Game Day Intel: Darrel Funk

Sam Webb talks with the Wolverine offensive line coach about the OL's improvements and challenges.

Q: Coach, I know it’s tough to look at a loss like that and draw from it the positives but that’s where I want to start there, because it’s that there are great deal of negative to cover. I went back and I got a chance to look at the film and I felt like the offensive line actually showed some progress in that game?

A: Absolutely. It’s hard to, with what happened, it’s hard to find anything positive the night of or the next day but you look back at the tape you saw some instances where we got some movement, we got some people going downhill and sorted out some protections and things on some really exotic blitzes. You can find some positives. Obviously, we started working Sunday, the kids came back and started working their tales off Sunday but had a great week of practice looking to show that we are a lot better football team than came out there last Saturday night.

Q: In a general sense when you go from what you guys were doing last year doing some man stuff, some zone stuff to mostly a zone team, what’s the learning curve there. A lot of people think you just pick up where you left off last year and some of the guys played last year, they pick up where they left off, seems like it’s a little bit more nuance than that, can you kind of give us an idea of what the transition is kind of like for the guys?

A: Every system has things that look the same but like you said have different nuances whether it’s a coordinators’ preference or how he’s done it in the past so there’s, even though some things look on the surface well that’s just an inside zone, there are a little bit different things that happen and there is a little bit of a learning curve. But I think for the most part throughout camp and throughout the first two ball games, these kids have understood the schemes and it’s just a matter of being consistent in our execution. We’ve shown that we can execute some things and we’ve shown sometimes the same exact pressure comes the next series and we don’t get it so it’s just about consistency in our fundamentals and techniques that we need to work on.

Q: When you grade the offensive line is that kind of what you’re looking at? The fundamentals and the techniques saying they did this well but need to work on this?

A: Absolutely. You look for patterns. If something is always happening, good or bad, you cover it well and guys understand it or if you have, like I said, if a guy or combo is perfectly done on one play and eight plays later you get the exact same picture and it’s not done then that’s the consistency thing. But you have to, that’s where it starts, the run blocking, the pass protection and then you branch from there. Sometimes you also don’t have a technique perfect but it doesn’t kill a play cause a guy rallied back or recovered or whatever so you stress, hey you got it done here but it’s not exactly like we want it. We’re always striving for perfection and when you fall short of perfection you’re still pretty good.

Q: So take me through the first three series or so where it really looked like you guys had a nice rhythm, the passing game was 6-for-7, you were averaging over five yards a carry in the first few series, was it a matter of getting down and then they can tee off and pin their ears back and send blitzes. Was there a tangible difference in how you thought your guys performed based on the situation in the game?

A: I think that’s a big part of it. When you are balanced early, like you said a little run and pass, some solid runs in there, we were hitting some passes and they were on their heels a little bit and then we didn’t execute in the red zone or as we approached it and had to settle for field goal attempts. As the game wore on yeah you get a little behind and I think everybody on our offense started to press things a little bit and it changes how people defend you. When you get a little behind they can pin their ears back and they can take their chances on, exotic blitzes or put a little more pressure on you. But that’s why you can’t get behind the chains or get behind in the ball game and you’ve got to be consistent. And we actually started pretty fast but you’ve got to maintain that consistency in what we’re doing and we didn’t do that.

Q: When you look at various guys on the line, I want to start with Jack Miller. I think people maybe look at last year and come in with a preconceived notion but it really seems like he’s been one of your more consistent guys in the first few games of the season. Have you sensed that?

A: That’s absolutely the case and it even extends beyond that. Jack’s been the most consistent guy since the start of camp. Jack hasn’t had any bad days in camp and I’m not saying he’s perfect but he’s taken his game to a higher level. He’s heavier, he’s stronger than he was a year ago and he’s been very consistent.

Q: On the false snap that happened, what happened on that play?

A: Sometimes you get into a cadence issue, you get late in the cadence and are trying to sort through some sounds, there’s a lot of people yelling on both sides of the ball and we didn’t do a good job with that. That can’t happen, we can’t have that type of situation and we can’t waste plays like that.

Q: In the run game, one of the things it seemed to be the case on tape is there were some holes that kind of opened up and the backs didn’t necessarily see them. Is there a rhythm to kind of establishing that chemistry?

A: You saw it in the first ball game, guys were on the same page, guys were gelling and then you get into a situation against a different opponent and you’re on the same page on some of them, you had some six, seven yard gains, some five yard gains and other times maybe the hole was a little bit ahead, maybe they had a little penetration but they have to be on the same page and we work our tails off on that everyday in team run periods and our scouting periods. But they absolutely have to continue to work so that that’s an automatic. You’ll have a situation every now and then where there’s a different stunt blitz but the consistency in all of that is part of the execution.

Q: Let’s go to the various sides of the line, on the left side a lot of the talk was about a true freshman in Mason Cole and he’s been out there for a couple games now, I’m curious to see what you think about his first starts as a starter and then Mags sliding inside what have you seen from him in the first couple of games?

A: Well I think like Jack, Mason has been steady since the start of camp. He’s just been a steady, constant, doing everything, not perfect but just a steady player and his whole body of work just from the start of training camp has been very consistent and he’s just going to get better each game. He’s got some deficiencies we’re working on and you know those type of things but I think he’s played very consistent. And Magnuson, didn’t have a spring so his most recent games were at guard so his transition has been pretty smooth and he can play tackle, could play tackle if we needed but his biggest adjustment is without the spring, learning all these nuances and he’s done a pretty good job. He’s got to get more consistent but I’m comfortable with both those guys over there.

Q: So on the right side is actually where things have been in motion, not at right tackle though so start out with Ben Braden and then let’s talk about the right guard spot where we’ve seen Burzynski there, last week we saw Graham Glasgow and then Kyle when he was able to get in in the first game?

A: Ben gets better daily at something and it’s exciting to see cause his game is starting to come around and he plays hard, he plays every snap. He’s got, like all linemen do, he’s got things he’s got to work on and we’re excited about the progress he’s made and in two games he’s been very solid. He’s actually had some real difficult looks that he’s handled flawlessly but he’s got to keep getting better at his fundamentals. I’m comfortable with him there. At the guard position, due to various reasons, Graham not being available for the first game, the different guys we either had or didn’t have during camp. Graham actually played right guard most of the time in camp and was the reason he was inserted there and I think as Kyle continues to recover from some of those reps that he missed and Burzynski coming off knee surgery and different things, that’s going to be an interesting thing but all three showed flashes that they can be starters, players, depth guys, whatever it is, it’s just a matter of sorting out what the best combination is. The whole body of work, Graham and Ben Braden had been a nice combination in camp and when Kalis got back to full reps he was making strides so good things are going to happen with those guys as we move forward.

Q: I remember you talking a lot about continuity and a group gaining chemistry together so how long do you keep it so hey it could be any given guy in any given game or at what point do you shut it off and say as long as a guy continues to show growth and improvement I’m going to keep this group the same?

A: I think there’s a lot of ways to look at it but tying it in with the production of the offense has got to be job number one and that’s what Coach Nuss, we’ve never really had a rotation. You could argue that this group might work more under a seven man rotation. I’ve never been big into that just because the rep that you see and adjust to in the first quarter, if a different guy is in there in the second quarter, but I’ll tell you I’m comfortable with all seven of those guys, counting the three guards but that being said I’ve been one that likes to get the five and go and I think Nuss is the same way. It’s just about finding an offensive rhythm and going with what’s working and that’s what, we didn’t make any switches in the game the other night because there was no pinpoint evidence that it was one guy. It was a group effort, a guy here, a guy there, good, bad, but collectively the offensive production will dictate it.

Q: When you look at today’s opponent, Miami of Ohio, you turn the page on Notre Dame and try to grow from it, what were the things you tried to stress in practice this week and kind of give me an idea of what challenges the Miami of Ohio defense presents to you guys?

A: Well I think they play hard, they’ve got a bunch of guys that can come in off the bench and play and it looks to me like there’s some guys that come off the bench that think they could be starters and you could argue that. So, I think they’ve got some depth, they’re tough, they play hard, their scheme has varied a little bit from the first game to the second game. I know they’re well coached and they’re going to be handful. And our guys, like I said starting Sunday, we had guys in watching tape, getting ready, getting tendencies on guys and different things but I think they’re a tough unit. I think those inside backers of theirs are terrific players and are where they should be in the box, they’re fast read guys and very well coached. We’re going to have to have our A game from the start to do what we need to do and run the football.

Q: In closing, you said guys were in watching film immediately on Sunday, the pulse of the team, the state of the team emotionally coming off a game like that. Sometimes it can be a fragile thing but what have you noticed not just with your group but the team collectively in the aftermath of that game, have they been able to compartmentalize, have they been able to kind of put it behind them?

A: You can’t dwell on it, you’ve got to move forward. Good, bad and different you have to move forward. But you have to learn from your errors and there’s always a fine line, do you beat them up with the bad plays on the tape all week or do you coach it up that day and say hey that can’t happen and move forward? I think before we had a chance to get at them guys were in the building, they were in here, they were working, they were asking hey what did you think of this, what did you think of that. I felt a different, it just felt different than what’s happened in the past, that type of disappointing game, where some guys maybe were vacant until the team meeting and then all of the sudden you saw them. I didn’t see that. Guys were around the building, they wanted to get that game, not forgotten, but learn from it and move on and show people and show themselves that that’s not the team we are or we’re going to be and we’re going to move forward.

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