Coach Rodriguez: “Just briefly, I’ve been really pleased the last two weeks with the attitude of our team, their attentiveness and there attention to detail and work ethic has been outstanding. Even though we have a small senior class, I think they’ve done a great job of leadership. In the summer, it looks like they did a great job. They’ve done a great job in the last two weeks of camp. I think everybody on our team is hungry and anxious to prove ourselves and it is important that our team kind of keeps that focus and maintains that type of attitude over the next two weeks.”
Question: Impression from yesterday’s scrimmage.
Coach Rodriguez: “I thought it was a pretty good scrimmage. I was happy that nobody got hurt. That’s a good thing. I saw some good and bad on both sides, offense and defense. I thought offensively our execution with a little bit of a wet ball was pretty good. Defensively, there were some good moments. We didn’t tackle particularly well that was probably the most disappointing part about the scrimmage yesterday was that we did not tackle well and I think we had a couple of turnovers, which was the first time in a few days that we had had turnovers in practice on offense. I thought it was a pretty good day. Some guys stood out a little bit and some guys still have a ways to go before they can be ready to play for us.”
Question: Who stood out?
Coach Rodriguez: “Individually, I thought our quarterback play was pretty solid. I thought our receiver play was good. Our slot receivers, (Roy) Roundtree and (Kelvin) Grady and (Jeremy) Gallon all had pretty good days. Mike Shaw had a pretty good day running ball. Mike Cox had a few good runs. Vincent Smith had a few good runs. I thought we were pretty solid up front offensive line wise, which is come to be excepted because we had a little more experience up there.”
Coach Rodriguez: “Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can. He has been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”
Question: Vincent Smith able to go full bore?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah he has and I think usually there is a tendency for a guy coming off of a knee, especially a skill guy to be a little tentative and we really haven’t seen that. Maybe the first couple of practices he wasn’t sure of himself to let loose but yesterday he had some really nice runs and so he is 100%. He’s good to go.”
Question: How have the quarterbacks responded to the competition that there is?
Coach Rodriguez: “I think pretty well. It is ongoing. It certainly is a race that is not going to settled in the next couple of days. Certainly, somebody will take the first snap against UCONN, but I think they’ll keep getting better because of it.”
Question: We’ve heard a lot about Denard (Robinson) and he has improved throwing; has that something that has been really noticeable in the coaching staff, the passing game has improved?
Coach Rodriguez: “I think not only his throwing, but his mechanics have gotten better, but just his knowledge of where to go with the ball. I think it is a natural maturation process with any quarterback is understanding where to go with the ball, where you’re eyes are at, in particular in the passing game. Our quarterbacks eyes and there decision-making is important in the run and pass game. That’s something that they need to get better at every day and I think they have the last 15 practices.”
Question: How do you evaluate Devin Gardner at this point?
Coach Rodriguez: “I’ve been really pleased with his progress. Sometimes I have to remind the coaches and myself that this guy is a true freshman. He enrolled early, which helped him, but he has not played before. So we have to remind ourselves of that, but he is a talented guy, very conscience and he is battling for the job, for sure.”
Question: If you use more than one quarterback in the first game, two first games or whatever; would that be more of a scripted thing or by feel?
Coach Rodriguez: “More by feel. I’ve said this and you are probably tired of hearing this. Our goal is to have at least two guys to win with at every position. We are getting closer to that end. We’re not there right now and we won’t be there at all position, but I think at quarterback we’ll have to. Right now, they have got a lot of work to do and there is still some decision-making that we can get better at and some fundamentals that we can get better at. I think Rod Smith, particularly with Devin and Denard of getting some of their throwing stuff down and their decision-making down in the pass game. We’ve really simplified things to help in that regard.”
Question: You will have limited snaps at some point this week with them, those guys?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah we’ll limit it more probably by mid week. We’ll have a small scrimmage on Wednesday and try to get what we think is our projected two deep and travel squad settled in after that. That may be hard to do because there are certain positions where there are a lot of guys very, very close, maybe not to be the starter but be the back up. I know yesterday’s scrimmage is not going to answer all those questions, so we’re going to have to have a little bit more competitiveness situations in practice.”
Question: Stephen Hopkins and Austin White (came in as early enrollees) for a while, can you talk about how they have progressed?
Coach Rodriguez: “Well Stephen has progressed really well. Again, he’s another guy that is a true freshman that I think has had an outstanding camp. He’s a big physical guy. We’re going to keep pushing him along. Initially, you thought maybe he would redshirt, but he’s a big back and we need a big back in certain situations and so Stephen…we’ll look at playing him this year. Austin White is no longer in the program. We wish him well and we’ll help him in that regard, but he is no longer part of the Michigan football family.”
Question: Is the one who has been roster changed in the last couple of days?
Coach Rodriguez: “I believe so.”
Question: It has been a few days since Troy’s (Woolfolk) misfortune; how is looking, who is stepping up?
Coach Rodriguez: “We’ll we have a couple of veterans. James Rogers is a senior that has played over that position. He has had a really good camp. Some of the young freshman that are competing out there at that position. We have a couple of guys that can move back and forth in the secondary. We’re young back there, but we were going to be young back there anyways. Now with Troy’s situation, we’re even younger. I think our defensive coaches have a pretty good play to be able to compensate that. Again, James Rogers is a veteran. He has been around a little bit, so we have a little experience with James out there as well.”
Question: Anyone stepping up from the freshman? You didn’t have any early enrollees at the cornerback position, so they haven't had as much time to impress or learn the defensive scheme.
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah all those freshman corners are getting a lot of reps. We’re trying to accelerate that process because of the situation we’re in. The first week we had camp, the freshman were still involved with our bridge program academically so they missed some of the meeting time, so they were a little bit behind. Now that that is over, they have all football and no classes the next two weeks, so I think that is really going to help those freshman come along.”
Question: Is there any more definitive answers on how long Troy is going to be out or if it is definitely going to be a season long thing yet?
Coach Rodriguez: “He has not had surgery yet. Certainly, it was a very, very tough injury. Again until they do the surgery and see exactly where it is at. There is nothing that makes us think that he is not going to be able to play again at some point. Troy is as tough an individual as you are every going to find. So he’ll bounce back from it.”
Question: Can you talk about the competition at the left and right tackle on the line?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah, the upper classman are battling to keep it. (Mark) Huyge and (Perry) Dorrestein have really done a good job in camp. The two young tackles (Michael) Schofield and (Taylor) Lewan have been pretty solid. They’re bigger, stronger and I think that competition has been pretty good. I’ve been really pleased they way Perry and Mark have responded to the challenge and really have their best camps since I’ve been here the last two years.”
Question: How have some of the guys responded to the new 3-3-5?
Coach Rodriguez: “It is not a true 3-3-5. Again, there is as much as we were doing last year as there is new stuff from the spring. We’ve tried to keep things a little simpler, added a few new things simply because of the youth on defense and we need to play a little faster. From a mental standpoint, there were a few mistakes in yesterday’s scrimmage and this afternoon we’ll watch it together a staff and break it down individually, but for the most part in camp, they’ve done a pretty good job from the mental standpoint and we’ve thrown a lot at them. In the next two weeks, it is actually going to get simpler because we will not add a whole lot, just a few things we’ll need for UCONN but other than that, the installation is done.”
Question: Can you talk about Craig Roh’s development, the extra weight, the experience; how is that going to help him this year?
Coach Rodriguez: “He played last year at about 225 as a true freshman and did a good job. Now, he is probably closer to 240 to 245 and running just as well if not better. I think that and the experience that he has been out there before, you can see. He’s guy that we want to move around a little bit. Craig is a very active, high-motor player and being able 245-250 pounds is going to let him hold up…especially with those big physical team, starting with the first game.”
Question: What would you say is the strength of this team?
Coach Rodriguez: “We have skilled players offensively. We have a little bit more experience than we had. We have a little more experience up front on the O-line and we’re bigger and stronger up front because of the natural growth that they’ve had the last year or two. Defensively, I love their attitude. I think we’re a little bit faster at spots. We’re not as deep experienced wise, so probably my biggest worry is our experience defensively. It sounds kind of self-serving saying this, but I love the attitude. I think the attitude of our team is outstanding and that gives us a chance. Everybody is hungry. Not that we haven’t been hungry the last two years, we have been, but this team really feels a sense of urgency to prove themselves and I think that is the first to starting to have a good year.”
Question: With the loss of Brandon Graham, what are your expectations for a guy like Craig Roh?
Coach Rodriguez: “Brandon Graham, we really don’t want to try and compare anybody to BG because he is a once in a lifetime type of player, a first round draft pick and was just a dominate guy against everybody he played. We don’t have a guy that is a BG ready right now, but who does. We have several guys that can create pressure. Craig is one on the passer. Mike Martin can do some things from his position. I don’t ever point to one guy and say you have got to take Brandon Graham’s place and be that guy. I think it has to be a unit. Those guys have to understand that.”
Question: How is Cam Gordon doing offense-defense now that he has had spring and now fall?
Coach Rodriguez: “He’s getting comfortable. Yesterday was not his best day practice wise, but other than that, he has a really good camp. He is a very physical guy and the game is really important to him. Again, he has not played. He has not played in the big stage yet. There is going to be nerves and there are going to be some mistakes, but he has just got to limit them. Especially the position that he is at. If you make a big mistake back there and it is six points. I think Cam understands that he is as conscience as any player that we’ve got on our team and we look for a big year for him even though he is a redshirt freshman.”
Question: You mentioned Shaw from yesterday, has any back separated themselves a little bit in the pecking order?
Coach Rodriguez: “Not really. I think it is going to be a committee. I don’t there is going to be one guy to separate even though we have another week or so before we have to determine that. I see us having a situation where there are two, three maybe even four guys that emerge a little bit. That’s not a bad situation to get in. It’s just hard to get them all reps. So we try to do as much as we can during a normal practice to roll them in and out so they are comfortable, the quarterbacks are comfortable with the exchange and all that. So far it has worked pretty well in practice and as the game goes along, those guys usually get nicked up as we know in the past anyways. So there are probably going to be three or four guys in the mix and probably all of them will play tailback in the first game.”
Question: What will mean to you and team to open up against UCONN and Brock Mealer able to lead you guys out on the field?
Coach Rodriguez: “I know it is going to be a pretty emotional time. I spent some time with his mother yesterday and having seen Brock and his process over the last year or so and how much work he has put in, because I’ve seen him working out, I’ve seen him after the workout. He has dedicated his life to proving that he can walk again and to be able to do that in front of our fans and national TV and all that is going to be quite emotional. It will be an inspiration. It already has been for our entire team.”
Question: The freshman Jibreel (Black) and Davion (Rogers); what have you seen from them so far?
Coach Rodriguez: “Davion has just started getting into the mix. Once we got our clearinghouse issue cleared up with him. Jibreel Black may be the freshman lineman that is most likely to have a chance to play this year. He’s not ready just yet, but he’s shown us enough that he may be a guy that doesn’t get redshirted that has an opportunity to provide some depth this year. If he continues to make progress like has the last two weeks.”
Question: What do you like about him?
Coach Rodriguez: “He’s a very active guy. He has got a great get off. He wears #55 and he looks a little bit like BG at times, but he’s not quite that strong or explosive, but he’s got a natural burst and some natural athletic ability to him and I’ve really been pleased with his progress, really pleased.”
Question: This is your third camp now, are you seeing a natural progression, are you comfortable with the natural progression that you may be having?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah I can notice it in practice, how much the guys that have been in the program a couple of years. They know how practice, the routine is. How to go from drill to drill, offensively it is the same system for three years. They are moving around a little bit quicker. It is probably harder for me to notice because I am so close to it and see it all the time, but people that have been in the outside and come in and maybe watched it a little it last year or two years ago, notice how much quicker the guys are moving in certain situations. I think that is just being comfortable with the system.”
Question: Obi (Ezeh) is the career active leader in active, but Mark Moundros has won the captain this year and really been progressing at middle linebacker; where do you see Obi right now and what his impact on this team going to be?
Coach Rodriguez: “Obi has really responded to the challenge. He can play probably all three linebacker positions. I know he can play at least two because he played two of them in the scrimmage yesterday I believe. He has done a great job of being a leader. The whole senior class has done that. They understand their roles. Obi is a good football player, this is his last year and he wants to I think prove himself. I don’t want our guys to get hung up on who is technically the starter, who is the first guy. We want our guys to be, okay what do I have to do to help the team win. If everybody takes that attitude, we’ll be alright and Obi has so far.”
Question: Is Marvin Robinson a clear candidate to not redshirt and are there other freshman in that category?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah there are several. Probably more than you would like at this point, true freshman playing. Marvin is definitely going to be in the mix as far as special teams and playing in the secondary. I don’t have a real depth chart, but I do have names listed. Other ones that you mentioned, true freshman that will play, all the corners. Cullen Christian, Terrence Talbott and Courtney Avery, all those guys have a chance to play. Carvin Johnson is another safety that has really progressed pretty well. Ray Vinopal is another safety that has got a chance to play this year as a true freshman. Those guys in particular have done some things in camp. This week is probably the most critical. Again, they have no school. The bridge program is over. It is all football, all week for those young guys and I’m anxious to see how quickly they can learn, how quickly they can get themselves in the mix.”
Question: The offensive line where is it compared to last year or two years ago.
Coach Rodriguez: “Two years ago it was not even close. We had one guy, Steve Schilling was the only one that has even played. Now we have I don’t know how many guys, four or five guys that have started. We have guys that have redshirted like we mentioned Lewan and Schofield and Quinton Washington who are now closer to being ready to play. We still have not quite as talented as ones and twos deep wise as we would like to be. We’ll have seven or eight guys when this is all done here in a week or two with camp that we feel comfortable in playing. The nice part of it is that several of them can play several positions. Ricky Barnum who is battling for a starting job can play center and guard, Rocko Khoury can play both. If needed to move Patrick Omameh or Steve Schilling we could, even though they are solidly entrenched at guard. So we’re in pretty good shape as far having a number of guys, more guys ready we think to play than we’ve had in the last two years.”
Question: How close is it to where you want it?
Coach Rodriguez: “Pretty close. I think when you have experience starting, backed up by experience than you got what you want. We got experienced starting backed up with inexperience but talent. So that’s the next best thing.”
Question: Other than Teric Jones that you’ve moved from safety to cornerback in camp?
Coach Rodriguez: “No. I think Carvin Johnson played a little bit at corner and he is a big tall rangy guy that maybe can play there as well. I think after we watch the film today and us coaches evaluate it or wait until another scrimmage on Wednesday will we really hone down on…you can’t get everybody ready. But these are the four or five corners that we have to have ready for the first game.”
Question: How much pressure for success are you feeling this year?
Coach Rodriguez: “I feel the same pressure every year. Ever since I started coaching as an assistant coach 26 years ago, as a head coach 24 years ago. You have pressure to prove yourself and pressure to succeed. I think that is always the case. Do we have more to prove? How much do you have to prove? I think you have to prove something a lot every year. I’ve always felt that way. Any time a player or a coach says that I have nothing left to prove, he’ll never get any better. I always feel a great need to prove ourselves and prove our program. I think our team is as hungry as you can have it. I don’t think necessarily it is just because of the last two years but that has heightened our sense of urgency, sure it has. We all want to win don’t we? We all want to win and nobody wants to win more than us.”
Question: Coach you mentioned that you were not too happy with the tackling yesterday. Is there going to be more emphasis on that this week?
Coach Rodriguez: “As much as we can without getting worried about getting more guys hurt. As you all know, they are so strong and talented, you just cannot do tackling for 45 minutes a day because you are just going to be afraid that somebody is going to get hurt. But we have got to work on those fundamentals. Other than yesterday, I thought they did pretty well with tackling in camp. Yesterday, we did not. So we have to do some fundamental work and balance that fundamental work versus banging each other up and we’ll do that at least the next couple of days pretty extensively.”
Question: How has Josh Furman done and what kind of camp has he had?
Coach Rodriguez: “Josh has done really well. He’s another guy that is very talented. He could probably play outside backer or safety position or grow into a WILL linebacker or SAM linebacker as well. I’ve really been pleased with him and I think he’s going to have a great career because he is probably one of our faster freshmen and he’s going to keep getting bigger, stronger and faster in the program.”
Question: Do you think he’ll redshirt or do you think he has a shot to play?
Coach Rodriguez: “I don’t know yet. We’ve looked at him on a few special teams. Again, I’ll have to sit and watch the film and talk to the coaches to see where he is at mentally. But physically he has got a chance. So we’ll see where he is at mentally over the next couple of weeks.”
Question: Do you think Jordan Kovacs will be a big part of the defense again this year?
Coach Rodriguez: “Sure. Jordan earned a starting position last year and he’s taken some challenges and maintained that position so far. He’s on a bunch of special teams. He’s just a great story. We all talked about that story before where he came from, but he’s in better shape now and I think you can see his experience show up each and every day. He’s going to be a huge factor for our defense.”
Question: Can you talk a little bit about the kicking game, the punting and kickoff?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah it is a big concern because we don’t have anybody that has done it in the program, but I feel better about it now than I did two weeks ago. I was really nervous about kick offs, but we’ve kicked the ball off really well in practice. Both Seth Broekhuizen and Brendon Gibbons both have done a really good job there and they’ve both gotten better in fields goals. I think it was a little inconsistent at times, but the last few days has been more consistent and so I’ve been pleased with that. Then our freshman punter is a real talent, Will Hagerup. I mean a real talent. He’s had some days where he has kicked and I’m like, wow look at this. He’s a freshman so it is going to be the first time for him out there. He’s a very, very competitive guy as well and if he kicks it and it doesn’t go 50 yards with a four second hang time, he just gets mad at himself and the whole world I think. But he’s a very, very talented guy and I’m anxious to see what he does in the Big House.”
Question: Talk about JB Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens a little bit.
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah JB and Kenny are veterans. They have played a little bit. They have played a lot of special teams. They’ve had good camps. JB is a guy that we really like because we can swing him. He’s knows our defense, so we can put him at a couple of different linebacker positions and he’s had a good camp. Kenny Demens has had a pretty solid camp. So I think we’re going to have more linebackers to play, but the veterans, Obi Ezeh, Mark Moundros, even though he is new at linebacker, Jonas Mouton, those veterans are going to be the biggest key because usually when you’re a senior you’re going to have your best year, or at least that is what you hope. If every one of our seniors has their best year, particularly defensively because that’s where we have a few seniors at, we’ll be okay.”
Question: Can you discuss Connecticut, the first time that Michigan has played them but somebody you’re familiar with from your days at the Big East?
Coach Rodriguez: “I know them quite well. I’ve played a few years back when we were in the Big East. Probably for our fans that have not followed them, if you have seen what they’ve done the last couple of years, you’ll get a lot of respect. They beat a very good South Carolina team pretty soundly in a bowl game. They beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame last year and they got most of their team coming back. They are a big physical team that is going to come downhill at us. They’re going to make you big them and it is quite a challenge. Our guys have seen them. Some of our guys have watched film on them. Starting this week, probably around midweek, we’ll start watching more film on them with the group and they know we’ll have to play. It is going to be quite a challenge. It should be a great atmosphere for you all that haven’t been over there and seen the new Big House. I know it is going to be a great atmosphere and it is going to be here before we know it.”
Question: How has the team reacted to the new method of selecting the captains, knowing that the captains have been selected?
Coach Rodriguez: “We’ve selected two, not all four. They’ll select two more at the end of the season. I think it is has served well. I think both Mark and Steve have done a great job in that role. I think the other seniors are excited about the opportunity to be a game captain and maybe a permanent captain down the road. I thought it was a great concept, a great idea that the seniors brought to me and it is something that I’m anxious to see how it plays out.”
Question: Is David Molk healthy now?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah. He scrimmaged yesterday a little bit. We didn’t have him go the whole time for precautionary reasons, but he got a few good series in and did pretty well.”