Monday Presser Transcripts - Week 8

Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr met with the media yesterday to discuss his team's 48-21 victory over Purdue and look ahead to this week's match-up with Illinois. Among the topics covered were the injury status for a number of players, the progress of his offensive and defensive units, and more.

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On Mike Hart's Status:

"Mike Hart? What's my feeling about Mike Hart? I love him."

On if Hart could play on Saturday:

"I'm not going to know anything until probably tomorrow or Wednesday, and see what his ability to practice is."

On why his defense is forcing so many turnovers:

"I think you're playing fast normally if you're having a bunch of them, because people, everybody I think who coaches the game and plays the game understands that taking care of the football and not turning it over is one of the biggest things that it takes to win, one of the things that will cause you to lose. So everybody's trying to do a good job and teach their players to protect the football. All the players are doing their best to protect the ball. And yet the ball is going to come loose sometimes anyway. Normally that's because you get a lot of people to the ball and you're getting proper leverage on the ball. I think all of those things are a part of it. And then even when you get it loose somebody's got to recover it. That normally means that somebody is hustling to the ball, so there's a lot of factors involved there. But certainly it's been a big part of our play in the last month. We've not only caused some turnovers, we've taken advantage of them offensively by scoring quite a few touchdowns when we get the ball, particularly at the short end of the field."

On how Mike Hart's workload compares to that of some of his prior players:

"I don't like to compare players. I think what he's done on the field, his performance, what he's meant to Michigan football from the standpoint of the way he represents this program, the way he represents the University of Michigan, I think the way he plays the game, he's a very unselfish guy who has made a lot of great plays here without the football. He's made some plays catching the football, and he's certainly -- if you look at what he's done carrying the football, I think that speaks for itself."

On Brandon Minor's injury status:

"No. I think it's the same for all of them. We have to see where they are tomorrow. They made progress yesterday certainly, and today when you spend as much time as they do in the training room -- and the more time you spend there the better opportunity you have to heal quicker. So that's a big part of it. The one thing I can tell you as a coach is I know both of them will leave no stone unturned to get back as fast as they can."

On walk-on running back Jim Potempa"

"Jimmy Potempa, his dad played for Notre Dame and he came in during the fall. He's got a great attitude. He is tougher than that floor, and he's competed extremely hard (to tackle) and he's played in a couple games I think. He's done a great job for us."

On how the Illinois' version of the spread differs from Purdue's:

"This offense has predicated in my judgment much like the old veer option offense. They put the ball in there and they ride it, and in the meantime the quarterback's looking at the defensive end. Depending on what he does, he's going to keep it or he's going to give it. So they're leaving somebody unblocked. That gives them an extra blocker somewhere else. It forces you defensively in to assignment football. On every offense that we play this year, this week, somebody has got the quarterback and somebody has the pitch. Now, the other thing that you need to understand is that even when you have people in position who are responsible to take the quarterback, that doesn't mean that he's going to be tackled. Because he's a great athlete and he will make people miss. It's the same thing with having a guy on the pitch. Sometimes you have a guy right on the quarterback and you force the ball to pitch, and you have a guy out there on the pitch back and the back makes him miss. Those are the things that -- I mean, there's a reason why they lead the Big Ten and they're one of the leading rushing teams in this nation. Then they bring (Arrelious) Benn in the positions where he runs the football. You've also got the quarterback draw, which a year ago was an extremely effective play for them. That's not to mention when he goes back to pass being able to scramble and make things happen when maybe the coverage is good. So it's an extremely difficult thing because a lot of it is by design and a lot of it isn't. It's just the fact that they have some great athletes. And, of course, Benn, you know, I think he's extremely impressive in what he can do. When he catches the ball I think he's tough. I think for a true freshman he's been extremely impressive when you look at what he's been able to do in the return game. So it's a challenge."

On the Illinois defense:

"I think they mix their coverages well. They play very hard and I think they play very well together. You know, going back offensively, the one thing I'm really impressed with is their defensive line. I think they're big and I think they're tough. They have the team together over there. I think the Illinois defense, the linebackers are good and they're going to give you a lot of -- they do some things coverage-wise that we don't see much. They're a team that does a lot of things. They're going to try to prevent big plays, so they're a well-coached, well-coordinated defense."

On John Thompson's status:

"He's hopefully back to full strength. He's been through an injury there that, it's not anything of major significance, just a matter of how fast he can get back. I think he was very close last week. I would expect that he'd be back at full strength this week. Certainly we hope so."

On Obi Ezeh's improvement:

"When we recruited Obi out of Grand Rapids Catholic Central he was a guy that was not particularly highly recruited, but he played -- what I liked about him when I watched him was he played a lot of positions: Tailback, fullback, wingback. I don't know if he played any tight end or not, but he played some linebacker. And I just liked him. I thought he was tough. When I met him it was very apparent he's a bright guy. He's a fast learner, and at some point during last fall, I mean, it was very obvious this guy had all the tools to be a great linebacker. I think he will be. He's grown up a lot and been in the fire right from the beginning. He had a couple learning experiences in there, if you will, but I think he's gotten better every week, and I think he gains confidence every day. He's still got a lot of things to learn. He's got a lot of developing to do. But I really like what his potential is, and I like him as a guy. I think he's got good character, and I think the sky's the limit for him."

On whether the plan is to keep Schilling at RG and Mark Ortmann at RT:

"Well, I think it really comes down to it's a very competitive situation, and I think eventually Schilling could end up at guard. He could be a great guard or a great tackle. So what we're trying to decide here is what gives you the best chance to win, and, you know, what's best for (this team) -- what is most comfortable. We do have some guys now after seven games, (Jeremy) Ciulla had a start in there, (Tim) McAvoy had a start in there, (Mark) Ortmann's had a couple of starts. So you know, we feel like we've got better depth at that position than we had earlier in the season. Of course, Schilling now has started at both guard and tackle, and I think in the long run that will be a great thing for his development because he'll understand what the guy next to him is doing because he's done it, not because he sees it on film."

On Alex Mitchell's status:

"Mitchell I think is getting closer to returning. I can't when he's going to return, I just don't know exactly when. It may be another week. But we're working hard to get him back."

On playing at night:

"I think a year ago one of the great environments I've ever been in, in college football was at Penn State. There was an electricity there (at Beaver Stadium) because of a lot of things; the game had great significance, but, you know, the environment. I think the same thing will happen this week. It is a game where you know there's a lot on the line because of the season. Illinois has certainly done some great things this fall, so I think almost all of our players have played at night in high school, and the biggest thing that we have to do for us, because it is the first night game we played, is try to find a way to stay focused. It is a much longer day, and if you're not careful you can get distracted, so that's a challenge. But I think everybody's excited about the game."

On Brandon Logan's status:

"Yes. Hopefully he will be able to come back this week. He got hurt in the Eastern game."

On Anton Campbell:

"Well, Campbell is a special guy. He came here as a tailback and where he's made a great contribution on the field is in special teams. He's made a great contribution to this team because of his enthusiasm, his energy, his willingness to do anything to get on the field, anything to help his team. He's always had a great attitude, and when he came in and indicated he wanted to come back for a fifth year it was an easy call for me, because he's got great character. He's a good student and he's going to be a very successful guy. He's been the special teams captain this season I think already twice. That speaks to the kind of guy he is. I think his teammates love him and I think everybody in our program respects him."

On Jake Long's leadership:

"The truth is that the circumstances...and I think it's really the measure of a leadership... Jake's not a guy that cares what the circumstances are. I mean, he just comes every day with a great work ethic, a great attitude, enthusiasm. And when you line up, then you know as a coach, you know as a teammate that you're getting Jake Long's best play. Nobody's going to play harder and nobody cares more. He's very goal-oriented. There are a lot of things out there that he wants to be and achieve, so when you put the fact that he has, you know, extremely wonderful talent and he's smart and he's experienced. I mean, right now I'm sure he's having more fun than he's ever had in his career because he's playing great football and he's being a great role model for everybody else in that program."

On Jamar Adams:

"I think Jamar came in and played as a true freshman. Looking back on it, I think he had a lot of things to learn, like any young player. And playing in the secondary where there's so many things going on and, of course he was a safety. There are so many checks and so many little things that if you don't understand them you're not going to play well. It took him awhile, but there was no question from the beginning that he loves to play, and what he's doing is he is around the football. He's been around football all year long. He's made a lot of big hits and he's knocked some balls loose and he's had some interceptions. He's a guy that our players have great respect for because of the way he lives his life. He's got his priorities in order, and so I think he's having a wonderful year."

On the offense's improvement in redzone efficiency:

"I think early in the season we stopped ourselves. We turned the football over; we had penalties. I think those two things (are what hurt us). If you look at the last several weeks, we were getting fewer penalties and we've not turned the football over. I think Saturday we hit some big plays in the red zone because we changed some of our tendencies and threw the ball on first down. So that change helped us. I think it's a combination of things, but I don't think there's any question that we've been more effective down there than we were earlier. I think probably more than anything else we're just executing better and not making the kind of mistakes that just ruin drives."

On Carlos Brown's performance against Purdue:

"I think it helped him a lot. I think the fact that he understands that he can go into a game and be healthy. The run he made, the one thing you know about Carlos Brown is if he gets in the open he can hit the homerun. He's a guy with wonderful speed, and he's made enough big plays here during his time at Michigan on the practice field that everybody knows what he can do. I think he had a wonderful (day of practice) last Wednesday, best day of practice since he's probably been here. I think he went into the game and he had some success, so I don't think there's any question that that was a great value to him to get some positive things in that game."

On getting back into the top 25:

"I think it's nice to play well and improve, and I think that's what we did against Purdue. The things that are important are that we improve, continue to improve this week. Because certainly there are some things that we didn't do well, and certainly some things that we need to do better."If we can do that on a week-to-week basis, day-to-day basis, we can know that we have got a chance to do something. Other than that, I really don't have a lot thought on that."

On the players only meeting after the Oregon game:

"I think in the process of any season your success or failure is going to have a lot to do with the type of leadership, and particularly your senior leadership. We've had outstanding leadership, and I think when you can hang together through the good times and the bad then that's where you can be proud of some of the things that you do."

On Rashard Mendenhall:

"I don't know if I mentioned it, but he's a guy that can run with power inside. He's a very strong, powerfully-built guy who also has great feet and excellent speed. He can hurt you in several ways: He can hurt you running the ball inside off tackle, because they're going to have some "I" formation plays where they block down and kick out and run the old power game. But they also get him the ball in space off the option. So he's a guy I saw this morning start a run to the left and got hemmed in, and the next thing you know he's reversed field and got outside and made a 20-, 25-yard gain. So he's strong and powerful and he's got a wonderful change of direction abilities. I like him a lot."

On the differences between Illinois' quarterbacks Juice Williams and Eddie McGee:

"Well, I'm not going to evaluate and compare them. I think they're both young kids. They're both outstanding quarterbacks. They both have wonderful athletic ability and, of course, Williams has the experience that he went through a year ago where he did a magnificent job. They won some games a year ago where he displayed wonderful toughness, excellent ability to make plays, and competitiveness. So McGee, I think, is a very talented guy and has got a wonderful arm. Williams has a powerful arm. In that offense it's not a typical drop-back type of scheme. So I think both of them fit the mold of exactly what they want in a quarterback. McGee has had enough opportunities this year that he's proven he can be an outstanding quarterback, and so they're in great position, a great situation at that position."


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