Rich Rod Speaks: Offense Average So Far

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez met with the media after practice yesterday to discuss his team's progress thus far. Upon reflecting on his squad's first day in shoulder pads, he reported that there was some inconsistency on offense, the defense fared well, the freshmen skill players are standing out, Marcus Witherspoon is not on campus, and more.

Rich Rodriguez:  "Just a general statement.  I thought it was an average practice overall.  I didn't think we progressed a whole lot.  I like what I saw from the defense today.  They put a few new packages in and it may have caused some confusion on offense, but I thought our offense didn't really take any steps forward, but they are working hard and they have got a good attitude.  We will watch the film a little bit and then tomorrow we are in shorts one more day and then Friday we will put the pads on and try to play a little bit more football."

Question:  When you talk about the offense struggling, is it everybody that is struggling or is there a position that a particularly position that was…?

Rich Rodriguez:  "It was really at times all the positions.  Then again, I know there is some inexperience and all that, as I told the guys, we have got to have a sense of urgency.  Not even just with the schemes but even more so with the fundamentals, techniques and all the little things that go into each play.  Again, it is just the third day and normally that is going to be the case is that the offense will be behind and have to get caught a little bit.  I don't want to hear the excuses or anything about guys haven't played.  I know there is a lot of talk about that, but as I told the team, we got guys there that can do it and we just have to get better every day."

Question:  Have you seen some consistency when you are getting in position groups or individually that you have liked it over the first three practices?

Rich Rodriguez:  "A little bit.  I think our tight ends, which would be typical; they have more experience on offense, so they seem to be more consistent.  That is probably the most consistent group that we have.  Running backs at times, but the rest of the positions, their inexperience shows.  Again, I shouldn't be surprised but at the same time…now it is time for everybody to get ready, so let's get a sense of urgency and go."

Question:  Are you spending more of your time with the offense?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah, but I would anyway.  If I am going to be involved in helping with the play calling and all that, I need to be in the meetings – offensive staff meetings, I need to be down at their end most of practice.  Once in a while in individual (drills) I will go down to defense.  Right now when we are going offense against defense, our own good on good, I get to watch everybody.  I will pay attention to every position right now, and I am always going to be involved in special teams."

Question:  Is it still like it was this spring when you stood behind and you called the plays from behind?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah Calvin (Magee) and I both stand behind the offense, kind of help.  Most of the plays now in practice, a normal practice is scripted.  We are not doing a lot of unscripted stuff.  That will come probably at the beginning of next week but right now just about everything is scripted off.  We know what offense is called and what defense is going against it.  We are trying to get certain looks on certain plays."

Question:  You used the word average, is it natural to see a drop off from the intensity of day one?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  Everybody is excited the first day and all that and after that, sometimes you go into practice with an attitude of lets just get through it, as opposed to lets get through it and get better.  That is the attitude that a championship team has; hey, I know we got to do it, let's go ahead and get a little better with it and try to improve themselves.  Not everybody has that attitude but typically young guys as they go through camp and it is not even in full pads yet, you will have to prod them a long a little bit to get a little bit more."

Question:  Has anyone caught your eye or your ear with verbal leadership or otherwise?

Rich Rodriguez:  "There has been some.  Again, more so with the veterans on defense, even some of the guys on offense that are a little bit older.  Steve Schilling and those guys have helped a little bit, but I don't get too concerned with that right now, because during practice the coach is out here.  I worry about leadership when coaches aren't around, but there are times, certainly during games and when the guys are on their own that we like for some of that leadership to take charge.  I think it is going to come hopefully in the next couple of weeks."

Question:  Stevie Brown is a guy that I think you have felt pretty good with in the spring.  How has he done?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Again, it is still early and we haven't done anything hitting wise.  But I think all of our safeties have learned very quickly.  Stevie is a guy that is very talented and having Brandon Harrison healthy; he looks pretty good out there and with Charles Stewart; we have a little bit of depth there and hopefully have…you would like to have at least three to four safeties and three to four corners.  I like the play of our corners, I think we got a little depth there as well.  So I think we are going to be okay."

Question:  How did your quarterbacks play? 

Rich Rodriguez:  "Today was average, but that was typical of the offense and I talked to them afterwards.  I said, I don't want to hear the excuses, you are in the system, you are talented enough to do it, you can make the plays, you are going to make mistakes.  They need to have a short memory just like a DB that gets beat.  I don't want you making one mistake and then causing that mistake to make another one.  You have to forget about it and move on, but they also have got to be coachable.  I don't want them to make the same ones over and over again.  There are times we have struggled, today as a quarterback, but there is also some positive things as well."

Question:  How many snaps is Justin Feagin getting?

Rich Rodriguez:  "He is getting a little bit.  What we are doing is giving…in a five minute period we may have four reps with the ones, three reps with the twos and two reps with the third group and Justin has been going with the third group."

Question:  How has Terrance Taylor progressed from when you and your staff started here till today?

Rich Rodriguez:  "He is in better shape that is the biggest thing.  He is…I don't know what he weighs, but he weighed in yesterday.  He is in a lot better shape than he was when we got here and even in better shape than he was in the spring.  We did our little conditioning at the end of practice Monday and he didn't have any problem with it.  Terrance is really working hard.  I think he will continue to get into shape and in our opinion an in shape Terrance Taylor is a lot better football player, and he should have an outstanding year."

Question:  Have you seen a development mentally too?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  All of them got tested at times, and I think they know now why we are doing it, trying to test them.  I think I have seen it.  Again, I think sometimes when you are out of shape and you are getting tired and you are getting pushed to new limit, it is easy to be surly, but when you are in shape, you don't get tired as much, so you don't have as many opportunities to be surly, I guess.  Terrance's attitude has been outstanding and I am really pleased with the way he came into camp."

Question:  Is their a competition at kicker?

Rich Rodriguez:  "There is competition everywhere.  I told the team that yesterday.  Our goal right now is not necessary to find out who the starter is or who the back up is, but find guys at each position that we can win with.  If there are three guys at a position that we can win with, all three will play, if there is two, we will play two, if there is only one, we will play the one.  I think at kicker, we got a couple of guys that are pretty talented.  Now K.C. (Lopata) has picked up, I think right where he left off last year.  He had a good spring in the limited time that we went outside and he has been pretty consistent on our field goals, but again we haven't done anything live.  I feel good of all our specialists.  Zoltan (Melko) has punted outstanding, and I think the move to Bryan Wright to a punter, at least have an opportunity to be a punter has been a great move.  Because he has got an outstanding chance to help us there too in case something would happen with Zoltan."

Question:  Do you think that Bryan will handle kick offs again this year?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Naw, we have not done our kick offs yet.  Certainly, he has the strongest leg, but that competition is wide open.  We have got four kickers in camp, which is more…most people have two.  Each one of them has a certain area I guess that they specialize in."

Question: Who are the four?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Jason Olesnavage and Jason Gingell and then KC and Bryan and of course Zoltan."

Question:  It seemed like the freshmen skill guys had a little bounce the other day.

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  We were throwing those young guys in the mix.  Sam (McGuffie), Michael Shaw, both of the little slot guys, Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms, all those guys are getting reps, mostly with the second group and third group, but they are learning pretty quickly.  For three days of practice, they are probably ahead of schedule where you would expect.  So I am pretty pleased.  It looks like a lot of them I don't think they are going to be redshirted."

Question:  We didn't see Marcus Witherspoon out there anywhere.

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah, Spoon is still having a clearinghouse issue.  He will not be here in the foreseeable future this month, because he is still finishing up some course work and then hopefully he can make it here when school starts."

Question:  Is he taking course work here or back home?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Back home."

Question:  David Molk missed a lot of spring with health; how he is looking right now and is (David) Moosman still ahead of him at this point?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah, but again that is a competition that is out there.  David looks a lot healthier, he is stronger.  He had mono or whatever in the spring that knocked him for a loop, but he is in good shape now.  I think he feels it.  He is running around pretty good out there.  We have a lot of competitive situations particularly on offense and hopefully that elevates everybody's play."

Question: What is the best play you saw today?

Rich Rodriguez:  "The best play?  Well it was going to be somebody on defense, I can promise you.  We had one or two interceptions; I am trying to think of one where we didn't throw it right to them (laughter).  Morgan Trent has made a couple of really nice plays.  Morgan is a very conscientious guy and I think he understands our scheme.  So he has made a couple nice plays the last couple of days and has looked really good."

Question:  How are your linebackers playing right now?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I think pretty well.  Again, it is kind of hard to judge at times; if the defense is good, the offense is just that bad.  I think our guys like what they are doing defensively and we are trying to be aggressive and it is always easier to say who then sick'em.  So right now, we are saying sick'em and if we have to say whoa later, we will say whoa later."

Question:  You said you are spending all this time with the offense and you don't know Scott (Shafer); you have only known Scott for a couple of months, how is that in terms of letting him loose a little bit?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Well, I have known his work for about seven years.  So I didn't just hire him based on a lottery or something like that.  I researched a little bit, followed him, knew about what he was doing and we sat and met a few times.  We will meet on occasions, before we get into our game plan with Utah, even when we talked about the summer a little bit with our rivalry games and the games we are always thinking about, that people will ask about.  We talked about different ideas, but Scott is an experienced guy and we also have three other coaches on defense that have all been college coordinators.  So I trust what those guys are doing and they will have a good plan."

Question:  Do you let them pick the starters, if you are not spending as much time with them?

Rich Rodriguez:  "The difference is like now in the first two and half weeks of camp, I am watching everything.  When you are watching your offense, you are watching their defense.  So I will pay attention to both sides, but normally it is not much of an issue.  I will break the ties, if they think one guy or another.  Normally it is the same.  I won't override them most of the time.  You hope you hire a staff that everybody kind of sees the same thing as far as who should be the starters.  Again, I think probably too much is made of who is starting as opposed to who are we ready to win with.  I hope we have more than four starters on the D-line.  If that is all we got, we are in for a long year.  We better have at least seven, hopefully eight starters on the D-line; we better have at least five to six starters at linebacker and all that.  Who the guy that takes the first snap, may be important to them, and you got to write somebody down, but we need to have more than that in order to win championships."

Question:  On Scott Shafer's aggressive defensive philosophy

Rich Rodriguez:  "I think it is his mentality.  I think it is the mentality that our players have had here before and they like that.  I don't think it is anything earth shattering."

Question: It is his philosophy, not yours necessarily?

Rich Rodriguez:  "If it wasn't mine, he wouldn't have gotten hired.  You want to hire a coach with a like philosophy, not that it is my ego or anything, but you do, when you hire somebody, you want to hire somebody that has a like philosophy or you will always be battling.  Scott's personality, his philosophy is, I think what anybody would want, I hope."

Question:  How much work have you done to get ready for Utah?  Is that something you are working yet?

Rich Rodriguez:  "You know in the summer, obviously we work, do a little bit on all the Big Ten, a little bit more on our rivalry games; we got three big rivalries including the Ohio State one.  So we always do a little extra work for Ohio State in the summer and then a little more work probably with Utah because of the opener; you are always going to do that.  We will probably get into Utah game plan practices after two and a half weeks of camp, so about two weeks from now."

Question:  You talked about Schilling as a leader, one of those guys who lead on offense; has he shown that he has got the most experience in that group?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Yeah he has, and Steve still has got some things to do.  There are some new plays and a few new techniques that he has to learn.  So he still has got some things to do, but like I said, it is as important to him, probably as anybody on the team and he has got a great attitude.  We are going to need him, because he and (Mark) Ortmann, has played a little bit and he is one of the older guys.  Those guys got to kind of take charge a little bit.  I am more concerned that they just get better every day.  I like the guys attitude up front.  I think they are a hard working group, I think they are tough guys and that is a good start.  Now, they have got to be more consistent."

Question:  Any of the freshmen offensive lineman come in really ready to play?

Rich Rodriguez:  "You know it is probably early, until we get into pads, really until Friday, probably not even in the first; probably in about a week, I will have a little better idea.  I think the athleticism of those freshmen are what we wanted and that is what we thought when we recruited them."

Question:  On Monday, Avery Horn was not working with the running backs, can you update us?

Rich Rodriguez:  "He should have been.  He should have been there.  He might have been late.  Avery had a class that didn't end until thee on Monday, I think, maybe that is what it was.  He has got a little cast on his hand; he has got a broken bone, but he has still practicing and he is taking a lot of reps.  He is rolling with the twos and threes right now."

Question:  Any injuries so far?

Rich Rodriguez:  "No, but again there shouldn't be because we don't hit until Friday, but right now there is no injuries."

Question:  Any freshman on the defense stepping up in the?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I really like that linebacker class.  I think we got an outstanding linebacker class coming in.  I think Boubacar (Cissoko) has made a few plays.  He may be a freshman that has an opportunity.  I think Mike Martin is physically way further along than probably you would expect any freshman on the D-line would be.  So he has got a chance as well.  We got more guys offensively that probably has a better chance of playing, because just the change in system.  I think there are going to be three or four of those guys that are going to play on defense as well."

Question:  Has Troy Woolfolk kind of established himself as the number three cornerback or is he kind of…?

Rich Rodriguez:  "We don't have a one, two, three yet.  No Donovan (Warren) and Morgan, they have not slipped at all from what I have seen.  So it is not like we are afraid to put them out there, because I think those are two guys that continue to get better every day.  Troy has, I think he has from our standpoint given us confidence that he is a guy that we can put in there; he is a guy that we can put in at nickelback and we would be very confident with."

Question:  What have you seen from Doug Dutch?

Rich Rodriguez:  "Doug is the same way.  He is a veteran guy who works hard, plays hard.  That is probably one of our most experienced positions is going to be at the corner.  We think with the addition of Boubacar that we are going to be pretty solid there."

Question:  Any position switches that you considering or have made recently?

Rich Rodriguez:  "No.  Not really.  It may appear as such, because you will see running backs lined up in the slot and all that, but as far as offense to defense or anything like that, nothing yet.  Again, it is really hard to tell until you get into pads.  Until we get into the physical part and the tackling and all that…it is hard in camp because you don't want to beat each other up.  We got to make quick decisions about mid next week as far as if we are going to move anybody."

Question:  Have any players come to you and expressed any interest in playing anywhere else?

Rich Rodriguez:  "No."

Question:  You seemed kind of surprised this spring that the offense was moving the ball as well as it did sometimes, is it fair to say that is not an issue this time?

Rich Rodriguez:  "I think part of it was that we stayed…our defense was still learning what they were doing and they weren't in shape.  It is hard to make plays on defense when you are trying to catch your breath.  When you have your hands on your hips, it is hard to make a tackle with your hands.  Again, there were times at practice I think our offense hopefully would still move the ball.  Our defense is pretty experienced and are pretty athletic.  We will be alright on offense.  We just got to get a whole lot better."

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