Sam Webb: Marcus first things first… how do you think it went in the booth today?
Marcus Ray: “Sam, I think it went pretty good. It was excellent. It was a great experience for me. It was a dream come true being from Columbus, Ohio, getting a chance to play in Michigan Stadium and now as an alum, I can come back and call a game at my alma mater. I was prepared, there was a lot of prep that went into it. Film study and meetings with coaches, but this was a great experience, something that I would like to do every week.”
Sam Webb: I know you well, you’re a confident guy, but was there that moment when you had a few butterflies or was it always just sure like when you stepped on the football field?
Marcus Ray: “Honestly I didn’t have any butterflies. I just felt like, as long as the producer told me what I needed to know ahead of time and as long as I developed a rapport with Eric Collins and Lisa Byington, I’d be fine. I just kept telling myself, Marcus you know football, you’re a football guys and you’ve got football eyes, just use them, call it like you see it and then tell a few stories and stay calm. I was just trying to be myself on camera, but it was a great experience.”
Sam Webb: Let’s get into the game. Obviously, you were breaking it down as it went, just your overall thoughts seeing Michigan in the game after the disappointment down in South Bend.
Marcus Ray: “I don’t think Michigan was as prepared as they would like to think. Their coaches said that they had a great week of practice. They said that they were prepared against Notre Dame and every time we hear that, we see some of the worst of the worst football. We saw some of the same mistakes. We saw penalties and we saw turnovers. I think once Michigan settled down…it was really a tale of two halves and once Michigan settled down on offense and ran the ball and then continued to play great defense, then they were just fine. You can’t just turn the ball over especially a team like Miami and they got ten points off those turnovers, which kept Miami in the game, 17-10 at halftime, they were down.”
Sam Webb: You saw turnovers on special teams, you saw a fumble, you saw an interception, they were doing it in multiple ways. You’ve been there before, what do you do to address that? Brady said, ‘we have ball security issues throughout’. It’s not like you’re just looking at one thing. What is the approach to handle that?”
Marcus Ray: “What you do is you make a total commitment as a team, offense, defense and special teams to take care of the football. Now Devin’s pass got tipped, I think he threw it in traffic, but even still, tipped balls are part of the game. When it goes up someone has to come down with it. Darboh just completely didn’t protect the football and he almost had another fumble when he had one of his catches where the ball kind of stuck out a little bit. You’ve got to make a commitment that the ball is the issue. Two hands on the football, definitely in traffic, something that you need to take care of. The offensive line has to protect the quarterback and when those skilled position (players) get the ball in their hands in the open field, they have to expect contact, cover it up, point to point with both hands, elbows covering the tips of the football and just go down if you have to. Darboh gave up the ball, but that was a great play by Miami as well. Then you’ve got to run to the football as an offensive player just in case something bad happens you can recover it.”
Sam Webb: You mentioned Devin…what’s your assessment of his play? How do you think Devin performed?
Marcus Ray: “I think Devin grew up today. The thing that I like about Nussmeier is that he sets Devin up well with play action, sprint out passes. He protects Devin from himself. I think Devin made all the right reads except one time when he went vertical and he had Jake Butt flying wide open down the middle and Devin went for the homerun. I think they protected him well for the most part, but any time you use play action and misdirection, it’s going to be hard to get to a quarterback, but Devin Gardner took a show from Lo Wood and stayed on his stayed on his feet and found a way to get rid of the football. That showed me his toughness that he’s going to stand in there and take a hard pop from a defensive back, stay on his feet, break another tackle from Joe Donlan, #46, the linebacker, stayed on his feet and still made a play. So Devin is in it to win it. I think he matured today, being that he only threw one interception and it got tipped. It wasn’t like he threw it straight to the defense and I don’t think the defenses by Miami disrupted Devin’s reads at all.”
Sam Webb: Your breakdown is diametrically opposed to the impression that the fans are sort of giving on Twitter. A lot of them think it’s time to start looking at Shane Morris as the quarterback. Why is the move (the coaches) making the right… or is it the wrong one to stick with him?
Marcus Ray: “Devin gives you the best chance to win and he’s proven that with his numbers last year. If you don’t have Devin Gardner on the field last season, you might win three or four games. Yes, he turns the ball over, but what people don’t understand is that his previous five starts before the Notre Dame game, he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. When he plays bad, Michigan’s offense is bad, but some of the coaches even have admitted that they don’t always protect Devin. As a quarterback you shouldn’t be out there by yourself, but at the next level in the pros, that’s why those get paid so much money, because they make all the reads, they don’t like to the sideline. They have a microphone in their helmet and the coaches are always with them. As far as I’m concerned, Devin Gardner is a football player, three different coordinators, two head coaches, three offensive systems, played wide receiver, he gives you the best chance to win and right now Michigan is in a state of urgency for a Big Ten Championship. This is not a rebuild year. They’re not a great team. Shane Morris’ time is coming and you’re going to need Shane Morris at some point in the season, his time is coming, but to bench Devin, I think you could change the entire morale of the football team.”
Sam Webb: There are a lot of people who say you need to start planning for the future right now because he is not going to get any better, talking about Devin. Do you believe there is a way forward as far as improvement or is he (already) ‘what he is going to be this season?
Marcus Ray: “I think Devin is going to get better every week. The level of competition is always going to dictate I think your performance, because you can go out and get off against a lesser opponent, you may not see the type of pass rush that you see, versus like a Notre Dame, so that your stats will go up, just like Devin Green’s in the run game. He had two breakout run games against two average football teams. But moving forward, you measure a man by how he performs, an entire team performs in big time games and Michigan’s time is coming to where we’re going to find out who should be in there and who shouldn’t be in there because from now on it’s real. Utah, Minnesota, Penn State, Rutgers, so before you just ‘can Devin’ I still think he gives you the best chance to win moving forward and we’ll find out in the next month of football who should be at quarterback.”
Sam Webb: You’ve been on teams and you talked about it could disrupt and upset the morale. What gives you that feeling and what impact does that have if guys kind of feel like, ‘oh, that is the wrong move?’
Marcus Ray: “Number one, a program like Michigan has loyalty to seniors. Devin is the only senior scholarship player on offense. He’s the leader on offense regardless if they voted on captains or not. A lot of those players look up to Devin. They watched him develop as a wide receiver and as a quarterback and make sacrifices for the team, played on a broken foot, a broken toe against Ohio State, laid it on the line. I played at Michigan so I know what it means to be a senior and if you bench a senior right in the middle of the season, that’s going to discourage the rest of the young people who are about to be seniors. If you say we’re going to play for the future, start sitting guys down, now that can disrupt the entire morale of a team and go back to what we had back in ’95 and ’96 with a team divided. Remember Scott Dreisbach was a redshirt freshman in ’95. Those older quarterbacks on the roster didn’t like that. So when you’ve got younger players playing and you’re losing or the older guys feel like, okay the coach is going to bench me because I’m not good enough or I can’t get it done, let’s play for the future. My statement about the future is now. The future is right now. The best way to predict your future is to create it. I just think Devin Gardner is a guy on that team that a lot of people look up to and respect and if he gets done dirty that could effect your recruiting in the city of Detroit. You can sever times with a lot of programs that sends kids here, saying look what they did to Devin Gardner. The Michigan coaches are going to play the guys that give them the best chance to win but you’ve got to be loyal to your seniors especially at the quarterback position.”
Stay tuned for part two in which Ray discusses the running game, the defense, and Michigan’s outlook for the season.