Spring Practice Player Interviews Part 1

Comments from John Navarre and Roy Manning. Grant Bowman also gives in-depth comments on the progress of the young players, expectations for the coming year, additions to the coaching staff, and the emphasis on athleticism in recruiting

The entire Navarre interview and a small excerpt from the Bowman interview can be heard here at mlive.com.


On further improvements he can make

Once you start developing things and getting good at them, you can start focusing on other things. Technique and as far as knowing the offense,.. I've come long way there. Now I can start focusing on other things like leadership, maybe focusing on defensive schemes a little more, personnel, and just getting into the depth of the offense. We know the basics. Now it's time to step-up and move on. If we don't we aren't going to get any better.

On if he's progressing quicker now

Oh yeah. It goes so much faster. We are almost at a level where you can almost call your own plays. You know your own stuff. We are going to put a lot more on the quarterback's shoulders as far as offense, scheme wise. We are doing a better job in that area. We are just getting deeper in the system and we will be able to adjust more to the defensive side.


On if he'll play any WILL this year

I don't know. Initially they said that they'd like to see me at WILL a little bit. But I've been playing SAM since I've been here. I was a little more comfortable with staying there because of that. You never know what's going to happen. We'll talk about things and see where it goes.

On how much he weighs

I'm 240. I was getting fat until I started back running again!


On whether the defensive line is being told to pursue more

We always have to go where the ball is in case a guy breaks a tackle. Obviously it's one of the top things that has always been stressed. I don't think it's being stressed anymore because it's always been as stressed as it can.

On Gabe Watson

He's huge! He's a man mountain! That guy is humungous! He's a young kid and he needs some technique, but he's got a lot of ability. If he works hard he can do a lot of things. It will be interesting to see what happens with him.

On how the young and old guys on the line have gelled and what he expects from the unit

Well, we did lose guys. But I think when you look at the overall equation and whether we've dropped off or gained or lost anything…I think that we've at least stayed the same and have the ability to be better than we were. Last year we had a lot of high expectations and I'm not sure we reached them. I feel like this year we're really ready to do some things. We lost a couple of guys, but we have so much talent and so many young guys that are playing well that I really think it could be a big year for us as a defensive line if it stays healthy

On who has stepped up on the defensive line

It is tough not having Norman there, but Gabe has had a good spring and he is starting to learn what it takes to be a player. He's learning to play every down. I think Alain is playing a lot better. I could sit down and go through and all the guys. They are all doing some good things. That is why I said that I don't think that there is any drop off because almost all of the guys are really doing some things. We have a really good group.

On whether it's hard to gauge where they are without the injured players

It is a little bit. We don't have Zach and Carl in there, but it can almost be good for you when some of the old guys get hurt because some of the young guys get so many reps. So, I don't think that it is going to be detrimental to our team in the long run. I'm just excited about what we can do as a team. I think when we get everybody together it is going to be something else. I just think that it is almost a good thing. It gives all those young guys a lot of reps and experience.

On whether this is most athletic defense he's been a part of at

I feel like the coaches and the recruiting have focused a lot more on athleticism. They have some really athletic guys in there,… I mean some guys that can really move. That gives you an opportunity to make some big plays with the play makers that we've got in there. Some guys like Pierre Woods. He's just an athletic phenom. There are just so many big guys that can run and move. It's exciting to see the possibilities. When you get guys like that, that is when you get turnovers and that is when you get scores on defense.

More on whether the coaches have focused on recruiting more athletic guys

I feel like they probably have. I mean, it's not like that is something that you can coach. I feel like they have been bringing in some really good athletes, and I think that it has done some really good things for us too.

On what they've done to increase their speed

We brought in Kevin Tolbert as our new assistance strength coach. His main focus is speed. That is why he has done a lot of speed work with us. It has been a lot more in the past two years than any time since I have been year. I think that that has helped us a lot. There has been a lot more focus on speed and strength.

On what he feels his role is as a defensive tackle

My role is to not be a guy that's going to be seen every play. It's almost like I facilitate ways for other guys to make plays. Whether it's holding a double team so a linebacker can make a play, pushing the pocket so an end can get a sack, or pushing the pocket so that there's an errant throw. I'm not in there to be pretty. I'm in there to grind it out. I'm playing right next to the center every snap and a lot of times it's about being tougher than him and playing hard. I don't mind it. I feel like my body is built well for it.

On what he thinks of some of the younger offensive lineman he's faced

The older offensive linemen have been so impressive that they (the younger guys) can follow what some the older guys have done. The offensive line as a whole is doing so well because they are so well coached. I think Andy Moeller is an awesome coach! He just goes crazy. In fact I've never seen someone with so much energy all the time. And he cares about his players. They're going to always be a good group as long as he's coaching.

On how the transition has been from Coach Hoke to Coach Sheridan

It's tough because he's been my only coach since I've been here. Not having him there is a different feeling. It's a different coaching style. At the beginning it was pretty tough for me to adjust because of the different practice styles and different pace. As things have gone on, I've sort of started to like it. I think Coach Sheridan is going to do a really good job. He's almost the opposite of what Hoke was. He's a very technical and exact kind of guy. He's going to be good for us.

On whether Michigan is due for a Big Ten title

Absolutely. There's no doubt about that. You can't go too many years around here without winning a title, so we better get one soon.

On whether he thinks the offense will score a lot of points

Absolutely. They have got big time players on offense at a lot of key positions. But the offensive line has been gelling and they have been playing AWESOME. They have done a tremendous job. They are going to be tough to play against. Any time you have a foundation like that, you have chance to do a really good job, so it's going to be exciting to watch them play.

On if the offensive line was manhandling him

Manhandling?! What are you talking about?! Manhandling?!(laughing) No. But you can tell when you're playing against guys who know what they're doing and guys that are strong. You can feel how strong they are. You can tell that they're well coached. You guys probably won't see it watching, but every time they score a touchdown, think about the offensive line. I guarantee they are going to be doing some good things for them.

On what the biggest factor is in having a great offensive line

I just think that they all have to be on the same page. If somebody misses a call and cuts somebody free, it doesn't matter if they're the biggest and strongest guys in the world…they didn't block anybody! I think Dave Pearson does a really good job of controlling all of the calls. He makes all of the calls inside. They have gotten to the point where they all know each other so well that he can make dummy calls to call guys off. He's a former defensive lineman so that helps him too. Today he says, "hey Bass, give me some help. Grant is veering inside." He didn't hear our call. He just knew what I was doing because of my stance. They're just knowledgeable and they're all on the same page and they're doing a good job.

More on Gabe Watson

If he keeps working hard and gets some technique, he'll do some things. I feel that the movements you do and your stance (as a defensive lineman) are not very natural. It just takes some time to learn how to use your hands and learn how to play blocks. It's the type of thing that just sort of evolves. It just takes time. I think he's got a good work ethic, so he's going to be ok.

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