I want to begin by congratulating Mr. (Troy) Nienberg. He has been admitted to the Michigan Law School. And I want to congratulate John Fallon. You know who John Fallon is? John Fallon is the new president at Eastern Michigan University. John and I were fellow Mott interns in a Mott foundation program 30 some odd years ago in Flint, Michigan. He’s just been named the president there and I’m excited for him and I think they have a great man to run that program. We’ve just completed the first phase of preparation for the 126th team at Michigan. The winter conditioning, the weights, getting bigger, stronger and better conditioned. That’s the objective of that phase. Now we go into spring practice, which is my one of my favorite parts of the year because it’s really a new team. That’s always an exciting time because we have to find replacements for our guys that left and do the things that it takes to put another team together. One of the problems we have probably more so than any year than I can remember is we have a number of guys that will out of spring practice. We have some that are limited. I think it speaks to the punishing nature of this game, and certainly it’s one of the reasons you look at the number of guys…the number of surgeries. I don’t think we’re any different than anybody else, but you come off and you have that many injuries, it speaks to the already extensive length of the season and the stress and all the things that any intercollegiate athlete goes through. I think it’s particularly true in football. The 12 games certainly is not in the best interest of the guys who play the game. We go on to spring practice, we have 15 days, and basically once we get onto the first weekend we will practice Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. What we want to try to do there more than anything else is work on the individual improvement of the players. If we can come out of there with every guy improving then we will be a better football team. We want to get our fundamentals and techniques that can help a guy be a better player. Then from a team standpoint, we want to work on the team concept, which is really the basis of Michigan football. We want to introduce our schemes at every phase of the game and we’d like to increase the understanding of the principles with which we will play football at Michigan
On the changing offenses:
“…The two back offenses have really, been replaced in terms of the number of snaps. You just don’t see as many two back sets as you did, and we’re still a team that believes very strongly in the two back offense… even though we have changed dramatically over the last two of three seasons. We’ve run more snaps from the one back than any other offensive set we have because of the flexibility of that offense to create a lot more formations. You've got five guys out, no one in the backfield but the quarterback… you've got all the other sets, the motions. Defensive coaches are up against so many of them. So we will take the things we have evaluated, every single player, every phase of our game. We have set goals that we want to improve on and accomplish during this spring practice, and see where we are and move from there.”
“Well, I look at it as a position. You don’t replace a guy like Braylon Edwards…you don’t replace a guy like David Baas overnight. What you do is hope that as a group of receivers, our young guys will develop…our young guys will come in and make great contributions. Then you hope that a guy like Steve Breaston or Jason Avant will have their best years of football in the fall, because they have a foundation. If they can stay healthy, they're both outstanding football players. In the offensive line we’ve got a challenge because we got Adam Kraus…he will be in the thick of what we are trying to do up front either at center or at guard, and he’s out for the spring. Jake Long is out for the spring. Leo Henige is out for the spring… which really changes what we can do from a scrimmage stand point because we just don’t have the numbers to do some of the things we would traditionally do in the spring.”
On quarterbacks taking snaps in the spring:
First of all it’s a great opportunity for Chad Henne to take a lot more snaps than he normally would have. He’s still a very young quarterback, so normally he would rotate in there half the time, or a little bit less. Here he’s going to get a lot more snaps than he normally would get which will certainly help his development. Matt Gutierrez, one of the things that we are very happy for is his progress has really been excellent. He’s throwing the football. He will take part in a lot of drills…a lot of the passing drills so he’s going to get a lot more work than we would have anticipated at the time of his surgery. He will not have any contact so that changes some of the scrimmage situations. Jeff Kastl will get some and I will take some (laughing).
On new defensive line coach Steve Stripling:
Steve Stripling, I met him 20 some years ago he was coaching at Indiana at the time for Bill Mallory, and of course Coach Mallory has close ties with this program from his son’s and his relationship with Bo (Schembechler). I met Steve a number of years ago, he has spent a lot of time in this conference he coached a number of years at Minnesota for Glen Mason, he’s coached at Michigan State for John L. Smith and so he’s been around. He’s highly regarded and I feel very fortunate Steve wanted to come to Michigan and exactly what we need up front because he brings an intensity that I think our players will really benefit from.
On whether he prefers the 4-3:
Well I think he’s coached a lot of different sets. Of course I think he’s had more experienced in the 4-3 but what you're teaching up front is techniques. If you're a multiple front, which we have been, it’s not a drastic change. What you want to be able to do, what you have to have be able to do today is be flexible enough that you can get your best 11 on the field, and that changes in the course of a season. We had a number of injuries a year ago. Situations that one week would enable us to…we had to rely on one front maybe more than another, and it’s the same with linebackers. So hopefully you have enough flexibility where you can do different things and get the right people on the field. I thinks that what we are trying to do.
On what they learned from using the 3-4 defense last season:
“Well I think we got some good things out of it. If you're doing both it certainly possesses preparation problems for your opponent. From that standpoint, it’s a great advantage. I think obviously the more you do, depending on the experience of your players, it can create issues of knowing exactly what to do. I think that’s one of the great challenges in coaching. You've got to do enough…you’ve got to make enough changes on a week to week basis, not only because of the problems your opponent gives you, but trying to create problems for them. But the fine line is when you're doing too much. It’s a fine line, it’s like winning and losing.
On defending the spread offense:
“First of all I think it’s extremely misunderstood by a number of people. The great advantage of a spread offense is it allows you, for those people who run it, great flexibility with their personnel. If you look in the NFL you see they're all looking for quarterbacks because there aren’t a lot of guys who are really gifted who are your prototype drop back quarterback that throws the football. If you look at the NFL in the last ten years, you’ve seen a dramatic change in the types of quarterbacks that are playing and are having success in that league. When you consider the fact that there are 117 Division 1A schools that are playing football, and they can’t find enough in the NFL with 32 teams, finding those guys is hard. The spread offense enables a team to take advantage of the skills of, for example the quarterback. Those schools who have guys that are really athletic, they can incorporate the quarterback into the running game. Traditionally when you run a one back offense, you’ve got one back that can carry the ball. In the spread offense where you have a mobile quarterback, now you can block plays. You spread the defense out, but you can block plays just like you would if you had two backs…and the quarterback carries the football. Well that puts an enormous amount of pressure on a defense. A lot of teams will use the quarterback depending on the defenses. They get to run the option, so now you’re running an option team. The spread offense in my judgement, has not changed football in terms of the throwing game. It has changed football in terms of the running game. If you look at all the teams that are running the spread offense, they’re all a little bit different. Some are four wides with a quarterback and a tailback. Some are three wides and a tight end. Some, they use pro personnel, two receivers, a tight end, two backs, or a flanker, and one of the backs out. Every week when you play that offense, it’s a different offense depending on what their personnel is. So there are enormous issues out there for everybody.”
On Morgan Trent moving to cornerback:
Morgan Trent came into to see me and of course Morgan could very well be the
fastest player on our team. He sees an opportunity over there on defense at
cornerback. I think that’s probably it, in terms of changing position.
When I say position- offense to defense. Now we may move guys from guard to
center, center to tackle but I would say Morgan Trent is a significant change.