Up Close With Rich Rod (Part 2)

Part 2 of the transcription of Rich Rodriguez's 90 minute informal meeting with the press. Michigan's headman discusses the sniping comments by Charlie Weis and Jim Tressel, scheduling, how far along in the offense the team is, and more.

***For those that missed part 1, click here.

Question:  What do you think about your overall personnel right now and what kind of lies ahead, would some of the freshman be able to come right in?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Our biggest thing is, and I have said this several times, when you have a transition it is one thing, but when you have a transition with inexperience it is another.  So you have got to teach both technique and terminology and that slows your growth sort of speak.  We are not going as fast as I would like because we got to make sure of the whole technique.  I think we have guys that are eager to learn and it is not coach speak.  I don’t know exactly what I have right now.  I have an idea, but I won't know that until I actually play a game.  August won't answer.  Until we play Utah and get some guys out there that have never played before, how are they going to react.  A lot of times, the guys will raise their level up.  They remember their fundamentals, remember their techniques and sometimes you put a guy in the game and they forget everything. They forget how to line up.  They forget where to go.  They forget all of their technique and they just go to hell in a hand basket.  So what we try to do is put them in a competitive, intense, pressure packed environment and practice to get an idea on how they will respond.  Part of our method to our madness I guess, is in practice to try and see how they would react in those situations so the game is not a surprise for them.  We haven't put them in enough of those so far for me to have all the answers.”

Question:  What did you make of the projections saying you will be lucky to be .500 this year?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Don’t really care.  I have people saying what is my prediction.  I don’t know.  I am going to be honest… a year from now I could predict and be more honest, I probably still wouldn’t.  I am never going to give you a certain number of games.  I will never do that.  I will at least know in my mind what I am thinking.  Two years from, I will know really good where we are at.  Right now, I am as clueless as most with the exception of 15 practices in the spring. I have an idea who are top athletes are, our top players are and who needs to develop where and where we need to go for August.  It is a blank canvas in a lot of respects but the low expectations or whatever, I don’t worry about that.”

Question:  Would you ever want to add another high profile nonconference game beside for Notre Dame?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I am involved. Bill is doing the schedule with myself and Scott Draper.  For me, from an economics sense, for us to play somebody off the road and give up five or six million dollars, I don’t think it is worth it.  I am sure the athletic department is seeing the same way.  We play Notre Dame in a home and home.  We got them locked up pretty good.  We are always s going to have an attractive Big Ten schedule.  Anybody else that is out there for a home and home, I don’t see the benefits.  #1, who would do that and #2, give up a home game to do it.”

Question:  Part of Charlie Weis and Jim Tressel, some of their comments treated the rivalry with their fans and that is part of their aspect, but it seems now obviously you have so much to do.  When do you get a sense of the rivalry?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I already have.  Just because I don’t make some off the cuff comments to win a press conference to win a rally or something like that?  I am not worried about wining a rally.  I am not worried about winning a press conference.  I am worried about getting our team ready.  Because I don’t make the comments doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the rivalry.  You don’t even have to be coaching here to understand the intensity of Michigan and Ohio State, Michigan-Notre Dame, Michigan-Michigan State.  When you are here, I hear enough from everybody else.  I have told ya’ll this, I had several people, well if you just win one game and it is Ohio State, I will be happy.  Well, I wouldn’t be.  Don’t tell me that everybody is going to be happy with 1-11.  I understand it and it is fun.  It ought to be fun.  You look around the country, a lot of teams would love to have even an inkling of the rivalries that we have.  We have 3 big rivalries and really every Big Ten game is a rivalry for me in my opinion.  It should be fun.”

Question:  Part of that unpredictability is knowing what you have, like you said.  Is part of it the Big Tens haven't prepared for what you do and yet you haven't prepared to go against them?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah I think there is a little bit of something on that.  There is a little more anxiety from our standpoint and again this summer, we will do some, as most staffs will do, some summer scouting reports, look at your opponents on film a little bit and get a preliminary game plan, real preliminary.  The people say well you are the new style to Big Ten, it is not really new.  Purdue has been running a spread for many years.  Illinois has been running for several years. Ohio Sate ran it a few years ago.  With some of the things that we are doing and some of the plays, sure it is going to be a little bit different, but the style is not that new.  I think the perception is maybe nationally bit really is to.  I don’t think it is going to catch anybody off guard.”

Question:  You have run a few different variations depending on where you have been at, Tulane, Clemson, West Virginia, do you have a feeling even though you are not so sure about the individuals as involved, which style that you will be similar to?

Coach Rodriguez:  “We obviously, you got a guy like Pat White, Rasheed Marshall, and Woody Danzler, you run that guy and do some different things with that quarterback, but we hope that we have enough to feature to our skilled players on offense, especially our quarterback.  We are going to have to be our creative best as coaches but not so much because of the quarterback, but because of the inexperience that we got.  You are talking about four to five guys on the offensive line will be first time starters, a couple of wide receivers, running backs.  You are talking all the way across the board.  There are a lot of young guys playing for the first time.  So we got to be creative but yet we can't be creative to the point where we create confusion for ourselves.  So there is kind of a little balance that we are going to come up with, but we are not going to forfeit.  We are going to do what we can to put out there, but do we have to be really good on defense, sure.  Do we have to be really good on special teams, sure.  We have to be really smart offensively and we have to take advantage of all the opportunities and see what happens.”

Question:  The diehard fan when they hear the word spread offense, they have some idea what you are talking about.  Maybe the causal fan wouldn’t.  So if someone were to say what is the spread offense, how do you respond to that?

Coach Rodriguez:  “In two sentences or less, you can't.  I think it is just defined by people that remove players from the box offensively by formation and then what you run out of the spread.  Every spread is different.  You see one spread, you see another spread.  It is not a like a wishbone or winged-T or west coast.  Those are all very similar in nature.  A spread can be completely different in both how you approach it from a run and pass stand point and then how you approach it from a formation, but spread more or less is a team that will spread three or four wide receivers or take tight ends and split them out as well and try to get people defending in space.”

Question:  Why do you like it?

Coach Rodriguez:  “It is the only thing that I have known for 17 years.  You could say go in there and run the west coast.  I don’t know.  My staff doesn’t know it.  We have been running this thing for 18 years now and we have done it long enough that we are comfortable with it.  I like it because I think it is fun to coach, fun to play in and I hope that it is fun to watch.”

Question:  (Steven) Threet, (David) Cone and (Nick) Sheridan, if you had to guess right now at the early part of the season, what percentage of plays could possibly be run by one of the above…?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I don’t know.  If I knew, I wouldn’t tell anybody right now.  Threet and Sheridan are splitting the reps in camps, the majority of reps.  Justin Feagin we will find out early what he can do and then if there is anybody else that we can do some special packages with.  We didn’t do any of it in the spring really to speak of because of injuries and just trying to teach the basics.  I mean that 15 practices.  There is a reason why the NFL when they have a new coaching staff, they give them an extra minicamp or 2 for the new coaches, they don’t do that in college.”

Question:  Would you like in the summer to teach somebody else, a running back or a receiver how to run….?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Naw, we are not allowed to work them.  NCAA rules, we do not break the rules here.”

Question:  I am talking about August this summer.

Coach Rodriguez:  “In camp you will have a little more time because you got 29 practices before your first game.  So what you have to hope that all the other pieces around them know what they are doing.  When you got 11 pieces that don’t know where they are going, it is hard to teach one new one.  When I talk about being creative, it is not so much as who is at quarterback, it is just what we feature in our offense and how we go about trying to get first downs and score points.”

Question:  If you were starting from scratch on offense, what would be the first 3 pieces that you would want, a quarterback?

Coach Rodriguez:  “You always start with your quarterback.”

Question:  And what kind of quarterback… give me three pieces?

Coach Rodriguez:  “The quarterback is about 6’5”, 235, runs a 4.4 and can throw the ball about 70 yards (laughing), accurate, smart, tough, winner, has got a great attitude.  That is to start.  Let’s go with it, but you want fast guys.  We are not the only ones who want fast.  Every coach in America wants speed, but we want fast guys that play fast.  That is one part of recruiting, part of development and the other part is them knowing what they are doing so they can play fast.  So the speed is a premium at all positions.  People say you don’t want big lineman.  Shoot, I will take all the Jake Longs I can get, are you kidding me.  They have to be in great shape to run at our pace and hopefully the lineman, we would probably take the 280 pound lineman and build him up to 295, then to take the 360 pound guy and drop him down to 300.  We would rather build him up that way.  I think it is healthier and they get better strength that way.  It starts with your skilled guys and your speed and your quarterback.  There are a lot of things that all coaches want in your quarterbacks.  Ours have to have the ability, obviously has to be able to throw it and run it a little bit, but make quick accurate decisions all the time, whether it is run or passing and that is the difference in our quarterback.  How quickly he has to process information and make good decisions.”

Question:  What is the furthest to go, the mental aspect at this point or the physical endurance?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Both really.”

Question:  Which one is the harder one to accomplish?

Coach Rodriguez:  “For them definitely the physical part.  They are going to have a lot of fun running this summer, I am sure.  I think the physical part is the most difficult, but your mind sometimes will slow down the physical part because it will hit a wall mentally.  Whether it is from the workout, what have you.  So you are always working on the mind.  Half of what Mike Barwis and his strength staff do is working on the mental strength and that is part of our philosophy and ideas.  We want to take them further mentally than they have ever been.  Physically, obviously as well too.”

Question: You talk a lot about fun, you did some fun things at West Virginia with night games, different jersey colors, you going to do anything like that here?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah.  We did a little bit more there because, I guess for lack of a better word, trying to build that program to a national, I guess scope.  That is already here, so in a sense I have less work to do in that regard.  We wanted to encourage playing on a Thursday night game and creating an atmosphere.  This is crazy they kind of took over and someone else made comments about the big inflatable helmet and smoke and we had a train whistle and stuff.  We did all that to create atmosphere to bring people.  Because we didn’t have what Michigan had, 110,000 at every game and the tradition.  So we did those things, created an environment, created an atmosphere and bring exposure to the school and it worked.  Now they are like, we don’t need all that crap that is fine, but we built that for a reason and it worked.  Here those things are in place.  So I don’t have to worry about changing the uniforms or creating that so called atmosphere.  There will be a few things here and there that I got to do our own thing.  Those other things, I am fortunate we already have here.  I think it is kind of neat, we have now, which I believe will be a rule, probably an unwritten rule that all the teams in the Big Ten will be out there in time for the national anthem for every game and that is not like that in every part of the country, but in the Big Ten both teams will be on the field when the national anthem is being sung that is a pretty big deal.”

Question:  You were talking about the one that would be different would be the captains.

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah one thing that we started, which I am excited about here and we have got to get that going, I got an idea from another school.  I don’t pick permanent captains before the season that is just my philosophy.  I want to see them lead throughout the year and pick the permanent captains at the end.  Not that you can't, but sometimes you pick a permanent captain and he winds up not being one of your best leaders and you are stuck with him.  So we want a game by game captain, seniors and at the end of the year, the team, the players themselves will pick the permanent captains at the end of the year.  We will also have honorary captains that are former Michigan greats for every game, one or two honorary captains, former players that can come back and the fans can recognize them and our team can seem them and have them help lead us out onto the field, which I am really excited about.  Because we have so many great players here that we can bring some of them back and have them kind of embrace the tradition and then our players will see how much they are still respected.”

Question:  Where have you been and what have you done since the end of spring football?

Coach Rodriguez:  “They changed the rules in the NCAA, where head coaches couldn’t go on the road for May recruiting for evaluation.  Instead of sitting around, I opened up my big mouth and said, well I will go around and visit some alumni and the next thing you know I am on that Madonna tour, Chicago, New York, LA, San Diego and doing business with alumni groups.  It was great.  I thought it would be a lot of people, but it was sold out everywhere we went and it was a great response and I really, really enjoyed it.  We want out there and we had Big Ten meetings last week and I am on the AFCA coach’s board that was in Arizona that is where I got the tan.  I was there two weeks ago.  So I was out for that.  We have been doing a lot of traveling the last four weeks.  My brother is getting married Monday, it’s his second wedding, so it is not as big a deal (laughter).  For her it is and for my mother it is too.  That is Monday so I have to go to that, that is in Hilton Head.  Other than that, we are around here getting ready for camps.”

Question:  Any story that stands out from meeting some of the alumni on this tour that you went on?

Coach Rodriguez:  “No.  I will tell you this story.  It is funny, but I probably told this story before about when I walked on and coached called me by the wrong name.  But I was at a local restaurant here; we don’t go out very much and with the wife and kids and actually met my wife there, because I was coming from work, there she is leaving.  She valet parked it and I didn’t, but she valet parked and the guys said, ‘Well Mrs. Gonzalez can get your car for you.”  (Laughing). We just got the biggest kick and then he immediately corrected himself, ‘Aww sorry Mrs. Rodriguez.’  He was so apologetic, but we laughed and that probably happened four or five time to us.  So we certainly don’t take it personal, but that was funny.  I’m still not that well known in the community.”

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