Debord Encouraged by Youthful Progress on "O"

Michigan offensive coordinator Mike Debord didn't have all of his weapons at his disposal this spring, but he was still extremely encouraged by the progress of his unit. The development of his young players was particularly pleasing. Justin Boren, Steve Schilling, and Greg Mathews were a few of the names that drew praise.

On what it has been like to have so many starters out this spring:

“Well, it has been good, to be honest.  I think it has it has given a lot of our younger kids a lot more reps and it has made our younger guys better.  So it has improved our depth and it has also put guys into position to challenge for a starting position when we get into training camp.  So it has been good.  It really has.  We’ve been really limited with the number of running backs and receivers. Those kids that have been going have done a great job of staying after it and improving.”

On if he has any concerns about Mario Manningham coming back ready after being limited this spring:

“Well, no.  I don’t think so.  I think everything, for the most part, is right on schedule from what I’ve been told.  I anticipate him being at full strength when he comes back and being ready for training camp.”

On if he anticipates the team playing to the offense this year the way it played to the defense last year:

“I think every year you’re always trying to shoot for more points and be able to do some different things.  I think that what we were able to do was create a great foundation offensively, but yet, as you’re stating, we’re going to do some more things.  It will enable us to do some things that we weren’t able to do last year.  Our goal will be obviously score more points, like it is every year.  We’ll see how that goes.”

On the young players on the offensive line:

Justin Boren really improved.  He got a lot better.  He is, I think, going to be a solid performer for us.  He is strong.  What I’ve been impressed with is his ability to learn.  He has done a great job of learning the offense.  For us our center starts things out with calls and assignments and things like that, so he has picked it up very well.”

On Ryan Mallett:

“I think it is always an adjustment for any freshman coming in, especially at mid year.  You have to learn new terminology.  Sometimes you have to learn new techniques and things like that.  He is very smart and he is in the learning process, just like all freshman quarterbacks are when they come in here.  I know he wants to do well, and he will.  He will just continue to grow.”

On the biggest surprise of the spring:

“I don’t know that I have one particular guy.  I think it goes back to all of our young kids got better.  That was what we really needed to do.  I don’t know that there was a surprise limited to one guy.”

On how Brandon Minor did this spring:

“Great.  He got a lot better… improved his pass protection.  We obviously didn’t run him today.  We kept some guys out of certain situations and didn’t play some guys.  So nobody saw him run the ball, but he had a great spring running the ball.  But I think the biggest thing is he really improved his pass protection.”

On Chad Henne’s improvement in the pocket:

“I think he is really moving better in the pocket than he ever has.  I think that is a feel thing a lot of times. He has really learned to step up in the pocket.  I thought he made great improvement there.”

On Greg Mathews:

“Greg Mathews had a great spring.  He made a lot of plays.  I know he didn’t make as many out there today, but he made a lot of springs in spring.  I think the biggest thing we learned about Greg is he is a faster player right now than he was last year.  With getting all of those reps he has really improved his game technique wise, running routes.  I think Greg Mathews is a guy that really stepped up and made great improvement.”

On the right side of the offensive line:

“You have Alex Mitchell coming back, and he improved.  He lost some weight and got better with his movement.  Then we’re going to have great competition at the right tackle spot with Ortmann, Zirbel, and Steve Schilling. I think those guys are going to have great competition in training camp.  We weren’t going to come out of the spring saying this is the starter or anything like that.  Training camp is going to prove a lot with those guys.  Steve was kind of held out of some things and didn’t get as many reps (as he would have otherwise).  My opinion... I think he is going to be a great offensive lineman.  He has got great balance, strength, and he is really smart.  He handles adjustments really fast.  Sometimes young lineman don’t do that all of the time. He has got the ability to do that.”

On if Mike Hart will be able to step right back in during training camp like he didn’t miss the spring:

“I think that is a good question, but Mike is so smart and such a competitor that you know that when he is given the green light to go he is going to be full speed.  I really don’t worry about Mike Hart because of who he is and what he has done in the past.  He’s a great competitor.  There is not going to be any let up in him.”

On where Jake Long rated among the offensive linemen he has coached:

“When you look at guys we’ve had here in the past, Jake is as good as those guys…and who knows if he is not better.  It’s hard to compare guys that have been so good here, but Jake is one of the elite offensive linemen we’ve ever had here for a lot of reasons.  His athletic ability, his toughness, how smart he is…he is just a great player.”

On if he was surprised it didn’t take Long very long to decide he was coming back:

“He kind of hinted to us a little bit that he kind of knew what he was going to do, but yet he still wanted to think about it.  He wanted to talk to his family about it.  So there was the thinking part there a little bit, but I think he basically had his mind made up a little bit before hand that he was going to come back.  I’m obviously very happy he is coming back.  He is a great player.”

On if it was more difficult to make changes to the offense this spring with so many guys out:

“No because you’re able to teach the young guys.  The older guys are there watching it and seeing what you’re doing.  Those guys that were out of practice… I’ll tell you this, hey were into every practice and into every meeting, so I don’t think there will be any let up there.”

On how big of a concern tight end is:

Mike Massey was hurt and he will be coming back.  The guys we’ve got there, they have to work this summer on catching the ball.  I think this is the biggest thing they have to improve on.  Blocking wise, the guys we had there did a really good job this spring.  I was pleased with their blocking, but they’re going to have to improve catching.  That’s what the summer is for.  They can catch millions of balls on their own and work with the quarterbacks on their own… so I expect that to improve.”

“We have two freshmen coming in… Martell Webb and Steve Watson.  It will be interesting to see how those guys pick things up and how fast they learn.  I think with what we’re doing on offense, tight end is an easier position to learn now than maybe what it has been.  That helps for young guys.”

On Carlos Brown:

”He was not there today, but he’ll start back up as soon as we get back going this summer and all of that.  He’ll jump right in.”

“I was real high on him and I think he’s going to be coming back and he’ll be competing.  That’s nothing but a positive for him and us….especially with Kevin’s injury.  That’s going to really help us.”

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