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"We're looking forward to the beginning of spring practice. Our winter
conditioning has been excellent. We had a lot fewer injuries coming off the
postseason than we've had in previous years. I think we've had a major emphasis
in terms of becoming a leaner team, and a stronger team. We start spring practice
on Saturday morning. We'll practice Sunday afternoon. Normally, we would like
to go on Monday but because of the academic schedules we'd have too many guys
miss practice. So we'll go Saturday and Sunday and the rest of the spring we'll
go Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. As always the emphasis is on individual improvement,
taking every player and helping him develop his skills with the goal that after
15 practices every single guy can improve and we can be a better football team.
We should have some excellent competition at a number of positions, which I
think is a real positive, and of course we're going to get our schemes taught.
There will be some changes. There are always some terminology changes, so we
have a lot of work to do and a short time to do it.
"We do have two incoming freshmen -- Justin Boren and Carlos Brown are
with us, and they have done a very good job acclimating to the academics as
well as the conditioning. I think both of them are kids with outstanding potential.
We'll just have to see how they compete when we put the pads on.
"We have reorganized our staff with Mike DeBord moving into the offensive
coordinator position. I promoted Brad Labadie as Director of Football Operations.
And I've hired Chris Singletary, who played here on our national championship
team in 1997, to come back as the recruiting coordinator. He will work in terms
of the organization of our recruiting process on campus. The other role Mike
had, other than the recruiting coordinator, was special teams coordinator, so
we'll go back and divide those duties up among our staff. Mike will continue
to oversee the punt team. Ron Lee, our secondary coach, will handle the punt
return team. Fred Jackson, who has always had a significant role in the kickoff
return team, will do that, and Steve Stripling will handle our kickoff team.
"We've had two injuries. Doug Dutch hurt his knee in the bowl preparation
and it has not has responded like we hoped it would to rehab, so he had his
knee scoped very recently. We hope he'll be able to come back for the last couple
weeks of spring practice. I hope he can because Doug is a talented guy and there
are some opportunities there. Antonio Bass, in a conditioning drill on Tuesday,
stumbled and as he was falling he planted and hurt his knee. I'm sure he won't
be here for the spring and that's a big blow to us. Our plans were to play him
at quarterback this spring. We'll have to see how that goes. The other injury
is Justin Schifano, an extremely talented offensive lineman. He will not be
cleared for contact this spring, but he will be out there doing some limited
work as will Brandent Englemon."
On Schifano's injury:
"It's his shoulder."
On if Bass will need surgery:
"I can't say that right now. We should know something pretty quickly."
On Bass playing quarterback:
"The idea was that he would work at both positions this spring, much as
he did last fall. He spent a significant amount of time at the quarterback position.
So that's a huge disappointment for us."
On former head of football operations, Scott Draper:
"He's the assistant athletic director for football."
On the the changes the new staff members will bring:
"I'll know a lot more as we get into the season, but with any change there
is great enthusiasm. Our players are excited. Anytime you lose two outstanding
coaches it does create an opportunity for change and new ideas, so I think it's
going to be very good."
On position changes:
"We'll work Carlos Brown some on defense. What we'd like to do is teach
him some of our coverages in the nickel package because it's reduced –
normally you're playing nickel against three wide receivers or four, and so
the coverage is much simpler in term of adjustments. We'll work him there some.
We've moved Brian Thompson to the U-back position, which is essentially a tight
end who is off the ball, who motions. He's had a very good winter conditioning
and if he can stay healthy he will make an excellent contribution."
On the health of Jerome Jackson and Adrian Arrington:
"Adrian Arrington in the last few days has shown significant improvement.
I think he's very close to be back to where he was before the injury. Jerome
is rehabilitating his injury and will not play in the spring practice."
On the changes offensive coordinator Mike DeBord will bring:
"I think Mike DeBord has proven himself as an outstanding football coach
in a lot of areas, but I think he's excited about the opportunity to get back
on offense. I think Mike has great knowledge. I think he has as much passion
for football as any man I've ever met, and a great energy. What we need to do
offensively that we didn't do a year ago is run the football more effectively.
In four games there we had the lead late in the game and had we been able to
run the football, possess the football, the outcomes certainly could have been
different; so we have to run the football more effectively.We have to be a more
balanced football team. We've got people who can throw it and we've got people
who can catch it, but if you're going to be successful and play championship
football I think you have to run the football and I think we'll able to do that
more effectively than we did a year ago."
On the second string QB:
"Jason Forcier, who did a lot of good things last fall, is the second
On why the running game struggled last year and why it will be better
"In fairness to our team, there are a lot of things you can look at, but
I think it all started up front, particularly with the injuries we had and certainly
with Mike Hart missing as much as he did. I think Kevin Grady has made great
strides. He is right now 218 pounds. When I look at him today compared to what
he was a year ago ... he has really committed himself to the conditioning part
of it. I think obviously he has learned a lot because he did have a lot of experience.
"But I think it all starts up front and there are some things from a scheme
standpoint that we're going to do differently, which I think plays into the
strength of our players."
On the offensive line:
"We're going to start with, of course, (Mark) Bihl at center. Tim McAvoy
and David Moosman, two freshmen, will also work at that position. Rueben Riley
is a key ... he's played center, he's played guard, he's played tackle -- we're
going to start him off at guard. Mike Kolodziej is rehabilitated after an unbelievable
string of injuries this fall. We'll start him off at tackle.Adam Kraus is at
left guard, but Adam has played center and some tackle, as well. We do have
some flexibility in terms of the way we're going to end up. With Jake Long at
left tackle, that's the way we'll start out. A lot of it will be determined
by how the young players play. Mark Ortmann is a young player we want to look
at, I mentioned Moosman ... Alex Mitchell is another guy who will get an opportunity
On how the offense will change:
"I don't really want to get into it because we have games to play. The
proof is in the pudding."
More on the new coaching staff:
"Ron Lee has been in the Big Ten Conference the last three years at Wisconsin
coaching their secondary and did an excellent job. He worked for Sonny Lubick
at Colorado State for six years and he was the defensive coordinator at San Jose State for two years. He's got great energy and is a guy that is a wonderful
technician in terms of the way he teaches. With Ron (English) becoming coordinator,
what has happened is it's a trend you are probably going to see more of. More
and more you see two secondary coaches because if you have two linebacker coaches,
when you get into the nickel and dime situation if you have one secondary coach
he's coaching five or six guys. If it's six, you'll have an outside linebacker
coach who doesn't have a player in the game. With the number of snaps we had
last year, well over 50 percent of the snaps were three wide receivers or more.
I think that change is going to be very positive for us because it allows one
guy to coach the corners, one to coach the safeties.
"Steve Szabo is a guy I've knows for 25 years. He had an extensive college
background, he was the defensive coordinator at Boston College and been in the
NFL for a number of years. He is an outstanding teacher, a graduate of the U.S.
Naval Academy. His daughter was a great athlete here at Michigan. He'll bring
a lot of experience, a lot of things from the standpoint of ideas to us.
"Of course Ron (English) is well prepared to be a coordinator. He's got
a real passion for the game. I think the players really respond to him. I think
it's a good group. Ron English will coach the safeties, Ron Lee will coach the
On how much hitting there will be in practice:
"When I first came to Michigan, we practiced 20 days. It was a pride thing
here in that we went 20 days in pads, three days a week, Tuesday, Thursday,
Saturday. We scrimmaged, most of the time, for well over half the practice.
The goal line, short yard scrimmage on Thursday, we had a pass situation scrimmage,
on Saturday a full scrimmage. Of course, with the number of injuries, the NCAA
got involved and looked at the statistics, they came to the rule ... we're limited
to the contact we could have in terms of scrimmage situations. I think it was
a good rule in terms of safety of the players. I do think it makes it somewhat
more difficult to develop a team because you are limited there. But the understanding
is, in spring practice you don't have your freshmen class so you have really
a lot fewer players. That's why they went from 20 practices to 15, only 12 of
those in pads. It's not a lot of time when you look at what we're used to having.
We'll have some scrimmages, and for me, when we scrimmage you really find out
a lot about what a guy can do. The other side of that is you hold your breath
because if you lose a guy in spring, the downside is he has to spend all summer
rehabbing an injury, hoping to get back by fall. If he gets through spring he
can continue to work on his skill, strength and conditioning. It's an issue
you deal with every day."
On Jake Long's move to left tackle:
"He's left handed (laughing). The left tackle position, the reason it
is the most critical is that's the backside of the quarterback if he's right
handed. The quarterback needs to feel secure that he's not going to get hit
from the backside. When you really get down to it, that's the difference, as
opposed to ... if he's a right handed quarterback he can look to his right,
step up, move, scramble, get rid of the ball, and he can't do that to the left.
The left tackle is a critical position there. I think most running backs are
right handed, and if they're right handed, most of your running attacks are
right handed in terms of the right tackle position. We were fortunate when Jon Jansen was here, Jeff Backus was the left tackle. That's a pretty good combination."
On Antonio Bass' injury affecting QB depth:
"Certainly, depending upon what the outcome of it ... Antonio's a great
athlete and has tremendous upside. He had a wonderful freshman year, if you
consider some of the nagging injuries he had. It will be a significant loss
if we lose him."
On Mike Hart's health:
"I think Mike is ready to go."
On using last season's shortcomings as motivation this year:
"I interviewed every player on our team a week ago. That's always part
of the conversation. Every coach on our team has interviewed every player at
his position. The coordinators have interviewed every player on offense and
defense. We're very limited this time of year in terms of meetings, but when
we get into the meetings, you begin to focus on the things you need to do better.
That's true as coaches; that's true as players. There are a lot of things that
should be motivating. I don't think there is anybody in this program that wants
to go through that kind of season again. They will do everything they're asked
to do to make sure it doesn't happen again."
On whether the coaches have been more visible in off-season workouts:
"I don't think that's true. Our schedule is dictated in January and early
February by recruiting. As soon as that part of our responsibilities is over,
we are at all the workouts. I do think there has been a great energy, a great
enthusiasm. Our job is to make sure that carries over. Our schedule hasn't changed."
On the players being leaner and stronger this year:
"Some of it has to do particularly with what we're going to do offensively.
Second, any time you come off a season, you go back and evaluate everything
you did as a coach. You evaluate every player...what he did, what he did well,
what he didn't do well. You try to figure out what happened, and that's whether
you're coming off a great season or a bad one. I think it's all the same. You're
trying every day to get better, as a coach and as a player. One of the things
I thought hurt Kevin Grady a little bit was that he came out of high school
... I can remember at one point when I saw him, he was 240 pounds. I think in
his situation it's going to help him. I think the same thing is true of Jake
Long.When you talk about offensive linemen, when you talk about being able,
in the fourth quarter, to do the things you have to do to win a game...if you're
too heavy it hurts your ability to do that. That's something we've stressed
On how the defense will change:
"I've been in a lot of the defensive meetings. Ron will take a lot of
things that we've done here. He'll take some of the ideas that he has that maybe
we didn't utilize. He's going to take some ideas from Ron Lee and Steve Szabo,
and of course, Steve Stripling. There will be changes, but specifically what
they are, I don't want to get into that. I hope you understand."
On how much freedom Ron English will have to run his defense:
"It's like everything else in this program, I have a philosophy on how
I want to try to win. You can't be a championship team if your defense can't
be great against the run. That's more difficult to do that it's ever been before,
because that's one of the things you have to deal with in the spread offense.
When you're all spread out, it really isolates individual players and you have
to be able to tackle in space, and that's not easy to do against great athletes.
I think you have to be good against the run, and I think you have to prevent
big plays. I want a defense that is not giving up big plays. I want a defense
that is going to hustle and pursue the football and a team concept from that
standpoint. And I think you have to be able to take advantage of the personnel
you have. But in terms of coordinating the defense, other than the philosophy,
he'll have full responsibility. It's the same on offense."
On the defensive front seven:
"One guy that sticks in my mind...and he's not exactly where he needs
to be, weight-wise, but he's much further along than he was when he walked in
here last summer...is Terrance Taylor. When you see him, you're going to see
a different guy. Of course, with (Alan) Branch and Will Johnson ... Will Johnson
is finally healthy for the first time since he's been here. He had undergone
surgery his last year in high school and was not very healthy as a freshman.
He even struggled some last year. And Marques Walton has made some strides.
Inside, we'll have to see what those guys do. With all of these positions, depending
on what happens this spring that creates the possibility for some of our incoming
freshmen to have a role. We've got (LaMarr) Woodley, and of course, Branch is
in that defensive end group. Branch has all the ability to be a great player
here. He's got everything you're looking for, and I think he's learned a lot
from his experience from last fall. LaMarr is healthy and working hard. Tim Jamison is a guy who really came on late in the year. He did some great things
in the bowl game, and Rondell Biggs is healthy and made some tremendous strides
this winter. Rondell, the first five games before he got hurt in the Michigan State game he was having an outstanding year. He was never the same after he
came back from that injury. Eugene Germany has made tremendous strides in his
strength since he got here. He's a very, very talented guy. We'll just have
to see what he does with his opportunity this spring. All of our linebackers
are back, so we have a chance to have a very good front seven."
On whether Ryan Mundy will be back this spring:
"Yes. Llate in the year, we had three secondary backs that all had nerve
problems in their shoulders. Jamar Adams is still not 100 percent healthy. Brandent
Englemon had surgery and Ryan missed the season because of a nerve injury. Hopefully,
those guys will all get back. But Mundy is cleared and ready to go."