Carr Speaks to the Press

Lloyd Carr spoke to the media in his weekly Monday press conference. He provided review of the Michigan State game, and a preview for this weekend's matchup with Minnesota.

Opening statement:

"In looking at the film I thought that we played very well in all phases of the football game. I thought that it was a team victory and I am very proud of the effort and the way that we played in that game. I think offensively what B.J. Askew means to this football team can't be underestimated. He has been an outstanding fullback all season long and of course Saturday he stepped in and did a tremendous job at tailback. From a coach, you appreciate a guy that has done what he has done for this team. I thought that Ronald Bellamy had an outstanding game, and I also think that (John) Navarre and a lot of other guys played well. Defensively I thought that Jeremy LeSueur in the last four or five games has really elevated his play, which is a great thing for our team because Jeremy is a talented guy and he is playing outstanding football. With Cato (June) and Julius (Curry) out, Jon Shaw got the opportunity to start his first game and did a good job. Ernest Shazor got an opportunity to play, and back there in the secondary Charles Drake continues to have a very good season.

"We are not the football team that we would like to be, but we are just a team that is continuing to work and try to become the football team that we want to become and be the best team that we can be. From the beginning we have never had a time where I have questioned the attitude or effort of our kids, but as we go into Minneapolis on Saturday we have another challenge. We will be playing for the Little Brown Jug, which is the oldest trophy in college football. For these two programs it is a source of great pride and tradition. Minnesota is an excellent football team that is well coached and very physical. They also run the ball extremely well and are doing a good job. So we are going to have to try and come up with a good game plan and go out with the same kind of effort and intensity to take another step in the right direction."

On the type of guy that is willing to make position changes

"That is an individual matter. Some guys are instinctively unselfish and team oriented from the get-go. Other guys have goals that are so important to them, which make them single-minded. I think that is positive because I have never had a problem with B.J. (Askew) wanting to be a tailback. He has great pride in his ability with great hopes and aspirations. As a football coach you look at what is best for your team. Ian Gold was in here on Friday, and I told him that he never thanked me for making you what you are. Ian is a guy that came here and I wanted to be able to move him to linebacker (from running back) if I felt that it was in the best interests of the program and for him. When I did move him, he was very upset and made that clear. I think that it has worked out for him very well because he was in the Pro Bowl as a defensive special teams player. He is a starting linebacker for the Denver Broncos, and I think that the same kind of thing will happen to B.J. Askew. His willingness to finally play the role that we have asked him to play will be something that will be of tremendous significance to him in his career. In the meantime, both those guys made great contributions to Michigan football, and I am appreciative to both of them and all the other guys that do the same thing. We try to be a program that is based on the team and sometimes that means doing something for the welfare of the whole. It may be at times something that you don't want to do, and that is when it is hard."

On position changes being inevitable because of the player's athleticism

"The success of any organization in my judgment is getting the right people. Then when you get them, putting them in the right position, which is the tricky part. There are no guarantees, but hopefully if you recruit people who want to be a part of a successful team, then those are much easier situations than when you have people who put their own goals ahead of what you are trying to do as an organization."

On the offensive line being ready to finish the season stronger than last year:

"Well, we are going to find out. Certainly I can assure that Tony Pape is more prepared because he is a year older and has been through it. I think that the same thing is true for Dave Petruziello. When you are starting for the first time, especially during this time of year, all of the games run together. Every game is a big game if you are at Michigan. So it is hard because the people you are playing against are giving you their best, so we will just have to find out."

On Bennie Joppru's progression:

"I think that what you are looking at in my judgment is the value of intercollegiate athletic competition. Here you have a kid who is in the spotlight, and he has made some mistakes, and yet he has overcome those mistakes and has dealt with them. He is just a kid that has blossomed, and I think that he is going to take what he has learned here at Michigan and at football that will help change his life. I think that Bennie Joppru is going to be a very successful person. I think that he will be a contributing member to our community and to society. Some of the lessons that he has learned have been hard ones, but I think they speak to the value of intercollegiate athletics."

On Jeremy LeSueur's learning process as well:

"I think that in both cases those kids will tell you that it was hard. You don't make a mistake in this arena and not suffer for it. You suffer the embarrassment and humiliation of having things that you've done discussed publicly and that hurts. It is about becoming accountable, and anytime you can take young people and teach them to be accountable you've taught them something that you can't buy if they can learn to look at a situation and say that it was my fault, I made a mistake. If you can support them, watch them grow and take a minus and make a positive about it, I think that is what education and football are all about."

On when he noticed the change in Bennie Joppru:

"I go back to the UCLA game two years ago, Bennie got a chance to start because Shawn Thompson had been injured. We had a play on the goal line late in the game and if Bennie blocks his man we are probably going to score. On Sunday I pointed that out that he had not done what he was supposed to do. From the day Bennie Joppru came to Michigan, I expected that the day would come when he would become a great football player and leader for your program. But Bennie didn't handle my criticism very well at all. He was very defensive and upset that I had pointed that out because he was a young, immature player. I think at some point you have to really get knocked down to be able to take stock of where you are and what you want to do with your life. I think Bennie reached that point last spring. He has made some mistakes, but he confronted them. It is wonderful to watch a guy become what he is capable of. I told the team last week that two of the best captains that I have ever had are Joppru and (Victor) Hobson. Those are special people that are great people that have been great leaders."

On the point when he saw Joppru really come into his own:

"I can remember having a lot of early-morning get-togethers with him -- a lot of them, too many of them -- and his job was to walk the steps (at Michigan Stadium). If you walk the steps very long it gets tiring, and I remember one day I looked over and there was Bennie sprinting up the stadium steps. I said to myself, maybe he is getting it. We run a mile and a half for our conditioning every summer and when I got the report that Bennie ran one of the greatest times that we have ever had here. So I knew then that he had made a commitment, which this game requires. I think it has paid off for him, and I give all the credit to Bennie for putting himself in the position to do what he is doing this year. He is having a tremendous year, and I wouldn't trade Bennie Joppru for any tight end in the country."

On the impact of the two walk-ons making a contribution against MSU:

"There is something about a kid like Blake Nasif that came here without a scholarship and grew up in Grand Lake, Mich. His family went to Michigan, and he followed his dream by coming and playing here. Along the way I am sure that people thought that he was crazy and yet he has made a real contribution to our special teams. And imagine a kid like Andy Stejskal that saw numerous games played in Michigan Stadium and followed his dream of playing football at Michigan. I know when he came here, he worked hard and then to see him make that catch made me feel the same great feeling that all of his teammates felt because you get very close as a team. You know a lot about what a guy is all about, and you learn a lot about people. That is why those kids were excited about those plays, because it is a wonderful thing to watch."

On this year's Minnesota team:

"This is a very good team with (Terry) Jackson and (Thomas) Tapeh. Of course, Jackson is from Saginaw, Mich., and is having sensational year. Tapeh is a kid that we had here for a visit. They are both different types of backs because Jackson has a tremendous cutting ability and has good vision. Tapeh is a big, powerful guy, and they run behind an offensive line that is very physical and athletic. (Asad Abdul-) Khaliq is a guy that has good mobility so they are going to do the same types of things that Iowa did. They present a lot of problems, and they aren't a team that wants to drop back and throw the football a lot."

On the threat of facing two good running backs:

"Tapeh is averaging 98 yards a game, and Jackson is well over that. What they do to you is that they have two guys that wear a defense down. They are going to keep pounding you and be very patient and careful with the football. They want to be third-and-one or two, and if you are in those situations on defense, you've got problems."

On the late start of the game:

"That is the way it is and that's television. Part of any season is being able to deal with schedules that are different. We knew going into this season that it is a night game and is in the dome. I worry more about the crowd in that dome that is always supportive of Minnesota and especially this year because they are having a good season. That noise is a problem, which concerns me more than playing in the evening."

On playing on artificial turf:

"I wouldn't want to play on turf every week, but some guys like to play on turf because they feel that they can make better cuts and are faster. We have played on turf before, so I don't see it as a big factor."

On how the younger guys played Saturday:

"I thought that Ernest Shazor did a very good job in there. Ernest has had an absolutely wonderful season on special teams, so it was great to see him get an opportunity in there and I think that he is going to be an outstanding player for us. I thought that Jermaine Gonzales made very big catch for us in the first quarter and made a great block on a kickoff return. When you switch positions it takes a while to adjust, but I thought these last three or four weeks of practice he has really taken a step to make good contributions to our team. Tim Massaquoi played a lot in there and did some good things and is getting better all the time. Jason Avant made one of the big plays of the game. They came with the blitz and John (Navarre) stood in there and allowed Jason to make that great catch."

On the players playing video games:

"They are competitive guys and you only have so much time. The challenge is being able to enjoy it and have fun with but not let it consume you. To not let it take away from going to class or studying. There is always something out there to distract you, and when I was a kid it was pinball machines."

On Sean Sanderson's status:

"He is banged up a little bit, but I was told last night that he should be okay. So we will just have to see."

On the offensive line positions:

"The good news is that we got Matt Lentz back, but what we have to do is look at it and see. We won't know what to expect until later in the week because when you miss two or three games you don't come back where you were. At the time of Adam's (Stenavich) injury he was playing real well for a redshirt freshman, so it will take some time when he comes back. We as coaches need to see what we are faced with and put our guys in the best positions to help us be successful."

On John Navarre's confidence growing after winning rivalry game:

"Yeah. What it means when you are a quarterback and you win a game like that, you understand that it is a team game and yet because it is one of those things in sport that in football the quarterback sometimes gets too much blame and sometimes gets too much credit. Certainly there are games that have special significance. If you are a quarterback on the winning team there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment if you played well because in those games the pressure is the greatest. That is just the way it is and that is something that you understand. When you are successful under those circumstances, there is nothing as satisfying as that."

On what the team will do with the late start time:

"What we will do this week is on Friday we will fly into there, have dinner and watch a movie. The next morning we will get up and go over to the Metrodome, which is downtown, and come back and have our normal morning team meetings. Then in the afternoon we will probably take a little walk to make sure that they don't lie around in bed all day. It is no fun, so you try to make it as short a day as you can."

On having experience with the late game before:

"It is one of those things that if you lose, you blame it on that, but if you win you forget it."

On Markus Curry's aggressiveness returning punts:

"I think that the halo rule is in essence a 12-yard penalty, which I think has had a major impact. That two-yard halo in college football has given players a real sense of security that they can catch the football and have time to do something. I have seen a lot of balls caught this year that they didn't try to catch a year ago. I think that most coaches are trying to prevent that 12-yard penalty. It is always a judgment call, and you can't control the decision that he is going to make. Markus is fearless, and we try to tell him that you can't risk a turnover, but in life sometimes things happen and sometimes turnovers happen."

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