Steve Schilling: “We’ve been having some senior class meetings, talking about what we want to get done this year. I think we’ll have a goals meeting during camp with the rest of the team to kind of set out what we want to do.”
Question: Talk about the offensive line and (David) Molk is back and good to go. Talk about how you guys have kind of gelled and the chemistry in that group.
Steve Schilling: “Yeah it is going to be great to have David back. He’s been full strength lifting and everything with us. He looks good and Patrick (Omameh) has put on more weight and has gotten stronger. Everybody has been in there working, so it is going to be fun to kind of put all this work that we’ve done in the offseason to the field and especially having David back being able to play and try to see (mumble) and everyone is healthy and everyone has been working really hard. We’re all good friends too. So it helps on the field that we get along so well off the field. I’m excited.”
Question: How much is an experience offensive line going to help the offense as a whole do you think?
Steve Schilling: “I think definitely the offense line is the leaders of the offense. We got so much experience there and not as much as experience at any of the other positions. I’m looking forward to kind of setting the tone for offense.”
Question: With all the experience coming back, do you guys feel like this year that you guys can maybe take that step with that experience?
Steve Schilling: “Absolutely, I would say so. It helps having the experience with the older guys and then having the depth that so many of the guys have been able to play. Last year we got to get some of those freshman in. Like the Delaware State game they got to play a whole half of football. At least they got to get out there and see what it is like. They got to see it so they are hungry and they want to play too. It is going to push them in practice and push us. It is going to be exciting having so many guys that are capable to play.”
Question on how close the team is…
Steve Schilling: “I think the people who have stayed have kind of bonded together. With everybody that has left, you kind of forget them and move on. Obviously, the last few years, we haven’t been what we wanted and we all understand that and none of us came here expecting to have seasons like that and not going to bowl games. It kind of helps you bond together and I think it has all kind of helped us unite for a common purpose this year as seniors. Like I said, we had those senior meetings when we are in there talking about what we want. We know it is our last chance and we want to make sure everybody on the team is thinking the same way we are and wants the same things that we do for our senior season to be a good one.”
Question: All of us on the outside, we all have our theories on what went wrong, can you tell us at what point do you think things got too hard to keep up that level that Michigan has been in.
Steve Schilling: “It was a transitional period obviously with a new coach. Sometimes you see that where things like that don’t go as smoothly and some things didn’t go our way. There was a lot of games over the last two years that we had a chance to win in the fourth quarter, in the second half and we just were not able to finish and we could be talking about a whole different story right now. A couple of down years, some bad luck also and hopefully we can just turn that around this year.”
Question: Talk about your personal strength gains. Are you stronger than you’ve ever been and where did you improve?
Steve Schilling: “Yeah absolutely. I think myself along as everyone else are stronger than they’ve been, working hard with Coach Barwis and pretty much all my major reps have gone up. I’m pretty happy with it.”
Question: Talking about the competition at tackle. We know you got the veterans back there with (Mark) Huyge and (Perry) Dorrestein. How did the young guys do in the weight room in following your lead this year?
Steve Schilling: “Obviously Mark and Perry have played a little bit and gotten to start some games, but Taylor (Lewan) and Michael (Schofield) have been working really hard and both guys are more quiet when they are working out, but they work hard. They’re not going to argue with you if you tell them to do something, they’re going to do something. It is nice to have those guys up there and Christian (Pace) coming up as a freshman. If you tell him to do anything, he’ll do it. They are definitely hard workers and they want to be great and they want to play and they want to play early. It is exciting to have them working so hard because it keeps pushing us to be better when they are back there competing.”
Question: Can you talk about the running back competition a little bit and how that is kind of shaping up? You got Vincent Smith coming off the injury and you’re blocking for these guys; do you think there is going to be multiple guys carrying the ball this year?
Steve Schilling: “I would expect it. I hope there would be. Coach Rodriguez always talks to us…tell us that they play whoever they feel that they can win with. So if they can win with four of those guys then they can play it and it is better for us. We don’t want to have only running back that can get the job done. I am definitely very excited to see what they can do and compete in camp. I think it is going to be good to push them and have all that competition. There are a couple of guys that are different styles of running backs. You are going to need the power back and speed back and guys that can catch the ball and the guys who you can kind of combine them and guys that can do a lot of different things, it is going to be exciting for our offense.”
Steve Schilling: “Vincent obviously got hurt, which was tough, but he kind of showed what he could do in the Wisconsin and the Ohio State game last year. He is going to be a talented guy for us and he is back healthy now. Mike Cox is a guy, who when he has gotten in there has had some special runs and does some special things. He is growing up now too. He is into his third year, definitely maturing and knows that he has an opportunity to play and play a lot this year. I’ve definitely seen some growth from him this year. He has been in there working, helping with the planning and I can’t see what he does when he gets on the field and has the same attitude. You got a couple of other young guys, you got Mike Shaw who is a burner. He can go the distance. It definitely motivates us when you got so many different guys that can be well rested, everybody getting a lot of repetitions and helps us out.”
Question: Can you talk about the quarterbacks then. Obviously, would you be okay…last year Rich was bringing in Denard (Robinson) and Tate (Forcier) rotating them. Would you guys be okay with either of those guys at quarterback whether he brings one in and rotates them again this year?
Steve Schilling: “I think so. I think we obviously saw what Tate could do last year, at least in spurts. Obviously, he was a freshman and so it was an up and down season. Denard has gotten a lot better in the offense that we saw during the spring. He is a lot more confident. He knows what he is doing back there now. You always see a big leap I feel like from freshman to sophomore year, so they got that experience under their belt, they are comfortable in the system now. Whether they are going back and forth or whether there is just one starter, the coaches will figure it out in camp and they’ll decide by the way they play. It doesn’t really affect us as much, as long as they can both get the job done.”
Question: Do you feel like it is a seismic change when you shift between Tate and Deanrd or are their games pretty much similar?
Steve Schilling: “There is obvious differences. Denard is more of a runner and Tate is more of a thrower, but I think Denard has improved his passing and Tate has the ability to run, which we saw sometimes last year. The offense is the same. They’ll still call the same plays. There are not specific plays for Denard or Tate. So it doesn’t affect us too much.”
Question: Talk about Denard’s leadership and the kinds of strides he made in that area.
Steve Schilling: “That’s definitely a big thing that I’ve seen in the offseason. As a freshman, you’re eye are really wide and taking everything in, you don’t really have time to settle in, but once the season is over, I think you kind of realize what he could do here and he could be a special player. He has definitely taken some leadership. He is there every day working hard and he’ll do whatever. He brings a fun energy. He is always smiling and always having a good time. So he makes you want to be around him, makes you want to play for him. So definitely has those qualities to be a special leader and a special quarterback.”
Question: We’ve heard that he makes some freakish plays in practice, what are some of the things that you’ve seen him do that make you say wow?
Steve Schilling: “Any time he takes off and runs and his shoes are untied, I always go up to him and say you need to tie shoes. He always last, but I never understand how he can cut. Because I would sprain my ankle if I cut without tying my shoes. Certainly last fall we were in amazement. We hadn’t seen that in so long. He had so many 50, 60, 70 yards runs that we were just…he is definitely fun to watch in practice.”
Question: Talk about the defense a little bit and going up against the line. Are you pretty encouraged by what you see on that side of the ball. Obviously, they are doing something different again. Was it confusing and how was it to go up against the defense like that?
Steve Schilling: “They are doing a lot of things, not just…they run a lot of schemes. The defense line is a great group and those guys are really tight. You can tell that all of them are really good friends and it helps them as a cohesive unit. They work hard too. They are one of the hardest working groups on the team. So it is always fun to go against them. We know they are going to give us a good challenge and we love fighting with each other in practice and make each other better. I think even Brandon (Graham) is gone but there are a lot of guys coming back and I think Ryan (Van Bergen) and Mike (Martin) and Greg (Banks) can really do something good this year.”
Question: I just want to know first off what you learn from Jake Long?
Steve Schilling: “I think I learned how to work hard. Jake is a tough worker. He came to practice every day with that mindset and even though he was such a great player, a #1 pick, he never let up. You wouldn’t have known him if you saw him…you wouldn’t know that he was such a high profile player. I think just staying humble and working hard are two of his best qualities.”
Question: So you were injured in 2006, is that still hurting you at all?
Steve Schilling: “Oh no. I had hurt myself in high school and when I got here, it just wasn’t fix yet and I had mono. I got mono during camp, so I was already missing time, so they just decided to fix the shoulder.”
Question: You’ve played Notre Dame three times before. Have you learned anything from playing them? Just like playing them with this being your fourth year…do you have a lot of experience and do you think you know how to take care of them?
Steve Schilling: “Take care of them, I do not know about that but we’ve definitely had some good fights and good games. We got the best of them my freshman year I think. We got the best of them last year. They beat us two years ago. We’ve had some good battles, gone back and forth. They’ve always got great players and great coaches. When Michigan and Notre Dame are playing there arguably no game that has more tradition, so it is definitely fun to be part of that and being able to add to that tradition.”
Question: Can you talk a little bit about that tradition?
Steve Schilling: “Yeah to me it is special. It is something where there is just so many great players that have come through both schools and just walking into each of the stadiums, there is so much tradition there and they are both really special stadiums. You see Touchdown Jesus in South Bend and obviously the Big House in Ann Arbor. It is fun whether you are playing home or away. We are rivals, but we respect each other. Both programs that have also had down years in the last few years and we are both going to come up. We definitely need to beat each other, each year it is a big game for us.”
Question: Are you expecting a lot of changes with everything, with Coach Kelly being in his first year?
Steve Schilling: “I’m sure they’ll have new offensive and defensive schemes but they are still Notre dame and we’re still Michigan. There were changes when Coach Rodriguez and his staff came here and so that is what we did on the field. But it is still Michigan and still Notre Dame, so the game is still significant.”
Question: How different is the feeling going into this year as to previous year?
Steve Schilling: “I think it is exciting. Different for me because I’m a senior and it is my last year, so you definitely have more of a sense of urgency. I think we have a lot of talent coming back on both sides of the ball. There is definitely a lot of optimism. You don’t want to forget the last two years…you want to remember them and use them as motivation.”
Question: When you were recruited to Michigan I’m sure you never thought that you would have to go through two years like you’ve gone through. How tough has it been?
Steve Schilling: “None of us thought we would have losing seasons like that when we came here. That’s part of the reason I chose Michigan because they were good every single year. It’s tough. It’s a learning experience for all of us. It humbles you and keeps you grounded and keeps you hungry for the next year.”
Question: You see Ohio State is picked again to win. They’ve won five in a row; how much does that gnaw at you?
Steve Schilling: “It’s tough but they are a great program and they’ve had a lot of success and you can’t knock on them when they’ve been playing so well and they’ve been doing it the right way and everything, they have good players, good coaches and they play good football. They’ve been beating us, it would be nice to get that win under my belt before I take off.”
Question: There is kind of a national perception that this is kind of a make or break year for your coach. How much do you guys think about that?
Steve Schilling: “At least for me it doesn’t. Every year we want to win, so the last two years have been tough, just to say that this year we have to win because of our coach, is like we’ll we should have won the last two years too. Maybe it adds a little more pressure on him, I’m not sure, but for us we’re going out there to win for the team and for each other and for the coaches. If you do everything right it won’t matter.”
Question: The perception of him nationally of him is not very positive after what has happened both on the field and with NCAA stuff. What do you think is the biggest understanding that outside public has about him?
Steve Schilling: “I just think it is tough for anyone to come in to a place like Michigan that has had as much continuity for 40 or 50 years, what it is has been and be an outsider. Michigan has such a widespread alumni group and so many supporters across country that it is going to be tough that you are going to come into a situation where they are already going to be of skeptical because you are from the outside. Then to have the seasons we’ve had and then obviously the NCAA stuff. It is tough. I’m sure it is tough on him…what was the original question.”
Question: What is the biggest thing…maybe you don’t know that much about the national perception. What is the thing that you guys as a team, go, they said that about him and that’s not true. Is there anything like that?
Steve Schilling: “Not that I can think of. We try not to even worry about that or read that stuff. Coach Rodriguez always talks about worry about Michigan and worry about ourselves. Can’t worry about any other team or what anyone is saying or anything like that. If we do see it, it is in and out of our mind quickly.”
Question: One of the things that made the transition tough it seems, you mentioned that there is a lot of old guard alumni that were skeptical of him to begin with. It sounds like you guys lost a lot of players right off the bat, because it sounds like even some of the players were skeptical about who is this guy coming in here and changing up everything we do.
Steve Schilling: “It’s tough because of all the tradition that we’ve had here and the coaches and what it has been. Coming in as an outsider like I said, it is going to be time to learn about each other. We didn’t know about Coach Rodriguez and he didn’t know about us. It takes time to establish that relationship that usually have with a coach when you’re coming in because you’ve been recruiting by him and things like that. It takes time and some of the guys didn’t gel with him the way they did with the old staff and that happens I think any time a new coach comes in. I do not take it as the player’s fault or Coach Rodriguez’s fault. It just happens with transition.”
Question: How is your relationship as a team with him now?
Steve Schilling: “I think it is great. We respect the coaches and we trust them. We believe in what they are doing and I think as a team we are trying to preach that to the younger guys. Coach Rodriguez would say all in for Michigan. Believe what the coaches are doing and they are going to put us in the right situation and what they tell us is going to be right. He has had success in the past at other places. His track record speaks for itself. We don’t have any reason to doubt him because of what has happened in two years. We just stay positive and preach that to the younger guys.”
Question: Has he been any different this year than he has been the previous two years?
Steve Schilling: “I don’t think so. He is still coaching football and that is his job. Regardless of how he did the last couple of years or how things are going. He is a coach that wants to make us better, on the field and off. I think we all understand that. He might yell or scream at you, but he is just doing it to make you better. While the younger guys might not understand that but the older guys definitely do now and we can help bring those younger guys along to understand.”
Question: Do you ever hear from the guys that were here from the freshman team that beat Florida, the guys in the NFL. Are you in touch with them and do they ask what’s going on there?
Steve Schilling: “No. Nobody would really ask. I’d see Jake or Adam Kraus when they come back in town. They hang out and stuff. They would just tell me to keep working and keep your head up when things are going wrong. They went through a seven and five, which at the time was tough for Michigan too. They kind of have some perspective on it, but they just keep telling to keep working, stay at it and keep leading the younger guys. They’re all positive about it.”
Question: Was there times when you personally felt like what was going on here? This is not what I signed up for.
Steve Schilling: “No. It’s frustrating but there was never a time where I was looking for a way out or thought about leaving, definitely note. I came to Michigan and I committed to them for four or five years. I committed to the school and not to a coach or anything like that. It was tough but it is when you kind of got to take some time and put it in perspective and move forward.”
Question: How close to do you think you are too really turning the corner and being the old Michigan?
Steve Schilling: “I think really close. The last two years we had opportunities to be an above .500 team. Last year, five and seven, it could have easily been eight and three, eight and four or whatever (laughter). I’m tired it’s early. I think definitely you saw some good improvement last year. The record maybe doesn’t speak as well as we played in some games. We gave some up at the end. I think we are right there at that turning point, right at the top of the mountain, ready to go over.”
Question: Your coach has been pretty up front about Tate’s maturity issues. What have you seen in terms of his maturity?
Steve Schilling: “When you’re young and a freshman and you’re all everything coming out of high school, sometimes you come in and it is rough. He got so much praise coming in early that maybe he thought it was going to be just like high school and it turns out that it wasn’t. It just takes some time to get used to and grow up. Everybody went through it, when you get in here and you are a freshman. That’s why sometimes it helps to redshirt. You get that year under your belt and you don’t have to worry about the pressure of the game and you can adjust. He got thrown into the fire, which is tough. I think getting the season over with and having an offseason to let things settle down, refocus his mind and get ready and I think he has grown up a lot and he’ll be ready to go this fall.”
Question: You’ve seen maturity in him?
Steve Schilling: “Sure. It’s tough and I don’t blame him for anything that has happened or any of his immaturity issues. He’s a young guy, he is 18 years old. He’s still growing up and learning how to act at college and be the quarterback at the University of Michigan, which is a lot of pressure.”
Question: What are your first impressions of Devin (Gardner)?
Steve Schilling: “I like Devin a lot. He’s a funny guy and he works hard. He’s one of those guys that will make jokes, but then he knows when to get down to work. He’s there every day working. I think he and Denard live together. It is good for him to get under Denard’s belt kind of and Denard can help him get through that freshman year hurdle. He’s a talented guy and he’s definitely a good leader. He’s very personable. I don’t think there is anybody that doesn’t like him.”
Question: Do you feel like it is kind of a responsibility to restore the program?
Steve Schilling: “Kind of. We’ve talked about it as a senior class. We’ve had some senior meetings. We’ve talked about how the last year haven’t gone our way, but we can be remembered at least as the class that started the turnaround and got us back on track, back on another bowl streak. You can say 2008 and 2009 were the down years of Michigan football, but that 2010 team turned it around and hopefully stays on top for a long, long time again. We are definitely taking that as something we can kind of motivate us for this year and something that we can be remembered by at least. The last two years are definitely not what we want to be remembered for.”
Question: When fans talk to you, are the people on the outside, are they hopeful, are they beaten down a little bit, are they frustrated; what’s the sense you think from them. Do they feel like, hey it’s coming or do they, oh man?
Steve Schilling: “For the most part, we get nothing but support. I’m sure that there are fans out there that are negative, but I’m sure they don’t come up and talk to us. Being on campus and in the city, when we meet people, most of the time they are supportive. There are so many diehard Michigan fans around Ann Arbor and on campus. They want us to win so badly and they are going to support us whatever and you can see their desperation almost for us to win too. It kind of helps motivate us. We know that we are playing for more than just yourself, your teammates or your coaches, but you are also playing for a University and even a city so. It is pretty exciting.”
Question: You can’t pick yourself and you can’t pick a teammate, but if you were starting a team from scratch, which Big Ten player would you pick first?
Steve Schilling: “Tough question right there.”
Question: There are some very good defensive players in this league. There are some interesting quarterbacks. There are some good running backs. I’m just curious as to where guy can go.
Steve Schilling: “I don’t know. I don’t think I want to answer that one.”
Question: Adrian Clayborne is getting some votes.
Steve Schilling: “Yeah that one popped into my mind, but I didn’t want to answer it.”
Question: Do you think you were missing leadership towards the end of last year?
Steve Schilling: “There was probably a lot of things we were missing, things were going wrong. We had some good leaders last year. It’s tough when your quarterbacks are freshman. It is going to better now that they have more experience I guess, Tate and Denard. They’ll be more comfortable out there. They’ll know what it takes to win games more and they’ll be able to lead us there.”
Question: Every time that I’ve ever covered a quarterback competition where players want a certain guy. Is there that feeling on this team? That you guys are like, we know we can win with this guy.
Steve Schilling: “It’s tough. You’re working out all summer. You’re not playing football. Obviously, some guys are better friends with one or the other. I think the majority of the team, probably 99% of the team wants whoever is going to be the best player out there. They could care less and that’s everybody’s goal is to win. Obviously, there is friendships in groups on the team, but I would say even one of their best friends wouldn’t care as long as the best player is playing. I think it is for Coach Rodriguez and his staff to get them out there.”
Question: When you look at the line this year, how much more comfortable do you feel this year with your depth? Like Molk went down last year and you guys were shuffling seven guys. You were the only person I think stayed in the same spot.
Steve Schilling: “I’m really comfortable with it. We got all those guys now that can play and have got experience. You still only have me, Perry and John (Ferrara) as the seniors. There are a lot of young guys still. So I think for years to come we will have a lot of experience and size about it. Got all those guys in there, the younger guys in there a little bit last year and three redshirt freshman this year can all play fairly well too. We have a lot of depth, a lot of competition and it could get interesting.”
Question: What were the workouts like this summer?
Steve Schilling: “What do you mean?”
Question: What was the attitude through all of them and maybe compared to the previous couple of summers.
Steve Schilling: “I really sense a commitment and motivation from the last two years I think. Definitely saw a good amount of team bonding, team unity, working hard together. There has been a lot of people on the outside talking bad about Michigan the last couple of years and obviously the NCAA allegations and things like that. Forget about that and work as a team, a lot of team stuff.”
Question: Is that tough to put keep all the allegation stuff in the background and away from you guys? Is that difficult as it keeps coming up?
Steve Schilling: “I’m sure people know about it and read about it and talk about stuff on the ESPN ticker. For the most part, we don’t worry about that. We don’t really care about that too much. We know our athletic director, administrators and coaches are going to deal with that stuff. Our job is to play football and go to school, so we do those two things right everything else will be okay.”
Question: I’m doing something on stadiums. Penn State’s stadium turns 50 years old this year. What is your favorite place to play in the Big Ten other than Michigan Stadium?
Steve Schilling: “I like Penn State a lot. You mentioned it. I got to play there two years ago. I think it was nice. I think we got a night game there this year maybe, so I’m really looking forward to that. I love going to Illinois for some reason, a lot of tradition there. The first time we were there, it was under construction and then we were there last year and it was all done. I like playing there. It is exciting for me to get to go every new stadium. I wish I could play in Minnesota’s new place. It was definitely nice to get a win in our last game at the Metrodome last year.”
Question: With Penn State is it the atmosphere? Is that the kind of thing that sort of sets it apart a little bit. Obviously, they got the size, it is comparable to your stadium size wise.
Steve Schilling: “Yeah it is such a famous stadium. You kind of walk in there and it has those tiers and it is tall and you realize how many people are in there and the grass is really nice. It is one of those stadiums when you get in there the day before the game you really appreciate being there and appreciate the opportunity to get to play there.”
Question: I’ve heard some people complain about he visitor’s locker room that is kind of dumpy and not really one of the nicest ones they’ve been in.
Steve Schilling: “There are a lot of visitor locker rooms that I’m sure that I could complain about. They are never too great. I never thought Penn States stuck out to me. There are probably some others that would stick out more.”
Question: What about the pink locker room in Iowa?
Steve Schilling: “That didn’t bother me. That was actually a nicer locker room, because the lockers were bigger and we had a lot of space. The worst is when you get like a foot of space, that’s the worst. I didn’t mind the pink locker room.”