“The NCAA will allow us to start practice on the same day that Miami of Ohio did. They gave us a waiver. We obviously won’t play a game before September 3rd, but we will have the same number of meetings and practices. I just want to say how much I appreciate everybody in the Big Ten supporting our efforts to get the extra practice.”
“We lost an outstanding tailback a year ago in Chris Perry, an outstanding quarterback in John Navarre, some outstanding defensive linemen, and those 3 positions are really the focus of the guys that we have to replace this fall. We do are fortunate in that we have three guys in Marlin Jackson, Braylon Edwards, and Davis Baas that passed up the NFL to come back and that is a wonderful thing for our football team. I’ve always believed that championship football starts on defense and if we are going to make a run at this championship and if we are going to make you (the media) look good for selecting us as the champions, then we are going to have to play outstanding defense. We did lose a kid named Jeremy VanAlstyne, who was our starting defensive end in the spring, so we are concerned about our depth there. But our secondary with Markus Curry, Marlin Jackson, and Ernest Shazor…a guy that I think has a chance to be one of the best safeties we’ve had there… should be very very strong.”
“Our linebackers are almost all back, with the exception of Carl Diggs who graduated. David Harris, a red shirt sophomore who will return after missing a year, is a very promising player. We do have a couple of young players in Shawn Crable and Prescott Burgess that will get in the mix at next linebacker. We’re very strong at that position. In the defensive line we have a kid named Lamar Woodley that played a significant amount of time as a freshman. He’s an extremely talented football player and you could conceivably see him at several positions in there. Pat Massey returns and Alex Ofili is a guy that is really important for us. He’s (Ofili) 290lbs and he’s a fourth year senior that hasn’t played a lot, but has a lot of ability. I think he’s a key factor in there. We’ve got two young kids in Larry Harrison, and Gabe Watson who are key players for us, but we’ve got to stay healthy and probably get some help from some freshman.”
“On offense, our two guards, Baas and Lentz, are outstanding players. Adam Stenavich returns after starting a year ago at the tackle position. There are some other guys that are going to compete at that other position and also push Adam Stenavich. Mike Kolodziej, from here in Chicago, is an extremely talented guy that is going to be hard to keep out of the lineup. We have a kid named Jake Long, out of Lapeer, Michigan, that is about 6’6, 340 pounds and reminds me somewhat of Jon Jansen, a kid that is now playing with the Redskins. There's also Reuben Riley from Grand Rapids. So we are going to have good competition on the offensive line. The question will be at center where Leo Henige, a guard a year ago, will work some in there. But Mark Bihl will go into the fall as the starter. Our tight ends, Tim Massaquoi and Tyler Ecker are both back. Both of them are talented guys that can run and stretch a defense. We’re excited and they may be as good a pair as we’ve had at tight end. Our receivers are all back. Carl Tabb, Jason Avant, Steve Breaston, Jermaine Gonzalez, along with Braylon Edwards gives us probably from top to bottom as good a group as we’ve had. At the tailback position, we’ll have good competition there. David Underwood has lost 8 or 9 lbs and is in the best shape of his life. Jerome Jackson had a very good spring. Then we’ve got a couple of freshmen in Mike Hart from Onondaga, NY, and Max Martin from Huntsville, AL. Hopefully we will get some work out of those guys, At the fullback position, Kevin Dudley is one of those tough hard nosed blue collar kind of guys that you love because he doesn’t care that he doesn’t get to carry the ball. He just wants to play and help Michigan win.”
Seeing as how you are breaking in a new running back and new quarterback, do you see yourself doing different things in the passing game than the things that you have done in the past couple of years?
“Not really, I think obviously you’re going to call some plays a little bit differently depending on the quarterback. But we’ve recruited guys that can run the type of offense that we want to run. Matt Gutierrez is a more mobile guy than John Navarre was, and we may do some things with him that we did not do with John. Essentially, the offense is not going to change from the standpoint of what we do. With the exception that we certainly aren’t going to be able to do as many things as soon because John was a fifth year senior. But I think you’re always trying to do things that give your quarterback a chance to be successful. But as far as changing the type of offense that we are going to run…no, we aren’t going to do that.”
What do you expect out of Braylon Edwards this year?
“The things I expect from Braylon Edwards go back to the things that
make him a wonderful football player. That is, Braylon is a good football player
with or without the football. If you watch him, you see a guy that is going
to hustle and block people intensely. He takes great pride in the little things,
Certainly when you are a senior at Michigan and you have been through as many
learning experiences as he’s been through, I expect him to be a good leader.
He is a great competitor and he’s smart, so I expect his best season,
and I expect his best leadership this year.”
With Ohio State and Michigan entering as pre-season favorites year end and year out, how much is it a testament to both of those programs that you’re able to reload each year with such success?
“It’s a testament to the people that make up those programs. And I am talking about the players. I think when you are dealing with 18, 19, and 20 year old kids, it’s difficult when people are telling you how great you are, and how good a team you are, because it is extremely easy to get distracted. And once you are distracted, it’s over. As a football team, player, or coach, you are going to pay a price for that. I think that more than anything else, in this conference there isn’t game that you play that you can’t lose. The rivalries are great. Winning on the road is extremely difficult because of the support that the home team gets. I think the quality of coaching in this conference is wonderful. I’ve been coaching in this conference 27 years and I don’t think that it has ever been as balanced as it is today.”
What is your take on re-play?
“I was opposed to the initial discussions because I had envisioned a system that was going to be very cost prohibitive in my mind. I was not interested in seeing, with all the other issues in college athletics, millions of dollars being spent on the replay system. But I do think that they have to come up with a system that gives us an opportunity to keep a game from being decided by a bad call. I don’t think anybody can argue with that. Obviously, we are going to learn a lot of things from it, and I think everybody across the country is interested in it. I think the key is, what are that expectations? It certainly is not going to be like the NFL. I think there are some positive things that can come out of it.”
How much does an experienced team help an inexperienced quarterback?
“I’ve looked back on the guys that have played quarterback since I have been coaching at Michigan. Some of them broke in with guys that were really talented AND experienced. Others, like John Navarre for example, broke in with a team with an entirely rebuilt offensive line and receivers. The truth is it goes back to what I was talking about earlier. You have to play great defense. You know that when you are starting a sophomore quarterback he has been around 3 years. Tom Brady started at Michigan in his 4th year, but the experience that he had is greater than what anybody is going to have for us this fall. I just don’t want all the pressure put on those guys because I think the advantage that whoever our quarterback will be will have is a much more experienced team than John Navarre had. He is going to have a good offensive line, good tight ends, and good wide receivers. He doesn’t have the (experienced) running back… but I do think the people that are around him, are important. There is no question about that.”