Hecklinski runs thru the WRs with Sam Webb
Sam Webb: Big victory last week, miraculous comeback against Notre Dame, you never quit. The receivers played a pivotal role in the comeback, just your reflection and reaction to that game.
Jeff Hecklinski: "First it was an incredible win for Michigan and to do it in that type of setting and that atmosphere and being the first night game and the throwback uniforms and just the electricity that was in the stadium was unbelievable. We know that we have a whole bunch to clean up and we made more mistakes in that game that could have ended up costing us at the end. Luckily, we just made one more play than they did and at the end that game came down to who had the ball last and thank goodness we were the ones with the ball."
Sam Webb: Did you see something on the film with regards to your guys being able to win the so-called 50/50 jump ball type of passes, because Junior Hemingway said that after the game that you told him that you guys have to win every jump ball. I'm sure you might say that before every game or was there something in particular that you saw in film against this team?
Jeff Hecklinski: "Not anything more so in particular than the style of defense that they play. We knew that their front seven and really with both their safeties being counted in there, their front nine was really, really talented especially with stopping the run. We knew they were going to load the box and Manti Te'o is if not the best linebacker in the country one of the best linebackers in the country, so we knew it was going to be tough sledding running the ball. Then coming off of last year's game, you knew they weren't going to let Denard take it over with his feet and so we knew there were going to be a lot of play action opportunities to go over the top. We knew there was going to be some straight drop backs where we were going to go over the top and really it was going to come down to between their corners and our wide outs, who was going to get the ball. So that was the game plan. Not necessarily in terms of was there a match up in the style of defense that they play. They're a heck of a defense and heck of a defensive front seven and as we were going into it, we knew it was going to be that type of game and that's why we talked about it that way."
Sam Webb: Junior Hemingway had a whale of a game. It was kind of a tale of two halves almost, had a few drops early but never lost his poise, never lost his composure because he came up huge for you guys later in the game.
Jeff Hecklinski: "He did and all of them did. Really the main thing for how we play is the most important play is the next play. We're human just like everybody else is. There are going to be bad passes in the game. There are going to be missed blocks and they're going to be dropped footballs. Do we want to limit it, of course we do, but at the end of the day, we are human, so we know it is going to happen. We can't dwell on what's happened in the past. We have to move on to the next play. One play can't cost us two or three down the road. So the idea is you got to move on as fast as you can. You got to get to the next play and you've got to play as hard as you can. Probably the most proudest I am of all of them is the fact that they did do that. They never hung their head and to a man each one kept fighting all the way down to the very end and I think that is why we ended up in the position that we did."
Sam Webb: The emergence of Jeremy Gallon, I remember talking to you about him in fall camp. Many of the other players were saying, hey this kid is really turning the corner with regarding to contributing to the team. Was there a light bulb moment that you noticed, where you said, hey this kid is really, really coming on and he is going to be capable of helping us. Was there a moment when you realized that was going to be the case?
Jeff Hecklinski: "We saw flashes of that in the spring. Being a young kid and he has some immature moments and some moments where he just doesn't understand the game because he is so young, but we saw flashes of his ability to be able to go up and get the ball. He is very competitive when the ball is in the air and he's tough. If you have those attributes as receiver, somewhere down the line, you're going to end up putting it together, and coming out of summertime and then through fall camp, he did. We knew there was a chance he was going to be able to contribute. We also knew at the end of the day that we were going to need somebody else and we talked about the young kids stepping up and playing a pivotal role. You know Junior Hemingway is going to do what he does. You know Roy (Roundtree) is going to provide us with what he does, now there has got to be somebody else. You can see Kelvin Grady is starting to emerge a little bit in the slot and some of the one-on-one matchups. He caught the corner route going down when we were down 21-24. Obviously, Jeremy providing us with a spark in terms of toughness, energy, being a returner. Those are the things that we need, so it is nice to see and nice to have those kids, another kid to watch out for and somebody who just a really talented football player, Drew Dileo. He didn't play a lot last weekend, but I think you'll see his role increase too because again, you have another tough kid who in a situational role can provide us plays and hopefully spark us in the future."
Sam Webb: A guy that we've seen here quite a bit but has been limited by injury is Martavious Odoms. How do you envision his fit with you guys right now, is that an evolving kind of thing for you, do you have a role kind of in mind for him?
Jeff Hecklinski: "It is evolving and one of the things with that is that he has got to get back healthy. When you break a hand, really break a forearm like he did and then hurt a shoulder, those are two things that limit you as a receiver. He really didn't practice throughout fall camp. He basically had a cast on the week of Western Michigan and everybody would look at me and say how is a receiver coach putting a receiver out there with a cast on his hand. Those are things that we have to be careful of. He is starting to get back into the groove of things. We want to make sure that when we get him on the field, he has a chance to be successful and that's important for all these kids. You don't want to put them in a situation where they are going to fail and you know it is not a positive situation. Each week, he is getting better and better and better, and the first step for him is getting back healthy."
Sam Webb: You mentioned young kids and another kid you mentioned during fall camp, I know you got a lot of guys playing, but a young kid named Jerald Robinson; I think the comments you made to me was, wow this kid is good, but he doesn't know how good he can be. What has his learning curve been like under you?
Jeff Hecklinski: "So far everything has been progressing about the way we thought it would. He is a redshirt freshman, so he has got time. He is starting to get his feet wet a little bit in special teams. You're starting to see him out there on kick off return. You're starting to see him out there on punt return and hopefully as he gains confidence things are going to start happening more and more for him on the offensive side of the ball. We just got to make sure that we don't put him in a position to fail, especially with the depth that we do have. There is no reason to put him in a position to fail because if you destroy a kids confidence, at the end of the day you may never get that back. We want that confidence to keep growing and growing and growing. Sometimes your role starts out with a little peanut and then it continues to grow and grown and grow, and pretty soon you have a whole bag of peanuts and you're feeling pretty good about life and that's what we want Jerald to do. He's coming. He's working hard and I know competitively, he would like to have more of a role offensively but at the end of the day, he's got to continue to grow that role and is starts on special teams for him."
Sam Webb: I want to talk to you about your boss. You guys had a big time victory, it's pandemonium on the field, euphoria is everywhere. I saw coaches laying on the turf and all kinds of things. Then there is Brady (Hoke) stoic, calm. Like hey, this is what we do type of reaction. Tell me about him, did you see a moment in the locker room where maybe he did a cartwheel or something, tell me about your boss Brady Hoke.
Jeff Hecklinski: "First off let us go back to coaches laying on the turf, because you saw somebody laying on the turf and that was Chris Singletary (laughter), so just because Chris is on the turf that not all the rest of are. Chris probably fainted of exhaustion through that game. I can tell you the one thing about being with coach as long as I have been, he is the most down-to-earth individual that you're ever going to be around. He stresses to us all the time, #1 it is a long season and this is a marathon, this is not a one or two game season, so we got to make sure we stay focused on the goal which is the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl and the process it takes to get to that point. The other thing about coach is and he constantly stresses is it, nothing is ever as good as it seems, nothing is ever as bad as it seems. The reality of everything lies somewhere in the middle of it. If we stay that course and keep that same consistency to how we approach every day, how we coach and how are players play, they will continue to get better and improve as a team and we'll improve as a program. Our best games are at the end of the year, not at the beginning of the year. He has always been that way. There has never been a moment where I've really ever seen him either get completely frustrated where he's lost control or the other way when we've had huge wins get completely over the top where we forget what the end result is and what the end goals are. Honestly that's why he is the head coach and that's what he's there for is to make sure that he keeps everybody in the program focused and moving in the same direction. I doubt you'll ever see it. If he does, the only one who may ever see it is Laura (Hoke). I'm sure he has those moments. He's human too and I'm sure there is going to come a point and time where is going to look back and say, wow that's unbelievable. At the end of the day he also knows that we would take two steps back if we're not prepared for this week because we allowed last week to affect what we do this week. It's easier to talk about it after a loss when you say, okay we don't want this loss to correct a second loss. Nobody thinks about it after a win, because a big win can create a loss too and that's what he's great at is making sure that we stay focused on the task at hand."
Sam Webb: The last one has to do with recruiting. I know you can't get into specifics with recruiting but just in general when you look at the breakdown here down the stretch, you're a receivers coach, how many receivers are you going to be able to get into this class potentially?
Jeff Hecklinski: "I don't know that yet. I don't know if we have it broken down. We know that we have a certain number we're working for. We know there is a certain number of kids out there that we would like to play at Michigan but at the end of the day some of it is going to be determined by what the kids want, because ultimately it is their decision. Some of it is going to be determined by the progress that we make throughout the season and some of these kids make throughout the season. When you have kids step up and become players then now all of a sudden you can change your focus on recruiting and vice versa. You can have kids that you think, oh we're okay there and then all of a sudden you go throughout the season and you're like, man, we're really not okay there and we need to go into another direction. Recruiting is always evolving and it is never set until signing day and as you know, we've got a good five or six months left in this process and we take one day at a time. To be able to say hey this is what we're going to do, tomorrow it could be completely changed. Injuries play into it, performances play into it and the kids that are out there that all of a sudden become interested or decide, hey this isn't for me I'm going to go in this direction. We just take it day by day and as things happen, we kind of adjust and make sure that at the end that's what is best for Michigan."
Sam Webb: Brady said this must have been two or three weeks ago, he said you guys were going to go to 26, is it possible, not saying you will, is it possible that you could go over that or is that not necessarily the case?
Jeff Hecklinski: "We haven't even talked about that lately and again the focus has been on the season and what you'll find here at Michigan is that our focus as coaches throughout the season is on our kids that are here. Do we recruit? Yes. Do we talk about recruiting? Yes. But there is a time and place for all that and I'm sure on the off week, we'll go back through and hammer that out on one of the days that we have time to really focus and hone in on recruiting. Right now our job and our whole focus is on the kids that are involved in Michigan right now and beating Eastern Michigan. So from that standpoint, we haven't even began to discuss the possibilities of where are numbers are going to go and how many we have, it could come less. It could be all of a sudden, we're saying, we don't feel that we can get to this number so this is the number that we feel comfortable with and this is what we're going to go with. At the end of the day that'll be coach's call, and it'll be coach's call with the information that he has on the rest of staff."
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