Monday Presser Transcripts - Week 10

Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr met with the media on Monday for his weekly press conference. He recapped the 17-3 victory over Northwestern, looked ahead to the Ball State game, updated the status of Mario Manningham, and more.

To view comments from the players, click here.

On his relationship with Ball Sate headman (and former Michigan assistant) Brady Hoke, and if he was reluctant to schedule the game:

"Brady was hired here in 1995, and he's a tremendous guy that loves the game. He has a passion for it. I think his players enjoyed him because he has a great enthusiasm. He's upbeat. He is always a positive guy. He did a great job here recruiting. I think he really opened the doors into California for us. He had coached at Oregon State, and did a great job coaching, great job recruiting, and he has done a very great job at Ball State. It takes a while to build a program, but he's built a great foundation. As far as this game goes, I really was not excited about it. I'm just talking about a personal relationship because you asked that question. But we played against Mike DeBord when he was at Central (Michigan). I didn't enjoy it very much. And I just think it's one of those deals where I'd rather have played somebody else. But with the 12th game and with your bye week, it was very difficult (to find an opponent). There were very few teams out there that could have come here at this particular point in the season. And one thing I do want to say about the schedule is that Bill Martin had a very difficult time because almost all the conferences are in the middle of their schedules. And when we went to fill that date, we could not do it before the season started because of NCAA rules. We weren't going to do it after Thanksgiving because of the players. We were limited to playing what has become our last home game of the year. Now, traditionally, that is a Big Ten opponent. It's a very special week for our players who are playing in their last game in Michigan Stadium. That has historically been a Big Ten game. So it is a change for everyone. It's one of the reasons with the 12th game Bill fought hard to add a Big Ten game to the schedule. But that did not succeed in passing, so it is what it is."

On if he'd be'd be open to playing a game after Thanksgiving since there is a big gap between the last game and the end of the season for Big Ten teams:

"I think the tradition in the Big Ten Conference is to do what is really great for the players. And that is, you don't play that weekend because you want your players to have an opportunity to go home. Instead of playing another game on that weekend so that it could be televised so that you could make more money, the Big Ten Conference, I think the coaches are unanimous and I think the players appreciate the opportunity to spend that week after a three month, grueling season, with their families. The other thing that you're dealing with is the academic issue. Our players now have from when they come back from Thanksgiving, they have all of that time to prepare for finals so that they don't to have play for game competition. They are working out and doing some things, but I think our rule is in the best interest of the guys that play the game. I do think that there are some issues, because some teams are playing -- they've spread the season out so they have got two or three bye weeks and they can continue to play. The bottom line is what is best for the guys that play. We could play every weekend, and maybe someday we'll play 15 or 16 regular season games and then have a playoff."

On if the fact that he is coaching against a friend will be on his mind during the game:

"It's the same for both of us. We have responsibilities and jobs to do, and certainly those come first. And your concentration is on doing the things that you can do to help your team be successful."

On Greg Mathews' improvement:

"Like all young players, every time there's a game and you get a guy in there and you look at a game tape and say, 'Well, we're really excited for Greg because he got to play six snaps.' We grade every snap, so on Sunday when I go in I know how many plays every guy played. And even two or three snaps early in the season, when you get a guy into a big game early in the season, then he's gained something that you can't buy. Being in the game, being in huddle, having to line up, having to recognize who to block, what route to run, what the coverage is, what's the adjustment, what's the check. When you do that and you get to play in every game, which I think he has, by the time you get to this point in the season all of that anxiety and all of the things that go through your mind when you haven't done it, you have gained confidence because you've been there. And certainly on Saturday he made two very good plays -- particularly the last pass he caught from Chad, there was a lot of traffic. He caught the ball with his hands on a cold day, and then got up the field for another 4 or 5 yards. So I think he's comfortable. I think Chad has a lot of confidence in him, and I think the coaches and teammates do, too. He's also done a good job on the special teams."

On what a true freshman has to show to earn a start:

"First they have to deal with the competition on their team. They have to earn the right to that position. That comes from knowing what to do, from being a guy that understands his assignments, understands that there's a certain level of intensity that you're expected to play with. And then, unless it's just a situation that occurs occasionally where a guy gets an opportunity because everyone gets hurt, I think the main thing is he has to win the position on the practice field, in the meeting rooms. This is not only from his performance, but from an attitudinal standpoint also. There are things that you expect from a player. I think both of those kids have done that."

On how the lack of a bye week has affected the team:

"That's hard to judge, and I haven't given it any thought. I know this, we're a very banged up football team, because this certainly would have been that time of the season where we would have had the opportunity to rest a lot of players. But we talked in the preseason about the challenge of having to play 12 consecutive games. I think our team has done a wonderful job of all the things that it takes. We tried to prepare them for that moment when it comes in a season where somebody gets hurt, somebody else has to be the next man up. That's just part of the game. And we've been very fortunate to have some guys that did get opportunities because of injuries. One guy I would like to single out is Alex Mitchell. It's difficult in your first year as a starter. He started the first seven games at guard, and many people do not appreciate the difference between guard and tackle. Playing guard and playing tackle, that's two different universes. I mean, the difference is incredible. And he moved to tackle last week when Reuben went out. There are differences in the running game. The biggest difference is in pass protection, because now as a guard, a lot of times you're working in combination with the center, and sometimes the tackle. But in a lot of cases, as a tackle you're isolated on one of their two best rushers. Those defensive ends are guys that are selected because of their athletic ability, their speed up the field, their ability to start up the field and change direction and come back underneath. I think he's done a great job considering this is his first year as a starter. That was a major thing for us on Saturday."

On how Jason Forcier has developed:

"As I mentioned, he came back a much-improved quarterback this fall. I think his command of what we're doing is improved. It's difficult from a standpoint that we have not had many opportunities to play him. The next thing for him is to get game experience. He's a good athlete and throws the ball well, is smart guy and is a hard worker."

On Ball State:

"They're very impressive. Their passing efficiency, they're 11th in the nation. Passing yards per game they're 14th in the nation. They have as good a kicking game -- I just watched their punter twice this morning where he's punting from his own 30-yard line and kick the ball into the end zone for touchbacks. He's averaging 45 yards a kick. He's probably as fine a punter as we've seen this year, and we've seen some good ones. Their field goal kicker is 11 out of 12. He has made a 52-yarder, I think. So they're a sound, solid football team that is going to play very, very hard. Just like you would expect a Brady Hoke team to play."

On Zoltan Mesko's ability to pooch punt:

"I think it was a critical factor on Saturday. Any time you play in weather like we had, it's really important because it comes down to a field position game. And if you can play great defense, which we did, if you can punt the ball and knock them inside the twenty, which Zoltan did three times. Charles Stewart made a good play down there to keep the ball from going into the end zone. What that does is change field position. So there were three times that Zoltan did that. And then offensively you need a team that doesn't turn the football over. If you look at the turnover margin in that game it was 4 to 1, or 5 to 1. Our defense got five and then we turned the ball over once at the short end of the field, which we don't want to do, and which was a mistake by a young player. But the kicking game is always important. But it is particularly true on a day like we had on Saturday. And as we go forward, you know, the weather's unpredictable. You don't know what you're going to get. But in any regard, the ability to get the ball high in the air and cover it and knock some inside the twenty plays to the strength of our defense. I think it's a very important thing as we go forward."

On why Brandon Minor fumbled:

"We had a guy, one of our guys in front of him, and he carried the ball on that play. He took the wrong course on that running play. He wasn't wide enough. Had he been on the course that he should have been on, he's going to run for very, very good yards. The play was blocked wonderfully, but because he was on the wrong track, and that's something a young player, you talk about a quarterback, you talk about anybody. The next time he runs that play he'll be on the right course because as a result of not being on the right course, one of his own men got pushed back into him. I think he probably felt secure because there was no white jersey over there that he could see. And when his own man got knocked into him, the ball came loose because he did not secure the football. So there's always a lesson out there."

On his comment about the team being tired at this point of the season:

"What I saw was in our locker room after the game, if you look at the game tape very closely, it was a very physical game, because both defenses crowded the line of scrimmage, because they knew it was very difficult to throw the football in that weather, particularly coming out of the south end. There were a lot of people around the football. And when we got in after the game normally there's a great energy, and great enthusiasm and a lot of stuff going on in there. It was, relatively speaking, it was very quiet, which, to me, is a sign that, you know, they're tired. And I think that's true of every team in the country. Anybody that's played nine straight games, I guarantee you they're beat up, they're tired. Now, what can you do to change that and to help them get their legs back and help them to be as fresh as they can be for the stretch run here, those are things that we're trying to address."

On the status of Rueben Riley, Tyler Ecker, Mike Massey, and Mario Manningham:

"I think Reuben (Riley) will play. Tyler ran last week. We'll have to see. My guess is it'll be another week. Mike Massey, I don't think so. Mario, we'll see. Mario ran very well, so I expect him to practice some this week. We just to have to see from there but we're very encouraged by him."

On whether it's necessary to get those guys back soon so they can get the rust off:

"I think sometimes that's true, and sometimes I think it isn't true at all. I can remember players who came back after a month off, and everybody on the team said, 'Wow.' Because there's something about getting some rest and getting fresh legs, and when you come back, some guys just don't miss a beat. And on the other positions, I think it can be something that they needed to take some time to get back to where they were. But I think that's an individual thing."

On if he thought about putting Carlos Brown in at RB Saturday:

"I think Carlos has done a great job in practice, and I think if you noticed one thing, I think it's he's going to play a very important role in our punt return team. He got some opportunities on Saturday to go out and man up on their wide receivers, the guys who go down and cover the punts, and he did a very good job. I'm disappointed that we haven't had an opportunity to get him some playing time. I'm disappointed in that, and hopefully that will come because he is a guy with a lot of ability. Sometimes the season just doesn't work out like you want it to."

On the encouraging words he gave to Jerome Jackson earlier this season:

"The reason I did it was twofold. First, I wanted him to understand that in spite of the way this season had gone, that everybody has confidence in him. When a guy does what Jerome Jackson did a year ago in Iowa City, you can't buy that kind of respect. When you do that, you earn everybody's trust. And so in spite of the fact that he missed a ton of practice going back early to training camp, he's continued to -- Saturday he was on our kick off team because he wants to play. So his attitude has been, from the day he got here, one that you like as a coach, because he's willing to do anything you ask him to do. On Saturday there was one play in there late in the game where had they blitzed the man he was assigned to block. He blocked him, but they were in a coverage where the man who was assigned to cover Jerome -- because Jerome was blocking the linebacker, now that guy came and Jerome blocked him. He saved Chad Henne from a big hit. It's those kind of things when you can trust a guy in big games when the pressure is on. That's why I did it because I just wanted him to continue to work hard and prepare, because I felt like there was a time going to come when he would be called upon."

On how hard it is to vote in the coaches poll:

"It is difficult. I think I'll just put it this way: I don't care who you are, if you're voting -- whether you're a coach or a writer -- and I know this is true as coaches. If there's a coach out there who sees every team, then raise your hand, because I don't. I don't see them all. I'm looking at schedules. I'm looking at the competition. I'm looking at the few games I do get a chance to see. Now, I do get a chance to see most of the Big Ten games, but even then a lot of times I'm not paying attention. For example, there are two teams in this conference we don't play. Or if we played them three or four weeks ago I'm not paying much attention to them. I guess I think the beauty of the polls and the weakness of the polls is that there's nobody, as a writer or as a member of the media or as a coach, who doesn't have some biases. So hopefully in the big picture those are overcome, but it's a difficult thing. I guess we all do the best we can."

On if victory margin is important to him:

"I think the most important thing for me is I love that kind of game on Saturday. I love that environment because I think you find out a lot about your team. So in that particular case, and in most cases, I'm not concerned in terms of if you're talking about margin. If you're talking about point spreads, in most cases, no. But I know who the favorite is and all that stuff, and I always tell the players, if you are the favorite, when it's really the critical issue is understanding that it's your mindset that leads to upsets. So regardless of what it is, it's your preparation. But as far as me putting any real significance on the point spread, at times the point spread is a reflection of how well you played, and sometimes it isn't. And so what I'm trying to look at is every guy and what we're doing in each phase of the game and how well we're playing. I don't think there are any games that as a coach you come out of feeling, 'Hey, we can't play any better than this.' Saturday we mishandled a punt. I think one of the things, as long as Steve has played here and I think he was a little surprised. I think the rule, once the ball hits the ground you are no longer afforded any protection -- it's hard to tell on film, but I have a feeling he got hit before the ball got to him. And, sure, he's handled a hundred punts like that. So from that standpoint that's one of those things that everybody learns from. But there are a lot of good things and a lot of bad things. I focus on what are the things that we can do to get better."

On if this year's team has been easier to motivate than others:

"I've always said this, and I believe it: I think motivation, from a coaching standpoint, you can motivate a guy occasionally for a short period of time but motivation, real motivation, comes from within a guy, within a person. What I try to do is recruit guys that are motivated, guys that want to be the best they can be, that want to win, want to do all the things that this program -- the expectations are. I think this team has been easy to be around because of the leadership that we've had. They've been motivated since the first day that we started, and there's a great chemistry. I think that's true, at least in my experience, the best teams have the best leaders and the chemistry is always or at least in my experience always better on the teams that are playing with great energy, great intensity and enthusiasm, and playing with intelligence, all those things."

On Will Johnson:

"Will Johnson, as we talked about Jerome Jackson, Will Johnson is one of those guys that, as a coach, you have great respect for. I think all of his teammates have great respect for him because of the way he plays. I'll never forget shortly after he committed to come to Michigan, which was early in his senior year, maybe in the summertime, I think it was a preseason high school scrimmage prior to his senior year he suffered a really significant knee injury and had to have surgery. When he got here a year later, he wasn't even close. And really, for the better part of two years, maybe even three, he was never without ramifications from that injury. Last spring was the first time he really played with good health. By that time, he had really grown into a big powerful guy. He's tough. He's competitive. He's smart. And he's got a great role on this team. He's a guy that's made a great contribution."

On the sacrifices Zoltan Mesko's family has made for him:

"It's an incredible story. The sacrifices, you talk about parents who fundamentally made an ultimate sacrifice. The things if you talk to Zoltan, if you know that story, the things that those people were willing to do to give their son an opportunity, it's heartwarming, because look at what he has been able to experience because of what they did because they loved him."

On if it is fair to assume Mario Manningham is going play the regular season:

"Absolutely. I've tried to tell you right from the beginning once I knew. I don't know when it will be, but I have every confidence that unless there's a setback that he's going to play pretty shortly. We'll just have to see how he does tomorrow or Wednesday and he can run, I can tell you that. He can run. He's ready to do that. Now, the next thing is how he comes out of a break and how it holds up. But we're very much encouraged and excited, because he brings a great spirit and attitude."

On how much do you think the offense has missed Mario:

"I don't think you can worry about what you miss, because that's not fair to the guys that played. I think we've had guys that stepped in there and did a great job. Mario's experience and the things that he does, have really added a lot to our team. When he comes back, there's no question he's going bring some things back with him."

On Mike Hart's back:

"I think he's going to be fine. He broke that chain marker or whatever they told me this morning. He's got a pretty tough back, too."

On the passing game Saturday:

"I think to be fair, when you play in those elements you are going to drop some passes. You are going to throw some balls that aren't as accurate as you would on a day where the weather is good. So when I looked, when I came off the field, I'm thinking, There's three plays in there where if we catch the ball we get first downs, which means we keep drives alive and don't have to punt the ball. But in assessing it on tape -- and there's a couple other plays in there -- there was one play where Chad should have checked the ball down. If we had done those things, Chad's 14 out of 20. But to expect that there aren't going to be -- I watched some games sometimes on Sunday afternoon on clear days where guys drop the ball. It's not a game of perfection. And as I looked at it, that's the thing that I saw."

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