"Well first off, I think their attitudes have been great," Smith said. "I don't care, from the fifth year seniors down to the first year freshman. They have done a great job of understanding the expectations here at Michigan. And I have been extremely happy with how they are approaching fall camp, and then this season coming up."
Senior middle linebacker Kenny Demens had 94 total tackles and three sacks as junior last season. But now that Demons is a senior, Smith expects him to step up his game as a leader.
"Well you hope so," Smith said on Demens being a leader. "Because you always want your seniors to be your leaders. And seniors should play their best football as senior. So I have been pleased with Kenny performance to this point. But the good news is there is a lot of quality behind him that are pushing him. I think competition makes everybody a better player. "
A surprise starter last season was sophomore linebacker Desmond Morgan. He started seven games for the Wolverines as a true freshman and finished the season with 63 total tackles. Smith said Morgan too plays harder knowing there are players pushing him on the depth chart.
"You know Des has done a good job," Smith said. "He is very tough mentally tough kid that has a passion to play football. And he is working hard always to perfect his craft and his game. He has been a good kid to coach. And the good news right behind him there is a couple more that are pushing him. That always makes you better when you have that kind of depth, and the kind of kids that are going to keep competing against each other."
Another freshman that stood out last season was sophomore outside linebacker Jake Ryan. Smith said while he didn't coach him individually, Ryan is still a backer that makes a lot of plays.
"Greg (Mattison) coaches him as much as anything," Smith said. "I have the two inside guys. But just from the stand point of being on the defensive side of the ball, Jake is a guy that can make a lot plays. Again the good thing is if Jake doesn't do it and doesn't work hard every day, there is a kid right behind him now that's trying to push him. Yeah, Jake is a kid that loves to play football, and we are very happy he is here at Michigan."
Other Notable Quotes
Smith on getting enough depth:
"Well I am not sure we are there yet, but we're heading in that direction. ‘Cause right now we have been in camp for one week, and a lot of the young kids have been hit and miss with so far finishing up summer school. But you know what the early impression is—yeah we are going to have some good depth and some kids that can go in and play, so we're fresh in the fourth quarter. And you keep that competition going in practice, where kids don't get comfortable and ‘nobody is going to take my job.' Well you know what if you think that, someone will take your job."
Smith on Joe Bolden and other freshman coming in:
"Well you know from the standpoint of just the overall understanding of what it means to go to college and being away from home— that's where you see the biggest difference between those guys that came early versus the kids who now are just finishing up summer school. Joe already understands, okay, the commitment it takes, not only football wise, but what it takes academically here at Michigan. So I think that is the biggest advantage that those kids have had being here early. They have already been through that process. With these young kids right now, they're getting their feet wet, with the football part starting now. But they already got the experience of going to class and being committed to being a good student."
To watch the video of the full interview with Coach Smith, click play below.