QUESTION: Did you see Denard yesterday and what was his condition?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Talked with the trainers. He clearly has a bruise on his knee. Limited him today. Hopefully he'll be able to do practice tomorrow.
We don't do much on Mondays anyway. He's been getting treatments to help with the bruise. Just take a couple days. But hopefully he'll be able to do everything tomorrow. We'll wait and see.
QUESTION: You expect him to play?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yes.
QUESTION: Not a game-time decision or anything?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Right.
QUESTION: Any other injured guys?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Fitz Toussaint did something to his shoulder. We're still trying to figure that out. Going to do some tests on that. He was only in for a couple of carries. I don't know if he landed on it funny. We're hoping that Carvin Johnson will do more. We're optimistic he'll be able to play. Probably be able to tell you more, certainly know by Thursday, but he'll be able to do some practice today. Brandon Herron has been out with an ankle. We're optimistic he'll be able to play this week. Mike Williams is still out. His is a concussion. He's had multiple concussions, so it's a big cause of concern for us going forward with him.
Mike Shaw, you know, sprained his knee a little bit in the ballgame. He's kind of day-to-day. We'll see how he'll do. Get some more tests done today with him. Hopefully he'll be able to do everything tomorrow. But we'll have to wait and see with Mike. I think that's it.
QUESTION: Tate's knee?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: There's nothing wrong with his Tate.
QUESTION: He was limping.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think he took a shot to the quad. Got a helmet or something to the quad. So he'll be fine.
QUESTION: Toussaint is obviously wearing a brace. If he's a hundred percent normal speed, does he get caught from behind there?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I hope not. He'll get teased about that forever now. But, yeah, he's faster than that. Part of it was, it was a long run in his knee brace. He's still not up to game speed yet. This issue is with his shoulder. That's a shame. He's had tough luck. We'll see what it's like the next couple days.
QUESTION: Did you see enough to work him into the rotation?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, we saw enough. We probably wanted to play him earlier than that ballgame. Then he had a couple nice runs. He's got to be able to practice and be able to get our confidence that we can put him in there. We'll see where this sets him back to.
QUESTION: During the broadcast Brian Griese said that Michigan isn't a really a read option team, it's a quarterback-iso team. DO you agree with that characterizaton?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Sometimes. Sometimes we are. Yeah, like any offense, you don't just run one play. We've got multiple plays. There's a lot more of our offense we'd like to do, probably going to have to do coming up. The gamut of plays that everybody has is pretty extensive. But you get in a ballgame, you usually limit to what you're working well, what you have to do to win that game. There's a lot more stuff we can do.
QUESTION: First play of the Notre Dame game, you came out in a formation that looked like the Notre Dame box from 1910.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Really (laughter)?
QUESTION: A hundred years later, is that some sort of homage to Knute Rockne?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, I'll watch a lot more Michigan stuff than I will Notre Dame. There's a lot of things that are cyclical in football, from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. Kind of goes in circles. There's no patents on schemes. You know that as coaches. We get a lot of good ideas from other people. You watch film. Every week we kind of watch our opponent and who they played. If we see something we really like, we think it can fit into our scheme, something that is easily adaptable, then sometimes we'll look at that. We'll usually see one or two things every week.
QUESTION: When you saw Denard go down, are you prepared to bring the team back after having him be so tremendous after the four games?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, other guys can run the offense. Denard is special. He's got the ability to break every play himself, he's so explosive as a runner. First thing I thought when he laid down, I wish he would have really kind of stepped out before he got hit. Then I was really glad he got a first down, got us some better field position. He's a tough guy. Again, this is a physical game. Quarterbacks get hit. Sometimes they get hit when they're running. A lot of times they get hit when they're drop-back passers. You see that every day in the college and the NFL. We run the same plays with all of our quarterbacks. You saw that Saturday. We may emphasize something a little bit differently with Devin or Tate. But we would expect those guys to be just as efficient as far as moving the offense. They're not going to be as explosive as Denard because he is different, but they should still be efficient.
QUESTION: Devin has been the first guy in after Denard. Is it the same situation going forward or has it changed?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Maybe. I'm not trying to be evasive. We'll see how they practice this week. We have a starter right now in Denard, he's the starter. We have two second guys in Devin and Tate, depending on the situation, how they play in practice this week. They've both of them had an equal number of reps on Saturday and they'll have an equal number of reps in practice this week.
QUESTION: Can you talk about their receivers.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No question, one of the strengths of their team. They're big guys, very athletic, they can run. We've got a lot of young DBs. There were four true freshmen out there, four of them at times in last week's game for us. It's a concern for us, especially because they're throwing the ball so well with a veteran quarterback, veteran line, all that. We're going to have a great week in preparing for their passing games and wide-outs.
QUESTION: What about Tandon Doss?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: They'll get him the ball in different ways. They'll hand the ball to him in the speed sweeps, throw the ball to him. He's a return guy for them as well. He's one of the better players, not just receivers, but one of the better players in the Big Ten.
QUESTION: How do you think the defense responded to the challenge?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I thought they did better. I thought we played more aggressively. We wanted them to play, like I said, not as tentative, more on their toes instead of their heels. I thought they did that for the most part. We didn't play great, but we played better. That was good to see. We weren't as tentative at times.
There's still a lot of things we need to get better at in all three phases. Our starting field position for the year is still somewhere around the 27 or 28 yard line or something like that. We have not gotten a lot of turnovers. I think we've gotten eight in four games. Two of those we gave right back, so it really wasn't a turnover.
So hopefully we can get, as our guys grow a little bit, our secondary grows up a little bit, we'll get even more aggressive coming up. We're going to have to be that way.
QUESTION: You mentioned their veteran quarterback. Talk about the keys to getting pressure.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I don't think you can do it one way. If you blitz all the time, expose yourself to one-on-ones, that's going to be a dangerous combination. I think you have try to mix things up. I don't know if you can confuse him because he's a veteran guy. They have a veteran staff. They know what they want. They run out of the pistol. They have ways to really protect him with their offense. I think we just got to do a good job of not blowing assignments, give them the cheap ones. Biggest key, as any coach would tell you, when they throw the ball around, if they're catching the short passes, we got to tackle them quickly. Can't let them get a lot of yards after the catch.
QUESTION: What kind of problems does that pistol offense present?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It's a system. It's the same as any offense. If they execute it well, they're going to get their moments. They're going to have plays where they get you, so to speak, and you got to limit them. You can't give up the big plays. I can remember last year against them, this last ballgame this past weekend. It was the one or two big plays that will really hurt you. That was the same case with them. They will get some really big plays busting on you. You can't have a bunch of those. Eliminating big plays is good, but we don't want to play on our heels and play soft all the time, pitch and catch on us, because they'll do that, as well.
QUESTION: Can you talk about how Taylor Lewan did in his first start?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Taylor played pretty well. He was probably a little sore with his ankle, but he didn't show it on the film. He made a few mistakes. For his first start, we thought he did a pretty nice job. Then when Mark came in, Huyge, he did a nice job too. Mark can play both left and right tackle. We have some versatility with him.
QUESTION: Will Huyge challenge Perry (Dorrestein) at right tackle?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Perry is playing really well. Perry has a little toe sprain or something. Like I said the other day, 330 pounds on a toe is more than you and I on it. But Michael Schofield is going to be a really good player, too. He's behind Perry. Mark gives us a lot of flexibility. He's a veteran guy. He can play either side. We have been pleased with our depth. The guy that we have been wanting to get in the game is Ricky Barnum. When Ricky got in there, he played pretty well. He's probably the first guard in. And Huyge, if Taylor starts, depending on this week in practice, Mark would be the first tackle in.
QUESTION: That position is still wide open this week?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, they all are. We don't ever lock a guy in there. If a guy goes, he's a starter, and he's not playing really well, if it continues, then we want a competitive situation where somebody else is going to come in and play. I don't know the time when guys got their job no matter what they do. That doesn't happen.
QUESTION: What happened on the punt return where you had two No. 9s out there?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We had two No. 9s (laughter). Yeah, I screwed that up. I noticed that. Should have noticed it. I don't know if the officials noticed it or their coaches told them. If it's a dead ball thing, you're charged with a timeout. If it's a live ball, it's a five-yard penalty. We got that fixed.
QUESTION: Will one of the guys wear something different?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, Courtney is going to be No. 5. I think that number is open. There's no controversy with that, is there (laughter)? Let me know now. I don't want to be ignorant. I know Tate is No. 5 as well. He won't be in there on special teams.
QUESTION: Indiana seems to have trouble with mobile quarterbacks. Do you see that on tape?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No. So far this year, they haven't run against a similar offense. We go back last year. They changed some of their defensive philosophy, schemes this year. So we can watch last year's film, get a little bit of an idea. We're trying to watch a lot of this year's film. They haven't played anybody that runs a similar offense. Our offense is a little unique anyway. There's a lot of guesswork I guess you could say going in because every spread offense is a little bit different. Sometimes for us going in, we can say, We think they'll do it this way, but we better prepare to go this way in case they change their philosophy defensively. We don't know yet.
QUESTION: Anything significantly different about this year's team compared to last year?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, similar. Scoring a lot of points. The way they've scheduled, they've only had three games. They're probably healthier. Probably one of the healthiest teams in the Big Ten. That schedule probably worked out pretty good for them from that respect. Same thing offensively. Scoring a lot of points with their veteran quarterback. Got a lot of new guys starting defensively, but they are playing hard. Probably had their best game last weekend. They're in pretty good shape. I haven't been down there before, but I'm sure it will be a big crowd. They'll be into the game. Big Ten opener. So everybody will be up for it.
QUESTION: You mentioned tackling before. How do you work on that during the season?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It's hard to work it a lot during the week because you don't want to get your own guys banged up during practice. We only have our one physical practice during the week, and that's on Tuesday. We work out on Tuesday, certainly. Always talk about it. In the games, I think it's just a matter of correcting, you know, some fundamental flaws. Sometimes our guys are in position, but they don't go attack the runner. Sometimes we're out of position; that's why you miss the tackle. I thought we tackled better. We didn't have as many missed tackles, but we still had a few. The few that we had, they got touchdowns on it seemed. You just got to do better at it, work on it.
QUESTION: The last few years you struggled when Big Ten Play started. What about this year's team, especially defensively, makes you believe you're poised to have more success?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: This whole comparison, every year is different. Not that we don't have some issues because we do. I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're completely where we want to be. We're not close to where we're going to be eventually. That is with a veteran, experienced team on both sides of the ball, a lot of guys that have played a lot of football, can play at a high level. We're not there. We're still going to have issues and problems, whether it was a Big Ten schedule or non-conference schedule. We hopefully have to stay healthy. That's the one thing. I wish we were healthier now. But at the same time I think this year's team is executing pretty well, playing pretty good at times, know we have to play better. You can ask anybody on our team. They'll tell you how important the Big Ten schedule is, how much better we're going to have to play coming up.
QUESTION: With how well Denard has played so far, does that give you a little bit of cushion in terms of letting him take it easy or cutting down his reps as the practice goes on?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: During the week?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No. If a guy has a lot of carries, he's carrying a big load, whether he's a runningback, receiver, quarterback, we can limit that during the week in practice by what we call. We may call less things that Denard will run. So we can limit that during the week. But as far as actual reps, I think the quarterback especially has to stay in there to stay sharp decision-wise. You don't have to run him as much. You blow the whistle after he gets five yards downfield instead of running 40. Denard is pretty fast. He gets down there 40 yards pretty quick. You just have to blow a quick whistle. You blow a quicker whistle so he doesn't run 40, 50 yards down the field. The way Denard likes to practice, he likes to run. He'll run around as much as you let him.
QUESTION: Did he see his celebration with Devin? Maybe a signal his knee wasn't that bad.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You get in the ballgame, a lot of juices pumping up, adrenaline flowing. He's excited. I'm sure he's excited because his roommate and buddy scored. He'll be fine.
QUESTION: The rushing success you've had this year, were you expecting to be this good this early?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Because we had the front coming back, not just the offensive line, but the tight ends. We have two we think two quality tight ends that are playing pretty good football for us. The receivers have more experience, too. That's a big part of it when you're blocking downfield. We expected to run the football pretty well. I think the quarterback dimension of running it, certainly what Denard has done, has added another dimension to that. I've been probably as pleased with what we've done in the passing game. We've taken care of the ball. Like I said, Denard has had one pick, and that's it. Other than that, they've made good decisions on where to throw it and when to throw it. That part, we thought we'd be better with that. That is probably one of the most pleasing parts of our offense.
QUESTION: As the runningbacks started to get going, do you see confidence from them in practice?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I wasn't worried about it. Everybody made a big deal about get them runningbacks going. Maybe the reason Denard had so many yards rushing was because the attention was paid to the runningback or we were calling quarterback runs. So they had to be lead blockers. It wasn't like last week or two weeks ago we gave them magic pills and they became runningbacks. You know, they were running great during camp, running hard. It's just the way teams have been defending us, sometimes they take that away a little bit. We had a lot of guys that got reps. I wish they were all healthier, Fitz, Mike, Vincent. Those guys have all been battling just nagging stuff that's probably hindered their progress somewhat and not allowed them to play as fast as I think they can. When they're completely healthy, we got some pretty good backs there. They all have some explosive ability. Nobody's as explosive as Denard. When you compare who has the most explosive ability, it is No. 16.
QUESTION: Are you going to rotate the runningbacks more?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, we're probably going to have to. We would expect with the way certainly the Big Ten schedule, how physical it is, we're going to have to play more of 'em anyway. We thought that going into the season. We're not going to just have two runningbacks. We better have three or four. I think we'll have three or four if they can stay healthy.
QUESTION: Did the tape confirm the penalty against Molk? Do you have to address the situation at all?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We addressed it with him immediately, you know. Couldn't see it on our film. That's how far behind the play it was. But you could see it I guess on TV copy maybe. Yeah, I would be shocked if that ever happened again. He was just playing physical. I don't know if it was the action itself, it was just I guess unnecessary, what they call, you know. 40 yards behind the play... We want our guys to play physical, play to the whistle. But they're looking for things that are unnecessary hitting or unnecessary roughness, whatever you call it.
QUESTION: The defense is giving up over 400 yards per game. How much better do they need to be to hold up during Big Ten play?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, we'll find out. I mean, you hope that you're young guys get some experience and get better as the season goes along, especially in the back end. You hope you stay healthy. But the other teams are going to get better, too. I've seen enough that I'm pretty optimistic that we can play and have success. We're just not deep enough defensively, as strong enough to say we're going to go out there and dominate somebody and hold them to seven first downs and three points. But that's the goal. Our defense, we expect them to play at a very high level. They've got a lot of pride in doing that. So they've had some tough moments this season, but they've also had some very good moments. We'll rely on those moments going forward.