Rich Rod Big Ten Transcript (Part 1)

Part 1 of Rich Rodriguez's chat with the media at the annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. He discusses his offense, why his players didn't participate in the Michigan High School All Star game and LaMarr Woodley's charity event, Joe Tiller's "snake-oil" comment, and more.

Question:  Coach have you seen this yet in the Ohio State media guide, this whole layout on Coach Tressel's record against Michigan?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I haven't even seen our media guide yet."

Question:  Apparently their media guide has a two page layout about Michigan and Ohio State.  Do you have any reaction to this?

Rich Rodriguez:  "No, it just goes to show the intensity of the rivalry.  I think I have heard about it every day since I got hired.  To me, as I said yesterday, I think you need to approach; obviously you understand the importance if you play at either school or coach at either school, but I have so much work in front of me right now in the first year of the program that I have stayed more focused on us as opposed to any particular game.  Do we pay more attention, as I said yesterday to the Big Ten games and particularly Ohio State, sure we do, but right now I am not worried about Ohio State and that game, I am worried about getting ready for camp."

Question:  Now you seem to have gone out of your way not to put any bulletin board quotes or anything like that.

Rich Rodriguez:  "Why would you?  Why say anything ridiculous.  I have obviously watched some of the games in the summer scouting report, last year's game in particularly, but I am still trying to figure out what our team is, let alone someone else's team."

Question:  How important is that first game against Utah?

Rich Rodriguez:  "They are all important.  Obviously for us getting off to a good start, especially with a young team and a lot of first year starters is important for their confidence, but it is not a make or break thing.  I don't want to put that kind of pressure on it, but heck we are going to go out and compete as hard as we can against a pretty good team."

Question:  In terms of your offense, lets do a little bit of word association of phrase association.  If I say the word to you predictability, what is your reaction to that?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Oh I don't know how to predict it.  I don't know what is going to be called next, and I am calling the players.  There is a lot of variety to it, depending on how we are doing."

Question:  One of the criticisms of the past administration, while they had a balanced offense, it was predictable.  Do you view our offensive scheme as being predictable or is it going to be, if I don't know what is coming next, they aren't going to know what is coming next?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I don't even think of it in those terms.  I think more about we are running a system and as coaches and players, we have got to know the answers to the problems that come up in our system.  As our guys learn it, the players understand, our coaches obviously know it, because we have been doing it; I have been doing it for 18 years.  All offenses have a system and they kind of adhered, and we have a system.  What people's opinion or description of it is, I can't control that."

Question:  In terms of the offense line weight, everyone is below 300 pounds.  Is that normal?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Naw, we don't particularly have a goal on what we want to weight, we just want to be in shape.  It's not like want all these 270 pound lineman, I think Jake Long was 6'7" 315 pounds, I would take all the Jake Longs you can get, are you kidding me.  We just need our guys to be able to play in our offense.  They need to be in top condition to play at our tempo and our pace.  Sometimes it is easier for us to get a guy 290-295 and slowly build him up to 305, 310 guy.  I don't have a particular weight that they have to be at.  Some guys can carry a little bit more than others."

Question:  Do you think that may have had some impact in terms of a weight issue in terms of Justin Boren wanting to move on?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Justin don't play for us.  I will talk about our guys."

Question:  What has been the biggest challenge in terms of just implementing your system to Michigan?

Rich Rodriguez:"I think the biggest challenge when there is any change in the schemes is the terminology first and foremost.  I mean guys, they learn the fundamentals and they were well coached before a new coach got here, but the biggest thing is in the terminology.  They may call it this and we call it that.  I won't say forget the past, but trying to translate what it meant before to what is means now is the biggest thing.  Not only in terms of how you call your plays but even how you do some of your drills.  You may do the same drill and call it a different way.  That is the biggest thing.  The 15 practices in spring, hopefully you get it taken care of, but we still have probably another week or two in camp to get that totally finished."

Question:  What about in terms of culture of what had been a very established program with a set way of doing things, the same system for a long time, same coach for a long time and then you come in?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I think that is more what you are talking about and that is a good point, but I think that is more perception than reality.  I mean there has been different offense and defense coordinators, many different over the last several years as there is everywhere in the country.  Every time you change coordinators a lot of time you will change schemes and systems.  I think the perception that they have been running the same plays and calling the same way since Bo (Schemblecher) was here is kind of ridiculous.  It is not.  Obviously some of the stuff we are doing is different terminology wise and philosophy in some respects but it is not like this was the first time that they have had new coordinators or a new place."

Question:  Do you think that this year is going to be more of a case of you adapting your style to what you've got skill wise (or the players adapting to the style)?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I think it is a little bit of both.  As coaches, we still have to figure out, which we have to do quickly in camp, exactly what the strengths of our guys are.  We don't want the old round hole, square peg deal.  We have got to find out what our guys do well and have enough flexibility in our schemes to fit them in what they do best and that is the one thing that I feel pretty good about our offense is that we have had a variety of different type of players, particularly the skill players over the last 18 years, and we can adapt to them.  That is one of our challenges as a staff is to figure that out as quickly as we can in camp."

Question:  How likely is it that we see a more passing oriented offense like we saw (at previous stops like Tulane)?

Rich Rodriguez:  "That is the question that we still have too.  Who are our best skilled guys on offense, who are the guys we want to use in the spread in a certain regard, and can we have some of the same things that we did the last several years… which was highly successful for us… and incorporate some of that in there.  That is why we have so much work to do.  That is what I am talking about and I am not diminishing at all any of our rivalries, but there are just so many things that we have to figure out, particularly this first year that our plate is pretty full."

Question:  What do you think is the strength of the Big Ten compared to the rest of the nation, just coming in?

Rich Rodriguez:  "That is another thing where the perception and reality (aren't the same).  You hear all the time about some other leagues and how strong they are, and I think there are obviously some great football teams in the SEC and across the country, but you know the Big Ten having watched the games on film, seeing our athletes, I mean this conference will rank up with all of them.  I left a league that was probably perceived as not being very good and it was lot better than people thought in the Big East and it showed in the bowl games and particularly in the BCS bowls, and I think that the Big Ten is in the same regard a lot of times right now."

Question:  When you were in the Big East, how did the reputation of the Big Ten shift, did you see any changes?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Not really.  When I was in the Big East, we were fighting that old poor Big East thing for so many years that I think everybody had a little chip on their shoulder, when Miami, Virginia Tech and those schools left, the first couple of years after they left, it was really bad.  They were talking about taking away the BCS thing and all that next thing you know, you win a few BCS bowls as a league and the perception starts to change.  That is what is going to happen now.  We are going to have a stretch here very soon where we win these BCS big games and people will quit talking about the lack of success in the big bowls."

Question:  I saw you had a good line on the snake oil thing.

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah Joe (Tiller), yeah we had a little fun with it."

Question:  I covered you all and I was just curious, what did you initially think when you either heard that or read that and did you think that he really had a serious problem?

Rich Rodriguez:  "No and I have known Joe for a few years.  There may have been a little frustration there, but I got a little chuckle out of it.  I called around and I saw, am I missing something, was there a memo sent out or something, but I knew there was.  At the time it seemed like there was there.  In particularly because of the West Virginia situation, they were looking for something to be negative about four our day.  I didn't take it personally and Joe and I have a nice laugh about that at the May Big Ten meetings."

Question:  I was going to say, you were mentioning about the West Virginia stuff and a lot of the things that you had to do with.  You think, oh my gosh here we go, and now I am getting off on the wrong foot with other Big Ten coaches.

Rich Rodriguez:  "I wasn't worried about that, because I didn't do anything wrong.  It wasn't like I broke any rules or anything like that.  So I wasn't even worried that was the least of my worries.  I said Joe and I will probably have a laugh about this here in about a month or two and that is what happened."

Question:  You were present for the Citrus Bowl last year and Michigan's offense was clicking.

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yes they were.  That was fun to watch.  It sure was."

Question:  It seemed to me we watching sort of a modified spread offense in terms of predictability and where the ball was going.  Without a running quarterback.  Assuming that Steven Threet will be starting, will we be some of that type of offense from you?

Rich Rodriguez:  "God I hope.  If we can execute as well as Chad (Henne) and those guys did in that game, it would be pretty neat.  It was fun to watch.  Of course, having watched Chad for a few years, I thought he was one of the best quarterbacks in the country.  He was healthy for that game and it showed.  He was on fire and accurate.  People talk about a particular quarterback in their system, you can fit whatever his skills are.  We think we can fit some different plays and styles to that guy.  So we would take all of Chad's that we can get and Mike Hart's and all that.  We don't want to pigeonhole our self saying, listen we can't run our offense unless we have Pat White, because Shaun King was a different type of quarterback.  In some regards Woody Dantzler was a little bit.  So we have got to have enough flexibility and that is our job as coaches to figure that out."

Question:   What is the biggest attribute for you in terms of a quarterback?  Is it decision making in the pocket?

Rich Rodriguez:  "It is a lot of things.  It is decision making, accuracy, the ability to run a system, to know where to go with the football.  We say all the time our quarterback has got to be like a point guard in basketball that can shoot the three.  Sometimes he takes it himself and sometimes he distributes it.  If he is not a great shooter of the three, he is going to distribute it more.  I know that is kind of a vague term, but that is really the way we kind of approach it."

Question:  Is it sort of a misnomer that your offense is a fling a ball all over the place offense.  You primarily run the ball out of this system.

Rich Rodriguez:  "Well it has gone both ways.  In the first eight or nine years of the system we were throwing it 55 to 60% of the time.  The last three to four years, we were running it more."

Question:  Have you ever had the depth of talent at West Virginia than you have Michigan right now?

Rich Rodriguez:  "We had more the last couple of years than we have now.  But again, I was there seven years and we had a chance to develop it and recruit it in our system.  Eventually, quickly, we will have that same kind of depth at Michigan."

Question:  What about on defense?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I would think again, I say that because we haven't played a game yet, but just based on 15 practices, we probably have more depth defensively here at Michigan.  But again, I have got to see how we go through camp and we play games and all that.  Offensively, we are not going to have it now because we lost a lot of guys at offense, so our depth is going to have a lot of young guys on their right now."

Question:  Sam McGuffie has been on campus this summer?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah all the freshman got enrolled for late summer school at the end of June, having been taking classes and working out."

Question:  What freshman do you perceive might be able to get some playing time?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Well probably the ones with the best opportunity are the skilled players on offense and simply because of the change in systems, going to a spread.  We didn't even have the bodies in the spring to run some of the things that we wanted to run because we didn't have any people, they all graduated.  Those skill players on offense will have the best chance.  Now who in particular, it is wide open."

Question:  On recruiting quarterbacks.

Rich Rodriguez:  "Well obviously in recruiting we can find ones that fit our scheme, but we can again.  If a Shaun King was out there, we would go recruit him like crazy.  You can get those tough accurate quarterbacks who make great decisions that can move around a little bit.  They don't have to be as fast as Pat, but who is?  If you get those types of quarterbacks, we will sign all those that we can get.  That is where I think there is a little bit of a misnomer that you have got to have that Pat White.  Anybody would take Pat White, are you kidding me, he is one of the best players in the country.  But there are other skills at quarterbacks that we would certainly take as well and we are going to be actively recruiting them."

Question:  Rich, you mentioned that your freshman were enrolled in summer school and there have been a couple of events the past couple of weeks in Michigan; the high school all star game (MSHAA), charity event up in Saginaw that people were trying to get negative on.  Can you shed some light on why your guys were not there?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah, well, again I will plead ignorance.  Maybe I should know, but I didn't even know about Lamar's (Woodley) thing and Lamar is a great guy.  I didn't have any knowledge about that and none of the players even asked me about that.  If they wanted to go, they could have worked it out, if they could have fitted in between their class schedule and all that.  So I don't know much about that.  Beyond that, the NCAA rules, we are so limited on what the coaches can do with our players, but our strength staff has been really pleased with what has been going on this summer with the freshman and the upper class as far as the workouts were concerned."

Question:  Has there been any discussion about the Michigan high school all star game?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Well, we talked about that a little bit.  In fact, I talked with several of the high school coaches about that situation and I think they see the way the situation is now, particularly in division one, where a lot of guys are getting enrolled early and for them to miss a week of courses, classes, more than anything else to go to an all star game, you miss a week of summer school, is like missing a month in a regular term.  So if there could be something as far as moving the date back, it would help as far as attendance goes.  I think that is not just a problem here, but a problem throughout the country."

Question:  You are a very open guy, I think, which is very different from your predecessor.  How many times have you heard, boy we haven't done that at Michigan in a while?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Well I have heard that a lot, but I think that is kind of typical of a transition, in a coaching change.  I was talking to the guys, the players with me on the way down.  I said, you guys are going to get a lot of questions about comparing, what went on in the past and what went on, and I am sure the guys at West Virginia are getting those kinds of questions.  It makes it a little bit uncomfortable, but I said it is human nature.  I said there is nothing wrong with asking the questions, but I said you are better off just trying to focus with what is going on right now, as opposed to comparing.  A lot of people are going to say our strength program is different now, our offense, defensive is different now, but it is not like we have the patent on the only way to do it.  I mean there is a lot of successful ways.  Our guys trained and worked very hard before, it is just that what we are doing now is different, all it is different."

Question:  Especially with the guys who have been here for just a few years, how have you sensed with how receptive they have been what you are trying to do?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I have really been pleased.  I think again, what all the perception is.  I mean there is a lot made out of one guy that left and not the 99 that stayed.  Is there going to be some attrition in the transition year, sure because maybe some guys feel that they don't fit them, or they want to graduate or the coach that recruited them is not going to be there and they are worried about their relationship.  The guys who really want to play, I mean truly love football and want to be, are still there.  I have been as pleased and I told a bunch of the leaders who were over my house the other day about how proud I was from their attitude so far.  Talking to my strength coach, he said it has been as good as he could have expected all summer.  In that regard that is pretty pleasing.  I think one of the reasons too is that we have a lot of guys that have an opportunity to maybe be a starter for the first time so they are eager to prove themselves and they are kind of hunger and that is a good thing."

Question:  Rich, you talked yesterday about all the scrutiny about how you got here, how long does it take for the scrutiny to change to what you are doing as opposed to how you got here?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Hopefully now.  We get into camp and certainly once we start playing games.  The West Virginia thing is in the past.  Over the summer, there are not games to talk about and there is not schemes to question or play calls to question, so they want to question something else, but I think once you get into the practice mode, certainly once you are playing games.  So hopefully now, the process of us being at Michigan is in the past."

Question:  When you were at West Virginia, you recruited Western Pennsylvania pretty heavily, Michigan has done a good job there.  Is that still a primary recruiting area?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yes it is.  We were fortunate I believe that we are at a school that can recruit nationally, but you still have some primary areas for us and Pennsylvania is a primary area for us.  Tony Gibson who was on my staff and recruiting Pennsylvania and Western PA is continuing to do that for us now."

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yes it is.  We were fortunate I believe that we are at a school that can recruit nationally, but you still have some primary areas for us and Pennsylvania is a primary area for us.  Tony Gibson who was on my staff and recruiting Pennsylvania and Western PA is continuing to do that for us now."

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