Rich Rod Big Ten Transcript (Part 5)

Part 5 of Rich Rodriguez's chat with the media at the annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. This one is loooong, folks: everything from Woodley to Wisconsin ... but mainly on getting ready for the Big Ten in his first season as Michigan headman.

Question: Does the 40 second rule make a difference to you?

Coach Rodriguez: "I think it will. I was telling Angelique (Chengelis), I think it will make a little difference. I think it will speed up the pace of play more in college than it has in the past and probably be a little bit more fan friendly. I am anxious to see. That will be the biggest impact of all the rule changes."

Question: In terms of the way you guys play specifically?

Coach Rodriguez: "Naw for us, it won't make a difference. That kind of rule probably won't really affect us much at all. It might, I hope it helps us, but I am not sure until I get into it."

Question: You've got six tight ends on the roster in an offense that doesn't throw to the tight end?

Coach Rodriguez: "Not true. We threw to Own Schmitt last year. He was listed as a full back, but he played some tight end. We have had some pretty good tight ends, but this is the most talented group I think of tight ends that I have been able to have as a collection, maybe in my whole career. That got us excited, those guys have the ability that we can do some different things with them."

Question: When you line up in the slot what is the rationale when using slot receivers in your offense that are 5'8"?

Coach Rodriguez: "As any coach will tell you in an offense, you want to look for mismatches and try to get the point where you like a match up against a certain player on offense against defense and part of what we are experimenting with looking around is what kind of matchups can we have and part of the challenge of the tight ends is can they be that guy who is a match up problem for defenses. If they are, they will get the ball more, if they won't, they won't."

Question: How will you structure the quarterback battle and how does Justin Feagin (fit into the equation)?

Coach Rodriguez: "Steve (Threet) and Nick (Sheridan) will get the majority of the reps, but Justin as much as he can handle mentally, we will throw him in there. In the beginning of camp, we rep three groups, first group, second group and third group. As the camp progresses it is geared by the end of the second week, we are just doing the first and second group. So really they got to make their marks sort of speak in the first two weeks and coaches, we actually got it all scripted out already reps wise and those kinds of things."

Question: What has been your approach to recruiting?

Coach Rodriguez: "I think it is the same as any coach will tell you. I think we can go anywhere in the country to get the type of quality student athlete that we think you need to have at the University of Michigan. We have our base areas first, obviously the state of Michigan and the surrounding states and obviously we got a heavy emphasis in Florida, but we also feel that we can go anywhere. If there is a tie or an interest anywhere in the country in our school that we feel is the right guy, we need to go after him. Fortunately for us, we feel like we got enough of a brand name to at least give us a shot. It doesn't mean that you are going to sign him, but it maybe gives you a shot."

Question: Do you go back and look at notes from when you had throwing quarterbacks?

Coach Rodriguez: "I don't have to, I remember it."

Question: Do you really, do you have a photographic memory in that sense?

Coach Rodriguez: "Well, I have been running the same system for 18 years."

Question: But is it dramatically different when you have a throwing quarterback versus running?

Coach Rodriguez: "No. The reality is that we are practicing some of the same plays. Let's say when Shaun King was the quarterback as opposed to Pat White, we are just calling the other ones more. So if you go to practice, it is not like we only threw the ball five times in practice when Pat was there. We were running a lot of the same plays, but when it came time to call plays in the game, we were calling what was working, everybody kind of said, he is one dimensional or whatever. All I worry about is the end of the game is did we score points and win. If we did, it is a good day."

Question: How much of a wild card is Carlos (Brown)?

Coach Rodriguez: "Well a little bit. He missed so much of spring when he sliced his finger that it was still some unknowns with us. Somebody asked me the question, how many guys will actually touch the ball as a quarterback, good question. Then thought about that, and we will have to figure that out in August. It could be pretty interesting this year anyway."

Question: (What are the odds that Brown gets some snaps)… ball park, five or up, over/under?

Coach Rodriguez: "Oh yeah, over/under of 20 (laughter). Place your bets, now you can't gamble in the NCAA. I don't know, it is going to be fun. Again, we got to be creative more so now than maybe we will have to in the future. I think we are going to have to be creative, because Chad was the guy for four years; he was the guy. He got banged up a little bit, but there is very rarely that you replace a four year starter at that position, and we have to do that."

Question: Do you get reports from your upper classman on the freshmen and how they are doing?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah, we talked a little bit about it. I haven't talked to them as much about the seven on seven stuff and all that, but they will come around the office and tell us who is looking good and they have done a good job of taking the guys under their wings. That is my biggest thing with the guys, is kind of help the freshmen overcome the homesickness and adjust to college life and the atmosphere, because these guys are young guys that are away from home for the first time. They need somebody to put their arm around them, a teammate or so and kind of get them through the early time."

Question: How do these freshman guys stack up personality wise and everything else to some of the other freshmen classes that you have had, are you pretty pleased?

Coach Rodriguez: "It was kind of a nice mix of guys that were committed that signed and a handful of guys that we recruited to fill out the class and I really like the class. I think they are already developing some type of chemistry. I think there is some talent there. There will be more that would probably play now than maybe you would typically have because you lost so many talented players. I am sure they are excited for that too. They still got a ways to go. People say aw, you will put the freshmen in, but they are still freshmen and they will still be running in circles the first few days of practice."

Question: What has it been like to make the move to the Big Ten, when it seems like a lot of national media is down on the Big Ten year after year?

Coach Rodriguez: "It is not as gloom and doom, as when I was in the Big East and Miami and Virginia Tech left and everybody thought the league was going to fold. You talk about gloom and doom, we were all really worried. We were worried whether we were going to lose the BCS status and all that. The league official said well, if you want to change our perception you got to win. So okay that solves a lot of problems. That is what happened. We changed that league's perception a little bit because we won some BCS games and kind of changed the mindset of that league, the Big East competing nationally. The same is going to happen. Our schools are beating some quality BCS opponents in the regular season and people are noticing it because we haven't had a lot of success in the BCS games. We are, we will string a couple together and people will quit talking about it. I don't worry about that."

Question: Do you think that Rich Rodriguez's spread offense is going to save the Big Ten?

Coach Rodriguez: "That is ridiculous. To say that what we are going to do is going to change the league is, I mentioned already that seven or eight teams that have run the spread. That whole idea to me is just a lot of talk. I am going coming in here and am installing a program and system and hope that it has success. It is not going to change; there are good coaches in this league and they are going to do what they do, just like our staff, we are going to do what we do. I am not going to say aw, we can't do this. We got to run what we know that is what we were hired to do."

Question: Because you are a different coach, did you come in with the idea that you were going to change things in the program intentionally to make it fit your comfort level?

Coach Rodriguez: "I was going to change things to do what we do."

Question: Right because you do things differently than they were.

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah, if they were the same, great that made it easier. If they were different then they got to be different. Like I said, the biggest advice is that you got to be yourself. I am talking about colleagues some very successful folks at the University of Michigan, supporters, whatever; the best advice I got from the people that I probably respect the most is, ‘coach whatever you do, be yourself'. I said that is all I can do. It is too hard to be fake, and I aint going to be fake."

Question: Are you surprised at how many things there are at Michigan? I mean because it is such a big organization in terms of commitments outside of football for you.

Coach Rodriguez: "It is not … you know, that is a good…the commitments outside of football aren't really as time constraining as what I am used to. Again, I made more commitments this year, meeting some alumni and doing some of those things, because I want people to get to know me and I still will need to do that. As far as the other things go, I have so much support and there are so many things in place, in that respect it has been easier than what I am accustomed to."

Question: The reason I say that is because you talk about how you use the word ignorant about the #1 jersey and the Woodley charity thing.

Coach Rodriguez: "That was lack of communication."

Question: The Woodley thing is that what you are talking about?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah I didn't know anything about Lamar's deal. He is a great guy, but none of the players asked me about it and a lot of them didn't know about it. Those are the kinds of things; it is like with the Braylon thing, if I can solve all my problems that easy, I would be in a happy place."

Question: Doesn't it seem like there are a lot of those things that are surrounding the program?

Coach Rodriguez: "I think there is a lot of big deals made out of things that shouldn't be. It is like what I call ‘mouse turds', maybe I shouldn't say that. They are worried about that when there is big elephant doo-doo all around me (laughing). You heard this thing no major in the minors – not that that is not important. I don't want to diminish what Lamar and them put together, I think it is terrific, but to make a big deal out of that when the whole story is not out there. That is the one thing I would ask ya'll and it is not that ya'll have done anything, but is before you write a story on what happened, ask about it. Ask somebody in my office or ask me what went on. That is the biggest disappointment that I saw or heard about some of the things is that they got one side and they didn't even get my reaction. It is like something that happened at West Virginia. I said that isn't even close to being the truth. Nobody asked me. I will tell you, I am not going to BS ya'll. I will be honest with everybody. That was the thing that probably, I saw more of, like the other day, see more than I have ever have in 27 years of coaching. Okay we got a scoop, you got a scoop, what are you talking about, come ask me."

Question: On the offense, have you visited a lot of places and have people visited you?

Coach Rodriguez: "Not this year. We didn't visit anywhere because we got obviously the first year. The past few years, there was a lot of schools that visited and coaches. There is never anybody we were going to play or thought we would play. Of course, I didn't think I was going to change jobs, so I wouldn't have had the Ohio State coaches come visit at West Virginia like I did if I knew I was going to be at Michigan – are you kidding me. But they did and we always exchange ideas and I thought it was beneficial to our staff as well."

Question: How many DI programs have come visited you?

Coach Rodriguez: "In the six or seven years, there was probably 40-something. After the one Sugar Bowl year, they had a good season, a good game, I think there was 25 or so. A lot of folks said what are you letting them in for? I said there are no patents on schemes, if they study the film. We never give them everything first off and two when they came in, they always had to give us some tips or pointers on what they were doing. So I thought it was educational in both regards and my charge every year for myself and my coaches, to try and get better every year, get smarter to learn ideas and that really helped. Again, you don't ever give them the playbook. You can show them and explain some things, but you never tell them why you do this. I never tell them that this is why we call this play in this situation, coaches will keep that to themselves."

Question: Coach you got Wisconsin early in the Big Ten season, have you looked at that matchup at all?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah a little bit, because they are an earlier game and obviously they are a Big Ten game with a strong team coming back, and I know a lot of their coaches very well. That is a very challenging opener in the league. By that time I will know a little bit more about my team because we got three games in. Having the open date before then is beneficial for both teams, but certainly going to be from our standpoint at least from an evaluation standpoint."

Question: Do you have to be a control freak to be a successful college football coach?

Coach Rodriguez: "No, but I don't know, people have probably said that about me, but I think it is my job to be in control as much as I can be. There are so many things in our profession that are out of control. Once the ball is kicked off, it is those young men that are performing. I have never made a single tackle or made a play since I have been coaching. All of the players are in control, but what you got to do as a coach is to try to control the things that you can control to help the players succeed and run a program. As far as a control freak, there are things that the players can help make decisions on and all that, but I am not going to have them determine how long practice is going to be or what kind of systems we are going to run or anything like that. I think it is just being a coach, running a program."

Question: You seem to be pretty good about understanding the difference between you on the field and you off, is that a difficult process?

Coach Rodriguez: "No, I think that it just a matter of us getting to know each other. I have seen it some over the last few months. I will see it more in August. Having the guys over the other day, I kind of explained it to them, said that there is some things you have to stand and be unwavering on, on things that you ask for, but I also want you to feel that you can come talk to me about anything. It is probably easier, as I mentioned earlier for the freshmen to feel that way towards me than some of the others ones, because I have been in their homes and all that. I see some of the guys that will come into my office just to grab some candy. Kind of sneak in and out. I think August is going to be a lot of fun for me because I really will get to know them more and they will get to know me more as well and our assistant coaches too."

Question: Coach, Coach Beilema has been a coach in the Big Ten for two years. Have you talked to him about his immediate success?

Coach Rodriguez: "Naw and Bret is a good friend of mine, but he wouldn't tell me. He would want to keep it to himself."

Question: Do you have any final thoughts on that matchup?

Coach Rodriguez: "Again, this is not my first rodeo. It is not all of a sudden August 30th is my first game as a head coach. I just think you get a team ready to play. I don't think, obviously I got to learn the coaches and players in this league, I don't know them as well as I would in the other league, but I will quickly. Each year you get to know them a little bit better."

Question: Is that part of the reason why you can't really get a sense of what to expect this fall?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah, more so because I don't know what I got. I have an idea and I will know as quick as I can, but for me to say how we compete in the Big Ten, let me figure out Michigan first and then go from there."

Question: (Is everything complete) practice field wise?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah we got a, I don't know if you seen, we have got a new outdoor turf field just built this summer and then we will have a 70 yard grass field. So we will kind of have a field and a half. We got enough space to do it. We are going to be limited on where we can go in the stadium. I would like to go in there maybe once a week, later in the week for a practice, but I am not sure we can do that because of all the construction."

Question: Have you started scouting Utah yet and taking a look at what they got?

Coach Rodriguez: "Oh yeah, we did our summer thing and then really the first two weeks of camp will be just us and then after that we get into Utah stuff."

Question: What have you seen on film so far?

Coach Rodriguez: "Well, I wish we weren't playing them. I would rather play somebody not good. They got some talented guys. I know their coaches. I have seen them on field a little bit. They are pretty excited about this year. They think that they got a chance for a BCS bowl. It is not an easy opener, but it isn't that big of an issue because no scrimmage game, no preseason game; it is our guys first game in a new system. Those are going to be some nervous nights getting ready for it and coming out of that tunnel on the 30th."

Question: In basketball, a lot of coaches talk to each other daily, there is a lot of back and forth banter, just bouncing ideas with other coaches. In football does that happen?

Coach Rodriguez: "Not as much. I have a handful of guys that I talk to probably every week or every other week. I am not a long on the phone type of guy, but I still have a handful of guys, and we will talk about something that comes up. We will say hey what are you doing here or I will ask what I am doing their."

Question: You said (Urban) Meyer and (Jeff) Tedford and some of those guys?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah Jeff Tedford, Urban Meyer and Tommy Bowden and some of those guys that have been good friends and we have talked over the years. Butch Jones is one of my guys at Central Michigan. We have talked a little bit."

Question: Have those conversations been different this summer than they have been in the past summers?

Coach Rodriguez: "No. I mean I have had a little more drama to deal with."

Question: Do they talk about that with you or they don't?

Coach Rodriguez: "A little bit. Not too much. Because they just know that there is not much that anybody can do about it. They have been really supportive. They really have."

Question: Do you wish that you had tried to settle the whole thing (with West Virginia) up front in December?

Coach Rodriguez: "Naw. I wish everything that I wanted to come out as far as the truth and all that kind of stuff would have came out, but again it is in the past. I am sure everybody is glad it is over. I am disappointed in a lot of ways in some regards, but you know, heck, look around, I am in a special place. My family has got their health. I have got a great staff and our players, they seem to be buying in completely, so what the heck. Don't feel sorry for me."

Question: With the Kevin Grady situation, it is a pretty serious issue, not to say that you used it, but was it an opportunity for you to lay down (the law)?

Coach Rodriguez: "That is a good question, you don't want to use a negative situation. I would rather teach lessons off positive things than negative, but that was unfortunate and what we got do now is hopefully all the guys learned a lesson from it. I think certainly Kevin has, at least that is my hope. It is an easy, maybe somebody has said, I heard somebody say that I should just kick him off the team and make an example of him. If a guy is a bad guy or he has gotten in trouble a couple of times, yeah you do that because he hasn't learned his lesson. But if you can teach a lesson off of it, and he truly learns his lesson then you can turn it into a positive. I have a tendency to look at each situation individually and not throw him out to the woods and discard him and try to get him corrected. I think Kevin is a good guy who made a bad mistake and he is paying for the price for it."

Question: I know you said (work hard to) get into your good graces?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah, and even not so much my good graces is just do what is right and what he needs to do to be a student athlete at Michigan. If he does those things, he will get his second chance, he is up against it now and I am rooting for him. I hope he does."

Question: Is it a situation that he is an upperclassman that other guys coming to you and saying that maybe you don't know him as well, but I am telling you he is a guy that this is an aberration?

Coach Rodriguez: "Well, I have talked to some of the players about it, but more some of the coaches that have been around; Coach Jackson is his position coach and knows Kevin pretty well. I think as a coach, you got to take each case individually and then judge it on the merits and then I will make a decision which I think is best for the program and that is what I do."

Question: The reason I ask is because you don't know the guys as well as you said you would hope?

Coach Rodriguez: "I know them well enough in that regard. It is not like who is this guy. We have been talking about him for seven months, all of the guys on our team. So it is not like I don't know who they are, where they are from and some of their backgrounds. I am not going into this thing blind. I hadn't been in a hole for seven months either. We know who they are and all that, but again as far as discipline goes, it depends on what they do, how they do it and what they have done in the past to determine their discipline."

Question: Did you change anything in terms of monitoring the campus. Like some people send in staff members into bars to see who is in there, I have heard that schools…?

Coach Rodriguez: "Oh we will do it if we need to during the season. We have curfews on Thursday nights and obviously Friday they don't go anywhere. We don't want to, I mean they are young men, you don't want to watch them 24/7, but at the same time during the season, our guys won't be going out to bars on Thursday nights and Fridays, they certainly won't be going anywhere, they will be in a hotel. They have got to have the proper behavior. We will keep track on them. I feel pretty good that we have had, at least our guys have showed a pretty good maturity level with the exception of making the bad decision there."

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