"We are starting practice tomorrow. Our players are in meetings as we speak. Some of them are finishing up the last week of summer school. I look forward to starting the 2006 season. This is really the final phase before the season starts. Based on winter conditioning, spring practice, summer conditioning, this team has displayed an outstanding work ethic. I think they are excited, and I'm certainly excited about the goals and challenges in front of us."
On the difference in Kevin Grady:
"I think during spring practice, and that's an issue a lot of young players have to deal with, you really don't realize until you lose some weight what it does for you from the standpoint of quickness, from the standpoint of the ability to sustain over a long period of time, a consistent level of performance. I think he'll get to the hole quicker. I think he'll have a better burst. I think he'll be better when he gets into the secondary. One of his strengths is the fact that he is an extremely powerful guy, and based on what I saw in the spring, the experience that he gained a year ago and the things that he's learned and now his conditioning, I think he's going to be a much, much improved football player."
On what he's expecting from Jake Long this year:
"I think when I look back at Jake's injury a year ago during training camp, we really thought they would not be able to come back before a bowl game. If you talk to anyone in this program, what he displayed in terms of his rehabilitation, it takes a lot of time. He spent an exorbitant amount of time in that training room, getting treatment on a daily basis. He came back much sooner than we expected because he had a will and a desire and a determination to play. And that always speaks volumes, you find out about a guy's commitment when things are bad, when things aren't going well. And certainly dealing with a disappointment that he had to deal with, he was excited about the season. What he did was he showed the kind of commitment that allowed him to come back. He's an enormously talented guy. He has a great passion, love for the game and the competition. He has wonderful ability and he has a chance to be one of the great players we've had here."
On Willis Barringer:
"Willis is a guy that's got a great energy and enthusiasm. A year ago, he played extremely well until he hurt his knee. He never got back to where he was before that. But he's a guy that's on top of academics. He's done a great job here off the field and he's a guy that we are counting on to play an important role on this team."
On if there are things that can be done in practice to help the team finish games strong:
"Part of the development of any team is putting your team in situations where they can learn and certainly that's part of what we do on a daily basis. We did have an issue a year ago with the way we practiced because of the number of injuries that we had. We just weren't able to do some of the things that you needed to do because of those situations. We spent a lot of time, two-minute situations, throughout training camp, throughout spring practice working on situations because I think the way college football is today, you can count on a number of games in your season going down to the last two or three minutes, and then it's about being able to control the football offensively if you have the lead and score and put the game out of reach. Or if you're defensively on the field, it's about finding a way to keep them out of the end zone."
On the importance of starting strong:
I think it's important for us to start strong any year, because if you can start strong, it creates momentum, it creates confidence, and certainly any championship team, if you look at the profile of championship teams, the Big Ten Championship, the National Championship, inevitably in the great percentage of times, those teams that are successful at those goals are teams that get off to a fast start."
On Terrance Taylor:
"I think Terrance in one year here has made tremendous strides in terms of his strength. He has wonderful athletic ability, and he's tough. He's a tough guy physically. He's going to have to learn as any young player does that when you move into a starting position, it's a lot different than being on a rotating basis because the daily grind, the number of plays that you play in a game, it wears on you and you have to do the things off the field in terms of your diet, in terms of your sleep, that will enable you to recover and come back the next day and the next week and do it for three months, and that will be the challenge that he has as a young player."
On whether the players use last year's 7-5 record as motivation or if they put it behind them:
"I think you spend a lot of time as a coach and as a player trying to figure out what you can do to improve. And that's where we are. What we want to try to do is starting tomorrow, we want to be a team that improves on a daily basis, and if we can do that, then we'll have a chance to reach our goals."
On his expectations for LaMarr Woodley:
"I expect LaMarr to reach the goals that he set for himself, and those are very high goals. But he's a very talented guy. He's another one of those guys, and I think looking back to the great players I've had, the one thing they have all had in common is a great passion for being the best. LaMarr has that, and so I'm excited about what he's potentially capable of doing this year. I know he's motivated. I know he wants to leave here with another championship, and with a great season."
On how good David Harris and Rueben Riley can be as fifth-ear seniors:
"I think that's really to be determined. Both Rueben and David are guys that have wonderful ability. I think Rueben can be as good as he wants to be and I think he has to overcome the inconsistency at times that he's had to deal with. And part of that is being moved from position to position but he's got enough experience now. He certainly has the physical talents. He's a smart guy. He is a guy that if he plays to his capabilities, he'll be an outstanding player because he's got everything it takes. And David had a very, very good year a season ago. He came back I think in our second or third game. He missed the first game with an injury. He missed most of training camp. But I thought he had a very good year and based on the foundation that he's developed as an athlete in terms of experience and confidence, I think he's ready to have a very good year again."
On the diifference having so many veteran QB's in the Big Ten will make:
"I think any time you have a veteran quarterback, you're going to have fewer mistakes than you have when you have inexperienced guys. An inexperienced guy, no matter how talented he is, is going to make some mistakes that come from not being there before. With nine returning quarterbacks, I think defenses have a much greater challenge because all of these guys have been in stadiums on the road. They have dealt with the crowd, the crowd noise. They have dealt with all the different defensive schemes that they are going to see. So they can go in there confident every time that they possess the football, that they can take it down and score. Obviously there's a lot more pressure on a defense when an experienced quarterback is on the other side of the line of scrimmage."
On where Ryan Mundy fits in:
"I think we have very good competition there. That's the good news. I think the truth is that Ryan made significant progress with that injury. It was a nerve injury. And sometimes they don't come back. The strength doesn't return, which means that it's very difficult to play at a high level because you know that every time that you have contact when you have one of those injuries that it's going to be extremely painful. It's just human nature that you're going to avoid some tackles, avoid some contact. You just can't play as well. Based on what I've seen and what our trainer, Paul Schmidt tells me, Ryan is back and ready to go. And that certainly will be great for our defense because he has displayed the ability to be a very good safety."
On if Chad Henne needs to be more vocal:
"I hear that all the time that he has to step up and be more vocal leadership has very little to do with being a vocal guy. Some guys have those qualities. I think leadership comes down to your ability to motivate people, and that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be a loud, vocal guy. We've had a lot of great leaders around here that said very little. I do think with his confidence that coming off from the end of last season, he had some outstanding games. I think that he will go into the season with all the confidence in the world, and he's going to have a much healthier offensive football team around him. He's going to have a much better team around him. All of those things factor into a quarterback. If you have a defense that gives up a lot of point, then you've got to score a lot of points. I think Henne is ready to step up and continue the process of being a great quarterback, which in my judgment he will be."
Have you been pleased with the energy the new coordinators bring to the team:
"If you know Mike DeBord and Ron English, you'd be hard-pressed to find more guys that are more high energy, very intense, very passionate about the game, outstanding teachers. I think our players have really related well to what they bring to our team."
About having the coaches challenge as part of play review this year:
"Any possession in a game, if you find -- in my opinion, it will be very difficult to try to save a review. If you think or if you feel like you know that you saw something was called, in my judgment, if it's going to give you the football, you're going to be able to maintain possession of the ball, or score, something of that nature, then you've got to use it. Because you may very well pass it up and look back and say, if I had asked for a review there, it could have been the difference in the game, whereas, if you save it, you may not get another chance to use it. My view was that if you were successful in having a play overturned, a ruling overturned, you should have been able to keep a review. But because of the rules committee's (decision), I don't think it was the rules committee as much as the oversight committee, they are trying to shorten the games, so they didn't want to give the coaches another review. I think going forward we'll continue to have to iron out some issues with replay. But it's here to stay, that's for sure."
On what Mike Kolodziej has to do to solidify a spot:
"I think he's got a lot to prove. He's had a lot of opportunities and he is a guy that has enough ability. It just comes down to performance. That's really what it's going to come down to. If there's one position in the offensive line that we've got some guys that I expect to compete very hard, and we also have some very, very talented young guys. I know in 1997 when we started the season, the big question mark was the offensive line, because we had (Jeff) Backus and (Steve) Hutchinson who were redshirt freshmen and had never played a down. But yet those guys went on and had great seasons. So somebody will step up. I just don't know who."
On if he has a preference where Rueben Riley lines up:
"I don't have a preference, but I think Rueben has a preference and I think that he would prefer to play guard. The good news for us is that he's played both positions. I think he's more than willing to play tackle, which says a lot about him. I think he's willing to do what our team needs him to do. But, if he would rather play guard, then I'd rather have him play guard because I think if he's happier playing a position I would prefer to have him in a place where he'd rather be."
On what role does former Central Michigan Coach/AD Herb Deromedi will have with the team:
"I've known Herb a long, long time, and as you know he retired from Central Michigan. He's been down a few times to watch practice. As we talked, he has a daughter that lives here in town, so he indicated he's going to be spending some time here. The idea came about that maybe we could have something for him to do. He's also had a lot of experience as an athletic director.I just looked at him as being a guy that it would be great to have him around for our young coaches or players, and I think there are a lot of things that he could take a look at, maybe come up with an idea or two. And he's dealt a lot with the media, so maybe he can help me -- oh, yeah, who doesn't. (Laughing)"
On if a healthy Mike Hartto start the season gives the team a mental boost:
"Mike is one of those guys that has a presence. I mean, he is one of those guys that has a lot to say and because he does and he does it with high energy, there's no question that he brings a spark to our team on both sides of the ball. I think our players really like him. I think they respect him. I think he's a great football player. I mean, Mike Hart has got, in my opinion, everything you need to be successful on and off the field. I think he's a great football player."
On what Jake Long must do to live up to expectations:
"The great measure of performance begins with consistency. He's got to go in week-in and week-out and he's got to avoid bad games. He's got to play at a high level from start to finish. That's what a great player does. I think he's capable of doing that. I think that's what he wants to do. He has to go do it. Because all the talk and all the hype and all the things that are said prior to the season, really, they don't mean a thing. It's what you do, and that's how you're measured."
On who he believes will step up at the receiver position:
"I think we have wonderful depth at that position. I think a very underrated player for us has been Carl Tabb. Steve Breaston I think had as good a spring as any receiver that I remember. And of course Mario Manningham is bigger and stronger, and Carl Tabb is back. Doug Dutch is a guy that has a lot of ability. He just hasn't brought it to the field yet, and we need him to do that. And of course Adrian Arrington is back. He's had a good spring. I don't know that he's 100 percent but he's close. Then we have a redshirt freshman, LaTerryal Savoy, from down in Louisiana, who was a big guy, a big target and has good hands. He's going to play a role. I think our freshman, Greg Matthews, is a guy with wonderful potential. With receivers, because of how much they run, what you'd like to do is get them in the rotation, get them some playing time, so that they can gain confidence and that way as you progress through a season, you never know who is going to step up and really become a factor. Mario had that opportunity a year ago, and for a true freshman had a wonderful season. You need a lot of guys on our offense at the receiver position, and if we can stay healthy there and if Doug Dutch can step up there, because he's got a lot of ability."
On Steve Breaston's struggles last season and what he did to impress in the spring:
"I think first of all, when you follow a guy like Braylon Edwards, the expectations are sometimes a part of the issue. But Breaston has proven he's a great football player. If you look at what he does, just on special teams and what he's done on special teams its amazing. But the other thing that you have to remember about Breaston, a year ago, he was never healthy. He had a hamstring coming out of training camp. He was never where he could have been had he been healthy. I think he's in great condition. He's one of those guys who is a tremendously committed athlete, training, and he's done all that. His performance in the spring was unbelievable. He did a lot of great things. So that's why I'm confident. I think that's why he's confident."
On Leon Hall:
"He had an excellent year, an excellent year, last season. He had one game that he didn't play as well in. But if you look at consistency, I thought he had an outstanding bowl game. If you look at his consistency a year ago, he was one of our better football players. I said this a year ago, I thought before he left here, he would be one of the better cornerbacks in the nation and there's no doubt in my mind that if he could stay healthy, that he will fulfill that prophecy."
On if it's important to put the 7-5 season in the past:
"We've talked about things that we need to do to be better; the difference between a championship team and an also-ran. So to that extent, you're always talking about things that you need to do better and so from that standpoint -- but dwelling on it, no. This is a new team, new leadership and new goals. So that's the deal."
On players other than Breaston that might return punts:
"Leon Hall has proven to be an excellent return guy. Carlos Brown will be a guy that will work in there this fall. He worked some in the spring. There's always other guys that want to try to do it during the course of a season and because you normally have some injuries, some bumps and bruises. There are three or four other guys that we'll look at and see how they develop."
On if Steve Schilling factoring in at right tackle:
"I think Justin Boren came in this spring and did a wonderful job at left guard. I think he has considerable promise. And I think Stephen Schilling obviously wasn't in the spring, but just based on what I saw on high school film; his work ethic this summer, he came in and he really has a maturity about him. Now, the real question for him is in a short period of time, can he pick up enough knowledge and understanding to compete that soon, and we'll just have to see."
On whether he will use two punters this season:
"There have been discussions along that line. There may be a way. What I would like to do is let them compete for that job. Ross Ryan did a wonderful job a year ago as our kickoff guy, and he did an excellent job as our punter. He was extremely consistent. And the number of returns we had against us were probably the lowest since I've been at Michigan, and that's because he got the ball high. So we had I think great success for the most part in our punt team. But (Zoltan) Mesko has a great leg. We have to see if he's developed the consistency that we need. Certainly it's going to be good competition, and I don't rule out the opportunity or the decision to kick them both."
On Garrett Rivas:.
"I think Garett had some down spots a year ago. And yet he's been in a lot of big games, he's made a lot of great kicks, and he's dedicated himself in the off-season. Certainly the experience that he's had should enable him to have a great year."
On the team's weight loss is attributable to just diet, or was there an overhaul of the conditiong program:
"We had a focused effort on all of those issues. When you look at a program and you look back at a season, it's never just one thing that makes you successful or that makes you unsuccessful. But certainly our quickness, our mobility, as I looked at it, I thought that is an area that we could really improve. We had a concerted effort in terms of diet. It comes back to our training table. And of course, in the final analysis, it comes down to the discipline that each player can exert in terms of the goals from a weight standpoint that he's set. And then in terms of our conditioning program, we worked hard. We ran a lot, probably more than we have. So all of those things combined I think we go into this season a more fit team than we have been."
On the late starts for a number of games this year including Ohio State:
"From our standpoint, if they want to play at 6 a.m. we'll be there. If they want to play at midnight, we'll be there. It doesn't matter what the conditions are. We'll be there and we'll compete. That's the way we look at it as a team. I think what you're referring to is what it does to the fans and the invasion of television in dictating all of these schedules. I really don't care to get into that at this time."
On the overall schedule:
"Some mountains are higher than others. Certainly, when you look at our schedule, it's a challenging schedule. We've always played a challenging schedule. This is no different. When you look at the teams that are ranked up there, we have some challenges there. There are some great rivalries that go into this schedule every year. So we're excited about the challenge of the schedule."
On the practice schedule for the next couple of weeks:
"When we start tomorrow, we'll have five days, really, of acclimatization. Saturday will be the first day of full pads. We'll practice once a day Tuesday through Saturday, and then take Sunday off. Next Monday we'll begin the 2-1-2's. We'll practice twice on Monday, once on Tuesday, twice on Wednesday, once on Thursday, etc., and that lasts really for two weeks. We'll taper off at the end of that second week a little bit and get into game week and get ready to go."
On if those practices are open:
"Absolutely. (Laughing) Herb probably would want to do that. The only reason I don't open it up -- I want to be clear on this. I've had a lot of people come to me in private and tell me never to open it up because they don't want to be bored to death standing there watching practice every day and their editors would make them come to practice. So I really try to be as cordial as I can (laughing)."
On what he saw from Shawn Crable this spring:
"Last fall he was a major disappointment in training camp. I think he came in with the idea that this was -- he did not understand I think the kind of effort, the kind of intensity, the kind of attention that you have to pay on a daily basis to the game. So it kept him on the bench. Eventually he came to the realization that there was a standard that he was going to have to meet, and the good news is that he learned a valuable lesson. Late in the season, I thought he developed and made a lot of plays for us, and he worked extremely hard this winter and he had -- of all of our linebackers, he was the outstanding linebacker on this team this spring. He was outstanding. He's confident and I think he understands what it takes. That's not unusual for a lot of players to go through. I think Crable is prepared to have an outstanding year."
On the status of Marques Slocum and if all the other freshmen made it in:
I don't have anything to say on that at this point because of confidential issues. At some point I will.
On if there are still clearinghouse issues with any freshmen:
Yeah. We have one issue there that is front of the clearinghouse.
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