QUESTION: Watching the Wisconsin film, was that a little intimidating?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, they are certainly a top-five football team. There's no question about that. And you know, they score on every possession and they make it look easy. It's a challenge that -- one thing about young people, they understand when the challenge is in front of them, and we'll challenge our guys all week and they will be challenged on Saturday.
QUESTION: What's the most dangerous thing that they do on offense?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, it all starts with their running game. When they come downhill at you, they are very big up front, they have big backs, big tight ends. They will pound you. They do a great job blocking on the perimeter with their wide-outs, so you have to be able to stop that. I think everything comes off of that. Their bootlegs and their play-action passes and all that start when they are able to run the ball effectively. When they can do that, they have been good against everybody they have played.
QUESTION: What are the chances you'll get both (Mike Martin and Jonas Mouton) back?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We are hopeful that both will play. He didn't play of course at all last week and I have not seen yet today -- we will see what they can do in practice tomorrow. Today is an easy today but see what they do tomorrow, Wednesday and hope to have both of them back this Saturday.
QUESTION: How much does the success of the defense in the last game and the last play against Illinois maybe help them mentally in a week where it doesn't seem like they match up well, against a big strong team that likes to pound the ball?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I hope we get a little confidence. There's so many young guys that are playing or guys that are starting for the first time that I think every week is kind of a new experience for them and they are learning from it. But you know, that being said, this point in the season, the young guys have played enough that they get some confidence. You can't make them bigger or stronger or faster or a whole lot more in the course of one season but you can't get more experience, and I think the experience that they have got, the last several weeks is going to help them.
QUESTION: With the seniors, last game at home, fo you guys do anything special?.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We'll make a big deal about it, being the seniors last game in the Big House. I've always said that, and I think any coach will tell you, your last home game should be a big deal for all your guys, but especially your seniors. Going out of that tunnel for the last time, being in that locker room for the last time, it's going to be a very emotional time and we don't have a big, big senior class, but the guys that we have been through a lot. And I know it's going to be emotional for them and for us. So we'll have some things planned for them throughout the week.
QUESTION: How much do they change with Clay versus the other guys?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Not much. They are going to run the same play. I think irregardless of who their back is, their system is going to be the same and all three backs they have used have been very effective. Clay is obviously the biggest one of them. He's, you know, he's an awful big guy to run downhill. But I think irregardless, you've got to get to them quickly. They get a head of steamrolling downhill and especially if you're undersized a little bit like we are in spots, it's going to be tough.
QUESTION: How is (Mike) Shaw?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, we'll see what he can do in the test the next couple of days to see if he can go on Saturday. We are hopeful he'll be able to play as well.
QUESTION: Making some changes the last couple of weeks defensively, are you happy with the lineup you've got now?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yes, some of them have been due to injuries and some of them have been trying to get guys in better position. I think with Craig, I think that's a position he'll stay at. Cam Gordon playing at the lower safety spot, I think is a good position for him. So I think those are probably permanent.
QUESTION: What about Cam allows him to have more success down close?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: He's a physical guy. He's a bigger guy and I think he's -- when he's down lower, it's not as much room to cover as he was playing on the back end. And again, he's still learning because he's a first-time starter, and he was a receiver a year ago, so we can't -- you know, we know that he's going to keep getting better but the one thing I like about him, he loves playing football. And all of those young guys are getting some pretty neat experience right now.
QUESTION: And Ray (Vinopal)?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Ray played pretty well. He made one or two tackles. There were some tackles he missed but he's seeing the field and he's in control back there. He's a smart guy. I think ray's going to keep getting better and better.
QUESTION: Is it safer to say the offensive line struggled a little bit more than it had been on Saturday and if so, why?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We didn't play well. We didn't handle the conditions well offensively. You know, it was a wet ball, it was wet for both teams. We have had ten turnovers in the last two weeks which is unbelievable, considering we won both games. But you know, up front, we didn't -- I didn't think we played our best game certainly at spots up front. And they had something to do with that, but we just didn't handle the conditions well, take care of the ball well and we were just kind of off-rhythm the whole day.
QUESTION: When the play breaks down, do you want to see Denard use his legs more?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: He probably could have in that game a little bit. He's made some plays scrambling around and throwing it down the field, too. We just want -- you can extend a play and extend it by running it and extend it by throwing it. What you have to do is make good decisions, and particularly if the ball is a little bit wet, you have to be more careful as far as trying to throw it later in the play.
QUESTION: Earlier in the season, it seemed like he hit every read, boom, boom, boom, and it seemed like, you know, I don't know if he hit a wall with that or what. Have you seen --
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think his production has been pretty good. The last game he didn't play well. He played well in the Purdue game. But before that he had almost 400 yards of offense and all of that. There's pretty good people he's playing against but I don't think he's hit a wall. I just think he had some bad a moments in the last game.
QUESTION: The way he regrouped on that last drive, was that just the competitor?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, that's a good point. He was having a tough day but in the last drive, he was the difference. In the pass he completed to Coker and the last run he got to get a first down, I thought he was the difference in that drive.
QUESTION: Do you ever simulate the conditions like in practice with the wet ball?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We do that every Thursday. We have a big bucket and we soak it. The water is driving off of it. But it's different when you're doing that and it's a constant rain. But again both teams have problems with the ball. It's something that you have to play in and kind of get used to and I don't know if you ever get used to that deal.
QUESTION: What did you see from Obi on film?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: He was solid. I think Obi made some good plays on the line of scrimmage, and I thought Fitzgerald did a nice job and MARK Moundros filled in Jonas Mouton. I was proud of the way Mark played. Offensively they have been struggling a bit with Purdue, but defensively with Martin out and Matoone (ph) out and the young guys in the secondary, they scored for the first time on a non-offensive touchdown, which was a huge play and then we made some key third down stops.
QUESTION: What the defense did the other night, did that remind you of Rutgers, '01?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, that was a different scenario. I think back then that was our first year and we were struggling at times and it was like everything was going right for us in that ballgame. In the Wisconsin game, this is a top-five team playing at home that was really sharp and they just kind of took control and particularly when Indiana's quarterback, when Chappell went out, maybe in the first half, deflated them it looks like a little bit and it looked like they took charge from their. For the first quarter and a half, it was pretty competitive and when Chappell got hurt, Wisconsin got rolling, I think it was kind of going downhill in a hurry.
QUESTION: Is that a tough thing to kind of balance as a coach, because especially in a league game, you always want to throw a team out like that.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, I don't know if any coach intentionally goes out and does it. It just happens. It's hard when you put your backs up in there -- they want to play hard and prove themselves. Whether you throw the ball in the end or not, I think that's your own personal preference. But those guys practice and play to win and to score and to do as well as they can. I've ever in worried about, you know, that. I've been on both ends of it. You just want your guys to go out and compete as hard as they can.
QUESTION: Seth (Broekhuizen) and Brendan (Gibbons), is that going to be back to square zero here?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It will be competitive all week in practice again and Seth has been kicking better in practice but he didn't kick well on Saturday so we'll see happens what happens this week in practice.
QUESTION: Have you thought about doing some onside kicks?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, the problem is you kickoff from the 30, if you don't get an on-side kick, they get it on your own 40, so there's a difference of 25 yards. So we've been going with long field -- bad field position all year offensively, and giving them good field position -- some of it is the kicking. I think Will Hagerup has been solid. He's been better in some of his kickoffs. But some of it, too, we have to get faster guys on special teams. You know, that's when you lose -- when you lose a couple guys to injury and you move a couple guys up to starter, those guys are getting some time on special teams and I don't know if you want to have your freshmen playing 80, 90 snaps on defense and playing another 25 on special teams. That may be a little bit too much to ask. So our depth on special teams has been affected by the injuries as much as anything else.
QUESTION: How much of a difference has it made for your defense moving Roh from linebacker to defensive end and why do you think that that's now definitely the position I should stay?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think it's helped us because it's helped Craig. Craig is more comfortable in the defensive end, and I think that's where his natural position is. He was undersized and played it last year. Now he's 250 and he'll get up to 265 and be outstanding in that position. We tried to do some things, and again it wasn't like he was playing a stand up backer all year anyway, but putting his hand down makes him a lot more comfortable and that makes us better.
QUESTION: When you took this job a couple of years ago and thought about year three, is this pretty much what you expected as far as a record?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, I thought we would be further ahead but I thought a lot of things when I got here. You find out and what you have, and then you do what you can with what you got and then you go forward and try to build -- our goal has been to build the best program in America. We have never wavered from that focus.
QUESTION: There was one thing you could do differently in the time, what would it be?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I couldn't pin it on one thing. There's several.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I don't want to go into it right now. It's in the past.
QUESTION: Obviously the sixth win was a big deal for those guys. Can you talk about how each win improves your position, how motivated are they to win two games that maybe many people outside your program don't think you will?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think they are extremely motivated all year and their focus has been good all year. I think their motivation this past week was to continue to improve and improve their status so to speak. I would think it would be easy to motivate for these last two ballgames considering what's at stake for us and the reputation that they can seek or can have by getting a win. So there's plenty of motivation, not even mentioning the seniors last home game.
QUESTION: When you play against a team that has a defensive stud like Kerrigan was on Saturday, at least on television, you guys were running to him a lot. Is that what you planned to do or do you try to run away?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: They move him around. You can't predict where a guy is going to be at. You get great players, you just have to block them better. Some of it was he's a really good player and some of it was we didn't play very well at times against him.
QUESTION: Cornelius, seems every time he had a chance to make a tackle, he did. Can you talk about that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: For a true freshman, and he's a little undersized, but he's going to be big enough, but he's a very, very competitive guy and I think his competitiveness allows him to have some success and he made some big tackles for us. And really, again, I don't know if -- everybody thinks it's excuses, it's not really excuses; it's reality. The play, I don't know if anybody in the country is playing as many freshmen or first-time starters as we are on defense. We all expect them to play at a high level. You're playing here, you expect to be playing at a high level. But that being said, most of those guys are normally on the scout team and now they are starting for Michigan. It's exciting for the future, a little nerve-wracking right now, but I'm proud the way they hung in there.
QUESTION: How did Adam Patterson grade out?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: He played well, Adam did, and Renaldo Sagesse gave us a little lift in there. But Adam I think getting his -- I think it was his first start, getting his first start in there and battled and competed a little bit, did some really nice things.
QUESTION: You said a few weeks ago that you would spend more time with the defense, how much more time have you actually been in on meetings and had a hand in?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Just a little more on Sundays and maybe watch a little more in practice. I mean we as a staff have spent more time watching a little more practice together, parts that we go good on good, ones against ones, twos against twos, we spend a little more time watching that so we can interact a little bit. And last week was really good because Purdue had some similar spread principals on their offense that our offensive and defensive coach could talk about and that probably helped somewhat.
QUESTION: Have you been doing more good on good lately?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, been the same. Our practice structure has not changed a whole lot. When you get more guys hurt, then it kind of dilutes your number of guys you can have on scout team. So it's harder to get as good a look I think. So normally towards the end of the year, you do a little bit more good on good but yeah, it depends on the scheme. And Wisconsin, obviously their scheme is a lot different than ours, so we'll still do it, good on good somewhat, but we have got to either get a great look out of our scout team -- what we have done more this year is getting our second offense and having them run some of the opponent offense a little bit more than we had in the past.
QUESTION: There were a couple penalties that some people questioned on tape, holding, chop block. When you take note of those things and send them into the Big Ten, how does the interaction go? Do you get a response to that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, we send them in and they are really good and prompt about sending them back. I have not called yet to question -- to ask about some calls but I will this week. There were more things that we saw on film that -- and again, it's been probably over the last several weeks but this past game, but just to get exactly how the officiating crew is seeing it so we can teach it better going forward. Because there were more, it just seemed after this game there were more questions I guess in the interior part, the holdings and all of those things we had request hes about. So we have turned in, I don't know, five or six, and there's another four or five on the list, and the Big Ten is very good about getting back with us and talking about it.
QUESTION: On the fourth down play, it seemed like the last couple of times -- hasn't worked out too well.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That one didn't because we fumbled.
QUESTION: Was that a product of the wet ball there?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No. That was a product of execution. You know, the exchange was not the way it was supposed to be and I don't think we were completely set, either. But that was a problem of execution. That should never happen.
QUESTION: Terry Talbott, Richard Ash, Ken Wilkins, how are they progressing on the scout team?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Good. I like some of the young guys we have up front. They have done a good job in practice. You know, having another 15 practices or so in December for a Bowl game I think is going to help along, because we are going to need -- we have a few seniors on defense that are playing up front but we are going to need some of these young players. We are playing a bunch of them but there are a few more that we are redshirting that are going to have to play for us next year. So practice and spring practice will be critical for them.
QUESTION: How difficult is it to switch gears? Primarily it's been spread teams and then to turn around and play a power team like Wisconsin.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think it's a little bit different but probably people make more a bigger deal out it. I think it's probably harder to go the other way if all you saw was a power team and all of a sudden somebody spreads you out, that's probably a little more difficult from that standpoint. But you know, because normally, again, during the season, you're not going to do a lot of banging and live stuff against each other. I think that's -- whether you're a power team or not, you're not going to take your guys and go live a whole lot during the season because you don't want to take the risk of getting guys hurt. So it is a little bit of adjustment, and our guys will prepare for that this week. But you know, in my past and in the history, it's not been as difficult as going from one to try to defend somebody that goes spread, no huddle and five-wides and stuff like that.
QUESTION: The defense got five turnovers, how far of that was a product of the pressure that Roh was getting?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think some of that was from the pressure that Craig had. I think some of it was due to conditions. I think conditions played a factor in at least the ball being a little slicker than normal. You know, like on the punt that they dropped and all that. So it was one of those games that I was glad they got them because if they didn't, we would be in trouble.
QUESTION: Wisconsin's power offense. Is that becoming more and more in the Big Ten -- are they the only ones that run that in the purist sort of sense?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I mean, they are a little bit unique, and I know they talk about it; they are different by doing that. But there's other power teams in our league. And I think it's funny when people talk about the Big Ten is labeled as this type of league and this league is that.If you really truly research and look at all of the conferences, whether they are BCS conferences or not, you have a wide variety of both offense and defensive schemes, anyway. And you see quite a bit from one team being a power-based or two tight end or eye-formation team, and another team being a spread and it's really pretty balanced. So I think you're going to learn, you have to be able to defend all types of offenses in every league you're in.
QUESTION: Is Hagerup not capable of pooch-punting effectively at this point?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: He's been okay, but we've been better when our quarterback is doing it. In this game, Denard almost missed the ball (laughter), Tate kicked it to the end zone. Prior to this game they were really pretty good at it but they didn't look like they would win any punt passing kick contests on Saturday, though, that's for sure.
QUESTION: How good is J.J. Watt?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: He's very good. He's an All-American, in my opinion, the way he's played, his consistency, every ballgame. You know, I think he's a first-team All-American.
QUESTION: Can you compare Watt with Kerrigan? Better? Same?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: They are different players. I mean, I think they both play the same position but JJ will go inside and play inside on a guard a little bit and they will move him around somewhat and I've been extremely impressed. Like I said, I think he's a first-team All-American.
QUESTION: How much did weather impact your decision to claim that penalty when they kicked that field goal?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Obviously conditions are a little factor because they had the wind and I know he was kicking 70-yarders in the pregame. If we'd backed him up and make him kick a 50-yarder or say, all right, let it go, if he can make it; if he can get three points, we are still up by one. The fact that we still had the lead and the fact that he was kicking with the wind were the two factors the most.
QUESTION: With playmakers like that on defense, do you do anything specific (block them)?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Our guys, they see that on film. You talk about it and they can watch, you can watch and see if they have any particular mannerisms or what type of moves they like in pass rush and things like that. But I think you'd just better make sure your guys have the attention -- that it's going to be a long day for them if they don't, you know, do their fundamentals right and play extremely hard. And they know when they are going to get challenged just like when we play Iowa and some other teams that are outstanding players, you guys know when they are going to get challenged quite a bit.
QUESTION: When you have to watch a guy like Kerrigan have such a great game, does it make you miss Brandon Graham a bit more?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, I miss Brandon every day (Laughter). Everybody misses him. But he was making a lot of plays, but sometimes we helped, too. Sometimes we helped Brian, and he's a very good player. I think he's a first-team all Big Ten guy, as well. But I think sometimes we helped, too, because we didn't do as well as we could do.
QUESTION: Can you assess your right tackle position?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, Perry (Dorrestein) would have been the starter but perry is still not 100% and he tried to go in there a little bit but he's still hobbled. I'm hoping this week he will be a little better. He will be our starter if he's healthy, sure.
Question: What has Vincent Smith done to distinguish himself among all the backs as the guys who gets the most carries?
Coach Rodriguez: "He's probably been the most consistent back we've had as far as all the things we want with our running back position. You know running it, blocking, catching the ball. He's really pretty good in all three. The other guys are pretty good too but Vince has probably been the most consistent and he's a great competitor."
Question: Mike Cox didn't travel right?
Coach Rodriguez: "Right."
Question: Is it injury?
Coach Rodriguez: "He had been a little bit banged up but really it has been the other guys and Fitz (Fitzgerald Toussaint) is getting healthy. He played a little bit but you could tell that he had been out somewhat. Fitzgerald Toussaint, as he gets healthier and healthier I think he can provide a little spark for us."
Question: Do you feel like he is finally completely healthy, because he looks faster (Vincent Smith)?
Coach Rodriguez: "We talked about that. It has been almost a year since he tore his knee and had the injury and it usually takes at least a year, sometimes more than that to get back. He's looking faster for us. He's getting his strength back and getting that kind of burst that he had before the injury. He's fought through it and all that, but I do think that every week that goes by, he gets a little bit stronger and a little more confidence in getting his speed back."
Question: How close is Perry Dorrestein to be completely healthy?
Coach Rodriguez: "I'm hoping that this week he'll be all the way back. Last week, he practiced a little bit more, but he certainly wasn't 100% or he would have started last week. We're hoping that if he has a good week of practice and rehab this week that he'll be back to 100% by Saturday."
Question: If you look a the guys who have changed positions recently; how difficult is it for you and your staff to look at a kid and say that he is definitely a defensive end…?
Coach Rodriguez: "Some of it is you can evaluate them in practice. That's the hardest part. You normally try to project that when you recruit them and when they get into your weight program and they get lifting and running and doing all those things, they'll continue to grow and some guys will eat their way from linebacker to defensive lineman. I've seen safeties grow themselves into defensive ends. So there is usually a progression that they go through, but Craig was a defensive end in high school, but he was athletic enough we thought to play some linebacker, and I still think he can. I think he is more comfortable and I think we're better with him being at a position that he is more natural at. Because he's a high motor guy. When he's in a three point stance coming off the edge, I think he is more effective."
Question: What about Cam Gordon's size?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah Cam's size and his kind of mental makeup, I think he is better closer to the ball and it is a position that we have. There are going to be some guys, whether we do it in bowl practice or spring practice, there may be a safety or two that we feel could be an outside linebacker. There may be a corner that we feel can be a safety, but with all the injuries that we had defensively it really kind of hampered our ability to move some of the guys earlier, particularly during camp or the first part of the year. We probably would have moved some guys earlier. Now we have to wait to get everybody healthy. When everybody gets healthy, we'll have so much more experience that we'll be able to move some guys to try and get our best 11 to 15-16 defensive players at the right spots."
Question: Talk about Carvin Johnson's progress.
Coach Rodriguez: "Carvin made some pretty good plays, really excited about him. Again, he's another true freshman that right now can play both safeties positions and he's a guy that after spring practice and all that, he'll be able to play multiple positions for us defensively."
Question: With seven wins and obviously two more games to go, do you think that silences in year three some of those critics about that you should be in the hot seat and that your offense cannot work in the Big Ten?
Coach Rodriguez: "I don't know. That's for everybody's else opinion. I understand that the talk is out there and it has been out there, been out there for three years. Probably been out there since the day that I took the job and stood right here in the very first press conference. All we do is come to work every day and try and build the best program in America. We've had obstacles. We've had bumps in the road, but we're pressing forward. I'm hoping there is enough positive momentum and positive talk that all the negativity that has been out there kind of gets pushed aside a little bit. We lose a game and there will be more negative talk come out there. That's the nature of the beast, but at our place, where we're at in Schembechler Hall and I'm hoping that our fans can see that there is progress that is being made. The offense is right on track. It's pretty exciting I think to watch. Our games are exciting to watch, sometimes too exciting and we've got some work to do, but we've got a plan to get it right."
Question: Do you know that a win on Saturday or the following week, some people can say that it is a signature win. To beat a team that maybe they weren't supposed.
Coach Rodriguez: "That would be great and it would be great for the program and for the university. Again, it is not just me sitting up here telling you this, but it would be great for our seniors. These guys and our seniors and juniors have been through an awful lot the last couple of years. They've heard as much stuff as anybody. I'm proud because when I see them and we're around them, they've been totally focused and tunneled vision on doing what we asked them do to do. It's easy when there are a lot of people grabbing at you and telling you this and telling you negative stuff for you to maybe hang your head or don't come to work and don't be positive. Our guys have not allowed any of that to happen, none of that and I think that's why we're making progress. I think in the next couple of years they can come back and say listen, we were the ones that got it right when it needed to get right."
Question: What about yourself? You talk about your players with all the negativity that has been there, does it affect you at all. Do you let it affect you, is it hard not to let it affect you?
Coach Rodriguez: "It has almost become par for the course, you almost expect it. Any coach that tells you, listen, I don't care what people think of you and all that, they're probably lying. Everybody wants to be liked, but does affect the way that you go about your business, does if affect your day-to-day living. Does it affect the way that your family is approached and our families have been through it too, our assistant coaches have been through it and their families have been through it and everybody has hung together. I think it is because we believe in what we are doing and where we are doing it at and who we are doing it with. As long as you have those beliefs and you keep pressing forward, in time you'll have it right."
Question: You do anything special or out of the ordinary with guys before the last home game?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah we do. All week really, we'll talk about it. I'll start today talking about it with our team and the fact that we're going to honor our seniors and then we do a special thing for their last practice, which is really Thursday and we have a little special thing at the end of practice for our seniors. Then Friday night at the hotel, we'll have another special kind of deal with our seniors and probably have one or two of them come up and talk a little bit about their experience. The Thursday is pretty emotional and that's a little fun, but the Friday night thing is always very, very emotional. Both for the coaches and the players. Certainly, Saturday when they get introduced in front of the home crowd with their families out there it is pretty neat. I've said this and you all that have followed us, the greatest achievement that you can achieve as a college student-athlete is to go through and complete your senior year. That's not winning an All-American or setting records or anything. Because if you have done that and gone through your senior year, no matter what sport you're in, you've made a commitment, sacrifice for the team and the university that a lot of people haven't. If you look at just our seniors now and the guys that maybe came in with them that are no longer here, didn't make that same commitment and sacrifice. These guys have, so these guys should be honored because of it."