Questions: You ended early today. Does that mean practice went pretty well?
Coach Rodriguez: “No we went shorter. We are going to practice three days in a row. We have got a coaches clinic going on. We expect a little over 600, maybe more than that. So today we did our third day, in just shorts. You have to have a mandatory three days in shorts, so we got that knocked out today. We will go fear gear tomorrow and then scrimmage Saturday morning.”
Question: Is there any way you can judge where you are overall?
Coach Rodriguez: “We can judge based on installation, how much of the offense, the defense and special teams that we have in. Fundamentally it is probably hard to do until we have at least a second scrimmage, which will be Saturday, but we got a long ways to go. I think we have made some steps, but we are not even close to being ready to play a game, but I would say most football teams would probably tell you that. The problem that we have is that we have a lot of inexperience in addition to having the transition. So it is going to be a little bit more difficult to judge where we are at. Our guys, I have already told them, told them today that we have to have a great summer. They have to make great strides in the summer on their own and I think they will do that, hope they will.”
Question: What kind of strides can make besides for physically?
Coach Rodriguez: “That is a first step, obviously getting in shape and getting stronger and faster and quicker and all that. Also studying the game, there are a lot of times where in the summer when you don’t have a full class load and you have a little bit of time that you can take some time and study a playbook and study your assignments and think about a little bit. You are not going to learn nearly as much obviously when the coaches are there and you have organized meetings, but I think it will help them this summer, at least have a base of knowledge of what we are going to do and then they can kind of review it in their minds over the summer.”
Question: Have you had a chance to be outside yet?
Coach Rodriguez: “No, we haven't gotten out, but the weather was nice enough today. Obviously, right now we don’t have an outdoor field to practice and hopefully Saturday, we can get outside to scrimmage. I am excited. I know with the weather here, we are kind of up against it with our fields and getting everything ready for fall camp, but they are working hard at it.”
Question: If you guys go outside, where will go?
Coach Rodriguez: “We are going to go to Pioneer High School (Ann Arbor) on Saturday morning and then the scrimmage on the 12th will be at Saline High School.”
Question: It will be closed to the public?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah and that is unfortunate, but who are you going to turn away? I mean if you had a bigger venue like The Big House, you could have everybody there. I think it would be more than the stadiums could hold and that might not be a good situation.”
Question: What other things change once you do get outside?
Coach Rodriguez: “Well the biggest difference obviously is in the kicking game. We haven't been able to do a lot of great kicking game work because we have been inside the whole time, but of course that is going to change that is one reason we are getting a new indoor facility, but we got to get all the kicking game in and then obviously you have conditions. It is a little bit different throwing and catching outside and having some wind. It is easy to throw and catch inside. We have looked pretty good at times. I think that will carry over to the outside, but we have to got to get into some elements and hopefully Saturday and maybe twice next week we will get outside.”
Question: After watching the film, do you feel a little bit more relieved about the defense, a little bit more frustrated after what you saw?
Coach Rodriguez: “I wasn’t overly frustrated. I think the defense saw a few things that they hadn’t seen before, but I also think our guys on defense see that we got a long way to go to be in shape to play, to play against anybody, not just our offense, but to be in any kind of condition that we want to be in. We had way too many guys not really running to the ball like we think they can or will. I think they want to do that, but it reminded them how it felt to be out of shape and at least what we felt is out of shape. They are in better than they were two months ago and I think it happens a lot. You get a little bit of time after the bowl game and it doesn’t take much to get you out of shape at this level and we are not nearly in game shape. They are better than they were two months ago, but boy they got a long way to go.”
Question: How much can you mix and match your wide receivers?
Coach Rodriguez: “We wanted to learn multiple positions, in particular this year. We don’t even have the number of bodies that we would normally carry on a travel squad. So it is a deep concern. Tony Clemons is out, not Tony Clemons, but Junior Hemingway is out the rest of spring with a severe high sprained ankle. He will be okay for summer workouts, but he is out the rest of spring. Greg Mathews is out today; he is sick and we hope to get him back. It is a concern, the lack of depth, the lack of bodies that we have there. So guys are going to have to learn more than one position and in the long run that may help us because we will be able to roll some guys in and out of there.”
Question: You said you were waiting for some players to step into a vocal leadership role, has anyone done that yet?
Coach Rodriguez: “No and I really haven't asked them to, too much. Really, I was maybe seeing if somebody would, but I think a leadership while we are practicing is overrated, because you got coaches there that is what they give me a whistle for. The leadership is when we are not around, who is in the locker room, the summer workouts and the times when the coaches aren’t around, whether you are walking campus or whatever that is when you need leadership. Not when I am around or the coach is around. I think we have enough there. I think initially probably they are probably unsure of what to say or how to say what we wanted from them, but it is hard to force a guy to be a leader, normally it just happens naturally. The only position that is probably mandatory at some point is the quarterbacks. I think that comes with the position. I think they have some qualities, but none of them have ever played. It is unique. It won't be an issue after we get some experience.”
Question: What does “spot the ball” mean?
Coach Rodriguez: “Well it is kind of a slogan that we have used for a long time, probably 20 years and it is not an offensive – people think it is an offensive philosophy because we are no huddle and all that. It really is just kind of a philosophy that we carry on all three units that when the referee or umpire spots the ball, our guys are ready to play. The defense is standing there ready, the special teams is ready and certainly the offense is ready. Whether you are ahead or behind, at home or on the road, 4th quarter or 1st quarter, when the referee or umpire spots the ball we are ready to go and that is the kind of mentality that we have…we take that approach in practice every day or try to anyway.”
Question: Do you have any reaction to what happened in the courtroom back in Morgantown?
Coach Rodriguez: “No what happened? I wasn’t even paying attention. I should have been. Naw, you don’t need to answer that (laughing). My wife called me. Rita (Rodriguez) was there and the attorneys were there. I didn’t delve into the details too much. I will later tonight, because I am focused on spring practice.”
Question: Terrence Taylor was back today?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah Terrence practiced today. Again, we were in shorts, but he practiced today and I would except that he would be practicing tomorrow. Nobody got hurt today. So it was good to get that third day. I understand why we have two days in shorts, I am still trying to figure out why we have the third day. I wish that they had some kind of rule like they did in the NFL, where you have a new coaching staff; in the NFL they give you an extra mini camp or two, if you are a new staff. They don’t have that rule in college. I wish we did. The players are probably glad we don’t. They are probably glad we don’t have that rule, but I wish we did.”
Question: Some of your players said Saturday that the goals never change here to win Big Ten Championship. When do you set goals and is that a reasonable expectation?
Coach Rodriguez: “Well, I think that probably every school in the Big Ten is going to set that as a goal and I think that always…I am not a big list 20 goal type of coach. But I do think that you always if you are in a conference that is your first goal each and every year is to win the conference championship, no matter what conference you are in. Whether you are in high school, college or whatever, I think to me that is always a goal that you should set as a program first is to win the conference championship and take it from there. You know the expect to win, I have said this many times, I don’t believe in that expect to win, I believe deserve to win; there is a difference and I told the team that today. I don’t want them to expect anything. I want them to deserve it. If they deserve it, they will usually get it.”
Question: Did you get a chance to get over and talk Coach Berenson about being back in the Frozen Four?
Coach Rodriguez: “Coach Berenson was one of the first coaches to pull me aside when I got here and spend some quality time with them. I went to one game and I was just awful in that Score-O, (I was) really mad because I actually practiced too and I was better in practice and I went out there, I was just worried about busting my tail on the ice, so I was disappointed in that. But no, I am a big fan of all college athletes. I mean we are doing great. I saw where Bev and them won the Big Ten Championship, in woman’s gymnastics and didn’t we win some swimming or diving.”
Question: We won men’s swimming and third in woman’s track and the Frozen Four this week.
Coach Rodriguez: “We had a nice run in the Women’s NIT and of course what Red’s team is doing, pretty exciting, pretty exciting. I am looking forward to seeing it. I know we have a couple of things, an academic banquet coming up and all that, where the football athletes get to mingle with the other athletes and I think those are pretty neat. I love going to those things.”
Question: You talk about winning the Big Ten, when do you start looking at Big Ten film? I mean do you start breaking down Big Ten film?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah, probably not unlike probably most teams. We have a little bit of time in May and June where the coaches will break down our opponents. We will break down every opponent and in particular your conference teams and kind of get what we call a summer scouting report on them. Some teams will devote, which I have done as well, you devote maybe part of your practice in the spring to an upcoming opponent, but the problem we have is that we have so much teaching to do just to get our stuff in. I am more worried about Michigan right now than anyone else, so that is where all of focus has been. The coaches at least will break down all of our opponents and we will do an extensive one on our first three opponents coming up. I have been lucky, I think in the conference, I have been a head coach for 15 years and I think we have got eight, I think, conference championships. We have kind of always gear a little special attention to conference games but most coaches will do that.”
Question: Do you have friends on the Utah coaching staff?
Coach Rodriguez: “Well when Urban was there, Urban Meyer, who is a good friend of mine, when he was at Bowling Green, he first got with us, his staff and then we went to Utah, we always visited and they have some of the, I guess some of the same staff or the same philosophy that they are doing now. They had a great season last year. I got a chance to see them a little bit because they played Louisville who was in our league last year.”
Question: You are not practicing for Ohio State yet?
Coach Rodriguez: “No, but I see why people do that. But again if we were further along and it wasn’t a transition year, we would certainly pay attention to some opponents. I am worried about Michigan right now.”
Question: How much time do you expect that transition to take?
Coach Rodriguez: “Hopefully not more than a year (laughing). It won't be done by the end of spring. It will go through the summer. This will be the first time that these guys have had summer workouts that Coach Barwis is giving them. It will be the first time that they have had two a day practices under the new staff. So everything is a transition, it will be the first time that we had our first game week when we get ready for Utah. So the transition will be the first time that we face adversity during the season for the new staff. So there is a lot of, I go back and I have kept notes and I go back to all the things that happened the first year and talk to other coaches that have been through it and it is very, very similar. It is painful at times, but hopefully it is not too painful. Having gone through it a few times, I think you are better prepared each time you go through it as a coach, but for the players, it is a little bit more difficult. There is going to be, the spring is the toughest because it is the first; hopefully the fall practices will go a lot crisper, but I can't guarantee that, but I expect it to be.”
Question: Is it realistic that a kid like Justin Feagin can come in and compete?
Coach Rodriguez: “It is really hard for any true freshman quarterback because there is so much that they have to learn. There are certain positions, receivers and skilled positions that maybe guys can come in and there is not as much room on their plate, but I don’t count anybody out. There will be more freshmen that probably play this year than there has been in a long time, simply because the opportunity is there with the transition and change in systems and all that. It is two reasons, how well prepared they are, how quickly they learn and how the upper classman respond.”
Question: How is this spring compared to your first spring at other schools?
Coach Rodriguez: “Similar, very similar. Five other places, it is probably a lot of things that have going through, growing pain, what have you, have been a lot a like.”
Question: Is it disappointing at all?
Coach Rodriguez: “No, I am prepared for the disappointment so you don’t get as disappointed when you are prepared for it. Been probably more pleased at times then I expected to be. Like I told you, I think initially, I expect the worse and then hope for the best and it is usually somewhere in between, that is about what it is.”
Question: So you are more patient?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah, I have gotten older. I don’t yell anymore. Naw, I still yell. I would hate to see what happen if I bottled that up, poor wife and kids. No it has been good. The easier part about this transition than some other places is that so many of the staff members are familiar with the system and then the few guys that we had either rehired or brought in, the chemistry is great. That is one thing I feel real good, the chemistry of our coaching staff and our support staff is outstanding. I think the players see that. I don’t know if you all see that, but we get along really, really well and hopefully the players will see that. It is real. It is not something that we put on. I tell the coaches to be themselves and I think our coaches can see that.”
Question: This might be too early to ask this, but what is your feeling about potentially running two quarterbacks in the fall? Do you see a need for that?
Coach Rodriguez: “That is a good question. People have asked me before, because I have done this before. They are talking about, say if you have two quarterbacks, some people say you don’t really have any. I don’t believe that. If you got two quarterbacks that are good enough to win with then you play them both. If I have one that is good enough to win with, I only play one. If I have three quarterbacks good enough to win with, I will play all three. That is a position that is tough because you can only play one at a time usually, but we have got to get at least two quarterbacks good enough to win with; how close they are, we will see at the end of August camp. I don’t have any qualms about having a quarterback in. I wouldn’t take a guy or put him in there just to put them in there. I have never believed in that. If a guy is in there and he is playing well, I am going to leave him in there, but I am hoping that we have least two ready to win with. Our guys have made progress, in particular Steve Threet and Nick Sheridan have gotten better, I think all the way along and they have probably picked things up mentally as quick as I could, but we still got a ways to go.”
Question: If you are playing two, are they two different kinds of quarterbacks?
Coach Rodriguez: “It could be. Again, we are not going to pigeonhole ourselves offensively and just run one thing. We will build our offense around the talents of our skilled players on offense, in particular the quarterback.”
Question: You have said that before, so at this point (Coach Rodriguez: “I wasn’t lying to you”), what are you building that offense around at this point?
Coach Rodriguez: “I can't tell ya. We have some ideas. Again, part of what we are doing this spring is to figure out exactly what our quarterbacks do well and what we do well offensively and then feature those things in the fall. For obvious reasons, we wouldn’t disclose that, but I couldn’t tell you what that is right now anyways. I have got to have a couple more scrimmages and I probably got to have a couple of scrimmages in the fall with the freshman here and see what they bring before we really determine, ‘hey this is what we will feature offensively’.”
Question: What do Threet and Sheridan bring differently?
Coach Rodriguez: “They are really about the same. They are both good athletes. They are both very smart guys. I think they are tough guys. We have let them get hit, more than they will in the future, we hope. They are pretty accurate. They have good arms and they are pretty accurate. They are very similar in a lot of ways. Steve obviously is a little bit taller, but if you timed them in the 40 and if you ran them, they would probably be close by each other. If you asked them questions on the board, they would both answer about the same way. They are pretty close.”
Question: Is one a little farther along the other at this point?
Coach Rodriguez: “Naw they are both pretty competitive. Steve probably had the upper hand in the last couple of live team situations, but it goes back and forth.”
Question: Are they helping each other?
Coach Rodriguez: “Oh sure, I hope. Football is a sport when you are teaching, you are allowed and encourage cheating. I want our guys to cheat. I want them to tell each other what is going on. Tell them what is on the test. If you know the play, you know the assignment, tell your buddy, and we encourage them to do that. I think it is hard for them to do that now, because they are all learning but that is the one thing that is tough about the first year. Every year after this, it is going to be easier and easier, because they will be comfortable and they will know the assignments and you can play faster and obviously you make less mistakes. We have got mistakes now that are major mistakes and we shake our heads, but then we think, geez, it is just like they are all freshman and hopefully we will get through that.”
Question: You got a couple of kids coming in next year that are talented two sport athletes, a couple of track kids and wrestling, what is your kind of approach kind of playing a second sport?
Coach Rodriguez: “Well if they really want to do it and they can contribute, I got no problems with it. Obviously they got to be handle their academics that is part of the deal too, but if it is really something on their mind – I mean we are selfish as coaches, you want them to be one sport guy, but if a guy can contribute…now if he is just going to go there and sit on the bench and not play, then we don’t want them to do that, but if he can go and help the other sport and handle his academics, I am all for it.”
Question: How has Brandon Minor looked in practice?
Coach Rodriguez: “He has done well. His hand is in a little bit of a soft cast, because he has got a sprained wrist, but he hasn’t missed any reps. He is having a good spring.”
Question: How about Kevin Grady?
Coach Rodriguez: “He has gotten better too. He has been practicing. He is healthy and he is eager to prove himself. I really like his attitude.”
Question: Is Carlos Brown done for the spring?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah, yeah. Carlos is done for the spring that was pretty severe finger injury, but from what understand he will be okay for summer workouts.”