarre I'm happy to have him as my quarterback. Our quarterback."
• On the kickoff returners ... "Jeremy LeSueur set the Michigan single-season record for returns last season and that was without, we were close several times to breaking a long one, and had he done that he would have had an outstanding year. I think much of that credit goes to the guys who play with him. What I like about Jeremy is he takes the ball and there's no hesitation. He's not dancing around, he's going to find a crease and he's hitting it. And I think that's the key. Normally we had two guys back there, so we have a number of guys. Chris (Perry) was back there, he played there some there a year ago, and he's really good. I'd like to find somebody else in that other position back there and we'll try a number of guys over the next couple of weeks."
• On the fullbacks ... "Jim Presley missed most of the summer, he had his knee scoped. So he's missed a lot of things in terms of working out, lifting and conditioning. He's behind a little bit. But I'm very pleased so far. He's been able to practice, the knee doesn't seem to bother him and I think he's going to get better every single day. What role he's going to play, I can't tell you. Kevin Dudley's an underrated football player. He's a blue-collar football player, a guy who is willing to go in there and do the tough, dirty jobs. He's a team guy. He's tough and so Dudley will do a good job. Brian Thompson I think has a tremendous upside. He's 230 pounds now, he can run, he's very athletic, an outstanding pass receiver. He can make something happen when he catches the ball. I said earlier he reminds me a little of Aaron Shea. But he's got a lot to learn, so we'll see."
• On this year's schedule ... "We've talked as a team, and I've talked to the team about the schedule. I'm not going to do that publicly, because that factors into what we're trying to achieve as a team. I look at the schedule and I know one thing and only one thing: there are 12 of them. I know that there are four non-conference games and there are eight conference games. We understand that the non-conference schedule factors into the Bowl Championship Series and the bowl tie-ins that the Big Ten has. So if you have high goals in terms of the bowls, you'd better look at the non-conference schedule and understand that in our case the first three are at home and then we've got a tough turnaround and tough place to play at Oregon and we've got to come back. And whatever happens there, we've got a Big Ten schedule that presents us with an opportunity to play for a championship. That's about all I can say to you about the schedule."
• On his kickoff guys ... "I think Garrett Rivas will be a factor there. We've tried to save our fields here because of all the wear and tear, so we've practiced on the short field there this morning and yesterday, so we have not kicked the ball off yet. Philip Brabbs has had an injury where he missed the spring and he's still not kicking. We'll have some competition there and we'll see how it goes."
• On Brabbs' injury ... "He's not practicing right now. Troy Nienberg did a terrific job during the bowl game. He came in and kicked off because Philip hurt himself between the end of the season and the bowl game. Troy did an outstanding job of kicking off in that game. I would have to say that this injury has been nagging enough that it is worrisome in terms of Philip."
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423
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