Rich Rod Speaks: Two-a-Days Start

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez met with the media in betweeen practices yesterday to discuss his team's progress thus far. He gave updates on the play of Brandon Minor & the tailbacks, as well as Greg Mathews and Terrance Taylor. He also shed light on the how far along they are in the installation process of the offense and defense, the "Beanie Bowl", and more.

Coach Rodriguez:  "After I guess it is six practices, I would say that we are probably right on track.  We did a little bit this morning in shorts.  We will go out in full pads this afternoon.  Installation is on schedule, which is good. We normally have to trot out a little bit more than we ambitiously seek, but I think we are on schedule with that.  Nobody has gotten hurt seriously, which we have only had one full padded practice anyways, but guys are working pretty hard, so I am pleased so far."

Question:  I think you said once pads start that you might have a better feel for people. Did that happen?

Coach Rodriguez:  "A little bit, yeah, I think every day you go in pads the guys that are probably more prepared physically, stand out a little bit so we can start to formulate our two deep and the guys we think we can win with.  It is way too early to project starters or project who is ready.  Right now a lot of guys are getting reps and it will probably be that way until the end of next week and then we will taper it down a little bit."

Question:  Can you give us a little scouting report on what you have seen from (Brandon) Minor, (Carlos) Brown, maybe what you like?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah they are doing okay.  They are really eager to learn as they were this spring.  Obviously, Carlos is healthy so he is taking a lot of reps and I like what I have seen so far.  Those freshmen backs, I think are going to give us a little depth and I am pleased with how they are learning.  (Sam) McGuffie and (Michael) Shaw for one week of practice at division I level, have picked up the tempo pretty well.  So I have been pleased with that.  I think it seems to be a position that even though we don't have a lot of experience, I think we will have a little depth."

Question:  Do you need to have a #1 guy there?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No, if you have a guy that is a superstar, he is a guy that can carry the ball 25-30 times a game that is great; in our offense, we normally have to have two or three, and sometimes four because we put them in different spots anyways."

Question:  What have you seen so far out of (Obi) Ezeh?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Obi has picked up where he left off in the spring.  He is a big physical guy.  He loves to play.  I think there is no question that there are guys on defense that has to have a big year for us, and he has picked it up.  I have been pretty pleased with all of our linebackers so far.  But again, it is one day in pads and we haven't even scrimmaged yet, so it is hard to tell."

Question:  Do you like him better in the middle, on the outside or not?

Coach Rodriguez:  "He is probably better suited for the middle, but they will play both a little bit.  We like for all our linebackers to be able to learn multiple positions."

Question:  How come?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh, it gives you more depth.  If you have five that can play that you ready with instead of six, you can move some guys around a little bit.  For different packages that we do defensively allows us to put different guys on the field.  I think that position, I think we will be okay there.  Again, it is early.  I can't tell you that we are ready to play a game, but I don't think anybody is."

Question:  Greg Mathews, what have you seen so far?

Coach Rodriguez:  "He has been okay.  He has made a couple of plays in practice and he is probably at the end of spring our biggest big play threat, and he and Daryl Stonum have made a couple of big plays so far in camp.  Greg has been pretty consistent.  I think he understands the offense, so we are moving him, both outside receiver positions, so he should have a good year."

Question:  How is the quarterback rotation work?  Is it more than one guy…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No again, it goes back to not being overly concerned with who starts and more concerned with getting guys ready to win with.  Steve (Threet) and Nick (Sheridan) are both rotating with the ones and probably equal number of reps.  The twos are getting a whole lot of reps, and we are even running a third group.  Now by the end of next week, we will just rep the first and second group, not the third group for the majority of time."

Question:  Most guys from the start of camp to the end of camp, what is the biggest thing that you want them to get better at?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Just execute the offense.  I don't want them to be afraid to make mistakes, but they can't make the big mistake too.  But that is any quarterback, but especially an inexperienced one.  Just execute the offense, take what is there and don't force the issue if it is not.  We got some talented guys around them and we got to be smart with the football.  At the same time there are going to be times where they are going to have the ability to make a play and that is what I told them today.  We were doing the two minute drill and if the pocket breaks down or stuff doesn't look good, take off and make a little something happen."

Question:  Back in Chicago you said that after two weeks you would start looking at Utah, is that process been accelerated at all, might you start doing some things…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No, that would be the case…that is the case every year.  You have four weeks before your first game, you kind of in the back of your mind work on your first opponent on your installation schedule with in mind that they are probably going to do this no matter who your first opponent is, but every coach in America probably needs two weeks to get their base stuff in and that is certainly the case with us, especially our first year."

Question:  How much do you count on the element of surprise being the first year?

Coach Rodriguez:  "A little bit, but it is the same for them.  You can watch them on film; they could have the exact same staff and come out with something different because you don't know.  Until you play that year's team in both personal and scheme, there is a lot of unknown.  That is why every college coach is probably particularly nervous.  I have said this for many years.  This is probably one of the only levels, where the first time you go up against somebody different it counts, no preseason games, no scrimmage games, no exhibition games and so you don't really know particularly with the guys that has never started before how he is going to perform against a different colored jersey, a different team.  That is why the first game is always the most nervous, I would think."

Question:  (The players have done a lot of) talking about a sort of multiformations and really seems to be enjoying it, do you find what you do on offense is very player friendly?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I would think.  A lot of people that run the spread on all levels; I know a lot of high school coaches said that they get more young guys out for it that maybe had not played, a track guy or a basketball guy because they have a chance to get on the field.  People refer to the spread as basketball on grass, it is not that.  It is football; it is physical and all that but at the same time for the skilled guys, it gives them an opportunity to play out in space and have a little fun.  In particular, I think if you are no huddle and you try to play fast that those guys seem to enjoy it."

Question:  How is your defensive line moving now than it was in the spring?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think they are all moving better.  I think that is to be expected of anybody in the country because not too many teams will condition a whole lot in the spring because you don't have a game until the fall.  So you know, we weren't in shape in spring ball, but I don't think any other team was in shape.  Everybody works out in summer; for us to stand here and say well we are the only team that is shape, I would think that most teams would be in shape at this point, now what level, who knows.  The only thing I worry about is ourselves; I know we are a lot better shape now than we were in the spring.  I think each year, our tolerance level as far as conditioning will continue to increase."

Question:  How did Terrance Taylor look in pads?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Terrance looked pretty good.  Terrance is in good shape.  Terrance is moving around better.  All the guys up front; you know the hardest thing in two-a-days is the big guys; those 180 pounders, it isn't easy on them, but you put them 290 and 300 pounders and do a lot of running and a lot of work with them, even though they don't run as much per play as the other guys, they get a lot of work with it.  Terrance is in pretty good shape and I think those guys will even…they are not in game shape, but in 20 days or so they should be."

Question:  What is your sense of the offensive line so far?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It has been okay.  It is okay.  I think there are times that they look good and other times that we get really nervous and we have got a lot of work to do.  We have to reserve some judgment because these guys have never played before but time for us to say now that it is okay, you know we don't have experience, is kind of getting by us now.  Now we have to get ready to play."

Question:  Do you get nervous about them?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I get nervous about them.  If they get nervous; they may get nervous too, I don't know.  Those are their own unique group.  Sometimes all they do is worry about when the next meal is and hope it is buffet (laughter).  I think we have a pretty close knit group in there."

Question: On what's toughest adjustment on the line is.

Coach Rodriguez:  "The mental part is a little bit, but a lot of time it is technique, which is part mental, about taking the right step and taking the right angles on your blocks and learning how to finish a block.  So it is a little bit of both and there is a lot of technique and probably more technique involved in that position even though every position has some than any other position on the team."

Question:  Anything changed or jumped out at you on special teams the last few days?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  We haven't done anything really live.  I think we got good specialists.  I have yet to see on returns, because we haven't done any returns live, which we will find out here in the next week or so.  I think we have enough athleticism to have pretty good units, but there is a lot of work to be done on special teams.  Again in the spring we are very limited with that being inside so much.  We are working a ton on special teams, as I think any coach is."

Question:  Have you gone to the stadium?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I don't think we will be in there until our annual Beanie Bowl, which is in about two weeks or so; Friday the 27th.  That is kind of like a practice game against ourselves."

Question:  What did you call that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Beanie Bowl."

Question:  More on the "Beanie Bowl"

Coach Rodriguez:  "We run like a scout team.  Like we run a special teams unit and have what we have call a scout team, a look team or demo team, whatever you want to call it against them and some of them may have blue or white jerseys on.  So to distinguish that they are on the other team, we put a little orange beanie on their head.  The Beanie Bowl is all guys that are in a different color.  We don't make them actually wear a beanie hat when they go out with uniforms."

Question:  Let us come to that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Beanie Bowl, uhhh no (laughter).  Not that you all would (know the difference), but we are actually at that point doing stuff for Utah that is actual plays and all that that we are getting ready for that game."

Question: We can keep a secret.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh sure.  ‘Trust me,' right? (laughter)"

Question:  Has Kevin Grady's status changed at all?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No, he is still practicing."

Question:  One whether his change in plea is why he is practicing?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  I knew that was going to happen.  He told me.  He and his father have kept me abreast of the situation.  He is working hard, he is practicing and paying his dues and still will be paying them."

Question:  You have talked about the quarterback competition going into this season.  Would you be more inclined to play two guys that play different styles, (like Threet & Feagin), or would you just play the two best?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  The two that we feel that we can win with and not necessarily the two best.  They got to be good enough to win with for us to actually put them in a rotation regardless of score."

Question:  What do you do if three guys are good enough to play?

Coach Rodriguez:  "All three will play that would be a great problem to have."

Question:  You haven't dealt with having more than one primary quarterback... it seems in a while at least.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well a few years ago in Pat White's freshman year, we did that.  We had Adam Bednarik and Pat White and we ran the same plays for both of them.  Both of them were good enough to win with and they shared time until about mid season when Adam got hurt and then Pat just kind of took off from there."

Question:  Do you go back and look at your notes from that…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Naw, I am not that old.  I can remember, was it three to four years ago; yeah I can remember that.  I had a similar situation in Clemson, my first year at Clemson.  I had Brandon Streeter and Woody Dantzler, both good enough to win with.  They both shared time and Brandon got hurt one game and Woody started for a couple of games.  It really didn't make me nervous.  It actually made more comfortable that we got two guys we can win with.  I think the competition is healthy at all positions.  That is what we strive for.  I could tell you that I feel our program is a top 10 consistent program when are first and second group, you can't distinguish much difference with who is in the game."

Question:  To be somewhat clear, you have two quarterbacks playing in the same game, they would be running the same type of play, we are not looking at night and day play calling between the quarterback.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Maybe (laughter).  It could.  If two of them are good enough to win with and one executes these plays better, this guys executes those plays better, I would think that we would call the plays that they execute better.  Our offense has got a whole lot of plays and a whole lot of different ways that we can go with.  Wherever they can execute well and it is well enough for us to win with that is what we will call with them in there.  That is kind of simplistic but that is really…it is not much more complicated then that."

Question:   What about (Marcus) Witherspoon and his progress?

Coach Rodriguez:  "They tell me that he is just taking a class right now.  It will be a couple of weeks before we even know and if he doesn't make it, he won't be enrolled here."

Question: Any big hits yesterday?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Naw, no, I can't remember any.  Aint nothing that really stood out.  I think it was an okay day.  There was some enthusiasm, but it wasn't a great day, but it wasn't a wasted day either."

Question:  Anybody that we haven't talked about?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Naw, not really.  I don't think.  I think it is a little early.  This afternoon we will have some situational stuff.  The guys that we thought…there has not been any negative surprise; I will put it that way.  Geez, we thought at the end of spring we could really count on them and they came here and just wasn't in it; none of that at all, so I guess that is a good thing.  We have some young guys.  I think the freshmen class will really give us some depth and I think that a pretty talented class and I like their attitude.  Everything, I slowly see the practices running a little smoother.  I told the guys yesterday, we will script a two hour practice, for instance.  I would like for us to see the point where two hour practice is done in an hour and 45 minutes.  Right now…in the spring they were lasting a longer than that, right now they are just a little over that.  I think by the end of camp, hopefully, it will be less than that.  They can get through the script faster that is one of our goals."

Question:  You said that the installation is on schedule. How much is getting installed?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh, probably, I would say, not really half, but over half the base on both sides the ball.  Over half the base offense and defense and all the special teams have at least been introduced.  We haven't gone full speed on all of them, but we they have all been introduced and wrecked a little bit."

Question:  Is it hard for them to grasp?  You were talking about the offense with a lot of plays and a lot of ways.  Is that a lot for them?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It is.  What we want them to remember, I think introducing…what we want to do is go back over so they understand the concept of why we are calling it.  The first thing they are going to do is just, ‘okay this is what I do on this play'.  What I would eventually like to do is for all of them to say, ‘why we call this play' or ‘why we run this play a certain way', then when they get to that point, you know they really understand the offense.  The same thing is true of our defense.  We want them to totally understand why we are doing certain things.  You hope to get as much done as you can this year, but every year that you are in a system, you can look over and the players, all the players can tell you this is what we are going to do if they do this, this is what we are going to if we see that.  We are trying to accelerate that process, but we got to the base down."

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